My daily dose of cute

I was thinking of reflecting on the spontaneously-timely debate I live tweeted for work today between Grover Norquist and Ross Douthat on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. I didn’t know much about this pledge that is sort of the Republican right-of-passage (that they end up breaking most of the time) and has received a lot of heat for the failure of the super committee. I don’t think the SUPERFAIL can be attributed to a pledge that isn’t followed closely, especially when many other factors are at play. But I’ll leave it to the experts to debate.

In the midst of the ridiculous, juicy, and deeply concerning, I would rather click on something that makes me smile:

The Start of Many New Things

I feel like having a “quarter life” moment here because of some exciting news I heard last night from a dear friend of mine of over 18 years. First, she just got engaged to the man of her dreams, and second, that I’m going to be a bridesmaid! I also have a friend who has a baby on the way who is my age. I know everyone has these moments at one point, but I sat up last night just thinking…when did I wake up and become an adult?

Don’t get me wrong. I still have to mooch off my parents to survive in this city for the kind of money I’m making, but hopefully that will change sooner rather than later. I also have many friends who go to  class, intern, drink at happy hours and go clubbing at night. But I’m finding myself standing with one foot in that world–the Sex in the City style, young professional/grad student world–and another in the world where my friends are starting families and thinking about buying homes.

Where am I in all of this? Well, I’m still a young professional trying to make ends meet here and pursue any opportunity I can. I still socialize (and yes, I know that doesn’t go away when you get married and ‘grow up'”) and I enjoy the occasional free food/beer event. On the other hand, I’m in a serious relationship, I stay in more often, I work longer hours and I’m thinking about where things are going and how I can possibly fund a family one day.

Who I was a year ago: The girl learning her way around a new city, meeting so many new people and drinking with fellow journalists. I was meeting an array of new friends, ending an undergrad relationship and learning to live alone for the first time. I was also interning, cramming term papers, learning new journalism skills, chasing after buses and planning my holidays in Indiana.

Right now: I’m the girl who just finished two stories for her new part-time job at the Houston Chronicle, is planning out her next move for another part-time job, and is finishing a contract job through a contact she made throughout the year. I’m also the girl who has had much luck this year getting published and meeting great mentors in my field, but still needs to find a way to earn a living. I’m the girl getting ready for a free food/networking party with my former internship site chatting with my friends about weekend plans and helping my engaged friend think of wedding venues. Also, I’m a girl in love, and missing him from thousands of miles away. I’m the girl who wants to blog (successfully), wants to learn Farsi, wants to get better at multimedia and wants to go abroad someday.

Who I want to be: I want to be the girl who gives advice to people my age on how to go after what they want. I want to be the girl who tells people about her experience in a foreign country working on stories in human rights or cultural issues that strike a cord with readers back home. I want to be in better shape, have a full time job, be married, and keep in touch with those who matter to me. I also want to get better at organizing, less overbooked, and less whiny.

Till then, I’m the girl at Starbucks, munching on pumpkin bread and hoping the Internet keeps working.

What You Would Say During Interviews If You Were Brutally Honest?

So what goes on in your head before you articulate some witty, professional answer during an interview? We all have our formal answers that sound like automated emails, but what would happen if you said what you REALLY thought?

Disclaimer: These are not really MY OWN thoughts nor my actions when I’m interviewing or at work. Ask my former employers and professors if you don’t believe me.  This is supposed to be funny. Haha…get it?

First, I present the “Too Honest” Cover Letter

“Dear: some HR representative that is sifting through 10,000 of these (or if you’re lucky, the person hiring you got through a contact who was nice enough to pass along the name),

Or the worst: Dear some random person I didn’t take to time to figure out or that the website/ad made impossible to find,

Obviously, I’m writing because I’m applying for this job. I have done some stuff in the past related to the job, and I qualify for the skills you laid out. I might mask some of the requirements I don’t QUITE qualify for by talking about something else for a second. If I’m a recent grad, I’m going to exaggerate my internship experience as real experience (HEY…it is!!)  But I’m special–more special than everyone else, I swear. Here’s why.

I know this guy who you kinda know, or who is prominent in this field, who inspired me to apply.  I did this project at this one place that will impress you and I used this skill that you would like. Here’s a fun fact about your company I Googled and here I am relating it to myself.

In conclusion, I really want the job, otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this. You really should skip this and just look at my resume or take five minutes out of your day to get to know me on the phone. I promise I won’t bite. Even if I’m missing a small requirement, give me a chance, why don’t ya?

Please email me back a response—even a “no” is better than nothing,


Onto the Interview…let’s pretend it’s for a law firm.

1. Why are you interested in this firm?

What you said: Because your firm has a reputation for excellence and dedicates itself to serving the community.

What you thought: Because you pay $2000 a week. WOOT

2. Why did you go to law school?

What you said: I went to law school because I want to be able to make a difference. Legal work allows me to be competitive and to work for justice, both of which are important things in my life. (ya this is the gist)

What you thought: Don’t ask me this now when I prepared for this interview in between cramming for class and paying the first installment of my tuition. But I mean…I went to law school to work for some place like you, so help a sista out.

3. Do you think your grades are an accurate reflection of the kind of work you will do as an attorney?

What you said: Oh yes, and my work performance will improve just like my grades are!

What you thought: Umm you should only ask me about my Legal Research grades because Legal Research is the only knowledge I will use on this job. And the whole point of school is to do well at a job, right?

4. What would you say is your greatest weakness?

What you said: My greatest weakness is that I get too personally involved with my work….

What you thought: G-CHAT. And food. I wont give up lunch breaks…

5. Tell us about a recent mistake that you have made.

What you said: i did a memo for my boss that my boss didn’t even need but he loved anyway! Bonus points!

What you thought: Flat out fucking up an assignment b/c it was too difficult for me and I was too worried about impressing the boss to tell him. But luckily it was a dumb assignment no one cared about, so why mention it, ya know?

6. What do you do for fun?

What you said: Reading, going to my local church, volunteering, being outdoorsy.

What you thought: Come on, you were in college too. You know what we do for fun. And I fucking hate nature, but it’s really uncool to hate nature.

7. Tell us about your style of leadership.

What you said: I lead by taking the initiative and working proactively with my peers to come up with solutions.

What you thought: Befriending everyone with my awkward humor…heh heh

8. If you don’t get hired by this firm, what will you do?

What you said: I will analyze what I could have done better during the interview and take that knowledge with me into my next interview with [rival firm name].

What you thought: Cry and hate you guys until something equal or better comes along, just like in real life relationships…. and blame your rejection on the fact that I’m either overqualified or a student who can’t catch a break!

9. Do you have any questions for us?

What you said: What sort of pro bono opportunities do you offer?

What you hought: Do I even have a shot? Who else are you talking to? Do you like me? Will you even tell me yes or no?

10. We value creativity among our associates. With that in mind, what kind of plant would you be, and why?

What you said: I would be a tree, because they are tall, strong, and live a long life.

What you thought: It’s Wisconsin, most plants die in the winter. I’ll be a cactus or something.

TBD’s Community Network

I was recently featured on TBD’s new commercial on their blogger network. I’m the one saying “TBD from Dupont Circle,” because many of the leading think tanks and foreign policy events happen around Dupont Circle. Right off of Mass Ave, there are some big think tanks like Brookings, The Carnegie Endowment, SAIS, The Middle East Institute, The Peterson Institute of International Economics, The International Language Institute, the UN Foundation and a slew of embassies.

TBD Launches today and opens up community network

I got a message first thing this morning from a friend who told me my list of D.C. foreign policy events this week was on the home page of the long-awited, which has taken the place of and will serve as D.C.’s newest go-to site for all things local. I am lucky enough to be a part of the scores of bloggers on their community network, who will provide in depth coverage of everything from politics to food to the woes of public transportation.

What am I doing on the site, you may ask?

I came to D.C. for two reasons: to get my masters from A.U. in journalism and live in the center for international activity. I knew by being in a city with such diversity, culture and intellect, I would be able to pursue a career as a foreign policy and international journalist. I came from a small college in Indiana and was probably the only Iranian at the entire school (other than my twin sister). Now that I’ve been here for a year, I have met people from every corner of the world, seen major international policies being made (in person) and met some of the brightest officials and experts from around the world. D.C. is very unique in its presence of prominent foreign leaders, major international events and obviously the State Department.

The only problem was, I had a difficult time figuring out the D.C. foreign police machine. Laura Rozen’s blog, Steve Clemons’ The Washington Note and Josh Rogin’s reporting were extremely helpful, but I couldn’t help but want more.

I decided to start a blog based on my daily activity working as a news/communications fellow Radio Free Europe in Washington. I would make it my goal to go to as many foreign policy press conferences, think tanks, human rights groups and cultural events as I could. But I also want to expand that role by going to a number of embassy activities, performances and political rallies to get a feel for what it means to live in the center of international activity.

There’s a wide net of ethnic groups and interests in D.C., so I know as one person I can’t possibly embody them all. But I try to focus on key think tanks, events on the Hill, visits from foreign officials and countries we are deeply involved with at this time (i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China).

I also provide a comprehensive list of blogs, resources and news sites of interest to international news junkies and foreign visitors who need to get around D.C.

Email me with suggestions or events you want covered at or Tweet me.

Hello, Blog. I missed you.

I’ve tried a few times to catch up on the many….many DC foreign policy events I haven’t been able to report on in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, life, school, trips around the country got in the way. But now, my last graduate class officially ended on Friday and I have the rest of the summer to work at RFE and figure out my next step in life.

Tomorrow, there will be no more excuses–I will continue covering human rights, global issues and foreign affairs from Washington, D.C. This week, Russian President Medevev will be in the U.S. to talk with President Obama about the START “reset” treaty that aims to lower nuclear weapons around the world. More news of upcoming UN and US sanctions against Iran will be announced this week, and I will report the latest on what’s to come. Also, near the end of the week, we’ll take a look at Pakistan from the perspective of a journalist captured by the Taliban and the head of an international broadcasting service. I’m sure a few interesting features stories and think tank reports will make headlines, and I’ll do my best to feature those too.

This week I also submitted my first blog to the Huffington Post and I’ll be writing regular stories on college issues from interning to marketing yourself for your future career. In between work and freelancing, I’ll be “job hunting” (whatever that means), planning out my move at the end of July and trip to Indy, and catching up with friends in D.C. Last summer was insanely busy with my internship at NBC, classes, housing and preparing for graduate school. This year has shaped out to be just as intense. Can’t wait.

AP Daybook Fail

check out the juxtaposition of these two events…that were placed one after another…

10 a.m. BUTTER – FOOD BANK — Land O’Lakes, Inc. to donate 37,440 pounds of butter to the Capital Area Food Bank, the fourth such donation in its “First Run” program.

Location: 645 Taylor St. NE.

Contacts: Jeanne Forbis (Land O’Lakes Inc.), 651-481-2071

Shamia Holloway (Capital Area Food Bank), 513-604-7859

10 a.m. CHILDHOOD OBESITY – NATIONAL SECURITY — Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack join retired generals and admirals who are members of the non-profit group, Mission: Readiness, who will release new findings on the dramatic increase of obesity among young adults age 17 to 24 – a trend that is reducing the pool of healthy young adults available for military service and, says the group, threatening the nation’s security.

Tea Partiers Get Facelift

I’m currently working on a story about the Tea Party movement, one of the biggest grassroots movements in recent history in the U.S. I spent all day Thursday at the Liberty Summit, the morning rallies and the evening protest on the National Mall talking to a variety of people about what they want changed. There were a few crazies in the bunch, but what I found was that overall, they were older people who didn’t want tax increases, wanted the government to spend less, and opposed the health care bill. There were a fair number of young people there too who leaned towards the fiscal responsibility and debt arguments. I was there as an undecided who wanted to get to the truth about them beyond the “teabagging” name-calling from the left and exaggerated influence/numbers from the right.

It differed greatly from the protest I covered on 9/12 for a number of reasons. The 9/12 protest was much more energetic with a larger and much louder crowd. People seemed more determined and angry at that one, but there was also a lot more crazy people in that bunch (crazy as in racist, homophobic, radical religious, etc). This time, I think the Tea Party was more unified under the banner of “smaller government” and made a more conscious effort to weed out the radicals who show up on the news. The face of the party has changed as far as I can tell, and it’s changing its goals too.

In the coming weeks I’ll post the story I write and the multimedia that goes along with it. Right now, I’m weeding through a bunch of interviews from April 15 and four longer expert interviews. Stay tuned!

Indiana sports 2010: Singing the tune of #2

After this past Monday’s heartbreakingly close loss to Duke, the Butler Bulldogs have made their place in history as the would-have-been perfect underdog story. I was sitting at Chadwicks with some friends, screaming in one of their ears every time they caught up with the Blue Devils and pounding the counter in frustration every time a shot was missed. Needless to say, I scared him. Big time. The other friend and I screamed at the T.V. over the more obnoxious Duke fans, taking me back to the days when I would cheer on the Indianapolis Colts during the playoffs when everyone was cheering for the Ravens, the Jets, and…sigh..the Saints.

It was an exciting game of pull and push, to say the least, but the epic half-court shot rolled from the back of the board, over the basket, and onto the court with the sound of the buzzer–and with it the hopes of another disappointed Hoosier crowd.

Yes, I know there’s nothing really wrong with being #2. But being that close…having success depend on one tripped foot…one failed shot…one bad call…or one humiliating interception, makes it that much tougher.

Butler did a great job, considering it’s a small, private school in Indiana against a hawk like Duke. Many of my friends go to Butler and were sitting at bars within earshot of the stadium, joining together again for the love of the game. But this story–the story of #2, is one Indiana is still recovering from since this past January.

I often liken following The Indianapolis Colts to dating a “tease” (generally speaking). They give you ideas of victory, lead you on for months, make you spent a lot of money to be with them, give you a few preliminary wins, but when it’s finally game time, they freak out at the last minute and ask to cuddle instead. The Colts have done this for years with the exception of 2007.

My brother has a much more sports-oriented explanation for this: They push hard and play their best all season, but then they rest their players near the end, not preparing them for the rigor that is to come. Apparently, 2007 was the only year they kept their starters in through the season and the playoffs. I am by no means an expert nor do I even watch ESPN, but the social aspect of loving Indianapolis sports is what intrigues me.

I am embarrassed to admit that I shed a tear or two with this loss, and not only because I had to do the metro ride of shame in my blue colts jersey, but also because I knew millions of my fellow Hoosiers back home were sad that our one chance in the spotlight was gone. It was something that brought strangers together on the snowy streets during Christmas break and put a smile on faces of people who had endured a lot of financial struggles from the past year. I would be walking down Meridian St. towards the giant X-mas tree downtown and receive a series of friendly “Go Blue’s” as I passed by. I know it’s cheezy, but it really brought the spirit of our city up.

It’s an emotional roller coaster and one my parents refuse to ride. When games come on (games=Purdue or Colts are playing) they record them and deliberately do some isolating activity so no one spoils the score for them (think: How I met your mother episode where they missed the Superbowl). One day, I asked my dad “Why….why don’t you watch with all of us.”

“Because…he said…”I don’t want to get my hopes up and have them let me down. I only want to watch it happen if they win. Otherwise…I just can’t look.”

His attitude reflects that of many diehard fans of Indiana sports. Indy isn’t a huge or vibrant city, especially for young people, and it often is the butt of criticism from people living in the East or West coasts. “I gotta get out of here,” is often echoed from the lips of college students upon graduation. Some of us leave (like me), but many end up staying (all my friends but like three or four). I personally didn’t leave because of my dislike for the state I’ve lived in for about 22 years (and almost 1 year here in DC). I left because I felt this is where I could pursue the job I always wanted, and I still believe that. But I do miss Indy quite often and think about the open roads, quiet Carmel neighborhoods with the pools we used to sneak into a night and $2 beers on weekends. But more importantly, I miss being with all the people I love back home…sitting at a restaurant, curled up on my couch, and donning our Colts (or Purdue) Santa hats watching the game with my dad trying to tune it out in the next room.

I didn’t care about the Final Four until I heard Indiana teams were doing well. I watched Butler win last Saturday and hoped to see that spirit revived again Monday. I looked in the audience and saw my hometown cheer with all their might and suddenly wished I was there.  The spirit was definitely present, but again, we were back to #2.