Tag Archives: The New Yorker

There is a Monster in my Computer

23 May

Okay so you guys.  Today I handed in my thesis.  I printed it on (the required) fancy paper, I ran all around getting signatures, and then I deposited the $40 worth of paper* (sorry, world) on the desk of the person who was tasked with receiving theses.  So, this means three things.  One, I have finally completed my graduate program thus bringing an end to our (AKA my) long national nightmare.  Two, I have more time to read things that are not school related.  And three, I can then write about them here.  So, hooray for you if you like reading my blog!  Anyway, not the point.  The point is that I am fairly certain there is a monster in my computer.

So, here’s what happened.  Today while I was riding the train into the city to get my thesis printed and signed (did I mention that I handed in my thesis today?!) I was reading this article in The New Yorker by John Seabrook called “Network Insecurity:  Are we losing the battle against cyber crime?”  The article is all about these groups of hackers all over the world, that are sometimes associated with a government, that are hacking into computers and stealing all the information!  I know, I know, you are wondering whether I have been living under a rock for the past like, 15 years.  Well, the answer is yes and no.  I remember those scams where that guy in Africa would say he was a prince or something and if you sent him money now you would get all the money later but actually there was no later and you were just a fool.  I also know about Aaron Swartz.  I also know that there have been some articles about how maybe the Chinese government was cyber-spying (which totally makes me think  of creepy chat rooms).  What I did not know is that there might be people hacking into my computer right now!  Like, as I am typing this!  And they might be seeing me type from the “other side!”  And when I think about the “other side” I think that they are reading everything backwards, but then of course if they are tech-y enough to get into my computer in the first place then they can probably read things forwards.  Also, they probably don’t really care about reading my blog while I am writing it because it isn’t that good and they might as well just wait until I officially publish it. (I understand that none of these thoughts are even close to reasonable, but technology totally blows my mind.  3-D printing? What?!)

Sorry, I got off track.  So, anyway, I was reading this article during which Seabrook interviewed all these different FBI guys, and private security firm guys, and NSA guys (they were all guys) about the cyber threat and it seems as though it is actually really big.  Not only is it really big, but it could affect any of us!  Even me!  So this is what really made me nervous.  These hacking people send out these spear-phishing emails that they tailor specifically for you using information they glean from social networking.  Then, when you open the email they attach malicious code, or “malware” (not mall-ware, I learned after I embarrassed myself by mispronouncing it to my adviser) onto your computer.  “Downloading the attachment,” Seabrook says, “silently installs the malware, without your noticing.”  And then this is the really scary part: “later, you may wonder why your computer’s fan is always on (it’s because the hacker is using your machine’s extra computing power).” (!!!!!)  When I got home today my fan was on!

Okay, so this might be due to a few things.  I have been using my computer a lot the last few weeks.  I just finished watching two episodes of Awkward (so funny!).  I am running an outdated version of Firefox because my computer is geriatric and I was afraid to get it updated while I was working on my thesis because what if it crashed and also my backup unit caught on fire or something and then I lost everything.  But this also could mean that there is a hacker inside my computer.  So when I imagine a hacker inside my computer what I imagine is that scene from Space Balls where that guy is eating some food and all of a sudden an alien pops out of his stomach and starts singing “Hello! Ma Baby.” It’s like I would be working on something “very serious” and then some weird mutant would pop out of the screen and it would be horrifying and then maybe my cats would kill it.  But that’s not what the hackers do!  They don’t pop out of things with tiny canes and hats!   They can steal your passcodes and take your money.  Or they can see you through your own computer camera and hear you through your own computer microphone!  That’s scary!

So, in summation, in order to protect myself from the hacker that I am convinced is living inside my computer, I have covered my camera with a small sliver of blue post-it.  Now I can sleep easy.

(I am actually really nervous about this.  Don’t mock me.)

*Shouldn’t the price of that paper just be included in my astronomically high tuition that I will be paying off for the rest of my life because 6.8%!

The Day I Sneezed the Loudest Sneeze

13 Dec

This one is for my friends Dee and Elizabeth.

I woke up this past Monday morning with a sore throat.  It wasn’t scratchy, as if I had been talking too much or too loudly the night before.  It was more a feeling of tightness.  It felt a little smaller, a little more constricted, than usual.  The classic precursor to a cold.  I spent that day in my room, intermittently reading the news and watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” from the beginning.  (Sometimes when I am sick, or think I might be getting sick, I try to torture the sickness out of me by watching marathons of some of the cheesier shows available.  A few years ago it was “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”  I will never be the same.)  The day went along and my overall feeling of sickness stayed relatively the same.  I felt a little bit tired with that kind of naggingly tight throat and a very tickly, but not runny, nose.  Maybe this was it.  A lamb of a cold.

On Tuesday I woke up feeling more or less the same.  I, once again, forewent my run in an attempt to stave off the sickness a little bit longer or, hopefully, to avoid it all together.  I ate an orange because, you know, vitamin c.  Then I headed into the city to meet my friend Dee at the study center at our school to do some work, me on my thesis, which I am paying to write, and her on a cool project that she is getting paid for because she is smart and awesome and on top of her shit.  Go Dee!

The study center is a quiet place.  There was a group of rather rowdy Parson’s students behind us (aren’t the loud ones always from Parson’s?) who Dee and I thought should have used a study room rather than the study center to work on a group project that involved multi-media images and things.  Dee kept giving them the best nasty looks I have seen in years.  It was pretty classic.  We were working for hours, drinking too much coffee, eating Haribo peaches.  Through the entire afternoon I kept having this annoying tickle in my right nostril.  I kept plugging my nose and looking up at the light, hoping to keep the sneeze from bursting forth.  Then, all of a sudden, I got a super intense tickle and ACHOO!  It was, literally, the loudest sneeze I have ever sneezed in my entire life.  It sounded, as determined with help from my friend Elizabeth, much like a cruise ship horn, if, rather than being a soothing, 5-10 second long sound it came out, all at once, in a huge burst.  I looked around the silent study room to see a number of startled faces looking back at me.  I frantically looked at the floor, acting as if I had dropped a pen in hopes that people wouldn’t credit me with the heart attack-inducing sneeze.  I had to go to the bathroom to blow my nose and wash my hands, but I feared that if I left my seat right away the few people who didn’t know the sneeze was mine would soon come to realize I was the culprit.  I looked up at Dee.  She had an expression that communicated to me both shock and amusement.

“Excuse me.”

I whispered.  Although at that point I might have been better off screaming it.  About 2 minutes later, after touching nothing in an effort to not spread my sneeze-germs everywhere, (it was a dry sneeze, by the way), I quickly and quietly made my way to the bathroom to blow my nose and wash my hands.  And that, my friends, is the story of the loudest sneeze I ever sneezed.

In other news, I read this in The New Yorker while waiting for the train Pre-Loudest Sneeze and it made me laugh. You might like it too.

“(Grover) Norquist attributed the Presidential result to the Obama campaign’s success in portraying Romney as ‘a poopy-head.'”

No, seriously. And…that is all.

A small ‘Thank You’ to some of my public school teachers

24 Nov

While “watching” the University of Michigan vs. Ohio State game on television because I am a good and dedicated girlfriend, I read an article in The New Yorker all about education policy and specifically what one woman, Diane Ravitch, sees as the unfortunate effects of No Child Left Behind.  I don’t know too much about this, although obviously I have my opinions, so without more independent research I really don’t want to go on a whole rant-like analysis of the goods and bads of No Child Left Behind and the rise of Charter Schools.  Perhaps I will leave that for another day.  I do, however, want to say one thing:  thank you.  As a product of public education in New Jersey, I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the teachers I had growing up who really left their mark.  So, here goes.

Thank you Mrs. Early, my third grade teacher, for showing me that learning can be fun.  Although you were demanding, you made everything interesting, teaching us the importance of art and science in every day life.  And I wrote my first published book, The Attack of the Friendly Aliens, under your tutelage.  It’s destined to be a classic.

Thank you Mrs. Murphy, my 5th grade teacher, for showing me to never judge a person by her reputation.  I was scared when I found out on my last day of the 4th grade that you were going to be my teacher, I even tried to switch out of your class, but I soon learned that being tough is not necessarily a bad thing.

Thank you Mr. Piza, my 7th grade social studies teacher, for teaching us about Africa.  Leading up to your class, and for many years after, the history and relevance of that entire continent was taught as an afterthought.  If it wasn’t for your desire to share with us your interest in African history and current events, I don’t know that I ever would have started thinking about what it said about us in the United States that Africa was not deemed relevant enough to be a focus of our education growing up.  I don’t know that I would have become interested in the things I am interested in today.

Thank you Dr. Jooma, my 9th grade English teacher, for showing me how amazing Shakespeare can really be when you take time to read it and really think about it.  And thank you for giving me a lifelong love of MacBeth.

Thank you Dr. Miron, my 11th grade Algebra II teacher for listening to me when I talked to you about the importance of having a lower level Algebra II class for those of us who just couldn’t keep up.  And thank you for letting me take the class pass/fail after seeing how hard I worked and understanding that without the option of a slower paced class I simply could not do well.  Thank you for your compassion.

Thank you Mr. Palladino, my 12th grade elective teacher, for putting an exclamation point on my interest in the world.  It was you who really taught me to question what I read in the news, to try and see all angles, to think about the possible reasons behind the actions.  It was you who taught me never to point a finger because things are always more complex than we know.

Thank you Mr. Fox for taking the time, even though you weren’t my teacher, to re-explain math concepts to me over and over again even though it probably seemed like I would never understand them.  I am still terrible at math but I know that with a patient instructor I can enjoy it, even if the answers never seem to be right.

I’m sure I missed a few along the way and as they come to mind I will add them to the list.  The point is that these are all people who I think of fondly, if not often.  People who did their jobs with passion, skill and a love of teaching.  People who listened to their students and learned from them.  I don’t know whether, with the new direction of public education, these teachers will be as appreciated in the future as they were in the past and that would be a damn shame.

And also, to all my friends who teach:  thank you for the time, the energy, the work.  I’m sure things are heard right now.  I’m sure it’s not fun being stuck in the middle of this national debate, as you see the federal money to your programs decreasing and people wondering why our students seem to be faring worse.  But if you love it, keep at it.  Who knows, maybe you will be the one to influence a student’s future.

And…cheesiness over.

Let’s Take Hitler Off the Table

12 Oct

I don’t think I can quite do justice to the point I am trying to make, but I will still try.

Act I

In the fall of 2010 I traveled to Montreal for an elongated birthday celebration for one of my graduate school classmates.  It was an idyllic weekend.  We met at Penn Station and rode an Amtrak train from New York to Montreal, taking a break from our studies to gossip, listen to music, and do some leisure reading.  Everything on that ride seemed quaint, from the verbal tour given the passengers by the conductor — and out the left side of the train a bald eagle! — to the request for the safe return of a copy of “The History of Connecticut” which inexplicably went missing to the visa checks by Canadian customs officials.  The weekend continued along in that vein.  There was the perfect bed and breakfast, the beautiful farmer’s market, the Owen Wilson sighting.  There was only one downside to the entire weekend:  the table we came across in the old city that featured a picture of Obama sporting a Hitler-esque mustache and a swastika on his arm.  This was not the first time I had come across such an image.  Walking to school a few months earlier I had seen the same doctored photograph holding court on a fold-out table in Union Square.  Those running the table handed out pamphlets.  I was enraged, insulted, and running late for class.  I scowled at them and hurried on my way, red-faced and breathing fire, trying to push the image out of my head while at the same time grappling with all the reasons it impacted me so severely.

Act II

Today fall appeared in New York City.  It was one of those days with a (mostly) blue sky and a strong sun but with winds that rip down the avenues and a certain damp coldness that pushes through layers.  I was sad I forgot my gloves.  After running a few errands I decided to finish my Friday evening over a glass of wine and last week’s issue of The New Yorker (I am behind once again).  In the section entitled The Political Scene was an article by Chrystia Freeland called “Super-Rich Irony:  Why do billionaires feel victimized by Obama?”  I had read a few other articles of a similar theme in The New Yorker, and elsewhere, in recent months.  One that comes to mind made mention of the super-rich who felt slighted because they never received a proper ‘thank you’ from Obama for previous fund-raising contributions.  (To them I say this:  boo-fucking-hoo.)  Freeland’s article was a little more specific, it revolved around an open letter to President Obama from billionaire Leon Cooperman, the founder of a hedge fund called Omega Advisors.    This letter went viral in the business community and accuses Obama of using language that has led to a class warfare in which the super-rich are the oppressed minority.  In it Cooperman says,

To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment. It is also a naked, political pander to some of the basest human emotions – a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists.

And then this,

You might do well at this point to eschew the polarizing vernacular of political militancy and become the transcendent leader you were elected to be.

In follow-up interviews, as well as in a speech that addressed this letter and its impacts, Cooperman, Freeland reports, “has gone so far as to draw a parallel between Obama’s election and the rise of the Third Reich.”  Ugh.  Honestly, I have had enough.  There are a lot of infuriating things in this article about how the super-rich feel about their treatment, and how they think they are being singled out and blamed, and, honestly, I do not feel bad for them.  Maybe that makes me an asshole and maybe someday I will amend that feeling but today is not that day.  This post is not about that.  This post is about the parallel that I see drawn over and over again between Obama and Hitler.  It has got to stop.  Take Hitler off the table.  Comparisons to Hitler should not be allowed.  I am not saying we should alter the First Amendment to allow free speech up until the point that someone draws an erroneous comparison between someone who isn’t Hitler and Hitler.   What I am saying is that there should be some sort of moral stopping point in which we take a moment, look around and we think, “hey, you know what?  Actually, this not-Hitler is actually nothing like actual Hitler because, for one, he or she is not responsible for the deaths of some 11 million innocent people.  Also, this not-Hitler did not spawn the coining of the term ‘genocide,’ like actual Hitler.  This not-Hitler, no matter how much I dislike his or her actions or policies is not the epitome of evil because that position is already occupied…by actual Hitler.”

But jokes aside.  Seriously.  I have always thought about it like this:  as a person of Jewish descent, I find this comparison especially problematic and hateful and wrong.  But now, sitting down here at my computer and working some of these thoughts out, I think that as a person I find this comparison especially problematic and hateful and wrong.  Not only is it erroneous, but every time we draw a comparison between the policies and speeches of, say, President Barack Obama and the speeches and actions of Hitler, we are minimizing the historical significance of Hitler’s existence and actions.  We are minimizing the suffering and death caused so many people.  We are minimizing the essence of evil.  Comparisons to Hitler should be reserved for those heinous few that orchestrate the systematic killing of people based off their background, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or any other single characteristic used by horrible, yet somehow magnetic, people to dehumanize.  Last time I checked, Obama has not done any of those things. Sure, he is charismatic.  But for that charisma to lead anywhere close to where Hitler’s charisma led would take a number of characteristics – narcissism? sociopathy? – that I don’t think any of us have reason to believe Obama possesses.

Now listen, I know the comparison to Hitler is not so much about his concentration camp era, but does it actually matter?  When I think Hitler, I think endless train rides, I think gas showers, I think forced labor, I think shaved heads, I think starvation, I think horrific medical experiments, I think families ripped apart, I think a world that was never the same, I think groups of people dehumanized to such an extreme degree that even to this day it stings.  I could continue but I won’t.  I don’t think any sane person’s thought association with Obama bring up any of those horrific thoughts.  So, come on, people.  Let’s stop being assholes.  Let’s take Hitler off the table.

On Todd Akin and Other (Unrelated) Things

20 Aug

This blog is going to be about the following three things.  First, I would like to share with you all a search term that led a potential reader to my blog that I found both funny and sort of infuriating.  Second, Todd Akin.  And third, a quote that  I read in The New Yorker this past issue that I found especially interesting.  I really think that if you don’t feel like hearing my rant on Akin, you should just skip down to the quote at the bottom, labeled “Part III: The Quote” for your convenience.  Also, there is no reason behind the order of the post.  It’s just how I felt like doing it.

Part I:  The Search Term

Okay, so if any of you read my post from yesterday, you will understand my astonishment when I went to look at my site stats to figure out what kinds of search terms are getting people to my blog and one of them read

up skirt shots reddit

Ugh.  Really?  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I will hope that this person was (a) looking for an article about how awful this specific SubReddit is or (b) was actually looking for the SubReddit but upon reading my blog post decided to forgo looking at unauthorized and demeaning pictures of women and girls and become a decent human being.  I highly doubt either of those things to be actual possibilities but, hey, a girl can dream!

Part II:  The Idiot

Now I am going to weigh in, ever so slightly, on Todd Akin.  So, for those of you who have been living under a rock, the 6-term, Tea Party-backed congressman from Missouri said the following thing yesterday, as quoted in a New York Times article:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

He then quickly claimed to have “misspoke” and tried to make it better by saying this:

In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.  I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.

He has empathy for women who are victims of violent crime yet he has no empathy for women who find themselves pregnant by their rapists because that would be victimizing an unborn child.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Akin.  And, misspoke?  Is that the best he could do?  The thing is, that Mr. Akin is not the first person to make a remark like this.  Statements just like his have been made in the past by Pennsylvania Representative Stephen Freind, North Carolina Representative Henry Aldridge, Dr. John C. Willke, and Arkansas politician Fay Boozman who was, at one time, the director of the health department in Arkansas.  I really want to just be like, “wow, how stupid can you get?” and move along with my day but then I realize that these people are in actual positions of power and they, as well as some of the people who listen to them, actually think they are speaking the truth even though once they realize how bad it sounds they try as hard as they can to pretend they didn’t mean it.  (I swear, if I ever read somewhere that some asshat rapist tries to deny paternity of a child by saying that due to a women’s natural trauma-secretions the baby in question can’t possibly be his I will have a full on fit.)

Here’s the thing that’s really scary about it.  After Akin “misspoke,” Republicans and Democrats alike could not distance themselves from him faster.  Everyone across the board saw this specific statement as heartless and horrifying.  Romney told the National Review,

Congressman Akin’s comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.  Like millions of other Americans, we (he and Paul Ryan) found them to be offensive.  I have an entirely different view…What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.

How do you correct something like that??  As Meg Ryan said in When Harry Met Sally, “You can’t take it back.  It’s already out there!”  The thing is, as pointed out in this Huffington Post article, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan actually doesn’t hold opinions that far off from Akin, he just knows how to package his beliefs in a less infuriating, less “out there,” way.  According to Michael B. Keegan of HuffPost,

Rep. Paul Ryan not only opposes abortion rights for rape victims, he was a cosponsor of a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have classified abortion as first degree murder and outlawed common types of birth control. Ryan has also bought into the “legitimate rape” nonsense, cosponsoring legislation with Akin that would have limited federal services to victims of “forcible rape” — a deliberate attempt to write out some victims of date rape and statutory rape.

So there’s that.  Also, Romney claims that he is not opposed to abortion in cases of rape, but if he is elected president he will work to overturn Roe v. Wade, putting decisions about abortion in the hands of individual states.  It seems that therefore, he is giving individual states the ability to make all forms of abortion illegal, regardless of circumstance.  If that’s the case, then when states make a decision about, say, abortion in cases of rape there wouldn’t be a damn thing he could do about it if he did disagree with the state which, at least in this current iteration of Romney, he supposedly does.  And, unless he’s really stupid which I don’t think he is, he is well aware of that fact.  It’s great that people are getting all up in arms about this because what Akin said really was demeaning and insulting and wrong and all manner of other things.  But the thing is, I don’t see a huge distinction between the shitty science that Akin and company have referred to and some of the studies and statistics I hear Republicans site to justify their anti-choice stances.  Also, in a lot of these cases when politicians and pundits and whoever else make statements about the rights of the unborn child, they are immediately discounting the rights of the woman.  We cease being human beings and instead become vessels for the unborn.  Akin is an idiot, but sadly he is not even close to alone in his beliefs.  Okay.  Moving on (for now).

Part III:  The Quote

In the August 13th and August 20th edition of The New Yorker there was an article by Adam Gopnic called “I, Nephi:  Mormonism and its Meanings.”  It was a review of 4 books that have been published in recent months that was spawned, I would imagine, by the fact that Mitt Romney is Mormon and a lot of people find Mormonism baffling. I have to admit at this point that I didn’t read the entire article because, although I consider myself a curious person, I am not currently terribly curious about Mormonism.  I did, however, come across this quote that I found interesting and figured I would share with you all.

…almost every American religion sooner or later becomes a Gospel of Wealth….The astonishing thing…is that this gospel of prosperity is the one American faith that will never fail, even when its promises seem ruined.  Elsewhere among the Western democracies, the bursting of the last bubble has led to doubts about the system that blows them.  Here the people who seem likely to inherit power are those who want to blow still bigger ones, who believe in the bubble even after is has burst, and who hold its perfection as a faith so gleaming and secure and unbreakable that it might once have been written down somewhere by angels, on solid-gold plates.

Bloomberg Ban on Big Bubbly

14 Jun

Those of you who know me are aware of my love for The New Yorker.  Yes, it arrives in my mailbox too often.  Yes, I have stacks of unread issues piling up and gathering dust in my room.  Yes, I have this ridiculous fantasy of one day reading them all despite never canceling my subscription.  Yes, I am aware that my life as a New Yorker subscriber makes me more likely to reach the rank of hoarder.  I don’t care.  I just love it so much.  This week’s cover was especially awesome considering Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large sodas.  Here it is for your viewing enjoyment.

newyorker

So awesome.  Also awesome is the “Talk of the Town” piece on the same topic entitled “Fluid Ounces” by Lizzie Widdicombe (fantastic name.. don’t ever change it).  First she goes over the basic premise of the ban which will effect drinks over 16 ounces and will not include convenience stores such as 7-Eleven — or as we used to call it growing up, Sleven —  which is set to open 100 new locations in NYC.  The author then went on a little soda-drinking tour, stopping in locations known for serving massive sized beverages, often with free refills.  Many of these were chain stores and a lot were located in tourist areas and the Bronx, the borough with the highest obesity rates.  The article quickly, rightfully, and not-surprisingly ended up focusing on income levels.  One KFC employee said “Show me a picture with the mayor insidea KFC.  His meals probably cost a thousand dollars.”  Downtown, standing outside the Waverly Inn, one of the locations where sodas are poured from small glass bottles into highball glasses, was interviewee Fran Lebowitz.  Of the proposed ban she said

“These issues are class issues… Soda is the recreation — the summer house — of the poor.  This man (Bloomberg) has eleven houses.  That’s the self-indulgence of a billionaire.  He’s of the generation of Jewish men who feel that if they didn’t become a doctor they are a failure.  Now he’s trying to become a doctor.”

Although I don’t quite agree with the way Lebowitz put it, I side with her sentiment.  Is it good to put ounces upon ounces of sugar liquid into your body day after day?  No, certainly not.  It’s bad for the individual and it’s bad for our health system.  But for a wealthy white man to go around telling people not what they should and should not drink but what they can and cannot drink, because he prefers sparkling water over Coke*, is really uncalled for.  Obesity is not only because of soda.  It is because of a lifestyle.  It is tied to differing ideas of beauty.  It is about access and education, or lack thereof.  It is about exercise.  It is about a litany of things.  And you know what?  If people want 32 ounces of soda they will get it.  Simple as that.  And no tsk tsking from Bloomberg is going to change that.

So Bloomberg.  I really appreciate what you did with the parks, they look great.  The beach volleyball courts in Brooklyn?  Yes!  But if you could please stop doing things like increasing term limits for yourself and screwing with people’s personal choice, that’d be awesome.  Thanks.

*That was a baseless assumption but I’m going with it.

The New Yorker for the Win

7 Mar

Can I just say that this New Yorker cover makes me exceedingly happy?  Kudos, Bob Staake.