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Hear ye! Hear ye!!

For anyone from Tallahassee reading this... I'll be in town next week (18-23), and I'd love to get together with people. Oysters, pickled chips, and sheesha are on the menu. Leave me a comment if you can meet up.

President-elect Obama

A few years ago, I was introduced to a beautiful artist by the name of Brenda Fassie. Like most artists who were/are dealing with the effects of post-Apartheid South Africa, she was singing about the struggles of the people who had to live under the brutal government.

When Nelson Mandela was captured, it was devastating to the world. He was a great leader, and a very inspirational figure. She wrote a beautiful song for him called "My Black President", which talks about her love and dedication to this great man.

The first few times I heard it, I was very moved, and then as I learned the lyrics and sang along, I would choke up, and think how wonderful it would be to have a president who can generate so much love and commitment from his people. I have never experienced that in my life, and didn't know what standing behind a president meant.

I come from a country torn by war and corruption, and all the presidents I have experienced have, well, been uninspirational. Every time an inspiration figure arose to power and united people (even if it's not across division), he would get assassinated. Bashir Gemayel, Rafik Hariri, Gibran Tueni, all great men who were assassinated. People lost hope and accepted the status quo. Now, Lebanon has crazy, conservative, religious extremist with more influence than all other factions put together. They have killed dreams of a peaceful country where Lebanon can become the Paris of the Middle East once again.

I came to the United States mainly to escape the war in my country. It was no place for any young person to live. When I moved here, Bush senior was on his way out, and Bill Clinton was on his way in. I lived through that time, and it was great. The economy was great, we had fun in the software industry. But, the dark shadow of the Reagan era was still looming. There was a huge gap between the rich and the poor, and people were either living the high life, while others lived with daily violence and trauma.

When Bush junior first ran, I knew things would change, but didn't know how. He won through deception and greed. In his second term, he did crush people's dreams, and encouraged an era of fear and almost draconian politics. I lived in fear. It was dangerous to be an Arab. We were the terrorists, after all. We're the cause of the demise of the "American way of life". Living in Florida meant I had to watch over my back all the time, and censor what I said in the classroom, because I didn't want to say the wrong thing, and end up being deported, or denied citizenship when I wanted to apply.

I've been in the US since 1988. Twenty years later, I still had not applied for citizenship. I am not too big on citizenship, per se, and the American passport, a prized capital in most of the world, was not an incentive for me. I was ok, just keep a low profile, and everything will be fine.

Last year, I started hearing Barack Obama on TV, and all of sudden, something sparked in me. I was inspired, as I'm sure millions of people were all over the country. All of a sudden, he offered hope for those of us who have come to think that things were utterly hopeless; that the government is against the people; that politicians will do anything they can to further their own agendas, regardless of how many people were harmed in the process. The more I heard him speak and learned about his policies and his vision, the more I became moved, and wanted to actually vote for him. That inspired me to apply for citizenship, and finally get it after twenty years.

Yesterday was the first vote I have ever cast in my life. I am proud to have done it not only because of who Obama turned out to be, but because he was the man who inspired me (and turned me into a political junkie), and sparked in me a hope that had long since been extinguished. Now, as a citizen, I can stand behind a president. I can look up to him for inspiration. He says great things that will go down in history, and will be written on the walls of the capitol (unlike the last number of presidents we've had). His words will join those of Lincoln, Kennedy and others who have inspired millions of people during their time and throughout history.

While I truly don't have (too) many high expections for him and the country. There's going to be a lot of cleaning to be done, and he is going to make many people angry and outraged, and perhaps even violent.

I fear for him, as I'm sure millions of people do as well. I hope he does not join the list of great men who were assassinated because some could not get beyond their fears and think beyond themselves. I have experienced first hand what happens to great people. This is one of those instances where I don't even want to consider what would happen if my fears came true.

As an anthropologist (as Obama's mom was) and an Africanist, and someone who is so concerned about social justice and human rights, this is an amazing time in history. I am seeing and being a part of history as it is written. I have been crying since last night. I'm relieved in more ways than one. I am sure the world over just breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Every time I see Jesse Jackson's face in the crowd crying, I start crying myself. This man has been through so much, and seen so much, inspired so many, and had such vision for this country... I can only imagine what was going through his head.

And, the video of Obama's grandmother celebrating in Kenya was very moving as well. The Kenyan president declared today a national holiday to celebrate the victory. The world is celebrating his election. How much more inspirational does he have to  be?

Yet, we still have people in this country who fear him, and will call him every name in the book because they can't get past his skin color, and his foreign sounding name. Well, tough for them. Get used to it! He's their president now, and if they don't like it, they can learn to deal with it, like the rest of us have been forced to do for the last eight years.

This post started with Brenda Fassie, and will end with her. Here is the video and the lyrics to the song. I dedicate it to my black president.

I will sing for my president

I will stand and say
Viva, viva, viva, viva, viva, viva


Black President
The year 1963
The people's president
Was taken away by security men
All dressed in a uniform
The brutality, brutality
Oh, no, my black president
Him and his comrades
Were sentenced to isolation
For many painful years
For many painful years
Many painful years
Of hard labour
They broke ropes
But the spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh, no, my, my black president

Hmm maa (3x)
Hmm maa (3x)

Hmm maa (3x)
Hmm maa (3x)
Ahh, nyu ye uyee huu

He broke ropes
But his spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh oh oh, my president

Now in 1990
The people's president
Came out from jail
Raised up his hand and said
'Viva, viva, my people'
He walked the long road
Back, back to freedom
Back, back to freedom
Freedom for my black president

Let us rejoice for our president
Let us sing for our president
Let us pray for our president
Let us sing, let us dance
For Madiba give us freedom
We thank you Lord
For listening to our prayers
Night and day
Oh oh oh, my president


Zulu /Xhosa lyrics

My president
I will die for my president
I will sing for my president

I will stand and say
Viva, viva, viva, viva, viva, viva

Julien Clerc - Melissa

When I was a teenager, there was a French song that I adored. It would always play on TV and on the radio, and I would sing and dance along. After I moved to the US, I just had no idea what it was. I remembered only one line that I still sang to this day. In fact, I was singing it in the shower this morning. It's one of those weird things that just stuck in my head. I can hear the music, but other than one line, nothing. That line was "dite jamais que je vous ai dit ca, ou Melissa me tue", which translates to "never say I told you that, or Melissa will kill me".

A couple of years ago I decided to try to locate the song on the internet, but I couldn't find anything. Couldn't remember the singer's name or anything. But, now, thanks to Youtube, I FOUND IT! I'm ecstatic! I've already listened to it about ten times.

The song is about a woman who runs around naked in Ibiza, and gets into trouble as she climbs up walls, and the cops come after her, etc. It's a very silly song.

So.. without further ado, here it is!! Melissa by Julien Clerc.

And whoever put it up on September 17, 2008, THANK YOU!!!!

I am now a citizen!

On September 17, Citizenship Day, I became a US citizen. I am a full-fledged 'merican now. All the pics, etc. can be found here:

About a year ago, I became inspired by hearing one of Obama's speeches, and decided that I would like to vote for him in the upcoming election. Little did I know about everything that would happen in what has become the Election Circus.

I am still glad I went ahead and applied, and got sworn in. It's one less thing to worry about. And, I get to vote, become a city council commissioner, and have an American passport. Also, I get to apply for Fulbright fellowships, which would be great.

So, that's the big news.

Now... If only I get my dissertation going.

I've always been fascinated by group behavior and social psychology. Experiments like the Stanford prison experiment, the Stanley Milgram obedience to authority experiment are alll excellent examples of herd mentality, and people's inane fear of being individuals and acting on what they think is right in the face of authority.

So, when I saw this experiment today, it just made me laugh out loud. Elevators are such uncomfortable places to begin with. I never know how to behave when someone else is in there, especially if that someone else is doing anything other than just standing there silently. The most uncomfortable is when a parent and child are fighting, or a couple is making out, or two people are "gossiping", etc. Very bizarre.

So, here's the fun video.

This is a test

This is cool. Microsoft Word has a template that allows me to interface with Blogger. Since I really don't like the UI in Blogger, I can use Word, and have it all nice, and stuff.

This is a header 1

This is Header 2

This is header 3

 So it uses my existing CSS when publishing. Very cool.





Lebanese garlic sauce

As many people can attest, I am an excellent cook. I can make almost any recipe, and have it come out fantastic. I can even, when inspired, improvise the best of recipes. The way I look at it is that cooking is an art-form that can be learned. Usually, I will know what a recipe needs by smell, sight, or taste. So far, it's been good. But, I have finally found a recipe that's driving me insane! It's probably one of the easiest recipes ever, but for me, it just does not work.

That recipe is the Lebanese garlic sauce. It's not just any sauce. The finished product is supposed to look like whipped cream. The instructions are very simple. Crush a bunch of garlic with salt. Drizzle oil and lemon juice, and mix into the garlic, until you get the consistency of whipped cream.


This is the second time that I have tried to make it, all to no avail. It's a very tricky recipe, because if not done properly, it just falls apart, and the sauce will refuse to thicken.

I just tried to make it today, and after putting it through three different blenders, I just gave up! That sink on the left was clean when I started. I literally went into a frenzy, and was cursing things, and yelling at things.

Finally, I added some cream, and some mayonnaise, and that seemed to thicken it. And, although the finished product tastes right, it looks completely wrong!

I just remembered that someone mentioned to me a while back that you're supposed to mix it with some mashed potatoes. I'm going to try that, and see if it works.This is so frustrating!

There is a path of destruction wherever this recipe goes.

I will conquer it yet!

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For many years, my music has enjoyed a special, and especially gratifying, association with the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish. Our respective corpora have grown to be reminiscent of each other, so that the name of each of the twain, instantly and without reflection, would evoke the name of the other. How very appropriate, for all of my musical milestones that punctuate my thirty-year career, beginning with Promises of the Storm and culminating with The Doves Fly, are graced with the lyricism and poignancy that are uniquely Darwishian. Even before we got to know each other personally, I felt as though Darwish’s poetry, with its divine assertiveness and prophetic cadences, had been revealed to me and for me. I could nearly savor his mother’s bread that has become iconic to his readers. I could feel the eyes of his Rita as deeply as I could feel the pain that his Joseph suffered at the hands of his treacherous siblings, and I could identify with his passport, which I fancied carried my picture, just as personally as I could identify with his olive grove, his sand, and his sparrows. They were all, at a personal level, mine.

“And I adore my life because if I die I will be ashamed of my mother’s tears”- Darwish
Perhaps, this is the only time that Mahmoud Darwish felt ashamed and it is because he departed before his mother. He left her the tears to shed but not a poem to eulogize him with. I am the one who carried his poetry and traveled with it to far away places. I am the one who carried his soil and longing to his mother, his Rita, his olive tree and grape vine. Would you believe me when I say to you that poets do not die, but only pretend to?
Marcel Khalife
Nagam Cultural Project

Mahmoud Darwish has died

Mahmoud Darwish, one of the most prolific, talented, inspiring, humanistic, and political poets in the Arab world has died today. I read his work growing up, and was very happy to see his work finally put to music by Marcel Khalife this past year.

Who will be left when all the Darwishes, and the Qabbanis are gone? Where is the next generation of poets? Today's youth is being numbed by trivialities, and distractions. Where are the great poets? I guess it is up to people like Marcel Khalife and Kazem el Saher to immortalize them, and introduce them to this idiotic generation.

Darwish died during an operation in Houston, TX. His death was probably far from being "blue, like stars pouring from a window".

For more of his poetry, click here.

Here is one of his poems:

They Would Love To See Me Dead

They would love to see me dead, so they say: He belongs to us, he is ours.

For twenty years I have heard their footsteps on the walls of the night.

They open no door, yet here they are now. I see three of them:

A poet, a killer, and a reader of books.

Will you have some wine? I asked.

Yes, they answered.

When do you plan to shoot me? I asked.

Take it easy, they answered.

They lined up their glasses all in a row and started singing for the people.

I asked: When will you begin my assassination?

Already done, they said ... Why did you send your shoes on ahead to your soul?

So it can wander the face of the earth, I said.

The earth is wickedly dark, so why is your poem so white?

Because my heart is teeming with thirty seas, I answered.

They asked: Why do you love French wine?

Because I ought to love the most beautiful women, I answered.

They asked: How would you like your death?

Blue, like stars pouring from a window—would you like more wine?

Yes, we'll drink, they said.

Please take your time. I want you to kill me slowly so I can write my last

poem to my heart's wife. They laughed, and took from me

only the words dedicated to my heart's wife.

Thanks to the wonderful world of digital photography, i have now over 1000 pictures from my trip. I tried to document as much as I could.

Today was very long. Explored all sorts of breathtaking views and locations (pictures later), visited a couple of holy sites, and ate lunch at a fantastic place. Then, came home, crashed for a bit, and went over to my uncle's birthday dinner.

Dinner was good and frustrating at the same time. Good because I got to speak to my cousin Tony who is on his way to the US in September. Yay! I'm so excited for him, and excited to have him in the US as well. He's going to UC Santa Cruz for an MA. I hope to be able to show him around SF if I get the chance. We have a very similar outlook on life, religion, family, and music. He's a HUGE David Byrne fan, and pretty much loves the same music I do. He just made me two DVDs full of music. Woohoo!

Dinner was frustrating because of another one of my cousins who has absolutely no social grace whatsoever. She's rude, condenscending, and just plain annoying. Plus, she insulted one of my favorite relatives who is about 70 years old wise man who used to work for the UN, speaks about ten languages, and just as nice as can be.

I'd love to say more, but gotta crash. It's 1:51 am here, and I'm absolutely exhausted.

Oh, and my sweetest cousin is in the hospital again. We think it's her gallbladder. Poor thing.

I totally suck at vacations

I have a terrible habit that when I am working, I have a hard time taking a break. When I do take a break, I feel very guilty, especially when the break is over a month long.

Ever since finishing up my contract with unnamed company, I have taken the summer off, and been traveling. This is the first time, since about 20 years, that I've had the chance to do that.

First, I went on a cruise to the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cozumel). Came back home for one week, and then headed to Lebanon for a month long "medical vacation". The first two weeks I was here, I had two elective surgeries, one minor and one major, and now I am recovering. I have been seeing family, catching up with news from the country and from my mom, and generally having a good time.

But, in the deep recesses of my mind, there's a constant nag that I need to be doing something productive. I have a lot of things up in the air, that I need to act on, but have no energy, nor desire to do so. The good (and bad part) is that once I start working on one of them, there's a cascading effect with most of them.

On the positive side, I have received a $2,000 grant from a Human Rights organization to do my research upon my return. That's an excellent thing. But, I really don't have much lined up in terms of where to do the research yet.

Emails are piling up unanswered, and I am getting very anxious to return and resume my life. I am feeling increasingly restless. But, I don't have a job to return to. I miss B terribly, but there's nothing else that I absolutely must do upon my return except to work on my grant, and get ready for the new semester to start in August. The first two weeks I have training in GIS at the College, and then two weeks later, school starts. The summer has gone by so fast! But, it will be good to be back, and try to get my life back together.

The new cabinet was finally formed yesterda, and the new Miss Lebanon was crowned. Hooray for that! Hopefully, life here will resume, and some change will come about from this new cabinet.

This place is insane!

I'm visiting mom in Lebanon, and she lives in an urban neighborhood. Lots of buildings, lots of apartments, and narrow streets. The people across the street are having a wedding party, and decided to blare their music at their speakers' maximum. I can literally feel the building vibrate. Not only that, but they brought a drummer, who plays a very loud drum called the tabl (meaning drum, really). So it's REALLY loud!

Not only that, but as soon as the bride arrived in her procession at midnight, they started with the fireworks right in front of my window! That was scary, because it meant that the people who were launching the fireworks were sitting in between buildings. Very safe, yes.

Apparently, these days, people use fireworks instead of firing real guns and shotguns up in the air in celebration. I think I can live with that. Although hearing fireworks in Lebanon is a bit of a trip since it reminds me too much of bombs in Lebanon.

Tomorrow, I go get my hair cut and styled at one of the best stylists in the country.

And... on the Tuesday... my cousin might actually score tickets to see.... *drumroll* PATTI SMITH! How weird it would be to see Patti Smith in Lebanon. Very strange indeed!


I spent most of the evening discussing health care with mom and her neighbors. This was all sparked by a conversation we had last night, during which I said that I was dreading going to the dentist because of the cost. I have four teeth that have cavities, and need some serious cleaning. I told mom that when I last saw the dentist, I was told that, with insurance, I would need to pay at least $500 in order to get all this work done. They were all aghast! They just could not believe it was that expensive!

It was about 9:30 in the evening by then. Mom jumped up and said that she would call the dentist immediately. Umm... It's 9:30, isn't the clinic closed? To which she replied, so what? I have his home number. She called him at home, and he said, "I usually don't work on Saturdays, but you're welcome to bring her in tomorrow if you like, and we'll see what she needs. I'll wait for you guys in the afternoon."

We went out for lunch, and mom called to confirm. He had indeed been waiting for us. So we headed there, and he saw my teeth, and sure enough, four cavities, and some serious cleaning was needed. He worked on me for a full two hours, and finally filled out my cavities with ceramic filling, which required five Novocaines in my gums. Then, he did the cleaning. All in all, it was a two hour ordeal. I'm surprised I put up with that much pain! But thanks to some homemade wine, I was numb to begin with.

When it was time to pay the bill, both mom and I were worried it would cost upwards of $500. He calculated everything and said, "$110.... $100 would be fine". WHAT??? $100 for all that work? Are you kidding me?!!

Turns out that that was normal. This was truly shocking to me. I then thought it was an anomaly because mom is his patient. Turns out that it was truly an average price. Her neighbor got five teeth worked on, and some serious cleaning for $200. Mom has had some bridgework done, and all her teeth worked on for $1000.

She then said that all medicine here was like that. Her mastectomy this year which took 6 hours in the operating room cost $3,500. This included everything, including a new prosthesis, and a replacement one which had melted during her radiotherapy treatment. All her followup with this doctor has been free of charge. Her surgeon is one of the top surgeons in the country, and her operation was in one of the top hospitals in the country too!

Her neighbors all confirmed that this was actually the norm, and not an anomaly. It wasn't until now that I fully understand the impact of Michael Moore's "Sicko". The US healthcare system is absolutely abysmal, and overrun by thieves without any conscience. People in their seventies and eighties should not be working in order to cover their basic health care. The fact that we can approve millions upon millions of dollars for a war, but can't provide basic health care for people is an absolute disgrace. The fact that people have to make the choice between eating and getting medicine should be considered a human right violation.

There are some who actually believe that universal health care is a code word for communism or socialism. How is that even possible? Where is the logic in that? When people get sick, they dread going to the doctor's or the hospital because of the bills, even if they have insurance. Of course, this is assuming that they can see a doctor in a timely fashion to begin with!

I know I have said this a million times before, and I will say it again. I really don't mind paying taxes. I think taxes are a fundamental part of living in a society, and I will gladly pay it. Money for services needs to come from somewhere. What I do mind, however, is my tax money being used for wars and for the benefit of the few, instead of benefitting the entire society. Living in a society, at least to me, means watching out for myself and for others. Otherwise, I might as well be living alone on an island.

As a medical anthropologist, differences between health care systems is something I am very interested in. It's really something else to be experiencing this firsthand.

Oh man... too true!!

The Bonjour service

Stupidly, this morning, I uninstalled the @(#*& Bonjour service. Lo and behold, all my networking functions on my laptop are now completely nonfunctioning.

Here's what I learned about this insane program.

- It's primarily bundled with iTunes, but can also come with Photoshop CS3 to help with Version Cue (a feature I don't need anyhow).
- If you disable it from the Vista Services, you will be fine.
- If you uninstall it completely, you will spend a few hours in Windows hell like me. It literally complete kills all possible networking. You won't be able to get an Internet or a Local Connection.

There's a small utility called TurnoffBonjour that just turns it off, so you won't have to uninstall it.

I am trying to uninstall Photoshop CS3, to see if that helps. If not, I will uninstall iTunes, Skype, etc. and reinstall them.

Damn it.



3:16 - I have found a fix that has worked! I am copying it here in case anyone needs it.

Found it on
Check and repair Winsock corruption.
Click Start. In the Start Search dialog box, type: cmd, and right-click cmd.
Click Run as administrator.
Type: netsh winsock reset, and then press the ENTER key.
Type: Exit and press ENTER.
Restart the computer.

Reset the TCP/IP protocol.
Click Start. In the Start Search dialog box, type: cmd, and right-click cmd.
Click Run as administrator.
Type: netsh int ip reset, and then press ENTER.
Type: Exit and press ENTER.
Restart the computer.

Microsoft also has some convoluted fix, which is pretty much the same as the previous one. The article is entitled: "How to determine and to recover from Winsock2 corruption in Windows Server 2003, in Windows XP, and in Windows Vista"

I have to move my files over to the new laptop, and then I'll take a shower, and finish packing.
But here's the link anyhow:

Installing WindowsME trauma

Well, after two hours yesterday, and going on three today, I think I am very close to getting this laptop all set up.

See, the problem is that Windows ME is not bootable. And, if you formatted your entire harddrive, you know that you will not have even DOS installed on it. The solution, of course, is to use a bootable floppy, format the harddrive and get it ready for install. Then, launch the WindowsME setup from the CD-Rom. Straight forward.

But, because I have a swappable floppy and CD-ROM, it's impossible for me to do that. So, I had to track down a version of DOS that I can put on a CD, and have it be bootable. After three different tries, I finally found the correct version of DOS that supports large disks (for a comparison of different versions, click on this link).

I downloaded the correct version from, and it's currently checking the partitions on my haddrive. But, since I don't really have any partitions, I don't know what it's doing. I might need to burn another disk to fix this. I've gone through about six CDs so far, because I don't have CD-RW disks to use. Grr..

Actually, strike that, I need DOS 8.0. I finally was able to download the correct version from Powerload Boot Disk Project. This actually seems like it's working. We'll see.

10:11 - Now FINALLY formatting. Looks like exactly what I need. Stupid Windows!

11:30 - I needed both disks mentioned above to get things set up. Not only that, but I also had the pleasure of reinstalling Windows 98 because stupid ME will not clean install since it's meant as an upgrade, and crashed at first install. Now, ME is at 61% install.

Meanwhile.... I uninstalled Bonjour.exe from my Vista laptop, and now my network has stopped working.

I should just stop, and like go back or something.

From Vista to ME....

Eleven years ago, I bought a Gateway laptop for $1,700. At the time, it was the hottest and greatest thing out there. 10 Gigs, swappable DVDRom and floppy disk, and a whopping 512MB of RAM! At the time, I was in the middle of my MA degree, and thought that would be a good idea to invest in a laptop. Windows ME had just come out, so it was a very big deal to have moved from Windows 95 (which I STILL miss) and Windows ME.

Over the years, I have used it for basic word processing, and as new versions of Windows came, this poor little thing was left behind in the dust. But, in the meantime, it traveled to Trinidad, London, Lebanon, and all over the United States. The fact that it still works is mind boggling. Sure, many of the new softwares don't work on it anymore, but for basic things, it works.

In the last four years, I have used mainly laptops from the various contracts I have worked for, but still used the ME one for text, basic browsing, and Solitaire.

My last two projects have ended, and thus, I had to give up their respective laptops, and was left with this one. After visiting my mom, she was amazed that I was still using this piece of junk, and decided that she would buy me not only a happy new shiny laptop, but also a digital camera. I love my mom!

I was thinking about turning this laptop into a Linux machine, but mom asked for it so that she would give it to a friend. So now, I have to reformat it, reinstall Windows ME, basic programs, and then give it back.

So, in the last hour or so, I have reformatted a 3.5" floppy disk, reformatted the harddrive, and err... oh no! Swappable drives! That means that I can't run a floppy and the CD-Rom at the same time. And, since ME is not bootable, I have to figure out how to do boot into it somehow. Ugh.

This will probably take all day, and I will update as I go.

12:30 - Formatted A:\ disk, and tried to boot up
12:45 - Somehow made it to the D: drive, and now formatting C:\. It's 8 percent complete.
12:53 - Not bad. Completely finished. Um... how do I install from a D:\ drive, while there's no setup file? This is going to be interesting.
1:04 - I'm stuck!!

So a while back in 2005, I bought a 40G iPod from someone on EBay. I was so excited when I got it. I just couldn't wait until the thing worked. This was my first experience with a Mac product, so I decided to give it a go.

Over the years, I am constantly amazed by the quirks this thing has. It's amazing. I should have picked up on that when I first got it, and had to reset it. So here's all the weird things.

- When you reset an iPod factory settings, you HAVE to have a power source to connect it to. Merely connecting it to a computer will not work. I think the power is separate. But, you can go to any Radio Shack, plug your iPod in any of their auxiliary machines, and after thirty seconds, it boots itself.

- If you use your iPod also as a disk drive, anytime you accidentally disconnect your cable from the machine, you have to reset the iPod, and start all over again, and then copy your library again. So, best advice here is... back everything up that you save on it. It's tempting to save your files on a 40 Gig drive, until you lose your data. Not so much fun then.

- There's actually a site out there where you can check the life of your ipod based on serial number. Sorry, forgot the site. After I entered mine, it told me I had two months left on mine, and sure enough, in two months, it started acting VERY funky. After a while, I just turned it off, and forgot about it because I was annoyed so much. I don't like self-destruct mechanisms that I can't control.

- After getting my new shiny HP laptop, I thought I'd try the iPod again. Had to download iTunes, because for some reason Winamp was not recognizing it. After download, I noticed that iTunes was launching about thirty different processes, and using a "Bonjour" utility that was bringing down my entire network. After tweaking it a bit, I got it to work.

- Everything went fine software wise, but suddenly the iPod starting making an incessant clicking sound that was driving me batty. After some research online, I discovered that this was a common problem; the harddrive was loose. The solution? Insert a folded business card between the harddrive and the cover, and everything will work. I tried that, and now it works without the clicking.

So, for the time being, the iPod is working again. We'll see what devilish things happen next with this piece of machinery. I would like to have it when I go home this summer, but don't trust it enough to throw it or use it as a door stop. If it works, great. If not, then, well.... it won't, and I'll just figure something out to do with it.

I should be working, but I just can't get rid of this bothered feeling. One of my students plagiarized on her final exam. Pretty blatantly too. Some of it was from something I had written. I gave her an F on the final, and she ended up with a C in the course. She went in to the final with an A! I don't understand it.

I thought it over, and wanted to follow policies. Spoke to the Dean, the Chair, and my program Chair, and they all pretty much agreed with what I did. But, the Dean said that if a violation affects the student's grade, it must be reported to the Chair and the Dean. I have to notify the student first. Then, a letter will go out to the student's parents, she gets a copy, and one will go in her record. "Good graduation present!", the Dean exclaimed when I told her.

So, I just sent her the letter notifying her of what was to come. It really does make me sad. She could have passed the course with an A. Why she did this, is beyond me.

However, I am convinced that this student has hated me all semester. She would sit there and glare at me with a very sour face. Maybe she wasn't. Maybe that's what her face looks like normally, and I misinterpreted her expressions. There are people like that, I kept telling myself.

I gave an anonymous review of the course, and I keep suspecting her to be the one who said that she pretty much hated me, and would not recommend me to anyone else. The best thing about the course, the reviewer said, was that it was once a week for an hour and a half. She rarely said anything in the class (participation is 10% of the grade). I just kept thinking that she was sitting there plotting my demise the entire time I was either lecturing, or we were discussing something.

After sending the email, I am reminded of the student who threatened to break his professor's legs if the grade is not changed that University Diaries wrote about. That's just very scary.

I hope this doesn't turn into a huge drama or broken legs. I really don't have time to deal with either.

I just wrote this as a comment in another blog, and thought I'd repeat them here:

Here are the main requirements:

- Chocolate (or any GOOD sugary sweets). The chocolate has to be rich and yummy so you feel it's a treat

- Alcohol: You have two options here. Either drink while grading, and grade till you're ready to pass out. Or, use some Champagne or good wine as a reward for after you are done

- Twitter: It's a sanitysaver

- Take a lot of breaks in between papers. I took a half an hour break between two papers. Yes, it was that bad.

- Make an appointment at a hairdresser for when you're finished grading. All that gray that will rear its ugly head while grading needs to be covered up. You might need to get some Rogaine too for the hair pulling.

- Don't forget to breathe!

- Good luck!

Image source: Lavender Hill Studio

It is probably a universal thing about junior faculty to struggle with final grades. This is my sixth course teaching on my own, and everytime I have to give out grades, I really fight with it.

There are some students who I know are A students, and deserve it.

There are those who are stellar A students, but have a bad exam worth a large percentage of their final grade, and barely make a B+.*

There are those who are more towards B than As, but I know they're working hard. So that's a tough call.

There are those who are B students, and are happy with that. That's fine. Those are easy to grade.

C students do the bare minimum to pass the class, which is fine too.

I hate borderline grades because then I have to make the call.

Then there are stupid students who go into the final with A for an average, and then proceed to plagiarize on their take-home final exam. As if that wasn't bad enough, this student actually plagiarized me, her professor! That's truly a first for me. This person followed arguments and statistics that I have published online before, and used exact sentences and paragraphs and did not bother citing anything. Additionally, she copied grammatical errors from an Amnesty International site that was Google translated from Czech into English.

My mind cannot fully comprehend that one. I don't know what must have been running through her head. Probably something along the lines of "hell with this. I'm graduating, I don't care". She ended up with a C in the course, because I failed her on an exam that was worth 12% of her final grade. If she would not have been graduating, I would have brought disciplinary actions against her.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand this one. But, it will make a good story down the line.

I survived my first semester in this private. The average for the course, B, was the lowest I had ever gotten in any of the courses I taught. I don't know if that's because I was getting harder, or the quality of the work was mediocre.

Then again, I have to keep reminding myself that C is average. Many (most?) people are happy to be average, so I have to accept that, and move on.

All in all, I find grading truly annoying, and anguishing at times.


* This semester, I the best student, and best writer in any of my classes. This person's work was so polished, and so well argued, that by the end, she just made the whole class worth teaching. She got what I was talking about, and synthesized it very well. But, she failed her mid-term because of some personal issues, and while she would have normally gotten at least a 98-99% (yes, she's that good), she ended up with 88%. This makes me very sad. But, it would be very unfair to the rest of the students if I gave her an A. I hate making these calls

Crows stalking food


the eclipse tonight

When I decided to go to bed, the eclipse was in its first half. After reading a while, I went outside, and it looks like I missed it as it became red. I have always loved lunar eclipses. It makes me look at the sky differently. To me they are quite awe inspiring. it is similar to catching someone in a private act.

Anyhow... I took a sad little picture with my blackberry. It is that little dot in the middle.

Hmmm it looks like I will have to upload the pic tomorrow.

A story on the BBC entitled "Ivory Coast's 'big-bottom' craze" talks about IC's fascination with a new song by DJ Mix and DJ Eloh called "Bobaraba", which a Djoula word for "big bottoms". In and of itself, there's really nothing unusual about this story. After all, this is reminiscent of Sir Mix Alot's "Baby got back", with lines like:

I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can't deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
'Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she's wearing
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring
Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture


Tell 'em to shake it! (Shake it!) Shake it! (Shake it!)
Shake that healthy butt!
Baby got back!
The DJs note that they made the song as a tribute to African women, because they are " defined by the shape of their bottoms."

I'm not even going to go there.

But, what's curious the story in the Ivory Coast is what women are doing to get these big butts. They're injecting massive amounts of vitamin B12 in their bottoms, and breasts in the hopes that they get bigger (you can't have one without the other?).

I guess B12 is not as harmful as silicone or the ingredients in the "F-cup cookies".

In any case, here's the video of the story. It's actually a very upbeat song, and hard to sit still while listening to it. The video features men, women, and children doing this dance.

I just received a request for papers for an upcoming anthropology conference. The person who sent it is trying to put together a panel on reciprocity in research. The abstract sounds good, and, certainly means well. But it points to the debate about our roles in the field, and our work.

The abstract notes that:

Commitment to working on community issues would establish our credibility as social science collaborators with community leaders and reinvigorate the discipline's commitment to social change.

What bothers me about this statement is that there is still a definition between the "us" and "our informants". We are the authority. We are the ones who are being consulted on THEIR problems. We are the ones who give them a voice.

The dialectical relationship will invariably continue as long as we fail to recognize our "informants'" agency and their own voice. The arrogance of my discipline is starting to get to me.

Yes, Boaz had a lot to do with it, and the recent uproar about anthropologists being embedded with the military in the Human Terrain Team (HTT) just goes to show that we learned nothing from our colonial past, or our involvement with the US internment camps, or physical anthropology's participation in the holocaust. We have a very dark history, and it's unfortunate that as a discipline we have not learned all that much from our past. The more we keep the us/them division, the easier it will be to participate in such atrocities.

I'm having a love/hate relationship with my discipline right now.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way. There's plenty of us out there. But, the problem is, there seems to be more debate than active change these days, and I have to deal with the here and now, and the finishing of my dissertation.

Flogging Molly

When was someone going to tell me about this???

I just discovered them, and I think my ears are bleeding now. DAAMN!!

A whole bunch of their videos here:

It's what old Dropkick Murphy's(*) wanted to be, and they sounds a LOT better.

AND, they're going to be playing here on Wednesday! I might just have to go.

* Dropkick Murphy's started going downhill for me, when they got a new lead singer, and their politics got very weird for me.


Statement as of 4:08 AM EST on January 03, 2008

... Very cold conditions this morning...

... Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect until 8 am EST this morning...

A Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect until 8 am EST this morning.

Arctic high pressure will continue to build across southern New England today. The combination of winds around 15 mph and temperatures between zero and 5 above will produce wind chill values as low as 18 degrees below zero early this morning. Temperatures will remain in the single digits all day today with wind chill values remaining below zero.

A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate bitter cold wind chills. This can result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not
taken. If you must venture outdoors... make sure you wear a hat... gloves... and several layers of clothing. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when the wind chill index is likely to reach -15 to -24
degrees for at least 3 hours.

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