Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Good bye 2009. Hello new year full of promise and possibility.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas etc.


I just wanted to share with you all the photo my friend Libby took of the Christmas Tree in her town.

Is it just me, or does it look like that tree is wearing a moo-moo made of lights?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Law of the I.Sea.Sea.


The Dutch Navy released all these Somali Pirates today because no country was willing to prosecute them... (full article here)

Okay, Earth, it's called the International Criminal Court. I wrote a whole article about this last year. The ICC is not just for war criminals, it's original purpose, as defined by it's creator whom I interviewed last year, was for TRANSNATIONAL CRIMES. There is just so much I want to say about this right now.

But instead, let's just... Paste that article from The Planet HERE

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently known for its high profile trials of dictators and in conjunction with terms like “crimes against humanity”, “genocide”, and “”war crimes,” but was this the original intention of this body? According to a recent conversation I had with one of the people who helped pass the original draft document on the issue, not at all.

Professor Roy S. Lee, B.C.L., LL.M., Ph.D., who currently teaches at Columbia University's School of Law, was pivotal in creating the wording of the document that created the ICC under the International Court of Justice of the United Nations. He worked with the United Nations since 1969 in the upper levels of the secretariat, on a variety of issues such as human rights, the law of the sea and the law of international institutions. Perhaps the most substantial contribution was in the mid-1990s, while he was in charge of the International Law Commission, the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the UN General Assembly and of the Diplomatic Conference which eventually led to the creation of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998.

According to Lee the original intention of the ICC was to deal with issues that were outside single state jurisdiction, not matters of war crimes after civil conflict. He highlighted two specific incidents, in fact, that he felt could have been avoided had the ICC been used effectively as he had intended, the Iraq-American weapons of mass destruction debate in 2002-2003 and the Russia-Georgia Ossetia territory dispute currently underway. He said that the United States could, and should had utilized the ICC in this international claim and that a legal dispute could have prevented war in both cases.

However, he did make the concession that the body is operated exactly as he envisioned in 1998 and it only works on a case when the countries involved approve of it. The major concern in early years regarding the creation of any international court system and legal body was the respecting of state sovereignty and the claim of international jurisdiction over that of the state’s own laws. Bypassing state sovereignty and national laws would lead to the disintegration of trust and thereby ruin any legitimacy the ICC has as a place where grievances can be ruled upon in an unbiased manor. The balancing act of enacting international law, which is still being written in many ways, is one major reason why issues such as border conflicts between hegemonies and smaller countries are unlikely to go to the court. Would going to an international court be a sign of weakness, or prove that the ICC was the strongest its ever been, solidifying its place as the highest court in the world, thus fulfilling its original intention?

While it is unlikely that a conflict like the Ossetia dispute or American WMD claim would ever have made it to the ICC, lets hypothesize briefly on the what if scenario. What if in 2002 when Colin Powell went to the United Nations to present materials it was not to convince nations to send allied troops into Iraq but rather subpoena Saddam Hussein, et al. to the ICC for a hearing on his WMD holdings and usage on not only his own people, but threatening the international community. Would we have approximately 90-93,000 civilian Iraqis deaths, over 4,080 Americans dead and 30,000 wounded since May, 2003? Would the trial even be completed yet?

It is useful to hypothesize a world where war can be avoided by taking matters of international dispute to an international court, where issues such as China-Taiwan, Israel-Palestine, Cyprus, and the Kuril island disputes could be decided. Even something like which nation is responsible for refugees who have existed outside of their home country for more than 20 years but refuse to return home could be decided through the ICC, but in the case of Afghanistan, no attempts to go to the ICC have been made.

When I met him at a conference on how climate change affects island states, it would seem that currently Lee wanted the ICC to deal with issues such as who has jurisdiction over the middle of the Pacific Ocean and should clean up the garbage that collects there. As the global warming and changes the focus of nations around the world, perhaps in the future we will see fewer crimes against humanity and more trials on crimes against humidity.


Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, December 14, 2009

Physical Fitness Test


Today is my practice PRT for the Navy. The entrance exam to test my Physical Fitness. I'm referring to it from now on as the "Pretty Freaking Tough" Exam cause I somehow have to pull 21 push ups, 58 sit ups and a "fun" run of a mile and a half out of my butt within 20 minutes.

Even though I've been training for this for a while, I have a bad shoulder right now and I'm kind of worried about my ability to pull this off. I just have to remember that I have made it through worse and even when I'm hurting out there on the track, I've hurt worse... like when I had Malaria... or busted my ankle. I can so DO THIS. I want to be an officer in the U.S. Navy. I want to serve my country and my Commander in Chief. I want to lead with distinction. I can do this. This is not the hardest thing I will ever have to do.

So... Good luck to me... I'll update you all later as to my status of pass or fail.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya


RESULTS:
Toe touch: PASS!
Push ups: 37! Excellent
Sit ups: 62! Good
Fun run: 16 minutes (fail) so I get to do it again! :( sick.

Penny Lane

I was watching the West Wing this morning while I was preparing for my PFT this afternoon, and they had the episode about abolishing the Penny. You know... THE PENNY. With the Lincoln and the copper and the pling pling in the piggy bank.

I love pennies. I REALLY DO. I'm not being facetious. Pennies make the economy of this country work. For example: You want to go get, say, a cheetah print Snuggie at Wal*Mart and you don't want to pay more than $20? Good thing it's only $19.99!! <3 the Penny.

In the U.S. we revere the penny. We have sayings about the penny, like "A Penny saved is a Penny earned." or "It's gonna cost you a pretty penny" or "Penny for your thoughts!" "that boy's a bad penny!" AND "those bad pennies always turn up when you don't want them to..."

So why abolish the Penny when it's so much a part of our Americana culture? WELL as the West Wing makes clear, the Penny is almost entirely out of circulation.

TERRY: The dollar has the buying power today that the quarter had 30 years ago. The penny's buying power shrunk to nothing.

SAM: Well, that's not true. You can get yourself a gumball.

TERRY: No, you can't. They cost a nickel.

Actually NOW they cost a quarter. This episode was made a few year ago and what with inflation and all... *sigh* to be in the gumball biz...

To tie this all back to Copenhagen and my apparent Theme of the Month "The Environment", it is also explained that mining the millions of tons of copper and zinc that go into making pennies is bad for the environment. 2/3rds of all pennies are out of circulation, they are in jars or couches or and not in "take a penny leave a penny" containers at the grocery store. That many pennies roaming free is also pretty bad for the environment since they are seen as garbage. How may times have you seen pennies on the street? What a sad fate for Lincoln, srsly.

Which brings me to my favorite quote of the episode:
Sam: The Mint gets letters with pennies taped to notebook paper. Letters
from citizens who found the pennies on the street and mailed them back to the Treasury to help pay down the debt.

I think this plan COULD and SHOULD be enacted on a grand scale! Here's the plan: Save your pennies and mail them back to the Treasury Dept. in those U.S. Postal boxes... you know, the "one price no matter what the weight is" boxes... all we need is... 9,000,000,000,000,000 pennies!

Alright, forget it. Abolish the penny. That dinky shiny coin is basically worthless.

And maybe in the grand scheme of things, this is a non-issue. The West Wing knows that, and makes fun of that fact within the episode:
LEO: What do you need?

SAM: No, if you're in the middle of something, I can come back.

ADAMLEY: We're eliminating genocide. What are you doing?

SAM: Eliminating the penny. So I'll come back.

But STILL, I kinda wish we could address the small things with as much vigor as we address the bigger issues.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

*photographer's note: that photo of pennies does include one dime, but that dime is so BUSTED it's probably only worth a penny.*

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rotating Kitchen = Life/ iTunes sent me a Genius

The first thing I want to say about the embedded video entitled Rotating Kitchen (which if you cannot see can be found HERE) is that it's art, and there doesn't have to be a point.

Please be patient because it may take a while to load and it's best if it doesn't freeze for streaming. Thanks.

rotating kitchen from Zeger Reyers on Vimeo.


THAT SAID, I think the purpose of this piece is to show how things are not always what they appear and how easily everything can get turned upside down. I mean look at the angle when things start to fall, it's what? 15 degrees?

And then once it starts its hard to stop and people start cheering for more disaster.

It's like a little personal soap opera in that kitchen. You start wondering how bad reality can get. I think it makes a lot of sense. I mean its not enough that one whole wall is demolished, you kinda need to see the kitchen entirely upside down. It shows you how sick you are, how much you lust for destruction; you want to see that light go out. You need to see it go out. And it's not just me, its everyone. I think it is a really well executed, brilliant piece.

Even when things fall OUT of the kitchen... which kind of breaks the illusion in many ways as the kitchen has entered the viewer's zone, in other ways it perpetuates your lust for destruction. I mean stuff falling out? That just makes you want to see everything from the kitchen on the floor in front of the box.

Kind of reminds me of how bad my life COULD be.

ANYWAY. Now that I have quenched my blood lust for ruin for yet another day...

Did anyone else know that iTunes now does this thing where it takes your music and makes specialized playlists off of it's super huge database of compatible music? It's almost like iTunes hired a musical genius just for me and sent him through my musical collection and made 16 playlists! I love my mini music genius.

Of course he has flaws. Like my Jazz play list featuring such artists as Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Etta James, Coltrane, and Jay-Z. Oops?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, December 7, 2009

Breathing Easier

Thank goodness the U.S. decided to announce a great step to step up environmental policy initiative just as we finish up in Copenhagen. Released today, the U.S. acknowledges that greenhouse gases are harmful and can be deadly to humans. This means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can now monitor and limit pollution into the atmosphere without Congressional approval, which in the past was what held up the U.S.'s environmental action.

The news came as global climate talks got under way in Copenhagen, Denmark aimed at forging a deal on major emissions cuts.

The best part is that it helps to legitimize the Copenhagen Talks. Some news pundits, who clearly know nothing and yet influence a HUGE portion of populous, were beginning to speculate that the talks were failing since President Obama (who wasn't even supposed to attend, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was) is only attending the closing sessions. President Obama attending shows how important he feels this conference is.

After working on climate change issues with small island nations for the past two years I could not be more happy that this announcement was made. I am equally pleased with the bilateral agreements made between nations leading up to Copenhagen, such as the one between France and Brazil promoting more responsible logging and preservation of the Amazon and the rain forest. (The linked article, entitled, "France and Brazil joined forces on Saturday to press the United States and China to make significant concessions at next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen" is really interesting for any Poly Sci/ Env Sci geek. Please take a look if you have time.)

Of course, the Green movement has been going on for some time in France. I recently was reminded of this great music video from 2006.

SO, now that the U.S. is leading by example and developing countries like Brazil are recognizing their responsibilities to environmental protection and emissions... Well, India and China, the ball is in your court.

Photography note: The rain forest that is pictured is actually in Costa Rica, where I spent a summer working to protect turtles from poachers and help the MINAE forestry department preserve the Arenal Volcano Park. It's not Brazil, but I haven't gotten there yet. ;)

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Friday, December 4, 2009

The UN song and THE CHICKEN STORY

I know, you get to hear the chicken block watch story. Yes, you are very excited.

BUT FIRST! (yes, I *BAIT* and switch-ed ya.)

About a month ago I went to the UN Day: A Tribute to Peace Keeping Concert at the UN (yay for free tickets to awesome things, love my job!). The last song they played was THIS: The Price of Silence.

It is actually a really fun song and has artists like Sister Fa, Natalie Merchant, Aterciopelados, Emmanuel Jal, and Angelique Kidjo. Now I was lucky to see some of these artists in concert. BUT the best part of this video is that you get to see fake delegates dancing inside of a computer generated UN General Assembly Hall, and it is THE FUNNIEST THING to watch ACTUAL UN footage mixed with fake delegates dancing soooo poorly. Also there is a creepy pregnant lady dancing who wore, I kid you not, a dress with a GIANT FETUS on it made out of felt.

And yeah, that's the photo that I took when I saw President Obama speak at the UN cause I am that awesome. You know it. Awesome and poor. (Doesn't the guy behind him kind of look like "Oh crap, not this hope and change BS again..."? Poor man, he's so tired from his long translation or long flight ;).)

AND NOW, THE CHICKEN STORY:

So, in addition to all my many jobs and titles and accomplishments and yadda yadda I am so cool and BROKE, I am the president of the Upper Orange Street Block Watch (formerly the East Rock Block Watch). My responsibilities in this position revolve around informing members of the block watch of devious activities in the neighborhood. When there is crime, people tell me, and then I email everyone else and scare the bejesus out of them, and they all email me back going "OMG, Alya, that is so totally AWFUL! Did they call the cops! I hope everyone is okay! Did the cat make it out of the tree?"

No but seriously, this is Urban New Haven. We do have real crimes. Y'all remember Annie Le? :( She was the Yale graduate student that they found in the WALL. Yeah. New Haven has 2.5 TIMES as many homicides PER CAPITA as NYC. Step it up, NYC we're making you look bad. Or Safe. Whatever.

Most of my emails are like

"A car was stolen here at this time, suspect unknown. If you saw anything please call the cops. kthanks, Alya."

BACK TO THE CHICKEN.

There is this competing Block Watch. They're called the SoHU group, for South of Humphrey Street. ooooo they have an Acronym.... Fancy... Whatever. ANYWAY the president of THAT group sends out, I'd estimate, about 30 TIMES more emails than I do. Their group is more of a Block ORGANIZATION though. I just do crime and traffic. I also try to only report on incidents that occur in MY AREA. She sends stuff out for all of New Haven. I don't like to clog the inboxes, you know?

So on Thursday she sends this email. I'm gonna just paste the email WORD FOR WORD:
Subject: SoHu: Missing Chicken

Hi All,

A neighbor at ## Clark street keeps some chickens. 4 of them. They just chased a hawk away from their yard, but one of the [chickens] is missing. She doesn't know if a hawk got her, or if the chicken flew over the fence because she was scared.

She’s reddish brown and she really blends in with the leaves this time of year. Her name is Ginger but chickens aren’t very good at coming when called.

If you see the chicken, can you please let me know asap.

Thanks,
Lisa
PERSONAL CONTACT INFO
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Group "South of Humphrey", the SoHu block watch community group. http://sohunewhaven.org
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/newhaven_sohu?hl=en

... Let me show you a picture of New Haven.

This is not the best place for a chicken.

Let me calm all of your fears and say:
Subject: SoHU: GINGER FOUND!

Hi All,

Ginger was found cowering in the bushes out on Clark St. Call off the missing chicken alert! Thanks to you all who responded so quickly!

L
Lisa

I'm really glad my efforts to drop everything I was doing to go look for that missing chicken didn't go to waste. It would have been devastating if we had to put out a Ginger Alert and she was taken by that hawk!

To understand WHY people in New Haven, CT, the third largest city in Connecticut with a population of 125,000 people now have chickens in their backyards, please read this article (the photo is of the SoHU alderman, Roland Lemar, and my ex-Alderman, who has been replaced by Justin Elicker). Or you can read this article in Urban Chickens... no seriously?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Navy Update and Arrr!Pirates

I know many of you have been wondering what's going on with this Navy processing of mine and I want you to know that my application was OFFICIALLY SUBMITTED TODAY.

I should be sitting before the boards in January and, pending Congressional approval, will go to Officer Candidate School in Feb/March.

IF I am not selected to become a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Navy I did complete my 2010 registration for the Foreign Service Officer Test. Again. Much to my chagrin. Happily it only took 40 minutes, and not the 3 hours it took last year because I had a print out of last year's in my desk. (Pack rat 1 - Cleaning people 0)

NOW, if you've been following my Naval aspirations then you know that my dream Navy job is to work off of the East African Coast doing Intelligence for Pirate Hunters. I even planned my own TV Show, with Kathleen:
Ensign Aly, Pirate Hunter
with a theme song...
"Bum de da da Pirate Hunter!
Bum de da da, on the sea!
Bum de da da Pirate Hunter!
Keeps the world safe for you and me!"

Yeah. ANYWAY, my computer shows the top 20 headlines from the day's news. Today, #10 was: "Some in crew blame captain for pirate attack."

Pirate story!? *click*

Okay let's read the story together and then come back and discuss. So everyone go here and read THE ARTICLE.

You liked that, right? Okay so we're gonna break it down:

Let's start with the photo and the caption. Firstly, NICE HAT, Captain Phillips. Are you winking? I can't tell if your eyes are open or closed. HEY! Maybe that's why you didn't see those pirates coming!

Caption:

The former captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, listens to a question during a Nov. 19 news conference in Norfolk, Va. The lifeboat from which he was rescued is on display behind him.

He LISTENS to questions. He doesn't answer them. You can't say Captain Phillips isn't a good listener.

Alright so the first paragraph basically says, he was taken captive, so he's a hero, even though he was kinda told not to go there, so he's also kind of a douche. Oh and it wasn't just one warning, it was like 7 warnings. Let's simulate that, shall we?

Hey, Capt. Phillips,
Don't go there. Don't go there.
Don't go there. Don't go there. Don't go there.
Don't go there. Don't go there.
Best of luck,
The maritime safety group peeps
"If you go to the grocery store and eight people get mugged on that street, wouldn't you go a different way?" said the ship's navigator, Ken Quinn, of Tampa, Fla.

YES, YES I WOULD. In fact, Even though I am the President of the Upper Orange Street Block Watch*, I would MOVE.

The rationale for sailing in the "pirate zone" was to conserve fuel. So I want to know how much they were going to SAVE versus how much it cost to save his butt from the pirates.
Company spokesman Kevin Speers would say only that the Maersk Alabama operated in "high-risk waters quite frequently, and that is part of the considerations that we take in putting together vessel security plans."

Good thinking, Kevin. Ships that operate in dangerous waters should have security plans... Hey Kev, have you met my friend Captain Obvious? I think he has lots of idea on how you can protect your ships. Like um... LISTEN TO THE WARNINGS, and er... KEEP TO THE 600 MILE SAFETY AREA.

Now this is what confuses me: "[the]Crew [were] unaware of advisories" BUT WAIT! I just read that "Four of the 20 crew members told the AP that they blame Phillips for the hijacking." Huh. So really the crew don't know why they got attacked by pirates, but when in doubt, just blame management.

Related Article: Admiral: Sea too large to stop all pirate attacks... Dude, THEY ALL COME FROM SOMALIA. MAYBE, now I'm just throwing this out there, MAYBE YOU SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT SOMALIA NOT HAVING ANY INFRASTRUCTURE.

Best quote: "It's a big ocean. To stay 600 miles away, it's kind of hard to do, at some point. There's a limit to what they could reasonably do." Wait... You just said it was a big ocean. So... it should be EASY to stay away. Don't be cheap.

Best advice ever: If we look at this here GIANT MAP OF PIRATE ATTACKS, we can plainly see that YOU SHOULDN'T TAKE A BOAT ANYWHERE THERE.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

*Upper Orange Street Block Watch was formerly known as the East Rock Block Watch. Please stayed tuned for a funny block watch article involving a missing chicken.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lightbulbs and BANNED IN CHINA!?

In an attempt to be more energy efficient apparently Congress has decided to force us all to purchase energy efficient light bulbs starting in 2012.

I think this is the most genius thing they have ever done. Sometimes people are too stupid to know what is good for them.

FOR EXAMPLE: Purchasing energy efficient bulbs for 30 sockets in your home would cost $90 more than purchasing incandescent bulbs. HOWEVER this investment would save you between $500 and $1500 dollars over 5 years on your energy bill. A CFL uses 800 FEWER watts a day, or .15 cents less on your bill. That's 4$ a month. The bulb pays for itself in one month! In addition to the bulbs using less energy to produce the same amount of light, they also need to be replaced 1/4th as often. It's just good household economics!

What's next?
LED lights on your Christmas tree: only costing about .30 cents per day if left on for 24 hours!
Solar powered water heater!
Insulating all your pipes so they don't take more energy to heat and cool!

And as we all know, saving energy slows climate change which means your kids won't be seapeople. :D

IN OTHER NEWS, I have just learned that my blog has been banned in China. I feel pretty bad about that. I probably shouldn't have blogged about the Berlin Wall. Or climate change. Or democracy...

Dear China,

Please UNban my blog because I love China. We can talk about Taiwan at a later date. And the human rights violations. And Tibet. And the one child policy.

Yep. so unbanning... NOW!

kthanks. <3 Alya

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Girl Effect and World AIDS Day

Please visit The Girl Effect website to see a really powerful video about how we can all change the world for the better.

Thanks to Hilary Clinton for this link.

Additionally, I'd like to mention that today is World AIDS Day. Since my father is an epidemiologist I would like to thank him for his work on needle exchange. If you would like to donate to an organization working to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS please visit the OXFAM website.

"It's no big deal. Just the future of humanity."

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, November 30, 2009

Congrats New Zealand!

I wanted to wish New Zealand my Congratulations on their launching their first ever space rocket. Named Atea, the Maori word for space.

It achieved a maximum velocity of Mach 5, and burned for 20 seconds to an altitude of 60 miles! It then orbited for 20 minutes and touched down in the ocean.

This rocket was launched by a private company, and was the first launching of a space rocket in the southern hemisphere. While this brings about many questions regarding corporations and space travel or space explorations, I think it's important to remember that any advance by any country adds to the shared knowledge of the whole.

Thank you New Zealand for your specific contribution to space exploration.

Oh and please don't weaponize the rockets. Kthanks.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Winter is Here!


Perhaps this post is a little premature since the official start of winter is December 21, BUT the tree in front of my house lost its very last yellow-brown leaf this morning and as a result: I DECLARE THAT AUTUMN IS OVER, AND WINTER HAS BEGUN!

Oooooh I feel like I have so much power! What else can I declare?

I DECLARE THE UNITED STATES TO BE A FREE COUNTRY!

See, now we're getting fancy.

I DECLARE CLIMATE CHANGE TO BE A REAL PHENOMENON!

Does this declaration clear things up for some people who are on the fence? I hope so.

I DECLARE STUFFING TO BE YUMMY!

Man this is nice. I never knew I had so much power... I think I will use my powers for good.

When my ego gets this big I like to remind myself of the time I tried to use Kathleen's Picture in Picture TV. I figured out how to get two channels to show up at the same time, but then I couldn't change either of those channels, and none of the buttons responded, so I was stuck watching Fox News with an inset screen of Dora the Explorer for fifteen minutes until the cable guy who was setting up her internet came and shut off the TV for me.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Saturday, November 28, 2009

PHOTO CONTEST!!!

YAY! East Rock Park Photo Contest!

Please help me win the Photo contest by voting here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WBWS2VG for photos 18, 40 and 66!!!


THANKS!!!!

Alya

Widget!

My fancy new widget shows me where people visit from. This is pretty cool since I already have EIGHT countries!

The U.S., Malaysia, India, Morocco, Sweden, Singapore, Canada, and Indonesia.

NOW, let's dissect this a little, shall we? I KNOW who the New Haven Connecticut hit came from: ME. I know where the Singapore came from (JP), I know the Morocco and Canada, the TX, MO, PA and NY hits are all people I know. One of the India hits is another blogger who I emailed after seeing his blog on books. The one in LA is my friend Shane and his blog on books and creative writing is here.

WHICH ONE OF YOU told all your friends in Malaysia to check out my site? How did seven Malaysian cities register? What's strange about the hit counter is that I wish I could see EVEN more detailed information. I wish I could see addresses within the towns when I get multiple hits from Madras, India. BTW, Tangerang, Indonesia is pretty much the coolest name for a city ever.

Don't you wish you could get like a big map and a bunch of virtual pins and pin the IP addresses on here? I know I do! This counter is both an excellent tool for marketing, but also a fun widget for me since my wanderlust controls me. It makes me still feel as though I have some connection to the outside world despite my being stuck in my parent's attic.

Before I go I wanted to make a special mention that the last leaves are falling off the trees. This autumn, the foliage was delayed a full two weeks. While this was a pleasure because it meant a prolonging of the season and warmth of fall, it is a sure sign of the global climate change we all fear. This prolonging in seasonal change prevents ice from freezing properly and therefore means the arctic ice sheet will break up even faster than usual this Spring. I want to wish the members of the United Nations and President Obama the best of luck at the Copenhagen Summit this week. It is my hope that they make decisions and come to agreements that are best for humanity, even if individual humans lose out.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

UPDATE!!


Thanks to a friend of mine, I found a site that lets me show a MAP!!! However, this will only refresh every 24 hours so you'll have to come back this time tomorrow to see the international awesomeness!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving

This was a decent Thanksgiving. I just ate so much turkey I'm gonna pass out.

Happily I was able to both be helpful in the kitchen allllll day, and also not get so angry that the parents refuse to feed me! Victory is mine.

We had so much insane food. Pies and seafood and turkey... nom nom nom.

It was so strange that my dad decided to tell everyone he worked with that I was joining the Navy. They all had questions and when I asked, "dad, how many people did you tell?" only then did people seem to understand that perhaps I didn't want to talk about this...

The strangest part of the night however was when someone at the table asked if we could make a toast to the troops defending our country. My father looked at me, dead in the eyes, and said, "I won't mind if people feel like they want to do that."

The other odd thing was that a former Department of State employee was there. He and I started speaking in French, and we had our own conversation about Bantu languages and living in Africa and the Comoros (he's been there and I work at the Comorian U.N./ U.S. Embassy). It was bizarre to see other people try to join into this conversation. As if they understood any of the linguistic roots of Malagasy, Kicomoro or Kiswahili... why do people need to participate in EVERY conversation?

My mom does this all the time. I'll have a conversation about African politics or economics, and she'll interrupt and go "Well, You know what my favorite country is?" And some unsuspecting person will try to be inclusive and say "what?" and she'll break out into song. "Zanzibar, Zanzibar, Can't go far in Zanzibar! Don't need a car in Zanzibar!" Etc. etc. etc. until I die of mortification and have to say "You know Zanzibar is NOT a country, it's a protectorate of Tanzania, and since I'm the only on at the table who has ever BEEN to Zanzibar, I can tell you that the island is QUITE big, and we needed a car." I mean... I wish I could add, 'Do we need to go look at pictures on my computer to get you to stfu?' BUT I don't.

Zanzibar, Zanzibar, Can't go far in Zanzibar! Don't need a car in-- crap now it's stuck in my head. Stupid song...

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rewriting and Spreadsheets


Hello peoples.

I have started rewriting the novel I began so long ago in Kenya. You all remember that old project from my SIT study abroad time. Problem is that I absolutely cannot edit my own work with an objective eye. I'll take a paragraph, and instead of adding a comma, which would be the only complaint to an outside reader, I will become entirely dissatisfied with the section and rewrite the entire paragraph. Now on many levels this is a positive thing. For one, it increases the level of my writing as well as updates my work from 21 year old me to 24 year old me. For another thing, it expands the work, adding details and clarifying points before sending it to an external editor. The way I wrote it while in Kenya was as a quick project to get a grade, and part of this rewriting needs to be expanding on the basic structure and plot.

However this is taking me SO MUCH LONGER THAN IT SHOULD. Part of the problem that I am having a truly difficult time being inspired. But "lack of inspiration" is kind of a cop out. As is "I have other things like work," even though these interminable spread sheets for the committees are getting in my way with not only my book but my other United Nations duties. Point is. I don't know what is blocking me from just sitting down and working on this project as well. Yesterday I found my self wanting to read a brief entitled, "The Effects of the Financial Crisis on IMF Debt Repayment in Low-Income Countries" instead of writing. It was 34 pages long. (Let me just add, if you are ever given the choice between, say, reading this paper and putting your hand in acid, I hear that the latter is not as painful as it sounds, and cosmetic surgery should take care of any scarring.)

SO I now am asking that if you have any advice for getting over writer's block, please email me or paste it in the comments below. kthanksbye!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Friday, November 13, 2009

Recruiter Vs. My Mom: Round 1

As some of you may know I intend on joining the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer.

So my recruiter came to the house today to have me sign some paperwork. And she met my mother. If ever I needed motivation for suicide... ha ha ha... ha ha ha kidding!

...

Now For those of you who have met my mother, you know she is sometimes not so good with "the people." Especially the people she thinks may be conservative. So firstly, instead of knowing how to address Chief Juliet Snell, NCC Navy Recruiter NRD New England, she called her "girlfriend." As in "girlfriend! What are all those buttons for?" (by buttons she was referring to Chief Snell's 12 Naval Medals, including a distinguished service ribbon, a good conduct ribbon, a global war on terrorism medal, and a humanitarian service medal for her work during both Katrina and some flooding somewhere. That's 12 not including duplicates. 20 years of service and my mom calls her "girlfriend."

Oh and my mom tries to get Chief Snell to let my mother wear her hat. Which I just have to say was ENTIRELY DISTRACTING while I'm signing paperwork. So distracting in fact, that I misspelled MY OWN NAME. TWICE. Yeah, devastated.

Enjoy my pathetic life! I can only hope the Navy takes pity on me by making me an officer candidate after putting me through so much paperwork. I mean, I have a recommendation from a United Nations Ambassador. My application does kind of kick ass.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, November 9, 2009

20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall


I felt that it was important to mark this historic event by writing about the economics behind the Berlin Wall in today's world. This social and political event in Berlin was attended by world leaders and people who just wanted to be a part of it. The coolest part for me was the Berlin Wall Replica Dominoes which were over a mile long and knocked down once again, not to signify the fall of communism, but to signal the strength of Germany's democracy. I love that these Berlin Wall Dominoes seem to be painted by citizens from a reunified Germany, Europe and world. :D

Even during a worldwide economic crisis it seems that people are capitalizing on this 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Example? For just 99 cents on eBay you can be the proud new owner of a (slightly used) certified chunk of the Berlin Wall. I know that you may be thinking that 99 cents is a bit pricey for a piece of concrete, but I think that if the economy were performing better that these little nuggets of history would be going for at least twice as much. AND of course if you have the money to spend you can get bigger pieces with large sides of intricate graffiti for $150 or more.

But all in all, was really a great thing to see an inspirational event (finally) in the news after a full week of shootings. Especially an event where thousands of people were willing to wait in the rain to see history remembered. Click here to see a video of the Berlin Wall being torn down 20 years ago from BBC News.


Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Procrastination


I have so much trouble sitting down and getting my work done when I've had a huge portion of coffee. Pretty sure this mug about sums up how I'm feeling about the whole thing right now.

I'm supposed to be reading books/writing books but I can't concentrate. As a result, I am listening to old episodes of This American Life and figuring out how to make the Crystal Noodle packaged soup taste better... I'm thinking some sauteed leeks, cilantro, scallions, peanut butter, coconut milk, chili peppers, srirachi, and garlic. Check out Recipe Stockpile once I've perfected this.

So, I'm supposed to be reading the MILPERSMAN: Naval Military Personnel Manual. It's 3160 pages long.

Okay seriously, I'm gonna try to get the coffee out of my system and then write more of the book.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photo Contest and Translation Job


Alright, remember last week when I shared all those East Rock Park photos? WELL, this week there's a contest for BEST PARK PHOTOS!!! (score!) This contest is Justin Elicker's doing since he's the President of the Friends of East Rock Park as well as the new Alderman, so once again, Justin rules! AND A special shout out to Chris who took time this afternoon to help me choose my entries. Thanks buddy.

I entered three photos last year but there were 85 entries and only 10 winners so I didn't win. But this year I feel it. I'm gonna totally win. (If you vote for me, link to come)

Also, my scheme of going into chat rooms to give out my resume and look for work has finally worked! I got a translations job from French to English. Best part? Could end up being like a $2000 job! (score #2!) I wonder if I can get them to pay me in Canadian Dollars. That would be like 10% more... stupid dropping dollar.

I win twice today. The American Economy? Not so much.

Speaking of translations, I learned how to say "sexy pants" in Mandarin, which will come in handy if ever I meet a super hot hottie from China! "ku4 zi3 xing4 gan3 de" is the English transliteration. Enjoy that people. Enjoy, and use wisely.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Election Day, $8 Coffee, and a Lawn Sign Surprise

I would like to take a moment to congratulate Justin Elicker who won the election on Tuesday November 3, 2009 for Alderman of New Haven's Ward 10. He ran a good, clean campaign based on the issues. I was very proud to be a part of his campaign and to be able to share in his day.

While it is sad to see our ward no longer be represented by an Independent, I am so pleased to know that Justin will be our Alderman. His commitment to stem crime and care for East Rock Park, as well as the way he plans to take on controversial issues like the new Worthington Hooker school opening and rezoning of out Police District.

Additionally, I would like to thank him again for helping me start the Upper Orange Street Block Watch(formerly the East Rock Block Watch). This group has given me the opportunity to become more involved in my community and meet new people.

NOW, Something has gone wrong with my local economy. I went to the little store at the corner that just opened up while I was walking around to help collect the candidate's lawn signs after the election had ended. I wanted coffee. The large cup of coffee with milk and sugar and maybe some foam and caramel syrup stuff, and a croissant: $7.69.

NO FRIGGIN WAY.

America, we need to talk. Alyson is unemployed. Mostly. Alyson will over-pay $7.69 for lots of things: movie tickets, burritos, books, The Economist, $5-foot long sandwich, even a box-o-condoms if it came to it. What? You should ALWAYS use protection people (= best advice ever). But a cup of coffee and a croissant, that's a maximum of $4.50.

So, little shop on the corner, you owe Alyson $3.29 in breakfast food.

And while I went around to collect lawn signs I noticed something fishy. I think there is a Lawn Sign Conspiracy in my district. I am going to describe the situation and you are going to tell me if I am on to something dastardly.

The Elicker Campaign had asked people if they could put lawn signs on people's private property a few weeks ago. The night before the election a group of volunteers put out an additional 100 campaign lawn signs in the tree strip, this put the total number of lawn signs just for the Elicker campaign to about 175 in a 10x10 block area. The campaign was going to organize volunteers this weekend to remove these signs.

Two days after the election (today) I walked for a mile and a half up and down the streets of my neighbor hood and saw TWO lawn signs belonging to the either Aldermanic campaign. I saw EVERY Mayoral lawn sign still in place, and many of the Aldermanic opponent's signs had been removed as well.

Technically putting signs on the tree strip is illegal. All of the Alderman signs from both campaigns had been removed from Ward 10 (but not Roland Lemar's in Ward 9).

I think there was a conspiracy organized by the mayor to keep only his signs up in our ward after the election.

Political lawn sign sabotage? I think so.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, November 2, 2009

Abstract Autumn

Happy Autumn,

My best friend is in Singapore going to graduate school so I have spent a few days going around my neighborhood talking photographs of the fall and the leaves and the pretty trees. These were taken in East Rock Park








I think the colors and the light behind the leaves just makes autumn the most beautiful time of year. Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Now That's a Tasty Dumpling!

Firstly, Happy Halloween, or as they say in Kenya, Halloweeni Njema!

Actually, I made that up. They don't have Halloween in Kenya, but if they did, that's how you'd say it in Swahili. ===-* The More Your Know!

ANYWAY... (back in Awkward Town)

Later this weekend I'll be making dumplings. Now this is my last attempt at dumplings because the previous ones have failed miserably. Epic failed. If I fail this weekend I vow to never make dumplings again.

Until I really want dumplings. BUT srsly, it's pissing me off.

I have got the dipping sauce DOWN. Dipping sauce and I are best friends. We love each other. We're getting married. Dipping sauce is: 3 parts Soy sauce, 1 part fish sauce (or sesame oil if you wanna mix it up!), 1 clove garlic, a little bit of fresh ginger, scallions, cilantro, a little rice wine vinegar, and the secret ingredient... a pinch of brown sugar! And if you wanna get spicy, throw in some diced chilies or some chili paste and basil. Oh the combinations are endless and DELICIOUS!

But dumplings and I have issues. (Note for the future: don't use that "I have issues" bit out of context)

My main issue is the dumpling wrapper. I know I could go and get pre-made won-ton wrapper but that just feels like cheating. You don't see Masaharu Morimoto using pre-made won-ton wrappers. I mean even Bobby Flay made his own dough, and he lost a dumpling challenge!

Right. So it's just flour and hot water and some salt. And I've tried different kinds of flour, and different purification levels of water.

My other issue is the filling. My ingredient proportions come out chunky not creamy and smooth. they also fall apart rather than stay together once cooked. If I add more binder, they get eggy.

When I'm cooking, the dumplings ALWAYS stick to the pan and they never brown up properly. I know this is a temperature issue but I have no idea how to fix it. When I turn it down they don't cook, when I turn it up they stick. I've tried in a frying pan, a baking pan and a wok.

So if it doesn't work out this weekend then I will just have to admit the reality that is inevitable... I'm just not Asian.

If I succeed this weekend, expect photos. This will be proof that I am secretly Asian.

For my recipes and other successes and failures in cooking visit my Recipe Stockpile.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Edited: GREAT SUCCESS!!!! I am officially Asian! Okay, maybe not quite.

For recipe and photos please visit: Recipe Stockpile

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fortune Cookies? idk

I got Chinese food today and my "fortune" cookie said the following:

I have a dream.... Time to go to bed!

WTF is that?! Not a fortune. Possibly meant for a couple who are having a dinner. Oh and the teach yourself Chinese is "butter."

The teach yourself Chinese on the back of the other fortune cookie was "bedroom" - "Wo Shi."

The other fortune is of course:

Golden investment opportunities are arising.

Now at least that's a real fortune!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

OceanFreight and DryShips and my $$

So as usual I invested about $1000 into a company (OCNF) that I thought had extreme growth potential just to watch it drop 6% the very next day. (See ANX, which then recovered and I missed out on 100% gains)

But we have to remember what happened when that happened with DRYS: I made 41% a week later. So... I just have to hold and hope for the best and not let the stress give me a heart attack before it pays out.

And I'm investing in shipping companies because? Well, it gives me a chance to learn about the ocean, which I will need when I join the Navy. I know, you don't have to say it: Pathetic.

In other news I'm organizing the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) vote at the UN this week so I shouldn't even have time to look at the market, but my fancy blackberry makes it possible. Oh crackberry, how I worship thee.

OH ALSO!!! Good news: I've decided that working at the UN, despite it being unpaid, definitely qualifies me as EMPLOYED, so I'm changing this site to "Marginally Employed in My Parents' Attic." Enjoy.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Handshakes

While working at the UN I have shaken the hands of three U.S. presidents. Clinton, Bush and Obama. Now, it's not surprising that I liked Clinton's the most since he has the most experience. (It's like a hug for your hand).

Bush was a strained handshake accompanied by his telling me he was a "big fan," whatever that means.

Obama was more like "number 2148, number 2149, hello, hello, I love you too," and so on.

Which president do you think would have the best handshake?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese Taste Test Update

Today I tried Pasta Roni's Shells and White Cheese. 240 calories as boxed, 400 as instructed to make, 3 servings per box.

This tasted fine, and indeed much better than the other kind of macaroni and cheese I had in the beginning, but the longer I spent eating it, the thicker the "cheese" got and the more sick I felt.

I can't finish this. And now it tastes kind of like watery butter mixed with the cheese powder from a cheeto... with like squishy pasta.

Best advice ever: don't eat this. Boy is this a culinary mistake I'm regretting right now.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, July 2, 2009

America Tastes Like Hot Dogs, and Tears

The Fourth of July is the best holiday. This is mostly because of hot dogs (it's the only time of year I eat one, and I secretly love them... but I don't know what kind of animal it is...). This holiday is also amazing, however, because it makes me feel so patriotic in a normal way.

Let me explain: In the past I have always felt patriotic, but in a semi-subversive way. For example, "I love my country but dislike the direction of the leadership," or something to the effect of disagreeing with the general attitude of the leaders. But on the Fourth of July, its about history and pride and enjoying my freedoms, and I don't have to argue with people about how I can support the troops AND THEREFORE want them home in safety, or how I do love my country, and it's my right to free speech to disagree with certain aspects of our domestic or foreign policy.

It is wonderful for one day to not feel the need to argue semantics and nuances of why and how I love my country but may be dissatisfied in that moment. And this year, with my new President, and Mrs. Clinton in charge, I can safely say I love my country with such fervor it moves me to tears- like this one, right here. See it? I bet it tastes like freedom and America.

Now, I realize that if I get my dream job I have to fall in line and only express that opinion at the ballot box, and I am reconciling myself with that. Part of me thinks that's going to be a piece of cake and I'd do anything for that job. Yet another small part has trouble giving up my outspoken nature, which in many ways has gotten me where I am today.

I think this is a great time to just say that any time I want to love my country in my own way I listen to This American Life. This public radio show truly brings to light the small details of our culture as well as the huge overarching commonalities we all share. The stories are funny and moving and intelligent, and every episode makes me think about something in a new way. So this July 4th, before you enjoy your traditional Americana and fireworks and bbqs, listen to This American Life on National Public Radio at 4pm (or check local listings, or download the podcast).

Srsly, it'll rock your world and change your perspective and if you want a list of recommended episodes, ask. However, the best thing to do is just search for a word, like "Paris" and you'll get "Americans in Paris" which I listened to while living in Paris- totally made my day and made me feel less alone. Or search for Nauru. ;)

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adam's Rib and Block Watch

"Take the Boston Tea Party for example, what did they do? Why they dramatized an injustice. That's all I'm trying to do." Katharine Hepburn in "Adam's Rib"


If you haven't seen the movie "Adam's Rib" with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy then you need to rent it immediately. Briefly, it's the story of two married lawyers who are find themselves trying opposite sides of the same case. The case turns out to be all about women's rights and creates a rift in the marriage.

It's a GREAT movie and possibly my favorite of all time because it's smart and funny and has great acting.

In other news, my local block watch association decided to make me president... which means I am in charge of the email list... and that's about all the power I have. But it certainly leads to many adventures in email (like the time I sent out an email with a type and then sent out another email to correct the first one and that email had two typos...oops?)

Still, I've been hyper vigilant about the goings on in the neighborhood as of late. Sadly, I have yet to report an incident. BUT I WILL. I just have to keep my eyes peeled for crime. I mean, I wish there wasn't any crime... but if that were the case I'd be out of a job. :(

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, June 22, 2009

Getting Paid > Working for Free > Not Working


Due to the economy and my inability to find a real job, I have decided to work for free. I still get to add things to my resume, don't get as bored, and also get to work in a couple cool places.

I'm working for NHS, which I've posted about before. In addition to that I will be working as an adviser at the UN for the Ambassador of the Comoros (in the photo with me). Working in the Comoros mission is extra cool for me since I get to use my Swahili and French language skills everyday and practice them for when I get a real job that will pay me.

Also I think I still qualify for UN health benefits, but I have to find out more about that (srsly, I need health insurance).

In crazy family news, my little sister came home for the weekend and decided to talk about drinking underage the whole time which I swear kinda gave me a heart attack as the newly elected president of the block watch. I almost had her arrested for intent to purchase with a fake I.D. but I thought it was kind of harsh since she's my sister and all.

While she was home we began deciding on who gets what when my parents die. If you've never gone through that process, I highly recommend doing it when the parents are still alive and can say, "Actually I think it would be best if so-in-so had it. I have a memory of wearing that piece of jewelry at her graduation." It's so much easier than fighting after they're dead. And all gazillion pieces of jewelry my mother owns have now been cataloged with a little M/A next to it, as well as the stories and memories my mom had while looking at the piece. Since we had a couple jewelers there, we also got them to give us some estimated values, figure out exactly what stones they were, etc.

All in all, my weekend and the past few weeks have been entirely more hectic than usual. Don't worry, two avid readers, I'll still find time to update.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The New Adventures of Not Earning Money

ANX went up to 15 cents a share today so I sold it! That's a profit of 9$. YAY!

I was worried since it went down to 10 cents yesterday, so I wanted it out of my portfolio.

In other news I started a volunteer job today with the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven. I will be revamping their website, designing their newsletter, and talking care of any odds and ends (like the creation of their facebook group which I did today). I walked all the way there across New Haven, 2.6 miles. I would have walked back but it poured all afternoon.

My new job will have me helping them increase the readability and ease of design of their website, create a newsletter, and do other odds and ends around the office for the summer. Now the rationale behind taking a volunteer job as opposed to a paying job is that I can’t get a paying job, and at least this way I have something awesome on my resume. Maybe I’ll get a fancy title too, like “best employee” or “Awesomest person ever."

You'd hire someone if their last job title was "awesomest person ever" right? I know... totally.

Anyway, America, I'm going (with my 9$) to go eat some Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time to see what that's like. I hear the biscuits are awesome!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Reading List

Today I will talking about my reading list of books mostly because it is piled up on my desk and is in my way. Since I kind of hate reading fiction, and haven't been reading the books piled up next to my bed on my desk, talking about it will push me into actually reading the books.

They are:
Catch-22, which I am 48 pages into. I already know what the Catch-22 IS and therefore don't need to read anymore of this book. But I don't want to skip to another book until I'm done with this one. So it's first on my list.
Out of Africa
The Power Broker
Watership Down
Cinematic Royalty and Dark Hollywood Nights, which was written by a friend of mine from H.S.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Master and Margarita... I've read the first 100 pages of this and I got um... distracted that summer... but it's been three years and I'm going to try it again.

I would also like to add that ANX has decided to SUCK today and is down to $0.11, which I am not happy about. I am going to hold, and maybe this whole thing will turn around. OR I will lose my investment capital as it decreases to zero... you know, whatever. Learning experience. Thing of it is, at $0.11 I'm surprised people aren't buying in like mad. Especially because they're getting their act together on that de-listing thing.

Yeah I know. I'm going to lose all my money. But it's cool. It was only a couple thousand shares. I should keep talking about it, now it's at $0.1187! Go fancy interactive blog go!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, June 1, 2009

Citizen Canoe Guide


Since I have no job, I decided to spend some time volunteering for the Park's Department and the City of New Haven as a "Citizen Volunteer" Canoe Guide. Mostly this is because they offered free lessons. The lessons were a good way for me to get a work out, and be away from my mom. That's called multitasking. What follows is a "Connecticut Adventure."

Saturday was a busy day filled with information about kinds of oar strokes, safety instructions, and the ways in which people can die while enjoying a seemingly pleasant canoe ride.

-People get drunk and fall into the water and drown.
-Or they pee over the side and the canoe flips cause it's to much weight on one side and they drown (Martin, the head of "fun park activities and sports" for New Haven, or whatever, who taught us [I swear he was real] said that this is "something men do because they don't know how dangerous it is" and the only other male in the group added, "because men are stupid." to which I say in my head, "... Oh you've met my ex-boyfriend. Excellent.")
-Or they go fishing and get hooked on something and the canoe flips, and they drown.
-Or it's a nice day and they canoe with their best friend who accidentally hits them in the head with an oar and they get knocked unconscious and they drown.
-Or the weather turns and they go over rapids and they tumble out of the canoe and the water is cold and they get hypothermia and they drown...
-Or they bring their puppy in the canoe, and it starts barking and freaking out with all the water. So the swans nearby freak out and one of them starts chasing the dog in the boat, and the dog goes nuts and jumps out of the boat, and then to save the dog and the owner jumps out, and the boat is floating away, and the owner nearly drowns while trying to help the dog who nearly drowns because the swan just keeps pecking away like in "The Birds"... you know... true story.

So maybe mostly it's the water that kills them, not the canoe, but you can't canoe on land, that's called... digging a hole with an oar from a boat.

... No seriously guys, you can DIE. Wear a flotation device. And no drinking while canoing. And no dogs in boats. Srsly, if you need a seeing eye dog, you have to call ahead to the Park's Dept.

My abs hurt from rowing. This is because I learned how to row properly, which apparently involves my abs and back more than my shoulders. My knees also hurt, but that was because the front of the boat is tiny, and when I sat for three hours with my legs pressing into the gunwales (pronounced gunnels...cause it's British.. I kid you not) I got matching bruises on the side of my knees. It's cool though cause they make me look tough.

As a particularly adventurous person, I was one of two people willing to be the "helpless capsized victims who needed rescuing." So Becky and I paddled into the middle of the Mill River and capsized (fun!) and treaded in 7 feet of water until the other people took turns rescuing us. What is so legendary about this is that in the 18 years I lived across the street from this park, and no more than 500 yards from this river, THAT was the first time I ever swam in it. It's not one of those rivers you swim in. It's brackish (gross/salty), murky, rocky, and might have things like snapping turtles, leeches, rusty things, bite-y fish, sharp stuff, and like... cancer. Basically I took a good shower when I got home. BUT I feel really quite satisfied with having been in the river. My life was missing something and now I have completed that thing on the check list. It's a beautiful river, don't get me wrong. I just don't want to touch the bottom of it.

I also was the only participant to wear a skirt. I wore a skirt because I knew I was going to have to get wet, and by wearing a wrap skirt I could easily disrobe into the bathing suit I wore underneath. It was probably the best thing I could have worn actually and I'll do it again. Yeah, you got it, I'm gonna be THAT canoe guide who wears skirts. The white shirt I wore over the black bathing suit on the other hand may not have been the best plan... Nor was the OTHER white shirt I brought to change into when I got wet and needed dry clothes.

Good news is I learned from this experience.

More good news is I got an orange Coast Guard whistle and as a result feel pretty legit about being a canoe guide.

If you want to see me "in action" you can come to the Friends of East Rock Park event on June 13th and help clean up the park, eat food, and come for a canoe ride with me as your canoe guide... IF YOU DARE! Because as we all now know, Canoing is a deadly sport. No for serious. Canoing kills. So do it properly.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

P.S. The photos were taken this past autumn, but the first is the bridge right next to the canoe launch, and the second is RIGHT WHERE I took my little dip in the river! In the middle of that calm area there.

P.S.S. See the island in the second photo? We practiced turns around that island for about two hours. That's the closest I think I've ever gotten to it except maybe when I was little and went canoing with my family with canoe guides (they were so cool! and now I'M COOL! or... um... not... whichever really. Eye of the beholder!) POINT IS: When I was a little girl... let's go with... ages 4-10 I wanted to build a house on that island when I grew up.

P.S.S.S. I still kinda want to build a house on that island now that I've seen it up close.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Ethical Journalist

My father has been in a tiny Russian town for the past few days and just got back on Skype for the first time in a while this morning. We were catching up and he said he had just finished an interview with someone from the New York Times.

Coincidentally, I had just finished an article in the New York Times by a certain reporter at the UN who makes a habit of being very unethical in his reporting. He never identifies himself, he snoops and eavesdrops, and he is what I call a garbage collector. What makes me very upset is that he made front page of the International news section today with an article I suggested to him back in October. In fact, I gave a whole statement about how climate change affects low lying island nations in second committee. Yeah, that's right, cause I used to be somebody.

There are words for people like him. This is not that kind of a blog.

I also may have mentioned in the context of ensuring people behave morally and ethically my desire to join the marines.

My father said, "Don't go from a serious discussion about relative versus absolute to absolute rubbish." When I told him I had been seriously considering it as an option for many months, he followed up with, "Seems like a particularly anti-intellectual endeavor for an intellectual young person. Unless you want to be an astronaut."

I take that to mean he does not want me to join the reserves... Thanks Dad, opinion noted.

For the record, I do want to be an astronaut. Space is cool. But I am afraid of heights. Fail.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Melting My Brain

Recently there have been commercials for watching TV on my computer. TV melts my brain, agreed. There is something that melts it faster. Watching green and red numbers swish back and forth rapidly on my screen on my trading platform is both mesmerizing and addicting. For sure, constantly monitoring my portfolio is melting my brain, but I counteract that process by listening to This American Life all day. What's more is that this isn't something I need to be doing. I have a very small amount invested. I have trade triggers set for when I want to sell. Truth is, I really like watching it, it's soothing, and it makes me feel like I have a job, something to do.

Days when the market is closed seem boring and time drags on. Even on days when the Dow and NASDAQ are down are better than days when no trading happens. In the recession, the one thing that has actually been getting better in the last few months are the indexes. People on Wall Street are making money despite people around the country losing their jobs.

Let's keep you all up to date on the "frequently updated website" interactive factor: my ANX stock buy a few days ago. RIGHT NOW it's at $0.14. I bought 1165 shares at $0.13. It goes between 13 and 14 cents everyday. My target sell price is between 18 and 22 cents. It cycles into this range every few weeks.

Keep in mind, even if I sell at my target price, I'll make about 60$. :) Which is just... so much money... Just think of how many boxes of macaroni and cheese can I taste test with that!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Letting Go of the Lobster

This past Memorial Day weekend my mother decided to have lavish lobster dinner (because the lobster was 6.99 a pound, not THAT lavish).

In order to combat sentiments of omnivore hypocrisy, I felt that it was necessary for me to kill my own meal. After boiling the water, I took my lobster out of the bag, and really struggled with putting it in the pot. I had a conversation with the lobster about it being quick and painless and him joining his long lost lobster love in lobster heaven.

After the lobster tried to claw me, only then did I feel his death was justified as "revenge." I stared into his little lobster eyes and counted to three and dunked him in head first, hopefully to his instant death.

How to cook a lobster:
1. buy lobster
2. boil big pot of water
3. put lobster in head first to minimize lobster pain
4. cook 9 minutes per pound
5. eat lobster with butter and side dishes like baked potato, corn on the cob or salad for you healthy people.

I ended up not even eating him, I ate the other lobster. I couldn't eat my lobster, because of the guilt associated with his death.

This experience has in no way hardened me enough to join the armed forces. Just to be clear I am not planning on killing anything else to prepare myself for the marines, it simply makes me think maybe I'm too wimpy.

I did however run five miles on Monday, and felt very motivated by the idea of being a reservist while doing so. In the past few week's I've been going between 3.5 and 4.5 miles and never did 5, so it was really exciting to reach that mark.

In regards to this reservist plan, other things like the Peace Corps, and my top secret "Plan A" (ooooh a blog with mystery!), are still in motion so I plan to talk to a recruiter and see what my options are, but I'm not signing up before I know the results of the other options.

We should end this with something upbeat and funny. *fake fart noise* Too juvenile?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, May 25, 2009

Concientious Objecter Reservist?

Confession: In the past few months I have been thinking ever more seriously about being a reservist in the armed forces. For anyone who knows me for more than 4 years this is shocking. For people who have met me in the past year, maybe not so much.

I have become increasingly interested in a way to serve my country. Problem is of course that I never ever want to fire a weapon. Therefore it's been difficult to put together a way to serve without aggression, especially since I am more than willing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, or any other war zone, in order to work on behalf of my country. Sadly, I'm a little too strong-willed to follow orders the way they do in the military, and I'm too liberal to fit in, and I'm too much of a peace loving person to fire a weapon, so... maybe I should contact a recruiter and see how I can parlay these things into some sort of support staff or negotiation liaison position.

Despite my numerous applications for jobs within the U.S. government system, the process takes so long, and signing up as a reservist is instantaneous, which is appealing to the spontaneous side of me. At the same time, it seems like I would be far more helpful doing something more constructive than war, seeing as how I pointblank refuse to fire a weapon.

My interest in military personnel has increased lately, I have singled them out for discussion, and only dated men in the armed services for the past six months. not by design really, but it's what appeals to me. They have the same goal as I do, they understand my desire to serve, to travel, to live life with structured adventure, and to be a part of a community that isn't religious or political (even though the military is entirely both). The identity of belonging to something greater is very appealing and very human.

Sadly, I might make this decision based on which uniform I think would look best on me (and it's not the Navy uniform...).

Let's bring it back to the real discussion though: How I wish I could enact change and bring peace and hope to people around the world. In many ways, the armed forces do that for people at home, the transition team provides services to the Iraqi people, and yes, they wage a war and cause destruction, but there is good that can be done.

After this discussion, I can think of no image more fitting than of the United States flag standing outside of the U.N. HQ in New York where I worked for the 63rd General Assembly. In a world where leaders refuse to simply sit and talk, the U.N joins people together on a daily basis for discussion. The peace building that occurs in this building is a step forward for humanity, and while it is not always as successful as we want, or as it could be, without the U.N. there would not be a place for people from around the world to come talk about issues in one room everyday. It is not a perfect system, but nothing is, and I am proud that my country is a member nation (even if sometimes our actions are... well... let's just say we vote with Sudan and North Korea a lot...)

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Google's opinion of me = single anorexic capitalist

The ads on my blog are something of interest to me for more than one reason. It's not merely because I can make a dollar or two during the recession by helping other people make money (yes, economy, you are full of circles). I also feel that the Google ads somewhat define what the website is about. They are geared to my readership, they are representative of the website.

Before today, the only ads I saw were cheerful, successful financial advice ads. I was fine with that. I am trading stocks. I am proud of that fact. I think my trading during the recession and ability to make 15% on 1000$ in two months is capitalistic but also genius. The reinvestment of that gain into ANX was also genius.

Maybe not genius, but we'll see how it plays out. (Yay, fancy interactive blog)

Today, I open up my "frequently updated website" to find a shocking and absurd ad waiting for people to click. This ad mocks me and my macaroni and cheese taste test. This ad makes me feel fat. This ad makes me think I have a problem.

This ad is for eating disorders. One could argue that wanting to eat only Americana traditional food and taste test macaroni and cheese is akin to an eating disorder, but that is not what Google meant. Google called me fat, or worse, Google told me I should stop being so anorexic.

Maybe I shouldn't take it so seriously, but for a company to claim that they will gear their ad content to my page specifically, perhaps something less offensive is in order, like "free kittens and puppies" or ads for my favorite band. I bet Google didn't bother to find out who my favorite band was *sniff* did they?

It's ABBA. *sniff*

...It's not ABBA.

What's next? eHarmony advertisements? Noooooooooooooo! The horror!

Seriously Google, go back to the financial ads. I'm happier with you thinking I'm just a capitalist than an single anorexic capitalist.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kitties, Marketing, and Economic Puzzlements

Today is the day I become the kind of person who talks about her cat on her "frequently updated website." Stanley, the cat I brought back with me from France was sick yesterday so we brought him to the veterinary hospital. The worst thing a doctor can say is, "well something is wrong but I don't know what it is!" That means two things: it could be bad, and it could cost you money.

Luckily, after giving the cat three kinds of medicine, and IV fluids, and x-rays, and blood work, and more medical attention than I've had in two years combined (I need health insurance, srsly), he seems to be doing better!

In other news, back to the macaroni and cheese taste testing: I ventured out to the big super market and intended to purchase comparable products for a true taste test. I have no idea how many varieties there were of boxed pasta with powered cheese product. Additionally, and to my great horror, I did not pick the famous Kraft variety as I thought I did, but the store-brand who's packaging is identical for (very effective) marketing purposes. Needless to say, the taste test is postponed until I acquire the "control" for the macaroni and cheese "clinical trials."

Lastly, I went to an Old Navy today and they were selling flip-flops for $1.00 in order to get people into the store. (For you economics geeks, this is known as a loss-leader, and is used to bring people into the store to purchase other things at an inflated price). There were possibly 200 people in line, at a maximum of 5 pairs of shoes per person. What was bizarre was that almost NO ONE had additional products. everyone had their five pairs of shoes, and that was it.

I tried to take a photo on my phone, but my phone is three years old and therefore... let's go with "not so good anymore"... but I hope the image ALMOST captures the feel of what was going on: 10 check out lines, 200 people, each with 5 pairs of shoes, no sales tax. And since it was 11 AM, all the good colors were gone. All that was left was black, brown and white.

Perhaps if the sale wasn't during a recession people would have ventured into the other sections of the store? Feel free to comment and help me figure it out.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Macaroni" and "Cheese"

Landmark event: I ate boxed macaroni and cheese for the first time today. Okay, fine, technically, it was "organic white cheese and shell pasta" BUT the cheese was in powdered form so it TOTALLY COUNTS. It tasted a lot like... a cream sauce that hadn't been cooked properly, mixed with tiny shell pasta, mixed with dreams. It was an adventure for my taste buds.

Yes, I admit, I may be an elitist snob and you may hate me already. But if you could for one second not take yourself so seriously, you could ponder that there is something distinctly American about a food whose entire concept it based on it's ability to congeal between the time you mix it with milk and you put it on your spoon.

For reasons I can't explain I have been craving a food I have never tasted for about three weeks. Macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, my local small grocery store only had this organic stuff when I was kinda hoping for some sort of 400 calorie a serving, 2-minute, microwavable thing, where they trick you with the serving sizes. You know... you buy a box and you think it's 400 calories for the box, but the box serves four. Just like a pint of Ben and Jerry's... and contrary to logic this in no way deters you from purchasing the item one bit despite the fact that eating the entire thing will give you a massive food coma.

Mmmmm food coma...

The thing about food cravings like this is that once you fulfill them you are left wondering what brought it about. There isn't much left after you are satisfied. When you crave a material object like an article of clothing and save up until finally after long last you purchase it, at least you walk away with that item. You have something to show for the craving, for the process of craving. But sating a food craving leaves you merely less hungry for food in that moment, and more hungry for an new craving.

Furthermore, by putting off such a simple craving like boxed macaroni and cheese for what turned out to be 23 years, I find myself wanting to experience other Americana experiences that I've missed: go to a county fair, drive a car, listen to bluegrass, eat grits, corndogs, chicken fried steak, flap jacks and maybe even chitlins (probably not chitlins), ride in a hot-air balloon, paint-ball something, sing "American Pie" with other people.

Part of my craving for America must to be coming from the repressing of my American background for so long while I've lived abroad. My need to fit into other cultures has overwhelmed my true heritage. In truth, my family members, particularly my father have never defined themselves as "American" so much as "Academic" or "Citizens of the world." When people ask me where I am from, I say, "all over," because I feel connected to so many different places, cultures and countries even though I hold only a U.S. passport.

I think the only thing left to say is, there was ziti, les p√Ętes, lo mein, ravioli, gnocchi, rice noodles, pad thai, wheat pasta, Kenyan pasta, couscous, lasagna, spaghetti, penne, rice (and all it's variations), fusilli, alphabet pasta, baked shells, orzo, soba noodles, and a hundred different shapes and sizes and sauces.

And for one time only there was the one and only, the infamous, the boxed and packaged and prepared, the American:

Macaroni and Cheese.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

P.S. Not only did I fall into a food coma after eating my "macaroni" and "cheese" meal, I also weigh two pounds more today. Despite these facts, I feel as though I need to do it right: I need a real macaroni and cheese taste test.