Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, October 31, 2003
Oh man, if only I'd done this as my adventure story. Emily Yoffe as a Street Performer.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Dark Matter Flowchart: The world I decided not to join.
Wow. A letter to Romanesko on from a former producer for Fox detailing exactly how that "fair and balanced" reporting gets shaped. I'm just amazed.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Not sure what I think of Technology: Twilight of the dorks? , but this quote made me think of ubercool Mr. Roberto: "If it weren't for dorks, America would look like Chile. "
A note about some clouds from my friend Brian. I was talking to him on the phone last night, and was surprised to learn that that much of the fog that rolls into the bay at night is in fact low cloud cover and part of a large cloud body hanging over the Pacific.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Published! An article I wrote over the summer in the newly printed issue of the Berkeley Science Review.

Full disclosure: Lior Pachter is a very good friend and former teacher of mine, and academically connected to other good friends of mine and to my sister Ruchira because of this. But I wrote it before Columbia professors began shrieking at me about how having friends is bad, and it's mainly explanatory. I'm quite sure that if I didn't have a strong and long-standing interest in Lior's work, and an easy habit from my student days of bugging him to explain things to me over and over again until I understood them, I wouldn't have been able to understand the science nearly as well. Perhaps somebody entirely disconnected from the research team would have been able to do an even better job somehow, but I think there's too much science that doesn't get conveyed to the public to absolutely cut out explainers with any connection to the subject.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
This is so cute!

Okay, so I've been gone for a while, even though I now have a computer. I promise I'll fix that soon.
Monday, October 20, 2003
My Homepage
Sunday, October 19, 2003
I think a lot of my philosophy on civil disobedience was formed during my undergraduate years at Berkeley.

And not the way you might think.

This article, from the Daily Cal, sent to me by Nick, reminds me of the Ethnic Studies Protests. I don't know the facts of this particular case, but in the Ethnic Studies Protests of '99, students ended up protesting being arrested for illegal actions done while protesting.

The whole point of civil disobedience is making a statement out of your willingness to take it on the chin in the pursuit of your cause. This is something I found lacking in many of the radical student groups at Berkeley.

Another lesson I learned in my youth was in seventh grade during the first gulf war. Students wanted to walk out of classes at our grassy Pasadena girls school in protest of the war. Problem was, all of the teachers were opposed to the war too. Our English teacher pointed this out to us, and it made a very big impression on me. People should choose the buildings the take over and picket carefully, if they're going to go throug the trouble of getting into trouble.

Saturday, October 18, 2003
Check out this Slate piece on the Israeli Pilots who are refusing to to fly missions in the West Bank and Gaza. Regardless of whether one agrees with Avishai (I'm not sure I finally do), anyone can find his writing and reasoning highly impressive: he moves through the issues quickly without oversimplifying them, looks at several different ethical principles at once instead of overcondensing the problem to just one, cites some hard numbers and history, and still manages to work in some moving and telling rhetorical flourishes.

I think he gets to the crux of the matter, and the nut of that principle which most people working towards a social reform against the majority will of their society must hold dear. More than nonviolence, it's what I think is truly essential to Gandhi's philosophy. The individual always has the ability to oppose society's dictates, and if their conscience impells them to defy society--even a democratically, legally organized society--the individual is sacrificing their status as a law-abiding citizen for their conscience and the principle they are taking a stand on. That sacrifice will ring out and make a statement to a society which is prepared to listen. Nonviolent sacrifice in the face of violent oppression is often capable of making a statement to a society even when it isn't prepared to listen. But a real democracy should always be prepared to listen.

It's true that oftentimes protesters will generically defy society without much thought or care, and their loss of law-abiding status isn't really a sacrifice at all. That might be called arrogant. But I think it's important to recognize those who are in fact giving up something significant, and making difficult decisions, and to then recognize the weight that difficulty gives to their opinions. Instead of deeming them arrogant, I remember the over-quoted words of Mario Savio's famous speech outside my alma mater. They may be over quoted, but they're still true:

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all! "
Friday, October 17, 2003
Oh, btw, today is Columbia's 250 anniversary celebration and the 100th birthday of Alma Mater, the big statue who sits on the steps of Lowe Library. I watched the president of the University, Lee Bollinger, climb on top of a gigantic cake to cut it.
It's been pointed out to me that my posting on a WSJ article by Jeanne Cummings about Howard Dean's Internet campaign now refers to a link inaccessible to nonsubscribers. So, hoping I fall under fair use clauses, I'm posting a few quotes:


"About half of the campaign's $25 million take so far was raised over the Web, mostly in small donations -- a funding base the Democratic Party all but abandoned in recent decades."

"Mr. Dean's Internet donations have propelled him way ahead of his rivals; in all, he has collected about $5 million more than the second-place Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whose fund-raising pace slowed as Mr. Dean's accelerated. Everyone else is $10 million or more behind."

"Mr. Dean understood the concept, but the details escaped him. "What's a blog?" he asked."

"On March 5, the campaign held its first official meetup in New York. The Essex Restaurant was told to prepare for 200 people, but 500 mobbed it, with more in a line outside. Mr. Dean emerged from his taxi and froze. "I was just shocked, stunned," he recalls. "I didn't understand the implications of [the meetups]. Trippi understood it immediately."
"The campaign still lacked money or manpower and had only one Internet expert. But virtual-world supporters soon showed up on the campaign's real-world doorstep."

I just have to share my amusement at the little connections in the universe. I wanted to point a class mate to The Algebra Project, an organization that promotes mathematical literacy among poor and minority students, founded by Civil Rights Movement leaders. I went back to their website to check I still had the correct link, and guess where they're based? Bishop Allen Road, the same street in Cambridge where Christian Rudder and Justin Rice used to live and named their band after. Appropriate for the Algebra Project b/c Bishop Allen was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and appropriate for Rudder because he was a math major at Harvard.
Last night I saw Bishop Allen play at the Mercury Lounge. I've been listening to (legally!) downloaded Bishop Allen Mp3s, occaisionally checking out their website and press, and procrastinating on buying their CD Charm School for about as long as they've been around, mainly b/c I was sad their lyricist and guitarist Christian Rudder had stopped writing for the now somewhat defunct TheSpark was one of my favorite websites in college, back when the Internet was like burning. I hope Rudder takes up writing again, but in the mean time Bishop Allen is pretty good, and a really fun live act.

I think the lead singer, Justin Rice, has a little more of the rock-star carriage down than Rudder, who rather endearingly thanked the audience for skipping the pennant game in small voice before singing. The two of them twirled around each other while playing guitar, sometimes seeming a little confused about what their dance routine would be or needing to somehow consult with each other, but their oomph and gusto and just plain joy in singing was plain to behold. Bassist Bonnie Karin also did some keyboard and sometimes switched around with Rudder, and her vocals on Ghosts are Good Company were really nice, kind of bell like almost. I'm not sure who their new percussionist C.O. is, since she wasn't listed in the Charm School reviews, but besides having a good stage presence and flare with a xylophone she had some nice breathy backup vocals. Their second song was brand new, something along the lines of "making friends is easy, you do it so well, no one can tell, you're going to hell. . . " and while they were slightly self concious I really liked the arrangement.

The act before them, Cordero, was impressive and loud and almost brassy, though I can't figure out where the "brass" would have been coming from. I can't say why, but I can really dig a band that has two drummers, especially when one also happens to be the female lead singer and the other one sometimes takes to manically jumping up and down with maracas. The lead singer, Ani Cordero, seemed a little stiff in carriage when she was singing and playing guitar, but when she was drumming and singing the room rocked.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
A conversation I just had with a classmate I ran into in front of ---, a well known restaurant in the Columbia Morningside Heights area.

Him: I can't decide what to eat. I need something cheap.
Me: Sorry, don't have any ideas. . .
Him: I f***in' hate ---.
Me: (laughing) Yeah. . .actually, the last time I ate there I felt pretty sick . ..though I can't really blame them.
Him: You should! They f***in' suck!
Me: Well, actually, it was a milkshake, so. .
Him: Good idea. (turning to go into ---) I'll have a milkshake.

the end.
Roberto's Family Won Their Court Case!!!
Three Cheers for the Cabellos sticking it through and fighting for justice! They've made history.
Yesterday there was a pretty good article on Dean's internet campaigning in the Wall Street Journal.

In the mind-boggling game of guessing who could possibly win the Democratic Nomination, who could possibly win the General Presidental Election, or who would make the best president. I'm still willing to only clear out less than half the field. Any one of Clark, Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, or Kerry could carry the day. At first glance this article seemed like a ringing endorsement for Dean--the numbers crunch for his campaign enormously better than any of the other established ones and Clark's very novelty may be held against him. But no actual mention of Dean in the article is obviously flattering---it does not emphasize his being web-saavy, but that of his accolytes and followers. Indeed, Dean is most often quoted or described being flustered, surprised, slightly inept, maybe even a little clueless at times. The brilliant, branding ideas all seem to come from his deputies.

Let us remember that this is not 1996 nor even 2000---geeks as gods are almost taken for granted, and a "huh?" factor that might have been endearing in Clinton could be off-putting now. The Democratic policy-wonks out there trying to decide whom to support might cringe at the notion of a president who lets his deputies tell him what to do, or voting for a man based on the quality of the hired-help. That was, after all, a big argument against Mr. Bush--it was not reassuring to tell them that he would surround himself with "smart people."

But let us also remember that the dubiousness of Dean's smarts is not quite at the same scale as that of Dubya's. For all that Dean might have a father who worked for Dean-Witter, he has not inherited his deputies from the family stables--they came to him, and he seems to still issue their basic marching orders. So despite the flustered quotes, I think he still gets points for powers of delegation from this article.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Dudes. If you know anything about drug statistics, specifically rates of arrests in narcotics possession, please let me know.

To aid my search my friend Nick, who by blood (as opposed to by marriage) is probably the best connected to purveyors of such stats, pointed me to the blog of UCLA Policy Prof Mark Kleiman, which I find very interesting if not immediately illuminating upon my particular quandary. I thought this bit ,about soldiers being told to write letters to newspapers about how dandy the nonwar in Iraq is going, curious. Latest outrage, an example of how-rumors-get-started, or (most likely) something else entirely? I'll try to check it out after the all-class lecture/debate on nonpartisan city elections.

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Yeah, so it's been a while. Well, when I get my new computer in about a week, I should be better.
Yesterday Ben and Eduardo came over for a visit from Boston. They had a traumatic time getting here and a more traumatic but luckily brief stay at a "hotel" which shall not be named here, but if you ask me I'll tell you. Ask me before you come here.
They did manage to get a room at the good ole' Hotel Newton, though. And then we had a marvelous breakfast at Caffe Con Leche and wandered around Times Square before I bid them farewell at the door to Urinetown, the musical. Ben tells me the CD is wonderful. I think I might want to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Asheley Judd or The Boy from Oz with Hugh Jackman. Ha, like I can afford the tickets. ..

But afterward going down into the subway I had one of those, wow, this really is New York moments. A crowd had filled about a 1/3 of the concourse, at least a 100 strong, to gather around 5 of the most amazing drummers I have ever seen perform on the street. These guys were *good*. Three bongo drummers, one with a shaker of some kind, and two bucket-stick drummers. They got a paint bucket filled with cash and whooping applause from the crowd which I think was not purely tourists. I haven't been able to figure out who they are exactly. I saw that their CD said something like I&I on it. Any ideas?

I did my police ride a-long this week, and I can't publish what happened, but if you know me, ask me the next time we talk, b/c a couple of amusing and interesting things did happen. Suffice it to say that I now have a big interest in the current state of the "Drug Epidemic" in New York.
Monday, October 06, 2003
While looking for a release I remembered reading I came across this two month old Berkeley press release.

Kenneth Weisinger was one of the first professors I had at Berkeley, and one of the best. No literature class since has measured up to German Literature 39D.
Friday, October 03, 2003
A nice Scott Rosenberg rumination on how "facts" work in journalism and the blogosphere.

Just saw a special screening of a Frontline documentary--Failure to Protect: The Taking of Logan Marr--that's up for a duPont award. Afterwards we met with the producers and talked to them about what it's like to be so involved with people. . .like a woman you know has killed a child. I believe this is going to air again soon. Check your local PBS website.

Last week I mentioned an article by Will Saletan that characterized a lot of Wesley Clark's ideas as stolen from John Kerry; my friend Scott just wrote to me that to "consider ideas to be 'owned' by a candidate" is terrible for a democracy--public officials should feel free to champion the best ideas out there. I agree. It's a sign of the cult of personality and superimportance of branding that the candidates define the set of ideas instead of the candidates being defined by the set of ideas they subscribe to--or better yet, being defined by the wisdom they use in subscribing and efficiency and ethics they use in implementing.
I never thought I'd see the day when I found myself agreeing with a defense of Rush Limbaugh. But there it is. Anyone want to persuade me back??
Thursday, October 02, 2003
A picture of Asad from the castle.
My legs are killing me, but what a great day! It started off promising to be awful. Our assignment was to get a crime story that hadn't yet been covered by the papers, chasing down the miniscule press releases sent out by the Police. A pretty typical one:



First we went to the scene of a Tuesday fire in Harlem that killed one man and sent his roommate to the hospital. We talked to the Super who said he'd never seen the guys before as they were illegally subletting the apartment for about two weeks. The super only knew that the apartment had the most minimal of damage and he theorized that the men had been drinking in bed. Nobody knew them or anything about the fire, and the entire local ladder had been emptied out for some huge fire somewhere. . .the firefighter tending the station claimed cluelessness. After my partner dragged me away from gawking at firehouse pole (wow! they really have those things!) we tried to find witnesses to a robbery in the very southern part of Harlem, where a girl exited a Deli holding $40 in her hand when some guy snatched it. Reports say that she and passersby chased him, but he boarded a bus and forced the driver to take him a few blocks away, where he escaped by foot. But no one at the deli knew anything except that the police had come in looking for the security tape; their colleagues from the previous shift didn't even mention it. Had a fun time trying my french out for kicks on the deli worker who's from Rabat, Morocco (told him all about Dave McCormick, and he and the Yemeni manager said that was the best way to learn Arabic and seemed suitably impressed). But no leads. We noticed another guy in a leather jacket asking questions along with a photographer, and after calling our Professor to see if it was okay to talk to them we did. Jackpot!

The photographer was Angel Franco, a Pulitzer Prize winning staff photographer with the New York Times. I cannot adequately describe how incredibly nice and helpful and cool he was. Well, I can, but that's due at 9am on Monday and will require more style than I can muster right now. He let us tag along as he drove the city hunting photographs, and we tried working on a couple shootings and reported on an attempted suicide with his help. This was particularly fun because yesterday I got to hear from another NYT staff photographer and Pulitzer winner, Vincent LaForet, tell us about his job.

Harlem has some amazingly beautiful housing stock, big brick and stone townhouses with elegant yet massive gables and porches. Along the northern shore of Manhattan leading up to the George Washington Bridge is a sloping field of green green grass sitting right on the water, just a few boulders above lapping waves. So pretty it made me a little homesick.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
I just had to turn in a horrible assignment where we went through Friday's New York Times and listed the sources for every article in the front three pages. It was frustrating because I should have done a great job but just got bogged down in other stuff and not having a computer. I think the aim of the exercise was to make us see the reliance of the press on PR people and overemphasis on Government type stories, but neither of those things really surprised me. What did surprise me was the extent to which things were reported as matters of fact without attribution, even when it seemed dubious they came from observation.

I thought this article was kind of silly: it quotes a bunch of guys from a newly assembled advisory panel talking about how great the people on the panel are. It did cite some interesting research about the use of Oxygen isotope signatures to identify the origin of anthrax-like bugs, but I can't tell if the scientists involved are on the panel.

I'm on a quest to find out about the war photographer Nachtwey. . .

Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com


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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Green Ink!
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
India Uncut
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Scott Rosenberg(
Rox Populi
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman

Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud

A Note on Comments
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A note on permalinks
I find that a lot of people don't know about permalinks. When you want to have someone read a specific blog entry, then you should find that blog entry's permalink, click on that, and send them the resulting browser address. Otherwise they will just be sent to the blog in general, and between your reading the blog entry and your correspondent's or audience's getting to it, a whole slew of material may have pushed the entry off the front page. In this blog, the permalinks are the timestamp at the end of the entry. (Feel free to frequently send your friends and family permalinks from my blog!)

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