Monday, March 31, 2008

Neena Bamba

I just found out that Mrs. Bamba passed away yesterday. Just thought I should share with those that knew her but hadn't heard yet.

I want to type a full obit, but I don't have it in me just yet. I will though. I had the good fortune to spend some great quality time with her in the last few years.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the Bamba family, especially with both Sonya and Vaneeta's weddings just weeks away. I am so sorry for their loss.


It's been an interesting week for the topic of climate change... a topic that has not boosted me on a soapbox in awhile... so, ahem...

- First was the call of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, that Global climate change is actually an "act of aggression" by rich countries against poor countries.
- Then was an article in Good Magazine about how the super predictable weather in Africa is no longer so predictable.
- Then there was all the Earth Hour press.

Finally, I saw this article by my beloved Gene Weingarten.

Most of you know that I'm already pretty green. I don't own a car. Most of the time I don't even have to take public transportation. I have reduced my consumption of most environmentally unfriendly products. I recycle as much as Philadelphia will allow.

But clearly its still not enough. So, here I am with words of encouragement from the EPA. Here are some ways to make changes at home - I've also included my own little audit of how I'm doing, so you all don't think I'm not including myself in this:
Change 5 lights
Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars. I don't even have 5 lights in my home. But it is time to reexamine my fixtures and see what I can do.

Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products
When buying new products, such as appliances for your home, get the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances. When I moved into my new place, I took great pains to find the most energy efficient air conditioner I could. But I wonder what my fridge is like? I know that my energy bill is about $11 a month, so I think I'm doing okay.

Heat and cool smartly
Simple steps like cleaning air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort at home, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed. I'm okay here.

Seal and insulate your home
Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement. If you are planning to replace windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified windows for better performance. Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are often big energy wasters. Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces to improve the efficiency of your home. Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the over-all energy efficiency of your home. By taking these steps, you can eliminate drafts, keep your home more comfortable year round, save energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I made my own window insulator this winter for my apartment, but I should try to find a better long-term option for this summer to keep my cool-air from leaking into the warm neighborhood.

Use green power
Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home , including installing solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state . I wonder if they have solar powered fans? Or maybe I'll try a solar-powered laptop case. I could probably do quite a bit more on this one.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. Here is a problem. Philadelphia really needs a better recycling program. So until they have one, I MUST get better about choosing products with less packaging. I should have a Brita filter. I should buy less processed food. I should say I don't need a bag more often. I should drink less Starbucks. I will come up with a plan and report back.

Be green in your yard
Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings (PDF, 8 pp., 1.59 MB, About PDF). Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See EPA’s GreenScapes program for tips on how to improve your lawn or garden while also benefiting the environment. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions. I don't have a yard - no problem here. But, I do feel like I should invest in some land at some point to ensure that I help prevent deforestation. My grandmother did this. She bought 40 acres of mostly wetland and turned it into a nature conservancy. If she could do it at 80, then I can do it at my age!

Use water efficiently
Saving water around the home is simple. Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Look for products with EPA's WaterSense label; these products save water and perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts. There are also simple actions you can take to save water: Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape; only water when needed and do it during the coolest part of the day, early morning is best. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket - water is wasted with each flush. And did you know a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day? Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away. See EPA's WaterSense site for more water saving tips. I'm pretty good here too. I'm helped along by the smallest shower in the world. I have to turn the water off to soap because there is not enough room to step out of the stream. So being poor really does help with conservation! I also cringe when I see people "watering" the sidewalk. I think I'll start a preemptive campaign this year. Maybe a flyer about water conservation.

Spread the Word
Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Tell 5 people and together we can help our homes help us all. Oh wow, look at me, blogging about conservation. So each of you can simply link to this post and spread the word that way... how easy! How fun for everyone!

So help keep my imaginary, future African home from destruction by doing a little better, okay. Please? I promise to have a comfortable room for you to stay in if you do.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

As American as Apple Pie.

I've had this conversation before. I'll have it again. But I have a hard time self-identifying as American. Along with that comes a slight disdain for things consider quintessentially American, like Baseball.

I had one immigrant Grandfather. And one grandmother with an immigrant father. That's it, everyone else is American. But even the most American amongst my family come with a heavy dose of internationalism. My parents spent their first year of marriage abroad. My sister studied Spanish in Mexico. One cousin went to Cambridge. One cousin went to medical school in Australia. One cousin works in Peru. Another is married to a Peruvian.

But really, this came from my summers in New York with my grandparents. Those long days by the pool in Long Island is where I learned about Greek food, French Art, Inuit culture, and Russian dictionaries. In that big, rambling house is where I started to suspect that Mussorgsky held more cache than Sousa. That traveling to Italy for the World Cup was more important than watching the World Series. And especially I learned to be sceptical of things upheld as American. The descriptor American did NOT under any circumstances mean that it was better, and often meant that through the lens of the world, it was worse.

Ok. Don't send me hate mail. I didn't choose my family. That's just how it was.

Now, I continue to be sceptical of all things American. I love chevre but usually dislike American cheese. I accept that I must listen to Sousa, but certainly wouldn't download it. I don't love any sports enough to watch them without company, but if I had to, I would choose soccer, not baseball.

All of that is a long-winded introduction to what I did today while at work. I went to a special Phillies event.

I was prepared to be miserable. I even put it on my Outlook calendar as the "I hate baseball" event. But I was wrong. I had fun. It was infectious.

We got a special tour of the batting cage, the dugout, the field, the Diamond Level, and the locker room. I got to hold the bats of Chase Utley. I got to sit in the Media Room where all the press conferences happen.

It's interesting though, because what was fun was the feeling of seeing something exclusive. I still wouldn't necessarily want to sit through a game, but now I'm sceptical of my own view. Perhaps I need to give all things American another glance through a more objective viewfinder. Maybe I still won't like American cheese, but perhaps there are a few things I need to just enjoy - like the 1812 Overture on Fourth of July - without thinking like such pseudo-cool-euro-trash all the time.

The picture at the top of the post is me having fun... at a ballpark!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Awe. Then Panic. Later Action.

What? Am I insane?

Did I really let my TO DO list get to me so much that I considered not going to that amazing event last night? So I could do laundry? Really?

I was completely fortunate to have a wonderful invitation from a lovely new friend to go to the event One Book One Philadelphia at the Free Library last night.

It was amazing. Awe-inspiring. I was in the first row, just feet from Dave Eggers, Valentino Achak Deng, and Mary Williams - Three people who have known each other for years, but seem to have come together quite by chance.

Where does the story start? It starts in the south of the Sudan in the 80's when the Islamic fundamentalist government first started to send militia into the south to destroy homes, take girls into slavery, kill villagers, and orphan thousands of young boys.

Valentino Achak Deng's story begins in a such a village. He is one of the Lost Boys. The boys who were orphaned or separated from their families, who walked from Southern Sudan to Ethiopia and eventually to Kenya to find refuge. In 2001, after spending his entire adolescence in refugee camps, he was brought to the United States.

Mary Williams had worked for International aide and refugee organizations in Africa, and had heard the stories of the Lost Boys. She started by connecting some of them to volunteers and jobs in the Atlanta area, and eventually started the Lost Boys Foundation.

Dave Eggers wrote their story, What is the What.

In those three people, to make a long story short, you have all that I want to do with my life: 1) Work in international aide, with refugees, women, and other struggling populations. 2) Use whatever platform I have in my life to help those people trapped in situations that are killing them. 3) Write good stuff that helps good people and educates and elevates.

I was so overwhelmed I could barely function. Halfway through I thought I would faint. Seriously. It was amazing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Closing in on the trip... time is tight!

So tonight I'm going to hear Dave Eggers and Valentine Achak Deng speak at the Free Library. I really got into "What is the What" back a year ago or so, therefore and forthwith, I should be excited, right? Remember how I even tried to start a Genocide Portrait Project and had a little box about it on the upper left of this very blog for a LONG, LONG time.

But all I can think about is my trip with Charles to see my new nephew. Maybe because I have so much to do in advance. And I leave at 5am on Saturday morning.

Here is my TO DO list:
- Pick up New shirts for my sister
- Pick up Air Mattress and extra linens
- Do Laundry
- Wrap Presents... or at the very least remember to bring them
- Pack
- Prepare other bedding (blankets, pillows, etc)
- Try not to forget anything crucial like camera, phone charger, or credit card
- Deposit emergency money in the bank or cash the check

I hope I'm not forgetting anything.

I was going to make sandwiches for the drive and stuff like that, but not anymore. Now I'm just gonna relax... do the list above and not worry about everything else.

That's my plan at least.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Conversation with Coworker at the Gym last night...

Last night, 6:35pm, Philadelphia Sports Club

Her: Hey Kathryn, How's your regime going? Are you watching what you eat? I see you're working out.

Me: (...shocked pause)

Uh, I've been watching what I eat for a long time. This is quite thin for me.

Her: Oh, really?

Me: Uh, yeah. I'm kinda on the thin side for women in my family. I have been working out and eating healthy for most of my life.

Her: Is your family healthy?

Me: Yes.

Her: Oh, because my sister is your size and she doesn't exercise at all. She eats okay, but she doesn't exercise. But she's from German Peasant stock, I'm guessing you are too.

Me: Uh, yeah... I guess. Well, enjoy your workout.

Her: Okay. Good night.

I'm not certain that this transcript does the encounter justice... it felt more like this:

Her: Hey Kathryn, How's your regime going? Have you lost any weight yet? I haven't seen you in the gym in a week or more... Are you watching what you eat? I see you're not working out very much these days.

Me: (...shocked pause)

Uh, I've been watching what I eat for a long time. This is quite thin for me.

Her: Oh, really? I would never have guessed. Are you sure that you're really watching what you eat? I just moved here from Miami... maybe you should try the South Beach Diet? Or maybe Atkins? Anything, really, I can barely keep my breakfast from coming up... yeah, that's the last meal I ate. I try to only eat the number of calories that is equal to the amount of money I make in a day.

Me: Uh, yeah. I'm kinda on the thin side for women in my family. I have been working out and eating healthy for most of my life.

Her: Is your family healthy? Wow, if they're even bigger than you are they must be dropping like flies. You should start a family fat-camp. I would come and speak to them if you want me to. I'm very sensitive in these matters.

Me: Yes.

Her: Oh, they are healthy? You are lying. Because my sister is a big cow, like you, and she doesn't exercise at all. She eats like a pig and she doesn't exercise. I'm so embarrassed of her, that's why I've pretty much exiled her from my life. But she's from German Peasant stock, so she's lazy and stupid, and I'm guessing you are too.

Me: Uh, yeah... I guess. Well, enjoy your workout.

Her: Okay. Good night fatso. Try not to eat too much tonight.

Monday, March 17, 2008

1943 Guide to Hiring Women

Has anyone ever heard of this? I know others have written about it.

A faculty person just gave me a copy. It contains such golden gems as:

- General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

- Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibility of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.

- Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

There is more... oh so much more. From Savvy&Sage, September/October 2007

But my question is: Why did my male colleague give this to me? Very odd.

If you have any ideas on whether this was an action of pure misogynism or someone trying to share a giggle, please let me know.

In the meantime, I need to go tidy my hair.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Meet my nephew... Bodhi James Hagen Jr!

Here's Bodhi!

He's named after his father, Bodhi, who is named after the Bodhi tree.

Like the tree... we'll just call him Bo.

Beware the Ides of March ... little baby...

My sister is in labor! It started last night after dinner, continuing through the night. I am so excited and wishing I was in Boston with her. Instead, I'll be sending her strength. I'll be wishing her peace. And I'm looking forward to stories about how it all goes.

By this time next week, Charles and I will be there with her and the baby (and her husband and my dad too.) I can't wait!

Now, I can't help but hope that the little one has chosen this day to be born for a reason. Does it know the historical significance? Or is that the whole point - perhaps it will be a boy, Julius Caesar reincarnated - come to restore the empire to its natural order - maybe a different empire though - one that looks for peace and unity. One that sees an end to greed, an end to power as a destructive tool. I hope its not simply a harbinger that my sweet sister will need to have the aptly named "caesarian section" - she has her heart set on a natural birth.

Regardless, I think I'll walk down to the book store right now and get a copy of that play. What better way is there to wait for a baby to be born than to read about betrayal and deceit? Perhaps I'll give the book to my sister when I go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wow, Where did that last month go?

I know, I disappeared. I have no excuses with any real merit accept that sometimes you just don't know what to say.

So, Here are the big things coming up.

Inpending Auntdom: My sister was due yesterday and her birthday is tomorrow. Worst case, she's being induced on St. Patrick's day. I can't wait. No word on sex or names yet. For now, baby Hagen is just being called "Muffin."

Wedding one: Indian wedding in New Orleans. It is during the arguably busiest week of the year at work, but still should be fun. Trying not to stress about it.

Wedding two: Destination wedding in Mexico (I am in the wedding- sort of). I really want to find a new dress. A friend recently told me: "I see you in a high, empire waist number that has an A-line from the mid/upper torso down to the knee, then falling straight from there to perhaps tea-length. Something with some sheer, subtly shaped layering in and around the shoulders, to create a softness as one approaches the face, as your facial features are very delicate. I'm thinking something that hails back to the late 1950s or early 1960s, with a fairly rounded but open neck, perhaps with a few buttons or other accents leading down from the neck, which you can open or close depending on your preference." The couple would like it to be in a bright color. If anyone runs across this dress, please send me a picture or a link.

GRE tutor needed: Who would like to tutor me in math? I have somehow developed a phobia, so if you're good at math and have an prescription for anti-anxiety medication that you'd like to share, please let me know. Deadline for me taking GREs: Labor Day.

Well that sums it up for now. I'll post pictures of my niece/nephew as soon as I can and will post dress pictures if I receive any...

Kisses to you all,