There is a picture of a pretty girl on my dresser

It’s the only picture in my bedroom actually. She is in her late teens or early twenties, standing with her back to the camera, and playing the guitar next to a couple of cars. Her hair has been pinned up hastily and she is Jeans and a simple top. Obviously a casual environment. I have pictures of friends and family all over my apartment, yet this is the only one in my bedroom. It’s in one of those clear plastic frames that have no border and you just slip the picture in and it stands by itself.

So, anthropologist, who is this? What can you infer by just looking at this scene?

You can infer a lot, but the correct interpretation is I am a slob. I do not have the most pristine living habits. Clothes are everywhere, I have never heard of dusting and I only remember to do the dishes piled in the sink when the CDC issues an alert.

I take a lot of pictures, and when I was at Kodak I also had access to free high quality prints, so I printed a lot of pictures. As you might imagine from the description above, the organization schema for these picture was the “piled until it toppled off the shelf, and even then just keep kicking them out of the way rather than pick them up” method.

Don’t be so horrified, most men lived this way before and between relationships. Bachelors would rather eat out of the dish we cooked something in that wash a plate, and when trying to decide what to do with leftovers, the thought process is something like “Well, I don’t think it will make me sick.”

The answer:

I don’t know who the girl is and I am too lazy to put the picture someplace else, Oh, I know where I took the picture, I remember the moment, but as far as who she is, I have no idea. It does not hold any special meaning for me. But over time, I kind of like the picture, and it has just sat there, unnoticed until I get my socks and wonder for the umpteenth time why its there.

How did it get there? My living habits are the answer. A few months ago, I broke down and called someone in to clean twice a month. I have never done this in my life, it always seemed silly to hire that out. Ok, silly to me, not silly to the people complaining about the odors. The person recommend to me walked into my door, looked around and asked, “Um, how long since you have dusted?” Apparently “never” was indeed the answer she was expecting. The first session took three people three hours to make my wee little place clean.

When I got home that night, I was nothing short of giddy. It was like a new apartment. I know, I am supposed to be all green, but I loved that chemical cleaner smell. The carpet was clean, the dishes had not simply crawled away under their own power to plot an assault on the living room, they were washed and put away! I was like a cave man learning to use fire for the first time, and lo, it was good.

They organized things, they put them away, they made neat little piles, they dusted. You mean this is how people live all the time?

The subsequent visits have been much easier. I pay the same rate every other week, but I think they get the cleaning done fairly quickly, so seem to fill the rest of the time rearranging stuff. I tell friends about this and they tell me they would totally freak out and fire them on the spot. For me it’s an entertaining little adventure. Where will my laundry be today? Oh look what they did with the couch. Oh, my bookshelves have been rearranged to reflect some obscure classification system known only to the Rosicrucian’s.

So early on, a pile of pictures and a dusty scratched empty frame vanished from one room, and a random picture in a frame reappeared in another. It seemed curious, but I never bothered to move it.

It was taken at a music festival in upper New York State. I met her family that weekend and we all spent a lot to time playing music together under the tents. I have other pictures of her family in a collage of music pictures in my living room. Her dad was an ok fiddle player.

And that is why it is the only picture in a place of prominence in my home.

And this is why we talk to people and don’t just rely on what we see.

Your Life as a Map


How many people are like me, so enamored of the latest technical plaything our personal sense of risk and reward is totally out of whack?

In what I am readily recognizing as my continuing quest to give up all privacy, I have been playing with Google My Maps feature that lets you create and make public maps that reflect your own interests. In my case, it is the start of my autobiography in map form. It’s both interesting and disquieting. I have tried to place the markers as close to the actual locations as possible. For Example, if you zoom into New Delhi close enough, the marker is directly on top of the hotel I stayed in. So that’s cool, but something bothers me about it too that I can’t quite decode. Maybe what is disturbing about it is realizing just how much I am willing to give up in the name of technological exploration. How much privacy have I given up?

My DNA is on file with the Genographic project.
My DNA is also on file, with my full identifying information at FamilyDNA
All my purchases at Safeway in exchange for discounts
My life history from birth to the age of 32 or so to the Central Intelligence Agency
My current and former Blogs of course
My home and work address, birth date, credit card and personal credit information at numerous places
All my television viewing habits to Tivo and Comcast
All of my e-mail to Google before I went to a private ISP (and now the ISP has all of that).

That’s just the list off the top of my head. If I really sat down and did a census, how spooky will it get? Yet, I shred a lot of my analog Junk mail like bank statements and credit card offers. Yep, that’s making me feel secure.

Indigenous Peoples Organization Files Court Brief to Halt Graduate Fieldwork

California (APP) April 1, 2007 – A cultural conundrum is playing out in the 9th circuit that is sure to be heard before the Supreme Court by Fall. A coalition of organizations aimed at protecting the rights of indigenous people’s has filed a motion to halt all forms of graduate student field work throughout the world. “Frankly, we’re just tired of it.” stated Jason Natuktu, an Inuit Elder of Afognak, Alaska. “Look, haven’t these people heard of the internet? Just go look it up already.” His son, Atol agreed, “How many inept questions do we really have to answer over and over again?” He continued “Yes, we were oppressed, no we don’t envy people living in Florida, yes we really eat blubber. Really, this is the best and brightest?”

The brief states that graduate students subject participants to “ceaseless mental duress, and disruption of local life with little or no regard to those being tortured.” Quaticatl Xertaysl of the Yanomami tribe of Brazil vigorously agreed. “You know they call us ‘The Fierce People’ and I was checking out Wikipedia the other day and do you know what someone wrote about us? He called us ‘a bunch of bloodthirsty maniacs.’ Hey, someone says that about you and you’d be pretty pissed-off too.” In addition to the repetitive questions they have been subjected to over the years, he also takes issue with the lack of appropriate co-authorship later. “Look, we understand these kids have to do this to satisfy a bunch of grumpy old SOBs that believe you can’t be an anthropologist unless you’ve experienced nine months of dysentery.” Said Quaticatl, “but ya know, we have access to Amazon and eBay here too. They sell a book on the topic, and in return give us a pig. Who needs this goddamn pig crapping in front of my door all day? We want points, plain and simple.”

The 9th circuit is expected to hand down a decision later in the month.