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Another place I’d like to be…A year ago four hurricanes devastated Florida. Eight months ago, a tsumani tore apart Southeast Asia. This week, Hurricane Katrina has destroyed one of our most exciting cultural cities. If we haven’t made the connection to environmental destruction yet, we ought to real soon. If I weren’t tied to six classes, I’d jump on a plane right now and join the Red Cross boot camp.

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Wish I was there…Years ago at summer camp, we enacted a mini-version of Burning Man, and it turned into an intense catharsis of creative energy among 50 people. I can only imagine what it’s like in the desert with 40,000 people.

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We can be grateful as Americans that a country as big as ours has a relatively consistent language. While fast-paced Northerners may get annoyed at a slow Southern twang, at least they can understand each other (China’s situation, for example, is entirely different).There are a few regional quirks that one needs to be aware of, though. In New Hampshire (my home state), it was wicked. Wicked is an adverb, and it generally replaces the word “very.” Examples:That’s wicked cool.He ran wicked fast. Please Note: This is not to be confused with the adjective use of wicked, which is found in other New England states. New Hampshirites would call you a grammatical fool if you said, “That’s a wicked shirt you’ve got on today.” I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, though, and they have their own favorite phrase: hella. Hella can be used everywhere a New Hampshirite says wicked, but it goes further than that. Based on initial observations, it appears that hella can be used not only to replace very, but also to replace really and the adjective, impressive. (As a side note, young San Franciscans sometimes PG version, hecka.) Here are some examples:I hella want to go to that show. (really)Those are some hella shoes. (impressive)This day has been hella long. (very)This evidence further supports my belief that San Franciscans are more relaxed and flexible than New Hampshirites. Further anthropological studies might expose a geographic link between the word wicked and the Salem witch trials. Such studies might also find a link between the liberal lifestyle of San Francisco and its likelihood, in the eyes of conservative Christians, of ending up in hell… but I digress. Since moving here, I’ve caught myself saying wicked several times, and corrected myself. Everytime I use hella, I wince, and then announce to my conversation partner how wicked cool I am that I can learn a new dialect.