Monday, August 28, 2006


Our local newspaper, the Princeton Times-Republic, runs a weekly Op Ed titled "Correct Me...If I'm Wrong!" by emeritus editor Jim Wolff. The man is consistently annoying but his last two pieces have pushed me over the edge. He's been ranting and raving about Muslim terrorists, and he uses inflammatory and biased language to support his racist agenda. The paper limits letters to the editor to 200 words or less, so I'm publishing my verbose response here.

(It's my blog, I can say what I want, dammit!)

Mr. Wolff:

I have avoided responding to your annoying column in the past simply because I have not felt that your biased writing deserved a reaction, but your recent submissions regarding the war on terror and racial profiling have provoked me to action. Specifically, the sentence in your 8/17/06 piece that “those peaceful Muslims are being silenced by Muslim terrorists every day because they’re afraid of their lives and they will never turn in the bad guys for fear of retribution.” This followed the extremely arrogant challenge for your readers to “name one Muslim nation that allows freedom of speech, of thought, of religion, of press…or respects the rights of women, or has been productive in one single way that contributes to the good of the world.” I was shocked to see this printed in my local paper on August 17, 2006.

Mr. Wolff, I don’t know how many “peaceful Muslims” you know, and I wonder how many “Muslim terrorists” you know. I’m sure you must know a few Muslims, since you talk so freely about our motives and lives. As a Muslim myself, I want you to know that I am horrified by what happened on September 11, 2001, as well as all of the other terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world. I agree with you that terrorism must be stopped. But I am NOT silenced by the terrorists.

The biggest fear I have is of the bigots who perpetuate negative stereotypes. I am afraid of raising my son in a town where the paper publishes blatantly racist statements that encourage racial profiling of “male Islamic extremists”. Tell me, Mr. Wolff, what does an Islamic extremist look like? How would you identify one? Is it skin color? Language? Style of dress?

I am white. As a matter of fact, I was born and raised in Montello, and I converted to Islam when I was looking for a religion that didn’t alienate other beliefs and offered a simple doctrine of love and peace. This description might clash with your ideas of what Islam is, but I would encourage you to find out more by contacting the Council on American-Islamic Relations at I would also be very willing to sit down with you and tell you what I know about Islam. I could even give you an example of a Muslim country that is a democracy and allows all of those freedoms that we hold so dear in the U.S. – and we could also discuss how Muslim countries contribute to the good of the world.

My husband isn’t white, and he comes from one of those useless Muslim countries that you so abhor. He is by no means an extremist, nor a terrorist, but he does speak with an accent and his skin is dark. He is an American citizen, and has been harassed on several occasions while living in this area. I’m not telling you this so that you’ll feel sorry for us, but I would like you and your readership to think about whose freedoms are sacrificed as a result of the war on terror. It is not the Christian white majority that is giving up their rights, but a minority group of people with Muslim names, whether or not they are “extremists”. It’s definitely easy to sacrifice another person’s freedom, Mr. Wolff, but I’m sure you’re thankful that after the events in Oklahoma City, white males were not put under the microscope.

In this era of fear and war, I don’t know if my words can make much of a difference. All I can do is ask you to think about the hatred that you are propagating in your articles. I hope you agree that hatred is not good for the human race. It’s definitely not good for my family, and although I love this place where I grew up, I don’t want to subject my son to bigoted attitudes if I don’t have to.

Mr. Wolff, I don’t begrudge you your beliefs, in fact I agree with you on some of them. I just ask you to please consider the consequences of hatred – a dramatic example of which we saw on September 11, 2001.

Very sincerely,

Katie Zaman

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Van Pool

Yes, I've joined the van pool. It's way cheaper than buying gas and paying for parking, and I can kick back and sleep the entire way if I want to, plus, I'm saving the environment! Sadly, it's not without ickyness, because I have to leave my house no later than 4:50 a.m. to catch the van. I'm sure in the winter it will have to be even earlier to account for slippery roads. Maybe this will help me to establish healthier sleep habits. I'll simply be too exhausted to stay up for late night TV. In order to get my usual nine hours of sleep, I'll need to go to bed at...oh man...7:00 p.m. That's ridiculous. I guess I'll have to sacrifice some sleep, but I can make up for it on weekends, sleeping in to a slothful 7 a.m.

Classes start in a few weeks, so until then I'm just working and trying to get ahead on my reading. Well, okay, I admit it, I'm not really getting ahead - just pretending.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Katie's Critter Corner

In honor of my beautiful friend Wendell (who got married on August 12), I am posting these rather gross critter pics.

This poor woodpecker woke me up one morning by crashing violently into my bedroom window. I thought it might just be knocked out, but later, I noticed that it was being consumed by adolescent box elder bugs, so it must have been dead. Weeks later, Isaac found the skull and kept it in his "science box". Mmmmm.

Now, this interesting spider is an "Argiope Aurantia". We found her one day in our entryway. She's really big - her leg span is about the size of a silver dollar. I know it's a "she" because of the size. My brave dad picked a tick off the dog and fed it to the spider, and it was so interesting that we decided to leave her along. Sadly, the next morning she was gone, but later that day I discovered her again in the corner of my office. There she has remained.

We feed her twice a day with any bugs we can find. One day, we fed her a huge cricket. I'm not even creeped out by her anymore - I like to feed her and watch her wrap up those nasty bugs with her hind legs. She can even handle huge moths (although we DO put the really big moths in the freezer first to keep them from tearing up the web). After all of this feeding, she's actually gotten fat! I'll try to post a newer picture soon.

When her web gets nasty, she rebuilds it. She includes this interesting zig-zag stripe down the middle, which is apparently there to stabilize it.

Here's a video of her wrapping up the bug for later...

Wendell usually follows her grody critter posts with something cute and fuzzy, but I couldn't come up with anything. Sorry W.~!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chobi Mela (Picture Party!!!)

My new good friends Kasia and Anders posed as bride and groom at the wedding.

Mithu was playing the shy groom in this picture. Masud obviously didn't have a clue that he was about to be bitten by a Dengue infested mosquito.

Lots of in-laws...

...and more in-laws.

And a very cute little girl. This is Shanin, who is three, and she's such a diva. Masud was yelling about something, and she said, "I'm going to go heat up some water and throw it on your head." I said, "That's a good idea!" and she said, "Amar ONEK buddi ache. (I am very clever!)"

Khala - my favorite lady!

I actually DID work a little while in Bangladesh - here I was helping Kasia with her awesome collective loan project.

Me in the new "for women only" cyber cafe.

Visiting a business of one of the collective loan participants (From left to right: Khala, Rena, Katie, Hasina and Kathy)

Mithu and Jhumur at the "Bou Bhat" - the party following the wedding where the new bride "feeds" all of the groom's family and friends.

A traditional favorite passtime in Bangladesh: Everyone piles on the bed and gossips till the wee hours of night. After this picture was taken, the bed made a loud cracking noise!

Mithu and Jhumur, the groom and bride, on a boat on Foy's Lake in Chittagong.

Here I am, driving a hard bargain with a street vendor in Dhaka. Look how mean my snarl is! A crowd quickly gathered to support me, and although I would have paid 50 taka (about seventy five cents) for the bracelet I wanted, the crowd wouldn't let me pay more than 30 taka, so I had to leave it.

Here we are on the back balcony of my brother-in-law Masud-bhai's new "chamber" (doctor's office) in Chittagong. It's really nice, very high tech and clean, and I am very proud of him!

A beat-up bus - most of the city busses look like this. Would you feel comfortable riding?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I forgot to tell you... my post-emotional trauma fog yesterday that Masud came to Wisconsin to recuperate. He flew in on Saturday, and when I picked him up from the airport I was really scared. He's not a big guy to begin with, but he must have dropped at least 15 pounds since I last saw him a few weeks ago, and his face looked old. His boss told him to stay until he feels better. After a few days of my cooking (yeah, I do it once in a while) and lots of rest, and lots of Isaac-kisses, he is looking great. As a matter of fact, he cooked his own duck curry yesterday. He got his blood drawn today to check for any Dengue disasters, but I think he's on the mend.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported me through this. Every single call, email, comment, thought, whatever, meant so much to me and I'm so lucky to have such great friends!

Now, I must catch up on my blog-reading. I have not visited Bitch Ph.D. for over a month. The horror.

A sad day.

My grandparents moved into a rest home today. It happened really fast - they filled out the application while I was in Bangladesh, and less than a month later, they moved in. They've lived in Montello all their lives, and on Main Street for the past 30 years. It was hard.

My grandpa served in WWII - he was actually on Normandy beach on D-Day and helped to clean up the concentration camps at the end of the war. Because of his service, they were eligible to live in the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King. It's really beautiful - the Cadillac of rest homes. A nice big room, staffed by nurses and doctors, recreational activities, good food, and a beautiful view of two lakes. I wouldn't mind living there.

But grandpa has Alzheimers, and although grandma told him every day for a month that they were leaving, he still didn't get it. This morning, I handed him his shaving kit and grandma told him not to lose it. He said, "Am I going somewhere?"

Right before we got into the car, he started crying. He said, "I don't want to go! I want to stay here!" He rode with my dad in the truck, and dad said that he sobbed the entire way there. King is 50 minutes away.

Then there was the problem of Chips. About ten years ago, a friend of grandma's dropped off a puppy - a beagle mutt - and the dog has been grandpa's best friend for years. Chips has arthritis and he's never been trained properly. He's used to a diet of left over hamburgers and other table scraps. He's way overweight.

So we put him to sleep. Grandma made me promise not to keep him. She wanted to know that he's not suffering.

I'm sad.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Whoa! Hey!

What happened to my blog? Where is the groovy star graphic and my profile pic? I'm gonna have to work on that, but since I am still stuck with dial-up at home, it might be a while, folks.

The good news is, I finally figured out my schedule for this fall and it's not bad. I might even be able to use the van that drives from Montello to Madison, thereby saving on gas and parking. Rock on.

In other news, a huge spider has moved in to the office area of my parents' house. It is not huge in Bangladeshi spider terms, but it's bigger than a silver dollar. I discovered it when I tried to grab a new book of checks from the shelf, and there it was, with its web attached to my check box. I guess I really didn't need to write out a check after all.

My dad has been feeding it box elder bugs and chiggers and moths. It's kindof interesting to watch, actually.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The good and the bad.

I've been in Madison twice so far this week, starting my new job as a McNair advisor. After hours, I've been exploring the campus and have discovered a few things.

There are many good things, including:

1. Almost every restaurant, kiosk or deli that I go to has at LEAST two vegetarian options. These are not watered-down versions of meat entrees. For lunch today I had vegetarian sushi - delicately fried tofu stuffed with barley noodles and wasabi. Mmmmmm.

2. The University Bookstore has a stack of discount paperbacks. I tell myself that I'm actually saving money, because for every purchase at the bookstore, I get a coupon for $2 off of parking in the city ramp. So, today I spent $25 to save $2.

3. I have not seen a single polyester pantsuit so far. "Dressed up" seems to mean khakis and a polo shirt.

There are some bad things as well:

1. Physical exercise is inevitable. My office is at the top of this mountain, euphamistically called "Bascom Hill". It's a 45 degree angle of terror for my fat ass. Also, the campus is huge, so today I think I walked about 5 miles in search of the elusive "Union South" building.

2. With the liberal atmosphere comes a fair amount of nutjobs. Today there was a woman strumming her guitar and singing about "evil spirits" and how she'd like to pray for all of us. She was giving out free Bibles. Freakin' fundamentalist.

3. Parking. Today's bill = $8.25 (minus my $2 coupon, of course). 'Nuff said.

But, all in all, I'm convinced I made the right decision to go back to school.

Dengue update: Masud got out of the hospital today, although he did sound like he was dying when I talked to him this afternoon. The doctors must know what they are doing, right? They wouldn't let a dying man out of the hospital, right?