Saturday, December 27, 2008

Public Service Announcement

[The following is prompted by some of the answers on the final exam in one of my classes where students could earn extra credit by identifying the capitals of several countries]

The capital of Mexico is not:
  • Tijuana
  • Cancun
  • Margaritaville
It's Mexico City (or Ciudad de Mexico, D.F.).

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowed In

Today was supposed to be a productive day.

I was supposed to go into the college, grade, collect papers, and get organized.

The weather had other plans.

It became a mellow day at home.  Not very productive, but I didn't mind.

I am looking forward to tomorrow.  I plan on walking around and taking some pictures in the snow.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Avoiding Responsibilities

This semester I quickly fell behind with my grading.  Once papers start piling up, it becomes more and more difficult to make the pile shrink.

I intended to grade today - I did manage to be productive yesterday - but it just didn't happen.  I didn't even look at a single paper.  In some ways, it is better for the students.  If I am not focused, I am more irritated.  The more irritated I am, the harsher grader I become.  

Of course, there is no guarantee that I will be feeling more focused or more charitable tomorrow or the day after.  Well, tomorrow I probably won't as I have an exam to give at 8:30 and then I have meetings.  

I enabled my procrastination by watching the Charlie Brown Chirstmas special tonight.  It had been ages since I watched the special.  I had always liked Peanuts and the special (in particular the music).  This time around I was amazed by the sophistication of the social commentary in the original special.  Sara, who was also watching, turned to me at one point and commented, "This isn't really for kids, is it?"  It is also amazing how relevant it is even today's society (it originally aired in 1965).  

Sara and I also joked about how all the Peanuts kids would be diagnosed with some disorder today and medicated in one way or another (or removed from their families and placed in foster care).  I even think it could be a new holiday party game: diagnose the Peanut kid.  

Oh, and the similarity between Snoopy and Zeus are uncanny.  Except that Snoopy is afraid of cats...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse?

It was 62 degrees today.  And tomorrow we are supposed to get snow.

I am not complaining about the snow, but I wish the weather would make up its mind.

Today I spent most of my waking hours writing letters of recommendation (what goes around, comes's payback for all of those I asked my profs to write) and grading (I am nearly done with one of my three classes).  

Tomorrow I get interviewed by the NY Post.  I guess I am one of those rare creatures that has bought a house in recent times.   I may use this opportunity as leverage with a little accounting problem we have had with the bank that we got our mortgage through (more on that later).

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The Return

Yes, I have been away. Away in the land of being grown up.

House ownership.

Long-term, permanent work.

Short-term consulting gigs.

Politcs and elections.

Unpleasant surprises.


You know?  Responsibilities.

I am not sure what to make of it all.  

It has been a crazy set of months.  The fall semester is done - only finals remain and a ton of grading.  

I am looking forward to some down time.  I need it.  The dogs need it.  The house needs it.  

The house.  It is a wonderful place.  We were so fortunate on this front.  There have been the quirks of owning a new home, but relative to many of the horror stories I have heard, we are doing well.  There is still much left to do to make it fully home.  There are still many boxes that need to be unpacked.  The wonderful thing, though, is that when I unpack a box, I get to throw it away (yes, it goes into recycling).  No longer do I need to save it for "the next move."  It is such a wonderful feeling.  

We are finally getting real furniture.  We now have nice leather sectional for the living room, rather than a collection of rescued arm chairs and futons.  I ventured out into the Black Friday madness to purchase a bedroom set that was a good buy during one of those early-bird specials.  Being able to identify that the sales person was from Nigeria and asking him whether he was Ibo or Yoruba got me free delivery.  

Slowly it is becoming ours.

It has been a hectic autumn and my writing - here and elsewhere - has taken a hit.

But I need to return to it - especially elsewhere, but my writing here can be my muse, I hope.  

So grab some coffee and be prepared to indulge in my mindless rants, inane observations, and pointless stories.  Maybe...

Friday, August 15, 2008


Finally! We own our home!

I am exhausted and a bit overwhelmed, but excited as what not.

There is a lot left ahead of us, but we control more of that. No more mystery bank decisions, secret new costs, and general uncertainty.

So this is what a whole lotta money gets you in the New York area.

We are so proud - I am giddy but ready to collapse!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So -

...we are this close to being home owners.

Tomorrow we do the walk through and Friday is the closing.


Movers come next week, although we have until the end of the month to complete the move.

Things are moving along, but today I had a mild anxiety attack. I have been stressed, nervous, extremely worried, etc. before, but this was different. I suddenly felt shaky and extremely unsettled. It is so hard to describe. It was not triggered by anything in particular. I could not specify what the anxiety was about - it was just there. It lasted about five minutes and then it was gone. I was back to my usual levels of worry, stress, and anxiety.

I hope I never have one of those again.

I must say, that the two most unhealthy things I have done in my life are:

1. Write a dissertation.
2. Buy a house.

I guess the ends justify the results, but my body sure has paid a price for it.

It is going to be an intense couple of days...I hope I survive.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Between Jobs

It's been a busy summer - working on two separate research projects.

Today I worked on both.

In between, however, I stopped to gaze on one of my favorite buildings.

Not for long.

Just enough time to think, wow.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nature Hike

Things have been rather chaotic - the house buying craziness, random jobs, trying to pack, organizing my new office at work.

I did take some time for a nature hike today with the dogs.

I would have liked to have taken more pictures, but it is hard when two dogs are yanking at you wanting to run into a field of poison ivy in search of critters. We did come across an interesting uprooted tree (that wonderful green all around it is poison ivy).

I was fascinated by the twists and knobs in the remains of the roots. It did not come out well, but I did see a creepy face outline in the shadows. Do you see it or is it my over-active imagination?

On the way home we walked past one of the most obscene intersections in Manhattan, which is only a few blocks from where our apartment is!

Over the next couple of weeks we hope to close on the house, pack, move, and stay at least partially sane. Wish us luck...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yet Another Blast from the Past

About six years ago, Sara and I were living in Bergamo, Italy, working hard on our dissertation research. On Sundays, either as a brief respite from our work or as part of our ethnographic experience (take your pick), we would engage in the Italian ritual of la passeggiata (the walk). I have written elsewhere how this is more than just exercise or walking off nonna's big Sunday meal, rather an important part of the construction of community (if you are interested in the academic take, email me and I can send you the text).

During these walks, you encounter every aspect of Italian life: families showering attention on the only child sitting in his designer stroller clad in the latest fashion, elederly being left on the sidewalk outside the gelateria as though they were the family dog, marginalized immigrants trying to push books, trinkets, or counterfit wears on passers by. In the squares of the city, you could find activists advocating for their cause or roaming musicians playing and selling their homemade CDs. In Bergamo, common sights were the wandering Incas playing Andean music on pan flutes and guitars and the tough biker playing new age music on his electric guitar amplified on the amp towed by his chopper.

Another entertaining sight was the capuchin friar who sang and crooned on a portable amplifier. He was a memorable fellow, rotund in his humble brown hooded habit, a long white breard flowing from his ginning face. His songs were not overtly relgious nor memorable. He didn't seem to be selling CDs, either. It just seemed like he liked to sing and share it with the world.

The yesterday, while half-heartedly watching Keith Olberman's Countdown while reading the paper I saw this:

It was him! No doubt about it. It seems like he has gotten a little edgier since we last saw him. It also appears that he has gotten more popular as well. You can see the Italian news coverage of one of the concerts (worth watching even if you don't understand Italian):

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Nostalgia Karma

Global nomads, that is what people who grow up moving from one place to another sometimes call themselves. They bounce around from culture to culture, never truly setting down any roots, but picking up local customs. I probably don't fit into that category because my bouncing around has happened later in life, but I grew up in an environment where a lot of the people I knew fit into that category. I definitely thought of myself as an outsider or at least different, even though part of my family was local. As such, I gravitated towards those who were also foreign - or at least different.

One of the struggles of global nomads, or whatever you may want to call them, is that your friends end up far away. Back in the day, the only way to keep in touch involved a pen, some paper, an envelope, and a stamp. I did write a lot of letters and got many in return. Some times you bonded more with people who were casual friends once you moved away, while some of your closest friends seemed not to have much to share through writing. Ultimately, the distance won and you had fewer and fewer people from your past in your life.

I am not sure what kind of nostalgic karma tsunami has rippled through the universe, but over the past couple of weeks it seems like many of the people who were part of my formative years in Mexico have all come together in a virtual collision in cyberspace. People who I have not communicated in 20 or more years are popping up on my screen. There are old neighbors and schoolmates who have all dispersed across the globe, each with their own adventure.

Most of the encounters have occurred on or have been facilitated by Facebook. It seems like there has been a flood of people from this period in my life joining the social site. The result has been a snowballing of contacts and reconnections. I've reached people who aren't on there through their siblings or other friends.

The researcher and anthropologist in me is fascinated by the process. But another part of me doesn't want to analyze it. It is such an adventure in curiosity learning about the paths people have taken and where they have led them: Australia, the Philippines, Israel, Canada, or all around the world just to end up back in Mexico. There is gross inquisitiveness to see how people look after all these years. Of course there is often less hair, more rotundness, the extra lines. But people generally look the same - and at times there are points of comparison (I probably look quite different now - I certainly am glad that my mother stopped dressing me. In all fairness, that was a school uniform). However, you can read the experience of life in people's faces. Experiences of having families, triumphs and disappointments, struggles and joys. I also reflect on how people may see me and my experiences - and even how I present myself to them, both through the Facebook page itself and through the words I share with them. Finally, it is curious what emotions that emerge when getting in touch with these people. The afinities, rivalries, respect, and other feelings that existed seem to reawaken to some degree, even after so many years.

So there have been brief messages bouncing all over the world, telling stories and giving updates. I do wonder if there will be a reconnecting and the possible recreation of a community that existed so long ago. Or will these messages bounce around for a while only to begin to fade once again once the curiosity factor wanes. I will be curious to see...

For now, it has been entertaining.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Blessings of Distraction

Today we were able to put all the chaos and craziness aside to celebrate Sara's birthday.

We headed to midtown and had some wonderful Indonesian food for lunch.

Picture borrowed from Amateur Gourmet

Then we let these silly chaps entertain us:

It was jolly good fun even though the seats in the theater were designed for people with very short legs.

To cap it off, we partook of a Sara tradition and had a wonderful slice of:

Junior's Cheesecake

I fear that tomorrow bodes a return to the craziness. A day off was sure nice, though.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How to go Mad (or Die Trying) in about a Week...

Try to buy a house in that time period.

So yes, as I mentioned before, we decided to venture into the real estate market.

As of last week, we were still in the looking around phase. We made the bold move to start working with an agent and began to think about a more focused search.

First thing she did, was to send me off to some mortgage bankers to get pre-approved for a mortgage. And we made plans to see some houses with her on the weekend, including one house we had already seen and found much to our liking.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, our agent had to cancel and reschedule for Tuesday. We were already in the area because we had made plans to have lunch with a friend of ours whose mother lives that way. So we made a trip to the house anyway, just to get a look at it from outside.

On Monday, I followed up with the mortgage people getting copies of all sorts of financial documents to them to try to get the coveted pre-approval.

One Tuesday, we finally met up with our agent to see a few houses including the one we liked. As we walked around, we decided that we really did love it. When we got home, though, we found out that it had an offer on it. That's when everything started going really crazy. I called the agent and she asked me what we wanted to do. I didn't know. I never have done this before.

"Help!" I requested.

She then explained that we needed to make our own offer quick, which required the pre-approval. I asked if we could meet the following day to go through our options and the steps we needed to take.

I then called mortgage guy to let him know we needed the pre-approval. He said he would work on it.

On Wednesday we met with our agent who had received the pre-approval (yay!) and we put in our offer. The seller's agent said they were going to get a third offer. So we expected to hear back the following day or maybe even Friday. After two days on edge and running on adrenaline, I thought we would have a few days to breathe and let things settle a bit.

No chance.

That evening our agent called saying that our offer was accepted. So then it was off to get a lawyer, contact the mortgage guy, and set up an inspection. Yesterday we had the inspection and everything looks great.

Now we need to actually get the mortgage. And something do cope with the repeated surges in adrenaline and the utter exhaustion of the past week.

Wish us luck - and sanity....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lecturing Made Easy - Now with two Updates!

I am teaching Food & Culture this summer. A trip to the grocery store makes the lecture on gendered food easy:

I wonder if the Barbie cereal comes with instructions: Pour in bowl, add milk, enjoy, excuse yourself, vomit. Repeat as necessary.

You gotta love the skulls and bones in the Indy cereal. Doesn't that teach our children that cannibalism is ok, though?


Update: On a more serious note, Sara quite rightly pointed out to me that a skull and bones also appears on poison:

Now if you think about it, small children might be apt to associate skulls and bones with a tasty, sugary treat and consume something toxic.

Maybe it is time to send off an email to Kellogg's.


Update II: Here is the message I sent to Kellogg's, Consumer Reports, and MSNBC:

I spotted your Indiana Jones cereal at my local supermarket. At first I found the skulls and bones in the cereal amusing. However, on deeper reflection, I am concerned about the similarity between the cereal and the skull and bones which is the universal symbol that denotes poison. A small child might be tempted to consume poison thinking they are getting the sweet treat they previously had in your cereal.

I hope this never happens, but I would urge you to consider recalling the cereal and changing the contents from skulls and bones to mini-treasure chests or something more innocuous.
We'll see if anything comes of it - probably not. I was tempted to suggest changing the skull and bones to mini Lost Arks or Holy Grails, but that would probably be too sacrilegious.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I am at home in between my summer course and my summer "consulting" job. I am incredibly tired and could have used a nap. Instead I used most of my time writing a short note to a friend who posted the following status online:

...unbelievably upset Hillary won the popular vote & not the nomination.
I have not really been political here. However, I have followed the campaign very closely and I have pondered the process. I mainly have not written because I never felt like I had the time or energy to invest in the arduous process of verbalizing the complexity of my thoughts and opinions. So rather than do a superficial or half-assed job, I just left it alone.

My friend's comment just pushed me into writing to her because she is extremely intelligent, however, she was buying into a media promoted rhetorical line. I don't know how she will respond, but it was time I entered into the discussion. So here is my note...

Just wanted to comment on your status. Before I start, I just want to disclose that I am supporting Obama. I was on the fence for a long time, though. And while I did vote for him in the NY primary, I was still quite amenable to either candidate. Recent behavior has soured me towards her, but more her campaign staff. I have always considered Terry McCauliffe a weasel, but that is beyond the point.

Don't fall for campaign rhetoric [propaganda?]. The truth of the matter is that you cannot count up the popular vote the way the primary is structured. Here is why:

1. Caucuses are not regular elections. Thus vote totals are often not even reported, rather they are estimated. However, if you are going to claim to count every vote, you can't ignore those votes.
2. If you are going to count popular votes, the votes need to be cast within a short time frame. There are people who would change their votes later down the line. That is why we have election day not election week or election month.
3. Michigan, which gets included in HRC count, was a mess. You can't honestly believe that no people in MI voted for Obama, Edwards, or any other. Write-in ballots were discarded.

I could go on. The point is that there are countless ways to count the popular vote so that whichever side you are on wins.

The system stinks - it is unclear and complicated. It is not democratic by any means. In fact, it is designed to give the establishment the upper hand. Ironically, before the primary campaign started, there were attempts to streamline and cleanup the system and it was HRC people that blocked that change (Harold Ickes in particular). Why? Because it seemed that the system favored them. They were the establishment. When she started to do poorly, they thought they could rely on the "super-delegates", and it was only when that started to fail, did they begin to advance the "popular vote" line.

Think about this, if HRC has such a strong popular backing, why is it that Obama has been able to greatly out-fund-raise her. More so when you see the bulk of his contributions coming from small donors (i.e. the popular vote).

It has been an ugly campaign and it really has shown the real problems in the system. I hope this pushes the party to change the primary process.

I do feel for Hillary and all her supporters. She has worked hard to get to this point and I can't imagine the disappointment and frustration to have come so close. We are way overdue for more women in leadership at all levels, including the presidency.

I hope you can put your disappointment and frustration into a broader context. Both candidates are advancing the same important issues that the Republicans are trying to minimize. The way the system was set has played its way through and we have a candidate. Trying to change that at this time will only be counter-productive to the broader goals.

I offer you this perspective, rather than think of the number of popular votes each side received, think of the number of total voters that have been engaged and mobilized for the whole party. If we think of ourselves as one group, one movement, one people, then not only will we win in November, but we can begin to address all the issues challenging our country.

I hope I am not alone in my optimism. There is always a danger in being an optimist...

Monday, June 02, 2008

My [Crappy] Day in Bullet Points

[Warning: lots of kvetching ahead]
  • My "wonderful" day started without Sara - she's in Texas.
  • Realized the fridge is kaput and that a good deal of our food in there needed to be thrown out.
  • Had to attend some pointless bureaucratic meetings at work - the admin is making us jump through some useless hoops (without really telling us which hoops we need to jump through).
  • Stopped to get a small fridge to try to salvage at least some of our food (and because our super will probably get to dealing with our fridge next year).
  • They didn't have the size I wanted. I could get a minuscule one or for $10 more, a large one. Opted for the larger one.
  • Drove home to quickly walk the dogs
  • Took the subway to the Upper West Side
  • Had part three of my root canal - still some pain, but managable
  • The endodontist decided to push on to try to finish since he didn't want to have to deal with trying to numb me up again.
  • Discovered that after sitting 2 hours with your mouth wide - I mean very wide - open your mandible muscles really start to hurt
  • Made my way back home, with my face in my lap (again)
  • Carried the fridge up to our apartment - kinda wishing I had opted for the smaller one
  • Unpacked the fridge and moved things around to find a spot for it
  • Cleaned out the old fridge salvaging a few things - happy that I did get the larger fridge so I could salvage more
  • Took out the spoiled food
  • Walked the dogs
  • Prepared for class tomorrow at 9 - ugh...

I don't think I will have trouble sleeping tonight. And I can hope that tomorrow won't be as bad as today!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Teeth - The Sequel

I survived the second installment.

As I write this I am feeling the last drops of anesthetic slowly fade away from my lips to be replaced by the subtle throbbing of my gums and jaw.

Yes there was pain, but no suffering this time. I still needed countless injections, including several straight into the tooth. But we made progress...

Hopefully one more visit - then back to the dentist for a crown.

The amusing part of the day was the praise I got from the endodontist as I was leaving.

"You did really well today! We got most of it out."

What I heard was, "Now weren't you a brave little trooper today. I am so proud of you. Here's a lollipop. Don't forget to brush!"

Good thing I didn't get a lollipop. I could just imagine the sticky mess my slobber would have made in my lap on the subway as my face slid off the side of my cheek.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Teeth and Pain

I have been fortunate in my life to have had good teeth and the wherewithal to take care of them. I never had braces and the only fillings I have had were preventative ones where there was a chance that a cavity might occur. Even when resources or time kept me from the dentist for long periods of time, dentists were always amazed on how little work needed to be done.

My mother had bad periodontal diseases when I was a teenager and had to have surgery on her gums. Witnessing that was incentive enough to maintain good oral hygiene: brushing and flossing.

My good fortunes came to an end a few months ago when one of my molars cracked and then chipped off a few days later. I went to the dentist and he filled in the missing part. He said he doubted I would need a root canal, but there was a possibility. There was a little pain, but it slowly went away.

Then I got fairly sick: an unidentifiable illness that started like strep, mutated to a head cold with intense sinus pressure, and ended with a cough. It took several weeks to shake it off, but I was left with swollen glands - and my tooth started to hurt. Not all the time - only when I chewed something hard or when exposed to something cold.

Back to the dentist I went and he informed me that I would probably need a root canal. As I sat in the chair pondering the procedure, he smiled and told me, "Don't look so glum. There are worse things in life than a root canal."


The dentist referred me to endodontist, who he claimed was very good. I looked him up on line and he seemed to have quite an impressive academic and professional pedigree. Places like Harvard, Tufts, and Columbia were in his past. The guy probably knows his stuff, I though.

The night before I went, I talked to my mother who reassured me that root canals were not bad anymore. So I began to feel a little more relieved.

When I got to his office, I saw there were pictures of many celebrities adorning the walls: Meridith Viera, Barbara Walters, Keith Olberman, Bill Moyers, Lauren Bacall, Raquel Welch, George Pataki. All had personal notes thanking the endodontist for his attention, care, and professionalism. A common thread seemed to be "quick and painless".

The helped my anxiety slip away a little further.

Then he called me in. We discussed the problem and he did some diagnostic work.

Yep, I needed the root canal.

It would probably take several visits. Did I want to start then?

Sure - might as well.

He commented that he wished that all patience were as easy going and accommodating as I was. I felt pretty good. A talented dentist who was well trained and had already taken a liking to me.

Then the fun began...

You see, my body has a little problem. It reacts very slowly to most types of anesthetics - sometimes not at all. This can be handy when someone is trying to get you drunk. It isn't good when you are having some kind of surgical procedure with local anesthetic.

I informed the endodontist about this and he said he would give me some time to sit. He injected me several times and then left for a while. I did get a bit numb - slowly.

When he returned he decided to try working on the tooth.

"Don't be a martyr. Let me know if you feel pain," he instructed.

"AAAuuaaa..." I replied through the dental dam.

He began drilling. And it hurt. So I raised my hand and he stopped. He gave me a few more shots and we waited a while more.

We went through the procedure again and again we had to stop.

After several repetitions, I began to sense the frustration. I will deal with the pain, I thought. I need to get through this. So the next time he started to drill, my hand remained on my lap even though there was some pain. It was tolerable.

Then less so.

The endodontist talked through what he was doing, explaining that he wanted to open up the tooth so that it could drain.

I gripped the arms of the chair as the pain got worse. Lets get through this, I thought. It hurt, but I did not protest. Then suddenly....


The drill made the acquaintance of my nerve and it was not a happy encounter.

My body decided to take matters into its own hands and jerked away. Tears began to roll down my face and my heart was racing. There have been few times in my life that I have felt pain like that. And I hope there won't be any more.

The endodontist stopped and injected some anesthetic straight into my tooth. It didn't help too much. He drilled a little more, but then just worked on getting some of the pulp out and started filing out the canal.

Then it was over.

After he marveled about how much anesthetic he had given me, he told me that there was a big abscess in the tooth and that it had insulated the nerve from the anesthetic - compounding my slow reaction to it. But now he had opened it up and it began to drain. He prescribed some antibiotics and painkillers and told me to come back the following week.

Then came the other painful part. Even though I have dental insurance, it only covers about half of the cost. And yes, it is expensive.

I was anxious about the pain I would feel once the anesthetic did wear off. The tooth did not hurt too much, but my jaw felt like someone had hit it multiple times with a hammer. I was not sure whether it was the procedure or the innumerable anesthetic shots I got.

After a couple of days I was off the painkillers, but my jaw was still swollen. It remained so even when I went back the following week. The doctor decided that working on it would only aggravate the jaw more, so he gave me another week off.

I go back tomorrow.

I have been in a sense of denial about it. I keep realizing, oh yes, I need to go back tomorrow. He assured me last week that it would not be painful this time. He will have to excuse me if I am a bit skeptical this time around.

And oh yes, summer term also starts should be a swell day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I think I am growing up.

The thought makes me shudder. But I think it is true.

Another semester has come to an end and the summer session is lying in wait ready to pounce on me on Tuesday. It will be four weeks of intensive teaching, but then I am done. Only to begin another summer job - this time as a freelance anthropologist. I'll be hanging out at a psychiatric institution. That is probably as much as I can say for now.

I have other research projects I will be working on too. And there is the book manuscript that is haunting me.

Moreover, we will be moving this summer. We are still not sure where, but certainly out of the city and out of this building. We may be purchasing a home. That thought is overwhelming and it leaves me a little stunned. It sure sounds so very grown up.

Although I am so very ready to leave this place, the thought of the actual process makes me oh so anxious.

To top things off, I have had an adventure with an endodontist trying to get a root canal. But that is a story for another day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Social Commentary

I can't wait until the sequel comes out featuring Linkedin, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reason #4 I am Ready to Move...

Exploding cars outside your building.

Pictures taken by and borrowed from Baratunde

Yesterday morning when I left my building to go to work, I noticed a bunch of fire trucks down the street and firemen scurrying about. There is a novelty toy factory next to our building and I thought there must have been some sort of incident there.

When I came home, I noticed that where the firemen had been congregating there were three charred cars, one of which (the Subaru) was being loaded on to a truck to be carried away. A woman, the owner, was taking pictures. Someone stopped and asked her what had happened and I stepped closer to eavesdrop.

The police believe that the middle car, the VW, was stolen (no plates) and then was dumped there and set on fire.

The fire then destroyed the two cars next to the VW and the leaking gas ran down the hill damaging the cars parked there.

Subaru woman was surprisingly composed, although I did notice a remaining sense of shock. She then pointed out that she had taken her son to the playground and that they had met another child with leukemia. That does tend to put things into perspective.

This is all very disturbing because I usually park right in that spot. I just had happened to have found a spot further up the hill the day before. I felt incredibly fortunate, but also extremely vulnerable. To think, I had been annoyed a few weeks ago because someone stole the antenna from out car.

I am also quite surprised that I did not hear the explosion at night. Our apartment is on the other side of the building and faces the busier and noisier street (which has made me more immune to loud noises). Moreover, I have been fairly sick recently and I was passed out from multiple medications. Nonetheless, I would have thought that something like that would have roused me from my slumber.

From what someone else told me that a few years back in the pre-gentrification days of the neighborhood, this type of thing was fairly common. Near where this occurred, we had seen a little shrine someone left on the sidewalk next to the building wall made up of flowers and candles. Apparently it is because someone torched a car there and there was a dead body in the car.

My eagerness to move has grown exponentially since yesterday morning.

Baratunde captured the events (night and following morning) and has been gracious to share it with the world:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reason #22 I am ready to Move...

Fires in apartments down the hallway.

Faulty wiring, they say.

The poor people that lived there just moved in. Now they have to move out.

I am very afraid of this apartment building - with good reason.

Ughh...I can't stop smelling smoke.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Good Company...

The other day I came out of our neighborhood supermarket which is on a busy stretch of Broadway. Standing at the kerb was a tall, somewhat lanky African-American fellow, maybe in his fifties.

He was a bit hunched over and he was smoking a cigarette. I noticed he was having an intense and animated conversation.

This would not garner my attention. The conversation he was having was with a parking meter.
I didn't mean to stare, but it was something different. He looked my way and caught me eavesdropping on his exchange - if you want to call it that. He smiled and stretched out his hand, indicating the universal request for monetary assistance. I walked over, handed him a couple of dollars that had nested in my pocket, and said hello.

He proceeded to introduce me to his friend - the parking meter. I don't remember the name, just that it was male.

"He likes to count," the guy explained.

"Pleased to meet you, sir," I said to the meter.

"Don't be rude, man...say hello to the kind gentleman. He just gave us some bread for some smokes," the guy chastised the meter.

The meter didn't say anything to me, but he must have said something to the guy because he went back to having his conversation.

"Excuse me, I need to go. Enjoy your day..." I offered.

The guy just smiled and waved.

And out of the corner of my eye, I swear, I saw the meter smile too. Then he went on with his counting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

There seems to be a malaise in the air. There seems to be tension, stress, unease, bad fortunes, and a sense that this are just a tad out of harmony. I am not sure what exactly it is I feel, but I do notice that the people around me all seem to be dealing with more troubles than the norm. Deaths, illnesses, uncertainty, confusion, anxiety, and melancholy all seem to be present.

I am facing my own challenges - both from within and beyond.

It seems that whenever there is something to celebrate, something to be proud of, some sense of accomplishment, there is, waiting just around the bend, something to temper it.

My long struggle to find permanent employment has come to an end. But rather than being something to celebrate, it poses new struggles. Moreover, something inside refuses me to be happy about this. Perhaps because it seems unreal, or perhaps because there is some bad wiring in my head.

I am entering the last few days of my break. I thought I would be able to take this time to let my new job security sink in and ponder the prospects for a more stable life. Instead it has been a time to deal with new worries. A few days ago I sat down to do our taxes. As a grad student, tax time was always a time of worry because while students grants, fellowships, and funding are taxed, usually money was not withheld. So around this time, I was always trying to figure out how to put up the money I owed.

I thought this time things would be different. Not so. I work in one state - New Jersey - and live in another - New York. My employer withholds taxes for New Jersey, but not New York. As I completed my taxes, it became clear that I owed a huge amount of money to the state of NY (and the City of New York, which also has income tax) because no money had been withheld. Grad school all over again, except this time I am making a lot more money, so the tax bill is all that much higher.

I do pay taxes in NJ, which I can deduct from NY, but those are much lower because I am not a resident and the NY tax rate is MUCH higher. No one where I worked told me that I would have to pay these taxes and that I should set funds aside. You think they would...but they didn't.

We don't have any cash reserves because we were trying to pay down our debt to hopefully buy a house. And now it is back into the debt pool to pay these taxes.

When I saw that big red number pop up on my little tax program, it really did feel like a punch in the stomach.

The tax fiasco has just fanned the flames of doubt and unhappiness that were already dancing in my mind. The gremlins of depression are fostering mischief despite my attempts to not let them. The inability to reign them in, to not let them rampage through my morale is frustrating. I am not sure what to do.

As I mentioned before, my work insurance is changing April 1, so I will have to switch doctors because the one I am seeing now does not take the new plan. I saw him yesterday and he recommended not making any drastic changes other than increase one of the meds I am on.

Over the past months, I was hoping to decrease my meds. My recent check up revealed that I was deficient in Vitamin D and Potassium and that my blood pressure was a bit high. I also have a tendency to clench my jaw when on the meds. So while they might help my mind, they probably are not doing my body much good. I guess it will all have to wait. The search for a new doctor begins - then maybe a new path to a more mentally harmonious life.

When I take a step back, all these issues seem so petty when I see what others have to deal with. But I can't escape them. The tax man (or woman) will make sure of it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why am I Surprised?

I cannot believe that the governor of my state was implicated in a prostitution ring. You would think that any high ranking politician would know to keep their noses clean; that there are people out there just waiting to pounce on any questionable decision they make.

It is true that the leak about his name came out of the justice department because he is a Democrat and the Republicans hold a double standard by asking for his resignation but not that of David Vitter. But still, how stupid can you be?

It looks like we are headed to become the first state with a legally blind governor. As Sara said, I should really learn his name and stop calling him the "blind, African-American guy".


Ok, I looked it up - his name is David Paterson.


Today I also found a roll of mentos in my coat pocket and I saw an Eagle eat a rat while walking by the Hudson river with the dogs.

Oh, and a Happy Birthday to Frankie. I hope she got to relax.

Busy day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reason #437 that I am ready to move

I want to be able to take a shower without having to the scalding-freezing dance.

Our shower randomly alternates from scalding to ice-cold water. If the apartment above or below us flushes the toilet, then there is a spurt of extremely hot water. Fortunately there is a five-second delay, so you can get out of the way - if you happen to hear it.

Having both burns and a loss of breath (or perhaps a mild cardiac arrest) from the alternating hot and cold water is not fun.

You would think that this "shower dance" would be unnecessary given the amount we pay in rent.

Time to move.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dentist Day

Finally, I get to go to the dentist and figure out what is up with my tooth. In all likelihood I will have to go back and have some further dental work done.

I don't mind the dentist that much, except for those exuberant hygienists who try to slice your gums with floss.

I got word, though, that the hygienist is out today and that dentist will be doing the work. That could be good or bad. We'll see.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's about time...

...that I grow up.

More details later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thank you all for the good wishes and thoughts.

The trip went well, although I am still thawing out. My tooth is still sharp and I will have to wait nine days before I get to see a dentist.

Now I need to work on my lecture for tomorrow.

Update: While flossing, a chunk of my tooth came out. Now there is a bigger hole in my molar. It still doesn't hurt, but I am wondering if I should try to get to the dentist sooner. Too bad the tooth fairy (in Mexico it was a ratoncito - little mouse), doesn't stop by our household anymore. I could use the cash.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Job Interview Fun

I am off to Wisconsin tomorrow, where the high is now forecast to be -2 degrees (F). The low is about -8 and the wind-chill is supposed to hit about -40. I am only going to be there until Monday evening, but I feel like I am taking more clothes than I usually do for a week. Mind you they are supposed to be nice clothes since it is an interview.

I will be interested in seeing how they go about trying to sell the place with that kind of weather. Needless to say, job interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about frostbite.

To add to the fun, I have a chip/crack in one of my molars. It doesn't hurt, but it is rather sharp. I have no clue how that happened. Suddenly at dinner I felt something sharp on my tooth. Little did I know it was my tooth.

It sounds like a visit to the dentist is coming up when I get back - that is if I don't end up frozen somewhere.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Don't Read: Just Complaining

From the time I was approaching the end of my dissertation until a few weeks ago, my job searches have been like sprinting through a swamp: struggling to not get very far, while getting very dirty and demoralized. I had six campus interviews, from which I got two temporary jobs and one offer I turned down.

During the month of February I have three. One as passed. I face one next Monday and one two weeks from Monday. One of them is for a permanent (tenure-track) position at the college I am at now (the one that has passes). The others: one in a very cold place and the other in a place not to far from here. It all is a bit daunting.

Academic job searches suck.

The silence and then the flow of rejection letters is extremely difficult to deal with after all the time, effort, and money you have invested in the process. On the other hand, a call or an email offering a campus visit does not bring the positive opposite you might think. It just sets a different set of worries upon your psyche - some trivial (will my "interview slacks" fit? Answer - yes, but they are quite snug), some more important.

All the thoughts set your head on a high speed spin cycle.

This all comes on the back of a psychic roller-coaster; a teetering on the edge of self-doubt, self-questioning, and an emotional downturn.

I am already exhausted after just one interview. And I did not have to travel for that one.

Sunday I head off to a place where the forecast high will be 6 degrees (Fahrenheit, mind you). Monday looks a little better at 12 degrees. Then I get to fly back and teach a class Tuesday morning.

Or not.

I am leaning towards canceling that class. It just would be a waste of class time. We shall see...

For now, I get my annual check up tomorrow. The will probably go well: all the stress is probably wrecking all kinds of havoc in my body. I am already quite aware of the tension in my neck, shoulders, and back. Who knows what else is messed up?

I better get to bed before this post gets gloomy.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Just in Case... hadn't guessed who I am voting for next Tuesday. It's worth watching no matter who you support.

I have thought for a while that his words were lyrical in addition to being inspiring. I think we are witnessing one of the first great orators of the 21st century.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Image "borrowed" from Blue Harvest Art .......

I was walking the dogs today just outside our apartment, when a police car sped up the street going the wrong way. Its lights were flashing and it definitely seemed like they were in a hurry to get somewhere.

When the car got near us, it came to an abrupt stop. It had not been the best of days, so immediately I thought I was going to be in some kind of trouble. Perhaps getting wrongly accused of not picking up after my dogs.

The window did go down and one of the two cops in the car called over to me.

"Hey, have you seen a pack of wild dogs around?"

Wild dogs?

"" was the only response I could muster.

Wild dogs? In Manhattan?

The police car sped off...leaving me to ponder: wild dogs?

Then I realized maybe I should get back inside.

Mind you, we do live next to some large parks and I have heard stories about feral dogs living in one of them. I have never seen any of them. Cats? Yes. But dogs, no. And there isn't that much space for them to really hide.

Sara said that they must be little feral dogs. I can just imagine a wild pack of chihuahuas terrorizing northern Manhattan.

Later in the day I did notice a strong police presence on the streets around our apartment - keeping us safe from those wild dogs no doubt.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Delaware license plates look like they were made on an ink-jet printer.

I expect to see the ink start to run when it starts to rain.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Forging on into the Abyss

Well, it is not quite so melodramatic. The winter break is over and a new semester begins.

After four courses last semester, I felt like the spring would be easy and almost care free. Now I am reconsidering those feelings. Yes, there will be a lighter load, but I am teaching a new class for which there will be a lot of preparation involved. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself too because I want it to go well. The course is Food and Culture, an topic that is very dear to my heart (and gut). Perhaps I should lower my expectations. The first time you teach something is a challenge and there is a lot of trial and error.

I also had expectations for my research this spring. I was hoping to get started over the break, but that didn't happen. It wasn't a very productive break. Maybe I should not have had high expectation for that either. It may not have been realistic to think I could forge ahead with research after being mentally exhausted from the past year. I just feel like I have fallen far behind. And this is problem because.... employment situation is still up in the air. Things are moving along this time around more than they have in the past - so that is a bit encouraging. I have had some phone interviews and I will be having some campus interviews as well. However, Sara is going through the same process of applying and interviewing (and waiting). It is disconcerting not knowing where we will be or what we will be doing. Needless to say, this whole process lies ahead in the abyss that is the next few months and it too will eat away at my time, energy, and mental stability.

So in the meantime, I will try not to get too worked up about it, take one day at a time, and try to keep my wits about me. It certainly won't be easy, but there is no other way around the abyss. Wish me luck...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Our apartment blows out an inordinate amount of light bulbs.

It must be shoddy wiring.

Or evil spirits who delight in watching me struggle with the light covers.

And our freezer frosts up so quickly. This is a problem because the way it is designed the air flows from the freezer to the fridge. If it frosts up, the air ducts clog with ice creating two problems:
  1. The thermostat is in the fridge, so it run continuously making our electric bill go way up.
  2. Our food starts smelling a little wanky.
It is getting to be the time to move.

I am not sure where, but it is time to move.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On Health

I am a bit irked. No, I am very irked.

I was well on my way to having a productive day when I got an email message from our college's human resources department. The message kindly informed all employees that our health insurance coverage was changing.

Now mind you, we do have fairly good coverage and we do have multiple options in terms of companies and plans. However, the message described how several of the plans were not going to be available to us anymore.

Of course, one of the plans is the one Sara and I are on. We have spent a lot of time researching and finding doctors that we trust and like, and have since developed a good rapport with them. This is important because we both have medical issues that are ongoing and need monitoring, so having a positive relationship with our medical doctors is important.

As of now, it seems like the plans that will be available to us will no longer cover any of our medical providers. This may change as the different websites that provide information have not been updated to reflect the upcoming changes. But I would be highly surprised if they suddenly were covered.

Our health care system, while touted as so great, is really a joke. Health care may be wonderful, I do not doubt the competence of many of our health care providers, but the system in which everything operates is a disaster, at best, and unethical at worst. In a nut shell, it aims to discourage people to seek care, funneling them into the most inexperienced, underqualified, or just poor providers possible so as to save a buck. The goal of many health insurance providers is to get people to leave the program; they make it more attractive for someone to get covered through a spouse's plan.

So most of us get bounced around, being herded into the most "cost effective" system to provide health care, where the bottom line is how little do we consume, not how healthy we are, while the executives of these companies boast how well the company is doing and earning millions in bonuses. And while we may have great health care in this country, it is becoming less and less accessible. Yet we spend more and more on trying to stay healthy.

On a related note, there was an interesting post on the Daily Kos today. It discussed the health insurance coverage of each of the presidential candidates and whether they provided health care for their campaign staff.

Here is a summary:

Candidate...................Coverage......................Provides care for staff?

Clinton .................... Covered by federal employees plan......................Yes
Edwards....................Blue Cross (coverage for the campaign)..............Yes
Obama......................Covered by federal employees plan......................Yes
Kucinich...................Covered by federal employees plan......................No

Giuliani ................Decline to disclose...............................Decline to disclose
Huckabee ..............Decline to disclose...............................Decline to disclose
McCain..... ............Covered by federal employees plan.........Decline to disclose
Paul......................Covered by federal employees plan.........No (staff are volunteers)
Romney ................Decline to disclose...............................Decline to disclose
Thompson ............Decline to disclose...............................Decline to disclose

Clinton, Obama, Kucinich, McCain, and Paul have the federal employees plan because they are all members of Congress. This plan is actually a very good plan, and some candidates argue it should be made available to everyone.

Romney is a resident of Massachusetts, which per law enacted by Romney when he was governor, requires everyone to have health insurance. It is possible that Thompson is covered through the Motion Picture Health Industry Plan because he is a member of the union (a bit ironic).

It is also important to note that Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson would probably be ineligible to obtain health insurance on the market because they have all had cancer.

Unfortunately, I don't see things getting any better anytime soon. However, we need a President (and a government in general) who will not allow things to get worse. I would settle for that.

As for us, we will see what happens. Who knows, we may be moving to new jobs, to a different place, so we might just have to get by in those few months. Or we might just have to deal with going out of network to see the doctors we like. There are lot of uncertainties lying ahead - I'll need to deal with each as I come to it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Two Developments

I have become officially invested in the Presidential race. I am waiting on pins and needles for the NH results to come in.

There has been some progress on the job search front. I am still nervous about it and the anxiety is only going to grow.

More on this later.

Monday, January 07, 2008



I haven't been around here for a while. I am not really sure why, but if I were to venture a guess, it would be burnout.

The past year was pretty brutal. I taught four courses in the spring, three courses in the summer, and four courses in the fall. Add to that a trip to Mexico (which almost didn't happen), applying for jobs, pretending to do some research, and a conference.

And it hardly feels like I have had a break. I was grading until the 27th. Then we had a stressful incident with Zephyr and last I got sick.

While the new semester is still two weeks away, I need to get back on the wagon and start making progress on all the things that have piled up.

I may also be a little burnt out on the whole writing online thing. But I do need a place to complain, so I will still be writing - at least for now. I think I put pressure on myself to write something of value, rather that just randomly spewing thoughts. Not that I have ever written much of value, just that my own expectations changed. I am not sure why.

Maybe I will pick this up again, maybe not.

We'll see...