Project x Project: Setting Up Shop

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I feel that sometimes I stick my fingers in too many pies, but since it was Thanksgiving last week, I figured it can't hurt to stick them in one more. I have had some really gorgeous knitted items for selling that have been hanging around my room since last year and I just haven't had the gumption to put them out there on display. So, when my roommate bought a sapphire ring off of Etsy and told me about the wonders of that website, I suddenly became very interested.
Although I am not the world's most prolific crafter, I know that I can do commission pieces in 1-4 days if given the time (and depending on the size of the piece!). I also, by actually going on the site, realized that people don't just sell craft-related things - they sell zines too! And this is one of the major problems I have been having as a startup zinester. How do you get your work out there to an audience that you have no idea about? It's much less public than blogging and a lot more intimate of a relationship, so far as I'm concerned.
So, tonight, I will enter Phase 1 of my plan to sell crafty things on Etsy. Phase one includes: taking stock of the items, taking grand product photographs, pricing the items. Perhaps by this weekend, I will enter Phase 2: setting up the actual internet space.

Wish me luck! And stop on in when the shop is up if you have a need for any of the following goods/services.
1. Knitted goods
2. Knitting or bookbinding lessons
3. Commission wire jewelry
4. Commission knitted items
5. Commission hand-made books or journals
6. Zines

Check out the fruition of this plan at my current Etsy shop!

Monday Muse: A New Lease

Monday, November 29, 2010

Yesterday, I started right-hand knitting. I have previously been a loyal left-hand knitter, claiming obstinately that I did not know how to do that other technique, and I didn't care to learn. But then I came up against a problem. Every time I tried to knit something tightly in the left-hand method, it turned out too loose.
This impacts mostly things that need to be shaped accurately to a correct size (for instance, if I were trying to make a sweater, I don't want it to show off my skin underneath). I tried everything to remedy it: smaller needles, holding the yarn tighter, thicker yarn... all the things that you would do if you were an experimental knitter like I am. And yet there was no way to get that tight clean look with my traditional way.
So, I caved. I watched a video, picked up some pieces of scrap yarn, and started knitting right hand. And, admittedly, it wasn't that bad. In fact, I think that it was important to open myself up to the experience.
I believe that we often stick with what we know. Sometimes that's for the better, so we don't sound stupid when making an argument or in a polite conversation. But sometimes, and maybe even most of the time, it also means that we aren't challenging ourselves and our own expectations.
A lot of people tell you to challenge yourself: teachers, parents, coaches... but often they are talking about something that they want you to do. So what about you? What do you think will get you out of a rut or at least give you another perspective on what you are already doing? Would you do it? When?
As human beings, we only have this one life. So, as a friend of mine keeps saying to me, you have to do exactly what you want because you don't know when your time will be up. Maybe that thing that you continually refuse will give you a new lease on life.

I encourage you today to think of something - just think of it, even if you don't have the materials or express need to do it right now - that you want to do outside of your usual realm. There is always something out there beyond the realm of your expectations, and that might just jump-start you to go on to even greater things.

And, as an aside, if you go to Barnard or Columbia, look out for a knitting study break in a few weeks - we are going to do some de-stress activities and hopefully get everyone knitting as a way of taking your mind off of finals. Let me know if you're interested in coming!

I am trying out a new weekly blog post schedule - I enjoyed writing a daily blog post this month, so I think I want to keep that up, just with a little more structure in the coming months. Stay tuned for some interesting posts to come!

Project x Project: Winner!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Allow me to take the liberty of using this post as blatant self-congratulation. I won National Novel Writing Month, and this morning I really didn't think it was possible. But, after some well-timed procrastination, in just this day alone, I wrote 15,000 words and FINISHED!
Good luck to everyone that is still chugging along - you can do it! I did, and I was in the hole yesterday night.
Also, that monkey up there? That's totally me when I finished.

My writing and stories are available for your reading pleasure.

The Relaxation Manifesto

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Something that I have to remind myself of every day I take off: the meaning of relaxation is to not to think about its end.

This vacation has been about that principle in a lot of ways - staying in the present and enjoying the minutes, forgetting (or at least being ok with the idea that) you are skipping work in favor of having fun, mind melding with the random people you meet and not questioning it.
I must admit, this vacation has been a ride of emotions for me. I have felt at times thankful, lonely, annoyed, ludicrously happy, tired, regretful about work, reflective and truly sad. If this weekend was a microcosm for my life, then it did a pretty good job in representation.
As I sit down trying to finish NaNo and thinking about my priorities for tomorrow's work catch-up day, I wonder about why I am so focused on the past and the future. The feeling that I last posted about in The Real Thanksgiving is something that I wish I could commit to, but it has been the hardest struggle just to achieve it for a couple of hours. I am always thinking about the moment that it will pass or change.

Anyway, perhaps the solution is not to dwell on those subjects for the time being. Switching mindsets, here is a list of some of the truly amazing things I did in this short weekend:

1. Finished my alien color scarf (pictured above)
2. Met up with friends from Seattle who go to East Coast schools (and made a new friend out of one of their roommates!)
3. Explored Manhattan at night and walked for hours and hours on end
4. Followed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 66th to 34th street on foot
5. Bought fancy fancy yarn for two upcoming projects (not telling what they are till they're finished!)
6. Ate Thanksgiving dinner twice: once alone at a great restaurant and the second time with fabulous friends from pre-college!
7. Made goat cheese mashed potatoes and pumpkin cream pie (so bomb!)
8. Walked the Brooklyn Bridge from end to end in the nighttime (by the way, whose idea was it to have see-through wooden slats on the Brooklyn Bridge walking path?)
9. Talked philosophy and other hardcore subjects late into the night with AU friend affectionately known as Catskill
10. Spent time eating excellent Bengali food with my friend in Queens

Thank you everyone who made this weekend special and great.

Want to see what else I've been knitting?

The Real Thanksgiving

Friday, November 26, 2010

My real Thanksgiving occurred the day after the "official" date. All the things that you'd want out of Thanksgiving - friends, great food, laughter, and all those things that are cliched and yet so important because we don't get them that often in our daily lives.
I slept in till 11:30am, which was the strangest feeling ever for a college student. I looked up the recipes and picked up the ingredients and put it all together with those amazing girls from PCP (the Barnard pre-college program - don't get gutter-minded). We hung out in Jules' great frat house and laughed about Nina being too Asian while making pumpkin cream pie without an oven. What is better than that?
And I was so happy that I didn't want it to end. And I still don't.
It makes me wonder why we can't have this kind of camaraderie any old time of the year. Are we so jaded by the fact that our work and individual lives are supposed to be all-important and all-encompassing that we cannot enjoy a simple meal together?
I know these are strange questions for someone who is supposed to be starting her independent adult life, but I think that we need our families and our friends more than even the most independent of us think. It's important, and we don't get enough relationship time. Especially in NYC, but just everywhere. This country is made for singletons, but there is something to be said for community.

Happy alterna-Thanksgiving. Let's work on having that every day of the year.

Great friends and great food are reoccurring instances in my life - check out some recipes and restaurant reviews and have a good time.

Thanks for All the Giving

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I think that today's title has a double meaning in that we are duty bound to give thanks, but also to thank people for all their giving. Otherwise, the point would be lost. Although we may thank God for our lives and our material possessions, I think that the most important things we can be thankful for are the people around us.
I am thankful for the 3 hour conversations I have with my father at any old time. I am thankful to be able to see my boyfriend 3,000 miles away through MSN messenger. I am thankful for the connections that I made over the period of three days without internet or cell phone at SOCLR. I am thankful for the people who are helping me reach my potential, giving me constructive criticism, and cheering me along the way.
I am thankful for anyone who is there to listen to me. I am thankful for all the people who trust me enough to give me their stories and open their hearts to me. And I am thankful for Allah and his mercy and wisdom, that guide me daily.

As many have said before me today, take pause and realize what you're thankful for this Thanksgiving - relationships, events, items, and whatever else you are most enjoying in your life at this moment. Happy Thanksgiving.

The internet is back! And I'm thankful for that, too!

All's Quiet Without the Internet...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The internet in our building has been off for a full day and then some, and I have found one great, and somewhat predictable, observation: the internet provides a lot of background entertainment.
I think that the internet is really important, even integral, in our computer-oriented college and country. It's a total privilege and you realize that once it's gone, you feel a little bit lost. You're looking for it, you're going through minor withdrawal symptoms, and you're feeling the lack of privilege.
I don't think that it's strange to be dependent on the internet for a lot of things; I use it to connect with people I can't see every day and look up interesting subjects and, of course, goof off on Facebook. But I think that lacking the internet frustrates me more than it should. I get a deep annoyance at the inability of our tech support to provide me with what I consider a "necessary service."
And then there's the paradox: I went an entire weekend at SOCLR without internet orcell phone access, so why am I upset now?
It's possible to blame the Barnard community, or my own lack of talent at amusing myself, but I think that there's another reason. A more serious reason: we're addicted to the privilege. Having something without having to think about it. Electing to give it up. It's given to us all as part of the deal.
In other aspects of my life, I've been industrious and attempted to realize my own privileges and lack thereof, but in this internet blackout I can't ignore the simple truth that I have been brought up to expect a certain level of comfort and am perturbed when it is taken away.

(posted from the library at our school)

Since then, I've gotten better at amusing myself. So, check out some posts about creative ways to use your time (most of them not using the internet!)

Internet Problems

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sorry everyone, my building went out so regular posting will resume tomorrow! Hopefully...

In the meantime, check out some posts on creative ways to use your time (often without the presence of the internet!).

Almost Vacation Time!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This is going to be the shortest post ever because this week is going to hinge on my sleep schedule.
Today, I came up with a schedule for my blog posts, so I'll be unveiling some new strategic ways to put it out coming next week! I hope that it works out to have a little more structure, considering I've been experimenting (and quite enjoying) these daily blog posts so far.

Finally, to continue with last night's theme, here are some songs from my childhood that I think you should check out:

And here is a song that I listen to now, just for some good taste (or because I can't get it out of my head):

If you want some more music ("bad" or otherwise), check out the Musical Interlude series!

Nerd Girl Inc: "Bad" Music

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Does anyone get cravings for the music you listened to as a kid? Even if it was terrible teenybopper nonsense or something that went out of style years ago? I'll be the first to admit that I have those cravings all the time.
Yesterday night I got infected with it - singing "Underneath Your Clothes" by Shakira under my breath before I went to sleep. I went through an Alicia Keys "Diary" binge earlier this week. But today was the day that I realized: almost my entire Sansa is filled with the uncool music of my past!
Maybe it's just because I'm not a music person, so I haven't updated my collection to fit my new Pandora settings, but I was listening to some hardcore A*Teens, Christina Aguilera, M2M and No Doubt today. Toss in some soundtracks - Spirited Away and all the James Bond symphonic versions - and you've got a total nerd on your hands.
What are your childhood guilty pleasure songs? Do you ever just want to bop to some Britney? Or TLC? Destiny's Child, Justin Timberlake? Hanson? Say it loud and proud, y'all!

If you're looking for some more music ("bad" or otherwise), take a look at the Musical Interlude series!

Nerd Girl Inc: Off Time

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This is going to be a short one because I'm very tired. But, you know when you have those days where you just want to get out and do something? I had one of those days today.
Although I told myself that I would catch up on everything, I felt like that just wasn't motivating me today. So, instead I went out at 1pm, canceling everything, and hung out with some friends from the retreat. At first we thought we were going to go ice skating, but that fell through. Fortunately, we're good enough friends that hanging out and doing something else was just fine.
So, I won't go into all the details, but I think that the conclusion of this day was this: if you need to re-charge, get away, or rest, do it without any regrets.
We all need a break and some things can just wait.

While you're taking some down time with me, why not check out the Caught My Eye series for some great media to tune in to.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Or, in its full title, Committed: A Poem of a Heartier Nature.

I make the cool concessions;
Perched on the pretty little branch, I am sweetened by the sun,
I am blissful, lazy, downright crazy -
This is the time for work to be done.

I give you up, I hunker down;
I risk tripping over my syllables, letting consonants fall out of place,
I risk leaving out the last period of the final sentence of this final paragraph...
Leaving you in a bolstered sense of self-grandeur.
You've created this, simply by reading it.

I make the tongue lashings happen;
I am firebrand and pit-ready,
Spitting flames.
I dog at your heels like the last moment of empathy,
When you received that final check, that final kiss, that final reassuring word -
I was there to drown you in your misery.

But bliss is agony at some point,
Too much hem-hawing to get to the edge,
Too much rhetoric-passing, kite-flying, lambasting;
Here we are, we could make a difference -
If we could just give up that pretty little branch.

I am the rock amidst the waves;
Battered, rubbed out, fodder for the chopping block and the explosion all at once,
I am resting, waiting, watching,
Never without the conversation of the water lapping at my shore.

More poetry is also available for your perusal.

Project x Project: It's Hard Out Here for a Transcriptionist

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whoops! This post is a little late, but I will still count it as a daily post because it's the wee hours of the morning, which, in my head, are counted as the late hours of last night.
Anyway, this post is about expanding your horizons and how it can be so very frustrating at times.
Take the example of my brief stint as a transcriptionist. I have been working with an interview for my forthcoming post at Refuse the Silence*, and I found it extremely difficult. I was omitting words and going back over things four to seven different times just to get things right. My punctuation was all flubbed and I had to do some serious editing to bring it up to the standardized interview transcript state. Thankfully, it is now quite well done and I feel happy about the work that I put in.
The point of this story is that, in trying something new, my experience was less than perfect. It was downright mediocre in the beginning. And I think that applies to anything and everything you first try at. I was also listening to a podcast today that told me about the history of home economics (actually, it's a fascinating topic), and I found that the most intriguing part was the assumption that women did not automatically make good homemakers - they needed science and depth of analysis. That agrees well with my personal viewpoints, both by breaking the stereotype that a woman is a natural nurturer and by showing off one of my favorite self-motivators: you have to try things.
Try and fail. Try and succeed. Try and do an ok-not-quite-perfect job. But just try them out - maybe you'll make a method and set a trend.
That's what I'm telling myself about pretty much all my projects right now; from grant proposals to NaNo to knitting myself a skirt, there's no harm in first trys.

*If you are interested in reading this interview that I did with a certain awesome Barnard administrative director, please look out for my post in the next week or so at Refuse the Silence.

Project x Project: Balancing Act

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This is just a short post that's going to roll in under the radar - I've been trying to furiously catch up on word count today, so I've written 3000+ words and have come up to 25,150. I need to be at 30,006 by tomorrow at midnight, so between then and now I have to write about 5000 words to catch up. Never fear though! I think I can do it, and do it well.
But, I wanted to talk about how it is to balance a really busy personal life with a really busy professional/academic life because I have to do that pretty much every day of my Barnard life.
I think that strategizing is always really important if you want to undertake something outside of your prescribed work that isn't considered a "leisure activity." For me, writing and blogging is slowly becoming part of my personal "work," just like making arts and crafts is both for love and profit. So, some strategies that I try to employ (albeit, not always consistently) will follow below:

1. Know your busy days and give yourself a break during those
I know that for me, Thursday is my longest day (9am to 9pm!), so I try to do any homework I have before or after that day so that I can just chill in the middle

2. Make time that is solely for your personal project(s), make time that is solely for your professional/academic project(s), and make time just for goofing off!
When you want to be a successful Barnard woman, or a successful person anywhere, it can sometimes feel like you have no time for anything else. You are consumed by work. But I think that making a specific time for things like hanging around on your bed, picking out your morning clothes, or just doing simple relaxing things are not just fun, but they're necessary to keeping you sane.

3. Don't stick with an activity that you hate
Just because you're involved with it doesn't mean that you have to stay. Sure, it's hard to quit something, but the assessment question is always: will it make me more happy to replace this with something else? That something else could be free time OR another project - that is up to you.

4. Prioritization is key
I've said it before and I've said it again: lists, prioritized lists especially, are the way to force yourself to achieve in any situation.

5. Put yourself in "dangerous" situations sometimes
Risk taking is something that is super important when you are doing any sort of project. On a personal level, my risk-taking involves making friendships that are concrete and lasting here. That is hard for me to do because I'm afraid of being hurt sometimes. But how else can you reach out in that situation? For whatever goal you're working on, take small risks that lead to bigger ones, and make sure that everything you do feels right.

6. Finally, and most importantly, it's OK to fail!!
Failure is part of the process too. Do you think that my NaNo novel is going to come out with a glowing halo on it? No way! It's going to be a steaming pile of something you don't want to get on your shoe, but if I really want it to shine, I'll work on it till the bitter end, and if I don't, I'll chalk it up to failure and move on. I think that the most important thing about failure is letting it happen, letting it wash over you, and then letting yourself be free of those complex emotions surrounding it.

That's it for tonight! Maybe I'll come up with more tips later on, but for now, I'm going to sleep!

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in some other lessons I've learned, including 3 Ways I Beat Writer's Block to a Pulp.

Haiku Moment

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pressure building up,
Holding on to my reason,
Storing up my time.

Still working on the NaNo, and all my other projects - I hope to take some time for myself to just calm down, so Thanksgiving break will be that time. Let me know if you want to hang out because I'll be in New York City the entire time!

More poetry is also available for your perusal.

Project x Project: Playing Catch Up

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today I worked on just about everything but NaNo, which I told myself that I was going to catch up on completely. I did not write one word all weekend and, as a consequence, have to write 6107 words at least by tonight's end to be on track. I think I can do it, but that word count on paper just seems like a really daunting task.
Which means that I'm going to talk about confidence building and what that means in a project.

I sometimes get nervous about big projects. I feel like I don't have enough a. resources, b. stamina, c. intellect, or d. time to do any of it. And sometimes I don't even get off the starting blocks because of this mindset. But, to take a lesson from the SOCLR leadership handbook, I believe that Vision and Passion are the two most important things that a leader needs to have. And thus, to be a leader, I have to follow through regardless of the other things I may lack. I have to tell myself that they will come up along the way if I keep working.
That is my first piece of advice: just keep working. NaNo has taught me that, if you get discouraged, you just need to write through it. You just need to push on because there is always time for revision - in December. And nothing builds confidence as much as having a large body of work under your belt, even if it's far from perfect.

My second piece of advice pertains to an organizer's nightmare: juggling commitments. What happens when you're writing a paper, working two jobs, working on a novel, writing grant proposals, and trying to get a decent amount of sleep all at the same time? Chaos, obviously.
But I think that the chaos can be cut down if you work on prioritization. If you need a day for yourself, take it. If you need a few extra hours of sleep, go for it, so long as whatever you're working on is not too time sensitive. I think the point is to take care of yourself before any of the fabulous projects you're working on. You are not your projects, and you will have as much time as you need.

Finally, in pursuing all of your visions, somewhere along the line your passion may dwindle out. I am guilty of this, guilty of giving up in the face of the obstacles that I see in my way. But I think that, instead of putting down the burden when working on a tough project, it might just need to be re-framed.
I have experimented with this idea when it comes to work. Sometimes I just don't want to go into the office or do some other commitment - but, if I think about it in a positive light, it helps me get through. Now, I'm not going to lie, it doesn't make the experience completely enjoyable all the time, but at least it can keep you going while you are recuperating from the passion doldrums. The next time you have to do a difficult task, try to find the positive things that make it worthwhile: for instance, although it might be isolating in the library, at least you get to read something good for a while! Or, at least, hopefully.

Alright, now I'm on to my 6107 for tonight. Wish me luck!

On Location: SOCLR Love (or, Day 3)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

(my SOCLR graphic - click to actually read!)

I want to describe my SOCLR experience in a series of experiences, similar to the way I have previously described New York.

1. First day, waiting for the bus, lugging too much stuff, I am aided by a kind (and stronger) hand.
2. I almost cry on multiple occasions from day one to day three.
3. Fig leaf shed; real life coming.
4. Four words: rock, paper, scissors tournament.
5. Interesting insightful conversation even between programs - after an interview, before eating, on the bus...
6. Trippiest and most educational game ever: forks, spoons, knives.
7. Beware the Facebook profile.
8. Working on the intersectionality of identities and how that affects your leadership.
9. Following through on your goals.
10. I met some of the most fantastic people and I have never felt as safe at college than at this retreat.

Thank you so much everyone for the notes, for the support, for the greatness that is SOCLR. Leadership is a promise made in your heart and your head to your peers, and I believe that it comes from all good intentions. Our experiences at SOCLR really voiced our good will and good intentions, which I hope will blossom into greater leadership on campus and a safe community in which people can be as open as possible without fear.

Read the first two posts SOCLR Day 1 and SOCLR Day 2.

On Location: SOCLR Day 2

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It occurred to me that anyone outside of the Columbia community (or even most people in the Columbia community) probably don't know what SOCLR is. Allow me to define:
SOCLR = Students of Color Leadership Retreat, which is put on every year to discuss and challenge stereotypes and other racial issues that pertain to personal identity and society at large. This year, we are working towards the idea of leadership, not just for racial issues, but also for all our other interests and identities.
This weekend is all about connecting with a group that you may not have run across on campus and may not necessarily have thought to talk to. We have discussed issues on the intersections between multiple identities, shared personal stories about the hardships of our lives, and laughed until we all felt united in a special and intense way. Basically, my recommendation to anyone and everyone is to go on a retreat (if you have the chance) because you will learn about yourself and you will make connections.
I will have a more comprehensive recap once we get back to campus and have internet and other technological phenomenons, but just know that so far it has been intense and great.

However, I have not been on schedule for my novel this weekend - there's just a lot of other stuff to do!
18,898 words.

Read the first post SOCLR Day 1 and follow-upSOCLR Love.

On Location: SOCLR Day 1

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today I am embarking on a restorative weekend. No cell phone reception, select internet, and a completely different location than my urban Manhattan lifestyle. (I know, quel horreur!)
So, for this weekend, I will probably be putting up posts that are more descriptive than analytical, but we'll see how it goes. Let's get on to the day:

- In the morning, I overpacked my bag with all the things a city girl thinks she'll need at a camp site and almost broke my shoulder hiking it up to Wallach...
- The group trickled in slowly but surely, pizza was served (breakfast of champions)
- We participated in some getting-to-know-you exercises - human bingo reminded me of fourth grade a little bit (for those of you who don't know, you have to find a person that matches the boxes in the room)
- We got on the bus and watched Kick Ass, an enthralling but HORRIBLE movie
- 3 hours, winding roads, deer, cows and some greenery later... we arrived at Frost Valley YMCA!
- It gets dark out here super fast, so we hiked up to our camp building, a great place named Quirk (haha)
- We had our "official opening" and shared some personal fig leaves (a.k.a. where our defenses lie)

Conclusion of the day? I think I'm going to like it here...

Read the follow-up posts SOCLR Day 2 and SOCLR Love.

Nerd Girl Inc: On a Lighter Note

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ode to Food at A Fancy Restaurant: A Detailed Account of My Dinner
 Bread selection, bread selection, hit the spot just right -
Tomato basil's bright but ciabatta wins the night.
Merry merry start with the ravioli tart, with some sweet cranberry, no pancetta if you please -
Middle, hit the middle, with a tender tender loin,
Mashed potatoes - called puree - with some great and goat-y cheese,
Corn adorns the plate, stewing merrily beside,
A wave of jus, the finest beef, skipping pig with this tide.
Ending off, ending off, oh how I wish it'd never end -
Mango passion in a shot glass leaves impression for the guest,
But sink your teeth into the chocolate and you'll surely be impressed,
By the souffle - light and fluffy - hissing steamy with the cream,
Earl Grey chilled and poured in heavy stream.
Then we're sitting - what is next? - and waiting for some news -
Lo, behold, what about the caramel chews?
I am blushing, truly glowing, with this lovely lovely meal,
What better portions could there be? What surprises they conceal,
And then, as we are leaving, the madeleines just seal the deal.

Today is one of my longest days yet, so this post is coming to you in the margins of my free time. I got up today at 5:40am to go to English sign-ups - Barnard's method of weeding out the meek from the strong in getting their beloved English classes - and now have a full day of work, class, meetings, and Well Woman ahead. Hopefully I won't fall asleep in the middle of it.

If you liked this post, read my writing in strange places reviews.
You may also enjoy reading Why Eating Can Make Me Depressed, or perhaps some more poetry.

Oops, Your Islamophobia is Showing

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Muslim and proud.)

I have not written about a contentious argument this month, but there are some things that just push my buttons. I am a routine reader of's Broadsheet, and recently they posted up an article about Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping and how her captor used a veil to keep her secreted away. But my quarrel is not with the article itself, which generally presented the issue in a fair and balanced light. My issue is with the commenters.
Why is it that whenever Islam is presented, in any light, people find it their mission to bring up their own prejudices and ignorance? Commenters, in responding to the idea that Smart did not take her veil off in the presence of a male police officer who was on the case, make statements like "Any religion that requires its ordinary practitioners to wear a uniform is inherently fascistic and undeserving of respect or tolerance" (Nebris)? Can we please call out McDonalds and Wendy's for their uniform-mandating fascistic tendencies then?
And let me unpack that statement a little further, not because this commenter needs to be singled out, but because their reaction was reiterated multiple times and I have seen it in too many places - especially when discussing veiling.
This comment shows an inherent ignorance about Islam in that 1. it makes the case that all Muslim women are required to wear the same garb, 2. it puts the commenter on a higher plane of authority than 1.6 billion people, and 3. compares Islam to a political concept of fascism that has inherent social implications in that it spurs memories of WWII oppression.
Clearly, this comment is not meant to add any ideas to the conversation, and for so many people to be making the same insensitive remarks, it makes me both angry and makes me worry about my safety. I do not want to meet someone who has these views out on the street.

I'd much rather we take on our discomfort with certain practices by gathering information about them before blasting off ideas that make the internet (and our world) feel more unsafe and more hateful than it really should be. On Salon, I thank VanessaG (another commenter) for setting some of the misconceptions straight. She tells us: 1. the image Salon used is of a niqab, not a burqa, 2. the rules of modesty only apply around men not related to the woman and offers that a female officer could have been brought in to investigate, 3. police officers should have training to understand what to do in this situation, and 4. a blond, blue-eyed girl can be just as Muslim as a black-haired, brown-eyed girl. Remember that 1.6 billion? We come in just as many variations as Christians or anyone else.

Check out Muslims Wearing Things if you want to see some beautiful examples of "Muslims dressed in their garb" (a.k.a. business suits, t-shirts, salwaar kameez, and anything else they want to)

You may also enjoy reading my opinion piece Discrimination and Mixed Metaphors.

Images of New York

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

(This is my New York)

New York is a 5 dogs in the morning city. There is an occasional cat and maybe a rat running around in the subway. Pigeons are my mortal enemy and should be avoided.

New York is a city where pedestrians can attack cars right back. As I passed by, a woman smacked the side of a delivery truck, shouting "I was right f***ing here!" in reference to her position in the street.

New York is a city where geriatrics and children on scooters pass on the street without looking at each other. Or caring.

New York is a small shop front next to a multinational corporation.

New York is a bunch of women fighting back against street harassment (Hollaback!).

New York is a place where you make loose connections - kind of like Facebook - but can also find your true soulmates - like

New York is a gathering place for ideas, cultures, people you love and hate, uncommon experiences, and the types of education you only get by being in the big city. But it can't provide me with a decent uptown pho restaurant.

New York is a big dirty city, that I both love and hate. It is a place where I live and where I go to school, but I may not stay in forever. It is an experience that passes in just the way I need it to - slow enough to savor, but fast enough to fade into a sweet memory.

I have a project for my next zine gestating in my head, and it might involve just this topic - if you want to start giving me ideas about what New York is for you, please let me know! I may be doing a formal call for submissions sometime in the future...

(And so is this.)

Nerd Girl Inc: Be Selfish

Monday, November 8, 2010

(a selfish indulgence: homemade mac n' cheese)

Today, I did a lot of learning.
Before you get snarky (that's what college is for, Jordan), hear me out.
So far, my college experience has been all about me. A somewhat selfish time to explore all the possibilities that I didn't get in high school. I exploited the opportunity to take classes that were interesting, took advantage of my location to take in great shows and do amazing things, and participated in all those classic campus experiences that one must have in their youth. But now, I think that the glitz has passed away a little bit. I'm a working stiff, like most other people, and I was starting to let the big plans get muddled up in the more immediate ones. "When am I going to get my next paycheck?" became more important than "What am I going to do after college?"
As you probably know by now, I am a notorious planner. I had the broad strokes of my life laid out before I could really understand the work involved to get there. So now, after all those years of planning, I'm living it. The New York City life where the tedium and the spectacular have combined.

What does this have to do with learning? Well, today I got to play with the big dreamer in me in two arenas:
1. I attended a Careers in Psychology panel that opened my eyes to grad school - both what I should be doing to get there and what I should do when I get out.
2. And then I did a workshop on safer sex with a floor of freshmen and their RA, which taught me as much about myself as it taught them about alternative birth control methods.

All this year and parts of last, I have been attending and giving workshops that involve everything from bookbinding to discussions of healthy eating, and they have slowly brought me to the realization that I like helping people and explaining things. That I know more than I give myself credit for. And, most importantly, that I need to keep playing with the bigger dream of becoming a counselor and helping people in minority communities.
I encourage everyone to look at their big plans, no matter what they are, and breathe into them some life. Go to a workshop or find a program. Be selfish for a change.

Read more Nerd Girl Inc. posts and check out the related series, Caught My Eye.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

(Madeleines from the fabulous restaurant Aureole)

Day One: I ask God for hyperboles,
Mixed metaphors, logical adjuncts, plot lines and summaries;
He responds with a idea freeze, a tease, a set of unintelligible characters bleeding out onto the--

Day Two: We are wise to wonder at the progression of creativity, as we
Tumble back and forth, houseplants in tow,
Baggage in our ears much heavier than under the bus;
Still I lust
For the easy breezy,
The days when words pour forth like passing road signs,
Message out in the blink of an eye,
But I just feel nauseous.

Day Three: Big dirty city presents,
Pigeons screeching on the opposite ledge, a boiling room, few hours of rest, and a
New opportunity for navel gazing.
We watch our doubles stare back at us eye to eye, wall to wall, and get seasickness,
I crave the space to carve words out like stone pillars, like Adonis rising from blank marble--
But sleep deprivation castrates me,
I am half-whole and scrambling,
I worry on pink paper and process my thoughts,
Before slipping into dreamland.

Day Four: When it rains, it ___
Gives me the gift of brief connections,
Teaches me how to stay inside all day,
Astonishes me with the solidarity in windy nights,
And forces me to warm internally.

Day Five: Gratitude on the wings of opportunity;
A morning writer's break, some choking involved,
I string my 'thank you's along for all the small things - summer dresses and handwritten letters,
The independence I feel,
At changing my own skate wheels.

Day Six: I'm full of questions.
Are you a woman or a hockey puck?
Are you going to get her out of dreamland?
Are you going the right direction?
Are you going to try or fail? Try and fail?
I stretch my limbs for purpose and find:
Turkey bacon and three pancakes. A full meal.

Day Seven: Extra vigor with your dessert, ma'am?
Battlefront stance: mow down the competition.
Entry after entry falls to my spray.
I arm myself in gear made for fancier clientele, attack the biting cold with covered hands,
Sink my teeth into each waiting morsel,
Leave no survivors.

Hope you enjoyed this set of Week in Review poems - after novelling for days on end, I felt my prose needed a break!
Also, if you want to visit a more detailed website about the artist Marlene McCarty, here you go.

10,079 words.

Nerd Girl Inc: Learning to Skate

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Today, breaking from my regularly scheduled life, I went for a skating lesson downtown.

My morning was spent navigating the Village first to acquaint myself with the obscure location of Mercer Playground, which has no fixed address, but is instead wedged between other addresses and cannot easily be located on Hopstop...

Then, I got lost traipsing around in hopes of finding the NYU gallery that was housing Marlena McCarty's work (you can find a description of the show here), which I really enjoyed outside of the requirement by my drawing teacher to go see it.

And then back to the Playground, where I first made contact with some very cool aspiring derby women and waited around in the November cold for Lezly, a.k.a Skate Guru.
I needn't tell you how frightened I am with outdoor roller skating.
I love the idea of skating about, being agile and going at high speeds, but for now, I am just a clumsy unbalanced girl that can't bend her knees to save her life. Today was the start of my education.
I wanted to pursue outdoor classes so that I can practice anywhere - for any skaters in NYC, you already know there is a dearth of indoor roller rinks around here, as most of them have closed down. So, I suited up and started flailing about in the hopes that I could figure out this bizarre talent of rolling around on four wheels.
Lezly appeared at around 12:35pm and immediately ordered us out of our skates. Much like in yoga, we practiced changing our weight distribution, which seems easy enough on the ground. But in skates, it's a whole different matter. I clung to the fence until I finally figured out the basics, then kept layering on more and more advice. I got better in very tiny increments.
Throughout the class, I felt a tinge of embarrassment - as anyone does when they are new at something. Why wasn't I a natural skater by birth? This is something no one will ever answer to me. I fell once, hard, on my hip. But, by the end of the lesson, I felt much more in control than I ever had on skates.
As you might say, I'm working on it.

8,403 words.

Read more Nerd Girl Inc. posts and check out the related series, Caught My Eye.

Project x Project: How Did This Start? Moments in a Writing Life (NaNo Day 5)

Friday, November 5, 2010

I have had a lot of embarrassing moments in my writing career.
Looking back on it now, it seems that my childhood addiction was paper. I have half-finished or quarter-finished or even one-page-out-of-150 finished journals lying about my house, ones that have not been cracked open for years (fortunately, nowadays I am re-using that paper for my class notes).
As a pre-teen and teenager, I wrote depressing poetry that was cringe-worthy - my journals were full of unrequited love notes (as I had many a great crushes in my youth) and poems that expressed my angst and depression in stranger language than I thought possible to construct.
I felt unafraid in the 6th grade to print out my 100+ page unedited novel, put it in a binder, and present it to my middle school English teacher for editing. He never got it back to me, and I was too shy to ask for it back. That was also a year that I started writing query letters to editors about whether they would take that meager bit of work.
I submitted poems to several contests, some of which were for children much younger than me, and ended up feeling embarrassed and even more misunderstood.
And then there were the diaries...

When I list these anecdotes out, I still cringe and giggle nervously. But I am also weirdly thankful that they happened. Because I now feel like a much more mature writer than I was when I started. In between those silly flights of fancy, I also got out there to take classes at Richard Hugo House, read my work at poetry slams, and feel strong in starting (and sometimes finishing) a long piece. I got to experience the full gamut of emotions - from apathy to zeal - of writing.
And now, as I hurriedly try to get back on word count for my NaNo novel, I realize that becoming a writer is something akin to climbing a craggy dragon's back while it's still trying to buck you off. A laughable and enormous task, but one that can only be taken one scale at a time.
I leave you with a thought proposed to me by my African American literature professor: whatever you write now will eventually be published as your juvenalia, your early works before you penned the Nobel prize winner.

7,003 words

Read more about my NaNoWriMo attempts and successes.

Project x Project: Questions (NaNo Day 4)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I can already tell that Wednesdays and Thursdays are going to be the hardest ones to keep up on NaNo. After returning to school and not having the entire day to gallavant off into novel land, I have been slammed with late hours and been mired in writer's block.
But, all is not lost. Pushing NaNo into the small spaces of my life really forces me to do it without editing or breaks or anything like that. After reading the pep talk today, I was also really inspired by the idea that things don't have to have a direction to be relevant - Mercedes Lackey was talking about fanfiction, but I think it can apply to everything.
So, here's my little adjunct for the writers out there that want to get started on something: start with a question.
What must your character do in order to get from one place to another?
What will your character be wearing?
What will the world be like?
What is the purpose of this gadget?
What color is the sky?
All of these things can change throughout the progression of your work, but if you are taking the thing on as a whole, it might become daunting. Writing out the questions allows me to frame things as a dialogue in my mind - even better, bouncing ideas off of someone else can generate a more pronounced effect.
I think that when we are trying to create something, it's best to take it in these small chunks and work them into the broader piece. And the moment of generation can be daunting to a lot of people. So pose questions to yourself about what and why and where and how and who. See where it takes you.

And my update on word count for today? It's 11:40pm and I haven't done my word count for today, but I am on par with the 3 day count, so I'll get there!

Read more about my NaNoWriMo attempts and successes.

Monthlies: Planning for November (and NaNo Update!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Check out this TED Talk video about innovation. It's by Steven Johnson, the guy who wrote
Everything Bad is Good For You. (Kudos to Tracy V. Wilson for putting it up and writing NaNo!)

Planner? Check. Red pen? Check. Thoughts crowding my brain like an angry bunch of tourists in a hotel elevator? Check.
Every month I set down a list of goals for myself, and this one is no different. Other than the obvious ones such as "Write NaNo," I make ones on healthy living and on putting myself out there. It gives some structure to the ideas that I want to uphold during that month - if I don't get around to all of them, that's fine, but I try to at least keep them in the back of my mind for reference. And, at the end of the month, I make another list of accomplishments that keeps me fresh and feeling good about myself.
I know that many websites will tell you about the glory of setting goals down on paper and making sure that you do them, and I will emphatically support them. But, in my case, I take the list as a loose construction of ideas rather than one that is set in stone. For example, I want to start working out more regularly, so I put that down as one of my monthly goals. I didn't specify what I wanted to do - yoga every week or swimming three days a week or what have you - I just put it down as a tiny reminder that this is what I was thinking of earlier in the month as something I wanted to try. No pressure.
Being the memory crafter I am, I also really like to look back at these lists and see what I was thinking over the year. Did it change? Did it stay the same? Afterward, I'll make a collage or something about all my ideas, whether they are laughable or great.
Another thing that I've been picking up with greater fervor these days is a "Worry Journal." Although the title may make you think that it's all bad news, I use my worry journal as a place for ideas that are pingponging around in my brain. Mine manifests itself as a large pink-papered legal pad that I first used in conjunction with The Life Organizer but morphed into a less formal endeavor. I put down expansions of those goals, ideas for writing, piece of things that I like, etc, inside that notebook. And soon I might start using it as I used to do my sketch journals - pasting things in and bringing together disparate objects all into one place.
Anyway, what you must have gathered from this episode of list talking is that I am a major records keeper. Well, I am, and a darn proud one too.

October was the month of getting out there, since I had felt that I was hermitting out more than I should. I found myself in some interesting places, such as Pala Pizza, Bluestockings, the Hollaback lecture, and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (which you'll hear me spew on about for a long while).
November is the month of personal projects for me; I want to finish NaNo, work on collage, work on some self-assigned drawing projects that aren't related to class, and especially to work on making connections in the blog and zine communities. Right now these plans are in their infancy, but I'm outlining small steps to make them a reality.

What would your monthly goals be? What would your accomplishments for last month look like?

As for the NaNo update, I made word count yesterday but I have not yet written my words for today and I don't know whether I can get to it (eek!), but I'm hoping to get it done on the weekend and to charge ahead then. The first day back at school is a tough one for writers!

Read more about my NaNoWriMo attempts and successes.

Project x Project: NaNoWriMo Day 2

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

(I carried this plant all the way back from Virginia)

For everyone out there who feels like they're drowning in word count: you are not alone.
Today my roommate and I returned from Virginia to New York City. Our cumulative journey consisted of a 4.5 hour bus ride, a 30 minute cab ride at stomach-churning speeds, a nice Italian dinner and an hour braving the supermarket lines so that we wouldn't go hungry for the next week. All in all, we were out from 11am to 8:30pm. And I haven't worked on my NaNo yet.
I'm trying to channel both inner harmony and the energy to stay awake long enough to finish my word count. Wish me luck.

Oh, and, happy election day!

Read more about my NaNoWriMo attempts and successes.

Project x Project: NaNoWriMo 2010 & On Location: The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Monday, November 1, 2010

For those of you who don't know, National Novel Writing Month occurs every year in November. It's a time when writers come out of their holes and join in an online race to the finish - 50,000 words written within the month. And I am doing it. Again.
I have "won" for the past two years (which means that I've written two novels) and participated for the past four. I feel like a seasoned veteran when I say that, but I also feel completely new every time I sit down to type out the requisite word count for each day, approximately 1667 words (if I have told you 2500, please forgive me!)
This year I will be busting through a long-held fear of mine: starting on my sci fi trilogy. I have always wanted to bridge the gap between literary fiction and sci fi, because in the Venn diagram of readers, there seems to be very little overlap in those who read each of those categories. A lofty goal? Perhaps. But that's what this month is all about - experimentation and improvement.
And this month I want to tack on another little experiment to this month: daily blogging. Maybe I'm going insane, but my mind is telling me that if I tack on just another hour spent writing (about something completely different, perhaps) in my blog will help me grow as a committed blogger. Which has been on my to-do list of things to become for much too long.
What will I write about? Perhaps a few sentences about how my novel is going. Perhaps about my daily outfits photo shoot (oh yeah, that's still going on). Or perhaps it will be about some amazing rally that I went to over the weekend...

And with that unsubtle segue, we come to how I am spending my fall break: in Washington DC as one of the 150,000 to 200,000 attendees of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear!
My roommate graciously provided accommodations since her home is located in Alexandria, VA (very near to DC, for those not as knowledgeable about East Coast geography). We took a 6 hour bus ride (that should have been 4 hours) down here on Friday night, and then piled into the subway on Saturday morning for an exciting day of rally fever.
I must admit, the biggest rally I had been to before this one was the MLK Day rallies in Seattle. This rally outclassed them by about 149,000+ people. There was a fever in the air when we got on the subway. The entire Mall was filled up by the start of the rally, and we were fortunate enough to meet up with Mr. Stephen Bronskill and get tickets to go up front.
Here are the conclusions I've drawn from this rally:
1. Subways. New York subways are FAR superior to DC (and no, that's not me just being a snooty New Yorker - if your trains aren't large enough to fill the entire subway platform, you have a problem)
2. Signs. People are really creative when asked to make signs about anything. I was snapping photos of anything and everything I found interesting, and there was a lot!
3. Adam & Jamie As much as I love the Mythbusters, I really don't think they should perform live. Ever again.
4. Public Displays of Affection Perhaps my only complaint about the rally was a pair of teenagers making out in front of me the entire time... I think it was just inappropriate for that situation.
5. Stars The Roots? John Legend? Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)? OZZIE?! My excitement mounted each time they brought out a guest - it was so fantastic!
6. Songs I am going to be singing Love Train and The Greatest, Strongest Country in the World forever now... please look up videos of the rally for the second one, it was a skit by Jon and Stephen that was really addictive.
7. Message. Aside from the hilarity, it was really comforting to know that so many people understand that the media is overblowing the issues and that we shouldn't treat each other poorly based on their opinions.

Overall, I was extremely happy to be able to attend this event and even more excited that Stephen could provide us with such a great position in the crowd. So much thanks to be given to that man!

My pictures are available at Deviantart!

Follow me around the world with my other On Location posts!
Check out some more posts featuring my photography.