Trip to UN

Tomorrow morning, I go with Charlie's 6th grade class on a bus-trip to the UN. We leave in the early morning and get home in the late evening. I'm looking forward to it -- I've never been before. I thought about trying to contact the UEA office that is at the UN, but they don't seem to have an email address and I have a hard time being bothered to telephone people -- a weakness of mine.

I finally got my visa application sent off for going to Brazil. What a nightmare! They should at least have plenty of time. I don't know how long such things take, but they have basically a full month.

I've been getting stuff in anticipation of my several weeks of travelling. I designed and ordered some new business cards. I've been down to the last few cards of my original set I got when I arrived in the department nearly 10 years ago. I'll be excited to see how my new design worked out. I also ordered some new shirts and a mug from zneaĵoj.

I checked the Brazil Congress site and saw that 355 people are currently signed up for their Esperanto congress. That will, without question, be the largest Esperanto convention I've ever attended, although still nowhere near as large as the UK, where there are usually at least 2,000 people.


For a few months, the ELNA folks have been talking about trying various outreach methods to do outreach and publicity about Esperanto. Some of the people talk about buying advertising -- I've been more inclined to think about what we can for little or no money. One thing that Rob Read said was that we ought to focus on a small market and try to penetrate deeply. Mostly, people have been talking about science fiction enthusiasts and teachers-of-latin. I realized that the community I was most interested in were bloggers. Bloggers are interested in communication -- are communicating with a world-wide audience -- and are increasingly influential. That's part one.

Part two was remembering blog day from last year. For blog day, bloggers were encouraged to participate by posting an entry that described 5 blogs they didn't usually read. It was interesting to me see the idea gain traction and generate a lot of buzz last year.

So I'm hoping to generate similar excitement by getting people to celebrate Esperanto Day, December 15, 2006, by crafting a bilingual post in their native language and in Esperanto that describes the "language problem" from their perspective: maybe that there isn't a language problem, or that their language is being threatened, or that miscommunication creates friction in their community, or the costs of trying to maintain their language in an increasingly monolingual world. I'll be fascinated to read what people write!

Esperanto day... Pass it on!

Cedar Waxwings

The cherry tree is laden with fruit and the Cedar Waxwings have come to feast. I heard one or two last week, but for the last few days the tree is simply full of them. They make a high-pitched call, something between a squeak, a peep, and a buzz. We enjoy sitting out under our tent and listening to them. With the end of the semester, I've finally had time to just sit for a while.

I'm beginning to panic regarding my trip to Brazil, though. I've (perhaps foolishly) agreed to give *three* talks. I don't expect any of them to be terribly difficult or complex, but I still have to put them together. I'm going to need to start really focusing on this stuff.

Semester Completed, Summer Underway

The semester wrapped up this week: I submitted my grades on Wednesday. The student project mapping garlic mustard turned out remarkably well. I have been dreaming of doing projects like this for several years (especially with respect to students in various parts of the work, AKA CUE/EKI).

I'm starting to see convergence between my union organizing activity and my teaching. A big part of my teaching, I realize, is trying to inspire students to action: to do something and for our interaction to be in the context of that activity. In our union local, we've been selected as part of a strategic directions initiative to move from a "service model" to an "organizing model", which focuses on the same basic idea: through personal contacts you help people discover that the things which aren't working well can be fixed and the union is an effective conduit toward accomplishing those goals. I've ordered a couple of books that look like they'll be helpful: Organizing for Social Change and Rules for Radicals. I'm also interested in thinking how these concepts could be applied to ELNA, which is faltering as a service organization.


I tried to update to Drupal 4.7 this evening. It didn't work. I followed the directions, ran the update the script, and the site woulnd't come back up. The script that was supposed to update the database ... didn't. The site came back up with dozens of mysql errors. I played around with it and then tried to back out. That didn't work. Eventually, I had to wipe the database and restore from backups. Sigh... At least now I know enough to be cautious about trying to update any of my "real" drupal sites. :-/

Trip to Boston

I had a whirlwind trip to Boston for the MTA conference. I would have aimed to arrive around noon, but one person who wanted a ride couldn't leave until 1:30, so we didn't get there until after 4pm. I'll know better next year -- I really should have left when I wanted to.

Having done this last year, I had a better idea of where I was going and what I was doing. We stayed in the Westin this year, rather than the Sheraton. I was grumpy that they didn't have free wireless in the hotel, but at least they don't charge in the convention center anymore. It was good to be able to check up on what was going on. The only critical issue was that the Esperanto-USA website was unavailable -- the hosting service broke something that has taken our whole site down and it's been down now for more than 12 hours. I'm beginning to think we should start looking for a different hosting service, if this one can't get their act together.

The main issue I've been pushing for at MTA is for them to use a reasonable amount of the Public Relations and Organizing fund for organizing. Out of $2 million dollars in the fund this year, they only spent $58k on organizing -- and $40k of that was spent on a postcard campaign which is not what anyone could even charitably call 'organizing'. Many of the people involved with it just call it the 'public relations' fund because they don't value organizing. Over the past two years, we've made strides toward having organizing become a focus of the union. Maybe next year, we can actually leverage a reasonable amount of money out of the fund to support our goals.

The showstopper today was a report on the challenges facing the Springfield schools. The Republicans have been mounting a campaign against organized labor in the state, using a variety of dubious techniques to force an unacceptable contract down the throats of the teacher's union in Springfield. In the interim, they've made conditions so appalling for teachers, that more than a thousand have left over the past four years. Now, 90% of special ed teachers are uncertified -- these are among the most disadvantaged kids in the state. Would any legislator ever allow their children to be taught in a school in that state? I don't think so.


I saw today that Flock has an integrated blog-posting tool, so I thought I'd download the newest release and give it a try. By pointing it at "" it autoconfigured to post to my blog. Now I'll have to see whether I can actually post.

Hmm. In my first attempt, it ate all of my HTML. I can probably adjust the configuration and fix that.

Who does government serve?

It's been interesting to me to see the explosion of anger over which giant megacorporation is running the ports on the east coast. So this company happens to be based in Dubai. I think it's an issue that probably plays well with the ignorant people in the country who don't like the appearance of "them a-rabs" controlling the ports, but I doubt it will make much difference in terms of security. Or at least the idea of "where a company is based" will tell you anything useful. Most of these giant megacorporations are international enough that describing where they are "based" doesn't necessarily tell you anything about the politics of the company. The larger issue is that our government increasingly no-longer serves the interest of the people in this country -- instead they are responsive to the interests of the rich around the world.

I remember reading in a Robert Reich book -- maybe The Future of Work how increasingly people would realize that their interests would align less with other people in their local economy and more with groups of other people in the global economy. But the giant corporations have already done this with the US government. With respect to international politics, it is hard to tell who benefits the most from the actions of the US government, but it's pretty clearly not the American people. The Bush administation serves the interests primarily of the rich and powerful around the world. When they do something that benefits "America" its only a coincidence.

At one time, it might have been possible to force corporations to act in the public interest. Corporations were originally extremely limited in purpose and duration. Corporations could only be chartered to serve the public interest and only lasted until that purpose had been fulfilled: constructing a bridge or a railroad. Now, in a global economy, the corporations are on top and, with government brought to their heel, it's not clear how the People will ever be able to get out from under their thumb.

Long Weekend

For the most part, I spent the long weekend quietly at home. I've felt extra busy at work this semester, so it was nice to get some extra rest and relaxation. I finally read the Patrick O'Brien book Pop had gotten me for Christmas. I played some StarCraft with Phil. I took the doggies for walks (a rather cold walk in Northampton on Saturday). On Monday, I spent a fair amount of the day cleaning house. I picked stuff up and got the floors swept at least.

On Monday evening, we had invited Tom and Kirsten for dinner. Alisa fixed Indian food: chicken tika and some kind of paneer with basmati rice, missy roti, and papadum. It was nice to catch up with Tom and Kirsten, who have moved back to the Valley after attending school in Boston for a couple of years. They've just moved into an apartment in Holyoke and are going to invite us to come see it once they have a few of the necessary amenities, like a stove and a fridge.

Tomorrow night, the BCRC staff come for pizza. I stopped by the store today and picked up supplies to make a bunch of pizza. I haven't had a BCRC pizza party in a year or more because there just didn't seem to be enough interest in doing it, but I'm pleased that this time we'll make it happen. When I was a student, I remember the faculty who made the effort to invite students to their houses. I remember being a bit uncomfortable going to have dinner with a professor but looking back, I value the experience and I'm glad to do the same for my students.


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