Thursday, November 22, 2007
A short lesson: We hear when vibrations of frequencies between 15 hertz to about 20,000 hertz reach the inner ear. These vibrations are caught by the ear and reach the eardrum and the vibrations of the eardrum send the sound waves further into the brain. The vibrations pass through a chain of bones in the middle ear to three small fluid filled canals. Embedded between the canals is a spiral shaped organ of Corti. The sensory cells in the organ have thousands of hairlike projections that receive sound vibrations from the middle ear and send them on to the brain via the auditory nerve. In the brain they are recognized and interpreted as specific sounds.
So, in a sense, the vibrations that create sound do travel from one location to touch us deep in our ears. The first sense that a baby develops, while still in the womb, is the sense of hearing. It hears the heartbeat of the mother, the movement of the embryonic fluid, the sounds from outside the thin walls of the womb. A baby, when it is born, recognizes and reacts to harsh, and loud, and soft and soothing sounds.
So I am grateful for Sound.
I am grateful for the silence on a dark night with snow falling, and the only audible sounds the crunching of your feet and your own breathing.
I am grateful for the beautiful sounds created by music. I went to see the Swell Season on Monday night at the Beacon Theater with Melinda, Elly, and Jessica. It was one of those experiences where listening to amazing music just made the world so much better. The combinations of notes and words, beats and melodies, the guitar, piano, violin, cello and second guitar, and voices, especially the voices, joined together to fill the concert hall with passion and beauty. I can't very well describe a sound or a feeling with words. Just listen to your favorite song and soak it in with your eyes closed. That is what it was like. I am constantly amazed by how much better life can seem when good music is added. When I first came to check out NYU, I was completely overwhelmed by the city and stressed about making the right choice on grad school. I was walking down the street, listening to the cacophony of sounds, and then put on my ipod. The music flooded my ears, and my brain calmed down, my breathing relaxed. Focus returned. My thirteenth year was spent listening to a lot of Radiohead, laying on my bed with my pillow covering my head. I think maybe that saved me from sinking even more into my teenage angst, because someone knew what I felt, or someone could express what I felt with words and music perfectly. One of my happiest moments was sitting in at Club Passim with some friends, listening to this amazing folk singer. My heart just about burst with joy. So, I am grateful for music.
I am grateful for the sounds we use to communicate-- talking. Babies begin early on to whine when thy need something or gurgle happily. People use words to communicate ideas, situations, concerns, anything and everything. An intense conversation can linger for weeks. A misunderstanding can be cleared by talking about it and listening to what the other person has to say. Friends reconnect after months with stories of their lives. Grand ideas are hatched in coffee shops. Recently, I was in a short-lived long distance relationship, and during this, I really began to appreciate the utility of the telephone to connect with someone, to attempt to maintain a relationship over thousands of miles over a slight piece of plastic and electric currents. But sound is touching long distance. We weren't there to touch, but the act of talking and connecting on the phone nearly every day built the intimacy to some degree. While I failed at that experiment, I grew to be more grateful for this device that I take for granted every day and the beauty that it brings to my life by allowing me to converse with people I care about and continue building those relationships. I am grateful for conversations.
I am grateful for stories. I am grateful for podcasts. I can see how the radio initially became such a widely popular medium. I know that we live in the golden age of television, but I am a simple girl and love the radio. I love the intimacy of listening to a story on something-- it feels like it was meant just for me, although I know thousands of people are also listening. Maybe it is because it seems so lo-tech-- it is just talking after all, often times just one or two people having a conversation about some world issue or discussing a particular theme. With my ipod I can be anywhere and listening to the BYU speech, or This American Life story, or commentary on Radio West. In my mind, as I listen I am allowed to expand on it and make it my own. I am grateful for radio and people who allow me to interview them so I can put stories out there too.
I am grateful for the sound of little kids asking me to play with them. Especially little Esry today, who convinced me to play barbies with her.
I am grateful to hear the words I love you and to say them.
I am grateful for the sound of cars passing by and Melinda telling me to watch out because otherwise I would have been flattened numerous times.
I am grateful for the sound of the clock ticking at my grandmothers house.
I am grateful for the sound of water and the sound of wind in trees.
I am grateful for the sound of people talking, and people singing, and people just being people.
I am grateful for the sounds of birds, and bees, and dogs and cats and animals everywhere.
I am grateful for stories read out loud. This is one of my favorite things in the world, and it stems from my mom gathering all of us together on Sunday afternoons and reading to us for hours.
I am grateful, I am grateful... I am grateful to hear everything around me. What if I were to lose that sense? I don't know what I would do. But for now, i won't think about it, and instead, I will just go to bed tonight, listening to the sounds of the sleeping house-- people breathing softly, the cat padding around the house, the hum of appliances and clicks of the heater. Tomorrow I will wake up to the sounds of my family moving about, getting ready for school and work and life for another day. I will talk with people and listen to music and my sense of hearing will be so happy.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Second from the right, you will find Gerthie David, Miss Haitie 1975, and first runner up for Miss Universe (who happened to be a Finn that year). Why am I pointing her out to you? Oh, because I sat next to her at a Relief Society thing. She now lives in an apartment in Astoria and is Mormon. We talked about her Swedish boyfriend back in the day. Awesome.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
You can read all about what he is doing and why on his blog, but just to give you an idea, he is a writer and decided to try, along with his wife and child, to have no impact on the environment (equation to do that is: reduced negative impact + increased positive impact = no net impact). This was implemented in 7 stages: 1) No trash; 2) No carbon producing transportation; 3) Only local, seasonal food; 4)No buying anything new; 5) No fossil fueled electricity (they use a solar panel for what they need); 6) Sustainable water use; 7) Positive impact. Colin has been blogging about this experience and is writing a book about it as well. As I mentioned I've been reading his blog, and have been just so impressed by him. Lots of people try crazy schemes and want to get famous and claim to care about the world, and I have to say, I was a bit suspicious. I had my reservations that he was really doing this, that he could really be so positive and nice about giving up drinking bottled water and toilet paper and television. Meeting him, however, I came to see that he really is just a genuinely positive person who believes in what he is doing (and not in an overbearing way either). My favorite part was hearing him talk about the impact on his family-- they threw out the tv, and now they just spend more time together, enjoying each other and being an active part of the community and relating to people. He has an adorable daughter named Isabelle (you can read about how they entertain her on the blog) and they go out riding on the bicycle, to "see what is happening". Not only are they saving their environment, but they are saving the idea of community. I love it!
Some recommendations that he made to us as college kids about becoming less impactful ourselves was to take individual action by recycling, reusing and reducing, educating our friends and family, joining forces with local environmental groups, and getting involved with political action groups on the local and national levels. How can you save the world? by saving the people.
I had a few thoughts while listening to this lecture. 1) I am totally amazed by the commitment and scope of the No Impact Man project. It is completely crazy, and it is completely awesome that his wife is in on this too. Where can I find someone who could be that crazy and passionate about something that I could share my life with? 2) Again, the commitment and scope of the project is kind of daunting. But luckily I'm not expected to live like that. i just need to be more aware of what I consume and to do my little part. I was talking to some friends before I left Salt Lake City, determined to be more environmentally conscious and to decrease my carbon footprint. People were skeptical, but here in New York City it is amazingly easy to to. I ride public transportation everywhere or go by foot (I'm still too afraid to ride a bike). Most of our cleaning supplies are environmentally friendly. I reuse plastic grocery bags for trash or as sandwich bags (thus eliminating packed lunch waste). I try to remember to bring along a tote bag to the grocery store with me. I joined the Park Slope Coop, which is a community store which sells only organic and local goods (for the most part) at a fraction of the cost of the other stores (so I feel good and save money!). Or I shop at the farmers market. Those are just some of the things that I am trying to do, and I know that I could do a lot more. Poco a poco. 3) It feels good to be changing my lifestyle in small ways right now to be just a little bit kinder to the environment. I live by this beautiful park in Brooklyn and so I still get to spend a little bit of time in nature, and I am constantly amazed at the beauty of this world that God has given us. We have been given stewardship to take care of the earth, but the way that we are living isn't really demonstrating any sort of concern for the future. Something like 25% of the kids in the Bronx have asthma from all of the trucks going by-- what sort of life and earth are we providing for the future? This isn't a crazy environmentalist issue, but a fact that we need to accept and accept our responsibility to live better. It doesn't require huge sacrifices like never driving a car again of going on a trip, but rather cutting down on the massive waste that we produce and switching our lightbulbs.
So, cheers to you No Impact Man Colin Beavan, for leaving a most positive impact.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Wait a second, sorry, wrong ghost story (although that one promises to be much more of a nail biter than the one I'm going to tell). My ghosts are old feelings that come to haunt. Ones that are dead, but the phantom pangs come back like little ghosts of relationships past. For instance, the other night I was at the David Bazan concert and he sang a particular song that I love. But as he played it, this incredibly intense emotional memory arose of a moment when I realized how much I loved a particular ex-boyfriend. That boyfriend is married and the feelings that I have for him are gone, but the phantom pang was as intense as it had been when I first realized those feelings. As with any ghost, this one shook me, and I felt its brush long after the haunting moment passed. Those feelings had been real, and this was the ghost reminding me of them-- but what kind of ghost was this? The friendly ghost of a loved and lost pet, coming to remind me of good times now passed and a sense of nostalgia? Or was it an apparition of death appearing as a warning that such feelings would not again be experienced, at least not easily? I wonder.
More often than not, these ghosts haunt us with the insecurities and pain of their doomed final moments. They sneak up on us as we attempt new relationships and whisper into our ears their ghostly words. They cause a chill to penetrate an otherwise happy moment, they cause in impending sense of dread to fill our hearts that should be filled with joy. These ghosts, once they arise and decide to haunt us, are incredibly difficult to vanquish.
I don't want to live in a ghost story, but I seem to have picked up the wrong book.
Friday, November 2, 2007
- Halloween Parade. Sure, I wasn't in a costume and I had to stand on my tippy toes to see, but the fact that there is an entire parade (a mile long!) in the village dedicated to the fine art of Halloween celebration will make some of my family members green with envy. The costumes were extreme, and the best part about the parade were definitely the things tall enough for me to see, namely, these puppets on huge sticks waving around eerily like ghosts. That, and and entire troupe of zombies doing a choreographed dance to Thriller all along the parade route.
- Fall. The weather is crisp and clear, cold, but not to the point where the nose freezes. The leaves are changing and I keep collecting brightly colored leaves and bringing them in to admire them.
- The farmers market. I hope it is still open tomorrow, since it is now November. I hope so, because I need some Butternut Squash for soup.
- Dinner at Aditi's house with Melinda, Mario, Kathleen, Kate and Chris. You get a little bit of food and alcohol into people, take away the Wagner talk, and put a wii in front of people, and man, you start learning all sorts of things that you didn't know about them before. We decided to give up Grey's Anatomy and invite boys to our fun girls night Thursday dinner because grey's started to suck and the boys were feeling left out.
- The man practicing tap dancing under a bridge in the park yesterday.
- The orthodox Jewish guys playing soccer in the park last week.
- Hearing Paul Farmer and Jeff Sachs speak this week and get inspired about ending poverty in the world. Wow. Seriously, those are some inspirational people who are doing good things in the world. I also went to a symposium at the law school on Law and Policy on the Sub-Saharan African Child and of course, I was giddy and loved learning and thinking about all of this development stuff again. More on that later, because I'm formulating some ideas.
- David Bazan, of Pedro the Lion. I was so sad when they broke up. And I was so happy to go hear him play on monday night. And so glad that Melinda was game for going (ahem, elly) because it was such a good show (wow, and he sang this amazing version of Halleluja that is going onto his new album). So good. And seriously need to start going to more shows.
- Parents in town. So glad to see them, and so excited to show them around and welcome them into my new home. It is funny, I finally feel like an adult, a real one, because I got to entertain my parents and didn't feel like a college kid.
- Wagner. School is great, and the Wagner community is special. I had no idea grad school was like this.
The pie? A Chocolate and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie. Unfortunately, my camera ate the pictures of it, since it looked so tasty.
here is the recipe for all of you to try for yourselves. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
½ box graham cracker crumbs
1/4 Cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
Mix together and press into a large pie plate
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
Put chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat cream in small saucepan until scalded (just before starts to boil). Pour hot cream over chips and stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into graham cracker crust.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling
½ can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ packages (12 oz. total) cream cheese, softened
½ Cup sour cream
1 Cup canned pumpkin
2 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together until smooth. Pour on top of ganache in graham cracker crust.
1 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Cup pecan halves
Heat all in a saucepan until butter and sugar are melted and pecans are sticky. Spread on top of pumpkin pie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serves 8-10.