Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's the economy, stupid

I heard someone on the radio today criticize the shortsightedness of this oft repeated James Carville quip. The criticism was that it's not the economy, but the culture.

Economy is just the quantification of culture, if you ask me. We are always trying to measure things and the economy is great for that -- we assign numbers to everything. However, if you've ever tried to do any sort of accounting, it's nearly impossible to actually come to an accurate, watertight answer. Have you ever prepared your taxes or balanced your own budget? Real life isn't cut into exact pieces.

It's similar to the environment and social spectrum. It always confuses me when people conceptualize the environment as a place you go to, rather than the place you are (plus a few other places). The environment and society are impossible to disconnect. So why do we think of them as separate? I think it's the numbers game again. We can measure emissions and waste. It's harder to measure happiness (although, that's being done too).

Being a bit of a data nerd, I'm inclined to like the numbers, the measurable version. However, as an anthropologist and a human in general, I know the world is more complex than our measuring systems and sometimes we have to use stories and experience to gain understanding.

Friday, October 09, 2009


I was washing the dishes this morning while listening to NPR and said aloud myself "did he say Obama?" and as the next stories--all about the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize--rolled my astonished suspicion was confirmed. Then I went to work with a bunch of Brits and made travel plans with a Swede and checked facebook. A lot of criticism. And strangely enough it was for Obama, not for the committee. Most of the Obama jokes lately are focused on the lack of check marks next to his to do list. Fair enough. But those are tactics. What Obama is is a charismatic leader. We've had several charismatic leaders in world history--many of them also Nobel Peace Prize winners. And what they have in common is an ability to persuade people, an ability to change things at a cultural level, not a policy level. But charisma isn't enough. Hitler was a charismatic leader but deeply flawed and scarred and mislead. I think giving Obama the prize at this point in his presidency is a signal of his immense potential to effect change. And the prize helps to guide him toward the right path. It is a recognition of his strong record of good judgment and leadership and encourages him to continue on that path. We also have to remember that his nomination was made only 2 weeks after he took office. It wasn't made because of his great accomplishments. We all agree on that (although if you compare him to normal humans his accomplishments are actually pretty impressive). He is a human being who still shows enormous potential. He convinced Indiana, a state that hasn't voted democrat in over 40 years to vote for someone who was billed as a lefty democrat. He's got great power and, like Spiderman's uncle Ben, the prize committee is telling him that with great power comes great responsibility. Our last president abused that. With the right influences, I think Obama has the great opportunity to show how leadership should be done. I applaud this award.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's a beautiful day in my neighborhood

Well, it was.

  • Coffee
  • Dwell
  • Used Shazam to identify song and then realized why I recognized it and bought soundtrack to Slumdog Millionnaire on iTunes whilst sitting at coffee shop.
  • Tried out new lens
  • Shopped for random housewares resulting in finding perfume shop amongst industrial buildings and breweries
  • Tofu Salad Sandwich (surprisingly delightful) and Orange Carrot Ginger Cucumber juicefrom Urban Rustic
  • Lunch in the park with the WSJ I took from work (couldn't bring myself to read the anti-healthcare bits)
  • Grocery shopping in the park (fresh veggies)
  • Random yoga class in the park, which I joined midway
  • Trip to local kitchenware store, which is dangerously close to my house
  • Reheated penang curry from Song
  • Loaded 132 photos of my colleagues 30 days later to flickr... sorry they're private.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stuck on Tarmac

If they say they can't SELL booze on the ground, does that mean they're giving it away?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


First flight of the morning (630am): Prop Plane to Baltimore

Captain: Thanks for joining us this morning, folks. We're waiting for a mechanic to come and tighten some bolts on th exterior of the aircraft and then we'll be on our way. It's really not a big deal.

Flight attendant (in response to rolling eyes, nervous laughs, and one woman who said "I didn't want to be on this airplane in the first place!": They're not really bolts. Just screws. We'd be fine without them anyway.

State of affairs inside the aircraft: Lavatory had no sink, appeared to be partially taped together, and the door did not actually lock (meaning that the light didn't really come on either).
Flight attendant also made good joke about inserting the metal fitting into the buckle… in case we hadn't been in a car since the 1960s.

Good times.

Baltimore Airport
Most airports look exactly alike in my estimation. The only difference is the inhabitants, and in this case, they were much larger than the ones I left in NYC. Is it that hard to figure out that people need to build exercise into their routines instead of trying to make up for it in the gym? I'm sure part of it is that NYC has a culture for beauty or something, but in most cases, there's not a parking lot at Wendy's and there's often a staircase inside.

Second Flight of the Morning: 757 from Baltimore to Charlotte
Don't remember. Passed out after reading one page about climate change… noting the irony of a 3-flight trip to my meeting.

Charlotte Airport
Bathroom attendant named May. She's getting ready for her revival. Her daddy was a preacher and ain't nobody gonna change her no way. She loves Jesus and she doesn't care who knows about it.

Inhabitants of airport definitely increasing in size and accents are getting even deeper.

Third Flight of the Morning: TinyJet from Charlotte, NC to Fayetteville, AR
It's still morning???? I'll resist the urge to have a beer at 10am, but it's OK if I eat pizza, right?

My mom was born here, but I've never been before. Now it's down to 6 states to visit (must include overnight stay to count): Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Hawaii

I arrived and not only had they sent my luggage to Fayetteville, NC instead of Fayetteville, AR, but the car rental company didn't have any cars left... well except this one car. it was on its way to the windshield repair person when I arrived, so instead of a subcompact, I'm driving a 2009 Nissan Murano. And it's actually kind of nice. Except that I'm attempting to be taken seriously in my role as a climate crusader.

So I showed up to my business meeting to promote mitigation and adaptation to climate change wearing skinny jeans and driving an SUV!

Good times.

Independence Day

July 3 Out-of-Office message: The NYC office is currently closed in observance of Independence Day. If you need immediate assistance please call our London office. Please excuse the irony of this request.

Let's do this thing!

On Friday May 16th, I sang one of the hardest pieces of choral music ever written (Beethoven's missa solemnis)before an audience of about 1000 paying customers. Then I met "the doctor". Then we went on a date the following Wednesday. I showed up to work the next day with a hangover, a ticket to Mexico, and a request to take Friday off.

So our second date was a Friday morning flight to Mexico.

Not bad.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

MInneapolis, so far

Greeted at our hostel by a young man we called "beard-o", or alternatively "Alex." We later learned his name is actually Charlie. The welcome sign had, in just as big font, "Check out time is 11am. If you are here after 11am, you will be charged for an additional night." He brought our sheets up to our room, tossed them on the bed and said, "They might not be the right size. If not, just come and let me know." They weren't. We didn't.

Then off to the car to get our bags. While transporting them into the hostel, a man stops his car and asks:
Him: Are you OK? What happened?
Us: Um... we're taking our luggage out of the car.
Him: Are you sure you're OK? You're carrying clothes!
Us: Um, yes we're sure.
Him: Well, be careful. There are bad people around. Crack heads.
Us: Um, OK. Thanks for the heads up.

So we asked Beard-o/Alex about it and he said that the crack heads were fine. They just want change and cigarettes. We also interrupted his American Beauty watching to ask for a restaurant recommendation. He suggested a pan-asian place called Gangchen. We promptly forgot the name, so when we were walking toward it and not sure if we had gone the right way we asked Lee Ann from CVS whether we were on the right track to the pan-Asian place. She said, well, I don't know of an Asian place that way, but there are some restaurants down the other way. OK, well do you have a recommendation? Yeah, well, there's this other place right down here called Gangchen. It's Asian. We managed not to laugh directly in her face.

Then while at Gangchen, a woman named Carl managed to fall off her barstool and Amy, being the good nurse that she is, went to check her basic neural function in case she had had a seizure or something. Diagnosis? Drunkenness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Exercising New Vocabulary

Whilst I was on the bus, I rang my mate to let him know I was getting close to the underground station where we were to meet. I had packed my brolly in the event of rain, and had worn long trousers with fresh knickers (of course). I was running behind because of a queue for the loo in the pub, but it was alright because his flatmate had just come up the lift from the tube to meet me. My mate was right behind but had stopped to toss some rubbish in the bin. He told his flatmate that I was the girl with the fringe and glasses. We went to dinner and I ordered a hamburger with chips. "Do you fancy some ketchup?" Yes! Brilliant!

Cultural Quirks

Sometimes you have to experience another culture to better understand your own. I was afraid of culture shock coming to London since the standard of living, the language, and even the climate are approximately the same. The thought being that subtle, but distinct, differences in those areas can be more shocking than when you go to a place where none of those things are the same (and the latter has described most of my travel experience). To make a long philosophical, anthropological boring ass tangent more relevant: Americans are incredibly passive.

How do I know? The Brits are really direct.

I didn't think I was passive. I didn't think I was shocked by directness. I didn't think I really adhered to American culture so much. But compared to this frankness, directness, I'm a waffling, backwards talking hillbilly.

I think I prefer direct. [Let's try that again: I prefer direct.]