"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

4.30.2008

for your reading entertainment

I have really been loving One Sentence. It's all true stories, told succinctly.

merciful Jesus

The good news: I get a T.A. in summer school.

The bad news: The class is at 8:30. A.M. Every day. For five weeks.

But I get a T.A. And that is really good news.

Happy 75th, Willie!

Still my all-time favorite:

4.29.2008

boo-yah!

Do the Bad Historian and I know how to pick a night for a baseball game or what? A perfect 75 degrees AND a no-hitter - what fun!

sorry about that

Note to self: never blog while on hold waiting to talk to the 7th (SEVENTH!) bureaucrat of the afternoon concerning an as-yet-to-be-resolved issue.

unbelievable

I love Texas, but right now I HATE her bureaucracy. In particular, I am furious with the Department of Transportation and you'd better believe that TXTAG will not be getting any future business from me. This is ludicrous.

"it may never get there again"

Well, who'd've thought that the Congo would be the headline on last night's Daily Show? It does, of course, have to do with that rather delicate matter we discussed here last week.

(Seriously, the video is wildly inappropriate, but there is an hilarious graphic.)

4.28.2008

"...and some flare out with love, love, love"

I love, love, love this song:

let the crazy out

CLEARLY the Librarian and I should be going to Eeyore's Birthday Party for our semi-annual dose of fashion inspiration. This makes ACL look like Madison Avenue.

a little monday music

So I've gone back and forth for the last six weeks or so as to whether or not I should post this song. It's a huge hit in Kosova (HUGE. As in, on the radio every hour.), but I don't know what it means, and I can't decide if it's wildly inappropriate, or if it's just totally wacky in the way that only European pop stars who were born to an American father in the Middle East can be. At any rate, it's darn catchy and the video is crazier than a Betsey Johnson dress, so I'm going to go ahead and post it here. You were warned.


Of course, high camp from MIKA reminds me that the 2008 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is less than a month or so away. (There was much drama in Kosova last month as the debate over whether Europe's newest state would be allowed to participate. Two teensey little problems seemed to be standing in the way of that dream: 1) it was awfully late to just be getting started on finding an act and a song that meets Eurovision's requirements, and 2) the contest is in Belgrade this year, because Serbia won last year and that's how it works. Seeing as I (an American) couldn't get into Serbia with UNMIK/Kosova stamps on my passport, it's hard to imagine how an actual Kosovar would be able to safely travel to Belgrade and be welcomed by the authorities.)

As always, I will turn to Mike at Troubled Diva for his pitch-perfect coverage of the bizarre costumes, mediocre music, and occasional gems that are Eurovision. I recommend that you do the same.

derby day's a-comin'!

Seems to me that there might be another, fairly obvious explanation for this delicate little problem.

it's simple, really

These accusations pretty much sum up the eastern Congo's security situation: guns, rebels, guns, peacekeepers, guns, rumors, and guns.

a slight case of the mondays

I barely slept last night. I missed my bus this morning and had to drive. I hope it's not going to be one of those days.

4.27.2008

truthiness reigns

This is the biggest problem my students have, no question. They have no idea how to filter, value, and judge the tidal wave of information that hits them each day.

congo watch

Sigh.

sunday living

I am not a super routine-driven person, but on Sundays after church and lunch, I always come home to read two things: that week's posts on Post Secret and the Washington Post's Date Lab. I like Post Secret because it's always poignant and sad. Date Lab, on the other hand, is hilarious. The post matches up people for a blind date, and 9 times out of 10, it's a disaster. Other people's uncomfortable awkwardness is hard to beat when it comes to free entertainment.

Anyway, the point of this post is that this week, the Post took up a challenge to its matchmaking skills from those who said a monkey could make better matches than the editors do. As it turns out, the critics were right.

4.26.2008

farm bill update

Thanks to everyone who called your Senators and Reps about the Farm Bill yesterday. Good news - the conference committee that was working yesterday has reached a tentative agreement on the bill that includes $10.4 billion for nutrition programs. It makes a difference when you contact those whom we elect to govern on our behalf! The final bill will probably be up for passage next week, so we may need to call again.

this & that

thanks much

Hey, thanks, y'all, for all the congrats on the whole getting published thing. It should be par for the course for someone who does what I do, but this is my first article to be accepted for publication, so it's exciting. Also, the road to getting a PhD has been, shall we say, a little rocky, so it's nice to have some outside validation that my ideas are good and that I'm a competent researcher. This is great timing as well. I'll be on the job market later this year and was really needing something to put on the old c.v.

So thanks, interwebs. I hope your weekend gives you a reason to smile as well.

4.25.2008

the best possible news

"While there is some editorial work to be done, the paper is recommended for publication. *Rating A"

save the world and whatnot

Three good things you could do today:
  1. Call your members of Congress before 12 noon EST and ask them to pass a new farm bill that keeps nutrition increases and food aid changes intact. Instructions on how to do this are here; it takes less than 5 minutes and really makes a difference, so please take a second away from your other forms of at-work procrastination and give Congress a call.
  2. Today is World Malaria Day. You can help a family in need be protected from this entirely preventable disease by purchasing a $10 mosquito net. Skip that weekend movie (there's nothing good out, anyway) and save somebody's life.
  3. Say a prayer for my baby sister, who's interviewing for her dream job, the one for which she's worked through college and seminary, at 1pm.

4.24.2008

this & that

it's the passivity that makes this special

This is what Melissa the Missionary gave me when I was in Chicago. Isn't it special? Jesus is so passive and angelic, while the Romans are going about their work as though it were a routine Habitat build rather than the execution of the son of God.

It's from Ethiopia. I really have no idea what to do with it. My sister suggested hanging it over the toilet, but I don't want to scare my houseguests.

(To be fair, my gift to her was a plush set of the Ten Plagues of Egypt.)

hrumph

I'm grading finals today, because (lucky me!) we get a whole 24 hours from the exam time to finish grading and submit course grades. Right now I haven't started the essays and I have about 5 1/2 hours to get it all done.

This would normally be easy, because grading finals doesn't take so long (you don't have to write comments on an exam a student will never see). But. But.

The bane of my existence, a course management program called WebCT, is making my day INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

See, WebCT is one of the two course management programs used by most American universities. The other is Blackboard. Blackboard, for all its faults, is overall great. It's intuitive, it's fairly idiot-proof, and (and this is key), it automatically calculates grades. All I do is plug in the grades, plug in the percentages, and presto! I have course averages for all my students.

Not so with WebCT. WebCT is counterintuitive, it's built on a crazy, nonsensical menu system, and the only way to get it to calculate grades is by creating a complicated formula.

When I logged in to create my formula for the course yesterday, WebCT didn't show me the menu of course items that I need to plug into the formula. That's right. The program itself sabotaged my ability to calclulate grades.

The IT guy says he'd never seen this before (he actually didn't believe me until he logged into my account and saw it for himself). He was a sweetheart and created an Excel file that will automatically calculate my grades, because I am hopeless with Excel. But I still feel a need to complain about WebCT. It is a vastly inferior product and I hate it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some serious grading to do.

4.23.2008

oops

So although some students are DRIVING ME OFF THE DEEP END with their end-of-semester whining and excuses, there are many that I'm going to miss. It's registration season at UT, and in my 9am class today, several students asked what I'm teaching in the fall. It's a good feeling to know that they want to take another class from you, although unfortunately I have to tell them that I'm stuck in my own private purgatorio of teaching the same course over and over and over and over again (we're at 7 times and counting, with 3-5 more scheduled for the year to come).

But just when I'm starting to feel like I made a difference in their educations, I get this email from a student who wrote to thank me for the class:

"...I now habitually listen to Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. I find myself agreeing with both of those very strong conservatives."

What have I done?!?

a series of unfortunate events

Well. From my college "dad," here's a headline you don't see every day.

Seriously. If you click on no other link on my blog ever, you need to click on this one. Then come back and tell us what you think.

that's one way i could try to forget

Well, happy birthday to me.

(Seriously? This is headline news?)

tagged

I've been tagged twice for the same meme, so I guess that means I should answer. Here goes:

Ten years ago, I was . . .
In college, getting ready to study abroad in Kenya and Tanzania. Ten years to the day I was probably writing a paper or studying for a final.

5 Things on Today’s “To Do” List
Go to the library. (done!)
Read up on the history of Baptists in North Kivu (in progress).
Grade finals because the grades are due 24 hours after the exam.
Teach the GA's.
Run home to get my dish for Ann's bbq out of the fridge.

5 Things I’d Do If I Were a Billionaire:
Build an orphanage or six in Goma

Travel around the world for a year
Subsidize ARV's for HIV+ children in the eastern DRC who aren't covered by the big foundations
Buy a red Audi Quattro convertible
Hire a research assistant

3 Bad Habits:
Checking into fancy African hotels I can't afford when I'm exhausted
Driving fast with the top down
Mocking people's poor fashion choices

5 Places I’ve Lived:
Floydada
Nairobi
Waco
New Haven
Goma

5 Jobs I’ve Held:
Camp Counselor
Teaching Assistant
Open-source Intelligence Analyst
Youth & Children's Intern
Adjunct Professor

argh

We are so dead.

So, so dead.

hee-hee

A super-funny story from Amy Butler.

4.22.2008

oh my word



Now I can't vote for any of them.

this & that

priorities

People and Things for which the Republique Democratique du Congo cannot pay (At all. As in, most of these "government employees" have not collected government salaries in 20+ years.):
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Border guards
  • Hospitals
  • Soldiers
  • Paved Roads
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Traffic police
  • Schools
  • Judges
  • Courts
  • Running water
  • Immigration officials
  • Electricity
  • Port authorities
  • Health & safety regulators
  • Food inspectors
  • Government

Things the Republique Democratique du Congo can apparently now afford:

a little more stride

The Bad Historian emailed out an LBJ classic this morning: the Haggar pants tape. I haven't heard it in a year or two, but, goodness, it's still funny as ever. Do yourself a favor, click on the listen link and don't read the script. It gets really good around 1:20.

oy vey

This headline pretty much sums up modern American politics, n'est pas?

4.21.2008

from that eternal silence


"And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

"I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core."



It's been two years since she left us. Two years since that gray, gray day. Two years since bad news arrived in a late-night, "I'm so sorry," text message from my sister. Two years since an all-too-short late-night call to the states on a terrible Congo connection to cry with the CPP. Two years since sitting by the lake in Goma during her funeral in Waco. Two years since thinking too much about unfairness and injustice.

Two years is a long time. A lot changes in two years. "Tho much is taken, much abides," and while life and love go on, we still miss you, Allie. Rest in peace.

4.20.2008

hey, austinites

Don't forget about Monday night's screening of Cry Freetown at the Alamo South. 7pm. See you there!

PS It's FREE!

this & that, part the second

hmmmm....

I have just learned that it's apparently legal for American citizens to visit Iran. We have no diplomatic relations, so if something went wrong, you'd be in trouble. But still, nobody's going to get in a stink if you go there.

I am totally intrigued, especially since reading a travel article about the wonders of Tehran in last month's UK Vanity Fair travel issue.

this week


Austinites, this Monday night at 7 at the Alamo South, there will be a screening of Cry Freetown, a widely acclaimed film about the Sierra Leonian civil war, along with a short film about child soldiers. The screening and subsequent discussion are sponsored by the City of Austin as part of the Mayor's Book Club initiative. You can read the press release for the event below - and note that The Advisor will be speaking as part of tomorrow night's events. If you're in or around Austin, please join me for an evening of learning about this very important issue.

===========
Each year in the City of Austin, the Mayor chooses one book of either critical or social importance for the city to get behind as part of the Mayor's Book Club and the 'Keep Austin Reading' program. The book selected this year by Mayor Will Wynn is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah- an incredible, autobiographical account of Sierra Leone's civil war and the story of Beah's own experiences as a child soldier.

Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980 and at the age of 12 the war had infiltrated his home town. Beah's work stands out due to his unique role: child soldier turned memoirist turned children's rights advocate. The reader is powerfully reminded that the author is not merely reporting horrors, but describing the horrors that he survived. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is an important- and needed -contribution to the discussion of war and child exploitation. Encapsulating hardship, toil, and eventual success, Beah combines the dire with the motivating. He survived, graduated from Oberlin College, and has funneled his horrific experience into a passionate advocacy for children throughout the world.

We are proud to be part of a week-long series of events the Mayor's office has scheduled to celebrate Beah's accomplishment and to shed light on the cause.

Join Mayor Will Wynn for a special free screening of two documentaries about civil war and the plight of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, followed by a panel discussion by professors, refugees and other local experts about the films, the situation and Beah's masterful book.

CRY FREETOWN
Sorious Samura's CRY FREETOWN has become a phenomenon. A brutal portrayal of what happened in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone in January 1999, the film has succeeded in making the horror of this country's civil war a matter of international outrage. Sorious Samura shot the film at great risk for his own life, keenly aware of the fact that the strong images he recorded were the only thing that could shake the world from its indifference to the plight of his countrymen, women and children.

CHILD SOLDIERS IN SIERRA LEONE
Part of Showtime's WHAT'S GOING ON? series, this documentary follows Michael Douglas on a journey to discover the past, but more importantly, work towards a better future for child soldiers forced to fight in a brutal civil war.

The panel, moderated by Mayor Wynn, will include:

Gilbert Tuhabonye- National Champion runner currently coaching young athletes at Run Tex here in Austin, Mr. Tuhabonye, a Tutsi refugee, narrowly escaped an unspeakable attack by Hutu tribesmen in his native Burundi. For a complete account of his incredible story and to see the impact he has made on our great city, visit the Gilbert's Gazelles webpage.

Catherine Boone- Professor of Government, scholar of territorial politics and rural property rights in contemporary Africa and the president of the West Africa Research Association.

Alan Kuperman- Professor of Public Affairs, an expert in ethnic conflict and military intervention and the author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda.

Pick up a copy of A Long Way Gone. Read it. And join the Alamo, Mayor Will Wynn and the City of Austin for this very important event.

the future is now

Saw this while waiting for my breakfast taco at TacoDeli yesterday. Laughed so hard I almost cried.


"Southwest Airlines Now Taking Passengers To Destinations By Shuttle Bus"
The Onion, America's Finest News Source
April 14, 2008

"DALLAS—In what the company is calling a 'bold new leap' in comfort, convenience and overall quality of travel, Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it would be replacing its entire fleet of passenger jets and planes with daily shuttle buses.

"The shuttle buses, which will depart from airport runways to over 200 destinations nationwide, represent a major breakthrough in commercial aviation.

"'The future is now,' announced Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, gesturing to a 30-foot bus painted in the company's signature red, yellow, and blue. 'With these amazing new buses, traveling from New York to Los Angeles takes as little as three days. That's less than half the time it took passengers to get there on our old planes.'"

this & that

  • Ridiculous.
  • The saddest part of this article is that it makes no mention of what TERRIBLE PARENTING it is to dedicate your entire life to getting your child into an elite university. This guy QUIT HIS JOB to shuttle his teenage son to extracurricular activities. I maintain my belief that the smartest students at most universities are competitive with the smartest students at the elites. And that the lifestyle required to get into the elites is very, very unhealthy for high school students.
  • The other day in my presentation, someone asked why I couldn't just count the number of federal employees on the Congolese payroll. I had to explain that there isn't a payroll. Via Mr. Florida, here's an article that explains the situation well.
  • Last night my sister and I ate at Luigi's, an excellent, newish Italian restaurant in McGregor. It's owned by Kosovars. When I told them I'd recently visited, and my sister showed them her keychain souvenir, they asked why I hadn't brought them a flag. Steve the Lawyer is working on it. I love life.

4.19.2008

"or, as we say at the Yale Club, 'ca suffit.'"

John Hodgman is the funniest guy in America:

a reggae man

I am so excited that this song is on the intertubes:


It's a Mahotella Queens classic, featuring Mahlathini. The Mahotella Queens are kindof a South African version of a 60's Motown girl group. This is a great example of South African township pop. I've been listening to the song pretty much every week since August, when I discovered the song on a disc I found in Nairobi. It's pretty much totally infectious. Just try not to dance.

4.18.2008

no, really

One of my friends met the pope today.

He's a Pakistani Muslim.

What a crazy world.

exactly

Ha!

It is perhaps a sign that I have been in graduate school for a year or so too long that today, when a friend was telling me about one of her students (in her TA class) who is getting an F for the entire semester from the professor because said student cheated on a quiz (which counts for only a tiny percentage of the overall grade) I said, "GOOD! They deserve it! Nobody enforces these things anymore!"

My inclination to temper justice with mercy is inversely correlated to the length of time I've been here.

One class down and one to go...

my day

It went fine. Good feedback, good ideas, and no temper tantrums. Thanks for your prayers.

Things that Are Beyond Me

WHY, if you were a hapless undergraduate, would you invite a professor to join this Facebook group?

========
Course Hero Inc.
Type: Student Groups - Study Groups
Description: Share the Love. Be a Course Hero. And support the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.

Help spread the word about the largest open online community of college course materials:

Lecture Notes,
Study Guides,
Exams,
Formula Sheets,
Outlines,
Textbook Solutions,
Essays,
Research Papers,
& Homework Solutions.

Already 500,000+ Course Documents and Solutions!
========

Oh, and apparently stealing test questions and plagarizing other people's papers is now considered a "movement."

"gather their courage and they give it a try"

4.17.2008

yeah

So I am presenting my dissertation research to my department on Friday at one. I wasn't nervous, but now I am, a little.

Yeah.

God will save us from this, right?

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

I bet there is some seriously unladylike language in KBH's office at the moment.

"mostly puzzled and at a loss"

Fix

The puzzled ones, the Americans, go through their lives
Buying what they are told to buy,
Pursuing their love affairs with the automobile,

Baseball and football, romance and beauty,
Enthusiastic as trained seals, going into debt, struggling —
True believers in liberty, and also security,

And of course sex — cheating on each other
For the most part only a little, mostly avoiding violence
Except at a vast blue distance, as between bombsight and earth,

Or on the violent screen, which they adore.
Those who are not Americans think Americans are happy
Because they are so filthy rich, but not so.

They are mostly puzzled and at a loss
As if someone pulled the floor out from under them,
They'd like to believe in God, or something, and they do try.

You can see it in their white faces at the supermarket and the gas station
— Not the immigrant faces, they know what they want,
Not the blacks, whose faces are hurt and proud —

The white faces, lipsticked, shaven, we do try
To keep smiling, for when we're smiling, the whole world
Smiles with us, but we feel we've lost

That loving feeling. Clouds ride by above us,
Rivers flow, toilets work, traffic lights work, barring floods, fires
And earthquakes, houses and streets appear stable

So what is it, this moon-shaped blankness?
What the hell is it? America is perplexed.
We would fix it if we knew what was broken.

- Alicia Suskin Ostriker, from No Heaven

(Via today's Writer's Almanac. Thanks to R for passing it on.)

ha!

This is the time of year when I need sites like Rate Your Students to keep me sane. Every year I think I can't hear any stupider excuses or lazy questions, and every year I'm proven wrong. Anyway, I laughed and laughed at this particular post on grading, particularly point number one:

"You know that saying about the million monkeys at the typewriters? They may or may not ever write Shakespeare, but I bet they’d manage to start a new paragraph every so often. How the [bleep] do you go twelve pages without indenting at least once in a while?"

So true. So, so true.

congo watch

Video of the crash and an account from an American missionary who was on board.

4.16.2008

fascinating

So what do we do when a kilogram isn't a kilogram anymore?

congo watch

There was apparently, possibly an engine explosion. But nobody really knows what happened.

Air travel in the Congo is a mess. There are no radar systems, security is spotty-to-nonexistent, and, as this expert puts it, "Congo is just a graveyard for airplanes." You don't want to know some of the things I've seen and experienced, or the near-misses with death my friends have had.

I'm willing to bet the pilots were either Congolese, Senaglese, French, or South African. Those pilots tend to be hugely resourceful, and, more importantly, they know how to crash in such a way that people survive. People don't survive crashes that happen with the eastern European and Russian pilots, who are usually seriously hung over or drunk when they fly. I'm dead serious about this. I won't board their flights.

polisci WILL figure you out

Elitism, consumer behavior, and how politicos can tell who you'll vote for based on what you eat.

congo watch

Wow. And check out Lionel Healing's always excellent photos.

The latest death toll is 40.

a morning like this...

SCOTUS rules that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

"He had heard that they could eat what they wished on a morning like this. Strange that a man should ask for food at such a time. Did the body hunger, driven by some deep dark power that did not know it must die? Is the boy quiet, and does he dress quietly, and does he think of Ndotsheni now? Do tears come into his eyes, and does he wipe them away, and stand up like a man? Does he say, I will not eat any food, I will pray? Is Msimangu there with him, or Father Vincent, or some other priest whose duty it is, to comfort and strengthen him, for he is afraid of the hanging? Does he repent him, or is there only room for his fear? Is there nothing that can be done now, is there not an angel that comes there and cries, This is for God not for man, come child, come with me?

"He looked out of his clouded eyes at the faint steady lightening in the east. But he calmed himself, and took out the heavy maize cakes and the tea, and put them upon a stone. And he gave thanks, and broke the cakes and ate them, and drank of the tea. Then he gave himself over to deep and earnest prayer, and after each petition he raised his eyes and looked to the east. And the east lightened and lightened, till he knew that the time was not far off. And when he expected it, he rose to his feet and took off his hat and laid it down on the earth, and clasped his hands before him. And while he stood there the sun rose in the east."

- Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

word from Goma

There's an incredible photo of the wreckage in the international section of today's New York Times. The Washington Post reports 33 killed; Reuters says 21. As with most things of this nature in the Congo, no one really knows.

Word from Lyn at Heal Africa that the hospital is treating over 100 injured victims. They are short on IV's and teatnus vaccine. Please keep the staff and victims in your prayers.

4.15.2008

why I don't hate tax day

Wow, there's a lot of whining about taxes out there on the interwebs today.

I guess it's to be expected. Nobody likes the feeling of losing money, and sometimes that tax bill from Uncle Sam can take a big chunk of change out of your disposible income.

I hear you, honestly, I do. Here at the bottom of the tax brackets where they pay us just enough that we don't qualify for welfare and have to pay taxes, it hurts to see those deductions on my paychecks every month.

But. Over these last few years, I've come to a new appreciation of taxes. And it has a lot to do with having lived in a place where there aren't any.

See, because we pay taxes, we get stuff. Stuff like paved roads. Stuff like traffic lights. Stuff like there being someone at the other end when we call 911. Police who come when there's an emergency, and who don't expect to be paid a bribe in return for their services. Well-equipped hospitals that are staffed by licensed medical professionals and stocked with life-saving medications. School buildings that are in decent shape, and textbooks that are less than 10 years old for every child, so no one has to share. Free public schools so every kid at least gets a chance, even in places where the public schools are bad. Highly-subsidized high-quality public university education, so that, even with rising tuition costs, it's still possible to get a degree from a place like UT for under $20,000. (And it's still possible to get a PhD courtesy of the taxpayers. :) Regulated airspace and high-tech monitoring systems so planes don't fall from the sky. Inspected meat and dairy products so I can be reasonably sure that the things I purchase at the grocery store won't make me sick. Safe drinking water from the tap. An army in which soldiers get paychecks, and therefore don't resort to looting the countryside to feed themselves. Enforcement mechanisms for keeping the schools integrated and giving even the craziest ideas a chance to be heard. A basic sense of public order.

No, it doesn't work all the time for everybody, and there's serious inequality in this country. But things could be so much worse. There's a reason we're told to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." Life without government is bad. And, despite the fact that today hurts, we still pay lower taxes than any other industrialized country in the world. So stop your whining, write the check, and be grateful that you live in a place where everything works.

congo watch

Oh my.... The plane never took off - it just ploughed across the road, into the houses and shops that are across the street at the end of the runway.

I could not tell you how many times I've been on that street.

BBC reports that most aboard apparently survived and that the governor reports nine casualties.

(Getty image)

congo watch

A plane crashed in Goma today. Into Birere, which is the market district.

Something went wrong on take-off. Birere is close, but there's plenty of space (not to mention an area for temporary military encampments) between the runway, the road, and the market.

Birere is total chaos. During the day, thousands and thousands of people go about their business there. It's where I sometimes go to buy fabric in the shops near the roundpoint, or vegetables in the market. It's E's preferred market. It's where her housekeeper and his family live.

Six of 85 people on the plane survived, including the pilot and co-pilot and four passengers, two of whom are children.

Nobody knows how many people on the ground were killed by the crash.

I don't want to think about it anymore.

acl lineup 2008

Well, the lineup is out for ACL 2008, and I have to say, it's a little disappointing. No super big names except for Beck and the Raconteurs (I'm sorry, but the Foo Fighters? Who cares? Maybe in 1999.), although I am SUPER excited about seeing Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. (Their 2007 Raising Sand album is amazing.) That said, there are a few interesting acts on the lower half of the bill and a good number of local bands. But the vast majority of acts on the list have played the festival before, and that's the problem. Don't bore us, C3.

4.14.2008

ebony/ivory

This is awesome.

well...

Brad Pitt was 300 yards from my office this afternoon.

I find this easyish to believe because the Ransom Center is closed on Mondays, which would make it a good time for a private tour.

This is more distressing for A, my former officemate, than it is for me, as she is totally obsessed with Brad Pitt. But still...

,,,and not a drop to drink

Via Spence Smith:

This is fantastic.

I lived with a family in a village in western Kenya for a short time about ten years ago. We didn't have running water; instead, we had to hike about a mile, go down a steep hill to a pipe that fed a dirty stream, get the rushing water into a plastic jug, then haul the water back up the dirt path on that steep hill. Then we had to hike a mile or so back through the hills home, boil and sanitize the water, and pray we didn't get sick. Oh, and we had to do all of this in a skirt.

It's funny at first - the whole village turned out along the pathways to watch the white girls carry their water home. But it's the kind of task that quickly loses its charm. Water is heavy (I mean, heavy), and the seal on my jerry can wasn't very good, so I quickly got soaked with leaking water. And boiling and sanitizing with chemicals doesn't always work. My roommate got giardia, which is a nasty digestive disease you get from drinking water that has been contaminated with human or animal waste. That's right: our water - the water that our food was cooked in, that we did laundry with, that we were expected to drink - had raw sewage in it.

I got really dehydrated there.

What if your life was like that? That's what this ad asks almost perfectly. More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Two great organizations that work to help those without access to clean water are Watering Malawi and Blood:Water Mission. Either one will use your donation well.

Addendum: Check out this meditation on the very real problem of water access from my friend Samuel, who's a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.

a quiet day

Not really. This is the first real quiet I've had all day, sitting in my living room with nothing electronic but my laptop on, listening to my neighbor's windchimes.

It wasn't a bad day. I lectured on the Civil Rights movement in my morning class. They asked good questions. Got good work done on my dissertation during my morning office hours and beyond. Caught up with a couple of colleagues. Worked on my afternoon lecture and caught up on email during my afternoon office hours. Got observed by my boss while lecturing on the economy to my afternoon class. He was pleased and will write a letter for my job file, which is great. He also offered me a job for next year.

Got home and there was a free plane ticket from Southwest, which is just about perfect since I want to spend a couple of weeks in DC in May.

But despite all this activity, it's been a quiet day. And I haven't had much to say here. These next two weeks are Big Weeks for me. Lots of aspects of my dissertation/career/life that have been up in the air for months will be settled. I'm not nervous about it. I'm not worried. I think it's all going to work out just fine one way or the other.

But for now, I'm just feeling quiet.

4.13.2008

end the silence

Last week I wrote a lot about rape vicitms in the eastern DR Congo. After the film, my former student K asked me if I'd ever directly encountered women and girls who are victims.

I have. I have met elderly women and five-year-old girls and young women who are exactly my age who've endured horrors that most of us cannot imagine.

I write about these women and girls mostly in general terms here, but sometimes you need specifics to fully understand what goes on. The BBC ran a piece last week that details the story of a woman named Zawadi. Please take a minute to read it so you can really know what life is like for hundreds of thousands of women.

Then, if you're wondering how you could give a woman like Zawadi some hope, consider sponsoring a Congolese woman through Women for Women International. Women for Women is a well-respected, US-based charity that pairs women of means with women in need. In Congo, they help rape victims to rebuild their lives through education and skills development so that they can provide for their children. You can sponsor a woman for $27/month.

You can also participate in a local Run for Congo Women, which benefits Women for Women. I love the mission statement of these runs: "Congolese lives matter. The lives of Congolese women are significant. The lives of Congolese children are precious. They have waited far too long. They are worth our effort. We are running to help."

this and that

  • Yeah, so what we all knew to be true is true: torture techniques were approved by everybody from the Vice-President on down. Calling them something else doesn't make it less true.
  • I live in a healthy zip code. This is because I live in a wealthy zip code.
  • Fabindia.com rocks.
  • The fantastic Robert Hass won a Pulitzer in poetry this week. Here's a great poem to show why. (I got to have lunch with Hass and Czeslaw Milosz once. It was pretty much amazing.)
  • It's been a year since the Virginia Tech massacre. The family of the perpetrator needs your prayers, too.
  • I want this job. Except for the shilling for corporate overlords part. Seriously, this article is dead-on about the ways mobile phones are being used in the developing world. They're already operating like ATM's in Congo, which is saying something in a country that has a, shall we say, very limited banking system.
  • It's possible that someone has been in the Mara for just a bit too long.

4.12.2008

life is more than a vision

As you may have noticed, I've been a little busy lately. And by "a little busy," I mean, I've been out of town and/or conferring for the last 6 weekends straight, and for 7 of the last 8 weekends. (Plus, you know, teaching two classes, writing a dissertation, and whatnot.) It was fun camping and being in Lubbock, Pristina, Skopje, London, Franklin, and Chicago, but I'm worn out from all the travel and the work (not to mention the mess) that's been waiting every time I get home.

So naturally, this Saturday, the first one on which I've been free in Austin for awhile, I got up at 6am to do Habitat for Humanity.

It was totally worth it. I'm the Habitat coordinator for our church, and I absolutely love our annual day of working together to build a home for a family in need. And we were drywalling, which is pretty much the most fun thing (besides framing) you can do on a build. We had a great crew, a fantastic lunch team, and were able to spend an absolutely gorgeous day in Austin, Texas putting up walls on a new home for a single mom and her two teenagers. (And the Lobbyist for the Good Guys and I learned that you can in fact manage to royally screw up the notching on a door and still make it work. Ahem.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to catch up on some much-needed weekend rest. It's been awhile.

you can keep your bitter cold

Kate Campbell is singing in worship at my church tomorrow. I am ridiculously excited. Seriously. You have no idea. When I lived in New Haven, I listened to Kate's song "South of Everything" pretty much every single day. I dragged my best friends there to see her play in a tiny little coffeehouse in Bridgeport because I love that song so much. Since then, I've seen Kate play at CBF and such, but that's it. I love her meditations on faith, race, the south, and life in general. It's going to be fantastic.

4.11.2008

very cool

Lia Scholl made the Freakonomics blog!

For those of you who haven't met Lia, she's an ordained Baptist minister who runs an amazing ministry to exotic dancers. I met her at current last year and heard her speak at the New Baptist Covenant in January. She and her fellow panelists made a compelling case for the need for people of faith to reach out to those working in the sex industry, as well as those who are affected by human trafficking.

Lia is a great example of someone who is following God's call in her life. Every day, she and her team at Starlight Ministries show God's unconditional love to young women who are on the margins of society. You can listen to a great NPR interview with Lia in which she does a great job explaining her work here.

avoid d/fw

Delaycast is my new best travel friend.

this & that

in which texas in africa cries like a little girl


Custom Countdown Clock

congo watch

Thanks to Ethics Daily for picking up my review of The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.

I should have some more resources for ways you can help fight the rape crisis in the eastern DRC up later today. Who's up for calling your Senators on Monday?

4.10.2008

"the point of intersection"

More on the eternity thing....

shop to make a difference

Waco friends, there's an Amani ya Juu sale at the Baylor SUB tomorrow from 11-3.

Amani ya Juu is a women's empowerment project in Nairobi, Kenya, with branches in Rwanda and Burundi. Refugee women in the Amani program learn to sew and market products, which gives them a way to provide for their families in the future. They also learn to work together with women from different backgrounds, and study the Bible together to learn about the "higher peace" (which is what "amani ya juu" means in Kiswahili) that only God can provide.

I am a huge believer in Amani's mission (it doesn't hurt that Melissa worked there when she was actually a missionary) and I spend a small fortune in their Nairobi and Kigali boutiques. I was lucky that Melissa had hosted a sale in her home right before I visited, so I just did some Amani shopping. They make the cutest handbags, jewlery, linens, children's toys, and children's clothing. The website only gives you a tiny preview of the merchandise that's available. I give Amani stuff as gifts to friends all year long; they're cute and practical.

The best thing about Amani is that you can be confident that the money you spend will go directly to the women in the project - the missionaries who help administer Amani do not receive any of the profits.

If you're in Waco, stop by the SUB tomorrow and take a look!

the hands and feet of Jesus

This is church:



Via Shaun Groves.

food for thought

There's a funny post on Stuff Christians Like today about "Witnessing to people that don't believe the Bible using the Bible." (How many times have I seen this? More than I can count, especially in my teenage years, where at least 2 of our 6 youth ministers were obsessed with getting us to prove to our agnostic classmates that evolution never happened.)

Anyway, the humor in SCL touches on an interesting thought someone sent in on Andrew Sullivan today: the idea that eternity is not necessarily an appealing thing.

In both of these cases, one humorous and the other not so much, the person of faith is trying to sell his belief on a basis of thought patterns that his target doesn't share. Put another way: if you're trying to sell someone on Jesus by appealing to their desire for "eternal life," you may be speaking the wrong language.

the end is near

And you thought your neighborhood angry guy was bad. Via Foreign Policy, the worst of the worst in global fundamentalists.

4.09.2008

or maybe abimelech....

Hahahaha!

Would anyone like to join me in donating funds for a designated gift of this nature for the ministry center? :)

silence

Last night's premiere of The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo was hard to watch. Basing herself in Bukavu, filmmaker Lisa Jackson traveled through South Kivu last year to make a movie about the victims and perpetrators of this brutal war against women and girls that most of us know little about.

It is always a strange experience to watch a movie about a place you know and love so well. During the screening I hosted, we paused the film several times so I could answer questions, or tell a story about a place or a person. I was especially excited when Jackson visited the Centre Olame, a wonderful place of hope, love, and life (which is what "olame" means in the local language of Bashi). (My friend (and favorite interview subject ever) Mathilde wasn't featured last night, but you can read more about her and the Centre Olame here.) Jackson did a great job of showing the scope of the rape epidemic, and the range of ways people with limited resources are trying to combat it.

But the all-encompassing sadness of the situation of women and girls in South Kivu and the overwhelming odds against those who are trying to fight this epidemic permeates the film. She showed elderly women, young mothers, teenagers, little girls, all of whom have this one horrible experience in common. I was reminded once again to pray without ceasing for Dr. Mukwege and his staff and those at Heal Africa and everyone else who helps these women, because they see the results of so much evil every single day, and they don't get much opportunity to forget what they have seen. They carry a heavy cross, and they need our prayers to sustain them.

There's no way around it. You can be an activist, or run a hospital that helps these women repair their bodies and souls, or a lone policewoman working out of a wooden shack to try to bring some semblence of justice to the perpetrators. And make no mistake; these people help women, one by one by one. But it's hard to avoid the feeling that in the grand scheme of things, they're fighting a losing battle.

When the movie ended, K, a former student and pre-ministry major who has a passion for the Congo, talked about remembering that despite the fact that this situation is so overwhelming and that a real solution seems so impossible. God is always in control.

God is always in control. I do believe that. But I also believe that a situation like that in the DRC poses a valid challenge to that contention that rests on the definition of what exactly it means to be "in control." We talked about how people use this to dismiss uncomfortable situations, as in, "Oh, God is in control, it will all work out."

As I told K, I cannot believe in a God whose grand plan means that a four-year-old girl has to be gang raped.

This is where the theology of my childhood is inadequate. Simple answers to impossible questions just don't work. But this is also where the challenge is. For as I told K last night, I really believe that the call we have to answer as Christians is the of figuring out how God would have us answer prayers. If you think about it, if you look at the Biblical examples, when people pray, sure, there are times when there's a supernatural occurance, or a gift of some kind of guidance as to what to do next. But more often than not, prayers are answered because somebody does something. They don't sit around on the comfortable side of the road (or the world), assuming that God will take care of that broken, beat up person who's lying in the ditch. Instead, they go out of the way, and they make things better. Responding to God's call, they participate in the work of redemption and restoration.

Remembering that I am called to be the hands and feet of Christ is the only way I can believe that God is in control of the eastern DR Congo.

black hawk down

So here's a question, entirely hypothetical, of course:

Say you had applied for admission to a fairly prestigious, highly competitive graduate program. And say you, like many other well/possibly-qualified candidates, were rejected for the program. Would you then have your mommy write a letter to the department demanding to know why you were rejected?

The helicopter parents have arrived in graduate school. My word.

4.08.2008

the time is short

This is for the Librarian. (It would also be for my sister, but I'm sure she's already seen it.) I just laughed so hard I cried. Those of you who don't care about mocking poor fashion choices should probably just skedaddle on to something else.

this & that

lawsee...

This mess is eerily similar to something that happened in my high school. To be more specific, my 11th grade economics teacher, a former minor league baseball player who'd thrown out his arm and come to coach the baseball team and "teach" economics, had an affair with the homecoming queen, who was - ahem - in my class. As in, fourth period in the portables out back. Only in his case, he didn't get arrested; his wife found out, they divorced, and he married the homecoming queen, whom he'd gotten pregnant in the meantime. I wonder whatever happened to them. And I wonder what would've happened if we'd had an instructor who actually knew something about teaching economics...

glorious punctuation!

It's official: semicolons matter. Check out the correction at the end.

the greatest silence

Tonight at 10EST/9 central, HBO is airing The Greatest Silence, a new documentary about women and girls who are victims of rape in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Washington Post has an excellent review of the film this morning. If you don't have HBO, I'm hosting a screening for the Enough Project, which sent a DVD of the film, tonight at my place at 7.


I know my friends and blog readers are sick of hearing about this tragedy, and that the images of suffering are almost more than anyone can bear to see after awhile.

But this is reality. I know so many of these women. They have to live with these stigmas that make us uncomfortable every single day of their lives. They have to learn to love the babies that were conceived as a result of rape.

And, as filmmaker Lisa Jackson told Congress in a hearing last week, "...everyone ... should consider the fact that there is the blood of Congolese women on their laptop computers and on their cellphones."

Please hear these stories tonight if you get the chance.

For ways to help these victims, check out this article I wrote for Ethics Daily awhile back.

more than a contest

All I have to say about last night is that 1) that was a fantastic championship game, and 2) I watched Texas beat that Kansas team. 23 has already become intolerable to be around. I've now had enough "rock, chalk, jayhawk" text messages in the wee hours to last a lifetime.

4.07.2008

don't mess with texas

So The Librarian and I are once again donating a practical joke to our church's upcoming youth auction. The youth use the money from the auction to fund their summer mission trip, so, you know, when we engage in a little mischief on behalf of a generous donor, we're actually Pranking for Jesus (tm).

To give you an idea of what this involves, here's an account from last year's victim. And here's a summary of some of our other bad behavior.

Last year, our prank brought in $150. So we want to be sure to give our donors their money's worth. Any ideas on what we should do this year?

there'll be some interesting google searches leading people to this post

Questions students asked during and after class today:
  1. What are your personal views on the abortion issue?
  2. Is Hooters a discriminatory employer because it would be harder for a man to successfully work there than for a woman?
  3. Do transsexual individuals have the right to marry?

Oh, the day we talk about privacy rights and gender discrimination is SO much fun for the teacher. But these questions do indicate that some of them were actually paying attention and thinking about the issues. Here are my answers:

  1. I don't discuss my political views with students.
  2. I'll have to ask a lawyer.
  3. In Texas, yes, but the law considers your gender to be your gender at birth. So in Texas, if you're a man who used to be a woman, you can only legally marry a man.

Bet you're jealous of my job right now.

UPDATE: It's wonderful to have the CPP as a close friend for many, many reasons. One of them includes the fact that she is an expert in civil rights law. She informs me that there was actually a case over the Hooters question, and that, since Hooters is not (ahem!) a club of ill repute, but rather a family restaurant, they had to settle with men who'd sued and they have to hire men as "Hooter's helpers."

So there you go.

"the deserted prospect of the modern mind"


Yesterday the Yale Club hosted a screening of Laura Dunn's ('97, 'cause you know everyone who ever did anything important in the history of the world went to Yale) excellent documentary The Unforseen. I'd wanted to see this film about Barton Springs and real estate development since missing it at last year's SXSW, and yesterday's screening did not disappoint.

Visually, the film is beautiful. You can tell Terrence Malik was one of the producers by the long, surrealist, underwater images of the springs and the woods and blueprints for new developments in the Austin area. The story is equally compelling, and Dunn does an excellent job of laying out the tensions inherent in the principle on which our society is largely predicated: the need for contstant growth to drive the machine of capitalism. The problem, of course, is that continuous growth of the economy, the real estate market, and the development of every last inch of available property means that our natural spaces - the things that connect us to our communities and make us human - get destroyed in the process.

Barton Springs, a naturally fed swimming pool in the heart of the city, is pretty sacred to Austinites. The Unforseen features lots of old footage of the City Council battles of the early 1990's, news reports, and extensive interviews with environmentalists, developers, politicians, farmers, ranchers, swimmers, and lobbyists. In the Q&A after the screening, one viewer raised her hand to note that a 10-year-old girl in the film (who was shown speaking to the City Council about what the next generation will have to pay for the mistakes of previous generations) is her daughter, now a PhD student in environmental science. It's personal to Austinites.

But The Unforseen goes beyond our city's feelings about our particular swimming hole, and delves deeply and beautifully into the questions of in just what kind of world we want to live. Bookended with audio recordings of Wendell Berry reading excerpts from his "Santa Clara Valley" (from which the film's title comes) and images of the sun rising and setting with a new skyscraper in the foreground, The Unforseen leaves you haunted and sad, wondering why we destroy the places we love, and what anyone can do to stop it.

The Unforseen screens through Thursday at the Alamo South Lamar. It's also showing tonight at the Round Rock Public Library. Information about other upcoming screenings is here.

ha!

And you thought your last relationship ended badly.

Then again, this is even more bitter.

a packed suitcase

David Kuo on the death of a Ugandan child.

512

This is wrong, and yet...

sigh

Yeah, it's that time of the semester:
I actually had to clear a space for my laptop this morning.

Four more weeks...

real american heroes

Today, is, of course, one of the most important days of the year. (No, not because it's World Health Day or the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh or the day that the genocide really got underway in Rwanda in 1994.)

On this day in 1859, Walter Camp, the man who did more to establish our greatest modern sport than anyone else, was born. The Father of American Football created most of the rules, including creating the safety and setting up the arrangement of the offensive line.

Let's pause to remember such a great American hero.

Amen.

4.05.2008

wow

You have to read this beautiful excerpt from a memoir, especially if you don't know much about Liberia.

good night, dear harvard

Ha!

well, huh

Betcha didn't know this about Rick Steves, the man who destroys every place he writes about in his travel guides.

4.04.2008

40 years...


"Memphis, Friday, April 5 - The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who preached nonviolence and racial brotherhood, was fatally shot here last night by a distant gunman who raced away and escaped. Four thousand National Guard troops were ordered into Memphis by Gov. Buford Ellington after the 39-year-old Nobel Prize-winning civil rights leader died.

"A curfew was imposed on the shocked city of 550,000 inhabitants, 40 percent of whom are Negro. But the police said the tragedy had been followed by incidents that included sporadic shooting, fires, bricks and bottles thrown at policemen, and looting that started in Negro districts and then spread over the city. … Dr. King had come back to Memphis Wednesday morning to organize support once again for 1,300 sanitation workers who have been striking since Lincoln's Birthday."

This morning's Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Not unlike the evening when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in the pulpit 40 years ago to speak, gray clouds gathered outside Mason Temple threatening to storm on Thursday. On the stormy night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last public speech before an audience of more than 2,000 people at Mason Temple. With him was one of his aides, Jesse Jackson. 'He's bigger in death than he was in life,' Jackson said of King on Thursday night."

- New York Times, 1968

4.03.2008

a photoshop-free tour of andersonville

Even though it seems like I'm always in a hurry when I'm here, I really do like Chicago (except for the freezing cold temperatures it is APRIL, people, it should not be 44!). It's a city of great, funky neighborhoods, and the one in which Melissa the Missionary and the Filmmaker live is no exception. M and I walked to dinner tonight at a place that is Somethin', and here are some of the gems we passed:

This would be Gethsemane. Gardening Center.

Then there's the Philadelphia Church, where the time is apparently always right for salvation, because the clock has no hands:And, finally, who would take a cruise with these guys?


This is, coincidentally, the same neighborhood that the Northwestern students told us all the grad students live in when I was here on a recruiting visit six years ago this week. Hmmmm....

fun, fun, fun

So, somewhere between 3-5,000 political scientists locked in a hotel in downtown Chicago to confer is pretty much what you'd expect. Lots of social awkwardness and long silences. But also fun times of seeing old friends who've since graduated and moved on, and connecting with other people who study stuff like you study. And for kicks, they hold it at the Palmer House Hilton, which was, of course, one of the sites of the ill-fated 1968 Democratic National Convention. 'Cause political scientists like the joke. Yeah.

hello, captain obvious

No kidding.

zimbabwe watch

Heh-heh.

There will likely be a run-off. Maybe.

4.02.2008

a cracked door moon that says i haven't gone too far


I'm outta here.

botoxed lips for mccain

John McCain picks up a key endorsement. Worse, he has an opinion about it!

happy and sad and back again

I am having an insanely busy week. Something about leaving town for the third time in four weeks (and being busy for the sixth straight weekend) has worn me down a little bit. Anyway, the papers are (almost) all graded, the substitute teachers are all briefed, and my laundry will be done in time to stick the last few things in my bag before heading over to give a slacker a makeup exam, teach a class, and get to the airport in time to read the conference papers on the plane, write up my "discussant" spiel, and maybe even sleep.

So obviously I have nothing good to post today. Here's a song concerning my destination:

church de soleil

Ahem.

4.01.2008

memory and desire


"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter."


- from T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet. Everything essential in Christian theology is contained in The Waste Land and the Four Quartets.

I wanted to post the first stanza of The Waste Land today, because you always hear that first line, but never anything that comes after it. But look what's there: the smell of lilacs brings back memories and desires you'd left for dead; winter felt safe; summer was an adventure in a foreign language and land; "In the mountains, there you feel free;" I read all night and go south when it's cold. Poetry.

the icewoman cometh

This is perhaps the least surprising story in the history of Texas politics.

the end of my youth

Gang, there are 30 days until I turn 30.

To say that I am not handling it very well would be an understatement on par with calling a certain new friend's fiance a "guitarist."

I'm going to crawl into bed and not think about it now.

zimbabwe watch

More and more international news outlets are reporting that negotiators are close to a deal that will allow Mugabe to step down in Zimbabwe. His party apparently lost the election, and South African diplomats seem to be telling him it's time to go.

I will believe it when I see it, but if it happens, that's a huge relief for the people of Zimbabwe, who have suffered for far too long under Mr. Mugabe's increasingly erratic rule. As always, I look to the excellent reports from the ground on Kubatana.net to find out what's really going on. We'll see.

ha!

This April Fool's joke is so meta I don't even know what to say.

funny things my students wrote

This is definitely in the all-time top 10. As always, I give it to you uncorrected:

"Also, republican party can raise more money which help them do well in champaign."

Same exam, a bit farther down:

"Political parties ... choose candidate from two evils."

whither matthew mcconaughey?

Now they've gone and ruined Austin for good. Greedy corporate #$%^&*!@!

foolish april

Four years ago on April 1, I got called to "Come on Down!" because I was in fact the next contestant on the Price is Right. Having been awake since 3am that day, and having been in line for about nine hours, I didn't really hear the guy say it, until my friends nudged me and said, "That's you!" and I realized that I needed to, well, go on down to Contestant's Row.

I relate this story not to tell you how cool it was to be on the Price is Right with Bob Barker (it was), but because of what happened after the show ended, after I signed waivers and tax forms for my parting gifts, and after one of the producers surreptitiously handed me my autographed picture of Bob Barker, telling me to hide it under my shirt because if anyone saw it, they'd get mobbed. The Drama Queen and College Roommate Numero Dos and I got out to the car and our phones, and, of course, started calling everyone we know to tell them that I'd made it on the show.

And nobody believed me. At least not at first. Because it was April Fools' Day, and I like to play practical jokes.

Since then, I haven't even tried to pull anything on April Fools', partly because I can't think of anything funny to do, and mostly because April is the busiest month of the year for an academic. Unlike my morning radio station, no one on Texas in Africa will be pretending to have changed formats or anything else. Today I need to get 65 midterms graded, pack for Chicago, go to the doctor, get an oil change, have dinner with the Former Fundamentalists, meet with a professor who knows something about education in Africa, and take my recycling in. And that's no joke.