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Point Judith lighthouse

Visiting Lovecraft grave

Shhh.... Tycho is sleeping



Things to remember

I have a very bad memory. I don't know if it's genetic, behavioral, or whatevertheheck, but, fact is, it's bad. My bad memory manifests itself in all the normal ways like forgetting names, faces, facts, words, etc.

But, to make things worse, because I am bilingual in English and Arabic, but was raised with Arabic and French (and have learned two others), if I get stuck on a word, I have to go through three different languages to remember it. I might remember the concept but not the word in any language, or I might remember the word in one language, but not in another. Or, if I'm really tired, I forget the word and the concept in all languages. Also, when I get tired or have had a little too much to drink, the same thing happens, but I also starts switching syntaxes. The result, while comical, is sometimes very frustrating.

Most times, I end up laughing it off, but when I'm trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about, and I get stuck, it is very frustrating. Same thing goes for writing. What sounds right to me, does not necessarily read properly, especially in academic-speak.

I'm trying to find ways of making my brain a little sharper. Caffeine and chocolate help temporarily, but the crash is a little rough sometimes. Same goes for sugar. I just crash, and then I just stop thinking right.

As if this was not enough... I was raised with the metric system. So for me, kilograms, centimeters, meters, liters all make sense. Pounds, inches, yards, and miles, not so much. The problem is that I was raised with certain things associated with each measure, against which I evaluate all other things. So, to have to jump into another system is a little challenging. I end up giving up, and consulting google, or asking B, who's a walking encyclopedia of these facts. Sometimes he can help, but other times, not so much.

Now I'm thinking about carrying a little index card with me with facts that I need to remember.

So, here's some random facts:









Bearded Dragon:My bearded dragon should eat collard greens and not kale.
Kale: Curly tops, stems and leaves
Collard Greens: Flat, large leaves, and have stalks
Inches to cm: 1 inches = 2.54 centimeters
Temperatures:I think for this one I have to remember specific values
Weights: 1 kilograms = 2.20462262 pounds
Hot Dogs: We don't like the skinny jewish weiners by Hebrew Nationals



That's it for now. I'm sure there's plenty more, but I have to go brave the cold weather to go to the doc's.

And, just as I write this, I see that the Brain Gym has just opened an actual gym in San Francisco. For $60/month, people can play all the brain games (computerized and non) that they can.

I think I need to invest in a Brain Age game. Losing my memory is a very big concern of mine, since many women in my family just go nuts with their memories once they get in their late 40s. It's scary. We all used to laugh at them. I don't want to be that.

The truth hurts

I identify with this comic WAAAYYY too much!

I just learned, that contrary to widespread beliefs, that Lincoln was really not a religious man. Shocking, I know, since many think the "God" talk indicated his love of religion. Not necessarily so. His writings indicate otherwise. He thought that to be a "believer" lead one to being an infidel, which to me points to his conviction that to be religious necessarily meant that one cannot be just, or patriotic, two things that he was vehemently an advocate for.

Here are some of my favorite quotes. There are many more, but these are the ones that stood out at me. They're not all about religion, those can be found here: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/lincoln.htm

If I care to listen to every criticism, let alone act on them, then this shop may as well be closed for all other businesses. I have learned to do my best, and if the end result is good then I do not care for any criticism, but if the end result is not good, then even the praise of ten angels would not make the difference.

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.

The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Seriously, I do not think I fit for the presidency.

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.

The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.

The only person who is a worse liar than a faith healer is his patient. (BRILLIANT!)

When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: "All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure....
If today he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us," but he will say to you, "Be silent; I see it, if you don't."

That last quote left me speechless. It's amazing how far this country has moved from his ideals. It's very sad.

Tycho update

This weekend, I decided to board Tycho with a pet-sitter, who specializes in small animals, especially birds. I asked her if she would be willing to sit a lizard, and after some discussion and assurance that I would give her detailed instructions, she agreed.

I took him there on Wednesday evening, and spent about an hour with the woman telling her all that she needs to do to keep him happy. This included the usual things like bathing, feeding, handling, and caring for.

Today, I went over there, and she said that she really really wants one. She said that he had been very active since Wednesday, and has been running around like crazy. He got a lot of baths, and lots of attention. She said she kept him on her the entire time she was just hanging out watching TV, or reading. He seemed to love it. He also went to the bathroom once for her. He had gone two days ago, so that was an excellent sign!

Today, I brought him home, and on the way, I decided to get him some food and see if he would try some other things than greens. I bought him some crickets and waxworms. He usually tends to not like crickets, and would prefer mealworms or superworms. I got rid of all the other worms that I had since I think that they impacted him once before. So, I bought a small tub of crickets for him, thinking that they would last for at least a few feedings. There were about twenty in there (there should have been thirty). I put them in one by one, and he just devoured them! He even ran after a couple of them. Before I knew it, he had completely eaten all of them. Then I put in some waxworms, and lo and behold, he ate ten of those! And, when he was finished, he even had some greens to boot.

I just gave him a bath, and he even drank a whole bunch. He still cannot recognize water, even when he's sitting in it. So, I have to drip some on his nose, and he drinks it that way.

Today is the 26th of November, which is almost a week after his supposed impending death by that evil veterinarian. I can't believe how much of a recovery he has made. He's better than he's been in a very long time, and seemed to have gotten over whatever he was going through.

Tomorrow, we set up his new cage for him, and I will need to spend some time setting him up with lights and decorations. I'm so glad that he's back to his old self!

He also just had six more waxworms as a nightcap before turning in for the night.

marcel khalife

I'm going to see FINALLY, after twenty five years of waiting, Marcel Khalife in concert. To say I'm excited would be a severe understatement.

My car rental for the day is a PT Cruiser. It's the epitome of a "gay car", as my friend calls small cars.

Maids "held prisoners" in Lebanon: http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1811802007

From the AP: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iGN8ExJy3jOW_buqFT0JVL1PMghQD8SU0AL00

And from the Daily Star: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=86782

The situation is really bad there. I hope these women will get some help and hope to leave their fate there.

Tycho's visit to the doc

What a difference a good doctor makes! I am still in shock! I drove the 30+ miles to get to the Littleton Animal Hospital. I saw the doctor, who literally fawned over Tycho the entire time. She said that he is indeed, a little dehydrated, but since he looks so alert and aware, there's no reason for concern. She gave him a full exam, and she said that she felt something "tubular" in his gut, which might be just constipation. She did not seem worried at all. She even complimented me on having such a good looking lizard! He was such a trooper as she prodded and poked and felt him up.

The doctor was gentle, sweet, and knew exactly how to handle him, and how to calm him down. She even wrapped him up at one point, and cradled him, and he just looked so content. He didn't puff himself up once, his beard didn't turn black or anything. He just let her do what she needed to do, and when he got antsy, he would take off, and she would gently calm him down.

Since he hadn't had blood work in the past, she thought it would be best to do it, just to be on the safe side. His breathing hard didn't really bother her. She gave him a lot of fluids, which resulted in two "bumps" on his back, which she said he would gradually absorb.

Today I gave him a bath, and boy was he psyched! He splashed around, and kept splashing water on his back (is that normal??). He even dipped his entire beard under water, and drank a whole bunch. That was after I had given him a lot of water.

What the doc thinks, however, since we moved from a very hot weather to a colder one, that he might start brumating. He's never really done it in the past, but it might just be normal for him.

So... the next course of action is this. The blood test result should come back by Monday, and she will call and tell me what's up. I have to get him a fecal sample, so she can rule out any worm/parasite problems (indicated by the "bad smell", maybe). But, if everything turns out okay, then it's time for me to just let him be. He's going through a very normal process!

I have to get him a little "log that he can sleep under in case that's what he's doing.

Again, all seems okay with him for right now. Monday, I'll learn more.

BUT.... all that said... HE IS NOT ON DEATH'S DOOR like that other evil vet told us! His weight was fine, and no reason for concern! He didn't look like he's starving to death. That evil vet scared the living daylights out of us! We were so scared, we even thought to put him outside at night, and euthanise him, because there was no hope. I'm so glad we decided against it!

Man oh man. Depending on what the doc says on Monday, we might report the unethical and inhumane treatment we got at that stupid clinic.



That's probably one of the most overused drawings, and the twist on it is brilliant!

I might just have to get me one for New Year.

And the saga continues

Tycho today looks great, and almost back to normal. He's very altert and active. He ate almost a half a bowl full of food today. His breathing is still a little disconcerning. I called over to the vet's office, and they refuse to see him or prescribe antibiotics, because the vet is convinced that he needs radiation, and blood test, etc. etc. I asked if I can get some meds for him, while I wait and see what's going on, and they refused. The next available appointment they have is not until after thanksgiving. But, they still refuse to make one for me, because "you can't wait another week, because you might not have a beardie by then". Right. Thanks for the concern.

Somehow, I wonder if this is ethical.

So, tomorrow I made another appointment at another clinic that's 30+ miles away to go see another vet, and hopefully get another opinion.

If he confirms that Tycho is in fact severely ill, and needs hospitalization ASAP (which is what the vet here said), then it's probably something along those lines, and I'll have to consider what the best course of action. I just hope he's much nicer than the one here. I really really didn't like her.

But, I know why she seemed like a complete bitch. She's the only doctor in that entire clinic, and they have an appointment booked solid every fifteen minutes. It's been like that for a few weeks. The other vet is on maternity leave. I would totaly lose my bedside manners if the entire clinic was riding on my attention. It's very easy to miss a lot of things.

Quick update on Tycho

Tycho the lizzard seems to have bounced back like the trooper he is. The first day he came back from the doc's, he was miserable, and looked like he was on death's door. The follow day, I got him some supplements, and started (force) feeding him. He hated them! The smell was repulsive, but I don't know if it had any effect or not. Two days later of that regimen, he looked like he was bouncing back. In fact, two days ago, he actually ate almost three plates of greens! And I've been supplementing with vitamins and everything.

I got home tonight, and he had been laying there on top of his "house" that I built him. He looked like he was fighting sleep. I took him out to give him his calcium supplement. And as soon as I put him back, he perked right up! And started scratching like mad to get out of the cage. Took him out, and put him on the bed, on which he ran around for a while. We thought he was hungry, and B went to get him some food. BUT.... he wasn't hungry!

And all that scratching wasn't just because he wanted to come out. He had to go to the bathroom! He was doing the "i gotta go potty really really bad" dance. So, we rushed him back to his cage... and...well... I had to leave the room. He definitely has an upper respiratory infection. I can tell that. And, he definitely is not dehydrated! So, after two baths, and some cleanup, he went back in there. He looks so much lighter.

So why is this significant? Because, a) he will not go in his cage no matter what, unless he is absolutely desperate, and b) he has to be on a soft thing when he goes! It's the strangest thing. I had put a little towel with him in the cage to make him comfortable two days ago, and well, I had to throw that out. The day before he went to the doc, same thing happened. I put him on a small towel, under a heat lamp, and sure enough... it didn't take any time for him to soil that. I gotta buy him a bunch of towels to keep with him, because he's going through them like crazy.

This is insane behavior for a lizard. I've never heard of such a thing! I'm very puzzled.

The latest on Tycho

I woke up this morning to find Tycho has completely perked up! His eyes are wide open, and while he seems to still be relatively low key, he looks tons better. And, the area surrounding his eye has started peeling, indicating that he's going through another shed! As the morning has progressed, he seems wide awake/alert, and while he's still not really eating, he's back to scratching on the glass wanting to come out! He's also made full use of the small towel that I put in his cage yesterday. He has his arms around it (when he's laying still), and has decided that it makes a very comfortable seat for him.

I really hope he pulls through. He's about 300% better than he was yesterday! He scared the bejeesus out of us last night. Today, he seems about 70% back to his old rambunctious self. I need to get him some greens, and a new UV light, and a thermometer to keep track of the temperature in his cage. We'll just be waiting and seeing how he does in the next few days.

The last couple of days

My pet bearded dragon of eleven years is on his last breath. I doubt he'll make it past the night, and if he does, I really don't want him to go on for too much longer. This is the worst I've ever seen him. He just is not reacting any longer. It's very sad to see him that way. If anyone is interested, they can read B's journal where he talks about what's going on.

Also, my mom just went in the hospital today. She's due for a second mastectomy tomorrow, and reconstructive surgery. She's supposed to be in the hospital until Monday. The good thing is that this is a routine operation, and very common. The bad thing, of course, she's at a very high risk of deep vein thrombosis (she's on blood thinner since she's developed two very bad clots in the past), and they're worried of complications from the blood thinner. The other bad thing is that neither one of her kids is with her. She's very far away, and despite my insistance on coming to be with her, she's refused. She just doesn't want me to see her in the hospital. We don't see each other very often, and she wants us to enjoy our time, and not be at the hospital.

I am not having a good time emotionally these days.

Not even the Muppet Show could cheer me up, despite the episode with Charles Aznavour.

_A Fragment on Slavery. July 1854_

If A can prove, however conclusively, that he may of right enslave B, why may not B snatch the same argument and prove equally that he may enslave A? You say A is white and B is black. It is colour, then; the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule you are to be slave to the first man you meet with a fairer skin than your own.

You do not mean colour exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule you are to be slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest, and if you make it your interest you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest he has the right to enslave you.

I wonder what he would say/do if he came here today to see what's going on.

After almost two years of waiting and being frustrated, I have finally decided to drop Drupal completely, and move to Wordpress. I had Drupal in my "staging , for about two to three years, and never made the live move. This was due to a number of factors:

First, it was very difficult to edit the templates. Because there's no standardized way to write templates, anyone can write them. This can be a good thing since it allows for full creativity, and flexibility. On the other hand, it can be a major pain in the neck since the likelihood of porting an existing stylesheet into the new theme is not very easy, and, having to hunt for the right code to do something is also a major PIA. Very few are annotated, and certainly they are not organized in any understandable or logical way.

Second, there really weren't that many decent templates. Most of the ones out there look like they came out of the basic template. Sure, there are some excellent sites that were written on the platform, and they were fully customized, but the template is not available for the general public.

Third, support on the forums is ridiculously annoying. For the most part, people seem to have the "geekier than thou" attitude, and a simple answer can very quickly turn into a personal attack. It's very intimidating/

And last, it was an incredibly bloated piece of software. There's a new version that's in beta right now, but I was told that it was very unlikely that it would be live anytime soon. And, if it did, it will take a few months to a year for all the modules and plugins to get ported to the new system.

I consider myself a coder, and am really good at figuring things out. But, the amount of time I had to spend in order to figure out something as basic as a stylesheet really turned me off using it any further.

So, after all this time, I decided to move to Wordpress.

First, after a few hours of looking (i am afraid to think how much time looking for decent Drupal themes) generated over 50 possible themes that I can use. I downloaded all of them, and have been testing them. Some of them are quite excellent, that I will probably end up using.

Second, the themes are very well documented and annotated within the sheet. And, they're broken into different logical sections like "404" page", "main page", "index page", etc. So you can separate out the stylesheets.

Third, after the initial setup, I have not had to use my shell at all. After I load all the plug-ins through sftp, I can customize everything from the web. While I love using the shell, it makes editing anything on the fly nearly impossible. I can activate and deactive almost anything from the web.

Fourth, there are tons of widgets, and plugins and themes, and the community seem to be relatively helpful. Sure there is the internal bickering, but it is not very noisy, and it's very easy to ignore.

Fifth, the installation took less than one minute! And except for two plugins (out of about 20 so far), only two broke on Activation, which I very promptly deactivated, and left it at that. Even the themes worked straight out of the box.

Sixth, documentation is excellent. There's some people even making videos on how to install everything.

So... that's what I've decided. It took me less than two hours to customize my new site to a relatively stable format, and the functionality that I have added through the plugins (like converting pages on the fly to a .pdf, or including automatic front page excerpts) have made the site look more and more professional. That's only taken about two hours! So, once I get everything set up, I will ask my volunteers to help me port the site into the new format, and make it live. I am sick of working on formatting and styles, and I just want to add so many new things that require the improved functionalities, and the ability for the volunteers to do their own work, regardless of my ongoing involvement.

A note here, I have tried two other CMS. One is called PHP-Nuke, which was defaced and hacked into twice with pornographic images left on the front page. The other CMS I tried was Movable Type, and I decided that that too was incredibly bloated, and the shell to web ratio for customization was too high for my own taste.

So, Wordpress you have won my heart. I hope I never have to look back at anything else, and that I can have the platform grow with my new site.

Multimedia message

Enclosed is an op-ed piece that will be sent out by the American Psychological Association about the noose incident at Columbia Teacher’s College. The piece is written by Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD, who is the current President of the American Psychological Association

-------------------------------

APA Opinion-Editorial

This week, another college campus was the scene of a noose carefully placed to threaten, intimidate and shock. On Tuesday, a faculty member found the meticulously tied rope on the office door of Dr. Madonna Constantine, a well-respected African-American psychologist at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

This incident comes on the heels of nooses found outside the African-American cultural center at the University of Maryland, in the personal belongings of a black cadet and a white faculty member at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and, perhaps most notoriously in recent months, on the so-called “white tree” at a high school in Jena, La.

The people who employ these symbols are certainly aware of their power.

For black Americans, the noose is a potent reminder of the nearly 5,000 African-American men and women who were hanged by whites from 1890 through the 1960s.
This spate of noose placements serves as confirmation of the findings of a significant body of psychological studies showing that discrimination and prejudice persist in significant and demonstrable ways in our country.

Research has indicated that while most people believe themselves to be free of prejudice, many also harbor attitudes that may lead to subtle discriminatory beliefs or behaviors. This contradiction between self-perception and actual behavior indicates that everyone needs to be vigilant about their own attitudes—and what we might be inadvertently teaching others around us, particularly children and students.

There is also widespread agreement among social scientists that the social categorization process—making assumptions about people based on their race or ethnic group, including racial stereotyping -- is a virtually automatic and often unconscious process.

The strategic placement of a noose, however, involves forethought, planning and outright hostility. Indeed, these campus incidents are being investigated as hate crimes, and the perpetrators most certainly deserve strong sanctions that clearly condemn such despicable acts.

What does psychology tell us about the backgrounds and motivations of people who commit hate crimes? For one thing, they are not mentally ill in the traditional sense; according to psychological scientists, they’re not diagnosably schizophrenic or manic depressive, for example. What those who engage in hate crimes do share, however, is a high level of aggression and antisocial behavior.

More than just a prank

People who commit hate crimes “are not psychotic, but they’re consistently very troubled, very disturbed, very problematic members of our community who pose a huge risk for future violence,” according to "Dr. Edward Dunbar"
, a psychologist at UCLA who has studied hate crime perpetrators from a clinical and forensic perspective. Dunbar also notes that childhood histories of such offenders show high levels of parental or caretaker abuse and use of violence to solve family problems.

Alcohol and drugs sometimes help fuel these crimes, but the main determinant seems to be personal prejudice, which distorts people’s judgment, blinding them to the immorality of what they are doing.

People who commit bias crimes are more likely to deliberate and plan their attacks than those who commit other types of crimes, Dunbar adds. In addition, those who commit hate crimes show a history of such actions, beginning with smaller incidents and moving up to more serious ones.

As for those who bear the brunt of these vicious acts, they tend to suffer emotional damage, often with the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder. Hate crimes can create intense feelings of vulnerability, anger and depression.

On a more positive note, research has demonstrated that stereotypical thinking may be reduced as a consequence of contact between people of different races. For example, research results indicate that interactions among students of different races can diminish racial stereotyping, contribute to building cross-cultural respect, and enhance social and communication skills. What’s especially encouraging about these findings is that they are particularly strong among children in K-12 learning environments. Thus, early positive experiences of diversity prepare children for the diverse world they will inhabit.

The impact of diversity is indeed complex - but for most of us, it is not double-edged. Once we can overcome any initial discomfort with new experiences, we are prepared to derive many long-term personal, occupational and social benefits.

Violence and hate crimes can have serious consequences for the mental health and well-being of victims and communities. My colleague Dr. Constantine is particularly knowledgeable about the various experiences that produce an individual who engages in hate crimes. I hope that her many years of research, teaching and advocating for cultural competence can help her to withstand this unconscionable attack. But mostly, I hope these repugnant incidents will be a catalyst for us all to become more committed to eliminating racism and hate.

Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD
President
American Psychological Association

Why do people do that?

I work at a very large multinational (?) investment company. I have no idea how many people work for it. I am now developing a reporting software for them using .Net technology. Overall, it's a really sweet deal. I get to work at home four days a week, and when I go to the office on Wednesdays, I'm usually in either meetings all day, or continuing work. I sit in an empty cubicle and code all day. Not too bad for someone like me.

My boss is a very sweet woman, and probably one of the most committed women I've ever met. Our team, which consists of about fifteen people, is all men except for her and myself. Almost all the upper echelons she deals with are also all men. Everytime I meet with her, she just unloads all the emotional things she's been holding for the last week. All I have to say is "So.. how are you doing?" and I have to prepare myself to sit for the next half hour and listen to her tell me sometimes tearfully about all the stress she's going through. She's literally always running from place to place, or on the phone, or in meetings. How she gets any work done at all is way beyond me.

Today, however, I discover at what price her dedication is coming. The woman has taken only two days of vacation since starting two years ago! TWO DAYS!! Good god. Isn't there a law against that? She is not married, and not involved with anyone, and lives by herself, and so of course, she's all happy to work. I ask if anyone else is asked to give up their weekends and nights and vacations to work other than her, and she says there's the boss two levels above her who is like that, but that's about it. She's actually asked to cancel her vacations so she can catch up on budgets, putting out fires, etc. etc. She's doing the job of at least three people. And, although she was promised full-time help locally, most of her team is in North Carolina which makes delegating a little difficult. And, while she was promised two lines of hires for the upcoming year, one of them was slashed because of reorganization. The other one (my line) is still possibly maybe available. Essentially, she's told to just do her job, and that's about it. Although she's an excellent manager, she's not taken seriously, and she has to ask four times for something before it gets done.

So, she's telling me this, and I said "Please don't take this the wrong way, but do you think that gender has something to do with it?" and I could see her eyes well up. She was quiet for a while, and she says "funny you should mention that, I was talking with someone yesterday, who told me she had gone to HR who is very well aware of these types of patterns." Then, she tried to back out of it, by saying that sometimes her boss works through his vacation, etc. Then, she followed it by telling me how she actually came in on her Christmas break to get work done.

I think this is the first time that I've come face to face with these patterns of blatant, not discrimination, but perhaps... what is it called? Giving different tasks and more responsibility to women than men, and expecting them to do everything with less resources. That's really disheartening to see, and I hate to see her that way. I even told her that. She was very touched, and I could seriously see that the woman is hurting, but she just doesn't feel like she can do anything about it, unless she changes jobs. I hope I never have to go through that personally. It's just not worth it. In the end, nothing is worth it. She's the only one who will feel the aftereffects of that much stress. No one else will really care.

It seems to me that my tendonitis has started acting up again, undoubtedly the result of bad ergonomic desk setup and working from home where I sit on a wooden chair all day.

My CTS started when I was doing my MA work, which was about 14 years ago. Wow. Time certainly flies. It flares off and on, and usually I can manage it with high dosages of Ibuprofen, B-6 vitamins, and some massage/electric stimulation.

To top it all off, the ulnar nerve in both elbows is exposed, so if I try to bend my elbow now, I get very sharp pain from my upper arm down to my fingers.

Perhaps I should stop typing for now.

B bought me a massaging office chair for my birthday. It's supposed to arrive today. I can't wait!

Our apartment just got hit with a strong stench of skunk. My eyes are tearing it's so caustic.

Incidentally, this corresponds to how I feel after watching the worst piece of cinematic excretion called "Frankenstein's Bloody Nightmare". I would much rather have shoved a stinkin' skunk in my ears rather than have watched this piece of monstrosity. While it completely lacked any semblances of a plot (which is not necessarily bad), the visual and aural regurgitations that took place on screen made my entire body shriek in agony, and if it weren't for the fact that I just took muscle relaxers to help with the pain in my back, I would have jumped off the couch, gone to the airport, purchased a rather expensive ticket to Pensacola, FL, flown over there, and probably taken a very expensive cab ride to go to the director's house, just to knee him in the groin repeatedly while playing music from Diamanda Galas, so that maybe he would feel the pain that his viewers have experienced watching his ordure.

Anyone how knows me, knows that I am a fairly kind person who is, for the most, rather compassionate to people's situations that justified their behavior. But, in the first five minutes of the film, after observing that it looked like it was made strictly for a class project, I said "I hope he failed the class," which was then followed by:

- I don't only hope that he failed the class, but that he got kicked out of school!
- I hope his mother beat him senseless!
- The cinematographer should be beat senseless!

and so on...

The director actually has a website, and he has the galls to criticize and rant on other films! http://www.pulsingcinema.com/

We got the film from Netflix, and B. actually wrote on the sleeve, "THIS MOVIE SUCKS! WHAT A WASTE OF TIME!"

Yup. My sentiments exactly. I feel like I should go take a bath in some tomato soup just to get the stench out.

Stewie's reaction to Will Ferrell is exactly how I feel right now (Sorry about the quality).

Anne Fadiman

I just got back from hearing Anne Fadiman's lecture at Clark University. Anne is an author who wrote a ground breaking book called "The Spirit Catches You, and You Fall Down". It is the story of a little Hmong girl in Merced, CA who is epileptic, and her parents who think that she's not ill, but has been touched by the spirits, and she is being prepared to be a shaman. The doctors think otherwise. The book is about that confrontation, and the ensuing "dialogue". The little girl has been in a vegetative state for the last eight years, and she's being cared for by her parents who maintain the same beliefs.

As a medical anthropologist, this is a fascinating read, and very easy and accessible to the general audience. It's now required readings for literally millions of students in all sorts of classes. The entire incoming freshman class at Clark U. had to read it.

Now, I have to admit, I've actually not read the full thing, but have skimmed it. I have resisted reading it because everytime I tell people what I do, they say, "oh, like that book The Spirit...". So, I don't want it to influence me while writing my dissertation.

At the end of the book, Anne cites Dr. Arthur Kleinman, who is a leading medical anthropologist, and cross-cultural psychiatrist. Brilliant doctor, and a personal favorite. The end of the book contains eight questions that he came up with that doctors who are faced with a cross-cultural situation can ask of their patients. The goal is to reach an understanding of cultural categories that doctors can use as a bridge with their patients.

In my experience, doctors still resist the whole idea of cross-cultural communication. Many have a very difficult time stepping out of their culture and biases to see their patients' point of view. And, patients, especially those who have not been exposed to Western biomedicine, have a difficult time translating their beliefs to the doctors. The clinical encounter then becomes a jumbled mess of miscommunication.

At the end of the lecture, I asked Anne how she has been able to convince doctors to adopt she is proposing. I have had to deal with doctors who have been incredibly resistant to even considering anything other than what they know to be the "RIGHT" way to go. And, many put their ethical and moral standards first and foremost in dealing with patients. Her answer was really not very satisfactory. She said it was not an either/or situation, but that doctors and patients need to recognize their assumptions and biases, and work through them with the other. Errr... that's really not all that helpful, Anne. As a medical anthropologist who is in the hospitals trying to serve as a cultural broker, "they both have to come to the table" is not a very useful and practical thing. She said if there's no harm in what the patients are doing (whether it be through the use of allopathic medicine or seeing a shaman), then the doctors should respect that. But what if the situation is harmful. Then what? She merely mentioned it without offering any useful suggestions.

So, while on the one hand I really like what she's done, and truly appreciate the groundbreaking project she undertook, I'm not satisfied with her conclusions.

I'm still debating whether I would use this book in a class. Maybe I should read the whole thing before I make that decision, though.

Visual Basic

I have this weird habit (talent?) of being able to hack almost any programming language, including PhP, Visual Basic, Coldfusion, etc. Actually, I got pretty good at CF, having designed two websites with it.

In this job, I have a new challenge. I have to develop an entire software that would allow integration between Excel, Access, and Visio. The best thing to make them all talk to each other is VBA. I requested an installation of Microsoft Visual Basic on my computer, and I'm determined to learn it before too long.

I want to be able to sit down and write an entire script from scratch.

Hmm... I wonder why my neighbord decided that it would be cool to just set a huge branch of dried leaves on fire. Strange. I don't think he sees me. Hopefully, he's not going to set too many more things on fire anytime soon.

Since Saturday, I have written a ten page paper, put together an entire application for teaching a new course, which included writing my teaching statement, and have revised a paper for publication. That's not counting all the "work" work that I do every day, and the website that I manage.

So... why do I have this nagging feeling that I am not doing enough?? It's very strange!

I have also realized that if I am trying to concentrate on one thing, and try to do another, neither one of them gets done in a timely fashion. I have to finish something completely before I can have enough focus to move to something else. Transitioning between tasks is still very difficult to me, but it's worse if I am trying to do two things at once that require concentration.

So, now I have finished all the writing I needed to do (which in itself a procrastination from actually writing a grant proposal). I just have to bite the bullet, so to speak, and just get to it. Mentally, I'm prepared. Just have to do it.

Tomorrow, I will write about my rant about the ASA. Right now, however, I need sleep. My brain is exhausted!

Twitter

I just signed on to twitter.com (see link on the right). It's the ultimate tool of self-indulgence. Why would ANYONe care what the hell I'm doing at any point in time? Although, it is a neat snapshot into a daily life, because it archives all twitters in one profile page.

I don't have time to read the public timeline, but it's fun to know it's there if I want to read anything...

And, I have to say... Why would anyone on earth leave their wireless connection insecure? I'm working from the kitchen now, and connected to the net because someone left his or her connection WIIIIDE open!

Silly people.

Definitely adding this to my calendar. It's in Boston!

--------------------

Call for Papers

The Wormy Corpus: Worms, Parasites and the Body in Religion, Medicine, and History

Boston University Department of Religion American Academy of Religion
April 19th and 20th

Across cultures and disciplines, worms and parasites are a source of revulsion and fear that reflects a deep-seated association with death and decay. The fear of worms (helminthophobia) or fear of worm infestation is visceral, for worms pose a threat to personal identity and boundaries as lowly but powerful invaders-the extreme other. As a topic of inquiry, worms and parasites invite an interdisciplinary discussion between Religious Studies, History/ History of Science, Literature and the Fine Arts, Anthropology, Sociology, and the Medical Humanities. The goal of this conference is to gather together scholars from diverse disciplines to discuss not only worms and parasites but also their role in the development of culture, history, and
religion--and thus illuminate the semi- permeable boundaries between academic disciplines, religion, and medicine, as well as between the body, soul, environment, and cosmos.

We welcome presentations from individuals across the disciplines on religious, literary, and medical texts, the fine arts, film studies, sociology and health studies, anthropology, and the healing arts and sciences from cultures across the globe.

For more information, visit our website at www.bu.edu/religion/wormconference or email the conference organizers, Brenda Gardenour at brensga@bu.edu and Misha Tadd at mitadd@bu.edu

For the first time, in a very long time, actually like how things are. Except for my health which is completely and utterly bonkers right now, I feel somewhat calm.

I don't have twenty different meetings to run to, or four classes to attend with their twenty books to read and ten papers to write. And, to top it all off, I don't have to work three jobs just to make ends meet. I like being alone during the day. I find that the hardest part of working at home is actually knowing when to stop. It's funny how there's this idea that if you work from home, it's easy to goof off. I think it is to a certain extent, but once I sit down to do work, I am "in the zone", until I make myself stop.

I find myself more in control of my time, my eating, my energy level.

But... I know this is probably not going to last. My temp contract runs out at the end of October. The company is slashing jobs, and have closed all recs. My boss really wants me to stay, and we're putting together an "offer they can't refuse", so that I get to stay on, and work from home. But, I don't know how likely that is right now.

Also, there's just so long I can put off my fieldwork before I start freaking out. I need to get on the ball ASAP and get things lined up. I told Dr. S. that I'm having an existential crisis (mainly about school). She asked me to write to her about it, and we can talk about it when I see her at the conference next month. So, I'll process some more, and send her a letter and we take it from there.

In the meantime, I am reading an excellent book, and... ahem... I do have to write a paper for it. It's the last of a DIS that I took over the summer.

Okay, now time to go read.. This is probably one of the most brilliant books I've read in a very long time. It's "A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo" by Nancy Rose Hunt



Meanest fortune cookie


What the hell??? This is probably the meanest fortune cookie I have ever gotten. How mean!

As the name of this blog implies, I am an anthropologist. And, I consider myself an activist. The two sometimes butt heads, and sometimes leave me with quite a headache. I've been feeling a headache for the last few months which was prompted by a comment during my prospectus defense for my PhD. It's amazing how one off-the-cuff comment can generate such a crisis of discipline.

I have my MA in applied anthropology. It's something which I am actually quite proud of, and I have published about how I felt that applied anthropology has finally solved the paradox between being an academic, and being an activist (Note to self: reread that paper). For my current PhD program, I wrote a prospectus that I was quite proud of. I finally got it to a point where I thought that it was what I wanted to do. During my prospectus, the two non-departmental committee members commented on how much they loved it. One departmental committee member fell asleep, and the other one text-messaged. But... the gist of it is that at the end of the presentation and the Q&A period, one of the members said, "This is very good. But where is the anthropology?" Needless to say, that took me quite by surprise. If the whole thing is not anthro, then what the heck is it?? The follow-up comment was "it reads like a very applied project. There's no theory in it." This was followed by another comment by my major advisor with "if you're hoping to graduate from this program, then you need to make it more theoretical."

Those two comments struck me as "funny", since when I was studying for my applied MA, I was told I was "too theoretical", and now I'm told I'm "too applied." I can't seem to win.

So, the topic I am engaged it, morally and ethically, I cannot be disengaged from. I can't merely "observe", but I have to find ways of creating change both in practice, and in policy.

I just read three papers written by colleagues about active engagement. But how? How is that even possible, when I feel like my back is against the wall sometimes. Yes, I can be "objective" and "relative" (and boy, have i been trying to be relative!). But, there are two distinct reactions to my doing so. One is to receive death threats and hate mail. I've actually learned how to live with those. The second is to be constantly reminded that as an anthropologist, I must remain "detached" and "objective" (well, as close to it as I can, anyways). I have a very difficult time looking at particular practices "symbolically", while I know that some women are actually suffering physically, psychologically, and emotionally from it. It's not something that's "out there", that I need to document and try to understand symbolically. It's people's lives that are at stake. There's so much work to be done, and I just can't see myself sitting somewhere in the ivory tower contemplating the symbolic aspect of it.

This dilemma is really not new. It's something that I thought I dealt with in the past, but apparently, I haven't. It's also something that many anthropologists, especially people like Nancy Scheper-Hughes and others, have had to deal with on a daily basis. They were ridiculed for it. They were told that what they are doing is not "real" anthropology. But, what is "real" anthropology? Certainly, I hope we are past Malinowski's, Radcliffe-Brown, and EE Pritchard's detached observations.

So, where does this leave me? At a crossroads, it seems. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not a black and white thing. There are grey areas, and there are plenty of other anthropologists out there that I can look to for inspiration on how to reconcile my dilemma.

More pondering time is in order.

Early funnies


When my brain hasn't kicked in yet in the morning, the Vimrod comics just crack me up. The main site is here: http://vimrod.com/, but the archives is here: http://www.lastlemon.com/dailydose/index.htm

Sick

Yesterday I woke up with a sore throat, and throughout the day, I kept feeling worse and worse. This morning I woke up, and my throat was literally on fire, and I decided that I was definitely coming down with something. I stayed home, and I'm glad I did. B got me some nyquil nitetime/daytime. I don't know what it is, but I don't think the dosage is the same in the syrup as it is in the pills. For example, I took on dose about three hours ago, I am still awake, and my nose feels like there are cotton ball sstuffed in it.

I have no energy to do anything. I have tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't. I tried to do crosswords, or read, no energy. I don't even have energy to watch TV.

I just remembered that the last time I got sick my doc gave me some meds to make me fall asleep. I think I'll be hitting those when I'm ready to call it a night.

What I really need right now, though, is some serious nose spray action. I just cannot breathe through my nose.

Why don't they make one of these for adults?I's a " Stuffy Nose Suction Kit"

First day at work

First days at work are never smooth. No matter how much people try, the first day something always goes wrong. For me, today, I didn't have a network account. This meant that everytime I stepped away from my desk, I had to come back to my boss and ask her to log me back in. I was promised that everything will be fixed by tomorrow morning. I really hope so.

The commute this morning was relatively smooth. Ever since I got my GPS unit, I'm not afraid of getting lost anymore. So, this morning Maggie (my GPS's name) got me to where I needed to be with no problems, even though I veered off the track about six different times, and drove her nuts. She just recalculated the route, and off I went.

In the afternoon, I signed up to join the gym which is on site. It's $19/month with full amenities. I'm psyched.

My only challenge right now is to figure out how to get to and from work every day without having to drive. I'm willing to carpool or take public transportation. The public transit system here is functional, but I can't make the different systems in different cities connect. I'm going to call tomorrow morning and see if someone can help me plan my route. It'll take me about 1.5 hours to get to work, which adds a whole hour on my commute. But, on the plus side, I won't be driving, and I get some time to read/write every morning.

Okay, time to call it a day/night. After working, and laundry, and fighting with the MBTA system, I'm pooped.

The world loses a master

I don't remember the first time I saw "The Seventh Seal", but I do remember that the first time I saw it, I was completely blown away! The film felt more like a series of paintings juxtaposed to tell a particular story about life and death, and the unknowns of our humanity. Over the years, I think I might have seen this film over time times, and every time I see it, I notice something new, and gain a renewed appreciation of it. At the time when I first saw the film, I was also studying existentialism and phenomenology as an undergrad, and remember thinking that the film was made for the likes of me who were interested in the (lack of) meaning of life and existence.

Of course, right after I saw this film, I saw "Love and Death," which was Woody Allen's homage to Ingmar Bergman. In fact, I gained an appreciation for Woody Allen through Ingmar Bergman.

Today, Ingmar Bergman has died at age 89. He surely lived a full life, and has left his mark on the world of cinema and art for years to come. I agree with Allen when he describes Bergman as one of the greatest directors of all times. The BBC is running a good overview of his life.

I am sad today the same way I was sad when I found out that Salvador Dali died. But, while I think that Dali might have died laughing at death, I envision Bergman finally joining death in a final dance just as he envisioned it in "The Seventh Seal".

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

Links:

Applying for citizenship

I'm sending out my application for citizenship today. Hopefully, it will be a smooth process, and within six to eight months, I will be a citizen.

Here goes!

New Model Army

I was introduced to New Model Army by my first boyfriend in the US. At the time that I was introduced to them, I remember liking them not only because of the singing and the music, but because it was so angry. This was probably one of my first punk bands that I really liked. Before then, when I was still living in Lebanon, I was more into New Wave, and the boppy gay euro-techno like Pet Shop Boys, New Order, etc. So, when NMA came on the scene, I was open to liking them. When KB gave me The Ghost of Cain tape, I just played it over and over and over again.

Here's what's strange. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a terrible memory. Due to the ant-attention span that I have, I typically tune out after the first six words. For that reason, I only know the first few lines of almost all the songs that I know. And the rest, it's "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon." I listened to Ghost of Cain so much, that almost twenty years later, I can remember almost all the lyrics to all the songs. Every once in a while, they pop up into my head for no apparent reason, and usually I can sing a song, and let it go at that.

A few years ago, I tried to track them down to see if they have any tours in the US. At the time, for some reason, they were denied Visas, so they couldn't perform here, and they had written off ever playing here.

Two days ago, they popped up in my head again, and this time I went to look for them only to find out that they not only have a new album out, but, that they're touring the US! So far, it doesn't look like they're playing Boston. Even if they are, I'm not sure if I would go or not. But, I did download their album, Carnival. I actually like it. There are a couple of songs that I don't particularly care for, but the rest is fantastic. The lead, however, doesn't sound the same for some reason. He still sounds excellent, but his accent is not as pronounced.

Youtube has a bunch of their videos from concerts out. What would we do without Youtube?

A very strange weirdness

I left my computer on last night to go watch TV after I had been searching for an airbed. I left three tabs open that had three different models I was interested in.

When I returned, a completely unrelated page was open in my browser:

"So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!"

a.k.a.

"Everything I wanted to know about C.S. graduate school
at the beginning but didn't learn until later."

The 4th guide in the Hitchhiker's guide trilogy
(and if that doesn't make sense, you obviously have not read Douglas Adams)

by Ronald T. Azuma

v. 1.08

Original version 1997, last revised January 2003


B says that he didn't do it. errr... how did it get there? It's not even in my bookmarks section! It came at a good time considering my latest feelings on the whole thing. I'll have to read it.

asd

This is painful

Turner's Slave Ship

Last night, Simon Schama's Power of Art JMW Turner, whose painting The Slave Ship, brought me to tears when I first saw it in a picture. The original is in Boston, and hopefully, I'll get to see it very soon.

The story behind this painting is this: Slave ships during the transatlantic slave trade were insured for their cargo (i.e. slaves). However, the insurance would only pay for lost slaves at sea, and not those who arrived ill. Because the conditions on the ships were so horrific, many of the Africans on it became gravely ill. Rather than them arriving ill and costing the traders money, they ended up getting thrown overboard. The image here is from one particular event, but the occurence of throwing the slaves overboard was certainly not unique for this one particular event.

Here's what Schama says about the painting:

Simon Schama on Turner

"In 1840 in London, an international convention of the Great and Good was planned to express righteous indignation against slavery in the United States. Turner, initiated into the cause many years before by his patron, Walter Fawkes, wanted to have his say in paint. So how does he do it? By being a thorn in the side of self congratulation.

He reaches back 60 years to resurrect one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the British Empire when 132 Africans - men, women and children, their hands and feet fettered - were thrown overboard into the shark infested waters of the Caribbean. And Turner has drowned you in this moment, pulled you into this terrifying chasm in the ocean, drenched you in this bloody light - exactly the hue you sense in your blood filled optic nerves when you close your eyes in blinding sunlight.

Though almost all of his critics believed that the painting represented an all time low in Turner's reckless disregard for the rules of art, it was in fact his greatest triumph in the sculptural carving of space." http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/powerofart/turner.shtml
Here is the painting:

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On), 1840 (Oil on canvas). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA/ Henry Lillie Pierce Fund/ The Bridgeman Art Library

Some useful links:
There are so many details worth pointing out, however. Most of the action is in the bottom part of the image, on the left and the right). It depicts people still in chains drowning under the water, and fighting the currents of the angry sea.

On the far bottom right, there's even a sea monster that's come to devour one of the drowning victims.



Schama notes how this painting denotes the anger that Turner felt regarding this great tragedy, and that his depiction of the event takes on an apocalyptic nature. What makes this painting a great work of art is that it is not only incredible due to its brilliant colors and techniques, but it evokes anger and disgust (and even shame) in the viewer.

George Landow from Brown University has a very nice write-up of the painting: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/crisis/crisis4e.html

Tycho's bath


Tycho is about to shed, and he's starting to rub his chin on the ground. I just gave him a bath, and after he was done drinking, he tried to jump out, and scratched the heck out of me. After his bath, I usually wrap him in a towel so he warms up a bit before jumping back out. This is a picture of him after his bath wrapped in a towel. He's all clean now, and I just put him back in his cage so he can sleep. He's up way past his bed time right now.

Reducing the clutter

Over the last ten+ years, I have accumulated an incredible amount of clutter. Since I had been so busy with school, I just put everything into piles, until I had a few hours to work on clearing things up. Trying to find pieces of paper was sometimes quite challenging. And, to make it worse, even after I would put everything in order in separate folders, because of a lack of time, I would always end up with piles of papers accumulated in random places, especially various bags, purses, boxes, etc. I have used moving time as an opportunity to get rid of as much clutter as I could. While I started on that before I left Tallahassee, I still managed to have at least six boxes full of papers. I decided this week that the time has come for me to clean things up once and for all. I'm sick of the clutter, and I really want some clean space (which I was really missing because of the accumulated papers).

So, armed with about a hundred manilla folders, I used a severely modified Noguchi Filing System to organize my papers. However, violated one of the key tenets of the system, and that is to actually alphabetize my folders. But, I ended up breaking them up into three categories: personal, financial, and archive. Within each category, I labeled the folders according to what makes most sense to me.

Here's documenting the actual process. I started out with four boxes that were full of papers that have been accumulated for at least ten years. This is the second box that I was working on. It had a combination of personal papers, and academic articles.

This is the second box I cleaned. Luckily, it was mostly academic articles, the majority of which are already in Endnote. All I have to do now is to find them in Endnote, make labels, create folders, and then file them.

This is the shelf where I put all the folders. I used to have a bunch of binders and notebooks, but I decided to move those out, and make room for the folders. The binders contain lecture notes, and some lecture articles. I'm still torn as to whether I need to create a separate folder for each lecture, or just keep everything in a binder. I've been experimenting, and so far, I just want to get this organizing over with. I might have to do a second run-through to clean things up a bit. This will have to do for now, especially since I will not be accessing this material for quite a while.

These are the two crates that I moved the binders and notebooks to. It looks a whole lot more organizing than what I started with.

So, that's it for now. I have two more full boxes full of articles, and I'll be done with the first round of cleaning. This phase, I hope, will not take too much longer to complete.

Salem, MA

One nice thing about living in MA is that we're near so much. The other day, B decided that we should go to Salem, MA. Presently, it's an incredibly cheesy place. For someone who is interested in violence, persecution, and human rights issues, it was a little disturbing to me on so many levels, especially when we went into the museums where they did recreations of the witch trials. The disturbing aspects of the town, coupled with how people capitalize on this history, made for a very dissonant experience. Why modern day pagans claim that area to be a headquarters for witches, is beyond me, however. It really makes no sense to me. All the women who were persecuted were found to be innocent. Yet, a few hundred years later, it's a haven for pagans and witches alike. Personally, if I were a witch, Salem would be the last place I would want to be anyways. But.. hey.. I'm neither a witch, nor a pagan, so I guess I'm okay.
It's not a logic that I need to understand.

Anyhow... here are some pictures:

I took this as we were getting ready to head into the actual town. I believe this was right before we went hunting for a parking garage. The picture is of B, whose blog can be found here: http://vyoma108.blogspot.com/ For a much better entry with much better pictures than mine, see his entry here: http://vyoma108.blogspot.com/search/label/Salem

This is a silly picture. He took a much better one of me, which he has on his blog.


On our way out, we were beckoned to a "haunted house" at the bottomfloor of the parking garage. Not wanting to shell out any more money for cheese, we were satisfied to just snap pictures of this lovely guy.

I really like the way this picture came out. I didn't even want to retouch it.


AHHHHH!!!!! This is sometimes how I feel when I can't write anything.


Back! Tycho is my co-pilot.

I hadn't realized how long it's been since I last updated this blog. I'm now in Worcester, MA, and have been for almost three weeks. The period of adjustment is challenging, as with all adjustment periods. I have been cleaning my office (pictures will be in another post), and wanted to get all the pictures off my phone before I make any new ones.

The quality is not the best, but I really don't have the time to futz around with them.

It took four days to drive from Tallahassee, FL to Worcester, MA. The trip was long, but definitely not too exhausting, except for the day that I passed through DC and CT, and got lost on the way, and ended up spending 11 hours on the road in the car. CT has aweful traffic!

This is the first picture of Tycho helping me read the directions. The cooler is right below him. He's so helpful.

On the way there, I put Tycho with me in the car, since he usually likes riding in the car with us. He's typically very well behaved, which makes him a very good companion. So, after we packed everything up, I put him in a little cooler, and strapped him to the seat next to me. Whenever I got on the highway, I let him out, and he usually just hung out with me.


I think that in a former life, Tycho was a dog. He often does not realize that he's a lizzard, and so his behavior is very strange for who he is. Here's an example of his identity confusion. He liked to literally jump on the window, and hang like this for hours. He loves to look out the window, and watch things as they go by. When he gets bored, he typically will walk around the car, until he finds a good spot where he can look outside.

Here's another one of him hanging out. At one point, he discovered that he can get himself up to the area that's under the back window, and spent about an hour running back and forth from side to side of the window, scratching, and eventually he would just settle down and just hang out. Eventually, he would get himself back to the cooler, and slowly but surely he would fall asleep. But, sometimes the excitement got to be too much for him, and he would literally refuse to sleep. As active as he was, he only bothered me once while I was driving, and I simply moved him away. That was enough for him to learn that he should not be getting too close to me. He just learned how to entertain himself very well.

I actually miss him being in the car with me now when I drive somewhere. He was such a good lizzard the entire way.

Final day in Tallahassee

It's really hard to believe that today is the last day we will be spending in Tallahassee. It seems surreal, very surreal; especially in the light of the fact that we have so much stuff to get done today. It's going to be a long day indeed, which will start at 7:00 when someone picks up the last of the chairs I was selling, to the moment... well, until we are done loading the truck, cleaning the house, throwing out the trash, getting rid of stuff for freecycle, etc.

Gotta scoot!

I think I did well on my exam. My brain hurt, though. It's been over fifteen years since I've actually written anything in Arabic, let alone try to put together a coherent sentence together in Arabic. Like I said before, although I speak the Lebanese dialect almost every day with my mother, I don't speak nahawi, or high/formal arabic at all. Whenever I listen to news or read online magazines in Arabic, I can pretty much get the gist of what the reporter is trying to say. Otherwise, I really have no need for it. So today when I had to read long passages and answer questions, I found it a little challenging. Translating from Arabic into English was a breeze, which is very surprising. The test itself should have taken between 1.5 and 2 hours, but it took me about 2 hours and eleven minutes. Most of that time was trying to formulate my answers to the questions. It took less than ten minutes to translate two paragraphs.

On the ride home on the bus, I saw a woman who was snuggled with her daughter, who was wearing a T-shirt that said "Sorry: Mind closed until further notice." Now, why on earth would someone go around advertising that his or her head is completely closed? Might as well just have a shirt that says "I'm an idiot"!



This t-shirt reminds of this bumper-sticker/t-shirt.






I guess I just don't get why would want to advertise that they're complete dolts.

Language skills

Although I speak Arabic on a regular basis with my mother, I have not actually written anything in Arabic in almost twenty years. As part of my graduate degree, I need to take a language assessment. I found out this morning that I will be taking it at 10:30. The exam will consist of 2 reading passages with questions and one text to translate. According to the prof, it should take me between 1:30 hour to 2 hours. Now I'm nervous. But, at least I can get that final requirement out of the way before my move.

But, that also messes up my plan of packing for the day.

T minus 4 days!!

One of my interests is the history of slavery in the Middle East, and specifically, slavery and trafficking out of Africa into Arabia. Historically, the pattern of enslavement, especially during the Ottoman empire, was quite different than the transtlantic slave trade. Chattel slavery was not very common, and most slaves ended up either guarding women in the harems, or worked as domestic servants and in agriculture. Some of them even became the merchants' assistants and proteges, learning trading from their "masters", and being responsible for the upkeep of the books, and for making the trade connections across the world. Most commonly, however, they were used in the military as soldiers. In fact, at one point, slaves constituted the majority of the Ottoman military.

So, this new book by Ehud Toledano to be very interesting with regards to slavery in the Middle East.

Until very recently, the "authority" on Islamic slavery was Bernard Lewis' "Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry," in which he argued that the current racial prejudice in the Arab world, and the association of blackness with a state of inferiority, can be explained historically. After the death of Muhammad, Muslims expanded geographically, and enslaved non-Arabs, who were mostly black. In the process of their conquests, they established contact with more advanced whites and inferior blacks, whom they also enslaved. After the abolition of slavery in Europe, the development of slave trading resulted in the overrepresentation of Africans in the slave population. Therefore, Lewis attributes all three factors to the eventual association of race with slavery and prejudice in the Arab world.

I disagree with Lewis' treatment of the history of slavery, not only because he misses some historical data, but because he is very simplistic in his treatment of race and slavery. The argument is more complex than that, and has a strong religious motivation that Lewis is not very attentive to.

Either way, this new book by Toledano should prove interesting. He has previously written extensively on slavery in the Ottomon empire, but this seems like it adds a new comparative dimension with the transatlantic slave trade that is not very well discussed in the literature.

From the blurb on the Yale website:

This groundbreaking book reconceptualizes slavery through the voices of enslaved persons themselves, voices that have remained silent in the narratives of conventional history. Focusing in particular on the Islamic Middle East from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, Ehud R. Toledano examines how bonded persons experienced enslavement in Ottoman societies. He draws on court records and a variety of other unexamined primary sources to uncover important new information about the Africans and Circassians who were forcibly removed from their own societies and transplanted to Middle East cultures that were alien to them. Toledano also considers the experiences of these enslaved people within the context of the global history of slavery.

The book looks at the bonds of slavery from an original perspective, moving away from the traditional master/slave domination paradigm toward the point of view of the enslaved and their responses to their plight. With keen and original insights, Toledano suggests new ways of thinking about enslavement.

Ehud R. Toledano is professor of Middle East history and director, The Graduate School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University.

I haven't seen any reviews of it yet, but I'm curious as to how it stands out to other treatments of the subject material.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Somalia food aid trucks stranded

In Somalia now, 140 food aid trucks are stranded at the Kenya border and can't get food to people.

Of course, this is the day after the Independent reported that the UN food aid is "causing chaos and violence" in Somalia: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/africa/article2692506.ece

There's a pattern here that will hopefully not recreate the violence that created the "black hawk down" fiasco in the 1990s.

This quote is the best in the article:

It is not the first time that Marere's elders have criticised the WFP. After a chaotic food distribution last year, which also took place during the harvest season, the elders wrote to WFP asking the UN organisation not to deliver food again. But, in the past nine months, Marere's elders have changed twice - first the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) then the transitional government took control of the area.
It really is the same story of militias fighting, but of course, according to the Independent, they're militias belonging to different clans who are fighting.

And, lastly,

Some recipients of the food aid have also claimed that the quality is so bad they have had to feed it to their animals.

Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for WFP, said the organisation had received "no reports of this kind" from its local partners in Marere. But, he added: "Somalia is perhaps the WFP's worst operating environment in the world at this time."

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

First post

It's funny, the last time I started a new non-livejournal blog was on my personal server right before I started my PhD program. Now, this is another one, and am getting ready for yet another move. Must be something about new beginnings that inspires me to start new things.

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