Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Here on Earth
7 Comments | posted April 12th, 2007 at 11:34 am by Cristina Pippa

Darfur“Oh,” a woman in a thick overcoat whimpered outside a market. She was covering her mouth as she look over a bed of lifeless tulips. I joined her at what might as well have been the seen of an accident, at which point she said, “I know how they feel.”

“Me too,” I admitted to this stranger, although I didn’t go so far as to tell her that I had once googled Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately nicknamed “SAD.” Surely there are bigger things to worry about than when the sun will come out and the temperature will spring up again.

Yesterday I discovered that Google Earth and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have teamed up on a project called Crisis in Darfur. 200 million Google Earth users (a group which can include you if it doesn’t already– since it’s free to download and you must have some access to a computer if you’re reading this) have the ability to coast over an almost 3-D depiction of our planet to Sudan. There, they will find a bevy of red flames, signaling which villages have been destroyed. They can also click on camera icons to see photos and read stories of genocide.

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: The Sky is Falling?
7 Comments | posted April 04th, 2007 at 10:14 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

No doubt, the climate change picture is bleak. A new UN report out this week says that 20 to 30 percent of all life on the planet could be destroyed within decades. Millions could go hungry. Fresh water could vanish. Blah blah blah death destruction, etc.

I don’t mean to minimize how much this sucks. But if we think we’re screwed no matter what, why would we bother to act?

Buried at the bottom of the CBS article (of course) is the good news. In May, the UN will issue a third report with strategies for how we can slow global warming. James J. McCarthy, a Harvard oceanographer and author of a 2001 report on climate change, says, “…Many of these [projections] can be avoided.” Says the article:

He said he is optimistic the worst won’t happen “because we can’t be that stupid.”

I agree. Read more…

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Egyptian Bluetooth Prostitutes
4 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 11:02 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

How do you find a prostitute in a Muslim country? Why, stroll into the local Marriott and turn on your cellphone’s Bluetooth, of course.

I was in Cairo this past January, stopping at the hotel to use the ATM. My sister’s friend pointed to the courtyard as we passed and casually mentioned that it was probably “full of prostitutes.” I craned my neck, but didn’t see any scantily clad or over-makeup’ed women. It turns out that in Egypt, at least, since Bluetooth technology was introduced a couple of years ago, the age-old dance of Jane and John has a new step. Islamic culture frowns on brazenly approaching the opposite sex, male or female, so sex workers and sex seekers merely go to the same location—an upscale hotel lobby, or certain local coffeeshops—and make their arrangements over the radio waves.

My companion said that her boyfriend, who is Egyptian, will look at his phone every now and then in a coffeeshop and go, “Oh, no. Here they go again,” with little kittenish messages popping up on his phone.

The really weird thing? Islamic sex workers often wear the head-to-toe black burkha, far more covering than the average Egyptian woman’s veil. So, next time you see one of those photos of black-veiled women that our media loves to show us of Islamic countries, just remember: she could be a prostitute.

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Persian New Year
2 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 07:20 pm by Cristina Pippa

All the World is a weekly column on the drama of life appearing Thursdays.

“Happy Vernal Equinox!”

“I was just thinking– Wait, what?”

“Vernal Equinox. First day of spring? Makes me giddy.”

“You just want an excuse to get naked.”

“I was going to say, we’re having a party tonight.”

That was a conversation at my gym. And it’s true. The sun has crossed the celestial equator. It only happens twice a year and it does something to us, doesn’t it? Perhaps we’ve gotten a little frisky or started shoving sweaters to the back of our closets. Some of us can’t help staying up later, even though we’ve set our clocks forward. And even if we don’t exactly identify with the Onion’s article about the “Area Pagan Dreading Big Family Vernal Equinox Celebration,” this is a significant time of the year around the world.

In Iran, the new year begins with the first day of spring.

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Scientists. You gotta love them.
1 Comment | posted March 15th, 2007 at 10:57 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

With all that hard work in the lab on killers like AIDS, cancer, disease, etc., you might think that most scientists have lost their sense of humor.

Not true. From a New York Times article by John Tierney:

Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Washington State University, discovered that rats emit an ultrasonic chirp (inaudible to humans without special equipment) when they’re tickled, and they like the sensation so much they keep coming back for more tickling.

Lest you think I’m mocking Dr. Panksepp, I’m actually delighted by the idea of a rat being tickled. If we’re on a planet where wars rage and people kill, why shouldn’t we also enjoy the knowledge that rat laughter exists?