Monday, August 10

blend in

the last several days seem to have slowed down. August is only ten days old but those ten days have stretched themselves out so far, so languorous.

one week ago, we jaunted up to see this famously vast hole in the ground.

it was a nice little trip. not too far. definitely worth it.

what else?

some sewing (sloppy and frustrating), some reading (poetry and textbooks), plenty of games and naps and long walks with the puppy.

around Willow Lake the other day, we almost stepped on this little snake. it was so still and so camouflaged.


little snake (probably a glossy snake or maybe a gophersnake, according to my bits of googling), what can I learn from your sun-basking stillness?

hopefully when the semester starts I will continue making time to be outside in the sun. hopefully some of that time will be given to a little bit of sweet stillness, too.

Saturday, August 1

birthday weekend, or an excuse for photographs

today, at least according to his paperwork, is Hamilton's birthday.

there are a bunch of August birthdays in my family. my paternal grandma (the one who first taught me to knit) will turn 81 today, I think. my genius brother's birthday is in another week or so. and my sweet husband's is at the end of the month. so much to celebrate.


this is one of the very first photographs I took of the puppy, when we first brought him home in mid-January. he was skinny and timid.

now he is about ten pounds bigger and only very rarely timid. he is a good companion to Wesley and most of the time to us.

Wesley's birthday is sometime in April and I never have been told the precise day. maybe it should be April 1, for symmetry. next April, he'll be a lucky thirteen years old.


even though birthdays are just regular days and they don't really need all the pressure we put on them to be glittery and special, I ordered new nametags for both the pugs today. we've been meaning to acquire them anyway, for almost seven months now, so a birthday may as well be the prompt that gets it done. and hopefully they come in the mail soon, despite all the semi-horrifying corruption etc. that seems to be going on with the US Postal Service lately.


this last photo is Hamilton as of today, in one of his favourite spots under the chair I sit in to work. sometimes he's a perfect angel under there, quiet and content to chew on his toys. sometimes he is a hooligan who can't sit still and just wants to chew on everything but toys. but I guess we all have our angelic moments and our hooligan moments, sometimes quite close together. Hamilton is a good pug anyway.

Friday, July 31

completely, partially

my latest LibriVox contribution-- The City of Din, by Dan McKenzie-- surprisingly made its final journey through the prooflistening stage rather quickly this week, and I am pleased to announce that it's been officially catalogued here for all the world to enjoy if they so desire.

the most unique part of this audiobook is that our pug Wesley has a role in it. in the middle of section 2, Mr. McKenzie is discussing whether to categorize dogs as noisy or not, and he re-enacts the inner monologue of a man trying to sleep while a dog barks somewhere out in the neighborhood. rather than boringly intoning the word "bark" myself, I conveniently captured some of Wesley's insistent barks and used those instead. it took a lot of editing work, but I think it was worth it.

LibriVox relies on the Internet Archive for the bulk of its hosting needs. everything on that LibriVox.org page I linked to above is really pulled in from Internet Archive, where it's all displayed a little differently.

the Internet Archive is undeniably awesome. you probably agree, right? I hope so.

unfortunately the organization is dealing with a pretty awful lawsuit at the moment, one that has some terrible implications. this thread from author Cory Doctorow goes over the issues concisely and forcefully. there's been quite a lot of talk about the lawsuit all over twitter, lately. I very much hope that these greedy print publishers don't succeed in wrecking the Internet Archive's plans for facilitating free circulation of digital books. what an awful world it would be if we had to pay greedy corporations for even the most temporary access to any of media at all.

in all my researching and theorizing about the Internet Archive and similar projects, I've more regularly thought of it as what it has named itself-- an archive. a collection. a carefully stored pile of carefully gathered and curated and digitally infrastructured content. 

libraries are that, too. what's the real difference between a library and an archive? well, some archives are a little more closed-off to the public, but other than that, nothing. they are both, like so much else we humans are about, places to keep things.

sometimes I also think about these digital archives as communities, too. they are collections of things--artifacts, manuscripts, whatever... but those collections of things don't just happen without people. that's what my dissertation was all about: people working together to build archives by building tools that help them build and maintain and expand the archives. LibriVox is a really cool example of that.

smudgy pastels and ballpoint on cerealbox cardboard. "see yourself" "do the work"

I have gotten to know some of the other people who work with LibriVox, a tiny bit. some of them I feel like I know from studying the history of the site and listening to all of the old podcast episodes. some I have interacted with more closely on various projects. it would be fun to meet some of them someday, as I've done with other internet friends. who knows if that will happen or not.

two years ago I read the closing sections of this L. Frank Baum story, Phoebe Daring. the project had been initially started on LibriVox in 2015 as a solo, by a reader who worked on dozens and dozens of LibriVox projects but died before she could finish this one. when the community learned what had happened, they opened her project up and ten of us completed the recording and prooflistening work for it.

thinking about that makes me wonder what I'll leave unfinished. who will finish it. ideally I'll have several decades to keep thinking about that question.


this week, as I approached the end of this month of blogging, I kept coming back to the concept of ...well, I guess of incompleteness. but that word feels overly negative. what I was really thinking of were partly-complete things. partly-done, partly-finished. parts. partialities. my mind has been more or less fascinated lately by the idea of everything always being partial.

in some sense, that can be a negative thing. the partial nature of so much can leave me so unsatisfied. so paradoxically full of what isn't there or what I haven't collected.

in another sense it's comforting. there's still more. it isn't over yet. we have some space to add and grow and keep going. that's the side my wondering wants to be on the most.

July, however, will be complete after today. utterly in the past, over, done, gone, irretrievable. and my month of blogging will be, too. that, at least, is something finished. how I'll look back on everything I've posted in another year, or five years, who knows? but from here, it's done. perfect enough because that's what we (the royal we) decide to call it from this precious, precarious vantage point of now.

Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines?
those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the
ground and sea,
They are in the air, they are in you.

Thursday, July 30

August aspirations

goals, of a sort, for the last two weeks of summer break:

sewing. last weekend I cut out pieces for two sundresses and picked apart a long skirt to transform into a third sundress. I also have some trousers to mend and probably a few other random small projects too.

reading. I'm still working my way through the Audre Lorde collection from the library. I also have five tabs open right now that need the attention of my reading brain. (there are usually much more than five, but I'm trying to be realistic and abandon any that have been open for more than a week; I know deep down I won't get around to them anytime soon after all.) one of those tabs is this article, which I've read already but want to plan on rereading every semester for the rest of time, as a reminder that however lazy or unmotivated students may seem, it's more complicated than that. if there's time, I'll also fit in some more short stories from Tor.com, one of the most useful online venues for new and intriguing short fiction that I've come across.

seeing the Grand Canyon. I haven't visited this landmark since I was fourteen, I think. we're just going to make a day of it. drive two hours north. bring snacks. take photographs. indulge in a moment or two of reverence for nature and its grandeur.

writing. even after this month of blogging-every-day is over, I have chapter revisions to work on for an edited collection on user experience research. I have letters of recommendation to write. there are also a few more editing projects to tidy up in the coming weeks, not to mention syllabi and lesson plans. will there be time for fun writing, too? I hope so.

gaming. I completed my second playthrough of Horizon Zero Dawn not long ago. only one irritatingly difficult hunting task was left incomplete. I'm now working on Detriot: Become Human-- a unique sort of game where almost all the choices you make change how the rest of the game goes. yeah, it's got problematic elements, but it's also thought-provoking and intense, which is interesting to me.


of course at some point I also should probably figure out how I want to arrange my new office-- not that I'll be there that often, since in-person office hours are prohibited this semester-- and make sure I'm as ready as possible for teaching three hybrid face-to-face technical/professional writing courses. it's a lot.

but two weeks is also a lot. fourteen days or so. more than three hundred hours. not counting the hundred-ish I'll spend sleeping, that's an abundance of time. hopefully I end up happy with how I use it all. even if I don't officially accomplish all the things I'm presently imagining I might.

Wednesday, July 29

steep

this is the sun-smeared peak of Thumb Butte, towering magnanimously above the Thumb Butte trail where we hiked today. thickly pine-scented, steep, and more mountainous than the other trails we've ventured on thus far. it is a popular trail so we weren't the only hikers, but nevertheless it was gloriously peaceful to be up there.
   

the steepness of the trail got me thinking about how I used to hate hiking. I hated being dragged on family excursions to the canyon or the wilderness. I hated the heat and dust and the blisters. I hated feeling slow and out of shape and generally less-cool than all the other girl scouts. I would have much rather been left behind to read books or make art under a tree or at a picnic table.

it was a superficial hate, though. why else did I keep agreeing to go on all these church-sponsored and/or girl-scout-badge-earning hikes?

I went because I find it pretty easy to prioritize novelty and being included over my own usually very individual, isolating interests. as introverted as I can be, I'm a social animal like all the rest of us humans.

so in 2006 when a group of very cool people organized a week of hiking in Zion National Park, I happily and luckily let myself be included. and that's the week when I realized I didn't actually hate hiking as much as I thought. the snow and sun and sandstone changed my mind.

I wrote a little about that week here. I don't have photographs (though some do exist in digital form now) of those hikes. just journal entries.

and I only have a few photographs of these Arizona hikes. a few seems like enough. for now.

here, looking out from Thumb Butte trail at some of the northwest expanse of Prescott National Forest.

and here, a post-rainstorm shot of Willow Lake.

Tuesday, July 28

under the bus

as promised, this blogpost delves randomly into a few rhetorical facets of the reality television show Hell's Kitchen, mostly it's about  some of the rhetorical commonplaces I noticed were shared among competitors across the show's 15-year run.

we finished watching the most recent eighteenth season of Hell's Kitchen last week, I think. (time is a giant blur because of summer and the pandemic, so who really knows when anything has happened.) it's quite a show. as uber-sensational as its episodes can get (emotionally-heightened music! suspenseful voice-over! dramatic pauses between every three words Ramsay says!), it's not too bad. my favourite segments are all the cooking challenges: de-vein as many jumbo shrimp as you can in 10 minutes exactly; cook 10 perfect mushroom and chive omelettes before the other team does; teach a semi-clueless college student or super model or Olympic athlete to cook your signature recipe using only words, no demonstrations; or create a delectable and perfectly-cooked dish using a random combination of one protein, one starch, one vegetable, and one "wild card" ingredient like truffle or blue cheese or something.

the challenges are always my favourite part of reality television. some people like all the interpersonal scheming and the drama of alliances and betrayal, but that's way less interesting to me than seeing how the variously credentialed guest judges will react to the contestants' cooking.

but anyway. the rhetoric of Hell's Kitchen. why not? there's a lot that could be analyzed along those lines. for this post, I'm dwelling on the idiom that stood out to me the very most among all eighteen seasons of carefully-edited contestant confessionals-- "to throw someone under the bus."

among the hundreds of chefs who have competed on Hell's Kitchen over the years, we see plenty of common rhetorical moves. chefs (especially in season premier episodes) insist that they're "not here to make friends, but to win." they refer to each other throughout as "dead weight" or "fat" that must be "trimmed" from their team. after any particular stressful dinner service (and they're all pretty stressful, no matter what), there is talk of so-and-so having gotten "in the weeds" and messing everything up for the kitchen. chefs hoping to prove their skill talk about "stepping up to the plate" to show the world what they can really do. these last two are sports metaphors, extended beyond the contexts of golf and baseball to describe competitive cooking instead.

if I was doing some serious rhetorical-linguistic analysis here, I'd need to track down transcripts of all these episodes and tally up the commonplaces I've noticed in order to properly see which were most used and when. that process would probably lead me to see others that my casual watching of the show didn't reveal, too.

but as it is, all I have is my gut sense that this particular phrase about throwing people under buses is the most interesting one to talk about.

why? mainly it comes down to the common usage of this phrase on the show illuminating its meaning with extra nuance, helping us understand how the saying has evolved. I suspect that the high-stakes context of a reality show is arguably a factor in distorting this odd little idiom from a term that evokes the blatant, dishonorable scapegoating of an otherwise generally innocent party into something a lot more ... flexible. 

the phrase "to throw someone under the bus" has a murky origin from what I have been able to find out. it's not that old, it seems-- first documented in the 1980s. Merriam-Webster traces its history back to British politics and similar "under the bus" phrases in use within that discourse. apparently "throwing people under the bus" has been regularly popularized by sports journalists in the meantime, which gives us yet another parallel between reality cooking shows and professional sports, I guess.

here, in any case, is the definition as summed up by everyone's favourite crowdsourced encyclopedia:
"to betray a friend or ally for selfish reasons; typically used to describe a self-defensive disavowal and severance of a previously-friendly relationship when the relationship becomes controversial, unpopular, or inconvenient."
how closely does the common usage of the phrase on Hell's Kitchen adhere to this dictionary definition? I'm not too sure.

the definition above gives us two core elements involved in "throwing someone under the bus":

1. a previously friendly relationship, or at least some kind of allyship.
2. a calculated movement in self-defense, to further one's own interests at the expense of someone else's.

usually the chefs on Hell's Kitchen accuse each other of throwing them under the proverbial bus as a defensive move in itself. does that mean the accused chef is guilty of truly, defensively, regardless of honor, throwing them under the bus? I'd argue not often.

given that most of the chefs on this show aren't there to make friends, that first element isn't so solidly present to begin with. however, the chefs are usually teammates, so that might count as an allyship, and thereby satisfy the first element of the definition. but still... as for the second element? this is trickier, and it often depends on a million things. in each chef's mind, they of course can't possibly be as horribly at fault as their competition, so naturally they insist that anyone calling for their elimination is doing so merely to save themselves. but is it really the case that those accused of throwing others under buses are always just as guilty of mistakes and incompetence and therefore just as likely to be eliminated by Ramsay at the end of the night? nope. of course not.

so what would be a more accurate term? well, the corollary commonplace in Hell's Kitchen discourse is "trimming the fat" or "removing dead weight" from the team. in that case, those being eliminated thoroughly deserve their fate and there isn't any defensive betrayal at all going on.

or at least that's one story we can tell. in reality, those who stay in the contest do benefit from every other aspiring chef's removal. it's convenient for some when others do poorly. and there must be a thousand shades of nuance between seeing someone as "dead weight" and seeing someone as an innocent bus victim. nobody is thoroughly one or the other, I imagine. 

{ image borrowed from the network that hosts the show, Fox }

as a postscript, I'd like to also note that Hell's Kitchen's creator and head chef/dictator, Gordon Ramsay, has catchphrases of his own aplenty. many are typically delivered in a screaming tone to function as humiliating insults. the more congenial of them are things like, "let me tell you" or "let's get that right" appended alternately to statements of praise or criticism. these are less rhetorical commonplaces in a bunch of shared discourse, and more habitual conversation fillers. they mark Ramsay's speech as his just as much as his accent does. I find the non-screaming ones pretty endearing.

there are, according to various entertainment news outlets, two more seasons of Hell's Kitchen planned for eventual distribution. but it may be a while before they come out on regular television, much less before they come out on any convenient online streaming services.

will the commonplace of "getting thrown under the bus" continue with seasons nineteen and twenty? I wouldn't be surprised if so.

Monday, July 27

editing work and so-called "educational technologies"

it's not the most important volunteer gig in the world, but I am on the official Board of Copy Editors for a scholarly journal in the field of social work.

see? (I still need to have them update my institutional affiliation, I know. soon.)

the article I'm editing now is about perceptions of social work and advocacy organizations in Ireland. it's pretty interesting. part of the fun of this position is getting to dip my brain into current scholarship from another field, from lots of other perspectives. one of the pieces I previously edited was all about volunteerism-- something not unrelated to my own scholarship.

today I've been combing through this forthcoming article's reference list, checking for completeness and formatting. like most social science journals, this one uses APA style, which I'm thankfully pretty familiar with.

my editing process can be a little haphazard for a project like this. but generally it follows these broad strokes:

1. read through the piece once and make notes about persistent issues or anything else that stands out, tidying up a few of the easy things (commas, spelling, other punctuation) along the way
2. check that everything listed in the references is actually cited in the text, and vice versa (this is something I learned from Dr. Hawkins as part of her teaching in Bibliography & Research Methods many years ago)
3. attend to citation formatting (all the periods in the right spots, capitalization as APA dictates, and so on)
4. make sure all the headings and subheadings are styled properly (and I'd usually check tables and figures here too, but this particular article doesn't have any)
5. draft a makeshift style sheet for any judgement calls I get to make about hyphenation or capitalization of terms (these are always really informal sticky-note things, if that)
6. go through again, adding queries for the author where needed, making decisions and changes for the major issues previously noted, watching for consistency and fluency at the word- and sentence-level.
7. spot check one last time for the things on the style sheet, review the queries and comments to make sure they make sense, and then send the whole thing off after appending my initials to the filename.

if it's work for hire, I'll prep an invoice and send that along with my edits. I've done a huge amount of editing for hire this summer, it seems like. dissertation proposals, articles about orthodontics, computer graphics, and GPS, and even several book chapters about analytic software programs. but for this particular job I'm only getting paid in collegial respect and academic clout. it makes a nice line on my CV and boosts my ethos as a person with practical, ongoing experience editing. plus, I enjoy it.

there's about a day or two more of work left on the piece. the references and headings are sorted, so all that's left, roughly, are steps 5 through 7. from this point on, I shouldn't need to keep opening and closing the section on APA style at the Purdue OWL. it's down to the less tedious part of the job now. I could, I know, be a lot more meticulous about how I approach the work and how I track the time I spend on it. for now, this is what works for me.

the tedium of citation-tidying, I'll add, is pretty pleasant tedium. actually one of my favourite things about editing scholarly work like this is replacing all the default hyphens with en-dashes in all the page ranges of the references that have them. APA doesn't strictly care about that detail, but the beautiful differences between hyphens and dashes were irrevocably drilled into me back when I worked with the more comprehensive Chicago style at Texas Tech University Press.

style guides like Chicago and APA and resources like the OWL that grow up around them all count as educational technology, don't they? sure, the term is burdened with connotations of electronics, computers, digital connectivity, and such, but books are technologies too. I'd count these guides' paper-based versions as technologies just as much as I'd count their websites at https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html and https://apastyle.apa.org/.

the Purdue OWL has always been a website, though its offline home, the regular Purdue Writing Lab, predates it by almost twenty years.

educational technologies. any technology that serves a process of education, right? well, one would hope.

about a year and a half ago, the dear Purdue OWL entered into a partnership with a purveyor of so-called educational technologies called Chegg. shortly thereafter, citation generator banners appeared all over every page of the OWL, offering quick and easy auto-citations in MLA or APA style. I reacted with great disappointment and irritation at the time. and so did plenty of other people.

since then, the powers-that-be over at the OWL have toned it down a bit. the citation generation tools are still there, but not on every single page. still, it feels odd. one tool, the OWL, gives students valuable reference information and examples and helps them learn to apply that knowledge in their writing. the other just black-boxes it all away and says, more or less, "trust us, we'll handle it, you don't have to think too hard. or at all."

I guess there are probably times when not having to think too hard about some process or technology is perfectly okay, but in academia? it seems thoroughly wrong. this kind of thing doesn't really serve education. does it?

such over-reliance on technology goes beyond students, too. a related "educational technology" here is plagiarism-detection software like Turnitin and other such tools. these companies give lip service to academic integrity and education, but their true goal is profit. they're invested in manufacturing some kind of vague ethical crisis so they can sell software subscriptions.

using software to catch students "cheating" is not education. it's barely relevant to education by any stretch of the imagination. and if you have to rely on such tools to figure out if your students are cheating on their writing assignments or not, then you haven't given your students or their writing enough of your attention, and you haven't designed very good writing assignments.

what has bugged me most about Turnitin and the like is the fact that it copies piles and piles of student work for its own databases and uses those copies as a core part of its function. and I suppose they think that because their terms of service say this is all perfectly fine to do, it is.

I say not. if students had any real choice in the matter, then maybe. but given the power dynamics of your typical college classroom, they don't. if their professor says upload your work via this tool, then students are more or less forced to do so, whether or not they care about the implications.

copyright is a whole mess in itself, but any logical understanding of intellectual property should acknowledge that students own their creative work, even within the relatively convoluted confines of formal education. for a third-party technology company to copy that work and profit from its application is pretty clearly unfair. unjust. messed up. all because some teachers are so worried about cheating they're willing to outsource part of their job to a for-profit company rather than design more robust assignments and trust their students half an inch.


for further reading:



Sunday, July 26

some more recent art, for the last Sunday of the month.

green spiral with various flora attached. purple and white gradient background at the top and bottom
{ oil pastels and ballpoint on the back of cereal box cardboard}


graphite doodles, partial squares, curves, paisleys, shading
{ mechanical pencil doodles on an old backup character sheet }

sketch of a winged angle. written text around the page says 'if' / 'reasons' / 'this is what we'll call it'
{ okay this one isn't so recent. blue ballpoint on green craft paper }

Saturday, July 25

follow the clues

whenever I see these spray-painted street markings, it reminds me that someday I want to write a story in which very important and very secret messages are hidden in plain sight alongside these boring-but-mysterious codes for construction workers.

street markings in white, red, blue, and yellow

don't they look like they could secretly be pointing the way to some amazing treasure or a secure rebel hideout or rendezvous point?

the trick of successfully hiding your heroes' secret messages among such mundane non-secret signs would hang on how well the secret codes can balance blending in with the real marks and standing out from them at the same time. you wouldn't want to mislead the construction crews with marks that looked legitimate but didn't provide any meaningful information. you also wouldn't want too many random suburbanites getting in search of a garage sale that didn't exist (although depending on the stakes for our rebel alliance's secret missions, this actually might be an acceptable cost).

I've also daydreamed about the heroes of this story sending coded messages via weekend garage-sale signage or random highway-side propaganda posters. or maybe in the windows of an old car in someone's side yard-- "For Sale, 255K miles, $600, 555-251-9839" could be the master key to deciphering the next series of secret codes. if the car is facing west, decode everything backwards instead. and if any innocent party calls the phone number, nobody will answer.

it's fun to think about this kind of covert-messaging-in-plain-sight. in a sense, all the spray-painted lines and shorthand markings on the street are already a secret code. not a very important secret, but more or less black-boxed from most regular everyday people. these marks have a relatively narrow audience, and the rest of us either ignore them or create elaborate daydreams in which an even narrower audience can read beyond their surface meanings and thereby figure out where to safely deliver some top secret packet of highly incriminating evidence.

to make sure our secret agents can reliably distinguish and decipher the messages intended for them, would they have to become fluent in all the regular street marking conventions of their region? in that case, this piece from the BBC could be useful.


street markings in white, three shades of blue, and yellow

seeing enigmatic secrets like this in mundane, utilitarian stuff is a little Dan Brown-esque I suppose. I promise, if and when I write such an adventure story, I'll try my best not to make it so blatantly sensational and pulpy.

Friday, July 24

land acknowledgements are not enough

when I wrote this post about how differently temporary some things are, I wasn't thinking about colonial ruin and the violent displacement of Native peoples.

my relative ignorance about that violent displacement is something to blame on my undeniably privileged upbringing.

when I wrote that 2013 post, I was moreso thinking about the fact that because humans and our vehicles move around at such a (one might say violent) pace, birds and squirrels must get out of our way or risk getting squashed.

this makes a pretty awkward, and in some ways even terrible, metaphor, I know. it's at least something to start thinking with, and hopefully move beyond.

I wrote in that post that "places themselves... they seem to always be there. to always have been there. but even here wasn't quite how it is now, once upon a time. this town and all the other collections of civilized life had to start somewhere. the static only seems static as a backdrop for all the movement and life and craziness. relatively."

this way of phrasing the seemingly "always there" nature of my world-- this way of looking at things-- it erases so much. not intentionally, of course, but it does-- similarly to how the movements of humans and all their stuff so easily overlooks, disregards, and damages the natural world, erasing what it is and might have been-- selfishly reshaping it all into roads and buildings and infrastructure.

there is that troubling metaphor again though, where it's 'humans' who erase and reshape, actively, and always nature' that is erased or reshaped, passively.

that's too simple, too vague, and if I follow that metaphor through, it's offensive in equating Native people with silent, inert, passive nature. so let me say it better. for one thing, Native people aren't gone. despite countless instances of rhetorical erasure and systematic disenfranchisement, they're still here living and working and making. these people have not been completely erased in reality, but we so often erase them from how we think about our country, its land, its history, its future. and that kind of thinking should stop.

for another thing, 'nature' (whatever we really mean by such a monolithic term) isn't truly so inert or passive--not even the rocks or dirt underneath all our feet and roads and infrastructure--and we shouldn't reduce the powerful grandeur of nature to a mere backdrop on top of which we can do whatever we want without consequences. the non-human all around pushes back in unexpected ways. we're all connected.

it would be nice if we all recognized the connections and acted accordingly. unfortunately it's way too easy, especially when wrapped up in a bubble of comfortable privilege, to erase the connections that feel too inconvenient to think about. too easy to assume that we've earned all the comfort we have, and that others deserve whatever discomfort they are facing. but the truth is that we haven't, not totally, and even if we can say we have, would that make it okay for our comfort to come at the expense of so many others? I hope not.

I was prompted via this Michigan League for Public Policy challenge to revisit this map that shows roughly the boundaries of various Native tribes' lands. they have a note on the site about publicly acknowledging whose traditional territories you stand on, as I have heard conference speakers do at the beginnings of their talks many times. I want to read more about this and think about how to follow suit in a meaningful way.

where we live now, in the middle of Arizona, happens to be right next door to a bunch of land that belongs--traditionally and officially--to the Yavapai tribe. fourteen hundred acres or so, reserved for the Yavapai tribe by the US government in multiple stages starting in 1935.

on some of that land, there are department stores and pet stores and a movie theatre and a sushi place, I recently learned. there is also the stereotypical casino resort, high on a hill overlooking this majestic desert valley.

and the name Yavapai is everywhere. the county is named for this tribe, and by extension the local community college and various streets and districts and businesses and services, too. but do all the things named Yavapai really count as acknowledgement of the people whose land this was and is? do those street signs and advertisements with the word Yavapai on them help prevent anyone from erasing actual Yavapai people from how we see the land, its history, or its future?

{image of the Yavapai tribal flag, borrowed from Wikimedia }

I'm definitely not going to solve all the problems and injustices caused by centuries of colonial horribleness in this blogpost. mainly I wanted to write this to reflect on past ignorance and to make a record (for future me and for whoever happens to read my musings here) of how I'm trying to process my own role within a system of colonial, racist horribleness.

there is plenty I still don't understand and possibly never will. for some of my ignorance, I have no excuse. for smaller fractions of my ignorance, there are plenty of flimsy excuses. so much of this precedes me, and I didn't choose to be born and raised in this system of privileging people who look like me at the expense of people who don't. most of the stories I was told as a child had white explorers, mountain men, and pioneers as the heroes. Native people were most of the time mythical villains, if they featured in those stories at all.

none of this excuses me from learning about this now and figuring out what to do about it now. there has already been so much violence done over this land. physical and rhetorical damage. intentional and unintentional damage. I can't necessarily undo it, but I can start learning enough to undo my own ignorance and stop myself from participating in any more of it.

the very least I can do is work on telling different stories. stories that don't erase (or worse, vilify) these fellow humans. I'm not totally sure yet what that looks like, but I think it starts with seeking out those kinds of stories. rich, complex, beautiful, human stories. local stories, hopefully. and seeking out stories is easy enough these days; two seconds of googling has given me half a dozen lists of "awesome/great/best indigenous podcasts" to listen to:


so that's what I'm going to try to do next. more listening, less separating myself from the stories and perspectives of my fellow humans. it might not feel like much and it might not make any kind of huge obvious difference. but those are flimsy excuses for not trying to do something, anyway.