vendredi, septembre 30, 2005

an evening with z

I dropped in on Z tonight. Sadly, Mrs. Z was working.

Three hours later, I made the long 13-foot walk home.

We watched the Tom DeLay indicted Daily Show and the cheeky Kate Winslet dirty-talking Extras, while breaking in the new martini glass/ globe things and eating goat cheese on vintas. Z was also kind enough to dispense his take on the world and my place in it.

In all, not how I anticipated spending my Friday night. But in this case, it was even better.


"I'm being fucked by George W. Bush daily. The worst part— I pay $12 to ride him every day."
Renee, on having to take the George W. Bush Turnpike (I-190) to and from her job in Dallas.

I'm with you, sister.

karma can be such a beeyotch

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted on campaign finance fraud yesterday.

I can't say that I really feel sorry for him. To quote Diana, "This is the hypocrite that threatened federal judges over the Schiavo fiasco even though he pulled the plug on dear old dad. He also paid his wife and daughter $500,000 from his PAC. Karma can be such a beeyotch. Any chance he'll wind up in Camp Cupcake?"

Oh, c'mon. This is America. We don't send the wealthy to prison. Unless they're successful women.

david sedaris: worms, germs, and christmas

Check out his latest essay, in the New Yorker:

“What’s this about a worm?” Lisa asked. She was lying on the sofa with a blanket over her, still groggy from her nap.

“Joan here had a worm living inside her leg,” I said, and Maw Hamrick threw a sheet of wrapping paper into the fire, saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t call that living.”

“But it was inside of you?” Lisa said, and I could see her wheels turning: Have I ever used the toilet after this woman? Have I ever touched her coffee cup, or eaten off her plate? How soon can I get tested?


I laughed this morning when I took Casey for a walk and noticed a little boy and girl (they looked like they were all of 6 years old) at their bus stop, watching ants make their way up a wall.

What I caught of the conversation (translated from espanol) was something like:
B- "Where are they coming from?"
G -"They live under that pink house."
B -"What does their home look like?"
G -"Like the one above it, of course."

p.s. wtf?!

Saw Alias with Cass tonight and all I can say is wtf!? (Becki, sorry I missed your call afterwards.)

I'm done. No offense to CIA field operatives in the family way, but agent Sydney Bristow as a pregnant, avenging international superspy just doesn't wash with me.

Besides, the eye candy is gone daddy, gone.

i see ...

I used to wear glasses. And I remember how hard it was to find the right pair — you know, the ones that made just the right statement about who I was. But this is just weird.

Fetish mugger had 124 spectacles
A fetish Japanese mugger who longed for his boyhood friend's eyeglasses was arrested with 154 pairs of glasses or contact lenses he allegedly seized by force, police and reports said today.

Construction worker Toru Nagasawa, 29, was caught after he went outside a man's apartment building and asked for directions. Nagasawa then punched the victim in the face, saying he did not answer politely enough, police said. Nagasawa then allegedly followed the victim into his apartment and forced him to take off his contact lenses, a police spokesman said.

"Are you wearing contact lenses now? Put them in my eyes," Nagasawa told the 31-year-old victim, as quoted by the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.

After Nagasawa's arrest yesterday in Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, police put on display what they confiscated from his home - 124 pairs of glasses and 30 pairs of contact lenses of a wide variety.

He reportedly stocked them in plastic bags in his room.

Police did not comment on his motive but Nagasawa reportedly said: "I felt good when I wore the glasses of a friend in my junior high school days. I have ever since been searching for glasses that fit me." The Nikkan Sports tabloid said 22 similar cases have been recorded in Kawasaki city since January, all targeting men in their 30s.

jeudi, septembre 29, 2005

the divine comedy and lloyd cole: a primer

Consider it a follow-up to the 2 bands posting. These are my favorite songs by the Divine Comedy and Lloyd Cole. I've included the name of the album on which each song appears.

The Divine Comedy
Tonight We Fly - A Secret History: Best of the Divine Comedy
Our Mutual Friend - Absent Friends [Bonus Track]
The Happy Goth - Absent Friends [Bonus Track]
Come Home Billy Bird - Absent Friends [Bonus Track]
Charmed Life - Absent Friends [Bonus Track]

Lloyd Cole (alone and with the Negatives)
No More Love Songs - Music in a Foreign Language
Trigger Happy - Love Story
Love Ruins Everything - Love Story
Music in a Foreign Language - Music in a Foreign Language
My Other Life - Music in a Foreign Language
Today I'm Not So Sure - Music in a Foreign Language
People Ain't No Good - Music in a Foreign Language
Impossible Girl - The Negatives
Man on the Verge - The Negatives
What's Wrong With This Picture? - The Negatives
She's a Girl and I'm a Man- Don't Get Weird on Me Babe

mercredi, septembre 28, 2005

pas de schwag

Evidently, no one has told Nouvelle Vague about the money to be made by selling merchandise. I looked for schwag. Twice. Although both opening bands had CDs and t-shirts for sale, the headliner had neither. I was disappointed by the complete lack of schwag.

But the music was another story. After dinner at Shakespeare's, Trevor, Turk, Susan, and I met up with Alex, Gabe, Declan, and Elaine. Phil was there, too, but he was all business with the opening band, SSI.

My favorite (new) cover that Nouvelle Vague played was "Dance With Me," by the Lords of the New Church. It reminded me so much of the Club Retro days. I also enjoyed their stunt, dancing on the bar during "Too Drunk to Fuck" by the Dead Kennedys.

In all, it was a great show and I told them as much en francais on my way out.

mardi, septembre 27, 2005

nouvelle vague ce soir

Tonight is the Nouvelle Vague show at the Casbah! All of the cool kids will be there.

I'm going with mes voyous Turk, Trevor, and Susan; which is appropriate, given that Turk was the one who bought their CD at FNAC and turned us all on to them last summer in France. Also going: Sarah and Elbert, Alex and Phil, Declan and the UCSD posse.

Feel free to meet us at Shakespeare's Pub for dinner and drinks beforehand. We'll be there around 7 p.m.

scott ♥ monika



the diana sandwich

Good times with the MoJackCity Dianas at Scott and Monika's rehearsal dinner

lundi, septembre 26, 2005

the eyre affair

Bildungsroman novels never did much for me. I'll confess that I used to be pretty bored by "Jane Eyre" and most of the Bronte sisters' work. Now, you might say that I'm quasi-down with Jane. Not down enough to get all Merchant-Ivory on you or anything, but down enough to have lost most of my contempt for the girl.

Why the switch? Jasper Fforde's novel The Eyre Affair. I love the first line of the book: "My father had a face that could stop a clock..." and that they keep cloned Dodo birds as pets.

Imagine this. Great Britain in 1985 is close to being a police state. The Crimean War has dragged on for more than 130 years and Wales is self-governing. The only recognizable thing about this England is her citizens' enduring love of literature. And the Third Most Wanted criminal, Acheron Hades, is stealing characters from England's cherished literary heritage and holding them for ransom.

Bibliophiles will be enchanted, but not surprised, to learn that stealing a character from a book only changes that one book, but Hades has escalated his thievery. He has begun attacking the original manuscripts, thus changing all copies in print and enraging the reading public. That's why Special Operations Network has a Literary Division, and it is why one of its operatives, Thursday Next, is on the case.

Thursday is utterly delightful. She is vulnerable, smart, and, above all, literate. She has been trying to trace Hades ever since he stole Mr. Quaverley from the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed him. You will only remember Mr. Quaverley if you read Martin Chuzzlewit prior to 1985. But now Hades has set his sights on one of the plums of literature, Jane Eyre, and he must be stopped.

How Thursday achieves this and manages to preserve one of the great books of the Western canon makes for delightfully hilarious reading. You do not have to be an English major to be pulled into this story. You'll be rooting for Thursday, Jane, Mr. Rochester--and a familiar ending.

dimanche, septembre 25, 2005


"The bottom line: Some people think Satan is real. And some people believe global warming is real.
If you think stopping gays from doing it is more important than the ice caps melting, the boogeyman is you."
-Bill Maher, (1956- ), comedian and liberal political pundit.

from corpse bride to a viking luau

Thursday, I headed to a sneak preview of Corpse Bride with Alex, Sarah, Kate, Phil, and some other folks before hitting 80s with Alex and Phil. Friday, I flew to San Francisco for a whirlwind weekend filled with friends, photography, and fun.

Scott and Monika's wedding was perfect.

Mi gente included the usual suspects (D & Ophy and Healy), old friends (Diana), and some new ones, too. I met several interesting people and came away disappointed that there wasn't enough time to talk more with one person in particular.

My challenge this weekend— to document the emotions and characters of the Lyssand-Araujo wedding with my camera. In addition to pictures of the lovely couple, there are several images in my mind's eye that will (hopefully) translate well to snapshots in the album. I suspect the best of these is Monika's wacky Norwegian father at the reception, laughing after placing the viking horns on a recently unearthed pig, roasted whole in a hole pit.

I don't think anyone who was there will soon forget the happy couple throwing a viking luau for 120 guests with help from a clan of crazy Norwegian-Swedish Americans, their new good-natured Portuguese-Dutch in-laws, and some determined Tongan chefs.

But I sincerely hope that my photographs capture at least the essence of a very memorable weekend.

two bands, two books, and two movies

Lloyd Cole (alone and with the Negatives)
The Divine Comedy

Fiction: The Eyre Affair
Nonfiction: Madam Secretary

City of God (Ciudad de Deus)
Monsieur Ibrahim
Inspired by Ben

my toastmasters speech archive

Adventures in Online Dating: How I went from no dates to 14 dates with six different guys in one month to finding the love of my life.

The Maudlin Politico: About my weird fascination with all things political and why I get goosebumps and feel my heart in my throat each time I step into the voting booth.

No Such Thing as a Bad Day: Why cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me
C&L manual, speech #10: Inspire your audience

How to Lose 60 IQ Points: My many miscommunications while traveling / living abroad
C&L manual, speech #6: Vocal variety

Video Games Will Rot Your Mind: About being a Jeopardy! contestant
C&L manual, speech #2: Organize your speech

Happily Ever After: How I got my name
C&L manual, speech #1: Icebreaker speech

The Key to Understanding Me: My biography, as represented by my keychain
C&L manual, speech #4: How to say it

Doing Strange Things to Their Dogs With Forks: A speech about hallucinating French people, art, and bread
C&L manual, speech #7: Research your topic

Chasing Away the Predators: Women's rights — or the lack thereof— worldwide
C&L manual, speech #9: Persuade with power

Touching Things Up: What touch means across cultures
C&L manual, speech #5: Your body speaks

Taming the Dragon: Dragons across cultures
C&L manual, speech #8: Visual aids

The 10 C's: My moviegoing experiences
C&L manual, speech #3: Get to the point

jeudi, septembre 22, 2005

god, how i adore this man

Bono was profiled in this week's New York Times Magazine. From James Traub's article on Bono's behind-the-scnes role in focusing world attention on aid to Africa and debt forgiveness:

"He's a strange sort of entity, this euphoric rock star with the chin stubble and the tinted glasses - a new and heretofore undescribed planet in an emerging galaxy filled with transnational, multinational and subnational bodies. He's a kind of one-man state who fills his treasury with the global currency of fame. He is also, of course, an emanation of celebrity culture. But it is Bono's willingness to invest his fame, and to do so with a steady sense of purpose and tolerance for detail, that has made him the most politically effective figure in the recent history of popular culture."

Here are his answers to 10 questions from readers.

no shit, part deux

More fun from the NY Times article on profanity:

Via Diana


When I was younger, I didn't have any female friends.

Nowadays, I'm surrounded by (and surround myself with) amazing women.

I'm so grateful for my girlfriends. They love me as I am. They are honest when I need it most. And we aren't afraid to get all emotionally messy with one another. When we talk about this thing or that person and get insight on the situation and ourselves, I'm richer for the experience.

You know who you are. I love y'all.

the journey that saved curious george

While most everyone loves this mischievous monkey, few know the harrowing story behind his creators’ narrow escape from Paris just hours before the Nazis seized control of the city.

Award-winning author Louise Borden's new book, "The Journey That Saved Curious George," recounts the riveting details of how German-born Jews H.A. and Margret Rey bicycled out of Paris with the original manuscript of Curious George on their back.

mardi, septembre 20, 2005

elvis has left the conference room

Yes, that's Elvis.
And yes, those are Post-It Notes.
2,646 Post-It Notes to be precise.
Via Christine

stay hungry, stay foolish

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, gave the commencement address at Stanford this year. It is really three stories that explain why he is the person he is:

The first story is about connecting the dots.
The second is about love and loss.
And the third story is about death.

sleep deprivation

no shit

Interesting article from today's New York Times ...

Almost Before We Spoke, We Swore
Incensed by what it sees as a virtual pandemic of verbal vulgarity issuing from the diverse likes of Howard Stern, Bono of U2 and Robert Novak, the United States Senate is poised to consider a bill that would sharply increase the penalty for obscenity on the air.

By raising the fines that would be levied against offending broadcasters some fifteenfold, to a fee of about $500,000 per crudity broadcast, and by threatening to revoke the licenses of repeat polluters, the Senate seeks to return to the public square the gentler tenor of yesteryear, when seldom were heard any scurrilous words, and famous guys were not foul mouthed all day.

Yet researchers who study the evolution of language and the psychology of swearing say that they have no idea what mystic model of linguistic gentility the critics might have in mind. Cursing, they say, is a human universal. Every language, dialect or patois ever studied, living or dead, spoken by millions or by a small tribe, turns out to have its share of forbidden speech, some variant on comedian George Carlin's famous list of the seven dirty words that are not supposed to be uttered on radio or television.

Young children will memorize the illicit inventory long before they can grasp its sense, said John McWhorter, a scholar of linguistics at the Manhattan Institute and the author of "The Power of Babel," and literary giants have always constructed their art on its spine.

"The Jacobean dramatist Ben Jonson peppered his plays with fackings and "peremptorie Asses," and Shakespeare could hardly quill a stanza without inserting profanities of the day like "zounds" or "sblood" - offensive contractions of "God's wounds" and "God's blood" - or some wondrous sexual pun.

The title "Much Ado About Nothing," Dr. McWhorter said, is a word play on "Much Ado About an O Thing," the O thing being a reference to female genitalia.

Even the quintessential Good Book abounds in naughty passages like the men in II Kings 18:27 who, as the comparatively tame King James translation puts it, "eat their own dung, and drink their own piss."

In fact, said Guy Deutscher, a linguist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and the author of "The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention," the earliest writings, which date from 5,000 years ago, include their share of off-color descriptions of the human form and its ever-colorful functions. And the written record is merely a reflection of an oral tradition that Dr. Deutscher and many other psychologists and evolutionary linguists suspect dates from the rise of the human larynx, if not before.

Some researchers are so impressed by the depth and power of strong language that they are using it as a peephole into the architecture of the brain, as a means of probing the tangled, cryptic bonds between the newer, "higher" regions of the brain in charge of intellect, reason and planning, and the older, more "bestial" neural neighborhoods that give birth to our emotions.

Researchers point out that cursing is often an amalgam of raw, spontaneous feeling and targeted, gimlet-eyed cunning. When one person curses at another, they say, the curser rarely spews obscenities and insults at random, but rather will assess the object of his wrath, and adjust the content of the "uncontrollable" outburst accordingly.

Because cursing calls on the thinking and feeling pathways of the brain in roughly equal measure and with handily assessable fervor, scientists say that by studying the neural circuitry behind it they are gaining new insights into how the different domains of the brain communicate - and all for the sake of a well-venomed retort.

Other investigators have examined the physiology of cursing, how our senses and reflexes react to the sound or sight of an obscene word. They have determined that hearing a curse elicits a literal rise out of people. When electrodermal wires are placed on people's arms and fingertips to study their skin conductance patterns and the subjects then hear a few obscenities spoken clearly and firmly, participants show signs of instant arousal.

Their skin conductance patterns spike, the hairs on their arms rise, their pulse quickens, and their breathing becomes shallow.

Interestingly, said Kate Burridge, a professor of linguistics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, a similar reaction occurs among university students and others who pride themselves on being educated when they listen to bad grammar or slang expressions that they regard as irritating, illiterate or déclassé.

"People can feel very passionate about language," she said, "as though it were a cherished artifact that must be protected at all cost against the depravities of barbarians and lexical aliens."

Dr. Burridge and a colleague at Monash, Keith Allan, are the authors of "Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language," which will be published early next year by the Cambridge University Press.

Researchers have also found that obscenities can get under one's goosebumped skin and then refuse to budge. In one study, scientists started with the familiar Stroop test, in which subjects are flashed a series of words written in different colors and are asked to react by calling out the colors of the words rather than the words themselves.

If the subjects see the word "chair" written in yellow letters, they are supposed to say "yellow."

The researchers then inserted a number of obscenities and vulgarities in the standard lineup. Charting participants' immediate and delayed responses, the researchers found that, first of all, people needed significantly more time to trill out the colors of the curse words than they did for neutral terms like chair.

The experience of seeing titillating text obviously distracted the participants from the color-coding task at hand. Yet those risqué interpolations left their mark. In subsequent memory quizzes, not only were participants much better at recalling the naughty words than they were the neutrals, but that superior recall also applied to the tints of the tainted words, as well as to their sense.

Yes, it is tough to toil in the shadow of trash. When researchers in another study asked participants to quickly scan lists of words that included obscenities and then to recall as many of the words as possible, the subjects were, once again, best at rehashing the curses - and worst at summoning up whatever unobjectionable entries happened to precede or follow the bad bits.

Yet as much as bad language can deliver a jolt, it can help wash away stress and anger. In some settings, the free flow of foul language may signal not hostility or social pathology, but harmony and tranquillity.

"Studies show that if you're with a group of close friends, the more relaxed you are, the more you swear," Dr. Burridge said. "It's a way of saying: 'I'm so comfortable here I can let off steam. I can say whatever I like.' "

Evidence also suggests that cursing can be an effective means of venting aggression and thereby forestalling physical violence.

With the help of a small army of students and volunteers, Timothy B. Jay, a professor of psychology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and the author of "Cursing in America" and "Why We Curse," has explored the dynamics of cursing in great detail.

The investigators have found, among other things, that men generally curse more than women, unless said women are in a sorority, and that university provosts swear more than librarians or the staff members of the university day care center.

Regardless of who is cursing or what the provocation may be, Dr. Jay said, the rationale for the eruption is often the same.

"Time and again, people have told me that cursing is a coping mechanism for them, a way of reducing stress," he said in a telephone interview. "It's a form of anger management that is often underappreciated."

Indeed, chimpanzees engage in what appears to be a kind of cursing match as a means of venting aggression and avoiding a potentially dangerous physical clash.

Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University in Atlanta, said that when chimpanzees were angry "they will grunt or spit or make an abrupt, upsweeping gesture that, if a human were to do it, you'd recognize it as aggressive."

Such behaviors are threat gestures, Professor de Waal said, and they are all a good sign.

"A chimpanzee who is really gearing up for a fight doesn't waste time with gestures, but just goes ahead and attacks," he added.

By the same token, he said, nothing is more deadly than a person who is too enraged for expletives - who cleanly and quietly picks up a gun and starts shooting.

Researchers have also examined how words attain the status of forbidden speech and how the evolution of coarse language affects the smoother sheets of civil discourse stacked above it. They have found that what counts as taboo language in a given culture is often a mirror into that culture's fears and fixations.

"In some cultures, swear words are drawn mainly from sex and bodily functions, whereas in others, they're drawn mainly from the domain of religion," Dr. Deutscher said.

In societies where the purity and honor of women is of paramount importance, he said, "it's not surprising that many swear words are variations on the 'son of a whore' theme or refer graphically to the genitalia of the person's mother or sisters."

The very concept of a swear word or an oath originates from the profound importance that ancient cultures placed on swearing by the name of a god or gods. In ancient Babylon, swearing by the name of a god was meant to give absolute certainty against lying, Dr. Deutscher said, "and people believed that swearing falsely by a god would bring the terrible wrath of that god upon them." A warning against any abuse of the sacred oath is reflected in the biblical commandment that one must not "take the Lord's name in vain," and even today courtroom witnesses swear on the Bible that they are telling the whole truth and nothing but.

Among Christians, the stricture against taking the Lord's name in vain extended to casual allusions to God's son or the son's corporeal sufferings - no mention of the blood or the wounds or the body, and that goes for clever contractions, too. Nowadays, the phrase, "Oh, golly!" may be considered almost comically wholesome, but it was not always so. "Golly" is a compaction of "God's body" and, thus, was once a profanity.

Yet neither biblical commandment nor the most zealous Victorian censor can elide from the human mind its hand-wringing over the unruly human body, its chronic, embarrassing demands and its sad decay. Discomfort over body functions never sleeps, Dr. Burridge said, and the need for an ever-fresh selection of euphemisms about dirty subjects has long served as an impressive engine of linguistic invention.

Once a word becomes too closely associated with a specific body function, she said, once it becomes too evocative of what should not be evoked, it starts to enter the realm of the taboo and must be replaced by a new, gauzier euphemism.

For example, the word "toilet" stems from the French word for "little towel" and was originally a pleasantly indirect way of referring to the place where the chamber pot or its equivalent resides. But toilet has since come to mean the porcelain fixture itself, and so sounds too blunt to use in polite company. Instead, you ask your tuxedoed waiter for directions to the ladies' room or the restroom or, if you must, the bathroom.

Similarly, the word "coffin" originally meant an ordinary box, but once it became associated with death, that was it for a "shoe coffin" or "thinking outside the coffin." The taboo sense of a word, Dr. Burridge said, "always drives out any other senses it might have had."

Scientists have lately sought to map the neural topography of forbidden speech by studying Tourette's patients who suffer from coprolalia, the pathological and uncontrollable urge to curse. Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder of unknown origin characterized predominantly by chronic motor and vocal tics, a constant grimacing or pushing of one's glasses up the bridge of one's nose or emitting a stream of small yips or grunts.

Just a small percentage of Tourette's patients have coprolalia - estimates range from 8 to 30 percent - and patient advocates are dismayed by popular portrayals of Tourette's as a humorous and invariably scatological condition. But for those who do have coprolalia, said Dr. Carlos Singer, director of the division of movement disorders at the University of Miami School of Medicine, the symptom is often the most devastating and humiliating aspect of their condition.

Not only can it be shocking to people to hear a loud volley of expletives erupt for no apparent reason, sometimes from the mouth of a child or young teenager, but the curses can also be provocative and personal, florid slurs against the race, sexual identity or body size of a passer-by, for example, or deliberate and repeated lewd references to an old lover's name while in the arms of a current partner or spouse.

Reporting in The Archives of General Psychiatry, Dr. David A. Silbersweig, a director of neuropsychiatry and neuroimaging at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and his colleagues described their use of PET scans to measure cerebral blood flow and identify which regions of the brain are galvanized in Tourette's patients during episodes of tics and coprolalia.

They found strong activation of the basal ganglia, a quartet of neuron clusters deep in the forebrain at roughly the level of the mid-forehead, that are known to help coordinate body movement along with activation of crucial regions of the left rear forebrain that participate in comprehending and generating speech, most notably Broca's area.

The researchers also saw arousal of neural circuits that interact with the limbic system, the wishbone-shape throne of human emotions, and, significantly, of the "executive" realms of the brain, where decisions to act or desist from acting may be carried out: the neural source, scientists said, of whatever conscience, civility or free will humans can claim.

That the brain's executive overseer is ablaze in an outburst of coprolalia, Dr. Silbersweig said, demonstrates how complex an act the urge to speak the unspeakable may be, and not only in the case of Tourette's. The person is gripped by a desire to curse, to voice something wildly inappropriate. Higher-order linguistic circuits are tapped, to contrive the content of the curse. The brain's impulse control center struggles to short-circuit the collusion between limbic system urge and neocortical craft, and it may succeed for a time.

Yet the urge mounts, until at last the speech pathways fire, the verboten is spoken, and archaic and refined brains alike must shoulder the blame.

r.i.p. simon wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal is one of my heroes, because he sought to make a difference after surviving the Holocaust. His quote, "there is no freedom without justice," resonates with me on so many levels.

Visiting the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Weisenthal Center as an undergrad was a transformative and powerful experience. My 2002 visit to Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp outside of Prague, was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Simon Wiesenthal, Who Helped Hunt Nazis After War, Dies at 96
Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down Nazi war criminals following World War II, then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.

The Holocaust survivor devoted his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals and fighting anti-Semitism after World War II.

''I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice,'' Hier told The Associated Press.

A survivor of five Nazi death camps, Wiesenthal changed his life's mission after the war, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught. He himself lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust.

Wiesenthal spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism, and remembering the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. Through his work, he said, some 1,100 Nazi war criminals were brought to justice.

''When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it,'' he once said.

Wiesenthal's quest began after the Americans liberated the Mauthausen death camp in Austria where Wiesenthal was a prisoner in May 1945. It was his fifth death camp among the dozen Nazi camps in which he was imprisoned, and he weighed just 99 pounds when he was freed. He said he quickly realized ''there is no freedom without justice,'' and decided to dedicate ''a few years'' to that mission.

''It became decades,'' he added.

He was perhaps best known for his role in tracking down Eichmann, who organized the extermination of the Jews. Eichmann was found in Argentina, abducted by Israeli agents in 1960, tried and hanged for crimes committed against the Jews.

seven seven seven

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1) Finish graduate school
2) Take voice lessons
3) Run a marathon
4) Live abroad
5) Become fluent in at least two more languages
6) Donate my body to science
7) Orgasm

7 things I can do:
1) The Hustle
2) Speak three languages
3) Kick most anyone's ass at trivia and word games
4) Bake/ cook from scratch
5) Touch my tongue to my nose
6) Use an incident light meter (and flash powerpack) in a difficult lighting situation
7) Laugh at myself

7 things I cannot do:
1) Hard math
2) Sing loudly on key
3) Suffer fools / tolerate stupidity
4) The same thing over and over again
5) Fake love
6) Run a seven-minute mile
7) Stop talking

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1) Intelligence
2) Creativity
3) Confidence
4) The ability to speak several languages
5) Having a curiosity about the world (and a similar open-minded worldview)
6) Wit and a good sense of humor
7) Sincerity

10 things that I say most often (see 7 things I can't do #7):
1) He's not my demographic
2) ... not so much
3) Effing
4) Please hold ...
5) Bonjour
6) And
7) That doesn't exactly inspire confidence
8) Nice
9) So
10)Get my knickers in a twist/ panties in a wad / undies in a bunch

7 celebrity crushes:
1) Bono
2) Peter Krause
3) Jude Law
4) Michael Vartan
5) Patrick Dempsey
6) Kyle McLachlan, circa "Dune"
7) Pierre Boulanger

Shamelessly pinched from Diana.

dimanche, septembre 18, 2005

whom i'd like to meet

My equal. Apply within if you're:
  1. Intelligent
  2. Liberal
  3. Creative (but balanced)
  4. Polyglot (must speak English)
  5. Cultured / a citizen of the world
  6. Open minded
  7. Witty
  8. Confident
  9. Emotionally intelligent (and able to articulate what you're feeling)
  10. Sincere

me, from a to z

[A is for age:] It's a state of mind. I was born in 1975.
[B is for booze of choice:] Red wine or a fruity cocktail.
[C is for career:] W is for Web diva and erstwhile lackey.
[D is for your dad's name:] I call him Popi.
[E is for essential items to bring to a party:] Alcohol, an appetizer, a GSOH, and my camera.
[F is for favorite song at the moment:] I can't pick just one. Currently in heavy rotation: Lloyd Cole, The Divine Comedy, Pulp, Teenage Fanclub, and David J.
[G is for favorite game:] Physical: Tennis. Mental: Trivial Pursuit.
[H is for hometown:] San Diego is where I've lived the longest.
[I is for instruments you play:] Once upon a time? Piano, flute, and piccolo.
[J is for jam or jelly you like:] Apple butter. Or my homemade lemon curd.
[K is for kids?] Not right now. Someday ...
[L is for living arrangements:] I live with my golden retriever. And a nice Japanese guy.
[M is for mom's name:] I don't call her.
[N is for name of your crush:] The position is presently vacant. Do Peter Krause and Bono count?
[O is for overnight hospital stays:] Yes. I beat cancer two years ago.
[P is for phobias:] Being in a swarm of insects. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.
[Q is for quotes you like:] What quotes don't I like?
[R is for relationship that lasted the longest] 14 years.
[S is for sexual preference:] I'm straight, but most of my friends aren't.
[T is for time you wake up:] When my bladder tells me it is full.
[U is for underwear:] Yes.
[V is for vegetables you love:] Broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, orange bell peppers, potatoes, white corn on the cob. And I realize that tomatoes are a fruit. Hmm, what about peppers? I detest mushrooms and avocado.
[W is for worst habits:] I lack the typical vices. But I have been known to correct other people's grammar, care far more than I should about what others think of me, and hold others to the same standards to which I hold myself. Oh, and I'm super-literal.
[X is for x-rays you've had:] Every inch of my body has been x-rayed. See [O is for overnight hospital stays:].
[Y is for yummy food you make:] It's all good.
[Z is for zodiac sign:] Taurus.
Via Edgar

my heroes

People who made beauty. Robert Doisneau, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Albrecht Durer, Auguste Rodin, Michelangelo Buonarrotti, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfons Mucha, Robert Capa, Gustav Klimt, Richard Avedon, Carlos Páez Vilaró

People who made a difference. Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice Paul, Elie Wiesel, Albert Schweitzer, Jimmy Carter, Shirin Ebadi, Stephen Biko, Simon Wiesenthal, Elizabeth Blackwell, Lance Armstrong, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Barbara Ehrenreich

People who did it their own way. Zheng He, Leonardo DaVinci, Antoni Gaudi, Vincent Van Gogh, Che Guevara, Julia Child, Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Philippe Halsman

vendredi, septembre 16, 2005

banned books week

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance."
—Lyndon Baines Johnson

Banned Books Week (Sept.24-Oct. 1, 2005) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

Huck Finn, Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, and Siddharta have all been banned. So have other books I love, like "Where the Sidewalk Ends," "In the Night Kitchen," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," and "The Chocolate War." There's also a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books this year.

no kidding

This certainly holds true for the people I know, but most of my friends aren't straight ...

More women — particularly those in their late teens and 20s — are experimenting with bisexuality or at least feel more comfortable reporting same-sex encounters, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey, released Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, found that 11.5 percent of women, ages 18 to 44, said they’ve had at least one sexual experience with another women in their lifetimes, compared with about 4 percent of women, ages 18 to 59, who said the same in a comparable survey a decade earlier.

For women in their late teens and 20s, the percentage rose to 14 percent in the more recent survey. About 6 percent of men in their teens and 20s said they’d had at least one same-sex encounter.

jeudi, septembre 15, 2005

pictures of walls

Pictures of walls is a damn good site.

Via Vee


On relationships that we're not quite done with (yet):

"We have closure. It's just not the way we want it."
-Lauren Johnson to me, Margaret, and Yvonne

spam i got today


google purge now in beta

Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can't Index
Executives at Google, the rapidly growing online-search company that promises to "organize the world's information," announced Monday the latest step in their expansion effort: a far-reaching plan to destroy all the information it is unable to index.

"Our users want the world to be as simple, clean, and accessible as the Google home page itself," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a press conference held in their corporate offices. "Soon, it will be."

The new project, dubbed Google Purge, will join such popular services as Google Images, Google News, and Google Maps, which catalogs the entire surface of the Earth using high-resolution satellites.

As a part of Purge's first phase, executives will destroy all copyrighted materials that cannot be searched by Google.
Via The Onion

weathering the storm

My friends Susan and Ben are California natives who now live in Wilmington, North Carolina. Thankfully, they survived their first real hurricane with no real damage to their home.

Here's a bit from Susan's note about what they did yesterday during Hurricane Ophelia. I love that she was a busy bee, cleaning and baking while a hurricane howled outside.
The most inconvenient thing has been having to take Emily and our new puppy out to pee. Emily refuses to go in the screened in porch and the puppy, Daisy, we just got on Saturday, is totally confused about where to go. So much for housebreaking. We lost power for about five hours this morning, but we have had power ever since. It was nice to have the day off, but I must say I got a little stir crazy. I cleaned all the bathrooms, vacuumed, changed sheets, installed new software on my computer, made meatloaf and cookies. Then this evening, we got on all our rain gear and went next door for dinner (with my meatloaf).
Well, we're still here along with the house and all of it's shingles, which is pretty amazing given we lost shingles from the roof during every spring thunderstorm. Guess Ben is a better handyman than we thought.

I read some of the national coverage online, and I noticed that they mention Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach quite a bit. Those are our local beaches. You might hear of Southport and Bald Head Island in the news, too. Those places are at the mouth of the Cape Fear River here in Wilmington. From the way the media is making it sound, it looks like Ben and I were pretty lucky (and Ben's parents probably didn't sleep all night worrying about us).

mercredi, septembre 14, 2005


Diana's post on being a wallflower no more left me smiling for hours.

After class tonight, I headed to Claire de Lune to get caught up on some OB reading. After two hours of torture, I decided to go home. I had just stepped off the curb when a Peruvian civil engineering student (and former professional club soccer player) stopped and chatted me up for awhile before asking me out.

Remembering my unsolicited advice to Diana, I agreed to tea with him sometime soon.

Once I got home, I visited Chez Z & Mrs. Z, explained my dating demographic, and watched the last minute of a kick-ass freestyle dance performance by a guy that was about to get booted from that dance show on Fox.

He was so good that I've added this to my dating wishlist: Must dance well and actually exhibit a willingness to do so in public places (or be willing to learn how to dance). Bonus points if you can salsa, swing dance, or lindy hop with me.

words fascinate me

Kate told me how American cowboys got "Yeehaw!" from hija on Saturday.

Harry brought up coleslaw last night at dinner. His theory: col ("cabbage" in Spanish). Mine: kohl ("cabbage" in German). Turns out we were both (sorta) right:
The term arose in 1794 as a partial translation from the Dutch term "koolsla" meaning "cabbage salad". It was commonly called cold slaw in England until the 1860's when "cole" meaning cabbage was revived. "Cole" originated from the Latin colis meaning "cabbage", and is the source of the Dutch word as well. The term coleslaw is a late 19th century term, which originated in the United States.
Here's more on language, and words that are borrowed/ come into a language from another:


Weltanshauung: A blog I like, the etymology of its name and more about its author.

Welt·an·schau·ung (velt-AWN-shau-oong)
Etymology: German: Welt, world + Anschauung, view, observation, mystical contemplation.
A world view (or worldview) is a term to describe how one's beliefs influence one's view of the world. It is calqued from the German word Weltanschauung ("look onto the world").

they're just birds

March of the Penguins"March of the Penguins" is the second-highest grossing documentary ever in the US.

It's now being touted by some conservative groups as supporting their values, namely monogamy, intelligent design, and a pro-life agenda.

I saw the documentary and learned a lot. But I didn't think it had any of those messages. Frankly, I'm amused by the anthropomorphism. And I loved these responses from the film's distributors:
... the movie is simply a tale about penguins and any attempt to divine a deeper meaning is misguided.

"We did not have discussions of what should be in from a social, cultural or political perspective at all," said Adam Leipzig, president of National Geographic Feature Films. "We just wanted to make sure that it was accurate."

Or as Laura Kim, a vice president of Warner Independent, put it: "You know what? They're just birds."


"There are only two types of women - goddesses and doormats."
-Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish painter considered to be the founder of Cubism

mardi, septembre 13, 2005

it's a hurricane, stupid

Bush was on his six-week vacation ("a vacation so long it would embarrass the French") while New Orleans was drowning. Margaret Carlson's editorial, Noblesse oblige? Not our president, pretty much says it all.

And now, there's this statement. Too little, too late.

Bush takes blame for flaws in Katrina response
President Bush said Tuesday that "I take responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and that the disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.
Bonus irony: He said our government can't respond adequately while at a joint press conference with (of all people) the president of Iraq. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

schadenfreude, or there is a god

I wish that Katrina had never happened.

I wish that hundreds of lives had not been lost, that families would not have had their lives forever changed for the worse, and that the cultural and historical treasures of New Orleans were not presently sitting in dark liquid— waterlogged, dank, and rotting.

But more than anything, I wish that W's approval rating had fallen before he had the chance to lead our nation into several other catastrophies, most notably, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act's assault on civil liberties, and his re-election in 2004.

Having said that, here's the best news I've heard all day. It appears that he's finally fooling none of the people:
Bush job approval rating hits new low
The bungled response to the hurricane has helped drag down Bush's job-approval rating, which now stands at 42 percent -- the lowest of his presidency -- in the Post-ABC poll and down three points since the hurricane hit two weeks ago. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of Bush's performance, a double-digit increase since January.

Overall, half the country now characterizes Bush as a "strong leader" -- down 12 points since May of last year. And the proportion who say he can be "trusted in a crisis" likewise has fallen from 60
percent to 49 percent now.

les pets

This vocabulary lesson is brought to you by the letters A, F, R, and T.

Les pets des vaches européennes redoutables en termes d'effet de serre
Les pets de vaches nuisent à l'environnement et contribuent à faire de l'agriculture la principale source de gaz à effet de serre au sein de l'Union européenne malgré une tendance à la baisse, selon des données d'Eurostat.

Translation: In spite of a downward trend, cow farts harm the environment and contribute to making agriculture the principal source of greenhouse gases within the European Union.

Read other bizarre news stories in French.
Thanks, Turk.

quidditch time again ...

"Soon, we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy..."

The Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trailer is online. The movie hits theatres in November.

lundi, septembre 12, 2005


"Be yourself, no matter what they say."
-Sting aka Gordon Sumner, (1951-), English musician, actor, and human rights activist, in "Englishman in New York."

dimanche, septembre 11, 2005

this i believe

A confluence of circumstances motivated me to finally publish a mantra 30 years in the making.

Those who know me know that it has taken me a long time to believe these things about myself. And that I am usually very modest.

I am smart.
I am beautiful, inside and out.
I am kind.
I am generous.
I am creative.
I am passionate.
I am gifted.
I am compassionate.
I am successful.
I have a good sense of humor.
I love myself.
I respect myself.
I am a good person.
And I am an amazing woman.


Via PlanetDan

country club ignorance

It's been four years since madmen slammed into the World Trade Center and changed the world. The response to that disaster has been frightening from both a civil liberties and a personal security perspective.

And, the Bush family's response to our nation's most recent large-scale disaster hasn't exactly inspired confidence, either. In case you've been living under a rock, Barbara Bush's comment last week was beyond the pale:
Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.
Elizabeth's take on it pretty much sums it up for me.


"Home is not where you live, but where they understand you."
-Christian Morganstern

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."
-Maya Angelou (1928- ), African-American poet, memoirist, actress, and civil rights activist.

"Home is where you can say anything you please, because nobody pays any attention to you anyway."
-Joe Moore

Thanks, Brax

how appropriate

As Zach put it, Limbo's a tough place to be.

samedi, septembre 10, 2005

things i've recently learned about dating

  • The other person has just as much on the line as you do.
  • You're usually harder on yourself than your partner is.
  • Sometimes it's better not to ask if this is "Mr./Ms. Right" for the long-term; instead, ask if you're enjoying yourself right now.
  • Ask yourself why you're dating/ what you want to get out of it.
  • Most people don't date people to hurt people.
  • Vulnerability is a beautiful human quality. Neediness is not.
  • Men who are smart/creative as fuck are sexy as hell. But that's not enough.
  • Breaking up is hard to do. It's awful, even if you're the one who initiates the break up.

five questions

I recently heard this rubric for determining compatibility with a romantic interest.
  1. What kind of music do you listen to?
    Rationale: You need a reasonable amount of aesthetic overlap.
  2. What religion are you?
    Rationale: Your values need to sync up.
  3. Are you a vegetarian?
    Rationale: You've got to be able to eat together. And the answer to this question can give you a lot of information about his/her personality.
  4. Have you ever cheated on [or been cheated on by] your partner?
    Rationale: Someone who has cheated on someone else is likely to cheat on you, too.
  5. What are your vices?
    Rationale: As with question 1, there needs to be enough overlap for you to get along.

vendredi, septembre 09, 2005

who knew?

Amazon quietly cashes in on sex toy market
Under the heading of Sex and Sensuality, discreetly located under the Health and Personal care section of its US site, Amazon is offering more than 40,000 products, including over 9,000 vibrators and more than 5,500 “sex-enhancers”.

The items are being sold through Amazon under its increasingly important third party retailer business, which accounts for more than a quarter of the items it sells, and which includes mainstream retailers such as Macy’s and Toys R Us.

Amazon says that it reviews the images that third party merchants place on its site, and that they cannot contain nudity, even on product packaging – although a survey of the site indicates that this policy does not extend to realistic representations of body parts. “Descriptions for the various products cannot contain profanity or graphic adult language,” Ms Smith added.

The pages carry some regular Amazon interactive features, such as lists of items recommended by other users, and the opportunity to review and rate products or to write users' guides.

But they do not include the “share your own customer images” feature that appears on Amazon's house and kitchen ware pages. And unlike other pages on the site, they do not send personalised recommendations to the homepage the next time a customer logs on.

firsthand account from the superdome

Paul Harris was my colleague when I worked at UCSD. He was stranded in New Orleans (on vacation, no less) during Hurricane Katrina.

Some of it is upsetting, fair warning…

I arrived Fri. 8/26 in New Orleans. On Sun. 8/28 I was awaiting word from the New Orleans Mayor to see if the city was to be evacuated. The moment he gave the order I hopped in a cab to go to Amtrak and Greyhound. The cabbie said it looks like they’re closed. I said, “no way” and had him drop me off. Sure enough both were. (I later learned that both had closed on Saturday, 2 days before the hurricane. I also learned that people were flown in to the airport on Saturday but not informed that there would not be flights for them to leave on after Saturday.) All rental cars were gone and no hotels or motels seemed to be open.

I knew the Superdome was available for “special needs” people. This meant medical needs, but I walked the block or two and spoke to a police officer who directed me to the other side of the Dome. There I saw about 400 people waiting for the doors to open at noon. I finally got in the Dome around 3:00PM and found “choice” seats. No, they weren’t on the 50-yard line, but I had two seats to myself and was under the overhang in case the roof blew off. Two other guys joined me. I think we were all happy to have the mutual support. Best I could tell is they were Nawlins natives who were homeless, recovering addicts.

I would estimate there were about 10,000 people inside the Dome by the time the hurricane was supposed to hit on Monday morning. Everything seemed to be orderly. An official made an announcement Sunday evening about meals being served by section & people were appreciative. The following two speakers could not be heard. The crowd consisted of many homeless people, drug addicts, families with children and ethnically was probably about 75 - 80% Black, 15 - 20% Anglo, and 5% other. People seemed to be getting along fine and integrating well.

We all sat in stadium chairs that were padded, except for some people who had planned better and brought mattresses and a few, tents. We lined up for food, which took about 45 minutes. It was prepackaged military rations with a pack inside that you add 2 ounces of water to and it heats up the chemicals to warm your entree. It was all fine and I was thankful to have that food and water. Being a vegetarian one would need to hunt around to find veggie packages but it was usually not a problem.

Around 6:20AM was when the brunt of the hurricane seemed to roar through and the electricity went off. There were back up generators but we no longer had air conditioning and only about 50% of the lighting. Two panels of the roof of the dome blew off, each probably about 10 feet X 10 feet and some water was then getting in. Since the winds blew the water horizontally there was not a huge downpour but those seated in some areas had to move. Eventually the water that did get in spread throughout much of the inner lattice-work of the Dome. With the exposed air, you could hear the storm and there were now some fears that all of the roof might blow off. At this point one’s imagination could start to run wild. I would guess that the brunt of the storm lasted for about 6-8 hours?? It was difficult to keep track of time if one didn’t have a watch. To keep busy or amused one could walk around the hallways of the stadium but you were prohibited from going up to the 3rd or 4th levels or outdoors. Still there were plenty of interesting people to see, many of whom could easily have been on the Jerry Springer Show. It was amazing though how many families were there with their children.

Prior to our entry there were Army National Guards present in the building, frisking people and checking all our belongings before we had entered, as well as passing out food and water (2 - 3 times a day). I don’t think it was till Monday afternoon that I saw any military with their AK-47s. The appearance of these were a bit unsettling to many of us, but would later prove helpful. I believe it was Monday afternoon that I first heard an officer say that he expected that riots might break out on Tuesday. I kind of shrugged off his comment as being paranoid. Hours later though, I was thinking along those same lines. What was developing was a mini-society that was starting to mimic William Golding’s classic book, “Lord of the Flies”, about a group of shipwrecked kids who form their own government and means to survive.

Tensions seemed to be rising, rumors and misinformation spread. There was no longer any central communication from the organizers to the residents that could have put people at ease. Simply announcements such as “There is no need to worry. We have tons of food and water”, would have gone far to easing some worries. I personally decided at this point that this was going to be one of those landmark times in my life that I was going to be tested, to learn from the pain, and to grow stronger from it all. More and more I viewed this situation as a combination of a reality show consisting of Fear Factor, Survivor, The Amazing Race, and of course, Lord of the Flies.

We knew that the #1 priority had become search and rescue and not to get us out, which made sense at the time. More and more rescued people poured in to the Dome. You heard horrific stories of people losing family members, of being up to their necks in the water before some volunteer on a small boat saved their life. Tear jerking stories abounded. Our only contact with the outside world was through one or two radio stations that people with boom boxes were playing, but the stations didn’t have muchinformation and were relying on people in the community to report in.

Meal lines began to grow and instead of 45 minutes it was becoming an hour to an hour and a half wait. People began cutting in line and shoving. The military was beginning to lose control and was clearly understaffed. Even though the military was in charge, they seemed to not have any more information than us. And many of the Dome employees and the military had lost everything they owned and didn’t know the status of their loved ones. They too were becoming prisoners in the Superdome and expressed their frustrations at their Commander In Chief not coming to their assistance. We heard talk that we would be getting out Tuesday and buses would vacate us. I can’t remember how many times we heard various false promises. After the hurricane very few cell phones worked I managed to find one working one and offered a woman $10. to call my friend, Keith in San Diego to let him know I had survived. After hanging up I did regret not telling him at that time to please alert all the media possible and my congressperson that a storm was brewing inside and that I too was beginning to realize that hell was going to break loose.

Food lines grew to 2-3 hour waits. There was little control over them and shoving matches broke out. There were some people who were the scum of the earth inside that Dome but the vast majority were good, law-abiding, caring individuals of all nationalities and races. Still we all knew that we had to get out of there soon as we were going stir crazy. The toilets had all filled up with waste. I do not exaggerate when I say that every toilet on first and second floor was overflowing their rims with fecal matter. Urine permeated the floors and was tracked up and down the hallways by thousands of people. Elderly and families with young children were forced to sleep for days on cardboard soaked with urine and feces on the tile floors. What began as a place of rescue was turning into Alcatraz Prison. We could not leave. We could not escape the horrific odor of human waste that spread throughout the building. People were smoking in the bathrooms. People on respirators and with asthma had to endure this killing behavior of others. More people poured in to the Dome and still no good communication other than hearsay about what else, “the buses were on the way.”

We then heard that the levee had broke. We also heard that a man had either been shoved or committed suicide inside the Dome. Rumors took on a life of their own. We heard that a 10-12 year old girl had been raped. Either the general assumption or the spoken word was that it was a black man raping a white girl. Was this merely a reflection of the general racism existing in America or was it fact? Then we heard that he had raped two young girls. Then we heard he had either broken their necks or slits their throats. Then we heard it was a white man on a black girl who committed these atrocities. To this day I still don’t know the truth.

People usually left their belongings where they were sitting when one would go the bathroom or the food line. You would either trust your neighbors or didn’t really care because by this time you just wanted to survive. I kept my wallet and camera in my front pockets at all times as they were my most valuable possessions. Everyone by Tuesday morning was complaining about why people outside couldn’t hear our pleas. Why in the world was no one rescuing us? Why wasn’t there better planning? Why was the military so woefully understaffed? Why did we believe we would run out of food and water? Why couldn’t someone pump or even dig out the fecal waste from the toilets? Why hadn’t FEMA had thousands of busses lined up in neighboring states waiting to come in and take us out? Why didn’t the medical facilities have medicine after the first day? Why couldn’t the military recreate the Vietnam airlift to save us? Why couldn’t we even get some toilet paper?

We all grew more frustrated and angrier and a first year high school sociology student knew that even if someone was not of criminal mind, the average person could only handle stress so much without falling into the temptations of either becoming a looter, cutting in line, a backstabber, or freaking out. What the unpreparedness was creating and then slow response to this situation was a time bomb waiting to explode. I later learned that during a less severe hurricane many years ago, there was rioting that broke out in the Dome. Hadn’t government officials learned their lesson?

To keep busy one tried his/her best to sleep in the chairs. Or you walked around or stood in the food line. The monotony was deadening. I tried my best to amuse myself, look at the positive and tell jokes to keep up the morale of others. I knew that the worst thing was to hang out with negative people or to dwell on the worst-case scenario. I prepared myself mentally for what escape routes I would take if things went crazy, but I did my best not to dwell on these things. I was going to learn some important lessons about human nature and myself from this experience one way or another damn it!! I chuckled to myself when I realized that my friend Nancy Nguy and I had tried out for the Amazing Race TV show and were not selected but in reality I was now living it. Where was Nancy I thought to experience this “wonderful” hellhole? I also laughed when I thought of others who may have joined me on my vacation in New Orleans but decided they couldn’t make it. Would they have hated my guts had I talked them in to this adventure? Ahh, the imagination is a wonderful and powerful tool.

On Tuesday I was approached by Lars from Denmark. He asked if I wanted to join the group from the International Hostel who were sitting together. I thanked them but said probably not. I still felt comfortable with my two boys from the hood. Besides I didn’t want to contribute towards more segregation. A couple hours later I returned to my luggage and discovered that a few pieces of my food were missing from inside the zippered pocket.

At this point I knew that Tim, one of the homeless guys had to have taken it. Had he merely asked I would have shared. I didn’t make a scene at this point but simply told Tim and Kurt that I ran in to some friends from California and was moving from section 149 to 113. They were cool with that; no hard feelings. Days later I was to discover that Tim had not stolen a thing from me. I had put that food in a different pocket. Nevertheless, my mistake may have saved my life. And Lars from Denmark may have save my life. And so many different things that occurred may have saved my life, but by this point I had no hope of any government saving my life.

I joined the International Group made up mainly of 20-30 year old travelers from Britain, Australia, France, New Zealand, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Canada and Haiti. Out of about 100, there were three Americans.

From appearance I would say that about 5 of the group were black, 5 were Asian, 2 Hispanic, and the rest white. While I won’t say we stood out in the Dome, if it was better lit, we definitely would have. I still had mixed feelings that we should not be creating our own island, so I sat near the group but integrated myself with a black family on the outside fringe area. After word of the rape, the International Group decided that the males in our group would surround the females in our group. I thought this was a bit paranoid, but I agreed to relocate slightly.

Late Tuesday a few people were starting to break into vending machines and even to concession stands to steal ice. It wasn’t total anarchy but things were definitely sketchy. But the saving grace was that we could go outside for fresh air. The military seemed to be just as upset as all of us were over us being abandoned and not knowing if we’d get out in 2 days or 2 weeks or would starve to death. Our intensity of anger towards FEMA and the Administration understandably grew. We truly believed that we might die because of inaction and lack of planning. Spoken and unspoken, most of us knew that if our resources and soldiers were not in Iraq, we would have had more than enough support for our troops.

Fortunately a Staff Sergeant Ogden saved our group of 100. I am thankful beyond belief for the work he did in arranging to get us out. I do not know if he did this because he liked us or he knew we were in danger or if it was racism or if he realized that if one of the International students was raped or murdered that would be a huge embarrassment for President Bush. I may never know the motivation but I was happy to find out that we would be somewhat secretly escorted out by armed military to a different location. My mind filled with so many different thoughts. What right did we have to leave when many of these people had families with them? What right did we have to leave when we weren’t even Orleanians? What right did we have to leave? We felt pain for the people left behind. We knew they were living in hell. We cried for them internally but were jubilant that we were leaving. We were told not to talk to anyone, not to smile and to just walk in a single line. I felt the Israeli army was saving us after being held hostage. My vivid imagination said it was “Raid on Entebbe” all over again. We were told that a riot could break out once others left behind caught wind of our “favoritism”. We did make it out through some stressful moments.

We were escorted to the adjacent basketball arena next where we helped with the “emergency room” set up for patients brought there. Our work was incredibly sad, but we knew it was needed and brought us some peace. The next day we were “smuggled” out to the Hyatt Hotel, where we encountered more scary moments where we thought we might die. A woman rushed into the hotel screaming, “They’re here, they’re here!” We ran in fear practically creating a stampede. It was a false alarm and we were admonished for freaking out.

It was there, at the Hyatt where about 25 members of the International group, almost entirely white, stole beer from behind the bar with crazed abandon. I heard a black woman from another group say in anger, “Your group is filled with looters!” The words struck a chord and were right on! And the full circle of the Lord of the Flies had come to pass.

Later two others of our group surreptitiously returned a tray of brownies they had stolen from the Hyatt Hotel.

Finally we made it out of the Hyatt under armed guard after more false hopes. We wrote our thoughts on plywood inside the Lobby. Many of these involved our thoughts towards the Federal Government and how their inaction had almost lead to our deaths and positively led to the mental illness and deaths of many others. There was zero question about this point.

On the journey to Dallas the bus in front of us overturned and one person died and 17 were injured. Our bus driver saved people from that bus and was one of the many heroes in all of this. Would the nightmare ever end?

Please, treasure your loved ones. Be prepared for disaster. Know yourself. Know who you are capable of becoming.


Paul Harris
4802 Kesling Court
San Diego, CA 92117
Via Declan

jeudi, septembre 08, 2005

no such thing as a bad day

Toastmasters CTM speech originally given on Sept. 8, 2005.
Award: Best speaker

Gentlemen, please count off, and will every second man please stand up? (Remain standing.) Ladies, please count off, and will every third woman please stand up? (Remain standing.) I've asked you to do this to visualize the following: The American Cancer Society estimates that one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime. When I was 28 years old, I became one of those Americans.
(Please be seated.)

Like many people, I made a New Year's resolution in 2003 to get healthy and lose some weight. I started exercising several times a week, taking Pilates, water aerobics, and other classes. That year, I also learned that my 31-year-old friend Vanessa had been diagnosed with breast cancer. So I decided to combine my desire to get healthy with a way to help cancer research and signed up for the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that decision saved my life.

Doctor Smiley
I had waited months for my appointment with the specialist. Dr. Smiley – his real name – was a very matter-of-fact man. As he examined me, he asked me why I had come to his office and if I'd recently experienced any aches, pains, or changes in weight.

I told him that I'd felt a nagging pain in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen while exercising. He asked if I'd had any back or flank pain recently and I said that I'd had quite a bit of back pain after a five-mile training walk with my 3-Day teammates the week before. Then he said, "Let's go into my office, I want to show you something."

The "something" was a CT scan taken a few weeks earlier.

He explained that the images in front of me were cross-sections of my body and that there was something very wrong with my right kidney. And then he said the most horrible words I've ever heard. He said that he was very sorry, but in his professional opinion, I had renal cell carcinoma, more commonly known as kidney cancer.

My mind reeling, I stared dumbly as he explained that the good news was that it looked like the cancer hadn't invaded my lymph nodes and that the gerota fascia (the sack in which each kidney is encapsulated) was distended, but had held.

He then said that I had a few decisions to make about my treatment. I needed to have surgery. Would I prefer a partial or complete nephrectomy? Laprascopic or open surgery?

I asked about the advantages and disadvantages of each procedure and what he would do if he were a patient with my diagnosis. He recommended the complete nephrectomy, because I had good kidney function and there was less risk of post-operative complication if they removed the whole kidney rather than just the area surrounding the tumor.

He also recommended the open surgery (despite the four- to six-week recovery time) because it meant that my doctors would be able to do a visual and tactile inspection of my lymph nodes and ensure that the cancer had not metastasized to the rest of my body.

He then ushered me out to see his nurse, who gave me the paperwork needed to get my surgery scheduled. Still in shock, I mustered a question – did they have any pamphlets on my condition? His nurse then said these magic words: "Call the American Cancer Society. They can help."

'Meet me at home, right now.'
I left the office and took my cell phone out to try and reach my husband, Eric. Choking on the words, I said "Meet me at home, right now." I then got into my car and drove the four miles home and called Vanessa, my friend who had been battling breast cancer for the past year. She calmly got online with me and we googled "renal cell carcinoma" and read about it until Eric got home.

He asked all kinds of questions I couldn’t answer and we cried together before calling our families that afternoon to tell them the news. It didn’t get any easier to say the word "cancer" each time I repeated it.

Then, we called the American Cancer Society. They were incredibly helpful, and referred me to the Kidney Cancer Association, which sent me information about what to expect during my surgery and other treatments.

The next few weeks were a blur of emotions and doctor's appointments, lab work, and doing what I could to get ready for my surgery.

I'm remarkable

I've learned that the "typical" kidney cancer patient is male, age 40-60, has been a heavy smoker most of his life, has been overweight for much of his life, and is of African-American or Scandinavian descent.

You do the math. With the exception of battling my weight for much of my life, I’m none of those things.

I'm what you might call a statistical outlier, the exception to the rule. I'm also what you might call lucky.
  • Lucky because most kidney cancer patients are diagnosed at stage 3 or 4, when there's almost nothing that can be done to help them. (I was stage 1 when diagnosed.)
  • Lucky because I had been exercising a great deal and was healthy going into surgery, so I bounced back in a matter of weeks, rather than months.
  • Lucky because my treatment was pretty straightforward: surgery, recovery, and five years of close monitoring with periodic lab work, CT scans, and X-rays.
  • Lucky because my five-year survival rate (when I'll be considered 'cured') is 60-98 percent.
  • Lucky because my left kidney is healthy and functioning normally.
  • Lucky because this week, I am two years years cancer-free.
I'm also lucky because I got a lot wiser about myself and the life I wanted to live at age 28.

Right after my surgery, I picked up Lance Armstrong’s book, "It's Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life." In it, Armstrong writes about making the most of one's survivorship. His survivorship has centered on the LIVESTRONG campaign, which has raised awareness and millions of dollars for cancer survivorship.

I also read Hamilton Jordan's book. A three-time cancer survivor, he was President Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff. His memoir, "No Such Thing As A Bad Day," pretty much sums up my attitude.

Those two books inspired me to think about what I would do with my survivorship and how I wanted to change my life. And boy did I change it … in the past two years, I've beaten cancer, survived a divorce, and lived in Paris. I've advanced in my career by changing jobs and employers, bought my first home, and become a graduate student.

What I can't do
There are lots of things I can't do because of my medical history. I can't join the foreign service or the Peace Corps. I can't get life insurance. I can't take calcium or vitamin C supplements. I can't take Advil or most pain medication. And I can never be self-employed, because getting medical insurance is pretty much out of the question with a pre-existing condition like mine. [Update: Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act.]

What I can do
But there are even more things that I do precisely because of my medical history:
  • I take much better care of the body that I've been given. Since my diagnosis, I've lost nearly 80 pounds. I exercise at least four times a week. And I do my best to eat right and buy organic foods whenever I can.
  • Every day, I tell people how much I love and appreciate them. I also make time for those I love. The result: I am rich in experiences and friends.
  • I am mindful of leaving a legacy, and making the world better for having been here. In short, I do all that I can to make a difference now.
  • I do my best to avoid negativity and negative people because both are poisonous.
  • I focus on what's in my power to change for the better. And have learned to live with the things I can't influence.
  • I don't put off doing things that matter to me, like traveling. And I've made a point to expand my worldview, to live abroad, and to travel extensively.
  • I constantly take classes and seek knowledge.
  • I seek balance in my work and personal lives and safeguard my mental and emotional health.
  • I take more risks and am more spontaneous.
  • I live passionately and joyfully.
Every day is a gift
I do all of these things because I got the gift of perspective when I was 28. I took the time to decide what I wanted from life and what I wanted out of my life. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we all should take the time to take care of ourselves and our relationships. I think of it this way: my new year’s resolution was really a goal, a promise that I made to myself to get healthy in 2003. That goal literally saved my life. So I ask you:
  • Are you living the life you want?
  • And are you focusing on the light, rather than the darkness?
  • What promises will you make to yourself (and keep), starting today?