Friday, May 20, 2016

goofy spring fashion on campus

What is this strange fashion that is suddenly sweeping campus? The professors seem to be going even deeper into than the kids... Goofy robes, floppy hats, and colorful scarves. What's this world coming to?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the load out

It's always strange when the students pack up their stuff for the last time at the end of a semester and I am left standing alone in the classroom. It always makes me think of the Jackson Brown song, Load Out. 

"But when that last guitar's been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano"

There are always so many things I wanted to share, and I always run out of time. I always feel like I haven't quite delivered quite what I wanted. I always wish I had done it a little better. It's a strange, empty feeling. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

coati - animal coessential

A fascinating cultural perspective on the person that includes a spirit animal:
The Mixtec, like other Mesoamerican people, believe that living things come into the world at the same time are fundamentally linked to one another. An animal and a human born at the same moment will thus share life experiences, are often said to have a single soul, and will, at times share a consciousness. This latter most often occurs through dreams, which may be interpreted as the world seen through the eyes of one's "coessential" animals (so labeled because the animals and their human counterparts are essentially linked)... 
Mixtec thus clearly conceive their selves - their essential being in the world - as not being bounded by the body...
When we in the West see ourselves as persons we tend to see ourselves as autonomous individuals, each of us master of our own destiny and not part of a wider continuum of entities that might include coati...

Monaghan and Just, Social & Cultural Anthropology, pp. 180-181

Thursday, May 12, 2016

when words fail, visual can prevail

I first fell in love with photography when I was in high school, though I never made the leap seriously because of the hassle, back in the day, of having to physically develop photographs. 

It wasn't until the late 2000's that I finally began pursuing it as a hobby seriously. And I got into it in earnest in a time when words were failing me. 

Kandie gave me a decent DSLR (a Nikon D80) for a promotion present when I made lieutenant colonel. But I wasn't serving in a regular job at the time - I was in my Ph.D. program and I was really struggling. For most of my life, reading and writing had been a relief, a means of unloading in times of stress. But in the midst of a Ph.D. program, the last thing I wanted to do, or had time to do, or brain space to do, was more reading or writing. So I started making images. Working with the visual rather than the verbal to find that release that I could no longer get from the verbal. And it really worked to keep me sane. Making images allowed me to activate a completely different part of my brain for a few minutes each day. 

Photography is still a retreat for me. If anything, it has only grown more important to me over the years. 

Words still fail sometimes, in the hardest moments. People joke about how we all make our lives look better than they really are on social media. It's true. Because no one really wants to hear about your troubles. We've all got troubles. we don't need more from each other. 

So it's nice to fall back into making images when things seem to be going upside-down and words start to fail. And even if words didn't fail, no one would want to hear your words anyway. 

So here's a coffee cup in some very cool morning light.

Life goes on, imperfectly, nonsensically. When words fail, sometimes visuals can prevail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

how to read a book a week

Interesting advice about how to read non-fiction quickly:
  1. Start with the author. Who wrote the book? Read his or her bio. If you can find a brief interview or article online about the author, read that quickly. It will give you a sense of the person’s bias and perspective.
  1. Read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents. What’s the big-picture argument of the book? How is that argument laid out? By now, you could probably describe the main idea of the book to someone who hasn’t read it.
  1. Read the introduction and the conclusion. The author makes their case in the opening and closing argument of the book. Read these two sections word for word but quickly. You already have a general sense of where the author is going, and these sections will tell you how they plan to get there (introduction) and what they hope you got out of it (conclusion).
  1. Read/skim each chapter. Read the title and anywhere from the first few paragraphs to the first few pages of the chapter to figure out how the author is using this chapter and where it fits into the argument of the book. Then skim through the headings and subheadings (if there are any) to get a feel for the flow. Read the first sentence of each paragraph and the last. If you get the meaning, move on. Otherwise, you may want to read the whole paragraph. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of the chapter, you may be able to skim over whole pages, as the argument may be clear to you and also may repeat itself.
  1. End with the table of contents again. Once you’ve finished the book, return to the table of contents and summarize it in your head. Take a few moments to relive the flow of the book, the arguments you considered, the stories you remember, the journey you went on with the author.

rest here:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trump and Social Bubbles

I've been thinking about Trump and the fact that his success was a surprise to so many of us. I think it illustrates how we all live in social bubbles. We assume the people we are in touch with are representative somehow of how the world thinks. And then a near certain Trump nomination (I just saw Cruz is out of the race after Indiana) comes along and punches us in the gut.

One of the downsides of customized media feeds is that we no longer have a sense of what "everybody" knows. Common sense is disappearing because the common element is disappearing.

Even with all this connectedness, we can be more disconnected from the realities each of us perceives. 

mental health moment - tromping in the rain

I've got a number of unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, all of which usually involve a(n) (un)healthy dose of denial. 

Yesterday yielded some crap that I didn't want to deal with. At least not right away. So when I got home, rather than pouring a stiff one, I put on my boots and went for a walk on the trail. As you can see, it was raining. So I took a rainy-day puddle selfie with my phone. I didn't want to bring my real camera out because of the rain. 

So I splashed around in my wading boots and took some cell phone shots. I stood in the middle of the little stream that was swollen with rain and took this shot looking down toward Mill Rd. The LHH is off to the left out of the picture. 

A video posted by Mark Bonica (@markbonica) on

A half hour of tromping around in the rain made me feel better about life. It didn't solve the problems that I need to deal with - but it cooled me off - physically and mentally. I was able to make some decisions about how I was going to approach the problem. Walking in the rain didn't fix anything, but it gave me some space to figure things out.