Monday, April 30, 2007


Today, in my incredibly crankified mood, I sat on the T and read the Metro. Ok, so "reading" isn't exactly the term I'd use when referring to what I do to the Metro each morning - it's more like skim all the crap I'll read on line when I get to work, read the gossip and arts section, skip business because I am stock-market-tarded, read the world news, go over the sports section, then fold it on my lap (not throw it on the floor you dirty Bostonians/suburbanites that make me train car resemble a STYE) and open my book. Usually I can do all of this before the train pulls out of the station.
This morning I was pleased to see a great deal of coverage of the Die-In that occurred on the Common yesterday, which came as the culminating event for Darfur Days, protesting the ongoing suffering and killings in the Darfur region of Sudan. "Yes" I thought "how wonderful to see coverage in the Metro." I scanned through the article and a quotation caught my eye. I saw "blood money" "retirement fund" "Fidelity." Fidelity, an investment company through which I have one of my retirement funds, invests in not only the rape of the natural landscape (an oil company) but one that operates in Sudan. Awesome. So when I retire I can look back and say "thanks to the Sudanese government that killed all these people, I can afford XYZ!!" Jesus. How wrong is that? How wrong is it that I sit here and talk about f*cking Rwanda and Darfur while I'm making interest off the Sudanese genocide? ugh. It makes me nauseous. And it makes me feel really naive for not doing some research, for not asking where my money is being invested. It sucks because I thought Fidelity's program was really great, the 2040 Freedom Fund. Yeah, guess not. I was so angry about this that I thought about closing my retirement fund today. Of course, I can't because work has rules, bitches. What I can do is make an appointment with TIAA-CREF, the other company through which I have investments and switch my retirement fund over to one of their Social Choice funds (if I am not already in a fund that is "ok" If you're wondering about your own retirement/mutual funds, you can check out the divestment screener here.) If you are curious about TIAA-CREF's policies toward Sudan, check those out here.
As far as Fidelity goes, they're going to be under a lot of pressure. If you are stuck in your funds for the time being, keep your eye on this great site and click on "Divest for Darfur." There you'll find a phone number for Fidelity. Ask them about Darfur. They won't like it. I'm going to tell them that I'm going to reinvest my funds elsewhere if they don't divest from Darfur. Don't let them bullsh*t you either. My college divested themselves from Darfur over a year ago, and they're a rich institution with a big endowment, and they've clearly shown that you don't need to be invested in genocide to make money. Sigh. Now I have to go research ING....thank God I am too stock-market-tarded to have stocks!

Friday, April 27, 2007

What I have been doing, where I have been

Harbor Cruising
Hotel Staying
Aquarium Exploring
Police Escorted
Red Sox Watching
Lobster Eating
Skyline Gazing
Country Club Dinnering
Banquet Attending
Delegate Photographing
Mess Making

Soul Breaking

Of Sleep Dreaming.

It has been a week of incredible things, many many highs, a couple little lows, and absolutely positively no sleep whatsoever. There's more stuff on Flickr to check out, but that's all you're getting from me now. I'm going to get my nails done, then to my friend's opera, then home, where I plan to stay the entire weekend, sleeping, cleaning and crafting. Have a good weekend!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's 2:44AM I'm Awake and I'm Thinking of You

And in the midst of all this studying and stressing and crap and downloading on iTunes, this song seemed to fit:

Artist : Brandi Carlile
Title : The Story
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you

I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Oh, because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do and I was made for you

You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what I've been through like you do
And I was made for you

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you

It's true...I was made for you
Love you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Post about Darfur

Displaced people from Darfur
Yesterday Jamaal sent me a link to an article about Darfur, in which the president was using some very strong language about stopping the conflicts, sanctions and UN action. I was going to post on it right away, but I decided to hold off, as the VTech stuff has been really intense and I had put on a mini-post with a link about that, and then I put it off again so my pro-choice rage could go on there. Now I'm ready to talk a bit about Darfur. I promise I won't get to intense, because Jam and most of you who read this (because most of the areaders are good friends unless there are people lurking out there, which they are more than welcome to do) have heard me get drunk and rant about Rwanda. Actually, if you know me really well, you've probably heard me rant about it 100% sober too. Anyways, this is the article, which has been edited by me, just to leave out some extraneous junk:

Updated: 4:46 p.m. ET April 18, 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush, increasing pressure on Sudan, said Wednesday the U.S. will tighten economic penalties and impose new ones if Sudan’s leader does not act quickly to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.
Bush said Omar al-Bashir’s government must allow U.N. support forces, facilitate deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, end support of militias and let humanitarian aid get through.
“The world needs to act,” Bush said. “If President al-Bashir does not meet his obligations, the United States of America will act.”

Bush said the U.S. would bar certain companies from participating in the U.S. financial system, punish individuals responsible for violence and issue new penalties against Sudan’s government.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the four-year conflict. It began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the Arab-led central government. The Khartoum government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads, who are blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.
Feingold wants action
Sen. Russ Feingold, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said Congress has called for many of the steps Bush outlined.
“What is needed now is their quick and effective implementation and enforcement,” said Feingold, D-Wis. “We are long past the point of warnings.”
The current force of 7,000 AU peacekeepers has been unable to stop the fighting. About 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes and are living in poorly protected camps in the province and eastern Chad.
The United Nations and U.S. have pushed Sudan to accept thousands more U.N. troops to build up a combined AU-U.N. force of 20,000. Al-Bashir repeatedly has rejected a U.N. force, but his recent agreement to accept 3,000 U.N. troops could be a sign that the pressure is beginning to have an effect.

Broken promises
Sudan’s government, however, has reversed position in the past after appearing to agree to a peacekeeping mission.
“His regime makes promises, signs agreements and makes pledges — only to hedge, qualify and renege on their commitments,” said David C. Rubenstein, director of the Save Darfur Coalition. “President Bashir has been one broken promise after another, and we fear this concession may be an extension of that trend.”
Bush said he wants to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more time to pursue diplomatic efforts. But Bush said the U.S. would take action if al-Bashir does not move quickly. Bush did not say how long he would wait.
The Treasury Department will tighten economic penalties, allowing the Bush administration to block any of the Sudan government’s dollar transactions in the U.S. Also, 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government will join a list that makes it a crime for American companies and individuals to do business with them.
People held responsible for the violence in Darfur will face similar financial penalties, “calling the world’s attention to their crimes,” Bush said.

Rice to draft new resolution
Bush is directing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a U.N. Security Council resolution for new penalties against Sudan’s government and those found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace.
The resolution would expand an embargo on arms sales, prohibit Sudan’s government from conducting offensive military flights over Darfur and strengthen the U.S. ability to monitor and report any violations, Bush said.
“That kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe, with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution,” department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “This is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent.”

While I support any action against continued bloodshed, I throw up my hands and say to the President "Why did it take you so long? where were you 4 years ago when this started??? oh. Invading Iraq. Right." I understand that our military is stretched thin at the moment, and furthermore, I'm not exactly sure the US military has any right to go marching into Darfur and start laying down the law. I believe that this situation is why we have United Nations peacekeeping forces. Unfortunately, governments are so wishy-washy about that, and they ultimately end up either not agreeing to send anyone or sending inadequate numbers in times of conflict. Actually, before I blame the president, whose administration has at least had the balls to declare the atrocities committed by the janjaweed in Darfur as what they are, genocide, I should probably go a bit deeper with my finger-pointing, and point out the inefficacy of the United Nations. You can't pass resolutions demanding that militias be disbanded and disarmed. Yeah right, like they'll pay attention. We're talking about remote Sudan here, will they even KNOW this resolution was passed? Whose going to approach them to tell them? Whose going to enforce it? Unless someone other than the ill-equipped African Union military gets over there, absolutely no one. I support the Bush administration's ideas about ending the conflict, but honestly, how is going to yet another UN Security Council resolution, even if it does threaten with sanctions and "new penalties" for those disturbing the peace or committing violent acts against humanity.

What Darfur needs is a UN Peacekeeping Force, and not a half-assed one, like Rwanda, and it needs one now, not later, not in 3 months when al-Bashir has had his 3 strikes. NOW. Between 200,000-400,000 are already dead, millions displaced and causing a strain on other African nations already struggling to survive. Thirteen years later, Rwanda is still reeling from the genocide that we let happen. Yup, the United States and Bill Clinton (that's for you, T1 (-;) and Madeleine Albright stood and watched stultified as images of children and women being hacked to death by machetes streamed into our living rooms. Congress sat and scratched their asses. One million people were murdered in a matter of months. The UN peacekeepers sent there were not allowed to open fire against men who were beating people to death in the streets in broad daylight, their criteria for assassination based soley on their appearance. The UN military's job was to get the white people out, and "keep the status quo." No weapons, no acts of war, when a peace-keeping body equipped with guns and tanks could have crushed the genocide in a matter of days, when the UN knew that the plans for this genocide were in place, where there were major weapons caches, and who the leaders were. The United States could've scrambled Rwanda's radio broadcasts, which had been overtaken by Hutu rebels and was being aired throughout the cities and towns in Rwanda with anti-Tutsi propaganda, urging Hutu men and boys to "crush the Tutsi cockroaches." But oh, would that be a violation of the first amendment? Hmmm, too tough to say, better do nothing, best to just say "oh Somalia went badly, we can't intervene in these "acts of genocide." '' By the time the United States (and many other countries in the EU, I can't blame the US entirely for their ignorance of the situation) and the United Nations decided that something should happen and that UN troops should be deployed to Rwanda, it was too late. COWARDICE! President Bush agreed when he took office. He looked at that Rwanda report and wrote on it "Not on my watch." Guess what, Mr. President, you've been watching it for 3 years. Maybe it's not happening as quickly, maybe the issues are a little less clear, but it's happening under our noses and it needs to stop. I can only hope that the United States and the UN will take these issues seriously and act quickly.

Also, I would just like to make a note about Bill Clinton for a second. I do bash him from time to time on this blog, and I'll admit, it's not cause he let a girl leave her knee prints on the Oval Office carpet. My disdain for the man stems from his handling of the Rwanda situation. I realize that he is not the only person to blame here, and I think that I've learned with this current administration is that you truly cannot blame one person for something as big as this. The thing is, that even though I'm young-ish, I lived through this time, I watched what happened on the news and I was horrified. Less than a decade later, I sat in a classroom and watched the first-hand footage, I heard the radio broadcasts from the genocide. I sat there and listened as my professors, two celebrated scholars of African history, recounted their desperation to contact their Rwandan friends (they both did their theses in central Africa and spent extensive time in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda....Catherine and David Newbury, you can google them and find their great work) as the genocide unrolled. Catherine stood there with tears running down her face and she told us that she dialed the country code for Rwanda and then any random number to try and contact any person who could tell them what was going on and whether or not their friends were safe. Her husband, David, had to take over part of the story-telling. These were rather standoffish shy professors, not given to showing too much emotion while lecturing, but the memories got to be too much. I remember David stepping in and saying "Oft-times when Catherine called a random Rwandan number, she would hear the Interahamwe come in and kill the person to whom she was talking. She listened to the genocide on the phone." Between those stories, the press footage from Rwanda, and later, watching Clinton's visit to Rwanda which lasted 20 minutes and during which time the engines of Air Force One were not turned off and the president of Rwanda was presented with a mere plaque as our country's apology for allowing 1 million people to die, I decided that I could not forgive Bill Clinton for this. Everyone exalts him as our best president and vilifies Bush for killing Iraqis and Afghanis, which I will not argue, his actions have done, but Bill Clinton, everybody's hero, let 1 million Rwandans die because he was scared of messing up again, and because he was told that the conflict seemed "tribal," the type of thing in which outsiders should not interfere. You know what I think? They just weren't important enough. I can't accept that. Maybe I won't forgive Bush for Darfur either, but I don't worry about his vilification by the general American public, that's a guarantee, but to watch people practically kiss the ground Clinton walks on makes me ill, and in a lot of ways, I think that's where my intense dislike for HRC stems as well. If I were the president's wife, I would've made a huge scene about this, especially if he had had a very public affair behind my back. Even moreso if I had my eye on the American presidency. Instead, there was nothing. I think also, that's why I turn to Barack Obama - knowing that he has Kenyan ancestry sets my heart at ease. I know that Africa will no longer be ignored - how could one so blantantly ignore one's heritage? It will no longer be viewed as "the dark continent over there that's too large, too poor and too diseased to contend with." I put my greatest hopes for our nation and for Africa on him while I look deep into my soul and try to forgive the others for their grievous shortcomings.

Skulls in Nyarabuye, Rwanda where hundreds were hacked to death in a church. The cracks in the skull were caused machetes.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

And because she sums it up better than I ever could

read this for the opinion I share with the author regarding the recent decision by the supreme court regarding abortion.

God, I'm such a ridiculous Smithie. When I lived in the bubble, I didn't get too up and arms about anything. I mean, I did, but now that I'm out in the real world, the feminist rage has really risen up inside of me and busts out like it never did before. I'm so lucky that I had the opportunity to be educated in a place where my rights, my thoughts, and my opinons mattered and were thought to be significant contributions, where people cared about each other and were respectful. Now I go to school and sit in a biology class where we're not allowed to say "Vagina Monologues." And that's in a Boston suburb. F8cked up, I tell you.....

addition: in my post over on excaliburssoul, I added a wee bit about HIPAA, just to clarify for people who may not be aware (honestly, if I didn't work at a hospital, I wouldn't be up to date with it), and talked a little bit about the reason why we didn't know much about the VTech shooter's mental health history. I just read an article today on regarding the Supreme Court's partial birth abortion ban, and it mentioned HIPAA as well, and I think this OB-GYN makes a wonderful point, which I just wanted to share:

"If HIPAA prevents me from speaking to family members about medical decisions without permission, how can the federal government insert itself into the decision-making process without invitation from either the physician or the patient?" asked Dr. Lisa Jones, practicing gynecologist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"I feel strongly about the right of a woman to choose and the right of a physician to suggest the most appropriate treatment for a patient without the interference from a nonmedical body," Jones added.

Thank you for that, Dr. Jones.

Because I am not brave enough

to write my own VT post, read this. My view is in the comments section.

Other than that, my thoughts and prayers are with the Virginia Tech community.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Now starring Grouchy, Cranky, Overtired and Bitchy.....

Oh yeah. Ha. That's ME!

Holding out til the end of the semester and trying so hard not to fail.....
had a picture to go along with this, but effing blogger won't upload it. grrr. stupid blogger.
sigh. back to con bio.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

All Kinds of Things

Ahhh! I have been so sadly absent (or as Dr. Hensley, my Latin teacher used to say "ab sunt" making her little Latin jokes) from to world of blogs this week!

I had a plan to write this heartwarming Easter post about how every Easter for the past 3 years my mind immediately returns to my Easter in Kenya, at a small church in Emakoko. Then I was going to go on and say I love Easter because it's the holiday that really unites Christians throughout the world and isn't it reassuring to know that the same thing is being preached at thousands if not millions of churches on that day, blah blah. But clearly, I missed that.

I was going to post about a whole lot of other things too. I never got to them. Instead I will give you some random thoughts/updates/announcements.

Announcement: I give you my last (pretty much at least) coffee cup post. Though I love reading my "The Way I See It"s with you, I will no longer be getting my coffee or tea in a paper cup at Starbucks. I was reading a global warming website and was struck by this question "How many coffee cups will you throw away in your lifetime? Now think of all the other coffee drinkers out there." Wow. I was wrought with guilt. The thing is that when it comes to global warming and reducing the family's carbon footprint, I'd give us a C, and considering most other people in the world, it's pretty high (eg, my neighbors don't even recycle. *shudder*) I gave us a C because we've been slowly making improvements in our daily lives to be more efficient. We insulated our house, we replaced a majority of our lightbulbs with those swirly energy efficient ones. My mother and I use laptops and don't keep them plugged in 24/7 (they draw energy!!) I try to remember and unplug my phone charger each morning. We don't leave the lights on - actually we never have been one of those "bright light" families, and our house is usually creepily dark! We recycle a lot of stuff. My mother just bought reusable grocery bags. We have rain collecting barrels and compost barrels. We're slowly making changes. The one thing I really think I do too much of is generate trash - I feel like I generate sooooo much, and a lot of it is unnecessary. Getting a sexy thermos from Starbucks seems waaaay cooler than throwing all that stuff away, so tomorrow, I think, I will go to my new favorite Starbucks in Central Square (they're the nicest people ALIVE, I swear) and buy a commuter mug thermos thinger and put some Tazo Wild Sweet Orange tea in it. And love it. The end.
And now, the final Way I See It.
The Way I See It #214
What would you do for someone
you love?
Would you lie, cheat, steal?
Brek the law and call it justice?
Would you say yes? Scream no?
Would you kill? Would you give
up your own life?
Would you move mountains,
swallow fire, keep a promise?
Would you change the world?
Would you change yourself?
What would you do for someone
you love?

--Jodi Picoult
Novelist. Her most recent book is
Nineteen Minutes.

Because I'm insane, I said yes to most of these questions, LOL. Kill someone was tricky. For Jam I think I'd say to him "can't we work it out some other way??" but for my child, I already know the answer, and I'm not even a parent. Of course I would.

Speaking of children, a while ago, I saw this gorgeous picture of a mother and child on someone's favorites on flickr, one of my new FAVORITE sites. After clicking on it, I noticed that not only does the lady featured take photos every day (fabulous!) but she has a blog (even better!!). I read the blog a few weeks ago and loved it, but due to CRAP clogging the pipes of my LIFE, I hadn't been able to read it in a while. I read some back posts today, and I found them touching. Then I went onto her flickr site to see pics of her wicked cute daughter, Ruby, and while I was scrolling through them, I cam across this, and was distressed. What kind of mail would generate that response? Then I read February 21st's post and my stomach dropped. Then I was enraged. Then I calmed down enough to delurk and comment, which you know is a big deal for me because I never comment on people's blogs, which is probably bitchy considering how I love getting comments of any sort on mine! If you read the post, you'll see my comment. Yes, I made an admission about the tan babies that the world will see, LOL, but I needed to say those things. Yeah, Jam and I have definitely had people stare, and stare in such a way that I've wanted to stand up and say "Can you tell me exactly what the f*ck you are staring at?" Except I wouldn't do that to Jamaal, because you know I would start a fight, and because he's the man he'd have to join in, and he'd be throwing punches and looking back at me like "I love you and all, but as soon as I'm through here I'm going to kill you for opening your big mouth!!!" Anyways, the brazeness of a single individual to write such hateful garbage is really unfathomable to me. I mean, I know people say sh*t and think sh*t and say the sh*t they think in public *cough cough Imus cough cough* but such a brutal attack....It's just so wrong. God, sometimes I wonder what could possibly make a person so evil. Anyways, if you do check out the blog, be sure to read the other parts too, because they are funny and inspiring :) Good stuff.

In other news, I testified at the Massachusetts State House yesterday. I think it should be called the Commonwealth House because we're a commonwealth, but I digress. Anyways, I think my ultimate job is state senator. Why? Because you get to wear a suit and hawwwttt shoes, not move to Washington, dabble in the politics of a small ahem Commonwealth, work in a building imbued with history, and still have someone bring you coffee. Awesome! I have to admit though, I dozed off during testimony about individual price-tags on individual pieces of merchandise in supermarkets (ie every single item in the store must have a price tag affixed to it). I made it through the pro-bill section, but dozed when I got to the con. God, it was boring. I definitely understood parts of the argument, but in the end, it honestly sounded somewhat petty, because from what I could understand, the bill applied to smaller stores. And where does it piss you off most that things are not individually priced, or the shelves aren't marked with the price? Not the mom and pop corner store where you buy slush puppies and lottery tickets, hell no, it's the 200,000 square foot Wal-Mart, where the aisles are desolate tundras of UNMARKEDNESS! Anyways, this testimony was just for bringing the bill to the Senate, nothing was being decided that day. I was there to lobby for the Unweaned Baby Bird Bill. Basically, this bill proposes that no unweaned baby birds be sold to pet stores or inexperienced owners. Which honestly to me, seems elementary. A reputable dog or cat breeder would not give an unweaned cat or dog to a pet store or a person unequipped to take care of them, right? Then why would any reputable bird breeder (I take issue with people breeding birds, but no soapbox on this right now ;) ever give a bird away to someone unable to take care of it? It's pretty much an automatic death sentence. The senators and reps we talked to were sooooooo responsive. That is until the opposition talked after us and got them confused, saying the dreaded phrase "this bill will hurt local business" (Crock!). If you're reading this now, and live in Massachusetts, I ask you to please contact your local legislators about this bill. Here's how to find your elected officials. All the letter needs to say is: Dear Sen/Rep

During the public hearing on April 11th, the Committee on Community Development and Small Business heard testimony on S. 147, legislation intended to ban the sale or transport of unweaned pet birds in Massachusetts.

I sincerely hope that you will vote in a favorable manner in passing this legislation.

Currently, there are no protections for baby parrots in the pet trade and this will be a great step in protecting these sensitive creatures at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

Don't forget to sign it with your name and address!!

Well. That's all from me for now.......lots to do!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Way I See It #231
One can only be humbled by the
richness of the animal and plant life
on this place we call Earth - the
diversity of life in the oceans - so
evident here on the Great Barrier
Reef. Hundreds of soft and hard
corals, fish species and marine
animals. I want to do my part to
secure this wonderful world for
future generations.

--Meg Clute
Volunteer on Earthwatch's Hawksbill
Turtles of the Great Barrier Reef project.

This pretty much sums up my reasoning for staying in grad school - it's an end to a means and that means is preserving the great Earth for the future....for the tan babies....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Starbucks Cup #233, Central Square

The Way I See It #233

I used to think that going to the
jungle made my life an adventure.
However, after years of unusual
work in exotic places, I realize
that it is not how far off I go or
how deep into the forest I walk
that gives my life meaning. I see
that living life fully is what makes
life -- anyone's life, no matter
where they do or do not go
-- an adventure.

-- Maria Fadiman
Geographer, ethnobotanist and
National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

We-ell this is certainly a funny post for today. Why? The jungle part! As of today, Jam and I are officially booked on a flight to Costa Rica!! Hurrah! It still hasn't sunk in yet, but in another 50 days or so, I'm sure it will. I'm tempted to put a countdown on this blog, but I don't want to be totally obnoxious, because I am already pushing it with all the other crap I have in the margin.

Anyways, we decided to do the "Costa Rica Quest" featured on GAP Adventures. Having never heard of this company except in a magazine (National Geographic Adventure, maybe?) I was very apprehensive about booking through them. On and similar sites, there were some neutral and negative things about them. Then of course I remembered that half of the people who post on travel websites, do so to bitch, and since even in the most negative of situations I am a glass half-full person, I decided to read up on GAP in other places on the internet, and what I found was most interesting. I liked what I read on other sites and I liked GAP's mission statement. After looking at that and checking out some of the trip options, I ran the trip company through Jam to see if he found it appealing. We agreed that it was probably the best for us - we'd get to see a lot of the country, the major highlights, and partake in some of the activities we had been interested in from the get go - such as ziplines and canopy tours.

I wasn't too stressed about planning the trip until I noticed that some of the June tours were filling up quickly and that some great airfare deals only had 3 or 4 tickets available at that price, so I pounced on Jam and he said he was ready to make plans. Of course I went for it right then and their because I'm psychotic like that! I decided on airfare first because we needed passport numbers to book with GAP. I managed to score us the good airfare deal I saw on Orbitz, $500 Newark to San Jose non-stop with Continental! It's funny that Newark is our best option for getting to Costa Rica as it's probably the farthest away for both of us. No matter though, we're ripe for adventure of all types. After I got home, I went and booked with GAP, and now we're plotting what we're going to do while we're there. The possibilites abound :D

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Kenya Post

Right now (as I am sitting at work, so bad) I am formulating a background and introduction for my upcoming project about Nairobi National Park. The project itself should not be too difficult because it is completely theoretical, but when I think about its applicability, it seems almost completely irrational.

We (my partner, Katie, who rocks) are going to look at the fencing issue in NNP. Right now, it's surrounded by a fence on 3 sides. The issue is: should the fourth side be fenced? I honestly don't know. If you had asked me 3 years ago when I did my fieldwork there I would've said "um, sure, why not?" But now that I'm in grad school and have learned a lot more about carrying capacity, migration, biomass, biodiversity, productivity, and since revisiting Kenya during a period of severe drought (the rains were good when I did my fieldwork there, but that was the last time it was reported to have really "rained" - spring 2003) my answer would be "I have no idea."

In writing my intro and background there are about 1 million spinoff papers that you could write about the issues within the issues. Another thing for me is that unlike some of my peers, I don't see this as a strictly animal vs. people issue. I understand people need the park's resources (to a certain degree) and live within the ecosystem and dispersal area - will exclusion from the park by fencing kill people? or their livelihood? I don't know, but if it does, would we want to do that? No. I wouldn't. But will keeping the park open on the southern border lead to the death of the park itself and its species? Maybe. I definitely don't want that to happen. But what if fencing the park causes greater loss than not fencing it? What if capacities go awry? What if there's an Allee effect or several Allee effects within populations and the fencing stops necessary migration for reproduction and local populations go extinct? That's bad too. Eeek, it's a quagmire....but it's one I love.

I don't know if anyone who visits Kenya would necessarily say that NNP is their favorite park. It's a bit small, it's near the city, years of burn suppression have made some of the grasslands look rather unappetizing. People like the grandeur of Kilimanjaro and Amboseli's elephants, the stark lava fields and green Chyulus of Tsavo and the sweeping savannas of the Mara. I love NNP and its scrappy existence, the clear perserverance of the park and its inhabitants in the face of adversity. Perhaps I'm biased - anyone spending nearly every day for 2 months there doing game surveys is bound to be - but I just can't get enough. I think I may have been most excited to go to NNP on our reunion trip. Maybe because I can still remember the roads with my eyes closed, maybe because it brought back the fondest memories of my days in Kenya - seeing a turaco in the forested area (I think this may still be the best bird I've ever seen. It was my ultimate bird! Whole other story for another time), getting mocked charged by buffalo with Sinnary, finding a python, peeing in the park during field research, spending a whole day looking for a herd of buffalo that Patrick "thought" he saw and never finding it, getting trapped in the river on the southern end of the park because we thought it was still OK to cross, encountering a monitor lizard while opening our "sneak" gate (the school had access to a special gate so we wouldn't have to drive all the way around to an official gate entrance), and all those lunches we spent high up on that promontory overlooking the park, joking with Otieno. While my most magical day was spent on Lake Naivasha, my best memories are my field days in NNP.

I think my attachment to the park is what is making this project difficult. I probably should've picked something I felt little attachment to, like the Ivory-billed woodpecker or something. I could've at least tolerated a theoretical project on that. With this, I type a sentence and delete it, thinking "that's not right." The perfectionist in me rears its ugly head and I find myself frustrated at the existence of a conflict because I want to solve it and satisfy everyone and have my project work perfectly - the crappy thing is that, even though it's theoretical, I already know our proposal probably wouldn't work in real life. Our proposal is to fortify the east west and northern fence borders in an effort to drive ungulates away from the immediate edges of the park. Then through land purchasing efforts and land-use compensation, create a larger corridor throughout the Kitengela dispersal area to allow for migration and wildlife movement, in hopes that the predators which depredate livestock will concentrate on the areas of high wildlife concentration and reduce the number of human-wildlife conflict. Sounds good, right? Sure. Is it good? Not enough, I'm afraid. What I will say though, is that everyone and everything has to start somewhere. Maybe this is just a start, and if this poster raises awareness among my peers of Kenya wildlife issues and makes just one scientist take an interest in Kenya, I suppose our project, however theoretical it may be, will be worth it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To defray from the last post of badness, a note about my hypochondria

If you know me, you know I work at a cancer hospital. That means you know pretty much all of us here are raging hypochondriacs when it comes to cancer - not any other disease, just cancer, which kind of sucks. Sometimes I wish I worked with some other disease, like, uh, chicken pox. No rash? No pox! With cancer, of course, it is not that easy.

At first I thought it was me, and just me, who was a frickin' hypochondriac. Then my coworker, who is a colorectal cancer researcher, got a colonoscopy, because she was convinced she had polyps. The breast cancer researchers admitted to doing self breast exams at least 3 times a week. My boss told me that every headache she has is a brain tumor, every sore throat, a tonsillar carcinoma, and every shoulder ache, a highly located metastatic lung lesion. Then I knew I wasn't alone anymore - I was surrounded by people just like me.

Normally, I try not to think like that - it's freaky. Plus I've been reassured many times that my tonsil, the asymmetrical one is nothing (but do you hear the doubt in my voice, even as I type this?). It's hard though, when you read about malignancies all day, not to think that every little thing is one.

Today as I was donating platelets, my count came back, and the woman in charge of the donation center frowned at my chart. "That's high. Her highest" I hear her say, and my stomach drops and my heart leaps into my mouth. I have a high platelet count to begin with, usually in the 420's to 440's, and the upper limit of normal is 400-450 (depending on what hospital you're at, what website you're reading). Usually I'm praised for my high count, but today I saw "the look" on the nurse's face, and it scared me. She looks at me as I am hooked up to the platelet apheresis machine and says "you're counts are high." I look at her and feel myself begin to sweat. "Is that a problem?" I ask. "No" she says haltingly, "but you don't want it much higher than this, 514." For a moment I am relieved, because 514 isn't 700, right? Then the fear takes over "Well, why could it be high?" "Do you have a spleen" "Uh. Yes" "Oh, well I don't know. But just watch it." As she walks away, pretty much the entire staff saw the blood drain away from my face. "Don't worry" one of them said "it's not that high, it's great for us because we collect so much from you, and besides, apheresis is a standard therapy for people with high counts, this is practically therapeutic for you." Reassuring indeed.

Even after I finished up my donation, had my juice and cookies, I was concerned. So I googled "high platelet count" and found a very reassuring British website that basically said a count as high is mine is a low high count and not to worry about it. Though this was indeed reassuring, I wanted more, MORE REASSURANCE. My medical website data quest continued. Then I stumbled across this gem: Drugs that may cause increased platelet levels include estrogen and oral contraceptives.
Wow. Have I been on Yasmin for 2 years? Yes. Could someone have pointed that out and saved me moments of panic, the minutes I just took off my life stressing about my high platelet count? YES. But no one did. Thank God for the internet.

Now if only I could convince someone to remove my tonsil....

Failure again

Today I got back my Animal Behavior exam. You know, the one I spent the last couple of weeks studying for, forgoing socializing with friends, dinner dates, sewing classes, and even blogging, to study for?

Yeah. I got 2 points lower than my last exam. I studied about 4 times as much and 4 times as hard. I actually did worse.

While I may have failed genetics, I made no bones about sucking at it. I suck at genetics and always will. I've taken Animal Behavior before, and while we're studying a completely different aspect of it in this class, I feel like I should have an advantage over other students. I don't. If anything, I'm at a disadvantage being a graduate student. The thing that bothers me most is that the professor has no idea who I am. His sole reflection of me is my grade. My grade which is barely passing at the moment.

Never have I actually wanted to just give up. Today as I stood on the sidewalk, freezing my ass off waiting for the stupid mbta bus to show up, I wanted to walk away and drop everything. I wanted to submit a withdrawal from Animal Behavior right then and there, call in sick to work, and get on the bus and go home and get into bed and not move. Never have I put this much effort into a single thing and done so poorly. Never have I wanted so desperately to do better in a class and have actually done worse. I feel like my studying is fruitless. I think the professor takes waaay too many points off for small things; he already told us not to come to him with that though, because he thinks his exams are "fair." So I want to run away. Run away from grad school that is. Since the first third of the semester I have been working my ass off. And what do I have to show for it? A fucking 62%, that's what. God. DAMN. I used to dream of getting A's. Then I thought "a B would be great." Now it's "please, if I can just pull of a C." A frickin "C"?! I went to fucking Smith, I should be able to do better than a "C". But I suppose time has shown that I just can't. I'm just average. I always thought I was an above average student, but maybe I was fooling myself. I'm just average.

More frustrating than anything is the fact that I am good at things: crafts, sewing, cooking, baking--things I don't give a sh*t about. I mean, it's nice to be good at them, but please don't tell me it was my destiny to sit at home at sew and cook. I feel like I have so much more potential than that. I feel like I have ideas coming out of my ears for conservation biology. Yet school is taking away all of my confidence. Each time I do badly, it knocks it down a little more. I wonder, if I manage to even stay in my program, if I'll have any left by the time I graduate. I wonder if I'll even get a job. I wonder if I'll be smart enough or good enough to get the job I want, when I can't even compete academically with my peers.

Of course, I don't really have time at the moment to worry about this. I have a huge project coming up that I have to finish by the 13th, because I'm going to be extremely busy starting April 13th, and I have to dedicate those last few weeks of the semester not to projects, but to studying for exams. Tonight I'm going to call in and back out of sewing class because I need to study for Animal Behavior starting NOW, even though the exam isn't for another 4 weeks. I need to figure out what I'm taking next semester - preferably classes that I can actually excel in. I need to meet with the TA and vent about this exam, because I need to talk to someone and not the professor, because I need someone to know how hard I'm working. I need someone to tell me what I'm doing wrong. I could've given you a list after the first exam of things I'd done wrong. This time around, I'm pretty much at a loss. Why did I only miss about 6 points on the first 4 pages of the exam and then bomb the second half? What am I doing wrong? Someone please tell me.

Anyways. I have to get back to work. I have to meet a deadline. I won't even start about how I'm sucking at my job, and at life in general, or no one will ever read this blog again because it's so effing depressing and self-deprecating.

Sigh. This sucks.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Tonight, while driving home, this song came on my iPod. I laughed at first when I really listened to the lyrics because they were just so full of irony to me at that moment. Then they made me really sad and made me wonder if I might need to take a weekend alone somewhere to regroup. Not to Vienna, but somewhere where I can stop before I burn out. No time though. Gotta donate platelets tomorrow anyways. Too bad.

Billy Joel

Slow down you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart tell me why
Are you still so afraid?
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)
Too bad but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself
That you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right(you're right)

You got your passion you got your pride
But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on but don't imagine they'll all come true
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It's alright you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you.

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
Why don't you realize...Vienna waits for you
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

I suppose I should listen to Billy. He's been through enough rehab to really know what's what. Sigh.
Good Night.