Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!!!

I turned in my last project last night and my professor actually had it graded and responded to me by 1 a.m.! I passed with flying colors!!

I must admit I feel a certain sense of... something missing...guilt...I must be forgetting something, some other assignment I was supposed to do. Am I really done!? Is that it!? It seems so anticlimactic. Oh well, I'm enjoying my freedom anyway.

I don't know that there is much more to say in this blog, since it is a blog all about my library school experience. So...stay tuned for an all new blog!! (Just what you wanted, I know =)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, I'm down to one assignment left!! I finished up my last Research Methods assignment on Sunday.

My last assignment is to "create an international NGO that addresses an important social issue of our time." I'm pretty excited about this assignment especially since I see it as a way to really bring together much of what I've learned in both Library classes and Development classes.

My original thought was to create some library organization in some country overseas, but I was a bit discouraged about coming up with some new innovative idea, what with how many innovate ideas are already out there. I mean, could I really, in a couple weeks time, come up with something more creative than libraries on camel-back or boat libraries or stuff like that?

So I've gone to the other side of my interest and am looking more locally. After some research in my Research Methods class I found out that there hasn't been a whole lot of research done on the information needs of the Spanish-speaking population in the US. If this hasn't been done for one of the largest minority populations here - just imagine all the others!

Let me back up and say more broadly that Information Behavior is the idea of how people look for information, what information they need, what they do with it, how they store it or retrieve it, how they share it, etc. The Information Needs of a 20-something versus an 80-something are quite different. It's the same with people living in cities versus in the country; or think about what information you need to get your job done versus what information the CEO of your company needs.
Information Needs are important for libraries to know so they can develop their collections and services in appropriate ways. If you're in a community that really wants to know about gardening and bee-keeping, you'll have a good selection of materials about that.

The problem with not knowing Information Needs is that you can't necessarily develop a really useful collection. That's why Collection Development often starts with assessing who is in your community.

Anyway, the organization I dreamed up is a sort of research/consulting thing where researchers help libraries find out who is in their community and what their needs are so they can develop collections and programs appropriately.

And right now I'm procrastinating, so...back to work...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My last week of school had been mostly unremarkable. The same somewhat-inane classes, boring discussions, the minute hand seemingly stuck in place - until tonight.

My Thursday night class never fails to deliver! What a perfect last class it was. We started out with class evaluations which took a few minutes.
Some of the students in class had decided it would be fun to thank our professor by buying him a goat through World Vision (which is where he works). Everyone was secretly passing money around so the whole class was in on it. Our teacher was really touched by the gift.
He had announced last week that tonight we would have treats and if anyone wanted to bring stuff we could. So there was a huge spread of sandwiches, chips and dips, muffins, cookies, veggies, bread and cheese. It was such a party atmosphere!

And then the guest speaker, Angela, began. She was a wonderful woman who works with World Vision on women's & children's issues. She's from England originally so has a great accent - and you all know how much I love accents! =)

She started out telling us her personal story, how she had been a successful actress in England and then moved to San Francisco without any real skills and no money. She managed to get a job as a receptionist of sorts at a job agency and in a number of years managed to rise up to be one of the most successful head-hunters in the US.

Then in 1990 she was flipping channels and came across the Barbara Walters special about the orphanages in Romania. She was watching these horrible images of children with disabilities living alone and virtually uncared for, naked and hungry, with no one ever touching them. And she suddenly knew without a shadow of a doubt what she needed to do with the rest of her life.

She described to us how she went to Romania to help the people, how she started a non-profit to take in funds, how she helped send money and resources to Romania, and how lives were improved and now all of this care is done in the country and the non-profit was ended.

She eventually went to work for World Vision. She talked about work she did in Bosnia when the war was going on. She told the story of a woman who had returned to her village with her husband and child to check on their father. Soon after they arrived the militia/army/whoever arrived. Without asking questions, they shot all the men in front of their wives and children. They burned down the houses (this woman's father was burned to death in the house). Then they took the women to a local school and made them prisoners there and raped them until they were almost all pregnant. I guess they wanted to start a new generation of a specific ethnicity. They kept the women there and tried to keep them from aborting. When this particular woman was 8 months pregnant, they kicked her out with nothing in the middle of winter. She had the baby and named him after her dead husband. But many women tried to abort. Some gave birth and put their babies in the icy river and let them float away. Some gave up their children for adoption.
The horrible things people did I just can't imagine or believe. So Angela goes into Bosnia to ask the widows what they need and how they can be supported - since they aren't talking to the men relief workers. She meets with some of the women and they ask for Prozac! Angela doesn't have any, but you know what she did bring for them? She says to us, you're in a war torn country, you're a widow, everything is wretched...what do you want? Angela brought a suitcase full of sexy underwear! It was so simple, but it made the women feel like women again.

Angela also worked on issues like female genital mutilation in Africa and a host of other things.

Relief work, transformational development, stuff like this - it is incredibly hard. It's hard just to hear what is going on! Someone in class asked her, what does she do to keep from going crazy? Because some people do - they can't take the stress and the horrific nature of what they see. They turn to alcohol, smoking, becoming emotionally cold and turned off, they have anger problems. So Angela shared what she does.
During the day when she's doing work she keeps her heart at 1 and her mind at 10. She's not cold or heartless, but she keeps her heart and emotions under control.
At night, she puts her mind at 0 and her heart at 10. She makes sure she has a room of her own so she can have alone time. She cries her eyes out and prays. And then, she pulls out a trashy romance novel!

Anyway, she went on for almost three hours about her experiences, what she'd learned, answering questions from us - all with humor and passion. She was an incredible speaker, very encouraging and uplifting. I laughed, I cried (okay, I almost did anyway).

What an incredible way to end my graduate school career.

Well, it's not quite over yet. I have two papers to finish, but by next Thursday I'll have turned it all in and I'll be done.

I'm not quite sure what to think. It seems somewhat anti-climactic - probably because graduation isn't till next summer! I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad when class was over. I know, I know. I've been counting down like a maniac, obviously I've been excited to get this over with! But, while there are a lot of things I won't miss about school, there are plenty of things I will miss.

I'll miss all my peers that are so intelligent and the incredible class discussions we sometimes have.
I'll miss that camaraderie around big projects and dumb homework.
I'll miss the passionate professors.

I was passing the time in a class recently and trying to write up a list of what made for a good prof and what made for a bad one. It hit me tonight finally - and it seems sort of obvious, and perhaps too simple - what makes a good professor is someone who is really passionate about what they're teaching! I can look back at some of my favorite classes and favorite teachers, and they were so good because the professor was passionate about the subject and that came through in their teaching.
I don't feel like I often meet fellow co-workers who are gung-ho passionate about their job. So I'll miss that a bit.

I could go on, but it's too late to keep putting sentences together. Don't worry though, I'm not quite done with this whole blog just yet! More to come...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Seven hours, 20 minutes left to go - not that I'm counting down or anything!! =)

I'm celebrating my birthday today, so hopefully I'll get around to writing something about school one last time this week.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Six days left. Heck, might as well get down to days at this point. 16 hours even! That's sort of misleading since it doesn't include finals week. I don't have finals of course, but I do have one paper due on Thursday of finals week so that means I really won't be done for 2 1/2 weeks (December 13th).

Almost all the assignments for my research class are due in the last couple weeks of school. Last week I turned in an interesting paper that proposed a research project to find out the information behavior of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the US. Today I turned in a quick assignment on analyzing statistical data. I have another one like that due, and an assignment on human subjects in research and ethics. Following that is an assignment about analyzing a research scenario or something.

I finished that paper for my Transformation class and am now just working on the final assignment. Holy cow. I have to create my own NGO. We're supposed to center our work around the Hedgehog Principle developed by Jim Collins. In a nutshell, it has three parts:

1. What are you deeply passionate about?
2. What can you do better than anyone else in the world?
3. What drives your resource engine? (i.e. money, time, other resources that keep you going)

Of course I'm trying to think of some library-related NGO to develop but I've hit a major wall. Yes, I'm passionate about libraries and all that. And I can even think of an assortment of ways to keep the resources flowing. I just don't know that I can come up with a better idea than some of the ones I've learned about. There are some incredible examples out there:

Probigua in Guatemala
Northern Territory Library in Australia
Rural Education and Development in Nepal
Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha in Bangladesh
Smart Cape Access Project in South Africa
BiblioRedes project in Chile
Blue Trunk Libraries throughout Africa and Southeast Asia
Camel Mobile Library Service in Kenya
Everyone's Reading in Africa initiative out of South Africa

There are more than this I'm sure. I don't know how to compete with such fantastic ideas. Of course, I could focus on some NGO based in the US. I kind of feel at a loss there too.

Perhaps I should sleep on it another night... =)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brief procrastinating break-time...

Okay, so I'm working on my third paper for my Thursday night class. I'm comparing, contrasting, and critiquing Muhamad Yunus' Banker to the Poor, Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom, and C.K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.

I've been slogging through Sen's book for a good week or two, and I do mean slogging. The guy is very intelligent and he makes some really good points, but I have two issues with his book that have become very distracting.

The first is his incessant habit of mentioning things he's already mentioned. Following are a few quotes from pages 217-218:

"...which I have already articulated in earlier chapters..."
"I have presented these issues already in the book..."
"...discussed in chapter 8."
"As was noted..."
"...cited earlier."
"...referred to earlier..."

All in two pages! He spends so much time going over things he's already gone over it's a wonder there is much content in the book. Okay, I'm being a bit cynical, but he did do this 13 times just in this one chapter. It's starting to wear on me.

Second, he has a tendency to use interjections. A lot. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of interjections - but within reason. Sen will write a sentence, for example, that makes immense use (such as this one), of interjections in commas, interjections in parentheses - not to mention interjections in dashes - as well as italicized words and "phrases" in quotes - but not because he's quoting someone (he's just making a comment - I guess - about the particular words in quotes (and yes, he'll even have an interjection within an interjection!)).

Sometimes I have no idea what he has said by the time I get to the end of a sentence. Perhaps I'm a moron. Who knows. But he did say in the beginning that he wanted this book to be more accessible and understandable to non-economists. That's why he put his other interjections, in the form of notes, at the end of the book. All 53 pages of them.

I've heard Prahalad is much more readable. Here's hoping.

Friday, November 09, 2007

4 weeks left. Sigh.

I have nothing much to report this week. I've been sick and only made it to one class this week! I shouldn't have gone to that one either, it was a bit of a time-waster. Oh well. I was really sad to miss my Thursday night class. It is the highlight of my week so now I feel like my life is incomplete!

On the upside, I did some calculations in my boring class and realized I only have 28 hours of classes left! It seems so short when I put it that way (sort of) - but it is spread over 4 weeks.

That light at the end of the tunnel has not changed size at all...

Monday, November 05, 2007

5 weeks left - wahoo!

Okay, the good news of the week is that I passed my portfolio! Yay! So, when classes wrap up at the end of the quarter, I'll be done! done! done!

It will be sort of anticlimactic. I don't think I'll get a diploma or any paperwork or anything. I just stop going to school. Graduation with all the pomp and everything is in mid-June. I'm thinking about walking then.

In the meantime, here is a link to my portfolio:


Friday, November 02, 2007

Warning: graphic images!

Just thought I'd share with you all the great pumpkins that Jeremy and I carved for Halloween:

(in the light)

(in the dark)

(after several weeks sitting inside)

(warning! this is gross!)

How's that for super scary? =)

Now, to impress you with my skills of the librarian...

Mold is bad! It can cause all sorts of health problems like asthma, coughing, rashes, memory impairment, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, mood swings, etc.

Here are a couple websites about the dangers of mold:

Mold Dangers & Remedies
Molds - The Hidden Danger
The Dangers of Mold in Homes
The Serious Dangers of Mold and Mildew in your House

I could go on. I'm not usually a fear-monger but we're pretty sure mold is what caused the virus that eventually led to my sister's heart problems/heart failure/brain damage. So if you have moldy pumpkins lying around - get rid of them! And carefully.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

6 weeks left now. I guess.

It never fails to happen every Thursday night. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes two, sometimes two and a half. At some point my eyes begin to glaze over. My ears glaze over, my brain glazes over – if that’s even possible. Not from boredom though, but too much information. I want to start thinking, processing, wondering, imagining, carrying thoughts on a little farther, tugging on things – but I can’t because more information is flowing in and it’s all so good! All I can do is take notes and try not to think or I’ll be totally lost.

Tonight for the first half of class we had a class debate. We had all (supposedly) read both The End of Poverty and The White Man’s Burden. Part of the class took the stance of Sachs and the other part took the stance of Easterly. Then there was an independent third group thrown in to ask us difficult questions.

I definitely started to glaze over during part of the proceedings. The issues of poverty are so immense and so difficult. So many people claim to have the answer or the way. Easterly’s argument is that there are two great tragedies regarding this issue. One is that there are millions in extreme poverty fighting to survive, dying of preventable diseases, etc. The other tragedy is that trillions of dollars of aid has been spent on poverty alleviation over the years, and there are STILL millions of people in extreme poverty fighting to survive, dying of preventable diseases.

Point after point is made about bottom-up solutions and top-down solutions, homegrown methods, multi-lateral organizations, where things fail, where things succeed, etc. There are so many examples.

Sometimes I stop and think about the futility of it all. Someone (a whole lot of someones actually) spent time and energy researching and writing this book. I bought the book. And I’m paying money to sit in a classroom once a week and debate and discuss and learn about issues of poverty and development. And every day thousands of people are dying. I’m reading books and writing papers and people are suffering and dying. The incredible disconnect between the horrible, crushing reality of poverty and the disconnected, distant study of poverty…amazes me. Of course I do think classes like this are important.

And then there is the whole debate format which is only encouraged by Easterly who refutes Sachs in every chapter. Why can’t we all work together? Why can’t we all get along? Why can’t the economists and development people stop bickering about whose theoretical framework is correct and instead look at the strengths of each and where each is definitely right and go from there. Yeah, I’m sometimes na├»ve and an idealist. But this wasn’t my first reaction when I read the books. The idea came up in class and it spoke to me. Why argue whether development should be top-down or bottom-up – aren’t both methods needed?

I can barely say more than that because I haven’t been able to process much. And then a guest speaker came, Bwalya, who is the World Vision country director for Zambia.

He talked a bit about his background and growing up. He grew up in the middle class in Africa and never experienced poverty. He said that some Africans who live in the upper classes, they don’t believe that there is poverty in Africa – until they see it. That surprised me.

He went on to talk about the first time he was involved in participatory appraisal. He was interpreting for another World Vision person, talking to a woman in a poor village. At one point, the other guy asked Bwalya to ask the woman what she dreamed about at night. Bwalya was surprised at the question. What does this have to do with anything? And then he thought perhaps that she would respond that she dreamed about having a good house or having running water or having good government, etc.

He asked her the question. She didn’t respond. He asked again, in another language. Still no response. He tried a third language, thinking there must be a language barrier but she didn’t respond. After a few moments of tense silence, she finally responded. She dreamed about playing.

She dreamed about time for herself, about having fun, about being human. She had never had a childhood.

Bwalya went on. The poor have a vision for themselves of what their life could look like, but because of such poverty and so many setbacks, they have to lock up their dreams because it is too painful to think of. It is too painful to hope in them because it is too unlikely that they will ever be realized.

Bwalya sees his work with World Vision as peeling back the layers of fear and helping people realize their dreams. This is human development. You have to help people feel safe enough to live out their dreams: this isn’t just the American dream, it’s the human dream. Good development allows you do to this: to realize your dreams, to have the resources for them, and for you to be safe in doing this. Good development helps you get to a place where it’s not too scary to think about your dreams, where thinking about your dreams isn’t painful.

More things…

- When you ask in a community what do the people need, and they respond, what do you do? You can’t be all things to the poor. You can’t provide everything. You can help with some things. The poor will have to do some things on their own. And other things no one can help with.

- When the poor know enough about power dynamics, when they feel empowered, they realize they can come together and make their own power play. But people have to get so upset, so angry about the situation they are in that they no longer have fear. When the poor decide they’ve had enough, they have options. When they decide they’re tired of dying, civil wars will stop

- When you’re working with the extremely poor, they have NOTHING to give you but themselves. They are risk-averse because every situation is life and death for them. We sometimes underestimate the cost of adopting some new idea or process in the eyes of the poor.

This barely scratches the surface I’m sure. The issues of poverty, diseases, government, aid, history of nations, corruption, and so forth are so complex and interwoven it’s not hard to feel a bit overwhelmed and powerless to do anything.

After all that, I guess I do feel overwhelmed, but not yet overwhelmed. =)

My research methods class is still a bit annoying but the group project (due Sunday!) is taking shape and I’m pretty excited about it. We’re looking at the information needs of Spanish-speaking immigrants and how different barriers affect their information behavior. Basically, libraries have not done a good job in general making libraries accessible to immigrants. Even where they have, there is often a cultural gap in understanding about libraries and reading. And not much research has been done on this, apparently because we’re talking about such an enormously diverse population. And yet, programs are designed and libraries try to reach out to the population. Are they designing appropriate programs based on actual needs? How often are these things evaluated?

The professor isn’t taking us much beyond the lit review which is unfortunate. But honestly we wouldn’t have time to research this in 10 weeks anyway.

Back to the books…

Thursday, October 18, 2007

7 weeks left...still? Hasn't it been any longer?

Well, anyway, the portfolio process is on its way I'm happy to report! My advisor sent in his approval on Monday and the portfolio has been passed on to a second, unknown, reader.

I think I'll find out in another week or two what that person says.

Classes this week...interesting. Too tired to say more, hopefully I'll get to it this weekend before next week starts and fills up my brain again. =)

Friday, October 12, 2007

8 weeks left... I thought it was less.

I've been telling myself I had 7 weeks left so that's a bummer. Well, school is all kinds of crazy right now. I'm even having dreams about it.

I turned in my portfolio a week and a half ago and have heard nothing from my advisor. I had to hang out in the hallways at school until he came walking by just so I could ask if he'd actually gotten the email I sent with the link to my portfolio (even though I specifically asked him to let me know he'd gotten the email). Grr.

Since then I've email, called, and gone to his office. He hasn't acknowledged emails, answered calls or returned, or ever been in his office. Argh.

He has to sign off that he approves of my portfolio (so I can GRADUATE) by this coming Monday at 5:00. If he doesn't approve it and wants me to make changes, there isn't much time left for that! So I'm rather on edge here.

The other night I had a string of dreadful dreams. One of them involved having to catch a ferry to work. The ferry was right there, 20 feet away, I could see it. But I had to buy a ticket first. The ticket agent was slow and rung up the wrong thing and then had to do it over. He finally got me the ticket but by then the ferry had left.
The same night I had a dream that I was in Guatemala in the middle of nowhere and I was due to fly out of there. I didn't know what time my flight was but I knew there was only one flight on that day. I looked up the information and found out it left at 4:00. I thought this was perfect because it was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. But then the people with me explained that we were 4 hours away from the airport and we'd never make it on time. I missed my only chance out of there!
Okay, so the truth is there were other ferries leaving later in the first dream (though I would be late to work) and there were flights leaving the next day in the second dream. But I'm sure you can all understand the frustration of just missing that departure.
I'm sure everything is fine and my advisor will approve the portfolio with no requested revisions. But until I find out I'm just trying not to stress too much!

Otherwise this has been...another week.

I helped lead my Wednesday class, Computing and the Developing World, with another professor from my school. He talked about participatory design, its background and definition and origins, etc. Then I talked about participatory design in developing countries, some specific examples and some challenges. Then we facilitated a discussion on the topic. It was pretty laid back and interesting.

My research methods class, I'm sorry to say, is a bit inane. I'm a little disappointed.

My Tools for Transformation class is always good. I've got a paper due this weekend that compares three contemporary social entrepreneurs. The first is Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. (I think I mentioned elsewhere that you should all go out and read his book Banker to the Poor.) The second one I'm looking at is Rigoberto Zamora who founded Probigua in Guatemala. The third is Beulah Thumbadoo "who has made it her life's work to get South Africa to read."

I've already finished Banker to the Poor (and started on the paper), and now I'm onto The White Man's Burden (a fascinating book), which I'll eventually be comparing with The End of Poverty.

It's weird to admit, but this development stuff lights my fire a bit more than the library stuff.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Okay guys, I gotta brain dump.

I'm taking this class called Tools for Transformation taught by a practitioner in the field who works with World Vision. So our first class he has us start brainstorming what are the primary threats to life on earth...

global warming and pollution
homogenization of biosphere / lack of diversity
resource distribution
terrorism and wars
AIDS and other diseases
corruption and crime
lack of cooperation between countries
violence against women
limited access to information and technology
national debt
lack of access to the basics of life like food and water
peak oil crisis
extreme poverty
waste disposal
wealth gap
species extinction
ozone depletion
loss of top soil
and on and on!

The experts in the field say that if we fail to address these problems it will result in societal collapse or violence. There are a whole range of reasons for why governments and others don't respond to these (which I won't list).

We did start making lists of what are critical success factors that will help development people and others overcome these problems:

farsighted planning
clear goals and targets
education / knowledge / awareness
evaluation and measurement
cross-cultural awareness and understanding
knowledge of history (failures & successes)
social networks
guts & brains
technical knowledge

This was the class brainstorm. We also heard about what several different authors had to say:

  • different kinds of capital (human, resource, etc)
  • capital, labor, land, ingenuity
  • Uphoff: ideas, ideals, friendship
  • Landes: literacy, time consciousness, optimism
  • Inglehart: need a value system that emphasizes rule of law and tolerance of expression
  • de Soto: the ability to obtain title to a non-fixed asset
The second half of that list was from tonight. After finishing that discussion, we moved on to defining poverty. Your assumptions about poverty and its causes and impacts determine your responses. So it is important to know what your assumptions are. The class worked to define poverty as follows:

lack of basics: food, shelter, water, education
lack of access to markets, capital, finances, education, etc
poverty as identity, an inherited characteristic
poverty is relative
defined by society
disenfranchised / social isolation / being 'untouchable'
psychological blocks, limiting oneself, lack of options
lack of risk taking
lack of opportunity
having less than the cultural standard as far as resources, mental health, relationships, etc
lack of a social safety net

The discussion kind of broke down somewhere in there as we realized we all had such different experiences with what poverty is and how we define it. And realizing there is a different between relative poverty and absolute poverty - seeing yourself as poor versus really having absolutely nothing.

Our professor shared the idea of scarcity mentality versus abundance mentality. People can have the same amount but some have a mindset of scarcity and lack, while others in the same position have a mentality of abundance.

After this we watched a video called Guns, Germs, and Steel about the research of Jared Diamond who was trying to figure out just how the world became so unequal. He posits that 13,000 years ago we were all at the same place, but then things changed and certain parts of the world started advancing technologically.
His very simplistic answer for why comes down to geography.

People over in the fertile crescent area started farming wheat and barley which was very hardy and nutritious food. In places like Papau New Guinea they've been farming for thousands of years too, but they're growing things like tarot and banana which is much more difficult to grow and not quite as nutritious.

People in the fertile crescent area were able to domesticate animals so they left the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They also began to use these animals for muscle power. Suddenly they could make a lot more food for themselves, coupled with the new technology of being able to store food. This freed up other people to specialize in other things. So they began to invent new technologies. People in places like Papau New Guinea had no animals they could get to pull a plow. All work is still done by human muscle power. Everyone has to work at this so there is no specialization and no one is able to go off and invent other things.

Diamond argues this comes down to geography because wheat and barley were grown in Eurasia, North America, etc and this is also where many domesticated animals came from. Some parts of the world didn't have barley and wheat and they didn't have these animals that were easily domesticated. (I'm oversimplifying the video, sorry!)

So there was a huge class discussion after this about how Diamond defined poverty, if he was really talking about poverty or about development, the value statements he made about 'us' and 'them,' his assumption that it was better to be developed in the way Westerners are, and so on.

In the midst of all this we're all reading Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunnus which is absolutely fascinating. Yunnus founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and has helped lift thousands and thousands (or millions?) of people out of poverty through micro-credit loans. I'll stop writing this post so you can go out and get a copy of the book right now and read it. =)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Holy cow guys!!

Okay, you might all be wondering where I've been for the last several months. I've been up to lots of things - traveling in Guatemala for six weeks, getting married, that sort of thing. The other big thing, at least in regards to this blog, is that I've been working on my portfolio.

The portfolio is the graduation requirement for school. It is a narrative, if you will, of my experiences, projects, the things I've learned, etc, while in school. If I pass - I get to graduate in December!!

That's right, I've got 9 1/2 glorious weeks of school left. And I'm sure they'll be interesting. I've got Research Methods, Tools for Transformation, and Computing and the Developing World. Those could use more explanation but I'll have to fill you in later.

The important thing is that I just turned in my portfolio! My advisor has some time now to decide if he likes it or not and if he approves it, it goes to a second mysterious reader in a week and a half. If they approve - holy cow! I'll get to graduate! So say a prayer. And, if everyone approves of it, I'll pass around the link. =)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

There is a cute 4 year old girl that lives in my house. Today she announced: "I'm rich because I have lots of books!"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm back to this sort of reading again, you know: reading about things like:

global analysis, global neorealist perspectives, metatheoretical styles, reductionist rationalism, false consciousness, international relations theory, neoliberal institutionalism, scholars of a postconstructuralist or neo-Grotian bent, epistemological and methodological polemics, transnational social movements, rational voluntaristic authority, dialectical and internally contradictory character of overarching cultural frameworks, conflictual differentiation, cognitive ontology, Durkheimian social facts, dialectical processes of world-polity development, Tocquevillean world, existential assumptions, universalism, plebiscitarian world polity, and the penetrative capacity of global processes.

Judging from the photo below, you can see the reading is enthralling and I've had no problem staying conscious...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wow, more interesting stuff today. In my Management of Information Organizations class (or whatever it's called), we focused on ethics. Heady stuff. What are ethics? Why are they important? What is the difference between ethics and morals? Between ethics and law? We discussed 5 streams of ethics, including deontolgical, utilitarian, social contract, rights-based, and virtue.

We also did an interesting exercise. We were handed a long list of values. Take a look at this list, then cross off 10 that don't really describe you/ don't describe you all the time/ aren't that important to you/ ones you can live without.

Fairness Flexibility Experimentation
Initiative Cautiousness Cooperation
Innovation Quality Independence
Hierarchy Diversity Broad-mindedness
Democracy Courtesy Change
Autonomy Humor Forgiveness
Formality Cost- Conformity
Control consciousness Customer service
Individuality Creativity Respect for the individual
Obedience Openness Teamwork
Honesty Adaptability Changing the status quo
Merit Community Consideration
Accountability Aggressiveness Logic
Development Diligence Social equality
Integrity Orderliness Loyalty
Self-discipline Courage Professionalism
Compassion Transparency Politeness
Precision Revenge Accuracy

Think about yourself and be honest - cross off another 10.
Have you done that?
Now cross off another 10.
This is probably getting difficult and hard to cross things off. But you have to cross off 10 more. You should be left with 4 values.

Do these reflect who you are the most? Are these indeed the most important values to you - the ones you can't live without?
These values probably have a price though. Would you even be willing to give these up in certain situations? What situations? What is the price of these values?

For the record, I was left with integrity, compassion, humor, and adaptability.

I'm still not sure about those - I've been going back and forth all day. Do those really describe me the most? Are those the most important values to me? Are they important but not really the ones I ascribe to all the time, merely what I hope to? Or do they describe me quite well? I'm sure the resulting list also depends on what mood you're in and all those things.

Well, I'm off to read some particularly exciting stuff on globalization. =)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I've started this post over several times - but now I'm glad I waited till after my class. I just returned from my class on Cross Cultural Communication. During the class today and during my preparation reading for it, I had several 'aha' moments that I'm still thinking about. I can't believe how much is being packed into this little 1 credit class!

So first, today I was reading a long chapter by Milton Bennett called Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. Bennett's model includes two major stages: the ethnocentric stages and the ethnorelative stages. Within the ethnocentric stages are Denial (isolation & separation), Defense (Denigration, Superiority, & Reversal), and Minimization (Physical Universalism & Transcendant Universalism). The ethnorelative stages are Acceptance (respect for behavioral difference & respect for value difference), Adaptation (empathy & pluralism), and Integration (contextual evaluation & constructive marginality).

It was interesting, I'll be honest, as I was reading through the section on ethnocentrism to see myself a little bit. Specifically, I know there have been times in the past when I probably had a sense of cultural superiority. I think it was innocent, and definitely before I had travelled! And I've also seen instances of Reversal - when a person turns around and thinks all other cultures are good and his/her own is bad.

But then I read the following paragraph:

"In a kind of abstract parallel to the concrete behavioral assumptions of physical universalism, transcendant universalism suggests that all human beings, whether they know it or not, are products of some single transcendent principle, law, or imperative. The obvious example of this view is any religion which holds that all people are creations of a particular supernatural entity or force. The statement, "We are all God's children," is indicative of this religious form of universalism, particularly when the "children" include people who don't subscribe to the same god."

I have been in a bit of shock most of the day after reading this, trying to grapple with it. I am a person of faith and grew up with that particular phrase. I never thought of that as indicative of ethnocentric behavior. On the one hand, it makes sense. Other people, other cultures, have different religions, different realities, different truths. But on the other hand... - I grew up a person of faith and that's where I'm at. I'm not sure what else to say here, though there are a lot of thoughts swirling around. I'm curious what response there is from all of you?

With that fresh in my mind I went off to class. One of the first things the professor did was attempt to give us a crash course in speaking Arabic! She spoke only in Arabic, with lots of gestures and pointing and trying to get us to understand and repeat words and phrases and learn. It was overwhelming. I felt lost, confused, a bit dumb - as did most of us in the class. If only these things were written down! I thought, then I could say them more easily.

As we were discussing the experience that idea came up. But then the professor related that to some of our reading about the Hmong who, until recently, were a pre-literate group. They had no written alphabet and no concept of reading and understanding those symbols. If a person isn't able to read, if they're illiterate, they can't use that extra assistance for learning. They can't write things down or take notes or see something visually.

And the realizations and connections kept rolling on. I did that huge project in one class last quarter about the literacy rates and education in Guatemala. I suddenly had a better understanding of what that meant. I especially remembered that literacy is defined differently in different places. In some areas, being literate is being able to write your name - and that's it!
It made me think of experiences on the bus, when someone is trying to get to a particular address. They know enough English to say the address or place they want to go. If the driver doesn't know where that is the person is in trouble. Sometimes I think the drivers don't realize that was all the English that person might have known. I can see the complete look of confusion as the driver goes off about other streets, other routes to take, where to find those routes, etc. And of course the person doesn't understand and asks the same question again. The communication breakdown is amazing.

Of course I keep thinking of this because of my approaching trip to Guatemala. When I went briefly last year I thought I knew enough Spanish to get along...but I had another thing coming! I was the person standing there, trying to figure out what was going on, realizing I had a very small vocabulary and I could not communicate. It's a scary and overwhelming place to be. And I'm taking myself back there in about 9 weeks!

I should sign off for now and go on to my readings for tomorrow, on business ethics. Oh joy!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How reading is.

I'm in the midst of reading for my last required International Development class. This class is Managing Policy in a Global Context. It has more of a macro view than some of the other classes I've taken in the program. The reading is pretty intense. In preparation for tomorrow's class I've been reading a series of articles and reports that touch on the following topics:

the Westphalian conception of sovereignty, international law, International Convention on the Protection of Civil and Political Rights, the Helsinki Convention, global governance, multilateral cooperation among states, democratic theory, nation states, IGOs, NGOs, GANs, UN, BIS, the IMF, the World Bank, WTO, NATO, globalization, globalism, human rights norms, transgovernmental networks, transnational networks, International Organization of Securities Regulators, liberalism, Agenda 21, Bretton Woods institutions, USAID, embedded autonomy, neo-utilitarian theories, nation-state failure, human security, authoritarianism, neo-liberalism, Sicilian politics, populist politics, Stackelberg leaders and followers, constitutional political economy, infant industry protection, theory of bureaucracy, the Official Secrets Act of 1923, the Washington Consensus, mainstream economics, macroeconomic volatility, and asymmetries in market access, just to name a few.

As I'm reading these articles I'm supposed to think about and answer a few questions:
1. How is governance different from government?
2. What are my notions of good governance?
3. What is the range of different kinds of nation-states and how does this affect human security and development?
4. What is my notion of democracy and how does this relate to human security and development?
5. What is the difference between institutions and organizations?

It's interesting stuff, but I haven't quite wrapped my head around all of it yet...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

10 weeks of the quarter

Hey readers,

I know, I know – it has been way too long! And it’s too bad I haven’t written because this has been a really fascinating quarter. It all ends tomorrow though. Thank goodness!!

My classes this time around were Cultural Competency in Public Healthcare (absolutely amazing, phenomenal, the best!), Economics of International Development (interesting…economics, what more needs to be said?), and another International Development Seminar (with a couple super fascinating classes).

It has been a very difficult quarter in school and out of school. After all the things piling up, I started thinking of it as “the 10 weeks of this quarter,” though I’m just not creative enough to actually write good witty lyrics. And besides, I have to talk about the good things that happened to keep it all in perspective. So, without further adieu…

For the first two weeks of my quarter: I went to class a day early, and was otherwise late for class, way early for class, or went to the wrong room, for every class!
On the good side, I enjoyed celebrating New Year’s with my boyfriend finally in town.

For the third week of my quarter: my 26-year-old sister had a heart attack/seizures/brain damage, etc, etc. I spent half of this week in Portland with my family and things were very difficult and uncertain there for awhile.
On the good side, my friends O&J had their baby boy safe and sound and he’s a real cutie!

For the fourth week of my quarter: I came back from Portland in time for a group presentation with people I’d never met before; I worked hard all week on an annotated bibliography assignment then found out it wasn’t due till the following week; then I went down to be with my family again.
On the good side, uh… I think I did some yoga this week, which was good.

For the fifth week of my quarter: I turned in a book report and was expecting to do a presentation, only to be bumped to the next week; I finished the bibliography project but in class came to the conclusion that I had done it completely wrong and there was no time to fix it. I was a bit devastated.
On the good side, I took my little brother to dinner for his birthday and also had a lovely dinner with some friends

For the sixth week of my quarter: Prepared for the book report presentation and it is pushed off again; I was in the throes of preparing for a huge group presentation the following week; and I had yet another school committee meeting where no one showed up but me and the other co-leader.
On the good side, I went to a fun Super Bowl party, did my taxes, had another nice dinner with some friends, had a great chat with one of my professors, then found out I aced my bibliography assignment!

For the seventh week of my quarter: I think I might have finally given that book report; finally had that giant group presentation that we’ve been working on for…12 weeks or so; and then getting the run-around with registration but finally managing to get most classes I wanted.
On the good side, had a great chat with a Quaker on the east coast, our presentation went well, and I had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

For the eighth week of my quarter: I began work on a huge assignment due for one class which sucked up a ton of time and energy; this same week, after weeks of trying, I realized that I had ended up without a group in another class and would now have to do the humongous group project and presentation by myself – joy; and then my computer died (fan isn’t working, so it gets too hot and shuts down).
On the good side, I prayed for my computer and it revived! It’s still hanging in there till I get it into the shop, but it managed to make the last three weeks of the quarter without being too ornery. I got to go see the Shins, go to a baby shower for a good friend of mine, and had an amazing class session with a Quileute Indian elder. It was amazing.

For the ninth week of my quarter: I finally had a chance to begin work on the huge “group” project; then I got a letter from the landlords saying that the time has come and we all have to move out. I’m not joking.
On the good side… had a great iworld meeting learning about public libraries in India; went to FWCC which was good and while there got to have dinner and talk with my family (of course the best of al is that my sister seems to be doing great!).

For the tenth week of my quarter: I got the “group” project done in time and presented it and all went well! I got the final assignment for my other class done and just turned it in! My computer is still working! There was a great multi-Quaker/YAF dinner with plans to visit each other’s meetings! I think that’s all good.

If you’re tired reading through all that, just imagine how tired and overwhelmed I feel! One day left…what could possibly happen??

Saturday, February 10, 2007

hee hee, good old librarian humor...

The Book