Sunday, October 31, 2010

Update - September 6, 2010

It happened again. I’m beginning to think that dry cleaners should be called driers.

I go into the dry cleaners with clothes that are not dry and are not clean. We greet each other as usual.


“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“Good, good. Let’s see. What do you have?”

I put the clothes on the counter top. And low and behold she starts making noises.

“Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmmmm.” Oh my goodness.

“What is this,” she says.

“It’s a stain.”

“MMmmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmm.”

“What kind of stain is this?”

“I don’t know. It’s Barbecue juice sludge.”

“MMm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmm.” She was not hungry for breakfast. Lunch was another two and a half hours.

Then I gave her a look as if to say “Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare say that you can’t clean it. You’re a dry CLEANers for goodness sake.”

And she gave me a look as if to say “I’m not going to tell you that we won’t take the stain out. I’d rather you pay us money first and then be surprised when you come back and have our usual conversation.”

I HATE that usual conversation which goes like this.


“Hello! Phone number.”

“1-2-3 . . . 4-5-6-. . . 7-8-9-10”

“Thanks.” She goes and retrieves my clothes. A minute later she returns with it and hangs it up on a bar near the counter for my inspection knowing full well she should have hurried me out the store because---

“Wait. There’s a stain on this pant.”

“Let me see that,” she grabs it back. “Where?”

“Right there, “ I point.

She squints and doesn’t see. So she bends closer and doesn’t see. She puts on her glasses but doesn’t see. So she puts on her granny glasses, still shakes her head. Finally she calls for the magnifying glass which her partner gives her and she inspects it without the glasses. “AH”

“Ah AH” I say.

“Ah, yes.”



“There’s a stain.”


“It didn’t come out.”


“So shouldn’t you clean it again or give me my money back?”

“Oh no. Stain was there when you give it to us.”

“I know. I wanted you to clean it.”

“You gave it dirty.”

“I know, but it’s still dirty.”

“Yes, you dirty it.”

“Ok, . . . I’m ok with that. But it’s dirty now.”

“Yes, your fault.”

“Yes, but I wanted you to clean it.”

“No, but you bring it dirty.”

“But I paid you to clean it.”

“Not our fault. We clean all the clothes.”

“Except that one.”

“That one is dirty.”

“Oh my gosh. I know that. Can you clean it?”

“I don’t know. It’s dirty.”

“Yes, but if it weren’t dirty, I would have kept it in my closet.”

“Maybe your closet is dirty.”

Are you kidding me? . . . . . Wait, maybe my closet IS di--- “Wait, this is about your cleaning.”

“We did clean.”

“Ok, ok. This is working. Can I at least have my money back for the pant that wasn’t cleaned.”

“Money gone. We cleaned. You dirtied.”

“Yes, but I gave it to you to clean.”

“And we would have cleaned, but you bring it dirty.”

“But that’s why I wanted you to clean it.”

“Yes, but you bring it dirty.”

“Do you take out stains or not?”

“We do clean, but not your dirty clothes.”

“What are you saying? My clothes are dirty?”

“Maybe. . . Or maybe your closet is dirty.”

I’m staring at my closet right now as I write this.


A day is not complete in my neighborhood without hearing at least on occurrence of a police siren, a fire truck siren, and an ambulance siren each. I sometimes wonder if new emergency response recruits secretly pine over being assigned to my neighborhood because they’ll get so much action while criminals pine over working here because they know the police will be busy with other calls. But the city has done well over the past 30 years to reduce the amount of crime. And I definitely feel safer than in Sao Paolo or Johannesburg.

But that’s my neighborhood. I don’t see much of it these days. I’m currently in orientation for my program meeting all the new first year fellows. People keep asking me how the new placement or job is, not realizing I won’t start until mid-September. I’ll let you know then.

What amazes me about my program is that all the fellows are . . . . VERY amazing and impressive. If you look at their resumes they are staggering. They tend to engender feelings of inadequacy where you look at yourself and ask “How did I get here?” or for shorter people like me “Am I human?” We sometimes don’t get it. The current class even has a woman who played professional basketball in Europe. I want to play with her but I don’t know how to ask. I remember talking to one fellow about being an astronaut. Another fellow overheard and said “Oh, an astronaut. I know 3 of them. I’ll introduce you if you like.” That’s the kind of conversations we have. I’m pretty sure some of these guys don’t even need this fellowship. They’re beyond it. But it’s a nice break from industry or academia.

Two things that happened for me recently was a trip to the US Open in NYC over Labor Day Weekend. I now have a new appreciation for tennis and will try to play some this year. Those guys hit the ball so fast and could make the ball spin and fall slowly and drop to the ground---it was phenomenal. I also got to see the #2 player in men’s tennis play. It was great.

And my choir is performing Lord of the Rings. . . Again. The past three summers we’ve performed the first, the second, and now the third this weekend. A crowd comes to DC’s open air amphitheatre to either sit in benches or on the grass and watch the movie with no music soundtrack while an orchestra and choir perform the music soundtrack live. It’s quite amazing. Check it out.

If you know me well, you know that at any given time, I’m always applying for something. The nice and vulnerable side of a blog or update is that people who normally find you very successful get to see more of your failings along the way. Normally you only hear about the thousands of dollars raised for a charity, but you didn’t hear about the failed fundraisers and the solicitations which elicited a no from the potential donor. But following me along you get to see when I apply for things and don’t get it. I won’t write everything because these updates end up eliciting a mass of e-mails about people wanting to see, read, or know more details and for some “applications” or submissions, I’m not allowed. But you know that I’ve applied to the astronaut program once and my application was not accepted (notice I said my application wasn’t accepted as opposed to me); if there weren’t so many politics and budget concerns, by now I should have been able to apply 3 times, but they don’t know when they’ll open applications again. I’ve applied for a Gates Grand Challenges Exploration grant twice for HIV research, and my proposal was not accepted. I recently applied/auditioned for a reality TV show called Hitmakers, a Bravo production that is supposed to be a reality elimination show for singer/songwriters. I was not chosen. Those are just a few. Each thing I do is connected to me and what I want to do somehow and dreams inside of me. I’m not too phased by it; I just keep plugging along.

I’m not sure if you realize this, but at any given moment, I’m usually doing several things/tasks for several different people. Let me give you an example. This past week before last I was

1) writing a recommendation for a friend’s law school application
2) helping my niece with computer programming
3) helping to edit a scholarship essay for a TV, film, and radio communications student and friend
4) asked to help give a list or my opinion of the top experts in geo-engineering especially carbon capture and sequestrations (storage) and the top experts in communication science related to geo-engineering
5) asked to write a vocal a capella arrangement of Wade in the Water (I still haven’t started
6) asked to help with sports development studies and find out if there are any global studies that show the impact of sports on development in post-conflict societies
7) asked to argue the immuno-biology efficacy of a particular research idea

What amazes me is that they are not in the same disciplines at all. Some people say I do different things and that is why I am asked; I actually think it’s because I actually help people when asked or go out of my way to help. This is probably because I know I would want to be helped in the same when I don’t know the answer or have no where to turn if I’m trying to finish my thesis proposal, get an A in a course, conclude a project for my work, or help a girl grow into a woman.

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