The First Rule of Yarn Club

Is that you talk about yarn.

The second rule of yarn club is that you think about yarn.

The third rule of yarn club is that obsess about yarn.


So, anticipating that this year would be a difficult year for me in PhD school, I gave myself something to look forward to. I joined a couple of yarn clubs. (One of them is the Bad Women’s Yarn Club. The other was a club run by Kate Davies. All color work and beautiful Shetland wool. Amazing.)I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll get yarn and patterns in the mail and I’ll be able to knit and look forward to knitting and everything will be wonderful!”

And, it is wonderful to get yarn and patterns in the mail. But, I’ve done almost no knitting. I periodically get out the Shetland wool just to sniff it. But, I’ve not begun any of the patterns.

It’s a little exhausting, actually.

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Out of Work and Unheard

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article about why Trump is getting the support that his is getting.. I keep thinking about it because I am left-leaning and most of my friends are left-leaning and so I spend a lot of time with people who are watching Trump win state after state in the run up to the Republican convention with confusion and shock and disgust. I keep thinking about it because most of my friends and family come from a position of relative comfort and privilege and, reading this article, it occurred to me that we might be missing an opportunity to practice what we preach and listen to someone whose life experience is different from ours. It might be time to listen.

I want to make a few things clear. I think Trump plays to people’s base emotions and that he is stoking a lot of painful, angry and dangerous fires. I think his treatment of protestors is abhorrent. I think he holds beliefs that are untrue, unsupportable and disgusting with respect to women and minorities. I think America does have a lot of structural racism and other problems that need to be addressed. But, I don’t think that is entirely the reason he is doing so well. And, so this article really stuck with me. We’re in this place, as a country, where we need to decide what we value and then we need to work to support that. And, we need to decide together. Which, of course, means we may need to listen to and interact with people who hold opinions we dislike. I don’t like Trump. But, if talking about trade and examining the effects of trade agreements on the lives of Americans will help us all move forward, then it needs to be done.

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Framing and Understanding Discussions

A friend of mine teaches a general world history course to college Freshmen. She was recently telling me about a frustrating incident where she was teaching about context and understanding historical events but one of her students wanted to show off his knowledge of facts.

She was teaching about Ivan the III and how some historical sources call him Ivan the Great and others call him Ivan the Terrible. Her student couldn’t let go that there is a different Russian ruler (Ivan IV) who is also known as Ivan the Terrible. She kept saying, “This is true, but this is not the point. The point is that this one man is known historically by these two names and this is because some people saw his reign is great and some people will deeply hurt by his actions and thought he was awful.”

She had to revisit the topic in a subsequent class because it is an important point that needed to get across. When you triple the territory of your state, you’re going to make a lot of people happy. You’re also going to make a lot of people unhappy. So, depending on if you were part of the expansion or you were expanded into, you might have a different view of the event.

As researchers, this is something we come across everyday. There is the data and there is our interpretation of the data. But, data often lends itself to multiple interpretations. Sometimes, you can get to the same point from two different paths. The world is like that.

With this discussion with my friend fresh in my mind I posted an article on Facebook about ten revolutionary women that we don’t often learn about in school. I thought it was an interesting article because women have been involved in lots of movements globally but we don’t learn about their involvement. Women and minorities, peskily, get scrubbed from history. (They either make history but are asked to sit down because its not the best photo op or people don’t talk about them (and then when they do, they don’t actually mention them by name.)So, hearing about diversity that actually existed in historical movements not only broadens our understanding of how those movements worked but also can give us a sense of the complexity of the historical event. (Instead of, say, just “memorize these names and dates. Some important stuff happened.”)

So, I posted this link and then then watched (in horror) as a discussion played out in the comments between my conservative father and a friend from a former Yugoslavian country. I stopped the discussion pretty early by asking my Dad to no longer comment (largely because he was doing some rhetorical things that DRIVE ME CRAZY, but that is a post for another day). The thrust of the discussion was this: my father wanted make sure that I knew that communism was bad and killed lots of people and that we shouldn’t honor all of the women on the list. Of course, learning about someone and their actions is not the same as honoring them. My friend wanted to make sure that my father knew that celebrated Western women like Margaret Thatcher caused suffering abroad AND at home. It devolved from there. Mud was slung. As someone who loves my friend and loves my father, I stared at my Facebook for a few minutes trying to figure out how to reconcile the two viewpoints before just giving up and asking one side to just cool it.

Later in the week brought the anniversary of the 1991 Belgrade protests. After the initial protest on March 9th (protesting the rule of Slobodan Milošević and his party), there was more violence, police brutality, and, well, the Bosnian war and NATO bombings and, we all remember the ’90s, right?

It occurred to me that my friend and my father might actually agree on a few things (if people weren’t so rhetorically contentious.) And, it also occurred to me that the same Ivan the Great/Terrible framing issue was relevant to this car-crash Facebook discussion.

For my Dad, communism was a real threat and Soviet communism was a scourge that needed to be wiped from the Earth. The Soviet government (and other communist governments) were responsible for thousands of deaths and other untold human horrors and communism had to go. So, communism going was a victory! One for the record books! Excellent work, good job, everyone!

But, for my friend in Eastern Europe, regardless of what it had been before, the victory my Father and others like him heralded opened up a decade of protests in the streets, political killings, police brutality, the selling off of national assets (in ways that did not benefit the people), a war in Bosnia filled with atrocities and NATO bombings, all of which the current states have yet to completely recover from.

When thinking about any event, historical or current, we sometimes need to step back and think about what baggage we’re bringing to our interpretation. Why do we think a win is a win? What were the consequences of the event? Are we leaving anything out to get to our interpretation? These details are important.

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Watery Habits

Coffee and tea are staples of my diet. They are part of my morning and afternoon rituals. There is something peaceful about drinking a cup of hot coffee or tea that I find relaxing. They are good places to start when it’s time to switch gears. So, it boggles my mind that more than once this week I have left my house without having had a cup of coffee and without preparing a cup to bring with me. Who does that? Who forgets to have coffee in the morning? Apparently, me. I do. Kate does.

This hasn’t just happened this week. Since I’ve been back from Mexico I’ve been trying to start and end my day with a glass of water. Sometimes I fancy it up and put a drop or two of an essential oil in it. (I’ve been rocking the lemon mint water both in the morning and at night. It’s crucial that you get the right mix of lemon and peppermint, though. I prefer one drop of peppermint to every three drops of lemon. Otherwise, the peppermint overpowers the lemon.) I do notice the effects of being dehydrated (feeling sluggish, dry mouth, etc) and starting and ending my day with water has helped with that. But, Because I don’t want to have coffee before I finish my water (lest I never finish my water) I often don’t even make it until I’m done with the water. Or, not at all as the case was this morning. I didn’t even notice I hadn’t had any coffee until I started write this post. Now, I’m both proud of myself for beating my caffeine addiction. (I hadn’t even noticed!) But, I’m also annoyed at myself that I didn’t notice until I was already comfortable and at a nice table in the library. So, I might go the whole day without coffee. Or, tea. Which seems a little miraculous to me.

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Over the summer, I started a meditation practice. And, for awhile I thought I was a bomb-ass meditator. But, the more I got into it the more I realized that I’m pretty sucky at meditating. I’d like to be good, though. So, I’m going to keep on trying.

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Dictionary Stories

On the Canadian radio news show As it Happens last night I heard about something that is really cool. A gentleman in California has started a blog where he writes short stories that are made up entirely of example sentences from dictionaries. My favorite dictionary is the OED (and, thankfully, I have online access to it through my university) so I hadn’t noticed how crazy example sentences are. The OED’s jam is to put a word in its historical context so all of the example sentences come from texts in which the word was used. The sentences can be very dramatic but they can also be very funny as a word’s meaning may change over time. But, some dictionaries include sentences that have been made up to illustrate the definition of the word. These are the sentences that Jez Burrows is using to make his stories. The stories Burrows have come up with are clever and short. They make for a fun read. This one made me laugh this morning:

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

A retired teacher. A topiary gardener. An army officer of fairly high rank. A brilliant young mathematician. A highly esteemed scholar. President Kennedy. One of the great stars in the American golfing firmament. Detective Sergeant Fox. The Honorable Richard Morris Esquire, chief justice of the supreme court of our state. When you put these men together, you’re bound to get fireworks. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to interview every applicant.

You can find these short stories here.

This post was first published on Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy

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Yes. That Exactly. Yes.

I had to listen to this broadcast more than once so that I could transcribe the following quote:

Someone in the name of the Hungarian government shouldn’t mention Christianity without talking about solidarity. And, that’s a sad thing because the Hungarian government is in a competition with the Far Right but has really have anything to do with the problems on the ground.

Last night I was to As it Happens which is a Canadian news show that the local NPR station carries. They interviewed a man named Viktor Szigetvári about the camera woman Petra Laszlo who was caught on camera tripping refugees (children and old men carrying children) as they ran through a field from the authorities. I was struck by the quote because it filled in a gap that I hadn’t realized was missing with so many recent discussions about religion. The gap is this:most religions call their members to serve the community and to help. This is most definitely true in Christianity. When we invoke Christianity, when we invoke religion, we should immediately follow it up with statements or practices that are in line with the tenants of the faith. Or, we should find a new argument.

The quote can be heard at the end of the piece, around the 6:00 minute mark.

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Experimental Fall Drinks

It was a little hot over Labor Day weekend to start getting excited about Fall (unless, of course, you went any place where there was air conditioning and then it was too cold to think about anything at all). But, somehow I got excited about Fall anyway. I added a drop of Young Living’s Thieves to my coffee. (I’m a little obsessed with this oil blend. It is so warm and it smells so good.) I then topped off my coffee with cashew milk and a tiny bit of maple syrup for some sweetness. It tasted like Fall. And, it got me excited about Fall. This morning I made it again but without the maple syrup as I had mixed stevia in with my coffee grounds. The maple really does give it an extra kick. I really dig the maple. Next, I will try it with some tea. I will keep you updated on the results.

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The Little Pink Pill

On the way to a meeting this morning I heard a piece on the radio about the FDA’s approval of a drug to increase the libido of women with low libidos. This drug has been up for approval before but was rejected because the FDA said that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the drug had an impact and it has serious side effects (like a sudden drop in blood pressure that can lead to fainting). After the drug was rejected, a number of people said the FDA was being misogynistic in its rejection because this could help women, it fits a cultural narrative that women have low libidos and they don’t like sex (so why fix the problem), and because there are already a number of treatments for medical problems that cause sexual dysfunction in men. But, I don’t know if we can say the FDA is being misogynistic here. Unless we’re saying they were being unnecessarily paternalistic protecting women who could be benefiting from the terrible side effects (if the ads are to be believed, Viagra also can cause a drop in blood pressure). How medicine is discovered, researched, tested and produced could itself be the problem here. The medical community as a long and storied history of ignoring women altogether. In The First Twenty Minutes Gretchen Reynolds discusses many studies on health and fitness that only looked at male participants. As another example, growing up we were taught signs of how to spot a heart attack or a stroke. It was only when I was out of college that you started to see discussions of how heart attacks present differently in women. I get that women’s sexual problems are often treated as psychological and not medical and having a specific medical intervention could signal a change on how doctors are thinking about women’s sexual health. (I’m not holding my breath on that, though.) Treating women like a lack of sexual desire is all in their head is certainly misogynistic. But, I’m not sure the FDA doing their job and asking for evidence is misogynistic. Society itself doesn’t do right by women and I’m pretty sure that’s not on the FDA to fix. Still, though, this medicine being approved may spur other researchers to consider women’s health (sexual or otherwise) more seriously and that could be the real victory here.

As an unrelated aside: It disgusts me that people are calling this “The Little Pink Pill”. Especially since Viagra is the little blue pill. I can hear you saying, “Isn’t it cute? His and Hers!” No. It is not cute. It is gross.

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The Never Ending Saga of Bureaucracy

I got up this morning with such lofty intentions of sitting down at 9 to transcribe data I have collected for my dissertation. (Recorded linguistic data must go through a little bit of processing before it can be analyzed. The processing often involves transcribing what people say. This is a very tedious process, in particular when you are transcribing a language you don’t speak natively.) But, before I could get started I knew there was an email I wanted to answer. After logging in and responding to that email, I noticed some other emails that were best answered ASAP. I changed my expected graduation date and that entails having to jump through some extra hoops re: deferring loans. So far I’ve talked to two offices (three times. I had to call one office twice). And, now I’ve had to email two different people (possibly from the second office? It’s not actually clear). The issue still isn’t resolved.

And, I still haven’t started transcribing.

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