Monday, December 17, 2007

Subway Poetry

I was in a T stop I frequent regularly the other day, minding my own business, when something caught my eye. I was walking under the staircase/escalators, and carved into the bricks on the floor was a poem!

I'M nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

- Emily Dickinson

Wait? Emily Dickinson on the T? What a lovely surprise!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Adventures in Microsoft Land

A while back I went to the computer lab at school, in a rush to print my paper. I opened my document in MS Word, but the application looked totally foreign. Unbeknownst to me they had installed Office 2007! I couldn't figure out where anything was. Like, where did the menus go?! How do I print? Ouch. Luckily, I hit ctrl-p and moved on with my life.

Fast-forward to today. I was again in the computer lab, this time waiting while some research-related articles printed. I had literally nothing to do while I waited. So I opened Word, played around a bit, then went to Help. I figured I might as well learn a bit about how it works since this issue is likely to arise again at some point. I did a few searches, and found the manual for the information I was looking for. So I figured I'd read it. (Aside: What? You don't sit around reading software manuals when you're bored?! Stop laughing!) Anyways, I clicked on the link, but no go. To read the information I want, I need Flash 7.0. And no, I can't install it on a school computer, not being an administrator and all! Foiled again!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My newest hobby...

...calling the management of buildings on my street that have not shoveled their sidewalks to tell them that the icy sidewalks are a public health hazard and criminally negligent.

Seriously, if I'm gonna live in the cold inhospitable northeast, I at least don't want to risk death-by-ice walking to the subway! Is that too much to ask?!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Meet Brijit

I want to introduce you to a friend. Brijit is a new web-based resource, created by a friend of mine in DC.

Basically, the idea is this: we're smart educated people who like to know and read about what’s interesting in the world, but we don’t have time to actually read all those sources that we’d like to. What we need is someone to tell us which stories are most worth reading. Brijit aims to fill this role. This is more than an RSS feed. While it is fully rooted in the age of online media, it is equally based on human input. Real people read a myriad of articles and write qualitative summaries along with rankings to help you choose those articles of most interest. It’s a pretty awesome concept. So, check it out. And tell your friends!

PS. Brijit is still a work in progress; if you have constructive feedback they would very much like to hear from you.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Transcontinental Haftarah

Some 2,990 miles, and three time zones apart, my mother and I read the same haftarah this morning, in shuls with the same name! This is something we are both, separately, learning how to do. It was kind of nice to know that we were both doing this today.

I’ve been leyning for several years, but didn’t learn haftarah trope till recently when I decided to teach myself as a procrastination technique when I was avoiding research papers. Yes, I am decidedly a nerd!

(Okay, so I did read torah and haftarah at my bat mitzvah many moons ago, but at the time I was really not able to learn the trope. Funny how at a later age I learned it effortlessly. I was just ready.)

I think I prefer torah reading to haftarah. As someone commented to me recently, it’s sexier! It’s also easier for me. True, you don’t have the vowels and trope in front of you, so it requires substantially more practice. But the language is easier. And much as I’d love my Hebrew to be so good that I don’t mind the poetic mumbo jumbo – at least it's reassuring to know that it’s good enough that I notice the difference! (Sort of like when I was studying for my Bat Mitzvah and my mother said that she felt good knowing that I was struggling with the words to the kaddish cause it meant I knew the difference between Hebrew and Aramaic!)

Shavuah tov!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Somber Thanks

Each year at Pesach, and to a lesser extent on Thanksgiving, my FOO (family of origin) keeps in mind peoples who are less fortunate than ourselves. Like many people, we have spent quite a bit of time talking about Darfur. But this year I’m thinking about a lesser known but even more dire conflict zone.

In the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 4 million people have died since the conflict began in 1998. That’s over 1,000 people per day. In addition to that, there are 2.4 million people displaced by the conflict, and 42 million who are suffering from food insecurity (including 17 million who are malnourished).

Despite the presence of a UN mission, this is not truly a post-conflict society. The conflict persists. The scale of the destruction is breathtaking. I know this is depressing. But it is important to know. To recognize what is happening. This is what my FOO taught me: to be grateful for what we have; to understand that there are people out there who have nothing; and to be politicized about it.

I am thankful to know that I have enough food to eat. That I have a place to live. That I am alive. These are not luxuries. Yet, for so many people, even that last and most basic human right is violated. We cannot rewind time and give these people back their lives, and more people are dying every day. Those who are not dying are in precarious situations. Please remember them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ode to Cilantro

I love the smell of fresh cilantro. It makes me excited for whatever I’m about to cook, and inspires me to travel more.

Okay, I know some of you have this strange inability to eat cilantro because it tastes weird to you. (So sorry! How much you miss!) But for the rest of us, cilantro is such a beautiful thing. As I was cooking the other day I commented to my roommate that cilantro is really a key ingredient for Mexican cooking; it makes a huge difference in getting an authentic flavor. She understood completely.

When I studied in Mexico some of the students I met had never encountered it before. One conversation about it (translated into English) went like this:
Other Student: What is this green herb I see on everything?
Me: How can you not know what it is?! It’s cilantro, of course.
Other student: Okay… so, what’s it called in English?
Me: Cilantro!
It wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast that I found out that lots of people call cilantro coriander. In fact, if you look up cilantro on the definition says “See coriander.” If you look up coriander there’s an actual definition. Funny, cause in Cali I never heard of coriander except in relation to the ground up powder from the seeds. (Similarly, I discovered that garbanzo beans are called chickpeas here. How very odd!)

The next time you’re trying to cook Mexican food, remember the cilantro. Take it from this Californian – it makes a world of difference.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

IR != Infrared

As a student of international relations (IR), I have been well aware of the over-abundance of acronyms and abbreviations in the field for many years. One of the best things about my class on Relaciones Internacionales de América Latina y el Caribe, many years ago now, was that I learned the terms of art all over again, en español.

Aliza recently posted about the need for translation in pharmacies, and in medicine more generally, something she knows from work experience.

In my world things like this are very important if you are going to be professionally fluent (Spanish --> English):

Grad school, of course, takes the acronyms to a whole new level. But that's a subject for another day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Politics, Partisanship, and Priorities

The Economist had a lovely column about the Governator and California exceptionalism. As someone who’s been breathing California politics since birth, its nice to see how well they hit several key points about our (admittedly screwy) political system back home, and how it has worked for the Governor. Excerpt:
In his loftier moments, Mr Schwarzenegger claims to be blazing a new political trail, which he calls “post-partisanship” […] Yet, despite the governor's attempts to sell it in Washington, his post-partisan approach is unlikely to travel far, or even to persist after his term ends in 2010. Recalling his early years as a penniless immigrant, Mr Schwarzenegger often says that he could have succeeded only in California. The same is true of his political methods.

And then, there’s this opinion piece in Salon about Kucinich, Democratic party politics, and the primary. It’s both entertaining and thought-provoking:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Saving the World, One Job at a Time…

Washington Post article, “Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest.” Ouch…

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Allergic to Seasons

I’m allergic to seasons. Okay, fine, partially, it’s just fun to say. After all, I love whining about East Coast weather. But it’s also rooted in reality.

I was going to say that fall was my least favorite season. Except anyone who’s been around me in, say, winter, would protest. So, I’m amending my thought. ALL of the seasons on the East Coast are my least-favorite:
Winter – Because it’s SOOOO cold!
Spring – Because it’s a joke – its STILL cold!
Summer – Because it’s icky sticky HUMID. (Okay, this is more about D.C.; I’m still not convinced Boston ever gets warm!)
Fall – Because it makes me sick. Really, I’m sneezy, my eyes are red and itchy, I can’t breathe, and my arms are rashy. Yes, I am actually allergic to fall.* Fun stuff.
I suppose there are some nice things about seasons. They make me appreciate every moment when it's nice out in a way I did not do when it was almost always nice out! Now when the weather's good, I can't wait to spend all my time out-doors. More specifically, there are other nice things about seasons …
Winter – Ummm, I’m working on it, haven’t come up with a reason yet, but there must be one somewhere…Help?!!
Spring – It really is beautiful when the flowers finally come out!
Summer – It’s green and warm at long last. Proper weather!
Fall – Leaves are pretty, and a novelty!

*Okay, so this doesn't last that long, it's mainly while the seasons are still fluctuating a lot, but still, it kinda sucks!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Proportional Blowback?

It was West Wing night, a few weeks back, and we were watching Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc which ends with an American plane shot down…
What was first thought to be a mechanical failure was then claimed by a fundamentalist group after a keyhole satellite sent back a record of a heat stream coming from what’s called an F.I.M. 92, which is a shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missile launcher. In the last 90 minutes or so that’s been debunked as well. Hard intelligence is telling us the order came from the Syrian defense ministry.
…which led me to think, FIM 92?! That’s a Stinger! In other words, it’s an American missile. The writers of the West Wing are smart enough to have done that on purpose (and after all, it would’ve been easy for them to make it a Russian SA-7; those are ubiquitous). In the next episode (which we watched tonight) they debate the merits of a Proportional Response. A great episode. I just wish they’d done something with the fact that it’s an American-made weapon. It could’ve been a good plot twist, and raises important issues. After all, the problem with sharing weapons technology is that weapons often have a longer shelf-life than friendly alliances. If only my favorite TV show had noticed that point. They came so close.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poppies, my pretty

Not only did I want to share this lovely picture of California golden poppies in its own right, but also it provides my userpic. The photo comes courtesy of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which offers an online Photo Gallery providing copyright-free nature photos from all over the country. How cool is that?! :)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Credit where credit is due

So, since only one person knew the answer to one part of the “rhyme and reason” question, I’m providing some clarification.

“Postcards from Outer Space” comes from that fabulous Muppet show of my childhood – Fraggle Rock – in which Gobo’s Uncle Traveling Matt travels to the (human) world of “outer space” and sends Nephew Gobo postcards recording his observations of the “silly creatures” (us).

Sunkist Miss comes from the chorus of the classic song, “California, Here I Come.” Listen and learn. (I have also seen it transcribed as "sun-kissed", but hey, I had to choose, and this was cute!)

And yes, obviously “If I only had a blog” was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, but no, that was not one of the questions I was asking you to guess! (Several people have asked about this).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If I only had a blog...

Confession: for the past year I have had a file called "If I only had a blog." There were two purposes. One was to find out if I would actually use it enough to make a blog worthwhile (the answer is yes). The second (and somewhat contradictory) purpose was to help prevent me from writing a blog by giving myself another outlet. After all, I think blogs are a really weird phenomenon. Who wants their diary online?! In reality, what has evolved over the past year is clearly not a diary. It is a document compiling some of my stories, thoughts and observations that I want to share with people. So, here we are.

So, some ground rules: if you know me, which, let's face it, you probably do, please refrain from posting any identifying information beyond how I've identified myself. Basically, while googling myself is fun, I don’t want to find this page when I do so – either directly or indirectly.

Rhyme and Reason: yes, both the title of the blog and my username are references. (No, the references are not related to each other). Brownie points if you can figure them out without google. :)