Monday, April 30, 2007

Media Coverage

It's taken me this long to have something to say about the Virginia Tech shootings, mainly because I like to think about things until I have a conclusion to the point I'm worrying over before I share with people. In this case, I don't have a conclusion, but in these situations,
is there one?

I still don't have anything to say on the shooting itself. It was on every newscast and on the front page of every paper for days and days afterwards. And I thought what I think every time something like this happens and the news cameras swoop in like vultures to capture every tearful tribute to the victims. I've always struggled with this. "Leave them alone!" I want to scream at the news people; "Why can't you let them mourn their dead in peace?" Maybe it's just my personality, being private and reserved, and knowing that if something (God forbid) had happened to my family or friends, I would not want it clobbered all over the media for everyone and their mother's morbid entertainment of the evening. I hate it that the networks capitalize on people's pain for their own already bloated bank accounts in the name of "news".

And the constant loop of the shooter's delusions? Absolutely disgusting. He killed people to get attention--and boy he got it all right. He got everything he wanted, his paranoid grudges aired out for the whole world to see over and over and over. And this doesn't fall into the catagory of "letting the terrorists win" because...?

But on the other hand, something like this shouldn't be just ignored. The victims deserve to be noticed and remembered. It does matter. The people matter. And how are they supposed to balance the vulture with the rightful attention? I don't know. Everyone blames the media, but the media wouldn't do it if people didn't buy into it. The public is just as much to blame: and not just some amorphous blob, but the individual people in it. The millions of individual people that will turn on their TVs and buy the newspaper only when it's splashed with gory excitement.

Perhaps what burns me is the selective nature of their attention. Mass shootings at universities happen with alarming frequency in the Middle East and Iraq (here is a full article on that) that create barely a blip on the media radar besides a droning list of numbers. Given the dangers of reporting in a war zone, I'm not going to condemn the media on that point. But I'd like to point out that even if they can't get the kind of footage that they played over and over again from Virginia, I'm sure they'd be able to get something. Those victims deserve to be noticed and humanized as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dirty Little Secret

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

I'm not a particularly courageous person--although I don't think I've ever been in a situation that truly required me to be. But I like to think that I'm practicing to be one.

People are afraid of different things. Some people are scared of snakes. I can deal with all manners of creepy crawlies until they come in the eight legged arachnid variety and then I have to crawl in a corner and yell for rescue. (the only exception to this is when there is absolutely no rescue to be had, i.e., I'm home alone, and then I deal with it, kill the stupid creature, and have to go have a lie-down for a while). But most of my other fears, prominently that of making a fool out of myself, or simply starting a conversation, are the kinds I struggle with everyday. Some days I win. Some days I'm unable to pry myself out of the woodwork.

So I have a confession to make in the name of taking a step in the direction of strangling my confounded fear of making myself look like an utter idiot. The fact that I'm trying to make a habit of running three to four times a week isn't really that monumental. But it's also a fact that I'm afraid of people finding out and snickering to themselves. I'm afraid of people looking at me trying to be better than I am and thinking I'm...well, I'm not exactly sure what. But I know that I was, am, for some obscure reason, hugely embarrassed and a little ashamed of this endeavor. And that's ridiculous. Trying to get into some sort of shape is nothing to be ashamed of, so I'm trying to kill my fear of being found out by publishing it for the whole internet to see. Not that the whole internet will see. But they could if they wanted.

And now you can get all your snickering out in the privacy of your own computers, where I don't have to see.

Because of course I'm not really the running type; I'm overweight and out of shape, and when I run I get breathless disgustingly fast and my face turns bright red as I huff and puff along at my stolid speed. The thing is, I want to change that. I got tired of listening to my internal fusspot. In my mind, the only people who have a right to complain continuously about something are the ones who are going to make steps to fix it***. So I've gotten together with a friend for accountability and am starting to make steps to fix it.

I'm a little surprised at how much I don't hate it. I thought I would loathe every single painful breathless step, but I don't. I don't love it, but I can stand it. I won't run around the track, even though it's right at the bottom of the street and a handy way of know exactly how far you've run, because that would make me feel more foolish than my fragile ego can bear, in addition to the fact that it is hopelessly boring. I run to the elementary school and back, which is useful because one way is around half a mile and I have a convenient half way point to stop and stretch my leg (legs actually, for balance, but it's only the damaged one that cares one way or the other), and there are pretty flowers and so on to admire. And a stoplight for an excuse to catch my breath a little.

So now you know my dirty little secret. I'd be ever so grateful if you didn't ridicule me for it, and I'll post periodic updates on how it's going. My long term goal is to be able to run five miles. My short term goal is to be able to run a mile without stopping to walk. Even if I've only been at this for a week or two, I can feel myself improving a little bit, which is encouraging.

*** Please note, before you burst out laughing at my hypocrisy, that I added the qualifier "continuously". Sometimes (hopefully not most of the time) I like to complain, and so does everyone else, and sometimes people just need to let off steam. It's when you complain about the same thing over and over and over for months at a stretch--like I've been doing to myself over this--that I get aggravated. So it's a problem. We understood that last January. Are you going to do anything about it??

Monday, April 23, 2007


in case anyone noticed in the last post, I *ahem* had to enter in <\endmaniacallaughter> . People familiar with HTML know that when you want to end of something, it should be: < /, not <\ .

I did it right at first actually disappeared into the HTML coding as a command.

I wonder if there are subliminal message possibilities in this.

Feminism takes a blow.

So, I have about three posts sitting in the "Draft" section of the blog, and decided to give up and just ramble a little when the last one discussed the process of exploding pigeons and the theological musings on the Devil and the Virginia Tech shootings in the same paragraph. I'm just kidding (maybe).

The truth is that nothing really happened in my life this past week, and I don't have anything deep or profound to share with you about the tragedy in Virginia that hasn't been hashed out in ten thousand other places. I studied, job hunted, hung out with friends, and enjoyed the weather, all very good and all, but in reality nothing fascinating or funny enough to justify using internet space on it. Not that that has ever stopped anyone from sharing the mundanity of life over the internet, but I digress.

Yesterday, though, I did have an interesting experience in two parts.

Part A: The setting? Our house. The players? My mother, myself, and some family friends/neighbors who dropped by.

The Background: I have a dress that I intended to wear at Christmas but didn't finish in time. Then I intended to wear it at Easter, ditto. (truthfully, it just needs to be hemmed; it's the jacket that goes along with it that is giving me problems.) So Neighbor Lady admires the dress, it's got pretty colors on it, and knowing my mother's prowess with the sewing machine, asks if she made it. To which my mother replied that I did. And, being motherly and not beyond a little bragging, also informed the Neighbor Lady of my fondness for cooking and baking. I'm not sure if she mentioned that I was decent at housekeeping, because, um, that might have been a little white lie if she did. (I *can* clean...when I see the mess...I think I have selective blindness in this area. Dust? What dust? And places I've cleaned just can't *stay* cleaned (mostly my fault) which feels like it puts the whole thing on the level of futile. But again I digress)

The EVENT: Anyway, this prompted further admiration from the Neighbor Lady, which included a comment that I would, "make a lovely wife for someone someday".

. . .

. . . um, what?

me outside: polite blank face

me inside: excuse me? Excuse me? Did I blink? Were we suddenly transported back to the fifties? Did you really just say that? Do you seriously think that whether or not I enjoy making messes in the kitchen has anything to do with being an emotional stable person to live in the same house with? Would I be unfit for the state of matrimony if I were to order out food every night? Am I fit for the state of matrimony if I was a wreck, as long as I can cook and clean? What does my interest in whether bread will rise better if you use this fermentation method vs. that have to do with anything? And who gave you the right comment on it??

Part B: The setting? Borders The players? Me and The Improvisational Cook

The Background: The thing is for me, I'm finding cooking to be fascinating not just as a way of expressing affection and controlling what I get to eat (Mom's--or in this household, Dad's--maxim of "If you don't like it, you make dinner next time" comes home), but for the simple applied chemistry of it. Why does this plus that equal unfortunately big explosions?! Why does certain things, like juice appearing in the pan, happen when you add heat to certain things like bacon? Would this happen with anything bacon-related? I feel tied to following a recipe because I don't understand the science that it's based on. So I'm excited because in the spirit of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which goes on for pages in a completely excited, breathless tone about enzymes, sugars, and yeastie beasties, I now have a cookbook that isn't just a collection of's a collection of explanations followed by instructions. So for instance, from the bread book, I know that some breads have sugar in it as a food for the yeast. And although I haven't gotten around to doing this sort of thing yet, if I felt like it, I wouldn't be scared to substitute something interesting like a raspberry syrup for honey or molasses or maybe even plain sugar...because I know that syrups have lots of sugar in them that will serve the purpose as well. And I know how to calculate the percentages to figure out how much to add, as well. bwahaahaha RECIPE POWER! I will now have RECIPE POWER over things like SEASONINGS and MEAT COOKING METHODS and so and such forth. BWAHAHAHAHA


Ouch, that revealed a little inadvertently the fact that I'm a closet kitchen tyrant. Although I haven't yet grown so bold in my power as to serve the family something I know they won't like but I do (as in, any vegetable more exotic than potatoes, peas, and broccoli) (just kidding, I was just thinking of eggplant, which is unpopular here).

The EVENT: I got really excited over this one. I was a happy bunny all the way home from the bookstore. I bought a cookbook! I *bought* a cookbook! It was cookbook intoxication.

The Conclusions: So I had a pretty distinct double standard of behavior yesterday, and I wonder if most every modern American woman doesn't do things along these lines. At four o clock it's "Don't even praise me on anything that smacks of 'housewife'...I'm modern and free from the bondage of the kitchen apron!" and by six o clock it's "Oh look a new COOKBOOK! I'm so excited! I can't wait to make dinner tomorrow! Oh, and by the way, isn't that an adorable baby over there?! *cooing noises*" I don't have an answer to this, except that I know that I will continue to do this. I think it's basically a rebellion against being dictated to, however gently, about how domestic or career oriented I should or should not be. Then I turn around and embrace either option to the full extent of what I feel like. And that, my friends, is the American dream.


So, for anyone who cared about my problems with the Easter Bunny, in the end Greek Easter got postponed a week. So my angst over the bunnies (see below) was moot ANYWAY because bread doesn't keep a whole week, and I had to make them all over. By this time I was so sick of fighting with the recipe that I went ahead and messed with it and it came out beautifully. I will restrain myself from pontificating on the subject of what I did and why with difficulty because I know I can be a Bread Bore and I've pontificated enough today. Let's just say I was extremely pleased with myself.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rain on My Parade, I Dare You

About four or five people have mentioned today about the "terrible" weather and how much they "hate" rain. I end up making vaguely agreeable comments, because the truth is, I like this kind of weather. I like it even when I can't curl up under warm covers with warm food and a movie*, although I LOVE that. I like waking up and listening to the sound the rain makes on the tin door set into the drive that leads into the basement, and how it makes harmony with the rain on the roof. I like falling asleep to that sound, one of the most soothing lullabies around. I like stepping out of the car like a movie star with an know, that move where you stick the umbrella out first and open it and then get out under it...and then being all smug and walking to my destination, like HA I have an umbrella! It is raining and I am (mostly) dry! How cool is that! Even in sneakers and ratty jeans, it puts a little swing in my step (in my mind, in the rain, it's heels and a flared skirt). I like the sound the rain makes on the umbrella. I even, secretly, although I wouldn't admit it out loud (because I like complaining), like it when I have to go places by myself in it, when that means arriving at my destination completely soaked with a squeaky bike. I like how washing dishes is more fun in the rain when it means plunging chilly fingers into warm water and watching raindrops chase each other across the window. I like how the light in my room becomes all dim and blue tinged. I like the rain.

**One of the few times I'll voluntarily watch a chick flick is rainy spring and autumn afternoons...although I won't bend enough to watch anything made before, oh, 1965. But I will take a little classic Audrey or Katharine Hepburn

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Road to Hell

Today was a day of good intentions, which is to say, my walk down the path to hell is probably well started. I intended to get up at a reasonable hour, study for a bit, and clean the kitchen (in a state of dismal disarray from two straight days of non-stop cooking) before heading down to have lunch with a friend at Temple.

But, after getting up a good hour after my alarm clock went off and eating breakfast, I had the brilliant idea to check my email. Ye-es. An hour later, I realized that I still hadn't taken a shower and therefore there was no way any studying was getting done this morning and if I were to accomplish anything chore-wise I'd better get myself in gear right NOW. And I still didn't have time to do as proper a job as I had intended.

Although it wasn't entirely my fault, I was also later than intended to go to le best friend's to admire pre-prom prettiness. Random aside: Which was extremely pretty! Her dress was an absolutely gorgeous bronze, a perfect color for, and I love this, bought a year or two ago new at a thrift store for thirty two dollars! Aaah...this would be one area where I totally fit the girl stereotype...I love pretty dresses and hairdos and makeup! Maybe perhaps not for me to wear anymore than, say, a few times a year, but I can appreciate a good dress anytime.

But going back to the point of this post, which is to list my failures of the day (because everyone is interested in my failures), I also intended to come home, make up for the studying I shirked in the morning (seriously, my Japanese teacher gave me a list of characters to memorize for Tuesday that is frightening in it's volume) and go to bed early, because I am tired. It is now close to one o clock in the morning, and no studying has been accomplished. Although I did read a comic in Japanese as a sop to's studying, right? It's language acquistion through immersion! Sanely speaking, it is good for my Japanese, but does nothing for my homework, which is the issue at hand. But we won't go any further with that because sanity is bo-o-o-oring

I also intended to eat something healthy for dinner. Ahem. In a mocking nod to this, I did have yogurt, but the main dish of my meal was a bagel with cream cheese and a large hunk of Easter Chocolate.

Just as worrying as all this is my complete and utter lack of remorse. I had a good time today. Tomorrow I'll try again with the whole good intentions thing. I'll let you know how that goes.

Hm. Yeah. I wasn't brave enough to go through with messing with the recipe come round two, and it was one of those days where the dough simply refused to rise. And then I burned half of my bunnies. Again. Without sufficient reserves of mahelpi or energy for a round three. Luckily, there were enough left that I'm only short two, and a have a small loaf that the unluckies will partake from. My mother has kindly volunteered for this position, and I will have the other as the hapless cook. Siiigh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I burned the bunnies!

Although Orthodox Easter and regular Easter fell on the same Sunday this year, we are celebrating Greek Easter this Sunday, and I have agreed to make the traditional bread buns shaped as bunnies. I intended to make them today, but things did not quite turn out as I would have hoped.

One of the things that makes Greek Easter Bread distinctive is an essential spice called mahlepi, or mahleb. It's just not Greek Easter Bread without mahlepi, but the only place around here that carries it is The Armenian Delight in Broomall. This store is great but open at very inconvenient hours, as in not past five o clock. When one's only reliable means of transportation doesn't get home until after five, this presents a problem (major thanks to Debbie Watson who went out today on our behalf and bought me some! You have my undying gratitude and (Lord willing) a small loaf of your own). Last night my father and I, in an ultimately futile but eternally hopeful journey, spent about two fruitless hours searching three different grocery stores for it. Not even the Head Nut carries it (although I did replenish my stores of rye flour, so that particular trip wasn't entirely wasted).

Because I had invited my tutoring student to come over today and help me make the bunnies, I went ahead and made some even without mahlepi. However, I was repaid for my flagrant disrespect of tradition and the Gods of Greek Easter Bread...when some five hours after beginning the baking process we pulled the blackened corpses of the innocent, and now sacrificial, bunnies from the oven. Their blistered raisin eyes shall haunt my dreams tonight...

To top it all off, the recipe I use is an old one from my grandmother, and it's not perfect. That is, the bread is always wonderfully flavored, but it uses the traditional proofing method for the yeast, and I have to say that about half the time, the bread will mysteriously refuse to rise. I am pretty confident about my ability to tweak the recipe into a more reliable method of fermentation. I really want to do so, but am extremely nervous about messing with tradition. Especially considering what happened when I dared flaunt it today. I'm still not sure how I'm going to tackle the issue, but I'll have to decide by tomorrow morning.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Matt Damon looking serious and confused.

WHO: myself and le best friend
WHAT: The Good Shepard (movie)
WHEN: Friday night
WHERE: le best friend's house
WHY: we were bored.


me: "Oooh, look, it's Matt Damon looking serious and confused!"
Le best friend: "Don't tell me he's going to where those glasses for the entire movie."
me: "What are they doing? Are they speaking in code? Why are they speaking in code?"
lbf: "he IS going to wear those glasses for the entire movie."

*scene switches to an amateur drama at Yale in the thirties*

me: "Is that Matt Damon? Is that Matt Damon? Is that Matt Damon looking serious and confused in a DRESS?"
lbf: "These glasses are just as hideous."

*scene switches to initiation into "secret" Yale society*

me and lbf: *stares* "What?"
me: "It must be a gay Yale thing."

me: "If I have to watch Matt Damon look serious and confused, I want to watch him blow things up. Do you have the Bourne Supremacy?"

So we switched movies. The Bourne movies and their ilk are my secret weakness: mindless, blow-'em-up entertainment, best enjoyed with The Gastrointestinal Disaster (white pizza with sausage, mushroom, and pepperoni: hear your arteries panic!), followed by popcorn and M&M's. I know that girls are supposed to relax with chick flicks and guys with large explosives, but...with the exception of Little Women, almost all chick flicks irritate the bejeezus out of me. Jane Austen? No thank you. Large government conspiricies? Weeelll...*shifty look* Let's keep this between you and me, okay?

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Continual sneezing. Coughing. Ears about to explode from sinus pressure. A cloud of menthol-y scent follows wherever I go.

But I'm still not sick enough to lie pale and pathetic and be waited on hand and foot. *growl* The whole POINT of being sick, people, is to be waited on hand and foot!

Monday, April 2, 2007


I got The Rejection Letters this week from both of the more selective private colleges that I applied for. Let's be honest: one I didn't care too much about, the other I was pretty disappointed. It's Pittsburgh for me, though, and that's not a shabby second best.

But, dear Lord, the letters themselves! Some of the most illuminating literature on the nature of modern educational philosophy I've read.

"I am very sorry to inform you that it is not possible to offer you admission to the Class of 2011. I wish I were writing to report a different decision, but the competition was so rigorous this year that there were many outstanding young men and women to whom we could not offer places in the class."

It goes on like this for another three paragraphs. The language and phrasing was as soft and comforting as a rejection letter can be. It's as if they were scared to hurt my poor little feelings or crush my budding ambitions or fragile self esteem. This illustrates a larger trend in education, where out of a sort of misconceived "consideration" for the students, everything is softened and couched in positive terms. Now, unrelenting harshness doesn't do anything for children, obviously, but I wonder if the opposite isn't just as damaging. School is the place to learn, but not just about history or math. We as students need to learn how to deal with the difficult situations--such as failure or bullying--that will come up in post-school life, in the (hopefully) safe environment of school. If we are never given the opportunity to cope with rejection and the possibly negative consequences of our actions while we have the support of teachers and parents, how are we supposed to deal with it when we are out on our own?