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this will be the year.

that i find a home.  for which i can buy a red couch, again.  for which i can start to worry about getting all my books across from Canada (for which i can buy new books, in the meantime).  in which i can hang up my apron, line up my spices, overuse my oven, and make limoncello-from-scratch, again.  in which i can grow rosemary, again.  in which i can hang up my new painting.  in which i can convince my cat, that she is really my cat, again.  in which i can close the door, and not have to talk to anyone else, until i want to.

that i write more.  that i write more.  that i write more.

that i get to keep teaching Intercultural Communications.  that i love it as much as i have been loving it.

that i find breathing room.

that i find some way, to explain to all the people who have reached out in the last year -- the ones that i am related to and the ones that i am not, the ones who've held my jobs for me and the ones who've held my mail for me, the ones that have written reams of scrollable wisdom for my Internet window, the ones that have fought transworld time zones and transworld telecom systems to tell me to Hang In There, the ones that have offered up their homes, their beds, their bank accounts, their ears, their spare cellphones, their Internet connections, their time, their tables, their surrogate anger, their second-hand grief, their first-hand worry and their full-on love -- some way to explain to all of you, how desperately grateful i am, that you exist.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[thursday 03 january 2008 at 16:36:22] []

a proposito.

new year.  fresh start, resolutions, cleanup, whatever.  this is me trying to shore up everything i've bookmarked, emailed, scrawled-about-on-a-post-it, or had-an-articulate-conversation-on -- since the last Random Shiraz Selection, anyway.  for anyone who's counting (i.e. - for me), this is the hopefully-lucky seventh incarnation.


1 - a moment from Elizabeth Gilbert's very wonderful Eat, Pray, Love:

     Giovanni and Dario, my Tandem Exchange twins, are originally from Naples.  I cannot picture it.  I cannot imagine shy, studious, sympathetic Giovanni as a young boy amongst this – and I don’t use the word lightly – mob.  But he is Neapolitan, no question about it, because before I left Rome he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples.  I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizza must offer...  I’m almost too superstitious to say it...  the best pizza in the world?  Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such seriousness and intensity, I almost felt like I was being inducted into a secret society.  He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and said, in gravest confidence, “Please go to this pizzeria.  Order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella.  If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did.”

     So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered – one for each of us – are making us lose our minds.  I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.  I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.  Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?”

why indeed.


2 - courtesy of Lynda and a Septemberful of talk on communication (whether intercultural, or not); a New York Times piece on how E-Mail Is Easy to Write (and to Misread), by Daniel Goodman.  Some of my favorite bits:

Face-to-face interaction, by contrast, is information-rich.  We interpret what people say to us not only from their tone and facial expressions, but also from their body language and pacing, as well as their synchronization with what we do and say.

Most crucially, the brain’s social circuitry mimics in our neurons what’s happening in the other person’s brain, keeping us on the same wavelength emotionally.  This neural dance creates an instant rapport that arises from an enormous number of parallel information processors, all working instantaneously and out of our awareness.


...we tend to misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended.  Even jokes are rated as less funny by recipients than by senders.

We fail to realize this largely because of egocentricity, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  Sitting alone in a cubicle or basement writing e-mail, the sender internally “hears” emotional overtones, though none of these cues will be sensed by the recipient.


“When you communicate with a group you only know through electronic channels, it’s like having functional Asperger’s Syndrome — you are very logical and rational, but emotionally brittle,” Professor Shirky said.


As Professor Shirky puts it, “social software” like e-mail “is not better than face-to-face contact; it’s only better than nothing.”

if Professor Shirky lived in Italy, that last line would probably read "it’s only better than SMS."

or the BlackBerry (ahem).


3 - again, courtesy of Lynda (Uncrowned Roman Surfer Queen of YouTube), a story that doesn't *quite* fit the more central topics of intercultural communication i've been working with, but even so, is a great "extreme example" of the "well-meaning assumptions" trap:

- my name is Yu Ming (Part One).

- my name is Yu Ming (Part Two).

this isn't a story about immigration per se, but it is at least a story that -- in some of its smaller facets -- can fuel a few good musings on why people move, and what happens when they do.


4 - and -- continuing what seems to be turning into a healthy tradition of contribution from the women of Via Urbana -- serendipity from Kate (via A Color of Sky, by Tony Hoagland -- thank goodness for the isles of literature):

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She's like a stain on my subconscious sheets
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out
But now I'm glad.

What I thought to be an end turned out to be a middle
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought to be an injustice
Turned out to be the color of the sky.

how i miss all my little books of poetry.


5 - next up, is quite possibly my favorite post from Mrs. Kennedy -- and one that i have been talking about all too often lately -- to do with relative suffering, and the ways in which we hurt:

It made me realize that there's like this emotional reservoir we have in our bodies and how exhausted you are depends on how big your reservoir is and what you fill it with.  If you fill a medium-sized emotional reservoir with the unsweetened lemonade of unrequited love, for example, you're kind of 10-20% exhausted.  If you fill a deep reservoir with the lumpy pancake batter of putting your pet cat of sixteen years to sleep, you're maybe 50-65% exhausted.  And if you're diagnosed with terminal cancer on the day your spouse and child get killed in a plane crash, it doesn't matter what size your emotional reservoir is, you're pretty much up to the top with quick-drying cement and you are allowed to cry all you want until you die and no one is allowed say to you, Well, it could be worse, you're a spoiled American, at least you don't live in Rwanda, now those people have something to cry about.  No, you get to cry based on the total volume of your reservoir multiplied by the density of what it's holding, and if people in Rwanda have emotional reservoirs full of hydrochloric acid that still doesn't mean you don't get to cry a little bit with your pancake batter.

like i said to Sylvie, i think *my* reservoir might need some Liquid Plumber...


6 - and from back in the days of a now-notorious FAOSTAT, an old link (courtesy of Sari and Andrew) and some new thoughts on everything from Danish proverbs to solitude -- via a discussion of the Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging Personality Type:

When it comes to their own areas of expertise -- and INTJs can have several -- they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how.  INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don't know.

well thank goodness for these INTJs, at least.  it's always driven me nuts that people in our so-called "knowledge-based" society are so loath to consider (let alone admit) what they don't know.

i'm not alone -- Richard Saul Wurman (father of Information Architecture, founder of TED, etc. etc.) talks about it in the very excellent Information Anxiety 2.  he points out how ormai (well alright he doesn't say ormai but it's such a perfect-but-untranslatable word for what he meant), it seems that only "Children are [still able to be] masters at the spontaneous global questions for which there are no easy answers.  Their appetite for acquiring information is far greater than their need to appear informed."

Wurman also mentions a Danish proverb -- "the one who is afraid of asking questions is ashamed of learning.  Questions can enlighten our world, [and] expand our understanding of the universe."

if you see this concept of "questions" (in the proverb), as stemming from an awareness (and an admission) of "not-knowing-something," and if you swap that concept back into the proverb, then you see (hopefully), why i think this is so important, and why i get riled up about how so many people feel like they have to know *something* about everything (and if they don't know it, they've *definitely* heard of it, and if they haven't heard of it, you can bet they're going to Google it tonight and then tell you all about what they know via a helpful and informative email tomorrow).  gah.

i know.  this bit's turned into a rant.  but really.  think about it.  so many intelligent people are unable to say "Gee -- I have no idea about that!" -- and it's so often the best thing to say.  it's what makes for discovery, it's what makes for discussion, it's what makes for dialogue and debate.  it's what makes for knowledge-sharing rather than knowledge-keeping.  it's what makes for real, honest, non-bullshit-laden, free-of-platitude, meaningfully intelligent, interesting, erm, conversation.

go on.  try it.

(to un-tangent for a moment, additional links from Sari and Andrew about Personality Types included the stuff at Humanmetrics, and Lifexplore.  for those of you intrigued by the introvert discourse (or for those of you -- like me -- who wish other people would understand that some of us like (and need) our Garbo moments), i also recommend Caring for Your Introvert, courtesy of Romolo.)


7 - and finally, thanks to one of the many wonderfolk over at Ask Liz Ryan, another New York Times piece (this time via Wayne Curtis at the flying blog) -- A User’s Manual to Seat 21C.  good bits include:

Once permanently seated, grasp both ends of SEAT BELT and press firmly together.  If you hear only a dull metallic clanking sound rather than a smart “click,” extend half of the seat belt to your seatmate and awkwardly suggest that he must be sitting on your half.


On either side of you is an ARMREST.  If you look down and see that it is currently occupied by the ham-sized elbow of your seatmate, it is often possible to claim your space by simply pressing your clammy forearm against his with a casualness that suggests that you hadn’t noticed that you were even touching.

i also love the bit about the empty mylar pretzel pellet bags.  shades of Sedaris indeed.


as always, previous RSS compilations can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Lalazar, Karachi]
[tuesday 01 january 2008 at 12:29:07] []