10 November 2017

Mixed Feelings

by Cecily
I'm in Helena. Winter on this side of the Divide is a different place. It's very, very sunny and very, very cold. The mountains are beautiful, the sky is bright blue, the sunshine is reflected off dazzlingly white snow on every surface. When your eyes start watering from how sunny and cold it is, and your eyelashes get wet, they freeze. The inside of your nose freezes. The lock mechanism on your car door freezes. And it's hard to look at anything because it is so sunny. It's really pretty, and a little difficult to deal with.

I'm here for the state basketball tournament, for Special Olympics. Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) also has some positive aspects, and some negative ones. JUST LIKE THE WEATHER did you guys notice my smooth metaphor skills?

I love hanging out with the athletes. They are hilarious and exhausting and kind and loving and irritating and demanding and a lot of fun. Everyone asks for a lot of help, and everyone helps a lot. They all step in to help without being asked, all the time. Everyone tells each other that I didn't hear them, and what everybody else just said. If someone is unhappy, or scared, or confused, someone else notices, and helps solve the problem (or helps find someone who can).

The coaches are also lovely people. Generous and silly and kind and patient and helpful. It is a fun crowd. Most of my social life in Missoula this year has revolved around people I've met through Special Olympics.

It is really nice to hang out with so many people who are so kind and enthusiastic and happy to see me.

Last week I went to Great Falls twice. The first time was to testify in an ongoing hearing, against SOMT. (The second time was unrelated. Both times were cold.) I had spent the spring and summer doing what I thought was collaborative and supported work on improving accessibility within the organization, for athletes and volunteers who have disabilities that are not intellectual. I thought we were making progress. Then I asked them to set up an intepreter for the coaches' meeting at the basketball tournament.

It turns out that SOMT decided, at some point in the past few months, that they do not have to, do not want to, and will not, provide interpreters "for individual athletes or volunteers." This means that they have repeatedly asked me to attend meetings for which they refused to provide interpreters. (I didn't attend the meetings.) It also means that Special Olympics athletes who are deaf are expected to either provide their own interpreters or go without. (Mostly, they go without.) The family of a Deaf athlete has been fighting for his access for years, and finally resorted to a lawsuit. In a spectacularly poorly-thought-out strategy, SOMT's response to this was to shut down interpreter access wholesale.

The State Office (that is, the paid employees of the organization) seems to be under some kind of decree to give me the silent treatment, since around the time I told them I was testifying on behalf of the plaintiff. SOMT employees have unfriended me on Facebook, I've been cut dead in hallways, and my emails go unanswered. It is so petty and absurd that I stopped being angry a long time ago. I'm appalled and disappointed and embarrassed (for them), but I also think it's hilarious. The Silent Treatment! No one has given me the Silent Treatment for years! Is this supposed to make me rethink my position on a key area of civil rights that impacts me directly? Maybe run that one by your PR directors again, guys. You can't give the Silent Treatment to people who are volunteering for you, for free, and have it go well.

Sitting through the Opening Ceremonies last night was interesting. There was an interpreter, bus she was unqualified, incompetent, and not visible. Two giant screens showed magnified versions of speakers and audience members, but not of the interpreter. No videos were captioned. VIP speakers spent a lot of time talking about inclusion, and perseverance in the face of discrimination, and courage, and breaking down barriers. The deaf people in the audience watched the mascots and twiddled our thumbs and daydreamed about the blog posts we were going to write the next day. (And contemplated the arrogance and hypocrisy of an organization, ostensibly dedicated to inclusion and access for people with disabilities, in the midst of a lawsuit accusing them of refusing to provide said inclusion/access, peacocking around on stage pontificating about inclusion and access all while willfully disregarding the inclusion and access over which they are being sued.)

Here's a sentence I didn't expect to say, ever: I will not support an organization that discriminates on the basis of disability, and therefore, unfortunately, my tenure as a volunteer for Special Olympics is coming to an end.

07 October 2017


by Cecily
I learn most of my new vocabulary words (Hortatory. Scybalum. Logomachy.) and nearly all of my potential personal mottos from inter-war British murder mysteries.

Here's some good advice for dealing with nearly anyone, courtesy of Edmund Crispin:
"Give them a drink of beer and pack them off with specious, high-sounding promises."
You're welcome.

30 September 2017

Double Dactyl of the Day

by Cecily
Argentum bargentum
President Plutocrat
sits in his golf cart and
angrily tweets

odious nonsense; he's
sure this will bring his
opponents defeats.

10 September 2017


by Cecily
This fall is my 15th anniversary of being deaf, if you measure from when I stopped being able to hear well enough to use a telephone (even with maximum amounts of amplification).

It is kind of weird to think about how long it's been since I answered a phone or called someone. It is also kind of weird how, in the interim, everyone else has basically stopped (voluntarily) using phones, too, so now we all just text and email and facebook each other like the gods intended.

[ETA] In the olden days, when I was in high school and I was hearing, phones still had cords. I talked on the phone all the time and wrapped the cord around things and got in trouble for stretching it out. My parents thought it was excessive but I spent hours on the phone anyway. While I was thinking about this post, I tried to remember what I spent those hours talking about, and I have no idea.

I have started to forget whether things make noise or not. Only every once in a while. And forget that there are noises regularly in the background. I completely forgot about the whole birds and crickets and traffic background, until someone else couldn't hear me because the crickets were too loud. That feels pretty weird, too.

There are also other weird things about it, but they are private and I have emotions about them and am not going to discuss them on the internet.

04 September 2017

The Unrealized Inceptive

by Cecily
Here's a thing I wrote a few weeks ago, when I was riffing on toddlers and their mysterious, repetetive, data-gathering ways:
She spends hours, weeks, months, locking eyes with nearby adults and beginning to do things she has (hypothetically) been told not to do. Every time, the adult demonstrates some form of negative signalling until the Tiny Anthropologist sits back down, or stops shrieking, or backs away from the fire pit.
It's all true. This is what toddlers do. However, it also occurrs to me that this exact behavior has a posited name/verbal inflection in ASL. According to Liddell &/or Johnson, in various articles that I'm not going to look up right now, there is an aspectual inflection in ASL called the "unrealized inceptive" which is basically pretending you're about to do something but then stopping before actually doing it, because of suspense or other storytelling reasons.

In ASL, this works as a narrative device: "I was just about to begin writing on the paper when..."  "I was ready to get into bed when..."  "The swarm of creatures was just coming down the stairs when..." etc.

In toddlerdom, it works as a narrative device also, except that you are forcing other people to participate in your live-action reality television series. "I was just about to dump my cup of water out when..." and then they wait to see what happens next. The narrative is real life.

Next up in strained metaphors: Human toddlers are drunk screenwriters.

20 August 2017

My Weekend, by Cecily

by Cecily
What did you do over the weekend? I went to my dad and stepmom's house by Georgetown Lake. Remember this? In the olden days of Summer 2012, they had some land by Georgetown Lake. Now, in modern-day times, there is a house on the land. The back yard still looks the same, though. I took this picture:

Looking west, I think? From whatever hill or mountain the house is on.
You may notice a difference in clarity and how many far distant mountains you can see, comparing the 2012 pictures to the modern ones. (There is also a difference in how much snow is on the mountains, but the old pictures are from June and these are from August so don't read too much into it.) Anyway the state is on fire and even in places where the air is relatively clear, like Georgetown, it is still not as clear as it might be.

Meanwhile, in Missoula, somebody else took this picture from the main street downtown:* 

Looking south down Higgins*

There is a really big, scary fire on Lolo Peak. It was at 30,000 acres when I looked it up this morning. (Update 8/22: now it's 32,300.) (Update 9/4: 45,012 acres) (update 9/14: 52,745)

Missoula is basically surrounded by fires (but not on fire itself) so that whichever way the wind blows, it is still blowing smoke on me. Air in Missoula is intermittently unbreathable, which is the only way it is affecting me personally, but the fires are also jumping lines and burning up houses and killing people so I'm trying not to complain about how everything smells like camping.

This fire, and most of the other ones, will keep burning until it freezes. Is what everyone says. Mid-September, probably.

I've had Johnny Cash stuck in my head a lot lately. Here you go!

*I stole this picture off Facebook but I can't figure out where it came from originally. If you know, tell me and I'll add credit. (I didn't try very hard. I might try harder some other time.)
 PHOTO CREDIT: Ross M Perkins https://www.instagram.com/wanderlustnotless/

18 August 2017

Anthropology for Beginners

by Cecily
As we all know, one of my hobbies is making up really, really elaborate metaphors and pushing them as far as they will go. This week's episode is:

Human Toddlers are 60-s Era Anthropologists on an Unknown Planet

People, when they are born, show up in the world as tiny naked anthropologists stranded on an unknown planet with no tools and no instructions and no way to record anything so they have to memorize all the data.  It's a stressful situation! You are in an unfamilar environment and you don't know how anything works here. There are inhabitants, who seem friendly overall, but they are much more powerful than you and you don't seem to have any control over anything. An overwhelming prospect! But there is a strong innate instinct in humans to Figure Stuff Out, and after a couple of days of jet lag, you get to work.

(The first step is obviously to figure out how to work your body, but that doesn't really fit in my metaphor so I'm mostly ignoring it. That happens in parallel, but it is less like anthropology.)

Tiny Anthropologist is an expert gatherer of data, and an expert noticer of patterns. She collects an enormous amount of data. Some combinations of sound waves occur very frequently, and others barely ever. Certain people correllate with certain smells. When she screams, the most common result is that an adult comes over to check on her.  She collects data on everything, and on how often it occurs with everything else. She keeps extensive databases full of detailed information, and does sophisticated things to the data with statistics and probabilities. Pattern after pattern emerges. The patterns are kept in a separate database to analyze which ones are significant and which ones aren't.

The adults produce certain sounds and/or gestures far more often than chance would predict. They seem to be able to communicate with each other this way. Tiny Anthropologist needs to figure out how to mimic those sounds and gestures, in order to test her theories about what they might mean. She practices controlling her body; getting better and better at making sounds and gestures that are similar to the adults'. Eventually she is able to mimic them in a way that gets enthusiastic approval from observers. She keeps track of which things are crowd-pleasers, which attempts at communication are successful, and so on.  She refines her theories about contrastive elements and phonotactic constraints.

By toddlerhood, the Tiny Anthropologist has a reasonably reliable phonological inventory for the language, and a functional ability to make sounds and gestures that nearby adults and older children recognize. She develops a lexicon, frequently running quality check tests by repeatedly pronouncing a word and noting the results. The adult interlocutors' reactions begin to show signs of impatience. Once upon a time, they were thrilled with her whenever she correctly identified an object. Now they seem less impressed. "Yes, it's a dog," they say, but they display traces of negative affect while saying it. It's time to move on from lexical inventory to more complex aspects of communication.

The Tiny Anthropologist begins to study what it is that these beings do, exactly, with their time. She watches, and she attempts to participate. Sometimes an adult holds a broom and moves it around on the floor. Tiny Anthropologist requests to have a turn. Everyone sits on the couch. Tiny Anthropologist sits on the couch, too. An adult tells a long story, including a number of evocative gestures. The Tiny Anthropologist attempts to emulate the scenario. Eventually, patterns of behavior emerge, and the Tiny Anthropologist is thrilled when she begins to correctly predict strings of events. Equally, she is very disappointed when her predictions fail. She thought she had identified a pattern, and now all her work has to be thrown out! The Tiny Anthropologist is unable to contain her distress. Nearby adults are dismayed at her visible disappointment.

For the Tiny Anthropologist, there is also much to learn about how basic conversations work. How do you get someone to be in a conversation with you? Who goes first? How do you know whose turn it is? This is a daunting project. Tiny Anthropologist digs in. She starts by finding out about ways to get attention from other people. Screaming, which up til now has been a failsafe option, has lately been becoming less effective. Producing other sounds works sometimes, but not very reliably. Eye contact seems to get very good results. The Tiny Anthropologist notices that often, when an adult makes eye contact with her, the next thing that happens is that the adult says something, or moves something, or gives something to her. Many fancy statistical tests indicate that P is less than 0.05! The hypothesis is confirmed! The Tiny Anthropologist uses this information to initiate her own conversations: she makes eye contact with adults, and shows them things that she is holding. The adults say something to her! Tiny Anthropologist gets busy initiating conversations with whoever's eye gaze is around. She needs to practice.

Some of Tiny Anthropologist's best work is in the area of Quasilinguistic Discourse. She has come to believe that when the adults say "no" (and/or yell, and/or shake their heads, and/or furrow their eyebrows, and/or pronounce her name with a specific, ominous tone contour), this indicates that they would like her not to do whatever it is that she is doing, or is about to do. This is very useful information, but Tiny Anthropologist knows she needs to make absolutely certain that her understanding is correct. She spends hours, weeks, months, locking eyes with nearby adults and beginning to do things she has (hypothetically) been told not to do. Every time, the adult demonstrates some form of negative signalling until the Tiny Anthropologist sits back down, or stops shrieking, or backs away from the fire pit. She tests again and again, always making sure to lock eyes with an adult first. She starts to spit out her food. No! Food back in the mouth. Okay. She feints with a cup of milk. Scowl. Cup upright, the scowl relaxes. These tests, too, are successful. Achievement unlocked! (The adults seem to be less ecstatic than they should be at all this evidence that the Tiny Anthropologist now clearly understands what "no" means.)

One particular pattern jumps out. A pattern where an adult, while making eye contact with the Tiny Anthropologist, says a word from the known lexicon, while pointing to or holding some object related to the meaning of the word. The new H1 is that if someone, while holding or pointing at something, makes eye contact, the participants are expected to say words that are related to that thing. After many, countless, exhausting hours of strenuous testing (during which the adult subjects often become restless and impatient), the Tiny Anthropologist has enough data to support the hypothesis.

This is a huge breakthrough, because now the Tiny Anthropologist can find out what everything is called, and begin a number of concurrent studies related to sequences of words, and tones, and various co-occurring gestures. The Tiny Anthropologist is an extremely talented researcher, and her project now makes very quick progress. The Discourse notebook gets more and more notes and lists of different conversations. The Lexicon is expanding hourly. She figures out the pronoun system. She observes that (in English), questions are formed by wh-movement and prosody. The Tiny Anthropologist is more and more successful at participating in social events and traditions, and able to understand and comply with cultural and behavioral expectations. Everyone spends less and less time screaming.

The research program is enormous, but efficient, constantly generating statistically significant results. The Tiny Anthropologist moves from one subfield to another, refining and correcting and adding new information, until at last all of the necessary conversational norms have been strenuously tested. The work is complete. The Tiny Anthropologist has learned enough to participate in conversations, rather than study them. She is accepted as a member of the group, and can communicate successfully with most interlocutors. She understands the language and the social norms (mostly) of these strange, huge, people. No further research is needed. The Tiny Anthropologist is ready to move on to a new project. She begins to study her older siblings. It is time to learn how to bicker, squabble, tease, and tattle.

06 August 2017


by Cecily
Everybody* is always** talking about how much less women and various minority groups make than white men, and often they do it by saying something like "Women in this group earned 90 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned."  And then I am indignant but not surprised, and brood over the inequality that is still pervasive in our world, and consider history, and look up things on Wikipedia. But the I find the how-much-of-a-dollar thing boring and irritating. It is overly simplistic. Yes, the nation and the world continue to be in a state of inexcusable inequity and iniquity. That is not new information. (Also, getting women up to the full dollar would not rid the world of iniquity and inequity. I dislike the dollar thing slightly less when it includes minorities.)

But I'm just bored by the white-man's-dollar thing, not the topic in general. I like thinking about the statistics that are behind that, and what it might look like, and wondering how the data*** was organized, and where it came from, and what would happen if you binned it in different ways and did more statistics to it.

This particular white-man's-dollar thing made the Facebook rounds recently, so I started thinking about where those numbers came from, and what kind of average does it represent, and how much variation is being obscured by the average, and does that archetype white guy who earned the dollar include the super rich white guys? What does the top of the income scale look like, compared to the bottom?

(citation needed)

And also I started thinking about what I would do with the data if I had it.

Here's the study I want to see: a huge, huge sample size, collected nationwide (we'll do the rest of the world later) coded for a ton of things. Income is still the dependent variable, but I want way more independent variables than just gender and race. The things I have thought of so far are
  • number of years experience (0, 1, 2, 5, 10+)
  • degrees held (none, BA, MA, etc)
  • specific job type (e. g. nurse, lawyer, tour guide) 
  • general field (medicine, technology, sportsball)
  • geographic location (city, state)
  • type of area (urban/rural)
  • race
  • disability
  • parental income
  • (these independent variables are getting a little out of hand. We might need to save some of for another project using the same data set.)
  • with/without children
  • single/married
  • height? weight?
  • plus probably some more
I would send out my army of minions (or maybe just use facebook for most of it?) to find out all these things about lots and lots of people. And after the minions had visited thousands and thousands of people,I would take all of that data and put it into a huge, beautiful spreadsheet, and I'd do statistics to it. I'd create a bunch of study sets, ranging from extremely narrow (black nurses with RNs and 5 years experience, in California) to very broad (everyone with 2 years experience at any job). I'd add a column for [modal income minus actual income], and one for [male income minus female income]. Then I'd make another spreadsheet, with all the numbers from the first one, with subgroups as tokens, instead of people. And I'd calculate some things about the subgroups, like their modes and means and mediums.

(Isn't this a realistic project? Among other things, we're going to need a huge travel budget for all the places we have to go and then find sufficiently large numbers of participants for each most-specific subgroup: at least 30 male and 30 female nurses who have RNs and 5 years experience, in Chicago, from each minority category, and also 30 of each with 1 year of experience, and also with whatever other nursing degrees there are. And all the variations of all the other jobs (mechanics, high school teachers, circus performers, etc.)**** Just the search for minions may take a while.)

And then I'd get out my trusty, rusty, dusty old R program on my computer and do some statistics to my statistics and create some visual representations! I have been thinking about what kind of graph would fit best for various questions. Lines? Scatter plot? Chopped up dollars? The ones I've been thinking about would have groups of people on the x axis and plot the income disparities on y. (I also want to know what would happen if we put  modal incomes on x and looked at race and gender, and if we put actual income on x and looked at disparity. But I haven't been thinking about how to make graphs of those, yet).

For example: We want to know which makes more of an impact on a nurse's salary, experience or education, and if is it the same for men and women. We would look at the education and experience of nurses of all races and abilities, nationwide and sort them into groups twice, first by how many degrees (with each degree group split by gender), and again by years of experience (same). There will be 50 groups each time, for a total of 100 groups. Now we have a study set! Each line on our spreadsheet will represent one of those subgroups of nurses like this: [male, 0 years, RN];  [male, 1 year , RN]; [male, 2 years, RN]. And we'll get, from our other spreadsheet, the modes and medians and means (let's be very thorough) for each subgroup, and put them in the new spreadsheet. Now it's time to make a graph!

This super useful and precise example graph has all our subgroups on the x axis, and the mean difference between modal and actual incomes is plotted on y. Like this!

This graph bears no relation to reality; I made up the point placement out of thin air and was too lazy to make up what units to use- dollars? percentages? standard deviations?
Then I'd look at my graph and see if it seems interesting in any way, like something that might be a line or a shape or any pattern of any kind. If it does, figure out what and write a paper about it. If it doesn't, start over with different variable groups.

I would like to know much more about wage inequity.  Are there exceptions to the general rule? Is there a difference between how much a master's boosts salaries of black teachers' vs white teachers'? Do years of experience and/or degrees ever make up for being disabled?  Which fields of work are the worst? Which state is the best?

And so on. Basically my interest is in looking at the details of the big picture, rather than just the final, single, average. (Also I wish everyone would use more precise language when they talk about the "averages" of things.) "White men" is too heterogeneous to be the baseline. Are there any subgroups of white men where they are paid less than women? If there are, that would be very interesting. Looking at the big picture is great, but you have to check the details first to make sure the big picture isn't hiding anything.

I started thinking about this specifically because, while looking at the dollar picture above, I also thought about the extremely wealthy white men who have obscene salaries because they are CEOs, and how there are more men named John among them than there are women CEOs. That's a different kind of disparity, which is also very disheartening, but not within the scope of this project (don't get distracted!). Anyway the fact that all these CEOs and college presidents and whatever are being paid absurd amounts of money, the disparity might be much larger if you just look at the amount of money, but smaller as a percentage (the difference between $50 and $100 seems way more dramatic than the difference beween $500,000 and $500,050. I think the absurdly high salaries at the far end of the scale might screw up the data. So I was thinking about extreme outliers, and what stuff was accounted for and what wasn't, and where those parts of dollars came from. And for that you need more information about the data than the dollar picture gives you. And here we are!

During one of my many Adventures in Wikipedia, I looked at a lot of studies about this. (This disparity has been known, but not fixed, for a pretty long time, so there are quite a few studies.) Most of the ones I found were pretty careful and targeted specific populations. Many of them match jobs and years of experience. But none of them answer my details-of-the-big-picture questions from up above. And the Telephone game from actual research to media report to striking pictures on Facebook is a lossy, lossy transmission, resulting in the chopped-up dollar picture I am complaining about.

Maybe one of the silver linings of our impending transition to a dictatorship will be that the government will require everyone to report every detail of our lives anyway, and I can sweet-talk the dictator into letting me see the records to make some spreadsheets.

In conclusion, the things I am interested in knowing about income disparity in America are not adequately addressed in the chopped-up-dollar picture.

And now you know a new fact about me: one of the ways I entertain myself while bedridden is to invent unrealistic studies and think about how I would arrange the data in a spreadsheet, and what to do with the data, and what kind of visual representation of the results would work best.

*Some people, with whom I occasionally interact in some way

**Once in a while

***I refuse to treat data as a plural. We're speaking English, damn it! It's a singular mass noun and Latin can keep its stupid inflections to itself.

****Some of these subgroups may be empty sets. Disabled black lawyers with LLMs who live in Montana, for example.

It is really, really stupid that the white men at the very top make as much money as they do.

22 June 2017


by Cecily
Using fabric instead of paint to make a picture presents a number of logistical difficulties, some of which I anticipated and some of which were fun surprises. However, the result was satisfactory if I do say so myself, and it sold immediately. I'll be doing more of this in the future.

I've been thinking and talking about making prints to sell, of some of the quilts. Like for cards and posters and such.. The wildly enthusiastic response to this on Facebook makes me think I should stop with the thinking and talking and get to the doing. Starting with this one, probably.

I'm very pleased with it. And with myself.

19 June 2017


by Cecily
  • people who complain about Hawaiian pizza
  • being too hot
  • being too cold
  • Donald Trump's hair
  • having parts of my body be too hot and other parts too cold at the same time
  • ineffective riboflavin transmitters
  • being told how to feel
  • internally inconsistent narratives
  • biting the inside of my lip and then biting it again because now it's swollen
  • mushrooms

09 June 2017

Like the motion of the ocean or the sun in the sky

by Cecily
After the 2016 election, I started re-watching The West Wing.* I found it very soothing to mentally remove myself to a world with a kind, intelligent president who is more interested in doing the right thing than in politics or optics or winning. And a world where the Republicans are mostly honest and polite, and occasionally agree with the Democrats about things, or cross party lines to Do the Right Thing. And where Democrats have, like, principles, and act on them.

Except, my suspension of disbelief kept getting un-suspended by plot points or throwaway comments that reminded me how much society has changed since the turn of the century.** Frequent storylines involve really blatant, unapologetic sexism and racism and antisemitism and homophobia, not necessarily as any actions or events, but just as an assumed background. Even instances that are completely overt and blatant just slide by- people maybe get irritated/offended/hurt, but they don't go straight to HR. Mostly they are barely noticed (by the characters. I noticed them: they interrupted my escapism!). And the underlying assumptions about what is politically feasible, and what the optics should be, and how society in general will react to something, are all just there, never mentioned or complained about or acknowledged. You know, like underlying assumptions tend to be.

The underlying assumptions have shifted dramatically for the better, now. Obviously we still have sexism and racism and antisemitism and homophobia, but they don't look the same. Society frowns upon them, and also upon other isms that barely even had names in the 90s. They don't glide by unnoticed anymore. Sometimes this results in violence, sometimes it gets us new laws protecting people, sometimes it gets us an insane "populist" president. It's like that situation with the eggs and the omelet, only it isn't really because people are being injured and killed, which is much more traumatic and horrible and preventable than breaking eggs, and I would be a huge jerk if I thought that were actually a reasonable metaphorical response. Eggs and trauma aside, though, there is a bright silver lining to all the dystopian mayhem, which is that I really think it is a result of underlying assumptions getting better. The tide has turned and some people really, really don't want it to. They're behaving badly, and making everyone else miserable in the process, but the tide don't care.

The people who liked the previous underlying assumptions, and don't want the new ones, are scared and angry. They liked their positions in the society based on the old assumptions, and they (correctly) think their positions in the new one will be on a lower rung of the ladder. It doesn't matter where they were on the old ladder, they'll be down a few rungs on the new one while all the people who were stuck at the bottom before get new, higher, rungs. (This metaphor is entertaining me a lot. I'm imagining literal ladders, and people gripping rungs, and falling off. I could take this metaphor a long, long way, baby.)

Back to my show: watching the West Wing turned out to be less of an escapist fantasy and more of an encouragement. All these guys clutching their rungs so fiercely are going to die off eventually, and the standing room on the old underlying assumptions is going to get smaller and smaller, and there's nothing they can do about that. They can't make the assumptions go back, and they're mad about that too. They can throw a bunch of tantrums about how mad they are, and work as hard as they can to keep their old ladders and save their old underlying assumptions and build a wall to keep the tide out, but they're going to lose.

(The problem is they very much can destroy the planet in the futile struggle against the future, and then there will be no underlying assumptions or eggs or ladders or ridiculous metaphors*** for anyone. So that's a pretty big caveat that I prefer to ignore.)

The world is not that terrible! Our current government is not a sign of national regression! The bad guys may seem like they're winning, but it's only temporary! Hooray!

*This was another event that revealed a personal preference of mine to be an extreme outlier. Every single person I told this to responded with some version of "oh my god, how can you stand it, it's way too soon." I don't care! One of the new assumptions is that everybody's mileage may vary, n'est pas? Leave me alone with my pretend president!

**It is very entertaining to say this and mean "when I was in college".

***It didn't start out this way, but about halfway through I started consciously mixing as many metaphors as I could think of into this post. I'm pretty pleased with the result.

03 June 2017

Creatures of indeterminate species

by Cecily
If I were to make a stop-motion movie starring these guys, they would hop around making Beeker noises and bumping into each other.


Do you need one of your own? I can help you out! Creatures on Etsy

02 June 2017

A Place, Sort Of

by Cecily
Have you been wondering what things are like in Missoula, Montana? I have a helpful resource for you! Here is a guidebook, cataloging some of the flora, fauna, and features that can be found here.

Obviously there is more to the town than this, but I think I've covered all the main attractions.

05 May 2017

Constructed Action

by Cecily
Here's a video I like watching:

Besides watching it, I also like thinking about it. Almost enough to make me want to write a Discourse Analysis paper about it. But not quite. I'll totally write a Discourse Rambling Observations blog post, though.

There's a lot going on in this song, discourse-wise, even before you get to the ASL version. Multiple times and places and Mental Spaces! It's a complex setup that is very elegantly conveyed with minimal overt description or explanation- both in the song's English lyrics and also in this ASL rendition.

The main, current-tense event is Bridesmaid-Angelica leading some toasts at Eliza and Alexander's wedding. That's "now" in the musical; the grounding framework for the song. Within that, Narrator-Angelica steps out of time to reminisce about the night she, Eliza, and Alexander all met (at a revel, on a hot night). Narrator-Angelica has some comments to make about this night, but also allows Revel-Night-Angelica to tell her own story and also comment on the (current-to-her) procedings.

Container-story: Bridesmaid-Angelica is asked to give a toast, and does so. Mid-toast, she allows Narrator-Angelica to reflect on a previous occasion.
Narrative/Commentary: Narrator-Angelica is aware of (maybe becomes aware of?) the significance of the night in the past when the Schuylers met Hamilton for the first time, leading to the current container-story wedding and toast.
Revel-Night-Angelica describes meeting Hamilton, falling for him, gauging his suitability, noticing her sister's infatuation, and introducing Alexander to Eliza. She steps in and out of the action here, sometimes participating (Revel-Night-Angelica) and sometimes commenting (Revel-Night-Narrator-Angelica).
But it's not just the four phases of Angelica being depicted in this song- Revel-Night-Eliza and Revel-Night-Hamilton also appear, in first person. So in both the English and the ASL versions of the song, the performers (Renée Elise Goldsberry and Josh Castille) are, from within the role of current-time-wedding-Angelica, taking on a number of additional roles. However, in the English rendition, the actors portraying Eliza and Hamilton use their own voices to play themselves in the past-Revel-Night sequence. In the ASL version, the lone performer manages to portray not just the various Angelicas but also Eliza and Hamilton, with no costume changes or anything.

Josh Castille has some chops! The translation is excellent, and his performance is excellent, and also this dude has like the most expressive face the universe has ever known. Here are my favorite moments:
  • 3:03 Angelica being a snot-head to Alexander. Her refusal to look at him (and obvious concern that someone else might be watching) is a very convincing addition to the song's content.
  • 4:00-4:10 Angelica noticing Eliza being in love. In particular I am very fond of the heart-shaped-eyes at 4:08.
  • Alexander at 5:02. I laughed out loud the first time I watched this- it's dead-on Generic Straight Dude Showing Off signing for about 3 seconds. (The rest of the time, Alexander is much more of a real, individual person.)
There are lots of other nice moments and translation decisions and facial expressions, too, but I think the most impressive aspect overall is the clarity of the (frequent, very fast-paced) switches between characters. Camerawork helps with some of that, but it's mostly very well-thought-out decisions about posture and eye gaze, plus the thing about the most expressive face in the universe. And he probably practiced a few times.

28 April 2017


by Cecily
I've started co-managing a local Special Olympics team*. We just finished up the Area Spring Games, and the State Summer Games are in two weeks.** The org chart for the Special Olympics program in general cracks me up, as do many group-specific rules about what to call different things and people and roles. It works great once you get it figured out! But I have a lot of conversations that stumble around for several minutes because we're using the word "team" in very different senses.

A Special Olympics team is not a group of people who play games of a particular type of sport together. A Special Olympics team is basically just a group of people. People who have intellectual disabilities, but otherwise that's about it. Some teams are related to schools, so the people on those teams have that in common, but the Platonic Ideal Special Olympics team has no such affiliation. My own personal team has members ages 18-70 who live all over the Greater Missoula Metropolitan Area. (I hope that's not really a thing people call it.) And officially it's not actually a team, it's a Local Program. Colloquially a team, though.

The people who participate in Special Olympics are not called Special Olympians. This was included in my training. They are called "athletes" (or "runners" or "swimmers" or whatever). Not Special Olympians. Do not use the term "Special Olympian" on any flier or newsletter or banner or anything else that you make.

Huh. Okay. That's an... interesting rule to emphasize so much. What's up?

The International Olympic Committee is a huge brat, that's what. (A huge bunch of brats? A bunch of huge brats? Let's treat it as a person for simplicity and grammar.) They care a lot about who else uses names that have any Olympic/Olympian in them. I sort of knew this, because when I was 5 or 6 my mom coached an Olympics of the Mind team and then they had to change the name to Odyssey of the Mind because the IOC made them. The IOC does not want any scrappy little smartypants kids or intellectually disabled athletes diluting their brand. If you video part of a local event, and the video includes a banner that says "Welcome Special Olympians!" then that part of the video cannot be made available publicly or used in any promotional materials because we don't want the IOC to find out.***

So. The athletes are on the team. Where do the sports and coaches come in? Pretty haphazardly, that's how! Each Local Program (team) finds out what sports the athletes want to do, and then finds coaches for those sports, and figures out how to work out practice space and equipment and whatnot. How many coaches per athlete depends on availability and which sport it is. (Downhill skiing is generally 1:1; soccer maybe 2 or 3 coaches per 5 or 6 athletes?)

The people who find the coaches and ask the athletes and set up schedules and practice spaces and equipment are the Local Program Coordinator (I will think of a pseudonym for him later) and the Assisstant Local Program Coordinator (me). Typically called the LPC. "Okay, we need all the head coaches and LPCs back here for a meeting at 9."  "Are you a coach?" "No, I'm the LPC."  (Turns out the Special Olympics culture is well toward the 'government' end of the acronym-usage spectrum.)

Then the coaches and athletes for each sport practice together for a couple of months until they go to an area competition and then a state competition, and then the season is over and different sports start up.*****

Anyway I say I'm helping run a Special Olympics team and people keep asking me "what sport does your team play?" and "what the hell are you doing coaching a sportsing team?".  And the answer is surprisingly (and annoyingly!) long and complicated. "Well, the team doesn't actually play a sport, and I'm not actually coaching anything..." Stopping there seems enigmatic to the point of rudeness, and I haven't figured out a place to stop (or way to summarize) that provide sufficient but not excessive information.

The end.

*This is something I tease myself about fairly often. In high school I was very snottily anti-sport. Who would do or watch THOSE? Ugh, jocks. Let's go make a poorly-thought-out (but kind of dumbly hilarious) movie based on American History instead. Also all my ideas related to stuff for the team to do are basically art projects. I keep having to remind myself that the whole point of this undertaking is playing organized sports.

Also, it is really fun and rewarding and I highly recommend getting involved (as a coach or something, managing a team takes quite a bit of time) with your local program.

**It is bizarre/hilarious to me that the State Summer Games are in May. It is to follow the school year (because there are school-based teams), but I still think it's a silly idea. May in Montana is not summer. Spring happens very slowly here, dragging out the process unbearably. April is only tentatively spring. The first whiff of spring. Spring's toe, testing the water.  I mean, I guess it doesn't matter what you call the competition**** ("You could call it Bob instead" as my dissertation adviser was fond of saying about more things than you might imagine) as long as everyone knows which sports are in it and when it's held.

I still think it's funny though.

***The IOC also has strong opinions about when you can use the word "the". That is, basically, you can't use Special Olympics as a noun. You can say "we're going to the Special Olympics state winter games" but not "we're going to the Special Olympics". The training program heavily emphasized these language rules but only lightly touched on which sports are available to pick from or how much the court size is different from standard. Hopefully nobody from the higher-ups reads this blog; if you do, I'm just teasing. Have as many hyperspecific rules about language as you want, my friend.

****Or maybe it does? I mean it doesn't matter what you call it but maybe it matters when it is. Maybe doing sports during actual summer is fundamentally different than doing them during the spring. Does it change how fast you run, or just how hot and sweaty you get? These are things I do not know, being an eschewer of many types of physical activity.

*****There is more to it than that, because there are National and World events, but my understanding of that part of the setup is extremely hazy.