Tuesday, July 31, 2007


U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts had an idiopathic seizure this week. During the seizure, he fell and sustained a mild head injury. News reports indicate this is not the first such episodes he has had.

The article I read goes on to quote Dr. Marc Schlosberg, a neurologist at Washington Hospital Center, who says that by definition, someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is determined to have epilepsy.

The article closes with attributing the following conclusion to Dr. Schlosberg.
Whether Roberts will need anti-seizure medications to prevent another incident is something he and his doctor will have to decide.

Good thing he's got that right, you know the one where he and his doctor privately decide what medical treatment is best for him without interference by anyone else (i.e., anyone like the parent or guardian of a minor or the state...). Couldn't one make at least a superficially compelling case that the treatment of such high governmental officials are a matter of genuine public concern and interest? Shouldn't we consider that potential impairments, whether immediate or long term, of the official's physical or mental acuity as a result of this condition or of the treatment of the condition could quite directly affect the official's ability to function at a level and manner necessary for the successful execution of the office?

Rhetorical questions largely. Here's another.

Why should the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court have MORE rights and BETTER rights than any old Jane Roe?

For some informative and creepy reading about current and recent US Supreme Courts' interpretations of the scope and expectation of women's rights to privacy in medical decisions, see Gonzales v. Carhart

Monday, July 30, 2007

no more good days

In the first (GOP) presidential debate held on May 3, 2007, the candidates were asked "Would the day Roe V Wade is repealed be a good day for America?" Here's what the candidates said[1, 2].

Former New York City Mayor Giuliani - it would be "OK" to repeal Roe v. Wade

Senator McCain - "Yes"

Former Wisconsin Gov. Thompson - "Yes"

Former Virginia Gov. Gilmore - "Yes, it was wrongly decided"

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney - "absolutely"

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee - "most certainly"

Sen. Brownback - "(It) will be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom."

Rep. Tancredo - "After 40 million dead because we have aborted them in this country, I say that that would be the greatest day in this country's history."

I can't help wondering if the kind of "good days" these men had in mind take into account acts like the one alleged here? Or like those alleged in this case? (warning: rough story in that first link)

[1] On The Issues: Abortion
May 21, 2007
[2] video of candidates' responses
May 3, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"target of sexual harassment"

Here's some nice newspeak for ya.

Sex suit could be problem for Bloomberg
By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press writer
Sunday, July 29, 2007

NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks his mind and that is a big part of his cachet in anything-goes New York. But a sexual harassment lawsuit he settled in 2000 and other racy comments over the years show how his blunt style could prove a liability if he runs for president as an independent.

Before his election as mayor in 2001, Bloomberg was the target of a sexual harassment suit by a female executive who accused him of making repeated raunchy sexual comments while he was chief executive of his financial company, Bloomberg LP.

(emphases mine)

The story mentions that the details of the suit and full accusation are not available. Thus there is no way to confirm the assumptions inherent in this article. It bears mentioning that the details were not available to the story's author either, and yet she treats us to her apparent implicit assumption that the charge was unwarranted. And to the (presumably shared) conclusion that having had cause to settle a sexual harassment suit is evidence of being a person who tends to "speak his mind".

I tend to speak my mind too. But so far, no one's accused me of sexual harassment.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

better than other people

Holier than thou. This is how academics see themselves and their profession.

Indeed I am generalizing, but not all generalizations are invalid. This particular one is not formed out of prejudice. This is a statement based on years of empirical evidence, gained from years of insider observation. There are some academics for whom this doesn't hold, or doesn't hold entirely, but these folks are the exceptions. And being such an exception tends to result in much head scratching (all around) if not outright discomfort. I'm not thinking so much of me here, my reaction and people's reactions to me are not so subtle. I'm thinking more of the people I've known who were driven out or nearly out of academia despite being what could be considered "successful". People like the professor from my former department who, a semester after getting tenure, ran away to Europe on "sabbatical" to never return. She just left. No notice, just gone. It might have had something to do with one of our esteemed tenured full professors having called her a nazi...

Because holier than thou academics live under the strong (and unexamined) belief that they and "people like them" are somehow not subject to the same very human traits the rest of the general population exhibit, when workplace issues like incivility, discrimination, and sexual harassment come up, community responses reflect this attitude. Whether the individual response supports or negates the attitude, the "it can't happen here" air is part of a context which is an inseparable aspect of the response.

I came back to this post to add a little something here. I'm not talking about the casual ego-centrist behavior which is sort of common across any walk of life, nor am I saying any given academic IS like this (or that any given non academic isn't). There may be other fields where this sort of behavior and attitude is as pervasive as it is in academia too.

For a nice, fresh personal example of this attitude in action, consider the following. Academics in social and life sciences often collect research using data from human subjects. Their careers and reputations depend on them publishing (you know "publish or perish") and those publications are often dependent on if not the quality then the amount of data they can collect in a given period of time. Needless to say, such pressures as well as a few notable, notorious research examples mean such data collection is overseen by review boards. These boards like all things institutional, are far from perfect in implementation. However, they serve a good purpose.

And yet there is though a disturbing trend in some departments for faculty and grad students (monkey see, monkey do) to repeatedly, publicly, and apparently unashamedly mock and deride not just the board but it's purpose. It's a petulant and deeply disturbing backlash, seemingly in response to what is seen (by the researchers) as meddling and a threat to academic freedom.

Academic freedom is certainly a legitimate concern, however there are MUCH better, more appropriate domains to fight for it in. Rather than (or possibly in addition to) taking up the legitimate threats to academic freedom, or even addressing the elements of the review board behaviors which may in fact go "too far" and have nothing to do with protecting the rights of research participants, the elements of academic culture I've seen promote an increasingly malicious attitude towards the research participants. "Ah hahah! This one girl was like crying during our experiment!" a student recently boasted to a table full of grad students. "Oh my god, are you serious?" I asked him, clearly concerned. "Well no, but she was pretty upset," he said, brushing it off. This is the same person who earlier this year claimed he was going to "make" all the students in his class participate in his experiments. (I later found out from a faculty member that he was "just joking" to get at a female grad student who had been hoping his class would be part of a larger participant pool. I was horrified and told the faculty member that her students had a fucked up sense of humor. She genuinely didn't seem to understand my reaction).

So this is a group of people where I've seen some pretty shitty behavior. It's not isolated to my department. Sexist comments, lewd unprofessional remarks in a professional setting, abusive behavior, exploitative treatment of minority grad students, preferential behavior based on personal relationships, racist slurs, and deeds and stated beliefs which skirt the line of ethical - I've seen several examples of each of these. But stop and question one of the perpetrators of such a thing (which I have) and they will find your questioning preposterous. I remember the faculty member who was shocked that I told him his behavior in a seminar was sexist. Why? Because, as he said "I've always considered myself a feminist!" Plus, everyone knows liberal faculty members can't be sexist. They can say these things and act this way with impunity because apparently those social codes, institutional rules, and laws apply to someone else.

For some disturbing reading and insight into the sort of thing I'm talking about, go here. It's the Chronicle of Higher Education forum, a thread started by an untenured junior faculty member asking for advice on how to respond to the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior a senior faculty member has directed at her. Some of the assertions made by folks who seem to be more than a little ignorant about sexual harassment law and specific institutional policies are perhaps shocking if you don't know academics - i.e., if you don't know that they are so smart and know so much they can reason out what is and isn't true, what is an isn't valid, and what is and isn't a policy even without ever having read up on it. The information and knowledge about any topic simply seeps into them by their choosing to focus their massive intellect on the issue from the comfort of various armchairs and loungers.

My god, do I sound bitter?

How about informed, aware, and disgusted? My preference is for that last description because it more accurately avoids the connotation that I have no valid claim to this set of thoughts and feelings on the matter. I've done my research. I've made my conclusions. I am open to adjusting them should new evidence come to light - and I very much want new evidence to come to light because at heart I am a polly-anna and want to believe that people will be as excellent as they can be. In the meantime, I watch, listen, and read.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

tax free shopping

Woohoo. CT is having it's annual tax free shopping days in about a month. Which is good because thanks to the progesterone and the elavil, I've put back on some weight. Enough that the skinny clothes I've accumulated over the last two years either don't fit or don't fit well anymore. I hate shopping, but I hate not having anything to wear that is comfortable and doesn't make me look like I'm busting out all over. (I'm not happy about the extra cost to the wardrobe, but I am definitely looking forward to not freezing my ass off this winter if I can keep the weight on.)

While I'm on the topic of clothing, why the hell are all the summer pants fucking capris? It's gotten as bad as the open toe shoe thing. I dare you to find summer shoes (shoes, not sneakers or boots) that don't show at least some toe. Similarly, if you don't want jeans or dress pants, you're stuck with capris. I remember them the last time around. At that point, I was about 14 and capris were cute. Now that I'm 35, I'm not really in the mood for "cute" all the time. I want pants dammit.

Monday, July 23, 2007

ring my bell

My fella just upgraded his cell phone. With it came the ability to download your own ring tones. For the last day or so, he's been fascinated by this feature, searching out how to make your own tones. Since we have tons of recording and editing software, the capture part was not hard.

So I now have Monty Python and Mel Brooks clips on my phone. Excellent. I just need to get the "I am a pizza song" on my sister's phone and we'll be all set....

omg, "je suis une pizza"! I hadn't heard the full pizza song before - complete with French lyrics. Up to now, I thought it was unique to The Money Pit.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

not ok

At my apartment building, there are two parking spaces per unit. Unfortunately my two are next to the parking spaces belonging to guy who lives across the hall. This is unfortunate because the guy who lives across the hall is an idiot. Let's call him Bumble.

Earlier this afternoon, I had been coding data at home. From just outside my open window came the sound of a horn being leaned on. I looked out to see activity in Bumble's parking spaces. Two cars with hoods up, wires running between them. And each sitting in his own car was Bumble and some guy, buddy of Bumble. As the horn continued to blare, Bumble and buddy got out of the cars and stood near the front ends, both looking perplexed and a little embarrassed.

"How long do you think it'll take him to figure out he can stop it by disconnecting the horn?" I asked A____. We debated, given the degree of intelligence and capacity for creative, abstract thought Bumble has shown in the past, we predicted the horn might continue to go off for hours.

Since the "getting some research work done this afternoon" plan was shot until Bumble managed to kill the horn, A____ and I decided to run some errands, get iced coffees, go for a walk around the park downtown. We were out for a few hours. When we got home, the horn was silent. Bumble's car was still sitting there, unmoved, hood open and waiting for more idiocy. Bumble's other parking space was empty. Buddy of Bumble had been traded out for an old geezer with a capped pickup. The pickup's hood was open and now the pickup was wired to the Bumble-mobile. I didn't think to ponder what this meant at the time since I was mostly annoyed about finding a pickup in my parking space.

(Now that I think of it though, what was Bumble trying to accomplish? Did he think that the buddy-wagon wasn't the right TYPE for the Bumble-mobile? Was the electricity coming out of Geezer's car somehow more compatible, or higher grade or something?)

I came into the apartment building looking for Bumble.
"Oh yeah, they parked in your spot," he said in a low and strangely conspiratorial voice. Drawn out vowels, falsely high pitch with falling phrasal tones. It's hard to describe the tone - if you can't get it from this I suspect you'd just have to hear it to understand. It's a tone I associate with teenage girls who are trying to appear (sincerely or not) contrite to one another. I've noticed Bumble uses this voice a lot when he's being a douchebag.

However, I tend to listen to WHAT people say nearly as closely as how they say it.
In response to my repeatedly saying various versions of "I need you to not park in my space/tell your guests not to park in my space" he said:
"I didn't think you'd be home so soon."
"I wasn't outside when they parked."
"They aren't my 'friends'" (this in reply to my having said "Look, I just want you to be sure to tell your friends it's not ok to park in my spot in the future.")
"They're not, like, kids." (said after I restated above, this time amending 'friends' to 'associates')
"I didn't know they parked there."

And finally, "It won't happen again."

He could have saved me the irritation of having to insist on the point by just going straight to "It won't happen again." I didn't even need an apology. Just an assurance that he understood my parking space is not his spill over space. Instead, he kept up with his strangely whiney blather. The overdone reaction-tone but with a pile of nonstop and sometimes contradictory excuses are his hallmark response in this kind of situation. Did I mention the clicking noises? Those "tsk" type sounds. It's very primatey. Overall, the entire effect is one of utter insincerity when you match up the apparently conciliatory purpose this extra-lexical information conveys with the communicative intent provided by the words themselves.

When I encounter this sort of - oh what to call it, disembled argument? Obfuscated negation? - I find myself quite irritated. Practically speaking, it is a discourse practice which seems meant to elicit an acquiescence. Which I refuse to give. I refuse to respond with a femmy "Oh it's OK!" because I think this is ultimately something which can (and does) get interpreted as "Oh go ahead and ignore my boundaries!"

It is not ok. It's ok that someone made a mistake. Sure. But it's not ok for someone to park in my space.

Interactions like this are why some people consider me a mega-huge bitch. I suppose I could work on being less aggro in tone myself. I don't know. Should I make the extra effort of removing the sincere emotion from my voice when I am dealing with a person who is heaping on what is a totally duplicitous affect in an attempt to sugar coat the line of crap they are feeding me?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Connecticut's for...

fucking, it seems. At least so say Jesus H Christ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (think sort of a musical Upright Citizen's Brigade).

You can hear a sample of "Connecticut's for Fucking" here.

Go test yourself!

Have you ever wondered why, when so many people claim not to hold discriminatory attitudes there still is evidence of bias in so many aspects of life? One possibility is that people are liars, that they say what they know is "PC" while believing strongly the opposite. Another is that although people can consciously and strongly believe they hold no biases (e.g. racism, sexism, heterosexism/homophobia), they hold implicit negative attitudes.

Want to test your implicit biases? You can do a demo or register as a participant here. More on the project and implicit biases is available on the project's information site.

(From "About Project Implicit")
Project Implicit
Findings observed in seven years of operation of the Project Implicit web site
* Implicit biases are pervasive. They appear as statistically "large" effects that are often shown by majorities of samples of Americans. Over 80% of web respondents show implicit negativity toward the elderly compared to the young; 75-80% of self-identified Whites and Asians show an implicit preference for racial White relative to Black.

* People are often unaware of their implicit biases. Ordinary people, including the researchers who direct this project, are found to harbor negative associations in relation to various social groups (i.e., implicit biases) even while honestly (the researchers believe) reporting that they regard themselves as lacking these biases.

* Implicit biases predict behavior. From simple acts of friendliness and inclusion to more consequential acts such as the evaluation of work quality, those who are higher in implicit bias have been shown to display greater discrimination. The published scientific evidence is rapidly accumulating. Over 200 published scientific investigations have made use of one or another version of the IAT.

* People differ in levels of implicit bias. Implicit biases vary from person to person - for example as a function of the person’s group memberships, the dominance of a person’s membership group in society, consciously held attitudes, and the level of bias existing in the immediate environment. This last observation makes clear that implicit attitudes are modified by experience.

Some news stories on implicit bias and its real world effects:
See No Bias (By Shankar Vedantam, The Washington Post, January 23, 2005)
Tests of ER trainees find signs of race bias in care (Stephen Smith, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2007)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

(Un)easy bake

Oh this brings back memories....

Easy Bake toy ovens recalled for second time this year
WASHINGTON --The Easy Bake oven, an iconic toy with a four-decade history, has been recalled for the second time in less than a year, government safety advocates announced on Thursday.

In February Easy Bake's parent company, Hasbro Inc., recalled 985,000 of the toys because children were getting their hands and fingers trapped in the front opening, and some were burned.

I had some such toy as a child. I think it was a Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven.

My nineteen seventy something model cooked the...er... food with light bulbs as opposed to the plutonium which is apparently used as a heating source in the modern versions of the oven. (Actually, it's an "electric heating element" - ultimately a lightbulb could be called an electric heating element too but this is a matter of deeper semantics than is justified here I think)

As they do now, my oven came with cake mix packets. I recall they tasted a bit fucked up, as if sweet plastic were a key ingredient. But we mixed them all up anyhow (I believe they were all of the "just add water!" variety).

Then we ran out of mixes. So my sister and I experimented with our own mixes. No clue where the 'rents were for this fiasco. Absorbed in some martini fueled drama no doubt (these were the gin years).

It must have been winter since although I think we started when there was still light coming in from the kitchen windows, I have this sense it got dark fast and early. Most of my memory of the easy bake disaster took place in an increasingly dark kitchen. By the time we put the cakes in the oven, the only light in the room, in fact the only light on that floor of our house, was what seeped out of the little "smoked glass"-like plastic windowed casing enclosing the super hot 60 watt bulbs - which were slowly cooking our itty bitty cakes.

I recall the cakes smelled pretty good until the batter rose high enough in the pans to engulf the bulbs. Then it smelled less good.

My recollection is that we did not repeat this experiment. I don't know if we were simply unable to clean all off the cake which had been well past overcooked on to the insides of my easy-bake. My sister has the better memory for this sort of thing.

AM, what happened to the oven?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

what's this coffee spoon stuff?

I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2002. Since then, I've not felt well. I was unfortunate enough to have some other medical problems prior to that but mostly they were episodic. Since 2002, there hasn't been a single day when I have felt well. Always there's some level of the "post lyme" which could be chronic lyme or could be an autoimmune disease. Sometimes on top of that are the migraines, or the endo, or the intestinal problems, or the out of the blue shit like my hip going out. Sometimes it's everything at once.

I do write about these things here, but I don't write about them as often as I feel them. It seems overwhelming, not simply to me - I mean I will live with that regardless of what other choices I make. What I find mostly overwhelming is other people's responses. I sometimes write about those responses and how they affect me here too, but again, not as often as I encounter them.

There's a social proscription against too much complaining, and complaining of a certain type is especially proscribed. My god, I'm an abuse survivor, an incest survivor, a feminist, and what is most quickly summed up as a liberal. I've got way too much complaining to do already without adding in the sickness stuff.

So lately, I've been posting the medical stuff more on a blog I devoted entirely to medical stuff. I figured that blog's title, description, and content would help self select for readers who are less likely to have that automatic reaction healthy people have. Oh yes, they do tend to have it. And I deal with it enough in my outside life. I dealt with it once here and I didn't like it one bit. The Tea Room blog has a lot of other stuff on it and most of my hits are from people looking for that more general stuff. I find that some days I just don't want to deal with the ignorance which is likely to come from someone who would see the illness stuff as the final bit of evidence that I am inherently weak, not here at least.

What makes me mention all this now is - well there are a couple of reasons. One is that I feel like shit today, felt like shit since Wednesday of last week in fact. Not the cramps and endo whatnot, just shitty. For the first time since getting Lyme, I almost had to call someone to come rescue me because I felt so unwell I was worried about driving. Who needs the details? Me and my doctor I suppose, no need to list them all here. For here, it's enough to say I feel like shit. So it's on my mind.

Another reason is that I have been recently struggling with my faculty about what having a chronically ill grad student means. Does it mean I get the same standards for evaluating progress as my mostly healthy peers? Does my having three times as many publications as my peers prior to getting sick count for anything or will faculty continue to look only at my current rate of progress now that I have so little reliable stamina? Does being so sick mean I get allowances or accommodations only if I ask specifically for each of them in turn, in advance, and of any and all faculty and staff who might be involved in the relevant decisions? Are there limits on what accommodations I can have? Do I need to show documentation? All of those are good questions, and none of them are ones I've been able to ask because the people I need to ask them of have been dodging me since the end of the semester. Possibly it means what my advisor said to me when we were having one of what I now realize were casual discussions about it. That I'm not just not healthy enough to work at a research university. I might not be healthy enough to work. Her casual assessment of my employability was such a gem that this topic also has been on my mind since she said it.

The last reason I bring this up now is that I just found this truly excellent essay about living with illness and disability. It's called "The Spoon Theory". I posted about it on the blog I started for my health related stuff, and I decided to link my post about it here because the essay title and topic ties back in with why and how I chose my blog url for Do Not Enter The Tea Room. The "and coffee spoons" address for this blog is an indirect reference to the notion of being someone who has "measured out my life with coffee spoons", c.f. T.S. Eliot and Crash Test Dummies. The author of the essay does not reference the quote of measuring life in coffee spoons, however her Spoon Theory is exactly right, and it happens to tie together both of my blog-worlds.

Monday, July 16, 2007


How I came to be looking up scurvy is a long story which begins with looking for information on prolactin, dopamine, oxytocin, and porn. The path from there to scurvy was not direct and is probably more due to individual "click" interest/preference behavior than to anything linking the topics of neuroendocrinology and vitamin C.

Still, there I was. Looking at the symptoms of scurvy. And here's something I found very interesting (from the link):

Some other important symptoms of scurvy are gradual weakening, pale skin, sunken eyes, tender gums, muscle pain, loss of teeth, internal bleeding, and the opening of wounds such as sword cuts that had healed many years before.

So I'm thinking, who the hell was this written for? The opening of sword wounds is not just any old symptom, it's an important symptom.

I'm imagining the exam, a third year med student standing there nervously glancing between the chart, his notes, and filthy pirate wearing a drafty gown and sitting on the paper lined exam table.

"Ok Mr. um... Mr. Yellow"
"Arrgh, me given name's 'Yellar'. 'Beard' is me surname. You can just call me 'Matey'!"
"Er...Yes. So uh, Matey. I notice your gums look a bit spongy and...oops, there goes a tooth."
"I need to ask you, have you noticed any old sword wounds opening up again lately?"

Friday, July 13, 2007


At some point in my childhood, it was decided we children should have swimming lessons. My recollection is that the choice was related to our parents wanting to rent a vacation cottage on an island off the coast of Maine - although I may misremember. Sometimes our parents got it into their heads to enroll us in sporty activities for no apparent reason.

Like ice skating. Every saturday morning one winter we were packed up and sent off with my dad's already rather senile father who drove us to skating lessons at a local rink. My guess is the skating lessons were meant as a substitute for saturday morning TV and to give our parents "adult time". Despite knowing how to skate, the activity never really grabbed any of us, but I still had skates as recently as last year. Since I can now no longer walk from the garage to my building on campus without joint pain, I sold my ice skates last Fall.

I can and do still swim though. I never was a champion swimmer. But the freedom to move, float, cruise, or chug along in the water is wonderful. Now that I live in a town with a pool (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to get access to), I think the next time I'm feeling well, I'll go check it out.

Nice chat

I had a nice chat with a faculty member from another group in my department today. It was unexpected and very cool. I just wanted to share this since usually I crab about how much grad school and my department suck. Sometimes you remember there are good people too. We connected on the "is everyone here on crazy pills?" feelings experienced by a nontraditional student who is struggling with the decision to keep going (or not) for a brass ring which she strongly suspects is less a ring and more a ringer. Conversations with people like this help me feel less totally misanthropic.

It was just in time too. I was feeling pretty hateful about my department today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

let them drive Lexuses

Stuff like feeds my hatred of the rich.

From The Boston Globe:
Last year, the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay fought a court battle with the MBTA, alleging that the T was violating historical preservation laws by adding elevators to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For some context: back bay is the area of Boston where Newbury street is. Here are examples of what it costs to live in this area.

When I was a youngster, my friends and I would go more to Harvard square, central square, or walked around the common and gardens eating, smoking, and feeding squirrels (faneuil hall was on the list too since they were less likely to throw us out of the stores than other downtown establishments, plus there were usually some cute local guys working there).

Now and then, we'd venture over to Newbury Street or the Copley area. Since we couldn't even afford to browse, mostly our Newbury Street activities included walking around eating ice cream, laughing and yelling at "eurotrash", or being entertained by our friend Jenn's peculiar brand of "street theater". Jenn made a habit of literally chasing after spandex clad men who jogged or biked past on the sidewalk. She would stand at the windows of restaurants and stare hungrily at the diners. I remember one time she flashed an entire section of a restaurant, a TGIF I think. Whichever restaurant it was, a part of it was below street level. This subterranean area had a sort of solarium/sky light thing right about at bench height just off the sidewalk. My sister can help me out here about which restaurant it was since I think she was with us the day Jenn whipped up her skirt and sat on the skylight.

Back bay's always been for and of the rich fucks. Tourism in the area is in fact half rich person/home/things sight seeing. Does what we were doing count as tourism? I'm not sure. I think if you live within a certain number of miles of a place, it's hard to be counted a proper tourist. But I got the sense that the cultural climate of the Back bay was closer to L.A. than where I grew up.

So I'm wondering about the historic preservation vs T improvement: Are piss smells and rat sightings something we should expect the NABb to fight for should the T ever try to clean up a bit? Would they go to bat to keep the Orange line shootings and Red line stabbings?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


"What is 'reminisce'?" a coworker asked me once. We were working at the hippie import clothing store in Ann Arbor, folding indian and grateful dead print "tapestries". I thought for a moment. She had a habit of stumping me with these questions about English. It was a good question though. Not an easy concept to describe to a non-native speaker.

I got out something like "Reminiscing is like remember, but more conscious. It's what you do when you recall a time or experience, usually from a distance of time or period of life. Often it's used when you're sharing the memories with someone who was part of what you're remembering, who shared the experience with you. And sometimes there's a tinge to it, something not always 100% happy, a little dark in there too. So like if you and I run into each other many years from now, we might 'reminisce' about working here at the hippie import clothing store".

This seemed to satisfy her.

What made me think of reminiscing and my definition of it is what I found on the hard drive of one of the lab computers today. I had just put in a work order on the computer and decided if someone with master administrator privileges was going to be digging around in it, I should probably get some of my stuff off.

I don't make a habit of keeping personal files on the school computers, but until rather recently I didn't have a laptop and consequently I would sometimes transfer stuff to a lab computer. Usually meaning to promptly transfer it off. And sometimes I'd forget. I knew this. It's been kicking around my mind, but my account is password protected and no one in the lab knows how to navigate the admin privileges well enough to get in around it. But today it occurred to me I should probably go clean it up.

So I went in and looked through my folders to make sure there was nothing too personal on there. Not too bad. Some music files, a couple of pictures a friend sent me, and three recordings of the Christmas eve radio show I did in 2004.

This show was on the local campus radio station where my friend B___ and I had an every other week morning show on Fridays. It was mostly about labor and education, with a focus on academic labor. I think the tag line was "news and commentary on labor and social justice". Very leftist. Since neither of us wanted to talk for two hours straight, we mixed in music.

On the Christmas eve show, B____ was out of town. I loaded up the playlist and brought some company to the station so I wouldn't have to do all the work. My company was my ex, T____ and my current partner A____.

And I have recordings of this show.

I've heard some of the music I used to listen to then and it always recalls the feeling of getting up and going to the show that day, wondering if this was my last christmas with T____, and all sorts of other not pleasant remembered thoughts and feelings. We've all experienced this, right? The music which hits you with recollections of a time when you were feeling things very strong and not very good.

I'm playing it back now, trying to decide if I should keep it or delete it. We're at about half way through, a Christmas blues song is playing with a deep voiced woman singing about how much Christmas sucks. "Don't give me none of that 'Tis the season to be jolly'. No it ain't!"

These recordings provide not just the music but also the voices from that time. I was lead on the mic, with A___ and T___ reading news items, weather, and providing the back and forth you generally hear on a talk show. We had sleigh bells (we had stolen them from a faculty Christmas party), which you can hear now and then when we get laughing.

And even though we laugh a lot, I can hear the strain in my voice. I don't think it's obvious to the uninformed listener, or if it was any cause might have been attributed to my disliking Christmas (which I mentioned, quite a lot). But boy, that tone jumps right out at me.

I wrapped up mostly smoothly and we close on "Christmas in Heaven" from Monty Python Sings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I've been tagged, by D at Lingo Franko. Problem is, I don't know 8 bloggers (well enough) to send this to. I'm planning to compromise.

Tag Rules:
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

(my) Eight

1. I floss.

2. A non-intimate who casually touches the top of my head (or reaches as if to touch) is at significant risk of sustaining personal injury.

3. There are two stories about how I got my first name.

4. One is that my parents named me after a woman who was the focus of a certain long dead Italian poet.

5. The other is that my first name is the feminine of my father’s first name. Had I been born a male, my parents told me, my name would have been the masculine of my mother's. Thus, by just one bit of chromosomey goodness, I narrowly escaped being "Charlie".

6. I have been to Graceland.

7. I draw during academic talks. “Talks” include colloquia, tenure talks, so called ‘workshops’ (just another name for a lecture), job talks, conference talks, and sometimes even classes. It helps keep me awake if the speaker is a droner or otherwise unskilled orator, and oh so very many of them are. Sometimes I write notes in the form of speech bubbles in my drawings. More often, I draw concepts I’ve found interesting or amusing for one reason or another or I draw pictures of people who are annoying me. This habit has the undesirable effect of sometimes sending me into a snorting, choking fit of suppressed laughter.

8. I avoid direct sunlight.

I'm tagging...
Triticum Turgidum
Reverse paranoia

And now I’m stretching…
Rosie (this one’s cheating somewhat but what the hell)
My sister (who will have to respond via comment)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Democrat from Ohio

As a presidential candidate, Representative Dennis Kucinich interests me. (It's koo-SINN-itch I think - I get more of my news in print than TV so I had to look it up to get the pronounciation)

I know he's got a bit of a rep, but I'm not sure this is deserved (and I'm not sure how much of it is based on western stereotypes like the ones which link personal power and competency with physical attributes). We'll see. I just started researching him. Background-wise he seems interesting, and he's one of the few who isn't equivocal on gay marriage (and wasn't even back in the last presidential election). Oh, and he voted against the PATRIOT act (senate roll call, house roll call).

I am not a single issue voter. But a candidate's position on a topic, if too far from what I consider reasonable (and also if not outweighed by other attritubes) can break support for me. Lack of support for ensuring safe, funded, and effective reproductive freedom and for protecting the privacy of reproductive health decisions is a definite deal breaker for me. So I looked the candidates up on the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

NARAL presents a selection of statements from each candidate on abortion and reproductive freedom policies in the US.

"What the Supreme Court did was quite invasive of that very sacred sphere of a woman's health and privacy… But if our society is truly committed to life, then all of us need to close ranks behind a program which will show real concern for life. And that includes prenatal care, postnatal care, child care, a living wage, universal health care -- and the end of war,' he said. 'Then we will have achieved a much more tolerable expression of support for life than the Supreme Court did.'"
[Carla Marinucci, Abortion Ruling Puts Candidates on the Spot, San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2007.]

One thing which struck me in reading the statements is that I don't see anything in the Kucinich collection which evokes the necessity of god and religion as part of this particular health choice. I noticed the lack of this in his statements after I noticed the presence of it in the statements of the two media and money favored candidates (Clinton and Obama).

Abortion "should be a constitutionally protected decision made not by the Government, not by the majority … but between a woman, her doctor, and her faith in God."
[152 Congressional Record S35-07, January 25, 2007.]

"You know, I think that most Americans recognize that this is a profoundly difficult issue for the women and families who make these decisions. They don't make them casually. And I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy."
[Transcript from Democratic Presidential Debate in South Carolina, MSNBC, April 26, 2007.]

Whatever happened to the notion of "keep your rosaries off my ovaries"? That wasn't just a catchy protest chant. It had a point. This "and god" shit annoys me - and I find I am consistently more tolerant of religious belief than most people in my particular age, education level, socio-economic class, and region cohort. I think religion is a kind of principle and value system. It is a tool for exploring and developing applications of moral reasoning, principles of human interaction with one another, with other organisms, and with the non-animate environment. It's not nothing and I am not dismissive of religion or religious people, not out of hand at least. But what drives me right up a tree (and down the other side) is the tendency in a religion-saturated society to reverse this relation. That is, rather than view religious belief and study as a type of value system, the tendency becomes to see value systems as a whole as a kind of religion. And that's just fucked up.

The candidate statements on reproductive health choices include god and the ministers of god. On one level, this inclusion rather innocuously (in and of itself) suggests to the public that the candidate believes in god or at least understands a great number of the public believe in god. On another level, the one I see it on, it is a pandering to the notion that someone might not be able to make this decision without appealing directly and specifically to a higher moral authority than their own. Again, keep in mind that for those people who are religious, that individual religious belief is part of the personal moral authority.

Having to say it, putting it in there explicitly, is at best redundant. At worst, it suggests the candidates who have to include it are using it as a subtle qualification which is meant to resonate with the religious among the voters - the qualification being "I support a woman's right to choose a path which is correct based on what her religion tells her". And this is tacitly empowering religious leaders and institutions with a say in not just the choices of the women who CHOOSE to follow that particular religion or who CHOOSE to involve that religion's teachings in this choice, but a say in how and what all women decide.

We sure don't need more of that. At least I don't.

I know Kucinich does not have a career long history of pro-choice ideology. But his statements on the issue of abortion access and abortion as a procedure in general simply strike me as relatively sincere and considered.

(here's a discussion on Democracy Now involving Kucinich, among others, on the war in Iraq)

Friday, July 06, 2007


Cheeerist, I hate Connecticut.

From the Journal Inquirer
VERNON - The McDonald's restaurant on Route 83 is looking for more than a facelift as corporate owners are hoping to tear down the existing structure and construct a more modern building complete with two drive-through windows. But the [proposed] futuristic design is causing concern among the town's Design Review Commission, which is calling for a more subdued, New England-esque look.
[Design Review Commission staff liaison] Rodriguez said..."A lot of this is about what you want the character of a community to be."

Happy Birthday!!!!

We celebrated my sister's birthday on her actual birthday this year, July 4. Since I haven't been very travelworthy the last few years, she's had to make the trip down here from Boston. It was good to see her, and my brother too.

Here's a picture of little brother lighting candles on our sister's birthday cake.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Missing the point

I'm not sure how this guy got to "there isn't any benefit of early integration" (benefit relative to segregation that is), even from the US Supreme Court ruling. (NY Times article on ruling and FindLaw's summary and opinions)

Challenge to Lynn's race policy is revived
High court buoys foes of school transfer rule
By April Yee, Globe Correspondent
July 5, 2007

Lawyers representing a group of Lynn parents who began challenging the city's desegregation plan eight years ago revived their legal battle this week, days after the Supreme Court declared similar plans unconstitutional in Seattle and Kentucky.
Chester Darling , the lawyer who previously brought a suit by Lynn parents all the way to the Supreme Court, hopes that a successful challenge will prompt other Massachusetts school districts to end their desegregation programs.
"We want to go in there and have the district court judge in the federal court say, 'OK, you're right,' " Darling said yesterday. "What benefit of integration in kindergarten do you get if you force a white kid to sit next to a black kid? There isn't any."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

don't stop

Just because it's not unexpected in the context of the current administration, I have resolved to not stop feeling outraged when I see shit like this.

Bush commutes Libby prison sentence
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak investigation Monday, delivering a political thunderbolt in the highly charged criminal case. Bush said the sentence was just too harsh.
"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."
he added: "Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable."

Bush then stripped away the prison time.

To adapt a saying popular in Fall of 2001 - if we stop being outraged, then the douchebags have won.

Say it in portuguese

A native english speaker acquaintance who was taking classes in Portuguese called it "the language of the damned". I did not know him or the language well enough to know if his humorous characterization even approached an accurate assesment of the complexity of the language or if it was more a reflection of his language learning skills.

In my limited contact with Portuguese speakers speaking Portuguese (Brazilian), the language has proven to be a bit odd to my ear. Odder than Italian and Spanish but not quite as odd as French or Japanese (the latter I simply cannot follow, not even a little). I'm not knocking the language - by "odd" I don't mean bad or ugly or negative. Odd means, here, something more like unpenetrable, inscrutable, veiled. Some languages you hear and you get this sense that although you don't understand them, you should understand them. Patterns pop out, you hear sound combination here and there repeated but maybe with a slight shift. They start to draw your attention and serve as windows into other aspects, like speaker variation versus lexical variation. You have no frikkin clue what it means but you do hear apprehendable elements of structure and you might even start to make some generalizations. German and Russian sound like this to me. But not Portuguese. I'll think structure is starting to come, and then it throws me a serious curve ball. I lose the thread, uncertain if the structure deforming moment was just a consequence of the conjunction of the particular speaker's personal style and my ignorance of the language or if it was something important, some step which one must learn but which I cannot possibly follow.

If you want to listen to some samples of Portuguese dialects, the wikipedia page has a few links.

All that above is in fact preamble for the issue of the word "saudade". I ran across saudade and was thinking about Portuguese because I was spending some time not making measurements, instead I was looking up music. I found a remix of some Cesaria Evora songs, which lead me to the word "sodade" and the European Portuguese equivalent, "saudade".

So what does it mean? According to whoever wrote the wikipedia article, "Saudade is generally considered one of the hardest words to translate." I find I usually enjoy words like this. There was one from Japanese a friend described to me a while ago. I think I posted about it. I'll go look. It was a great word.

But back to saudade. Here's a stab at a translation and context for the word, from A.F.G Bell, via Wikipedia and a shit load of other sketchy references (found a JStore book reference to Bell, his book, and the word, but I'm not logged in so I can't read the context of the Bell/saudade reference).

What you get online:
"The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness."

If this is accurate, I believe I have a translation to add to the pot. It is PhD student-osis. More specifically, it is "(what is felt by) a disenchanted PhD student as she approaches her sixth year"

Mika Brzezinski kicks ass

I've seen some comments deriding Brzenzinski for taking shit from her co-hosts, who I noticed were acting sort of frat boy-ish. I think if she had turned around and blown up at them, it (unfortunately) could have served to provide invalidation for the incident and her commentary on the producer's selection of lead story. You know, "just an angry woman", that sort of thing. Then we wouldn't be reading about how a newscaster was driven to extreme action by the stupidity of the news she is asked to read but how a lady newscaster lost her shit. The point would be lost. So in terms of finding a way to make her point and keep it salient, I think she did an excellent job. Very well done Ms. Brzenzinski.

What I find most admirable is that she later explained her motivation by saying "I have nothing against Paris Hilton". She went on to say she was reacting to the fact that the Paris story was repeatedly put in the lead position.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


The view of the moon from my window right now made it worth being up so late. Full moons always look better to me when there are clouds.

And the neighborhood fireworks (why I am still up) seem to have finally ceased, which means it's not only pretty but peaceful.