The Wee Folks of Portland

Portland is known for being whimsical (or "weird" according to the "Keep Portland Weird" bumberstickers). A few examples from our recent visit:

Miniature horses like this one can be seen around town tied to the metal rings still embedded in the curbs from days of yore.

This "fairy nest" features bits of treasure and a note to the forest fairy asking for a magical pet cat that only the letter writer and her friends could see. It is sitting on a stump not far off the path in Forest Park.

If you look carefully, you will see that there is a tiny chair on the tree. The chair is about three inches tall and the crotch of the tree is about six or so feet off the ground. Perhaps a fairy was sitting up there to enjoy the sunset in Hoyt Arboretum.

Justin Decided He Needed A Haircut

The "before" and "after" shots. Or, "scruffy" vs. "punk."

One-sided (Cellphone) Conversation Overheard on Light Rail in Portland

I'm getting married./
Ray is coming with me cuz he's going to be best man./
No, then Jason would know I talked to you./
He doesn't even want me to talk to you. But he's getting better about it. I told him, "Well, I'm sorry you're not friends with your ex, but I'm gonna stay friends with mine." I mean, it was a long time before we got to this point./
I don't know if I'm gonna get a hotel or stay at Melanie's./
I hope Melanie will let me stay there. You know she lives up behind the mill./
Behind the mill on the way to the cemetery. She's lived there for like 30 years!/
You dropped me off there!/
You don't remember, do you?/
It was at the beginning of when we were going out. You dropped me off there./
It was right after you got outta jail and we were staying in that trailer./
We didn't stay long. You were like, "There's too many fuckin' tweakers around here." You didn't want to hang out with tweakers.

And that was the last thing we heard as she stepped off the Max.

Things We Did in Portland

We got back from Portland on Tuesday, and I've got so many things to blog about they're falling through my fingers. Before more time goes by, here's a little laundry list of Things We Did In Portland (in no particular order):

spent time with great friends
baked bread
walked around the SE quite a bit
walked/hiked Mount Tabor
hiked in Forest Park
played kickball in the amphitheater in the Rose Test Garden
walked in Hoyt Arboretum
walked in the rain
stayed inside in the rain
played video games (mainly pinball, a driving game and air-hockey)
played hearts
played rummy
played chess (Justin & J, not me)
played upwords (me & E)
ate lots of good food, at the homes of our friends and at restaurants
shopped at a going-out-of-business junk-shop
visited three different natural foods stores, two of them co-ops
rode buses
rode light-rail (Max)
found the nearest p.o. branch
visited Powell's Books
had lots of great conversations

slept well
got very wet
enjoyed ourselves thoroughly

A Jaunt Down the Valley

Justin and I and another 1st year ling grad, H, drove down to Bakersfield yesterday. You know, just to celebrate the heat in truly California style by spending the day in a car in the central valley. No, really we went to a fundraiser for the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center.

The valley is always flatter than I remember, and wider, and longer. We drove past many crops and one large (and very smelly and depressing-looking) cattle operation (if you've driven down I-5 you know the one). We passed cotton gins and food processing plants and occasional and isolated farmhouses. I really wish the farmers of California would sign their crops along the highways. It would be great advertising for California produce, raise people's awareness of varieties and also remind people of where food comes from. I could identify a few things, but only on a really broad level: fruit or nut trees over here, some kind of grapes there, looks like wheat here. Could wheat already be golden and looking ready for harvest? I was also surprised because it seemed kind of short: more knee-high than waist high. The plant looked like wheat as we whizzed past at 70 mph, but I'd have loved to see a sign telling me about it.

The edge of Bakersfield where we got off the freeway was as unlovely as its reputation. We stopped in a corner store for directions and one of the customers was wearing a true sombrero, the kind you see on mariachi musicians, but this guy was just a guy in jeans and a t-shirt buying beer. His friend, in a cowboy hat and apparently already fairly well into a beer-hydration project (hence the red, not-so-white, and blue eyes), gave me really excellent and detailed directions, repeated several times and including hand gestures (while Sombrero Man in the background was saying, "Okay, she gets it!")

A few minutes later we saw on the road in front of us in the camper of a small pickup truck two nubian goats (the ones with the floppy ears). That made me really happy. We wondered if they were on their way to become BBQ or if they were just moving house/pasture. Maybe they were being taken down to the community pool for a swim. Who knows?

Arriving at the ranch, we found it a bigger event than we had expected. There were tents and tables and port-a-pots (baƱitos), a bounce-house for the kids, and an amplified band playing classic country music. One of the three musicians was a Kawaiisu elder, and one of the last language speakers.

People had come from pretty far away: L.A., Palm Springs, even Texas. Many people were related to each other, maybe most, but not all. Some of those who had come from far away were from different tribes.

It was hot, even for the locals, and everyone mostly sat around and sweated. It seemed to me a great place to be to appreciate the full valley summer experience. I was really happy to simply sit and watch people interacting, but also enjoying talking to some people. There was a big feed: potato salad, green salad, chili beans, rolls, a big pile of meat with bbq sauce. Sheet cake for dessert. Lots of bottled water (no alcohol).

Some guys got up and did traditional music, drums and songs in language. A couple of elders danced a slow and solemn dance. They were a brother and sister and they held hands and moved in a stately way across the space in front of the musicians, back and forth, many times. It was quite moving.

People were acknowledged to the group, including one elder in her 90s. There were lots of reminders to buy raffle tickets and fill out language surveys and feel free to go back for seconds, there's lots of food back there.

There was a raffle with many, many prizes. I had just told H about my lucky streak in Australia where I won movie tickets several times in raffles, although I'd never won anything at home, when suddenly they were calling one of our numbers! In the end, four of our ten tickets were winners! The nicest prize we got was a medicine bag. When we were leaving, one of the musicians came up and told us that it was made by his friend Sarita, a member of an Iowa tribe.

After the raffle, the three old men played again and enticed a couple of women (one was a sister) to come up and sing with them. It was all very sweet and warm and community-feeling.

A little girl named Raina, about 2 or 3, befriended me. She was talking to me during the raffle (which was amplified), so I couldn't always hear her, but she had a few phrases which were easily discernible: "I'll be right back." "I'm just checking on you. Are you okay?" She would go off and do something and then come back to me with these phrases. Very cute. She knew my name and I think when we were leaving she called me her cousin, which makes sense since probably most people there were her cousins!

Street Shrine #1

This is the memorial at the end of my street where a young woman was killed last summer. She was a passenger in a car and was shot by someone in another car. I don't know much more than that. She didn't live on the street. She was about 21, I think.

On holidays (her birthday, valentine's day, etc.) this lightpost is decorated in her memory. Most recently it was decorated on mother's day, and I took this photo a few days later. The big mylar balloon has deflated, but you can see the handwritten notes, stuffed animals, photos and candles. There are stains on the sidewalk around the pole from the candles that were left there before and eventually melted.

The Secret Language of Academia

Use as many of these words and phrases as possible:

It's not entirely clear that...
There's a sense in which...
...a way in which...

It becomes problematic... essentialize...

...which effectively...

The lens through which...




meta- (metacognition, meta-analysis, meta-data)

-ness (on words that don't usually have it, eg., thirdness, back-and-forthness)
Question to investigate: Is this language particular to the humanities and social sciences, or are these phrases and words familiar to those of you in other areas?

Please write in with additions and comments.

Visitor and Visiting

We had a brief but lovely visit with Steven last weekend. If anyone's looking for an excuse to go to Sweden, Steven and Ronald will be opening a B&B later this year and it's sure to be great! It's in the southwestern corner of Sweden, in a small village in the countryside, and not far from the beaches. (Yeah, we don't really think of going to Sweden for the beaches, but apparently the Norwegians do.)

Today I went on a Mother's Day walk along the Coastal Trail in San Francisco with F, C, and my parents. In the beginning it was a little cold and foggy, but was really beautiful and warm by the time we were walking back. We walked from above Sutro Baths to Eagle's Point (not far from China Beach in the Seacliff neighborhood), about 3.5 miles round trip, according to a site I just looked at. It's a really beautiful and easy walk, and I highly recommend it.

On their way out of town, I took my parents to check out the Albany Bulb, for a different type of walking along the bay. We just visited the main northern gallery, but also came across a small skate park that has been constructed on the Bulb which I hadn't seen before. It was just a simple bowl with a small hillock in the middle (I'm sure skateboarders have different names for these things), all concrete. We watched two skaters take turns. Both were in their twenties, one long-haired and loose-limbed with a graceful but kind of goofy style. The other was short-haired, with a more assertive style. Each would take the space to try a move, and then stop and let the other have the space. I love the politeness of turn taking among skaters, and how it's just unspoken. Obviously you'd want to keep going, but you don't because you understand that you have to share. I am always mesmerized by watching skaters, but soon we moved on to the sculptures.

I know I've posted a picture of this sculpture before, but this one has my cute parents in it, so I have to include it here.

We walked out, they drove me to El Cerrito BART, and we each headed in our opposite directions. Both the places we went today are so easy to get to, and so spectacular, it's really ridiculous that I don't go more often. It was nice to have Mother's Day as an impetus for a couple of nice outings!

Things That Should Be Available On Google Maps

1. Google Bike Maps/directions
When google-mapping a location, we should be able to click a tab and illuminate the bike routes, bike paths, and bike boulevards (each designation would be in a different color).

1.b It would be extra cool if there was a wiki element to the bike maps, so that people could comment on the bikability of a stretch of road: whether it had a lot of potholes, was particularly narrow with a lot of parked cars, etc. It could be set up so that when you roll your cursor over the map, comments pop up (comments contributed by anyone). (This is similar to the feature on Google Earth where people can add their own photos.)

2. Google Walking Distance Maps
You'd be able to google-map a location and then click on the pedometer tab which would change your cursor. You'd click on a corner, then click on the next corner, etc. till you had traced your walking/running route. It might be very short and simple (around the block), or a more convoluted path including sometimes retracing one's footsteps. The distance of your route would then be calculated for you, to the tenth of a mile (just like we get for driving distances). I think lots of people who are trying to drive less and exercise more would love knowing how much extra walking they're doing by, for example, parking down the street from work, or walking to the video store.

Please circulate these ideas until they reach the right ears!


I'm participating in a medical study, and today I made my second visit. The first visit consisted of a questionnaire, some body measurements, and a whole lot of paperwork wherein I agreed that I understood to whom the information would be released and the purposes for which it would be used. Really, really a lot of paperwork.

Today's visit started last night with a 12-hour fast, so that when they drew my blood, it would not be full of sugar and caffeine, I guess. The fellow who drew my blood was also the fellow who had weighed and measured me before. This time I found out that he was a medic in the army and was in Iraq from 2002-4. He said that taking blood in the army was quite different because everyone was muscular and had veins that pretty much stood out. Although he'd been drawing blood for over 5 years, he said he'd learned a lot since working at the university medical center because here he got to work with so many different kinds of people and because he often gets to see the same people more than once. He was very good and took a lot of my blood pretty much painlessly. He also managed to talk about his 'first casualty' without it seeming gruesome, maudlin, callous, or any number of other ways it might come out.

The next step involved going to another building and waiting in a--yes--waiting room while many other people came and went. While there, I overheard a young man talking about his time in the military, how, just after boot camp, he'd found himself drawing blood from a bunch of new recruits, even though he had no training. He was assigned to clean the clinic, but the clinic was short of medics and knew they had a huge group of new recruits coming in. So they asked this young man if he could draw blood. He said he could and they asked him to demonstrate--on himself! Apparently he did fine, as he then went on to draw blood from the new recruits. In response to a question I couldn't hear, he explained that he had just completed boot camp and was in the mindset of proving himself and besides he'd watched a lot of medical shows on the Discovery Channel.

In our Peace Corps training we had to prick our own fingers and make a microscope slide of our blood, something we might have to do if we suspected we had malaria and were too sick to travel (the idea being that you could send your malaria slide to the nearest clinic where someone could look for malaria parasites in your blood). It is a difficult thing to intentionally prick your own finger deeply enough to squeeze a few drops of blood out, especially if you are imagining having to do it at some future date when you are alone, shivery with fever, and weakened with diarrhea. It was clearly much more challenging for some than others. I wonder how we would have fared if we'd been asked to draw a vial of our own blood?

Best T-shirt I've seen all week:

"Shakespeare hates your emo poems."

Worn by a young man, kind of emo-looking, coming out of Dwinelle Hall, a strange sprawling building that houses all the language departments and linguistics, among others.

The Lost Doll

In an email exchange with a friend about an image in the poem I posted a few days ago (and I still feel weird about calling something a 'poem' that I don't consider complete, but there's no word for poem-to-be), I recalled a beloved poem from my childhood. A quick internet search offered up the title, author, and in fact the whole poem itself. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the illustration I remember so clearly. The poem is "The Lost Doll" by Charles Kingsley (bits of his biography on Wikipedia are amusing/appalling; check it out if you have a spare minute, but read the poem first).

The poem is kind of maudlin and sappy and not really anything special compared to much of the rest of the large quantity of poetry my parents read to me as a child, but for some reason I really liked it. I think the picture was important. It was sort of the reverse of the typical before-and-after shots: initially the doll is perfect, with a flouncy dress and a perky little matching blue bow in her perfect blond curls. In the larger "after" picture, she is dirty and bedraggled; not only is her hair ribbon missing, her arms are missing, her dress is muddied and ripped, etc. The message is that the doll is just as lovely to the little girl who lost and then found her in her ragged state as she was before. Maybe it provided a good counterpoint to all the beautiful princesses in the fairytales. Maybe I just related to the raggedy doll because I was a bit of a dirty outdoorsy girl myself. Maybe, at some level, I understood it as a message about the redemptive power of love.

Anyone else remember this poem from their own childhood? Any other favorite poems from childhood?

Toddler quilt

I just finished this quilt for my nephew's 2nd birthday this morning (the party is this afternoon). I've been working on it for awhile. I had a lot of fun picking out the fabrics (African animal themed) and figuring out how I wanted to put them together.

I had trouble with the binding on the other quilt I made (a few months ago), but thought that it was just a matter of experience and that maybe this one would be easier. In fact it was more difficult and turned out more amateurish than the first. Anyway, you can sure tell it's handmade! I want a quilting mentor! Nevertheless, it was fun and I like the overall effect. I sure get a lot of satisfaction from making things. I should probably do it more often.