Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some Scenes from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

There are times when I am sad not to be in Washington, and yesterday was one of them. I tried to watch the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, which I finally found on but the signal was not even and I missed a lot of the wordplay, so I settled for listening to it on cspan radio and updating my browser and then stopping it every once in a while to see the scene but not get too disoriented by the simultaneous and slightly off time streams (CSPAN seemed a bit behind).

I especially liked Jon Stewart in front of the all the American flags, and when both he and Colbert had their flag jackets on. This collection of shots from Salon are really great: Scenes from the Rally to Restore Sanity.

Now I have to run to tend to the Halloween Trick or Treaters at the door! Never underestimate soft power, good, bad, and in between.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nana's great-grandchildren

Pictures of Nana with each of her great-grandchildren.
Nana with glamorous Sara.
Nana with Amartya.
Nana with Mick.
He gets two cause he's the smallest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goodbye to Nana as She Goes off to College

Nana on the shore of Lake Ontario a couple of years ago. Nan, sorry I don't have any earlier pictures.

Laurina Fulgenzi DiCamillo was quite a lady. She went to sleep after dinner on Saturday night and didn’t wake up, peacefully passing away surrounded by family, with an even broader cloud of good feelings sent her way by those of us who were cities, states, and oceans away. We sure are going to miss you, Nana.

Hospice workers came to help ready her for her next adventure – college! Nana told us that she was finally going to go to college as she donated her body to the Medical School at the University of Buffalo (formally, SUNY-Buffalo). So off she went. Too bad the med students who will encounter her in their studies can’t tell us the secrets of how she lived to 97, or laugh at her jokes. Perhaps it was the daily garlic; probably not the gobs of butter and heavy cream. Or maybe her scrumptious ravioli or gnocchi, combined with her physical activity like tennis and gardening.

I’m sorry that I don’t have any of the old pictures of her, when she was a stylish young woman and athlete, hopefully I’ll get some soon, so here you will be limited to seeing her past 90.

Her father hailed from Calascio in Abruzzi, Italy, and her mother was born pretty much off the boat to parents from that same village (that her mother’s sister married her father’s brother is another story for a later date). They moved from Wimber, Pennsylvania, to which they had been recruited from Italy to work in the coal mines, producing the coal that fired the steel mills of Western Pennsylvania. They moved to Niagara Falls, where Laurina was the first of four daughters. Laurina was closer in age to her mother (Assunta, Susie) than to her youngest sister Julia, with Anita and Emma in between.

She eloped with a dashing Thomas DiCamillo at 19 because her husband-to-be’s family didn’t approve of her – not Catholic enough, from a different region of the Abruzzo state. The same state of faraway Italy mind you, but further inland, in the mountains. He worked in his family’s bakery (her family also had a bakery). Her badminton skills took her to the top of New York State badminton competitions. Her tennis skills kept her fit, as did her early morning shifts at the bakery rolling out dough with the men at the bread table. As the lifeguard at the Big Pool, the public swimming pool in Hyde Park in Niagara Falls, she encountered the entire spectrum of the population. She was a PhyEd teacher at Stella Niagara, a convent school, where I remember her cleaning the floors as well as teaching a lot of rich Latinas how to swim, shoot a basket, and smash a birdie. She played tennis throughout her life and well past 90 years old, and lived independently until 95. Her daughters Betty and Jerri grew up to be good tennis players too, and Jerri continues to be a tennis coach.

She never went anywhere unless her face was made up, and wouldn’t let the police in to answer an alarm call until she “put her face on”. She favored bright pinks and greens and yellows (SHE never complained about my colorful gifts from India, and Mexico before that, unlike everyone else!) for her clothes, and would take us clothes shopping for colorful clothes too.

I grew up with Nana bringing us fresh bread and doughnuts as she finished her morning bread shift before we set out to school. After stopping in to see us, she would continue on to see her mother (who lived almost to 100) to have morning coffee. I very vividly remember her (and her mother too, for that matter), hanging out windows to make sure they were clean, because clean windows, and clean everything, was very, very important.

When I was little I would spend Saturday nights at her house so my parents could have a social life, and she would wash and rinse (a big treat) our hair, and paint our toe-nails with nailpolish. The primping didn’t take with me, and she was forever asking me if I had lost my hair brush or comb. Even when I saw her a couple of weeks ago, at least once each day she would ask me. In the last few years, when her memory wasn’t what it used to be, she would ask several times a day about my next hair appointment , or who stole my comb, and the like.

She taught us to swim, took us to practice driving, and played hours and hours of tennis with us, especially me. We drove to visit her one sister who lived out of the area, and almost always had arguments about directions and map reading.

My big adventure with her, though, was a three week trip in Italy in 1985, before I started grad school. We stayed with relatives in Rome, L’Aquila (now devastated by the earthquake in 2009), and Ofena; visited her father’s house in Calascio and climbed La Rocca with her cousins; and traveled to Florence and Venice. For me it was a great chance to spend time with her, learn more about Italy, and get to know my relatives there a bit. My image of them was stuck with Topo Gigio and other kids books they brought me when I was little, so it was nice to move beyond that. We had a fun time visiting tourist sites, riding trains, eating great food, and exploring together, although her impression was almost always different than mine. For example, at the Vatican, while I wondered where they had gotten all the money for all that gold, she commented that they should have spent some of their money on cleaning, cause it was very dirty and dusty.

I could write on an on, but will end here today. Nana, wherever you are, you will be impossible to forget. I’m sure you will have your rouge on. And still be asking where my comb is.

Making pasta.

Visiting with Uncle Hook, her little sister Julia's husband, probably about 5 years ago.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great piece on inequality

To change pace a little, a quick comment on a great article ("Confronting Inequality: Too Big to Ignore) in yesterday's New York Times by Professor Robert Frank of Cornell, talking about how economists should really speak out on the negative effects of increased inequality that we see in the US -- although the argument can be extended all over the world, including places like India, and between countries as well. He notes:

There is no persuasive evidence that greater inequality bolsters economic growth or enhances anyone’s well-being. Yes, the rich can now buy bigger mansions and host more expensive parties. But this appears to have made them no happier. And in our winner-take-all economy, one effect of the growing inequality has been to lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase for financial bonanzas on Wall Street.
In short, the economist’s cost-benefit approach — itself long an important arrow in the moral philosopher’s quiver — has much to say about the effects of rising inequality. We need not reach agreement on all philosophical principles of fairness to recognize that it has imposed considerable harm across the income scale without generating significant offsetting benefits.
No one dares to argue that rising inequality is required in the name of fairness. So maybe we should just agree that it’s a bad thing — and try to do something about it.

In the US, it's financial service; in India, IT services. In both cases, talented individuals with training in many fields get lured into financial services or IT services rather than apply their education in more needed fields -- civil engineering comes to mind in both cases -- because the financial rewards are so astronomical compared to the alternatives.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preparing for Dussera

Dussera time once again. The first year, I was amazed at how cars, buses, and trucks were decorated, as well as bikes, hammers, and even file cabinets -- as folks decorated and prayed for their implements of work. This year, we will help decorate our car too, as our drivers wants to do a proper puja to protect it. So, first step, like in festivals everywhere in the world, involves shopping. Banana leaves, mango leaves, kum kum colored powder, garlands of flowers, coconuts, a type of pumpkin, bananas, lemons/limes, fruit, sweets, puffed rice. Below you can share some of our shopping experience.

Formal markets play a large role, but so do temporary informal markets that spring up along roads in specific areas, often nearby formal markets.

Bangalore has always been known for its flowers, here bound together in huge garlands to adorn vehicles and doorways.

Sweet shops also do a booming business.
Always an afterthought is parking. So, just as the informal markets take over sidewalk and road space, so do parking areas.

And of course, the produce has to be transported to the market.

And then transported home.
In our case, walking the banana leaves to the car as if leading a parade.This picture shows an informal market, and it captures some of the contrasts of India today.

The color. The contrast between the Center for Scientific Research (or at least its sign) with the chaos of the street -- cars, pedestrians (some with no shoes, in a wide array of styles both traditional and less so), and commerce all fighting for space. The sign announcing someone's death with the garland on it it. Woefully inadequate power lines. The solar water heater on the building in the background.

Next posting, our car's puja ceremony.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The street

Too busy lately, sorry for the silence. Trips within and outside of India for research, a conference, and just normal work. Today, some shots from the street that connects our complex (and a bunch of new ones going up) with the main road. Longtime readers will have seen other pictures, but today the focus is on the trees that were planted, and then chopped down; the quantity of potholes; the buildings go up; and the workers building them.

To start, a tree that hasn't been chopped down.

And some that have been. Many of these had been planted over the course of the two + years I've been living here, but evidently they are now conflicting with the electrical lines, so a different gang of folks than those who planted the trees have come to "trim" them.
Clearly, what "trimming" means varies from person to person.

On the other side of the street, the trees are flourishing. However, there are the odd piles of building materials that go into the road here and there. You also see some of the potholes, and the vegetable man with his bike cart along with cars.
Further down the street.
More potholes, in the space between the two previous pictures.
The tea stall, an essential part of life for the workers who live in the labor camp area behind the metal sheet.
Many of the workers are building this McMansion.
Others are building new apartment complexes.
Finally, the status of the piece of land that blocks the road connecting our street with the village nearby, where many of the domestic workers live. Lots of the metal has come down, but the passage is still blocked.