As I write this I've just spent the past two or three hours sitting in the tire shop and waiting for a tire change. It was busy there; fortunately I knew it might take a while and planned ahead so I had my drink and one of my textbooks to read. The book's cover is attractive: off in the distance you can dimly make out a rust-colored desert background with scudding dust-red clouds reflected on the red surface below — though it's not clear whether that is a mirage or a lake. Up closer to the viewer, and strikingly precise in comparison to the soft, distance-faded edges of the background, flies an osprey. It is a curious choice of bird for the cover: distinctively marked, ospreys are renowned for being extremely poorly suited to captivity. To put it simply, they pine away. This one flies free on the cover, but I still find myself wondering: what is a fish-eating bird doing in a desert biome?

Osprey in flight over Lake Wylie, SC - from wikipedia

Osprey in flight

The cover suits the book, which is titled Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. The author is Terry Tempest Williams; I generally enjoy her writings for her ability to intriguingly weave together personal experience, a deeply compassionate emotion, and ecofeminist themes. This book is as excellent as I expect: she ties together the natural rising of Utah's Great Salt Lake and the ensuing disastrous loss of viable living and nesting grounds for a huge variety of birds and other wildlife due to the pressures of human encroachment… with her mother's — her entire matriline's — doomed struggles with cancer, due to Utah and Nevada having been used as nuclear testing grounds.

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I'm reading Vandana Shiva's Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, & Development for an on-line class on Ecofeminism which I'm TAing. The following are two comments made on the class forum at different times.

While reading both the book and the forum comments, I was reminded of a study I read about many years ago (which means unfortunately I've lost it, darnit!) which reviewed war as a profit source. The current common perspective is that war is good for the economy — especially that of the winning side. So the study's researchers examined several wars over the past century or so, and discovered something fascinating: war is not actually good for the economy, so much as it is good for the "captains of industry" (read: the old white guys that own everything already) — but only of the winning side. So not only are these the men who aren't actually risking themselves or their families when they urge a society to go to war, but they're also those who most stand to gain. It's everyone else – including the environment and the poor, especially women and children, on both sides — who will lose in war, regardless of who supposedly "wins."

I have some friends I have amiable arguments with about things like this, and some time ago I said to one of them that current Third World development by First World companies was almost a war on the people there. He scoffed, pointing out that lots of folks made money on that development, and it was good for the industrialization of the countries involved.

I have to say now, though, thinking about it — I think I didn't go far enough in my description. I think maldevelopment (Shiva's descriptive term of the economic and ecological devastation which occurs when First World corporations start throwing their economic weight around in Third World countries) really is a war on the poor, the women and children, and the environment. I don't think it's done maliciously, per se — I think it's worse: these people are absolutely indifferent to the pain, destruction, suffering, and death they're causing in their incessant quest for more profit. In maldevelopment there may be short-term gain for the rich of the non-industrialized nation, but I suspect it's only the already-rich of the so-called First World countries that benefit in the long term, just like in any war.

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So I'm thinking about books and research, as I'm driving back home from turning in yet another handful of library books, several of which were brought to me via the courtesy of Interlibrary Loan — a true lifesaver for me, in regards to getting some of the less well-known works which I'm reading for either class texts or dissertation proposal research. Consider this a shout-out of gratitude to the San Jose Public Library system, which is linked with the San Jose University library as well, thereby marvelously expanding their collection!

My housemates have been real troopers too, in that they have allowed me to borrow library books using their cards as well as mine. This was enormously helpful during my two comps classes, when I had to check out, read, and review — and manage, since if I accidentally got an overdue book fine it was my responsibility, not theirs — about 35 books per three-month semester. I get my brain candy from the library too, which is a financial blessing in that I don't have to pay for a book which I'll tear through in about an hour or three to relax, then likely be done with forever — since I tend to only read those once.

So I'm still driving, and considering all this as I drive: via the miracle of the internet, when I call for them, these marvelous books come from all over the country to me! It is thanks to the internet also that I can so easily find the varied, unusual, and sometimes eclectic works I need; I can likely count on one hand the number of times the vast and wondrous US interlibrary loan system has failed me. Further, I've had these books, magazines, and articles being placed on hold for me, checked out to me, reviewed by me, and returned by me for… goodness, it's been well over five years now! That means for the past five years I've had anywhere from one to 15 books stacked on my desk in the library book spot, so I don't misplace them — though that is not a perfect system, since they do tend to wander with me while I'm reading them. Nevertheless, there is no dust or random other-stuff in that always-filled spot of my often-messy desk.

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The following is a quick review of an article read for the Ecofeminism class in which I am a TA — yay! I'd like to figure out how to TA more… though apparently you cannot TA for a class you haven't actually taken. Considering the changeover in classes occurring in my program in the past few semesters, that appears to leave all the older students out in the cold. I'm going to have to ask for clarification on that policy.

Re the article reviewed here, it's quite fascinating and I recommend it strongly. It can be found on-line: Toward a Queer Ecofeminism by Greta Gaard. If you end up reading it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in comments below. Enjoy!

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Finally had a bit of a breakthrough on my dissertation proposal — hallelujah! Working now on getting a dissertation committee Chair, and figuring out all the astonishing amounts of paperwork that must be filed as well. Gah! The Chair is harder than it sounds — this person must be a professor at my school and should be familiar with the niche subject I'm interested in researching, in the niche field which is my corner of the Philosophy & Religion department. Another gah.

So this means I'm frequently kind of out of brain juice, so I'm taking this moment to try and help out a sister scholar who is doing some research for a personal project on menstruation. If you're willing to answer a few interesting questions regarding menstruation, would you head on over to her site and check it out, please? :)

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I have great friends. ;)

8 Sep 2014 In: Random, Year of 50 new things

My friends are a delight — which is a huge relief when I'm cranky due to being ill or tired! I'm very lucky they all still put up with me. ;)

One dear on-line friend of many years accepted my recent google+ contact request, then sent me a message: "You literally just gave me the ability to IM you at any moment. I can't fathom why you thought this was a good idea. It is all cat GIFs from here."

Another "face to face" friend is always good for fun commentary: "It's amazing how much sweet potatoes look like Jabba the Hutt." A pause to consider for a moment, then: "No wonder they're so bad tempered!"

The same friend some time after helping me move some things: "Of course I'm fine — I've got an ice pack down my pants!" He'd wrenched his back earlier. :)

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Grumpy mutterings

7 Sep 2014 In: Random

I hate being sick. Hatehatehate it with the fiery passion of coughing exhaustion coupled with the urge to rasp out: "just kill me now!" I really despise having no energy to even get out of bed… and I loathe having that groggy-foggy-headed case of the stupids. Memory check says: yes, I am smarter than this, dammit!

I had my tonsils removed when I was 5 or so – no biggie, as far as I remember. So why do the stupid things have to partially grow back, and then get infected now?! Swallowing should not feel like ground glass on the back of your throat!

To be fair – a mental state I consider highly overrated when I'm in pain – I should mention this is partly my own fault. A few nights of way too little sleep, coupled with enthusiastically overdoing it physically, coupled with not taking my vitamins for almost a week… and I'm not really surprised I'm ill. I'm not wild about my Trader Joes's Women's multivitamins, though – especially having to take five of them a day. Admittedly, they noticeably perk me up when I take them religiously, but I don't enjoy having to take them scattered throughout the day – I want to take them all at once and have it over with, you know? But if I do that, they make me nauseous. I'm totally open for suggestions on better vitamins to take, audience!

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As some who read my blog may know already, I'm currently struggling with the process of writing my dissertation proposal. Despite writing being one of the things I do best and most easily, and for various reasons that aren't important right now, I've had some nervous procrastination issues with writing this proposal. Thus my adviser suggested I take a moment and consider carefully: why do I want to write about the subject I've chosen for my dissertation? So I've been engaging in some self-reflection.

At about the same time I was thinking about this, a family member emailed me, talking about something she'd heard recently: that there is a need for all peoples — not just the indigenous — to de-colonize themselves. As I was dashing off a quick reply to her I was first distracted and slowed, then thoughtfully intrigued by a number of associated questions which occurred to me, which were all wound up with these issues. I realized my relative had indirectly asked me some very interesting and critical questions which (also indirectly but importantly) affect my attitudes about the work I'm engaged in currently — questions such as: how do I define feminism? Why am I a feminist — and a spiritual one, at that? What is Women's Spirituality? Why Women's Spirituality instead of mainstream religion, or even "mainstream" paganism?

Perhaps the easiest question for me to answer is what I think feminism is. I no longer believe feminism is the old "equality with men" argument — although I used to. Currently I agree with bell hooks' marvelously clear definition of feminism: "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, p viii). The reason I agree with hooks, rather than still believing that feminism is the struggle of women to be equal to men, is because I understand that this old definition misses a trick. Consider what it means if feminism is indeed no more than a movement wherein women aspire to equality with men: doesn't that imply that being female or feminine is somehow… lacking?

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Being a student on a very tight budget, I am particularly fond of restaurants with cards that give you a free meal after a certain amount of purchases. My local Armadillo Willy's is very good about this, and I treated myself to a free lunch there today. As I finished ordering, a song I knew was playing on the speakers. I like singing, so I was singing quietly along with it while heading to a table; while doing so I passed a somewhat surprised-looking older woman. I smiled politely at her and got a startled smile in return, and continued singing as I seated myself.

Later in my meal, just before she was about to leave, she leaned over and politely informed me that she'd really enjoyed my little bit of singing. She found it so nice that someone still knew the words to "Sweet Emotion" by the Stones! I laughed and thanked her, and she smiled and departed.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that the version of Sweet Emotion we'd been listening to was sung by Aerosmith… ;) Read the rest of this entry »

My dissertation proposal research continues apace – sometimes stutteringly slowly, other times with a swiftness and surety which reassures me that I'm on the right path and doing the right thing. I need those moments, believe me!

This is one of those moments. I've just gotten off the phone with the CIIS librarian who's also gone through the same program I have: Women's Spirituality. She is such a marvelously helpful librarian! I had a class with her in my very first semester at CIIS, and she was tall, spare, short-haired, with a very direct way of meeting your eyes. Her voice over the phone is the same: firm and steady as she makes sure she's clearly and slowly explained something to you step by step, then checks for understanding. I feel rather as if I'm working with some Platonic ideal of the Librarian as perfectly conceptually suited to my needs! Best of all, when I had the nerdy squeal of glee at finally learning how to access tempting but previously inaccessible on-line research databases (I'm looking at you, JSTOR — you intellectual tease, you! ;-) ), she laughed and completely understood.

So, to record the wonderful information shared with me! I don't know if this is directly applicable if you're not attending CIIS also, but I suspect the basics will hold true – research librarian strikes me as one of those jobs you just don't get unless you love it, you know? So: always always always, the first step is to connect with your research librarian. Don't be shy, or embarrassed about what you want to research, or chagrined at not having reached out at the beginning of the semester, or believe you know it all already. There's always at least one new little trick that makes my life easier, every time I chat with a librarian. In fact, this time around my librarian's name, email, and phone numbers are in my cell phone database. I certainly hope I won't ever need to call for research assistance quite that precipitously, but that's not the point for me – the point is that I've spoken to her and know her now, she knows me and my subject, and I know how to reach her for any necessary follow-up – on her emphatic urging! — and that is very reassuring!

Next: when trying to find a particular book, article, or whatever, always try first to check it out from the CIIS library's on-line database. They have a simply enormous amount of access to on-line journals and databases! Articles can be received as PDFs or JPGs via email, or as physical scanned printouts via regular mail — though the latter sometimes have a cost attached. Also, from what I've seen, they are only B&W, and are sometimes extremely blurry. If I can, I shall always hold out for PDFs. I should also be sure to have the full citation information as well, since even if they don't have the article in question, the CIIS library has interlibrary loan available from its website. As a useful side-note, San Jose Public — my local library — also has an excellent website, including interlibrary loan. For books I shall go through them, since there's no shipping costs associated.

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Help yourself & me too!

Buy good used books at Laughing Collie's store on After purchasing there, ask me here for a free book as well!