don't panic...well, not on 25 May anyway

For those (three?) PTSD readers out there, a reminder that tomorrow 25 May is Towel Day.

As Wiki puts it: Towel Day is celebrated every May 25 as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams.

So, there yous have it--don't forget your towels tomorrow. And, if you happen to see other towel-carrying people, tell them not to panic.

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a face in the crowd

So, LilSis2 (who's here for a week before heading back up north to hole herself up in SmallTownMaine all summer), IntLaw and I headed over to Harp and Fiddle yesterday to watch the Liverpool-AC Milan match.

The least said about the result, the better. So, I will talk about the people instead. Now, the British media had been reporting how the Greek media focused only on the negative potential of British fans travelling overseas. The aftermath has gotten ugly with UEFA blaming Liverpool fans for pre-match chaos. But, read this (from the Guardian, which isn't much of a football-supporting newspaper in general):

While hundreds of Liverpool fans with forged tickets got into the ground, many with genuine ones were turned away and sprayed with tear gas by riot police.

I wasn't there. I don't know if this did actually happen. But, wouldn't anyone be rather miffed at that?

The UEFA bloke, though, was having none of that:

"Liverpool fans are responsible for the problems before, during and after the game," he said. "Unfortunately in Britain it is the behaviour."

Well, not really. Granted the English fans were known for hooliganism in the past couple of decades but that has been well under control lately. Compared with Spain (racist comments by supporters against players from one's own team), Italy and even Germany, things have been fairly calm in England in the past decade.

But, notice how this doesn't much matter when people are trying to make sense of things. England fans = hooligans = "it is the behaviour" = it's the norm.

Getting back to my viewing--the place we were watching had about 60-70 blokes and about less than 10 women (counting LilSis2 and me). Most of the (other) women were in a mixed-gender group and were fairly sedate. It was rather interesting because this was the same place where I'd watched the World Cup Cricket final. At that time, the crowd was more mixed in terms of gender and age while this lot seemed more geographically-diverse. There were Australians, Italians, Danes, locals, East/Southeast Asian folks and the usual Brits and Irish, just based on a few accents ringing out.

I guess I had some point to this: Oh, yes, the geographical diversity at the local pub reflecting the popularity of football worldwide.

But, really, no matter how much I try to make this experience seem better, it sucked. Liverpool bloody well lost. Maybe next year, they'll do better.

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how do you do it?

Date: 25 May, 2005
Place where I was: Copenhagen, Denmark
Time: Night
Event: Champions League Final Liverpool vs AC Milan

After having spent the day wandering around the sights of the city*, I wanted to end it by watching the Liverpool-AC Milan Champions League Final. At half-time, I gave up and started walking back, through the city centre, to my hostel. Score: AC Milan 3, Liverpool 0.

At the entrance to the alley which led to the hostel, there was a small pub. Space for about 10-12 people. I glanced at it as I walked past. There was a small television in the corner. Score: AC Milan 3, Liverpool 3.

In the rapidly-cold night, I stood outside (the pub looked rather dodgy and I had no money left), watching the ensuing penalty shootout through a fairly grimy front window.

Final score? Well, yous should all know it. I believe I blogged about it. Liverpool won on penalties.

Two years later. 23 May, 2007.
Place: Washington, DC (Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda, to be precise)
Time: Afternoon

Champions League final at 2.30pm, Washington time. I've got my red shirt ready (and, being a realist about my team, a different shirt to cover it with)

It's really too much to hope for (and expect) that a similar tale will be told for the second time in three years. It's pretty much inconceivable that a team which could barely finish third in the Premiership will win against a team composed almost entirely of World Cup winners (or finalists).

But, as always, I hope. I don't want a good match, I just want Liverpool to win.

* All yous need to know is that the Little Mermaid is actually quite tiny, there are a lot of buildings--churches and suchlike-- upon whicn one can climb all the way to the roof and there are free bicycles to ride about in the city centre. Bright red bicycles. And lots of dodgy-ish take-out joints selling (my favourite food there, really) kylling kebabs.

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we're clearly soldiers in petticoats

There's a long post from Joss Whedon over here. It's on women's rights.

It's well worth reading. For me, it's an example of something that started off excellently but then gets a bit problematic in parts.

Let me explain with a few highlights:

A point worth reiterating--it's not just them, it's also us who do this:

Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

But, a bit further:

It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself.

Now, I like the chap--he has helped me while away some of the precious little time I have in this world but, really. "True enlightened activism"? What is that when it's at home? Whose enlightened activism should we favour?

Any one of you would have cried out, would have intervened, had you been in that crowd in Bashiqa.

Would we?

So what can we do? According to him:

All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a cause – there are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once.

I rather like the implicit optimism of this preceding paragraph--there are few unworthy causes and action (though undefined as to what this entails) is always a good thing.

Overall, though--his comparison between a girl being stoned (and the footage then shown on CNN) and a film poster? Well, in the latter, the actress presumably had a bloody choice as to whether she wanted to be in the film (or not). The former? Not so much. By ignoring the issue of choice, isn't Mr. W also denying women their voices, an act he spends quite a lot of words arguing against?

Also, the post starts by describing how some people were filming a young girl being stoned (to death). But, then, if I were there at that time, I'd probably do the same (film, not stone). It's just damned easy to sit on my sofa in front of the telly in some city and express outrage.

I do like how he ends it though--an example, as I wrote earlier, of the sentiment of the post itself being excellent, its execution slightly shoddy:

I have never had any faith in humanity. But I will give us props on this: if we can evolve, invent and theorize our way into the technologically magical, culturally diverse and artistically magnificent race we are and still get people to buy the idiotic idea that half of us are inferior, we’re pretty amazing. Let our next sleight of hand be to make that myth disappear.

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map of the problematique

Yes, I know both E and I have disappeared--well, more E than me. I'm back--sort of--with this

I am trying to re-write a paper that I need to present in less than two weeks' time. The paper itself is supposed to be given to the Conference organisers by Thursday. In between working on weekends (and on weekdays) to make, you know, actual money, paper-writing has taken a distant second. Today was my first day off in ages so I was doing some research. I did find this excellent (in the "I can't believe people write this" sense) article:

Apparently postmodernism (and, if you read the text, feminism) are threats to science and to Buddhism. Well, of course, yous might say. But, apparently, so is the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK--the topic I'm working on). As the author kindly points out to us laypeople:

"The branch of sociology variously known as Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) or Science and Technology Studies (STS), had the objective of showing that the results of scientific findings did not represent any underlying reality, but were purely the ideology of dominant groups within society.

Consequently, if one held a sufficiently radical ideology, one could walk out of a sixth floor window and be immune to the effects of gravity."

Well, and I suppose no one actually told the SSK folks this because, shockingly, they don't appear to have understood the radical potential of their research. After all, all they seemed to be doing was to show that science is a social process--one that involved people and, as such, was fallible as well as based on sociocultural norms and historical understandings. What they were really doing was discovering a way to counter gravity.

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should i intervene or should i leave?

I'm rather incoherent for a proper post right now (grading, grading and more grading) but wanted to share some of the "discoveries" I've made in the course of grading my students' papers:

1. How to access sources?: Be creative!
A student doing research on a rather sensitive topic uses MySpace and CraigsList to find sources. The results are actually quite amusing.

2. What to do?: Can't tell, really.
Students researching the "war on drugs", female genital mutiliation and HIV/AIDS all ask how they would (hypothetically) react if their research participants had wrong medical information about their subject matter.

3. Who are we talking with?
Discussions of "research participants" versus "research subjects"; "Third World" folks; "Leftist" governments and so on.

4. Where does it all come from?
A student doing scientific research pointing out that the data she's using "used to be someone's words at some point". So often that point gets missed amongst the numbers we see.

5. Where did they all go?
This time around, there were a few kids who never handed in written work, hardly ever showed up to class and who couldn't be tracked down at the end of the semester.

E's disappeared so you'll be stuck with me until she returns. Yes, yous can join me in hoping she will be back soon

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i made the news today oh boy

On YouTube

The Beeb tells me that the US military now has its own channel on YouTube.

It's called, snappily enough, the "Multi-national Force Iraq Channel" and includes titles like "Battle on Haifa Street" and "Iraqi Boy Scouts Prepare for Jamboree".

It's apparently all part of the Cyberspace War the that US Military is now just getting into.

As Lt Col Christopher Garver puts it, "The cyberspace battle space was not one that we were particularly operating well in. This was one of the first public steps into that cyberspace." (yes, well, my emphasis)

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starting from ants, leading up to meese

I should really be grading but don't have much desire to do so. So, for your entertainment and mine, go have a look at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Thanks, Dr. W. Should be a fun project. Why can't I work on something like that instead of blathering on about terrorists?

Or, combine the two: "Himalayas found to be home to 200-ft ants. Potential sources of global terror"

Right. Obviously, I shouldn't be let off to write anything until I regain some modicum of sanity.

Also, if yous live in Washington, there's an event on the Mall yous might be interested in. Apparently kids get to ride in an F-16. Too bad I'm not a kid since adult activities ("search through thousands of job options") seem dreadfully dull by comparison.

I'm not too sure about the "Virtual Army Experience" either. It's described as "a computer game rendered with state-of-the-art Army training simulation technology... with action-packed scenes featuring combat soldiers."

Don't we call that the daily news these days?

On a slightly cheerier note, I was asked this question a few days ago and was rather amused to find, after a quick Google search, that loads of people had already had similar questions and attempted to answer them.

Keeping in mind that my questioner was a friend of one of my students and hence of a younger generation than myself and just started off on the world of learning (presumably. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt), here are some I would add (from the past few months):

I enjoyed*

Albion by a bunch of people (maybe a bit too postcolonial for an Amercican undergrad though its intro, praising the oddities of the world, is worth reading)

Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley (rather "emo" in bits but then which comic isn't? It's also laugh-out-loud funny in other parts)

American-born Chinese by Gene Yang (We are living in a multicultural world. Not really)

Tintin. One can't go wrong with Tintin. I am still saving up to buy the hardcover sets so I can have a collection here to keep me company throughout times of mental strife. Like now.

Guy DeLisle's books. Nonfiction (I think?)

I haven't read 100 Bullets (on request list at the library) or Ex Machina but would like to get around to them eventually. I'd provide more of a list (and links!) but deadlines for grade submission and other stuff are looming about right now, looking for all the world as though they were gigantic (and yet, right now, rather shy) meese** and shuffling their feet, looking slightly out of place in my living room.

I dread to think what will happen if I don't get my stuff in on time. They don't seem like the sort to be patient.

* All acquired through my local public library. As far as I'm concerned, the public library system's the best thing about America.

** Mooses, I know. But doesn't Meese sound better?

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writing terroristic comics can (also) be bad for you

Read this.

Was quite surprised.

Thought it was an urban myth--I mean, bloke gets fired for supposedly talking about guns and then the police show up because he writes about said firing in his webcomic--not exactly something that might go on in real life you know.

But it's (most likely) true.

Comics=terroristic act.

Right, I'm too knackered to write a slightly coherent statement about all this, probably sparing all of yous my usual drivel. More shiny, happy 8.30-7pm goodness (and grading of rather long final papers) starting tomorrow.

Via Mr. Gaiman's blog


I feel pretty (dreadful and yet rather well-pleased considering everything)

Since E's disappeared, let me update yous (slightly) on my newfound love for American (in the United States-sense) musicals. Well, just one in particular but since most of research seems to consist of generalising based on a sample ("personal experience") of one or two cases, who I am to not follow the trend?

I came home from the sixth day of my 9-7pm (leaving the house at 7.40am, thank you. Usually I don't even wake up by then) flunkie-ness to find West Side Story was on the television.

Three things about said film:

1. I'd heard about it but never seen it before
2. Why did they cast an actress with a dodgy "Latin" accent as the main ("Puerto Rican") character?
3. If it had been made these days, they'd definitely have changed the ending (yes, yes, "based on Romeo and Juliet...etc etc etc" but they'd still have changed the ending)

Three other things about the film:

1. It was surprisingly good in terms of showing the changing relationships between various groups--the more-established group is fighting with the immigrant group yet both pretend to be not up to anything when the police inspector walks in. The police inspector himself allies with the "Americans" (Irish? I was nodding off but do recall them being called "Micks" at some point though the main bloke was called Anton, not a very Irish name) versus the "Puerto Ricans" and tells the Americans "I'm on your side".

2. Love, thankfully, doesn't "win". There's all this soppiness about "Love" and "Magic" and suchlike and yet, the ending. Ah yes, I did like the ending.

3. It's surprisingly "Universal" in the sense that it's got themes of love, rival factions, authority figures trying to maintain said authority, gang rape (almost), unemployment, death, and just trying to get along in a new society.

If I were in the Ministry of Culture of this country, I'd probably start exporting West Side Story rather than just telling foreigners about the great glory of America.

As a foreigner here myself, this film from 1961, felt surprisingly topical. Let me tell yous why: a couple of other TUWSNBN studnets and I were sitting out on the sun last week, having a very similar discussion along the lines of whether people from "different cultures" (their words) could get along, both personally and in groups. I was told (for WSS literates, I was of the Maria-Tony camp) that I was "such an optimist"*for thinking that getting along is possible and that people from the same culture (however defined) also face problems, though said problems might be different. I was told off for being a deluded nutter (though in nicer terms than that) and there were numerous stories about how people they knew (of) had had their relationships broken up due to "pressures from family and culture". Well, yes, but there are also people I've known of who've had their relationships broken up by things which aren't to do with "family and culture". I'm not generalising based on those that all relationships (in which one person has a reptile, in which one person wants to travel to Mali, in which one person loves bungee-jumping and so on) are doomed.

This leads me to another thing that I kept on emphasising throughout my Intro to Research class:

People usually base their arguments on personal experience (this, as I told them based on my decade-longer experience in surviving in this world, is common in and outside of academia). Since this is what we all do, my kids found this quite an easy concept to grasp.

Arguing based on personal experience is wrong if we do so to stop or close off the conversation. ("Well, I was in Venezuela and that is how it was over there")

But, it is okay if we use it to provide a means to start off (or continue) a conversation

I can definitely say that the class, this time around, was a lot more fun in terms of students talking about some of these issues. It was a lot less fun in terms of them hardly ever handing in their assignments in time.

Back to relationships: I suppose I would like to remain a cockeyed optimist in this sense. I would like to think I can well pick a fight with a bloke from my own culture as with one from elsewhere.

Back to the film: I'd still have liked WSS better if Maria'd offed herself as well but one can't have everything in one film, I suppose. If yous have not seen it before (though, considering most of yous are probably American, I'd assume yous have unless you have a strong aversion to musicals), it's perfect for a Saturday evening after a long work week.

* This was not seen as a good thing, btw.

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Health alert: Real Life becomes a Bit Too Real

Posting is likely to be limited from me for the next couple of weeks as I slave away, 9am-7pm at the flunkie-ing gig (including 9-5 on weekends, thank you) to earn money so the U.S. government can promptly take it away from me. I also have 20-some research papers to grade, students to piss off, dissertation stuff to think on and a "joint" paper to edit and amend.

Long story? Well, apparently after being here for 5 years, one is counted as a "resident for tax purposes" (but not anything else) and has to pay medicare and social security taxes*. TUWSNBN's HR people had apparently forgotten about this so I owe them a lot of money by the end of May.

I did point out that I'd not been here for five years since I didn't get here till the end of August 2002 and spent six months overseas in 2005. But, apparently, those (like Denmark) do not matter. Just the year of entry matters.

That means, according to this rule, I was somehow here in the United States in early 2002 even though my physical self was in Nepal (till May) and in England/Wales (till September) and had not even entered the United States till September.

* A very helpful Human Resources person pointed out that I would get that back "when you retire" but added (when told that I am from Nepal) "oh, but only if you retire in the US".


I'm hoping this is some kind of twisted joke.

Loyalty Day?!?

GWB, I hope Emma Goldman comes back and haunts your ass.

Idiots. They can't just let an embarrassing,* anachronistic** holiday*** die?

Apparently not.

Because heaven forbid that we should admit that workers and immigrants have some sort of rights or something.****

* Try and explain this to someone who isn't a redneck asshole. Go ahead, I dare you.
** Eisenhower had the Soviet Union as a communist threat. GWB has...who, exactly?
*** Pfft. The only people taking this as a holiday are the ones involved in May Day.
**** Yes, I know the USC requires a proclamation. It doesn't require that the proclamation be a heavy-handed effort to guilt people into supporting the war.

And, if we're all supposed to be "learning more about our country's grand story of courage and simple dream of dignity," how about we start with the Haymarket Riot? Or maybe the Triangle Factory Fire? Or, here's a thought, Labor Unions?