Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Homage to a Mentor

by • February 12th, 2008

Evelyn 2.jpg

Others will speak of her love for her sons, her steadfastness as a friend, and her unwavering loyalty to the Deaf community.
I can best describe Evelyn Thompson as a mentor.
College degrees were being offered in American Sign Languages Studies and Interpretation.
Evelyn had been signing since she came out of the womb; she certainly didn’t need anyone to verify her fluency.
Humility ran deep in Evelyn, as deep and serious as her compassion for the Deaf community. She never hid her rage against the injustices piled upon those whose eyes mean more than their ears, whose gestures and bodily expressions convey so much more than the tongue and voice usually do. Being a professional interpreter meant seeking out every bit of linguistic and cultural resource imaginable – even the theory of formal school and practical training from individuals who may or may not have known as much as she.
I was new: a sign language learner, idealistic, naive. I wanted the best, and Evelyn was it. Still relatively young herself, Evelyn had been interpreting for decades when we met. She was already “an institution” in her own right. We met in an introductory level interpreting class and soon enough I’d written her a

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researching the edges

by • October 1st, 2007

I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet.

Anne Fadiman. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
1997. (Preface, p. viii.)
The Review linked above does criticize Fadiman for overromanticizing some aspects of Hmong culture, history, and customs; what reviewer Mai Na M. Lee calls “the bigger issues.” In particular, she criticizes Fadiman’s conclusion that Hmong are “differently ethical.” The phrasing itself is curious, requiring some serious parsing. The way I read the phrase, Fadiman is asserting that ethics are as foundational and valued among the Hmong as within any people. The use of “differently” (instead of the starker label of “different”) – refers to the ethics being performed or based “in a different manner.” It seems to me this opens up comparision on the basis of more, rather then less, similarity. Dr. Lee did not read the phrase this way, interpreting its meaning as more distancing (differencing?) than joining.
Dr. Lee has the benefit of context; I have not yet read that far. There is a Bakhtinian movement discernable here: the counterplay of centripetal and centrifugal forces in the utterances of

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anti-honoraria

by • May 27th, 2007

My stance vis-a-vis the UMass Amherst administration’s decision to grant an honorary degree to President Bush’s ex-chief-of-staff, Andrew Card, was pre-established before the event was known. I was hired to interpret the graduate commencement ceremony at least a month before the decision about Card was announced.
I witnessed the swell of protest activity from a distance, observing. I did sign the petition, but my active participation was constrained by my paid role, by my work. Of course, I could have done many things, and probably could have “gotten away” with many things – but to do so would have compromised the deep commitment of professional interpreters to provide linguistic accessibility in the most impartial way possible.
Still – the challenge of how consumed some quality planning time between my teammate and me. We were fortunate to be aware of the scope of the planned protest and thus were able to strategize effectively. It so transpired, therefore, that my partner interpreted what she could make out of speech concerning Card, and I interpreted the protesters chanting. A satisfactory, ethical, and impartial arrangement. In fact, the protest was so loud and persistent that audience members watching the

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Backdrop

by • January 8th, 2007

As I’m going about formulating a frame for my dissertation research, it becomes clearer that it matters where I draw the line between what will be “in” the project and what must remain “outside” of it. I always knew this, but the difference now, perhaps, is a better sense (?) of what is do-able, particularly in terms of promising an outcome. I don’t mean predicting a particular or specific result, because I do not know, now, the answers to my research problem. I do mean guaranteeing with some assurance that the problem is significant and the results of rigorous examination will be worthwhile and beneficial to the narrow field of language and interpretation studies as well as to (I hope) a broader social science. But I cannot say how the leap from the subfield of interpretation to larger fields will occur. Probably there are several possibilities. I don’t want to foreclose some by too close an interest in others. I cannot see any of them; I only intuit that the connections will become evident.
That penultimate goal must wait. I have been learning a different kind of trust the past few years and I

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Blink

by • January 7th, 2007

I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.
All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary

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powers of ten

by • March 26th, 2006

Here’s another item I’m sure I’ve posted before but obviously didn’t catalog or code correctly for later retrieval. At any rate, I saw this short video on the powers of ten when I interpreted a science class some years back for upper elementary school students (possibly fifth-graders). I find it a useful metaphor for this notion of social metonymy that I keep trying to articulate as a means of linking the microsocial with the macrosocial and vice-versa.

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inside the RID business meeting

by • July 14th, 2005

If you didn’t attend the business meeting yesterday you missed:
covert communication typed into the meeting from the computer operator;
Mount Rushmore (four past RID Presidents);
regional and state rivalries;
a challenge to beat the Europeans in donations to WASLI, through RID’s “A Day’s Pay” program;
and customized (albiet unscripted) martini and fan service.
Perhaps other organizations have as much fun and intercollegiality as we do; but I’m not sure!
There was some drama concerning the now-delayed position paper (Standard Practice Paper) on Video Relay Interpreting and Video Relay Service.

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nice things and hard ones

by • December 16th, 2004

Yesterday was a mixed day. The highlight was a breakthrough for a mental health patient who’s treatment sessions I’ve been interpreting for over five years. WOW! The department party was enjoyable, but severely tainted by my memories of last year, when I was accompanied by my family. Alas.

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SUCKER!

by • October 25th, 2004

Benjamin sucked me right into that trick question at his presentation today! Of course I *assumed* that if he was showing us a certain example it had to mean something. 🙂
A couple of the new cohorters got right in there – but what was up with all y’all marching in late and disrupting the whole show, eh?! And did anyone besides me notice the faculty member dozing off and on throughout?

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overheard on the Metro

by • October 2nd, 2004

“Teaching people how to create is the antidote to oppression.”
After I eavesdropped on a long conversation about knitting (!) I gave my card to these folk because I knew I was going to blog about them. 🙂

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