13 January 2009

The need for longer days

So it is now 13 January and I haven't done anything with my dissertation in two weeks. Do I feel guilty? Absolutely and I can only foresee things getting more difficult. My Mew Year's resolution was to work more efficiently so that I could accomplish what I needed to. I'm am getting more work done, but now I have more work.

In addition to my dissertation write up and teaching introductory anthropology, I'm putting together a photo exhibition for May. My friends Natalina and Ventris, professors at Santa Monica College in California, wrote a grant for a symposium on global citizenship at their university. I met Natalina and Ventris in Mozambique where Natalina and I were both Fulbrighters. The symposium is a series of events over the course of a week that will "focus the college's attention to the multitude of perspectives pertaining to food security, environmental changes (both climate and markets) and HIV/AIDS in Mozambique." There will be panel discussions, ethnic dance performances, the photo essay exhibition, and a food crisis banquet organized by OxFam International.

Natalina and I are both contributing to the photography exhibition - our photos and the photos our informants took of their lives. 500 pictures. 500. Most of them will be coming from my end. Epa! That is way lots of work choosing the topics and the photos to fit these topics, then writing up a blurb. I plan to do some photo groupings to reduce some of the blurbs. :)

The exhibit is titled, From the Bush to the Market: Buffering Food Security and Environmental Changes. When it is finished we hope to have it exhibited elsewhere and perhaps post at least some of the exhibition online. At any rate, I need more time in the day to get everything done.

11 January 2009

What anthropologists do...

An anthropologist, an archaeologist, and a paleontologist walk into a cave.

The archaeologist pulls a roll of string out of her left pocket and a handful of little stakes out of her right. She begins marking off identically-sized square sections across the floor of the cave. The paleontologist rushes to a corner of the cave yet unmarked by the archaeologist, and starts unpacking his jackhammer, saying "You fool! You won't find anything of any value that close to the surface."

The anthropologist is staring at the mouth of the cave. Eventually, the archaeologist stops laying string and asks the anthropologist "Well, are you just going to stand there all day, or are you going to do anything?"

"Oh, I'm already working," replied the anthropologist. "I'm trying to figure out what is motivating our hosts to fill up the cave entrance with rocks."

My friend Sabine sent me this joke in response to a discussion about the difference between anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology. Thanks!

10 January 2009

Extraordinary Lives

31 March 1979

An online friend recently posted a link about a man who took a picture of himself or some part of his life everyday for 18 years. The photos begin March 31, 1979 and end on October 25, 1997 - a total of 6,697 polaroids dated in sequence.

Jamie Livingston's Life

In the series, we see a man at picnics and parties, work and Met's games. He goes through chemotherapy, gets married, hangs out with friends, lives, loves and, yes, eventually that cancer comes back and he dies. He also chronicles how New York City changed.
19 July 1981

28 August 1990

I haven't had a chance to look through all the photos, but I think it is a wonderful commentary on being a human. His friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid put together a public photography exhibit and website (which I linked to above). The exhibition was held at Bard College where Livingston was a student and started his photo project originally. I really encourage anyone reading this to check out the online exhibit.
9 October 1996

8 October 1997

We always wonder what our legacy will be and this gentleman made his own. Or as another community member wrote, "That is indeed a cool thing and it is a constant reminder that each of us, famous or not famous, normal or not normal, do live extraordinary lives."
22 October 1997

09 January 2009

First Day of Class

I taught my own section of Introduction to Anthropology this afternoon. Sixty students were registered, but only 42 showed up. I'm hoping that the class stays fairly small.

I forgot how nerve-wracking getting up in front of a group of folks can be - and we only discussed the syllabus and class expectations. I felt like I was talking a million miles per hour, but my TA Elaina said my pace was just fine. I feel like pulling all my hair out but that's just the adrenaline talking. I finished the class slightly out of breath. I guess it could be worse. When I first started teaching, I used to vomit in the bathroom just before class.

This weekend will be fairly busy preparing the three lectures I will give next week and prepping the activities I want students to complete over the course of the term. I really want to help my students learn cool new things. I'm pretty excited. I hope that 10 years from now, if I have a job I still be as excited about teaching.

I am simultaneously running an anthropology discussion forum with my online community. Most of the folks in my community have been out of university for a while and are at the point when they enjoy learning for the sake of learning. I post the same materials I am using in my University of Georgia class to the forum - readings, web links, etc. - as well as the lecture power points and audio. The non-student students have the opportunity to learn and participate in a weekly discussion with no pressure. I get feed-back on my teaching, the materials students access, and what topics people are really interested in. Elaina thinks it is a cool idea for extra feedback, but that I am completely nuts to do it.

I am more nervous about the community forum than my IRL students. Community members are very outspoken and opinionated. There is so much potential for problems when one is discussing issues like race, human evolution, religion, politics, immigration, etc. My online community is member moderated so the possibility for butthurt is exponential.

03 January 2009

Taxes on Fellowships and Grants

It's that time of year again when I've started thinking about taxes. I try to get them done early, because I really don't want to spend the day before my birthday panicking. I guess it could be worse. I could have been born on 15 April.

This year I don't have much to report, although I'm not sure how this all works being divorced. I'm filing singly - particularly since I've been supporting myself on a Fulbright and TA position since January 2007. The NSF only covered research related expenses like equipment, field assistance, and a truck rental.

From everything I can tell, so far, my dissertation NSF - because it went towards paying for research-education expenses - doesn't get taxed. I am more than a little paranoid about NSF money due to a run in I had with the IRS back in the 1990s over a NSF REU (research experience for undergraduates) grant. I worked at an oceanography lab that paid me the money directly without taking out anything for the state and federal governments. I didn't realize that I had to do this myself. A couple of years later the IRS caught up with me for not handing over the government's share of $3000 per summer for 2 summers. My mom and I went to a tax accountant and I ended up paying a little, but not the $1000 per summer they wanted. Being audited is no fun.

I have paid taxes on my student Fulbright. It is a fellowship, not a grant. The thing that pissed me off the most about the Fulbright is that you as the recipient must withhold the money to pay the government. The US Dept. of State doesn't do this for Fulbright recipients. It doesn't make any sense as they do withhold for other Dept. of State employees. How much harder would it be to do so for fellowship recipients? I ended up setting aside 25% of the fellowship monies as back-up just in case although I didn't pay them all 25%.

The IRS does have information posted on their website about taxing grants and fellowships. I've posted some links below that my friend James sent me last year while I was in the field.

1) Grants to individuals

This page seems to indicate that the NSF grant was 1) awarded "on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis" and 2c) "is to achieve a specific objective, produce a report or similar product, or improve or enhance a literary, artistic, musical, scientific, teaching, or similar capacity, skill, or talent of the grantee." Therefore, no taxes are owed on a DDIG (doctoral dissertation improvement grant).

2) Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Tuition Reductions

This page gives a general breakdown on education fellowships and scholarships. The gist is these sources can be taxed depending on how you use the money. Room, board and travel are taxable while tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment are not.