Friday, November 21, 2008

Al Qaeda's Message Diminishing

Just wanted to share this article I found.

What Zawahiri's Message Says About Obama and Al Qaeda

by Ilan Goldenberg, Posted November 19, 2008 | 12:09 PM (EST)

Today, Al Qaeda's number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released his first message since the election. As the AP reported he

used a racial epithet to insult Barack Obama in a message posted Wednesday, describing the president-elect in demeaning terms that imply he does the bidding of whites.

Zawahiri also challenged Obama's policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan saying

Be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them.

The press is reporting this as Al Qaeda's first direct challenge to Obama. But what does it actually say about Al Qaeda? More than anything it demonstrates that Al Qaeda is genuinely concerned about an Obama presidency and views it as a strategic threat to its existence.

First and foremost, Al Qaeda is an organization that thrives on propaganda. It paints the United States as an evil empire that oppresses its own minorities and has little regard for the rest of the world. Al Qaeda uses these types of narratives to raise funds and recruit. The Bush administration played right into this trap. Its "with us or against us" mentality and invasion of Iraq damaged America's image around the world and reinforced Al Qaeda's narrative.

But Al Qaeda's narrative is now under siege and it's clearly uncertain about how to react. The election of the first African American President, one with a Muslim father, flies in the face of this narrative. It shows America as an open and tolerant society - not the oppressive empire Al Qaeda would like to portray. In fact, the overwhelmingly positive international reaction to Obama's election is proof of the the threat Al Qaeda faces. As a 29 year old at a Bangkok Starbucks explained,

What an inspiration. He is the first truly global US president the world has ever had. He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president.

Thus, it's not surprising that Zawahiri has resorted to calling Obama a "house negro" to try and paint him as just another American President. But this is clearly more a defensive and weak message than effective propaganda that might actually work.

Moreover, Zawahiri's message about Afghanistan and Pakistan portrays a certain level of nervousness over an administration that is actually going to go after the real terrorist haven on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Al Qaeda viewed the invasion of Iraq as a positive creating a recruiting and training ground for terrorists. As a 2006 National Intelligence Estimate explained (PDF)

The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.

Now, the U.S. is once again focused on the area of the world that the Intelligence Community agrees represents the most the direct threat to the homeland. It is the area of the world, which was the source of the 9/11 attacks and has been the source of just about every other major plot against a Western target over the past few years. This should raise some serious concerns for Al Qaeda's central leadership - especially since most of them are in fact believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands.

Sarah Palin's Great Appreciation for Turkey Death

This got passed around my office today... wow. I hope my appetite comes back by Thanksgiving next week.

KTUU 2008 Sarah Palin turkey interview

I think she says "great appreciation" about five times in the first minute. I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt, considering she's being interviewed in front of turkeys being slaughtered. But you never know. It's possible some W-isms got transfered to her during the election campaign.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Animated Trailer Time

So, of course there are lots of movies coming out this season - but here's a handful of the animated ones I'm excited about.

Oh, PS, Wall-E came out on DVD and Blue Ray today. Don't I wish I had a car so I could scramble off and pick it up.. oh well. Christmas is coming. Meanwhile, in theaters...

Bolt comes out November 21, which is going to be awesome.

I also found an exclusive movie clip on YouTube. There's actually several "exclusive" clips floating around if you take a minute to look.

Also here's a trailer for The Tale of Despereaux - the animated film I'm looking forward to this Christmas.

I'm sure there's more but.. it's bedtime.

"Moat People"

I was going to simply post a link to a recent article I read in MSN's College and Grad School section. But thinking the content could (and probably will) change or be taken down, I simply copied the article here and boldfaced things I found especially interesting toward the middle and bottom. The author paints a fairly accurate picture of this reasonably problematic generation, although there are some exceptional (or crazy) folks out there who still do for the greater good.

So Long Millennials, Hello Moat People
The post-9/11 students have given way to a new breed
By Don Asher

The Millennial Generation is over. They have been a great group with a compelling story. Coming of age in the crucible of 9/11, they felt a great surge of communitarian sentiment. They were sincere, malleable and hard working, even if insecure and needy at times.

Millennials were the first true digital generation, easily adapting to any new technological device. They were constantly and thoughtlessly creative. They were naturals at everything. They didn't have the angst of the Gen Xers or the weighty baggage of the Boomers. In spite of their troubles at showing up on time, they've been a great generation.

But they are over -- so over.

For seven years I have asked auditoriums of students if they planned on putting in a year or two of service before going on with their professional careers or to graduate school. Immediately after 9/11 a majority of the room would raise its hands.

They volunteered for everything. They couldn't serve enough. If an organization didn't exist to do the type of service they had in mind, they just started a new one. But in the past two years this sentiment began to dwindle.

Last week it finally happened. I asked a room full of privileged, smart, hard-working young people if they planned to pursue a year or two of service before going on with their own lives, and not one person raised a hand.

We had a moment of embarrassing silence, and we all knew some important, invisible line had been crossed. An era had passed. Then I went on with my lecture. These students may do great things, but they are certainly going to get paid to do them.
I began calling my friends in higher education and asking them if they noticed this shift, and almost all of them admitted it, even if reluctantly. It was like they had seen it, but not seen it. The students look the same, so sometimes it's hard to tell when they change. This change has been rather sudden. The ship has turned.

So, we all must wonder who's next. What do we know about this new, nameless group, and what shall we call them?

Introducing ...

I think we should call this next generation the Moat People. They don't feel that they can control the bigger forces and trends in this world. Their government is entirely beyond influence. Employers are capricious and irrational. So they want to get a little plot of land, an apartment and a group of like-minded friends, and they want to build a moat around this haven.

Here's what we know about these Moat People:

They have witnessed the darkest hours of American politics. They grew up with the Rove doctrine in full force. They have seen the government baldly use fear and manipulation to control the populace, get caught at it and then keep doing it anyway. Our candidates for president tell lies over and over again even after being outed on them.

Some may argue that Bill Clinton invented lying, but he was a kindergarten dabbler next to the art forms developed by those who followed him. That's all these young people have ever known. Nothing cynical or debased surprises them. They expect little from their government and most of all just want to be left alone.

They are the first American generation to hear that they will not fare as well as their parents. The smarter ones know this is because their parents borrowed the country and themselves into an unsustainable hole, but many of them believe that getting and keeping a home will be a major life accomplishment, to say nothing of raising children and building a brighter future.

They have never known a time when the U.S. wasn't in a financial crisis of one kind or another. There has been an asset bubble their entire sentient lives, one financial problem after another. First it was the dot-com bubble, then it was real estate and now it's The Big One. The U.S. hasn't been known, to them, as a producer of goods and services. It has, to them, been a producer of financial shenanigans.

The country has been at war their entire lives, yet it has nothing to do with them. As long as the professional soldiers handle the heavy lifting and the government insists that they not pay one dime in taxes to fund the wars, who could blame them? War is normal. Of course they want to dig that moat around whatever sense of security and peace they can muster.

And, just as with the Millennials, they have been told their whole lives that they are special. All children deserve to win a prize. They have grown up with helicopter parents who resolved every dispute, salved every blooded knee and wounded ego. If the world doesn't offer to continue with this level of support, why not retreat from it?

What the future holds

Certainly, this is not a formula for embracing big challenges. No wonder 73 percent of them report being above average and 51 percent want to be famous (per the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA), while 58 percent plan to move back in with their parents after graduation (according to MonsterTRAK data) and 65 percent of them actually do (U.S. Census Bureau). To be fair, with the cost of housing, who can blame them?

There are some problems with this analysis, of course. Many in this generation will hang on to the idealism of the prior group. Some will fight the wars and all will eventually pay for them. Some will volunteer and care about a greater whole, even if the trend has turned. And this generation is more internationally focused than ever before, with more young people studying abroad and planning on having a career working abroad.

They believe in the inevitability and goodness of globalism, which is, after all, a belief in the power of free markets. They see that their competitive advantage lies in a post-nationalist future. And no one could dispute that their environmental values involve concern for what is going on "over the moat." Environmentalism has become their new state religion, whatever private and local rites they may follow.
And supposedly they are tuned in to this election like no young generation before. (We shall see.) But one could argue that their concern for globalism and even environmentalism and politics is ultimately rooted in a concern for conditions inside the moat.

However, the moat is a psychic concept, not a geographical one. People who have the same views and values are inside the moat, and people who don't are outside, regardless of who lives next to whom. We have atomized, and the one has become many -- a country of psychic castles, surrounded by moats.

About the Author

Donald Asher is a nationally known writer and speaker specializing in careers and higher education. Some of his books of note include "How to Get Any Job with Any Major," "Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent," "Who Gets Promoted" and "Graduate Admissions Essays."

He welcomes your comments:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Questions Aren't The Answer

Not to be ornery, but there's one commercial I've seen lately that just ticks me off. It's called Questions Are The Answer by AHRQ.GOV and I've seen it on while watching videos before bed. I had only ever seen the 30-second video but I found a full version on YouTube.

One particularly blood-boiling aspect of this video is the line that goes something like, "we're not magicians, we can't read your mind." Apparently I still carry some bitter resentment over my variety of past experiences with doctors who ignored my questions and rather made assumptions about me while disregarding my concerns. I actually haven't bothered to go to a general practitioner in over two years. I have a vague, back-burner intention to resume regular checkups when I find a doctor I can trust who will actually be open minded and helpful rather than a narcissist preoccupied with a white lab coat, custom paisley tie, and BMW in the reserved parking zone out front.

I'm not really that cynical, most of the time. But I've seen this commercial a few times and I just felt like venting my dissatisfaction with today's standard healthcare in America.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homage to Rosie the Riveter?

I came across this picture today. I can't tell if I'm humored or offended. It's like a 50-50 for me. I'm chuckling but somewhat scornfully. Hmm.

Thoughts? :)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Abbondanza Di Amore

It's very nice to think that a week from now I'll be visiting my loving husband back home in Chicago. We have a lot of work ahead of us as the holidays near, and it will simply be great to be back in his arms and enjoy some quality time.

On another rambling note... I'm not a fashionable person (newsflash). I'm not big on jewelry, I avoid the mall like the plague, and I generally get excited about a sale only when I've sufficiently worn out my entire wardrobe (which still contains items from - *gasp* - adolescent years). Call me sentimental, call me frugal, call me a homebody. All are undeniably true.

There are two things I wear every day no matter what, and those are my wedding rings (engagement and wedding bands) and my mangalsutram, which remind me of the joy it is to have someone so special in my life, even though we are far apart.

I get a lot of time to think, while I'm alone. I was looking at my engagement ring this afternoon, as I do so very often, and one word comes to mind: ABUNDANCE. Yes, it is a beautiful ring and has its material value, but in truth I am referring only to the abundance of love that I can feel behind it. I look at it and I am reminded of how much love my husband and I have, and our families for us and us for them. There is so much love to go around in this marriage, which our wedding priest pointed out and called us to share it. Sure at the moment we might have been thinking about a stray cat (sorry, but it's true). But we also knew it meant something much more.

I remember one time early in our engagement, when we were apart (Naveen had moved to Florida and I was working as an art director at CVC over a thousand miles away) - my dad was driving me to work on a crisp fall morning. We were on our way - except - we didn't get far past our driveway before I demanded we go back. I had forgotten to put my ring back on after my shower that morning. For a minute he paused, thinking surely I can get past this slip of mind for one day. But I couldn't. I needed that reminder on my hand. I so badly needed that connection to my fiance so many miles away, I couldn't go a whole day without wearing it. My dad (who, incidentally hasn't worn his ring in years) was surprised that I was so attached to it, but upon seeing my devastation at forgetting it, he happily turned around and I ran upstairs to get it. It speaks to me, revealing the abundance of love that we have, and alongside my wedding ring and mangalsutram, I can not let my loneliness overcome me. I know we will soon have our jobs and home life figured out, if we just take the time and effort to make it happen.

Meanwhile, more rambling. And this one's for mom, who gets a kick out of random status messages. Here goes: I love my job. I love my life. I love the beautiful colors of the leaves this time of year and how they all fall to comfort my steps like a red-golden carpet on my 45-minute walk to and from work every day. I love dark chocolate and caramel and vibrant dark purple anything. I love children that have a thousand and one questions about everyday things. I love it when a person's face changes from puzzling frustration to sheer compelling joy because they've solved some kind of problem. I love blankets and pillows and everything cozy. I love pens so much more than pencils but I love typing even more because it's so fast. I love how taking the time to think about these things never fails to disappoint, and always helps to keep a childlike pattern of affirmative thinking. And now, I must remind myself that I love sleep - and I bid you good night.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Grow The Positive

Life will throw at you it's best and its worst, both the good and the bad. It yields moments of weakness and periods of strength, people who are ignorant and those who are very perceptive. Joy is only maintained by defeating the negative by acknowledging the positive and growing its presence in this world.

Two months ago today, Naveen and I were married, but for the majority of those two months we have been apart. I just got home now around 9pm from a productive but emotionally difficult day at work. With all that in mind as I walked home tonight, I began to develop the thoughts that made up what I wrote at the beginning of this post, and I'm beginning to once again feel armed with the courage to persevere through my recent anxiety and keep my focus. I have to decide to remember why I am here, what changes I desire, and what I can do to help the situation. I've been praying for a lot of change on a lot of levels, and I think that my hopes are reasonable and attainable so long as I don't allow myself to sink into despair about why things just aren't magically the way I had always thought they would be at this time in my life. Because of the way things are right now, it's easy to forget how much work it took to get here, and how many people have helped me and encouraged me along the way. But as I mentioned before, I think the only way to achieve a better mentality and better results is to acknowledge the positive and do what I can to encourage others and thank them for being who they are, and as for myself, continue to reach for solutions.

Thanks and all my love to my parents, my sister, and all my extended family and in-laws and very special friends who have taught me well and supported me through all my endeavors. If you're reading this, I'm sure you are one of those people, and you mean a lot to me. And as for Naveen, who embodies all these things, and completes my existence on this earth, I love you and I know there is light just around the corner for both of us, if we just keep trying. Thanks again, all, and best wishes till next time.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Wall-E DVD in 2 weeks...

November 18th baby.

You know, I watched Ratatouille last night and I cried all the way through the ending, from the moment Ego takes a bite of the peasant dish, though his flash of memories and all the way to the end. Masterpiece. ;)

Can't wait for the next feature, "Up" (May 2009) - in which a young boy helps an old man to reignite his dream of being an adventurer like Indiana jones.

Admittedly I haven't heard as much about Up as the other Pixar movies, but I do know it was written and directed by the ever-funny Bob Peterson who had more than just a hand in Finding Nemo, and it's co-directed by Pete Docter who gave the keynote speech at my Animation Mentor graduation. So as always it's something to look forward to.

Back Online At the Apartment

Here we are, November already. I've been here slightly over a month and finally have internet at the apartment. Comcast came today, Sunday of all days, and took about 30-45 minutes to set it up. Now I can be in touch with the world, which should help my evening loneliness out here in Cranford. There's so very much to catch up on. (I'll go ahead and post my journal entry, which I wrote this morning at about 7am, when I didn't have internet yet - I was just writing in a notepad document.)

It's a pleasant time to write - it's quiet except for the soft, subtle music of morning church bells at St. Michael's down the road, and the sun is just peeking in my kitchen window.

As you well know, the week after Naveen and I got married, I got this incredible job offer to do basically what I've always wanted to do - character animation for an audience of children - and I knew it would be great but I didn't exactly know how great. I needed to see something special in the company, given that I wouldn't move so far away from my husband except for a great opportunity with huge potential for growth.

Of course, the second they showed me the preproduction work, I could tell it was totally Hensen, and with a Seussian flare to the environments, and in that moment I counted myself "in" and hoped it would all pan out somehow. The following week I was already in New Jersey, scoping out the place with my dear and patient husband, observing what areas were good and which ones weren't so safe or interesting. We lucked out with a place in Cranford, which consistently reminds me of my college dorm (Windsor) and is located just a two-mile walk to work down North Ave.

I believe you already know the story about him leaving back to Chicago and how difficult that was, and what a horrible evening that was after an attempt by rental car to get to Brooklyn via the Holland Tunnel by mistake - and on the night before I was to start my new job. But as bad as the situation was, I was thankful to see my sister in Brooklyn and stay with her and her friends up there until things were ready at my new apartment.

For the first week I was there, miss Sally Anne (our EP) picked me up on her daily commute from New York to Westfield. The first few days were spent familiarizing myself with the people, the office, and of course Softimage XSI (which I've heard is now recently another part of the ever-growing Autodesk software group). But after a few days we were already starting shots. I lucked out with my first few, which were multi-character shots involving humorous dialogue. To be honest, though, there's hardly a boring shot in the bunch - this first episode is really well-written and has been fun to work on. I've really enjoyed my part in the project so far.

That Friday I rented a car again and picked Naveen up from the airport. He had flown in yet again to help me shop and move in to my Cranford apartment. We basically got my limited furnishings at Ikea to save a few bucks, and I've been pretty happy with the results. It would be nice to have a small kitchen table to eat on, vs. using my lap every night at dinner. And occasionally I wonder if I should have purchased a nice couch/bed somewhere else, instead of a futon, but things have worked out well enough for now.

Almost as fast as he arrived, he had to leave - our errands and store-runs had taken up the majority of the weekend yet again. But it was great to see him, and I was so thankful to have help with the furniture and everything that had to be done. I gauge my time here in New Jersey by the weekends I've had since: weekend #3 was alone and without my computer or internet at all because of a monitor failure followed quickly by a hard drive crash, so I wandered probably a good 10 miles that weekend on foot, visited three libraries, two movie theaters, a farmer's market, and various stores and neighborhoods. Weekend #4 was the Hindu wedding weekend (which really deserves its own post, and I will get to that soon). Weekend #5 was a lot of working to make up for time I took off, and then Weekend #6 I was back to the midwest yet again, this time for a good friend's wedding and to see my brother-in-law's new baby boy, just a week old.

That was last weekend, and it's amazing how the time flew. I got to Chicago late in the evening, and early the next morning we showered and got ready for the wedding, and we drove 4.5 hours to the Indianapolis area where the wedding was held for our dear friends Tuan and Alisha Pham. Most unfortunately I forgot about the time difference (we lose an hour traveling from Chicago into Indiana, which is on Eastern Time) and we were unable to make the ceremony. I felt awful about being exactly an hour late, but inevitably there was nothing more we could have done. We left as early as we could, given the fact that I was so tired from traveling and Naveen was actually sick with a pretty rough cold. Nevertheless, it was still wonderful seeing all of our friends on such a special day.

We were excited and happy, and we enjoyed a night at Naveen's brother's hotel there (the Wingate) with a jacuzzi tub that felt terrific after all the rushing around. The next morning we hurried over to see Naveen's brother (Praveen, or Prav) and his wife Jenni and their new baby, Zander. I had inquired why not "Xander," as in "Alexander," but they explained that in South-Central Indiana, their experience indicated people would be unable to pronounce Xander correctly, and they didn't want to deal with questions and remarks, which I thought was pretty funny. Anyway the baby himself was just adorable, I think just over 6.5 pounds or so when we saw him, very tiny, very squirmy but sleepy also. We were there for two hours - long enough to hold him, watch him yawn a few times, smell some notorious baby poop, and discover facial expressions and their meanings ("I want my pacifier," "Change me," "Feed me now or I'll cry like there's no tomorrow," etc).

It was great seeing family and friends, and soon enough we had to hop in the car for the 4.5 hour journey back to Chicago, losing an hour to Central Time, and scrambling to get ready for my flight back to Newark.

Now, without going into too much detail, there have been many times in the past several weeks that I've had to be strong for Naveen's sake - I've had to be the consoling person and he needed the consoling, regarding our being so far apart, and such. But it just so happens that this particular Sunday night when he dropped me off at the airport, I was a complete mess. I checked in for my flight, but rather than going straight to security as I often do, I went back outside and called Naveen to swing back around (he was just completing the O'Hare loop). He drove up, parked in the loading zone, and we just held each other there for some unidentifiable amount of time. I was crying so hard. I supposed at the time it was because of the sheer rush of everything happening, and I still have a hard time fathoming how all this has come to pass. I was vaguely aware that a few times some security guards walked past us and I expected they would have asked us to move the car, except maybe for seeing the sheer grief on our faces. Thankfully we weren't asked to move, and we just stayed out there in the cold, bags at my side, realizing it would now be several weeks apart until Thanksgiving.

Flying back and forth has become extremely expensive, as we knew from the beginning, but it is pricey enough that we simply can't do another trip until the holidays. We have two rents to pay, two sets of bills, and I know I'm going to have to work out something to come back for Christmas at least a week. I can't keep doing this two-day trip thing, it's wearing me down fast.

At some point, I realized I needed to get on the plane, so it was time to go. Naveen was the strong one this time, reminding me all I had to go back to - and he was right. When I'm at my job, it's barely a job. Yes, I have to put in hours, and I'm getting paid to do so, but I'm spending my time being an artist and working with a team of great, enthusiastic people. It's very fulfilling, and by day I feel like I am 100%... 300%... but by night I'm down to zero. I have been coming home to a small, empty, uninspiring place. It's impossible to regulate the temperature, which goes from completely freezing to sweltering heat from the radiator. I haven't had internet here yet until today, so communication with friends has taken place only by phone, or from the internet at work during lunch or in the evening, or simply not at all. And, being away from Naveen is just hard. People who know us well know that we're attached at the hip - we have been together through so much, and although we've had our periods of distance apart, we've mostly been inseparable and completely interdependent.

This week was the first week I have been here that I was just completely miserable at night when I got home from work. I don't even mind working on the weekends, which I did yesterday, so that I have less time at home by myself without internet or tv or company of any kind. From the beginning I've been telling myself to keep focused on work, even in the evenings, and to remind myself how happy and fulfilled this job makes me by day. But by night, this week I have really been a mess, crying uncontrollably and waking up at all hours of the night, every night, with anxiety attacks that make me feel like I'm just dying - mentally disconnected except for crushing pains in my chest and head - and it's been awful. Strangely, since I called Comcast on Thursday to schedule an installation appointment for today (Sunday), I've been much more at ease, even sleeping through the night on Friday and Saturday. I think I just crave being able to be in touch with the world. It was so great seeing friends and family, but everyone was talking about being newlyweds, and various "firsts" as husband and wife - so many of which we have been unable to experience being so far apart - and about honeymoons, which we have no clue when we will be able to enjoy. We got a lot of comments about how last Thanksgiving was Prav & Jenni's wedding, and this Thanksgiving they already have a new baby, and many ask when Naveen and I will be starting a family. We've always known it would be a couple years before we felt settled enough to start, but now being apart we suspect it may even be longer. All these things I think have been really weighing on us this week, more than before.

I'm posting all this not for attention or pity, but really for those friends and family who so often put me on a pedastel. Things aren't always easy, and truly this experience is full of pros and cons. It's a lot of give and take, and it takes a lot of responsibility, understanding, and patience. This post may paint a more negative picture, revealing what a hardship this has been, but you should know I wouldn't be here if it weren't worth it to me and Naveen and our future together. I'm excited to see where we're taking this company with various upcoming projects, and I'm hoping that soon we can find a way back to living together as a married couple and also enjoy our professional lives as well. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and we love you all.