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4.23.2005 ||>   Hypnotized by a strange delight

I was walking down the street when I saw a red rug through a window in a store. I went inside because I was pretty sure it was a Turkmen rug and I was curious as to what they were worth in the States. In Uzbekistan, you could get a moderate-quality rug for about $150-$200. In the shop, it was $900. On the tag, it also said that it was a "Bokhara Turkomen" rug.

The only problem is that Bukhara is a city in Uzbekistan, and there are few to no Turkmen who live there. They don't even sell many rugs like that in Bukhara. The Uzbeks and Tajiks who live there mostly do wall hangings of very nice embroidery. Not to mention that no one in the region calls it "Bokhara" or the people in Turkmenistan "Turkomen." Being a know-it-all, I of course inserted all this into our conversation.

I also found a much nicer, older Turkmen rug in the back of the store. Absolutely gorgeous and was definitely hand made. It was also probably illegally exported because it is illegal to export rugs of a certain age out of Turkmenistan. What sometimes happens is that people get them out of the country through a diplomatic pouch, which aren't checked at airports. It went for $1800, and was definitely worth it.

Rather than thinking I was crazy, the co-owner of the store was pleasantly surprised and told me I should talk to his mother (it was a family store) because she'd love to hear everything I just said. Now, wouldn't it be awesome to get a job as a rug buyer? I could see myself going to Uzbekistan or another "stan" and buy rugs for export to the US. How very glamorous in a shabby chic sort of way. I wonder if you have to go to school for that sort of thing.

Sepra was livin' easy on 11:50:00 AM || Site Feed ||

4.22.2005 ||>   Hid behind the smile was saccharine

On NPR they were discussing the new USDA Food Pyramid. One caller expressed dismay at the new recommendation to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I, on the other hand, am rejoicing. In my naively hopeful vision, I see companies making food with an emphasis on fruit and veggies instead of meat and carbs. We will all become happier, more regular members of society.

It's not all that hard to eat nine servings a day anyway. One serving is really a half cup, so really the only thing they're asking is that we eat four and a half cups a day. A large apple is a cup, a half cup of berries tastes lovely in cereal, and combined with 2 1/2 cups of salad at dinner, that's four right there. Just have a half cup of juice and you're golden.

I still do have a couple of problems with this new pyramid though. The first is that they still don't have a well-researched guide for vegetarians. The vegetarian pyramid looks a lot like the regular one except that they exchanged the meat and dairy for "fake" meat and dairy like soy milk and tofu products. While that certainly is healthy, soy is technically a legume, not a meat product and should be treated differently. Since an estimated 2.8 percent of Americans are vegetarians, that's over 7.5 million Americans who do not have an accurate nutrition guide. In the younger age brackets (25-34), the percentage goes up to ten percent. I think the USDA (and restaurants like Applebees) need to wake up on this one. And the USDA definitely needs to do more research to protect the population.

The other problem is the credibility issue. Any agency that purports to be only interested in the health and welfare of the citizenry should not be weak to the different lobbies. It's clear that both the dairy and the beef lobby scored yet more points with this new guide. When nutritionists say that three servings of milk are not necessary and that beef is not the best meat to eat to maintain a healthy diet, and both still show up on the pyramid, something is obviously awry. Shady dealings should not interfere with the public health.

Sepra was livin' easy on 11:32:00 AM || Site Feed ||

4.20.2005 ||>   Boy meets girl, girl gets a present

Girl: So, what do you think I should get when it comes to a laptop? I was actually thinking of taking one of my aunt's hand me downs.
Boy: What are the specs on the hand me down?
Girl: Pentium 3 processor, 256 megs of RAM, the usual... But I'm in competition with my grandmother for it, she could take it at any time.
Boy: Well then, why don't I make one up for you? I could get you a Pentium 3 with 500 megahertz and 256 megs of RAM...
Girl: Absolutely not! That's too much! The flowers were enough, thank you.
Boy: Well, you know, a laptop would be cheaper for me than flowers.
Girl: Hmmmm.
Boy: I'll even put a wireless card in so you connect on the network...
Girl: Are you sure it's not too much?
Boy: No, I have about 60 laptops laying around the office. No one will care about the one. I'll also install Firefox and Dreamweaver.
Girl: I will name her "Marilyn" and I will love her. Thank you.

Sepra was livin' easy on 2:52:00 PM || Site Feed ||

4.19.2005 ||>   We want revolution, girl-style now

Yesterday I was at a Radio Shack at the mall when one of my largest pet peeves occurred. We were looking at PDA stylii (I had to look that plural up, so there!) when for some reason the guy at Radio Shack said that I wouldn't be interested in electronic gadgets because that was a "guy thing." I was so overcome with indignation, my brain clouded up in this red fog and I could only sputter for about thirty seconds. Then I said the only thing that came to mind which was, "Hey, I can do DOS coding on an 8088! Don't tell me it's a 'guy thing'!" Suitably impressed, the guy let us walk out, without a stylus.

But really, where does he get off saying that to me? One of the things that bugs me the most is when guys and some girls (you know girls do it too!) make it seem like computers are simply the realm of guys, something that the ladies couldn't possibly understand. It's the one truly mindless, sexist thing people are still "allowed" to say and it annoys the hell out of me.

Every time I call tech support for something, I always ask for a woman. The male tech support guys always treat me as if I were exceptionally stupid, even after I start speaking as someone who clearly understands computers. If I speak with a woman, I start using terms like "safe mode" and "ip number" and they instantly speak to me like I'm a human being worthy of respect. The guys seem incapable of that.

Looking at all the sites I go to, the majority of those are designed by women. Movable Type was created by a husband and wife team, and some of the biggest blogs out there are made by women. There are women graphic designers and women webmasters, so why does programming have to be exclusively done by men? We're already halfway there. I think that with some of the dismal numbers out there of girls who are actually encouraged to go into computer programming, stomping out stereotypes that girls aren't innately able to handle science, math or computers should be our first priority. With the right expectations, the playing field can become leveled.

Sepra was livin' easy on 10:11:00 AM || Site Feed ||

4.18.2005 ||>   With songs they have sung for a thousand years

spring magnolias Of all the new flowers that I have seen lately, I have to say that my favorite is the magnolia. When I was in the south, they were everywhere. As a desert rat, I had never seen flowers so naturally big, and so these flowers were amazing to me. They sort of reminded me of southerners in that they seemed very warm, a bit scary at times and always larger than life.

When I was taking this magnolia picture, a guy on the other side of the road was walking with his daughter. He was looking at me funny (maybe he thought I was a private investigator or a burglar?) so I said hello to him. Emboldened by my maneuver, he asked me if I was taking pictures for school.

For school? Surely I don't look seventeen! I called back that I was taking pictures because I liked taking pictures. Satisfied with this, he walked on as I puffed with a bit of indignation.

Sepra was livin' easy on 12:21:00 AM || Site Feed ||

4.17.2005 ||>   Baby, baby, sugar me

When I lived in Tashkent, I ate mostly hormone-free foods, little sugar and made everything from fresh ingredients. It was such a pain, but I found that when I did eat sugar or had more than a cup of coffee, I could feel the chemicals coursing through my system. I felt slagged from the pollution and the drudgery of doing everything without conveniences, but other than that, I was healthy.

Here in the States, I have all the conveniences and don't feel worn down. However, I also feel sedentary and I'm gaining weight that I don't want. After seeing the documentary Supersize Me, I have noticed things about my own body that I don't particularly like. Morgan Spurlock, the guy who starred in the documentary, became addicted to fast food during his month-long binge. I'm starting to think that I'm also getting addicted to sugar and hormones. For example, when I first came back, I was slightly grossed out by vending machines. The idea of eating the stale, sugar and preservative laden items was a bit repulsive. But yesterday, I saw a vending machine and caught myself gravitating towards it. Today, I am sitting here with the worst craving for candy. I'm a bit afraid that it's the beginning of a mindless addiction, like getting a headache if you don't drink coffee.

It's not as if I never had a sugar craving in Uzbekistan either. One day, I ate half a package of Dove chocolates that my mother sent me. But it seems like everyday now I need something sweet. Combined with not being able to walk everywhere, it's getting a bit scary.

Sepra was livin' easy on 11:36:00 AM || Site Feed ||