Monday, June 30, 2014

Half Time

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Seneca, and it reads "our plans miscarry often because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind." I am not sure how I came upon this quote, but I remember reading it the first summer I read what has come to become one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye. Dreams in general sometimes do not have an expiration date, but I have often thought it wise to set expiration dates on some goals. Without these deadlines it could take a great deal of time to get to some goals, time that could otherwise be spent chasing or actively achieving other goals. If a man sets out on a journey to India and doesn't have a certain date for when he hopes to get there, he might never get there or worse off, he might spend his entire life trying to get there.

Let's assume getting to India is an achievable goal for him and not something akin to winning the Mega Million. So, he could pack his bags and sell his belongings sans ticket and announce to the world that he is going to India. Depending on where he is, he might not have figured out where India is proximal to where he is, if he needs a visa to get there, he may not have even considered the transportation options available to him and where he might possible stay once he gets to India. Thus, even if all the conditions are right for him to get there, assuming his neighbor once lived there and can help him navigate, a sale is ongoing at an airline for affordable flights to India, he might never set foot there because in spite of the right winds blowing he never properly made plans to end up in India. 

Often times when plans miscarry, it can often be summed up to a lack of careful planning and an aversion for introspection. As I sat in church yesterday, the Pastor spoke about how today would mark the half point mark for the year, a time that should call for some introspection. It's not far fetched why he would speak on that because it's a good time to evaluate some goals made early in the year and see why they might still be nothing more that mere scribbles on a pad of flickers in one's imagination. For me, the message at church was meaningful because I  had just pondered over my goals for the year, in fact, I read over them and tucked them in my Bible on my way out to church so imagine my delight when the pastor began speaking about evaluating our lives at the halfway mark of twenty fourteen. 

With the World Cup currently going on, it's interesting to see how some teams are able to turn the tide in their favor at the half time mark. France did that today in their game against Nigeria. It is not without question that sometimes situations do not always work in our favor in spite of any level of introspection or careful planning, that is just a fact of life. But sometimes, some careful planning and deep thought or even light hearted reflection can be enough to set us on the right path after a rocky first half. There are still six months in the year to achieve those goals that can be met by New Year's Eve and if that is inadequate time, there is the benefit of being halfway there by that date. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gasp! I'm Craving a Taco from Chipotle!

I never really cared for Mexican food until I moved to Texas. However, being surrounded by great Tex-Mex and slowly on my way to becoming a Dallasite, I decided I would give Mexican food a shot. Soon after my decision, I developed a serious love affair with just one item at every Mexican restaurant. Initially, it just wasn't any kind of taco, but fish tacos, and I went to a lot of places in the Dallas metroplex in search of them. Soon enough, I wanted more than just fish tacos and began to try other kinds of tacos. Plain veggie tacos, chicken tacos, steak tacos, everything really besides the pulled pork taco (remember I do not eat pork, save bacon).

I've eaten tacos at basically most places you can name in Dallas because I would do just that, drive around in search of tacos. The one place I never tried tacos from though was Chipotle. I am very anti-fad (see, I have to remind you of that because it makes me cool) and that probably explains why I snubbed Chipotle. In law school, the trick to having a successful event was to give out free lunch from Chipotle. Well, that trick got so many but not me. If you wanted me at your event, offer free food from Fadi's (the popular Mediterranean spot) and I would show up a half hour early. Whenever I would go to those Chipotle traps at school, it was burritos and not tacos that were served. Those things were a monstrosity and I could never quite figure out how to eat them. I guess like with elephants the trick was one bite at a time, but those were indeed big bites.

Last week, after running a bunch of errands, my sister decided she would treat me to some Chipotle. She got the burrito bowl and I got the chicken tacos. I was only able to scarf down two of the flour filled canoes of pico de gallo, guacamole, black beans, sour cream, cilantro rice, and chicken dreams before I had to dash out to a mixer. It's slightly past lunch time and here I am craving a taco from Chipotle of all places. I feel like I might have slightly betrayed my power to rise above the masses because here I am like most common folk craving a taco from Chipotle. To console myself from the shame of falling to that herd mentality, I told my sister that my craving had nothing to do with Chipotle per se, but just that I really wanted to eat a taco. So it's Harriet 1, Chipotle 0. And I am still anti-fads. #winning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Charity Tuesday: The Cult of Victimhood

A few months ago, I began a series called "Charity Tuesday," where I began featuring charities that I believed were in the business of doing good work. One of the charities I featured initially was the Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization with the aim of ending sex trafficking and rehabilitating former sex workers. I got to know about the foundation and the eponymous leader of the organization through the book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" written by Nick Kristof, two time Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned journalist at the New York Times. In the last couple of weeks however, several stories broke on reputable news outlets, claiming that Somaly Mam had lied about her life and her experiences as a sex worker. Also, not only had Mam fabricated a series of stories, but she got others to do the same. Interestingly, it was also reported that Kristof might have been aware of the untruths but did not blow the whistle because the stories were sensational and perhaps aided in the sales of his book.

I was rather blown away by the reports because I respected Mam who had won several awards for her good works, including being a recipient of the CNN Heroes Award. Now, I was severely outraged as I rightly should be by Mam's lies but I was also perturbed by Kristof's complicit attitude to the allegations being made against him and his journalistic credibility. It is often said that the pen is mightier than the sword and this holds true otherwise censorship will not be as prevalent under dictatorships. Thus, being aware of this truth, it is imperative that those we entrust with delivering the news do so with a standard that is above reproach. It is one thing to be duped as some have suggested that Kristof might have been, but then it is another to accept that one was either gullible or perhaps motivated by the wrong reasons.

Stories like Mam's do a huge disservice by creating distrust and adversely affecting organizations that are not only truly charitable but also honest. With every post on Charity Tuesday, I always included a disclaimer advising that organizations and their financial practices be researched before making the choice to lend financial support.

Somaly Mam is not the first individual to craft a moving tale that was false in a bid to gain notoriety. Before Mam, there was Greg Mortenson who lied about building schools for Afghan children and before Mortenson, there definitely have been many others.

The phenomenon behind Mam's lies is what some have referred to as the cult of glamorized victimhood, a scenario where an individual plays victim to garner some kind of sympathy because they rightly think that communities of people are gullible. Thus, when journalist are able to deliver compelling stories, the like of Mam's with vivid imagery in support of the victim's cause, the gut reaction is to get sucked in and ask where to sign up to offer help.

Understanding that not all victims should be believed wholesale, informed philanthropy becomes our best defense, but sometimes even the best of us are gullible. More so, in an age where social media campaigns spread like wildfire, it is even easier to fall for such schemes. In the end, it is worthwhile to support causes, but ultimately with eyes wide open.

Monday, June 23, 2014

On the Eighth Day God Created Quinoa

Over the weekend, I was cooking and asked my sister to help blend some vegetables when she asked me if I knew anyone who juices. Initially I misunderstood her question. Anyone who juices? Then she explained what she meant; the not so new fad of blending fruits, some vegetables and oddly enough some weird grains in an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle or lose weight.

When it comes to dining I am a minimalist. I do not eat a lot. No, I am not trying to maintain a certain figure and I am not trying to lose weight either. I really do eat when I am hungry and that sometimes is once or twice a day. While I am a minimalist, I do eat most things and will try most foods at least once. I have no known food allergies or religious restrictions however, I do not eat pork but I love eating bacon (and no, turkey bacon does not count).

Now, back to the issue of juicing. I mentioned to my sister that one of our cousins juices and had actually made me a dark green concoction of some vegetables and fruits that actually tasted good. Five years ago, I did not know any "juicers." But today, they are all over the place and I am forced to behold their culinary prowess because for most juicers, the glory is not in the juicing but rather in letting the world know that they juice. Thus, my Instagram feed is jammed with green leaves and weird berries the juicers in my life make on any given day. Sometimes I wonder if they robbed someone's pet rabbit, because a lot of the leaves I see being juiced do not resemble leaves of the variety for human consumption. 

I am just baffled by food fads. When I hear references to so called super foods or super fruits I roll my eyes. Who told anyone these foods were super? What made them super because for all I know these foods have always existed so why are they suddenly becoming super all of a sudden (insert snarl)? The food fads that I find amusing though are the gluten-free and paleo diets. I  understand that some people are allergic to gluten but for others, it is just a fad and an attempt to feel as though they belong on the hip train. Who told you you were allergic to gluten? I'll wait for an answer... I just do not get it. And then for my friends who are on a paleo diet, where did that come from? What will be next? The astronaut diet? 

I am just amused when my fellow humans "come upon" some foods that already exist and turn them into the elixir of life. Haven't these foods always existed and aren't they staples in some cultures? Sometimes I almost want to be convinced that God hasn't rested from his creative work. He made quinoa just recently on the eighth day and kale on the ninth. And if I let you in on a little secret, he's about to make cilantro on the tenth. And yes, you read it here first. Happy Monday and keep juicing and living the gluten free life!