Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thesis Writing Lessons Learned

Hoi z'same. I'm taking a very brief break from tonight's midnight oil thesis-writing segment to share some things I've learned (and remembered) about myself thanks to this big ugly paper I'm (now almost finished) writing:

1) I really do write better and faster post-10 pm, except that I make more stupid spelling mistakes in the wee hours.

2) Peanut butter cups, tea, and company (certain people's company...maybe not just anyone's) help make working much more pleasant. Valda wins the prize this time around for best camaraderie during all night work sessions.

3)It's true I'm a procrastinator. I know most of you have long thought that if you look up "procrastinator" in the dictionary, you'll find my picture. Well, that may be so, but I submit that you'll find the same image under "perfectionist" because while I'm strolling about facebook, cleaning my house in minute detail, drawing pictures or deciding NOW is the time to pick up my German homework, and catch up on every email that could possibly need writing, in the back of my head I'm fretting that my paper isn't going to be any good (and by "any good" I usually mean Pulitzer-prize winner quality). And on that discouraging thought...I procrastinate some more.

4)I work much better on paper at certain stages of my thinking, and simply printing out sections of 10-20 pages to scribble on makes a tremendous difference for my ability to concentrate. There are some interesting cognition studies on how interaction with the physical environment is sometimes needed in order to produce certain outputs, or to "produce knowledge." I think it's something to do with that. Anyway, without that prop, I lose countless hours wandering around in my Word document wondering what it was I wanted to say again.

5) It takes me longer to write a research paper page than I thought it would. I probably need at least an hour a page by the time I'm done, and that's from when I already have my reading/research worked out.

Yup. so now I know. And now...back to it.

Oh, but first...thoughts about this Henri Nouwen quote (below)? Yesterday I got to see a bunch of Raph's pictures from his physical therapy work in Ethiopia the last few months. If you haven't seen them yet, you should ask to (um...if you know him, I mean). They're troubling, to say the least, and tragic when you consider how easy it would have been to correct many of the problems his patients face, if only they had been born in a place that had the resources and infrastructure to help. Today I read this comment by Nouwen, and it seemed to obviously relate, though I haven't decided yet how it applies:

“There is immense pain in the wide world around us; there is immense pain in the small world within us. But all pain belongs to Jesus and is transformed by him into glorified wounds which allow us to recognize him as our risen Lord.”

All pain belongs to Jesus. hmm. Actually I'm coming up short on what he's getting at. So I'll keep thinking about it, and you can too, and if you figure out how Ethiopia ought to inform my understanding of that, or how that idea ought to inform my understanding of physical therapy in Ethiopia, please do let me know.

And now, for reals, I'm really gonna go finish my paper. water. politics. what the fish said when he ran into the wall. etc.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still glides the stream

I think quoting Wordsworth is bound to enhance any MA Thesis on dams and hydro-politics, don't you? I bring you the following from my afternoon's work. Only "Still guides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;/The Form remains, the Function never dies" will be making an appearance in the discussion on the ecological impacts of large scale dam construction and river water management.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Sonnets from The River Duddon: After-Thought

I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
As being past away.--Vain sympathies!
For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;
While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish;--be it so!
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour;
And if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

job interview and a couple great lines

I have a second interview this afternoon for a job. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Don't you wish you'd thought of these Tom Waits lyrics yourself:

Money's just something you throw
Off the back of a train
Got a head full of lightning
A hat full of rain

And the whole song, covered by Norah Jones:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Zwebelechueche mit Schpäck

I have such nice neighbors here in my little village! Yesterday the boy from up the street was over for his weekly English lesson, and he asked if I like Zwebelechueche(a delicious baked onion and bacon pie/casserole dish). I said I do. "ok," He said. "Mom's making one tomorrow. We'll bring you some." He's a thoughtful little dude, if he's thinking of these things himself. I'm also invited for Lasagna next time they have that for supper. Anyway, sure enough, his mom and little sister (the latter dressed in full Fasnacht regalia including a mask) just showed up at my door with piping hot Zwebelechueche for my lunch.

See people? THIS is why I don't want to move to Basel.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I can hear fasnacht drums from somewhere across town. It's that time of year again. They went marching past this morning with their drums and piccolos in the wee hours. It always makes me feel like Paul Revere is going to go galloping past any minute yelling, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" It's like I woke up in the middle of the revolution, but all the minute men are wearing wooden shoes and over-sized masks. Last year two of them attacked me with pink confetti in Basel, and still, even this week, I've been shaking tiny pieces of pink paper from my coat.

Thanks for all your votes and opinions about the shirts (even you, Lukas, who said they're all equally blöd--that's 'stupid,' for those of you who aren't up on your SG words often used in swiss 3-year-old tantrums). Turns out a few people read this blog after all. In the spirit of democracy, I have ordered the crocodile shirt. And in the spirit of doing whatever I want, I have also ordered the touchdown shirt. I was still undecided between that and the dinosaur (also a great one!) until one of my Swiss readers missed the joke on the touchdown shirt. The subtlety of a joke on American sports (and the pleasing fact that although I don't know squat about sports, I at least know enough to know touchdowns don't happen in golf) elevated this option slightly higher than the literate dinosaur.

And now...back to my thesis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

T-Shirt Poll

Ok, friends, I am buying T-shirts (1 or 2 of the following), and I need your opinion on which two are the best. Please vote for your favorite two in the poll on the side.

All fromSnorg Tees

Church and Drugs

I'm reading Philip Yancey's book Reaching for the Invisible God on the train these days. I picked up the book at Goodwill last summer on a particularly successful shopping trip in Beaverton, where Raph and I got a dress shirt and britches for him, a good pair of shoes, several books, cds, and this shirt with big red dots that I like so much:

And that's me and Barbara at a potluck two Sundays ago. The photo was taken by my good Ghanaian friend Stephen (below) who calls me "Name" since we have the same name. He just finished his studies at the Swiss Tropical Institute and heads home to Ghana and his wife this week. And that's Diana he's with, but you know her from previous pictures.

Anyway, Yancey. He shares this in his book:
I have often recalled the story of a man who came up to me after a speaking engagement and said, rather blusteringly, 'You wrote a book titled Where Is God When it Hurts, didn't you?" When I nodded yes, he continued, "Well, I don't have time to read your book. Can you tell me what it says in just a sentence or two?" (A writer loves requests like that, after spending many months on a book.) I gave it some thought and replied, "Well, I suppose I'd have to answer with another question, 'Where is the church when it hurts?'" You see, I explained, the church is God's presence on earth, and his Body. And if the church does its job--if the church shows up at the scene of disasters, visits the sick, staffs the AIDS clinics, counsels the rape victims, feeds the hungry, houses the homeless--I don't think the world will ask that question with the same urgency. They will know where God is when it hurts: in the bodies of his people, ministering to a fallen world. Indeed, our consciousness of God's presence often comes as a byproduct of other people's presence.
That's your thought of the day.

Also, for those of you I haven't told yet and who may be wondering, "gee, what does she think she's going to do with an MA in African Studies?" (and I know you all have wondered that at some point!), lately I have been learning more about issues relating to access to medicines for African countries, and finding it very interesting. I am looking for ways to build skills and knowledge that could be applied to a job in that area. I have an acquaintance who works on developing access to drugs and health infrastructure in Tanzania, and he's been sharing some resources with me to get me started. It seems like an area of work that's a good mix of regional expertise, business, and communication/liaison skills, and I think I'd like it. Plus, it's highly relevant, especially as countries and organizations continue to pursue the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods. Access to health care is pretty fundamental.

If you're wondering why I'm writing blogs when I should be writing a Thesis, this was my warm-up writing. :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


ah, public transportation. It has its joys and trials. I love it when the connections align and I can get where I'm going in minimal time. I love it when I am running late and can do my makeup in the restroom on the train. I think public transportation is GREAT when I'm the only person on the bus and my driver whisks me up the hill to my destination without making 10 stops along the way. I like it when the driver wakes me up just in case I wanted to get off at the station, even though he's pretty sure he knows my usual stop.

I like it a lot less, however, on Sundays after 8 when I have to walk a mile home, or at peak times when there are no seats left and 30 gradeschoolers are pushing each other and me while they throw some poor kid's hat around. Even at busy times, however, there is something nice about riding with my neighbors. This morning there was a bearded older man wearing a gigantic furry hat! And next to him, another guy had his eye glasses comically balanced just above his eyes as he read the morning news. An English lady was explaining to her daughter why perhaps some kids don't wear their coats at recess. And there are two kindergarten boys who love love love a highschool boy named Simon, and they save him a seat (always up front. That is SO elementary school!) and cheer when he gets on. They're so glad to see him that they forget to hold on as the bus pulls away and always just about fall over. Simi tries to head for the back of the bus, but he seems to like their attention too. And the whole bus smiles.

I have heard some promising feedback from IBM, and I have an interview tonight for a haushaltangestellt position doing house work and helping with twin infants. Hans says both my shoulders will stink like spit up, and he should know. How does that make you feel, Dom and Raph, that that's the FIRST thing your dad says about twin babies!?