Thursday, June 10, 2010


Because I know you're dying to know, here's what's latest in djellaba fashion (in Rabat): short-sleeved djellabas! I know. I _know._ Some of them are half-sleeve djellabas with a diagonal cuff, and others are long-sleeved ones that have s cinching mechanism so that they can be held up to 3/4 sleeve length. Apparently, Chomeicha is singlehandedly responsible for the latter as a trend; I was specifically told about this while watching her work her darija culinary magic today and I noticed something weird about her sleeves, and then I knew to look for it. I only saw it once, but _still._ The short-sleeved djellabas, though, I kept seeing them over and over.

Another thing that seems to have taken off here (I doubt that I just hadn't noticed this before) is folding bikes. Today I saw three, two of which were in use (the third was parked outside, in the i'm-leaning-outside-a-business-and-therefore-belong-to-someone-local way that I'm sure is more a hopeful deterrent than anything), one of which was a Dahon. I also saw (in non-folders) a Batavus and a Giant.

I wonder when I'll see a woman in a short-sleeved djellaba on a folder?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

My brother

So, on Valentine's Day, I get a series of text messages from my brother. I am reproducing them verbatim, with no corrections for capitalization or punctuation. They ask the following:

(,) do you think people would rent office/work spaces if they were in nice loft apts but you shared the space w/ someone in a long term coma

(,) so the office brainwaves help the coma patient, and by giving company. and then the offices are cheaper, and people just come to use them as work spaces.

(,) and if there is a giant high rise building full of comatose people, they can all share one staff of health care workers. Does this system work do you think?

(,) think a giant city, where you want to ditch your coma people or old people, and you can go visit them. you know, you can also like use the senior service.

(,) where it is sort of assisted living, senior home, but, one can go hang out there, bc they are sort of separate nice apts. idk, what's the next stage? biz plan?

I read these messages to him today, and he noted that he vaguely remembered having sent me a very long message that might have been a little off.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Conversation

The other day, one of the residents where I live and I had this conversation:

She: When did you dye your hair?
I: I didn't dye it; I cut it.
She: I see that you cut it, but you dyed it, too, right?
I: No. I just wear it differently now that it's short, so more grey shows.
She: Really? It looks dyed. I thought you dyed it because you were in a play or something.

I might start telling people that I dyed it because I've taken up theater.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A little bit of Granada

I had convinced myself that not blogging would make me write more dissertation, but I don't think that's working. To be fair, I now think that the total length of this blog isn't terribly much longer than the dissertation, but still.

Today there was a moment that felt like Granada. I left class wearing my sandals Moroccan style with the back of the heel folded under (since they stay on that way, and they're so comfortable), and outside, there was someone walking towards campus wearing vans with the heel folded under in the same way. And then, two benches away, there were people playing flamenco guitar and singing.

Granada. *suspiro* (=sigh)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How to find this corner of the blogiverse

As per Google analytics, recent visitors to this blog have stumbled upon me by googling the following phrases:
piatic numbers
"dhaba" nyc
a box of outdated couscous
can you get worms from couscous?
churreria san ginez madrid

Not one, but two people found me by wondering about piatic numbers. Unfortunately, I'm sure they didn't find any answers, other than that I'm in awe of math when my friend Alex talks about it.

And I really hope that the people who were concerned with their expired, wormy couscous found some delicious, non-expired couscous to eat.
Moroccan Neighbors

A lot of the people from my life in Morocco have been around lately (in New York and LA), which is as it should be.

This brings up: it turns out that the neighborhood around my parents' house is turning somewhat Moroccan. The neighbors across the street diagonally from them (where, according to Google street view, the sky becomes unreal) are, as of two or three years ago, Moroccans from, I'm pretty sure, Rabat.

The other day (this was just a couple of weeks ago; that is totally the other day!), my Mom told me about how at some point during the summer, my cousins had been over, and they were all upstairs, and they looked out the window to the garden when my mom told them that she had been growing lots of tomatoes.

At that precise moment, the Moroccan neighbor goes and takes a basketfull of tomatoes from the garden. My cousins wanted to know if my mom wasn't going to do anything about it, and my mom said, meh, there are so many tomatoes.

What I thought was a little bit creepy was that the neighbor had scoped out the house enough to know that there were tomatoes in the backyard, and then had the brass to go into the garden and take them.

I told my mom this, and my mom said, "but they can see the tomatoes from their yard! And they can reach right across the fence!" And I had no idea what she was talking about, because as far as I knew, the Moroccan neighbors were the ones across the street from us.

It turns out that there's a second set of Moroccan neighbors (also, it turns out, from Rabat) whose house is behind ours and whose backyard abuts ours.

Next year maybe we should label the tomato plants in Arabic?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"World's Best President"

I am very excited about Tuesday.

That being said, the Congress (collectively) has really bad taste. These inaugural gifts look like something a second grader would have chosen at a school store for Father's Day (I didn't even know that there were inaugural gifts, but I guess they need souvenirs, or it'll seem like it never really happened):

(The image is from the above link. Click through if you want to see what the VP bowl looks like, or a slide show involving Dianne Feinstein and the president of the crystal company that made the bowls.)

The only thing missing from the engravings are corny poems about what a great president/vice president the respective recipient will be.

Maybe those are on the back?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The General Consensus

Is it that 2008 wasn't so great?

Mine was going swimmingly, I guess.

Except for the part/s in which I:
a) didn't get anywhere near finishing my thesis;
b) left Spain, which makes me wistful;
c) got hit by a car and had my commuting bike totaled (although, to be fair, I am physically alright);
d) had my beloved touring bike not show up in time from Spain, and when it did eventually show up in the wrong place (NJ after I had left for CA), had a huge dent in the top tube and the stem ground down. Grrr.

I guess there are some other things, too, but the ones above are the ones that make me particularly grumbly. I guess that they're the concrete ones that I can put a finger on without sinking into general despair. The thesis one's pretty big, though.

I also never managed to get around to getting an aerator from the tool library or mulch for the front yard. I worry that the house where I live is the one with the appearance that sets the blight standard for the neighborhood.

Oh, and there's also the part in which I didn't manage to fall in love/write a novel/have offspring/whatever it is that we're supposed to do so that society thinks we're worth something.

Maybe 2009'll work everything out, though. Especially that thesis part.

Wrought about leaving Spain: my bike and my heart

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Clarification on Curry Hill

I went with my cousin's wife to Indian lunch yesterday. We took the 6 down to 28th, and popped up above the ground on that little strip of Lexington where it's all Indian food all the time. Then we just had to pick where to eat.

I didn't want to eat at the delicious Saravanaas (sp?), since I'd eaten there with Zora and Peter not two weeks ago (although, to be fair, it was last year) and since it's a menu that's pretty typical of West Berkeley chaat houses. There's the place with the big kosher certification in the window at the corner of 27th, and that has really tasty food for not expensive, but it turned out that it is closed on Tuesdays. And of the two places, one right next to it, and the one next to that, I remember not having been bowled over by the one, and the other was closed.

So there we were, window shopping for Indian buffet, and someone was outside of one (Dhaba; I hadn't been there before) cleaning the windows. The place looked pretty schmancy, but the buffet was right under $10 and there seemed to be a fair amount of people there, at least two of three who looked Indian (although it wasn't the ideal overwhelming majority), and so I figured I'd ask the window guy if he had any opinion of the food.

This is the conversation that we had:

Me: The food here, it's good?
Guy Cleaning Window: No.
Me: It's not?
GCW: No.
Me: You don't like it?
GCW: No.
ME: Do you like Indian food?
GCW: No.

After this, I paused for a couple of seconds. I mean, the people inside all seemed really happy, and the restaurant wasn't empty. So I decided to try the conversation again.

Me: Do you like the food here?
GCW: No.
Me: Why?
GCW: No English.
Me: What do you speak?
GCW: Spanish.

So I started the conversation over again, and this is how it went:
Me: La comida aqui, ¿está buena?
GCW: No.
Me: No?
GCW: No.
Me: No te gusta?
GCW: No.
Me: ¿Te gusta la comida India?
GCW: No.

Long story short: the lady from inside came outside, and told us that we were welcome to see the buffet if we wanted to consider it first, and so we went inside and took a look and it smelled and looked delicious and there we stayed until we were full and couldn't eat another bite of the sooji halwa they had for dessert.

Dhaba is my new favorite Indian restaurant in New York.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Tree

Usually, I arrive home sometime between the 20th and the 22nd. The first year or two that I was in college, there would somehow already be a tree at the house (we have an artificial tree from my childhood, but we we've gotten a pine/fir--I can't tell the difference unless you tell me first--for years now) and my brother and I would decorate it. Then, at some point, I remember arriving home and there wasn't a tree anymore: my mom had unilaterally decided that tree acquisition was a chore best left to P and me.

So, the way it's been for the past few years (when I've been home, so about half the time, and not at all for the past three years), is that my brother and I take $7 and go to a tree lot somewhere on either the 23rd or Christmas Eve. By then, the only trees that are left could charitably be described as either poor judgment on the part of the feller, or, well, Charlie Brown.

The dialog goes something like this:
P: How much do you want for this tree?
Tree Lot Guy: Um ... you want that tree? Um, I dunno, twelve dollars?
AV: We brought seven.
TLG: How about ten?
P: We have seven.

By this point, Tree Lot Guy's putting the tree through the netting that they use and I'm giving him seven singles. And within twenty minutes, we have a perfectly workable, albeit lopsided, Christmas tree in the living room and are trying to make the tree stand hold it up in some semblance of upright (usually, wedges are involved.)

This year, we didn't manage to get a tree until today. You will note that today is the day after Christmas (although we're having Christmas on the 6th or 7th, since that's when P gets home. Conveniently, that's also Three Kings' Day/Armenian Christmas/Eastern Orthodox Christmas, so it's not as if we're outside the bounds of tradition. Another one, but a tradition nonetheless.)

My mom and i went to the tree lot, where there was exactly one (1) tree left, and it was way too tall, and the guy wanted $35 for it, which is absolutely insane. He offered to chainsaw it down to a smaller size, but still. He had two little weird tree-top things that were super scrawny. We were going to the hardware superstore anyway, and my mom mentioned that they had trees there, so we decided to see if they had any left.

They had some, but no one knew what the prices were (we asked at customer service and the lady told us to look on the box and we said, no, not a fake tree, a previously-live tree) and the people in the greenhouse area were unknowledgeable and so we didn't get a tree there.

Anyhow, on the drive home through Passaic, my mom says, keep an eye out for Monroe Street; there's a tree there. And there was.

Someone had put it out to the curb already; I'm not sure if it had previously been decorated or not (it didn't seem to have been; all the branches are still super up-pointy and the tree seems closed. It was right outside a big parking lot; maybe that was a tree lot before?) and so we put that into the trunk and put down the hatchback of the car and then I talked to my dad on the phone and I said, "Hey, we got a tree!" and he asked, "Where did you buy it?" and I said "Monroe Street."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Material Culture

So, my mom has a few nativity sets that she puts up around the house around Christmas. When I was little, she would put up a fairly elaborate one involving the model-making equivalent of roll-out turf, a water feature, and some sort of structural framework underneath it all for topography.

This was nowhere nearly as elaborate as the nativity scenes facilitated by the Christmas markets in Spain, where you can find scale models of, among other things, pigs in various stages of life/slaughter/curing/finished product, and miniature eggs: whole, cracked, and fried. (Aside: they also sell masks at these Christmas markets in Spain, and kids wear them for New Year's, and I have yet to satisfactorily figure out why.)

We had some model animals that went into the mix: there were sheep,goats, and camels, and, I think, some ducks. I had (I still have, somewhere!) a set of jungle animals, to pretty much the same scale. There was a jungle section of the crèche where they were supposed to go, but I remember insisting that at least one of the tigers should go threateningly close to the manger.

My family hasn't put a nativity set requiring any effort up in years, though. Today my mom mentioned that the cats have a particular penchant for running through it and knocking it down.

Her solution? Instead of putting up one complex, labor-intensive set, she's put a few small (the tallest one of these is maybe four inches) one-piece sets around:

Classic! Note the emphasis on the manger, what with the thatchiness of the roof. Also (not visible in the photo): the faces are definitely just suggestions.

Essence of Nativity: no wise men, no architecture. The colors on this one remind me of light-up Madonna lawn statues from my Italian-suburban New Jersey childhood.

This was given to me by my friend Lital, who had gone to a conference in Alaska. It's an igloo! And a jewelry box! Snazzy!

My favorite: The Guambiano Nativity.

The Guambianos live in Silvia and other places near the Piendamó River in Colombia, about an hour from Popayán (NB: the Wikipedia article needs editing; it notes, "there is no straw roofs in town anymore although there is plenty of them in the city neighborhood.") There are some Guambianos here and there in Popayán, too. I love the colors on this one. But what I love even more than that is that none of the adult figures are kneeling or sitting: they're all just standing around, as if they don't know what to make of the little swaddled Guambiano baby. And the way they're gathered also always reminds me of this.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best. Present. Ever.

from Pablo!

Friday, December 05, 2008


Yesterday I met up with my friend Alex, who is a Scottish mathematician who works on piatic ... numbers? sequences? Did I mention that I've never even taken calculus?

Anyhow, Alex is great fun and is a pretty fantastic ambassador for math as a way of life/religion/drug. He uses rapturous adjectives to describe how great math is. In short, he's a breath of fresh Scottish air. We go to Raleigh's together once every couple of weeks, and he talks to me about things that I'm pretty sure are making my mind crack, like the idea that different prime numbers have different distances, and that somehow these distances translate into alternate universes in which mathematical concepts that seem simple to us seem outlandish to those hypothetical residents of those other universes, and what seems incomprehensible to us is like adding for them.

But I digress.

Yesterday, I was feeling peckish and so I ordered myself a sandwich. Three years away, first in a country with pretty fantastic sandwiches (ma3quuda?! hello!), and then in Spain, where the sandwiches are terrible* (with a couple of notable exceptions) somehow made me forget that other than my regular Cheese-n-Stuff fix, California sandwiches are to be avoided.

There are a couple of reasons: first, one of the ingredients on the sandwich was avocado. What I was served was an avocado sandwich with a little bit of some other stuff.
Second, I was never asked what kind of bread I wanted (and, as far as I remember, the menu didn't give any options.) It was honey whole wheat (as far as I can tell). That's almost parodically Californian.

The main problem, though: the bread:filling ratio was all wrong. And that's not just there; it's symptomatic of the California sandwich.

In this weird coastal universe with beaches and Atkins diets, you would think that the bread slices would be normal, if not tending to thin. But no: this was a tall sandwich. And two-thirds of that height was too-thickly sliced bread. Each slice was about three times as thick as a slice of, well, sliced bread. Blech. Even after making the sandwich open-faced, there was still too much bread for the amount of filling.

Never again.

I'll still keep going back to Raleigh's to have my mind blown by Alex and his mathtalk (Did you know that there's something in math called a motive? There're probably also plots, narratives, and backstories.) I'll stick to the $2.50 pints, though (and maybe I'll get some onion rings; some of those came with my sandwich, and they were crisp and tasty.)

* an explication for my Spanish friends: Spaniards are sandwich literalists/fundamentalists. In Spain, when a sandwich is billed as a cheese sandwich, it consists of bread ... and cheese. Which I guess is alright, if that's what you want. What I usually want is for there to be a pile of green leafy things and tomato and mustard and mayo and swimming in vinegar.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obamalection:* Effects

Here are my bets on some of the effects of the Obama election:

a) that Obama will be used as a first name in the developing world (not confined to Africa; definitely it'll be widespread in Latin America)

b) that Barack as a first name will skyrocket in the US, especially in the Black community

c) that Barack as a first name (and permutations thereof: Baraka, Mabrouk) will skyrocket in the Middle East/Arab world

d) that visa applications to the US will skyrocket

e) that inner-city crime rates will plummet. I'm convinced we would be heading to another low-point-of-the-American-city, as in Lower-East-Side-1982, if McCain were to have won (not so much as a direct factor of McCain but as an antibama corollary)

f) that crime rates in Brazil will plummet

g) that Venezuela and Colombia might be seeing some political changes

and now back to my lagging dissertation ...

* alternately: Obamelection. I can't figure out how to type a schwa.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I'm back in California now, and had about four entries in some stage of the thought-draft process (and then my computer died.)

I'm not allowing myself to blog any more until I finish a dissertation chapter. In its entirety. Ouch.

I should be back by the end of October. (Since I know that the rush of activity since late June has kept all three of you rushing to read the new entries.)

Monday, June 23, 2008


There's some big soccer tournament on now; all the Europeans seem particularly into it. I went to see part of the game last night with my housemate, and it was fun because we went to a bar (the Café Futbol, which is more a chocolate-and-churros kind of place than a bar, but they do, of course, serve beer and tapas there since it's Granada) and everyone there was pretty into it.

After I figured out that the Spanish team was wearing red, and Italy was wearing white, it was much easier to understand. The Spanish uniforms were pretty bad, with a really difficult-to-read font in a color that is too gold and not contrasty enough with the red color field. Anyhow, the game was tied 0-0. And then it went into overtime. And then it went into double overtime, or whatever it is that they call the part of the game (I'd never seen a soccer game go into this part [since I don't think I've ever watched so much of a soccer game before, on teevee anyway], and it certainly hasn't happened in any soccer game in which I've played [and I'm certain that my presence on the field would have something to do with such a situation, since I flee projectiles generally, and duck a lot, because who wants to hit that thing? I only really enjoy sports where I am the projectile]) and then Spain won 4-2.

And then Inga (my housemate) and I went on a run, and everyone was out in the streets in celebration mode, and it appeared that the proverbial fun was had by all.

A lot of people got into the Fuente de las Batallas; apparently, we missed the first round of people jumping into the drink, since there was water everywhere around the fountain and the fountain was off. A few minutes later, though, it got turned on again and people climbed it and splashed around a lot.

I like how, in this photo, a neon sign that isn't the Spanish flag looks like the Spanish flag. I also like how the kids in the photos look like turn-of-the-(20th)-century urchins.

There weren't many girls in the fountain; once in a while, one would go in but not stay very long.

Also, one thing that Spaniards do to celebrate soccer victories (or maybe it is to celebrate in general) is to yell "¡Olé! ¡Olé!" and pretend that they are bulls and bullfighters (done here with a Spanish flag.) There was a larger version of this going on in the street, where five or six people would run through the flag at once, pretending they were bulls.

The game was just yesterday; this is as close to live reporting that this blog'll ever get. There are things from weeks (and, um, months) ago that I keep meaning to write about, but then other things come up.
Vermiculture, Crop Failure

One of the things that I love about the balconies of my apartment is that I have compost bins on them. It took a really long time to find appropriate worms for them, however. I had asked at probably a dozen nurseries and florists, until I asked at a florist near my apartment, and she said that they had some in the compost at her house. In short: a few days and some worm-decorated cupcakes later, I had my own compost worms! (The nice red kind, that I believe they call California redworms, but I might be remembering incorrectly.)

Anyhow, that was months ago, and at some points in the meantime, I've been pretty concerned about the worm population (or seeming lack thereof) in the compost bins. Now, however, there are so many! They are very densely spread throughout one of the bins in particular, such that each trowelful turns up at least two of them.

This makes me happy to no end.

Also, I may have mentioned (way back when) that I was really excited about some tulip bulbs that I had bought. And, later on, I was thrilled with some chives that I had planted.

Did I mention that I went to CA for three weeks? And that, during those three weeks, the plants didn't really get watered? (Sigh.) To make a long story short, all of the plants on the balconies except those that would probably be thought of as weeds (spider plants, weird-looking spikey-curly succulents, gerania) either died or are very sad. And I was so excited about the tulips, and one of them was looking really healthy (the stalk, anyways; it hadn't bloomed yet) and two were looking alright, and only one or two of them looked DOA before I left.

And so now I am re-planting some chives, and I guess I'm done mourning the dead basil (except, of course, every time I want to use just a leaf or two of basil), and thinking twice about the prettiness of the weird succulents that, literally, tripled in size while I was gone.

But I still have my worms.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pros and Cons

I've gotten to the point at which I'm thinking I should be back in California for the next academic year. I don't really want to be, since I think I'm doing alright here (although I do miss having triceps.) And so I'm trying to reason things through. Please add to my list of Spain (Granada) and California (Bay Area) pros and cons.

I also keep seriously thinking about moving to Chicago, but haven't made a list for it yet. Chicagoans, please make suggestions!


Already here/inertia
In Europe
Best. Apartment. Ever.


Refrigerated tomatoes
No cafés
Everything closes at insane hours.
Granada is provincial.
The Euro
Earthquake denial
Spaniards are ridiculous/Spain is ridiculous
Lack of ethnic food


The gym
The Bay
Live music
People like me.
I like people.
No smoking
Cycling club
Sailing club (which I fully intend to join)
Swimming pools that are beautiful, so that I at least get to get water up my nose in an aesthetically pleasing environment.
In the US
Thai food
Indian food
Dozens of tomato varieties


Many of my friends have moved away.
In the US

Friday, June 13, 2008


As of last night, when I went to the supermarket again, some restocking seems to be taking place. Most of the things that were in stock and/or being re-stocked weren't exactly what I would classify as essential, however.

Also no baked goods (this shelf usually has fresh sliced bread and pastry-type things.) There were some baguettes on another bread shelf, though (unlike the case three days ago.)

No eggs. Not even quail (which are usually on the top shelf.) Weird soup concentrate stuff has been fully restocked (if, that is, it was ever out of stock.)

No fruit (this is where potatoes, garlic, bananas, and oranges usually are. There are some containers of bottled water, in case you're planning for the year 2000. Also, there does seem to be some garlic in the background.)

One (half) watermelon, a couple of (bad) ears of corn, and a box of something weird. In the background, note that soda has been fully restocked.

At least there are a few containers of soymilk (I bought two.) But that's a new development as of today. When I last attempted a supermarket trip (two days ago) there was not even soymilk.

The meat shelves are also empty. The junk food shelves immediately to the right had just been filled. (Two days ago, I believe there was nothing in the family of pre-made Spanish tortillas, frozen pizzas, and egg beaters, But those are the things that nobody wants! Right?!)

I will be so, so happy when there are things like bags of fresh spinach and eggs in the supermarket. Tomorrow, I'm going to go see if the vegetable market is open.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Tapas For Now

Actually, the bars don´t seem to have run out of food yet, but the supermarket shelves here are empty empty empty. Photodocumentation to follow.

Luckily, we have lots of lentils at home. Unluckily, we don´t seem to have onions or anything else worth eating.

For those of you who have asked, the supermarkets are empty because truck drivers are striking to protest the high cost of diesel fuel (I believe that today is day three of said strike.)

Another strike that's currently happening, and which is predicted to make Spain a country with no fish to eat (both fresh and frozen) in about another five days is a fishing strike (that I believe has been going on for over a week already.) If my knowledge is correct on this, the fishing strike started in France and is also in effect in Portugal. This, as far as I can see, is the BEST thing that could possibly happen: Spain overfishes, and maybe even a couple of weeks of break from being fished will somehow positively affect world fish populations. A few months of Spain not fishing, though, would be much better.