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,

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,

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,

*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,

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,

Friday, December 4, 2009


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 ;).)


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."


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.

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Group "South of Humphrey", the SoHu block watch community group.
For more options, visit this group at

... 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:

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!


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,

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!


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,

*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,

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,