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Influence, schminfluence.

As  I was just looking at Klout and finding great amusement in its assessment of my online influence.

screen-shot-klout

According to Klout, I am influential about:

  • Music (duh)
  • Homosexuality (hello, gay now!)
  • Photography (yes, I take pictures)
  • Instruments (musical?)
  • Blogging (welcome to my blog!)
  • Family (I have parents and a brother and a sister-in-law and aunts and uncles and cousins, and once I wrote about my family’s Thanksgiving…)
  • War

War?

I’m influential about WAR? Continue reading

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The butterfly and the frog

I used to have this great shower curtain that was a big colorful cartoon of the life cycles of the frog and the butterfly.

Well, I thought it was great. For a while. But the thing with a shower curtain is that you see it every day. You look at it while you’re brushing your teeth and while you’re peeing and while you’re spacing out wondering what you came into the bathroom to get; oh, was it the sunblock you were looking for?

And then, at least if you’re me, you start over-analyzing the damn shower curtain. The illustrations. Word choice. Which words are explained in context (molting!) and which aren’t (spawns). And then you grow irritated at decisions and assumptions made by the people who designed this educational shower curtain, people trying to teach kids something about the natural world.

Let’s see if you react the same way I did. Here’s the text of the curtain.

The butterfly

A caterpillar grows inside an egg.*

When the egg hatches, she eats the shell to get nutrients.

She begins to eat leaves to get bigger.

She hides in leaves to survive.

As she gets bigger, she sheds her skin 4 or 5 times before she is fully grown. This process is called molting.

After the last time she molts, her skin hardens and she is encased in a chrysalis.

When the chrysalis splits open, a little butterfly comes out!

She pumps fluid to expand her wings. Once her wings are dry, she practices flapping them and then flies off.

*Would that make a better joke– What came first, the caterpillar or the egg?
No? Not the same ring to it? Okay.

And then: our friend the frog.

Frog eggs grow in egg spawns. A tadpole grows inside each clear egg jelly.

When the tadpole gets big, he wiggles out of his egg and starts eating the jelly.

The tadpole has gills to help him breathe under water.

As he keeps eating, he gets bigger.* Soon he grows a very strong tail for swimming.

A few weeks later, the gills move back inside the body and the tadpole grows two hind legs.

He begins to grow lungs and his gills disappear. Once the lungs are developed, two front legs grow.

With lungs, he can now breathe air. He can now start eating bugs outside the water.

His webbed feet grow stronger and his tail shrinks away. He becomes a frog! He will now spend most of his time on land.

*I also get bigger as I keep eating. I don’t have a tail for swimming, though.

So.

Did you notice a difference between the frog description and the butterfly?

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Travel Doom

Rainclouds over Kyrgyzstan

A year ago, I was in Kyrgyzstan.

The landscapes were stunning; the people were kind; the bread was delicious. Market stalls were piled high with fresh plums and apples and apricots.

I slept in warm yurts in the mountains, in narrow beds in quirky hotels, and in cold tents by blue lakes. I rode a little Kyrgyz horse and learned how to make felt.

I loved it there.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

I went to Uzbekistan, too. Silk Road history seeped from the walls and blue tiles of ancient cities. I got lost among countless medressas and mosques and mausoleums. Again, the people were kind, and the bread was delicious.

And then this year, Kyrgyzstan started to fall apart. The president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was deposed in April. In June, Ethnic Kyrgyz attacked ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan. Refugees fled to Uzbekistan; those who remained tried to barricade themselves into safety; the interim government did little to help. Hundreds of Uzbeks were killed; the official death toll from the violence is around 900. Just today, the U.N. reported continued violence, torture, and neglect.

I’ve been heartbroken by the news.

Two years ago, I was in China.

That was the year of the massive earthquake in Sichuan. Protests in Tibet were met with a violent crack-down. I won’t get into the dark side of the Olympic Games that year.

This year, I went to Tibet.

Earlier this year, Tibet suffered a devastating earthquake. A Tibetan activist was sentenced to death, and an environmental activist was sentenced to fifteen years. Monks were forced to recant – oh, sorry, they were “re-educated.” The climate is ever tenser, and many Tibetans fear that crackdowns will only get worse.

My dad joked that every time I decided to travel somewhere, that place runs into trouble. Not funny. Way to make me neurotic, Dad.

After I reported my dad’s theory to a friend, while we both wilted in our un-air-conditioned apartments in the brutal heat that’s been plaguing the Northeast US, she replied: “Maybe you’re to blame for the heat, too.”

Way to make me neurotic, Jess.

It’s my first time spending July in the States in a few years, and my first July in my own home since 2006. And what happens? Wretched heat and humidity. I know that heat and humidity are part of summer, they’re to be expected, yeah yeah, but it’s been exceptionally miserable here.

I’m not to blame. I’m not.

So, uh, where should I go next?

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Alphabet Day

Today I was suddenly reminded of the Sesame Street song “Would You Like to Buy an O?” and happily listened to it for the first time in years. Many years.

Tonight I read a blog post in which the writer decided to travel to countries starting with every letter of the alphabet. By the time she’s thirty. So I’m way behind on the chronology, and I’m skeptical about arbitrary determinants of travel, but I got curious about how many letters of the alphabet my travels have covered. So: I would like to buy an O and start. Or, as I posted on Facebook last summer after crossing the border into Kyrgyzstan: I’d like to buy a vowel. Or whatever.

A – Austria, Australia (if you count four hours in the Sydney airport)

B – Belgium

C – Canada, China, Czech Republic

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The Great American Apparel Diet

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading this article and thinking that this was a bandwagon I should really get on. And so I’m on.

The women featured in the article decided to forgo clothing purchases for a year. They call it the Great American Apparel Diet.

On one hand, it seems radical. Not buy clothing for a whole year? Isn’t that what people in this country do for fun? What about keeping up with fashion? What about that irresistible bargain?

On the other hand, it seems so obvious. I have a closet and a bureau full of clothes. What else could I possibly need?

It’s been easy. I really don’t need anything. Travel always reminds me of this: I spend weeks with nothing more than what I carry on my back, and it’s plenty. It’s only when I spend a long chunk of time back in the States that I start getting sucked into mindless shopping. In fact, I find that the mindset of not buying clothing has extended to other things. I’ve heaped more items of clothing on my pile to swap or give away. If I haven’t worn an item in a while, and I don’t feel a great attachment to it, I don’t need it. It’s something that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place – that I bought on a whim, or because I thought I might need it, or because it seemed like a bargain. And so it can go away and leave room for the things I actually like and wear.

And when I’m in stores now, I’ve realized how bizarre the shopping mindset is.  Shopping for things you need is one thing.  But shopping as recreation is a bizarre idea. Why would we make stuff just to get people to buy it, and why would we buy stuff that we don’t need, and why do we have this whole cycle of buying and discarding, buying and discarding?

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Dinner conversations

Moments from dinner tonight:

1. Man dining alone at a table, on cell phone: “Yeah, I’m at Bayside Betsy’s, and I have to be honest, I’m a little depressed…”

2. “Happy holiday!” (Said to me enthusiastically by a complete stranger waving cheerfully – practically flapping his arm – as he sat down at a table near me)

3. The stranger in #2 couldn’t find his reading glasses and couldn’t read the menu. The waiter brought a tall glass filled with several pairs of reading glasses.

4. At daughter’s request, mother takes cell phone picture of her husband and daughter. Father: “Again I’m going to be on Facebook?”

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Blog housekeeping

As you can see, I decided to migrate my blog over to WordPress. Tumblr is great in China, since I had an easier time posting to it than to WordPress, but I’ve become a bit of a WordPress addict for everything else. It’ll take some time for me to go back and tag all the posts, but eventually Eating Words should be a nice, coherent blog. And I intend to get back into blogging itself. So here we are: enjoy.

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