Right now I'm most excited about the progress we are making in understanding how massive stars form, and how that understanding fits cleanly into the larger picture of star formation that is coming in to focus. In particular, a Heidelberg PhD student, Thomas Peters, who is visiting me for several months in New York, has run simulations with me and my Heidelberg collaborators Ralf Klessen & Robi Banerjee (both Germans; one of part Indian descent), that make clear that many puzzling observations of massive stars can be simply explained by the straightforward idea that massive stars form from very fast accretion of lots of gas. The consequence is basically that they are muffled under the infalling gas despite being hugely bright.

I'm also quite excited that my former PhD student Yuexing Li (literally Moon-Star Li, which quite amuses her) has just gotten a tenure-track offer even in this difficult climate. She's a classic example of the new global meritocracy: grew up in a beach town in far southern China, made it to Beijing U, then Columbia for graduate school. Her work with me at the Museum on star formation in galaxies set the stage for her to go on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, where she performed simulations that help explain how supermassive black holes could form extremely early in the history of the Universe. She is my first student to get onto the tenure-track at a US institution (though my very first student was tenured before I was, at a Mexican university).

Curator of Astrophysics Chair
Department of Astrophysics and Division of Physical Sciences American Museum of Natural History
79th Street at Central Park West
New York, NY, 10024-5192 USA
Sol System
Milky Way
Virgo Supercluster

I've found myself becoming interested in a whole range of things, from street cooking to self-build architecture to small-scale subsistence farming. That's not to say I'm doing these things, more that I'm paying attention to them and writing about them. Why? Because of an interest in post-materialism and amateurism, and because the economic meltdown has made everybody wonder how they could survive without a connection to the drying teat of mega-capitalism.

Activities like portable cooking, self-build and "hyakushou" farming (the Japanese word for the agricultural bricoleur who can do a hundred different things) are all instances of what Michel De Certeau called "tactical" activity. Certeau distinguished between "strategy" (the imposed order of big organisations, street grids, bureaucracies, corporations) and "tactics" (the somewhat haphazard and cunning way people negotiate these systems). I think we're living in a time when "strategy" is failing and, quite literally, bankrupt. This is a time when "tactics" in this sense must come into their own. We need, more than ever now, amateur cunning, improvisation, and bricolage.


I work on exposing the crime of state-sponsored torture and on exploring its roots deep in the history of different religions and in particular what is known as religions of People of the Book (PoB). PoB is a term coined by the Muslim Holy Book, the Koran, to describe ancient and current religions that Allah has established through the Holy Books that He sent down to specific nations. In particular, Muslim people primarily refer to Christians and Jews as the main PoB in our current time.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews bear major responsibility in fighting the crime of torture when they remove the seeds of hate against each other. This should be done by addressing the aggression against each other represented by many sacred verses in each of their Holy Books. One ongoing example is represented by country like Sudan that is being ruled by religious laws that consider a Muslim person who does not pray, for example, a Kafir. The punishment for a Kafir, non-believer, is death. Religious fanaticism is not limited to poor and under-developed countries like Sudan, Yemen, or Afghanistan. Crazy fanatics are sitting on the Israeli cabinet, and were recently inside the White House.

human rights activist
Amherst, MA

I am interested in winning. I am excited that we have been blessed with Tyson's magical holed flip-flop. I am worried that the Lonase network is down. 2009 is normal.

New York, Paris, Dakar

I worry about nothing, I'm interested in NOW, and I'm excited that I'm all RIGHT.

co-founder of Vitamin Creative Space
Guangzhou & Beijing, China.

My job is to support teachers to improve their practice. In classroom after classroom I see worksheets, test prep, round robin reading and games. In one room, students are chatting, sitting backwards in chairs, munching on chips and calling each other names—workbooks are open on their desks. The teacher stands in front of the room trying every strategy she can think of to get the attention of her class. The class carries on.

I am discouraged. I believe deeply that all children can learn. As teachers we have the responsibility to motivate students, to engage them in critical thinking, and to inspire them to want to succeed. We have to make learning meaningful and fast paced. We have to build confidence in these students who have been told “you can’t” and “you failed” since they learned to talk. But, how do we meet 6th grade standards if students cannot read? How do we inspire students with mandated test prep books and multiple choice passages? How do we engage students in critical thinking when testing and scripted programs have taken the place of curriculum?

I am eager to find a way to break this pattern-- to put responsibility and decision making power back in the hands of teachers. I am hopeful that under this new administration teachers will be encouraged to teach content instead of test prep -- to apply the passion and creativity that attracted them to the field of teaching in their classrooms—I hope these teachers will see results not only in numbers, but in children’s faces.

Director of Curriculum Development Insight Education Group
New York, NY, Encino, CA, Erie, PA, Washington, DC

I wish I could write to you about what excites me about the current moment. But worries cloud my thoughts, as I watch more and more friends lose their jobs and travel businesses grow shakier with each canceled booking. I guess I always knew that I was writing about a luxury of life, not a necessity. But when times were better, I was able to focus on the idealistic side of travel. To misquote Mark Twain, I felt travel was a buttress against bigotry, an act that broadened the worldview of the traveler in immeasurable ways, something that staved off the death of the intellect and imagination. Xenophobia is an incredibly corrosive force in our society and has shaped public policy for the last 8 years; travel helps people get over their innate fear of "the other".

But how can I be encouraging people to travel when their home is in foreclosure, they've just lost a job or they no longer have health insurance and must save every penny. I can't.

But conversely, how can I NOT encourage people to travel when I know that 1 out of every 11 Americans works in the travel industry in some fashion (airline employees, train workers, waiters in tourist areas, hotel staff, etc.) and that if we stop traveling, it's a potentially more devastating development than the shut down of the automotive industry. It's a conundrum I'm living with currently and it haunts my thoughts day and night. I've always been more drawn to dystopias than utopias, it's true, but I worry that our entire way of life is about to shift in a very bitter way. We may be living through the end of an empire, and that's never fun. To put it mildly.

Creator of the Pauline Frommer Guidebooks Co-Host The Travel Show
Usually New York City (but you never know....)

I am interested in tricks because people like them and usually do not feel cheated by learning something through a good trick. I think they qualify as quantum leaps in accepting non-linear reality. They provide shortcuts to human potential. They usually produce happiness in the recipient. The mystery that surrounds a good trick invites introspection and awe.

Austin, TX

right now i am looking out of the side of my eye at gas prices. creeping back up slowly so as not to deflate a well-deserved but not quite earned national euphoria. i am thinking about the planet. i am thinking about my body. i am thinking about the breaking edges of my young denial. things end. like oil, whatever makes my body move will run out, escape, move elsewhere. i am inside an installation curated by octavia butler. which means i am not at all safe, but am surely a queer lesson about something possible and more than it seems.

right now my eyes are widened dilated and receptive to overexposed days where light makes it's own patterns and i can only see the shape of love as it filters through us. right now black feminism is a language reborn in the daily living of interconnected communities that are discovering and facing the intimacy of our survival. like audre lorde before she got glasses, the world it so bright that i can see only aura, though i know the lines are there somewhere. right now i am learning how to train my eyes on the possible and the problem, no and yes, yesterday and tomorrow and right now, at once. right now i am blinking a lot.

queer black feminist troublemaker/scholar/ publisher/artist
Durham, NC

Speed. The perception of time and the speed in which we exist in. Presently (in the western world) we are presented with many options on how to spend time, but most of the time, we are spending it on a virtual symbolic level. We look, see, view the world and state of existence through a hole (worm hole) we call internet. We are connected to reality through binary numbers, we receive and transmit our knowledge through this void of reality. The more information one receives the less time we have to use and reflect on it. Days can go by with out air. Without the necessity of being confronted by entropy, then the touch is lost and certain nervous systems become obsolete. There are good and bad sides to all things in motion, but what we need to recognize is how we each have our own needs and our own time in which we are traveling. Memory will be useless, empathy will be lost. As one can see presently, on a day to day basis, we are in the middle of a turning point in this new century, but very little is being done to take advantage of the shift in this continuum. The deck of cards which the house this society is built on has run out and everyone is pulling the cards from below, in order to continue to prop up the top. As the young stock trader Jérome Kerviel of the French bank Société Général who lost 4.9 billion Euros that almost collapsed the bank said,"Everything you do as a trader remains in a virtual world," he added, "It's a little like playing a computer game. Lose or win a few million: it only takes a few seconds." "The problem, is that the bank never says, 'Attention, guys! The money you're playing with is not virtual. At the other end of your computer, there are real people, with real lives. Pay attention to what you do-- you could do something very bad to them.'"


There is a big scandal in my city concerning the brand-new mayor. He seems to have had sex with a 17 year-old about five years ago. A friend of my friend says that he put his toe into the butt of the new mayor in a hot tub at a party a few years ago. I feel closer to the heart of the city.
My brother is having a baby at the end of this month. My brothers and I have never had babies before. My mother told me that her neighbors just had a baby and it’s missing some arm bones and ears. It’s hands curl inward. My mother told me it’ll probably have a hard time hearing.
It’s just my boss and me together every day at work. A few weeks ago he told me we’d be working about one of every two weeks now; it’s the second depression. It’s fine. I think I’ll always be able to pay the mortgage and it’s hard waking up so early to go to work every day for the rest of my life.

Portland, Oregon

Innovation. Curiosity. Patience. Creativity. Hope. and Collaboration. These are the words I wake to these days in the start of this 2009. Through the associations with and movements of these words I find that we can continue to create, to write, and to dream about the projects we are running and developing. Our current projects use cultural activities and events as a means for social change and awareness. At a time when the world seems to be in “downward mobility,” as a friend recently put it, this is challenging. But it is not time to stop. It is not time to let the heavy weight of the current events prevent us from moving forward. We have to look for windows. We have to be attentive. We have to create bridges and bring worlds together and create opportunities for people to become involved and become aware.

The hand of the world seems to be reaching out. And in ways asking for our help, asking to find balance, eliminating the huge disparities that exist. For me right now, this means working on local issues of poverty and hunger, and creating equal access to resources for artistic expression for individuals and collectives living in disenfranchised communities. This means meeting with other organizations doing similar work, working with artists and musicians, government entities, and seeking collaborations with private companies. This means being confident in our mission. This means asking for assistance. Our work is done in the context of the importance of collaboration, participation and solidarity. We need to be present in the situations we are faced with right now and listen to what the world is asking for and to work together to rethink, to explore and to stay committed to finding solutions and creating the world in which we want to live.

Asociación Socio-Cultural DJs CONTRA LA FAM
Barcelona, Spain

I'm struggling with a silly little question on visibility. Draw any polygon on a piece of paper. This polygon is made up of line segments and places where two line segments meet, called vertices. If you can draw a line segment connecting two vertices of this polygon such that the line segment remains completely within the polygon, we say that these two vertices are visible to each other.

There are of course polygons where all vertices are visible to each other (these are called convex polygons, and they look very circular in shape) ... and there are polygons with limited visibility.

Given a polygon, pretend there is an imaginary red rubber band connecting two vertices that are visible. If we move the vertices of the polygon on the paper, then some of the red rubber bands disappear (since visibility might suddenly become blocked) and new rubber bands might appear (where vertices that once couldn't see the other might, due to the movement, now be able to see).

Here's the question I'm struggling with. Is it possible, given any polygon, to move its vertices in such a way so that all current red rubber bands do NOT disappear, but we are able to introduce one new red rubber band? If we can do this, then if we start with a polygon with 5 bands, we'll end up with one with 6 bands. But then, we can use the same movement powers and take the 6 band version to one with 7 bands. Indeed, we can keep doing this until we end up with a convex polygon where all vertices can see each other.

Having talked to some of the best minds in the world, no one thus far knows of a nice way to keep the given rubber bands (visibility) fixed and increase by just one more band.

Associate Professor of Mathematics
Williams, MA

At this moment, I am most concerned with whether I can swing permission to enter Nagaland in East India and how much it will rain in the brief window while I'm there. Every day I wrestle with my instincts and habits to maintain (or hopefully even raise) my standards by trying not to retread the same ground.

Staff photographer for Rhythms Monthly
on my way to Calcutta

Every time I go into the supermarket I have a crisis. I spend an extra hour wandering the aisles reading all the labels, and agonizing about how far the food has come. We should not be eating pears from Argentina, strawberries should not be available year round. The global economy of food is not sustainable.

On the other hand, nearly all my professional experience is a result of me flying somewhere and learning about and participating in festivals. This opportunity to travel has been very dear to me. As I compose this I am chatting on gmail with a French friend who I met while constructing giant lanterns for the Aomori Nebuta festival in Japan. I met my husband while making costumes for carnival in Recife, Brazil. Yet I realize this travel is unsustainable as well. I don't believe I should be able to buy mangos, or fly to Spain to see the Fallas festival, but I want to, and while I can I probably will.

Festival Artist Toronto
Ontario, Canada

The world is changing and China is changing with it. I'm supposed to help interpret this sprawling, complex beast of a nation for readers of The New York Times. The longer I'm here, the more I realize how little I know about this place. Last year, 2008, the year I moved to Beijing from Taipei, was one of false dreams for China -- the government and the people imagining that the Summer Olympics heralded a golden age for the country. Now they know that it takes more than throwing a big sports spectacle to usher in prosperity. I'm not sure what events I'll write about this year, the Year of the Ox, but I'm sure they'll surprise me. What better thing to ask for from life than surprises?


I’ve worked with the AIDS virus, HIV, and people living with HIV/AIDS for most of my professional life as a physician-scientist. I’ve been frustrated and elated through many waves of success and set-back. But the most exciting thing that has happened in my professional life is to see one person—a very unusual case, granted, but a “proof-of-concept” that it can happen—cured of AIDS. We need a cure for AIDS. We can’t treat our way out of this epidemic. For every person placed on treatment, three are newly infected. All currently available anti-HIV drugs suppress the virus, but cannot eliminate it.

Given this context, a brief note in February 2008 by a group of physicians from Germany changed everything. This work has now appeared as an article in our premier medical journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, a year later. A 40-year-old man—an American working in Berlin—whose HIV had been under good control for years with a typical cocktail of drugs known as HAART, developed leukemia.

In an attempt to cure the leukemia, he underwent a course of radiation therapy and chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant. But in his case, rather than simply using the best tissue match among available donors, his physicians did something very clever. They also screened potential donors for a natural mutation known as delta32 CCR5. CCR5 is the primary door through which HIV enters an immune cell. Individuals with this mutant CCR5 are normal, but completely resistant to infection by the most common forms of HIV.

The patient’s stem cell transplant was a success. Off all anti-HIV drugs for over two years, he has no detectable HIV anywhere in his body, and a normal T cell count.

This is not a treatment that will help very many. The risk of dying from such a transplant itself is very high, it is very expensive, and it was undertaken only in an attempt to save his life from leukemia. But the potential to genetically engineer stem cells to remove CCR5 from a patient’s own stem cells exists. A new goal to work towards.

Professor of Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College
New York City

There happens to be a single topic that worries, excites, and interests me intellectually all at the same time: New York City's future. The city has enjoyed a prolonged period of prosperity that was driven largely by the success of the financial services sector. Lots of very smart people were paid lots of money to create wealth [in] innovative ways. That wealth was mostly concentrated among a select few, to be sure, but that's not to say that others didn't benefit. Donors gave to arts institutions and museums, money was spent at stores and restaurants, taxes were paid, then used for a public purpose, and so on. All of that has been greatly diminished and most agree that the finance industry has changed so much that we won't soon see a boomtime again. That's the worrisome part.

The exciting part is that, due to the downturn, the cost of "being" in the city will also decline. Rents will fall for residences and storefronts, opening the door for creative risktakers (artists, entrepreneurs, and the like) to flourish here. One of the major downsides of the boom has been that the cost of living, working, and operating a business in the city has been so high that only the safest bets were made. It's no accident that so many storefronts were leased to stable, well-capitalized corporations who could afford to pay top dollar. Think of how many shiny new bank branches you pass on a daily basis - so much for stable and well-capitalized. No one wants to see the city decline, but it is my sincere hope that New York City uses the downturn to reinvent itself using the single most valuable natural resource it has at its disposal: the smart, driven people who congregate here from all around the world. We've done it before.

Economic Development Professional working for the City of New York
New York, NY

My job is a babysitter. I like to work with children because they learn everything I teach them. Just as I get to learn from them. Children are like sponges, they absorb everything you teach them. I try to teach them how to behave and treat others also how to be honest. I enjoy taking care of them, showing them love, making the children feel that I am by their side no matter what. Another thing that I like about my job is that we do many activities such as going to museums and parks. Being around the children always feels like an adventure. We get to see and go places that we never been to before. We get to share special moments and also learn new things. I love playing with them. On rainy days we stay indoors and do arts and crafts. I spend the majority of my time with them. I am there 5 days a week, I feed them, take and pick them up from school and take them to playdates. I feel like these children are like mine. They become somewhat of a family. This is not the first family I work with. I had a previous family that I helped take care of their kids. But they are all grown up now. But I will always love them as if they were my own.

New York, NY

A friend of mine spoke to his parents a few days ago and noticed that they sounded scared. Business was down, expenses had to be cut. It was, needless to say, an unsettling conversation for my friend. It wasn't just that it pained him to know that people he cared about were experiencing hardship. It's also that this was the last place he thought he would encounter a reflection of his own anxieties. Maybe it's a dress rehearsal, but the economic apocalypse sure seems like our abiding reality. Anxiety threatens to eclipse fantasy; people are taking stock rather than taking chances.

In search of a clearing, I find myself looking farther down the road. Iran? Why not? Here are the raw materials to indulge our visions of progress. An historic civilization, a dense and intricate culture, films, poetry, landscape, human beauty, all kept out of reach for thirty years. A whole country as metaphor for our own untapped potential! Stimulus this, stimulus that: necessary, no doubt, but hardly the sort of stuff that inspires applause. Land Air Force One in Tehran, on the other hand, and those who weren't wearing grins would probably be stifling them. In the meantime, I'll be traveling there myself, taking inspiration wherever I find it, and hopefully spreading some in return.

Berlin, Germany

I wonder whether it's possible to transform the definition of a city, an urban center, to include more community and social, open spaces.

I obsess over whether the modes of sharing and social gestures that have become part and parcel on online social applications can somehow inform us and teach us to now transform our public spaces.

Founder, betaworks
New York, NY

I spend my days thinking about technologies for future cell phone systems that will come out in about 5 years. My colleagues and I are trying to figure out how to make cell phones send and receive data 100 times faster than you can today. Is someone else working on a technology that will prevent me from losing my cell phone?

Distinguished Member of Technical Staff Bell Labs
Holmdel, New Jersey

I am concerned that I keep referring to the recession as an “economic downturn,” which is a phrase I picked up from the news media. This reminds me of when I refused to use the word “detainees” to describe prisoners. As far as my profession, which we’ll call some combination of writing and teaching, I’m worried that the recession will force institutions that support creative disciplines to further prioritize their bottom lines in brutal ways that will escalate the process of robbing artists of the freedom from economic concerns that can inspire widespread innovation and risk-taking. I’m worried that too many people are drinking the Kool-Aid that makes Americans conflate artistic merit and commercial potential. As for the noble profession of teaching, I am concerned that I will have to quit, because adjuncting never offers a living wage and pay disappears in the summer, leaving teachers who lack outside wealth to fend for themselves.

Brooklyn, NY

In my work, I am currently busy with an introspective process. It consists in observing my singular approach to create the dance pieces I have done till now. My focus goes to how I have conceived, trained for and performed them.

A central aspect of this research is my concern for the movement of the thought. The stream of information traveling from mind to body and body to mind is, I think, the source of my dance and of my communication with the spectators. More precisely, I am considering how our specific conceptions about what is real are framing our perceptions. Indeed, we are constantly exposed to an amount of perceptions potentially infinite. We select the ones we select, and we organize them the way we do according to the ideas we have about what it is real. When we modify those ideas, we modify the grid that filters perceptions, and we modify the synthesis we do of them. If I manage to operate such a change as I am dancing, there is a deep transformation happening, as my references to make choices to develop the dance are then suddenly reset. "To find malleability in the chain between ideas and perceptions" is the way I would try to summarize my approach to dance.

This interest brings me naturally to philosophy. A central feeling for western philosophy is “doubt”. As I see it, philosophical doubt rises from the necessary imperfection of our experience of reality. You always need a representation of reality, and the representation would always lack something. To acknowledge it is to doubt. And it is why, according to me, doubt is the edge and the motor of philosophical practice. To experience this edge, and to look at the gap between reality and our representation of it is what I am trying to experience and to share with an audience, I guess, through the search of “malleability in the chain between ideas and perceptions”. It might sound utopist or very foolish. It is surely ambitious, and probably unreachable. But somehow, I think, it can also be seen as the most ordinary thing.

dancer, choreographer
Bruxelles, Belgium

What interests me at this moment as an RN and Infection Control Practitioner is what the outcome will be in our ongoing battle against multi-drug resistant bacteria. Of course, this fight will never be over because these resistant strains are much smarter and more versatile than we are. In the end we may be able to successfully keep these bacteria at bay through a synergistic effect of antibiotics, drugs developed that destroy bacterial RNA or dissolve the “slime” that the bugs produce to protect them from being destroyed by the body’s defenses.

What worries me as an Infection Control Practitioner and mother of an autistic child are the parents who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated against dangerous childhood diseases. They believe, erroneously, that these vaccines cause autism and put the general population at risk of contracting illnesses such as polio and measles that are crippling and often deadly. These parents are too young to remember the devastating effects of the polio and measles epidemics. These illnesses disappeared from industrialized countries only because of the herd immunity brought about first by mass vaccination and then strict adherence to childhood vaccination schedules. It is an ironic testament to the success of these vaccines that we can’t remember what it was like to live under the constant threat of contracting what is now a preventable illness. It is my hope that people will once again “see the light” and have their children immunized. I also hope that in the near future the scientific community will be able to determine the causes of autism and eliminate once and for all the idea that vaccines are in any way one of them.

Master of Public Health, Registered Nurse
New York

Every day, vast amounts of information is generated, digitized and made available online. Not only that, we have, for the first time in the history of mankind, gained access to such massive data. This is causing a paradigm shift in the existing authority structure and the value of information. I feel 2009, is right in the midst of a turning point in history, when I see a glimpse of it here and there.

Post-doc researcher, Center for Knowledge Structuring, University of Tokyo
Tokyo (JAPAN)

I'm excited to be working in an environment where I consistently face new challenges. I feel lucky to be able to spend a lot of my time actively inventing and iterating on ideas and learning from people I respect. I think a lot about how the same concept can be expressed in any number of ways, but there are often only a few ways that an idea can be expressed effectively.

I worry that I don't have simple answers to simple questions. The other day when asked what success means to me in my current role, I couldn't think of a clear and meaningful response. I worry that I write people off too easily, that I shield myself from failure (and greatness) with measured caution, and that if I let myself slow down, I'll stop being interested in my work.

Creative Director
New York City

Airline pilots have been riding through an era of unprecedented turbulence for several years. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, airlines have lost billions of dollars. Reduced air travel, skyrocketing fuel prices, and now an economic recession have forced pilots to accept profound concessions in order to keep their jobs. The fallout was destined to happen but the sudden changes have come at a tremendous expense to airline pilots' quality of life, compensation, retirement, job stability, and peace of mind both at work and at home. Thousands of “quality” career jobs have been cut in place of “bottom feeder” airlines that employ pilots at substandard wages and work contracts. Regional and low cost carriers now own the majority of domestic air travel and industry morale has been deflated for years with little hope for a return to the way it once was.

Regardless, every day most pilots arrive at work with a true passion for aviation and a desire to perform their responsibilities professionally to the best of their ability. Pilots take pride in safely transporting people and cargo connecting locations both near and far. Today, in 2009, a passenger’s brief moment of gratitude as they pass by the cockpit while deplaning reminds us of the value of our work. Being an airline pilot is a lifestyle that requires personal compromises, but we willingly subscribe to this way of life to fulfill our career dreams and goals in life.

Airline Pilot
Washington State

Right now I feel that 2009 has gotta be a motherfucker. I'm interested in finding the shit that made me get into all this absurd music in the first place. And it'd be nice to finally get paid for it too. I'm interested in the fact that it seems like the world I presently inhabit is one where the real capital is sensitivity; I'm a musician in Senegal. Seriously, it's like it still matters on a concrete human level, recognized as part of that economy and what gets you access to resources here in the midst of Islamic capitalist hustle. And I don't think it's because people are out of touch, seems like an actual decision to stick with what is real and has always made the dance clubs so genius. I like dealing in a language where there's an implicit recognition that the people in conversation are experiencing the same shit. I'm excited about Wolof and its history and future.

The Chinese are now officially building some big shit in Senegal, a national theater, national archives, museum of black civilization, national library, place of music (in the shape of a kora), and a school of architecture. Hu Jintao visited this week. DJ Rutherford Chang Chang the week before. Xuman went to shanghai a few months ago. I'm playing drums with Awadi's generation old hip-hop group that samples the Roots, Njaaya's new solo group–which feels like the height of Senegalese Soul and sexiness—and Chiekh's mbalax band in Patte d'Oie that is still banking on the golden ticket of European contracts (cause people still want to bring money home to their families and that's the model). I'm excited by the possibility that it just might turn out that African societies high in social capital become respected and profitable places. I'm afraid by the fact that that might very well not happen and the economic crisis might shit on people who have been knowledgeable about what's happening yet more or less out of the fray. I turn 27 next week and I wonder what the fuck this will be when I'm about to turn 37.

Drummer/Freelance Researcher/Media Producer
Dakar, Senegal

The world economy is emphasizing an undeniable shift in global thinking and dominance. This aligns with ancient prophecies and wisdom. Leading us to anticipating the future and revisiting the past. Here I find myself confronted by the inevitable further destruction of my ancestral Nubian lands and historical sites. This is taking place through the building of dams along the River Nile meant to increase electricity and boost the quality of life of the region. To me the price is too high. My heart aches and I engage in silent screams. My heart beats as I sit and work on creating an animated short as a protest to the dams.

The animation takes me through a drowning of a Nubian town, and into a fantasy visit to a glorified ancient Nubian Kingdom. Leading to a realization that the survival instinct of civilization leads to the sacrifice of all that stands in the way of the illusions of advancements and preservation of a set way of life. As I am entering the exciting darkness of an undiscovered Nubian tomb I am awakened by the sound of a screeching New York City subway cart. I step out into a civilization that I love more and more as it is humbled daily by the closeness of death. What excites me is renewal through death.

Technical Director / Filmmaker
Where physically: New York City
Where spiritually: Nubia

I'm being nudged along, nudging others ahead of me. Working on a project on a global scale. Little changes, minor tweaks, everyone will feel a slight shift and the company as a whole takes a giant leap. So much is about the systems. Process flows, PowerPoints and basic code. But in the end it's about people too. The stuff that shapes our work. The more tedious side of life? Life, nonetheless. My life, for sure.

Project Manager
New York, Bagsværd, Zürich, Tokyo

2009 can be a project frozen in time. I forgot my birthday by a year, I forgot I was turning thirty. Maybe it is because I got married close to my 29th birthday and forgot to celebrate, freezing myself at 28 with the new adventures of the heart suspending me in time, silently. Now I am divorced. How quickly time passes when you don't hear its heartbeat, tick-tock, tick-tock… We are still friends. We got divorced as easily as we got married. There's something genuine, maybe even naïve about the way we did things, and maybe this is love, or at least the kind of love that we shared and will always have. Beautiful as it was, that was our limit.

Maybe 2009 will be a year of melting a frozen time. But we are in Ramallah and Ramallah does not follow normal space and time dimensions, the heart feels differently here. Time collapses in itself many times over, creating many layers of existence and in each one you are a different self, in a different space. There is both colonial and post-colonial time, you feel one when you leave Ramallah and encounter the tanks, humiliation and soldiers, and the other when you see Palestinian security uniforms and go to parties. There is a private space and a public space, I am Laura in one, and a foreign woman in the other. He was Yazan to me, but maybe always Palestinian male in all the others. Who knows how different hearts navigate the layers of Ramallah. When the experiences you feel are already in fragments, it is easy to never feel quite whole. But sometimes the pieces come tumbling down and emerge as a picture in full focus and you find yourself sure of who you are and who you are not. I've started to write again and have just been invited to go to New York to present a paper. 2009 is melting into focus… And maybe it's the sign of a new love, a new mind, a clearer voice, or all of the above. Ultimately it's just me, it's always been me, but now it's me in 2009 hearing my own beat.

Researcher at Birzeit University
occupied Palestinian territory living in Ramallah since 2006.

"How does this customer envision her/his look?" "What makes her/him happy?" That's what i think about at work.
Also, this year in particular, the phrase "once in a lifetime" is in my mind..., i would like to appreciate right this moment that may not happen ever again.
i would make my motto to be strict in myself while being generous to others.

Hair Stylist

Credit crunch is the new black! I believe that the credit crunch holds many opportunities for me and my company. This is the time to wipe out all the rusty and conventional companies and ways of thinking, and the ideal time to start up new ones. This is the wake up call that I´ve been waiting for. I hope that this will force companies to innovate and think different and buy my services! Yippee, riding the wave of recession!

I´m excited about my “KIDDO” furniture. Will I have the time required to finish it? And does it work as intended? Will it be ready in time for Milan?

Founder of USUS Industrial Designer

I am very proud and excited about the future and of the industry in particular. I think as a whole and me in particular we feel good about the job that will stay. We are not faced with what a lot of others are feeling. Worries. And I am very grateful for this.

We are environmentally very responsible. This country needs public transportation that works. We are finally getting support form the government. The support financially, which is long-term, instead of year-by-year one that is threatened.

You are catching us at a good time, because there is a lot of optimism here. It’s true. A couple of years ago, the Bush Administration was hostile to funding us. They didn’t recognize how important the national system was. This year the Amtrak President is brand new. And the President of the United States is brand new. All this is meshing together well, and there is hope. More of a sense of working together.

Conductor and Assistant Conductor Amtrak
Vermonter Vermont

In 2009, the subject that interests me the most is the transition from combat, reconstruction, and advisory operations in Iraq over to Afghanistan. President Barack Obama just announced a 16-month reduction of forces in Iraq, which would reduce the number of troops down to around 50,000, and by December 2011 the United States will be completely withdrawn. Although I firmly believe that we should be focused on combating the terrorist threat along the Afghani-Pakistani border (personally, I felt that should have been the focus all along), I am worried about two things regarding continuous operations in Afghanistan.

First, because the United States has been fighting the war on terrorism for almost 6 years running, soldiers are getting burned out on deployments. There are service-members who have deployed 2, 3, or 4 times for 12-18 months at a time to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003. As the deployments stack up, the men and women of our Armed Forces struggle not only with keeping their families together while they serve half-way across the world, but also with the incredible mental stress that accompanies a wartime tour of duty. The number of soldiers who have returned from these two wars with partial to full-blown symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is staggering, and it makes me wonder how much more we can ask of them to fight what is essentially a preemptive war against terrorist cells.

Second, I am worried about public support and awareness for the war that is going on so far away from our homes. In the recent film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” a dialogue between the characters portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks included an assessment of the American public in that their attention span for any major event in the media is five years. As combat operations enter their 6th year (and appear primed to continue for many more), I just hope that the American public can continue to support the efforts of the men and women deploying on their behalf, regardless of whether the individual citizen agrees or disagrees with the war.

In closing, I am excited for the swift actions that President Obama is bringing to the military’s course of action in the war; however, I remain concerned for the welfare and support of the troops. I ask that you all never forget the sacrifices made by the service-members who have served and deployed on behalf of the United States.

Second Lieutenant U.S. Army Medical Service Corps

I'm interested in watching other people; talking to them; experiencing the things that they make and the things that they do, and, if given the opportunity, to talk with them about the things that they make and do and experience, and sometimes we're able to eventually talk about perception and language, the creation of narrative and meaning.

I'm excited by the failures of bad management, and the invisibility of good. I'm excited by many people being unsure of what they once thought they were so sure of. I'm excited by the third thing.

I'm not really worried about anything right now - which makes the section of 
my mind that enjoys questioning just about everything ponder, "Perhaps not worrying about anything is something to worry about." Perhaps, but I'm still not worried about it.

I’ve been paying attention on a variety of scales, and I'm doing what I can to make things more healthy and enjoyable for myself and others.

general manager of chashama - transitioning to programming director
currently living in Times Square (vacationing in Brooklyn and Queens)

I am a dentist practicing my profession in Ramallah, Palestine. Just opened my clinic recently, its an exciting time, starting a new business venture here, getting the clinic ready, building up my business, and my clients list, every day comes with new challenges to face, with new problems to solve, it has not been an easy road, but exciting and interesting nevertheless.

The political situation, plus the bad economy has made it harder than ever for any business to get established or flourish here, that's where excitement, worry and interest grabs me on daily basis, all are feelings that carry me through my work days, all take center stage depending on how well or how bad the day is going, until this moment there is a big question mark on the future here, and I still have an eye toward traveling which is a big passion of mine, hoping to do so for pleasure and for short period of time, not to have to live abroad if things don't work out here.

Ramallah - Palestine

This is such a fascinating moment, because it feels like so much is up for grabs - our economic future, what forces will shape the world for the rest of my (current age: 41) life... It's a freaky scary opportunity, right? Like, just for example, things could go very badly wrong with the economy in the next three months -- this really could happen -- and if it does, then we don't get to have any sort of comfort of assumed probable general prosperity for the next 15 years. Bummer.

Or some next horrible terror event sets us back into wagon-circled paranoid fear mode for another eon, and when the US wakes up in 2022, we find we're living in shiny spiritually anesthetized ChinaWorld, and the very comforting notion that Western-style political freedoms are basically proliferating is out the window. (It is a technologically sophisticated triple-thermo-paned Made In Guangzhou window; at least they get the Warming thing.)

What worries me? Our banks are crippled, and that's everyone's problem; some huge disaster will come out of Pakistan, the (entirely parochial) question being only how directly it will affect the US; I ate a piece of "wild-caught" fish tonight and couldn't help feeling guilty about it; making good art remains hard...

BUT/OR/ALT: It also feels like this could be a moment where there is an acute consciousness that some basic things have to change. Thanks, how-fucked-up-things-got-over-the-last-eight-years! So maybe now we'll get some big items right. Like, enough with the blind trust in unregulated markets, already. Alan Greenspan himself is saying so, which is basically the Pope admitting, "yeah, about this whole Christ being God's son thing...write me up for a Mulligan on that." So I don't think we'll be revisiting that uncut-pure-capitalism fantasy/fallacy again too soon.

So it's exciting to think that in a few years we could be living in a world that has actually corrected some mistakes, made things better, experienced progress.

And right now I'm optimistic. Maybe only because I needed the change of pace. But the reason doesn't matter. I'm optimistic.

Head Writer, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
New York

As a hospitality professional, what I find particularly exciting about 2009 is that because of the unique nature of our hotel (a historical building from the Art Deco era) we are able to provide our visitors with something more than a generic concrete box with vending-machine-type service. I enjoy "surprising" people who often are expecting less individual attention, or even expecting to be disappointed! Our business clients especially like coming "home" to us after a busy day, and having people whom they can visit with for a bit. We know their preferences and rather than just taking their credit card and handing them a key we'll ask about their families, how their day went, and swap jokes as well. It's great fun to meet all of the guests visiting from different countries, a great learning experience and I have to say many of our foreign visitors are not expecting such a personal experience! I suppose people who travel a great deal become used to "generic" interactions with hotel staff.

What concerns me (apart from the economy, which so far has not affected us adversely) is the trend I and my colleagues see of people who don't want to slow down at all, who are actually a little dissatisfied that we don't rush them through and up to their rooms. Some who simply walk in, and are unfamiliar with us, have commented that the place is "old", at which point I explain we are in the National Historical Register and everything is maintained true to the original 1938 hotel. It's unfortunate that people are becoming more and more in a hurry and rather than desiring a more "human" experience some of them are actually looking for a quick impersonal transaction. I suppose if I worked at a big chain venue it wouldn't matter so much. The upside is that we can usually find a way to get these folks to "change course" while they're visiting, and it can come as a surprise to them that they can enjoy not racing through the day.

Concierge/Reservations & Guest Services Latchis Hotel
Brattleboro, VT

A few years ago I decided to work with documentary films. I still don't know if documentarist is a profession. I gave up my work in a bank and learned how to edit videos. Now I work editing publicity videos and study a lot documentary theory, books and movies. I am very excited when studying and writing ideas. Everything that I learn excites me and always I find very interesting.
I still survive making advertising videos. My plan for this year is to migrate from advertising to the scarce world of the documentary films in Brazil. And discover if documentarist is a real profession.

Video Editor
Sao Paolo, Brazil

My partner, Juliet Sternberg (a social worker), and I started Hope Vet doing pro bono house calls for her geriatric clients who had pets. Eight years later we’re serving a multitudinous amount of people and their animals. Juliet listens to the people, I listen to the animals. Western medicine adjuncts and makes way for alternative modalities. Recently we have started to use what amounts to a botanical form of chemo. By being determined to serve the human/animal bond, we manage to expand and explore modalities “new” yet ancient -- amazing and/yet intrinsically hopeful.

Medical Director Hope Veterinary Services

Twitter. Twitter grew 900% last year by asking people “What are you doing right now?” Today, Facebook and Meebo and Google Talk also want to know what you’re doing right now, and there’s evolved a whole new, real-time internet – call it the Now Web – within the walled garden of these services.

TechCrunch calls it “a semi-secret economy of interactive media that is sucking the chewy chocolate center out of the one-way broadcast sector.”

Back in the old days, circa 1997, the Internet used to get started at 8pm. People would skip primetime TV and fire up their AOL dial-in connections. Today you’ve got people comparing trades as they listen to the Apple earnings call, or tweeting out their restaurant reviews in real time, as the courses arrive.

Even this exercise -- Culture Push asking hundreds of professionals “What interests/excites/worries you right now?” – feels a bit like Twitter.

How will the Now Web change things? It’s hard to say. The soundbyte was the atom of the old-media model. Today, we’re moving into a world of standing connections, where the smallest unit isn’t a quote, but a conversation.

Internet Entrepreneur
New York City

In my field, a number of medical helicopter accidents over the last few years have prompted concern in the H.E.M.S. or Helicopter Emergency Medical Services industry. I am in the aircraft maintenance side of the business having been an aircraft mechanic for 28 years including my current position as aircraft inspector for the largest HEMS operator in the US. Political pressure is being brought to remedy this situation in the form of regulatory measures recommended for adoption and enforcement by the federal government. These measures include improving regulations concerning maintenance of helicopters, flight operational guidelines, and incorporating new technology into helicopter systems. I think most promising are the advances in electronics that allow pilots to navigate, communicate, and be aware of flight hazards more effectively. On the flight operations side improvements on standards for safe flying conditions based on weather visibility and ceiling or cloud deck altitude are being made, taking that variable away from an individual pilot’s judgment and having set standards. I am hopeful that these measures will improve helicopter flight safety as this service has proven to save lives when time is critical for an injured person to receive critical hospital care.

Aircraft Inspector Quality Assurance
Pittsburgh, PA USA

I've been climbing cell towers for eight years, doing repair and maintenance. Before that I was in the Marines for a while. Right now, I'm on my way to do some repairs in Connecticut. I always have to be on my toes, because I climb up these 50-foot cell towers with no safety-- we rappel down but going up there's nothing. I work in all weather-- last week I was in Iowa in 20 below weather, working at 3 AM to do repairs. I work for a company based in the UK-- I get paid in cash, euros. I just had a minor heart attack-- I'm 33-- but I plan to just keep working until I basically fall apart.

As told by cell tower repairman
Many places, USA

Right now, I feel excited about my future. As I leave behind my brief career in finance, I look forward to the long journey ahead of me training to be a doctor. After four years of business education and two more in the professional realm, I await five more years in school and three plus years in residency. I straddle two troubled industries. I am leaving behind the quintessential troubled water of the 2009 world and moving forward into the 800 pound gorilla that is healthcare in the US. What prompts me to jump from one distressed industry to another? Being pink-slipped out of the financial industry was less of a misfortune than an opportune moment for me to do something far more meaningful to me. As many people have recently come to realize that greed seems to be inherently intertwined in the financial industry, it didn’t take me long to realize the desperate self-serving ambition of individuals in this industry. Luckily my escape from it came in the form of a severance package. Now I look to medicine for the fulfillment that I desperately sought after as a financial analyst. Despite all of medicine’s short comings, I see a great potential for good. Far from discouraging, the challenges of healthcare only excite and motivate me on the prospects my potential impact— impact not only on the system, but on the lives of individuals.

Former Private Equity Analyst Future Healer
New York, NY Chino, CA

Right now, I feel confused about where to go next. I am in perpetual transition. Moving from city to suburb. Moving from community to community. Moving from engineering to music to, perhaps, medicine. Each week, another friend is freed from the reins of her company and files for unemployment. After a short-lived time in a tech start-up that was constantly failing to receive funding, and then entertaining whimsical dreams of success as a jazz musician, I thought that I might function more effectively in society by practicing medicine. As a communicator and healer, there exists the fulfilling possibility of making emotional and spiritual contact with another human being that I do not have so frequently in engineering. I would be lying if I didn't say I was intimidated by another seven plus years of time in school (with very expensive tuition) and a host of female physicians discouraging me from the field. So here I am now, maneuvering possibilities, insecure about my own ability to make good decisions. I want to be free to think, to ask questions, to explore my giftings, to know I am contributing to positive change, to do what I want to do, to do what I need to do. I long to be content wherever I am.

Former engineer, Aspiring artist
Silicon Valley, California

It has recently sloshed through my head that we needn’t wait a millennia to see signs of climate change, many of them are visible today. One of these is the alteration of weather patterns, with heavy/more frequent storms in some regions and extended drought in others. As if the growing human population and difficulties with distribution were not putting enough pressure on global food availability, here’s another concern for the (near!) future of food production. The real stomach-turner is similar to other Global Warming-type scenarios; while consequences impact all, people with the least amount of resources will certainly be disproportionately affected. Though full of gloom and doom, there is an opportunity for turnaround. Climate knows no political boundaries and solutions to these problems will have to involve collaboration between many different groups of people. If this opportunity is taken the political world would look very different and that would certainly be swell. A different concern, but one steadily moving up the list is; will I ever overcome sea-sickness?

Oceanography Graduate Student
Corvallis, OR USA

What interests/worries/excites me at that moment?

What worries me in the immediate term is that things seem to be falling out of my memory as fast as they go in. For example, this email which I intended to reply to as soon as I got it, but forgot about because I started working on something else and only saw it again a little while ago when I started clearing out old messages (looking for a different email entirely). Now I know why the absent minded professors are absent minded: too many things trying to push their way into a finite memory space. I want an upgrade on my brain.

What excites me is that there is enough interesting and exciting stuff going on that I'd actually be able to forget some of it. There are worse things in life than boredom but boredom without any chance of having something fun appear in the future is an awful thing to face. Palms are wonderful because they provide amusement when waiting for elevators, standing in line, and doing other such things that are otherwise essentially dead time.

Assistant Professor of Medicine University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
New York / New Jersey

I am a constant traveler. My work often brings me to areas in environmental distress. But right now I’m sitting atop a peak in the French Alps. To the west, the sun is descending into night, spreading polychrome glory across the sky as it leaves. I look up at the quiet snow-capped peaks that fill the horizon to the east. Then down, at the clusters of light dotting the valley, beacons from life in the communities below. Sitting amidst this ancient and perfectly formed slice of nature it is hard to fathom that one form of life – the one down below, ours – has the capacity and the blind will to extinguish all others. And yet the ice is melting. Pastures are turning to desert. Forests are thinning. Species are disappearing daily. We carry on in a way that Earth cannot sustain. The proof surrounds us. And yet we carry on. This is what we have learned to do. By profession, I am a worrier. By nature, I am an optimist. It is dark now, but tomorrow the sun will spread its warmth once again. A new day will be ours to make of it what we will. Can we talk?

International environmental consultant Based in New York, New York

Contributors, alphabetical order

Cameron Abadi
Isabel Ahm
John Bennett
Steve Bodow
Julien Bruneau
Chris Carme / Sheila O'Connell
Chang Chang
Andrew Cohen
Melissa Cheung
Satyan Devadoss
Mohamed Elgadi (aka Mohamed Ibrahim)   
Hu Fang
Pauline Frommer
Mark Forscher
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
James Hannaham
Deborah Hay
Howard Huang
Fran Hutchinson
Ricardo Rafael Faria     
Peter J. Field
Nikolaj Fisker
Janusz Jaworksi
Theodore Kaye
Charles Kim


Steffie Kinglake
Benjamin M. Krainin
Jeffrey Laurence, MD
Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, PhD
Dr. Mohammed Nofal
Mizuki Oka
Hisham Haj Omar
Ana Pereira
Joe Pilot
Dianne Pulte, MD
Myra Rasmussen
Laura Ribeiro
Alexis Haas Rubin
Gary Russell     
Ata Suanda
Rirkrit Tiravanija
Andrew Weissman
Edward Wong
Kristine Young, DVM
Anonymous, MPH, RN