Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Articles online

I wanted to mention I have two reviews up on Desijournal.com:

"Mixed", a review of an anthology by multiracial authors

"Dor", a review of this film, which I had previously posted on my blog.

I've told my friends about my reviews.I was pleasantly surprised that one of my friends said he ordered the anthology from his library after reading my review. His library did not have it and will be getting it. By the way, I have a friend who always read the latest South Asian writers. I would ask him, "Where did you even find it?"

He replied, "I just go to the library and ask for it. Then they'll get it. They need to build up the multicultural collections, so they're happy to get it."

I love my library because it's so full of books by South Asian writers. It's crazy that I can't find David Sedaris, but Shyam Selvadurai and Monica Ali are right there.

Anyway, I'm happy these reviews are working and getting people inspired to read!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words from Teachers

Recently, I went to a short story lecture led by Gunter David, a gentlemen and a writer with insight into literature and life. While discussing character development, he made a comment: People don't change. They may change their behavior, but they stay the same.

This echoed my grandfather's words to me the summer before I started college. He said, "You can't change people, but must accept them as they are." This has helped me a lot in life, especially when I was single and faced a lot of pressure to get married. My mom rolled her eyes and said I was "picky." Well, I was picky because I knew I couldn't change whoever I married. I would have to accept them as they were.

I heard a funny saying once: Men marry women hoping they won't change, and women marry men hoping they will change. So, it's about expectations. I didn't expect anyone to change, but have found we have. It's only natural that we start adopting traits of our partners -- he's become more calmer, while I've become more outspoken.

To take my grandfather's advice and couple it with Mr. David's advice, it makes sense. We are who we are and always will be. Yet, we've changed our behavior to work better together.

Another favorite quote:
Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have of trying to change others.
- Jacob M. Braude, author


Last night, I saw a Hallmark commerical about a woman visiting her former professor and telling how important he had been to her. People always talk about the "one" teacher that was so important to them, and I could pick out a few teachers I liked. I didn't find my important teacher until my first graduate class at Penn State in 1999.

Dr. S had experience in hospital administration and really enjoyed teaching. The dynamics among the students in our class was strong - everyone looked forward to being there and enthusiastically participated. He started the class by putting up silly slides for a game - for example, a picture of a computer had a tissue box and stuffy nose (answer: Computer virus). He had one guy keep score and at the end of the semester, gave out a prize. Yes, I won. I got a small Penn State photo frame.

The first day, he held up a picture of a waterfall. He said to visualize this waterfall cascading and how everything has a cascading consequence. It can go in so many directions. He would ask, "What is in the news?" Let's say, "There was 2" of snow and a 2-hour delay at the schools" Cascading consequences are: Some parents may have to go to work and leave their kids alone for 2 hours. Some parents might go to work late. If they go to work late, they might lose 2 hours worth of pay. If there is a delay 4x in one month, they could lose 8 hours worth of pay. One day income is lost within a month due to snow. What is the impact on employer? This can go on and on.

We would do these types of analysis on various issues. We also did role playing once where I had to be a hospital administrator and he played the complaining employee. So, I had to put on a managerial hat and handle the real-life situation he was throwing at me. It was unusual for me because for about 30 seconds, I fell into character -- I started reacting as if it were real. It was a bit of high (now I see what Meryl and Gwyneth mean about characters becoming alive). I was impressed with myself for thinking fast and combatting his quick come-backs.

Anyway, there were many other things I took away from his class. He talked about office politics and corporate power plays. He illustrated Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs by giving us examples from his own experiences. We think of a teacher talking to a class, but a teacher should also listen. He always listened and was receptive to our ideas and suggestions.

I took a break in 2001 from graduate classes to have a baby and then returned later in the year. In 2003, I was chatting with classmates at lunch about Dr. S and one said, "Isn't he the one that died?" I stopped and asked more.

It turned out that Dr. S was attacked by his son, who was deemed psychotic and delusional. I found news articles and it was upsetting to read about his last moments, My sympathies go to his wife for her ordeal. He was only 63.

The impact of Dr. S's death on me is realizing how noble teaching is. Teachers have a greater influence on society than we acknowledge. The cascading consequences of what we learn in a classroom are immeasurable. As long as all of his students carry what he taught, practice it and teach it to others, he will always be alive. How powerful is that?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

If I had a Million Dollars

I love the simple essence of this song. It reminds me of being a kid and lying on the grass in a friend's yard and just talking about what we'd do if we were rich, old, famous, or Olivia Newton-John.
If I had a Million Dollars
by Barenaked Ladies


If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I'd buy you a house
(I would buy you a house)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I'd buy you furniture for your house
(Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman)
And if I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a K-Car
(A nice Reliant automobile)
If I had a million dollars I'd buy your love

If I had a million dollars
I'd build a tree fort in our yard
If I had million dollars
You could help, it wouldn't be that hard
If I had million dollars
Maybe we could put like a little tiny fridge in there somewhere
You know, we could just go up there and hang out
Like open the fridge and stuff
There would already be laid out foods for us
Like little pre-wrapped sausages and things

They have pre-wrapped sausages but they don't have pre-wrapped bacon
Well, can you blame 'em
Uh, yeah

If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a fur coat
(But not a real fur coat that's cruel)
And if I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you an exotic pet
(Yep, like a llama or an emu)
And if I had a million dollars
(If I had a a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you John Merrick's remains
(Ooh, all them crazy elephant bones)
And If I had a million dollars I'd buy your love

If I had a million dollars
We wouldn't have to walk to the store
If I had a million dollars
Now, we'd take a limousine 'cause it costs more
If I had a million dollars
We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner
But we would eat Kraft Dinner
Of course we would, we’d just eat more
And buy really expensive ketchups with it
That’s right, all the fanciest ke... dijon ketchups!
Mmmmmm, Mmmm-Hmmm

If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a green dress
(But not a real green dress, that's cruel)
And if I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you some art
(A Picasso or a Garfunkel)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a monkey
(Haven't you always wanted a monkey)

If I had a million dollars
I’d buy your love

If I had a million dollars, If I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars, If I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
I'd be rich

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Haikus in the Sky with Diamonds

After I got the taste of haikus, I started playing with some more words. I wrote these on the plane to CA last month, so you can see my inspirations. And, Henri Matisse's "Icarus" fits perfectly with the poem!

A mile-high sunset
scorches the horizon and
with a hint of green.


Had Icarus flown
at night, the stars would have bowed
and the moon cheered.

Favorite New Products

Here are some new products I’ve come across recently that I’ve been excited about (I’m blogging about food, so it has to be nutty).

- Snapple White Tea – Green Apple: This is so fresh, light and tart with green apple flavor. I nuked it for 30 seconds and it tastes delicious warm. Reminds me of hot apple cider. Best part is that it’s low in sugar.

- Kashi’s TLC bars Dark Chocolate and Cherry: Wow! I love the tangy cherry with dark chocolate, and I’m not a cherry person. Not too sweet, either.

- Altoids Dark Chocolate and Cinnamon – ok, is it a dark chocolate candy or is it a cinnamon Altoid? I love all things cinnamon, I love all things chocolate. So, I bought this hesitatingly, but it was quite nice and just melts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Me-zuki, Su-zuki

We’re doing Suzuki violin lessons!

I’ve been looking for a musical avenue for Annika since she has an aptitude for music and singing. When she was three, she was humming a song to herself. Then she tried singing the same song in different octaves – going higher and lower. She can listen to a song once and repeat the melody. Both of our families have an ability for music -- my husband and his family sing and my mother’s side sings, while I took after my father’s side for music appreciation. Therefore, the grandmothers and relatives have been pushing me, “You have to get her into music.”

My response was, “Can she turn 5 at least?”

I looked into piano lessons, which are expensive (average $30/half hour). Plus you eventually have to invest in a piano. At this age, who knows what the commitment level will be. When I read her public school offered Suzuki Violin with only violin rental fee, I jumped. I played viola in high school, so I should be in a better position to coach her than in piano, which I don’t play.

The key for success in Suzuki violin is for the parents to be the “home teachers.” Therefore, parents must attend all lessons for the first 2-3 years. The classes will be 12-12:30 on Mon and Thurs – perfect, I can go during lunch, I thought. I do not like to schedule any activities on weeknights.

After I signed up, I learned that the music teacher goes to two schools, so Monday’s it’s at Annika’s home school. On Thursdays, I have to cut out of weekly meeting early to pick up Annika from her school, drive to the other school, have the lesson, drop her to afternoon kindergarten school and return to work. Maybe one of us will eat lunch.

For the first month, only parents attend so I do not need to do the extra chauffeuring. I reason with myself that I only have to do this until June because next year it will all be in one school. We’ll get through it.

The Suzuki Method
"I want to make good citizens.
If a child hears fine music from the day of is birth
and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.”
—Shin'ichi Suzuki

Currently, we’ve been learning the philosophy of the program. Dr. Suzuki taught in post-World War II Japan, and his intent was for children to be sensitive and caring individuals. He felt this could be done through music. His intent was not for a fleet of musicians.

The Suzuki method of learning music is much different than traditional music lessons. To give an analogy, children learn a language by listening, babbling, and then speaking. They begin with a few words and then can say sentences. They don’t learn to read until a few years after they’ve been speaking.

Suzuki method of musical instruction is the same way. Children will learn to listen and play music right now, and then learn to read music in 2nd grade. This way, their ears and memories are sharper and they learn discipline of practicing. We have a CD that is to be listened all the time so the music is drilled into their head.
The school offers suggestions and games on getting them to practice. You cannot force them to a rigid 30 minutes of practice. It should be an enjoyable experience for you and your child, so practice lasts while your child is happy to do it. If they get distracted or irritable, stop. One of the key things about practicing is that it should be your time with your child – let it be a time the child looks forward with you.
The philosophy is that it should be a nurturing environment. The teacher said, "Remember how you taught your child their first word. You repeated it slowly and often. And, when they said it, you made a big fuss and encouraged them to say more words. Same thing with music." The teacher assures us it works.

Me and my Viola
I started playing the viola in 8th grade when we moved to NJ. I joined the district orchestra by 10th grade, but I had to play with younger students. I think I was good for where I was, but it was hard since other orchestra students had more experience. I think there was only 2-3 orchestra members from my high school (Band was huge!) so I missed having that comradery.

Anyway, once I turned in my viola as a high school senior, I have not touched an instrument. I often missed not having a musical creative outlet. I’ve exposed Annika to western classical music since she was young since she sleeps with music. Not because I believed in Mozart Effect or anything. It was really to adhere to a routine. She would hear certain songs and know it was time to sleep. Hopefully, she'll stay awake during violin!

Anyway, I flipped through Annika’s music book and I panicked a little. I could not remember how to read music! Couldn't remember the strings on the viola, which are slightly different from the violin. In class this week, Ms. Anderson reviewed the music and the strings. All of sudden, I felt as if a switch was turned on and it all started coming back to me, 20 years later! I could slowly recognize notes again.
Regardless of my own viola experience, I'm starting clean with the Suzuki lessons. Just go with the flow and do whatever Ms. Anderson says.
By the way, Ms Anderson has a tendency to talk to parents like children too. We had to do a bow and stand correctly. First time, she went around and adjusted our poses. She asked us to get into our poses again and we all did it correctly. She clapped and raved! My goodness! But, I'll tell ya, all of us 30-something and 40-something people felt really proud of ourselves.. can't imagine how our 5 year olds will feel.

I would love to hear from any other Suzuki parents that are out there.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wonder Women!

A post to commemorate another First Female milestone in our government - Nancy Pelosi was sworn in an Speaker of the House.

For me, I always remember Tip O'Neill and Newt Gingrich as Speakers, so this will change a lot of perceptions people have about women in government. I've finished Hillary Clinton's "Living History," and am really impressed by her talents and grace as a legal mind, a diplomat and a working mother. I don't know what her chances are as President, but politics is her lifeblood.

I've experienced a lot of 'first woman' and 'first Indian' milestones in my life. These are a handful that have made an indelieble mark - Sandra Day O'Conner as Supreme Court Justice, Madeline Albright as Secretary of State, Sally Ride as NASA astronaut and Kalpana Chawla as NASA Astronaut of Indian descent.

It'll be interesting to see what type of perceptions our daughters will have about women's roles in the world, if any. As a child of the '70's, I had read a book called "You Can Be What You Want." (something like that). I remember it said girls can be anything they want and had pictures of Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, and female doctors, construction workers, etc. We grew up watching and playing "Wonder Woman," "Bionic Woman" and "Charlie's Angels."

Nowadays, we don't think twice about being a woman and entering a different field. I have a lot of female friends who are in wonderful professions as surgery, dentistry, veterinary and the legal system. I've always pointed to my daughter that it's not just the 'boys fly rockets', but Indian "girls", too (Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams)

This is not to say that the glass ceiling does not exist, since it is at a higher levels. My friend had pointed out how a male doctor who was less experienced than her was offered a higher salary. The hospital did a song and dance to explain. She's since left that hospital and received picking up the pieces of our then-shabby company and polishing it. We do see a fair share of men, women and minorities in top roles. My team was great because the technical director and network administrator were women and ran the show.

When I changed careers from nonprofit to IT, it was a shock to work with many men, since nonprofit was led by more women. I worked for a top global consulting company and leadership was only white men. I didn't feel ethnicity was an issue since there were many Asians and South Asians in other IT positions. However, I would be in a conference room and count the number of men to women. It would be 10 men and 3 women. I always felt I had to work harder to be taken seriously and to be heard because I was a woman.

A friend who is now a father of a daughter said he can't believe how smart girls are. My thoughts exactly as I watch girls and boys develop. He was wondering why there aren't more women at the top and actually running the world. I pointed out that while doors are open and women have the knowledge and capability, not many women walk through them. Rather, they choose not to walk through them. Many step aside for a break to raise children or prefer comfortable and less demanding career roles.

We definitely want our daughters to think freely and not feel their brothers will excel while they can't. That reminds me of the idea of Shakespeare's sister from Virginia Woolf. Women were not encouraged to write at that time. What if Shakespeare had a sister who was equally or more talented than he was? Her voice was stifled. Actually, India's own Rabindranath Tagore had a sister, Swarna Kumari Devi, who was also a writer and activist. The world doesn't know her name, though her work was published and probably influenced her younger brother's works.

Like the women before us, we need to keep giving our daughters a voice and a forum -- we'll be amazed by what they can say to the world.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Firecrackers - 2007

The firecrackers are not only for rejoicing in the new year, but for different issues churning in the world that fire me up.

I'm Dreaming of a White January: First of all, I hate snow. I'm not a snow person - only thing I like about snow is padding around the house in wool socks and drinking hot chocolate as it quietly falls outside. Don't want to go out, don't want to ski or do anything. I'm all about summer and sun.

Where is the snow? I know Denver and Buffalo have already faced enough snow, but did they get our snow too? I live in the northeast and it is January 1st and we have not seen snow. I need to see the snow as an assurance everything in the world is ok. Forgive me for this blunt comparison, but it's like a menstrual period. It's not exactly fun, but it's an assurance that your body is working and is normal. If you don't get it, then you have to pay attention. Right now, I don't feel like Mother Nature's cycle is regular.
  • "An Inconvenient Truth" - we watched this movie last week and it is shocking and surprising to learn the effects of the climate crisis. I'm really angry at the US for being in denial and not joining the world in its efforts to combat the climate crisis. As for individuals, check out this list of tips on small changes you can make to your lifestyle to help save the planet.
  • Arctic Ice Shelf Breaks - The Alyes Ice Shelf in the Canadian Arctic collapsed and floated for 30 miles until it froze. It was 41 square miles and the tremors were picked up by earthquake monitors 155 miles away. Let's just think a second about the enormity of this. Manhattan Island is 20 square miles. Ice shelf bigger than Manhattan breaking off and floating. Changing the natural geography of the arctic. Yes, the earth has always been alive and changing and resculpting herself. Yet, not at this pace. What will be the impact when the spring thaw comes?
  • Excerpt from article: "It is consistent with climate change," Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906."
  • Polar Bears Becoming Endangered Due to Climate Change -- I'm not an animal activist, nor do I have Sierra Club calendars. However, we have to be alert to these issues. The bears can't find food, they're drowning because they have to swim longer distances between ice and land and becoming victims to the changes humans have accelerated to make.
  • Excerpt from article: "We are not going to lose the polar bears," said Terry Root, an ecologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

    "We will always have individuals around in zoos and places like that, but we are going to lose the natural behavior of polar bears," she said.
    "We are so strongly affecting their habitat, their way of life, that they are going to have to basically become very similar to raccoons [which rely heavily on humans for survival], in the sense they are not going to be able to feed the way they have fed before, on seals and off the ice."

  • Climate Crisis vs Global Warming - What's in a name? Everything! For years, it's been called global warming and frankly, that sounds nice. (Yeah, Boston is little chilly and could use a little Florida sun). Yet, it's not about everyone becoming warm. It'll be about a total climate change.
Has the US and the Media Lost Sense of Humanity: I made a comment the other night about Saddam Hussein's death after I read it online. In the morning, we watched CNN and they showed his last moments. We were shocked! The reporter says, "This is what Iraqis saw on TV this morning." Excuse me, this is what Americans are seeing on TV. Philadelphia Inquirer had full page of pictures. What is this?

These photos are not required. Tell me he was executed. Don't show me the rope being put around his neck. I thought we were a "civilized society" that did not participate in public executions. My friend pointed out that this is no better than those murderers who have been executing hostages and posting them on the internet. It's propagating the same behavior.

The Bush administration obviously orchestrated this even though they can say the Iraqi Tribunal who decreed this. Interesting time, huh? The Americans are tired of a war they don't understand and feel betrayed by their leaders. Republicans are demoted. They need to show the Americans, "Yeah remember big bad Saddam? We got him, you know? We know what we're doing. (gulp)"

The acceleration of Saddam's execution is unbelievable. How come Milosevic rotted in jail for genocide and war crimes? What about Idi Amin who had slaughtered so many people in Uganda? Augusto Pinochet lived to a nice ripe old age. No public hanging for them? I don't know what the criteria is for removing and executing tyrannical dictators. Phantom WMDs?