Archive for January, 2010


Last night, after some well-earned feasting and fancy dress, our way home took us through the club/theatre section of a nearby city.  We’d seen some drama on the dance floor where we’d been, but there was just so much blog fodder on the drive [some of it flinging itself into the street and giggling]….

The club scene was rarely my scene (though there are particular nights at Xenon’s in NYC and Jody’s in Liverpool that I remember very fondly).  But there’s something charming about watching people teeter about on spike heels while trying to run towards a cab, or back to their friends, proclaiming that a cab has been found: as one young woman waves her hand rhinestones flare on otherwise invisible clutch bags, out of the darkness swarm six or seven other women, and they rush to the cab, then around it as they try and work out who is going to sit where, and OMG are we all going to fit?  Shadows coalesce into origami octopi with way too many limbs….

…and just as they get the doors closed, the driver gets out of the cab and walks over to an ATM.

The light changes and we swerve away.

At another light, two women, who would ordinarily be of the same height and build are crossing the street.  One has on incredibly high heels, tight black sequined pants, a short jacket and bustier [surely there’s a better way to spell that?]; her hair has been painstakingly styled, her makeup flawless.  She clicks across the pavement, chk-chk chk-chk! The second woman, walks along side with a rolling gait, one long step to the first woman’s every two, but has no trouble keeping their arms linked.  This one wears workboots, jeans, and a loose coat.  Her hair is braided and long, but probably nothing different from her everyday style.  Oh, but they were out on the town last night and I hope they had a wonderful time.

As for us, dancing shoes that fit better and a setting without so much reverb would be nice.

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I’ve been interested in the immunosuppressant fingolimod for years [because it looks like one of the cases where “ancient Chinese medicine” might actually help solve some modern problems]. But it looks as if there’s a slight increased risk of death from herpes zoster [shingles/chickenpox] with longterm use.

Skeletal structure of Fingolimod courtesy of WikiMedia

Has shingles ever been seen as a risk factor for multiple sclerosis?  Could an overreaction to a herpes infection be a risk factor for MS, the way that there might be some connection between inflammation from oral infections and heart disease?

Edited to add: Well, yes, there seem to have been connections made for quite some time.

In 1969

In 1998

In 2009

And one dissenting voice in 2009 (there may well be others; I did not do an exhaustive search here!)

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This site takes me back to morning classes in grad school, watching Brynleo simultaneously lecture and rescue a moth off his pantsleg and set it free out the window:

Ed Laboureaux’s Rhetorical Resources

How does it all play in Peoria, Ed?

Also:  Hate Blackboard.  Hates it hates it hates it…

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It is one of the simultaneous curses and amusements about student evaluations that handwriting is memorable.  So it’s not terribly hard to recall the students who, say, sat silent through much of the semester and then complain that I lectured too much.  Or the one who declared at the beginning of the course that he expected the class to provide an easier route to a higher GPA than a more traditonal distribution requirement, and was disappointed to discover it was not, by a long shot: taking simple quizes would have been preferable to difficult readings and having to think in public.  Or the fine citizen who had nothing to say each time I asked the class if they were getting what they needed from a particular evening’s discussion — was there something they wanted covered in addition, or did they want to suggest a new angle to pursue? — and then kvetched at great length about how I brought up “random” topics and didn’t have a set goal for every class session.

I’m not the ideal teacher for every student. I know that every time I walk into a classroom.  Still, the majority of my evals are great, and there are students whose comments result in useful changes to my syllabi: for them I’m grateful.  Another good moment:  as I marched out of Commencement a while back, one of my former students called out to say hello, waving her very-well-earned Honors diploma.

But I’m still not sure what to make of comments that suggest books of philosophy can go stale.  It was pretty clear from student performance that all the concepts were blazingly brand spanking new to them.

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There are things in the world that I know to be dangerous and perhaps inevitable. Earthquakes in Central America, for instance. I know about those, and my prayers are with the people of Haiti and anyone trying to help them right now.

But there are plenty of other things that I don’t spend much mental time fretting about….for instance, “How fast does sewage travel in London?”

Yet now I know, thanks to Lord West’s testimony about how the 2012 Olympic site in London is being protected from all manner of electronic or physical disaster:

“He was quizzed about what had been done to protect the 2012 Olympics site in Stratford, East London.

“There has been a lot physical work to ensure, for example, overhead power lines and everything now go underground,” he told the Lords EU sub-committee.

“Things like the sewage system – that has been adjusted and we have protection in place for that because all of North London’s sewage suddenly shooting on to the Olympics site – it travels at about 40 miles an hour down three pipes, each of which is a 12 inch bore, would be quite exciting I think, and those aspects are being looked at as well.”

Ooh, thank you BBC, for that incredible image, and thank you Lord West, for expanding the definition of “exciting” beyond rational repair.

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I rather like the “Know Your Meme” series.  I could imagine assigning students to come up with interesting presentations of campus memes or think of ways to explain current memes to family members who currently don’t understand them:

Om Nom Nom!

Regretfully, I think my original Cookie Monster puppet [which had a slit in the back of the mouth fabric so you could slip in small cardboard cookies] died from too much love and [just possibly] too many actual thumbprint cookies.

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The year ended with a bit of a crunch, a midnight toast with friends and a grateful restaurant staff, and the splash of surf on a wrecked beach. 

Winter holds us in its grip —
I will take you
In a ship
To some place warm
Sweet newborn:
I am History’s Lady
My December baby.
No harm tonight
So charmed
No harm tonight
So charmed.”
— “Mary’s Carol”, composed by Carol Ann Duffy and Sasha Johnson Manning

The chorus for the lower voices on this one is especially nice, and it all ends on a lovely D# chord.  If I could get my throat in condition to sing it nicely, maybe I’d let myself sing in public again.

On to Epiphany!

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For an explanation, go visit Cabbages and Kings….

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I know, I know: that’s supposed to be March, not January. But that is what we’ve got: 40-50mph winds out of the northwest, scouring December out of our bones, and gleefully highlighting every deficiency in the envelope of our house. Brr!

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