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 ( 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, 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 that I think you might want to read:

Please delete me from your email list.

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