my corner of solipsism

Let Them Savor Tweets

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sun, Apr 19, 2009 @ 14:04 PM

Tags: twitter, poverty, sharing, facebook, Kirsten Waerstad, connectivity, New York Times

In her New York Times article "Let Them Eat Tweets", (April 16th, 2009 NYT Magazine, Virginia Heffernen identifies with a Bruce Sterling's proposal at the South by Southwest conference that the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on "connections" like Internet, Skype, and texting. Sterling suggests that "The man of leisure savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surround by books and films and paintings and wines". Quoting a friend, her article puts forth the idea that "Connectivity is poverty"; "Only the poor - defined broadly as those without better options- are obsessed with their connections".
I'm sorry Ms. Heffernen, but what era are you living in? Gone are the days of a ruling aristocracy that created an environment in which the upper echelon of society could occupy their time with frequent face-to-face social gatherings and exchange banter the likes of which we hear only in a 1800s British novel. During the pre-democracy periods of aristocracy , the ease of hiring cheap labor (no minimum wage or child working laws in that day) allowed people to follow their dreams of pursuing art, music, travel, and living lives free of the encumbrances of life's mundane chores. A guest could easily stop by for dinner at a moments notice, as there were always "staff' available to see to it that hosts and guests every need were meet as they enjoyed their visit. The privileged, the rich, honed their language skills, practicing witty statements and wry retorts to regale those with whom they might share a brush of the cheek or a dance on floor at the next large social gathering. Their sentences were as replete with flourishes as ours are bereft of even proper spelling. Whr r u?
Life is messier today, and what Heffernan refers to as "swampy, boggy, inescapable connectivity", bemoaning the fact that her "middle-class existence has stuck me here", smacks of either her naivety of what the deeper connections that Twitter and other social media tools offer, or provides us with a painful view of her over-stretched neck looking upward with envy at the contemporary upper class. Today, the super rich, represent a much smaller portion of the population; but indeed, their wealth enable them to emulate the lives of 1800 European Aristocracy. The other 95% of us have busy lives. There is no handmaiden ready to assist us in dressing for the evening's guests, no cooks to brilliantly set the table's fest, and no 24/7 nanny to tend to the crying babes. Months may go by before we can actually have dinner with a friend or family member we have been meaning to see. Nothing takes the place of personal interaction; but in our modern busy life; social media tools can fill a gap. It is a "second best" conduit (much better than none) to reach out and share our life's joys and tears with those close to us. It also serves as a powerful medium in which to widen the circle of people with whom we share interests, thoughts, and idiosyncrasies. A shared laugh on twitter, the instantaneous ability to pull a group together at a local hangout at with a simple tweet, and sharing newborn pictures on the Facebook without spamming anyone simply brings us closer. It is not a sign of impoverishment, but rather astute use of tools that allow us be more human as well as more connected and in a very busy and isolated world.

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Les Misbarack [video]

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sat, Nov 08, 2008 @ 12:11 PM

Tags: Obama, video, musical, poltics


Brilliant video, especially for Les Misarables fans.

Tomorrow will be another day... that day has come. 

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Big Goverment and a Big Bailout

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Wed, Sep 17, 2008 @ 15:09 PM

Tags: AIG, bailout, American International Group, Kirsten Waerstad editorial

If business at insurer American International Group were booming, no one would say that we, as taxpayers, should be able to share a piece of the pie.  Now that AIG is in trouble, the government steps in, and taxpayers ultimately bear the burden of the bailout.   This is the epitome of short-sighted "big government" involvement. 

Doing nothing may risk a broader downward spiral in the financial markets.  But, for all those who trumpet "deregulation" or less government regulation, we should remember that appropriate constraints -checks and balances against institutions behaving irresponsibly - are designed to prevent the type of "Big Government" involvement we're seeing now.  When regulations and accountability are missing, and the burden of rescue is subsequently is placed on everyone, the ensuing policy becomes tantamount to a kind emergency socialism.  Certainly, neither these troubled  institutions nor conservative financial pundits would dare endorse such regulatory policies without the current unfortunate hindsight. 

Losses, as well as profits, should be dealt with by those who played by the rules of the game.  If taxpayers continue to be the unavoidable "fall guy" for institutional bad behavior, the rules of the game need to be changed.   

Published in The Boston Globe editoral page, A14  September 19, 2008

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Not a Black and White Issue

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Tue, Nov 07, 2006 @ 22:11 PM

Tags: voting,, mid-term, Patrick,, Ballot, immediate, troops, from, Iraq,, accountability, politics voting, elections, 2006,, Deval, Question, withdrawal, of, politics, mid-term elections 2006, Deval Patrick, Ballot Question immediate withdrawal of troops fro

    Walking home from Precinct 3, I proudly donned a "I Voted" sticker on my fleece zip-up, my mood uplifted, hopeful for a change.  Just a small hope, for change that is, big hopes for who will win.   Ushering in the first democratic governor in this state since 1990 will be a delight!   I ask you, how can this 16 year legacy exist in such a Blue state?   Deval Patrick seems to coincide best with my politcial leanings; but, outside of the race for governor, I must admit political ignoranance of most of the candidates.  I thus stuck to a straight Democratic vote, unless however, the race was bereft of a Republican contender and it came down to a Democrat and a Green-Rainbow candidate.  All things being equal (ie. my lack of knowledge of the candidate) I voted Green-Rainbow.  I figure that we desperately need more choices in our political system and well, without a Republican in the group to behave badly, either one will be a positive outcome  (sorry ... there are of course upstanding Republicans out there, even ones I might respect ... I think ... well I can't seem to name any right off hand.   Lincoln I suppose,  examples among the living are scarce).
     There was a ballot question which surprised and quite troubled me for the possiblilty that its ultimate tally can easily be misconstrued.   Ballot Question #5 in Brookline:  “Shall the State Representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the President and Congress of the United States to end the war in Iraq immediately and bring all United States military forces home from Iraq?”  In spite of the good intentions of the people who worked so hard to have it included on ballots across the state, the proposal was poorly or perhaps ineffectually worded.    It simply presented the issue of Iraq in the same polarizing light that the media continues to do, painting the question black and white, when it is actually so many shades of  grey.  I chose not to vote on this.  It just wasn’t a yes or no question.  Although, had I been pressed, the concept of  "immediate withdrawal” would have forced me to vote ‘No”. And, in doing so I would have cast myself indistinguishably into the ranks of those who still cling to the idea that this war was or is somehow reasonable or just.  
     What is meant by  “end the war in Iraq immediately”?  … Tomorrow?  Before Christmas?  Before we give the Iraqis any semblance of stability?  The case for war was built on a mound of deception and was executed without a clear plan.  It has been a disaster.  Immediate withdrawal without a plan would also likely be a disaster.  Many of us who want to bring our troops home as soon as possible believe that careful planning will be the only workable way.   We also realize that it will most likely not mean an “immediate withdrawal”.   The decision-makers, be they Democrat or Republican, military or civilian, will have to have to exercise more forethought and bear a level of accountability for their decisions in ways that the current administration has been able to so far flagrantly evade.
    As the results from this ballot initiative become known and supporters of this administration use the results to further entrench themselves into myopic delusions of an approving public, let it be known that many of us would like our troops to come home, but in a purposeful, well-planned and systematic way, quite the opposite of the “fly by the seat of your pants” on a cloud of deception approach that led us into this fiasco. 
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My Outdoor Sanctuary

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sun, Aug 13, 2006 @ 16:08 PM

     I "finished" my garden this summer.  Though, a garden is never really complete, is it?  There is always watering to do, weeds to pull, and making room for just one more flowering plant that you could not resist at that roadside market.   The patio is done (created with my own bare hands), and I now have a small oasis of outdoor tranquility.  A vigorous Virginia Creeper has crept from one trellis to the other on either side of my sling sofa, creating a natural arbor that filters out the hot afternoon sun and provides welcome privacy from the busy sidewalk foot traffic headed to the park.
 Three seasons of hard work has paid off.  I relish every summer day that I can read outside and fall asleep to the sound of chirping sparrows.
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A Woman Should Have

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sun, Aug 13, 2006 @ 13:08 PM

Great reflections by an unknown author

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD HAVE old love she can imagine going back to...
and one who reminds her how far she has come...
...enough money within her control to move out and rent a place
of her own even if she never wants to or needs to...
...something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams
wants to see her in an hour...
...a youth she's content to leave behind...
...a past juicy enough that she's looking forward
to retelling it in her old age
...a set of screwdrivers,
a cordless drill,

and a black lace bra friend who always makes her laugh
... and one who lets her cry
...a good piece of furniture not previously owned
by anyone else in her family
...eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored
...a feeling of control over her destiny.

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW... to fall in love without
losing herself... to quit a job, break up with a lover,
and confront a friend without ruining the friendship...
...when to try harder...
And when to walk away...
...that she can't change the
length of her calves, the width of her hips,
or the nature of her parents
...that her childhood may not
have been perfect... but its over
...what she would and wouldn't
do for love to live alone
even if she doesn't like it
...whom she can trust, whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally
...what she can and can't accomplish in a day,
a month and a year.
..where to go... be it to her best friend's kitchen table
or a charming inn in the woods...when her soul needs soothing
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Cavegirls were the first Blondes to have fun

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sun, May 28, 2006 @ 17:05 PM

Here is an interesting article for my fair-headed friends:

THE modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.

According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

Lighter hair colours, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St Andrews.

“Human hair and eye colour are unusually diverse in northern and eastern Europe (and their) origin over a short span of evolutionary time indicates some kind of selection,” says the study by Peter Frost, a Canadian anthropologist. Frost adds that the high death rate among male hunters “increased the pressures of sexual selection on early European women, one possible outcome being an unusual complex of colour traits.”

Frost’s theory, to be published this week in Evolution and Human Behavior, the academic journal, was supported by Professor John Manning, a specialist in evolutionary psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. “Hair and eye colour tend to be uniform in many parts of the world, but in Europe there is a welter of variants,” he said. “The mate choice explanation now being put forward is, in my mind, close to being correct.”

Frost’s theory is also backed up by a separate scientific analysis of north European genes carried out at three Japanese universities, which has isolated the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair to about 11,000 years ago.

The hair colour gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe and the continent has an unusually wide range of hair and eye shades. In the rest of the world, dark hair and eyes are overwhelmingly dominant.

Just how such variety emerged over such a short period of time in one part of the world has long been a mystery. According to the new research, if the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution, they would have taken about 850,000 years. But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.

Instead, Frost attributes the rapid evolution to how they gathered food. In Africa there was less dependence on animals and women were able to collect fruit for themselves. In Europe, by contrast, food gathering was almost exclusively a male hunter’s preserve. The retreating ice sheets left behind a landscape of fertile soil with plenty of grass and moss for herbivorous animals to eat, but few plants edible for humans. Women therefore took on jobs such as building shelters and making clothes while the men went on hunting trips, where the death rate was high.

The increase in competition for males led to rapid change as women struggled to evolve the most alluring qualities. Frost believes his theory is supported by studies which show blonde hair is an indicator for high oestrogen levels in women.

Jilly Cooper, 69, the author, described how in her blonde youth she had “certainly got more glances. I remember when I went to Majorca when I was 20, my bum was sore from getting pinched”.

However, Jodie Kidd, 27, the blonde model, disagrees with the theory: “I don’t think being blonde makes you more ripe for sexual activity. It’s much more to do with personality than what you look like. Beauty is much deeper than the colour of your hair.”

Film star blondes such as Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Stone and Scarlett Johansson are held up as ideals of feminine allure. However, the future of the blonde is uncertain.

The Times Online 

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Where is the Outrage?

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Wed, Dec 07, 2005 @ 15:12 PM

A certain degree of outrage may be the only way to change the path
Sometimes the words of a simple poem are more powerful than those contained in a news article or TV broadcast.   It speaks to the heart, lingers longer in the mind, and hopefully sparks reflection in a way not prompted by provincial sources of commentary.
The following poem from David Kreger’s book, Today is Not a Good Day for War,  is particularly poignant and befitting the current political climate .   In an environment of lack of accountability, corruption scandals, civil liberty abuses,  torture allegations, and mounting deaths of soldiers and Iraqi civilians, this poem conveys its message more effectively than any five-hundred word editorial could.
Worse Than The War
Worse than the war, the endless, senseless war
Worse than the lies leading to the war
Worse than the countless deaths and injuries
Worse than hiding the coffins and not attending funerals
Worse than the flouting of international law
Worse than the torture of Abu Ghraib prison
Worse than the corruption of young soldiers
Worse than underming our collective sense of deceny
Worse than the arrogance, smugness and swagger
Worse than our loss of credibility in the world
Worse than the loss of our liberties
Worse than learning nothing from the past
Worse than destroying the future
Worse than the incredible stupidity of it all
Worse than all of these,
As if they were not enough for one war or country or lifetime,
Is the silence, the resounding silence, of good Americans.
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Established Epithet for our Leader

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Tue, Sep 13, 2005 @ 17:09 PM
When you type the word "failure" in the all-knowing Google and click on the "I'm feeling lucky" button (because you just know the number one slot will be just what you are looking for), what do you get?  -  None other than the most appropriate definition of a word that our times have ever known. 
Give it a try:
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Our recent trip to Las Vegas

Posted by Kirsten Waerstad on Sat, Sep 10, 2005 @ 14:09 PM


Wow, what a city.  Plastic Americana at its finest.  I must admit that in spite of my compulsions to claim the opposite, I’m a fan.  My first trip to Vegas was New Years 1997.  My husband, then boyfriend, Dharmesh and I went with his brother, Vipul, and my sister, Hilde.  It was not on the top of my list of places to visit. Las Vegas  - neon lights, gambling, burlesque shows .. no thank you.   We went.  The neon lights were bright , Dharmesh, Vipul and their colleague David gambled the nights away, and we did end up at a “light” burlesque show at Ballys.  But, Vegas was a treat.  To be clear, it is still not at the top of my vacation list, and it is not a place in which I would like to live; but it is certainly a place like none other on earth.  Go there for the glitz, see a show or two – Cirque de Soleil’s “O” is an absolute must, and walk down the main strip of an Epcotesque City in the midst of the surreal setting of the desert.  Dine at the Eifel Tower which is a smaller scale, but exact replica (down to the bolts which hold it together) of the Paris original.  Take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal, recreated inside The Venetian Hotel, which meanders along shops and Italian facades and are guided by Gondoliers much happier to serenade their passengers with beautiful songs than any gondoliers we saw in Venice. 

We just returned from a six day trip to Vegas.  Again, my reluctance to go was strong, I thought a quiet get-away to Maine for the Labor Day weekend would be nice.  But this was a celebratory trip.  Dharmesh sold Pyramid two weeks ago and we were looking to celebrate in a memorable way.  Vegas won out.  Again, once we landed the city drew me in - it’s palatial hotels and casinos, the strips and strips of parallel glowing highways that seem to simply end as the desert valley meets the mountains, and the enormity of blinking neon lights that cast a glow over everything once the sun sets.  One neon light is annoying, one million is somehow both annoying and utterly amazing.  Dharmesh’s brother, Vipul, a fellow Pyramidian, and his wife, Eva, flew in for the weekend, and the four of us had a wonderful weekend of shows, delicious food, and a bit of art shopping. 

For a high-energy, dress to the nines, vacation, Las Vegas will grab you.  Do it at least once. After four days, you will most likely be ready to leave, but it will have been an amazing experience.  Afterwards, you can be thankful that you do not live under the constant glow of neon lights, and you may feel a strong urge to go to Maine or any other corner of your world which offers the tranquility of nature and reality.   But it is worth seeing.  Who knows, you may even go back.  

 To see a few photos from our recent trip click here:
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