Expanding Exponentially

The universe is speeding up. Our astrophysicists have told us that. But so is the world we live in. I just came across the Meta-Activist Project, describing the problem with every tom, dick, and harry, or jane, susie, and harriette starting their own Stamp Out AIDS Project.  I immediately realized that we should connect, since we are planning to collect data that might help with integrating the many different groups in coming together effectively. But I couldn’t find any way to contact them.

Granted that I’m tired, and sometimes what I’m looking for is right there in front of me. But anybody starting a non-profit startup is tired. We need to develop stronger awareness of the obstacles that confront us in uniting. Last night I sent for a sign for my front yard for OWS, Occupy Wall Street.

Last year at Halloween I wore a sign that said “I am not a witch,” in honor of a well-celebrated Senate race. Tonight Arnold (husband) said, “You know that sign you wore last year? Do you think you could make it say this year, “I’m one of the 99%,  but I wish I were one of the 1%?” I was in the middle of a great risotto, and hardly thinking seriously when I answered, “Of course, I’ll make you one.” But now I’m back in the library and

I'm one of the 99%, and PROUD of it!

dealing with serious stuff again, and I think I should have added, “If you’ll let me wear one that says, “I’m one of the 99%, and proud of it!” I reject the questionable ethics and humanity of those who are proud of maintaining the 1%.

Susan and I are working at taking our public-sphere project out into the community and offering our skills, both online and in the reality that’s “really real” to restructure and offer practice at public discourse: talking about social, economic, and ethical issues that matter to all of us. Ever since I can remember, I’ve heard that I shouldn’t discuss such things. THAT WAS WRONG!

If we don’t discuss such things, those who would put themselves first and the community somewhere way behind, could do so in what I used to call “the men’s room.” If they don’t accomplish much else, segregated restrooms definitely provide the men a place where they can use those unmentionable words (that women, of course, have never heard) and engage in unmentionable acts, and engage in acts of injustice about which the women are not privy to. Shame on them.

Of course, if the women hadn’t fainted at away at the sight and/or sound of the unmentionable words, the men might not have retired to the segregated restroom. Women have to learn not to cling to that dainty goddess on a platform. And men have to learn not to deny any longer that the world has definitely changed.

Professor Christine Romer actually said the F word on the Bill Maher show. Softly, blushingly; but she said it. I know. I saw that episode. And I was proud of her. We’re all on this earth together, and we might as well start acting like it. My husband only wishes he were part of the 1% because his mother was so proud of his brother who played in Carnegie Hall. Mother fantasized  that brother’s fame and musical genius would bring her riches and royal status. Sorry, Mother. It never happened that way. And I’ll be happier when Arnold realizes how much more wonderful he is for rejecting the inhumanity of letting someone die for want of the wealth to pay for medical care. Oh, I’m sorry. He does believe that. He’s said some very unkind things about Eric Cantor.  I’ll just have to nudge him a little to remind him that being one of the 1% would mean that he’d have to justify his ethics in accepting the overall wealth distribution as just.  Oh, that’s right. Warren Buffett just did that, didn’t he?

This is the problem. We’re all living in the fast lane, as women did during the second phase of the Feminist movement. Now even the earth itself is moving in the fast lane, risking universe expansion that could plausibly lead to the universe falling off the edge of what is now considered a possibly flat universe. But flat has edges. One could, indeed, fall off.  Fast lanes, on roads that lead we know not where, paths not taken before, might just lead to edges off which we could fall. We really do need to slow down at least enough to connect.

As Bret Easton Ellis reminded us in Less Than Zero  people are afraid to connect. And sometimes, when we have day jobs, and night jobs, and kids, and parents there’s not really much time to connect. Susan and I believe that the work we are doing is important, so we’re trying to make time to connect. I want to connect with Meta-Activist Project, because maybe their think tank knows better than we do how to connect. http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=113206808768597&id=113013192121292

And now, I’m going upstairs to Arnold, to watch Bill Maher.

love and peace, and goodnight until tomorrow. Then I’ll go back and hunt for Meta-Activist Project

Jeannie the Red Jay

Posted in bill maher, community development, establishing community links, using the internet to draw partiipants | Tagged | Leave a comment

On Social Network Analysis

Lunch with Arnold was wonderful. We went to Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. The bread was light and wonderful. We didn’t get there till two, so there were few guests left; it was quiet and peaceful. I was grateful. The hotel setting is actually lovely, even though it’s right smack in the middle of Beverly Hills.

I had creamy polenta, topped with an au jus sauce with mushrooms. It was absolutely scrumptuous. We both like polenta, and I’m pretty good at whipping it out. But I’ll bet they used half and half at least in this dish. No, not healthy for any of us on a regular basis. It went well with Arnold’s short ribs over hominy. And, of course, we shared. I definitely think the polenta is worth trying, without the half and half. But the au jus added a lot. I’ll have to experiment a little, although suggestions would be welcome.

I thought the waiter had brought the wrong dishes to the table when he served me grilled salmon, and brought Arnold a hamburger. I swear. A thick hamburger, on half a bun, with caramelized onions on the other half. And, can you believe it? a little dish of catsup! and a larger dish of french fries! I have never seen Arnold order a hamburger (Well, OK, at FatBurger or Pink’s.) I started to tell the waiter he was mistaken, when Arnold stopped me. He really did order it, because the chicken he wanted was actually a salad, and he thought he was hungrier than that!

It reminded me of Amsterdam, in the Hotel d’Europe. A lady corralled her little boy into  a small dining room and ordered a hamburger. Her son fussed and fumed that he wanted to go to MacDonald’s. He knew exactly what he wanted, but she assured him this was to be the hamburger of his dreams. When they brought it out, his disappointment was vocal and prolonged. Just like Arnold’s today, the little boy’s hamburger was on an open bun, one half holding the hamburger itself, with a slice of what looked like melted Swiss cheese; the other half holding the condiments, like Arnold’s caramelized onions. Frankly Arnold’s dish looked more like it could have passed in MacDonald’s than that little boy’s did. At least Arnold had french fries and catsup. As a matter of fact his luncheon plate looked like that lady’s or some other lady’s little son had had a MacDonald’s tantrum here in Beverly Hills at some point, and this dish represented the Beverly Hills answer to MacDonald fans in 2011.

I understand the little guy’s problem. Arnold has never stopped teasing me about the little cans of Vienna Sausage I had crammed into my suitcase when we got to the camp to greet the total eclipse in Zambia on Arnold’s birthday. Never mind that we were on a major tour. Of course, the tour plans went awry and we spent the night in a pup tent. But they really did feed us well.

He never stopped teasing me either about my fear in Russia. I couldn’t imagine how I would eat. I was frantic. And when we arrived in St. Petersberg,  the hotel was beautiful, restful, and had a great shiny restaurant, right off the lobby, that served fish and chips, and included french fries and CATSUP! I have never been so happy to have fish and chips. Of course, I spent most of my high school years surviving on french fries and coke, while my mother quietly sipped coffee and listened to how distressed I was that this afternoon, again, I had not managed to hit the tennis ball over the net even once.  No matter how hard I tried, I was always the last one chosen for any sports team. That somehow never dampened my enthusiasm for trying.

OK, I admit it. I did kick and scream through all those wild trips to far points. I was tired. Some of my classes had a hundred students. I was writing all the textual materials we needed. Now that my day job is gone, and I’m at least free to write as I choose, I find myself understanding us better here at home for all those four countries in 8 days trips he planned.

I remember that I used to gauge how long and hard we’d been tramping down every side street, with me shooting pictures and him prowling ever further. Then one day in London, exhausted, I insisted we stop for a bite to eat in small cafe. I nibbled, he probably had a hamburger. And as I slowly enough to tramp back to our hotel, I noticed damp rivulets around his neck. We was as hot and tired as I was, and I was using his energy level to assure myself that the exhaustion I was feeling was just a chronic problem that resting wouldn’t abate.

Funny, those wild month long races through cities far and wide. I always said that Arnold had dragged me kicking and screaming around the world. We left the minute school ended, and didn’t get back till the day before it began. Twenty years later, I’m still finding things that we had packed, and never found again at home. Cleaning this three-story cave after 35 years or so of teaching, is like going treasure hunting. But now I’m finding that treasure hunting amongst the treasures of long ago can be almost as much fun as lunch at Scarpetta’s.

Getting old . . . well, yes, at 76 I fear I must accept the label. No, I don’t look it. I’m always confused that my doctors can’t tell. But then, a doctor at Oschner Clinic in New Orleans, once told my mother that she could never have children, for she was too tiny. They told her this as I sat outside waiting for her at 12 years of age. But with age, although I never got the respect I knew was my due, the respect that honors the white hair with a blue tint, we none of us escape the frailties that go with age. But those are so few, compared to the wonderful memories, gathered over a lifetime that come back to illuminate more brilliantly what I have right here at home.

Lunch today was an epiphany. Amsterdam, London, St. Petersberg brought a richness to the scene that would have been missing without them. My expectations of always being too tired to unpack when we got home were accurate. I was too tired. But today all that bonded with lunch was the memories. And that’s been happening for a month or so now. My home is full of souvenirs. Some that I never unpacked successfully, so that they were never given away as intended. And that has heightened my assurance that all these fun things are a sign, a sign that we have never really found the answers we’re looking for in social network analysis.

I think it started when I ventured onto Facebook and Twitter. I wasn’t ready to launch our restructured website yet. I had yet to learn JavaScript and CSS. Books were arriving frequently from O’Reilly’s and occasionally Amazon.com when I didn’t want them on my Kindle, but in real hard copy. But I had knocked myself out, and been fussed at, for behaving foolishly when I tried to redecorate this three story historic structure all by myself. They were right. It took me several weeks to recover. Weeks in which I pored over programming, and how to stop making html do all the work of style and appearance and dynamic behavior, too. During this recovery period, that I’m not sure is really over yet, I thught I could explore Facebook and Twitter as social networks, learning how to present our community development project on public-sphere growth to those millions of users. I wandered for days through both those networks, and really couldn’t make a space for myself in whicih I was content.

The first thing Facebook did was ask me where I worked , where I did other things that might produce friends; friends that I should declare as friends on Facebook. I came looking for where I could find data that would let me decide where Dear Habermas belonged. Susan and I meant to instigate behavior, some on the Web, some in local communities. And having instigated it, we’d need to poke it to see what would happen.

To provide obstacles and stimuli, you must listen intently to what is being said, who is speaking to whom, who is listening to whom, and what kinds of actions result from all this. Then you must enter a new event or scene or character and see how the nascent social network reacts to the new stimulus. We call this grounded theory in sociology.

Let me see if I can make grounded theory clear with a story. I once asked a teacher what he meant by epidememiology. USC hadn’t been too clear on that when I was doing my post-doc there. He said that the best example he could think of was that the researcher was curious about chickens who got near the highway. So he took a truck full of chickens out onto the highway and let out all the chickens. The chickens raced clear of the rushing cars. Then the researcher said, “Now, look at all that chicken poop.” Now, that he said, is grounded theory.

Many years after pondering the meaning of that story, with which the teacher seemed quite content, I would put it this way. Little boys genuinely like their MacDonald’s hamburgers. They are not happy with substitutes from “haute cuisine.”  So the first thing we’ll do is hang around at MacDonald’s and listen to what the youngsters there have to say. We might listen to several conversations, and ask some questions, while visibly enjoying the grub ourselves. Then we would come away and analyze the data we’ve collected to see what the youngsters like and don’t like about hamburgers.

We’d probably want to go to a few establishments of “haute cuisine” to ask chefs what they would do with a youngster begging insistently for “a hamburger,” and we’d probably also ask some parents to bring their children along, so we could take note of how the children reacted to the chef’s MacDonald’s substitutes. You’d have lots of measures to choose from, but Susan and I are obsessive, and would probably try to do them all.

As we poured over all that data, we could pick our a few factors that seemed critical to a MacDonald’s hamburger, and other factors that weren’t much noticed by the youngsters. This would comprise out “grounded theory” of what you have to have to make a MacDonald’s hamburger out of your dish.  But then, we would have to test this theory. Yes there might be a lot of chicken poop on the highway, but would we want to compare that to the dead chickens who didn’t avoid the racing cars, or would we want to compare more poop to less poop? Whatever our conclusion in either case, we’d now have to test the theory.  Maybe we could introduce some firecrackers into the truck full of chickens, and release the chickens only once they were scared to death. Then we might see how different the ratio of poop to dead chickens was with normal chickens (who had supplied our grounded theory data) and with chickens who’d been scared to death.

In our case, with hamburgers that children will accept on a par with MacDonald’s hamburgers, we’d have to have children sample hamburgers at a variety of “haute cuisine” establishments, and take note of how they reacted. The grounded theory gives us some direction in how to set up the study that will answer the question we have asked. But the grounded theory merely narrows the field of inquiry, and gives us a clue as to how we might measure the factors that we believe will answer our question.

To answer my question about a growing understanding of expectations and how we are often fooled by them, I’d have had to search out all these memories. My memories are part of my apperceptive mass. and they affect the way I understand myself, and others. If I’m right, I’d like to see how social networks handle these differences in understanding. Susan and I are hoping that our research in public-sphere conversation might provide the in-depth data we need. The study might even give us a clue as to how we might stimulate and then collect such data.

And so back to my study of Python.

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I Am Infinity . . . . .

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

I”ve been trying all day to get to this post. But I’m like an octopus with endless tentacles. And so it’s been for better that 35 years. I wrote for grants; started programs, requested support for the TV Studio to tape our projects, and meanwhile tried to write a textbook, or two.

Somehow the results never coincided with my plans. I remember crying once, asking Carol if Washington would raise Cain if I asked to put our grant off for just one year. I was  so tired of juggling so many pieces at once. And here I am, 35 years later, still doing the same thing.

Zen, yoga, and meditation, combined with exercise, when I’m not juggling too much, really do let me get centered. Centered, like planting my two feet firmly on the ground and refusing to move. Like breathing with the Happy Buddha until I’m sure I haven’t gone into orbit, hovering too close to Nirvana for my own comfort.

My therapist keeps trying to get me to slow down, to do just a few hours work a day. Everyone I’ve ever known, with the exception of Dr. Bercel (psychiatrist) in the early Sixties, tells me to slow down.  Bercel, beloved by the Department of French at UCLA, merely said “You’ll live longer and more happily at your own pace. You would be miserable in a convent or monastery, and die much younger.”So that’s why I threatened to run away from the convent (the Holy Angels Academy in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, I think it was)  when I was 9 or 10. See, even my memories come in stochastic blobs.

Bercel was right. Here I am at 76, having survived a freeway wreck that broke my neck at 60, the night before our annual performance. Of course the performance went well, it was just one of seven or eight things going on. I’m tired of juggling things again, but it will all turn out well in the end.  Susan and I are closer than ever to being able to set up our project of community development of the public-sphere. Understanding how to do the analysis we need for public-sphere growth is going to involve just the fifth programming language I’m going to have to learn.

A small price to pay.  I was attending a class in biostatistics at  UCLA  medical school for when I learned about stochastic processes. It took me eight weeks of the 10 week course to figure out that we were basically trying to determine statistically whether certain events, like huge globs of cars coming along all at once, or people showing up at a cafeteria counter in large groups, followed by periods of no one showing up, were random or could be accounted for by some external event, meaning that we might be able to control the flow of people or traffic or whatever.

I was at the time trying to explain patterns at a famous old restaurant  just across from McArthur Park behind Otis Art Institute. Most of the clients were elder adults, so I didn’t think their lunch or dinner hours should revolve around  specific time slots. But I wanted to see how the lunch and dinner trade varied throughout the day. I went with a few students to simply count the numbers of clients as they entered, trying to decide if, in fact, the pattern was random.

One old man, with a cane, wandered slowly toward the main door. I stood ready to count him. But he stopped cold, and stared in the huge plate glass window at the other diners. Surely, he would continue on his way shortly. Fifteen minutes or so later, I was still waiting for him to continue to the entrance. But no, it was as if he had fallen asleep, right there, on the sidewalk, looking contentedly in that window. This is what happens when you go in the field. The unanticipated. I made peace with my impatience by naming him my Sleeping Event. And I still remember him fondly, though I don’t remember if he ever woke up and made it into the restaurant.

I hadn’t considered the possibility of Sleeping Events. Hadn’t even thought that sleep might disrupt other factors that could perhaps be controlled to keep the flow of customers from breaking into mobs, then no one, then mobs again. The math was pretty wild with stochastic processes.  I don’t remember a lot. It was long, long ago. We multiplied both sides of some equation by delta, maintaining equality. With delta, we were able to manipulate the numbers. Then when we had our results, we divided both sides of the equation by delta, again maintaining equality, and behold: higher math yielded some answers.

At Dominguez Hills, no one in our department was playing with higher math. I’d done that work with demography at USC. And Susan and I, with my seven balls juggling almost constantly, never had the time to take our qualitative analyses to that level. So just imagine my surprise when Social Network Analysis for Startups arrived on Saturday from O’Reilly. I always got e-mail from FQS, the qualitative analysis journal out of Germany. Sometimes I even found the time to read it. But little seemed to fall within our meager possibilities for meaningful analysis of our projects.

We had so little energy left over with our teaching loads (as do almost all state colleges) that we rarely managed to even do descriptive reports of how our efforts were working out. I vaguely recall having read some kind of sample at O’Reilly’s before the publication. So I’m assuming that this tiny volume was just published and that O’Reilly  just sent it along from a pre-publication order.

This has led to so many coincidences in the last few weeks that I’m beginning to feel that I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, and that this is some sort of Alice in Wonderland sign. The sudden need to write the story of Derrick Bell’s visit, which I’d never managed to get to till now, the reshaping of our Dear Habermas project to community development through public-sphere activities, the eagerness of so many in our local communities to begin the public-sphere work, and now a wonderful mathematical update, complete with digital software that is aimed specifically at qualitative analysis of just the kind of project we envision.

So do I follow my own instincts? And go where these myriad coincidences keep offering me books that say “Read Me,” witing programs that say “Try Me,”  languages that say “Program with Me,” and then, just as I start to say, “No. I mustn’t!” Python says, “I can show you how to do all that social network analysis so fast you won’t believe it. I can tell you what you’ve always wanted to know. I have bi-modal analysis. Go ahead; say it: Python Rules!”

Weakening, my resolve spills in a puddle at my feet.  I must cook. I must clean this huge house. I must .  .  .  Then Arnold says, “Come with me for lunch in Beverly Hills tomorrow.” OK, OK. My will power is worn to a frazzle. I promise to eat well. I have no choice but to sleep well, since my age demands it. What fun! I’ll come.  And Python whispers, “I told you so. Python Rules!

Now I am tired. I wouldn’t mind settling into one of my books. But Susan has to know about Social Network Analysis for our startup project, and she’ll need to teach it in Media and Criminal Justice in the Spring Semester of 2012. I don’t think Maksim Tsvetovat and Alexander Kouznetsov’s text would be right for criminal justice undergraduate majors, because there’s lots of computerese and graphs, and explanations of higher math. And today, our criminal justice majors rarely minor in math.

On the other hand these authors offer a very clear narrative on social network analysis and links analysis.  The also footnote numerous sociological texts that would help clarify. Tonight I have time only to give a brief summary of their explanations.

What stuck with me most was one author’s brief explanation of analyzing data from Facebook and Twitter, and his explanation of the need for bi-modal analysis. As a physicist and a theorist, I have always been a little disdainful of worshiping  quantitative data. Physics and math have measured complex systems. But way back when Galileo tried to use his measurements to explain why he believed the earth revolved around the sun, he was accused of being a heretic.

These stories, held in reserve for telling in later stories, flooded back into my consciousness when I read on page 5 of Chaapter 1: “[T]he application of quantitative metrics centrality measures is dangerous because mixing nodes and edges of different meanings (e.g., money and telephone calls) produces a result that is mathematically invalid. Unfortunately, this does not stop the software from computing these metrics.” The author then adds as a footnote: “Did I just make some enemies? I might live in Washington, DC, but I don’t play politics with math. It’s either right or wrong. . . sorry, guys.”

Even the sexism of his addressing “guys,”with no “gals,” made me feel at home. Some of us really are gals.  Maybe old gals, even. But his sense of measurement not being as easy as it might be in the physical sciences is right on. We are seeing this now, with entire chunks of our population rejecting scientific method in favor of “their beliefs.”  Not only is that whole process either “right or wrong . . .  sorry, folks;” it’s scary when we throw reason back to Galileo’s times. The human race can’t afford to go backwards to attitudes and behavior of centuries past.

I was also impressed with the authors’ analysis of the kinds of relationships that can be quantitatively measured on Facebook and Twitter.  On Twitter a “retweet” is a closer relationship than an original “tweet” sent to all one’s followers. On Facebook, answered messages and series of messages represent closer relationships than do messages just sent out and not receiving “likes” or responses. The authors recognition that they would very much like to get interview and other kinds of data to better understand what determines who is an opinion leader, or, indeed, whether social networks do shape and change opinions for many people.

Most of the people on Facebook, at least as I have experienced it (as one of those balls I’ve tossed in the air to juggle), are weak relationships. As the authors of Social Network Analysis for Startups note quite openly better data would be appreciated so that we could have relationships of varying intensity and importance to the participants.

What Susan and I have set up for the public-sphere project is a website intended to nurture relationships that will go beyond the scheduled activities that bring us together in the first instance. We also do not contemplate running these local projects ourselves. Nor do we contemplate asking anyone else to be formally in charge of these public-sphere exchanges between neighbors and friends. But we are approaching adults in each of the projects to encourage the relationships that develop naturally. We believe that the adults who emerge from these activities would more willingly accede to requests for interviews or story telling, or a variety of other methodologies that would provide for professional practitioners of Social Network Analysis and Link Analysis.

Susan and I hope to be able to help collect such data and make it available for analysis to the young professionals who can then foster the project as it grows. Our local communities, both real and virtual, need such discourse on all the social, economic, and political issues we hope to see pop up all over, on their own.

Posted in California State University Dominguez Hills, community development, Derrick Bell, establishing community links, rabbit hole, using the internet to draw partiipants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving on to Other Stories Asking to Be Out There

It’s almost time to start going through all the stories we have to tell. I’m just about ready to start programming in CSS and JavaScript. And this time it’s not for regularly assigned classes in state colleges. This time it’s for our community development project.

Unlike students in class, there are no rules or requirements. Lifetime learning is learning you do for yourself because you recognize the need to know. So this time I’ll have to sell the idea, and folks will only come when they see it as working whatever charms we really can cast over our troubled communities.

No problem. Corporations have made it very clear that advertising works, even in the midst of a global financial crisis. Of course, advertising may encourage some of us to buy when saving might have been a better idea. That means that we’ll have to be very careful not to represent our teaching as magic, when it’s really only common sense derived from controlled observation and measurement.

I’m convinced. It’s time to let HTML do the semantic work it was meant to do, and then move in CSS and JavaScript to make the appearance of Dear Habermas attractive enough to get our local and online communities to join us in the civic discourse of the public-sphere. To that end I need to import, and plan to, soon, a text editor that will enable me to write as quickly in CSS, XHTML, and JavaScript as I used to be able to do in HTML.

Professor Bell’s story required immediate completion, so it had to come out of any chronological order. I’m pretty sure that some of the really important stories will also jump out, free of the chronological order.  That’s partially because the stories are not independent, but intricately dependent on many of the same factors and on each other. It’s also because personal memory, though yielding wonderful qualitative data, may distort the kind of data that might have afforded us quantitative surety.

To that end, Susan and I have determined to undertake a cross-country community development project in planning the support of serious discussions that are based on factual evidence  and interpretation (supplied by Dear Habermas) in pleasant and respectfully shared activities that bring us together. Here, on WordPress, we have chosen to collaborate on the big story of deep learning, with praxis, that emphasizes confidence in making our own decisions and the creativity and innovative thinking that will lead to faith in our own responsibility and opportunity to come to our own conclusions on the economic, social, and political decisions that matter greatly to us all, and to the communities of which we are part.

 

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The Only Time We Really Had Together

So what do you say to someone with whom you just pulled off a wonderful event  for the local community after you’ve said “Wow!”

Professor Bell had to have been exhausted. He had signed books for ages after the Final Rounds were completed.  I don’t know how we managed to have enough copies of Faces at the Bottom of the Well, but that never became an issue. Somebody else took care of it. There were lots of students who rose to administrative stature that night. And there were lots of colleagues off in the wings, quietly skirting disasters that could have loomed, but never did.

I wish now that we’d had someone keeping track and writing a final report on who was where and how things were managed. We never had resources like that. We operated pretty much on a “wing and a prayer.” All I can remember is that the last stragglers eventually headed contentedly out, and there was nothing left to do but get Professor Bell to a very late supper and his hotel.

As I went back over this in the last few days, I realized I didn’t even know where Professor Bell had stayed. Arnold (my husband) told me it was in a downtown hotel;  he remembered driving him.   That’s right! We had two cars: he 1964 Silver Cloud  and whatever Arnold was driving that day. I had taken the Cloud to school that morning, and it was in that that that I had driven him to Campanile.

I don’t recall any of our conversation. Not even whether I actually voiced the “Wow!” or just remember the feeling. My consciousness come back into focus only with the the car phone ringing: Arnold to find out where we were, since he’d apparently gone on to the restaurant.

Arnold must have said something to Professor Bell, for Professor Bell answered him, “She drives this car like my Daddy drove the garbage truck.” That snapped me to.  He was probably right, though I’m not at all sure how one drives a garbage truck. Arnold agreed, with little regard for my feelings, and the tone for the evening was set.

Campanile, housed in an old studio of Charlie Chaplin’s, was a great place to end the day. That’s the only meal I ever had in Campanile that I really don’t remember. I sat contentedly, probably ate, and let Arnold and Professor Bell exchange contented quips. And that’s THE END to my dream day.

I’m sure Arnold must have taken the Rolls to drive Professor Bell to the hotel. Hope he didn’t drive it like a garbage truck. Would have spoiled their fun.

I wrote all this because it was such a wonderful memory, it needs to be shared. Even though it stopped me from doing at least six things I should have done. Sometimes we have to stop and smell the roses. I’m glad I did.

love and peace, and I’ll try to get back on track tomorrow.

jeannie the Red Jay

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Our Day in Moot Court with Professor Derrick Bell

I don’t remember how Professor Bell got to school the next morning, the day of our Stanley Mosk Undergraduate Moot Court performance. I don’t remember driving him in, so my bet would be that Pat did that again for us. There were so many details to take care of. I’m sure I had five minutes free somewhere that day, but I can’t remember them.

There were no worries that a student would develop stage fright and freeze on that big stage. Well, that’s not exactly right. We’d had many years of experience by then taping in the campus TV studio and on the smaller stage in the Fine Arts Auditorium. We’d never tried to fill the campus main auditorium.

But I had the experience of watching that happened in rounds at UCLAW. That’s part of what undergraduate moot court was about: teaching the students that they COULD perform real intellectual tasks, like remembering their names when appearing in court.

The students had asked for this kind of practice.  The program was developed by them and for them. And all the administrative chores were handled by them, with me, our volunteer lawyers, and former participants for backup. That means they scheduled rounds, invited and confirmed training lawyers, made sure we had transcripts for training, and for all the lawyers and judges, handled the budget, arranged for the TV studio for their training video and for the help they would need there, learned the law and facts that would apply to their argument, and discovered that they could still sound sensible even when they were scared to death on stage.

After the first early years, one of our first participants actually helped me write the fictional transcript for appellate review, and the brief for the court. He was so excited by the law, he went into work as a paralegal. I’ve always regretted that he didn’t go to law school. But that’s what this program was meant to do: reach these young people early enough that post-graduate education would become a real possibility. And that’s why Professor Bell meant so much to us as the Chief Justice of our Annual Undergraduate Moot Court Performance. He wanted the same thing we did – genuine access to those who hadn’t received that access through privilege.

Professor Bell arrived sometime early that morning. We were a small college, always spilling out of our concrete space, so there was nowhere for us to offer Professor Bell a quiet space where others could have greeted him throughout the day. Oh, I’m sure we had various students appointed to see that he was fed and had whatever he needed. But the only space we had was my two offices. OK. My office and the Paralegal Studies office across the hall, which doubled as the moot court office. However, early on, students were spilling out into the hall, much as we had done in the first days of our Research Center.

A colleague, Susan Fellows, was there, observing for her own research, helping direct students with the reality of an approaching performance, bigger than we’d ever done before. There were so many people coming and going, I haven’t the foggiest notion where Professor Bell was for the morning hours.

By early afternoon, both offices and the hallway had cleared; the kids had gone home to get dressed for the evening event, and the last minute glitches hadn’t started to come up yet. Professor Bell was in my office, on the sofa, quietly going over some paperwork. One of the students burst in to exclaim that the parking ticket machines had not been covered.

Every year for our Annual Final Rounds, the community was invited and there were no parking charges on the campus that night, at least not in the lots we used for the auditorium. But something had gone wrong. I picked up the phone and checked with someone of Fifth Floor administration.

(I have to add an image for explanation here – it’s vital to the story that our library had been built so that the Fifth Floor was accessible by only two elevators, two stairwells, in case of rioting that might reach the campus, after the Watts Riots, remember? So, to us, administration had always been “the Fifth Floor.”

Whoever I was trying for on the Fifth Floor wasn’t there. I called the Campus Police, and was told that they could not cover the meters, as our students were posting parking signs, because they had not been authorized to do so. I called the Fifth Floor again, and this time asked for a colleague who was in an administrative office very close to the President’s.

“What do you mean you can’t suspend parking for tonight? Bill, you know we’ve always suspended parking for tonight in Lots 2 and 20. We’ve invited the community. We can’t ask them to pay for parking. We need that attendance. . .

“I beg your pardon. You can’t find anything to cover them with? Well, I think I can assure you that if you can’t, I can, and we’ll have someone out there to cover them in fifteen minutes.”

(I had occupied a huge classroom in our social and behavioral sciences building to operate a child care center for students’ children, so they could attend classes. This colleague was there, and was part of the cadre of faculty that confronted the Vice President in what became “The Peace Room” later, demanding a child care center, with one child sprawled out asleep on the Peace Room floor, because we hadn’t been able to find her parents when the college judicial officer came to carry out a Citizen’s Arrest and read us our right. In case you’re not up on that law, only police officers have to read those rights, not private citizens. So, Bill knew I meant that I could have them covered in fifteen minutes. We were a creative group, we were.)

As I hung up to go find someone to go either cover the meters or see that Bill had had it done, a quiet voice came from the corner, “That’s the third time you’ve made that phone call.”

Professor Bell didn’t know me. He didn’t know any of the history of the Stanley Mosk Undergraduate Moot Court. But he did know the stories that needed to be told.

The parking meter machines were covered.

I’m gonna do it again. Post this, so Susan can read it. Then I’m gonna spend an hour or two reading Head First on WordPress, in the hope that I can quit losing images and goodness knows what. I may just go on and finish this this afternoon.  It’s different from my usual posts, and I’d like it posted for Professor Bell.

love and peace, and more to come

jeannie the Red Jay

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Remembering Professor Derrick Bell

Derrick Bell has passed away. He was a brave and wonderful man, whom I actually met in person and worked with only once. But that was some meeting.

Our Guardian Angel

Patricia A. Acone, Staff, Colleague, and Friend

All sorts of memories are flowing back, faster than I can write. Patricia Acone, from the Undergraduate Advising Center at CSUDH (California State University, Dominguez Hills), and a long-time supporter of the Stanley Mosk Undergraduate Moot Court, volunteered to pick Professor Bell up at the airport. In that crappy old Volvo, probably as full of kids and food and detritus as it always was, from her own six kids, her grand kids, and all of us. I don’t think she had the new VW Bug then. I’m going strictly from memory, unless it’s recorded on the Dear Habermas site. Somehow, I’m pretty sure these details aren’t on that teaching site.

After a cross-country flight, for which our meager local funding probably didn’t allow first class accommodations, Professor Bell was probably crammed in with several students, and maybe a few of her own kids, who had been threatened with mayhem if they didn’t behave properly in front of this famous man. Now, as I remember him fondly, I’m ashamed to admit that in all the confusion of dealing with filling a 500-seat university auditorium the next evening, I never thought about what that ride was like to a hotel in, well, if not in the wrong part of town, certainly not the Beverly Wilshire. I was mostly just grateful that Pat was willing to do it.

This wasn’t really a colleague to colleague favor. I pestered the heck out of him and his ever polite secretary, over the phone at New York University Law School, because I’d read – and believed whole-heartedly – what he’d said in And We Are Not Saved.  I identified with the cause that led him to take a leave of absence from Harvard Law in protest over tenure for minority women. He told stories of racial injustice. I was telling the same kinds of stories of what I saw happening in our college.

I was teaching in what was then the newest of our California State Universities. We had a large minority population, welcomed only after the infamous Watts Riots made open door admissions seem like a reasonable idea to those who were protesting the inaccessibility of adequate educational preparation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made separate but equal illegal. So, the California State College that was to have been housed in Palos Verdes Estates, named after Palos Verdes Estates, and to have become an elite school to service that prime residential area, left the bank in which its first classes had been held and was moved to a little apartment building on E. Victoria Street, where I arrived to interview for a teaching job.

By the time I taught my first class the college had moved into its new buildings in the Dominguez Hills fields across E. Victoria Street at S. Avalon Blvd. Lots of detail, but necessary to an understanding of how drastically the early intent for CSUDH was changed by the 1970’s in efforts to cope effectively  with social, economic, and educational justice for our minority groups.  When I asked Professor Bell to come to CSUDH it was not to give a speech. It was to act as Chief Justice for our Stanley Mosk Undergraduate Moot Court, in which four of our students would argue with a panel of justices on stage in the CSUDH auditorium that would seat 500. My goal was to provide real access for the local community to see their own local young people engage in a real discussion over the exponential increase in private security guards in their communities, as might have taken place in a real courtroom.

 

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The student population has changed over the years. But the history of our school is reflected in these statistics on Wikipedia for CSUDH.

2011 Demographics of student body

All enrolled students
African American –   22.0%
Asian American    –     9.5%
White Americans      12.3%
Hispanic American   44.7%
Native American          0.3%

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I’m too tired to go on tonight. There are team members of Dear Habermas out there who are following this. So I’m going to post as is. Tomorrow I’ll finish the story. There’s much, much more to tell, and I think he’d like to have it told and published. Because of that I’ve violated my own goal of posting 2000 words a day in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I promised myself I wouldn’t edit. Just get the stories down. We’ll all edit together once we ready the theory of everything for printing. But for this – it’s so special – I had to edit.

Notes for tomorrow:

The very first reference he made that brought me back to who he really was, where I had asked him to fly to from New York City, and that just maybe he was used to a slightly more eloquent reception was in my car, as I drove him, well after ten o’clock in that non-stop fantasy of an evening was when he said, to my husband, on the car phone, “she drives this car like my Daddy drove the garbage truck.”  I was driving. Now, that was brave. I was driving the 1964 Silver and Maroon Rolls, to take him to one of the few places that serves after 10, Campanile, on La Brea, in Hollywood.  I don’t remember why, but in the craziness of this whole event, Arnold had driven on ahead in one of the other cars, so that we could take him to dinner. Now, should I have fed him after that, or sent him home to bed with no dinner? Maybe that’s what they mean by a poll on wordpress. Oh, well, we’ll see.

love and peace, and goodnight until tomorrow, and goodnight, Professor Bell. It’s been good to have you here in my memories.

jeanne the Red Jay

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