Category Archives: Fun

#433rds: 04/17/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.

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The Beinecke Library will temporarily close next year. 50 years old and having never seen a good renovation, the building’s ugly innards need to be examined. I worked there for about a year and a half, deep under this modern stone-walled building. It is beautiful, it is elegant, it is important. It also needs to be gutted and strengthened from the inside out. It doesn’t need a whole reinventing, but it needs to a renovation.

As I whirl from the news of not getting into any PhD programs, I wonder when and where to apply again. How do I reinvent myself? What were my weak points? What were my strong ones? What schools would I be happy at? What schools would I hate? What do I do next? These are, of course, also existential questions that I use to string myself along.

Another thing that needs to be reinvented is the tenure track at Yale. One of the few universities where it’s still virtually impossible to move from tenure-track to tenured, Yale loses its junior faculty at what I assume is a faster pace than most places. At other universities, there aren’t even tenure-track positions to go through before being denied tenure. And yet, in a time rife with denial and rejection, I continue to try to be strong and persevere. I want to teach. I want to write. I want to get there.

 

#433rds: 4/16/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.

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I haven’t left the common room.* The stained glass overhead consists of an old man adorned in gold armor, holding a vessel aloft to an incredibly witch-like woman (off-camera); either a very cruel dentist hard at work or a man force-feeding someone a pair of pliers; and a couple with a dog at what could be a bar or a pharmacy or both. The images that adorn these windows dominate much of the otherwise gray wall space. For how diverse they are, the color palette is decidedly narrow: black and white and yellow dominate the images of farmers, wooly mammoth skeletons, and mermaids.

The images are rarely, if ever, a guide for me. I go where my friends go, I go where the outlets are, I go where I can see through the dust on my laptop screen. But I sit most often under the aforementioned mammoth and volcano, flanked by a forest, a woman, and Old Faithful. For how little these images figure in my everyday, I despise the people sitting under Old Faithful. They are my foes, as much as my coursework is. If I can’t sit under Ice Age fossils, nobody can.

Maybe I just need to chill, to feed myself, grab a drink. I should hit the bar (or pharmacy, as it were). If the Mammoth can’t be my Muse, perhaps the Dentist can be my Guide.

* This is a lie.

#433rds: 4/15/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.

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Do.

I am about 3/4ths finished with my workload, but about 47/50ths done with the school year, which means it’s time I just buckle down and do it. Just do. Every tangent must be fought off. Every divergence taken out. Every source footnoted and image captioned. Everything that needs doing needs to be done.

Finding a place to be productive can be a challenge in and of itself. I’ve had productive afternoons in the graduate student common room. There are cozy booths to settle into, and stained glass figures mundane and exotic. The clang of metal appliances and the aroma of coffee from the little café that sits in the middle of the room. And the most ornate ceiling I’ve seen on a campus filled with details. It’s a place to admire, but it’s also a place to do work. Do.

Curiously, it’s not always a place one can go to do work. It closes prematurely in the late evening, even early evening on weekends and during school breaks. While college students here enjoy the pleasures of residential college common rooms and libraries that are open all day, all year, the graduate students are left with beautiful common room with a closing time. All we want is a cove to call our own. A place to do work whenever we want to. We’ve fought for student space before, the struggle has seemed endless, but the end may be near. Cost estimates are coming in, resolutions have been passed, reports published. All that’s left is to take the keys out and leave the door open so we can just do our thing.

#433rds: 4/10/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.

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I was sitting on the 3:50 train into New York City yesterday, curled up in my window seat, reading a book for class, jotting down some notes. A group of Yankees fans were lit, openly pregaming in the aisle, and the two undergrad/high school boys in front of me alternated between talking about sex and girlfriends vs. the music they were listening to. It was otherwise quiet.

Somewhere in western Connecticut, the train slowed, the electricity flickered, and only the lights by the doors stayed lit. The Yankees fans exchanged tipsy jokes about being stuck on the train, the youths talked about Brand New. The conductor announced that the pantographs weren’t connecting, and that mechanics were on their way to reattach them. I don’t think many passengers know what a pantograph is; I didn’t.

I immediately wondered if there were any phalanges on the train.

#433rds: 4/9/14

This is part of a month-ish-long blog/Instagram project. For more, go here.

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The weather is finally getting better. And by better I mean the wind is still awful, allergies are kicking in and I don’t even get the pleasure of real warmth, but at least it’s not freezing and there’s no ice packed onto the sidewalks. The sun’s out, but I still need a sweater, although it doesn’t have to be wool (I don’t own anything wool anyways). The weather’s nice enough to be deemed enjoyable.

The sky is clear, and while I was walking outside I snapped (yet another) photo of a late 19th-century building that belonged to the owner of a New Haven garment factory, since turned into a fancy apartment complex.

Living in a factory is one of those chic, trendy things that middle-class people do in urban settings these days. With walls of brick, exposed pipes, and all of the downtown lifestyle that comes with it. The people who live in factories might not generally wear a full outfit of pink with golden horses like the suit I laid my Scrabble tiles on.

But, damn, they should.

#433rds.

A friend of mine is doing a thing, and it is a thing I am going to try to do too. It’s called #433rds, and it is fairly simple:

For the month of April:

  1. At 3 pm every day, take a photo. Post on Instagram.
  2. Take 30 Bananagram tiles and arrange them into words in 3 minutes or less.
  3. Write something that day based on those two inputs. (Or, if you’re feeling Cage-y, don’t.)

I don’t have Bananagram tiles. I also will not always be free at 3pm. I also have pressing matters to attend to. But these are precisely the reasons that I will occasionally be playing with Scrabble tiles and photographing and writing about it. The desire to take photos, the need to not thesis, the fun of finding new ways to write. Anyways: Day 1 (err…. the 8th) is below:

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I just heard about this project earlier this afternoon. My decision to participate (however briefly it will last) was impromptu. I thought about sitting in a café to try and do some work, but decided that if I came home I could play with Scrabble tiles before getting down to business.

My day and the plans I have for it are certainly seeping through. I tried twice to spell out “thesis” with my tiles, but ended up with “these.” I had to include “meow” the second I saw the M and W. Not only is Jonathan, our new cat, the subject of my photo, but this morning I publicly debated letting him have his own Twitter account. And this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a photo I’ve taken of him overseeing his fiefdom from on high. Also he’s adorable.

Lastly, Men in Black is on Syfy this week. Not only did I already know that, but it prompted me to place those peripheral tiles down in that form as I ran out of time. I am clearly bad at this game and these projects.

Fighting with Fashion

Last week, Dan Drezner tweeted about the mid-range cruise missile, the Seersucker. It quickly generated a conversation about less-than-intimidating weapons names, but I immediately embarked on a quest to find as many fashion-forward weapons, munitions, and operations as I could. That is the sole reason for this blog post – and so I present you with these trend-setting factoids (pardon the Wikipedia links):

  • The USS Moccasin, an early 20th Century submarine, was later given the

    This submarine is available at Target for $13.95

    more boring name of A-4. It was preceded by the Civil War-era Moccasin tug boat.

  • The British love their argyle – with a 17th Century, WWI-era, and current version of the HMS Argyll.
  • There’s a British patrol ship named the HMS Blazer, which is pretty trendy.
  • While not specific to clothing, I can’t help but assume that Ethan Allen class submarines are filled with wood furniture (the store was also named after the Revolutionary War hero).
  • The UR-100 is a Russian ICBM that NATO likes to refer to as the SS-19 Stiletto.
  • The R-12 is apparently a less sexy Russian missile, since NATO calls it the SS-4 Sandal. It was one of the stylish missiles involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The most terrifying sandal to ever reach the Caribbean.

  • Both of these are nothing compared to the super-secret Galosh missile.
  • A British mission in the Pacific Theater during WWII was called Operation Zipper.
  • The Mohawk was a plane used for reconnaissance in Korea and Vietnam, and a divergence into the hair category for aircraft nomenclature (but it did stand alongside several other Native American tribes, I admit).
  • The Airspeed Oxford flew throughout WWII.
  • Allied Operation Bolero was the troop buildup in Britain during WWII.
  • WWII Operation Raincoat was an Allied attack in Italy.
  • The German counter-offensive in North Africa was called Operation Capri.
  • The short-lived X-3 Stiletto was an early Cold War-era jet.
  • Operation Coronetwould have been the largest amphibious assault in history, landing on Japan in WWII – but it was never crowned.

    Let's just be honest, bow ties - and Robert Downey, Jr. - should be the names of weapons.

  • A U.S. operation in Vietnam was code-named Operation Bolo, which just reminds me of the official neckwear of the state of Arizona.
  • There is also a bomber, the B-18 Bolo, which is reminiscent of neckwear.
  • Supposedly, there is a classified program to develop unmanned reconnaissance aircraft called Senior Prom, which is so high school.
  • Australian involvement in the Gulf War was codenamed Operation Damask.

Henry V at Washington, or a Letter to the Resolve Fifteen

This is an open letter to my fellow advocates and dear friends with whom I spent a lot of time (and at the same time not enough) in DC. It’s on this blog instead of an e-mail because what I experienced this weekend really should be on the record. If you want to know why we were there, click here. If you want to see what I did with my own time, click here.

To Whom Advocating for Peace is the Most Paramount Task,

In Lawrence Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia, he uses a scene of human rights abuse in Shakespeare’s Henry V to analyze the massacre at Srebrenica. Since we were all in DC as a part of our advocacy against mass atrocities, I thought it was fitting that I thought of a wholly different part of the same play. What we learn from Shakespeare is that, on St. Crispen’s Day, Westmoreland wished they had more troops to fight, to which the King responded – at length – that he would rather die with those who were around him: “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

There were only a few of us that were able to make the trek to Washington this weekend. I boarded my plane knowing two friends would be there, alongside a few who I only knew over the phone, and a handful of strangers. I left with over a dozen friends with whom I can share this experience. And it’s not just an experience of being able to say “I got to see David Plouffe speak” or “Holy crap I just saw Bo in the hallway,” it’s much more than that.

Half of the gang on Pennsylvania Avenue

It’s the fact that I can say that not only did most of us meet for the first time at State Place & 17th Street in the early morning on Friday – and proceed to spend almost all of the next 48 hours together – but that we made true friends and learned a lot from one another during that time. It was with this group of new friends that I learned about the Fourth Estate (which I sadly missed and sounds inspiring) and shared my thoughts on America’s LRA strategy (thanks for listening, Adam). I experienced my first poetry slam at Busboys and ate the greatest sweet potato fries. I met four people whom I could never thank enough for helping me over the years via phone calls and e-mails, and I had three people bear witness to the hostel at which I stayed.

Eugene tells a story. Laughter ensues.

More than learning about USAID’s programs around the world and seeing the White House’s outreach efforts first hand, I got soaked in rain with friends – twice – and got in more than one conversation about the attractiveness of a certain former Director of African Affairs at the NSC. I talked about the ICC, heard about conflicts in the CAR, and learned about crisis mapping in the DRC. But I also learned how not to use Camden Yards as a slip’n’slide, was compared to the sorcerer Jafar, and laughed uncontrollably at somebody saying “K as in knitting.”

I am truly humbled by having the chance to meet you this weekend. We all traveled to DC, some of us flying across the Great Plains while others took buses up from the South, to hear what the White House had to say and learn from it. I have been involved with this cause for a long time in my life, but I got involved my senior year of high school. I am only 21 years old and I just barely finished my undergrad, and yet I wasn’t out of place. Some of you are still in high school and are already raising thousands of dollars and lobbying your senators and representatives for this. Some of you have been done with school and are already forging ahead into the real world, blazing the trail for advocates. You all are superstars.

While we were able to raise our concerns with several officials (spitting fire while we did it), we did even more. We solidified our place as advocates with more than just an issue or a cause, but with a passion. As I told some of you, I’m at sort of an impasse in my life where I’ve stopped cheering for Enough and I haven’t fundraised as much for IC as I used to, but I can’t stop, won’t stop, advocating for peace and justice through Resolve.

To each and every one of you who joined me in any of these escapades, thank you. We raised our voices and delivered letters, we definitely made a difference. But I sure as hell made some great friends too.

Guns Blazing

On Sunday, David treated me to a bachelor party.  Given two facts – David being my only guy-friend and me being pretty androgynous when it comes to doing manly things – we did not round up the dudes and go to a strip club. Plus, that’s weird and icky. Instead, I learned how to use a gun.  Six guns, actually.

David and I rolled out with his dad and two brothers to Florence Junction, where we parked in a secluded area by a moderately sized cliff-face.  David’s dad went over gun-safety with me while his brothers set up some cans, and I put on some glasses and earmuffs.  I’ve never held a real gun, let alone shoot one, so I was pretty green to this whole scenario.  I should preface the following sentences with the fact that I’m probably getting some of these names wrong.  But anyways, I took a couple of pot shots with a 22 and actually hit my target the first two times (big surprise, let me tell you) before playing with a Glock 17 and a Remington (pistol and shotgun – I’m learning!). When we set out to reset the cans and find some better targets, I found two shot up computer monitors and couldn’t resist. By the end of the day I also fired off an AR-15 and a SOCOM, of which the latter had its own shockwave that we could feel several feet away from the shooter, and which gave me a bruised arm.  As we wrapped up, I fired a few rounds out of an old-fashioned revolver, which made me feel very much like I was shooting in the Southwest.

All in all it was a lot of fun and something I had never done before.  I’m not exactly signing up for the NRA, but I definitely wouldn’t be against going out again.  It was pretty interesting to learn about the different guns (David’s dad is an instructor, and all the guys knew at least something about guns given boy scout experience and whatnot) and to play with some big boy toys.  That, mixed with a little bit of video-gaming and some delicious In-n-Out Burger, made for a very nice bachelor party.

Lira does Kampala, and Europe does Prom

Saturday morning the ILF house slowly stirred.  After going to bed at 5.30 in the morning as the night finally wound down, I heard Rehmbo and Ben leaving around 8.  I got up and helped them close the gate and then did some lounging until my phone rang. Alison’s missing phone was calling me.  Normally, when a phone gets stolen here the thief gets rid of the SIM card right away and replaces it or sells the phone.  So, when I answered the phone I was a bit confrontational, and the guy who took the phone was talking about maybe bringing the phone back and then he hung up on me.  At this point Alison heard me talking and came in and we discussed how weird this whole situation was.  He called back and Alison talked to him and he said he was willing to bring the phone back but was worried he would get in trouble with the law, so she tried to assure him that she just wanted the phone and that’s it.  When Ben came back all three of us were talking to the guy and arranged a meeting down the street – but he never showed.  Out of time and patience, we got ready for the Kampala trip sans cellular.

Back at the house I finalized my packing and withdrew some more money for the city.  I said goodbye to everyone and even bid the goat and chickens farewell.  The ILF car rolled up and I plopped my things in and we were soon on our way.  A good five hours later we meandered through traffic to Old Park and dropped Alison and me at a fancy glass tower amidst the crummy chaos – our hotel!  This place was a really nice hotel in the middle of the city center, and we were greeted by a giant bed, a TV, air conditioning, a nice shower, and even a balcony!  After checking in and relaxing a bit, we went out and I got my first taste of mizungu Kampala – Lotus Mexicana!  I had a delicious meal of Mexican food in this African capitol before heading to a rooftop bar in Bukoto for – yes – an “American Prom”-themed party.

In the circle of the UN, a guy named Stijn has (sort of) never had a birthday party.  Since all of these Europeans had never had a Prom either, they decided to have a prom in honor of Stijn’s birthday.  A few weeks ago Lisa approached Alison and me to be the prom consultants since we were the only ones who had ever attended one.  In Lira I found the best possible shirt – a shirt from an American high school’s After-Prom Luau! I mixed this with purple trousers I found in the market and a coat I found in town.  But this fashion had nothing on some of the guests at this place.  Lisa was in the most amazing dress ever bought in Lira.  Ilaria was in a white tuxedo.  The birthday boy was in a dazzling silver shirt that shined amidst the lasers and lights at the party.  The party was really fun and it was a great welcome to Kampala.

The next morning, Alison and I boda’d our way over to Cafe Javas to have a grand goodbye.  Our commute was sprinkling, but right after we arrived it started pouring and we ended up meeting with a drenched Debs, Lisa, and Ilaria for lunch.  After trying to make sure everyone was dry and warm, we had a good meal and talked a lot before bidding farewell to our Lira folk.  That afternoon Lisa, Debs and Ama all headed back upcountry, so it was good to see everyone off.  From there I met up with Morris and George in Wandegeya to catch up for an hour or two before going craft shopping.  I ended the day with a solo trip to Ndere Center which was really cool, but it deserves its own post so you’ll just have to wait.

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