The Way to a Happy Life

9497585-road-to-happiness-search-and-find-a-happy-life-joyful-living-fulfillment-arrowIn honor of my family visiting me this week, I want to share a poem written by my grandfather’s uncle and stepdad (long story), Basil Venti. These words have been recited at every important family event for as long as I can remember. The first time I recited it, I was four! It’s traditions like these that keep families strong.

The Way to a Happy Life
by Basil Venti 

Journey on through the years
Speak kindness and cause no grief
Do good along the way
Even a little, but every day

Never idle the precious time
Never quarrel, yell, or whine
For as long as the Earth is under the sky
Always some argument will eventually arise

Always do whatever is right
Help the weak and conquer the pride
Above all, strive to do your best
And leave to God to do the rest

Looking forward to (hopefully) blogging some of my thoughts about the visit very soon. Between school, work and getting ready to move next month, I’m swamped. You know I’ll do my best, though.


I Put the Social in Social Media

imgresThey say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

I wrote a blog about QR codes, my Thanksgiving had a hashtag, and I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow — My name is Liane and I’m a technoholic.

When I sat down to write today, I intended this blog to be a defense of the social aspect of social media. Then, I remembered the cardinal rule of writing: know your audience. If you are reading this BLOG, chances are you’re pretty okay with social media as you probably got here via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail. A defense of social media belongs in a newspaper….and that newspaper belongs in a museum where other old, historic things go to be forgotten.

Instead, I’m going to invite you to share in the joy that is Social Media Week DC!

From February 13th-17th, cities all over the world (Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto, & Washington DC) are participating in Social Media Week. As a girl with a passion for new media, I could not pass up the opportunity to sign up for a couple of the amazing events happening here in DC. Hopefully, I’ll also have enough time this week to blog about the events, but if not be sure to follow me on Twitter @liane_w for live tweeting from the following events:

Monday, February 13, 2012
Nothing! — I need to work on the formative research for my Media, Development, & Globalization project :/
Tuesday,  February 14, 2012

Digital platforms have changed the media landscape forever, but how has it changed the way the media covers politics? We’ll ask a panel  from Gannet, National Journal, ABC News and Politico as they discuss 2012 election coverage.

The social media landscape has changed drastically since 2008. We’ll hear directly from panelists from Google, Twitter and Facebook as they delve into the tools and innovations that candidates and campaigns have utilized as the 2012 campaign heats up.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We will explore the driving forces that have been evolutionary markers for social media, transitioning it from the past to the present, and giving us a glimpse into the future. This session is for those wishing to understand where their organization is placed on the evolutionary timeline, what is next for social media, and why. In our interactive discussion, we will reminisce about famous flops, share success stories, and discuss the future of what social media can be for Government agencies and Non-governmental organizations.

As we look back on the impact social media has had on the healthcare industry over the past year, we see dramatic growth in social media adoption by health care consumers, providers, and organizations. While the industry has taken a giant leap forward into the brave new social media world, we’ve only scratched the surface of what is yet to come.

So what does the future hold? Join thought leaders from Eli Lilly, Inspire, Ogilvy and Ozmosis as we explore the positive impact social media has made throughout the healthcare system.  Together, we will examine how patients, providers and healthcare organizations have leveraged social tools to enhance communication, promote education, improve the delivery of care, and reduce growing costs.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How does social media change how statecraft is practiced in the 21st century? Who’s participating and why? What have been some lessons learned from the pioneers who have logged on to listen and engage? Three representatives from the U.S. Department of State will share case studies and professional experiences gleaned directly from the virtual trenches.

This panel discussion and networking event will introduce you to some of the people behind “American Censorship Day” and the “Internet Blackout Day” for a candid discussion discuss their the strategies and tactics that lead up to  over 14 million people to contacting Congress in a single day.

We will discuss how Internet experts, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurs from across the political spectrum came together to successfully derail SOPA and PIPA and offer a glimpse into what this means for future advocacy campaigns.

Friday, February 17, 2012

While Sean Parker may predict that social media will determine the outcome of the 2012 election, governance is another story entirely. Meaningful use of social media by Congress remains challenged by a number of factors, not least an online identity ecosystem that has not provided Congress with ideal means to identify constituents online. The reality remains that when it comes to which channels influence Congress, in-person visits and individual emails or phone calls are far more influential with congressional staffers.

“People think it’s always an argument in Washington,” said Matt Lira, Director of Digital for the House Majority Leader. “Social media can change that. We’re seeing a decentralization of audiences that is built around their interests rather than the interests of editors. Imagine when you start streaming every hearing and making information more digestible. All of a sudden, you get these niche audiences. They’re not enough to sustain a network, but you’ll get enough of an audience to sustain the topic. I believe we will have a more engaged citizenry as a result.”

This conversation with Lira (and other special guests, as scheduling allows) will explore more than how social media is changing politics in Washington. We’ll look at its potential to can help elected officials and other public servants make better policy decisions.

Alright, enough of that! I will try and update as much as possible about the fascinating information I learn this week. Let me know if you want more information/want to hear about a specific event/really love newspapers–yeah, right. Stay tuned 🙂

In honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday, today’s extremely appropriate blog quote:

“In the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
~ Charles Darwin

Goodnight Irene

I just got back from the store after purchasing some Hurricane-proof supplies. I was attempting to avoid blogs about really mundane things, but I think I am going to consider it a challenge to myself to keep it interesting. I have three primary situational influences, let me know if you pick up on any of them–Comment!

By the time I got to the Safeway it looked the place had been looted. Nonperishable foods had been wiped clean, only a few stray, smooshed, disheveled loaves of bread remained. I took what I could scavenge–the cheapest, least smooshed bread with a semi-low calorie count. Hey, a hurricane is no excuse to let yourself go! Satisfied, I moved through the store avoiding eye contact with the other customers. It was every man for himself, you see. Except the girls who only bought tequila and margarita mix–clearly they know the true meaning of hurricane.

With only bread in hand, I searched for the next item on my life-or-death scavenger hunt. The peanut butter aisles were bare. I panicked. I couldn’t live off  bread alone–and that’s the Gospel truth (no literally, it says that in the Bible)!

Is there anything else that doesn’t require refrigeration, that goes on bread, and actually tastes good? I paused, thinking. Nope.

A man approached. I eagerly scanned him up and down–searching, searching… Yes, there it was, a name tag. “Excuse me, do you have any peanut butter in the back?” He looked back at me, his eyes filled with sadness and pity. “No miss, all we had is out on the shelves.” It couldn’t be. I sulked my way to the jelly side. In case you don’t know this about me, I don’t eat fruit and I definitely don’t eat jellies. The only thing that could have me considering such an impossible notion is a true state of emergency.

Back to my sulking… Head hung low with the feeling of defeat, I searched for a jelly that didn’t make me feel like I wanted to hurl. I failed. Miserable and defeated, I began to turn away when alas, something struck my eye. Could it be? Hidden in the darkness, far behind a gag-inducing jar of apricot preserves was a lone container of Safeway brand, reduced-fat creamy peanut butter. Huzzah! I was saved. No slow, agonizing death by starvation would befall me this weekend.

But no, this wasn’t enough. I lurked down the aisle, eyes flashing from one side to the other scouring its contents for something, anything. And then, like a silver tower, it appeared before me–canned tuna. I rushed to it, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible should some other self-serving homosapien attempt to cut in on my prey. These were my spoils and I would not be sharing them. I grabbed a stack, hastily throwing them into my hand cart. From behind me, the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps. I spin to meet the face of the one who approaches.

I look into the deep green eyes of this freckle-faced girl who dared approach me, and I nod. The rest is for her. I’ve had my fill.

The water aisle was a barren wasteland. Not a single bottle lingered on the shelves or in the refrigerated cabinets. I could hear the whisper of sweet death breathing down my neck. The search for food would all be in vain if I couldn’t find water. But my mind, driven to mad genius by necessity took to the next aisle–vitamin water. I threw a couple in my hand cart.

The check out lines were a madhouse. Patrons, appearing more like zombies than customers, practically snarled at one another. I smiled to myself as I blew past them and into the Express Line. I counted my items–only 14–I grabbed the newest People, with utter ridiculous interest in Kim Kardashian’s wedding. Now I was ready.

To Irene, the most terrifying thing with a ridiculous name.

“Every disaster screams for humor.”
~Irene Millecam


Mothers & Mother Nature on Rampage

I’ve been in Washington DC less than a week and we’ve had an earthquake and are now facing the possibility of a visit from Hurricane Irene.

It’s all over the news, I hear. I wouldn’t know– I don’t own a TV. I was surprised to hear it from my grandmother early this afternoon. Usually I hear these kinds of things from my mom.

Moms are funny. Case Study:

You can sit next to my mom and have a whole conversation just for her to turn around and say, “Oh, did you say something?”.  Yet if on the other side of a crowded restaurant a person says something about DC, it is like her bionic mom ears turn on and suddenly she will hear every single word. Or gruesome stories about death–the more heartwrenching, tragic and bloody the better. Mom ears only pick up information that they find useful, which is information that can be used to guilt-trip their children later.

I have a theory:

In Pokemon, the characters evolved from one form to another. So you start with this adorable creature……and it grows into this terrifying creature.


The evolution of the female ear:

  • Little Girls Ears– They hear everything and repeat it in adorable ways. Not much different from Little Boy Ears.
  • Girlfriend Ears– Capable of hearing and remembering things like your favorite food so they can make it for you. But this is where things get scary….
  • Wife Ears– Primarily function by hearing anything that could possibly be interpreted as flirting with other women. (related: wife eyes which cannot find their car keys or cell phone but aptly notice you checking out the waitress)
  • …then finally–the most dreaded–Mom Ears.

So I was surprised to miss on the usual paranoid rant that would my mom would give me about how she heard Washington DC was going to have a terrible hurricane and how once someone told her about this time where some girl was all alone and far away from her family and  [insert gruesome and terrible story-probably gory] and then she died. Alas, the day is young.

Still, I have to come to terms with the fact that something peculiar is going on with DC weather. As Dr. House says, there is no such thing as simply coincidence. Therefore, being the classic egocentric that I am, I can think of only a few possibilities of why these things are happening:

  • God is warning me (negative). There was thunder as the plane landed, an UNnatural natural disaster shook the city, and now a hurricane may invade my swampy residence? Maybe He’s sitting up there on his fluffy cloud saying “Hey girl, what more can I do then buy your ticket home?”
  • God is testing my resolve (positive). It’s my first time away from home by myself, I made it through the snowstorm the first time, now He’s looking down on me through those pearly gates and saying, “I just want you to know that you can make it through anything. If you make it through this first week, NOTHING can stop you, girl!” (I don’t know why these versions of God are a flamboyant gay man)
  • The world is ending. I have nothing to add.

For more information on Hurricane Irene click on this link

Clearly, it is extremely reasonable to believe that God would go through all the trouble of making these things happen JUST to give me a little life guidance.I can’t help it that he loves me more than he loves you.

A toast, to the end of the world.

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
~Erma Bombeck (a new favorite by suggestion of a friend of my grandmother)


Last time I was living in DC, the city experienced an unprecendented snowstorm. Obama declared it “Snowmaggedon” as the city virtually shut down, falling victim to the largest snowfall in DC in recorded history.

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And now, only 5 days into my glorious & triumphant return to the Capitol city, yet another uncommon disaster has struck! As you may have heard, central Virginia was hit with a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, the largest in DC history, sending shockwaves up the Eastern coast where it has been reported the tremors were felt as far north as Manhattan.

I worry that if I should ever leave DC and return again the city may face a tsunami.

It is a day that people on the East Coast will remember for the rest of their lives. One day, many, many years from now, I will sit on my porch with my friends, sipping lemonade as the sunsets over the ocean (yes, I have a porch & an ocean view) and we will ask each other “Where were you during Earthquakemaggedon?” And I’ll say, “Hell if I remember, someone get my robot and have him read me my blog…”

I just stepped out of the shower in my Washington DC dorm room. I throw on a towel, and walk to my desk. I sit down. I was about to begin one of my epic stare-into-space-and-think bouts when suddenly, the room begins to lightly tremble. Some fatty stomping down the hall? The shake gradually increases. Construction down the street? The building is swaying and shaking, my brain tries to compensate for a logical answer, ideas flashing through my mind, “It feels like an earthquake….but…but….it can’t be. They don’t have earthquakes here, do they?”

I’m a California girl, I know earthquakes. My body recognized “earthquake” but my mind was quick to step in and make the situation much more uncomfortable and stressful. Whether or not people want to admit it, I think most people thought we were under attack.

So I’m standing as the room about me continues swaying and shaking and I try to figure out what is going on.

I realize I’m still naked.

I throw some clean clothes on, whatever is going on, I don’t want to die naked and I want to have on clean underwear.

I look around the room. The door to the balcony is rusted, the shower head is too-both originals from when the building was used as a Howard Johnson’s, the carpet is dingy and stained… Logic, my personal demon, rears its ugly head, whispering into my ear “If they didn’t bother to change the shower head or the carpet, what are the chances that they retrofitted a building to withstand earthquakes in a place that doesn’t have earthquakes.”

I grab my phone and head for the door, quickly dialing my mom’s number.

“Mom, I don’t know what is going on right now, it felt like an earthquake, but I’m okay.”

I think it is interesting to see who people call first when they feel the threat of an emergency–real or perceived. For me, it’s my mom. I heard a woman outside call her boss, I hoped it wasn’t her first call.

There has been a lot of criticism about the way people on the East Coast have been handling the earthquake. Sure, I shook my head more than once at the kinds of things people said and did, both personally and institutionally after the quake. (Businesses closed down for the day!!!) But I want to put things in perspective.

  • The distance between where the earthquake epicenter was and where the earthquake was felt in say, NY, is slightly further than the distance between Los Angeles and Vegas. It would take a pretty decent earthquake to hit LA and feel it with substance in LV. I will attest, it was a pretty decent earthquake.
  • Watching people in DC handle an earthquake was the equivalent of how people in LA would react if they suddenly had a snowstorm. Screw that, people in LA can’t even handle driving in light rain.

Considering the fact that no one was prepared for it and didn’t have the knowledge of how to react to it–or what it was at first–I applaud you, citizens of Virginia and surrounding areas.

However, out of a mildly hectic situation, I managed to turn some good from it. As the only person who had ever been in an earthquake before, I was able to use my prior experience and literally thousands of earthquake drills to good use–making friends.

I introduced myself to a few panic-striken Southerners and East Coast natives. “Hi, I’m Liane. I’m from California, I guess I must have brought the earthquake with me, huh?”

The looks on their faces can be illustrated by this example:

The Setting: Restaurant
The Players: Waiter & Customer

Customer: Excuse me, sir. Can I see a menu?
Waiter: Of course. Hands him a menu. Would you like to hear the special for this evening.
Customer: That would be marvelous.
Waiter: The chef has prepared his specialty, Rocky Mountain Oysters for this evening. They are lightly battered and fried with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce. We rarely get the opportunity to serve such fresh fare, they are truly a delight.
Customer: Well  I’ve never had Rocky Mountain Oysters before, I’ll try them after such a outstanding recommendation.

Later, customer is served and begins enjoying his meal. The waiter returns to check-in.

Waiter: How is everything tasting this evening?
Customer: Why I do say, this is delicious. The flavors are superb! I never had oysters that taste quite like this before.
Waiter: Oh, I’m sorry sir, these aren’t oysters. Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull testicles.

THAT–that face. That look of terror and disgust was stuck on the face of every student outside the building, still in shock from Mother Nature’s violent reminder of her power. I coddled their egos, explaining that I too-after years of earthquakes–felt my stomach lurch as the ground beneath me rumbled and the building around me groaned. They softened, “But what about aftershocks?” I smiled. “Doorways are the safest places, structurally they are designed to withhold collapses.” On the word collapses, I saw the flickers of light in their eyes go dim. “Oh, but aftershocks are really rare. I’m sure it’s fine just to go back inside and go back to your normal day. Back home if there’s an earthquake you usually won’t even stand up. You just wait for it to end and go on with your day.” They nodded, impressed by the bravery of the West Coast natives, who feel the Earth around them shake and just continue on with their day.

Then one of the women eased up and began making conversation. We were joking and smiling and then she says, “Yeah well I camp out under that bridge over there and I could see the whole thing just moving from side to side.”

Our smiles briefly faltered then became forced. We quickly exchanged glances. No, none of us had known that she was one of the crazy homeless people who lived under the bridge. We politely excused ourselves, finding that we’d rather brave the building than the rest of that conversation.

To be fair, it is EXTREMELY easy to mistake a graduate student for a homeless person and vice versa. This is why:

  • Bad Fashion. Currently the whole “hipster”, my clothes smell mildly like a dumpster, I-don’t-try-at-all thing is trendy–I get it. Men don’t feel the need to shave or shower. Not my thing, but some people are into that.
  • The smell. (Many, though not all) Academics have terrible hygiene. My oceanography professor’s teeth were dark yellow and you could see his plaque from 10 feet away. Also, for some reason they sweat a lot. I tend to believe it is due to the constant pressure to prove that they are actually as smart as people think they are/as smart as they want people to think they are.
  • Lack of food. Both the homeless and grad students are undernourished. There simply isn’t enough money to go around. Both are likely to beg for food. Some do it out of principle: A friend of mine recently met a girl who called herself a “freegan”. No not a vegan, a freegan. That means she only ate food that was free. By the way–she did NOT make it up, it’s an organized movement. Doesn’t it make you hate snotty, elitist, entitled, pseudo-intellectuals just that much more?
  • Lack of sleep. I actually believe that a homeless person probably gets more sleep than a graduate student does, but both are likely to wake up with bloodshot eyes and the lingering smell of cheap beer.
  • Bad Fashion, Again. Graduate students can’t afford anything. Tuition, housing & books suck up a huge portion of a graduate student’s budget. So when your casual clothes and shoes get faded, smelly, torn, bleached, tattered–you do what you can and just keep on trucking. Sure you might shell out for work attire, but a pair of jeans or sneakers probably won’t make the cut.

A toast, to the homeless because they are probably drinking anyways.

“I used to sleep nude — until the earthquake.”
~Alyssa Milano

The Past Revisited

One of the last posts I remember really wanting to write before Notebook of  a Nomad’s short, wonderful life (click there if you want to check it out) was so suddenly extinguished was about the markets in Europe. I’m going to revisit this topic so I can start talking about what I did on Sunday.

I wrote a blog about going to the grocery store in Berlin, but that is not what I am talking about.

On a Sunday morning, throughout Europe, somewhere in every city the local people are maneuvering their way to the food cathedral that is the food market. Now while that serves as a pretty turn of phrase, the food market is more like a church than you might think.

1. People go there on weekends.
Most markets are only open Saturday and Sunday, and for the best pick–you better show up early.

2. The decor.
Markets in Europe are grandiose, many with vaulted ceilings and stained glassed windows. Sure, some are simpler, but there are also simpler churches.

3. Devotion
Church is to christian, as food market is to foodie. It’s where the devout go to practice their faith and indulge in satisfaction of their soul.

4. Unspoken Rules/Procedures
Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand. Church has rules, we don’t need to talk about them, but we know them. The food markets in Europe have rules: Don’t touch things until you’ve bought them (unlike American markets), Bring your own bag, Don’t barter with food vendors-only clothing vendors.
Walking through a market in Spain or Italy will put your body into sensory overload–the colors of the food artfully and carefully displayed, the smell of fresh fruit, cooking meat, and of course–fresh fish, the sounds of people chatting with their favorite vendors and ordering “the usual”…

Of all the markets in the WORLD, El Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain is considered one of the best. It’s as well known for its food as it is for its food displays, most notably–its fruit stacking. Shortly after marveling at the craftmanship of La Boqueria’s fruit stacking, I returned home and read an article in Gourmet Magazine (or maybe it was Bon Appetit) about how big a deal fruit stacking is at this market.

Here is a slideshow of some of the wonderful things we had the pleasure of seeing at the market:

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Notice how the meat stand sells every single piece of the cow- eyeballs, tongue, stomach lining etc…

This is also where I had that amazing Coconut/Dragonfruit drink that I rave about every chance I get. BTW- I saw Dragonfruit at the Safeway across the street from my building (SCORE DC!)

Now how is this relevant to the way I spent my Sunday?

Washington DC is huge on the use of local, sustainable foods. Many restaurants in the area support local farmers and serve food grown in the nearby area. These farmers also take their food to one of my favorite places in Washington DC–Eastern Market. Just a few blocks from the Capitol Building, and my old apartment, Eastern Market is one of the most exciting places for any foodie in DC.

The market has three sections-inside, outside, and across the street. Across the street is primarily a flea market, which I don’t mind on occasion, but sometimes when I look at things there all I can think is “That’s a dead woman’s chair” and it really kills the whole antique thing for me.

Outside of the building is filled with stands selling fresh produce, honey, sauces, nuts. You can buy tomatoes of three different colors-red, green and yellow. Yellow tomatoes are just a tad bit sweet, how do I know? Almost everywhere is willing to give away samples.

Inside there are more traditional market sections (again MARKET, NOT GROCERY STORE): deli meats, fresh beef, chicken pork and fish, a bakery, a cheese counter (where a woman who takes cheese much too seriously will scowl at you if you ask her to slice your gouda because “that simply is not done”).

I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, and didn’t actually buy anything…I guess I’ll just have to go back next weekend!

To food, for sustaining our bodies and our souls.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”

Lazy Day Afternoon

I mentioned in my earlier post about how I am eerily capable of staring off into space for inordinate amounts of time, entertained solely by my own mind.

I did it again today, though this time while sitting on the shaded steps of the Lincoln Memorial.


The reflecting pool is gone, in its place a ditch. Apparently, it was leaking. It, like everything else in this country, had gone to shit. So they dug it up and are beginning again with a new foundation.If only would could save our own country that easily. Nothing says ‘merica like John Deere.

I remember coming to the Lincoln Memorial last time I was in DC. I imagined myself sitting on these steps, textbook in hand, pushing my reading classes up the bridge of my nose (I don’t wear reading glasses, but that’s irrelevant) as I skimmed my reading, highlight as each point struck me.

That is less than likely, this time of year at least. The memorial buzzes, humming with swarming tourists. Actually, it is more of a dull roar as accents and languages from all over the world- a real life tower of Babel- merge and bounce against the cold, hard stone walls.

It’s something Phil Spector might have appreciated, a true wall of sound.

While it may not be ideal for studying, I don’t mind it right now. The silence of my room was far more deafening. Being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of all these people is more comforting than I can describe.

A toast, to President Lincoln for ignoring what the people wanted and giving them what they needed.

“I’m dealing in rock’n’roll. I’m, like, I’m not a bona fide human being.”
~Phil Spector