Siner Says

A blog about journalism, food, shoes and other random thoughts — essentially, a way to casually exercise my writing muscles. If you’re looking for my actual radio work, see my on-air portfolio.

Wise words

The Veil nebula, a massive star that exploded 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, according to NASA. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA (public domain)

The Veil nebula, a massive star that exploded 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, according to NASA. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA (public domain)

“Some 5 or 6 or 7 billion years from now, the Sun will become a giant red star and will engulf the orbits of Mercury and Venus and probably the Earth. The Earth then would be inside the sun, and some of the problems that face us on this particular day will appear, by comparison, modest.”

-Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience

I’ve been remiss in keeping up my blog, but posting quotes from books I’m reading seems like a good way to get back into it. Carl Sagan is one of my scientific heroes (although, having not studied science much, my list of scientific heroes is short and unsurprising: Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Matt Entler) because of his ability to explain concepts like THE ENORMITY OF THE COSMOS in very plain English. I’m working my way through his books, which will take a while because he was quite prolific.

May you ponder this perspective over your morning coffee.Read More »Wise words

On the radio

While we're looking at this picture, did you see the NPR 2013 fall intern video? It's pretty fantastic.

While we’re looking at this picture, did you see the NPR 2013 fall intern video? It’s pretty fantastic.

On Friday morning, for exactly 40 seconds at about 5:06 a.m. EST, I was on NPR for the first time.

Which radio stations, I don’t know. If I understand the process correctly, I think many public radio stations start playing Morning Edition at 5:05, so it’s likely that my voice wasn’t on your local member station. But still, I did it. And here’s proof.Read More »On the radio

Religious identity: A personal reflection

Last night I went to a holiday party/dessert potluck put on by Mipsterz, a fledgling community of self-described Muslim hipsters. It was an incredible time with the most fashionable and intelligent group of people I’ve hung out with in D.C. (and it was proof that alcohol is not necessary to have a good time).

To be hipster means, broadly, to be alternative and part of a the 2010s counter-culture, but it’s usually just associated with being pretentious and trying too hard to be unique. (Watch the TV series Portlandia for more on hipsterdom.) And it’s something that the Mipsterz themselves make fun of. In the description on the Mipsterz Facebook page: “Wait, they hate us cuz we’re Muslims? I thought they hated us cuz we were hipsters!?”

But the Muslim hipsters label is sparking more than some eye-rolling; it’s sparking an entire debate on what it means to be Muslim today. A couple of weeks ago, they released this video, complete with hip hijab-wearing women — check out my NPR buddy Amarra in the pink smoke around 1:20 — and found themselves in the center of an unexpectedly fierce conversation in the Muslim community.

Read More »Religious identity: A personal reflection

Shoes and food. What else do you need?

I solemnly swear to keep them away from mud.

I solemnly swear to keep them away from mud.

Since I started blogging, I’ve written about shoes and food several times. For some reason shoes are consistently the most exciting fashion purchases I make. And I’m not foodie or master chef, but I just love how something so essential to life can be so creative and enjoyable.

With that in mind, here are three snapshots of my life relating to fare and footwear.Read More »Shoes and food. What else do you need?

On writing and books

The cover of the book, edited by Walt Harrington. You can buy the book here.

The cover of the book my work has been featured in, edited by Walt Harrington.

A story I wrote on a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Champaign, Ill., originally published here, has been included in an anthology of literary feature stories. I’m honored to be showcased among the top journalism students from the University of Illinois and excited to see where the other emerging writers and reporters will go in their careers. I graduated with a class of talented journalists.

Being a published author was something I could have never imagined as a freshman in high school. That year, my choir teacher gave us an iconic assignment: to make a list of 100 things that we wanted to accomplish in our lives.

It was probably the first time anyone asked me about my future beyond “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I certainly didn’t know the answer to that question, anyway. But I knew I wanted to go to France (accomplished January 2012), and bake a cake from scratch (May 2011), and sing a high B comfortably (2009), and 97 other things.Read More »On writing and books

Worrying about worrying

My messy bed: A metaphor for my mind.

First step to de-stressing? Make the bed.

I’ve been struggling to come with a conclusive life lesson to write about in my blog, and my mind has been too preoccupied with applying to full-time jobs (and related confusion about what I want to do with my life). But I would like to articulate some inconclusive thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head these past few weeks.

For me, the hardest part about looking for jobs is not the application process itself, even though it’s tedious and too easy to procrastinate. The hardest part is feeling perpetually worried. I’m worried that the job I get won’t be one I’ll like. That it will be in a location that I don’t like. That I’ll continue to be far away from my boyfriend and the distance will strain our relationship. That I won’t be able to get a job at all, much less one in a bad location with bad work far away from people I love.Read More »Worrying about worrying

40 things to do in L.A. (that won’t make you hate L.A.)

Verdi's Requiem at sunset at the Hollywood Bowl

#10. Verdi’s Requiem at sunset at the Hollywood Bowl.

I recently had dinner in D.C. with a former Los Angeles Times intern whose excitement for data journalism — a combination of programming, document-based reporting and storytelling — inspired me to approach some people on the NPR data desk and ask to shadow them. I highly recommend checking out her blog.

We spent a good chunk of our dinner talking about how much we miss the city. I suspect that was because it’s a rather rare occurrence, getting to reminisce about it. Unfortunately, L.A. is a city that people love to hate. I get it: It’s full of cars, paparazzi, obscene wealth and dire poverty. We can project our distaste for all things manmade, from highways to Hollywood, and pat ourselves on the back for not being quite as self-destructive and shallow as that.

But there’s so much more to L.A. than celebrities and pollution. These naysayers might not realize that the city and surrounding area is home to mountains, forests and beaches — it’s some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen outside of Europe, with consistent 75-degree weather to boot. And the scenery of people is beautiful too. It’s a complete melting pot of cultures and nationalities, which means a) every neighborhood of the city makes for a new experience, and b) amazingly authentic ethnic restaurants.

So what can you do to appreciate Los Angeles as much as I do? Root for an underdog, and carry this list with you on your next trip to Southern California.

Read More »40 things to do in L.A. (that won’t make you hate L.A.)

How to be a little fish in a big pond

My first week at NPR, I was wildly intimidated.

It began with the shiny new building. I’ve never been at a journalism organization that, first of all, has the money to build state-of-the-art offices for its employees — and, second of all, actually invests that money into building it. I’m used to journalism organizations that make employees pay for their own coffee.

This is asking for a great light-in-the-darkness metaphor about journalism, but I'll spare you this time.

This is asking for a great light-in-the-darkness metaphor about journalism, but I’ll spare you. This time.

Then, it was the brilliance of my coworkers and editors. They are all so knowledgable and creative and have Ivy League degrees — well, most of them don’t actually have Ivy League degrees, but that’s how it felt to me. For the first time, I was self-conscious of my state-school alma mater and unranked journalism school.

I wanted to impress my coworkers but didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to come off as cocky. So I constantly humbled myself, to the point where I no longer felt confident.

I was a little fish in a big pond, and I didn’t know how to handle that.Read More »How to be a little fish in a big pond