Site of the month: August

Another academic site, but one with stuff for the whole family.

A site on theory

The site's got an excellent Links page but also has fun stuff like Lego sets, trading cards and ideas for playing trading card games.

Check out the Foucault Lego set, described on the site as:

"The Lego Michel Foucault comes with a Parisien library for younger children or the Lego San Francisco S/M dungeon for older boys and girls."

There're also Lego sets for Anthony Giddens and Stuart Hall.

In case Lego's not your thing (how could it not be, though? I still have my first-ever Lego set), then there're Theorists trading cards*

Lacan's card describes his strengths as "highly influential among many theoretical schools" and his weaknesses as "often unintelligible, bordering on nonsense".

* If you look around on the main page, you'll see a sign that says "Bowling Green Bootlegs". These are apparently students from the Bowling Green University (and aspiring theorists) who made their own cards. Ideas, E?


Football and politics

European Champions League qualifiers are to be played on 8/9 August (with the return legs two weeks later).

Liverpool's to play Maccabi Haifa, home and away. Yes, this is the same Haifa.

Maybe UEFA knows something about the future of the current Middle East conflict that the rest of us International Relations types don't?


To write or not to write?

While E prepares to head off into the big wide yonder (aka "the Midwest") for the weekend, I am left to reassure our PTSD reader(s) that posting, despite the end of the World Cup (and the not-yet-start of the Premiership), will continue.

Getting back to academia for a bit, there's a topic that I've wanted to bring up for quite a while. As a postgraduate student, slogging away (or pretending to) on our own works, do we email Eminent Professors if we have questions or comments about their work?

Yesterday, I was going through the list of publications of an author whose work I find extremely useful for its clear descriptions of how knowledge is legitimised and communicated. How could I not like somebody who writes,

"...this [his book] is not a work of philosophy...I am not trying to resolve classic philosophical disputes...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 others undermine those constructions. This does not require an answer to the philosophical question of what factuality is."*

On his web site, I found that he'd written a new article, which was listed only as "forthcoming". Thinking that I might as well try get away with a bit of cheek, I emailed him, asking for a copy of the article. I was hugely surprised to receive a response a few hours later, with the article attached as well as another out-of-print article which I'd said I'd not been able to find.

So, I guess that's my question: do academics/published people/writers like being emailed about their work and do they (usually) reply? So far, my success rate has been hovering around 90% but I haven't emailed many people. All the people who have written back have been quite nice about letting me use their work (pictures of Northern Irish murals) or, as in this case, even sending me their articles. However, I can see that, for a busy scholar, getting loads of emails asking for articles or telling them that their analysis of X is perhaps misguided is not what they want in their inboxes.

* This is, of course, a rather clever rhetorical move.


Talking of shoes

Taking a break from PTSD's recent posts on news and academia and baseball, here's what I have been up to lately: checking out shoes.

No, not to buy them. I already bought my third summer pair* (which, added to the hiking shoes, long winter boots and the colourful Danish sneakers I already own make it an even total of half a dozen pairs of shoes) earlier this summer. Besides, I'm poor and would rather spend money on buying books rather than shoes. But, these days, I like looking at shoes (and even recommended a few shoe shops to E the last time I met her) and DC in the summertime is a good place for shoe-spotting**.

Today, I found out that shoes have names. Different styles have different names. This may be fairly obvious but did yous know there're sub categories within categories? It's not just sneakers and sandals and boots but "slingbacks" and "espadrilles". I had no clue.

Check this out for one woman's descriptions (including names and pictures) of her shoes. It's almost like having my own Periodic Table of Shoes.

* Since they come with heels, I've not actually worn them about yet. I just take them out of their shelf and look at them every once in a while.

** A practice rather like Trainspotting but without the attendant dangers of substance abuse, drowning in toilets or getting beat up by Begbie.


The national pastime: reworked, reformatted and redefined

Some final thoughts on the baseball:

1. The flashy ticket I talked of in one of my earlier posts was most likely because it was printed off Tickets.com: There were regular-looking tickets so having graphics-laden tickets was not a baseball trait.

2. Everything that was right in baseball is wrong in cricket (and, of course, vice versa): I spent the first few innings cheering for sixers (when the ball goes over the white lines or ropes in cricket) for the Nats only to find that the white lines were foul lines and hitting beyond them was bad. One common thing: being caught is out* so I did cheer the right team for that.

3. I need to get my eyes checked: Sitting through four hours of watching a sport whose rules I do not know and not being able to see the scoreboard is not recommended. Oh, though sitting in the 500s section is actually okay since it has a roof. It didn't rain but, if it had, there was a roof.

4. Leaving right after PWIGTOFs left is also not recommended: Being huge baseball fans, they were waiting at the exit, probably hoping to see the final shot of the innings or something.

5. The introduction to the local players were rather fun: the initial introductions were accompanied by a firecracker after each player's name, stats and picture came up on the big screen. Later introductions, for what were probably the stars of the team, were more individualised. E.g. Zimmerman (see? I even know names now) came out to bat accompanied by leaping flames and a big "Z" sign. This was up on the TV, not on the ground though it might have livened up the match a bit if he had been accompanied by leaping flames on the ground.

6. The best TV moment: when an older bloke in a bright blue T-shirt danced, rather suggestively, for the benefit of all of us watching. This went on for a while.

7. I wish I'd seen this before I taught kids about American identity moment: Oh, almost all of the rituals--the military planes, the Army guy, the band and the songs, the flag, the firecrackers, and, of course, the Presidents' Race. This was when four people, dressed up as former US Presidents** raced each other on the tracks alongside the field. It was quite possibly the funniest on-field event***

8. The best baseball concept: "Stealing" a base. I actually found this whole idea gloriously sneaky and almost contrary to the wholesome American-ness of the rest of the spectacle. The idea of a player being able to get a run even before the bowler bowls is fantastic. Again, in cricket, the bowler would run him out and that would be that.

9. A bit of a disappointment: no sledging at all****

10. Oh I finally get some of it moment: the 5th innings when the Nationals scored two run and I actually understood what was going on. Or, seemed to understand, which, for me, is pretty much the same thing. Or, maybe it was during the 6th? I'm not sure.

* In true American sport fashion, even the fielders had gloves on (well, one glove each) making the process of catching the ball rather tame in that they caught almost all of the skied shots.

** I recognised two (George Washington, who won, and Abraham Lincoln). I was told the other two were Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. I think Reagan could have beaten them all.

*** While the 5th (I think?) innings was lots of fun with us all standing up and cheering some guy who ran around all the blocks without being out, it didn't compare to seeing grown-up people, wearing huge masks, racing against each other. Such moments cannot be replicated.

**** Since there was a bit of confusion about the meaning of sledging, let me say that it's a cricketing term for psyching out the opposition batsman (usually only bowlers and close-in fielders sledge) by using (abusive though often funny) language. These days, due to on-pitch microphones and complaints by batsmen, sledging has decreased but, if you watch a test match, you can still hear some choice words. Especially if Australia (top sledgers because apparently they can talk, one commentator once said, "without moving their lips so you never know who's sledging"!) and South Africa are involved. Pakistan's great at it too and Pakistani players often get away with sledging by speaking in Urdu. Players (and the crowd, most of whom are listening to commentary on the radio) appreciate a good sledging, as exemplified here (scroll down for examples) though there's also controversy about how far players can and should go in terms of creating "mental disintegration" in batsmen (as Steve Waugh, a former Australian captain and an expert sledger called it). And, I'm sure yous all thought cricket was really a "gentlemen's game".

When work and news collide

As they often do.

Adding to E's earlier post and showing it's not just footy news I read, check this out.

It's a BBC article on how three men were arrested, tried and cleared of plotting terrorist attacks using a substance called Red Mercury.

Why is this different from the usual articles about terrorism in this day and age of the Global War on Terror? Well, because of this:

"...the fact that no-one in the court could be certain whether the terrifying substance on which the entire prosecution case was based actually existed."

It gets better:

"[The Crown Prosecutor] told the jury at the outset: "The Crown's position is that whether red mercury does or does not exist is irrelevant.

[He] said the fact was that the three defendants had hit upon a meaning for it as a substance which was highly dangerous and expensive, and they pursued it." (emphasis added)

Yes, read it again: it was the meaning of the substance, a substance which may or may not exist, that led to these men being arrested. In other words, it did not matter whether Red Mercury was real or not but how its meaning was moulded in language. This then led to observable actions such as the arrrest and prosecution of those men and their labelling as potential terrorists.

An 'American' pastime: further musings on the baseball match

What made baseball a truly American sport, in the Huntingtonian Who Are We? sense, was not just the hot dogs and fries or the replicable families (I gave up counting after the 23rd set of Older Female and Male/young children combos), but especially the pre-match celebrations. We had various (rather out of tune) songs sung by the United States Army Chorus including something that went along the lines of “proud to be an American”. The songs during the match itself included Sweet Caroline--to which most of the crowd sang along and even did the dum-dum-dum bit--and We Will Rock You. Pre-match festivities also included firecrackers and, wait for it, an F-18 flyover (with six planes). During the singing of “God Bless America” (which preceded the American national anthem), a huge United States flag was unfurled. It covered nearly half the field and was probably visible from the moon. Or, at least, from the International Space Station.

But, wait, there's more: the “ceremonial first pitch” was by a US Army veteran who seemed to have lost one or both of his legs (I was sat too far up to see clearly though I’m pretty sure he had one prosthetic leg) and was making his way about on crutches. What could be more 'American' than an Army vet and baseball?* The biggest difference to DC United here? No children on the ground (except an 11-year old kid who yelled out "play ball" to start the match proper). Pre-match activities for DC United usually involve the mascot (a Screaming Eagle) and loads of kids. Other “American” bits? A Presidents’ race (more on that later) and random "cams" on the big television screen (Cap wave cam, smile cam, etc). I can just imagine that going down well during a Tri-Nations cup rugby match.

A couple of funny parts during all this: the announcer (who was very loud, even compared with regular on-field announcer-types) kept on telling people “please remain standing for…(national anthem/God Bless America song/ceremonial pitching)” as though we had to be told to stand or else we wouldn’t be able to figure out what was supposed to be the “right” reaction. He actually said this more than once (perhaps in case we forgot we were supposed to be standing up?). Another observation was that the ushers all stood with their caps (red) on their chests (they were wearing green shirts) during the singing of the anthem. All of them. I suppose that’s part of the job description?

My pre-match experiment had been to go around to some of the ushers in the section below mine (I was sat in the highest possible section--in the 500s--a section that is not even open for footy matches, I think) and ask them this --pointing to a random guy practicing on the pitch--: “So, do you think his bum looks big in those trousers?”. After a bit of confusion and explanation the first time I tried this, I amended it to “So, do you think his bottom looks big in those pants?” or “Those pants show off his legs quite well, don’t they?”. Of the seven ushers I talked to, five laughed (and a couple agreed to my latter statement) and the other two looked at me as though I was slightly daft. All of them, except one, asked if I had seen baseball before (it’s the accent, damn it!) but were very good natured overall. Rather surprising, really, since I can’t see Premiership or Rugby folks being as nice. I should probably clarify that I didn’t ask them this right away--I started off with various less silly questions about the weather, the number of people, the last match they'd seen, team prospects and so on and then slipped in the trousers/bum/legs question.

Yous will have to wait for Part II** to read of PersonWhomIGotTixOffFrom (PWITOF) and Mrs PWITOF getting excited about random inexplicable events during the match and PWITOF singing along (with sound effects and hand-waving) to Sweet Caroline. Also, stay tuned for more on the “Presidents’ Race” where people dressed up as past US Presidents ran along the track. I’m not quite sure what happened on the pitch really but more on that in Part II as well.

* Yes, I know, lots of things may be "more American" if one could measure American-ness. This is merely a rhetorical question. I don't require an actual answer, thanks.

** Part Three.


Who says television and academia can't get along?

Right, so, unlike the horrible avian flu MOTW, I'm pretty much required to watch this.

At the ballpark: assessing and evaluating the national pastime

I do apologise, dear PTSD readers, for whetting your appetite for the ultimate baseball experience news and then leaving you for the weekend. RL and commitments to family (which included taking an obese dog on a walk it didn’t want to go on and during which it ended up running away and then jumping into a stream. All of this, including the stream part, with me in close pursuit. But that’s another story) intervened but I’m back to provide yous with details of the match on Friday. The Washington Nationals played the Chicago Cubs. Since so many things occurred during the event, this post might be a two-parter.

First, let me get this out of the way (and start off by pissing off all you baseball fanatics): if anyone ever says that footy is dull and boring, I’ll refer them to baseball. Baseball, apart from a few minutes of what seemed to be sixers and people being caught, was almost soporific. The crowd, even compared to a regular DC United match or a Caps game, seemed to be half-asleep. There were no subtle insults at the opposition, there were no shoutings of “hijo de puta” (among other things) at players, there were no no dig at the opposition players and supporters. Actually, and rather surprisingly, there wasn’t much noise at all, apart from the tannoy. For something that’s the national pastime, it was all quite quiet.

But, I’m getting too far ahead of myself. Let me start with what made it the national pastime. I got there nearly an hour before the scheduled start time. The road from the metro to the stadium, which during footy matches is packed with people all shouting at each other or in groups, was filled with families (usually Mum, Dad and kids) or couples or groups of boys. I counted about 7 groups of boys in the ten minutes I sat on the steps of the National Guard building and watched people. Oh, and since we are being all colourist these days (a lingering remnant of my cross-cultural relations classes), the crowd was oh-so-white. I’ve not been to an American football match yet (and I think even a free ticket wouldn’t be enough to tempt me to one) but the other two sports I’ve seen here--ice hockey and footy--have had a far more diverse, in terms of ethnic groups, crowd. This crowd was overwhelmingly white. Even Northern Denmark had more colour-based diversity than Friday’s baseball match.

The folks who were there had mostly dressed up in their team’s colours. I had done my part by wearing a red t-shirt. One good thing (apart from actually having a fun sport to watch and obsess about) about having supported Liverpool for most of my life is that I have a lot of red shirts to choose from. However, as most of them are LFC jerseys (with Carlsberg prominently printed on it), I felt they wouldn’t work for baseball (see? Who says I never think about clothes?) So, a plain red t-shirt for me. I realised I'd been overthinking about rejecting my (many) Liverpool T-shirts when I saw other folks wearing Boston Red Sox jerseys, random red shirts (including one with the Flash on it), a Portugal footy jersey or red shorts (with t-shirts too, of course). I even noticed a bloke wearing an Arsenal jersey and one with E’s home town’s name prominently displayed (on a grey t-shirt. E, does your hometown market its own t-shirts? If so, I want one too!).

Then, there was the food: somehow, RFK, a place not renowned for its cuisine in the many times I've been there, had been transformed into a site of many food stalls and even proper, good beer. Maybe I had been missing something by not coming earlier during DC United matches? Our usual pre-match entertainment during those consists of meeting up in the car park (since only one of my friends has a car) about 3 hours beforehand, setting out grills and beers, talking to folks around us about a) why there is so much fuss made of Freddy Adu, b) European/South American leagues and c) the weather and only making our way into the stadium just before kickoff. Even the couple of times I’ve been to DC United matches alone, I’ve usually turned up just before the match began. The baseball match was completely different in that I was there quite early, had a red carpet treatment (the organisers had laid on a red carpet) and got my red hat (which I then proceeded to clip on to my bag and forgot about during the “Cap Wave” session). The entire downstairs area, just after the turnstiles, smelled like hot dogs and fries.

More in Part II since I have not yet figured out the intricacies of how to create a hyperlink "below the fold" or "continued after this" type thing.


Re-defining the national pastime, part II

Pre-match musings now that I have my ticket in hand:

1. Why does the match start at 7.05pm? Does this mean it will start precisely at five minutes past 7? Is there any cosmic, historical, social, arbitrary reason for it to start at 7.05pm and not at 7pm or even 7.30 pm as other sporting events usually do? Wikipedia is of not much help there. I have to remember to ask baseball fans (of whom there are sure to be many at the match tomorrow) about this.* Maybe it's a television thing, rather like Premiership matches nowadays being played at noon (that's 7am DC time, you lot and, yes, I do often go watch those matches too).

2. The ticket is a page off Tickets.com . In contrast to DC United tickets (DC United matches are played at the same venue) which are discreet and about one-tenth the size of this one, this ticket has graphics (with a picture of the stadium and "2006 Washington Nationals" in large blue and white letterings) and logos. I miss footy already.

3. I have an assigned seat. I don't know if this means I will be in close proximity to various people I know or if I can safely pretend not to know anyone. I am not sure which tactic to employ since the former would allow me to ask silly questions (since, really, despite Wikipedia, my knowledge of baseball rules is minimal) but the latter would allow my usual anti-social nature free rein. I'll have to decide when I get there.

4. How early is "get there early for a hat" I wonder? Since the temperature these days (first summer in Washington and I've not been too fond of it so far) has levels of humidity which would make a camel sweat, I'm not too keen on staying outside for much longer than I have to but now that I've heard of the hat, I want one. I'm even willing to trample many women and children for one.

5. The seat's in a section that I've never before been to. The highest numbers I have sat have been the 400s. This tells me that I will be in the "Upper view MVP" section. I have a sneaky feeling that basically means "where only eagles dare"** in American-English. Too bad I left my bird-watching binos at my Uncle's.

6. And, for your amusement, a snippet of baseball news from the Washington Nationals' web site: "Right-hander Livan Hernandez will man the mound as the Nationals return home from a six-game road trip..."

Man the mound? Single-handedly? I thought baseball was a team sport?

So, there yous have it, dear PTSD readers. Expect a full report tomorrow. There shall be pre and post-match analyses, observations on people and clothing and (perhaps, if yous are lucky) some comments on the match itself. Though if I were yous, I wouldn't hold my breath for that last part.

* A quick look at the schedule tells me that all matches start at odd hours--7.05pm, 1.20pm and so on. Curiouser and curiouser.

** Any of yous seen that film? Where Eagles Dare? Great stuff with Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, evil Nazis and a cable-car in the Swiss (I think?) mountains.

Headline news

When I saw this headline on the Beeb's front page today, thoughts of screamings office-workers running away from their cubicles while being chased by deadly software came into my head.

Unfortunately, the news was much more mundane.

Read all about the "Poisoned powerpoint attacks users" here.

I've been playing with technology far more than I usually do as I spent four hours last night trying (with some random Internet person's help) to figure out why the sound on my computer suddenly went off. This was right when I was about to watch the final 3 episodes of Doctor Who so I was not too pleased. It was 3am by the time I, without taking it to a shop, sorted it all out.

To those of yous following my (potential) trip to the baseball match tomorrow: the ticket is still not in hand but should be by the end of the day. I am now off to investigate what the local team's colours are.

ETA: (Un?) surprisingly, and showing most likely cosmic forces are at play, the local team's colour is red and the opposition's blue. Ring any bells? Though I hardly think I'd care too much if this blue team wins.

Random things that are not quite a blog post

1. Tomorrow, I will be officially done with the Policy Place. This is one of those cases where it’s best for all concerned that this was a short–term contract. As it was, it was a close call as to whether I would quit or get fired before the project finished. Let’s just call it a learning experience, during which I have learned that policy is not, in fact, my thing. Same goes for copyediting, and for footnote checking.*

Am I pleased that I got to work on the project? Yes. Is the final result interesting and worthwhile? Yes. Were the people nice and friendly and dedicated? Yes. Will I ever sign up for this sort of job again? Hell, no.

2. It is perhaps not coincidental that I’ve slept better since Monday (the day I really finished the work I needed to do at Policy Place) than I have in months.

3. I really do like teaching the high school kids about public health. No, really. It’s fun. And they’re much brighter than they should be, which makes it even more entertaining because they keep me honest (no bluffing an answer, not when they can go look it up) and keep me interested in the discussions.

Also, the University has chalkboards on three walls of the rooms. This suits my teaching style, also known as the “Flit Around The Room Because I Keep Forgetting That I’m Supposed To Be An Adult” method of imparting knowledge to the unwashed masses.

4. I do not like the schedule of 7:30am class sessions. This was apparently dreamed up by crazy people, who do not understand that my preferred relationship to dawn is as a nice, bright ending to a loud, drunken night out. This whole sleeping and then waking up to birds chirping experience is not one that I want to repeat. Ever.

My annoyed recognition that early morning is not my best time is not made easier by the approach that teenagers take to the same time period, i.e., sleeping at their desks at every available moment. Thank god I don’t lecture much, so they at least need to be coherent enough for class discussion.

5. I’m strangely unmoved by the new BNL single, “Easy.” It’s just okay, “Wind It Up” is better, but might not make it into precious iPod space.

“Home” is already sliding up the iTunes play count. I think I’ve got it memorized. I want to learn to play the guitar so that I can play this song. Please, please, someone turn this into a fanvid, so that I can watch it. How about BF/RK? Wouldn’t that be nice?**

6. There’s a special circle of hell reserved for the designers of the Beltway. Or at least I hope there is, because whoever decided to put curves in that slow traffic even when there’s nothing but open road, and not build enough lanes so that people are forced to drive 5mph in 95 degree heat with no A/C deserves to have a miserable eternity.

Also, white guys driving red Mazda Miatas? Playing Eminem loudly through your tinny car stereo does not make you a badass. It makes you sad. It makes me sad. It makes people who have never met you sad to know that you exist in the world. Please don’t make me live with the knowledge that somewhere, out there in the realm of possibility, there is someone who would be caught dead doing this on a Wednesday afternoon. This is not something you should be doing.

And if you’re doing it while sitting next to my car, in stopped traffic, when I’m trying to listen to the Headstones? I hope you choke on your overpriced iced mocha froufrou yuppie drink. I hope your Bluetooth*** cellphone attachment makes your ears tan funny.

I hope you one day learn to appreciate (at the wrong end of a baseball bat, if necessary) the bittersweet wonder that is “Blue Tattoo,” with its combination of the great Hugh Dillon and the otherwise fantastic Swamp Baby into a group that is everything that went wrong with punk and yet still able to make me consider angry guitar smashing as a viable career. ****

7. Okay, maybe I’m still a little cranky. In this case, though, all right-thinking music fans would agree with me.

*Of course, I already knew that footnote checking was not something I do well. This is because the idea of footnote citation style makes my skin crawl and my eyes bleed. I would eat glass before I would go through my first year of law review again. It’s possible that the Bluebook is to blame for my decision to go to grad school rather than get a job as a lawyer.

In short, there’s a good reason that I’ve been missing from the blog for the past month or so. It didn’t seem fair to subject anyone else to my nasty mood swings and fury at the writers of the Chicago Manual of Style.

** Yes, you must use the live version. With or without the applause. Yes, this is the fangirl moment that has come to define my posts. You got off lightly this time. Count your blessings that it wasn't a long analysis of the use of exterior spaces to denote personal growth in due South. Because that was one way this could have gone.

I’m serious about the fanvid thing. I’m not above begging, here. Come on, it’s perfect. Cars, relationships ending, another one starting, and it’s all about going back to where you belong. I can’t believe someone hasn’t already done it.

*** Tell me, please, why MS Word knows to capitalize Bluetooth but insists that neorealism is a figment of my imagination?

**** That sentence? Evidence enough that copyediting is not the job for me.


Re-defining the national pastime

Nation: The United States of America

National Pastime: Baseball (or so Wikipedia tells me)

My task: To go watch a baseball match and make sure I understand how the bowler is bowling to the batsman while the fielders run around on the pitch trying to score (or stop) runs. Also, not to make comments (or call out "no ball") when the bowler consistently chucks it and throws beamers*.

Two days to go until the big day and I have still to get my ticket. I hear that I can pick it up tomorrow (and will update yous on it, dear PTSD readers) and that I should get to the stadium early so I can get my own local team hat. Yes, a hat. I shall (hopefully and assuming I can push thousands of kids out of the way) be the proud owner of a baseball hat on Friday. US citizenship surely awaits.

* Yes, I'm well aware proper baseball is talked of differently. It doesn't make any difference to people who have recently started talking of football (soccer) and discuss things like PKs (penalty kicks or spot kicks), over time (extra time), end zones(what are those when they are at home, by the way?), so that's not enough of a reason to stop me (see the title of my post). Also, no, footy doesn't have "defensive backs", it just has defenders.

Oh, and "chucks it" and beamers? Definitely not cricket (but apparently baseball).



Hey, Priya? I'm *so* not feeling guilty for telling the A.D. about the blog last March. Because at least I didn't put out an ad in the Post...


Visual cues and IR: Body language among top leaders

PTSD readers probably know of how difficult it is to get "proper" research done on visual images and cues in the serious and scholarly world of International Relations.

Not to worry, the Beeb did some of the work for poetential researchers working on topics like power relations (or great power relations) or even gender relations among heads of state or some such. Under the heading "G8 summit body language", the Beeb's got 8 pictures (with analysis added) here.

Check them out--go all the way to the end. So, Merkel gets her hand held by Bush and Putin gets a (perhaps dirty) joke? There's a research paper right there.

ETA: Well, the Beeb is practically a library for IR-related research topics today. Check out the transcript of the Bush-Blair conversation, accidentally caught on video by CCTV.

One of the choice bits is Blair talking of the different public expectations about what would happen if he (i.e. Britain) took a trip to Syria/Middle East versus if Condoleeza Rice (i.e. the United States) did:

Blair: "Well it's only if she [Condoleeza Rice] needs the ground prepared as it were. If she goes out she HAS to succeed whereas I can just go and..."

Emphasis in the original. Ah, how imperialism has changed!


Need to procrastinate? Look no further

Here's a site that has provided me with hours of (much needed) entertainment for the past week.

PTSD readers will probably like Still Game (see under "British" in the "comedy" category) about two old blokes in a Scottish town. In one of the episodes, they skip out on their First Aid classes at the local uni to take advantage of the 75p pints offered at the student union and manage to make this activity funny. It's just a timely reminder that British sitcoms (most of which seem to be about people pretty much doing nothing except living their everyday lives) have been consistently good.

The best thing is that all the shows are free and easy to watch as they can be downloaded in various versions and for different gadgets. Enjoy!

Thanks to RandomInternetBloke for the site.


A shameless plug for attention (or, PTSD is a DC Blog)

Scene: The little courtyard underneath the Watergate Hotel in Washington. Who knew there were a Safeway and a CVS and a Bottle shop there, eh? Underneath the famous Watergate Hotel. I didn't.

Date and Time: Friday evening, just before 8pm.

People: Me and four other people who had gone to Safeway to get some food to tide us over through the 3-hour long "Afrosalsa" thing at the Kennedy Centre we had gone to see.

What happened: We were standing in the courtyard when a man (with a dark suit and a red bow-tie) walked briskly into the bottle shop right next to where we were standing. He was accompanied by another man.


Me: Hey, was that the Mayor?
Someone: Yes, it did look like him. But, isn't he in South Africa? I read that last week, I think.
Someone else: Yes, it was him. Didn't you see the tie?

He walks out of the bottle shop and goes into the Chinese restaurant next door.

Everyone: Yes, it was him. Let's go say Hello.
Someone: Ask him what he's doing now that he's back from his international trips. Is he actually going to work?
Someone: What do mayors do anyway?
Someone else: Or, ask him what he's doing about crime in the city.

In the end, we walk off without doing any of those things. I think none of us were actually DC voters (maybe one?).

So, there yous go. I was hoping to be interviewed by the major news media for this sighting but, alas, it was not to be. Or, hasn't happened yet. It's not too late, major news media--do email me.


Beware of hordes, perils, waves and floods

I always like it when politicians do some of my work for me. I've been reading this rather fun book about plantations in Ireland and the famine and the loads of people, miserable, depressed, scared, unsure of the future, leaving (and/or dying). It suits my current mood, you see.

In those days, it was the barbarian, uncivilised hordes of Irish flooding coastal ports like Liverpool (and as far away as America). After that, it was the Yellow Peril. For Samuel Huntington, it was (is?) the waves of Hispanic immigrants from Mexico and now, for Jacques Chirac, it's African people who "will flood the world".

The entire world too. Fancy that.

Oh, and in case yous have forgotten, today is Bastille Day, where all French folks get together to celebrate freedom from oppression (or so the web sites tell me). Viva la revolution Liberty, Egality, Fraternity* and all that. This, obviously, does not apply to you if you're planning on being part of that African flood.

* Yes, I got my revolutionary phrases mixed up.


I just can't stay away (or, the anatomy of a class)

This week, I ended up subbing for someone else for an undergrad "Cross-cultural communication" class. Being a summer class, each of the two classes I took was 3 hour 40 minutes long, a long time to be in there with the same bunch of students. The topic of the week was "American Identity" and I didn't have much prepared (it was a very last-minute thing and the regular instructor didn't have time to give me the text book and nor was it in TUWSNBN's library) but the first class went quite well. It was good to see students making arguments along lines of various theories and so on so all I had to do was keep pushing them to get to the implications of what they were saying. We just sat around and chatted.

Yesterday though, it was a bit different. By mid-class, we were all knackered and, since it had been raining, most of us were cold and wet and ready to go home and sleep. I was trying to get across the view that there are different types of cultures (and not just ethnic, national, race) and that context mattered when talking of identity. We had also been talking about how categories are historically-formed and shift through time but that doesn't mean they are more or less "real". This was also framed under a debate on is culture/identity essential traits (or not) and what would it mean to talk of them as essentialised/relative.

So, I decided to try an (made up on the spot. I couldn't think of anything else right then) exercise.

I listed some words on the board and asked them what was their view of each. Here they are (along with what I wanted to talk about and my expectations):

British Muslim: one kid gave this great example of how he thinks of "kitchen workers working for Israeli restaurant owners" when he hears this term because his Mum and Dad (from "the Middle East") used to work in one. [I wanted to talk of fractals and categories and also about when one might identity oneself as a British Muslim, as opposed to something else]

Asian: smart, beef and broccolli, "any of the UCs" [I wanted to talk about how, in Australia or Britain, people from usually classified as "Asian" while in the USA, "Asians" seem to mean people from East and South-east Asia. So, about classification and how they encompass different things]

Footballer: David Beckham, head butt (ahhh...Zidane!), then questions of whether I meant soccer or football [I wanted to get at a similar response and talk of how asking questions might be a good way of cross-cultural communication in the practical sense since "football" meant American here in the USA, Rugby or Aussie Rules in Australia and soccer in most other places]

*All Blacks (with much laughter through the class): watermelon, loud, fried chicken

Geek: pocket protector, asthma, comic books, computers [This was to talk of how "culture" doesn't just mean talking of national/ethnic levels, as had been the case in their text books and in the film we'd seen earlier]**

I don't think I got to give the students many theoretical concepts they will remember but, hopefully, they'll question assumptions and think of implications of arguments they (and the instructor) are making in the rest of the classes.

* This was the response that floored me since I was expecting them to ask me what this was and then wanted to talk of how sports teams also had cultures in the sense of being social and having publicly-available meanings. I also wanted to discuss the Haka that the team performs before each match and how only someone with Maori blood is allowed to lead the Haka (and use that to refer back to issues of essential versus social identities and the implications thereof).

For quite a while, I was hugely surprised because while I could understand rugby players being loud, I didn't get the association with fruits and food at all. As the students kept laughing, I asked them why they had given me those terms and one girl explained that was the "all blacks stereotype". Even then, I didn't get it (yes, I'm really slow!) that they were talking of racial stereotypes. After we cleared it up, I think this incident got my points (and added the one about context for good measure because there they saw it in action) across quite well. As a learning experience for me, it'll be hard to beat.

** Ideas for how I could tweak this exercise in future or for other exercises, if I ever get to teach students about cross-cultural communication again, would be much appreciated.


Not quite back

But getting there. I haven't disappeared, really, but I haven't been around here either. More later, but for now (and because it's baseball season, and I'm expecting a full report of Priya's experiments in football behavior at Nats games) a present for you, loyal reader:

Trevor Hurst, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

(Click through to the page with the m4a link, and let me know if there's a problem with it. If this works, expect more gems from the Canadian music scene in future posts)

Where's E?

It's been a bloody awful couple of days, really so I'm off in search of my usual panacea.

Perhaps also a bit of this and that though what I really feel like is doing a Zidane to a few people. Now, that would really put me beyond the pale.

Hopefully, E will be around to keep yous company for the next few days as I go ponder my future.


So, what did they say?

What did happen?

Back to the World Cup final and that incident:

Materazzi apparently called Zidane a Dirty Terrorist. Or, said he'd rather have the shirt off his wife's back (instead of Zidane's jersey). Or, said his mother was a dirty whore. Or, a combination thereof.

Materazzi says he didn't call Zidane an Islamic Terrorist because (oh, what a reason!) he's not "cultured" enough. He didn't insult Zizou's mum either since for him, a Mother's "sacred".

Zizou's teammates, agent, manager and assorted hangers on including the local Hot Dog guy outside my apartment building, say he was "provoked" and that he would never otherwise have done such a thing.*

Materazzi says he did say something provocative to Zidane but doesn't specify what.

What does this mean? Added to the nearly 1000 comments in the article I previously posted on, many of whom appear to take it for granted that some of Materazzi's comments were "racist" or of the "You filthy terrorist" variety (and, yet, note above that neither of the participants have clarified what was actually said), it seems that no one's quite sure what was said. All we saw was some (usual) jersey-tugging and then that headbutt from Zidane.

The way the incident is being discussed in the media is not so much about what occurred (Zidane headbutting Materazzi and getting sent off) but about why he did it (insults, "Algerian" roots, being called a "terrorist"). But, does it really matter why he did it as much as what happened during and after he did it? The Italians winning the Cup (and especially Trezeguet's pretty awful spot kick) has received much less attention as we all focus on what was (and was not) said.

The way the incident is being talked about is even more complicated because neither of the main players have told us what they did say. Materazzi denied saying certain things but that was it. Zidane has remained silent. I guess we have to wait and see (and hope Zizou's ghostwriter is preparing a good speech/book chapter).

* He did trample on that Saudi Arab guy in the 1998 World Cup and that was also put down to "racist taunts" by the player. This was unconfirmed and, since it was a group stage match, no one cared much then.


And then it's all over

For the World Cup: The Italians never grew on me the way the French did but I have to admit they probably deserved to win. As usual, they had a fantastic defence but this time their forwards did their jobs too. But, it's the Italians. I can't drum up much enthusiasm for them (or their win).

For Zidane: Not much to write here except what many others, better at writing than me, have written--Oh, why, Zizou? Unlike the English players (who all seem ready to slag off Sven) Zidane's always been a quiet sort so he will probably not explain what led to a moment of madness*.

For moments of madness: We had Rooney, we had the McBride being headbutted, we had Figo twisting nipples and getting away with it, and then we had Zidane.

For hanging out in the (same) pub all day throughout the tournament: Really, what is there to do now?

For fun days as a student: Teaching is just not the same, I reckon. Tonight, I have a 3.5 hour class on "Cross-cultural Communications", a topic I've never taken as a student nor been much interested in**. I've been told there will be student presentations (but those can't go on for 3.5 hours, surely?) and not much else. If I were a student, I wouldn't need to worry about that. Now, I am trying to figure out what to talk about, if (when) the presentations are done.

For my taking over PTSD with footy-related stuff: It's very appropriate that the second season of the Doctor and the World Cup both ended a day after each other. Maybe E will be back in writing now? Soon? After all, there's only so much of my drivel PTSD readers can be expected to read.

* This has not stopped many from speculating, as seen in this comments thread to a Guardian post. 817 comments and counting on Zidane and his head butt with many commentators automatically assuming his actions were in response to racist remarks by Materazzi. Many then link this to colonialism, immigrant rights and so on with quite a lot of the commentators excusing Zidane's actions. Neither Materazzi or Zidane has said anything about the subject so far.

** A brainstorming session with E and ArmyGuy on Friday led to some suggestions for cross-cultural communication though all were ultimately unworkable in class on a practical basis (and unpostable on PTSD).


Musings upon an (unexpectedly) technology-laden life

PTSD readers cannot have failed to notice that I usually prefer leaving things-that-need-to-be-done until such a stage as they have to be done or else dire consequences will follow or try find ways and means by which other people, usually far better at doing them than me, will do it. This summer, part of my TA-ing gig involves filming* and then editing various videos taken during different lectures. The plan, an admirable one, is to put the lectures online so that the students who were there can access them from the comfort of their own homes and those who weren't there but were enrolled in the programmes can watch what they missed. Unfortunately for all concerned, I am the only TA around, meaning there is no one else to palm this off on.**

This leads to two things:

1. I am not what yous may call a dab hand at editing film. I do not use Macs. I am more comfortable working with my (much-derided but still alive) Acer or even with the (quite dodgy at times) Dells TUWSNBN has all around. Unfortunately, the media centre at uni works with Macs. Specifically, it works with Final Cut Pro, software that I've never used before. Ever. So, I'll be using a new type of computer (what's with all those icons at the bottom of the screen that jump out at you eh?) and using new software to get things done.

2. There're hours upon hours of video to edit, cut into manageable pieces and put online. All those tasks are not tasks I have had any experience in. I don't particularly fancy being the one person who shows up in the centre all the time and constantly asks for help on how to use Final Cut. I think I have started to notice a wild look in the eyes of the Student Assistants (who are enormously helpful) as soon as they see me wander into the room. And this is before my proposed marathon-sessions next week in which I am going to try to a) take a crash course in learning how to put video online and b) actually do that for most of the filmed lectures.***

* The less said about that the better. Let me just say that the best videos are those where I was not involved in any capacity and wasn't even present. That should say something about my camera and editing skills. I have my strengths but filming and editing are not among them though it seems like I can add "Proficient in use of Final Cut Pro" (to "published author". Hurrah! I got my copy of the Book last week. Did I mention that already?) to my CV.

** Yes, yes, I'm sure yous are thinking of all the expensive equipment and me in close combination with them but, trust me, I've been a model of efficiency so far. So far. I've no idea how much longer that will last but I'm trying to take a leaf out of the Lawyers' Handbook and give a good impression of someone who knows what they are doing.

*** E, thankfully, did not film herself giving her lectures but, instead, did some funky stuff herself meaning I don't have to worry about her classes at all. That still leaves loads of classes (four or five, I think and each with about 3-4 hours of video) to edit/splice/turn into film/put online. After all this, teaching in the Fall should be a breeze, right? Right?

ETA: No, I didn't write an entire book on my own--that's what the dissertation's for. I did, however, have a chapter in a recently-published book.


(Not) teaching and watching football at TUWSNBN

It's the Cheese-eating surrender monkeys versus the Latin show ponies for the World Cup final.

Who says I can't be offensive?

Seriously though, I get the feeling the Italians will win the Cup since they have such a stingy defence and France's defence (one word: Barthez) is not that great. But, did anyone see Zidane today? A few months ago, the man could barely walk during the match (World Cup qualifiers) and now he's absolutely fantastic. What was Scolari thinking by not having a proper forward on for nearly half the match, by the way? No matter how much C. Ronaldo runs about, he's not a forward. Maybe he thought C. Ronaldo was the other Ronaldo.

In case yous are wondering, I got off teaching duties (last minute hiccup involving my only having 3 kids in my class!) due to the magnificent generocity of one of the other instructors who combined classes so that I could watch (part of) the match. I watched it at TUWSNBN's library, standing up to watch the match on a tiny screen, and missed the huge screen at Harp and Fiddle. The commentary here was much better though since they were showing the match on the French channel (TV5) instead of the usual ESPN/ESPN2.

For those following my teaching and clothing saga, here's something that yous will find amusing: I walked into the building where classes were held (4 classes were going on at once) just before classes started only to be asked by one of the other instructors which class I belonged to.* It was rather amusing since I was in my "formal" teaching gear (or so I had thought) of (black) skirt, T-shirt and (non flip-flop) sandals.**

* The question was along the lines of "Are you in X (his class) or in one of the other ones?"

** Oh, and I don't look young for my age. In fact, I look older (years in the Aussie/Thai sun will do that to you. Wear sunscreen) but the situation exemplified how expectations shape interactions. You expect a bunch of students to show up, you see someone walk around looking for a classroom, you assume she is a (lost) student. Since most of the kids wear suits (the boys do, the girls are less formal), it is often difficult to distinguish students from teachers.


Why the World Needs Germany (and Liverpool)

I had thought the Germans would make it through to the finals I really did. Now, after watching the (bloody) Italians nick a win against Australia in the last possible minute through a disputed penalty earlier on in the tournament, I had to sit through a fairly technical, rather even match to see the Italians score two goals in the last few minutes to get to the final. I had said to someone before the match that the Germans' defence would be suspect. It was. But, they held on till the last few minutes of extra time and Lehman was excellent though they never looked like scoring a goal. The German midfield, including Ballack, seemed to have gone on holiday--probably off to Northern Denmark where, as I found out last year, they could hide among hordes of their fellow countrymen.

It was when the German crowd started singing "You'll never walk alone"* to the players, after the match ended, that I thought of the title of this post. I was sitting in the pub, with a group of people who supported Italy and who were jumping about and banging tables with joy as the German supporters (me included), with their flags and face paint wilted, streamed out into the late afternoon thunderstorm. Germany and Liverpool are rather similar in their playing styles and in terms of what happened in the Champions League 2005 and this World Cup--middling teams not playing well before the tournament started, great managers but fairly new to the post, midfield generals (who didn't play too well but marshalled his men about and talked and cajoled them when needed), usually indifferent goalie having the tournament of his life and an attacking style of football. Liverpool went all the way in 2005, the Germans didn't. It would have been fantastic if they had.

But, that's why it's necessary to have teams like Liverpool and Germany about and doing well in major competitions. Unlike Brazil and Chelsea, Germany and Liverpool give hope to the rest of the world that having average players playing the games of their lives (with a little bit of luck added) is good enough to win major championships. Of course, experience counts or else Australia, Ghana, and Trinidad would probably be in the semis too but football matches are not predictable**. And, that's what Germany's run to the semi-finals (and Liverpool's 2005 CL win) reminded us of.

Oh, and Happy Birthday America. I did see some fireworks from the Bookstore's window.

* For those PTSD readers indifferent towards Liverpool, You'll Never Walk Alone is the anthem of the team. Yes, it's cheesy. But it's really difficult to sing an indie song during a footy match.

** Did yous see the stats (Germany only having lost once (I think?) in Dortmund, etc etc) that ESPN kept on bombarding us with? In the end, it was a moment of sublime football from the Italians that got them through.

How to write a co-authored paper: A primer

Top ten ways to work things through when writing joint articles (based on ongoing experiences, from which I have learnt a lot):

10. Working with someone can be a benefit or not. Yes, this is tip no. 10. It has to be obscure and fairly useless.

9. It can be a benefit if your co-author's name is known in the field, so presumably the article or paper will be published. This, for a struggling postgrad, can only be good. Think of all the professors out there who don't want to write articles with you (and breathe a sigh of relief at that) while you want to use the nearest blunt object on your co-author/run amok with red ink over what's already written*. Think of having your name in print. And then think whether what your name will be attached to is in any way yours after all the revisions it goes through. Decide (and this is my view) that you don't care much since it's your name in print!. Make "Name in Print" your mantra. Recite it daily and repeat if necessary.

8. It won't be a benefit if your voice (and writing) is likely to disappear among the morass of details or swallowed up by the other person's writings. If, like me, you are a fairly "simplistic" writer, this can be a problem because it means the joint paper might not reflect much of your point of view. Or, even, your argument. See no. 9 for reasons why leaving things like points of view, standpoint, methodological stance, arguments behind while writing a paper with a BigNameScholar is probably the best idea if you want to retain any hair (tearing yours out is not recommended; tearing your co-writer's out might be an obstacle to publication and to your career).

If writing with a colleague or a mate, no. 9 can be easily avoided by setting guidelines. I suggest any disagreements be resolved over copious amounts of alcohol with the last person standing getting to keep their point of view on paper. Or, to be serious for a change, try talking things through. This might not lead to agreement but could lead to new pathways and different ways of seeing things. Ask E and I at some point for an update on this Tip since we are writing a paper together and, considering how different we are, it could be far worse than it actually is (so far). It still has to be revised for a BigNameConference soon so I might gain more lessons from the process (and E might tear her/my hair out. Wait and see).

7. Be wary of the term "accessible". Accessible, while a worthy goal for people like Anderson Cooper and those writing the "baseball" entry on Wikipedia, is probably not recommended for an IR article. You want your writing to be rather obscure and full of jargon, if possible.**

6. Realise there is loads of work involved and that you have to do it. The Revision process which seems to go on for months and involve cutting out most of what has already been written--by you-- and adding more of what is to be written (by you, again) is a killer. If doing that over the summer, divide up the work into small manageable chunks and intersperse this with frequent trips to the grocery store for staple foods such as ice-cream, beer(s) and chips.***

5. If told to do things you don't agree with, put your foot (feet) down firmly but politely. Tell your co-author that the question of why X happened is not answerable (in your view and using the approach you have been using) but that how X happened and what happened when X was decribed in such a way is what you are interested in. This may well not work, but try anyway. There's no point in giving up all authorship in the process.

4. Use metaphors about the "Dark Side of X" or "What is Hidden" without once referring to Star Wars or Harry Potter (and the mirror of Erised. Really, the whole metaphor for joint paper-writing should be the mirror of Erised****)

3. Try frame your point of view in a way that shows you know what you are on about. Drop names of scholars, quote chapters (since page numbers are probably beyond you) and list books when making your argument. Of course, your co-author can respond by quoting other people but at least he/she should be aware that your stance is a valid and sustainable one.*****

Since the paper partly reflects (or should) your views, be confident about this at least. Think of yourself as a German footy player taking a penalty. Remember how they have missed only one out of their last 18 penalties in major competitions. Become German.

2. Don't assume the paper-writing will be a short process. It won't be. There will be additions, revisions, and so on. It will take months. Try do other tasks around the paper so that it doesn't take up all of your time. This might be easier said than done and I have not yet tried it myself. Wait and read on later in the summer for updates.

1. Remember the mantra: Name in Print. Also, keep in mind that it's a good opportunity and that you will (hopefully) manage to get some of your points across through the paper. If not, it's still NIP and that's not to be scoffed at. It's not like chances to co-write papers fall into your laps daily. Or, if they do, then let PTSD know how that happens so we can get in on the act too.

Finally, a bonus "waste not, want not" tip: try to use the parts of your writing that were not used for this paper for another (solo) paper. This way you will not start thinking that, all that time you spent reading the writings of dead white folks (or, alive white though almost dead folks), you could have been doing something far more useful to society. I'm not sure what but something: building houses or (wo)manning soup kitchens or something. Before using the unused writings,inform your co-author of this so that he/she is aware of what you plan to do with what you wrote.

* In case you are wondering, red ink or even correction is not recommended. In terms of subject positioning, if your education was (gasp!) not American, you are likely to be tarred with the "oh, those Colonials, they don't teach proper grammar/spelling" brush. Make sure your Wordprocessing thingy is set to American English (which, as yous know, is a breed of its own) and that it works. This is rather important since, really, there's not much you can do to change habits of over two decades. I've tried.

** If writing by yourself, I would recommend writing how you write best and are most comfortable with and leaving jargon and obscure words to others. Let's face it, if you learnt English as a third (or, as the term is these days "other") language, you will recall knowing from classes involving "look up 'oppression' in the thesaurus" and finding out that there really were seven different ways to say it. In other words, use a good thesaurus to do your dirty work, if you must, but personally I like the keep things simple plan.

*** Disclaimer: PTSD does not promote unhealty eating. Anything you eat is your responsibility and should be carefully vetted by you. In fact, PTSD recommends walking to and from Uni (and saving the train fare). This also allows plenty of time to think on things. Thinking is an activity that comes highly recommended from (almost all) great scholars.

**** Now that I think about it, I could probably make an argument for that. After all, isn't the whole point of the Mirror of Erised (and I'd re-read it to make sure but since LilSis2 took all my Harry Potter books to LilSis1 in New Zealand, I can't) that we can't understand/conceptualise about what lies beneath/under/behind and even to try do so will suck us into some scary situation?

***** Keep trying if you don't succeed. Think of Robert Bruce and the spider. Or, the English and the World Cup. If you fail, convince yourself that you deserved to succeed/were doing really well but were hard done by. This works only if you're pretending to be the English football team.


Introducing the Site for July

Since E has her comps coming up and I am, when not obsessing about not having any football to watch for at least another six weeks (the Premiership doesn't start till the end of August), supposed to be dissertating and also developing a syllabus, here's the site of the month for July.

It's the Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG), a place which allows you to search for articles, lists conferences and also has web sites on loads of topics.

For example, a search for "Qualitative methods" gives you this, including this page, with a list of different types of research methods.


Where's Fawlty?

So, it's that time of the World Cup. Semi-finals ahead, starting tomorrow and, hey, look: four European teams. That means it's time for that good old-fashioned sport of bringing up national stereotypes.

The Germans, usually rather polite and definitely not up to (or down to) the level of the Sun and News of the World, are leaping ahead with an article describing the Italians as being "lazy and greasy, among other things". Apparently the Der Spiegel web site, where the article appeared, pulled it fairly soon after but the Italians are protesting.

Rather than the article itself, the reactions to it are also worth noting. The Italian captain responded saying he was shocked but his shock seemed to be more about where the article was printed.

"It shocks me that this can happen in a civilised country like Germany".

So, does that mean he wouldn't have been surprised if the comments had been made in some other (uncivilised) country?


The Fine Art of Teaching and Learning

Quite possibly shocking the PTSD readership and proving that I do write of other things apart from football and Doctor Who, I'd like to tell yous about the students I just finished teaching. In one word, the class was brilliant* as the students were quite possibly the keenest students I have worked with.

The three students (it's a small class) were great--they knew their subject (International Law, specifically questions of intervention and genocide/war crimes), they were keen discussants and were willing to argue. Most of the time, I was kept busy trying to dredge UN-related/International Law/Genocide/Rwanda stuff from the (deep, dark) recesses of my mind to discuss about "So, if X is a genocide, why isn't Y?" and "Who should intervene in Darfur then?".

* I'm not saying I was brilliant but that the class itself--a 3-hour one early Sunday morning--went much better than I could have hoped for. More experienced teachers will probably recognise the feeling of "hey, this is actually going to be fantastic", which I got as soon as I started the discussion going and which didn't let up through the (quite a few) disagreements we had. Oh, and I wore a (plain) T-shirt and trousers. And, shoes too, of course.


Oh, England!

When the time came, England stuttered and went out. As everyone knew they would. The annoying part was that Owen Hargreaves, whom most English supporters would have slagged off before the World Cup, was the only one to actually score from the penalty spot. Steven Gerrard (thankfully, he plays loads better for Liverpool so I don't much care) and Frank Lampard (totally overrated, I always said so) both missed and (Liverpudlian) Jamie Carragher scored and then had to retake his penalty and missed the second time. In between (or, afterwards, really) Ronaldo scored and won the match for Portugal.

In the afternoon (and we didn't even move from our table at Harp and Fiddle--they'll have to give us Gold Stars or something soon), my whole table (six people) was supporting Brazil, except me. I was well pleased that my team of old French blokes, led admirably by Zizou, won.

So, it's an all-European semi-finals. Now, I am on the "anyone but Italy" campaign. Since I'm teaching on Wednesday* (and, hence, unable to watch the Portugal-France match), I hope the Germans thrash the bloody Italians on 4 July.

* I did my best to get out of it but no one wants to take over. I begged and almost cried but it appears everyone has their own class on and/or are busy. I can't believe I'll be missing the semi-final of the World Cup for a teaching gig. I would love to write deep, meaningful comments about career-building and all that here but, really, I'm missing the semi-final of the World Cup for a blasted teaching gig. It's not pleasant at all.