A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And since I've started

I saw this article and it made me feel a little better about the US. This is what America should be: In a changed New York neighborhood, a hardy few take up Mandarin.

The article is about older residents in Flushing, a NY neighborhood that has become increasingly Chinese in character, taking Chinese classes to help them interact better with their new neighbors. Brilliantly written.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Developing America

Every once in a while, I see something so outrageous happening in the US that it makes me cringe. Mind you, I've been busy studying for my upcoming exams, so I might be riled and stressed in general, but I stumbled across this article and just couldn't believe my eyes: Challenging Washington's ban on needle-exchange funds.

To summarize: this article explains the history behind a bill that bans federally funded needle exchange program within Washington DC. Because DC is not located in any state, the federal government has control over its budget (even though the elected representative from the district is still not allowed a vote in Congress--unless her most recent attempt to gain one passed, I can't remember. It would be a recent change though). Back in 1988, Congress added a clause that refused funding for needle exchange programs in the city with the caveat that the President could effectively overturn this decision if the Surgeon General proved that needle exchange programs didn't lead to increased drug use. Although there have been many of these studies, Bill Clinton, for whom I have much admiration, never removed this clause. In 1998, the clause was then removed from the appropriations bill. And here I was, ready to launch into a scathing attack on Bush and his support for abstinence-only sex education for USAid-funded projects, and his approach to HIV/AIDS prevention in general. Then I find out it's not his fault (in this very limited instance).

Well, Bill Clinton, you should be ashamed of yourself for not trying harder to reverse this decision while you had the chance. And Bush, don't get complacent, absitenence-only sex education equals worst idea ever!

Consider the situation of DC now: "In Washington, with just over half a million residents, 1 in 20 are HIV positive. Its rate of new AIDS cases is 128.4 per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 13.7 per 100,000, according to 2005 data, the most recent available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

But now, some members of congress have finally recognized the completely inappropriate nature of this outmoded/uneducated provision and are trying to change it. I encourage you to contact your Representative and urge them to support Rep. José Serrano's effort to remove this ban!

You can find out how to contact your representative at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Busy Weeks and Busier Weekends

These past couple of months in California have actually been quite enjoyable.

I have grown into new responsibilities at work that have given me a chance to really make me feel like I belong. Beyond answering phones, I’ve been proofing reports and press releases, helping coordinate their release, and leading the production of our state reports. We release Measuring Up this Thursday, and so now I’ll be fielding reporter calls. It should be interesting. I think we have C-SPAN lined up for the release on Thursday morning EDT if you’re that interested. Otherwise, just know that if you hear things like “such and such a state receives an F in affordability,” that’s us!

But beyond work, the weekends have been lots of fun too.

Four weekends ago, one of my friends from Whitman, Harrison, came down to show his French “brother” (from the family who hosted him while he was in France) the Bay Area. We had a really fun time going down to Santa Cruz (my third weekend in a row, by chance) and visiting its famous boardwalk. While standing in line to buy tickets for the old-fashioned roller coaster, François ran into a Parisian whom he had met on the flight from Paris to Chicago. It truly is a small world! They started speaking in French and were so involved that they started to hold up the line. They eventually noticed and stepped over so that others could continue forward in line. The guys behind them came up behind us and scoffed. “Why can’t they just speak English?” he questioned disparagingly. Yes, we were showing François America.

The weekend after was spent with my mom, her brother (yes, that’d be my uncle), and his two younger sons on an excursion up to the Sacramento Valley and, more specifically, the ranch where my mom grew up. It was interesting to see just how isolated she had been growing up, and it was certainly good to finely have a clear picture to go with the numerous stories.

The old house had been long-since demolished, the farm having been bought at some point by a large farming conglomerate. The area where the house had been was so overgrown that we could only skirt the perimeter, staring through the spider webs. The sheep barn was still standing.

On my trip, I garnered a real appreciation for what my granddad accomplished when he was younger—raising five kids on a ranch thirty miles from the nearest quasi-town, working the fields, all while commuting in almost daily to Davis to get his PhD in Plant Pathology. To be fair, his mother did much of the managing of the farm, and my grandmother raised the five children, but it couldn’t have been an easy life. I began to understand better how it all fell apart.

At dinner that night, we got to talking with my uncle, and it was decided that we would come up to Napa (where he lives) to see him and go wine tasting the next weekend. He is the lead on-site supervisor for the construction company that has been working with Francis Ford Copolla on various projects around his vineyard, Rubicon.

We started down at the vineyard proper, and got to go briefly through the whole history of the grapes at this particular vineyard, see some movie memorabilia, and finally get on to the actual tasting. They mainly make reds at the vineyard, and the flagship wine, the Rubicon, was deep and full-bodied cabernet. That vineyard is not all talk!

My uncle then took the lead and showed us up to the project he is currently working on, the Copollas’ retirement home on a hill behind the vineyard overlooking the valley. It is an interesting house made entirely of cement. They had lined the concrete forms with cedar planks, giving the concrete a very interesting, wood-like texture. It is absolutely a piece of art, as my uncle doesn’t hesitate to mention, but I worry at how practical some of its spaces are.

After an afternoon of touring, we were ready for some of Napa’s famous foods. We actually stayed right by the Rubicon Estate, and went to the Rutherford Bar and Grille. I can honestly say that I haven’t had a better meal in a very long time. There was good wine, amazing corn bread, and a delicious ostrich steak, all topped off with a incredibly knowledgeable waitress. Having lived in China for the last couple of years, I have grown accustomed to not tipping, and find it almost absurd in most cases here in the US, but this waitress was so outstanding that I made sure she got a good tip.

And for this long weekend, it was a whirlwind (or a world-wind, as I kept accidentally saying) trip to the PacNW. I flew from San Jose to Seattle on Friday evening. In total, I saw 21 friends/family members on my three-day trip somewhere in and between Seattle, Portland, and San Jose. We even managed to have a mini Whitman reunion on Saturday night, and I enjoyed two (count ‘em two!) happy hours that evening. Apparently 5-7PM isn’t long enough anymore, now we must also have 11PM-1AM as an excuse to drink more. I’m really not complaining!

It was REALLY good to see all that I did, and I’m sorry if I missed others of you! Now, we hope that my British student visa comes through so that I can get to London next Sunday…

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American Anecdotes, Part IV

Today is Labor Day, and it’s a travelling day. We started out this morning in Portland, Oregon and ended it in San Jose, California--lots of I-5.

We stopped in Mount Shasta City, CA for an early dinner at Burger King just around four. We would have held out for Redding, CA, but there was a radio traffic advisory that informed us of hour-and-a-half road delays ahead (and it turns out they weren't joking!).

With dinner in hand, we stepped out of the BK towards our car, which was parked at the far end of the lot under the trees. And, in a scene that drew my mind to American Beauty, a BK worker in a black polo and baseball cap sat on the curb smoking and communing with his surroundings. I felt as though we were trespassing upon his solitude and walked quickly by.

There was a car parked just to our car’s left with its back-right side door open, blocking the way to our driver’s side. A veiled woman sat in the back. She glanced at us and pulled the door shut for us to pass.

But then, there was her husband in front of their car, facing east towards Mecca. Hidden by his car on one side, and protected by the sanctuary of trees on his other, he was in the middle of his daily prayers. Talk about trespassing!

We got quietly into our car, and I appreciated more than ever that we had a hybrid that uses its silent electric motor at low speeds as we pulled out, abdicating the parking lot to its sacred stillness.

This is America.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Surreal Moment for Today

I took my lunch today at the park across the street from my work. Having stayed up much too late the night before trying to get reports printed, I managed to fall asleep on a park bench (not unlike several others I might add, but I was probably the only one wearing a pink tie).

The surreal moment came as I woke up, in that instant between sleep and wakefulness:

The sound that woke me up was a Hispanic MTF (male-to-female) in cutoff jeans on a bike yelling over in Spanish to her approaching friend, a very built Latino with a completely unbuttoned, flowy, black cotton, button-down shirt. They started to argue in front of the trashcan (in Spanish).

I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or awake, but I guess that's San Jose for ya! I only wish I actually understood Spanish when spoken rapidemente.

What I would have given to have understood what they were talking about!

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