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Sat, Apr. 17th, 2010, 08:47 pm

C2E2 today (yay for having decent cons in Chicago! Near my birthday! And at a time when I magically have money!)

I got sketches from Zach Weiner, Randy Milholland, Danielle Corsetto, Becky whose last name I don't recall, and gushed at Erika Moen. Funny story about Erika Moen-- a few years ago, I posted on lj about finding her comic DAR, and thinking she was really hot-- in fact, being totally crushed out over her. Then she responded to my post (!) and I, like, FROZE in utter embarrassment.

Well, today I told her about it and, and it turns out she did the same thing to Jasika Nicole of Fringe-- and from this they've become friends! For those of you wondering if this means I am now, similarly, friends with Erika Moen, the answer is no, because I like teh smoothness. And after confessing the whole thing, I couldn't bring myself to go back to her booth.


I also got two free Magic packs, bought a few comics, and played two hours of DnD (fourth edition, thank you very much!).

Aaaaand... I met Beth and the bpal lab staff, and sniffed tons of stuff! They were handing out tons of frimps of special things, and threw in a handful of GCs when I bought some bottles. I got one of Bathtub Gin-- it's gin and gingerale, alright, and smells nearly identical to Conjure Oil's InjureAle.

You know, though, on the note of feeling nervous socially, (a) meeting all of the cartoonists was a total delight-- Randy MilHolland was especially friendly as easy to chat with. And (b) while playing the first round of DnD, one of the players in my party (someone's girlfriend brought along for the ride) reminded me of my old social habits-- a kind of bitter sarcasm injected into every sentence. So I'm doing better than that. That's nice to recognize.

We'll just have to work on becoming best friends with Erika Moen another time.

Mon, Apr. 5th, 2010, 08:28 pm

I'm interested in reading a good history of South Africa.
Something engaging, something that makes it like reading a good story.
I've learned a lot from reading J. M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, but I'd like more. But I read academic papers all day long, and I'd like at least something (a narrative, beautiful writing, a graphic novel would be fantastic) to make it more something I can read before I go to sleep.

Fri, Feb. 5th, 2010, 08:58 am

Why are there no non-fingerless, normal gloves on etsy?

Geoff's theory is that fingers are really hard to knit, but then again, there is this pattern, which calls its skill level "ambitious beginner". Am I to conclude that all of the people who sell their knitting on etsy are non-ambitious beginners? Or can I blame this, once again, on an overly ubiquitous, stupid, stupid trend?

Edit: Uh oh, problem solved, it seems one of the characters in Twilight wore fingerless gloves, so why on earth would I want to buy anything else?!

Wed, Jan. 27th, 2010, 02:31 pm

Until your TA successfully guides me through opening a data file in SAS, I'm going to continue doing my analyses in a program I know, MMkay?

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010, 10:14 am

Taking this from hadaverde, because I think I need to remind myself of happy things lately.


In no particular order, six things from this past week that made me happy:

1. Getting to see my friend, Andrew, one last time before he leaves Chicago-- although he got me riled up, arguing about economics, I felt really good afterward. Sharp and energized, and like myself.

2. A guy in my attitudes class remembered my name from the first class-- it's nice that someone seems to want to know me.

3. My poster for the conference this week is in good shape.

4. It was in the 40s here for the past two days, and above freezing all week-- the snow has pretty much melted!

5. A conversation with Geoff, summarized as "I'm glad you stayed in Chicago!" "I'm glad I stayed, too!"

6. The fog that settled over the city on Saturday, and the way it accented the buildings in the Loop by partially obscuring them.

Fri, Jan. 1st, 2010, 11:56 pm
And staying with parents drives me to complain.

I like living with people and I like roommates, but I hate spending even two days with parents, even other peoples' parents.

Big party today at Geoff's mothers, influx of relatives of his who I've never met, who all speak English but primarily get together to speak Spanish with each other, so I'm just not in on the party. Strained family dynamics that aren't even tempered by my feelings of affection for anyone, although I came off as less of an elitist snob than usual with Geoff's brother and his wife (although I couldn't stand for him calling Transformers II a good movie.) But look at the bright side, I didn't make too much of a face when the wife said her favorite kind of wine is white zin (aka alcoholic kool-aid, aka hangover in a box.)

And Geoff left to go have out with his best friend, which isn't a problem, but now I'm left here as his mother cleans the house, talking a steady stream to herself in Spanish and singing incredibly out of tune.

None of this is legitimately bad. Nothing is wrong here. Everyone is behaving well (well, mostly well-- the brother and wife had a semi-inappropriate fight in front of their visibly upset kids, but I feel like I'm not in a position to condemn them.) Nothing is wrong, I'm just grumpy about it all, and things that I could not label as "wrong" are driving me crazy.

This boils down to: I want to go home and have control over my space, to not have to censor myself in any direction, to be surrounded by people with whom I share a common language, and I'm not merely referring to the preponderance of Spanish around these parts. I have enjoyed being in New York quite a bit, more than usual, in fact, but I am at my limit with being a house guest.

ETA more complaints:
I don't think Amparo's cooking is as amazing as everyone in the family says. And I'm hungry and I don't want to eat leftovers of what I just ate.
And after fussing around on her Mac for four days, I would just like to state that everyone who claims that Macs are more user-friendly is kidding themselves. I at least know where the Start-up folder is on my PC, so if Word and an old version of Firefox were in it, as appears to be the case on her computer, I'd be able to take them out. Also, I can update programs on my computer, and I can't seem to update Firefox on here. And let's not even get started on being able to find Programs in the Dock as compared to a Start menu, or for that matter, customizing what's in the dock. Intuitive? I think only if you're planning on doing less than four things with your computer.
And I want some headphones.
And Amparo doesn't keep any lamps in her bedroom, because she generally lights it with the TV-- I've hated leaving the TV on when not actively watching a show since I was a kid, it seems so wasteful, and represents a creepy reliance on television. And I feel the same way about TVs in the bedrooms in general, actually-- so ugly American, so lazy, like you can't get out of bed to watch TV. So 1984, like it's watching you. I want to go home to my apartment sans TV, and with enough lighting to read in every room.

Wed, Nov. 4th, 2009, 09:32 am

I've been accidentally starting arguments with people lately. The contexts are ones where I would ordinarily find someone's comment offensive, or incorrect, bullshitty, what-have-you, but would ordinaril decide it wasn't worth it to say something. And in fact, in all of these cases, on oe my thoughts is "You're wrong, but it's really not worth the energy to intervene," and yet before I know what's happening, I find myself intervening.

Two cases: We had a conversation among the students in my program about the dearth of content classes for us to take, and about ways to address the problem. I brought up something I've offered as a solution in the past-- student-led discussion groups where we read and discuss papers. I've organized them in the past, but certain participants have done a really crappy job of keeping up. I was asking them if some official sanction of these groups, like minimal course credit approved by the department, would make these meetings a higher priority to them, and one of the students broke in and said that she and her best friend in the program discuss papers casually all the time. I thought and continue to think that this was the most absurd response imaginable-- these two have a super-tight clique-y friendship, and perhaps they discuss papers in between talking about boys and how awesome Jodi Picoult is as a writer, but these discussions are certainly not open to the public (I would never be invited, and frankly, if I'd have to try to come up with something nice to say about Jodi Picoult, of for that matter their other obsession, Twilight, I'd rather not be present) and this model is not one that could be put forward as the "right way" for the rest of us to get to discuss research. And where ordinarily I find the program drama not merely silly but actively amusing, I bit this time, and began to protest, so now I'm in the business of explaining to this woman exactly what was wrong with her assertion, which I think is going to be one of the more frustrating conversations I've attempted in a while.

Episode II: There have been fliers around campus recently for a pro-Communism speaker who's coming to give a talk. There's one next to the elevator I take up to my office, so I've glanced at it a number of times. On the surface, I'd be interested in hearing a speaker present alternative economic ideas, and I have nothing specifically against Communists or entertaining discussions on the topic, but this flier really put me off-- the title of the talk is "Everything you've learned about Communism is wrong!" which offends me because this dude has no idea what I've learned about Communism. The poster than devolved into what sounded like cheers at a pep rally-- "Max Lotta knows the truth! Max Lotta will tell you the truth!" which is pretty creepy. Then yesterday, two people turned up at the beginning of a class of mine and started passing out fliers for this event and trying to encourage people to come, and again, without active choosing to do so, I swear, I found myself telling them that I found the title of the talk offensive, and all of a sudden I was in the middle of a debate with them, in which one of them uttered the phrase "Mass killings aside, we need to really examine some of the great triumphs of Lenin and Stalin!" and then went on to say that documentation of deportation to gulags in the the Soviet Union is really sketchy. I countered by saying that I felt that The Gulag Archipelago was documentation enough for me to believe that these events were real, and one of them asked me, very unknowingly, who the author was-- I think she wanted to argue that that person was a conservative, American, Red Scare-inspired liar, but of course, the book is actually written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian writer who himself spent years in the gulags and collected the stories of other individuals who had done to same and snuck them to the west at great peril to himself. I was baffled by the fact that this girl who presumably claims to know more about Communism than me (given the title of the talk she was promoting) wouldn't know who Solzhenitsyn was. Fortunately, I was great comforted by the fact that moments later, my professor arrived in class and was furious at these two for showing up and promoting their shit in his class without his permission, and ordered them to pick up all of the fliers they'd already passed out. I've been ambivalent about him, but all of a sudden I have great respect for him.

But what was interesting about both of these cases was that I know that debate was pointless, and I didn't approach it the way I would approach discussion with someone I disagree with-- I didn't ask questions, I openly and vividly expressed my disapproval immediately. Bad form on my part, and yet, I'm kind of glad I said something in both cases, even if my style of expression basically set everything up for failure.

Mon, Nov. 2nd, 2009, 08:39 am

I am from the south, but not really. I'm from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which is within a southern state, but is always singled out as being entirely non-representative of southern culture. I never felt any particular identification with "the South" as an entity while growing up, and I always thought it was very silly when someone would call me Southern.

When I went to college, I moved to New York, and discovered that people who had never been to Chapel Hill believed that there was no possibility that it could have any culture whatsoever. Despite my urgings, friends never visited me over the summer, I believe because North Carolina didn't seem like someplace interesting to visit. I thought (and still think) that that's a ridiculous assumption, since Chapel Hill and Carrboro actually had a lot more going on culturally than the town that Sarah Lawrence was in. But what I found most surprising was their assumption that Chapel Hill and the South were significantly more racist than the rest of the country.

I distinctly remember a cousin of mine saying she could never live in the south, since there were Confederate flags there. At the time, I mostly thought this was silly because (a) rednecks seem to flock to Confederate flags regardless of their geographical region (I mean, I've seen them in upstate New York and in Southern Utah among people whose families have always lived in those regions) and (b) this was entirely non-representative of my experiences in Chapel Hill. Yes, there is that creepy bar called the Smokeshop that apparently has a Confederate flag on the back wall if you're bold enough to go inside, but as kids growing up in the area, that was like a window to an alien culture.

So at any rate, I found the depiction of the south as homogenously and overtly racist to be a misconception, but since I have no particular identification with "the South", it didn't really seem to me to be a misconception worth fighting.

A little over a year ago, my boyfriend and I moved to Chicago. I moved here because of my graduate program, and not for any reason having to do with the location-- believe me, if the city and region had been the basis of my decision, I would not have moved someplace to so cold, and for that matter, urban-- I kind of prefer small college towns. Shortly after we moved here, we discovered the interesting fact that Chicago's division in the the North Side and South Side has very large implications for the kind of investment and services the city provides to particular areas. The North Side is largely white, and has thriving businesses, lots of public transportaion, beautiful well-maintained parks, and low crime. The South Side is largely Black, and has abandoned lots that give one the impression that the city was bombed recently, basically no public transportation, and ludicrously high crime. The conclusion? Racist distribution of resources.

Now, this seemed bad, but not unheard of. Major cities often fail their poorer neighborhoods, and yes, race is related to SES such that those neighborhoods are likely to be Black. So while objectionable, this did not rock my world. Geoff has been saying the entire time, though, that people who like it here may like it because they themselves are racist. I wasn't sure about this statement, though-- it's possible that other qualities about the city are what appeal to people, or perhaps isolated as they are in their North Side neighborhoods, they aren't aware of the disparities between the two Chicagos.

Well, it turns out there's a popular hot dog stand in Lincoln Park, close to a club that I like to go to. This hot dog stand is kind of an icon of local culture-- a place that's known for the "experience" you get going there. And what is that experience? Well, the management only hires Black people, and if you patronize this place, you are permitted to usual whatever racial slurs you like when addressing the staff. If you ask one of the women their for a "chocolate milkshake" and slip them $20, they will flash you their breasts. And people go there specifically for this experience, for the chance to denigrate the staff for their race, for the fun of objectifying Black women. And this is not a dirty secret, this is common knowledge. This is a local hotspot.

I have never before been offended by the impression people have that "the South" is the home of racism in America, but I am now. Such a business would never be allowed where I am from, because for the most part, we take our history with racism very seriously. While there are plenty of young men who think it's cool and edgy to make racist jokes, they themselves know they're doing something wrong, and institutions like businesses would never stand behind such actions. I am horrified that in this city, people think to themselves, "I feel like calling someone a n*****r tonight, let's go to that hot dog stand! It'll be a riot!" And I'm concerned that everyone's belief that racism lives in "the South" is getting in the way of actually addressing racism elsewhere.

Wed, Oct. 14th, 2009, 07:39 pm

La!

So I agreed to be the student liaison to the curriculum committee for my department. I wasn't completely sure what this meant when I signed up, but I figured it was a place from which to lobby for more and better course offerings for grad students, which I care a lot about. We met this morning, and I discovered that it was tons of fun to sit around with four faculty members and chat about stats! We came up with a great solution to a class that both faculty and students hated (pro-seminar: sitting in a hot, uncomfortable room on Friday afternoons while faculty from the department present their research to you, which you already know all about because you were required to read a paper of theirs in preparation for a class that is, hence, an utter waste of time.) Instead, future students will have four total required sessions, where the main faculty from each specific program will present their research interests in 15 minute, casual presentations, with no required reading or anything like that. And there will be beer! And food! Isn't that fantastic?

Also, one of the faculty at the meeting offered to give us M&Ms, which she had on hand because she says she's started throwing them at her undergrads whenever they answer questions right in stats. How did she get started doing this? She jokingly told her students she'd give a prize to anyone who could find an empirical paper that used stem-and-leaf plots, and two students e-mailed her that night with such papers, and asked if they could have candy.

Also, one of my non-psych friends linked to David Brooks' column on social neuroscience. To be clear, he has some factual errors (I'm pretty sure his description of Mendoza and Amodio's work is completely wrong...) but it's a generally positive article (how Davis Brooks of all people managed that, I don't know) and I think it's cute that my non-psych grad student friends are reading about the things that I read about all the time!

And! My friend Abby, who has been traveling around the country by Greyhound and other such means came through Chicago today, so we spent a lovely afternoon and evening together, wandering around neighborhoods of Chicago I've never really been too and chatting about everything under the sun. We found the most incredible vintage store in Wicker Park that has 1920s wedding dresses in perfect condition, for $500-$1500-- I thought previously that I understood why people spend so much on wedding gowns, but if you can get perfect, beautiful vintage for what I'm told is about a third the price of something newly produced and made entirely of polyester, what the hell are people thinking?! Abby and I decided that I am going to have a fake wedding-- I will not get married, but I will have a pretty vintage dress and possibly a yummy and fun cake. I don't think I'll even bother having a fake groom-- that seems like it's beside the point. Abby said she would support me, as long as she also got to have a pretty dress. We're currently looking for financial sponsors for this venture, please let us know if you're interested.

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