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!