Friday, March 27, 2009

Clinic Visits

Like my role in Israel, here in New Orleans, I take people to the clinics. Yesterday, I took a boy to the St. Bernard Clinic located in the parking lot of the Wal-mart that has been closed since Katrina. From the outside, the clinic looks like it's made up of six or eight mobile homes. But when you walk in, it looks like a full clinic. I'm not sure how they did that with the space available in the mobile homes, but they did.

The boy I brought in had been hit in the eye with a basketball. He just wanted his eye checked out and it turned out that he has a small scratch. The doctor was great. He's also the parish coroner and told us just part of his Katrina story. He was in the St. Bernard Hospital when things started flooding. They had 50 patients who hadn't been evacuated and over the next few days, several of them died from the heat and consequences of having no electricity.

The one thing I noticed about the exam room, was that there were posters on the wall, cute little sayings, and other random but interesting things to look at. I mentioned it to the nurse and she said that it was the doctor's idea and that the walls in the other doctors' rooms were blank

And today I went to the New Orleans Health Clinic with a girl who injured her leg. She's fine but needed a few stitches. This clinic was the cleanest place we've been so far. They were doing a brisk business of tourists, so I guess business is good!

More Ranting on GPS

So it turns out, that if you go more than 10 miles above the speed limit, the GPS lady says, "CAUTION!" Can you imagine how annoying that is? It's like driving with your mother. I did find today that I was able to turn that function off. I'm not doing so much highway driving, but when I do, I don't need some anonymous voice telling me to slow down. She's not in danger, and I definitely don't need an imaginary back seat driver.

One other thing. I had to turn left on LA 3021. Now you might think that the voice would say, "Now turn on Louisiana three zero two one." But it doesn't. It says, "Now turn on Louisiana three oh twenty one." It's a freakish thing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I have a GPS device in my rental car. I hate it. I can't get it to stick on the dashboard, the voice is always too loud or too quiet and she has an accent that is difficult to understand.

I've heard that there are many different voices in most of these devices in different accents and a choice of male and female voices. Not on mine. I have a choice of English and Spanish. And the woman's voice sounds like English is not her first language. I guess I should try the Spanish voice and see if English is her first language. Except that I'm pretty sure that wouldn't help me.

I made a comment to someone that it sounds like she learned English phonetically. They replied that she did. I think that some words should be pre-programmed. Like most numbers. Or ordinary street names. Except that there aren't ordinary street names in New Orleans. Try and say Tchoupatoulous phonetically. Or La Manche. Corondolet sounded fine, sort of.

Also, she's sort of bossy. If you miss a turn, she says (like she's speaking English as a Second Language that she learned phonetically), "U-turn as soon as possible." Or she says, "In 500 feet, turn left on Dauphine St. " And then "Turn left on Dauphine St. in 200 feet." And then "Turn left on Dauphine St. now." If you don't turn, she says, "What the hell?! I've been telling you for 500 feet about this turn. Do you ignore your mother like this too?!"

I need to buy a map.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Lower Ninth Ward

If you drive around the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, you see some new houses, some that are old but clearly rebuilt with people living in them, and also a lot of empty lots and lots that have houses that look like they haven't been touched in more than three years. The empty lots are generally overgrown with weeds and the concrete slab the original house sat on has been broken up and overgrown. It's shocking that after so much time, so little has been done. Which is not to discredit the work that has been done - it's just not enough.

Today, we had our buses stop at the corner of Tennessee and N. Claiborne Street to find some space to do their group conversations. I got there a little early. Wow - there are some incredible houses going up. If you asked an architect to design a New Orleans-style house for the 22nd century, I'm pretty sure that this is what they'd look like. Bright colors, similar proportions to the traditional shotgun houses (but much, much bigger), interesting iron work balconies, and also really interesting angled roofs and many with solar panels. It turns out, this is part of Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation.

On a completely different note, while I was driving around, I saw four chickens on the side of the road. One of them started to cross in front of my car. There was no reason I could think of why this chicken would be crossing the road. Because I know you're wondering, I neither ran him over nor asked him why he was trying to cross the road.

New Orleans

I'm back in New Orleans this week for spring break. We have 140 students working in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish on 11 different projects. It's easy to see that things have progressed a little bit in the last two years, but shocking that things are still so devastated.

There are houses all over the Lower Ninth Ward that are still uninhabited and uninhabitable. They are still marked with the Xs of the first responders. And many houses have been rebuilt. They look like new, modern houses and don't have the same unique architectural features that the old houses did, but they are ready for residents and their families.

This week, our groups are tiling, painting, scraping, and doing some deconstruction. This morning, I helped tear down sheet rock. And then I scraped paint off of molding. Very exciting work. And I should have brought my own safety goggles (yes, I have them). The ones I borrowed were too hard to see out of!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vegan Mac 'n Cheese

Last night, months after having printed out the recipe, I finally tried Vegan Dad's Mac 'n Cheese. The other things I've tried off of his site have been great, and I figured it was time to try something completely different.

I realize that the first thing anyone reading is probably wondering is, "why, when you like cheese, would you try a vegan version?!" Well, because it's there. And because the only other kinds of macaroni and cheese I'm aware of either involve strange orange powders or the making of a roux, a skill that I have not yet really tried to master.

So now I hope you're wondering, "How was it?" Well, it wasn't bad. It wasn't good either. It was too bland. I think it needed a shot of soy sauce. Of course my first thought was that I should have added worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste, but both of those would have negated the vegan-ess of this whole endeavor. My other thought was that it needed some sharp cheddar cheese. My last thought was that it needed peas.

I'm not sure why, but I think with some peas, and maybe some sauteed mushrooms, and a shot of soy sauce, it would actually be good. And it could also have been bland because I didn't have onion powder. But really, if that's what made it bland, it needed more than the recipe called for.

Had I read the comments to the recipe before I'd tried it, I probably would have just started it all that way.... It seems I'm not alone in thinking it needed a little something. Maybe the folks at Velveeta have it right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Business Class vs Coach

I've got a lot of credits on AirTran and while it's not impossible to use them for a free ticket, the several times I've tried, I would have had to get a business ticket (16 credits each way) rather than a regular coach ticket (8 credits each way). And my credits are about to expire - what's a girl to do?

Well, for 4 credits, I can upgrade my ticket to business class when I check in. That seems reasonable to me. The only downside is that it's only a 90 minute flight between Milwaukee and Baltimore. By the time you're allowed to turn your computer on, it's almost time to turn it back off.

As far as I can tell, the benefits of business class are:
  • More space. As I am short, the additional leg room doesn't really matter much to me. But what I like are the wide arm rests and the extra big tray table that has room for my big computer. Also, since the row in front is farther away, I can use the computer like a normal person and not be all contorted typing as coach seats necessitate.
  • Drinks as soon as you get on the plane. It doesn't matter whether you want alcohol or not - having something to drink early on in the flight is just nice.
  • Better snacks. Instead of four mini-pretzels, I got a whole bag of some sort of chips. Granted I'm not really a "chip" person, but I'm also not such a pretzel person, so it was better than the coach alternative.

I have enough credits to upgrade on my next 12 flights.... I could get used to this.