Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is Powerlifting A Blue-Collar Sport?

Seth is a powerlifter, therefore reads a variety of lifting magazines. As these magazines are often in the bathroom I read them when I have a bit of time - also, you know, to support my husband. In the November/December issue of Power there is an article by lifter Mike Tuchscherer on squat depth, as in the need (or not) of an agreement on how deep a squat should go to be considered valid. It's a topic that, for the most part, only matters to those within the sport, but a particular statement, quite unrelated to the article itself, caught my attention: "Powerlifting has always been a blue-collar sport that rewards hard and diligent work."  Such a claim seems a bit presumptuous on the part of Tuchscherer: how is, or has, powerlifting been a "blue-collar sport"? Is it because it's assumed the basis is just "lift a bunch of heavy stuff" that doesn't require any special or expensive equipment? Last time I checked (which is often, because of the husband) the gear required - or necessary - for powerlifting is pretty steep, not to mention the cost of gym memberships. Is it because it's a sport in which "hard and diligent work" pay off? Is there a sport where that doesn't apply? (And is it elitist and non-blue-collar of me to point out that "hard and diligent work" is redundant?)

This idea intrigues and I plan to look into further. Get excited: I might be up to some investigative journalism.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Maybe Next Year

I totally dropped the NaBloPoMo ball yesterday, but I think it's the for the best: I was posting any and everything to ensure I had a post for each day. That means much of the past two weeks is meaningless dribble, which is not what this blog should be. Maybe next year I will plan better: for Cooking the Globe I wrote out the recipes for the entire month, plus a couple of other topics I thought would fit; look at that organization!

Oh well, on to more important things . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nuke 'Em!

When I read the op-ed piece by John Bolton and John Yoo (about the New START treaty with Russia involving, what else?, reducing and better controlling nuclear arms) I thought I mistakenly eaten some psychadelic mushrooms: it is surreal. I had to step away halfway through because, for a moment, I thought they were arguing within today's reality - they're not! To claim that the treaty would reduce America's capacity to defend itself when actually the States would retain over 1,550 nuclear warheads is ridiculous. There aren't even 200 countries in the world and only 7 - 7! - have nuclear arms. Say what?  The first paragraph really does say it all:

  Voters want government brought closer to the vision the framers outlined in the Constitution, and the first test could be the fate of the flawed New Start arms control treaty, which . . .  awaits ratification. The Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense. 

I read that connection as such: People love red Twizzlers therefore clothing manufacturers should only produce red textiles. Doesn't really flow, does it?

I can't deride their fantasy with any justice; luckily, Fred Kaplan over at Slate can. Read it, please, and remember you are as sane as you thought you were yesterday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catching Up with the News

Some recent news out of Africa and elsewhere:

Osama bin Laden and the Sahel: From Al Jazeera, on how bin Laden has internationalized the situation in the Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, but can also include Burkina Faso, Senegal and even Morocco) with video messages supporting kidnappings and condemning Western influence in the region, while the European Council has attempted discretion over the matter. The "situation" refers to the kidnapping a French national in July and the nine hostages currently being held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM), a creation of the Algerian DRS, a strong "terrorist" influence in the region. I can't go into details because I admit a high degree of ignorance concerning the Sahel in particular and North/ West African in general - it's not my area - but I recommend it because one, it's a reminder of just how large Africa is that a situation involving several African nations and France is considered "obscure" and two, it's healthy to have some understanding of the current events, obscure or not. For background on AQIM, the hostage crisis and why the European Council is involved in what originally were France's solitary actions, read the articles here, here and here.

Facebook, You're So Naughty: an employee was fired after posting disparaging remarks about her supervisor on her Facebook page, a post which prompted additional caustic remarks from co-workers. The employee is claiming unlawful termination. Will be interesting to see how this plays out and how much control companies will lose (or gain!) over their employees.

And check out Scocca on Slate: funny, relevant, biting - everything I wish I could be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

American Apathy

Go on over to Al Jazeera and read this piece by Mark LeVine (who, by the way, has also written some fascinating essays on modern genocide) and allow the message to sink in. I admit that I do my best to distance myself from the problems currently besetting the States - shameful though it may be - but it is still disheartening to recognize how apathetic the nation has become. Worse, those who do speak out against injustice - of the government, the war(s), corporations or what-have-you - are labeled as modern-day communists, people living on the extremes of sanity and rationality and therefore not to be trusted. True, protesters in the 60s were similarly labeled, but I believe there existed an undercurrent among the general public that those people, those who spoke out, were actually on to something. Now people fear to stand out, to be counted among those whose words and actions make them "America haters", because who knows what will happen then. I sound as though I am fear-mongering, but I don't think we are far from another House Un-American Activities Committee. Hell, the Texas school board recently voted that Joseph McCarthy should be positively highlighted in new textbooks. What the fuck?

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Tattoo, maybe New Direction

Not that a cupcake tattoo warrants a life-altering decision, but it may subconsciously signify one. I have several other tattoos and multiple piercings, but up until now I have always made sure to choice locations that are easily hidden by clothing. The tattoo on top of my right foot challenged  that a bit, but I rationalized it with  the possibilities of boots or dark stockings. Then a month or so ago I told Seth I wanted a silly cute tattoo, something that bespoke my personality but was more than a damn smiley face. Pie? Pumpkin pie? I knew that wouldn't translate into 'tattoo' well, with me ending up with some orange blob on some random part of my body. "What's that one, Sarah?" "Oh, just an abstract interpretation of the sun." Then 'cupcake' hit me though I think I first told Seth I wanted it on a hipbone or some easily hidden shit like that. Then yesterday I went with the roommate Ryan as he got his first tattoo on his calf and I said aloud, "I need to get a tattoo on some painless spots again (my stomach being the last site of pain; before that the top of my foot." An hour later I asked Mana if he would tattoo a cupcake on my hand. I don't question my mind or its rationality and neither should you.

I love my new tattoo. It is incredibly cute - I was squealing as Mana shaded in the pink and lilac - and at the same time silly. Seth likes it but admits that he never thought I would get a cupcake tattoo, especially one on my hand; neither did I. I think maybe subconsciously I am admitting I will never walk down the professional road I once had in mind for myself. Sure, the Foreign Service is still lightly on my radar, but that "Driving with a BAC level about .08%" conviction (which is legally different than a DUI, mind you) worries me that I will never gain the required Top Secret clearance. Regardless of clearance or even background checks, maybe some jobs won't hire me because of a silly tattoo on my hand. Then again, if a job doesn't want me because of a tattoo, would I really want the job? Probably not. And if one job doesn't want me then another one will. So I will embed cake in my flesh and eat it too.

Once I bake a batch.
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boycott Botswana's Diamonds . . . ?

There is an article on about the call from Survival International to boycott Botswana's diamond industry. According to the SI, the government of Botswana is attempting to starve out Bushmen in the Kalahari region by by halting distribution of water throughout the area as well as removing pumps to extract water and banning the re-opening of a closed borehole which provided water to the majority of Bushmen community. In addition to boycotting the country's diamonds, SI is also calling for a boycott of Botswana tourism - safaris are the main draw in Botswana - until the Botswana High Court rules in favor of the Bushman and the right to access water and (live on their ancestral lands.)

This article caught my eye mainly because Botswana is known as a provider of "legitimate diamonds" (as opposed to "blood diamonds") and the government has been lauded for raising the living standards of its citizens because of diamond revenue. Though Survival International's website is fairly vague about how it works and I am not sure of its legitimacy, the claim of the Bushmen is valid, as is any international outcry supporting it. Yet I wonder how much attention this will get in international media as it is a crime with no bloodshed where the government in question is ultimately helping the majority of its citizens with education, health care and the like? Or will those organizations dedicated to promoting conflict-free diamonds take up the Bushmen cause as well?

On a related note: how effective are campaigns against so-called blood diamonds? The diamond industry is a global monster and I can't imagine it can be brought by a few opposition campaigns. Plus the fervor over diamonds seems to have died down during the past couple of years. I'll look into it and let you know what I find.

Photo courtesy M. Cowan, Survival International

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thankful: Seth

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Normally November is the time when Foxy by Nature blogs about the things in life for which she is thankful. However, considering she is neck-deep in her first semester of grad school at Sarah Lawrence I am not sure if she will do those posts this year. So I have decided to steal the idea.

I am truly thankful for my husband, Seth. It was serendipity that we met (at BWI airport); a happy surprise that we got along so well; and I big shock when I realized you were the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I remember having a conversation with the aforementioned Foxy and she whispered to me, "Do you think he's The One?" I never thought someone would say that phrase to me, but she did and I happily giggled back, "Yes!" My life has been a fantastic adventure ever since and I couldn't imagine spending the expat life with anyone else. Kisses to you, handsome.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back to Basics

US midterms are over and newspapers & magazines are full of thoughtful commentary on the future of our political parties,what we can expect from now until 2012, what Obama should do, etc., etc, so it's time for me to return to something I know about: Africa. Well, central Africa, at least. I am far behind on what's happening in the States and most days spend my time trying to stay no more than a day behind on the current events there. I am certainly not qualified to write opinions about it. Not that I am a great Africanist, but I do feel more comfortable within that area of knowledge.

Which means it's time to turn to another upcoming election: Uganda's presidential election in January 2011. I wish, badly, that I would be in country that month but it is not to be. Nevertheless, I will be sure to keep you (and me) well informed of this occasion. Will the FDC defeat the ruling NRM? If Museveni is defeated will he quietly abdicate? Is it possible he could be fairly defeated? My friends there tell me if the election is truly fair then the FDC will take power, but being honest and pragmatic Ugandans they are not holding their breath. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Fantasies

I enjoy MMA and watching UFC fights, particularly those with GSP - Georges St. Pierre - both because he is an amazing fighter and kind of nice to look at. I casually mentioned this to our roommate one day and he, being ardently against GSP, was disgusted. To annoy him I played up my interest, which is reality is slight. Now Seth playfully(?) becomes irritated when we watch an episode of the current Ultimate Fighter or he sees me reading a magazine featuring an article about GSP. Attempts to assure him that I am not fantasizing about the man go unheard, but Seth really should believe me: I don't indulge in fantasies because I am bad at them. Let me explain.

Say I see a celebrity or some such whom I find attractive, maybe even interesting. "Oh, if I could get him in a room alone," I think, but of course I can't; that's the reason behind fantasies. Unfortunately, that's also the reason why mine fail. Sure, I concentrate I can have one great, steamy - er, romantic - fantasy, but after that they begin to unravel. I close my eyes to imagine a scenario and my rational kicks in: how the hell would you be meeting this person? At a party? How the hell were you invited to a party like that? Just in a bar? That sounds pretty far-fetched.

But I persevere, determined to go through with my scenario, until self-esteem issues arise: so why has this person noticed you? Because you look "natural", real face and boobs, aren't anorexic, have opinions that aren't vapid and shallow? How do you know his opinions will be any better? Do you seriously think you'll stand out? At this point I have two options: count my losses and look at some porn or stubbornly push on, determined to see this thing through to the end. This is usually a bad decision. At this point I have met my person-of-interest, which means I need to create dialogue with how I'd like this man to be while maintaining some level of honesty to his true character, which of course I know nothing about. I want him to be charming, polite, not pushy, wanting more than sex (I am a lady, after all), but with sexual tension so thick you can taste it. This is where it's get tricky, as though my imagination is fighting with my rationality over whether to continue the dream or not and it always ends the same way: maybe I play too coy or my would-be lover begins to demand sex while I politely decline, until he rejects me. I am rejected in my fantasy, ultimately in all of my fantasies. Try masturbating to that.

So, Seth, you have nothing to worry about. You are the only man on my mind.

By default.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Blues

Millions of Americans are voting today. For the past two days I mentioned the elections, giving reasons both for and against voting, but today I filled with sadness over the emptiness of elections and the elected officials they bring to office. In today's New York Times there is this opinion article by Frank Rich describing how the Tea Party movement has enabled the GOP to maintain and, in some cases, strengthen its hold on politics. The most telling quote comes from Senator Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." How can that make you want to do anything other than weep? That sentiment means two years of political deadlock, with the president unable to pass anything through Congress and Congress refusing to offer bills palatable to the president. Never mind about what might be best for citizens as long as politicians retain their hold on power, the ruling party is ousted, and lobbyists and corporations continue to cash in. A new Gilded Age is either here or right around the corner, with money being the only political power with any weight. Who will our Teddy Roosevelt be?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote "YES" on Prop 19

I know, I am asking you to vote right after writing that you don't have to. And that's true, but if you are a Californian voter I highly encourage you to vote "yes" on Prop 19, which would legalize the selling and possession of limited amounts of marijuana, even if you aren't voting for any politicians.

Prop 19 won't turn California into a pothead haven (anymore than it already is, ha!), but will allow the state to tax marijuana and regulate its distribution. I don't know why that even needs explanation. Police will be able to spend more time pursuing rapists, murderers, thieves and sellers of actually dangerous narcotics, such as meth. California prisons will likely suffer less form overcrowding, as second- and third-time offenders guilty of possession will no longer take up space.* California will make money from taxes. People who didn't smoke pot before will not automatically take up the habit. Cigarettes are legal but millions manage to avoid those. Marijuana will be controlled like alcohol, so you won't be going to work in a haze of glory without risking termination and middle school kids won't be raiding vending machines for Doritos.

Legalized cannabis just makes sense. Vote "YES" on Prop 19.

*- I would love to give you statistics, which I know are readily available, but Kuwait censors the internet and my searches have been "access denied" because of "content categorization: illegal drugs".

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vote! . . . Or Don't

For those in the States, midterm elections are on Tuesday, so this is my public service announcement to all eligible and registered to vote. Or not, if you so choose.

It doesn't seem right to encourage others to vote when I am no, due to technical reasons (where I am even registered at this point? Is that state voting?) and personal: in 2004 I voted for the best of a bad situation and refuse to do so again. The campaign finance system is more corrupt than ever, lobbyists hold more sway than ever, and politicians can't agree on how to make America move forward. They just know they hate each other.

So vote if you believe your chosen candidates will be effective or if there are referendums on the ballot that you feel are important; otherwise, don't. "Not voting" also counts as practicing democracy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thirty Something

In thirty days I turn thirty and I don't know how I feel about it. It happens that my thirtieth comes at a time when I am at a crossroads: not working, not sure what work I should even be doing, except I know I want to continue to live abroad for a bit. In general I feel apathetic and tired, making thirty seem like it should either be a turning point or an emphasis on the lack of motivation in my life.

Basically, I am feeling full of cliches.

That isn't fair. I am almost thirty and it's not so bad; I bet I won't even notice the difference between it and twenty-nine. I am surprised to be reaching thirty because, come on, who ever thinks about thirty until you're almost there? When I was twenty-five I remember writing my age down on a form in a doctor's office and thinking, holy crap, I'm 25! Look at it, written there! Seeing myself write the numerical form of my age made it real for me, made me actually think about it. (Maybe I should write "20" all over the place.) Unfortunately, turning thirty tends to be less subtle; I can already hear my sisters' mocking voices welcoming me in my departure from youth. Does it have to be that way? Of course not, it's just another year.

And here's where I write a witty ending. I have always hated ending paragraphs (and openers, for that matter.) In college I would write the body of my paper first, then go back and figure out how I wanted the thesis to read. It would normally take me a whole say to try and summarize things effectively. I am not a summarizer. And that's what I've got.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Childhood Memories

Looking back at my recent posts it appears I haven't been "covering the globe" lately. The recent trip to England notwithstanding, I have felt largely unqualified to remark upon current events; been preoccupied with my cooking blog; and have been diligently perfecting the Great American Nap. It's exhausting. I mean to get back into the swing of things - the world never stops moving, history marches on, etc. - but first allow me some self-indulgence.

I enjoy, love, reading personal narratives and humor writing, especially when they are combined, such as the works of David Sedaris and Bill Bryson. I become lost in their prose and experiences and memories, such deep memories that leave me awed. How can these men remember (or reconstruct) conversations from when they were five? Or recall in vivid detail the spoon their mothers used to stir a soup on the evening of November 14, 1962? I lived through the entire decade of the 1980s, during which my mother (so she told me) spent hours putting together 3-course Chinese meals, but I don't remember even eating in the 80s. I don't think my brain began actively absorbing the world around it until I hit puberty. Growing into womanhood seems an appropriate time to become cognizant of the dangers and wonders surrounding you, but I can't help feeling that I've missed out on some important details. The only thing I can remember for certain is that I spent a lot of time daydreaming (pursuing the Great American Nap is, apparently, a life-long endeavor.)

Wait, I'm exaggerating: I do remember eating, once. For my fifth birthday I had a party at McDonald's and part of my meal was a hamburger with miniscule bits of onion on the patty. I refused to eat it, due to the belief that onions would either kill me or simply burn through my stomach and leave a hole in my torso, but my mother insisted that I take a few bites or the party would be over. I suppose three bites of a McDonald's hamburger is enough to get you through a decade. Or at least the 80s.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ta-Tas and Handbags

Last night I was browsing my Facebook page in my phone and did something I now regret: I deleted message about "saving the ta-tas" by posting about handbags. I regret this late-night decision because I wish I could provide the entire message for you, but I am sure plenty of other people have already received it or will soon.

I remember enough, though. Have you been wondering about recent status updates? "I like it on the couch." "I like in my car." "I like it on my dresser." Oooo, naughty - except that these people (women) are referring to where they normally have their handbags or purses. Gotcha! And why are women jumping onto this bandwagon? Remember last year, when women were randomly posting colors in their status updates and it turned out it was the color of their bras? All to raise awareness for breast cancer, of course. Well, this year it's all about handbags to raise awareness for, er, Coach?

Haha, no, really, I can only assume it is also to raise breast cancer awareness, because of the "save the ta-tas" reference. Oh, and to make news: "We made news last year with the bra color updates, so let's see if we can do it again! (paraphrased)"

And now you know. I have been casually trying to figure out how purse placement is related to breast cancer, other than both involve women, while ignoring the feeling that "save the ta-tas!" sounds like a rallying cry to protect strippers. Thoughts?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sneak Peek

I have always been an impatient person, something which living in Uganda never changed for me. Oh sure, I became less impatient, calmly waiting for an hour or two for a bus to fill. Four hours, on the other hand, sends me into a rage. But that's just waiting, mindless waiting. There are other aspects of life which require patience, though such as reading. I've heard that one reason people don't enjoy reading is because they don't have the patience for it, but those of us who enjoy it simply can't understand such excuses.

My mother and I often read the same books, often at the same time. One of us would read first, while the other waited, somewhat impatiently, for her to finish. "If you're not going to read the book today, Sarah, then give it to me!" A particular memory I have is Mom in the kitchen reading Melanie Rawn's The Mageborn Traitor, which I had recently finished. I glanced over her shoulder and saw she was at a particularly tense section of the book and said something along the lines of, "Ooooo, that part made me so mad. You are not going to believe what happens!"

"Oh, I know what happens; I skipped ahead and read it."

Shocked indignation spread across my face over Mom's admission that she had skipped ahead in a book, thus breaking all accepted reading laws. I confronted her about it and she shrugged, saying "So what? I was irritated with the story and wanted to be sure it was worth finishing."

Now there was a new thought. Up to that point I had always finished any book I was reading, regardless of whether or not I liked it, because I believed it was a cardinal rule that once you started you had to finish. And no skipping to the end, because that ruined the whole point of reading. You needed patience to fully appreciate what the writer was doing. I swore I would never, ever read the end of a book first. Mom rolled her eyes.

Her skepticism was well-deserved, because while I can calmly pass an hour or two while waiting for a bus or a suddenly-postponed appointment to commence, I can no longer stand too much suspense in my novels. It's not that I don't enjoy it, I just don't want to get worked up over it. I cried and threw my copy of The Half-Blood Prince to the floor when Dumblebore died and while that was five years ago, I just don't think I can handle something like that again. To be fair, I don't read the end of a book, just the end of a tense confrontation. (Ok, wait, that's a lie: I recently did skim over the last few pages of a political thriller because I needed to know whether or not it was worth to continue, not because the book was captivating, but rather because it was painstakingly slow-going. I know my mother is laughing at me.)

No big deal, really, but I am currently eight hundred pages into Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth and I can't help but skim to the end of some sections. Too many things happen and I have become far too invested! Example: last night I was reading for a couple of hours and wanted to go to bed, but couldn't until I reached a point of resolution. Instead of skipping ahead I tested my patience through the most heart-wrenching and seemingly-endless section of the novel, my body tensing with each page as I silently screamed Find him! FIND HIM!! That tension kept me awake until 1:30 in the morning. I just can't do that anymore. Books are going to turn my hair gray.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pledge to America: Still Empty

The Huffington Post has an interesting article on the Republican's recently unveiled "Pledge to America", which includes the lofty provision of spending control. However, it seems the "Pledge" excludes references to Social Security and Medicare, which together take the heftiest chunks from the federal budget (behind defense spending, of course) and benefit the main supporters of the GOP (the elderly and white working-class). If Democrats and liberals are so despised because of their "elitism" and "intellectualism", can someone find down-home way to explain that "spending control" can have negative effects?

Oh, also a way to explain that cutting back on Federal spending doesn't include cutting back on the defense budget or financing a ridiculous and unwinnable land war in (southwest) Asia (over one trillion dollars since 2001. Trillion with a "T"!) $100 billion dollars a year. Could we try to reign that in first?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When Did Brawny Go Hairless?

And why? I happened to notice the Brawny Man is no longer mustachioed , fitting in with the current idea of hairless masculinity - I suppose? Apparently this change happened back in 2004. So many years I have been buying paper towels in ignorance of their sexual appeal! Is Brawny trying to appeal to women in their twenties now? Expanding their base? True, the old brawny man looks like a 70s porn star, but do people really choose their paper towels on whether or not the icon is "doable"?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Catching Up

Well, not really, but just letting you know that I am still around, just have not been feeling too motivated to right on current events. It happens. Plus, I realized that it has been several weeks wince I've posted a Saturday Special. Bah! However, I have been keeping busy with my other blog. That's right! I have begun posting on Cooking the Globe! Only four so far, but it's barely over a week old so give it time. Plus, don't go clicking on anything other than the post archives because it is still a work in progress. Yes, one I should easily get finished since I don't have a job to tie me down, but Seth is off until Friday, so I am otherwise engaged. The next few recipes planned are all Indian, but fear not: there will be plenty of good ol' Middle Eastern cookin' coming your way.  I'll even give you a hint: camel. Yes, camel. I am so fucking excited about that one. I think I will tell our dinner guests that's it's lamb and see if they can tell the difference.  Ahahahahaha! Camel.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fat Chance

 I try to get my news from reliable sources such as Al Jazeera, New York Times and Slate, but as my husband has a yahoo email account, I find myself drawn to the headlines on Yahoo's homepage.  Today there was this gem: "Many Americans Don't Even Know They're Fat."  According to the article, over 2,400 responded to a survey online in which they provided their height and weight, from which their BMI was calculated.  The respondents were then asked where they fit on the scale and 30% who thought they were normal were actually overweight, while 70% who thought they were overweight were actually obese!

The article then provides several more percentages on how Americans grossly underestimate their weight, but what it fails to provide is additional information on the people surveyed or even provide information on the inaccuracy of BMI readings.  If a woman were 5'4" and 145lbs, then her BMI be 24.9, right on the edge of being "overweight", yet still safely "normal".  If that same woman were to gain just a pound more, up to 146lbs, than her BMI would be 25.1 and she would be overweight. Isn't is possible that she would still consider herself "normal"?  How many of the respondents straddled this fine line?  While I am sure there people who are comfortable enough with their body that they would describe themselves as "normal" even if they were five or ten pounds "overweight", or others who are thirty pounds overweight and technically obese, but don't see themselves in that way, that's a long cry from claiming Americans "don't know they're fat."  I somehow doubt the majority of people surveyed were 5'3", 230lbs and yet shocked they couldn't fit into a pair of size 6 jeans (as so many of the comments seem to suggest.)

I am shouldn't be shocked that Yahoo is using BMI calculations to push a sensationalist article, but I am surprised that people could read this without skepticism. BMI calculations don't measure "fatness" or health!  For instance, Jay Cutler, 2009 Mr. Olympia winner, is 5'10" and has a contest weight of 260lbs, with less than 4% body fat, yet his BMI is 37.3 - obese.  Kai Greene (pictured above), 2009 Arnold Classic winner, is 5'8" with a contest weight of 250lbs, less than 4% body fat, yet a BMI of 38 - again, obese.  Conversely, you can find "skinny" people who have body fat percentages of over 30% simply because they don't work out: skinny fat.  One of the comments is from a "European" who advises that as long you watch your intake, you don't even have to exercise!  That's right: as long as you don't eat much, you don't have to get all sweaty and gross, yet can still remain thin and . . . healthy?  Of course, Cutler and Greene are far from fat but that is the main contention with BMI calculations: they don't take into account muscle mass or an actual level of fitness. Just like Yahoo's article didn't take into account valid statistics or reporting.

Image courtesy

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Decision Made

I have decided: I will have two blogs, this one and the new Cooking the Globe (a theme!)  I know last year I wrote that there was no reason for me to do a cooking blog, despite toying with the idea ("Who gives a fuck what I eat?"  Apparently, I expect you to.), but this year it seems plausible for a couple of reasons: one, I am doing a ton of cooking, much of it from my Indian and Middle Eastern cookbooks and I find the internet is less than helpful with those topics - especially Middle Eastern cuisine. Yes, it is fairly easy to find recipes for hummus, couscous, lamb tangine and falafel, but almost impossible to find help with samak mishwi or sanouma (though both are delicious!  Yes, they will be among my first entries.)  So why not take people with me on my journey through the food of this hemisphere?

The other reason is that I want to have a niche for this blog.  Is it a personal journal?  A spot to visit for an opinion on current world events?  A news filter?  I want it to be the latter two.  I need to practice my writing - my serious writing - as much as I need to practice writing in general so that when I look for relevant work I won't be a floundering fool.  Plus, the more serious commentary I have in my arsenal, the more I have to show when trying to find a gig as a freelance writer.  I can use the cooking blog as my personal journal and this one for my personal opinion.  Ha!  How self-indulging.  Of course, this also means I am giving myself twice the work, but I determined to do this.  When you don't work you have to find ways to make yourself organized; I give myself a schedule and deadlines so at least I have a reason to procrastinate.

I also plan on giving this site a facelift, but no promises on when that will happen.  Hopefully soon, but that's all I'm sayin'.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big Things Comin'

Over the past two months I have become so much better at regularly posting (until this past week; oops) that it has made me reassess why I even have a blog.  What do I want to accomplish?  Whom am I trying to attract?  In other words, where is this going?  How many italicized question words can I use?  (Five.)  I am having trouble managing my life, but I am sure I can micromanage the hell out of it!

That said (written), Seth and I are heading to Cyprus for the next week (tough, I know.)  I will be teka, teka (thinking, thinking) and promise that, come September, I - and this blog - will have definite focus, a purpose! Meaning: more than just a personal journal.  I hope.

I have several things on my mind but have been unable (or unwilling) to put them into coherent paragraphs, but feast your mind on these tidbits:

--> There is a large wage gap here between Westerners and Easterners.  I understand that the exchange rate of Kuwaiti Dinars into whatever local Eastern currency (Indian rupees, for example) highly favors the local currency - that is, these employees are earning a wage largely unattainable in their home country.  However, there is a tendency by Westerners to treat Easterners as lesser people, yet not feel guilty about such actions because said Easterners are so much better off here than they would be in their own country.  I can't get behind that kind of skewed logic.

--> According to my Indian cookbook, "Vindaloo is notorious for being hot and spicy."  The recipe calls for 4 dried chilies, which you then pound or grind into a powder.  Not having dried chilies, I decided 2 teaspoons of chili powder would be the same (note: it is not.)  Combined with the 4 fresh chilies you also add (with other spices, of course) what resulted was a powerful inferno.  I had sweat pooling on my eyelids.  That shit was so hot (yet also delicious) that my endorphins were increased to the point that I felt like I was on uppers.

--> While my loving husband has assured me that I don't need to find a job right now; I can focus on writing and whatnot; he just wants me to be happy; I personally want to make some money.  I want to contribute!  But I become paralyzed when I have to actually apply, envisioning the possible rejections that follow.  Nothing to fear but fear itself - and multiple job denials.

--> Pay attention when chopping or you will slice off the top of your thumb.  Oops.

It's looks like my thumb's brain is poking through.

--> There are so many actors involved in the DRC that I feel as though I am trying to figure out a puzzle.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to Basics: Defining Genocide

It's time I return to my genocide posts. I realize I have seriously dropped the ball on this series I started, but that's just me.
In my last post on the subject (four weeks ago!) I briefly raised issue with listing common factors of genocide, insisting that without critical analysis of such stages, such information should not be accepted as immutable fact. The same goes for the "12 Ways to Deny Genocide" because that list is vague enough to be renamed "12 Ways to Deny Anything". I have particular issues with each, but in the interest of brevity I will focus on one thing at time; today, it's "definitionalist" denial.

Precise interpretation of the definition of genocide is unavoidable, at least when one is prosecuting or defending the accused: if a person (or persons) is accused of committing genocide, and that person is brought to trial, it stands that there something in the legal definition that matches the supposed crime. My problem is Gregory Stanton's claim that it is only people who haven't read the UN Convention who ever make a claim that a certain crime/situation doesn't fit the definition of genocide - and maybe he's right. But something Stanton is ignoring is that as genocide, both as a concept and and as a crime, increasingly permeates our everyday lives, in news, books, music, and movies, then a common understanding forms that may or may not strictly adhere to the letter of the law, and more often than not, "genocide" commonly means annihilation; complete destruction; lots and lots of death.  In other words, genocide means "killing", killing everyone. I know this is wrong; anyone who studies genocide or crimes against humanity or even international law should know this is wrong; but the popular (mis)conception holds that it is right.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wrecking Ball

I have been procrastinating on my next genocide post like it's an end-of-term paper. It's been almost four weeks since my last. Who the hell do I think is grading me? I partially blame my renewed addiction to the internet: the slow and sporadic internet (and power) I lived with in Uganda did not allow for hours upon hours of mindless surfing, but now with no job but endless power and connection, I am reminded how quickly five hours can tick away.

Today it was with Cake Wrecks. Oh, funny site, very funny site, which left me giggling hysterically for almost an hour straight. Yet it is also one of those sites that you can't show to someone else and automatically expect them to find it funny, too; I think you need the hour or two build-up.

"Oooh, okay look at this one. No, you have to read the captions." Pause. Silence. "Isn't it hilarious? Ahahahaha! No? This one, then. No, remember, the captions are part of the fun! Just keep reading . . ."

You know what it's like. While I may have failed forcing guffaws on my husband and our roommate, check it out yourself, by yourself. Especially if you have something more important to do.

All photos courtesy Cake Wrecks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Coping with (Physical) Pain

On Saturday I got a new tattoo, adding to the tribal piece I already had beneath my belly button. It hurt. Agonizing. Horrendous. I had thought the piece on top of my foot was as painful as it could get, but boy, was I wrong.

Oh god, it's not finished yet?!

Or was I? It's now Tuesday and while I remember thinking that the tattooing process was painful and recall the experience as painful, I have no physical recollection of that pain. I can close my eyes and and imagine myself getting worked on, but I can't focus on the actual feeling. So maybe my foot tattoo was the most painful - I remember describing it as such. Then again, I have a feeling I described my first stomach tattoo the same way. I know my first tattoo felt like "burning knives being dragged through my skin" (my words), but at this point I am not even sure what that means - especially since I had that one redone and it felt like nothing. And now this new work. How remarkable is the human body that it can so easily remove pain? And no wonder I am already dreaming up new additions to this latest piece, if agony is an experience I can't even remember.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rwandan Elections

Rwandan elections are tomorrow. I don't think anyone, including opposition leaders, doubt Kagame's victory or suspect violence of any significance, but it will be interesting to see the margin of victory for the RPF. For coverage and editorials, please refer to the following:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bye-Bye, Bread

I have been on a bread-baking kick since returning to the Bread Basket of Civilization. Though my first attempt was a tooth-breaking disaster (not to fault Solveigh's instruction of "knead for a bit"; how could she know how literally I would take that?) I have greatly improved thanks to some simple and helpful tips. A simple carrot and rosemary loaf; huge Wheat Thin impersonations (delicious impersonations); challah - amazing, soft and golden challah!; whole wheat Italian bread. Given that all I have to do is place my dough outside the apartment door and the heat will activate the yeast to overflowing in 30 minutes, it's been a fun and (fairly) simple task.

My biga (for the Italian bread above) looked like chocolate chip cookie dough(!), thanks to the addition of granary flour. Making bread is (relatively) simple and fabulous.

But eating so much of it - especially with the whole wheat substitutions I make - has caused me to question whether or not I have a slight gluten allergy (judging by the all night bathroom raids, occasional vomiting and increased levels of exhaustion, anyway.) I haven't had health insurance for two years (guess which side of the health-care debate I'm on!), but am not in the States to utilize that resource even if it was available, and can't really be bothered to find out about testing in Kuwait, so will settle with the good ol' scientific process of elimination. No bread, pasta, pizza, etc, for the next few weeks. Maybe my digestive tract will calm down, but if not, at least it should help me slim down for Cyprus.

"Gluten-free and slim as can be!"

I love bread. 8^(

P.S. - I also love Smitten Kitchen!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ogling the Poor Is Never Cool

I recently read this article by Jina Moore about poverty tourism, making my post of a few days ago seem relevant enough, if a year late. Moore believes that critiques of such tours have less to do with exploiting the poor, but rather discomfort with "our own economic power and our concerns about using it ethically." She contends that tourists have no issue with exploiting the rich by viewing their, such as touring Windsor castle, but I strongly disagree with the comparison. A tour of Windsor castle or the White House are sterile and static experiences, polished facades presented to the public devoid of actual "living". There are no people and the point of the tour isn't the people, but rather the opulence of where and how they live. Poverty tourism, on the other hand, while also relying on the "where" and "how", relies on displaying the people, the poor, themselves. you don't tour an empty village with a guide showing you a shack families may sleep in; you walk around their very lives, ogling at the misfortune.

The most telling difference, however, is the implicit idea that experiencing the world of the poor will make you, the viewer, a better person. There's no mention in any brochure or advertisement - that's why it's implicit - but by talking to individuals who vacation in Africa, who go on "village walks", who specifically request visiting rural schools, it's there. And that's why it's exploitative. My slum tour is certainly no Millennium Village - that's actually a great project - but, willingly or unwillingly, no person should be part of a zoo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cat Naps

I am currently popping a few Hydroxycut everyday, not because I think that they will miraculously melt away pounds without any effort on my part (I am running again and whatnot), but because I am impatient to return to my pre-Uganda level of fitness: I want to lose ten pounds. Just ten stubborn little pounds. Or five? Maybe two? No, I'd be content with five. I want to look good in my skinny jeans again.

Yet a couple of hours after taking them, the initial "high" wears off and I crash, hard. During said crash I often find those two adorable furballs seen above curled on my bed, tempting me with sleep. I admit I can't resist their snuggly nature.

I sometimes take naps at 9:30 in the morning.

I seriously need a job.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Exploiting Poverty Is Awesome!

Please look at this flyer. Take your time. Here's the back:

The print may be small, but you should be able to read it. However, I'll paraphrase it for you:

Eager to experience life in the slum?

Well, you know, I am curious as to how those people live, but it can't be safe to walk through such a place.

No worries - you're guided by people who are from the slums! You can visit families where people are dying from AIDS and who knows what else. You can also visit prostitutes and give them condoms! Imagine how grateful they'll be! Maybe there will be time to pop into a school so children whom you will never see again (nor they you) can greet and sing for you. It's awesome!

Plus, since you'll be with a local person, you can take pictures! With no guilt! After all, what's the point of experiencing slum life if you can't show others what it's like? Show them that you intimately understand the problems facing the poorest of the poor.

And . . . breathe.

I had forgotten about this brochure I found in Red Chilli's information area, with advertisements for all sorts of activities available to the tourist in Uganda. Hmm, gorilla trekking, safari, ooo! slum tour! I am sure AFFCAD is doing wonderful things, but exploiting people in this way can't be one of them. I-I am not sure - what the fuck are you experiencing in a four-hour tour? How is this any different from a human zoo? Doesn't the organization realize this? Doesn't anyone who would even consider taking this trip? It would be better to simply donate 20,000ugx.

I am filled with questions and frustration. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Death and Writer's Block

Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of my mother's death, but rather than reflect on her affection or lost personality traits, but considering the difficulty I am having with my publishing my "genocide theory" posts, what comes to mind is how her death affected my writing.

Mom died the summer between my first and second (final) year of my Master's program. Not surprisingly, I had no idea how to cope with her unexpected death. I considered taking time off from school, but listening to my father's advice ("that's not what she would have wanted") I soldiered on - in my own way. Simple coursework (and papers) didn't fill my mind enough, so I applied for (and was hired) as a full-time employee at REI. (I was already working there, part-time, but became the full-time frontline specialist. Oh, and I was good, for whatever that counts.)

I contented myself with working 38 hours per week, going to school on my two days off and reading (for school) in the evenings. I also had AA meetings and alcohol education classes to fill my time (requirements of my drunk-driving arrest the previous year.) No time to think about death or my mother or anything, really - which was the point. Complete focus on everything except the devastating reality of Mom's death. I also drank a lot.

I didn't fully realize what I was doing until I attempted to write my end-of-quarter research papers. I admit I don't remember too many details (I hate to sound cliched, but that time really is a blur) but one course's paper revolved around the initiation and circumcision rituals of Nilo-Saharan (African) tribes, though I don't remember the actual point of writing about it. (That particular laptop suffered horribly under some pornsite-inspired virus - obviously not my doing! - and, still stupid enough to not back-up information, I lost everything on that hard-drive. Though, considering the paper in question, not such a loss to posterity.) What I remember is sitting at my desk and typing: The majority of Nilo-Saharan tribes performed circumcision, with the exception of a few who didn't for various reasons. Yep.

I am fairly sure that "yep" was in my original draft - if you consider two sentences a "draft." It was while staring at my pitiful opening (and current best attempt of the paper) that I realized I was avoiding my mother's death. Of course it wasn't central-African circumcision rites that provoked such a realization, but rather my inability to think, much less write, analytically. I had spent the past four months actively suppressing my emotions and memories; writing anything of value required that I open my mind, thereby freeing those emotions I was desperately trying to Forcing my brain to work beyond basic functions freed emotions I was desperately trying to suppress. Yet no matter how much I tried to avoid life, subconsciously I couldn't avoid my mental breakdown. And that's what it was: for a time, I completely lost my grasp of reality and refused to acknowledge what was before me. Writing forced that acknowledgment on me and, ultimately, I was better for it.

And here I am again, trying to write while trying to avoid something. Not death this time - I have accepted the loss of my parents and though I miss them terribly, painfully, I no longer have to ignore those feelings to function - but rather the realization that I need a guidance counselor. Do they have those for adults? My life has taken so many unexpected turns that I can no longer guess where I'm headed. Not just death, but marriage - when did I ever believe I would get married? Never, until Seth came along, so now I not only think about "where is my life going?" but also "where is our life going?" A year into wedded bliss and that one still stumps me - how do I think about two people when I can't even manage one? If there's ever a time when I miss my parents' guidance, this is it.

Seriously, though, about that guidance counselor: where can I make an appointment?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Continuing Effects

I am preparing my next post on genocide theory, but while waiting for that let's consider the continuing effects of genocide:

The vice-president of Rwanda's Green Party was found dead just a few days ago. The police claim he was robbed, but as his wallet and money were not taken from him and he was found "nearly beheaded", it's more likely he was targeted as an opposition figure. This happened approximately one month after another opposition figure, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, was shot in Johannesburg, and also a month after the journalist who accused the Rwandan government of attempting to assassinate Nyamwasa was himself shot and killed.

So Rwanda is perhaps not as safe as it is touted to be, but what does this have to do with genocide? Everything, actually: Paul Kagame endlessly uses the Rwandan genocide as an excuse for any actions the government and army take that are considered questionable or illegal. This includes invading DRC in order to plunder its mineral wealth; closing newspapers and blocking opposition parties from registering for the presidential elections; and assassinating opposition members. But before you speak up and openly accuse Kagame of such oppressive practices, remember that he and the RPF liberated Rwanda from a devastating and particularly brutal genocide while the rest of world looked away.

However, considering that Kagame and the RPF invaded Rwanda in order to take control of the government and the country - and once the genocide began, continued with this plan, clearly avoiding areas where massacres were occurring - how long can we be expected to turn on our backs on such obvious displays of fascism? Taking power by force is one thing - of course the US can't be too critical about that - but sixteen years later it's time to let the political process normalize.

And stop guilt-tripping people who dare criticize your actions - the honeymoon ended long ago.

Image courtesy

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stages, Steps and Other Categorizations of Genocide

The 8 Stages of Genocide, as listed by Genocide Watch, are as follows:

1. Classification
2. Symbolization
3. Dehumanization
4. Organization
5. Polarization
6. Preparation
7. Extermination
8. Denial

As a checklist o' genocide, the list is extremely useful, but assumes a systematic nature of the crime that I am not fully convinced exists. This list has been referenced and reused consistently in books and articles without criticism or comment - its ubiquity proves its validity; I don't need to go into detail as to why that's a problem. Yet the majority of the steps can happen without genocide being the ultimate goal. This does not mean that it is healthy or positive if a society is busily classifying its citizens into distinct groups or actively engaging in polarization - it just means that genocide is not the inevitable conclusion in those scenarios. Yes, this is why there are genocide "watches" and genocide "warnings", but the criteria for those labels are fairly broad (more on that later.)

Genocide Watch* also provides a list of The 12 Ways to Deny Genocide, originally compiled by Israel Charny. These tactics include victim-blaming; minimize statistics; claim that deaths were inadvertent; blame "out-of-control" forces; and "definitionalist" denial - the acts under question do not fit the definition of genocide. Of course, if the definition of genocide itself comes into question, so does that form of denial. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and author of the list, insists that most people who use the "definition denial" have never actually read the UN Convention (therefore do not know the legal definition), but I respectfully disagree: it is by using a very close reading or interpretation of the Convention that such denials find purchase. Nevertheless, I have no doubt of the validity of the points made in this list; rather, I have a problem with making general examples of denial genocide-specific.

More on this in the next post, because I realize it's been two weeks since I began this genocide discussion (long even for me!) and so I need to get it back on track. Check out the lists, think about them, and come back soon.

*I am using Genocide Watch not to take issue with that site in particular, but rather because it easier to reference something easily accessible by the general public as opposed to books or journals only available in university research libraries.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bombs and the Horn

With at least 74 people dead following bomb attacks at two locations in Kampala, Somalia is receiving renewed attention (thanks to Al Shabab claiming responsibility) - but to what end? It is unlikely that the attacks will encourage African nations (especially Uganda) to remove troops from Somalia - increased engagement in more likely - but is that the best solution for peace and a viable government in Somalia?

What does it take to remove the monikers of "failed state" and "terrorist haven" from Somalia? More diplomatic attention, especially from Arab states? Greater focus on clan coalitions? The past 20 years of conflict prove that there is no easy answer (considering how complicated the situation is) but surely there's a better way than simply try to keep the fighting - and refugees - from spilling over into neighboring countries?

So many questions, but all pointing in the same direction: the need for a secure and politically viable Horn. Without that, how can we expect safety and development in East Africa - or all of Africa, for that matter?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh, Uganda (5)

Cheap food.

Yes, I have been out of the country for over a week now, but I can still post the things I will miss. Like these crayfish.

A fisherman came to The Heart selling 100 for 1,500ugx; I bought 200. 200 crayfish for 3,000ugx - that's not even a $1.50. Sweet, delicious, fresh crayfish, buck and a half, right at your doorstep. Not to mention the most amazing pineapples (25 cents); tart passion fruits (1kilo = $1); mangos and guavas straight from the tree - and jackfruits, too! What's not to love?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Genocide Theory

Revolutionary White Girl recently posted a blog concerning a trip she made to a genocide memorial in Rwanda, a trip which made her rethink the concept of genocide, as her blog did for me. It's time to break out of the domestic bliss I've been living in for the past week and start focusing on my great academic love again: genocide theory.

Like RWG, I have struggled with the concept of the term "genocide", to the point that is became the underlying theme of my Master's thesis. However, I haven't thought of it much since turning in said thesis, so I figure it's time to revisit that struggle. Over the coming weeks (yes, weeks, because I know myself) genocide theory will be my main theme, as I detail my problems with the concept and its applicability to modern events. Some of my ideas are fairly lucid while others are demonstrative of my inability to adequately verbalize my thoughts. I appreciate - and desire - any and all feedback.

One of the main ideas behind the creation of the word "genocide" (as defined by Raphael Lemkin in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe) was that genocide was a crime out of place Western Enlightenment principles, therefore out of place in "civilized" nations. Not an unacceptable crime as such, but unacceptable within Western, first-world ideals. It was not accidental that the perspectives and peoples of the South were completely disregarded - Lemkin himself attributed the fate of the Hereros and Congolese (for example) to their own "barbaric" natures.* It stands, then, that the "crime without a name" was a crime of barbarity - a crime of the Other.

Furthermore, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which provides the legal definition, is overly dependent on the specific crimes of the Holocaust, resulting in the constant search for similarities between modern instances of mass violence and the crimes of the Nazi regime. Considering that more scholarship is available on the Holocaust (including all the history that word entails) than all other genocides combined, the search for connections is understandable, but mistaken. If the Holocaust is just one example of genocide among many, than the UN Convention should not include specific details pertinent only to Holocaust history ("forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" is an explicit reference to Nazi policy) but rather should be rewritten to broadly encompass all possibilities. On the other hand, if the Holocaust is "uniquely unique", as some Holocaust scholars claim, than it should in no way be the basis for international law. It is beyond comparison and any attempts otherwise will ultimately prove futile.

If a law is intimately rooted in the crimes of the mid-twentieth century than it will not be able to evolve along with modern methods of war and concepts of human rights - and an evolving law is desperately needed. Despite the existence of the UN Convention, there is no consensus on what genocide actually is: is it a crime specifically of "intended extermination; a descriptive term useful only in its ability to classify certain acts; a historical phenomenon?** In common usage, "genocide" applies to all three, but is that valid? Common usage (common knowledge) also equates genocide with "the simple desire to kill as many of one's enemy as possible,"*** but surely genocide is meant to be more than that? Otherwise, why differentiate between acts of war and acts of genocide - or should we?

* - Dominik Schaller, "Raphael Lemkin's View of European Colonial Rule in Africa: between Condemnation and Admiration," Journal of Genocide Research 2005. See also John Cooper, Raphael Lemkin and the Struggle for the Genocide Convention.
** - Henry Huttenbach, "Gerlach Reconsidered: Search for Terminological Clarity," JoGR 2007.
*** - Anthony Pagden, "Genocide in the Age of the Nation-State II", JoGR 2007.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oh, Uganda (Good-Bye)

For now, that is. I'll be back. I've come back before. I won't mourn or dwell on our parting, however. There are exciting things promised on the horizon.

I am horrible with good-byes. When confronted with the responsibility of leaving someone I call either a friend or acquaintance, I do not know what is expected of me. Do I make promises that I will write very often, either by email or by post? I know myself: with my poor track record of regular correspondence that would be an outright lie. Swear I will never forget them? That we will meet again, regardless of what the future brings? I will not make promises based on outcomes I cannot possibly know.

The real problem is that I an uncomfortable with confrontation and, ultimately, that's what saying good-bye is (though hopefully with friendly tones.) I prefer a simple "See you later!", where "later"holds so many possibilities: it could be tomorrow or two years from now; why qualify it? And then I just slip away - gone. No time to create reasons for future guilt. Of the people we encounter in life, some are remembered vividly, others vaguely, while still others are completely forgotten - why prolong them with false promises of eternity?

I write this with a knowledge of my own slippery character. My vanity is not so large as to suppose I am indelibly imposed in the minds of all I meet. We are all passing acquaintances to someone, so it is better to focus on the now, rather than dwell on the future or even the past. What does "good-bye"do but close forever the possibilities of now, forcing us out of the act of living and into the static realm of memory?

So no "good-bye"or even "until next time", but rather breathe in the forever prospects of "later".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oh, Uganda (4)

Oh, Francis' Joint, how I will miss your chips/liver! Seriously, when I was in Kuwait over the Christmas holidays I found myself craving the muchomo from this place, so I can imagine how bad it will be for the first couple of months after leaving.

Francis' Joint: the best chips in Kabale. I could eat here for several days in a row (and have.) Unfortunately this means Francis' Joint is also partially to blame for the few pounds I've put on since September, but that's what happens when you're eating french fries all the time.

But it's not just that the food is delicious - it's also cheap. 2,000 shillings for chips/liver, chips/beef or chips/egg - not even a dollar. Add to the fact that a cold (or somehow cold) Eagle is only 1,400ugx and you'll easily understand how this is the perfect meal.

However, as I tend to eat lunch here, the beer has the unfortunate side-effect of putting me to sleep for several hours. Therefore, in addition to weight gain, I also lay partial blame of my recent workplace inefficiency on this joint.

Luckily, the beer is cheap enough that I can just drink another and forget about work completely. Pretty damn efficient, actually.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oh, Uganda (3)

Pooing. Out and out (quite literally) pooing. This isn't Uganda so much as it's Kabale. Kabale just hates me. I've gotten worms twice since I came last year. One of those times was visiting Sipi Falls with Seth and we had to pay for a private taxi to get back to Kampala, just so he would stop the every thirty minutes or so I needed to poo. And some of the places I had to use made me so ashamed - me! - I tried to hide my face from the flies buzzing around.

I'll even admit this to you: I've actually shit myself. What? Worms are hell.

Though there are many things I will miss about Uganda, lack of solid poo is not one of them. It's not only worms; maybe I don't boil my drinking water long enough? Regardless, shit sucks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oh, Uganda (2)

Candles. Oh, so-very-useful candles. For the constant blackouts in Kabale. Like the recent - oh, wait, no, make that current - one which has lasted for almost 24 hours. At least not 4 days. Yet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oh, Uganda

Because I am a shameless, shameless thief, I am copying Foxy by Nature and giving you some photos of the Uganda I know and love as I prepare to leave (again). And because it's an easy way to publish a post while I work on deeper thoughts.

Here are some beginning swimmers (Bufuka Primary School, Lake Bunyonyi), practicing the art of blowing air through one's nose.

Zimbabwe and Stuff

I have met scores of travelers here in Uganda, largley due to the fact that my office is in a hostel and, until about a month ago, I lived in one. This encounters have been both pleasant and unfortunate, which can only be expected within the wide spectrum of people who decide to "explore the continent." Naturally the pleasant encounters aren't all that interesting or exciting - when are they ever? - but the unfortunate, or douchebag, encounters are almost always memorable.

Recently a young(ish) American male came to Kabale. He was traveling alone, having begun in South Africa and slowly making his way to Egypt. He had been able to spend a few weeks in each country, so naturally we (I and others around) were in the presence of a great Africanist. According to this seasoned scholar, the whole Mugabe-dictator-problems-in-Zimbabwe-thing is all just a Western media construct (Yes, he used that word!), because he was just there and in Harare there was food and people were smiling when he greeted them. So, you know, you could just tell they were happy and stuff.

My god, we've been fooled all along.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reflection: Burundi

The last time I was in Kampala I met a woman from Burundi. She was an evangelist and "spreading the word of God", but what stuck with me was simply her nationality. How few people think of Burundi, Rwanda's southern neighbor, despite being beset by an off-again/ on-again civil war that ended only last year with a shaky peace agreement. Burundi, which in 1972 saw the massacre of between 100,000 and 200,000 Hutu students, priests, and army officers, among others (deemed genocide by a report given to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), leading to thousands of refugees fleeing to Rwanda and Tanzania. Burundi, which experienced wave after wave of riots and reprisal killings, mainly against the Hutu population, throughout the 1980s. Burundi, whose first Hutu president was assassinated in 1993 by the Tutsi-dominated army, sending angry and vengeful Burundians to Rwanda, where they were easily absorbed into the anti-Tutsi genocidal movement.

It's shameful that because a country's international significance is so slight (even less than that of Rwanda in the early 1990s) such obvious crimes against humanity are largely ignored. At the present time Burundi is preparing for national elections, but corruption and possible voter fraud in local elections are already threatening to derail the process. Uganda's Daily Monitor reports that both the ruling party and opposition are raising youth militias for use as "activist thugs". If the elections fail, Burundi could once again collapse into violence, with devastating consequences for the civilian population.

It's time for the international community wake up and realize that all potential conflicts deserve attention, despite the host country's lack of international glamour and appeal.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crazy Cat Lady

Seth's roommate, Ryan, adopted to stray kittens (more like saved them from the street) and I got to help take care of them during my recent visit. Ryan wanted to but cat litter, but I decided that since we live in a sandbox, I'll just fill the litter box with sand from outside. One time, while scooping up sand from the parking lost, three boys approached me and asked if I was okay.

"Yes, just sand for cats."

One looked doubtful. "Help?" he said.

"No, cats."

I realized I must look like quite a crazy cat lady, considering that the litter pan I was scooping dirt into was an aluminum roasting pan. And the fact that I was wearing slippers. Or maybe just the fact that my slippers have mouse faces.



They're hugging :)

She's playing with his armpit hair.