Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Social Protests

I've been having an ongoing argument about the #Occupy movement with my sisters, and it's made me want to explore some ideas about the nature of protest movements.

Simply put, my claim is that non-violent protests are designed as such to reveal the violent lengths that police/armies will go to in order to preserve the status quo. I'm not a student of literature about non-violent protest, so I am sure that has been said before, but people these days do not seem to REALIZE this essential truth.

That does not mean that protesters are TO BLAME for the violence perpetrated on them by police or armies. The police or armies could choose not to use violent means to disperse a crowd. They choose to use these means. I am afraid that what is happening is that people are becoming desensitized to the violence police are using. I also worry that the idea that the individuals are responsible for the violence inflicted upon them means that they deserve it.

As I pointed out to one of my sisters, the believe in non-violent protest needs to transcend political ideology. I may not particularly like the people who protest outside of abortion clinics screaming at women going inside to get an abortion, but they do have that right.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Farm Life

I've been home only 4 days out of the month so far. I never want to leave my bed again.

After spending 10 days at my mom's when my father died, I went home, then turned back around a few days later to go on a family camping trip. My sister had planned this several months ago. We rented 3 cabins at a campground that we used to go to with our parents when we were kids. Two of my sisters and I took these cabins, and my other sister came up for the day with her husband, kids (including a 1-month-old), and my mother, who stayed with her a few nights.

It was idyllic. First of all, my BILs are good at this camping stuff, and they had plenty of stuff. Whatever we didn't have, they had. Except a can opener, but then I remembered I'd brought a Swiss Army Knife. Second of all, my kids, who normally HATE anything like camping because it's "boring" found that camping was not boring at all when they were with their cousins. The kids ran and frolicked all over the campground while the adults sat around and drank beer.

One of the afternoons, while my mom was there, my sister, mom and I went to the farm. I won't be too specific about the farm, but a few important things about it:
1. My mom's best friend's family owns it. The family matriarch is still alive at age 92, but her husband died 9 months before my daughter was born, and my mom's friend died when my daughter was a few months old (breast cancer).
2. My husband and I were married there.
3. It's a very special place to us and was, particularly, to my mom and dad.

I took some pics while I was there, so I'll share. My mom's best friend had several siblings, but some are dead and some have moved further away. Their grandkids are scattered all over, and many of them have their own children now, as my sisters and I do. They have a guest house that is available to hunters during hunting season and to fishers during fishing season.

They did more tourism in the past, when it was more of a working farm, but the remaining family members aren't quite up to that.

Here are some pics:

My dad always called this the "quintessential farm pic."

A view from the front of the guest house.

I've climbed that mountain.

We were married next to that lilac bush.

They're in the process of renovating the guest house. They removed two bedrooms and turned the space into a kitchen/living room combination. So when I saw the knotty pine they installed, I had to take a pic for Laura:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My father

The past 2 months have been a blur. Most significantly, my father passed away last week 4 years after being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. You have to give him credit for surviving so long in such a damaged body. He was bedridden because the cancer had metastasized in his spine and rendered him mostly paralyzed. He also had had a triple bypass some years ago, a stroke when he was 50, and had renal disease and had lost function in one kidney.

A month before he died, his youngest brother died of COPD and cirrhosis. I was with my dad when he got the call; he was devastated.

My father was a science teacher who loved music, particularly rock and roll music. He made his own playlist for his end days, and it's filled with awesome songs. It's all on Rhapsody, which is an evil horrible difficult to use service, so I can't quite figure out how to export this playlist to keep, but when I figure it out, I will share it.

One other thing about my father: he was a devotee of intelligent design and a critic of evolution theory. His criticisms were fairly nuanced and scientific, not based on religion at all. In fact, he was pretty much an atheist, though even that was nuanced in that he was kind of convinced that we all had lives before the one we're living, and as babies we still had memories of those past lives that we couldn't articulate. When he first held my daughter, his first grandchild, he said, "Sophie, where you been?" He would later ask that question of all his grandchildren. :)

My dad posted on and later as a blog commenter, particularly on PZ Myers' Pharyngula, from which he was often banned for being a troll. On, I believe he often signed himself as "Pookie, the kid from space." That was because his theory of the origins of life was that life came to earth from outer space in DNA, which acted as computer programs of sorts. He believed that the mutations we see as random were actually coded into DNA. Thus, I couldn't believe the irony that this article appeared the week after his death. He would have felt so vindicated.

RIP Dad.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Catching Up

March/April/May are always my busiest months. Something about the end of the academic year that brings on the work, no matter how hard I try to shed load.

So, where am I at? What's new? A lot of good stuff. I would feel a little guilty for my relative good fortune these days, but I know all things are temporary (or rather, cyclical--life is full of ups and downs--right now is an up).

1. I was promoted to full professor. We do not have tenure, so don't get too excited. But it's still nice.

2. We are travelling to England and France for our summer vacation. Highlight: my daughter and I are going to see Tennant and Tate in Much Ado About Nothing. It's going to be awesomesauce.

3. I wrote fanfiction for Parks and Rec. No, I will not show you what I wrote (and it's not on But I scratched the itch, so to speak, and now I could care less about writing fanfic.

4. My son was accepted into the Davidson Young Scholars Program. I have no idea yet what that will do for us, but I guess it's an honor.

5. I've been working on genealogy, which is a relatively new pursuit. I decided to try to track down more info about my father's father's side of the family. And I've had remarkable success thanks to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online and the fact that my great-great-grandfather did not in fact come from a long line of ditchdiggers, as my father always said, but was in fact a highly respected musician and music teacher in the Brooklyn Public Schools. He died of a brain infection, when he was about 42 years old.

6. I got my husband tickets to see Book of Mormon on Broadway as a combined anniversary/Father's Day/birthday present. We don't go till the end of the summer.

7. I had to work very hard to get my daughter to agree with it after a few refusals, but she's taking flute lessons with a very skilled HS student and is enjoying them! All my old ways of parenting started failing once she turned 11, but I have adapted and am making progress in getting her to comply with my wishes.

8. My son has a basketball jones and is driving me insane dribbling in the house constantly. Maybe that's why I can't sleep at night!

9. I've been reading a bit. My favorite book of the year so far is Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, written by the same people who wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (and better than N&N, I think). I'm in the middle of a Regency romance now, then will read a Julia Quinn, but I'm contemplating reading the Game of Thrones series before the next book comes out next month. If I know myself, that will really involve me skimming until I get to the Tyrion parts. I'm also starting my Peter Dinklage Emmy Campaign soon.

10. I watched the Doctor Who midseason finale somehow *coughcough* and think it was superb. It'll air on BBC America next week? And then I'm just counting down to my favorite slutty vampire show, True Blood.

10 is a nice round number!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Paper Tiger Moms?

Every Friday once a month I meet with other faculty working on research projects (as we're not a research-driven school, there aren't many who show!). But one of the faculty, who specializes in teaching international students, is working on a project on plagiarism and Chinese students. We get a lot of Chinese students at our university; I like to say we figured out earlier than most that the one thing left of value to export from America is higher ed.

It ends up that the issue of academic integrity is a perfect storm of a problem in China. First, Chinese culture expects students to show deference to teachers and experts, and what better way to demonstrate expertise than quoting the experts directly? Second, China has weak copyright protection. One of my Chinese students once said that China doesn't believe in copyright protection, but I'm not sure that is entirely true. But it is different in China than in the US. Third, the students are under tremendous pressure to succeed. My colleague told us that several students write about having attempted suicide because of the pressure from their parents to succeed.

My colleague also mentioned that an American college disbanded an MBA program in China because of plagiarism.

And we too have problems with students (well, all kinds of students) who plagiarize, but with Chinese students we have to address cultural differences, not necessarily moral issues. It's a pretty big challenge.

Of course, where I'm going with this is that we should not necessarily see the Chinese educational system as the be-all and end-all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Death, be not crowded

This blogging stuff is hard.

Last night I went to my very first wake in Rhode Island, after 8 years in the area. Now, in New York, where I'm from, this is how we do wakes/services:
Day 1: wake/visiting hours at the funeral home, usually about 2 sessions, afternoon and evening hours, like 1-4 and 6-9.
Day 2: the same. If there's not going to be a church funeral, usually the evening session includes some sort of service.
Day 3: if there is a church funeral, this is when it's held, usually in the morning.

Sometimes there might be one day of visiting hours at the funeral home. When a family friend passed last September, I think there was one day of visiting hours, in two sessions, and then the funeral the next morning. I could only attend the funeral due to my work schedule.

In the funeral home, everyone kind of mingles. Family is scattered about. When you get a chance, you respectfully go to the casket to pay your respects to the deceased. You sit in the chairs and pray or contemplate mortality. You reminisce.

In RI, apparently you get to the funeral home and stand in line for hours. OK, not hours. But you stand in a line, file past the casket, pausing to pray/pay respects, then you see the family and offer your condolences. And there were only 4 hours at the funeral home! The person I was there for (his wife is a colleague) was much beloved (and way too young, at 62--cancer sucks) was much beloved plus you have the lifetime Rhode Islander factor (meaning he knew everyone in the state), so the line was hugely long. Somehow that seems incredibly inefficient and weird to me.

Are funeral practices in your area similar to those in NY or RI?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Darkest Hour is Always in February

The last week of the term (we do trimesters here) is kicking my ass. The students get so [redacted].

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rhee-ality Bites

Since I never much liked Michelle Rhee, I've been enjoying the spectacle of watching Jay Mathews keep trying to defend her despite growing evidence that she's a fraud.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the way to "fix" public education has nothing to do with the education system and has everything to do with growing income inequality and the unrelenting decline of the middle class.

ETA: Also this. Let's see if I can hotlink that chart:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kids and Sports

One of my recurring pet peeves is parents who try to live their dreams through their children. Also, one of my favorite things to do is read Jeff Opdyke's semi-weekly WSJ column and rag on him for being a loser. This weekend I hit a double: a column about how he was living his dreams about being the dad of a soccer star through his son, who, it ends up, didn't really love soccer as much as Opdyke thought he did.

The parents who attend every practice and every game drive me nuts. You have to leave the kid alone for a while and let him or her see if s/he enjoys the sport for the fun of it or because mom and/or dad like it. The problem is that so many of these team sports are run by parent volunteers, and the parents make a commitment then can't let the kid back out.

I'm probably going to have to let me daughter give up dance soon. I hope she sticks with it, but she has been having a hard year. I'm sure 11 is a tough year for dancers (or whenever they have growth spurts and hit puberty). I think my daughter just feels tall and busty and gawky around the other girls who haven't reached puberty yet (well, my daughter technically hasn't yet, but just had a massive growth spurt). But I have to find that balance between being Amy Chua and insisting on mastery Or Else vs. forcing my daughter to do something that makes her unhappy. Nowadays, she loves music, anyway. It fills her need to perform and she is good at it. That's all I want for her--to practice something and become good at it so it gives her pleasure to do it.

I'm sad... though I won't miss those godawful competitions. I like the jazz and tap numbers, but the stupid endless power ballads for the lyrical dances and the annoying hip-hop songs drive me insane.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

S A TUR DAY. Night!

So, what do you guys do on Saturday nights? We catch up on the Wednesday/Thursday sitcoms, if necessary, or watch a movie. I never stay up for Saturday Night Live any more. If my husband goes to sleep early, I catch up on Chuck, Parenthood, or costume dramas like Downton Abbey.

It's a life, I guess.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Parenting's Extra Expenses

Amy pointed out this article on the effects of poverty on social capital, the ability to connect with community by joining in community rituals and relationships.

" The frustration of poverty is not the lack of things or money rather it is the social pressure that comes in the most subtle forms."

This is making me think about things in our community and how to accommodate those going through financial difficulties. I just e-ed our principal to ask about band and instrument rentals, for example. Are there some children who are being excluded from band because their families can't afford the rentals? (Music education is becoming a big deal for me as I see my son thrive from learning an instrument.)

Our PTO does a great job of doing free or very cheap events, like Bingo Family Night (the kids *love* it) and a Spring Fling where 90% of the fun is just seeing everyone. But then there is also stuff like the Snowflake Ball, a father-daughter "dance" that costs $45 for a dad/daughter.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

11D In Absentia

Laura from 11D is on hiatus. Can't deal with the thought of not being able to find out what the regular commenters think about stuff going on, so um, here's a thread. Feel free to ask me to post a link to something. I think my e- is in the sidebar somehow. Or just comment. I know I'm not as good a writer as Laura, and I tend to have my own weird obsessions (Parks and Rec anyone?). But I'll stop posting here with a sigh of relief (I have found I am not much of a regular blogger) when she comes back.

Sex and Marriage

The whole Christopher Lee situation was bizarre, and basically, it seems like either 1. he has done way worse stuff that he doesn't want to come out or 2. he's not really an ambitious guy and is not enough of a sociopath to think that power is more important than family. If the second, I actually like him a lot better. Look at people like Edwards, Gingrich and Vitter, so ambitious, so lacking in empathy and the ability to connect with others that they plow on through their lives regardless of the consequences for the people unfortunate enough to be related to them.

That said, I liked this post on Balloon Juice talking about sex and marriage:

Any regular Dan Savage reader/listener knows that one of his most common caller/writer is one part of a married couple who’s sexually frustrated. Usually there are children involved. Often, this person knew that they were sexually incompatible when they married, but was hoping things would change. Usually, their marriage is under a sexual death penalty: if there’s an affair, there’s a divorce.

This kind of call or letter is pretty boring because there’s really no solution accepted by mainstream society. Most of these marriages would be a hell of a lot better if the sexually unsatisfied partner had a discreet affair, but that puts the other partner in a socially untenable situation. “Open marriage” is something for dirty hippies or sleazy swingers, not an upstanding member of society. And, since the first stop for marital therapy is often a pastor or priest, it’s very unlikely that the open option will even be broached.

So, instead of negotiating an outlet, these marriages move on to a badly executed affair, tears, recriminations and, usually, divorce. The cheated-on member of the pair has the moral and legal high ground, they’re under intense social pressure to make the cheater pay, and by the time the cheating happens, the cheater’s resentment over their lack of satisfaction has probably already poisoned the well.

I often shock people when I say that adultery is not a dealbreaker in my marriage, and I think mistermix has explained why. It's not that I support "open marriages" per se. It's that I'd see adultery as a symptom of a problem that is not necessarily the problem of an inherently bad marriage. Obviously, adultery has potentially other bad consequences, especially these days (STDs, lack of privacy, effects on the children if the adultery is made public).

But I agree with mistermix that we spend a whole lot of time judging people for what they do in their marriages and making it impossible for their marriages to work, because for public figures, the public itself becomes a fourth "person" in the marriage (after the two spouses and the children, if any). But whereas children *do* have an investment in their parents' marriage, the public doesn't.