Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Have I Been Doing?

So, um, what have I been doing while not blogging much to speak of in the past three months? A great many things, let me assure you. One of them is a full-time job at the National Immigration Forum, where I've been doing some writing and editing. In case you're interested, I've drafted op-eds and blog posts about border security, the Secure Communities immigration program, the Republican candidates’ severe immigration stances, and visa and immigration reform. And if you'd like to read them, find them here: in the Houston Chronicle, Fox News Latino, the Huffington Post, and Huffington Post Business.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Such an amenity

I'm hoping to write about highlights from the past month and a half sometime soon. The short version is that I don't have much time to write, but you knew that already.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this list of hotel services that I came across tonight while booking a room. The second to last one is such a relief. So many hotels don't have them these days; way to be a cut above.

  • Gift Shop
  • 24-Hour Front Desk
  • Dry Cleaning Service
  • Disability Accessible Facilities
  • Laundry/Valet Service
  • Luggage Storage
  • Safe Deposit Boxes
  • 100% Non-Smoking Rooms and Facilities
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Ice Machine
(I'm also glad that the front desk exists day and night.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A violin on the Metro at rush hour

Gallery Place, 8:45 a.m.: I board a Red Line train bound for Silver Spring. I am carrying a backpack, a canvas bag with a binder of music in it, and my violin. I squeeze in next to a casually dressed passenger with dreadlocks.
Fellow Passenger's first remark: Do you play hip-hop?
Me: No, um, I haven't had a chance to get into hip-hop yet. [Not that I've never thought about it, but that's a subject for another post.]
Fellow Passenger: What kind of music do you play?
Me: I play classical and some folk.
FP: Where can I hear you play?
Me: Well, I have it with me today because I'm in a group that's playing at the congressional Chanukah party tonight.
FP: Where is that?
Me: The Library of Congress—over next to the Supreme Court. [Realizing why he's asking—]But it's invitation-only.
FP: What if I just come there ...
Me: Mm, sorry. It's a private party. You wouldn't be able to get in.
FP: Oh, OK. Where can I hear classical?
Me: Well, sometimes I play in an orchestra called the Washington Conservatory Orchestra. They have a concert this Sunday—I can't play in this one—but it's free, at 1 p.m. Sunday at the National Cathedral School, next to the cathedral.
Different Fellow Passenger: St. Albans.
FP: Oh, OK.
I exit the train at Union Station. Maybe I should bring my violin along for the commute more often, I think to myself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Joel's Murals

Ask most people who were in DC today and they'll tell you it was a dreary, gray day. Not so for the lucky three of us who spent the
day touring murals that burst with color despite the weather.

My parents, in town for Thanksgiving, didn't want to go to the Smithsonian, or the Spy Museum, or Georgetown. They wanted to see these murals, painted by Joel Bergner, who, like me, grew up in Normal, Illinois.

With the help of Joel's sister—Joel is off in Brazil right now—I put together a tour. We started in Brookland, with a mural my parents and sister supported (I would have too, had I known about the opportunity).

After a stop for lunch at Busboys and Poets, we had cookies and warm drinks at the U Street Cafe (with its U Street–themed mural), then had a look at the outdoor mural on the same block.

We finished with four murals in Columbia Heights (three of which are pictured here). For more pictures, check out my Flickr album from the day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The doctor's office and the name of this blog

A change in my insurance means that I've needed a new primary-care physician, and today I saw one (strep test: negative; flu shot: check). She was friendly and quite professional, but her getting-to-know-your-medical-history questions missed a couple of things, and the forms I'd filled out hadn't picked them up either. I decided not to jump in with them today. I know it was my responsibility as the patient, but it was easier to let the person with "M.D." after her name direct the conversation.

So here's my suggestion: Doctors, when you see your patients—especially for the first time, but on any visit, really—ask them: Is there anything else that's important to the story? Today the story was my medical history and circumstances; another day, the answer to that question might reveal an important secondary concern that your patient elected not to tell your scheduler.

And patients: Jump in, even though it's difficult.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Virginia’s off-off-year (and extremely important) election

Will Virginia be the next Alabama when it comes to immigration policy?

That question hangs in the balance ahead of Tuesday’s “off-off-year” election in the state I call home. One party’s slim majority in the state Senate is the only barrier keeping us from severe measures like those adopted in Alabama—and Georgia and Arizona before it.

The problems these laws are causing go way beyond those Stephen Colbert highlighted in a mostly brilliant segment last week. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which is not known for its liberal bent, highlighted labor shortages and other economic problems such laws cause.

Think it couldn’t happen in Virginia? I’d rather not take the chance. Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, a lobbyist and political consultant with thorough knowledge of Virginia politics, has written an immigration-policy outlook for the 2012 Virginia General Assembly session. First, she points out that Virginia has almost 50 laws on the books that directly affect immigrants, most of which “are restrictions on the rights or benefits of ‘aliens’ or immigrants, including the rights and benefits of persons lawfully present in the United States.”

She goes on to forecast 25 bills likely to be introduced in 2012, listed under law enforcement, business and employment, social and medical services, education, and housing. All but two would have a negative impact on our neighbors who are immigrants.

Voter turnout tends to be low when we’re not voting for president, lower still with no congressional seats up. This off-off-year we’re not even voting for governor—maybe we should add another “off.”

But make no mistake: This election is big. I care about living in a state that lets its children go to school without fear, that doesn’t want to encourage racial profiling by police and underreporting of crimes to police, that recognizes the economic contributions of all of its residents. Those who agree should approach this election with the same fervor we have when we’re electing a president.

What kind of state do we want to live in? On Tuesday, we have an outstanding opportunity to answer that question.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A great Halloween

In 1989, just after I turned 12, my parents decided I was too old to go trick-or-treating. My friends were still going, and I was upset.

At the last minute, I came up with a way to join them. Two weeks earlier, the Loma Prieta earthquake had struck San Francisco. On Halloween, instead of trick-or-treating for candy, I asked for donations to the Red Cross to help earthquake victims.

Other than a $10 bill from a friend’s mom, the endeavor was unsuccessful. People wanted to give all of us a Halloween-size Snickers and be done with us; they did not want to reach into their wallets.

This year’s Halloween reminded me of that one—except that last night was a huge success.

Liz and I had received an invitation from our friend Jessica: “Join me for grown-up trick-or-treating! Wear a costume, have a drink, and go door-to-door collecting canned goods for Martha's Table, a food bank in Columbia Heights.” Jess has been collecting canned goods on Halloween for nearly 10 years. She is not closely connected with Martha's Table, though she does receive a note from them every year, in which they address her as a Mr. named Jesse.

We put on our ninja costumes and met up at Jessica’s house in DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Before trick-or-treating, we checked out the amazing block party around the corner on Lamont Street. (Best costume on an adult: a very well-done zombie holding a handmade “I WAS THE 99%” sign.)

Then we grabbed our backpacks and canvas bags and split into pairs to traverse different parts of the neighborhood, taking care not to hit the same house twice. We got a handful of looks that said, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating?"

But after we explained that we were trick-or-treating for Martha's Table, people’s generosity was inspiring. We expected them to give a can or two; at some houses, younger trick-or-treaters had to wait a minute while residents fetched four or six items—or, a couple of times, a plastic bag full.

When our backpacks and bags got too heavy, we had to make an unplanned drop-off at Jessica’s house before heading out again. At the end of the night, friends built towers of nonperishables on her coffee table. (The one pictured at left was followed by an additional one at least twice its size. And no, I'm not sure what the food bank will do with oysters, but most of the donations will be quite useful.)

We're sorry only that we heard, but didn't see, the annual Mount Pleasant rite of re-creating Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance.