I’m basically writing this post to get an extra entry in Smarty Pig‘s Back to School Cash giveaway in the hopes that I can add a little bit ($100) or a lot ($1000) to Celeste’s back to school fund. It was a long hard fall last year applying to high schools but it paid off for Celeste (and me) because she was accepted into Talent Unlimited’s musical theatre program. In NYC, public high schools are admissions based which means you have to apply for the high schools you want to go to. Each high school has its own admissions criteria and depending on the high school, a prospective student may need to take a test, prepare a portfolio, do an interview or audition in addition to meeting admissions criteria like grades or state test scores. It’s a hard process that involved doing something many evenings a week and almost every weekend last fall. To motivate Celeste, I promised that I would give her a certain amount of money for clothes depending on the school she got into. She got into her third pick for schools so I am giving her $400 to spend on clothes. Thankfully she’s very thrifty and some of that will probably be tucked away for the $20 a bag used clothes sales at Housing Works where she’s gotten probably $2000 worth of clothes for $20 but I know she will want to spend most of it before school so I am saving money little by little in Smarty Pig so that I have it all by the end of the summer.
Smarty Pig has been a great way for Eric and I to save money for different things. We already had an ING account but that didn’t allow us to differentiate for different things we’re saving for and have different accounts so when I heard about Smarty Pig, I thought I’d give it a try and it’s great. The interest rate is very competitive (1.1% or so) and I can have as many different goals as I want. Right now we are both saving for 2011 taxes (sucks) and for more fun things like going to DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) next year and getting VIP tickets and we’re also saving for a trip to Prague in Christmas 2012. I plan on adding goals as we do better financially and putting most of my raise in savings after we’ve paid down some of our debt. It really helps to be able to see the separate goals and how they’re doing.
Thanks to Andras Riedlmayer for posting this on the Middle East Librarians’ Association’s listserv.
Anniversary of a Crime against Culture
25-27 August 1992
LAMENT FOR VIJECNICA
The National Library burned for three days last August and
the city was choked with black snow.
Set free from the stacks, characters wandered the streets,
mingling with passers-by and the souls of dead soldiers.
I saw Werther sitting on the ruined graveyard fence;
I saw Quasimodo swinging one-handed from a minaret.
Raskolnikov and Mersault whispered together for days
in my cellar; Gavroche paraded in camouflage fatigues;
Yossarian was already selling spares to the enemy; for
a few dinars young Sawyer would dive off Princip’s bridge.
Each day — more ghosts and fewer people alive; and
the terrible suspicion formed that the shells fell just for me.
I locked myself in the house. I leafed through tourist guides.
I didn’t come out until the radio told me
how they’d taken ten tons of coals from the deepest cellar
of the burned-out National Library.
— Goran Simic
Today marks the anniversary of a crime against culture: the shelling and destruction of Bosnia’s National and University Library by Bosnian Serb forces.
Housed in a handsome Moorish-revival building — built in the 1890s as Sarajevo’s town hall (Vijecnica) — the National and University Library held an estimated 1.5 million volumes, among them thousands of rare books, unique archives and special collections, 478 manuscript codices, the national collection of record of books, newspapers, and journals published in Bosnia since the mid-19th century, studies published abroad about Bosnia, its history and culture, as well as the central research collections of the University of Sarajevo.
In a three-day inferno (25-27 August 1992) the library building was completely, gutted, the greater part (more than 90%) of its irreplaceable contents reduced to ashes. About an hour after nightfall on 25 August, a concentrated barrage of incendiary shells fired by Serb nationalist forces from positions on the heights overlooking the library burst through the roof and the large stained-glass skylight, setting the book stacks ablaze. Repeated shelling kept rekindling the fire, while snipers, mortar shells and anti-aircraft guns fired at sidewalk level shredded fire hoses and targeted firefighters and volunteers attempting to save the books.
Eyewitness reports describe the scene:
[The National Library] was blazing out of control Wednesday after the besieged Bosnian capital came under fierce bombardment overnight.
Firefighters struggling with low water pressure managed to extinguish
the blaze several times during the night but the building … kept coming under renewed attack. … By mid-morning, the north and
central sections of the crenelated four-storey building were completely engulfed by flames. Windows were exploding out into the narrow
streets and the building’s stone north wall was cracking and collapsing
under the heat of the raging inferno. …The fire started shortly after
10 p.m. on Tuesday night and, despite the efforts of the city’s fire
department, kept reigniting and growing. The slender Moorish columns
of the Library’s main reading room exploded from the intense heat and
portions of the roof came crashing through the ceiling. …
SOURCE: (Kurt Schork, “Sarajevo’s Much-loved Old Town Hall Ablaze,” Reuters, Wednesday, August 26, 1992)
Serb fighters in the hills ringing Sarajevo peppered the area around the library with machine-gun fire, trying to prevent firemen from fighting the blaze along the banks of the Miljacka river in the old city. Machine gun bursts ripped chips from the crenellated building and sent firemen scurrying for cover. Mortar rounds landed around the building with deafening crashes, kicking up bricks and plaster and spraying shrapnel. Asked why he was risking his life, fire brigade chief Kenan Slinic, sweaty, soot-covered and two yards from the blaze, said: “Because I was born here and they are burning a part of me.”
SOURCE: (John Pomfret, “Battles for Sarajevo Intensify as Bosnian Peace Conference Opens,” The Associated Press, August 26, 1992)
Braving a hail of sniper fire, librarians and citizen volunteers formed a human chain to pass books out of the burning building to trucks queued outside. Interviewed later by a television camera crew, one of them said: “We managed to save just a few, very precious books. Everything else burned down. And a lot of our heritage, national history, lay down there in ashes.”
Among the human casualties was Aida Buturovic, a 32-year-old librarian in the National Library’s international exchanges section; she was killed by a mortar shell as she tried to make her way home from the library on 25 August. Amidst the carnage caused by the intense bombardment of the city, her death went unnoted except by her family and colleagues. Bosnia’s Ministry of Health reported on August 26, 1992, that 14 people had been killed and 126 had been wounded in besieged Sarajevo during the preceding 24 hours.
International Court of Justice
Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro — Application of the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Judgement of 26 February 2007, pp. 121-124, para. 335-344:
Destruction of historical, religious and cultural property
342. The Court notes that archives and libraries were also subjected to attacks during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 17 May 1992, the Institute for Oriental Studies in Sarajevo was bombarded with incendiary munitions and burnt, resulting in the loss of 200,000 documents including a collection of over 5,000 Islamic manuscripts (Riedlmayer Report, p. 18; Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Second Information Report on War Damage to the Cultural Heritage in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, doc. 6869, 17 June 1993, p. 11, Ann. 38). On 25 August 1992, Bosnia’s National Library was bombarded and an estimated 1.5 million volumes were destroyed (Riedlmayer Report, p. 19). The Court observes that, although the Respondent considers that there is no certainty as to who shelled these institutions, there is evidence that both the Institute for Oriental Studies in Sarajevo and the National Library were bombarded from Serb positions.
I don’t know if it’s thinking about the anniversary of Ariel’s death or if it’s that a little bit of her spirit and energy came to me after my tattoo (only sort of joking with that) but I’ve been remembering lots of little things about Ariel that were buried in my mind.
Like the time we went to the outdoor mall in Mashpee and we ran around like wild animals (that wasn’t new but it was the first time I really remember it in public) and Ariel insisted that we go to the joke shop and get fake cigarettes that puffed out a cloud of chalk dust or something. She thought it would be the most hilarious thing ever to really shock people with a bunch of kids smoking. I can’t remember the outcome but I remember feeling delightfully sneaky and naughty.
I also remember sitting in the grass in a hidden part of New Alchemy and I was pissed off and angry at the world for some reason or another and Ariel teaching me what at the time was the dirtiest thing I had ever heard…it started off with “f*&k f*&k a duck…” I was thrilled but also terribly embarrassed but I took delight in teaching it to my friends. As you can see, I still feel a little odd about writing it out and it took me quite a few years to realize what “finger banging an orangutan” might mean.
I kissed my 1st boy with Ariel’s encouragement…can’t even remember his name now just how gross it was that someone would stick their tongue in my mouth.
I also remember her visiting me in Michigan not too long after I had my daughter Celeste. I had Celeste when I was 15 and although Celeste has been a complete blessing to my life, I really struggled with dealing with other people’s reactions in a small Michigan town. I don’t know remember had brought her to Michigan and I do remember that she seemed like she was struggling with a lot of demons. I do remember sitting outside in the dark with her as she told me not to listen to anyone, don’t ever let anyone give me shit because she knew I was a fantastic mom who would always understand her daughter no matter what. I am not sure my 12-year-old would always agree with that assessment but it certainly helped me a little bit.
Ariel also sent Celeste a hat and glove set after she had visited in the winter before she died. It was a purple hat and gloves that had Dora the Explorer on them and she sent me an amazing shirt with a self-portrait screened onto it. I liked the shirt but thought it was a bit weird at the time (I’ve never been an artistic or crafty person!) but it has meant the world to me since then.
Ariel was a wild girl and a fighter and I think those traits both protected her and hurt her but to me, it made her quite an idol to have when I was younger. I came to appreciate her more as a whole person as I got older, with all her idiosyncrasies, her anger, her delight, her issues and most importantly, her love for so many people.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. I took my dad and stepmom out to brunch and over breakfast, my dad insisted that today was the day he was going to get his tattoo. After breakfast, my dad suggested we both get tattoos. I’d had a tattoo in mind for a few years now and nervously jumped at the chance. We went and brought our ideas to the fantastic Mehai at Fineline Tattoo on 1st Ave between 1st & 2nd St. He listened patiently, particularly when I hemmed and hawed about where to put my tattoo and how exactly it would be done. I think that I was just stalling since I was quite nervous.
I wanted a tattoo to memorialize my cousin Ariel (she always spelled it ärriel). Ariel died 5 years ago this June of a heroin overdose. I know even the mention of a death from drug overdose raises some people’s ire and recrimination, especially when it’s heroin but I loved Ariel and despite all her faults and problems, she was about the closest thing I had to a sister growing up. Ariel was a few years older than me and as a little kid, I idolized my tough tomboy cousin who would get down on the floor with me and play Barbies, even when she would rather have decapitated them and buried them in the yard.
We spent a lot of time with Ariel and her family, particularly after my mom and I moved to Cape Cod. I remember in my 1st few weeks in Cape Cod, wandering around Woods Hole with Ariel picking flowers from people’s yards. I knew I shouldn’t be picking other people’s flowers and voiced this concern to Ariel. In a very calm, matter of fact way, she explained to me that flowers were only the property of mother earth and we only had to ask permission of the flowers and make sure we thanked them. She then explained how to say thank you in a Native American language (what it was or what tribe I don’t remember) and we proceeded to go on our way guilt-free. I was a shy quiet kid and Ariel always made me come a bit out of my shell. Regardless of whether we were supposed to be doing the things we did, I was always so happy to be around Ariel and felt so daring and grown up.
Ariel eventually fell in with the wrong crowd, struggled with many problems including mental illness and ran away from home several times. I can still remember hearing that she had run away and was following around the Grateful Dead and then was going around the country as a street kid. I don’t know how I found this out but when I was 12 or 13, we somehow got word that she might be in NYC, perhaps in my dad’s Lower East Side neighborhood in Tompkins Square Park. That summer that I visited my dad, every slightly dirty punkish looking girl was Ariel to me…to the point of begging extra money from my dad to take different street girls to McDonald’s or just give them a bite to eat. I loved and missed Ariel so much that I just couldn’t hold back. I thought I had spotted her one day on the Upper West Side but it wasn’t her. I took that girl to McDonald’s and imagined I was helping Ariel somehow.
Ariel was in and out of rehab and overdosed a few times in the years following. After several years, she managed to pull herself up out of most of her troubles and set herself on a good path. She was clean and sober for over three years and I was so happy to see her again in Michigan. My daughter Celeste was fascinated by her tattoos and her larger-than-life personality and Ariel seemed equally as taken with Celeste.
A few days before Ariel slipped in her sobriety and died, I wrote a personal essay for one of my anthropology classes on a very powerful book on street kids in Tompkins Square Park. I wrote about how much I loved Ariel despite the lengths of time we would often go without seeing or talking to each other and how much of an impact she had on me, especially when she was gone. I tried calling her a few days before she died to tell her how much I loved her and was so proud of her. The next thing I knew, she had passed away, apparently she had slipped into some pretty dark and trying times and couldn’t hold back.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and don’t think about her in some way, whether on a conscious or subconscious level.
Ariel was always pushing me to do things that were beyond my comfort zone, whether it was advisable or not and as a shy bookworm, I often needed that. Although sometimes I didn’t :)
It’s been almost 5 years since Ariel died and I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to honor her memory than by stepping outside my comfort zone and getting a tattoo in her honor. I’ve worn a bracelet in remembrance of her that came from an organization that remembers those who have died of drug overdoses. My tattoo is an interpretation of that bracelet. The top of my wrist says “Remembrance” and wraps around a bit.
Ariel, I love you lots…thanks for that one last step over the edge!
7 Train Ethnic Food Tour of Queens
In addition to the food trails featured in Booksmack for Book Expo America 2010, I also created this guide to eating great ethnic food along the 7 train line in Queens. It didn’t really fit in with being near the Javits Center or the librarian hotels but I deeply love Queens and there is so many great places to eat and neighborhoods to see. The ethnic diversity in Queens is amazing and the neighborhoods can change in the blink of an eye from Hispanic to African to South East Asian to Chinese. And with those fast switches in ethnic neighborhoods, you get lots of amazing food in nice proximity. The linguistic diversity on the 7 train alone is amazing. You will likely hear several languages being spoken on just one car.
So my darling librarians, get on your comfy walking shoes, brave the above-ground 7 train and show the world that librarians are far from boring, particularly when it comes to food and exploring NYC beyond Manhattan.
On Sunday night, Eric and I finally took part in one of Jeff Orlick’s Ambassador dinner groups. I’ve been drooling over the past group dinners but things have always popped up that prevent me from going. So it was with great relief and hungry tummies that we were able to go to the March 28, 2010 BBQ Ambassador dinner which was hosted for the evening by a guy very well-versed in BBQ, James Boo of Death by BBQ over at The Eaten Path.
After nervously waiting around for a little while (the trains were all sorts of screwed up), we assembled a group of 8 people at Righteous Urban Barbeque (RUB for short). James immediately ordered a pound of pulled pork and an order of St. Louis style ribs and then got down to explaining his thoughts and feelings on BBQ. I really liked that he explained up front that he was no BBQ purist! He doesn’t even cook BBQ at home but rather just really enjoys eating it and seeking it out all over the US. We talked for awhile about what everyone thinks of when they think about BBQ and its origins in the US. It was really nice that no one had preconceived notions or any thoughts that BBQ had to be a certain way. For me, I just really enjoy BBQ, I don’t care where it comes from or who thinks it’s the best or anything like that (which is probably why I get a hankering for Dallas BBQ every now and then!).
James talked about the different regions/areas for BBQ; the Carolinas, Memphis, Kansas City and Texas and what they are known for. It was interesting to hear about the economic reasons and implications of using wood or not using wood to smoke and cook BBQ in the Carolinas. He also talked about how Texas has really tried to promote a certain type of BBQ as being exclusively Texas and the only kind produced in Texas when actually there are so many different regions and techniques in Texas but that standardizing their BBQ for the sake of tourism and export has really worked in their favor.
James also explained how he had gotten into BBQ when he was at Berkeley by going over into Oakland County and after spending some time studying abroad, he came home and all he wanted to eat was American food. I can completely understand this notion as every time I am abroad for extended periods of time (no matter how wonderful the food is wherever I am), I come home and want a nice American burger and some thick cut fries. For James, the most American thing he could think of was BBQ so he went on quite a cross-country expedition and just ate BBQ at many different places over the course of several weeks (I think that was right).
Of course, while he was talking, we were all chowing down on the pulled pork and ribs that had been brought to the table. I also got a sweet tea, which was a nice and simple rendition of southern sweet tea, nothing fancy but it went well with the food.
The ribs were absolutely delicious. They had a sweet, salty spicy rub on them. I know that some people had the idea of BBQ sauce and with these ribs, I could somewhat understand that sentiment. They really didn’t NEED sauce but I tried some of the regular and the spicy (but not really all that spicy) sauce. These were definitely not fall off the bone sort of ribs but remarkably tender and juicy gnaw the meat off and suck on the little bits of meat until you’ve gotten your fill sort of ribs. Yum!
The pulled pork was also really delicious. The flavor was subtle. Neither the ribs nor the pulled pork had that fake smokey taste that is a complete turn-off in terms of BBQ. The pork was definitely moist and a slight bit chewy (not a bad thing). It was obvious that this pork didn’t need too much sexing up to be delightful but the vinegar sauce that came with it made it even better. And with the vinegar coleslaw which was slightly more sweet than I expected it to be on top of each bite, it was like a little bit of porky heaven. I told the story about how I had first had coleslaw on top of pulled pork just a few years ago and it was this complete revelation of how much better BBQ could be than I had realized.
So we plowed through the ribs and the pulled pork and decided to order one more thing. When the word pastrami came out of James’ mouth, I must admit I was a bit skeptical. The pastrami came and everyone was anxious to try it so we dug right in and were so enchanted, pictures weren’t taken until most of the meat was eaten.
But this was, no lie, the best pastrami I have ever had. This is cry yourself to sleep and dream about it for days sort of pastrami and I have always really loved pastrami. Each bite was a little bit different in terms of the cut and flavor of the meat and the spices and saltiness were just perfect. I will quite possibly be going back just for the pastrami.
They were out of burnt ends which was a disappointment but a great reason to go back. Perhaps a feast of pastrami and burnt ends next time.
After eating what actually amounted to a lot of food, we continued our odyssey of meat at Hill Country. I had been at Hill Country before for this insanely amazing Great Tastes debate party hosted by Tasting Table so I had gotten the chance to taste some of their brisket and their macaroni and cheese before.
James ordered us some beef ribs, some brisket and some specialty Kreuz sausages. We also got two sides, some baked beans and some cold bean salad made with black-eyed-peas, peppers and onions. James continued to talk but my husband and I were at the far end of the table and couldn’t hear him at all. I suppose it was a combination of totally and fully absorbed meat love and the raucous din around us at Hill Country. I am sure that everything he had to say was interesting and insightful but I was much too absorbed in the food!
The brisket is really as good as people usually say. It’s tender, it’s well flavored and there’s a nice flavorful fatty bit around the actual meat on most pieces. Eat that little bit of crispy fat, you won’t regret it.
I normally really don’t like beef ribs. They are either too fatty or too dry or something else is completely off. I am probably a slight bit of a pork BBQ purist but not enough to keep me from trying any sort of BBQ meat I can get my hands on. These beef ribs were good, really good. They were huge as you would probably expect coming from the rib of a delicious cow. The meat was tender, there was definitely some fat on the bones but the fat didn’t detract from the meat as it often does for me with beef ribs. There was a hint of something sweet but the standout flavors were simply salt and some cracked black pepper.
It seems to me as though Texans hate BBQ sauce since most Texas style places I have been to either don’t have it or they very reluctantly give it to you when you ask for it. Hill Country has some “if you must” bbq sauce on each table. It was not good, I mean really really not good at all. It was amusing to see that they had received some sort of award or recognition for the best bbq sauce outside of Texas. But the ribs thankfully didn’t need the bbq sauce but a shot of hot sauce certainly didn’t hurt.
The Kreuz sausages were really quite good but probably not worth $6 per sausage. They were very nicely spiced and had that fresh ground feel of old-style sausages and they were nice and hot but not worth $6.
The sides were not that good in my opinion. I think that I may have to subscribe to James’ reasoning of most sides being a rip-off at BBQ places. The small sides are very small at Hill Country and definitely overpriced.
I didn’t like the baked beans, they were salty and not quite cooked. I like sweet and molasses-y New England style baked beans so I was probably predisposed to like these. My husband really liked them though and thought the bacon pieces in the beans were excellent.
The black-eyed pea dish was a bit bland in terms of spices with too much vinegar. Next time I go to Hill Country, I will maybe spring for some mac and cheese but I doubt I will go for any other sides.
We washed down all of our food with a sweet tea that was just slightly out of the ordinary. It tasted like a mix between black tea and some mint tea or some mint leaves and was not cloyingly sweet. It went really well with all the food.
Overall, it was a great meat-filled night. The company was excellent, James was very entertaining and informative and the food was overall very good.
Picture of all of us BBQ eaters complete with cigarette smoke from the hand of the random stranger kind enough to take our picture.
Read my Yelp reviews of these restaurants and others.
From the Census 2010 Federal representative: It is so hard to overstate the importance of participating in the 2010 Census. Much of your community’s federal funding is dependent on the population of your community which is known through the Census. The Census count also turns into how well your community is represented in Congress and of course, a lot of federal funds are tied to how well your Congresspeople advocate for your community. In 2008, over $400 billion dollars was distributed based solely on the Census count.
Everyone is counted regardless of their immigration status and no one will be penalized for being an undocumented immigrant.
The Census form is much shorter now and will be mailed to households. It contains only 10 questions. The form will be available in 7 languages but only the English form and the Spanish form will be mailed. The forms in other languages will be available at Be Counted Centers throughout the country which will be open from March 19 to April 19. A letter with explanations in all 7 languages of where and how to get forms will be sent to all households.
There will be Questionnaire Assistance Centers where Census staff will be available to help fill out the forms.
The Census faces a lot of challenges in terms of getting people to fill out and return the Census forms, particularly to speakers of languages other than English including concerns about privacy. The Census representative explained that the data is statistical in information and there is no identifying personal data that is released. While aggregate data is available once it’s compiled, actual Census forms are not available for 72 years. One VERY important thing that was brought up is that Census data can be used as proof that immigrants have been living in the US for the required amount of time for citizenship. Individuals can request their own data as proof of how long they’ve been living in US.
The Census has tried to identify and partner with community-based organizations to motivate different communities to participate. There are 32 local offices in NYC handling Census matters, including hiring Census workers. These centers are currently testing and training people to visit homes if people do not fill out and return the form.
The ONLY way a Census worker will visit your home is if the form has not been filled out and received or if it has been filled out wrong.
All Queens Library branches will be Be Counted Centers where people can pick up Census forms to fill out. Some branches will be Questionnaire Assistance Centers.
From the NYC 2010 Census office: The Census count is even more important for New York than many other communities because New York has a huge population that is consistently undercounted. In 2000, only 55% of New Yorkers responded compared to a national average of 67% responding. This leads to New York City losing valuable federal dollars and losing Congressional representation.
The NYC 2010 Census office works with community boards, city agencies, community & faith based groups and elected officials to promote awareness about the Census. They want to make sure ALL New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status are counted.
A huge amount of federal funding for NYC and NY state depends on the Census count. In 2008, $25 billion in federal funds came to NYC based directly on Census data.
Political representation also depends on the Census count. It determines the number of reps in Congress, the NY state legislature and the size and number of city council districts and reps. The lines for city council districts are also drawn based on population changes from the Census.
Forms are mailed to the Resident at a certain address, not to a specific person.
Many people in NYC are afraid of being reported to Immigration but also afraid of losing housing because they live in illegally subdivided houses and that this information will be reported to the Buildings agency. This is not the case, no citations or reporting will go on in regards to anything like housing or immigration.
The Spanish form is being sent to areas with large populations of Spanish speakers, in addition to the English form. Other languages will get the letters mentioned previously.
Based on low-response rates/hard to count areas, a 2nd form will be mailed later.
The Census has determined that it is actually more accurate for the Census count than workers actually coming to your house.
There are numerous barriers to participation in the Census:
- Language barries
- Housing situation concern, including illegal subdivisions
- Anger about the census form itself, people feeling like they aren’t represented
The Census must carefully craft messages to allay fears and correct misinformation.
NYC has brochures and posters stressing the importance of the Census, the safety of your information, the confidentiality of information and forms as well as information on how people will not be deported or thrown in jail for having undocumented status.
Organizations can also get information on holding instructional events on how to fill out the form.
Why is the Census important to libraries? It’s not just the federal government that uses Census count data to determine funding; many local and state governments also use Census data to determine funding, including funding for libraries.
The Census count is also important to our library patrons. Funding for so many vital services depends on the Census count.
What can libraries do to promote Census participation? Have information at the library, advertise the Census on the library website or in newsletters, become a Be Counted or Questionnaire Assistance Center and have Census workers speak at programs (no matter what the programs are about).