Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hither, Thither & Yon

Dear Husband and I have been on a the road the last couple of weekends. Here are some pictures of where we went and what we did:

Last weekend we drove west to Hither, where we celebrated the life of the pastor of my home church where DH and I met. HON was appointed there my second year in high school and left a few years ago. A friend and I took over the Children's Sermons when he arrived, and when there weren't any children anymore, HON encouraged me to give these little messages anyway. We called them "Youth Speaks." Sometime after that I took over the position of regular Sunday liturgist. I learned to sightread from that lectern. Tongue-twisting passages from Paul's epistles? Bring'em on. Words to an unfamiliar reading scrolling up a screen and quickly out of sight? I've done that too! HON encouraged me to be a confident, out-spoken young Christian leader. I will always remember him for that. And his wit, his loathing of hypocrisy, his commitment to social justice, and yummy curry on New Year's. At the memorial service, DH played a piece he had composed, and I read a poem the organizers had picked out. We're very glad we made the trek hither.

This weekend we drove in the opposite direction to Thither, where Dear Husband ran his first half marathon. It being mid-October, the weather was characteristically cool and wet. You can see him and some other runners huddled around one of three fire pits they had going before and during the races. He certainly looks ready to run 13.1 miles, doesn't he? Well he was, minus three or four layers of clothing. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have from the trip. When we arrived, DH asked whether I brought my camera, since he had left his at home. I asked him what kind of wife and Girl Scout he thought I was, if I was going to drive him all the way thither without my camera? But I had forgotten about the flashing battery light while we were filming my action figure post, and the battery promptly died. Even without photographic proof, DH was able to beat his goal time with a personal best of 1 hour and 54 minutes. Way to go!

Finally, it turns out that Yon is pretty close to home. For lunch we went to a local burger joint, which offered to donate 10% of today's net proceeds to a local family struggling with advanced ALS. A large portion of our church showed up to consume burgers, shakes, and fries for the cause. You can't see them because of the reflection on the glass, but the line extended to the door and was like that the whole time we were there. There was a nice coincidence, too. I chose and presented a special reading during the service this morning that turned out not to have anything to do with the sermon (whoops); it was about finding Christ in the eyes of the person across the table with whom you are breaking bread (e.g. eating together). Today, the servant church was at this restaurant. Soon, it will be donating meals and gas cards for the affected family to go for visits to the nearest care facility (a shocking 2 hours away). But today, it was yon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Who Are We?

This past Friday, the student newspaper published an open letter I researched and wrote with two fellow graduate students. We are asking the new chancellor, who just started her second year here, to change the atmosphere between the administration and the labor unions on campus. This University talks a lot about “inclusivity” and how “great” we are, but their policy stands toward graduate student employees suggest exclusivity, a desire to turn us into yet another source of revenue, and a short-sightedness that will hamper research and learning. In honor of this occasion, we have released the second doll in our line of student action figures.


NEW! Now you can purchase the Graduate Student as a card-carrying member of the Graduate Employees Union (IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL/CIO). She wears a bright red t-shirt that declares “healthcare is a right” and boots for stomping on injustice. The pockets of her cargo pants are stuffed with a contract and her membership card. One arm is movable so she can raise her fist at rallies, and if you press the button on her back, she yells one of three slogans:

“The University works because we do!”
“No contract, no peace!”
And one slogan that you can record yourself! 

Doll comes with poster, pin, contract, and membership card. Real working toy megaphone and companion union members sold separately.


One of our union rally cries starts with the leader yelling, "Who are we?" The crowd answers, "GEO!" It's short and to the point, good for making noise outside the windows of administrators. But it is also a question that we see being asked and answered in the bargaining room. The administration seems to see "us" (the University) as a world-class institution...hobbled by the state's financial crisis. We see an institution that has successfully collected record private donations...and that refuses to pay a living wage for all graduate employees. (And that hires yet more administrators while threatening employees lower on the pyramid with furloughs.) This administration sees a homogeneous graduate student population (think: single, white, middle-class, male)...we see parents, international students, veterans, LGBTQ individuals, and an over-whelming majority of bright, dedicated individuals who would not be here without tuition waivers. We would be at other institutions, or we would not be in graduate school. This is an R1 research university that refuses to guarantee full tuition waivers, the standard practice at institutions of higher learning of this caliber. Without full tuition waivers, only the wealthy or the desperate will come here for graduate education anymore. Who are we?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Adventures in New Haven

Image courtesy of the Yale Medical Library website.

This past weekend I completed my (near) annual pilgrimage to the East Coast for the Joint Atlantic Seminar for the History of Medicine, affectionately known as JasMed. This conference run by and for graduate students is one of two chances I have every year to get together with other junior scholars who are weird in the same ways that I am weird (the other is the large national meeting of the American Association of the History of Medicine in the spring, or AAHM).

This year we were at Yale University, where the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library provided an appropriate setting for papers on the history of bloodletting, of touch and sight in gynecology, the connections between psychiatry and politics, and of the smallpox eradication campaign in Cameroon. My abstract about closing the reception loop between nutritionists and lay people in early twentieth-century Germany was not accepted, but the quality of the papers that were taken was so high that I don't mind. I find it fun and educational to hear what my colleagues are doing at their various institutions, and there is always plenty of time scheduled for socializing. Bless their hearts: the conference organizers made sure we ate every two hours or so, so I didn't go hungry!

Our early afternoon session discussing a pre-circulated paper about tuberculosis in Cuba got out early, so a few of us took a walk from the medical campus to the main campus, where we searched out the rare book building, home to 500,000 rare books and "several million manuscripts." It's a bibliophile's dream. Built in 1960-1963, this "jewel box" of modernist architecture contrasts greatly with the surrounding neo-Gothic buildings. From the outside, the Beinecke Library looks like a white block of concrete, but inside the marble "windows" let in amber-colored light. In the center, a glassed-in tower displays part of the stacks in spectacular fashion. I might have had a bibliorgasm. Click here for photos.

Back at the hotel room I shared with a friend from college, one thing made me laugh, and another made me shake my head. On the right, members of one side of my family can probably guess what hotel chain we were at: that's right, a Marriott. I don't doubt that the protection and warning on the sprinkler head are the result of a certain favorite uncle's accident with a sprinkler, a hanger, and a fire alarm during the Slet in Fort Worth two years ago...

In the shower I made the mistake of reading the promotional text on the little Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner bottles that came with the room. Are you ready for this? The shampoo read,

"Go native with the lush lather and moisturizing goodness of Hawaiian Awapuhi. Brightens all hair types by removing dulling buildup. Color Safe."

::sigh:: The advertising major who dreamed that up must have slept through the distribution-requirement Anthro 101 s/he took in college. But it gets worse. The conditioner read, "Triumph over tangles with this super rich conditioner." That's right, once your hair has "gone native," you can force it into submission with your colonialist conditioner. Happy Columbus Day.