Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Walking into the kitchen from a rather un-productive spree at the fabric shop, I said to the roommate from Texas, "What's with the stunna shades inside?"

"Did you just say stunner shades?"

Based on the way he asked his question, I felt trying to explain the "a" versus "er" was going to be futile. (He is apparently not as up on these critical differences as some people.) So, I just said, "yea."

"These are stunner shades?" He took off his giant aviators and examined them. "What are stunner shades?" He looked over at the girl from North Carolina who shrugged.

"You know, like T.I. wears."

"Who's T.I.?" (The man has Justin Timberlake on his ringtone!) This time I looked at the girl from North Carolina, as he inquired as to whether or not she knew who that was. She did not. "Is that a rapper? I don't really listen to rap music."

His being a law student, I mentioned that maybe he had heard of T.I.'s arrest for, as a convicted felon, sending undercover agents out to buy illegal guns on the black market. He had not heard of the story. I went to get my laptop and pulled up a nice picture of T.I. in stunna shades.

They happened to look just like the ones my roommate was wearing.

"Those just look like over-sized aviators!" he exclaimed.

"Well, yes, but, here..." I googled stunna shades. Someone on the web can always explain things like this better than I can. The first entry was Urban Dictionary. Perfect! Except that then I had to try to explain words in the definition.

1. stunna shades :

The kind of crazy looking glasses that people wear when they go hyphy (wild).. they are usually round like two circles, and very big in size.

I didn't go beyond "hyphy" being a Bay Area thing, and suggested he try the second definition.

2. stunna shades :

Oversized dark shades worn as an accessory to going dumb, usually mirrored aviators.

That didn't go much better since "going dumb" also escaped him. He moved onto the next definition. This third definition actually gave me some info I didn't know, apparently the phrase started in "the Yay Area". Having also to explain this to my roommates (now 3 of them in the kitchen), I simply said "here".

The guy from Texas finished trying to read the dictionary definitions, turned to me and said, "You certainly know a lot about, um..." pause "local culture."

(Original Post)



My Love - Justin Timberlake feat. T.I.

Friday, May 30, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective After 1 Week in the East Bay

Is this the best country in the world? I don't know enough about the rest of the world to answer that. Certainly, America is not perfect. But, she is ours. She is still special. In the Bay Area, the sentiment about her goes beyond apathy to anti-patriotism. Memorial Day came and went without so much as a murmur, let alone the sirens and gun salutes of a parade. I don't remember the last time I saw a flag with red and white stripes instead of rainbow ones. Pink trucks parked on busy streets proclaim a mission: no armed services recruiting from SF to NY. It's madness. And it's driven me to country music. That may be worse than drinking.

There's a haughtiness in the air here to which I have yet to become accustomed. It's different than the sort of proud arrogance one might encounter in New York City. It carries with it not so much an air of condensation, but rather a sad disgust for the way-ward rest of the country. Why! can't everyone see that this is the puritan beacon on the hill? Everyone is accepted, except the conservative, the patriotic, the big business. I'm surprised hot dogs are allowed in, being as American as they are.

The cool ocean winds sweep over the dozens of compact cities making up the Bay Area. It seems to whisper, carrying the collective conscience of the area. "We do what is right and proper. We protect all that cannot protect itself." An understanding rides on the wings of this wind, "and it's obvious that the rest of the country, nay, the rest of the world, would be better off if everyone else followed suit."

Doesn't the rest of the country understand the great value of a Prius? Don't these simpletons see that consuming non-organic fruit and veggies is bad for us and the environment? How could anyone even think of shopping at a Wal-Mart? Are our schools really so bad that someone can pass 1st grade and still be stupid enough to become a Republican? How unfeeling and barbaric people must be to eat a chicken that didn't get to run around in a field before being slaughtered! Drive!?

It's funny, in Nashville, I was sort of looked at as being too far to the left on some of these things. Walking the mile to school, not eating meat, etc. Here, I'm thrown on the opposite side. A conservative, with a Buick, hell-bent on buying dairy imported from the Midwest instead of the local stuff. I sort of feel like people here are just oblivious to realities other places in the country. I would love to see some of these people try to ride their bike to yoga in Wisconsin in February, or attempting to get to an appointment on public transport in Nashville. The hardest part for me here is to separate out the things I want to do out of spite, and those that I really need to do. I can walk half a mile to the store, I don't need to drive. The dairy, now that is out of spite, but it's continuing. (Boycott the happy cows!!!!)

Oddly, this prevailing attitude is not the thing that has grasped my attention the most or surprised me the greatest. But, that is a different subject for a different post.

(Original Post)



Alan Jackson - Small Town Southern Man

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Big Adventure

When I decided yesterday morning to write about my day's adventures, I thought my entry would be about my experiences on the various forms of available transportation here and my wanderings on both sides of the bay. As it turns out, yesterday's most exciting adventure happened right here at home. It was a glass.

After breakfast, I went to wash my dishes. I noticed a fair-sized pile of dirty dishes in the sink and decided to do them, too. Soap - check, sponge - check, faucet - on, water - swirling, glass - caught up in the flow, pop! right into the disposal. Such a perfect fit, it was as if the sink came with a cup holder. Great :/

I immediately turned off the water and stood staring at the concentric circles, imprinted stainless steel "Kenmore", black rubber, glass rim. The sink drained slowly as water ran between the rubber and glass. The glass was also full of water, and it did not drain. I tried putting my hands into the glass and pulling upwards by pushing out. Glass; slippery when wet. No Good. I scooped water out of the glass and splashed it into the sink's other side. Dried my hands. Tried again. No better.

Wiggle, wiggle. If I jostled the glass just so, I was able to grab onto the rim on one side of the glass. That helped empty the rest of the glass. It also slanted the other side of the rim under the metal lip of the disposal. Even worse. The glass was half under the rubber lip. I tried to get the rubber lip back outside the glass by turning the glass. Hopefully, the glass would stay above the rubber where it already was, and the glass from the underside would slide to the outside as it turned, sort of like putting on a Tupperware lid. Nope.

The glass sank below, the rubber slowly closed over. The little juice glass had just been swallowed by a black-gummed denture-less geriatric. But I wasn't giving up yet. I could move the glass around fairly freely in the large space below the sink. Ideas poured through my head, "if I could just get the glass upside-down and pull the narrower side up first," turned into, "maybe we can take the disposal out," and dissolved into "how about breaking the glass...." The first one wasn't working. The second one looked impossible thanks to sturdy epoxy, and the third one: too dangerous, absolute last resort.

I surrendered to the disposal. It was time to leave, to go off on the adventures that I thought were to be my excitement for the day. "Don't use this side of sink. There is a glass in the disposal." The yellow legal paper covered almost the whole basin. A fair warning to all would-be dish-washers.

I returned several hours later for a commercial break in my other adventures to find that one of my roommates had also tried getting the glass out. We had thought of all the same things. The glass remained in it's metal tomb. I left again.

Mid-afternoon, I returned home for good. The glass had moved, but only enough to signify that others had also tried to rescue it. The rubber of the disposal was now popped up and completely inside the glass, as though it were the beverage. No less than three of my roommates had emailed the management company that our disposal needed attention. I stared at the disposal. It rather looked like a flower. I sort-of wanted to take a picture; it seemed so artsy. But that disposal had been too difficult to deserve such an honor as a picture. Then, something occurred to me:

The reason we couldn't pull the glass out was because it just fit in the hole in the sink. There was no room for our fingers and the slippery glass made it too hard to get any sort of a grip. If only we could wedge something thin in between and pull on that.... but we'd have to somehow be able to pull on the bottom of the glass, nothing would be able to grip the sides of the glass. Ah ha!

I ran into my room and grabbed a plastic bag. "If I can get the glass in the bag while it's in the disposal..." One of my roommates looked on, a little skeptical, but hopeful too. Handle, in, under, pull. Other handle, still above the sink. Glass, part way in bag. Twist, pull, a little more. There! The glass was in the bag. Now, to get the other handle back above the sink. Twist, pull, shimmy, a little more. Ok! Two handles above the sink, glass in bag under the sink, and the best part was, somehow the glass had wound up upside-down!

As I pulled on the bag, I moved the glass into the center of the disposal. The glass started to come up. Slowly, slowly, then, vampire, it seemed to be jammed where the glass widened. My roommate and I looked at it. "Well, we could break the glass now, the pieces would be in the bag." That seemed like it would have to do, until I saw that the bag was tearing. So much for the hammer. I pulled a little more and the whole bag tore open. The glass remained, bottom-side up in the disposal.

Wiggle, wiggle, tug, pull. There was enough of the glass sticking out to get a fairly good handle on it. Whop! The glass was free!

And that was my big adventure: saving the glass from the garbage disposal. It only took all day. Sure beats solving the Rubik's cube if you ask me.

(Original Post)



Rommates talking in kitchen

Looking Through Rose-Colored Glasses or Tinted Windows?

Our view of the world, no matter who we are, is influenced by our interactions with others, our experiences, and the way other people react to who we are. It is also based on how we have seen people act, in person and through history, towards others with whom we identify. We think to ourselves " I am like A because we have x in common. B acted this way towards A because of x, therefore B will probably act that way towards me." Eventually, this fairly logical conclusion can stretch to the extreme of "B has y in common with many other people, and B acted in this way towards A because of x. Therefore, anyone with y will probably act that way towards anyone with x." Voila! a stereotype is born.

I thought anyone expressing frequent offense in everyday situations must simply be jumping to this extreme conclusion, focusing on stereotypes and searching to find harm in innocent behavior.

A Year and a half in BLSA, I have to say my perspective has changed. Willingly, or unwillingly, it has done so. I've met some people in my life who seemed to always look for racism. Any comment, any action, anything at all exemplified the racist bent of this country and every white person in it. (These people are often eager to explain that black people simply cannot be racist because they're a minority and thus unable to oppress anyone.) Now, I'm not so sure these people are looking for racism as much as it is trying to smack them in the face.

Several years ago, when I was in college, a song came out called Beer for My Horses (listen). Back then, Toby Keith's rousing duet with Willie Nelson conjured up pictures of the old west. I'd see John Wayne entourage types riding their horses through a desert landscape, chasing some outlaw with their lassos flying. The rowdy group would settle into a wooden saloon. With boots on the table and hats pulled low on foreheads, the dingy regulars would watch the dirt stained heroes celebrating and tossing back whiskeys. The bartender, with his waxed moustache and garters on his sleeves stood outside pouring beer from a barrel into the horses' trough.

Last week, I heard the song again. This time, the images on my internal movie screen had lost their innocent silliness. I was not trying to think of anything specific. I wasn't even really paying attention to the song at first; it was background noise to the hum of the sewing machine. But I started to feel uncomfortable, annoyed and angry. Subconscious reactions to the song forcing themselves out. Only a year and a half as a visitor to a small subsection of the black community, and the offense to the song was immediate.

"A tall oak tree"? "All the rope in Texas"? After a classmate in my History of Race and the Law class interviewed another classmate's relative about a lynching that occurred near her home town during her childhood, after Jena, after learning and talking and reading about a whole history of trees and rope and black men, how could these lines evoke anything other than immense repulsion? And just who are "all of them bad boys"? It doesn't help that, for me, this phrase immediately conjures up images of black men, the Bad Boys movies, Diddy and Biggie and Bad Boy Entertainment, etc. (And of course, I hear the theme song to Cops.) I wasn't trying to put together the worst possible meanings. These are my normal associations based on my life, on the popular culture with which I have come into contact.

By the time the song got to Willie Nelson's verse, I had realized I was hearing the song from a new perspective, and had focused more on the words. He started singing about "gangsters" and "crime in the streets". I recalled one of my friends in BLSA discussing why she believes words like thug and gangster have become a substitute for the n-word, being used to express the same sentiment without the backlash. I thought about all the conversations at school with my friends about hip hop, about crime, about statistics and stereo-types and the latest ignorant doings of some pseudo-star. From that perspective, even "crime in the streets" seemed to have a definite racial slant. It doesn't help it's a country song by two southern white-boys.

I don't think the song is actually racist, or has any real intent of expressing such a view. (Especially in view of the video.) But, I can see how innocent, harmless fun, can appear otherwise when the background and context it is put against gives things another distinct meanings. The trick is trying to separate interpretation from intention.

.... and I do still think there are some who would prefer to willfully misunderstand things and assume racism than to get on with life.

(Original Post)



Toby Keith - Who's Your Daddy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oakland Expedition #2: Trying to Get Dressed

People said it was going to be cool, but this is ridiculous. I've taken to comparing the weather here to the weather in Cudahy to decide if I'm in a good spot. Today, I'm "winning". It's supposed to be a high of 58 here and only 49 there. I have to ignore Nashville (81 today, although raining). 58 is not a cool summer, it's a cool spring. I have heard rumors that it will get warmer, I can only hope they mean before September.

This type of weather makes selecting a proper, yet comfortable and diva-enough, outfit from my limited wardrobe a bit difficult. Ideally, I would don one of my classic princess-seamed dresses - I brought 6 of them - and just throw on a jacket when venturing outside. However, this place is a bit like Zambia in that the distinction between outside and inside is blurred. The cool temperatures mean almost no bugs. Windows and doors are left ajar. The temperature from one side of the stoop is hardly different than that from the other. Instead of needing a jacket to go outside, I need a jacket or sweatshirt to leave my room. (I have found that by keeping the door closed and opening the curtains when the sun shines through my western windows, I can keep my room at a comfortable temperature.)

It is also like Zambia (cold season-Zambia) in that the mornings start out cold, but mid-afternoon in the sun can feel quite warm. This means 2 or 3 outfits a day sometimes. I don't mind that; it can be fun to change. And the warm afternoon welcomes those princess-seams.

Today, I have chosen a soft tan sweater. Though long sleeves generally irritate me, I have a few sweaters I enjoy. My old, too big, half-warn out jeans will have to suffice. The box with my good jeans (and my warm fluffy sweatshirt, among other things) has not yet arrived. I purchased a new pair of jeans last week for $10, but they're too light to wear with this sweater. And at least I have my fabulous new walking shoes. High-heeled sparkly gold and cream sneakers. That helps add diva. So today, I think I did ok, with my limited resources.

I'm looking forward to next week, when I start my job. Then I can wear my beautiful suits with my silky stockings and spend all day in nice high heels, without freezing. That will be wonderful: warm because of the jacket, layers and stockings; comfy because of the skirts and heels, and fun because it's me!

In the meantime, what I really need for around here are more longer skirts. I only have one. (I believe there's another in the missing box.) Luckily for me, I found a discount fabric store fairly near here. ;) And I made sure my sewing machine fit in the car on the way here. Guess I'll just have to sew!

(Original Post)



Busta Rhymes - Pass the Courvoisier

Because Discrimination in Hiring is Illegal....

Email received today: (names and locations redacted)

My name is XXXXXX and I am an Assistant District Attorney here in
XXXXX, XX and formerly the President of the University of XXXX
School of Law BLSA Chapter. I have been an ADA for almost 4 years.
Our office prosecutes cases in XXXXX, XXXXX and XXXXX Counties.
Though my office has not officially posted openings, I know that we
have 1 and possibly 2 openings for an opening starting this summer for
an Assistant District Attorney. We are currently interviewing. This
office has previously hired attorney's before receipt of bar results.
We will also hire unpaid interns this summer as we have previously.
Last year we hired 5 unpaid summer interns (one to each trial team).
If there are any BLSA members, more specifically, African American law
students interested in applying for a position as an Assistant
District Attorney or summer intern, please have them forward their
resumes to my attention and I will forward to those in charge of
hiring. Time is of the essence.

Really, people. And this is equality?

(Original Post)



Rihanna - Umbrella

Friday, May 23, 2008

Oakland Expedition #1: $20, to make some sandwiches!?

Bread, milk, butter, cheese and carrots. That's what I bought at the store. That's it; that's all, no more. Twenty dollars! Well, $18.35 to be exact, but still!

And you know I got the cheapest possible everything. Except for the butter. They had Land O Lakes, and I'll be darned if I'm going to support those so-called "happy" cows anymore than I have to! No siree, I got my butter from good old-fashioned Midwestern cows. The way dairy is supposed to be.

I also wound up with pre-sliced cheese. An extravagance in which I would usually not indulge. However, it was actually an economic choice this time. The cheese section included about 5 types of cheddar in any size you want. But the swiss. The swiss was only available in gigantic humugo family size, or pre-sliced. And pre-sliced was cheaper than the gigantic humungo family size that I would not finish before it went blue. I would also never buy organic veggies back home, they're usually twice as much. But, here, there was no other option, organic carrots or I'm Prince Phillip's horse.

The only bread that was less than $3, i.e. $2.99, was "Very Low Sodium Grain Bread". Sounds like something Daddy would buy. It's ok. At least it's not white.

I can't complain about the milk; it's cheaper than the gas.

This may take some getting used to. At least it looks like eating as cheap as possible will be much healthier here than anywhere else I've lived. That "cheap as possible" is just going to be much more expensive than any of those other places. Oh, for a bowl of nsima....

(Original Post)

The island at my new place


Traffic on Telegraph

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Opportunities Don't Just Fall from the Sky

Or do they?

This past week, two of my closest friends each had a shot at their dream job fall in their lap. Yes, it's only a shot, a chance, but that's huge. These aren't the type of things for which just anyone can apply.

One of my friends got a call from a casting agent to go to NYC and audition for a touring Broadway show! He's an amazing and extremely talented actor, singer and musician. He's been steadily moving up the theater ranks, getting bigger parts at better theaters, traveling the country for shows in random towns. But, this Broadway thing is so huge. If he gets it, he may actually have to pay income tax for like the first time ever.

My other friend got a random email that one special Department of Justice (DOJ) office in the south is hiring extra Assistant US Attorneys right out of law school. Normally, to be eligible for this position, an attorney has to have several years practice under his belt, preferably as a prosecutor. My friend is an extremely gifted debater and, much to my general frustration, very good at winding people up into verbal knots. He already has experience as a prosecutor, and a public defender and at the DOJ. His resume screams perfect for the job. As I pointed out to him, if they don't interview him for this job, they're stupid, and if they're stupid, he wouldn't want to work with them anyway.

Yea, both of them admit, actually getting the job is a long shot. But just the chance to audition/apply for this type of work is incredible. The best part is both of them already have other work lined up, in their field, that will lead them to more of these types of opportunities in the future. They win either way.

I am so excited for both of them. I wish this could happen to all my friends. These opportunities, per se, fell out of nowhere in the sense neither of my friends went looking for them. But they're a culmination of all the hard work my friends have put into their school, training and other job searches. I can't think of two more deserving people. Best of luck guys!

(Original Post)