The Updates #8

Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes

The updates are actually becoming a regular thing.  Who knew!?!??  

Dissertation

A photo of water droplets on a web on a bush
Droplets on a Web
By the time this is posted, I will have completed 9 of my interviews.  That's pretty damn exciting as I need 20-24 and that I've been able to do 9 interviews this week is astounding.  I've got another 4 scheduled which will bring me through the half-way point.  Exciting but I'm still looking for more participants so please, if you can share, reshare, or reach out to folks to encourage them to participate in my research study, that would be immensely helpful!

In terms of the interviews, they have been fascinating, intriguing, and giving me lots to work about and think about in terms of what is happening when scholars engaged on platforms like SciHub, LibGen, and the like.  That is to say that when it comes time to analyze the data, I'm highly optimistic about finding meaningful results given the conversations.  

Of course, the interviews themselves can be a struggle. There's one part that is focused on finding the rhythm and timing of the interview so that it stays on target for the 1 hour mark and also to make sure that I'm asking meaningful follow up questions that draw upon what is said and not instill my own meaning.  Add to this, these conversations are so fascinating that I'm often grappling to not ask personal questions that I'm interested in rather than questions that will keep focused on the study's intent.  (Not that these are far apart but that the wording and language might lead it to be more of a conversation rather than an interview).  Still, there's so much to appreciate and enjoy about this phase of the dissertation.  It may have taken a while to get here; I'm so glad to be doing it.

Work

There's not much to say here beside I continue to be on vacation and largely tuned out of work.  A few folks joked if I could entirely unplug and that answer is, of course, no, I cannot--but I keep my engagement simplified.  My work email is always emailed to my personal and I didn't turn this off.  Instead, I looked at who it is from, the heading and if it's evident, I just delete it. There's a handful that require some action but that has largely been just forwarding to folks.  In total--it's been maybe a half-hour of work in the past week.  Given that folks are often reaching out for help (including students), I'm willing to do that small amount to help folks out.  

What I'm Reading

So, a vacation week--that means lots of reading.  (Ok, generally, my life means lots of reading)

The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller:  This book was recommended by my therapist and I found it helpful in terms of better understanding myself and my connections with others.  It's not perfect but it is helpful in framing and understanding the dynamics, needs, and communications with friends, family, and my partner.  The primary discussion focuses on how we as humans form secure or a range of not-so-secure relationships with others and what that means for how we interact with that person, what we expect, and how we respond or react to what they do (or don't do).  Like many of these books, I think it can be helpful to let me think through my own means of attachment but I worry about how people may misuse it towards others. That is, I see psychological practices like this that can often be abused or weaponized by one person towards another (or towards a group).  So I'm leery of recommending it to anyone without an emphasis on it used for internal reflection rather than external labelling. 

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American by Laura Gao: Such a fascinating story by Laura Gao about her upbringing and navigating the cultural tensions of being born in China (specifically, the Wuhan region), growing up largely in the US, and navigating her culture, relationships, and sexuality in the US, which white culture already marginalizes Chinese and Asian identities.  She explores this further by framing her experience in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how US culture (including the president) further alienated her and her family.  

The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Ernest J. Gaines:  I picked this up at a bookstore in Old Orchard Beach and while a quick read, it's one with levels.  The premise is that a Black man, Brady Sims shoots his son after his son is found guilty and being sent to Angola.  A Black reporter looks to discover what happened and understand the real story behind what happened, so he goes to the local Black barbershop to engage with locals and learn.  It's an interesting tale that unfurls from the community's elders about the man, his life, and what happened. Brady Sims relationship with his family and also the local white population is complicated and nuanced and you catch this through the comments by the men in the barbershop. It paints a picture of how segregation and intergenerational racism hurts everyone and leaves people unable to love in ways that are less toxic.  

Letters to My White Male Friends by Dax-Devlon Ross: Ross writes from a place of care; recognizing that a lot of white male-identifying folks in the wake of George Floyd are trying to figure out how to go forward in a more meaningfully, less racist way.  Ross shares a mixture of anecdotes from his years doing diversity, equity, and inclusion to his own personal experiences as a Black man in a white-supremacist culture to different research and cultural touchstones that involve racism and white supremacy.  What he creates is an empathic gesture that identifies the tensions and challenges that exist not only for Black people but for white folks too in a society that so strongly upholds racist ideologies throughout different systems.  It's a thought book that I think a lot of us need to hear and be reminded of regularly.

A photo of the poem, The Key from Fatou Ndiaye Sow in the book, Talking Drums
Fatou Ndiaye Sow
The Key
From Talking Drums

From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, & Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux
:  A concise and direct guide for the different ways institutions can work towards being more equitable institutions.  The authors draw out where it can show up through a variety of levels in higher education from the classroom to the leadership and how deficit lens often uphold and maintain institutional practices that maintain inequity.  What I appreciated most about this book is how they show the kinds of questions and frames you can use at nearly every part of an institution to challenge its practices and encourage more meaningful ways to reconsider how BIPOC students, faculty, staff, and administration are actively included and consulted in the organization.

Talking Drums: A Selection of Poems from Africa south of the Sahara by VĂ©ronique Tadjo: This is a delightful collection of poems broken up by different themes and representing many different cultures across sub-Sharan countries.  They focus on nature, relationships, leadership, and other themes that are typically found in such collections. Some feel strikingly familiar in style to ones I've read from Global North cultures and others draw upon different elements and relationships that feel particularly relevant to the culture that the poem originates. I was also struck with questions of translation and that made me wonder about how these poems ended up in this collection.  Still, they're a good and accessible collection for young and old.

A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future by Perri Klass: This is one of those books that remind me the significant changes in society that we often overlook, until it is too late.  Klass does a bit of historical exploration of what it means to be born prior to the 2000s and considers just how bad and dangerous it could be.  She illustrates the cultural cues that indicate there was a lot of doubt about children surviving until they reached 3-4 years old; most families had some if not many experiences with infant deaths due to the different threats to infants' lives.  She then illustrates how public health came to provide, time and again, better opportunities for children to survive (of course, not equally distributed with higher infant mortality impacting BIPOC communities at higher rates, even when accounting for socio-economic class).  She explores how polio, mumps, measles, scarlet fever, and a variety of other threats (cars and seatbelts) were largely overcome and how that contributed to improving survival rates for babies.  One strand of this that came through in this book that I thought is rarely not discussed is that historically, the death of children was often seen as no one's fault or not necessarily reflective of the family; it was that common.  But increasingly, as it becomes more likely that children survive many of the historical ailments, it becomes the parents' "fault". That is, there's an increasing pressure of perfection on parenting that permeates children's health that isn't often discussed in terms of the added stress that places on parents and caregivers. It also creates a big sense of lose in modern times around child loss that might not have been as traumatic in the past.  That is, the more secure we make childbirth and survival, the more press and pain get felt at the loss of a child.  It's a powerful exploration of a topic; particularly as since the publication, we have also learned that because of anti-vaxxers and disinformation campaigns, measles and polio have reemerged in countries where it had once been eradicated.  

Star Wars: Padawan by Kiersten White:  Another Star Wars book; this one about Obi-Wan Kenobi as he begins his apprenticeship to Qui-Gon Jinn.  Some interesting moments and seeds planted for the character we know him to be, but nothing too exciting.  

What I'm Watching

Brooklyn 99: Getting into the final season or the "weird one" that a few folks in my circle have mentioned.  It was originally written and then had to be rewritten after the murder of George Floyd by police.  I'm only about 6 episodes in and I can see the vibe they're trying to navigate as a comedy about police. I think it's an earnest effort but more often, it draws out its overall inconsistency of characters and who they are or represent. It also feels like the villain they are creating, is just another caricature (the police union president), which in itself feels like they are ultimately blaming unions--which I'm not sure is the right place for blame or does anything better for whatever new bent they are trying to execute. 

Andor: I'm only 1 episode in but honestly, I feel like THIS is the original story they could have given Han Solo; a hard and harsh past with many burnt bridges that lead him to become a smuggler.  But still, I'm intrigued enough and Diego Luna is always enjoyable to watch.  

She-Hulk: It's moving along but I'm wondering if there's much meat here or is it really just trying to be a superhero-lawyer sitcom.  I'm hoping that it's building to something but it feels so loose that I'm getting close to watching it out of habit than excitement.  There's hints of something more, of course, but we're 6 episodes in to a 9-episode season and it's still feeling too light.

A League of Their Own: Watch this series. It's good on so many levels and after finishing the season finale, I can only pray there is a second season.  The characters, the acting, the exploration of identity and navigation of work, family, identity, culture, and community is so rich and compelling.  

This Week's Photos
I've been including two photos each week as part of these updates.  The photos are two photos I've taken during the week that I feel are memorable enough to share with others.  But I don't actually talk about the photos and what they mean--so, going forward, you can expect these updates too.

Droplets on a Web:  When I finish my run most days, I walk by a hedge next to my home.  It has a share of webs from prodigious spiders looking to capture their meals.  This one usually catches me both because of its obvious funneling hole (which you can't see here and where the spider presumably hangs out until dinner shows up) and when it rains the drops are so vivid and singularly spaced.  It makes me wonder how the droplets affect the web or is that they are captured as such, do they serve an additional purpose that helps the spider and capturing of dinner.  I'm also drawn to the reflective nature of water droplets in this photo as well in that they serve as tiny magnifying glasses to greenery below it.   

Fatou Ndiaye Sow's The Key:  This was one of the poems that I was struck by in reading Talkng Drums.  The peacefulness at the center of the poem and its invocation to listen is by grounding one's self in the body (listen, look, and feel) is a fairly common element to contemplative practice around the world and though directed at a "child", it's something we all often work to do--to quiet our voices, to notice, and to give attention to our bodies in order to better connect with the world around us.  So, reading it, in the midst of a coffee shop, gave me a moment of quiet solitude and connection that made it a worthy poem to share here. 

What's on My Mind

Vacation:  So Week 1 of my two-week vacation has ended and it's feel rather good.  Time in Maine was relaxing; time around the house was also good. I got in my aforementioned interviews and also had downtime (hence more reading and watching), and got to several different chores I've been meaning to get to.  This next week, we'll get to visit Quebec City as well as have some time at home (and yes, a few more interviews!).  

Garden closing:  The garden is about to close for most things.  I got some more eggplants and peppers this week but I am guessing that will be the last of it besides swiss chard.  I was able to make some pickled hot peppers (and didn't get any in my eyes--whew!) as well as make a bunch of baba ganoush that I have frozen for later consumption.  I have several hard squashes that I made into a dish and even got a small watermelon (like the size of my two fists together).  For the first year in a new place and trying lots of things, I think it went well. We'll need to do more succession planting and think through the logistics of the garden next year but it was highly productive and fun to do so I look forward to next year.  

Cooler Weather: I love the cooler weather.  Between high 40s and high 60s is where it just feels lovely (for me).  It's great for sleeping with the window cracked.  It's excellent for running.  With the harsh heat of summer behind us, I can enjoy the cool weather where I'm not constantly sweating and needing to change clothes.  I also love the sensory experience of fall from the cooler air on the face, the smell of leaves, the crunch and crackle of leaves and seeds of different sorts underfoot (e.g. acorns and the like), the colors and browning of nature; and the great comfort foods of the fall.  It just hits so many spots for me.  So, as fall is hitting  strong this week (hit mid-40s at night this week), I'm very much taking time to appreciate the transition. 

Till next week...


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