Dec 28, 2009

Had to delete one of the previous videos, due to a broken link. To make up for it, I bring you a Bollywood Christmas Song (from Nickelodeon).

Dec 18, 2009

Crazy Songs/Current Obsessions

1. Das Racist: "Chicken and Meat"



2. Gogol Bordello: "American Wedding"
[redacted, due to broken link]

3. Brandon Walker: "Chinese Food on Christmas"



That last one doesn't quite qualify as "crazy," but I couldn't leave the list at just two :-P Enjoy!

Dec 9, 2009

Phoenixes and Ebirts and Bears, Oh My!

My thoughts on mascots...

Once a year, my high school would host a Spirit Week. If you dressed up you could earn points for your class, and the class with the most points won a prize. Because our team was known as The Indians, one day in Spirit Week was supposed to be for Cowboys and Indians. During my Junior and Senior years, a friend and I wore traditional Asian Indian clothes. I wasn't particularly militant about the issue of our team name/mascot (though I did try to claim the points). I just wanted to give people a little dose of awareness. Later, a group of activists successfully petitioned the school board for a name change. My former school's team is now the Bruins.

Which, to me? Significantly more terrifying.

Funnily enough, I went to college at William and Mary - The Tribe. Their mascot used to be an Indian, which was especially bothersome since the Brafferton building used to house an "Indian School." There, young boys were kept, often against their will, in order to teach them how to be more like white people. Yikes. So in the late 70's-early 80's the giant foam "Indian" head was phased out, leaving the college mascot-less. For a while we had Colonel Ebirt (that's Tribe spelled backwards). He was a green blobby thing in a tri-corner hat. A history of the mascot can be found here.

Once, the guy who played Colonel Ebirt tried to use the fact he was our mascot as a line to pick up my roommate. Yeah, that didn't work out so well for him.

Now W&M has embarked on a search for a new mascot. Suggestions include the Griffin, King William and Queen Mary, the Pug, the Wren, and my personal favorite, the Phoenix. I think this is a reference to the fact that the oldest building on campus (the Wren building, named after Sir Christopher Wren) keeps burning down. And we just keep... building it back up. Hmmm. Maybe that's not such a great connection to be making. Maggie Cats tells me that there was a campaign to adopt the Phoenix as or mascot a while back, but it was shot down by student opposition. But it makes me think of Fawkes in Harry Potter, which makes me smile.


I can see him now, soaring above the stadium, shedding life-giving tears on our football team. And then saving us all from the Basilisk.

Nov 25, 2009

Um. Wow.

Dana Perino thinks... No Terrorists Attacked America On Bush's Watch. In an interview about the Fort Hood shootings, the former Press Secretary had this to say:
We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during president Bush's term. I hope they're not looking at this politically. I do think that we owe it to the American people to call it what it is.
And of course, no one corrected or challenged her ... cause she was on Fox News. This is Republican Revisionism at it's finest, people! Get it while it's un-freaking-believable. President Obama may want to reconsider that job offer he made her last week.

Nov 20, 2009

My new life's ambition

... is to eat Linda Holmes' brain. I will then be able to write the hilarious Monkey See blog for NPR. Plus, I will have effectively eliminated my major competition in the field of monkey-obsessed pop-culture commentators. Behold, my nemesis' brilliant work:

Oprah's Long, Long, Long Goodbye.
In 25 years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, there is no emotion that has not been taken out and examined, fondled and caressed, inspected and X-rayed. Oprah celebrates happiness. And sadness. And pain. And fear. And fearlessness. And possibly vertigo and nausea. The Oprah Winfrey Show is where veins are opened.

Into this environment, we now introduce a goodbye that will last for two years.

For all you Oprah devotees out there - I'm sure she would have something to say here about the importance of not taking yourself too seriously. Besides, you'll always be OWN'ed by the Oprah Winfrey Network, coming soon to a cable box near you.

--

And for those who are wondering, I picked my blogging name (Monkey Sri) before I had even heard about Holmes' blog (Monkey See). Pure coincidence. Besides, her first post (on the NPR site, at least) was in August 2008 and I've been blogging under this nom de blog since May 2007.

Nov 18, 2009

I do try to live a virtuous life, free from the influence of intoxicating substances and mad scientists. How is it then, dear readers, that I find myself at yet another work conference? Much less at one that features the work of post-docs, or as like to call them, The Young People. During the day, The Young People presented their innovative research and stood smiling beside posters covered with diagrams of genetic pathways. At night, The Young People drained the hotel-provided cash bar and crowded the dance floor with their exuberant move-busting. As Detective Roger Murtaugh would say, I'm gettin' too old for this shit.

And that's not to mention the Talent Show, where even us old fogies got involved in poking ribald fun at our science and at each other. Skits in the show featured everything from an homage to Survivor to the full Thriller dance. For my part, I did a passable Kanye West impression ... but perhaps the less said there, the better. The funniest sketch, however, was one on how to deal with colleagues going through menopause, complete with haikus.

change the thermostat?
"go ahead, if you are cold"
pull back bloody stump

I was vaguely horrified, however, when I realized that someone's 8 year-old daughter in the audience. Not only was she exposed to off-color comedy and cursing (not from the menopausal ladies, but still), she is going to have a completely skewed view of appropriate behavior at work. She's going to burst in on her first day wearing a green wig, doing the chicken dance and asking "hey, how do you figure out if your girlfriend is ticklish?!?" You know - just like her father.

That pretty much sums it up.

Buzzwords: number of papers published per year with the corresponding word in its title.
Adapted (read: stolen and messed with) from one of my favorite webcomics, Piled Higher and Deeper.

Nov 16, 2009

Turkey Day II: The Revenging

As with anything I have absolutely no knowledge about, I turned to Google for help in preparing the turkey. Apparently you're supposed to buy 3/4 lb turkey breast (or 1 lb whole turkey) per guest. But when I got to the store the 7.5 lb turkey I was supposed to buy looked rather wimpy. I went for an almost 9.5 lb turkey instead ('cause you can't have success without excess). The next day, I rose at the crack of midmorning so I could have the bird ready by the early afternoon, when my guests were due to arrive. Then, I read the instructions: "Brush with oil or butter and season. Place on wire rack in roasting pan..."

Simple enough, right? Only I didn't have a brush, seasoning, or a wire rack. Oops. I tried rubbing the turkey down with vegetable oil, but I accidentally poured too much into my hand. I panicked and dumped it all on the turkey, drenching it. Not an auspicious beginning. I tried to remove some of the oil, but I only succeeded in further molesting the poor bird. Then I dug through my cabinets and found a chipotle rub that had served me well in the past. Sprinkled that on, and the turkey had turned a lovely light orange color. Faaaan-tastic. As for the pan, I improvised. Perhaps the less said about that, the better.

It was with some trepidation that I put the turkey in the oven at 10 o'clock. It was supposed to need 3 hours to cook, but when I checked it at noon, the little timer had popped out! I turned off the oven and Googled, "how to keep a turkey warm for two hours without drying it to the point of unrecognizability." I got a surprising number of hits. I ended up basting it and leaving it in oven. My friend Rachel was bringing the sweet potatoes, and would need the oven to melt the marshmallow topping (*drool*). I figured we could warm everything up at once, so I tossed the mashed potatoes in there as well.

Once most of the guests had arrived, it was time to heat up the food. I moved the top rack down to accommodate Rachel's casserole dish. Little did I realize, the rack was now sitting directly on top of the turkey. Pressing on the top of the turkey, as it turned out. So much so that when I tried to slide out the bottom rack to retrieve said turkey, only the pan moved. The turkey, perched precariously on my makeshift rack, almost fell out into the oven. In my haste to correct this situation, I jostled the bowl of potatoes and it actually fell out into the oven.

And now I was in a blind panic. Rachel and I yanked her casserole dish out and plonked it on the stove. I then shifted the top rack out of the way, hollering at Doug (who was closest) to move my dish drying rack out of the way. I quickly extracted the turkey from the oven, almost dropping it no fewer than three times. As soon as I got the turkey on the counter top, I whirled back to check the potatoes. Luckily, they hadn't spilled - which was probably more due to their consistency than their flimsy tin foil covering. Final score Sri: 1, malicious Thanksgiving foodstuffs: 0.

Happily, the turkey turned out well. The extra oil made the skin nice a crispy, and it was moist and delicious all the way through. Mmmmmmm. And unlike my family Thanksgiving where we end up with a freezerful of turkey meat, I had only one container of leftovers. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to use the "ruined" cranberry sauce (how I was I to know you were supposed to slice the gelatinous cylinder, instead of just mixing the hell out of the thing?) and I'll be all set!

Thanks to Maggie, Rachel, Doug, Lisa, Amanda, Jays, Susan and Patrick for enabling this mad experiment. And for bringing side dishes. Same time next year?

Say it right - it's CHOW-DAH!

There are so many things I love about fall, especially fall in Virginia. The temperature ranges from Just Right to Sweater Weather. When I was a young nerdling, fall meant the start of school - for someone as scholastically oriented as myself, it was more energizing than New Years. Fall means that my birthday and other winter holidays are right around the corner. And of course, there are the leaves. I think Eddie from Ohio said it best in their song, Old Dominion:
You think that autumns in New England
Are the greatest of them all,
But give me sweet Virginia
For the fireworks of fall!
The prettiest October
In all the 50 states.
Just drive up to the skyline,
Park the car and wait.

But my favorite thing about fall is Thanksgiving. That most American holidays, celebrating the original immigrants, the Pilgrims, being welcomed to the New World by the noble American Indians ... who they would later persecute to near-extinction. Heh heh ... aaaanyway. The food's good. So this year, in anticipation of Thanksgiving at my parent's house, I decided to have some friends over for a full Turkey dinner at my place. Long-time fans of this blog are cringing, and possibly remembering several occasions when I almost set my house on fire. No to worry, my little chickadees. I had everything under control ... mostly.

The thing you should know about me and traditional American food is that I have received almost no formal training in preparing it. I took Home-Ec in sixth grade, but all I learned from that was how to stitch together a stuffed animal when presented with a kit and which fork to use at a fancy dinner. Of course, I promptly forgot these skills, as those situations never came up again. My mom and I make Thanksgiving dinner at home, but she handles all the hard parts - I do things like handing her things from high shelves and making the stuffing from a box.

Therefore, I felt no compunction in purchasing a box of stuffing, potato flakes and cans of gravy. Steamed some frozen veggies and got someone to bring rolls and dessert, and I was basically done. Except for the small detail of main dishes - specifically, the turkey itself and a vegetarian option (I went for corn chowder). For the chowder, I found a nice kosher recipe and made it the previous day. For the turkey ... oh, the turkey.

To be continued...

Nov 10, 2009

Fan Mail! Well, kinda.

Below is an email I received, out of the blue, from my freshman roommate.
dear Sri,

You are a nerd. One who I love and with whom I enjoy spending time, but a nerd regardless. Just wanted to remind you of both.

Now is your opportunity to respond with a bout of wit and pissandvinegar, as you are wont to do.
Not one to leave such a challenge unanswered, I shot back this reply.
You know what? I am a nerd. I read comics and comic books (and know the difference), play video games, and am the Dungeon Master of my D&D group. But in five years all you hipsters will be pretending to enjoy these things ironically. Cause guess what, baby? Nerd is the new black.

Live Long and Prosper,
Sri

P.S. I love you, too.

Nov 6, 2009

On your mark, get set, ... POSE!

Last week, my friend Amanda and I went out to a drag race in the heart of DC. Except, not so much like 2 Fast, 2 Furious. Think more ... To Wong Foo.


Yes, I was at the annual Dupont Circle High Heel Race, meeting some of the most impressive drag queens I've ever seen. There were at least two Cruella de Vils, three Octomoms, a herd of Toddlers in Tiaras, and at least two Michael Jacksons. Side note: I know his movie came out yesterday, but it felt a little soon. I even saw an impressive Kali... it felt a touch blasphemous. But considering some of the slokas I've heard written for her, the Goddess probably finds this sort of thing amusing.

We'll know for sure if this guy wakes up covered in boils.

The event was surprisingly political. Someone was handing out "Marriage Equality NOW!" stickers. A candidate for DC Council, Clark Ray, was working the crowd and having his volunteers slap stickers on anyone standing still long enough. Mayor Fenty even made an appearance close to race time.

And of course, a number of contestants had their own agendas.

The best part was the actual race, when something like 100 drag queens tear down 17th street at full speed. We were standing close to the starting line, so we got to see the contestants at their most energetic. Considering the shoes they were wearing, and the fact they had been "working the runway" for two hours already, I wondered if any of them would run at all. But run they did, with much enthusiasm and loss of jewelry. It was a sight to behold - definitely a must-see for anyone in the DC area. It's always on the Tuesday before Halloween. Mark your calendars!

Nov 5, 2009

So very, very wrong

Thanks to Emily for sharing a link to what promises to be a truly edifying conference, titled simply Darwin was Wrong. Here's a quote from the brochure:

While Darwin was right about the ability of populations to adapt in a limited way to changed environmental conditions, he was profoundly wrong on key scientific issues including: the very nature of science itself; the geological time scale; the incompleteness of the fossil record; the complexity of life; the limits of natural selection; the tree of life; race; and the origin of human beings. More importantly, Darwin was wrong about the disastrous social and moral consequences of his ideas. Lastly, but most importantly, Darwin was wrong about God.

Let's set aside the fact that they're willing to throw empiricism out the window so that their "scientific" beliefs will conform to their religious ideologies. The most ridiculous statement in this series of ridiculous statements is the last one - Darwin was wrong about God. This implies that the writer knows the truth, and isn't the Christian God (and many of the gods in other religions) unknowable? And if god is unknowable, how do we know he/she/it exists at all? The answer is - we don't. That's why it's called faith.

Nov 4, 2009

Costumes

When I was walking home on November 1, I saw that neighborhood stores had already put up Christmas decorations. This made me sad - Fall is my favorite season, and I'm not quite ready to give up Halloween and Thanksgiving yet. Thankfully, a number of my friends have indulged my little whim by sharing Fall-themed costume pics. Enjoy!

Halloween with Harp Lady. Pretty self-explanatory.


Pumpkin time with Fiona, my friend Kara's new dog.



Baby Turkey Face! Quote from her mom, Alli,
"Doesn't she look scrumptious?"

Ah, now I feel better. Thanks to everyone who agreed to share pics!

Nov 3, 2009

There are three kinds of people exiting the Metro. Those that ride the escalators up and down, those that ride up and walk down, and those that walk both ways. I'm firmly in the second category, as it seems the most efficient use of both my time and energy.

But this morning I ran into an acquaintance who is, apparently, a walker. I was engrossed in trying to make appropriate small talk as we approached the escalators, and neglected stake out a spot on the right side (where people usually ride to the top). Before I knew what was happening he was three steps up on the left side, looking over his shoulder expectantly. I had two choices: (a) be lazy/rude and ride to the top alone or (b) drag my fat ass up a contraption that had been designed specifically to prevent such a spectacle.

God forbid I should be rude.

Spoiler alert - I survived. I reached the top, panting as if I'd run a mile and sweating profusely. My acquaintance looked at me askance, as he was not even breathing heavily. Smug, physically fit so-and-so. *shakes fit* Still it was an eye-opener. I need to work out ... just not on a Stairmaster.

Oct 31, 2009

Worst. Hindu. Ever.

Two weeks ago was Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It's kind of a big deal, since it's one of the few festivals that most Hindus celebrate - and thus, one of the few that have made it across the pond to become a part of American Hindu traditions. Of course, I didn't even know it was coming until a couple of days before, when my friend Davina mentioned it. Stupid lunar calendar, always messing me up. In my defense, I did call home.

Me: Happy Diwali (or Deepavali, if you prefer)!
Mom: Happy Diwali, Kutty! Did you do pooja?
Me: Well, no.
Mom: Did you light a lamp?
Me: Um...
Mom: At least do something!
Me: I'm actually on my way to a friend's house. How about I light something on fire there?
Mom: *displeased silence*
Me: Heh. Gotta go.

And as it turns out, even President Obama celebrated Diwali (OMG SECRET HINDU!).



Was this a foolish political move, sure to alienate his key constituents? Hardly. Check out this Newsweek article: We Are All Hindus Now. Based on academic analysis and survey data, it seems that more Americans are subscribing to Hindu beliefs ... though they probably don't know it.

This makes perfect sense to me. "Hinduism" is just that - an "ism" artificially created to encompass a group of people holding widely divergent beliefs. There are tensions and disagreements and feuds, but for the most part Hindus acknowledge that there are many spiritual truths. What could be more egalitarian, more American, than this individualized approach to faith?

I'm sure President Obama didn't put this kind of thought into his Diwali message. He was probably trying to be nice, or politically correct, or both. It just makes me feel good when my faith can take center stage, instead of being marginalized or forgotten. Even if I am the worst Hindu ever.

Oct 26, 2009

And by "fun" I mean...

While in Hawaii, I did two things purely for fun. I went to the Waikiki Aquarium and the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. This is my idea of a good time: educational activities and solemn remembrance. In my defense, I didn't have a lot of time away from the conference. And since I didn't have a rental car I had to walk/bus it everywhere. So the Great Public Transportation Experiment continued even in Waikiki.

A word on the Hawaii bus system - it's awesome. There are tons of routes, so you never have to wait very long for a bus. Automatic overhead announcements give you the cross streets and major landmarks. And the drivers (like pretty much everyone I met in Waikiki) are super friendly. You know hapless tourists are pestering them with questions 24/7, but they patiently answer with a smile and a cheerful "mahalo!"

So it was no problem for me and Baby Genius to catch a bus to the aquarium. I suggested (read: demanded) that we go there, since I love aquariums. Sea creatures are so beautiful and serene. Also, I have this idea that fish don't really know they're in captivity, which makes going to an aquarium much more enjoyable than going to the zoo. The Waikiki Aquarium is smallish, but they had some cool exhibits. These included the oldest giant clam known to man and a couple of adorable seals.

These clams were as big as your face ... but they are tiny compared to the real deal.

Cuteness... overload... I'll have to finish with my account of the USS Arizona in another post.

Oct 23, 2009

Aloha, bitches!

Several of my fangirls have been asking me, 'Why so little posting, Sri? You know that they're the only reason I get up in the morning! Are you trying to send me into a spiraling depression from which I will never recover?' Well, the reason for the blog silence is that I am in Hawaii right now, at a work conference.

The conference tag line: "Superlative science, sensational setting." Word.

No, really. I'm hard at work ... um, networking and such. I am definitely not overindulging on complimentary drinks and instigating impromptu karaoke at local bars. There was no flashback to a certain incident involving the Pacific Ocean at the conference in Los Angeles. Nor am I participating in shenanigans at the exhibit booth or skipping important presentations to lie out on the beach, working on my tan. *shifty eyes*

You can't prove that any of these people are me.

This is my first time at the this organization's meeting, and so far I've liked it. There are definitely topics that have gone over my head, and others that have completely blown my mind. There were talks on an amazingly elegant method of gene discovery, proposed treatments for Mendelian conditions, and new insights into the regulation of transcription. And that was all presented in one session.

But you don't care about any of that. You want to hear about Hawaii. But besides a couple of visits to the beach and dinner/drinks at nice restaurants, I haven't really done anything purely for fun. And I'm fine with that, for the most part. I'm here to (a) go to a conference, (b) hang out with people I don't usually see (i.e. my classmates), and (c) bond with people from work. Laura (aka Baby Genius) and I may skip the poster sessions today, though, and check out the art museum or the aquarium. Further updates as events warrant!

Oct 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

The topic of this year's Blog Action Day is climate change. I'm not about to go all EPA on you ... if you're reading this, you're probably a hippie-liberal like myself and are totally on board with the whole We're Suffocating Mother Earth in Greenhouse Gases thing. The question remains, "what can I do about it?" P.S. The EPA's children's site is much more my speed, sad to say.

For a while now all the cool kids have been talking about "reducing your carbon footprint." And when I lived in C'ville, I knew I was not doing so well with that. I would routinely drive to visit my family (300 miles round trip) or my friends (200 miles round trip) every other weekend. I drove to work, even though I lived within walking distance. I had moderate success with recycling, but I quickly lost interest in composting. I went on a number of international trips and flew domestically fairly often. The only reason I can write all this now is that I've changed/will be changing many of these things, and thus am not as shamed as I used to be.

So I figured my carbon footprint must be HUGE. Like, astronomical and offensive to god, right? For this year's Blog Action Day, I decided that confession is good for the soul. And so I give you, My Carbon Footprint (from the last three years).


So I've clearly outstripped the world target by a factor of five - I was expecting that. What surprised me is that my footprint is HALF the national average. Sure, I didn't routinely burn enough coal to heat the neighborhood or use a rocket-pack to get to the grocery store, but seriously? That's kind of sad.

Clearly, the amount of traveling I was doing was a problem. Well, that's been taken care of - as my loyal readers will remember, I've sent Sheldon (my beloved Corolla) home with my parents. My dad usually drives him to work instead of his minivan (which is certainly less fuel efficient than Sheldon) - two birds, one stone! What I really need to work on, it seems, are all my "Secondary" issues. These are things like buying organic/local/seasonal foods and ... recreation? The one thing I don't like about this calculator is that it doesn't provide direct links with explanations. I know why I should take a walk rather than go to a restaurant in terms of my waistline, but I'm scratching my head as to what exactly that has to do with climate change.

I guess the moral of the story is that there are lots of things we can do, not all of which may be intuitive. For my part I will continue the Great Public Transportation Experiment, check out the year-round fresh food market for some grub, and maybe try to incorporate some "zero carbon activities" into my free time. What about you?

Oct 13, 2009

Down the rabbit hole

Lately, Gilda has been acting out. She moves her litter pan around the cage (though she still uses it, thank god), tears up the drop cloth in her enclosure, and doesn't allow me to pick her up. I know that bunnies are not as affectionate as dogs, or even cats. But it's a tad depressing when you can't even pet your pet.

So when my parents came to pick her up last weekend, it should have been a big relief. I'm going to be out of town next week, and this was the most convenient time for them to come collect my little charge. Once we had moved her cage, I took the opportunity to sweep and mop her area. Now there's nothing but an empty corner where the little miscreant used to dwell.

I miss her so much.

When I get up in the morning I usually say, "Good morning, Gil." When I leave for the day, I admonish her to "Be good!" Sometimes, when I'm lying in bed at night, I tell her my troubles. Yes, I know it's insane to be talking to a rabbit. A rambunctious (dare I say, rascally?) rabbit, at that. But I can't wait for my parents to bring her back in two weeks, so I can hear that familiar scrabbling when I return from work and say, "I'm home."

Oct 4, 2009

Let's play a game!

It's called, Why Is That In My Purse? I will list all the things (besides the boring stuff) that are currently in my purse (read: mondo tote bag) and let you guess why they're there. Ready? Okay!

- Veronica Mars, Season 3 box set
- Two bags of (un-popped) microwave popcorn: one Kettle Corn and one Extra Butter
- Frozen cupcake from Magnolia Bakery (in New York City)
- Three packs of playing cards
- Bottle of rum (unopened)
- Two CDs: The Best of Gladys Knight and the Pips and Pickin' on The Beatles (bluegrass covers of classic Beatles' songs)
- From Eroica with Love, a manga by Yasuko Aoike, Volume 9

Here's the kicker: none of these things were in my bag yesterday. Anyone who can come up with a reasonable explanation will get a prize. Anyone who can come up with a ridiculous explanation gets two prizes. Happy speculating!

Sep 29, 2009

Okay, this blog is quickly devolving into a list of links. But I couldn't pass this one by: Kashmir girl overpowers militants. Apparently, a militant from the Lashkar-e-Taiba group had his sights set on marrying Rukhsana Kauser ... whether she liked it or not. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about this particular group: "members have carried out major attacks against India and its objective is to introduce an Islamic state in South Asia and to "liberate" Muslims residing in Indian-administered Kashmir." So Kauser's "suitor" and half a dozen other militants descended on her home - three entered and savagely beat her parents and uncle. Kauser's reaction?
"I could not see that and pounced on one of the militants while my brother hit him with an axe," she said. "I thought I should try the bold act of encountering militants before dying."
She and her brother disarmed two of the militants and opened fire on them with their own guns. They killed one militant (the commander, apparently) and wounded two others. But here's the really crazy part - BBC reports that the exchange of gunfire went on for four hours. In America, we'd be saying 'where the hell were the cops?' Local police departments would be scrambling, issuing apologies and promising to do better. The mayor, the governor, someone would point at this incident as evidence of a broken system. In Kashmir, the local superintendent "praised what he said was the "exemplary bravery" of Ms Kauser and her brother."

Is that it? Are they not even pretending to hold themselves accountable for keeping Kashmiri citizens safe? Maybe there was more to the superintendent's statement. I really hope this is an oversight by the reporter of the story. Though, I tend to trust BBC, and I haven't seen any statements of contrition in other articles I've skimmed.

Sep 26, 2009

Is this the Onion?

Cause I'm crying laughing.

Libya's Moammar Kadafi gives U.N. his opinions on Obama -- and more!

Exclamation point added by me ... but you know it was implied. Seriously, though, I love the LA Times. Here's a (verbatim!) quote from an interview with Courtney Cox about her new series, Cougar Town.
'...Cox has a terrible memory. Even about something extremely, um, memorable. "Did we get a million dollars an episode just for one year or two?"

She was asking the question over a recent steak dinner when the subject of the final season of "Friends" came up, during which all six lead cast members were paid exorbitant salaries.

Then, with half-feigned marvel in her voice: "Isn't that amazing? A million dollars an episode! What did I do with that money?"'
Well done, LA Times. Well done.

Sep 25, 2009

Physicians, heal thyselves ... and the world

Hello, my little chickadees. I'm up in New York this week, at my public health certificate program (Oh, yes - there are many layers to the Sri Onion). Anyway, one of the speakers mentioned an organization called Physicians for Human Rights. Intrigued, I went to their web page (http://physiciansforhumanrights.org). They are a group dedicated to investigating the health consequences of human rights violations and put a stop to them. The featured story when I went to their site: CIA Health Professionals’ Role in Torture Worse Than Previously Known.

Okay... worse? How could it get worse than that they had a role, even if it was just to sanction these violent acts?
"Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation," says PHR Medical Advisor and lead report author Scott Allen, MD
I got chills, reading this. But acknowledging these wrongs is the first step to try to right them. If you want to read the original white paper the article is based on, you can download it here: Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report. Warning: not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach.

Sep 22, 2009

I’m a Terrible Person

Yesterday I was waiting for the NIH shuttle next to a middle-aged man wearing a face mask. It’s nearing flu season, and with the buzz about H1N1 I didn’t think much about it. Then he asked me how to get to a certain building – I looked through the shuttle schedules, which are posted at the bus stop, and told him. We struck up a conversation about how difficult it can be for newbies to navigate public transportation, both on and off the NIH campus. Apparently, he had just flown in from California and had to use the metro/bus system to get here. This naturally led to me asking what brought him to Bethesda.

Him: I’m going to see an immunologist. I’m one of those bubble boys – that’s why I’m wearing the mask.
Me (assuming he was kidding): Heh heh.
Him (sadly): They just can’t figure out why I keep getting sick.
Me: ...

It’s not really news that, if Hell exists, Satan is keeping a seat nice and warm for me. Hearing this, he must have turned the thermometer up a notch. I laughed … at the Bubble Boy. *sigh*

Sep 18, 2009

Public Transportation

Shortly after I moved to DC, I determined that I would not be able to keep my car. First of all, there were the various costs – insurance, parking, gas, etc. Add to that my complete lack of directional sense and the multitude of “roundabouts” here in the district, and you begin to see the problem. So I left Sheldon (yes, my car’s name is Sheldon) with my parents at Castle Sri and began the Great Public Transportation Experiment of 2009.

Every morning, I walk a couple blocks to the metro station. This necessitates wearing walking shoes and carrying my dress shoes in my purse. As this is a common practice among DC’s professional women, no one bats and eye. The metro takes me to the NIH campus, where I go through security and catch a shuttle to my building. At the end of the day I reverse the trip, and so far (knock on wood) I’ve managed this without incident.

Sometimes the train cars are crowded, and I hate touching strangers. I try to position myself so I won’t bump up against anyone, but it takes a lot of effort. And very time someone in my vicinity so much as sniffles, I think ‘omg, H1N1’ and start inching away. Sometimes the trains themselves are filthy, with gum and grime all over the floors. *shudder* I’m convinced I’m not alone in my revulsion. Just as no one is an atheist in the foxhole, everyone is a germaphobe on the metro.

At the end of the day, though, I like the idea of public transportation (even if I don’t necessarily enjoy the transportation itself). Seeing thirty people in a train car means that thirty cars were left in garages, parked on the street, or at someone’s parent’s house. Some were not purchased at all. Not to go all Martha Stewart on you, but it’s a good thing.

Sep 15, 2009

Cool stuff from work

Have you heard about the Human Microbiome Project? Scientists took samples from various sites on the bodies of ten volunteers, in order to map the genomes of the bacteria and other microbes living on human skin. Initial studies have determined that microbiomes are a lot like real estate - the three more important factors are location, location, and location. In other words, the organisms residing in your armpit are more like the ones in your brother's armpit than on your own forearm, no matter how infrequently he showers. On one level - so cool! On another, it kind of makes me want to never touch skin (even my own) ever again.

Also, the Department of Health and Human Services is hosting a PSA Contest to spread the word about their H1N1 flu website, www.flu.gov. One of the most popular videos is the so-called "health hop" rap by Dr. John Clarke. Definitely worth a listen - and a vote! The public vote (which closes tomorrow at midnight) will determine which video will become at televised PSA and which contestant walks away with a whopping $2500 (hey, it's a recession).

That's all I have for now. Toodles, poodles!

Sep 10, 2009

Why is it that I can spend all morning wading through budget reports dating back to 2003 with no one looking in on me, but the minute I take a break and start doing something asinine (like sorting M&M's by color before eating them in alphabetical order) my boss stops by to see if I've read the article for journal club?

Sep 3, 2009

Who are you and how did you get my email address?

The original email...
My dear friends,
Hope you all are well and enjoying the end of summer weather.
I want to know what you think on various issues in "politics." We don't all think alike. With that given, let me know what you think about:
The National Civilian Security Force. I understand that it will be under job core and has 1/2 billion or is it trillian [sic] dollars to build it up. They will be as well trained as the military. Why does Pres. Obama need his army? I don't know. As you know our CIA agents are being questioned by the attorney general. But the attorney general did not care to look into the black panthers intimigating [sic] the voters. And what about the black man that came armed to a town hall meeting. The TV media reported it, but failed to mention or show his color. Why?
Let me know your thoughts on this subject.
If you want me to delete you from my contacts list I will.
Thanks, in His love, [name redacted]
My response...
Here is an article from factcheck.org that I think you might want to read: http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/is_obama_planning_a_gestapo-like_civilian_national.html

Please delete me from your email list.

Thanks,
Sri
The final word...
I guess I'm not so trusting in governments as you are. You can check this out or not. You're deleted.
[name redacted]
My question to you, [name redacted], is this: you don't trust the government, but you trust Fox News?

Sep 1, 2009

First Day

Today I woke up at 6:20 (again - what the hell, circadian rhythm?!?) and wasn't able to get back to sleep. I puttered around my new apartment, trying to get by with whatever had been (a) packed in C'ville and (b) unpacked in DC. Last night I realized that I didn't bring any toothpaste, so I'm using mouthwash to brush my teeth. Stepping out the shower this morning, I realized I don't have any moisturizer. So I used hair conditioner... don't judge me. Leaving my apartment, I felt proud of my ingenuity (and, surprisingly enough, not at all sticky).

I should have realized that these were signs. My luck is strange - it never fails me for the big stuff, like getting this fellowship. Most of the other candidates (and all but one other fellow) have their PhDs, and are (one can only assume) not spastic nutcases. So why was I the chosen one? Pure luck, my friends. To balance out my good fortune, however, a thousand tiny frustrations will crop up when I least expect them.
1,000 tiny frustrations
a beat poem by Monkey Sri

first commute
hemline unravels
right pant cuff
falls falls falls
into the dirt of city streets
and urine, probably
clip it with a paperclip
doin' no good
at my destination, wrong destination
shoes not made for walking hike a mile
lost on the NIH campus
round and round and round and round
back to an empty office
no IT man, no security clearance
and there's nothing I can do
close my door
close my eyes
and rest

Aug 28, 2009

Last Day

I'm sitting in my office with the door closed, my second piece of Going Away cake souring in my stomach. This was the cake I specifically requested be ordered from Maryland, a rich chocolate topped with a decadent caramel icing. Too rich and too decadent, as it turns out. I wish I had a toothbrush.

But even if I were that kind of slave to oral hygiene, I cleaned out my desk yesterday. There's nothing in these drawers except a couple of keys without locks, a spare computer cable or two, and dust. Lots of dust. The only thing left to do is box up my textbooks and clear the last few personal items off the top of my desk.

Here's my graduation picture, and a few candid photos of friends. The good highlighters that I brought from home, and my tiny mouse-shaped pencil sharpener. I'm pretty sure some of my personal contacts got mixed into my Rolodex, so I should probably fish those out. Two thank-you notes from patients. In the corner, some bottles and boxes for recycling. My file box of scientific articles. My diplomas on the wall, mustn't forget those.

This morning, I was elated. I woke up at 6:20 and couldn't get back to sleep, I was so excited. My last day. Sitting at my desk, doing whatever busy work my boss could find for me, I was dancing in my chair. Then my mom called me during my lunch break and said, "It is your last day! Think of all the things you've achieved over the past three years!"

This job... this job.

Only an hour and half left.

Aug 23, 2009

Brownies

One of the best things about moving is that you have a valid excuse to use all the perishable items in your fridge and pantry. So today I decided to make brownies. Furthermore, I decided I was going to make delicious wine brownies, like the ones Jojo brought to our impromptu class reunion. Of course, she simply substituted wine for water (WWJD brownies, if you will) in a packaged brownie mix. I don't believe in using mixes unless circumstances are dire, so I figured I would improvise.

*cue ominous music*

First I started with this simple brownie recipe:
1/2 c. butter or oil
4 tbsp. cocoa or 2 sq. chocolate
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. nuts, chopped

Mix all ingredients together. Spread in well greased pan. Bake a 350, 30-35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
Already I'm excited because of the two-step instructions: mix, then bake. Except, nowhere is water mentioned in this recipe. How am I supposed to substitute wine for water if there isn't any water? Upon further consideration, several other problems make themselves apparent...

1. I don't have any unsweetened cocoa, only hot cocoa mix pouches. Gourmet hot cocoa mix pouches, but still.
2. After my dad's heart attack, the whole family switched from eggs (evil, cholesterol-filled sons of bitches) to egg-substitute products.
3. There isn't a drop of vanilla extract to be had in the apartment, and I'm sure as hell not going out to buy any for one batch of brownies.
4. My mounting frustration, evidenced by my increasingly colorful language. Dammit.

So ... I improvised further. Here's what I actually ended up using:
1/2 c. butter (melted from it's frozen state in an improvised double-boiler)
entire packet of gourmet "double dutch" hot cocoa mix (why not?)
3/4 c. sugar (cut back to compensate for sugar in hot cocoa mix)
2 egg-equivalent amount of egg substitute (shaking a carton is much easier than beating eggs, anyway)
almost 3/4 c. flour (ran out!)
a pinch of salt (since I used salted butter)
1/2 tsp. baking powder (...ish)
a generous dollop on hard cider
Wait a minute, you're thinking. Hard cider? I thought you were going to use wine!

Yes, yes. But for some reason (I blame nasty, devious, wine-stealing gnomes!) I have no open bottles of wine in my house. Or rather, open bottles of wine never last long in my house. Anyway, I splashed in some hard cider and then enjoyed the rest of the bottle while I waited for the brownies to bake (same temp/time as the original instructions). A win-win, if you ask me!

And here I am, sitting with the finished product. Here goes, fair readers.

*nom nom nom*

Not bad. The chocolate taste is muted, and there is the subtle flavor of cider without the alcoholic bite. And they're quite cakey, not really as dense as brownies usually are. Overall, though, quite delicious and a definite success. Now I just have to figure out how to use that box of sangria Liz brought me, and I'll be all set!

Aug 20, 2009

Has it really been five years?

Last night, my freshman hall got together for an impromptu reunion. I immediately covered myself in glory by imbibing several glasses of wine. Happily, I was not alone in this, and soon we were merrily insulting each other and cackling evilly. Next came a retelling of embarrassing stories from our shared past, to everyone's horror delight. These included, but were not limited to:
- The time Kristy, Diana, and Rachel ran The Triathlon in a single night (see the W&M Wiki entry and scroll down to "Traditions")
- That Erin's only defense in a physical confrontation was to go limp ... at which point I would drag her bodily from our room and leave her in a heap in the middle of the hallway
- How even though Diana and Jojo disagreed vehemently on acceptable television and movies (with Diana expressing a strong dislike for all things Jane Austen), they could both come together to judge me for my love of Star Trek

It's strange to think that it's been five years since I was at the same school as these women, and almost a decade since we first met. I still remember being startled, upon being introduced to Erin, by her enthusiastic exclamation and tackle-hug. And how, during orientation, Diana and I intimidated each other - to me she looked tough, to her I looked monstrously tall. I forgot to bring my favorite hairbrush to school, and Jojo offered to buy me a new one from Target. I still have that brush somewhere.

These moments are so fundamental to my character that it seems impossible, ludicrous that they happened such a long time ago. This feeling is reinforced whenever we get together and the intervening years seem to disappear. Despite the evidence to the contrary - jobs, spouses, houses, children! - it seems that in a moment we'll dump our trays, leave The Caf and return to Gooch 2nd Upper at the end of another idyllic day of our freshman year.

Aug 12, 2009

The Big Reveal

Well, my little chickadees, I have some news. At the end of this month I will be leaving fair C'ville and moving up to Washington, D.C. This is an exciting opportunity - I'll be getting out of the clinical realm and pursuing my interest in public policy, via a very prestigious fellowship. Many of you may know all this already, but I didn't want to blog about it until (a) I had gotten my official offer letter and (b) I had broken the news to my bosses.

I went apartment hunting last weekend, which was a somewhat frustrating experience. I didn't like the places I could afford and couldn't afford the places that I liked. On Monday, however, I got confirmation that the stipend I had thought was for all 16 months of my fellowship was actually annual. That opened up a lot of possibilities for me, and I sent in an application for a studio in northwest D.C. today. I should be all set, as long as their criminal background check doesn't find all those arson and embezzlement charges. It's like they say - what happens in Uzbekistan stays in Uzbekistan, right?

In my nerdy excitment over the new place I printed out the floor plan and made scale cut-outs of all my furniture, to see if it would all fit. It'll be a tight squeeze, but I think I can manage it. If I have to leave the infamous Swivel Chair behind, I will cry.

Can you believe I found a picture via Google Images?
God, I love the internet.

Aug 3, 2009

Despite a distressing amount of adverts*, I highly recommend this site: Emails from Crazy People. This is almost enough for me to wish for someone to send me a ranting, aggressive, foaming-at-the-mouth email ... despite my total aversion to confrontation. Enjoy!

*A word to any of my readers who are marketing execs - banner ads don't work. Anyone under the age of, I'm going to guess forty, doesn't even see banner adds. Our eyes skip right over them, enjoying our bliggity-blogs and facey-spaces while paying exactly zero attention to any and all sponsors. You're going to need more to capture my imagination than some random JPEG of a woman doing sit-ups. Also, WTF is up with the woman doing situps?

Jul 30, 2009

Awake and Dreaming

My dreams are intense. I've had lucid dreams, where you know you are dreaming and are able to control what happens next. Every once in a while I'll have a dream that is prophetic. Sometimes they're about trivial things - in high school I once dreamed an entire conversation with the boy I liked, the day before it happened. As a result I was able to avoid embarrassing myself (more than usual). More often, however, the meaning is less clear. Once I had a night terror about a flesh-colored sack filling with yellow viscous fluid. The next week, my father had a heart attack due to a cholesterol blockage. Even my regular dreams are so vivid that I will often confuse them, upon waking, with reality.

This morning I dreamt I was covered in spiders, and that they were spinning their webs around my head. When I woke, I screamed at the top of my lungs. My roommate came running, only to find me out of bed, batting at my ears and shaking all over. When she asked me what was wrong, I couldn't remember the right words to explain myself. 'Nightmare,' my logical brain called to me from across the vast ocean of sleep. 'Ignore the feeling of wispy cobwebs against your neck - it's only your hair. That sense of creeping dread is a figment of your imagination. You are not about to suffocate, or be eaten, or die. Go back to sleep ... if you can.'

"I... I had a dream," I told my roommate groggily, and crawled back into bed.

Jul 29, 2009

Yar, Give Me Tha Booty!

Sorry, I think I saw one too many Captain Jack Sparrow costumes at Comic Con. I just want to share all the fun stuff I was able to beg, borrow and steal while at the convention. Well, not actually share. More like... gloat.

SWAG, aka free stuff! I got a t-shirt from Burn Notice - sure it's neon yellow with Micheal Weston's face in day-glo orange screen printed across the entire front and I would never be caught dead in it. It was free. I also got tons of buttons to add to my collection (and you thought I couldn't get any nerdier). Possibly the best swag, though, was at the Viz Media booth - free manga! Well, free promotional books with the first chapter of five mangas, in order to get you hooked and force you to buy the rest. They're basically like a drug dealer ... the first hit is free, but the next will cost you.

BOOKS ... well, graphic novels. As previously mentioned, I got volume one of Piled Higher and Deeper. I also got volumes one and two of Strangers in Paradise, one of the greatest romance comics of all time. When I went to the booth, the author was standing about chatting with fans, so I even got him to sign my copies - score! Of course, now I wish I had gotten volume three as well - I finished volume two before I even got home. But my bag was so overstuffed I barely managed to zip it closed, so all in all I think I stopped at a good point.

Katchoo, how did you get to be so cool?

STAR COLLECTING. I dragged Maggie through the line for The Guild so I could get my picture taken with Felicia Day. I also stood in line for half an hour to get the autograph of J. Michael Straczynski, a famous comic book artist, for my friend Jeff. Everyone else in line had comics or posters for him to sign. All I had was a page torn from Maggie's notebook. I felt like such a n00b.

Jul 28, 2009

I'm back from Comic Con bearing graphic novels, colorful buttons, and shame. Because what vacation would be complete without utter humiliation?

The Exhibition Hall at Comic Con is a massive conglomeration booths providing everything from swag (free stuff) to books for sale to meet-and-greets with authors and artists. The hall is so massive that if you stood at one end you wouldn't be able see the far wall - even if the room wasn't full of so many colorful banners, advertisements and directional signs as to cause total sensory overload. You could spend the entire con in the Exhibition Hall.

I had come in to hit two or three booths and get out ... so of course I immediately got lost. I was turning yet another corner in the blind hope of finding an exit, when I saw it. A booth for Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD), one of my all-time fave web comics. I squee'd and rushed up to the attendant, gushing about how inspirational the strip had been during my grad school days. He smiled politely. Feeling a bit silly for fan girling in front of this random person, I asked about buying a t-shirt. He kindly pulled down several shirts for me, but none were to my taste or in my size. Frustrated, I was about to leave when he said, "Well, if you buy a book, I'll sign it for you."

The man I had taken for a low-level flunky was actually Jorge Cham, the author of PhD.

That's the thing with Comic Con ... you never know who you're going to run into. I saw Jimmy Fallon walking down a hallways in a green spandex costume, camera crew in tow. I swear I saw Beth Grant (as Maggie said, it was one of those "hey, it's that woman!" moments) waiting for someone by the escalator. And every so often, in a panel, a star would come up to the microphone during the audience Q&A. So I guess I should have expected that Jorge Cham might be manning his own booth. Once I realized it, I tried to play it off.

Me: Shouldn't you have a minion doing this for you?
JC: You know, I should!
Me: Talk to your publisher and demand a minion!
JC: Well, I have a pretty tough publisher.
Me (not knowing what else to say): Oh. Bummer.
JC: *wry grin* I'm self-published.
Me: Hahahahahaha, I'm laughing because I'm uncomfortable.
JC: ...
Me: I'll just go, now.

Jul 26, 2009

Just forward my mail to Ballroom 20

Greetings again from Comic Con! Look forward to many posts on the TV blog of the ah-mazing panels I've been in. Right now, on this blog, I'd like to talk about the thing about Comic Con that they don't want you to know ... the f*cking lines.

Today, I got up at 6:30 am to get ready, get my stuff packed, catch a trolley, and wait in line for an hour and a half. All for the sake of seeing David Tennant live and in person, but still. Here's the thing - if there's a panel that you really, really, really, really want to attend you have to get there stupid early. The plus side is that you meet interesting people in line. Some have fascinating jobs, like video game designers or interns at Cartoon Network. Some have wonderful costumes, as you saw in my previous post. Some have interesting ... odors, which is not as fun. Still, overall it's good.

There's a whole strategy involved, as well, For example, I want to see the Being Human / Torchwood panel this afternoon in this same room. I know that's going to be a popular, so I'm just going to hang out here all day. Yes, I'm insane. No, I do not care. Also, I'm not the only one. I'm here in the American Dad panel, and half the t-shirts I see around me are squeeing about Ianto Jones (character from Torchwood). That's just how we Comic Con-ers roll.

Jul 24, 2009

Day One (and a half) of Comic Con

You will be pleased to note that I survived my cross-country journey (starting at 6am) from Virginia to California.

First of all, Comic Con is amazing! Even if comic books, awesome TV shows, movies and novels aren't your thing (I imagine you would spend most of your day playing with your belly button lint), you have to admire the sheer organization it takes to corral some 126, 000 nerds in and out of meeting rooms all day.

I am currently sitting in the hallway of the San Diego Convention Center, watching heroes, villains and ninjas walk by. Don't believe me? Observe...

Kakashi and the 3rd Hokage from Naruto


American Maid and Sewer Urchin from The Tick

The Doctor, pictured with a Dalek, from Doctor Who

I love seeing and recognizing truly random costumes - and I think the people wearing them enjoy having their hard work pay off. For example, yesterday I saw a man dressed as Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.

Adventure!

Jul 22, 2009

Comic Con, ho!

This time tomorrow, I will be basking in the warmth of sunny San Diego ... shortly before locking myself in a convention center for the next four days. Yes, Comic Con is finally (almost) here! For those of you who don't know, Comic Con is the O.G. comic book/cartoon/sci-fi/fantasy convention. It's the Nerd Mecca. Maggie, Rachel, Carly and I have been planning this trip for ages.

The only problem is that there is so much to see and do! Even when you factor in my general lack of interest in the mechanics of comics (how-to workshops and historical reviews leave me cold), my schedule is jam-packed. There are a lot of hard decisions to make. For instance, do I go to listen to Terry Brooks talking about the latest Magic Kingdom of Landover book or to "Mad Science: The Science Behind Science Fiction?" Should I stick with my plan to go to the "Meet The Guild" panel, or try to get Neil Gaiman's autograph when he comes to talk about Coraline? And at some point I should probably go out and, you know, see San Diego.

Hopefully I will have internet access at the hotel and energy enough to blog about all the wondrous happenings. If not, you can just imagine me in my Comic Con t-shirt, running from room to room according to my obsessively-complied schedule, surrounded by my nerd brethren and the occasional famous person, with a big grin on my face.

Jul 20, 2009

Per usual when my life is a mess, the blog suffers. Here are list of links to keep you amused during the current dearth. About 80% safe for work. Unless your boss is a real @$$hole about the firewall.

FailBlog - full of hilarious pictures, videos, articles and the occasional response to a threatening email.

FML - stands for F*ck My Life. A standard entry would sound something like this. "Today, my sister and I were kidnapped by hill folk never to be seen again. FML." The best part is that you can show your support/disdain by clicking, "I agree, your life sucks" or "You totally deserved it." FML keeps a running tally of the votes ... I always imagine someone coming back to their post, only to realize one million internet strangers think they deserve what they got. Glorious. Although some entries can stir up mixed emotions.

TFLN - no, I don't mean the Teaching for Learning Network. I mean Texts From Last Night, a hilarious catalog of the foibles of youth. For example...
(425): If I had a nickel for every time somebody called me a bad person I would have enough money to check into rehab
Enjoy!

Jul 17, 2009

You Call Me Haraam? Well, So's Your Mom!

If you are in the DC area, I have an event to recommend! Headscarf and the Angry Bitch is a one-woman play that is part of the Capital Fringe Festival. The protagonist, Zed Headscarf, is a Muslimah comedy folk singer who has been hired by a local mosque to do community outreach. Her outrageous personal stories and music about growing up Muslim in America speak of an irreverence born from familiarity, rather than contempt. There were plenty of shout-outs for the South Asians ("We'll get to Indo-Pak relations in just a bit," Zed promises at one point, with a twinkle in her eye. Later, we hear her ballad to her Indian ex-boyfriend. I won't spoil the ending, but it's good). Parts of it were really touching, and I'm woman enough to admit that I blubbered like a baby. I got the feeling that the character draws heavily from the life experiences of the author/actress, Zehra Fazal.

She's a friend of my friend Kristi, which is how I heard about the show. We met her afterward, and I totally fangirled all over myself. So ashamed.

A few bits of advice: Buy tickets ahead of time! I foolishly did not, and had to buy one of only ten standing room only tickets. The show isn't too long (less than an hour), so standing isn't a problem unless you're a lazy lump like me. Luckily I had friends there saving me a seat (thanks, guys!). In addition to tickets, you'll need to buy a Capital Fringe Festival button:


The final two shows are tonight at 8:30 and tomorrow at 3:30, at the Warehouse Next Door. There is a bar, but don't be seduced by the fact that they have Pina Coladas on tap - they're sickeningly sweet to start, and nothing but ice by the end. Maybe because mine was a virgin... insert a sexual innuendo of your choice here.

Jul 8, 2009

Signs

This may sound strange, considering the source, but I love roadside church signs. You know the ones - white with movable black letters, like fast food billboards. Only instead of two-for-one deals on greasy burgers, they advertise fellowship meetings and children's pageants. And sometimes they deliver little bon mots to make a long drive more bearable. For example:

- in front of a predominantly Black church near where I used to live in Richmond: SOUL FOOD SERVED HERE
- on 29 North, at what I assume was a nondenominational church: GOD WANTS SPIRITUAL FRUIT, NOT RELIGIOUS NUTS!

I know full well that there signs are not meant for me. None of these churches are seeking to recruit overly intellectual American Hindus who suspect Christianity may be secretly polytheistic.* But I love these signs, because their whimsy underscores an intrinsic similarity - I think God has a sense of humor, too. And my laughter as I drive past is an outpouring of joy at this shared revelation.

*The Devil? Are you kidding me with that?

Jun 29, 2009

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.” - Werner von Braun

Another re-post from the old writer's blog! Try to contain your excitement.

--

We all know the old adage, "write what you know." But with the help of a little research, you can 'know' just about anything. I'm not entirely certain that this is a good thing.

Research is a natural part of writing for me. I usually like to research every detail, right down to appropriate name meanings for my characters' pet toads, but not everyone shares in my psychosis. In fact, I feel this practice has the potential to get me into real trouble. For one, it can break up the flow of writing - if you get hung up on if Chicago bus drivers wear blue or purple uniforms, you might miss your hero's stop. For two, there are potential, ahem, legal ramifications.

In one of my stories the heroine has to type a letter for her boss, the assistant district attorney. I wanted to show off his clout, so I addressed the letter to a politician in my heroine's hometown ... and used the politician's real name and address. Later I realized this was a BAD IDEA (yes, all-caps are necessary to contain the badness of this particular idea) and changed it. On the other hand, no one wants to read that your hero attends Nondescript University in Nowhere Special, Nebraska, regardless of that fact that his major is Underwater Basket Weaving and he's secretly dating the captain of the football team. You just need to find a balance.

The internet is the double-edged sword of research. Obviously you can get the facts on just about anything from databases like Answers.com and Wikipedia. I also like to use Google Images to find pictures of my settings. But the ease of obtaining information can often lead you astray. A good rule of thumb: if it takes you more than five minutes of dedicating Googling to find something out, is anyone else going to get the reference? Unless you're writing Star Trek fanfiction, the answer is probably 'no.'

Also, never underestimate the benefit of life experience. All the research in the world is no substitute for visiting your setting or observing/working at your hero's job, if only for a day. If your hero is a surgeon or cliff diver or some other job they don't let you temp in, bribe someone with expertise into having a nice, long chat. I find that cookies and promises of a spot in the acknowledgments work wonders.

Jun 23, 2009

Fat Lip

It's amazing to me what I can and can't do with the right lower quadrant of my face completely numb from Novocaine. I talk on the phone and eat a cup of yogurt. I can't purse my lips evenly or stop playing with my mouth. It feels like my lower lip should be huge, but constant checks in the mirror confirm that my face is as proportional as it ever was.

On the upside, I learned a lot about my dentist today. She enjoys ballroom dancing, and has been taking lessons for over ten years. She watches trashy reality TV shows like The Bachelorette and likes to pretend that her office (in the mountains) is actually located on the beach. I quite like her. Which is pretty remarkable, since just this morning she spent the better part of an hour drilling holes in me. And then told me I'd be too numb to eat much of anything until 3pm.

*pokes lip* Any time, now.

Jun 22, 2009

Urgh

There are so many descriptive terms for the biological process of emesis. Of course there is the most common, throwing up. But there's also getting sick or being ill for the more refined, and spewing or blowing chunks if you want to be descriptive. There is also context to consider - after a long night of partying, you worship the porcelain god. If you wake up to a churning gut it might be morning sickness, which may or may not be a good thing. So many, many ways to say the same thing. But my kind readers will forgive me if I speak plainly for once.

I am so nervous I want to vomit.

I don't usually have a sensitive stomach - I can (and unfortunately do) eat almost anything. I think it comes from being raised on Indian food. Growing up, being able to tolerate spices was considered a necessity for gastronomic health. More recently I've come to the conclusion that my stomach may actually be slightly larger than is typical. When properly inspired, I have been known to eat an IHOP breakfast and a half, as Maggie can attest. I have also won a Jell-O eating contest... The details of which I do not plan to publish. Sorry.

So what could cause a dedicated, resilient organ such as my stomach to stage a revolt? This afternoon I am expecting an important phone call. Life-changingly important. How-am-I-going-to-get-through-clinic-today important. So as soon as I got my breakfast down this morning, it immediately wanted to come back up again.

Fear not, gentle readers. I have not expelled the contents of my stomach ... yet. Lunchtime may bring new and unpleasant developments. Please think good thoughts for me and my bubbling gastric acid.

Jun 18, 2009

Not cool, President Obama. Not cool.

I'm really puzzled by the news of this DOJ brief on DOMA. On Friday, the Department of Justice called for the dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged the heinous Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA states that the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriages and that states don't have to, either. This DOJ brief contradicts President Obama's campaign promises to repeal DOMA, a law he described as "abhorrent." The gay rights movement, having supported the President's campaign en masse, was patiently waiting in line behind the global economic crisis and a slew of other "more pressing" issues. When this came along leading activists were, needless to say, pissed. Now the administration is saying that the President still intends to get rid of DOMA, but it is the DOJ's job to uphold the law of the land, whatever that law may be.

You know what else used to be illegal? Interracial marriage. Yeah, I said it! How the DOJ brief could compare same-sex marriage to incest and statutory rape and not make this much more reasonable connection is beyond me. My point is, we know that the law of the land is not infallible. It is the product of human effort, and as such can be wrong and scary and bigoted. If we wanted our government to follow the letter of law - no more, no less - we could install a system of computers for that. And soon we'd all be living on Mars, toiling endless to mine the ore they need for fuel. But I digress.

Over the past week the administration has paid lip-service to the ideas of equality, possibly trying to pacify angry gay rights activists. President Obama granted some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees (though, of course, not full benefits... that's outlawed by DOMA). And the DOJ has allowed one man to change his passport to reflect his married name. It's kind of like cutting off someone's leg, then handing them back a few toes.

This is, at best, a first-class f*** up (Joe Biden's in the back with his hands in the air, "Not me this time! Totally not me."). At worst, I've heard it called an attempt by the Obama administration to kowtow to "family values" conservatives. One thing is for sure - the trust has been broken. President Obama will need to offer up a lot more before he can again count on the support of the gay community and it's supporters.

Here's a link to a good summary article.

Jun 17, 2009

My library was dukedom large enough

When I was a child the library was my sanctuary, my summertime escape. I could avoid the sun, heat, and physical activity that typified most kid's vacations. In the library I didn't have to worry about my body, already plumping up in all the wrong places, and it's many athletic deficiencies. There it was my mind that was active - running through long reading lists, doing laps around the stacks. I was training my brain for the marathon of education that would follow - high school, college, grad school and beyond.

While running the race of higher learning, however, I had little cause to return to the library. My text books were purchased, not borrowed, so I could take notes in the margins and highlight important passages. I would never dream of defacing a library book like this, but such was my training. Reading was no longer a sport - it was my occupation. For the most part, pleasure reading fell to the wayside. For six years I read almost nothing but academic texts and scientific literature. Even when I started work and had a little more free time, I didn't go back to the library to browse and relax. Until this week.

I had requested a novel for a book club, and it came in on Monday. The book club meeting is today, and I had conflict anyway, but I figured I couldn't just let the book sit there. I went to pick it up from Marion the Librarian at the branch where my Toastmasters group meets. Please do not imagine her to be the precocious heroine from The Music Man ... think instead a short woman with gray hair, wire-rimmed glasses and hard features. I can tell that Marion disapproves of the noisy speechifying that goes on in the library's meeting room. She scowls impressively over her glasses every time I walk by the circulation desk - daunting, to say the least. Still, on this day it galvanized me to action - I would not flee before Marion's dour expression. I would stay, and leave when I was ready to go.

I wandered in and out of the stacks, admiring the classification by genre that mirrored my bookcase at home. I went from Mystery to Westerns to SciFi to Adult Fiction. Young Adult called to me from out of the past, but I resisted. I amused myself by confirming that I'd read all the Agatha Christie available and considered checking out Ralph Compton's last installment in the Danny Duggin series, Death Along the Cimarron. Searching for Neil Gaiman revealed three slim Sandman graphic novels, but no Neverwhere or Anansi Boys. I finally settled on a book suggested by my book club last month, that I had previewed on Amazon but never got around to buying. When I was finished, I used the self-checkout station (the wonders of our age!), snubbing Marion entirely. Take that, I thought childishly. I win at Library.

Jun 12, 2009

Mark my words

Here's an old post from the blog I started with my now-defunct writer's group. It consists of me fangirling Mark Twain for several paragraphs. *eye roll*

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"Let us guess that whenever we read a sentence and like it, we unconsciously store it away in our model-chamber; and it goes, with the myriad of its fellows, to the building, brick by brick, of the eventual edifice which we call our style." - Mark Twain

If this is the case, the entire basement of my house of style is made of tiny bearded bricks in white linen suits. Mark Twain saw the world so clearly. He saw the humor of things because he also saw the truth of them. Thus, Twain's self-awareness as a writer and a man just makes sense. His ideas about writing (and about life) are inspirational without being maudlin and funny without being trite.

"The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say."

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
Do yourself a favor - go read Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven. It will change the way you live your life. Or at least the way you use adjectives.

Jun 10, 2009

The weary traveler finally makes it home

Last week I was again up in New York for my certificate program. Eight hours in a classroom per day for five whole days, joy of joys. Two things made the week bearable - that I find the material endlessly fascinating (nerd!) and that I had plans to meet up with my friend, Ducks, and visit NYC.

Ducks' life is completely alien to me. She lives in a one-room apartment with a tiny kitchen and a minuscule fridge. Keeping a bunch of food around would only attract vermin, so her cupboards are constantly bare. On the plus side, anything you could ever want to eat is available in the city - and the store that sells it is within walking distance. While it takes me half an hour to get a box of cereal from Kroger, Ducks can pop over to the cafe (literally) around the corner and bring back the freshest, most delicious pastries known to man. We breakfasted like kings.

For lunch we met friends at a French restaurant - our waiter's accent was pronounced and extremely intimidating. I wanted to order the quiche, but hesitated because it was on the brunch menu. "Don't worry," our friends Ann and Alyssa reassured me. "Brunch in New York doesn't start until noon." Fascinating. Ducks and I then announced our plans to go to a festival at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA). Our friends Tom and Kristi immediately exclaimed in unison, "MOCHA FEST?!?" Once we explained it to them, they seemed less excited about joining us.

After our sadly-lacking-in-chocolatey-coffee-goodness festival, Ducks and I wandered about a bit. She took me to get Slurpees at a 7/11 (this is apparently a rare delicacy in NYC) and to an artifical beach at South Street Seaport. Finally, we met our friend Matt and his fiancee Makayla for dinner. It was Matt's birthday, 30 years young! But sadly the rest of us were too old to get up to any truly crazy shenanigans. Though we did wander back down to the bar at the artificial beach - they were playing house music, and there were only six people on the dance floor. We decided to call it a night.

And so ended my adventures in New York City - with an exhausted subway ride, a few hours of fitful sleep, and a far-to-early flight the next morning. *sigh* I wish I was still there.

Jun 9, 2009

Wait... there's an election today?

The Virginia gubernatorial* primaries are today. Why was I not informed? Oh wait ... maybe I was informed, but was too busy to make specific plans. No matter! With the power of teh interweb, I can become an informed voter in a matter of moments.

Party affiliation: you don't have to be a member of a specific party to vote in Virginia primaries - huzzah! In fact, you can vote in any primary you wish. Shock of shocks, I plan to go Democrat.

Here are the websites for the three Democratic candidates for governor:
Creigh Deeds
Terry McAuliffe
Brian Moran

Not sure where to go? The State Board of Elections has your back:
Where Do I Vote In Virginia?

You have until 7pm tonight - good luck and godspeed.

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*I love this word