Thursday, May 31, 2007

Zis & Zat

Great news ... but wait ...
April 1, 2007 was a wonder day ... for those concerned with specialized worker visa (H1B) applications. The cap of 65,000 was reached on the first day. On April 1, 2007 CIS was flooded with 150,000 applications prompting officials to lottery visas available.

So Americans feel we're invading their work space. Fine. The solution?
The Bill Will Eliminate The Current Application Backlog For Employment-Based Visas And Make 380,000 Green Cards Available Under The Merit-Based System - Up From 140,000 Employment-Based Visas Available Today
They'll keep the H1-B quota down but they'll increase the quota for Green Card applicants for skilled workers. (A H1-B visa worker will, at some point, pay tax like a resident, yet will never get benefits of SS and Medicare like a Green Card holder will.)

So, if I understand this, they don't want temporary skilled workers, but are fine with the ones that'll potentially stay here forever. Hmm.

Does that make sense to me? No. Does it bother me? Hell no. Good move, America! (and I don't say this just because it potentially makes my life easier ... but I really think the US can benefit more in terms of maintaining its competitive edge with the global market)

The best recourse for legal immigrants is ...
... to become illegal. Yup, we've heard it before.
Annual quota for legal skilled immigrants is miniscule compared to undocumented immigrants: Jay Pradhan, a Computer Programmer says, “The annual Green Card quota available to undocumented immigrants under the proposed Z visa would be approximately 2.2 million per year for the first 5 years. Compare this to the current legal, employment based Green Card system that faces backlogs of 5-6 years – not including the various processing delays. The annual quota of 140,000 Green Cards for legal skilled immigrants has been reduced to 90,000 instead of being increased. One wonders who the so called ‘Comprehensive’ Bill benefits? Certainly not the legal high- skilled workers, who have worked so hard and followed all Laws of this country.”
Pradhan needs to update his stats a wee bit, though.

Stephen Colbert on the new Bill :

"I totally understand the need for cheap labor. You see this Bill here, I've not had time to read it. I'm going to hire a Mexican to read it. "
Russians on Global Warming :
He said one million tons of aerosol would enable a reduction of solar irradiance at the Earth's surface of 0.5-1%, and a lowering of air temperature by 1-1.5 degrees Celsius
Pardon me if I don't know anything about anything but I'm sill apprehensive about pumping the atmosphere with sulfur compounds. Not much out there about this 'solution' yet, but I can't wait to hear more opinions.

What goes on in Vegas, don't stay in Vegas
... no mo'!

Google, in general : cool. This : not so cool.

Incidentally the way they generate the pictures is by having and army of camera mounted vehicles traversing the streets. So far they've done parts of Google's home cities, San Fransisco and New York City, and just to scare the Bachelor party lushes, Las Vegas as well. The Druge Report goes on to identify people outside strip clubs (of course, maybe he was just feeding the meter, or maybe he was supposed to be at the other end of town) and adult book stores(can't find the link anymore).

Yeah, the people part is worrisome. (Go ahead. Say you think i'm up to weird shait that i want to hide :-) ) The actual tool is, as usual, pretty darn impressive.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Learn Faith

Someone asked what I thought of Ethiopia. I said, 'Well, I ... like it?' He asked what I meant. 'I mean as in if I could figure out a way to go back, I would love to. I want to live ... it.'

He was incredulous. He said, surely, I must have gotten a jaded view of the country. Life is not as rosy when one doesn't waltz into Addis Ababa with dollars.

I protested that it's not that there is nobody who's barely making ends meet, or probably that there're too many people doing exactly that. What I am taken by is that there's change that has come about from the people, in the people, by the people, and a lot that can still be done, of which some I think I can do, find challenging and find fulfilling. Can't say as much of my current job. Of course figuring out how to make the transition is not going to be easy, but hey, like wise man once put it to me, if you don't have a goal, you can't win, right?

We went back and forth and finally he said let's agree to disagree and we dropped the issue.

But it bothered me. How can one tell if one's deluding oneself, or just delusional. There's optimistic and there's naive. How do you draw a line without actually crashing? (OK, this is beginning to sound like a Sarah Jessica Parker Sex & the City rant-o-monologue)

Then a few days ago an email tumbled into my mailbox and it cleared my mind. I think it's worth sharing.

Africa and Win-A-Trip

When I visited University of North Carolina recently, I ran into lots of students who were desperate to meet me to bolster their chances of winning the "win-a-trip" contest. But I also met one student, Loren, who didn't apply, and she gave me this thoughtful note explaining why. It's provocative, so let me share it in full:

Friday marked the deadline to enter The New York Times columnist Nick Kristof's second annual "Win a Trip with Nick Kristof" contest. Open to students currently enrolled at any American college or university, as well as middle and high school teachers, the contest offers one student and one teacher an all expenses-paid trip through Africa with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to gather stories on the impoverished continent.

The winners will not simply be explorers, but also reporters. The prize includes the chance - more accurately the expectation - to detail the experience on a blog on

Because I am currently a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I qualify to enter this competition, and have many reasons to do so. I enjoy writing, which would potentially place me at a slight advantage since Kristof acknowledges a preference for applicants with journalism experience. I maintain a persistent interest in Africa - I met my boyfriend at an event to raise aware about the genocide currently raging in the Darfur region of the Sudan. And I'm broke and have never been to Joseph Conrad's "dark continent," so a free trip to a strange land is appealing. Yet, I refuse to apply. I think the way Kristof has cast this trip is a disservice to Africa. Because I believe it the wrong way to motivate action, I am opting out.
Kristof insists on telling the story of a failing Africa when instead he could report on its ability to overcome. On the competition's webpage Kristof has posted a letter to potential applicants that provides this explanation: "Frankly, I'm hoping that you'll be changed when you see a boy dying of malaria because his parents couldn't afford a $5 mosquito net, or when you talk to a smart girl who is at the top of her class but is forced to drop out of school because she can't afford a school uniform."

Apparently, Kristof wants to find two Americans who he has decided do not understand how bad things really are in Africa, and rid them of their ignorance. It could work. Last year's student witnessed the death of a woman during childbirth despite the fact that both Kristof and his traveling companion donated blood in an attempt to save her. Though the doctor promised to help the young woman, he apparently ducked out the back door as she died. That was Kristof's story of Cameroon, a West African nation with tremendous ecological diversity and a per-capita GDP higher than that of most other African countries.

No doubt, such an experience would educate a student about a poverty that is more cruel and creative than our worst fears, and likely foster inspired journalism. But the story of Africa in turmoil is the African narrative that many Americans - and certainly those who read The New York Times - already know. It is virtually the only type of reporting that Western news outlets broadcast about the continent. Every American student who has to listen to National Public Radio in the car when Dad picks her up from soccer practice, or has had to read The Economist for a school assignment, or has read in a church newsletter about a local youth group's spring break trip to a rural African village knows that people in Africa are hurting. Maybe we haven't smelled an understaffed health clinic that cares for HIV-positive orphans, or walked through rows of coffee trees with a farmer whose young son was beaten into serving in a youth militia in a civil war between tribal groups whose names we can't pronounce and whose agendas we can't keep straight. But we know they are poor, and that Africa will break your American heart if its contaminated water doesn't kill you first.

Even those Americans who avoid the news have heard stories of Africa in crisis. Bono has told you. Or Angelina Jolie. Or George Clooney. We have seen something about helping to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa by purchasing a red T-shirt at The Gap. Or we've caught a sound bite about Bill Gates turning his attention to sick kids in Africa.

Americans don't need any more stories of a dying Africa. Instead, we should learn of a living one. Kristof and his winners should investigate how it is that Botswana had the highest per-capita growth of any country in the world for the last 30 years of the twenty-first century. Report on the recent completion of the West Africa Gas Pipeline that delivers cheaper, cleaner energy to parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Tell us about investment opportunities in Nigeria's burgeoning capital markets.

Sadly, it's impossible to report on Africa's successes without relaying its tragedies. Virtually every African victory is somehow also a story of malnourishment and malaria, misogyny and malevolence. That's important because Africa's horrors are massive and crushing, and demand attention. I agree with Pope John Paul II, who said "a society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members." Clearly Africa will be the judgment of our global community.

Kristof knows this, of course, and I am certain he means well when he writes that his original purpose for the contest was because he thought that "plenty of young people [who] tune out a fuddy-duddy like myself might be more engaged by a fellow-student encountering African poverty for the first time." But they would also be excited to encounter African hope, something equally unknown to most Americans, students or otherwise.

So I'm asking Kristof to refine his summer travel itinerary to include a tour of a thriving organic farm owned and operated by a local Ethiopian cooperative. And the Ugandan health clinics that are reducing the number of AIDS cases despite a continuing guerilla war. And the wonderful "PlayPumps" scattered throughout the continent that provide safe drinking water via a pump system powered by children as they play on a playground. Brilliant idea. And something many people don't know about.
Africa needs a lot of things. It needs money and aid workers, vaccines and functioning governments. Some of those things can be provided by outside donors, and other can't. But universally, Africa needs us to believe in it. And that is something we have to be taught.
Source : Seth's Blog / NYTimes, N Kristof's Blog (subscription required)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Guzo'na Qiraqinbow

I asked my mother for a list of people I should be buying stuff for before I headed back to Ethiopia. It's a strange and inconveniencing meTe (or so I thought) tradition. On first try she came back with 30 plus names, of which around 20 of I was familiar with. Being the meticulous woman that my mom is, she made sure to list next to each name how i was related to each person, their age or a vague approximation of their size.

I still went back for explanations.

Me: 'Who exactly are intina'na intina?'
My mom: 'Your cousin once removed Y's children (you never met Y - she used to live in Z) and her husband, who you've also never met because they got married after you left. Y passed away last year - it had to be AIDS, they call it TB, or something. Lemanignachewim, you should bring something for the kids, even for the baliyew , and also give him money when you see him.
M: 'I give him money?? Min biye? "Selam, inetewaweq ... and here's some money"?'
MM: 'Mts! Anchi yechegeresh is the one possibly awkward minute of giving money? Keep in mind he's to raise two kids by himself. That's chigir! Yawm beTena keqoyelachew aydel? Mtss! Bicha indefelegsh. I'm just suggesting.'

Hmm. Hmmmmmmm!

I met Y's husband and kids at their home.The daughter, who looked around 3 years old, was sitting in a bedroom as I walked in. I waved. Generally an Ethiopian kid who you've never met will look back at you like you're some sort of apparition, or be embarrassed and meshkoramem minamin. This one gave me one of the brightest smiles ever and waved back. By the time we were seated she had come into the room, done her greetings, and started telling us tales of how she saw a doro CHaCHut the other day. She was simply adorable.

Then I also made stops at other places where relatives told me, ' Teqorsh!' (i'm Teyim, doh!), or 'Kesash ... indae balefew amrobish iko neber ?!'(eh ... technically, i was a teenager then and i've actually since gained weight but whatever), and the best one, 'TeCHemadedsh aydel indae?! Weg gud ... yeNa bet setoch iko indih nen! Tolo meCHemaded . Hahaha ....'. (Am I a Wereqet?)

Um. Haha-not! Apparently 'yeNa-bet' setoch don't have thick enough skin, because at some point, given that i'm in my mid twenties, it was kinda beginning to get to me. WTF?!

I think sometimes Ethiopians say random stuff ... just for the hell of it. Yet I remember among the weirdest things when I first got to America were the fake smiles and random, hard to believe, but generally positive comments that people made.

I'd this wrap/skit in college that can only be described by one adjective : ugly. It had all colors imaginable somehow put into its design, or lack of, most would say. My non-American friends made it clear, on the first day, that it was the ugliest thing they'd ever seen. Yay! I decided it'd be my Sunday dress. Then I'd get stopped throughout campus, at least once a day, by some American woman who'd invariably say, 'I luuuv your dress. So unique! Where is it from?' Huh? Seriously.

American random behavior is generally positive but for an outsider it still seems so unnecessary. Now I think I've gotten too Americanized because those comments in Ethiopia seemed even more unnecessary to me. Why bother? What a waste of even small talk. Leaving some of the houses I was thinking of the many hours I spent shopping, my weekends, my after work hours, relatives who helped me do my shopping, their time and energy. It wasn't when I'd to drag my bags halfway across the world. It was ok when I'd to deal with a defiant (rightly so) United representative with my overweight luggage at check-in, or as i saw my 'travel' expenses keep taking on a hike even after I had bought my ticket. When I finally met some people the entire experience seemed more of an exercise of self-torture more than anything.

Then again, when I made stops at households like that of Y's family, I was glad that I had the excuse to meet them. It's like my grandma who insisted that I take back a range of items including lomi and shenkora ageda to my mom in Addis because, 'Ageru yishtetat inji!' (I ate some and left the shenkora after I explained to my grandma I'd be the one who'd eat it in Addis anyway, but delivered the lomi, etc. Eventually I consumed the lomi as well ... oh, well.)

Before my departure to Ethiopia I'd talked to a friend who told me he doesn't do the qiraqinbo. He only gives money to those who he thinks need it. Hmm. What an idea, I'd thought. But I also remember being a kid, and getting little things from family or my parents' friends who'd come to visit. It was actually kinda cool.

So the qiraqinbo tradition will stay in my books. "Ageru indishetachew." Perhaps next time I'll vaguely narrow down my intentions towards kids, and those who seem they could do with monetary support. Vaguely.

I'll also prepare to be all ears, tough ears, for Ethiopian-style small talk.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Abinet like it's 1999

Passing through Debre Guracha we saw a sign that read, 'Tiru sira Delala ayasfeligewim!' Indeed.

Wegid Teddy. Nor Abinet.

Whatever is equivalent to peripheral vision for hearing, if you have it, all over Addis you'll hear a song that goes, 'Suse, suse ... irabem Timatem'. I finally broke down and asked a street vendor for the CD who sold it to me for $5 birr more than what I'd have bought it for in Dembel Mall (which prolly means it goes for another 10 or 15 less in Piazza ... or I could have meqemat-ed for free it in Merkato. But I digress.)

I'm no seasoned music (or anything) critic, unless meneCHaneCH counts. I bought this CD because I liked the first song. I wish i could tell you about the rest of the CD, but I can't. I should confess - I'm one of those people who listens to the same song 100 times if she likes it. The problem with this CD is that I happen to like the first 3 songs, Suse, CHuh CHuh and Sebeb. So, I have no clue what the rest of the CD is like.

Out of curiosity, I've skipped over to listen to Wuleta, for the title. I like it but I'm saving my customary repeat play for one of those long 90 mph drives. It has that perfect inguroro thing going on.

I can however attest that the first 3 songs were worth every besa santim spent (and ripped off) this CD. If you don't have it, don't copy it. Buy it!

No, I'm not a delala :)

p.s. My only complaint about this CD is that it should have been called 'Suse' ... I'm addicted.

p.p.s. After the 57th listening, here's the lyrics to Sebeb
tewat tewat silugn, wedijat teleyehu
lesew biye tewkuat, linor biye kesew
ante kalkegn bila, heda sitasayegn
keneberew biso, chirash CHemerebign

woohoho ...

Basebign basebign chirashun basebign

basebgin basebegn fiqrua CHemerebign
Basebign basebign ...

sew hulu simekregn let teqen tazibe
saygebagn kelibe
signoda gin yelem manim kaTegebe
siCHeneq besua libe
inen bicha bila lene bicha sitnor
andim qen lesua salnor
sithed afeqerkuat abragn hono...*
ilif new leka fiqir*

Indet hono, hono linor new
isu fiqrwa gud liaregegn new
tewat sibal CHirash motkulat
amTat alegn nebsem sasalat

Basebign basebign chirashun basebign
basebgin basebegn fiqrua CHemerebign
Basebign basebign ...

quTbu fegegtash zimitash CHenquachew
mikniyat sebeb honachew
athonihim silugn min larg amenkuachew
alweTam kejachew
min semetew new aytew negerign sil yane
azenshibign wey bene
"lemin" silalaslhin asatashign wene
ay alamnew aynen
p.p.p.s I still can't figure out the two lines with asterix (*) . Maybe at 98th. Suggestions appreciated :)

p.p.p.p.s. Did they misspell his name on the CD? Abenit? If there was such a word as, 'Aben', then Abenit sounds the feminine of that. I'd write his name as Abinet ... gin you know what they say about Habeshoch. 25% die kebeshita, another 25% from famine, 25% from Torinet... and the rest die bemayagebachew gebitew. The spelling of his name bizum ayagebagnim.

p.p.p.p.p.s. I spent about 30 min trying to figure out how to post a sample track, as per Yonas's request. Then I figured the easiest way out was to "politely" piggyback off of Nolawi's player. (Nolawi, I'm only testing ;-)

Track 1 - Suse: