Guess who's back...

So might've noticed that I’ve been MIA for about a week now.  I hope you’ve all managed to fill the void with something almost as entertaining (not likely).  Anyway, I’m back in action tonight and ready to dish some scoop from the past week or so…

- A lot of my time the last week or so has been spent trying to come up with and refine some ideas for a potential PhD proposal (that is due in about a week and a half).  Nothing like getting an early start on things.  The good news is, Michelle and I put our heads together and came up with some pretty solid general ideas.  Drawing from Michelle’s experience, we’re looking at writing a proposal up on progress toward achieving UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, which aims at cutting maternal mortality (as a direct result of childbirth) by 75% by 2015.  Maternal mortality and morbidity remains, in many ways, one of the dirty secrets of our modern world.  That mothers in many parts of Africa and southern and central Asia routinely die as a result of easily treatable childbirth complications is an unacceptable travesty.  Despite some progress since 2000 when the MDG’s were adopted, a tremendous amount of work remains to be done.  While our ultimate contribution is not yet clear, we are (or probably I am in this case) thinking of studying the roles of non-economic and non-healthcare factors, such as education and cultural norms, in contributing to good or bad outcomes in maternal health in a given country or region.  Not settled on a country of focus…but my leaders in the clubhouse are India (because it has such a diversity of regions with varying characteristics…many of which are woefully lagging in their maternal health statistics) and Namibia (because it is one of the shining stars of sub-Saharan Africa in maternal health metrics…outperforming its income level).  Would also be interested in focusing on the role of male education and psychology, as they relate to gender relationships, in contributing to maternal health outcomes.  I prefaced that last part with what I could contribute, because it’s obvious that Michelle could contribute pretty easily…with real skills.  I on the other hand have to think of some way to make myself seem useful…difficult task to say the least.  Will keep you posted on how things turn out, but it’s safe to say that this will be the mother of all PhD proposals.

- Got back on my event roll a little bit this week with a big-time bookend triple feature.  Monday was all about the Humanitarian Centre launch event of their new report on development.  The emphasis was on innovation…which is always a good thing to emphasize (I guess).

Next up on Friday afternoon was a lecture by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe (of Things Fall Apart fame…among many others).  Very cool event.  Professor Achebe, because of his age and incredibly lengthy list of accomplishments, is one of those people that have a very special kind of presence.  It’s hard to describe exactly, but you can tell that everyone senses something unique is happening the moment he enters the room.  In fact, he received 3 standing ovations on the night.  Have to say, not even the speakers at CRASSH get that kind of response.

And finally, a much less academic event on Friday night.  It was Harry Potter premier night and Michelle and I hit up the local cinema for some Potter action.  Not to give away the plot, but it involves a lot of witchcraft and spell casting.  The movie was pretty entertaining, if for nothing more than the unusually high level of corniness in this edition.  And of course, crowd watching is always the best part of Harry Potter premiers.  I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, all the freaks I was searching for at the Linkin Park concert…apparently they were saving their money for this night.  Plus, I would estimate that fully half of the crowd was wearing college robes…awesome.  And then to top it all off, one girl sitting next to Michelle was literally crying inconsolably when one of the more lovable characters died.  I mean, it was sad and all…but that reaction was probably a bit over the top.  

- Michelle and I attempted to hit up the brand new sushi joint this week.  However, let’s just say their crowd management is still a work in progress.  Interesting place though…you basically sit at a bar that has a conveyor belt of food running in front of you.  I assume the idea is that you just grab what you like and pig out.  However, we never got instructions…so we decided to abandon the effort and cut our losses.  The lay out got me to thinking though…it would really suck to end up seated just downstream of Kobayashi…that could make for a frustrating evening. 

-  It’s pretty hard to believe that term is almost over and we’ll be coming home in about 2 weeks.  We’re definitely excited to see our puppies…and all the people, of course.  I guess it’s a good sign that while I’m excited to go home…I’m not desperate yet, so something must be going right over here so far.