I’m From the Ghetto (apparently)

Image from siliconvalleydebug.com

I listened to the most recent episode of This American Life this morning and found myself getting pretty riled up at the first story about Mt. Pleasant High School. You can listen to the story here or download the podcast on iTunes.

There has always been a stigma associated with East Side schools. We’re all knife wielding gangsters, throwing up gang signs, dealing drugs and having babies way too young. I’m not saying that element doesn’t exist, it absolutely does but I think it discredits the more prominent population of East Side kids that end up doing something productive with their lives. I’m always baffled at the people who are afraid of venturing out to the East Side, who turn their noses up because the girls on the volleyball team don’t have matching shoes. Life isn’t easy for most kids in the east side but that doesn’t mean they don’t come from loving homes, that they don’t want the very best for their lives, that they’re not trying to make the most out of what they have. I hate it when someone tries to tell you how to live your life without knowing a damn thing about you. I loathe the citizen high to citizen low attitude. I sincerely hope that Steve Poizner gets a clue about how insulting and terribly written his description of Mt. Pleasant High School kids was. I also hope that East Side schools are able to get the money to give these kids the education they want and need.

Thanks Ira for defending the East Side (I knew you would)

Advertisements

My Neighborhood

I live in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The UWS comprises the neighborhood between 59th & 100th, Riverside Parkway and Central Park West. I’m really lucky to have found myself in such an eclectic neighborhood. There are many recognizable landmarks in the area and so many things to explore. Here is a sampling of places I enjoy in my neighborhood.

My sister running around with the dinosaurs in the AMNH

The American Museum of Natural History & Hayden Planetarium: 81st Central Park West

This is my favorite place in the city. I could get lost in this museum all day and would love every minute of it. This place is huge and houses some of the coolest displays of animals and artifacts I’ve ever seen. The thing I love most is the Hayden Planetarium, which coincidentally is curated by my favorite astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This is the perfect place to take children, roaming through the halls is sure to spark those little imaginations. Also perfect for big kids like me.

Levain Bakery: 167 W. 74th

The cookies at this bakery will make you weep they are so good. I’m getting a little misty just thinking about them. The bakery is small but the sweet smell of chocolate chips will let you know you’re close. I’ve only had the cookies here but I hear the baked goods are pretty tasty. They don’t offer a ton of variety at this place but what they do, they do very well.

The Shops at Columbus Circle: 10 Columbus Circle Avenue

This place is right at the south west corner of Central Park. You can see the CNN building nearby and get some macaroons at the famous Bouchon Bakery. The shops are pretty upscale but the building is beautiful and full of all kinds of modern amenities. The bathrooms have tv screens, so you can watch Wolf Blitzer and wash your hands at the same time. I really want to catch Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour before they head into work whenever I’m around the area. Mostly though I like to hang out and read at the Borders.

Zabars: 2245 Broadway

This supermarket is an institution. They stock the best bread, baked goods, cheeses & other specialty goods around the city. They’re known for their quality and is as close to a one stop shop as you can get here in NY. This place is also completely bonkers at all hours of the day. The bread & coffee here I can vouch for personally, they are excellent. It’s a good place to pick up a packed lunch to take to Central Park.

That’s it for now. I’ll post more when I discover more noteworthy places in the neighborhood. Better yet come and visit and explore with me.

February Books

This post is a little late but here’s a recap of the books I read in February. I’ve already reviewed four of the February books in previous posts (see PP:DOTD, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Austenland & Pride & Prejudice).

Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters by Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters

For the sake of full disclosure I have a little bit of a crush on the author. I met him at a lecture and he was amiable and charming, so I may be a little biased when I say I really liked the book. The book is set within the Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility story only this time with a Sea Monster infestation. One of the bigger players in the book, Colonel Brandon has a face of tentacles (don’t worry he’s not a bad guy). I thought this book was fun and had a more natural monster infiltration. I appreciated that the author really took the time to get the Austen writing voice right.

Recommended for those that enjoy the ridiculous.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I warned you that February would be full of Austen. I love stories about second chances, especially second chance love stories. The main players in our story are Anne Elliot and Capt. Fredrick Wentworth. Anne falls in love with Wentworth, the family objects because he is poor so Anne rejects him. Wentworth joins the navy and gets his fortune and comes back rich, a Captain and also bitter towards Anne. This book is my third favorite of the Austen novels. It’s heart wrenching to read the interaction between the two when Wentworth comes back.

Recommended for lovers of second chances and Jane Austen.

Across the Nightingale Floor (Tale of the Otori book 1) by Lian Hearn

A wonderful tale of secret legacy and feudal Japan. The story is fast paced and engrossing. A great book to pick up on cold days where you just want to stay inside and cuddle up with something fun. I liked that there wasn’t always a happy ending with the story lines. I think it’s those disappointments that pave the way for sequels. A friend lent me this book as a primer to his ninja ways. This book does a good job of alluding to the mythology of the ninja, though they never expressly call themselves that. Very enjoyable read.

Recommended for boys who like adventure and ninjas.

Grass for His Pillow (Tales of the Otori book 2) by Lian Hearn

I feel like the 2nd book in a series tends to be the weakest. The first book sets up the back story and the second is that middle coming of age story that sets up the big battles in the third. Takeo made choices in this book that surprised me, which I enjoyed. This book isn’t a main course story but merely the appetizer for the big battles to come in the third. Looking forward to it though.

Recommended for anyone who loves adventure stories.

Unemployed in the City

Job hunting sucks! It breaks you down like nothing else. The silence that greets you after you apply for a job is a unique combination of hopeful anticipation and rejection. I’ve been in New York for a couple of months and have applied to 78 different jobs, that doesn’t even include the stuff I applied to before I got here. I write individual cover letters, gotten recommendations from friends and new contacts, followed up where I could and here I am still jobless and growing more and more restless. It’s disheartening to work hours on a cover letter, reading the job description and knowing with all your being that you are qualified for the job that sometimes you may even be overqualified and then not getting a call back.

The hiring process is a mystery.I’ve been on the other end of it and have learned that so much of it is out of your control. I’ve rejected resumes based on things as small as I didn’t like the fancy font or they went to a University I didn’t like. I know it’s harsh and unfair but when you have a stack of 40 resumes on your desk you do anything to narrow the field. I read somewhere that in New York every open position is applied to by at least 20 qualified people. The unemployment rate in this state is 8.8%. The stats aren’t pretty.

The market is tough and I knew that before moving out here but for some reason that didn’t deter me. I knew perfectly well that I could be unemployed for six months before finding a job but when you are at home checking the job listings day after day and not hearing a thing back you seriously start to wonder what is wrong with you. I’ve had friends who have been unemployed for two or more years. The news keeps telling us that the economy is going to bounce back any day now. While I really hope that’s true I’m not holding my breath.

Don’t worry friends I haven’t lost hope, I’m mostly venting my frustration. I still love New York and I’m convinced things are going to work out. I knew it was going to be tough coming out here, but knowing doesn’t always make things easier.

Podcasts

You have an ipod right? Or some other sort of mp3 playing device. Well have you discovered podcasts? I love music, I have a large library of music spanning many genres. I could probably go several months straight listening through my library without repeating a song. Even with all of this at my disposal I listen to podcasts 80% of the time. They’re free and easy to subscribe to. There is a podcast for any interest you may possibly have. Here are some of my favorites.

I am obsessed with this show, I recommend it to anyone that will listen. One episode can take you through the gamut of emotions. Some of my current cherished friendships have been sparked through discussions of this show. They usually have only the most recent episode available on the podcast, but the do stream all of their episodes free on their website. www.thislife.org . One of my favorites is called Somewhere Out There

I actually discovered this show through one of the episodes of This American Life. They have a similar structure as TAL, there is a theme and the collect stories related to that theme. Radiolab has more of a scientific bent which is great because it makes me feel smarter after I’ve listened to an episode. All of their episodes are available for download via podcast, or you can listen on their website. www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/ Try the Morality episode

Another podcast I discovered through This American Life. I’ve gone to a couple of their live shows too. They have a handful of podcasts available for download. I’ve heard some really great stories from Neil Gaiman and Malcolm Gladwell on their podcast. The Moth is a great organization and the stories they put up are always entertaining. They’re also short which is nice for those 20 minute car/train rides.

Terry Gross does the best interviews. She asks really insightful questions and really does her research. She interviewed Tracy Morgan and I listened in my car with my jaw hanging open because that interview was so crazy. The interviews all types of people; celebrities, politicians, directors, scientists, authors etc. Her show comes on at least twice a day on weekdays. You can also download podcasts of each show on iTunes.

I want to go to the TED conference someday. They get some of the most cutting edge thinkers of our time and get them to share their ideas. It’s amazing, I’ve seen stuff on the energy crisis, economics, aide in Africa, creativity, time & space. It always challenges the way I think about the world and yes the ideas are indeed worth spreading. They have both video and audio versions of their lectures, and I think they have most of them up on iTunes. This means you can find at least one thing you would be interested in.

Do you have a favorite podcast I haven’t listed? Care to share?

Lincoln in New York

The New York Historical Society is having free admission days all this week. That is another thing about New York that I love, the museums often have free days/hours which is just the right price for me. The museum has a special exhibit on Lincoln which was pretty cool. I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention in history. My American history knowledge is seriously deficient. It was cool to walk through Lincoln’s political career. My favorite anecdote was about his decision to grow a beard. In his early days he was clean shaven in his photos. A little girl named Grace Bedell wrote him a letter assuring him of her vote but also suggesting that he grow in some whiskers.

N Y
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860

Hon A B Lincoln
Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York

I must not write any more   answer this letter right off
Good bye
Grace Bedell

Adorable right? The best part is that Lincoln did grow in some whiskers! I loved that. The big thing I took away from the exhibit is the way that history blurs the edges of what actually happened. Lincoln is this iconic figure, stove pipe hats, unwavering morals and a farmer boy clean cut stature. I think the thing that gets diminished is the great opposition he faced even within his camp of supporters. The political cartoons were especially biting. It was just interesting to me how so many of the challenges Lincoln faced in his Presidency are the same challenges President Obama is facing. So good luck President Obama, politics is a harsh business.


It seems ridiculous now to think that slavery was a legalized way of life that under the Dred Scott Decision those imported and descended from Africans were not protected under our constitution. I won’t get into the ways slavery is still legalized today (maybe later), but it’s still baffling that we can treat our fellow human beings like cattle. The museum exhibited the lives of some of our country’s most legendary abolitionists. Now I wish I had paid more attention in history class instead of playing racing games on my TI-83 I could have properly given consideration to the people in history that risked their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Thank you New York Historical Society for properly shaming me. I’m off to add some history books to this year’s book list.


Snowflakes

It snowed all day yesterday. I walked around Central Park for a bit and just enjoyed the general splendor of freshly fallen snow. I think snow is magical, even walking back home crossing the busy streets everything just seemed to be a little quieter a little more serene. I got home with snow covered boots and a soggy jacket but I loved every minute out there with the snowflakes.

Jane Austen Challenge

I stumbled upon a Jane Austen reading challenge via Austenprose on Twitter last night and had to join. It’s over at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object run by Haley. The rules are pretty simple, pick a level (I fall under the “Fanatic” category) and share your list of books. Since I’m already well on my way I thought it would be fun to interact with other bookworm bloggers. So for the fanatic category I must read 6 Jane Austen books and 5 Jane Austen inspired works. Here’s my list:

  • Pride & Prejudice (done)
  • Sense & Sensibility
  • Emma
  • Persuasion
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters
  • Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • Austenland (done)
  • A Truth Universally Acknowledged
  • These Three Remain

Books have to be read by December 31st. Like I need an excuse to read Austen.

Snowpocalypse

We got 10 inches of snow on Wednesday (2/9). I enjoyed this snowfall from the comfort of my cozy apartment. I wasn’t feeling too well and after hearing reports from friends who were forced to venture out in the storm I figured it was better to just watch the snowflakes from indoors. I love snow! It gives you the chance to bundle up in warm coats, scarves and hats. I love the sound of the snow crunching beneath your feet. I love when the flurries get caught in your eyelashes or on the fringes of your bangs. The concrete jungle blanketed with fresh snowfall is so beautiful. The weather forecast says there is a 100% chance of snow tonight and tomorrow. I’m feeling a lot better so I think I may go out and brave the snowfall, I may even go sledding.

For a little perspective, this is what the playground beneath my window looked like before the snowstorm (photo taken in Dec).

This is what it looked like at about 2 in the afternoon on Wednesday.

By 6pm the chain link fence was covered in a sheet of snow. The playground equipment wasn’t even visible. On a side note though, no screaming children the rest of the week. How cool must it be to get snow days?!

Hopefully I’ll get some more pictures of my neighborhood covered in snow tomorrow. Stay tuned.