26 September 2006

Welcome to the World

Friends,

Today is a great day. Our dearest Ana and Eudald’s twins were born at 1.54AM and 1.55AM respectively. Everything went well, and even if Ana is now resting (and still not able to receive visits), she has behaved as the strong woman we all know she is. In sum, she has been great. Eudald has been also amazing, and you guys cannot imagine how well he was handling the kids –as if he had been a father in another life already!-

I just want to send my best wishes to these wonderful kids (they are already a couple of cuties, on their first day…what to say!!!). Ana and Eudald will be the most amazing parents,…these kids will have all the love that anyone could desire. They are and will be lucky people!!

Welcome to the world. With all our love…

25 September 2006

The art of writing pirate proposals

Commander Steele has requested that I start contributing to the political pirates blog. I have found this quite difficult in general, as I am not currently in the field, but rather am currently quite occupied with the process of applyiing for grants to return to the field. However, it seems like this is as good of a source of material as any.

So, the fulbright grant (not the Hays, but the plain old vanilla Fulbright) requires that you submit a curriculum vitae in addition to a project proposal. By this, they don't mean a standard academic resume, but rather "a narrative that describes your intellectual development as an individual" blah blah blah. Here is my "intellectual biography" as it stands. I would happily accept comments and suggestions.

The central characteristics of my intellectual development as a pirate have been a deeply ingrained desire to know more about the world around me and a commitment to looting and burning that world. While I was growing up, my parents were more than happy to foster and support this desire to explore and rapaciously exploit the world, in a large part because both of them had been unable to become pirates themselves. Much as men who have failed at an aspiration to become professional athletes are determined to have their sons fulfill that dream, my parents were deeply committed to having me live a life of adventure on the high seas. At all points, my parents were always willing to support my piratical activities even in spite of my family’s modest financial means. When I was just a wee lad, they saved a substantial amount of money to allow me to spend a month as a deck-boy on a galleon on the Spanish Main. This experience helped to instill in me a desire to voyage broadly in order to gain exposure to as many different cultures and societies as possible and steal their dubloons.

Another important step in my piratical development that occurred at that same time in my life was the birth of my interest in swordplay. When I was admitted to college, I was convinced that I was well on the way to realizing my dream of becoming a musketeer, stunt-man, or even an Olympic-class fencer. However, after only a short time at university, my strong desire to pillage began to get the best of me. In particular, I was captivated by my courses on comparative piracy and nautical theory. Over the course of my education, I came to believe that in order to pillage more effectively, we need a better understanding of the micromotives of both pirates and their victims. This led me to work as a first mate for numerous pirates, and made pursuing a PhD in piracy a natural choice upon graduation. However, throughout the past two years of my graduate training, I have become convinced that I don’t want to become the kind of pirate that sits in a ship every day, simply plundering boat after boat. Rather, I want to test my training in social and nautical analysis in the field, working to solve concrete problems faced by pirate crews.

Given my natural curiosity and my deep commitment to using that inquisitiveness to enrich myself and me mateys, I see the project that I am proposing here as central to my personal and career goals. By living and working as a pirate in the Spanish Main for a year, I will be able to take the next step in my lifelong quest to understand and ultimately conquer the world.

22 September 2006

new find....

friens --
i have a new obsession that i thought i'd share...slate's daily wrap-up of the national headlines. for example...with google news (where you can select topic areas to be updated on when you personalize the page) and the guardian, this is great for a sense of what's making the print news.

plus, podcasts have also changed living abroad for me, because i can hear the npr shuffle everyday and not miss the radio quite so much. project runway is even updated! if only meet the press downloaded better, i'd be set...

21 September 2006

the contacts challenge

so yesterday i eagerly went to meet a US army major who was supposed to be in charge of civil affairs. but when i finally caught up with him, i also ran into my first fieldwork snag (which i could envision recounting to a seminar of grad students one day...). turns out that the colonel who put me in touch with him mistook "dissertation" for "demobilization." (honestly.) and so i met with this recently-retired army dude who's a consultant to the Colombian gov't on their individual demobilization program -- paid for by the US embassy here. basically, he was in "psy-ops" (which sounds menacing but he told me basically means "marketing" -- no joke), and now he crafts campaigns to entice FARC and ELN members to desert (now that the paramilitaries have been collectively demobilized -- more or less -- they don't deal with them). the effort starts with focus groups (for which there is no term yet in spanish, so it sounds pretty funny) among current ex-FARC and ex-ELN, so they can more effectively target their "communication campaigns." this is all well and interesting, obviously, but he was under the impression that i study the DDR programs here, and introduced me as such to the lawyer and communications director in their little office before i realized what was happening. oops! i tried to roll with it, without misleading them or faking a dissertation on DDR. this involved some awkward moments in which these two women explained to me the differences between the paras and guerrillas and the history of the conflict. ouch. then they took me to lunch, and that was about it. since then i've written back to the actual civil affairs colonel, and now he says he'll be in touch. hmm. in any case, maybe the major can let me interview some ex-combatants someday.

colonel barry, though, is keeping up his support services -- he's already called me and put a care package in the mail with the atlantic and harper's, and bagels (!).

in stark contrast to the army contacts, the UN friends insist on only meeting at a bar called "bogota beer company" (seriously) and filling me with admittedly decent microbrews until wee hours of the morning. i get maybe one or two helpful tidbits in exchange for approx 5 hours of socializing. OCHA is the UN agency for coordinating humanitarian relief, and they're way into GIS, so it's worth increasing the tolerance level i guess. fieldwork can be rough. ;)

19 September 2006

yarrrr

today be talk like a pirate day!

07 September 2006

Speaking of getting a visa...

Ror some reason everything I type is underlined, and I can't seem to make the underlining stop. So if you care enough to read this you'll just have to put up with the extra flair. MAYBE I SHOULD TYPE IN ALL CAPITALS AND BOLD AND ITALICS too.

Thanks, Ryan, for getting this started. I'll be interested to hear how things go for others scattered around the globe. I'm writing from Indonesia, where Jennifer, Sofia and I have been for a bit more than a month. Well, we haven't actually been here the whole month, because we encountered some visa issues as well. Bonehead that I am, I didn't bother to figure any of the visa issues out before leaving the states, so when we got here we just paid our $25 per person for a 30 day tourist visa. I was under the impression that the organization that brought me here (just to avoid any potential confidentiality issues, I won't share the name with the whole world, but many of you may already know) would take care of the rest. As it turns out, I was wrong. In the middle of the first week of my two week crash course in Indonesian language school, I get a message from the admin people saying, in effect, "When you have a chance, let us know what your plans are for getting a visa." I guess I should be grateful for getting the message at all, but given that I was an hour flight away from Jennifer and Sofia in Jakarta, that the email arrived the day before a 5-day weekend for most of the country, and the fact that I had at that point learned about three words, I was actually a bit irritated.

The short story is that I had to track down a travel agent and make arrangements to fly back to Jakarta to pick up Jennifer and Sofia, then for all of us to fly to Singapore for two days, then back to Jogjakarta for language school, and finally back to Jakarta after I had completed the 10 days of class. And that doesn't even account for the $300-odd I had to pay a "fixer" in Singapore to deal with the paperwork. It was nice to go to Singapore, but it would have been much simpler if I had paid attention to the issue in advance.

Perhaps on another occasion I'll write something about the research, but for now I'll just leave with a note about traveling for research with family. So far, the experience for us has been fantastic, though Jennifer and I are getting a little worried that Sofia will struggle to adapt back to the US. Around here, she is like a little rock star. When we were in Jogjakarta we went to Borobudur, which is a big Buddhist temple about an hour outside the city (and apparently one of the official wonders of the world). A conservative estimate would be that 15 different people asked if they could have their photo taken with her. They wanted to hold her, kiss her, pinch her cheeks - the whole nine yards. You're in another culture and don't want to offend people, not to mention the fact that you standing there trying to achieve Nirvana - well, it can be a bit difficult to tell people they can't give your baby a kiss.

So other than the potential for a child who comes to believe the whole world should treat her like a celebrity, it is great to be seeing and doing new things while still having the ones you care about most nearby. While the issue doesn't apply to everyone, I though some of you might find it interesting.

Anyone else have news?

03 September 2006

settling in...

so i'm in bogotá, and so far, so good. but seriously, logistics are a huge pain and i'm sure i haven't allotted enough time to really deal with everything. at least a week, even with the Fulbright Commission handling all the difficult stuff for me. colombians *love* paperwork. and fingerprinting. and blood tests! yep, that's on the agenda for tomorrow: apparently the agency equivalent to the fbi in the states (the DAS) wants to know my blood type. with an in-country test (i don't know it anyhow). so once i get the visa (fingers crossed), i still have to get a foreigner's id card. and they ask for the number everywhere -- even when i filled out a form to get a 'super cliente' card at the grocery store (had to -- wines were 25% off with the card).

the only thing so far that i've forgotten and identified is my camera's usb cable -- otherwise i'd be uploading photos from my beautiful view right now. nope, grabbed the wrong one. i'll have to work on correcting that problem; too bad i haven't the slightest idea where i left the correct cable. oops.

ok so this is post number 1 for me. hopefully all the rest of you will be joining in shortly! i want updates on teaching and fieldwork and law school. thankssss.

a