Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Das ist tubular
I got back this week from a trip to Innsbruck and Munich, the former for work and the latter for fun. Probably the best thing in Munich is the English Gardens, and probably the best thing in the English gardens is the river surfing. At the south end of the gardens (near the U.S. consulate) the river Isar flows out of an underground culvert and washes very fast down narrow concrete banks into the open. A few meters downstream the waters hit some barrier and form a standing wave about a meter high. This, to Germans, is an opportunity. From what I can gather, on any given warmish day up to a dozen surfers line the banks, waiting for their turn to drop in and carve back and forth until they slip off the back and splash on downstream. There's even a Munich Surf Open
. Ja, Cowabunga!
Awesome! Aloo Tikki in the Financial District
I knew that one of my work-hood sandwich shops, EatCetera on Market, was either owned or operated by desis. There's an older uncle and his two kids who are super friendly (as are the Latina & Latino cashiers), and there's a chicken Biryani which I can't eat, of course. I usually go for the salad bar, the hefty avacado sandwich on Dutch crunch, and the bananas. But they have finally heeded my frustrated cries to heaven for some real Chaat in the Fi-di. I have often asked the operators of Vik's in Berkeley to open more branches, but they always shake there heads and say, "so much work!" I think they like to be warehouse purists, even if the warehouse now has tiled floors and real tables. So now EatCetera has ventured into the breach with Aloo Tikki for a dollar. (Aloo Tikki are the lightly fried spiced potato patties. ) Not bad! Spicy, not as fried a crust as I like, and the tub of chutney's more sweet and less sour than I'd prefer. But for a dollar, that's a good deal. Tomorrow I'll try the samosa. I just told Om
--too bad he now mostly works at home.
I'm totally fantasizing about EatCetera meeting with such wild success that it provides a full line of Chaaty goodness, a la Kal Ho Na Ho
, but for now I'm just thrilled to get a real spicy snack around here.
I read the news today, Oh boy. . .
Sorry about the blog silence. I realize it sounds tacky, but I was actually somewhat demoralized by the sudden and rather unexpected outbreak of war in the Middle East. To put it mildly, I'm not a big fan of bombs or disproportionate violence. The realization that's stuck with me for the last few days is that by the time the bombs start falling, it's kind of too late to really do much of anything except be horrified and angry. We spend so much time and energy recoiling acutely at the horrors of war, and it's hard to come up with a good "diet of daily action" to carefully, regularly nurture the peace.
So anyway, here's a little bit of what I've been reading: Cyrus Farivar is right on top of this stuff, with a Wired News article about Beirut bloggers
and posted a letter
from a friend of his studying there. Matthew Yglesias has been doing a lot of commentary
. BoingBoing recently posted this all kinds of writing
blog, which is by an Israeli-Canadian named Melly who flew back to Israel to be with her family in Haifa.
I've done some very shallow Google/Wikipedia research to come up with a following list of peace groups in no particular order. Please note that I am not vetting or endorsing these, since I don't have time or resources to investigate them quiet yet, but they may prove a useful starting point for those of you who are interested:
- Gush Shalom, an Israeli group
- Bat Shalom, another Israeli group
- Tayuush, another Israeli group
- Forum for Development, Culture & Dialog, a Beirut-based group which is the interim contact for
- The Arab Partnership for Conflict Prevention and Human Security
- The International Solidarity Movement, which appears to be both Israeli & Palestinian, and has quite a long history according to its Wikipedia article
- The Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence, based in Bethlehem.
- The Initiative for Inclusive Security, formerly known as Women Waging Peace, appears to be international, as does
- Nonviolence International.
- There's also Seeds of Peace.
- The Tomorrow Party of Egypt looks promising (Wikipedia article), though its leader has been sentenced to hard labor.
- Quakers rock.
has some wise and timely words on the repercussions of everyone focusing on the Middle East:
In total, it’s likely that, over the past decade, at least forty times as many people have died directly or indirectly from violent conflict in central Africa as have died in the Middle East. With forty times the violent death toll, you’d expect to hear a bit more about conflicts in central Africa - instead, Congo, Uganda and Sudan rank #1, #2, and #3 on Alertnet’s list of “forgotten emergencies.” . . .I mourn the deaths of everyone killed on both sides of the current conflict in the Middle East and I pray for a speedy end to the conflict, followed by negotiations that lead to progress, not a resumption of conflict. But I also pray that elections go smoothly in Congo, that they augur progress towards stability… and that somebody outside of Africa notices. Far be it from me to suggest that anyone stop reading the newspaper. Let me suggest an experiment instead:
When you read a story on the Israel/Lebanon conflict, assign yourself some homework: a story on the ongoing conflicts in northern Uganda, DRC or Sudan. You won’t find many on Google News - you’ll need to lean on AllAfrica.com or Global Voices. If you find yourself interested in the role of minerals in the DRC - critical to understanding the situation, IMHO - I recommend Global Witness’s reports on the region. You’ll likely find the news confusing, complicated, incomplete and unhelpful in forming your opinions about how Central Africa can move towards a peaceful future. And that, oddly enough, is a useful first step.
A post well worth reading in total. With that let me point to an excellent Christian Science Monitor series Ethan blogged previously about Africa's peacemakers.
That wily Senator Stevens (R-AK) is at it again! Not only is he chair of the Commerce, Science and Technology committee
that is reworking US law on net neutrality, he's become a techno remix icon
. Do listen to this at work. And here's a nice little 3-minute video explaining net neutrality
Take Care Bombay
Blasts rock commuter trains of people going home
, news courtesy of the Mutiny
. It's a city I've only met as a layover, but know well as a character in my mother's funny tales and many, many movies and books. The gateway to India is at the top of my destination list, and the Maximum City
shines on despite rain and chaos. My prayers and wishes for the Mumbaikers. Keep an eye on India Uncut
If you're a resident of Vermont, you can for just 4 cents more per kWh, get some of your electricity from dairy farms
that burn methane from cow manure. Found this item via this /. article
, where one commenter proclaimed the idea to be a complete load of BS. ;)
Like a lot of Americans who even vaguely care about soccer, I first heard of Zinedine Zidane
during the 1998 World Cup, when he scored two goals in the final to beat the ur-footballers Brazil for France's first (and still only) world championship. He is a spectacular athlete, labeled by Pele as the the best player of the decade. That's why his behavior at the end of Sunday's 2006 World Cup finals was so devastating, when in the 110th minute he inexplicably lost his cool and head-butted Italian Marco Materazzi in the chest, resulting in a red card. Materazzi and Zidane had scored the two goals that led to the 1-1 tie, and ten minutes later the game went to a penalty shoot-out that France, unfortunately, lost by a whisker.
Zidane didn't lose the game, and the coin-toss nature of penalty kicks could have just as easily gone against the Azzurri. In fact, in many ways Les Bleus
were the more deserving team: with a lineup consisting of "ancient" players (Zidane is 34, goalkeeper Barthez turned 35 during the tournament, defender Lilian Thuram is 34, and so on) they proved that experience, skill, and determination can trump mere age. They are also free of the ugly stench of scandal enveloping the Italian team, many of whose players will be returning to clubs that are likely to be demoted to the minor leagues for match-fixing. And most importantly, Les Bleus are the most ethnically mixed team of the tournament, showing the face of a France that could be. That is part of Zidane's enourmous appeal: born in France to Algerian-immigrant parents, he is the personification of French integration and excellence.
The sting of Zidane's red-card farewell is tempered by the fact that he was awarded the Golden Ball for best all-around player of the World Cup. And France's whisker-thin final defeat is better viewed as an extraordinary victory for a team that nobody thought would even get to the quarter-finals. Zizou, we'll miss you.
A German company has developed a computer-assisted sail system
for large ships that uses computers to figure out the optimal route. It's supposed to be able to cut fuel costs by a third.
I don't really have anything clever to say about it. I just thought that picture was really cool. :) (Well, and this is related to all that cargo container post
on this blog from before.)
Electric CarsRuchira tells us
to go see Who Killed The Electric Car
, a movie I also want to catch. The other day I caught a couple minutes of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the radio; he was talking about health care but someone asked him about transport. He conceded that now he's driven around in a City chauffered vehicle, but that before he was driving an EV1 that he liked very much and misses. This is how I always hear about these cars, and the sheer oddness of taking away a product that tests well is so baffling that I'm looking forward to a serious explanation. One Word Changing blogger dubbed it an excellent murder mystery
, while another shrugs and says the real sto
ry is who's rebuilding the electric car, citing, among others, the Wrightspeed that Business 2.0 featured a few months ago
At some level, electric cars are a bit of a shell game. They still have to be charged, and most of our electricity still comes from fossil fuels--coal instead of oil. But powerplants can be more efficient than internal combustion engines, and getting the biggest source of greenhouse gases--the cars--ready and waiting for cleaner energy sources (solar, wind, nuclear, or carbon-neutral biofuel)would still be a big step forward.
I went in with my expectations on the floor. First of all, the original Christopher Reeve Superman
movies were my favorite childhood movies. That's just asking for disappointment. Secondly, it feels a little weird to be ancticipating a Warner Brother's film when I now work for yet another TimeWarner company.* Finally, the buzz was all bad. Bad reviews, changed directors, apparent cowering in anticipation of pirates, none of it boded well. Then Scotto emailed a bunch of us with this quote
I saw the critic screening last night, and I have to say that the movie is a tapestry of missed opportunities. I was prepared to hate it, but the first half had such amazing moments that I ended up enjoying myself...until the second half, where it veered into the abyss and kicked my soul in the groin.
Wow, that's an intense mixed metaphor. So intense that when I shared it with editor Nancy Einhart
, she said that while she had had no plans to see the movie, she was now kind of curious just to see what the hell that guy was talking about. In email discussion it has been permuted from "kicked my soul in the groin" to "kick my soul's groin" to "a soul-kick to the groin," with a slight detour to "kicked my groin in the soul."
A bunch of us decided we still wanted to see this move, and pledged to shield each other. Our expectations were further lowered by the horrible, horrible medley commercials, commercials for previews, and trailers that preceeded the movie at Jack London Square. And then, finally, the Warner Brothers logo (I woohoo'd 'Time Warner!' probably utterly confounding the people around us) and then---the music. The John Williams Music. I really need to find my copy of that soundtrack, because damn if it doesn't still get me after 20 odd years. I took a deep breath, and remembered to keep my defenses up. And I kept them up for almost three hours.
And it turned out no shielding was necessary. Our groins, atmic** or otherwise, were safe and unharmed. It was a pretty good movie. If I wasn't so busy and cheap, I'd even consider going to see it again with 3D bits at the Metreon. I liked it. I'll almost certainly watch it again on DVD.
In fact--besides being just fine, which was a major accomplishment, given everything it was fighting, it was actually sort of objectively interesting and good. I think the filmmakers decided that it was simply too much to try and replacethe legend of Christopher Reeve, especially so soon after his tragic death. And so Brandon Routh's characterization is greatly in homage to him. And that's okay this time, because he did it well, and it needed to be done once. Scott told me that the rumors were he looked just like Reeve, and I was highly skeptical, especially after the opening scenes. But when Clark Kent first appeared on the screen I actually said, "ah!" out loud. And that helped me forget that I was watching a new person, and just watch the movie, and get lost in it. The differences emergde, and I think they show great promise, but now was not the time to expand on them. I'm not totally sold, but I think Routh may very well make the role his own, in a good way.
The movie is basically set up as a 5-year later sequel to Superman II, but with everything shifted into current times. Superman has been away for a few years. The big deal is that when he gets back he (actually, Clark) finds that Lois Lane has a live-in boyfriend and a son. When I read this in reviews I figured it would make for annoying soap opera, but it actually gave shape and substance to all three or four characters (depending on how you count), and made for a surprisingly sympathetic, admirable Lois Lane. It also includes a Lex Luthor who got out of jail legally, and has an army of henchmen including the celebrated Kal Penn. The weird thing is that this time around Kevin Spacey's Lex is actually almost nice to his henchmen, and there is nothing dorky about them. They are intelligent, efficent, engaged, very creepy villains--sympathetic almost, and not because they're being bullied by Lex. This makes him more sympathetic as well, and makes the climax of evil much more gruelling.
It's visually stunning, as is to be expected from the director of X2 and The Usual Suspects
. There were relatively few campy moments, though there was lots of iconic homage to the comics and the older movies, and lots of quiet little har-har we-love-this-old-joke moments. The action was also very much in homage, carefully updated but with a couple of major exceptions (and a lot of good use of water) not very surprising. The plot was kind of ripped off from a a classic science fiction novel by one of the great masters (I won't give it away, but maybe you should wear some sunblock) and the costuming and design was not terribly daring--Luthor et al got the best stuff there. But over all, I was happy, and I'm looking forward to the next one, which is always a good sign.
*Though TimeInc (Business 2.0) and DC Comics have absolutely nothing to do with each other as far as I can tell, which is too damn bad, because now that I work for a huge corporation, it would have been nice to feel like my colleagues include my first favorite reporter.
** In discussing this kick to the groin of one's soul, I realized we didn't have a good adjective for "having to do with the soul." It should be psychic, because Psyche really means soul, but it's come to mean mind. So I coined atmic, from Atma, the Sanskrit word for soul. Please share!