Monday, January 30, 2006

John Edwards on the war vote

About two months ago (admittedly I'm a bit late on this), John Edwards clearly articulated his views on his on vote for the war in Iraq. The article begins with a three word paragraph, "I was wrong [to vote to give the authority to the president to go to war, if you must]." Then he goes on to bash Bush for Bush's glaring incompetence by simply outlining American foreign policy and military strategy over the last five years. Thank you Mr. Edwards. Finally, someone using their free time wisely.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Great moments in keyboard shortcuts: Function F4

I arrived at an epidemiology seminar 5 minutes early yesterday. Some have suggested that epidemiology lies in a void between hard sciences like physics or molecular biology and social sciences such as economics—many have insinuated that this void could be aptly named the pseudo sciences. Maybe it is because of this dubious reputation that we, as a rule, arrive in mass to Friday seminars 5 minutes late. (This rule had temporary slipped my mind boding poorly for my future in the field.) Thus I was stuck in a room that was empty except for the scheduled speaker. Senior epidemiologist do not mix well with those whom they have no formal professional connection, and I mix poorly with strangers without beer; so instead of using this opportunity to network with a leader in the field, I embarked on an inane conversation about the dearth of A-V equipment for the presentation in the room. This led to me offering my laptop to the presenter for purposes of showing his slides during the presentation. We attached a projector and as usual (another Friday Epi tradition) the laptop could not connect with the projector. For the few seconds that follows it looked like the presentation may end in disaster: sins slides. In the mean time all the epidemiologist arrived and Dr. S. suggested I hit “function” “F4” to remedy the laptop-projector problem. I tried this miraculous shortcut and the presentation was saved! Thank you Dr. S. You are so cool. I regard savvy with keyboard shortcuts as a sign of ones intellectual prowess, sort of a Microsoft equivalent of a large vocabulary.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Papi’s secret life

In the DR the smoked salmon and I caught an Escogido v. Licey baseball game. They’re cross-town rivals in Santo Domingo. The cab driver who drove us to the game was so fired up to talk baseball with a tourist that he ran at least 10 red lights (or maybe he never stopped at red lights—I don’t really know).

The stadium emanated a dilapidation reserved for Caribbean capitals. It was a giant cement block painted in pastels and covered in an inch of soot. Imagine the color of a baby blanket stolen by a dog and taken under the dog’s favorite bush to be covered in doggie filth.

We got to the game a few minutes late and stepped out onto the bleachers just in time to see none other than one, David “Big Papi” Ortiz approaching the plate. The crowed went mad and a group of dudes drummed out a special song reserved for Papi. Ortiz went through all of his same pre-at bat rituals he does in Boston—the same adjusting of the batting gloves and elbow pad—the same tapping the plate with the end of the bat. Ortiz ended up going 1 for 3 (or 3 for 1 as they call it down there) with 2 RBIs. Ortiz’s team, Escogido, won. It was like magic to be in this random ass stadium watching guys in weird uniforms and there was the Boston Red Sox most lovable player. And God bless him for making 5 million dollars last year in the US and still going down to the DR to play winter ball. Some might say it risks injury unnecessarily (may pro sports contracts require players to give up things like skiing in the off season for this reason). But whatever, it shows Ortiz is as pure a baseball player as their ever was.

Epidemiologist or Revolutionary

I’m back in the City. Vacationisover. I’mprocrastinatingworkasusual. My thesis is looming ominously like a loft bed built by an undergraduate philosophy major.

I was actually just walking home from the Columbia undergraduate campus presumabley surrounded by philosophy majors while I smoked the last of my vacation cigars. The cigar made me slightly nauseous but I smoked it as an act of defiance towards the end of vacation. The smoke also reminded me of a great game the Smoked Salmon and I played in the DR. It was called epidemiologist or revolutionary. Basically, I switched between wearing a baseball hat, smoking a cigar, both or neither and the Smoked Salmon had to guess if I was a revolutionary, epidemiologist or both (never neither).

Friday, January 20, 2006

NY Times Redeemed

To make up for the unflattering picture of Serena Williams, nytime published a great picture of Denver Broncos QB, Jake Plummer (left).

Williams loses twice

Serena Williams lost in the third round of the Australian Open recently. To add insult to injury the nytimes chose this picture to illustrate the moment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

DR Malaria Update

Two common malaria vectors in the DR are the mosquito species, Anopheles albimanus and Anopheles vestitipennis. These names roughly translate to the mosquito with the white ass and the mosquito with the bright colored dick--weird names even for mosquitoes.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Refugee v. IDP

I’m no grammar expert but I’m going to take a public stance (thanks J.A.) against re-defining words for jargon in Social Sciences. Adding words is inevitable, but we can’t just take an existing word, use it differently, and then tell everyone else they’re misusing the word. A recent example of re-definition involves the “refugee” versus “internally displaced persons” (IDP) debate. IDP refers to people forced to move from their homes due to political turmoil, but not forced to cross a border. Some will fight to the death arguing that the term “refugee” can only mean those forced to cross a political boundary and thus can be used in opposition to IDP. However, the dictionary definition of refugee does not limit it to people moving across a border; thus I believe IDPs should be viewed as a subset of refugees and those forced to cross a political boundary should get some other name--maybe externally displaced persons.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Winter Ball

Baseball in the DR was everything I’d hoped.

I don’t intend to belabor an historical perspective on this, but baseball in Latin America is often assumed to be part of the so-called American cultural imperialism. However Latin Baseball predates the global success of companies like McDonalds and Coke by at least a 100 years. In 1864, Nemesio Guilló brought the first American baseball bat to Cuba marking the beginning of American baseball south of the border. Guilló, the son of a wealthy Cuban family, was sent to Mobile, Alabama to study at Springhill College where he picked up baseball. However, even before Guilló’s historic luggage arrived, variations of pitch-a-ball, hit-a-ball, run-somewhere games were played throughout the Caribbean. After Guilló, a game Americans might recognize as baseball took off in Cuba. At the time, Cubans were fighting for their independence from Spain and baseball was associated with the Cuban rebels. The traditional pastime, bull fighting, required spectators pay homage to the Spanish crown, and baseball without such rituals was banned by colonial authorities during the War of Cuban Independence (1868-1878). Many of those forced to emigrate during the war went to the Dominican Republic where they along with Dominicans educated in the US continued playing and popularizing baseball. Like in Cuba, the sons of the Latin American elites educated in the US introduced baseball to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela in the later half of the 19th century. Vibrant professional leagues existed in these countries since the begining of the 20th century creating a playing field were Latinos, white Americans, and black Americans competed together before the integration in North American professional baseball. Most notably, Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige played for the Santo Domingo team in 1937. Baseball is an American game of course, but its history in Latin America is rich, and its roots as a pan-American enterprise should never be discounted.

At its inception, the Dominican league consist of 4 teams: the Tigers del Licey (Santo Domingo), the Estrelles Oriental’s (San Pedro), Las Anguilas (Sandino), and Leon del Escogido (also Santo Domingo) with each team established between 1907 and 1921. The San Francisco Giantes and La Romana Azucareros entered the league in the middle of the 20th century. Licey (or Licky as the Smoked Salmon calls them) and the Aguilas are the dominant teams, and in a sense are the NY Yankees of the DR. David Ortiz plays for perennial underdogs, Escogido, thus I believe Escogido to be the equivalent of the Boston, Red Sox.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Where’s all the crime?

I rode my bike the other day from downtown Brooklyn to Astoria, Queens traversing not the worst ghettos in NYC, but not the best neighborhoods either. Somewhere in the no man’s land near the Brooklyn Navy Yard a kid pulled up in an SUV and shouted something at me. I couldn’t hear him over the rumble of traffic and asked him to speak up. The youth would need to get out of his car to be heard. He was of the portly sort and apparently felt leaving the vehicle was too much trouble and drove on. Later, a group of kids sitting on a bench near the Brooklyn-Queens sketchy bridge yelled at me, but were too fat to get up and hassle me further.

At first I was relieved, but then I began to worry: are this nation’s children too fat and lazy for crime? The guys from “Freakonomics” site the Roe v. Wade as the cause of America’s downturn in street crime (according to friend of mine—I must admit I never read the book). But has anyone considered what kind of ramifications this surprising side effect of the obesity epidemic might have on our economy? If people don’t steal cars and electronics, then less people will buy these luxury items to replace the stolen ones! But once again the free market came to the rescue. I thought back to the last time I was robbed. I was in India and a native broke into my hotel and stole my wallet, visa, and passport; so yes friends, the crime was outsourced. I then had a vision of the future: middle class kids buying heroin online directly from newly liberated poppy growers in Afghanistan (but not coke from those commies in Bolivia—we still prefer corrupt, America ravaged Colombian coke). It’s perfect. Technology cuts out the middleman, and low income Americans sink further into poverty with their own massive girth speeding their descent.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Canoe Paddles Again

As many of you know (and as my Eastern European readership may not have heard yet) I was on vacation from not only New York and sobriety, but also work and the blogosphere over the last several weeks. The smoked salmon, two confidantes, and myself traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR). To be honest, I expected little from this trip, but the DR was like a museum’s representation of a prehistoric cat—a saber tooth tiger of vacation spots. It’s exotic, but familiar as well as a distillation of the cool parts from a spattering of species plus a little more. The DR is warm in the winter and everyone speaks Spanish, but everyone drinks Presidente which is widely available in New York, and watches baseball, which is nearly surreal to see outside of America. Also, like any good saber tooth tiger, beautiful women walk around in skimpy but stylish attire, while I get to tromp around in my usual jeans and smelly tee-shirt.

At this stage, I’m willing to say that the DR is the coolest place I’ve ever been. And in no small measure the coolness is due to a more genuine friendliness from the natives then you get in most tropical vacation spots. Dominicans seemed to be a very pro-eye contact people. Living in New York, where eye contact between pedestrians is infamously prohibited, I really enjoyed watching people walk down the street and acknowledge my existence. Also people were cool about my absolute butchering of their language. For example, people responded positively to me drunkenly searched for rooster fights by making little shadow puppet rooster heads with my hands, banging my finger tips together, and saying, “pollo, pollo”. This roughly translates to touching your finger tips together, and saying "cooked chicken, cooked chicken".