Monday, January 31, 2005

Out Sick

Yuck. That's how I feel today. Started yesterday, or really Saturday to be precise. But I ate a whole pineapple on Saturday, a good bit of fruit yesterday and I hoped to stave off the illness. I failed. I called out sick from work today. Just couldn't get out of bed. I am feeling a bit better now, so I think I'll be back at work tomorrow. At least they're flexible. I can make up the time I missed today later in the week.

I pretty much just rested yesterday and today. I did have the energy to beat the Tenor in cards again. But that's about as lively as I've been for the last two days. Hopefully I'll feel back to normal by tomorrow.

Anyway, today I'm working on this presentation I have to give in my humanitarian issues class next week. It's more work than what most people will end up doing, but I felt like redirecting the course a little bit to something that I'm interested in, so it works out in my favor. Plus, the professor loves it when students take the initiative to talk about things that won't be directly covered in the class. The topic is: The Role of Satellite Monitoring in Arresting Genocide.

Tonight I plan to take it easy. I have big meal plans. When I get ill, I find myself wanting something really spicey, so I will make this dish that I really don't have a name for but is a combination of Asian flavors. I'm putting two peppers into it this time. Sometime, I really need to write down the recipe so that I don't forget it. Maybe later.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


So I "finally" got to meet Real World's new man last night. Real World, her man, the Prototype, and myself met up at a local Earl's Court student pub called Scream. It's where we went on Friday and decided to go back because it's the cheapest place you can drink that isn't your living room.

I have to say, Real World's man was not what I expected. First of all, she has consistently described him as "beautiful", which, coming from the Real World, it makes one think he's going to be either a model or incredibly ugly. See, I was out with her at a dodgy pub called Jaguar Shoes a month or so ago (as loyal readers well know) and the guys she was pointing out as attractive were all universally older, balding, or just generally unattractive. So I really didn't know what to expect. Punchline: I was surprised to find that he's a decent looking guy, but this is probably the only situation not involving his mother in which he'll be termed "beautiful".

I also had such trouble trying to understand him. He's from Manchester, which apparently has a completely different accent. The Prototype described it as more sing-songy. To me, it's the classic British symptom of not opening the mouth and enunciating their words. After a bit, I got adjusted to a reasonable level.

He seemed like a good fellow, so he gets the friend stamp of approval. I'm sure she'll want to know my perspective on Monday, but it's hard to say more really. We were in a bar that became a club - not exactly conducive to real talking. He did seem like a pretty smart fellow, so that's good at least. And of course, they were all over each other at times, which prompted the Prototype to inform them that "there's no sex in the champagne room". Somebody had to stop them, it was gettin' nasty.

Anyway, going out with the Prototype was once again a blast. I had forgotten something about her, something that I should not have forgotten. She's the most honest woman I've ever been involved with. In my impatience and frustration of the last few weeks, I had ignored that simple fact. So when she says "I want to take things slow" she's not kidding. I no longer feel that she's keeping me around until she finds something better or any of that nonsense. That would be totally dishonest and totally out of character for the type of person she is. Not only that, she's once again initiating the small gestures of intimacy (hand holding, etc), but this time, she's comfortable doing that in front of people we both know, i.e. Real World. At this stage, I maintain my emotional detachment, I live in the moments that we share, and I focus on being excellent in life's pursuits.

After I got home last night (around 2), I went over to my neighbor's for about an hour. One of them was out of town, so the other one wanted to chat. Good times. We talked politics. I really like those guys because they're a sounding board for some of my ideas. Not only do they listen to my rants, but they give a European view on the things I find important. Last night's rant was about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

When I finally went back to my room, I just couldn't go to be right away. I was in too good of a mood, really. So, I was forced to listen to Nappy Roots. For a long time, Outkast has been my favorite hip hop band and they still may be. But Nappy Root's "Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz" CD is making a strong case. I think that many of life's pursuits are about rhythm and melody - whether it's working in a kitchen, an office, or writing (blog, letter, academia). For me, music sets the rhythm. Or, I should say, that things just click when I have the right music playing in my ears. (In fact, I'm listening to the Nappy Roots right now.) So, if any of you good people out there with an interest in hip hop want to hear some good southern beats, try out "One Forty", track 15. Great, great song.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Forgot the Punchline...

Yesterday's post was titled "Too Much Information" for a reason...and here it is. Real World, one who obviously lacks an inner voice of what is appropriate, not only told lots of personal (sexual) details about her time with her new man, but also even tried to show me the new unmentionables that she purchased to impress him. I had to put an end to that. I know that she doesn't understand why it's inappropriate to put all that business out there, but really, her understanding is not necessary. I don't want to know.

Interesting comments all round, re: Prototype. It may be a case of Prototype + wrong situation/time. I don't like the name Prototypical or any of the other suggestions because I think those designations would be premature and inaccurate. Allow me to explain.

She did call last night, as soon as she got out of work, and I did not answer because I legitimately did not hear her call. I was in the school pub for a pint before heading home and I missed it. When I saw her message, I took a few moments to consider what I should do. Part of me thought, let her stew. But I ultimately did not do that for four reasons:

1. We are friends. I'm not pining away for her or anything silly like that. In fact, I'd say I've completely given up the idea that we'll be anything more than friends, no matter how much I think and write about her.
2. I genuinely enjoy her company. She's the only person I've met over here that stimulates me intellectually every single time I see her, so I'm not going to toss that away because my feelings got a little hurt by the lack of clear intention. Sorry, I just think that would be immature.
3. "Being unavailable" as advertised would not work on this woman. Call it a gut feeling, but trying to play games is the last avenue to success in this case.
4. Not returning someone's phone call when you have plans is just plain rude.

Now, does she cause me consternation? Yes and no. Last night she was all over me. Now, she was pretty tipsy, so that's probably what it's all about. But it was pretty fun and I was living in the moment fully aware that I will probably never get what I want out of it. And that's the thing. Mentally and emotionally, I am not investing anything into this other than friendship. If we hook up or something develops from that, great. If not, that's ok. I already have my eye pointed elsewhere and I will not delay in seeking companionship from others should the opportunity arise (or be created by the likes of me).

The more I think about it, this statement is probably the most accurate:

"It sounds like she wants, from you, all of the accoutrements of a relationship (the hand holding, the kisses, the mental affection and knowledge that you are always available for her) without offering any reciprocity."

True or false, no matter. I am not a pushover. She's not getting a "relationship" unless she makes it happen. She's got to put more than a feather on the scales or I'm not going to give any part of me to the effort. I can see the bankruptcy that would lead to and I'm not one to settle for less.

At some point, if this keeps up, I shall just tell her exactly what is written above. Or, instead of confronting her about it, maybe I'll just make fun of her. I mean, I can be a sarcastic little bitch and that's just starting to surface in our friendship, so maybe one night I'll just take things a little bit too far. Who knows.

The point is, understanding the situation has clarified my mind and spirit - which is why I didn't want to discuss the situation with any of my friends here. I really have little more to say about it, at least until something changes.

Should I be bitter? Whether I should or should not be, I am not bitter. That would be a displacement of emotion. Think about it from her perspective. She meets a nice guy who she is attracted to and likes. But, she doesn't know if she's staying in the country or going, so after expressing interest, she tells him that she can't get too involved because of that factor. Then, she and said boy hook up a few times, nothing serious, and said boy thinks it's on. He jumps for it. But, to her, nothing has really changed, she still has all the issues in her head that "pump the brakes", and even though her attraction for said boy has grown and she finds it difficult to resist the emotion that she now feels, she's strong willed enough to make things go "slow".

In the end, I don't think she's been unreasonable. If I was in her situation, I might have done the exact same thing. But ultimately, I have to take responsibility for my role in this. To blame it all on her would be naive.

At any rate, I just had too much fun last night to really second guess anything. I expect nothing, I desire nothing...except a good time when I do see her.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Too Much Information

I've decided that Real World is not an idiot, she's just in the wrong field. Or, less diplomatically, when it comes to International Relations or politics in general, she's a rank moron. But in other aspects of life, she's got some smarts. What led me to this conclusion? Well, I spent a good bit of time with her yesterday and she periodically said smart things which surprised me.

She asked me to go shopping with her in preparation of her hot date tonight (yes, I'm that guy - somebody please shoot me). As hilarious as it may sound to some that I could be a fashion critic to my friend, bear in mind that she's more fashion deficient than I am (go ahead and laugh that up). So I met her at Oxford Circus, which is a horrible place to go shopping, but she has yet to figure out that the Covent Garden area has all the same shops and is a hell of a lot busy. Anyway, after spending about an hour letting her make selections of garments to try on, I finally decided it was time to take charge of the situation.

Real World, you see, falls into the trap that captures many women. She sees an outfit on a model, in a magazine, or on another woman and she thinks, "that looks great, I should get that". The obvious problem with that type of thinking is that not all women can wear the same outfits. Instead, you have to wisely choose outfits that fit your figure - accentuate the positives, minimize the negatives - it's all about doing what you can with what you got. Keeping this in mind, I continually vetoed her selections because, frankly, they were unflattering. Finally, I designed a look for her (conservative skirt, button down white dress shirt to go with her boots and a necklace-earring combo deal). Only problem was, she just couldn't get over the mental issues involved and ultimately refused to buy anything. Par for the course.

At any rate, after a few hours of this, I was tiring and getting increasingly impatient. I'm happy to help, but when after 3 hours, you've discounted 90% of my advice, "decided" to get 3 different outfits only to discard them arbitrarily, well, I'm pretty much done. So we walked down to Chinatown and had some food. I had eaten earlier, so I only had some soup. She continually talked about her new man, which on the one hand is great, but on the other hand got a little old about the time she told me "he's so beautiful" for the 50th time. But, I know how new love is, so I didn't get too bothered.

Smooth Like Butta' called me at the end of our meal and we agreed to meet him at a pub near his house. He was in a jolly mood initially, but then mellowed out quite a bit. I was also in a somewhat dreary mood, so I'm sure it was the perfect atmosphere. Real World told SLB all about her new man (the 10th time I've heard the story - egads!). SLB always tries to push Real World's buttons because it's normally pretty easy and usually leads to hilarity, but this time she wasn't biting. Good on her.

At some point, the conversation turned to the Prototype (not at my behest - I've been trying to avoid any and all discussion of the issue) and this is where both Real World and SLB made some sense. Basically, and I felt like I knew this already, but basically they think that I allowed myself to get played and that the only way to make things work is for me to get the power back. Their advice: when/if she calls tonight as she stated she would, don't answer the phone. In fact, they suggested that I wait until tomorrow to call her and then apologize. Essentially, being at her beck and call just guarantees that I'm on the friend train and nothing more will come of it.

I only have one real response to that strategy and that's the issue of inevitability. I've given up any hope that we will hit it off in a romantic way. As great as I think that could be, it doesn't take a seer to read the tea leaves. So what shall I do? I'm not sure. On the one hand, a power play might be the right thing to do anyway. But on the other, I do enjoy her company even in a friends capacity, so maybe I should just answer her call. Of course, all of this presumes that she will call me in the first place, which is not a given. This girl is just dodgy like that, so if she doesn't call, then I think I'm done. Or, to put it another way, it's up to her to call me. I'm not going to be endlessly pursuing something that isn't returned, be it friendship or something more.

Today in class we watched the most disturbing video on the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Shame on the world for not acting. If I was President, the US would be in there beating ass. Of course, as I was thinking this, I was ultimately distracted by the cute Turkish girl in my class. It makes for an unusual combination really. One part of my brain is focused on the bodies with blood and bullet holes while the other is scoping out the new girl in the program. That's called efficiency, yo.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ahem, Clarification time

I didn't actually expect much feedback from the last post, but apparently it sparked a nerve. So, I'll attempt to clarify my position.

It's not that I'm averse to friendship, dating, whatever with younger women. Last semester I developed a friendship with a 20 year old girl from Boston. She frequently went clubbing with us and it was all good and fun. BUT, that is the EXCEPTION. The rule is, most of the young american women I've met over here are vacant and uninteresting. (I mean, please, y'all know I ain't got a problem with dating someone 6 years younger than me!)

For example, on Tuesday I mentioned that there was one woman at the bar who was gorgeous. Someone commented that what's wrong with hanging out with beautiful women? A fair question indeed. I'll tell you. After, "Where are you from?", "What are you studying?", etc., if there isn't anything in that empty space between her ears then I'm done, no matter how hot she is. In fact, the standard questions are draining. You end up having the same conversation with dozens of people, some of which you remember, some of which you immediately discount. Now, before you think I'm judging hastily, realize that the very pretty woman I met the other day will inevitably fill up that space with experience and education. I'm sure she's smart and capable. But until that happens, well, I'm just not going to be that interested.

Another example, Tuesday night I went out to Sports Cafe with one of my work mates, The Raging Alcoholic. He's British, had never been there before, and sort of cajoled me into going. Even though I really don't like that place that much (as in not at all), I knew that I could dance at least and have some fun. At any rate, we did end up meeting some girls (I got a girl's number) and had a decent time. But, once again, I found myself awash in a sea of immaturity. That being said, I was just looking to dance and I was successful in that, so, like George Bush, "Mission Accomplished".

I would not describe my search for a "meaningful connection" to infer marraige. I didn't move to the UK to find a wife. I moved as part of a soul searching journey to advance myself intellectually and emotionally. When I suggest that I would like a "meaningful connection" with a woman, I am cognizent that there are different types of connections. I definitely have that connection with the Prototype, even if we never end up dating. And perhaps that's one of the reasons why I'm fatigued with the whole meet and greet phenomenon. It is a rarity to find people that you truly connect with and once you do, the every day person pales in comparison. Of course, as the Raging Alcoholic stated, I bet my attitude would be different if I was going into a club with 200 young British woman...

All of this has led me to a simple conclusion: I'm done with American women (Prototype excluded obviously) at this point. It's been a hard thing to come by because I think I prefer American women in general. But I really haven't enjoyed meeting 95% of the American women I've met here and really, when it comes down to it, who the hell goes to a foreign country to meet Americans? (An ever present question in my mind when I go to Uni pub.) Plus, those Brits talk nice.

Other News: Real World has a boyfriend. They met on the internet, had their first date last Friday, exchanged the "L" word on Tuesday, and are hot and heavy for each other. I'm happy for her. Of course, the speed at which they're moving is totally absurd from my position, but whatever - I have a certain relative whose parents got married after a week of knowing each other and they've been together for 50ish years. I still have concerns that being in a super intense relationship with someone is probably a bad thing for her at this juncture, but I could very well be wrong. I mean, this dude is so into her it's not even funny. And maybe that's what she needs - I've never met anyone with greater insecurity issues than Real World and maybe it's just a case of needing a "win" in the dating column at this point. We'll see. I'm supposed to have drinks with them Saturday night.

I made a new friend last night. He's a new guy in the IR program. Really smart dude. Half American, half Nigerian. He spent some time in the US Army after college, so he's my age. He came to the pub after class last night and Eurotrash, the new guy, and me had a great debate about some of the issues we were talking about in class. We need more people like him in the program. The only downside is that I now need to come up with another nickname and I'm fresh out of inspiration at the moment. D'oh.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

New Rule:

Never go out with Mexicans on a Monday (or any day that requires you to get up and be competent early).

This rule makes simple sense. See, Mexicans typically enjoy drinking tequila...and that's a harbinger of trouble. Allow me to clarify:

I met up with Eurotrash and Smooth Like Butta' last night at Uni pub. Like I mentioned previously, with the Immature Sophisticate living in Paris, Eurotrash is bored, so he's always trying to get me up to the pub. It seemed like a good idea. New students, old students, and beer. What could be wrong with that?

Little did I know that two of my Mexican friends were up there as well. Things didn't get out of hand, at least not on my part. Smooth Like Butta' tried to pull some girls, and yes, they were girls - no older than 19 or 20. We had a jolly fun time overall. It was right before closing that my Mexican friends went over the top. They had apparently been having shots at the bar for a good while, something we didn't realize until they started singing at top volume. After the "song", they gathered us up and led us to one guy's flat to "drink tequila!". He must be a rich fellow because his Baker Street flat was huge and really nice inside - clearly not affordable on a student salary. He wasn't joking about his tequila stash either. He had at least 7 different types, none of which I had ever heard of before. One even came out of a small wooden cask.

At any rate, I managed to get away with only imbibing two tequila shots, which was plenty. One thing I noticed, the mark of a good tequila is one that does not make you squench into the "bitter beer face". This stuff was no Jose Ceurvo. One bottle was even the "family recipe", which I think might actually be the family business. It was pretty good.

So, today, I'm here at work, with some actual work to do, which is a good thing. But, since I was out late and night buses take forever, I'm pretty much fighting off the cobwebs for the rest of the afternoon. I seriously need to focus. Five hours of sleep is never enough for the likes of me.

Real World seems to have found a man on the internet. They went out on Friday and she had a great time. He apparently did too because he sent her 41 text messages over the weekend. And from what she showed me, he's just as nuts as she is. On the one hand, I think she could do with some time on her own, but on the other, with an ego as fragile as her's, well, it might work out best for her if she has some bloke fawning all over her and telling her how great she is. I'm certainly not capable of giving anything more than a measured complement to this particular individual (because of my allegiance to honesty). At any rate, he went to her place last night for a "2nd date"...I sent her a text message that said, "Hope you're having fun. Remember to take things slow." Her response?

"We're in the slow lane. He's spending the night."

Which sort of makes sense for her. I mean, she waited until the 2nd date to jump in the sack this time, so I guess that's progress...

I have to say, I don't really agree with my friends that try to sleep with young girls. I know that 19 or 20 is past the age of consent, but it just doesn't seem right to me. Perhaps it's because I'm a turn of the page away from 30 or because I'm just naturally conservative in this way, but to me, older guys shouldn't be trying to take advantage of younger girls. Their choice, I suppose, but for me, even if a girl is totally hot (and one of them last night was drop dead), I still get uncomfortable talking to them. This actually highlights one of the differences between me and Smooth Like Butta'. He's completely comfortable talking about inane shit with people who he has nothing in common with. But I have no patience for that. Or, to put it another way, when I meet a girl, I want to scout out the potential to have a meaningful connection and women of that age are no longer in my sights because they don't have that potential, thus, I am generally uninterested in them.

Smooth Like Butta' has no such constraint because he's like Joey from friends. He's "proud of [his] bachelorhood," as he declared last night. I really enjoy his friendship because he's a fun guy with a great attitude about life, but it is sometimes hard for me to reserve judgment. When he gets drunk, he only thinks about one thing: sex. And that pretty much leads him to try to hook up with any decent looking girl around, which I have trouble respecting. I mean, I admire his drive - if he gets rejected, he just moves on to the next one...all...night...long. It's funny to watch because he's like an animal on the prowl, but...oh hell, it doesn't matter really. Good on him, as they say. We all have to make choices about what we're interested in and I can't stand in judgment because someone's choice is different than mine. It's not like he's a cannibal or anything.

I read something yesterday that totally amused me. Paraphrasing, it said that to fight the inevitable loneliness of living in the modern age, increasingly disconnected from those around us because of technology, careers, etc., the two sexes have two different strategies. Women turn to spirituality, new age or traditional. Men turn to beer and sports. Good thing Daddy gave me his Y instead of his X.

You know, when it comes down to it, I think I think too much.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Back at it.

Monday. Sigh. Monday's would be so much better if I actually had some work to do or an interesting job. Some day I shall.

The rest of my weekend was pretty much drab at best. I was in a really terrible mood for most of Saturday but I snapped out of it around 7 or so. Mostly, I hadn't had much time to myself and I needed to work some things out. I spend a great deal of time pursuing relationships of significance with members of the opposite sex and it brings me down when things just don't work out (an all together too familiar reality). But, I came to a revelation, an epiphany if you will. I moved to this country in large part to reinvent myself through personal growth, education, and experience. That process is barely underway.

There have been at least two clear turning points for me here. The first was when I got here, the second sometime in October. But to suggest that the process is complete is facile. I have made much progress, but I have far to go. What am I referring to? Well, simply, engaging in an intense relationship (which seems to be the only way I can be for some reason) may not be the best thing for me. There are clear growth opportunities when you date, but I'm not convinced that's the right kind of growth for me at this juncture. Relationships involve a mixing of two personalities, dreams, goals etc. While my personality is pretty much stable, my dreams and goals in life are an evolving question and I feel strongly that I need to secure my own future prior to mixing that desired future with another. To ignore that is to ignore the most significant lesson in recent memory and I'm not so obtuse as to forget.

That being said, if the Prototype (or another) came to me today and wanted a relationship, I wouldn't turn it down. But my "ontological position", so to speak, is shifting. All relationships involve a level of mixing, sacrifice, and sharing to build a common future. I've certainly seen my share of that, as most people have. The danger, however, is that individuals lose too much of the self in the process - they are unsure where they end and another begins. That's unhealthy. The challenge, one that I realize is a personal challenge but may also be universal, is to find balance between our desires to bond with another and our desires to accomplish great things on our own. And I think that's all I want to say about that for the moment.

Anyway, on Sunday, the Argentine Tenor wanted to celebrate his birthday (yes, he threw a party for himself), so he had a barbecue at the house. Now, as I said before, I think his personality is defined by his singing career and not his nationality, but sometimes I question that assessment. Not knowing many Argentine's (as in, he's the only one I know), I can only imagine what the people are like there. But if he's any indication, it's no wonder the nation is an extremely minor player in the world, even with its vast potential.

Allow me to explain. For months all I've heard from him is how great Argentine food is, how delicious the barbecue is, et. al. ad naseum. So I expected the best yesterday. Of course, I was highly disappointed.

Being somewhat of a food snob (as in a total food snob), perhaps I was being unreasonable. But there were several incidents that really annoyed me and I'm used to a very high barbecue standard. First, when I asked what I should bring to the barbecue, he suggested pork ribs. They would only take "45 minutes" to cook on the grill. Now, I'm no genius, but I grew up and lived in the South long enough to know how ribs are done and there is no situation in which you can cook pork ribs for 45 minutes and have them done or done right. I argued with him a bit about that and he finally gave up. He also raved about his "special chicken", yet, when it was done, it was certainly not special. In fact, my lime-Cajun spiced chicken was clearly the best of the day, as it was gobbled up while his festered on the tray.

Further, in his personally assigned role of grill master, he absolutely ruined these thin steaks that someone brought. Now, I know some people like their meat well done, but flavor is found in the juices and boot leather style beef has no juice, thus no flavor. The other thing I noticed, and this is a familiar theme around these parts, is that the steaks were "marinated" yet seemed to contain no additional flavor. Even if the beef was leathery, I still expected the outside to retain some sort of flavor. No such luck. In my role of self-appointed food snob, I'm offended. Everyone from around the world likes to talk about how great their food is back home and I'm the type to believe them and eagerly learn how they do what they do. But universally, the South Americans and Europeans in my house never come through. In fact, the only people that do are the Asians (Indians, Thais, and especially the Malaysians). And yours truly, of course.

What I really don't understand, though, is that I know there is great food from these places. I've had it before and whether it's from South America or Europe, you can have an all time meal that satisfies both the tasty and delicious tests, as well as the piece de resistance, succulence. So I find it utterly shocking that people from those cultures, who I'm sure have enjoyed the finest that those cuisine's have to offer, can offer up paltry culinary options and try to pass them on as both tasty and delicious, not to mention succulent. I'm not so oblivious to my own meager offerings to ignore the fact that at times I make less than adequate food. All I'm asking for is a little honesty and a little less national pride.

And now I've stumbled on that which annoys me most about the Argentine: national pride. Everyone should have an appreciation of where they come from, the nation of origin. To me, that's just humanity. But excess nationalism is not only uncalled for, I find it also blinds people. Really, though, I'm just annoyed that the barbecue was average at best.

The other thing about the crowd at the house is that they're perversely exclusionary. Maybe I'm a party to that because it's important to me to have friends outside of the house while most of the crew there seems to only hang out together. So even though I do hang with them, they have a cliquish kind of bond that always leaves some of us on the outside. Now, this doesn't bother me too much because, well, you don't move to a foreign country and sit around your student house every night. I mean, the whole point is, you get out, see the culture, enjoy the city - even if you have limited funds. But this clique manifests itself in curious ways. For example, six people in this group got together and purchased the Tenor a birthday present. I was not asked. I certainly would have chipped in had I been asked. But I guess I'm just not part of the core.

Whatever, there's something else that bothers me as well. A lot of people have limited English skills when they come to this country. That's the norm. People move here because they can learn English (or learn better English), so I have no problem engaging them in "conversation", even if it is a pretty frustrating experience at times. But the Tenor is the worst. He's been here since August and he barely speaks English. It's not that his skills are limited, though, it's that he's done nothing to improve them and even having to speak English in the house, the shops, etc., he's shown next to no improvement. For example, last night I made a joke about him being an "oddity". Ten minutes later, after listing off a string synonyms, he finally understood. Ok, I'm just bitching because it ruined my joke.

At any rate, the weather has turned blustery again. In fact, I spend most of my time just trying to stay warm. The sun, however, has been brilliant and everywhere, which is quite delightful. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I hate the cold.

Still wondering if there is going to be any actual work to do today...

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Yesterday was chaotic and random. That being said, it was a pretty good day. I got up and went into to school for class. On the way, Real World sent me annoying text's. I'm really getting fed up with her. As I was telling the Prototype last night, I get absolutely nothing out of the friendship, and while I like to be there for people, it can't always be a one way street. Whatever, I've successfully distanced myself from Real World since she came back, so I'll just deal with the annoyance every now and then.

Class was pretty solid, but I was more pleased that there were 9 women and 4 men than anything else. Of course, one of them is a "linebacker", one of them is seriously involved with a man, and five of them I don't like at all, but that does leave two, which is better than last semester. At any rate, I think that class is going to be terribly easy.
After class, Eurotrash and I decided to have our ritual post-class pint. It's sort of mandatory these days, especially after Real World opens her mouth. Yesterday, we were talking about identity issues because the class is about humanitarian issues and refugee/migration. So of course Real World has to go on and on with personal crap that should be kept personal not flaunted to a group of 14 strangers.

The Uni pub wasn't open yet (it was around 4 or so), so we went down the street to the Volunteer. It's an ok pub even if it is a little overpriced. After we left (about 5), we ran into one of the people that works at the college. She was meeting with a prospective student and the Prototype and she insisted that we come along (ok, wasn't that hard to make me go). So we had drinks at the pub for awhile (Eurotrash and I ate as well). Finally, the Prototype and the prospective student wanted to go get some food somewhere, so the three of us (at the Prototype's explicit request "Please come", I came along) went to this italian restaurant on St. James street (about 15 minutes walking). I didn't eat, but I did enjoy the company.

After that, we ended up at a club called The Loop and danced until 3 in the morning. While there, I did get a little pissed off at the Prototype though. I don't think she was trying to pick this guy up, but she did end up talking to some bloke for about 10 minutes. That is a personality thing for her because she'll talk to anyone, nasty or not. But it always annoys me when she does that because I feel that if you go to the club with someone you should be paying attention to them, not talking to total strangers, even if you're not dating. Plus, maybe she was trying to pick him up. I mean, what the hell do I know? The bottom line is, the last thing I want to see is the Prototype getting together with another man. I think I'd rather go skinny dipping in the Thames in the middle of winter. Fortunately, I didn't expose that anger to her as that would have been poor form and bad strategy.

All in all, it was a fun night although I was exhausted by the end of it. I was just happy to go home, really.

At the end of the day, I just don't think the Prototype and I are going to get together. My gut says that she's not interested in that anymore. I could be wrong (I've shown a vast inability to understand this woman so far), but it's just my perception right now. She's a great woman and a great person, but I think I just have to start moving on and try to find someone else. Sigh. This does seem to be the story of my life, doesn't it?

The good news for her, however, is that she got a job yesterday. It's a contract position (3 months minimum, probably longer), but it's a good job for her and the pay is pretty decent. She was pretty happy about that. No more temping for shite wages.

I do wish her the best and I will remain friends with her because when it comes down to it, she's the only person here who I've been able to engage mentally and be satisfied with the conversation and that says something, at least to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Well rested, for a change

Wednesday's are obviously going to be the toughest day of the week for me. Of course, it doesn't help when you stay up to all hours of the night and aren't properly rested, but fortunately, I don't have to be that silly again.

Yesterday, as you can imagine, was a very long day. From the early rise, to a relatively busy day of work, administrative tasks at school, and four hours of class, I was pretty damn exhausted when I got home last night. I did go to the pub for one pint after class, but that was more therapeutic than anything. Eurotrash and I basically need a pint after every class with Real World because she's a nightmare and we must vent.

Even though I was exhausted, the Argentine Tenor goaded me into playing cards. I just couldn't let that aggression stand. His ass needed a beating. I think the reason I must always try to beat him (and it's not just because I'm an Aries as some Italian girl said last night - although, hell - I mean, I get pretty warlike in competition, so go figure) that he's so incredibly patronizing throughout the whole game that it just pisses me off. Plus, he always tries to cheat which some would say is because he's Argentine, but I say has nothing to do with national origin and has everything to do with being a Tenor. I mean, every Tenor aspires to be the next Pavorotti and his ego is legendary.
At any rate, Real World, I'm sure the world will be glad to hear, has mastered the words "Israeli" and "Palestinian". Good on her, as they say. The Arab-Israeli Conflict class I'm taking looks to be a great one. The professor is a pretty big name in the field (Ahron Bregmann) who teaches at King's College, writes books on the subject, and is the script writer for every BBC documentary on the subject. Yes, he's a busy man. But, he's also quite a character. He's a short, little guy - not much taller than 5'5", skinny as can be, balding with glasses. But none of that matters. He's spry. He jumps around the class room getting fired up about the subject and he essentially forces participation by making us read the most relevant documents in class and then prying thought out of our half awake brains. The cool thing is that we're reading primary documents - in other words, official documents from 1917 onward from a variety of different perspectives (British, League of Nations, etc). This is good strategy because instead of reading someone's perspective on the issues, he's making us see how the state of Israel developed from a first hand perspective - not a retelling of history.

The class, as you would imagine, is highly controversial. And sides are already being staked out. Real World and the Macedonian are clearly on the Palestinian side, to the exclusion of reason. Eurotrash and the South African are clearly siding with the Israelis. I'm not sure where I stand so far, but early on at least, I'm leaning with the pro-Israeli contingent. In 1937, for example, the Jews agreed to divide "Palestine" into two areas with the Jews getting 20% and the Arabs getting 80% which was roughly proportionate to the population breakdown. The Arabs said no. They said no again in 1947 with a ratio that gave the Jews slightly more land and they've been saying no every since. Regardless of their motivations, the Arabs (or Palestinians as they later started calling themselves) have never engaged in pragmatic action and that offends my sense of reasonableness. Of course, I have no affiliation to the land or either side, so it's easy for me to say.

Anyway, one thing I really like about this professor is that he has the unique capacity to shut Real World up. I'm not sure if it's because she's intimidated by him or what, but it was absolutely beautiful the way he hushed her up yesterday. He did the same to the Macedonian, which I adored because as nice as that guy is, he's left to the point of arbitrarily disregarding reason and that offends me as well because I like to see the world as a series of complexities, not of black and white.

Today, or what's left of it, I'm working on my CV and covering letter. I've targeted about 18 political consultancies around town that do the type of work I'm interested in and I'm beginning the courtship stage. Even if I can't land an actual job with one of these firms, I would take an internship for the summer session. Of course, that raises the question in my mind: Isn't is nonsensical to pay 920 pounds for a course that requires me to go work at a firm and not get paid? Essentially, I have to pay to work at a firm. But I guess that's just the nature of the game.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Here we go again...

I'm feeling quite skippy this morning. I'd like to think it's the fact that classes start up again today, but to be completely frank - there's nothing like the clarity of sleep deprived, hangover induced caffination. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As predicted, work yesterday was slow and boring. I literally did no work in 8 hours, well, for the firm that is. Instead of wasting my time, I did something that needed doing. I compiled a list of 15-20 political consultancies here in the UK with full contact details so that I can send out my CV and covering letter. The sending will wait until tomorrow, but I feel good that I got things organized in a spreadsheet so that I can track the application process.

I had lunch with Real World again, and shockingly, she seems to know no bounds to how low her intelligence can sink. Now, I'm not going to go out there and say she's the dumbest person on the planet or even on this island. She does have a college degree, for example. (Note to self: Self, never send your kids to San Francisco State University.) And I do genuinely think there is a spark of intelligence in there somewhere (Momma always taught me to look for the good in people), but for some reason, it's clouded by pure inanity. We're taking an Arab-Israeli Conflict course this quarter (starting today!) so she's been trying to bone up her background knowledge by reading a book she found about it, which is definitely a good idea since she has a penchant for ignoramity. The discussion that followed, however, clearly suggests that she's only been reading one side...The Palestinian side. Now, no matter where you fall on that particular debate, my point, as I explained to her yesterday, is that when embarking on a quest for knowledge, one should keep an open mind and only make "judgments" after you have heard both sides of an argument. That, apparently is too much to ask. A few choice quotes:

"Man, fuck the Iskraeli. They are bastards."
"I feel bad for the Pakistinians."
"I mean, the Iskraeli took the Pakistinian state right out from them."
"The Iskraeli had all the guns and just shot up the Pakistinians. All they had were rocks."

And yes, the spelling is as close to accurate as I can make it. Even after correcting her several times (PALIstinians fool!) she still continued to ignore the finer details of precisely what these people are called, which I must say, is par for the course. At any rate, it's going to make for a lively class, that's for sure. I think I'll just call it the "Watch the Real World Embarrass Herself Hour" and be done with it.

I had no intention of getting pissed last night or even going out at all. But Eurotrash called around 5 and wanted to meet up at Uni pub. Now, as I'm too poor to go out, I attempted to decline only to be told that, "[he's] buying". Who's going to argue with that? Eurotrash has apparently been going to Uni pub every night because his girlfriend the Immature Sophisticate is doing a semester in Paris and he's obviously bored. Yes, he has a drinking problem.

At any rate, I met up with him around 630 and had a few pints. By 830 or so, the primary bartender bolted leaving Solomon the Rasta Ethiopian to run the show. Solomon is a good guy and immediately hooked me up with a free pint, which is ultimately the reason I got pissed because once the tap is open...Well, neither Eurotrash or I paid for anything the rest of the night.
I have to interrupt this narrative, however, to describe the beer situation at Uni pub. Primarily I drink Stella Artesia when I'm there, which is pretty standard fare in this country. I generally find it just this side of drinkable, but the alternatives make it an easy choice. Also served at Uni pub is Carling - the UK's Budweiser, XXXX - Australia's Budweiser, Budweiser, Hoegaarden - soap flavored ass water, and Guinness - Irish castor oil. Pretty much, if you don't like Guinness, you drink the Stella. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The price is right, the atmosphere isn't too bad, and it's convenient.

Anyway, back to the story. While at the pub, this youngish American girl was there with her guitar. So, being the gregarious sort, when she got up to leave without playing anything, I stopped her and asked what the deal was. I mean, who brings a guitar to a pub and doesn't play it? So, she played us some tunes and she was good. But, what really impressed me was that I requested Fiona Apple's "Across the Universe" and she played it from memory on the spot. That's pretty damn good. I wished her luck and told her to stick to it. Oh, and she didn't just play the song - she sung it too and pretty much sounded like Fiona Apple.

While at the pub, Eurotrash made a good point, re: the Prototype. I'm obviously free to pursue whomever and I should do that. There's no sense in holding out like a prickly Jim Jackson. But, I shouldn't expect to meet another Prototype any time soon. The odds of that are slanted against me. I may meet someone who is nice and fun, but Prototype's are a rarity. The point? Just keep the option open. You never know when women are involved so don't ignore the option if it arises again just because I might be having fun with someone else. Good advice all round, I thought...

I went with the Windsor knot today. In fact, I poshed up my entire image and I'd have to say I'm looking good and feeling good. Of course, this current state of wakefulness is not sustainable, but I have little option but to power through. Class is at 330 and I don't have time to go home and take a nap after work. For some reason, I have a tendency to make learning more difficult for myself...

Just for DBR: My only reaction to last night's Mavs-Wizards score: "Good God!"

And finally, in reference to the quote from yesterday, no, it's not from the Goodie Mob, although they used almost the same exact quote. As the commenter rightly pointed out, the key word is "sorority". It's actually the first words on Sinead O'Connor's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got CD. Although, she ultimately stole it from the bible, I'm told. Apparently, it's derived from a psalm. Still, always night to see a Goodie Mob quote (do I hear the Dirty South bein' represented from Chicago?), so I'll end it with my favorite:

"Touched what I never touched before, seen what I never seen before, woke up and seen the sun, sky high, sky high."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Random Rant Time

Work was pretty busy yesterday, although today looks pretty slow. I had been tasked with a fairly mammoth research assignment and because I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to research, I went above and beyond the actual parameters of the assignment and ended up writing a 3-page Executive Summary of the issue. To be perfectly contrite about it, that served a dual purpose. On the one hand, given the quantity of articles that I had selected, a summary seemed necessary so that the partner involved didn't have to sit down and read 200 pages of material. But on the other hand, writing executive summaries is pretty much a great thing to do for the old CV. It's the one thing that I do on this job that is actually a benefit to my so-called career. Plus I kind of enjoy writing them - or, more accurately, I just enjoy the chance to write about anything in an authoritative sense.

After work, there was talk of the Prototype and I getting together for drinks (talk that she began, I might add). But it fizzled. She still hasn't received the money that her former roommate owes her, so she's too poor to go out. Just as well since I'm down to my last £20 until payday. Instead, I watched Ocean's 11 (truly enjoyable) and Dogma.

I find it incredibly ironic that Dogma was so castigated by the Catholic Church when it was in the theaters. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's no surprise. The movie just scandalizes the Church and the Catholic tradition. But, if you're really paying attention, not only are the criticisms of the Church incredibly accurate (Bible was written by men and thus, is sexist, for example), but the overall message of the movie is pretty damn good. Religion, it is argued, is where humanity has gone astray from spirituality because it is men who have formed and run the organized religions of the world - not a higher spiritual force (God, if you will). The fallibility of men ensured that corruption was inevitable. And it is that corruption that twists the message to its own purposes - thus the Crusades, the Church taking "no position" on the Nazi's during the holocaust, etc.

I could go on about this, but I think I'd belabor the point. So I'll conclude with this: It's protests about movies and this kind of crap, "I believe in one church, the holy Roman Catholic..." That inhibits free thinking. For a thousand years the Church had the power and might to enforce its doctrine. Those days are over. The inevitable progression from mindless repetition of verse to actual thought and understanding of one's spirituality must continue. I'll end this rant with perhaps my favorite line from a most infamous singer:

"God grant me the sorority to accept that which I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

(Two points if you can name the singer.)

Monday, January 17, 2005


Apparently, my collective hatred of both the Eagles and the Patriots is enough to ensure that they reach the Super Bowl. Just as well that it's virtually impossible for me to watch the playoffs or the Super Bowl over here, I suppose.

Yesterday was a drab sort of day. Not to mean it wasn't entertaining in part, just not full of adventure as one would like. Laundry and grocery shopping were the order of the day. I did, however, get to catch up on some sports reading which was excellent. I also finished a most incredible book called Killing Pablo. It's the true story of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug smuggler and outright criminal (and a total "Evil F*ck") in history. The book really impresses upon you just how totally insane Columbia was (is?) and how futile the War on Drugs truly is (not that it should be stopped simply because it fails to solve, but...).

I also got to talk to some family which was most enjoyable indeed. I do miss my family, that much is for sho'.

Last night was a fairly usual night of restlessness. I was very tired at 11, so I went to sleep, passing into a deep slumber almost immediately (with a dream about being offered a job with the Phoenix Suns - yes, basketball is my obsession). But it was not to be. I awoke around 1 or so and spent the next 3.5 hours awake. Not wanting to waste the entire night, I arose at 2:30 and sat down at my computer and got some work done. I truly don't remember the last time I got a fitfull night of rest, but at this point, I'd settle for 8 consecutive, semi-restfull hours. I'm sure that the "mattress" (read: springs with wafer thin padding) aren't helping much at all.

Today, I'm at work just lovin' it. I was asked last week to do this research task which has turned out to be enormous and they want it done by today. That's simply not possible, at least not to the standards that I set for myself. Still, I'll give them something and explain the problems involved.

Re: Patriots

Your arguments are getting progressively weaker. The Patriots had ALREADY built their field to their advantage. Intentionally waterlogging it would be akin to building a wall in right field the day before Barry Bonds comes to town because you know he crushes the ball to the right. That would be totally unacceptable in MLB just as intentionally leaving a field uncovered during an icestorm should be outlawed in the NFL. The team has an obligation to keep the field in the best condition possible - whether it's an indoor or outdoor stadium. But hey, now that the Patriots have set a precedent, I expect the Colts to grease up the astroturf for next season.

Not that it mattered anyway. If I had used the same formula for predicting an easy Eagles win (great defense stops great offense), I would have taken the Patriots. But reason was overwhelmed by hatred. Just enjoy the dinking and dunking that will dominate the rest of the season with Brady at the helm.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Of Albatrosses, Prime Ministers, and other Oddities

Recent science has proved that the Albatross circles the globe. Funny, I thought it has just been circling my neck all these years. (Sorry, had to make a bad joke about that one.)

In the late 1980's, the Conservative Party power base was in question. Since winning the election in 1979, the Thatcher government had endured a series of ups and downs. In an attempt to rein in inflation, Thatcher had increased unemployment, poverty, and bankruptcies in the UK to an unprecedented rate. However, she was able to remain in power largely because of Britain's ability to retain control of the Falklands in the 1982 war with Argentina. While the Conservatives still maintained a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, that support was wide, not deep. The public still supported the party, but there was little love for the "Iron Lady"; instead, she was seen as cold, ruthless, and ultimately, heartless.

In the 1987 election, Conservative campaign materials espoused the benefits that the Conservative Party had brought to the country. Notably absent from the campaign was the role of Margaret Thatcher. The groundswell of support for the Prime Minister was eroding and the Party was astute enough to deemphasize her role.

Her regime came to a quick conclusion in 1990, however, when a leadership split forced her to resign as Prime Minister. The Conservatives were able to maintain power under the leadership of John Major until 1997 when the Labor Party won a landslide victory and they have been comfortably in control ever since.

Fast forward to 2005 and the Labor Party under the leadership of Tony Blair find themselves in a similar position as Thatcher's Conservative's did in 1987. Support for Labor is wide, but not deep. Make no mistake - Labor will win again in the next election (most likely sometime this Spring). But, this could be a pyrrhic victory for Blair if things continue on course. A few similarities should be observed:

- Just like Thatcher in 1990, Blair faces a leadership challenge from within his own party. This time, Gordon Brown is upset because he expected Blair to step down and allow Brown to be the next Prime Minister.

- Just like Thatcher, Blair is solely responsible for a number of vastly unpopular policies that have turned the British public against him including the war in Iraq and the fox hunting ban.

- Just like the Conservatives, the Labour Party faces an election they are likely to win, but not with a margin as comfortable as previous elections.

This cursory reading of the tea leaves suggests that the Labour Party is in trouble, much like the Republicans in the States. Labour is likely to win again not because the support for the party is vast and deep. No, they are likely to win because the opposition is seen as a worse alternative. It's never a good idea to win on the weakness of your opposition.

Can the Labour Party hold on for another 10 years like the Conservatives did? That remains to be seen, but the point is, it appears prudent for Blair to step down and let the next leader of the party ascend to his proper role. The Blair-Brown dispute, along with the growing opposition to the war in Iraq and the vast opposition to the fox hunting ban have largely been placed at the feet of Blair. The Labour Party still has a chance to maintain a large margin in the House of Commons, but Blair is not the solution. Distancing themselves from Blair may seem like an odd strategy for an election, but there is historical precedent in the UK and, by most accounts, Blair has overstayed his welcome.

Re: Football

I think Eric summed it up nicely for me in terms of the Patriots absurd strategy, but I'll give it another spin. Dome teams play on astroturf. It's an advantage 8 times out of the year. It's a faster surface and dome teams are generally better indoors than outdoors. That does not mean that leaving a field uncovered with the intention of mauling it to slow down the opposition is "fair". The corollary would be like greasing the astroturf to make is faster. Home field advantage is already a huge plus for the Patriots. Do they really need to resort to dirty tricks like intentionally crapping on the field to help them win? To me, that's low class at best and outright cheating at worst.

That being said, the "safe" victory I predicted turned out to be a lucky win for the Steelers and the "toss up" turned out to be a blowout for the Falcons. Once again, I'm an idiot. Here's hoping that Philly gets embarrassed today.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What goes up, must come down...aka..Women will be the death of me

Apparently, the Prototype and I have not been dating these last 3 weeks or so. Instead, we're just friends...Yeah, I'm also not living on the same planet as her. When she told me this (because I asked about it), I was shocked. I mean, "friends" don't walk down the street holding hands and exchanging innocent kisses. When I told her that, she suggested that she does that more because I want to than because she wants to...

...At first, I was extremely disappointed to hear that and it showed. She told me not to "be sad" about it, that she wants to take things "slow". To me, though, "taking things slow" suggests an inevitable progression somewhere; somewhere more than just friendship. Otherwise, she could just say, "let's be friends" and that would be that. But later, after I had some time to think about it, I started to become a little bit angry about the whole affair. I mean, we would not be here today if SHE had not initiated physical intimacy. She's the one that kissed me first, she's the one that grabbed my hand. I have been going with that for awhile, but to suggest she wasn't a full participant in our budding courtship (or so I thought it was) is just dishonest and disingenuous - two things that she is definitively not.

So, on the one hand, I'm frustrated and disappointed, but on the other I'm a bit angry about it all. I was perfectly willing to walk away from the whole relationship possibility about a month ago, but she put me back into that frame of reference. Anyway, I'm giving up. I'm no longer pursuing her. When we say goodbye, it's hugs, not kisses. I'm not going after it anymore. If she wants to transition from friendship to something more, I'll be over the moon about that. But I can't be strung about emotionally just because she's incredibly well matched to my personality. Even the greatest matches sometimes never work out.

Of course, hand in hand with this realization is that I've missed out on two opportunities in the last week to pursue other women. Now, neither one of them was really what I was looking for, but still, I could have gone out on a proper date and that wouldn't have been such a bad thing.

In the end, this is just yet another sad detail in my historically bad luck with women. It's my impression that very few people could be as chronically inept when it comes to the fairer sex than me. I suppose I should be used to it by now after all these years of abject failure, but I'm not. While I still keep the faith that I'll meet the right person someday and things will click, I'm Fing tired of not having what I want and I am not a patient man. The clock is ticking on this country as well. I have 10 months of Visa time left. If I'm to start a real relationship, it needs to start soon or my imminent departure will be an issue - just as it was in the States. Then again, maybe it's just best that I focus on school and work and not even try with women. I came here to get a degree, not fall in love.

Re: Patriots

It's absurd to suggest that a crappy field is fair because it effects both teams equally. The Pats are a run first team. The Colts are a pass happy team. Crappy fields hurt speedy receivers, not bruising running backs. They know that which is why they left the field uncovered. To me, that's pretty much cheating.

Re: Health Care

Sorry, I'm a bit of a capitalist at heart. Free markets work, although they do need regulation. Competition good. The whole health care is a right debate is worthy for discussion, but absent that, I'd like the markets to control things - not government.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Wheels on the Bus go round and round

The post about Blair and the Labor party will have to wait. I have too many random thoughts revolving in my head.

I’ve noticed a trend in the expansion of knowledge in the world that I’m sure is readily apparent: the increasing specialization of information. Whereas in generations past, scientists and scholars were “inventing the wheel” by simply proving things like atoms exist; now they are getting deeper and deeper into their chosen field of study. What sparked this not so insightful observation? Well, yesterday I read about a recently released study conducted by a University of Maryland economist on health care consolidation.

Just as with most big businesses, the trend in the health care industry is to “get bigger” – small organizations link with others until you have a health care conglomerate (like Emory HealthCare in Atlanta). The study sought to investigate the effect of consolidation on patients. Does consolidation help or hurt care? What effect is there on costs?

Not surprisingly, the results show that consolidation increases patient costs and reduces the quality of care. This should not be any surprise. The US has a long history of breaking up monopolies because they inhibit competition and negatively affect the consumer base.

What is my point? Simply, I live in the UK with a National Health Service that everyone uniformly complains about as being too cumbersome, unwieldy, and in some cases, dangerous to patients. The UK is a curious place. Out of the fountain of good intentions, they create policies that would never have a chance of passing in the US. NHS is one of those policies. I don’t know if the Maryland study will have an affect on policy in the US, but it does demonstrate quite clearly that competition is good in the health care sector. I have actively avoided hospitals and GPs over here (not that I’ve needed any medical attention) and will continue to do so…

…In other news, most Americans probably don’t understand just how much trouble the Prince is in for dressing up like a Nazi the other night. Then again, most Brits don’t seem to really understand how significant the event was either. Let me explain, Prince Harry is 20, he gets into frequent troubles, and he has a penchant to apparently not give a shit. This time, however, he made a huge mistake. Dressing up as one of Rummel’s finest is a bad idea for the general public, but it’s a huge mistake for the person 3rd in line for the English throne. The result? A typed apology by his PR man faxed to the media. That doesn’t cut it. Of course, the British public appears very forgiving and are willing to overlook it as a “youthful” prank as evidenced by the roughly 60% of the public who think his faxed apology was enough.

To me, the Prince needs a spanking. Ok, not really, but he needs to understand that there are things you just don't joke about if you're a public figure. What he must do, in my opinion, is give a PUBLIC apology. None of this faxing BS. Of course, as my neighbor said (who is British), they probably faxed a statement because he was out getting pissed and wouldn't be presentable on TV...

...This weekend features several Class A NFL Playoff matchups. I'm primarily interested in the Colts-Patriots game. I'm rooting for the Colts for a couple reasons:

- Pats fans have become annoyingly arrogant over the last few years and they need to be humbled;
- I'm tired of hearing how Pats Head Coach Bill Belichick is a "genious", even if he doesn't subscribe to the label;
- I abhor Corey Dillon and wish him no further success;
- The Pats intentionally left the field uncovered during an ice storm on Wednesday because they know it will slow down Indy's receivers - something that I think it pretty much cheating;
- The Patriots are boring to watch and the Colts are damn exciting; and lastly,
- I think that after the World Series, that the entirety of New England is dangerously close to turning into the next New York Sports Fan something that leads to an unprecedented level of arrogance that must be smacked down with the utmost contempt. New England was much more fun when they didn't have this much success.

At any rate, here are my picks:

Sure Things:
Eagles over Vikings
Steelers over Jets

Close Win:
Colts over Patriots

Toss Up:
Rams over Falcons

Thursday, January 13, 2005

3rd World Living

The Prototype made the observation recently that living in the UK is like living in a 3rd world country, except that the land has been brushed with modernity. I think, after living here for about five months, that there’s a grain of truth there. The only thing they appear to do really well here is finance and everything else is half-assed at best. Of course, what I’m really talking about is telecommunications.

The phone industry here is rolling in cash. Unlike the US (or mainland Europe, I’m told), the Brits charge you for everything except incoming calls. Not only that, it’s bloody expensive. For example, if I’m calling the Prototype, I’m paying through the nose on a per minute basis because she has Vodafone and I have Virgin. It’s essentially just as expensive to call her as it is for me to use my mobile to call the US. Cross network charges kill you.

But, there’s a whole ‘nuther issue as well. Calling land lines (BT) is equally expensive. Which mean, when the Prototype moves into her new flat and has a landline, it still will be very expensive for me to call her. Now, she could call me from her soon to be landline, but it isn’t like the US where you can pay a flat rate of like $12 a month and get unlimited local calling. Instead, she’ll get charged on a per minute basis as well.

Why am I griping about this? Because the other night I topped up my phone with £5 expecting that would be enough for us to talk for an hour. Not so lucky am I. Once again, our conversation was cut off prematurely. This is a serious problem because if you’re trying to have a proper relationship with someone and you’re a student with low cash reserves, you can’t afford to sit around and chat all night – no matter how much you both want to. What I truly don’t understand is why the consumer base doesn’t object strenuously to these charges. For some reason, the costs in the US have been spiraling downward but I don’t see a concurrent price drop in the UK. Perhaps it’s because the US is a larger market and the economy of scale means that they can lower the price for all while still improving profits. But also, it could just be that people here basically pay what they’re asked to pay. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a ton of network switching like there is in the US. I don’t know a single person who has switched from their first network, and while it may happen, it doesn’t seem to be rampant like it is in the US. This is especially true with landlines where it appears that BT has a virtual monopoly.

This little diatribe really just touches on the bigger picture that is the UK. This nation is bass-ackwards when it comes to the modern conveniences of the free world. Customer service is notoriously horrible, shelves are frequently half-empty, and they have a bizarre commitment to dual water faucets – one side hot, the other cold. Here’s an example: Recently, my friend Justin told me this story about how he needed new black laces for his dress shoes. He went to store after store and couldn’t find them anywhere and was finally told that there was a nationwide shortage of black laces. The merchant instructed him to find an independent cobbler because all the major chains were of no use. That’s what he did, and after some searching, was able to secure a replacement pair. Now, just last week I went into the shoe store and purchased a nice pair of Ecco’s. The saleswoman asked if I wanted an extra pair of laces, and remembering Justin’s story, I said yes. Guess what? No spare black laces. Sure, they had brown and other assorted colors, but no black. Isn’t it a strong indict of a country’s economy if they can’t remain stocked up with something as simple as black shoelaces?

What I don’t understand is how the UK got to this point. Really, you have a lovely country, with wonderful people even if they do drink and smoke too much. London is a flagship for the free world, just as Washington, DC, New York, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo are. Just as it is completely absurd that you can walk 1 block from the White House in DC and find any drug that is currently sold on the black market, it’s equally objectionable that the UK can’t perform simple tasks like keeping the shelves stocked with products so that greedy capitalists like myself can get my grubby paws on those goods. I don’t think I’m asking for the world here.

As I continue on this adventure, I will have to pay special attention to find other examples of this anomaly. At some point, I’ll revisit this issue, but for now, just know that I’m fed up with paying exorbitant fees just to talk to the girl that has so captivated my attention.

Of course, the latest development suggests that I don’t have to worry about the phone anymore. What am I referring to? To make things simple, on Saturday, the Prototype is moving to Earl’s Court – 3 streets away from me to be exact. Yes – you can say I’m Fing ecstatic about that one. I got to see her last night after she signed the lease and it was great. But not only that, she told me that even if she doesn’t get the job she wants, she’s staying here until her visa runs out – which, coincidentally happens to be the same date at my visa. Ok – I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but things seem to be falling into place right now and it’s hard not to feel like a million pounds about that.

On a final note, please don’t interpret my comments about the UK to be indicative of a disdain or distaste for this country. I love this country and I adore its people. I was out with one of my work mates tonight (free wine!) and it was a great time. That being said, just like the US, this country has seriously deep problems that need to be addressed. Tomorrow, I will write my manifesto to Tony Blair, something that I’m actually thinking of mailing him because I think he needs to hear it. At any rate, the UK is fantastic, filled with wonderful people, and even with all its troubles, I still adore this country.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Truly British

As I've mentioned in this space previously, the UK is a pretty unhealthy country. People universally drink to excess, they smoke like they're living in Seoul, and they generally don't take much care of themselves. Well, good news - the Brits have devised a solution to the rampant alcohol problem that has engulfed the country.

Drum roll, please...

Let the pubs stay open 24 hours a day.

Yes, you read that right. The Brits think that flooding the market with booze is the most likely way to reduce consumption. Or somebody does, because the law is set to change in 11 months and the police and hospitals are already gearing up for it.

Now, to someone's credit (I have yet to determine who was actually behind this change - aside from the obvious pub industry), there is a decent argument to be had. Brits seem to drink with reckless abandon because they only have until 11 pm. Once the bell rings, you either go home or to a club (which will cost you from £5-20 just to get in). So, the theory is that allowing pubs to stay open later will slow down the pace of consumption, especially around 11; there will no longer be a mad dash to get the last few pints in before they shut the doors.

And this is a serious problem. "Overindulgence" of booze is a huge drain on the British economy. While the pubs are making billions (and lining the tax coffers along the way), the human costs are vast, as indicated by the estimated £1.7 in medical costs alone. But to me, the most revealing statistic is this one: Alcoholism costs this country £6.4 BILLION in lost business production annually. Think about that. I like to say that in the US we call them hangovers, but in the UK they're called mornings. Sadly, my little joke isn't much of a joke as it is an accurate description of the UK.

Will the change reduce consumption like the nation's foremost alcoholic (and driving force behind this legislation) Tony Blair believes? Unlikely at best; no chance at worst. Both Ireland and Australia have already instituted the 24 hour system and both nations have seen huge increases in consumption. Which makes perfect sense, really. If the pub is open longer, people will stay longer. The police here in the UK are peeved about this change because it's likely to increase drunkenly conduct, accidents, and alcohol related illness.

Of course, I'm really just worried about something that isn't being talked about: the erosion of the universal standard of closure. Under the present system, you just know that the pub closes at 11 (1030 on Sunday's). But what is going to happen come November? Not only will people be getting pissed, but they'll no longer have any idea when the pub closes. On top of that, the already crowded night bus system will see greater use because the Tube closes at Midnight.

I shouldn't worry, however, as my visa expires October 31st. Unless something miraculous happens (re: employment), I'll be headed back to the land of milk and honey...Still, score one for the not-so Labour Party. Big business wins the day again apparently, at the expense of a nation that can only be said to be in decline.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Indian bagpipers at Leicester Square that the Prototype and I discovered on Saturday.

Oddity time.

View of the street outside our second, and nicer hotel.

Yes, that is what you think it is - a no pissing on the street zone.

Eric and me trying to stay warm.

Vic and me trying to stay warm.

Vic looking very skeptical.



Eric and Lisa getting snuggly at the Prince of Teck.

Real World exposed, notice the blue.

Snapshot of London

I met up with Smooth Like Butta' last night for some pints. We were going to go to Sports Cafe to watch Denver-Indianapolis, but he had some work to do and wanted something close to home - he started work today as well, so he didn't want to be out too late. It was no big deal to me, so I met him at Russell Square and we found a pub down the street called The Goose.

Smooth Like Butta' is a great guy and we've developed a strong friendship in a very short amount of time. We hadn't hung out or even really talked in about a month, so we just had a great time catching up. He's really two people - there's the smart and driven part and the sexual predator part. He's an animal with the ladies. I don't know if it's because he's Latin or if he just has growing up to do (he's 26), but as he says it, "[he] just can't stop [him]self." I do hope he grows out of it because he has a lot to offer and I think he wants to be monogamous with the right woman.

Anyway, back to the point, the pub was packed so we ended up sharing a table with a nice English gentleman. After he left, a guy and a girl sat down - an American and an Argentine. They both attend the London School of Economics and we got to talking to them. Good people all round. We exchanged numbers as well and we're probably going to meet up next weekend to watch some football.

They had to call it a night around 930 or so (they had school work due the next day), but right after they left, a pack of young, nubile, and not so innocent American girls flocked in and sat at the table next to us. There were probably about 10 of them. Smooth Like Butta', because he can't stop himself, immediately introduces himself and before you know it, we're surrounded by girls. They were all undergrads and they had all just arrived the day before. We chatted them up and had a good time. When the pub closed at 1030, they tried to get us to go clubbing with them in Leicester Square. Smooth Like Butta' wasn't going because he had to work in the morning (he did, however, secure on of the prettier girls' number - no surprise there). And I wasn't going for obvious reasons.

But that's when it hit me. Three months ago, I would have gone out, danced, and hooked up with one of them. I mean, they weren't exactly shy if you know what I mean. In fact, after living here since August, seeing the American girls at school - well, it's just that easy. I didn't even shave yesterday and I wasn't all poshed up - but it just doesn't matter.

I'll get to the point. While the Prototype and I don't have an exclusivity agreement, I've taken myself out of the game - and, noticeably, she has too. The other night she told me about some guy that she knows who chatted her up and asked her out while I was in Amsterdam. She told him no. Obviously, she told me that for a reason - women love to pull the strings. But I'm wiley as well and I'll tell her about last night next time I see her. At any rate, while she has so far been unwilling to attach any labels to "us", the slow procession toward companionship is undeniable and I'm over the moon about that.

The reason I labeled this post a "snapshot" is because last night is an example of just how cool this city is. You meet up with one of your best mates, before you know it you've met some like minded people, and later you have to option to hook up with nice looking girls if you so desire. Does a Sunday evening trip to a pub get any better than that?

Tomorrow, the Real World returns from the US. I'm looking forward to that. She may annoy me at times, but she's fun, she's a good person at heart, and the Prototype and I plan on introducing Real World and the Prototype's roommate because they're like soulmates. I don't know if we both share a sense of devilry, but our plan is get all four of us to go dancing at the Ministry of Sound (the biggest club in Europe - or so the marketing suggests), let them do their thing and we'll just focus on each other. I think they call that fighting fire with fire.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


As I alluded to yesterday, events have been outpacing my ability to keep up in this forum. So, I will try my best to, once again, reconstruct the past couple of days.

While I was in Amsterdam, the Prototype's roommate went nuts on her. Now, this woman is an alcoholic with severe depression/mental health issues, so it was probably a matter of time. So, on the day I left for Amsterdam, the roommate went out, got drunk, and came back to the flat in a rage - all directed at the Prototype. It was apparently quite horrible and involved the roommate screaming, "get the f*** out". The Prototype left and wanted to call me, but I was out of the country (she told me this last night...sigh). Instead, she called her father and he calmed her down. It sounds like she was really distraught by the whole affair - which I'm sure we all would be. At any rate, she stayed at a friends place that night and then her roommate let her come back the next day. They've patched things up as well as they can, but the impetus to move is incredibly strong right now.

So, not knowing any of this, I called the Prototype on Wednesday evening after work. She didn't answer (as she sometimes doesn't - blame Vodafone for shite service) but I left a message saying I wanted to see her this weekend. She texted me from work the next day and suggested that we go out after work. Like I was going to say no. She had to go up to High Gate (Archway Tube - which means nothing to you unless you open up the tube map - but is a little farther north of where she lives now) to look at a bedsit, so we met up there. A bedsit is like a shared house except that everyone has their own bathrooms, kitchens, etc. Essentially they're a merger between studio and student house.

Anyway, we met up there and had drinks at a nice pub. Now, I say drinks, but I don't mean many because we're both poor and really, we don't need to drink fast or anything like that because we're not on the bullet train to liver disease or alcoholism (especially after the roommate fiasco). It was a really nice evening. Unfortunately, 11 came too soon and we had to call it a night. Neither one of us wanted the night to end. I had asked her to go to the National Gallery with me on Saturday. They're having a Rafael exhibit there and she mentioned she wanted to see it. So we agreed to do that and I was going to call her on Friday.

On Friday, I was just dead ass tired at work. I got a reasonable amount of sleep, but I think I just hadn't fully rested properly since New Year's. But I powered through and instead of taking that nap I really wanted to take, I ran errands, bought shoes (Ecco - thanks Vic!), and did laundry. Around 7, I had finished everything I needed to do (including eating dinner), so I went to call the Prototype. As I'm leaving her a message, a text comes through. Now she's asking me out because she wants to see me. Yep, that's me hopping on the train and heading up to meet her. The cool thing about that was that it was totally unexpected but totally the right call for both of us. She had been out with "the girls" and I had planned on sitting around and playing cards with the Argentine Tenor, but meeting up and having a drink was just that much sweeter. Once again, the night concluded long before either one of us was ready.

We met up at Trafalgar Square on Saturday. I had taken a risk on Thursday that I will describe. I did not tell her about the blog - it's obviously way too soon for that. But I have talked about how I'm an aspiring author and that I just love to write. She said she would love to read something of mine. So, while it made me a bit nervous, I printed out the Pert Plus essay (after a little editing) and gave it to her on Friday. She loved it. And she wants to read more. I told y'all she's legit.

Anyway, the Rafael exhibit (only 4 pounds for students!) wasn't going to let us in until 530 and it was just after 2, so we went down the street so that she could get something to eat. We basically killed 3 hours walking around Soho and that area and it was great. The exhibit was really really cool. I got a postcard of one of his pictures that is visionary for something else I'm writing. Not only were his paintings really awesome, but they showed the sketches that he did before hand, so you could see the evolution of his work from sketch to masterpiece.

After, we went into Covent Garden. London is a legendary city for many reasons, but the romantic element is undeniable. Walking around the city with a beautiful woman at your side pretty much tops everything in life, but Covent Garden is truly amazing because there is always live, virtuoso type music being played. Last night was no exception. There was a quintet of 4 violinists and 1 cellist. Not only were they really good, but the lead violinist was truly an elite player. Also, in the middle of the performance, one them put his instrument down and belted out this opera song - he was great. We stuck around there until the end of the show.

Finally we were too cold to stay outside any longer, so we found a nice posh pub and had a little food and drink. We were having such a great time that we decided to go out dancing, but we had to go back to her place first so that she could change. While we were there, we engaged in a little group think and decided it wouldn't be prudent to spend money that we didn't have, so we ended up at Embassy, which is a decent club down the street from her. I've mentioned it before, so when I say "decent", I mean cheap and not that dodgy. We got our dance on for two hours until they closed, at which point I took her home and grabbed the next available bus.

The point of this long winded narrative, however, is that in the last three days we've spent over 20 hours together, we've never run out of conversation, and neither one of us wanted to part and go our separate ways. This woman just does it for me and it's becoming readily apparent that I do it for her. One of the best things going is that we have incredible respect for each other. The Prototype has a thirst for knowledge, argument, and understanding that many people I have met in life's journey simply do not have. We share that and it always leads to stimulating conversation. Neither one of us knows where this is going to go, but when I look at her, I see something I haven't seen in a long time - a possibility of a shared future - or more simply, companionship. And that pretty much the root of all male-female pursuits from where I'm sitting.

So, yes, I'm in a pretty damn good mood today. Plus, I'm going to go watch some NFL playoffs with some mates around 6 GMT and you can't argue with that. Denver-Indianapolis.

Friday, January 07, 2005


Events are outpacing my ability to keep up in this forum, so this will hopefully be a fully encompassing recap of the weekend. (More stories involving the Prototype forthcoming over the weekend and Real World returns Tuesday.)

The trip to Amsterdam was long and painful. We took the Tube to Liverpool Street Station, caught a train to Harwich, a boat to Hook of Holland, a train to Amsterdam, and finally, our feet to the hotel. Along the way, we discovered why the ferry is dirt cheap. It's not about the fare, it's about how much money you spend while you're on the boat. They have bars, a casino, movies, countless eateries, and even a ship's store. Everything is overpriced yet people spend with reckless abandon. It was packed on the way, but we were able to secure a window table for the last 30 minutes or so. For some reason, I don't think I took any pictures.

It only took about 10 minutes of walking before we were offered "coca", "cocaine", and "ecstasy". Lovely town. My first impression was that Amsterdam was one hell of a seedy place. And, in the touristy area, it is. People are swaying from excess intoxication at all hours of the day, the streets are dirty, and there are drugs and sex everywhere. This should have been no surprise, but it did cause a few raised eyebrows. In some ways, I felt like a young Skywalker entering the bar for the first time on Tatooine. People constantly leer in your face, offering you drugs in languages that you can't possibly understand.

That being said, the city does have some character. The less touristy areas are quite nice and the canals are pretty cool. I'm sure it's gorgeous in the Spring. And there are tons of totally awesome sweet shops. Their cream puffs were so incredibly delicious. In fact, I'd have to say they went as far to be both tasty, delicious, and shockingly, succulent.

Red Light District

You can't go to Amsterdam without walking through the Red Light District. That doesn't mean you have to plop down some cash for some chincy ho - there's value in just seeing the environment. My first observation was that the name is directly derived from the red neon lights that illuminate the windows from which these ladies of the night (and day) display their wares. (Lingerie, not nude.) The other, more disturbing observation was that there were lines of men waiting to take a turn with the same ho. Think about that. Anyone who goes to a prostitute knows that she has probably just had sex with another "client", but it's totally different in my mind to actually become familiar with the other client prior to getting your dirty deed on. Simply foul.

Of course, prostitution in itself is foul exploitation and demeaning to both parties. I did, however, feel bad for the fat girls that were desperately trying to make some money and had no takers. I mean, on New Year's, there were literally no more than five prostitutes unoccupied (that we saw) and I think three of them were obese. Every other window had the blinds drawn (meaning they were servicing a client).

New Year's Eve

Amsterdam is truly unique place to spend a New Year's simply because of the danger factor, if not for other reasons. Danger, I say. Yes, in a city of pleasure, they have little need for state sponsored fireworks. The reason is that everyone has boxes and boxes of fireworks that they start firing up mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve. We saw inscrutable fellows lighting firecrackers and tossing them into crowds, one drunk guy light a firecracker and tried to give it to Vic, a bottle rocket was shot at just above ankle level and nailed Eric in the back of his leg (I witnessed the whole thing and it felt like slow motion - simply unbelievable). Not only that, people had the big ones that you shoot into the air and make brilliant displays of light.

The most impressive use of explosives, however, was the block long lines of firecrackers that people would set off. Now, I'm not talking about the little slim jobs that Americans are familiar with. I'm talking about the truly massive (red in color) firecrackers. What they do is, they take a box or two, tie the fuses together, set it up in the middle of the street for about a city block, and then light one end. On the far end is the box with the remaining explosives and it goes off with a bang. Essentially, you start hearing that type of thing about 3 pm on New Year's Eve and it doesn't stop until the next day. We witnessed one of these first hand at about 1 am. Of course, there's no warning. You're walking down the street at one moment, the next your getting the hell out of the way. The whole thing takes about 5-10 minutes to go off, so it's not like you're dodging bullets or anything - although, it does sound a bit like a submachine gun going off.

Eric and Lisa, being wiser than Vic and I, decided to not put life and limb at further risk, so they called it early and went back to the hotel. Vic and I were not deterred, however. Watchful, yes, but Amsterdam at New Year's only happens so often, so we walked the streets and people watched (as well as having a few drinks along the way) until about 3 am. Good times.

Post New Year's

The unfortunate thing about New Year's is that a lot of touristy things are either closed or undergoing renovation (meaning the exhibits are smaller than normal). We did go into some church that looked totally impressive on the outside, but wasn't worth the 9 euros. The Rijks museum was equally cool, except that only half of it was open. The Heineken museum was closed, which would have been nice to know before we traipsed all the way down there. The Hemp museum was essentially just a marketing tour and didn't do much for me. We skipped the Van Gogh museum because I was the only one who hadn't been there and I wanted to stick with the group. We also walked a good bit of the city and saw most things from the outside.

Random Observations

We saw a woman engaged in a smuggling operation on Sunday. Totally bizarre. I couldn't figure out what she was doing, but after watching, Vic pieced it together. She had purchased a box of hollow cigarettes - filters, paper, nothing in the middle. Then, she had a collection of joints (marijuana) and she put one joint into each cigarette. There was some kind of "top" that she put into the cigarette after that to completely enclose the joint. She probably did 50 or so (a whole box). Totally bizarre.

The food was incredibly expensive. Shockingly so, especially since I live in London. It was routine to find hamburgers and fries for 15 euros. More difficult was to find anything cheaper. We essentially ate a lot of kababs and tried to keep each meal under 10 euros. The whole city was expensive though. No free exhibits, expensive food, even tourist gear was pricey (memorabilia).

The Trip Home

My trip to the boat was uneventful. The ferry, however, was mostly empty. On the way, it was packed, but I suppose a 7:20 departure on a Tuesday morning doesn't bring the crowds. I went to get some coffee from the casino area (comfortable seats and good people watching) and the woman in front of me, a traditional middle aged British woman, ordered a small coffee and a pint of beer. I'm all in favor of partying and all, but do you really need to keep it going after you've left Amsterdam?

Instead of reconstructing, the following is what I wrote at the time:

"I'm sitting in the casino section of the ferry right now. It's around 8 am, although I'm assuming we're still on CEU time and I cannot confirm or deny such a shaky premise. I have to get any sleep - last night involved me and Vic staying up and partying all night with Eric passed out on the bed for most of it. I sat here in the gambling section for two reasons. The chairs looked comfy and it's a great place to people watch. Three blokes are currently losing money at blackjack. It was five people earlier, but two obviously lost enough.

"As I sit here and attempt to gather my thoughts about the weekend, a dubious task for someone just shy of sober, I have to conclude that this trip was like going to Vegas. You have tons of fun, party a little too much, see too few sights, but never regret it because it was a thoroughly enjoyable time. Amsterdam at New Year's was definitely a different experience from any other I've seen, that's for sure.

"Down to two at the blackjack table - except the game is now roulette.

"At any rate, just getting to and fro is quite an event. It took us 9 exhausting hours to get from London to Amsterdam and I'm not so excited about having no sleep on the way back.

"Enough money has been lost to grant the dealer a smoke break. No, I was wrong. One guy left with a handful of chips...That took longer than expected."

At this point, I basically passed out. No coffee anywhere was strong enough to keep me awake. Next thing I knew, we were pulling into Harwich. The rest of the trip home was mostly uneventful (except for the part where I took the wrong train in London and ended up having to go back the other direction to transfer to Earl's Court - true evidence of my fatigue level).

In the end, it was a lot of fun, I got to see some people I really wanted to see, and I spent more money than I wanted to spent. Aside from the fact that it was cold as...well, just cold, I can't think of a better way to bring in 05. Barcelona next year guys?

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