Once more, with feeling (i.e., to Costa Rica via Montreal and Toronto)

It seems rather like the only times I post are when I feel the need to assert that I’m still around.  Yes, I still have this blog and yes, I haven’t keeled over as of yet.

Besides this important announcement, let it also be known that I have been hired as a “website specialist” for Defensas de Niñas y Niños – Internacional (Children’s Rights International) in Costa Rica.  It’s a human rights NGO based in Guadalupe, which I think is a suburb of the capital, San Jose.  Yes, you people in the know, this is the result of me applying for an international development position in Southeast Asia, preferably the Philippines.  What can I say, this was what I got after mentioning to the coordinating agency Human Rights Internet that I had intermediate level fluency in Spanish.  At least I’ll finally become fluent in Spanish.   I could feel myself on the cusp of it after only 5 weeks in Peru, so the 6 MONTHS I’ll be in Costa Rica should finally and permanently stick castellano into my head.  It’s from October to March and for the journey back I’m actually considering taking the bus from Costa Rica to Los Angeles to see my relatives there, then flying from LA back to Canada.  The whole thing will probably take a month or so.  Anyone out there done anything similar?  Is the infrastructure there or will it be harder than I think?  I’ve never been to Central America, so I have no idea.

By the way, I’m writing this paragraph right now while on the bus from Ottawa to Montreal.  See, I had to come to Ottawa for a training session with HRI which actually turned out to be mostly reading the “contract” (technically it’s not one, apparently — it’s some kind of tax thing).  I’m going to Montreal because there’s another training session with another agency (it’s  complicated), and this one lasts until the 16th.  But, I can’t actually go out and see Montreal because the training takes place in Orford, which I’m told is basically the middle of nowhere, so boo them.  At least room and board are all covered by the host agency.  I kind of wonder if I’ve actually joined a cult because everything is so organized and inward-oriented.  Almost my entire waking hours are scheduled for some kind of training that I don’t really need.  How to overcome culture shock?  Coping with another language?  Really, now.

After that I head to Toronto and spend the 17th buying essential supplies I’ll need for my upcoming journey.  I do have a question for people, though.  I’m thinking of bringing along some small gifts to give to my new Costa Rican  coworkers.  I think it would be better if I gave them something quintessentially Canadian, but what can something like that be if it also will fit in my luggage and not bankrupt me?  Anyone got ideas?  I asked at the Ottawa session and someone suggested Canadian flag pins.

But anyway, that’s what I was up to on my summer vacation (I didn’t read any of my summer books either).


Internet access has been tricky out here in the boonies, I’m only posting this now on the last day of training.  I was going to try meeting up with you Toronto-based folks since I’ll be there all day tomorrow but this is rather last-minute notice, isn’t it?  Mea culpa.

Summer Reading List

Over on Rough Theory, N. Pepperrell and I have been wallowing in our guilt over not being well-read enough (is anyone in academia ever satisfied by how much they know?).  Anyway, now seems like an opportune time to share my summer reading list.  These are the books I hope to read after I finish my thesis.  I know, I’m guilty of counting chickens before they’ve hatched, but I think it’s good to be optimisitic about the future.  I don’t list novels because I tend to consume them at a really high pace and I pretty much just read whatever catches my eye when I’m at the library, the bookstore, or spy something lying around the house.  Anyway, the books I want to read:

  1. Southeast Asia Over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict R. O’G. Anderson.  I just bought this a couple of weeks ago and I’ll probably just skim it.
  2. Cultural Citizenship in Island Southeast Asia by Renato Rosaldo.  This one I bought a couple of months ago and I’ve also yet to read it.  I’ll probably just skim it too.
  3. Friction by Anna Tsing.  Something I got for myself Christmas 2005 which I actually have cracked open, but I’ve never really, you know, read it per se (more like randomly flipped through and lingered on occasional interesting bits).
  4. Europe and the People Without History by Eric Wolf.  Again, I’ve flipped through it, I’ve gotten the gist of it, but damned if I’ve ever actually read it through.  Another book from 2005.
  5. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity by Jurgen Habermass.  I’ve actually read the introduction but not much else beyond that.  It’s yet another two year old book that I still haven’t gotten around to reading.  Damn you, graduate school!  Why can I never have the time to read all these books?  Confession: Sometimes I’m tempted to shelve it beside Madness and Civilization just to see what will happen.
  6. A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.  I keep reading about this book in various articles and such so I figured I might as well see what it actually says.  One book review I read says that it builds upon the dynamic duo’s previous work, so does that mean I’ll have to read their other books before I get to this one?  I know I’ll probably have to read Capitalism and Schizophrenia at the very least.  I wonder, is that enough of a grounding to not feel lost?  I admit, I want to read D&G partly because the anime Ghost in the Shell: The Stand Alone Complex is apparently written by Deleuzians.  In one episode, a sentient robotic tank is seen reading a copy of Anti-Oedipus.  I’d really like to watch this series and get the Deleuzian references.

You know what?  This is more of a 2007 reading list, in which case I should have written this list in January.  The summer can’t be long enough for me to read all these meaty books.  Oh well, yet another reason for me to finish my thesis soon.

It could be worse

Went skiing on Saturday.  It was the first time I’d gone skiing in two years.  I sucked so bad it was hardly funny.  I lost one of my skis on my first run, which involved me going downhill on my back with my other ski dragging behind me.  That was the only time I lost my skis, so yay for me,  but I didn’t meet my goal of making it through a run without falling.  Still, muscle memory is some good juju.  In the beginning I had to run through a checklist before every run to remind myself of all the stuff you’re supposed to do: lean into turns, snowplow, look where you want to go, etc.  By the end of the day I was starting to do all of this unconsciously.

I looked in the newspaper the next day and apparently there had been an extreme cold warning for Saturday, but it wasn’t really as bad as all that.  My hands went numb several times, but I just took that as a sign to go back inside and warm up.  After all, it’s not a winter sport if you can still feel your fingers.

The “chalet” at the ski hill was rather piss poor, since it’s my opinion that there must be a fireplace for a spot to be called a chalet.  Despite the cold, the runs got really crowded in the afternoon, especially with kids.  Damn those reckless buggers, I almost got hit several times and I saw two snowboarders collide.  On the one hand, I can appreciate that kids and teenagers are supposed to be learning their physical limits, but on the other hand I object to anything that inconveniences me in any way whatsoever.

It’s nice that you can leave your boots in the lodge and be completely confident that they’ll still be there later despite any number of people passing through.  Still, anyone who goes skiing or snowboarding must already have some money, otherwise they wouldn’t be participating in such a bourgeois pastime.  Ski rental and full day pass was only $35.00 for me, so it’s not like skiing is necessarily amazingly expensive (season pass is like $150-200), but admittedly anyone who gets serious about the sport will be spending loads of money on special equipment — not just skis, boots, and poles, but also a proper coat and ski pants, and probably ski mask, gloves, and wick-away underwear and shirt — I wore the wick-away stuff for the first time this Saturday and was impressed at how much less sticky I felt.  Anyone living somewhere cold will have their own coat, gloves, hat (called a tuque here in Canada), and thermal underwear already, but probably a serious skier will want to get the special stuff, since they really do make a difference.

And to top it off, the ski hill was only five to ten minutes away from my house.  My brother said that last season he and his friends went boarding between their classes at the university.  Beyond the parking lot are people’s houses, and it’s kind of cool to look out from the top of the hill and see the winter landscape of suburbia stretching out.  So chalk up one more reason not to hate northern Ontario.

Happy Feast of the Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas officially end tomorrow, so take down those holiday decorations, people.  I didn’t get what I really wanted for Christmas, but hardly anyone ever does.

Anyway, during Christmastide I watched the latest round of the Ultimate Fighting tournament at some dude’s house.  I’m back in northern Ontario now and it’s interesting seeing how stuff is different here than in Halifax, especially the casual codeswitching.  There are quite a few francophones here and even a dialect of French peculiar to the region, so bilingualism in French and English is common among locals.  Many people from here switch back and forth between English and French quite easily, although I noticed that they do it intersententially instead of intrasententially (meaning that they switch the language of their sentences, but not within the sentence itself, i.e., no “Do you wanna coucher avec moi?”).  Still, this intersentential codeswitching happened at a gathering where the speakers couldn’t be sure that everyone spoke French, although they knew everyone spoke English, so the codeswitching would probably be different if the audience was entirely bilingual.

Still, one of the more peculiar parts of the evening (I guess besides the part where people gathered to watch savage beatings on tv) was in the waiting period before the fighting started, when one of the guys there invited everyone to watch Saddam Hussein’s hanging on his laptop.  From the excitement in the way he talked about it, the video sounded rather graphic.  I declined to see it, but most everyone else saw the recording.  Apparently the video quality was rather poor, especially with the shakiness of the cellphone camera.  “That was it?” seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among the viewers.  Still, I wonder what exactly they expected.  Perhaps an execution like on film, with a dramatic speech and bloody climax?  Maybe with the prisoner shouting “Freedom!” until his voice fades away?

The banal nature of the execution seems to be the kicker, added to by the very method used to capture the proceedings.  Surely the execution of the greatest monster of contemporary times (or so we have been told), surely that execution couldn’t have been so ordinary?  Shouldn’t there have been more of a spectacle befitting this most extraordinary death?  Shouldn’t a tumbril have at least been involved, or maybe a bulletproof Popemobile?  But a secret hanging recorded on a cameraphone?  Where’s the drama, the blood?  I can imagine it was a disappointing video to see.  I suppose the videos of various beheadings floating around will have to do until the next important execution.

My life in pictures

PhD Comics

From PhD Comics.  Edited for spelling and personal relevance.  Also for sense of personal aesthetics.

I also joined the LiveJournal community NaReWriMo, a horrendous name that stands for National Research Writing Month, a.k.a. National Write My Goddamned Thesis Month, a.k.a. November.  Come to think of it, it’s actually IntReWriMo since by joining I’ve just made the community international.  Anyway, joining the community means that you’ve committed yourself to writing something research-related everyday.  I joined on November 5 and I’ve actually managed to honour the fateful agreement.

I’m probably going to go with Blogsome for my new host if they ever get around to answering my question about importing posts using an XML WordPress export converted to a mysql dump.  Yes, those words mean something.  If not, there’s always Anthroblogs, the owner of which I still haven’t contacted.  More to follow later.

Le mission civilatrice

Stages of sociocultural evolution

Finally, finally, I have cable tv and high-speed Internet at home. I have now passed from late savagery and skipped straight into middle barbarism. I don’t have a tv remote, so I’m still not civilized and bourgeois, but now I have a goal in my life. After a year of no tv, I can feel my brain rotting just from being in the same room as the infernal device.

UPDATE: Sweet Jesus, there’s nothing on. Bonanza? The Young and the Restless? I thought I got cable so I wouldn’t have to watch this. Oh look, it’s old episodes of The Weakest Link. My, it’s been a while since I’ve shouted at idiots on the tv, it feels so nostalgic. Lets see,

In Dante’s “Inferno,” which of these is not one of the three men being devoured in the lowest level of hell?’

A: Judas, B: Brutus, C:Nero, D:Cassius

Good thing I wasn’t playing, I thought it was Cassius. The answer was Nero by the way.

Hoy pare, pakinggan niyo ko (also, my hands are deadly weapons)

I know that I don’t post too, too often. I haven’t been reading the blogs that I used to read obsessively, either, and I’m not too great at checking some of my email accounts. I find that one of the side effects of doing Internet-based research is that I’ve started trying to find excuses not to use my computer. Sunny outside? The wireless doesn’t work so great with that weather, guess it’s time to read in the park. Work out tomorrow morning, you say? Sure, I’ve been getting lazy lately. I have to catalogue and code all these blogs, but I have to go to the Farmer’s Market first since I need fresh ginger for the Ma Po tofu I’m making for dinner.

Actually, I’m getting kind of hungry right now. I got up at 11 AM, had brunch, went to the library, and have been catching up on my email and the various LiveJournal communities I’m part of (I got a headsup on some more theory). And I’ve been writing these posts. That’s enough work for one day, right? I can’t seriously be expected to work with an empty stomach, and after my merienda it’ll be time for karate. When I get back, I may make some chili or just heat up some leftovers. Toss some salad, wash the dishes, do my laundry, and whoops, no time left to work at my computer if I want to get up early tomorrow to go to the gym. And I hate working at home anyway.

So there you go, a day in the life of an Internet researcher. Just to remind you that the person behind the blog you’re reading also eats, sleeps, and occassionally works when he feels like it.

And if you know what I was getting at with the title of this post, I will congratulate you on your taste in music.