Monday, February 28, 2005

Monday mornings are SO fun

Dark clouds roll in; the temperature drops. A cool wind blows; anticipation grows. The first few flakes fall, starting tiny but growing into pebble size puffs of white powdery wetness. Hope builds in your heart; maybe this will be the snowfall we've been waiting for. Now snow is falling so fast and so thick that you can't see straight. Surely this is it. Then, the wind changes, the snow recedes, the temperature warms, the snow melts. And that's when you remember. This is London.

I've been told authoritatively by the Roving Alcoholic that the rest of the country is snowed over. Sadly, London enjoys no such fate. It is blustery and objectionably cold, but that's the norm, I suppose.

Anyway, my weekend of fun is finally over. I wrote over 4,000 words. I was in a pissy mood on Saturday because I had not done anything fun and I had not been that productive. Really, what's the point in staying in and trying to work if you're not going to get anything done? But, I got really productive Saturday night and Sunday and I've (mostly) finished two of three papers. I even started the third paper which made me feel good.

Over the weekend I also considered, researched, and discounted a PhD program in Budapest. Not that I'm committed to pursuing a PhD. It's a huge sacrifice in terms of time and money and I'm not sure that I would want to do it. But I do think about it. Mostly I'm really quite unsure where I'm going to be after this MA is over and done with, so I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at various avenues. The bottom line is, I want to get paid and not in the Tu Pac sense ("I made a G today/Yeah, but you made it in a sleazy way/Hey, I gotta get paid/That's just the way it is...").

Tomorrow is March 1st which means we can put the hellacious February behind us and start looking forward to good times and by that I mean warm times. I shouldn't complain too much as DC is looking at 6-10 inches of snow today and I'm sure other areas of the US are getting hit hard too, but I'm damn tired of being cold all the time. They just don't have proper heat in this country.

Apparently the Oscars were on last night. I can say with a certainty that I am completely out of it in terms of American pop culture. The only movie I know anything about is "Ray" and reading the discription of "Million Dollar Baby" the winner for Best Picture and Best Director prompted this reaction: "Are they actually serious?" I mean, it could be a great movie, but the plot summary frankly looks moronic. Let's see, washed up boxing trainer finds trailer trash, trains her to box, and they find enlightment. Of course the always modest Clint Eastwood quipped that he's glad he didn't get "hobbitized" this year, a weak ass explanation for why his Mystic River movie didn't win last year. Perhaps at some point Hollywood will just accept that the Lord of the Rings was a great series of movies and deserved every accolade.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the planet

I've been busy doing entirely uninteresting things the last two days, so that's why I have not posted anything. School calls, as the quarter is almost over. I will, however, recount a tale from yesterday's class.

My humanitarian issues class is dominated by people will little intellectual prowess which often leads me to fits of frustration and emphatic argument. I simply have low patience for certain things and incessant nobbery is one of them. To boot, I must relate the tale of Real World's presentation. Now, everyone in the class has to present something. I did mine before the conference, so I'm done there. But everyone else has to take one of the speeches from the conference, explain the speakers argument, and then offer their opinion on that argument.

Real World chose a speaker who devoted his discussion to religion and the role that plays in integrating migrants into new communities. He was a good speaker who made a series of totally devastating arguments, so she chose a good one. Her initial presentation of the details was actually pretty good. She had obviously taken a lot of notes. But then she proceeded to engage in "her story" of living in Germany and attending "white" churches. I always object to this because I think the personalization of argument is where objectivity is departed, so I cringed immediately. But then I realized something quite simple: she had missed the ENTIRE point. Her narrative on how the church accepted her in as part of the community, etc. was COMPLETELY irrelevant because the argument was about the STATE'S relationship to the migrant, not a church.

Not only that, she entirely missed the macro level as well. At the conference, there were many Europeans who equated assimilation and integration as one in the same. This speaker described two systems: the European system and the American system. Europe forces assimilation; America is more laissez faire and allows for integration. This was the real target of his presentation and there was nary a word out of Real World's pie hole on this one. SO, being the firebrand that I sometimes am, I was forced to interject and "recast the debate" as it were.

What's the point in this diatribe? Quite simply, I'm getting quite tired of the low talent pool that seems to dominate this program. There are some very smart students, the professors are quite excellent as well, but for obvious reasons, the least talented seem to have too great a role. What I don't understand is why someone who is clearly uninterested in International Relations would spend thousands of dollars pursuing an MA.

For example, another young woman gave a presentation on Friday as well on peacekeeping and the professor had to ask at the conclusion, "What does this have to do with migration?" It's not that peacekeeping is removed from that, not at all. It's just that she was so ill prepared that she had entirely forgotten to relate her very cursory analysis of peacekeeping to the subject at hand. It was a big one off with no point at all. Of course, I expected as much. Prior to giving her presentation she handed me a note that read, "Please don't ask me any questions after my presentation," which of course made me want to grill her on the spot. But, her narrative was so poor, that I literally couldn't think of a single question to ask. There wasn't enough information, nothing of controversy, no argument all. Sadly, she got off the hook.

At any rate, I know that in some ways I'm getting what I deserved here because I was such a poor student in my undergraduate years. But at the same time, no one deserves this:

Real World: "The wider disposa is of concern..." [Diaspora]
Real World: "Like when you go to Senegal..." [Synagogue]
Real World: "For example, they guard the masses..." [Mosques]

I'm not asking for too much, am I? Whatever, I'm just in a foul mood. The weather's crappy, I'm not enjoying this paper much, and I haven't gone out and had any fun this week. Blah.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Snow and Rain

It's been snowing off and on in London the last few days. It's supposed to get worse over the weekend. I must admit, I was pretty excited in class yesterday because we can see Regent's Park from the window and it was getting a light dusting. Sadly, after it stopped, all the snow seemed to melt away and leave frigid wetness behind. London doesn't get much snow although the rest of the country has had quite a bit. I figure if it's going to be freezing, it may as well dump a little snow on us just to be usefull. Otherwise, what's the point of 30 degree weather? I don't expect it to actually accumulate, no matter what these Londoners tell me.

Class was pretty enjoyable yesterday. We had a really good session. Unfortunately, he allowed the class to vote on whether we should watch the video he was going to show or wait until next week. My side lost and class got out early. This is one of those classic "eat your peas and carrots before your steak" moments. By delaying the video until next week, we're likely to have to spend more than 4 hours in the classroom. Plus, the video was tied directly into the lively discussion we were having and I wanted to lock in that knowledge with actual footage. Personally, I'd rather sacrifice in the short term to win in the longer term, but that wasn't the prevailing mood. The Manchester United-Chelsea game may have had something to do with it.

Anyway, after class, Eurotrash and I went to Uni Pub as is our tradition. Fortunately, Real World decided to go home. She's all over the place in school right now, no focus, no idea what she's really writing her papers on or anything - and she's supposed to present her paper next week in class. Not good. Yesterday, she went to Selfridges (don't ask me - overpriced departments stores are not good for the wallet) and purchased about 10 books on the Palestinian problem. She wants to write about it, but she's completely unfocused. So not only was it good for her to go home so that she could work on that business, but it also had the dual benefit of meaning that she wouldn't be getting rowdy at the pub and generally being an annoyance. Because she's a horrible drunk and I'm in no mood to deal with that anymore.

The pub was fun but I drank too much and have had a headache all day today. I'll take the blame for that, but Eurotrash is a great facilitator. He drinks fast. And he buys rounds. So before you're even halfway done with your beer, he's got another on in front of you. Of course, normally I would have enough medicine to deal with a headache, but today is a crisis day. It seems that after 6 months my carefully fortified cache of Excedrin Migraine has run out. I'm not entering the dangerous world of purchasing British headache medicine. Be afraid, be very afraid.

I had to get up at 730 this morning for about 10 minutes. The Prototype was getting a landline installed in her flat today and she asked me to open it up for the phone guy when he came. Of course I said yes and of course that meant I had to go claim the key at 730 in the freezing ass cold and rain. Not good times. The dude called me at about 1 and it took about 30 minutes. Not too bad really. Initially I thought I was going to have to camp out there all afternoon, but the Prototype squared that away.

Tonight I'm doing school work. In fact, I'm likely to do school work all weekend. I have a fair amount to do and I'm not as far ahead as I prefer to be. Plus, I'm not much in the drinking mood right now (for obvious reasons as blood pulses about me head) and I don't want to piss away money. I need to make a decision about my semester break as well. I can go to Marseille return for 50 pounds, but I need to locate a cheap hostel and figure out what it's really going to cost me to do that for four days. There are a couple other alternatives as well, but Marseille has the advantage of being on the Med and being in France, two things that I want right now. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Geneva Wrap Up and More

Two observations about the difference between Geneva and London (aside from the obvious clean air, open spaces, and scenic environs):

1. Clean sidewalks - London is an incredibly dirty city. You can't walk anywhere without stepping in or near something totally nasty. On Monday, while waiting for the Prototype, I nearly stepped in a massive pile of vomit that had been partially washed away by some rain. It's putrescence here all the time. Geneva, on the other hand, is remarkably clean. The sidewalks are spotless...with one notable exception: dog crap. The people of Geneva may be excessively clean, but their dogs are not. You literally have to have one eye on the ground because there's an ever present risk of stepping in a steaming hot pile of fecal matter at any given moment. Once the Swiss figure that part out, then Geneva will truly be the cleanest city on the planet.

2. Alcohol - I've heard this before, but actually seeing it was an eye opener. In London, men drink beer (or liquor) and women drink wine (sometimes beer too). It's almost less manly for a man to drink wine, especially if he's not with a woman (unless it's at dinner where all bets are off). No such thing in Switzerland (or all of mainland Europe I'm told). Instead, everyone drinks wine, the culture appears much less oriented on what is manly, and in general drinking is more of a social phenomenon than the British version of drink until you drop. In other words, people drink in Europe, but they're a lot less manic about it and it's highly noticeable.

Anyway, I have pics that I'll post from the trip at some point but to do so I have to:

A) Download them from the card to the computer, and
B) Actually put a blog entry up from home (and not from work).

When I got back on Saturday, I took a nap and made burritos. They weren't as good as Chipotle, but they were still pretty damn tasty and I've been eating burrito leftovers all week. I met up with Smooth Like Butta' on Saturday night and had a good time. Went home early because I was exhausted.

I met up with the Prototype for drinks on Monday. Nothing new really to report there. We had fun, yada yada. I did learn something new, but in the end, it's probably not that relevant. She and I just seem totally unlikely to hit it off at this point, so I'm looking elsewhere. We'll certainly be friends and I won't disregard the option, but I'm just not going to wait around forever. If she can't give me the type of companionship that I desire, then maybe someone else will.

Work's been a drag this week. Not a whole lot to do. I'm looking for a new job, preferably in Parliament or at a political consultancy. I've seen some jobs advertised in Parliament and I've heard about people getting hired there, so I know it's possible. Today after work I'm going to try to work some connections and see what some of my people can do for me. The law firm deal is highly overrated and, while easily dealable, is ultimately doing nothing for me professionally.

Today is sandwich day and class later. I'm excited. The key to getting the most delicious version of said sandwich is to get the old guy to make it. He's a pro. And yes, it's two ticks past 10 am and I'm already plotting my lunch which is over three hours away. Clearly I have a problem.

Of course, what I really want to know is, when did Samuel L. Jackson decide to turn into Louis Gossett Jr.?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Conference

I had never been to a professional conference of this fashion, especially not one that's dominated by UN and ICRC officials. Like most of us, that's just not how I would normally choose to spend my time. It was, however, quite interesting and I will attempt to describe it.

The conference was held at the World Meteorological Organization, a mammoth of a building and quite well done at that. Initially, we saw that there was another conference on arms control running concurrently and we all strongly desired to join that one - migration can only be so interesting. Sadly, we had little choice in the matter.

The room we were located in was a very large auditorium. Rows of tables flanked the room forming one large concentric half-moon. In the front was a raised platform with a long table and a podium off to the right. In front of each seat was a set of headphones, an internet jack, a plug, and, most cool, a microphone. Not that I got to use it, but the idea was entertaining. In the back of the room, on the 2nd level, encased in glass, sat the translators. The conference enjoyed simultaneous English-French translation.

The initial speakers were what you would expect - little more than political figures who primarily served as the face of their respective organizations. That's the technical description of "keynote speaker" actually. The opening was not without controversy, however. The Swiss head of migrant integration essentially described the entire process as one of forced integration. The Swiss are strongly nationalistic and those that immigrate for any reason are required to abandon their indigenous culture (dress, language, custom, etc). The VERY next speaker was a Canadian guy (and a brilliant speaker) who argued strenuously that the Canadian model was superior. Now, normally, I'm not the kind of guy to immediately grant acclaim to America Junior, but this time, he had a point. The implicit value of the Canadian system is one of integration, not assimilation. Which is really the whole debate. People leave their countries for different reasons, but their indigenous culture is an important linkage that needs to be maintained. Systems like America and Canada give those newcomers the freedom and flexibility to maintain those cultural identities while also learning their new culture.

Anyway, I won't belabor the details. There were many such debates about those issues. The organizers did a pretty good job of assembling an impressive group of people who were knowledgeable and articulate. Where the failed was in the volume. Simply, there were too many speakers. The conference was continually running over time to the point that several of the best speakers (and I mean content, not style), people who obviously had important things to say were cut short. That irritated me to no end. But, what really got me fired up was the moderator.

I'm trying to be polite here, but in short, the moderator was a complete clod. In fact, I'm so thankful that I never considered attending the Webster campus in Geneva, because my hatred for this fucker knows no bounds and he's the director of that program. Fundamentally, there were two problems with him throughout: the conference was about him and he tightly regulated things that ultimately meant that few questions were asked and answered.

When I say the conference was about him, I'm not joking. He was the moderator of the whole thing, which is unusual because I'm told that typically at these types of events there will be several moderators over the course of the two days. Not for this guy. Instead, he uses every potential break to explain his reaction to the previous speaker, summarize what the speaker said, and act authoritatively about the material. Not only was this ENTIRELY unnecessary and ENTIRELY unusual (my prof here NEVER does that when he moderates discussions), but it also had the effect of tightening an already tight schedule to the point that some people were unable to finish their speeches.

But even beyond that, he gave the last speech of the whole enchilada (mmm, enchiladas), but after being completely upstaged by the previous speaker (to the point that any response would be really been impossible) that instead of rolling with his prepared remarks, he tried to formulate a coherent response because he took the whole thing personally for some reason. I'll spare y'all the gory details, but essentially, you have 12 hours of speeches about how great migration is and what goes into that followed by a brilliant Dutch economist who proceeds to devastate the entire notion, casting aspersions on the necessity of the conference in the first place. So it makes sense that the chief organizer, the driving force behind the conference was a bit bristly about it all. But he didn't have to get personal about his experiences in the Hungarian army and his migration to Western Europe, etc in a lame attempt to justify ALL migration (which is really the whole issue because the Dutch guy essentially just argued that low skilled migration is a net economic drain and that we should be careful of who we let into developed economies).

The other egregious offense was that this egomaniacal fool insisted that all questions were submitted in writing. This had the effect of ruining the spontaneity of the Q&A sessions - questions were asked at the conclusion of four speeches, so that by the time your question was answered (if it was screened out as being too controversial) you had lost the focus of the speech because three other topics had just been covered. I was ultimately more offended that I got my questions screened out, however. For example, a Chinese scholar made a comment that there are "26 million Chinese in Taiwan," something I wanted to contest because they would NOT identify as Chinese and that is official PRC government propaganda and doesn't reflect reality. Guess which question wasn't answered? Same thing with the Swiss guy who espoused the merits of assimilation. Same thing for the guy that just asserted that war crime tribunals deters future episodes of genocide/ethnic conflict (say what?). Same thing on a half-dozen other topics.

The last, truly offensive thing that this nob did was give the closing speech of the conference. He was presenting findings for a paper he was working on, which isn't such a bad thing, except that his findings were a joke. I spare you the details, but it was laughable, and not just to me. Several other participants, from undergrad to PhD to career professional, were agreed - his "findings" were highly suspect. At any rate, he embarrassed himself when he asserted that, "The Cold War was not about ideology or power, it was about Europe and only about Europe." I don't think I got that memo. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a PhD holder in not one, but two different disciplines. Bravo.

Other things we did to entertain ourselves included listening to the French translation during really boring speakers. We may have expired had that not been an option. There were several speakers who spoke only in French, so we did have to listen to actual translations from time to time. Those were amusing because the translators were obviously not top shelf. So, during one speech, when the translated would be searching for the right word he would just say "Geneva". I can't tell you how amusing it was to hear the word Geneva spruced about the most boring speech you've ever heard in your life.

All in all, the conference was quite entertaining. I would have much preferred that the format worked out differently and that the content was more political science than sociology and/or anthro(a)pology, but this was a first taste for what that world is like and I liked it. At the macro level, there was a lot of idealistic BS propagated - one speaker even claimed that "international law protects refugees from violence and death" - while completely ignoring Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, etc. But there was a reasonable expectation of such tripe from a predominantly European speaker list. On the whole, however, I was genuinely pleased that the majority of the speakers were not idealogues trumpeting party lines. Instead, most of them were career professionals who had devoted their lives to helping those less fortunate and I applaud their efforts. UNHCR and the ICRC certainly do a good job in their respective roles. For me, however, it's not my area of interest and it's too focused on the micro level. I'm a big picture guy. I want to talk about what causes genocide and how we can stop it, not what types of help we should offer to refugees and how we can integrate them into western societies.

Postscript: Real World thought that Lake Geneva was an ocean - which is particularly galling coming from someone who:

A) Has a college degree,
B) Majored in History with an emphasis on World War II,
C) Is in a master's program in INTERNATIONAL relations, and;
D) For three years lived in a small little land that you may have heard of called Germany that happens to be adjacent to Switzerland.

How it is possible that someone could:

A) Have all of those factors and not know that Geneva has a LAKE and not an ocean,
B) Not be able to look at the Lake and see that it is CLEARLY a lake,
C) Not know that there are only four official oceans in the world, and;
D) Not know that Switzerland is a LAND-LOCKED country

and still refer to the Lake as an ocean boggles the mind. But that's just another day in the life of the Real World.

Monday, February 21, 2005


I had heard from several semi-reliable sources that Geneva was a "boring" city with little to do. This characterization, I must protest. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Travel to Geneva turned out to be more annoying than necessary. I got to Gatwick very early (with enough time to do some duty free shopping and have 2 pints in the pub), which turned out to be completely useless. EasyJet has this system where you don't have assigned seats, instead you have a "priority number". I was number 13, always lucky, right? Well, being a discount airline, they have issues, so when they switched gates on us about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure, it became a free for all and I ended up getting a shoddy seat. No matter, I was still eager and optimistic. All was not right in the world, however, as 1 computer in the air traffic control center went down and it knocked out all air traffic control in the entire UK for about an hour. So, we sat on the tarmac, cooling our jets. Finally, we left and the flight was uneventful.

Flying into Geneva was pretty cool. I had a window seat and even though it was dark outside, you could see the snow and ice on the mountains below us. Geneva is in a valley, so after seeing the mountains very close, suddenly they drop away and you realize you're still at a pretty high altitude. Anyway, I got in late, but not too late and joined Eurotrash, Real World, and the Albanian (his country of origin seems to change every time I mention him) at the hostel.

Sleep on Wednesday night was not forthcoming. In rooming with Real World, I made the first mistake of the trip. It was not her penchant to say ignorant things, such as these:

"I went down to the ocean today. You know, the Geneva ocean." (Call the press, there's a new ocean out there.)


"All these people around here speaking Swiss. I don't know what the hell is going on." (Funny, it sounds remarkably similar to French.)

No, it was the chainsaw like noise that emanates from her when she sleeps. There is no way for me to understate the volume and consistency of her apnea. I've heard F-16's make less noise than the inhuman sounds the erupt from Mount Real World. Needless to say, after possibly 4 hours of sleep, I was dead tired on Thursday.

This, of course, presented an interesting dilemma. Either I had to acquire earplugs, move rooms, not sleep, or, the preferred alternative, consume alcoholic beverages in sufficient quantity as to not notice the continual AK-47 fire going on beneath me (bunk beds). I think we all know my choice.


The conference went off swimmingly. I'll spare the specific comments until my next post. I have plenty to say, but need to piece together my notes. Sadly, I was unable to eat grilled eurotrash.

In the evening, all of us from Webster London met up at a Fondu restaurant. It's a typically Swiss thing and it did not disappoint. Of course, two of the Americans (Princess - self-named and The Cliché - more on that later) were obnoxious to the point of ridicule, but that was ok because the existence of two women meant that Real World was continually distracted engaging in "girl talk". After dinner, Eurotrash, one of the professors, and I wanted to go out and get drinks. The prof is a new guy to me. He doesn't teach in the IR program, instead he teaches a business course or two and is a full-time prof at another university. Really nice guy and, since he's Argentine, I once again found myself steeped in Latin culture, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, we found this totally awesome bar. The music was fantastic - they had a DJ who mixed house music with some of my favorites - Pink Floyd's The Wall, for example. Plus, they had these large sized beers that were only 8 Swiss Francs, which is less than £4 (or around $7, but I don't earn dollars so that's not a relevant comparison). We closed down the shop, hitting on the hot Brazilian waitress all night and even attempting to flirt with the hot police woman who came in to have a drink after her shift was over at 2. "Live life to the fullest", I say.

After we left, the prof sensibly went back to his hotel. Eurotrash and I were not so inclined. Not only were we buzzed, but I had no inclination to attempt to sleep with that chainsaw and he's the gamey type. So, after walking around a bit and not finding a place, we finally stopped in an off license to ask. Now, I must say, after being in the country for just over a day, my French was a little rusty - it has only been 13 years since I last took French. But, using a series of grunts, gestures, and French vocab words that I began to recall, we were able to get directions to a "club".

The Club

The first thing we realized is that this was not a "club", it was a strip club. This was not a deterrent. The let us in with no cover (because we were foreigners) and we immediately ordered drinks that proved to be quite expensive. In no time at all, we were flanked by women. This was unusual. Strippers don't usually come up to you unless their proffering a lap dance. In a moment of clarity, we both realized that we were NOT in a strip club - no, we were in a brothel. There was little to do except finish our drinks and leave - we'd paid too much to just ditch.

After sending away about 5 different prostitutes, they finally sent the head hostess over. She was an absolutely gorgeous Russian lady. I immediately informed her that I was not looking to "engage in an economic relationship" with her and that she could stay if she wanted to chat, but otherwise she was wasting her time. She agreed to stay. Now, after attempting normal conversation with her (and failing because she didn't say much), I seized upon the opportunity of the moment and proceeded to grill her on her choice of profession. How many other times would I have a chance to do that, I thought.

Not only did I grill her on why she was a "ho", I also lectured her extensively on making better choices for her life. When she told me that she did it for the money, I told her that "there's more to life than money". When she told me she was going to school for hotel management (likely story), I told her to "go to a pub and tend bar; it's not as much money but it's an honest dollar for honest work." You get the idea. While I support the right of people to engage in government authorized whoring, I will never believe that it's a good idea for the individual (client or provider) and I stated my case. Now, did she listen to me? Probably not, but that doesn't matter to me much. I entertained myself and I waxed poetic about the dangers of prostitution (physical and emotional). What else could I ask for in that location?


After getting in at about 4 am, sleep was no problem, even it was short. We got up a little late for the conference, but I still got decked out in my suit. I've learned from the Brits to always be posh. We were only 15 minutes late too, which was pretty damn skippy. Eurotrash was looking pretty slovenly, but I carried the team, so to speak. The rumors had already spread that we had "got well oiled", which isn't a bad reputation really because we got well oiled AND showed up with competence. I even got a question answered by one of the panelists (finally!). The conference concluded around 1.

The Americans wanted to go out into the Old City and we were amenable. Friday afternoon was our only chance to see the sights. The Old City is really cool - like what you expect from old Europe. We walked around for awhile until I personally reached the breaking point. The Cliché, as she will be ensconced in the record books, was being the totally annoying American tourist - EVERYTHING was quaint. Just imagine a 22-year old American girl, beret firmly attached to head, walking through old Europe, undoubtedly fulfilling some vision she had as a pre-pubescent adolescent that includes things like going into the Rousseau museum and stopping at every overpriced shop "just to look". I reached the breaking point when she insisted on stopping the group so that she could go into an old book shop. I mean really, how fucking cliched is it to look at old, dusty, musty books in a language you don't even understand? Have a little class, ho. Anyway, Eurotrash and I were both feeling the same way, so we ditched the group to go watch shopping.

You don't go to Switzerland without at least considering buying a Swiss watch. Now, I wasn't sure I was going to buy one, but I haven't worn a watch for about 2 years and they make some damn nice watches there. In the end, I tried on close to 50 watches, finally purchasing a Swiss Military watch that I totally love. And, it only cost 200 Swiss Francs which is less than £100. I also purchased a kilo of Swiss chocolate, which I have to say was almost as good as an investment as the watch.

Friday night we hung around the hostel. We were too tired to go out, although we did have a few drinks. The American crew was fully assembled which resulted in extended nobilarity (and resurrected a pointless argument between Eurotrash and The Princess). The piece dé resistance, however, occurred when Real World and The Princess both exclaimed that "Aussies" were horrible to date, pontificated on that point for an extended period of time, only to be told that the guy sitting RIGHT NEXT to them was from Australia. Good times.

All in all, I had an absolute blast. I love Geneva. It's so beautiful, everyone speaks French, and it's not a claustrophobic city like London. Instead, it has wide open spaces, fresh air, and less crime. I'll discuss this more tomorrow. In short, I definitely recommend Geneva.


"The Princess" is an appropriate name for this total nob. When we had a chat about where we were staying a few weeks ago, she cringed at the thought of staying at a hostel and even suggested that it was "ok for guys, but women are different". So, surprise, surprise, guess who shows up at the hostel on Thursday night (after spending Wednesday in an overpriced hotel)? She did not, however, share a room. Instead, she paid double the price to have an entire room to herself, which of course raises the question: Why move from the hotel at all? Anyway, she referred to herself as "the Princess" on Friday and it stuck. Eurotrash and I will never let her forget it. It helps that she's a rank moron.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Keeping track

I wasn't able to login on Friday and the internet was down when I returned to London, so this is the post that I intended for Friday. I'll save the other one for a future date. And, I'll recap the trip tomorrow. I need to time to decompress. With no further ado:

So I put a counter on the blog awhile ago. It helps me keep track of how many people are checking the site which is really for nothing more than ego gratification when it comes down to it. But there's one feature that I did not expect and that's that I can see from whence my readers came. So, for example, a good number of people come directly to my page - it's bookmarked on their browser. Others, however, find the site through more random means. You can click "next blog" at the top right corner of every blogspot blog, for example, and you'll find all sorts of random shite. I wasted precious hours doing this once; here's a brief recap of what I found:

- Family contact sites: Marge and Homer had a baby boy (Bartholomew), see the pics, yada yada. These types of sites aren't usually well written or even that interesting, at least not to the general public. They have no intention to entertain, merely to provide information to their relatives who live far away. I have no problem with these sites.

- Business contact sites: This one surprised me. There are a number of blogs that are quite literally small businesses that provide information about their companies - contact, location, etc. These blogs are truly obnoxious because they never post anything really useful, they just repost the same info on a routine basis so that google will continue to spider that information and they'll be searchable.

- School sites: These fall into the useful, but totally irrelevant to me category. Usually it's Mrs. Smith's 9th grade geography class or something of that nature. I'm sure the kids get a kick out of it, but it's obviously for a small audience (pun intended). My favorite, however, was the one about dentistry. I think it was for a dental assistant training course. Lots of big words involving variations of "perio". Good times.

- Edgy for the sake of edginess sites: These sites fall into the category of the totally bizarre. You'll have someone out there who must be truly weird (or weirder than I) who actually thinks it's a good idea to post something like this on a regular basis:

"Mothership longs for respite to planet Xolar. Extermination rats feel creepy in dark puddles of oily resin. Hail mindless master bowing forth from lower possums breath. Victory at last."

(And yeah, I made that one up myself. I'm the f*cking man, yo.)

- And finally, sites like nobcentral that intend to inform and entertain at the same time. These sites are universally hit or miss, but you can find good ones. I have a couple links on the side panel that are worth looking at if you have the time and the penchant.

Anyway, back to the original point, which was other ways people find the site. Mostly, people find it through word of mouth. After that grows a bit, then you see some of the random encounters - people that used the "next blog" button and happened to find something they like. There's also the link factor - this site is linked to others and vice versa which inevitably spreads the word. But, my favorite above all else is the search engine. People type in truly disturbing things into search engines and for some reason, my site comes up more often than not. For example, recently, someone typed this into google and it led them to nobcentral:

"essays on how yo protect you sex partner from aids"

and more recently,

"roses smell like poo poo".

In the past, I have seen a variety of different terms, but the one that truly was the most entertaining was the person that did a yahoo search with these terms:

"How to stop your man from belching and farting."

I'm sorry ma'am, but I don't think you'll find any help with that one here.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tasty, Delicious, and Succulent

Some of you may have heard or read my descriptions of food excellence. I frequently use the terms “tasty,” “delicious,” and “succulent”. These terms are not mere words that I throw out there. Instead, they are part of a very specific system that has taken me years to develop. Most people don’t understand that there are two tiers to food excellence. I feel strongly about food so I’m here to educate.

The first tier is the tasty and delicious tier. To successfully achieve a top rating on Tier 1 and proceed to Tier 2, the dish must be both tasty and delicious. Be not deceived by cheap charlatans and imposters. Some food can be genuinely tasty, but not delicious. Others can be delicious, but not tasty. How can this be, oh adoring public? A quick look at the dictionary reveals all.

tast·y adj. tast·i·er, tast·i·est
Having a pleasing flavor; savory.

de·li·cious adj.
Highly pleasing or agreeable to the senses, especially of taste or smell.

And now we have it. Tasty refers to the flavor, delicious refers to the smell. See, great food has to satisfy all the senses, not just taste. Otherwise, it’s just good food, or even mediocre. Food can smell amazing, it can be delicious to eat, but not savory, not tasty. Or, it can be as tasty as can be, but not have interesting textures or complex flavors, thus failing the delicious test. So, if you want to pass the two pronged test, you will be sure to enjoy the look, feel, taste, and smell of the food.

For example, in the past, I occasionally ate lunch at a shop called Fuse Box. It’s a pan-Asian style place mostly focusing on Thai and Malaysian cuisine. The Thai Chicken wrap is definitely tasty, but it has no chance of being delicious. It simply doesn’t smell enticing. In fact, the whole shop smells like wet dog at all times. Which is probably why I haven't been back in awhile.

At any rate, after successfully passing muster on Tier 1, you then move to Tier 2: succulence. Tasty and delicious food is not always succulent. Burritos, for example, are certainly tasty and delicious, but could they be succulent? Highly unlikely (unless Iron Chef Morimoto is the one making the burrito). Let’s shed some light:

suc·cu·lent adj.
Full of juice or sap; juicy.
Botany. Having thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.
Highly interesting or enjoyable; delectable: a succulent bit of gossip.

The important word here is “delectable”. Food that enjoys succulence is so good that it surpasses just tasty, it surpasses delicious, no, it’s so good that it’s delectable. It reminds you of some place more enjoyable than wherever you happen to be. It carries you away from the doldrums of the office and out into the fields. It takes you to Happy Gilmore’s Happy Place. You get the idea. Not only does it satisfy all your senses, but it is interesting and enjoyable – delectable.

Is there a universal ideal that passes both Tiers, you ask? Certainly not, since everyone’s tastes are different. However, there are certain guidelines that I meagerly offer for your consumption:

1. Foods involving mayonnaise are never tasty, delicious, or succulent. Instead, they are nasty, gross, disgusting, and putrid.*
2. Foods involving ketchup may be tasty, but rarely come close to delicious and never, ever make it to succulent.
3. Vegetarian dishes follow rule number 2.
4. Foods involving Kostas and the Greek Deli have a better than even chance of satisfying both Tasty and Delicious tests, and on a rare day, may even be Succulent.
5. British food is neither tasty, delicious, nor succulent. Instead, it’s often mediocre, poor, or generic.
6. Sandwiches and other foods you eat with your hands rarely are tasty, sometimes are delicious, but are never succulent.* (Ribs excluded)
7. Sushi and other cold foods, while certainly tasty and delicious, would have a hard time achieving succulence because they’re cold. These rules are hot food centric.
8. Lamb has the inside track to tasty, delicious, and succulence followed by pig, cow, and finally poultry. And lambs have the added bonus of being cute which offends all the vegetarians around you (Nelson says, “ha, ha”).

Now that everyone has a keen awareness of how the Tasty, Delicious, and Succulent system operates the path should be clear before you. Print out this guideline. Keep it with you always. When you have food that seems to meet the tests, refer back to this handy guide and you will never be in doubt. Then, when you recommend restaurants to your friends, you can say (snootily with nose firmly planted in air), “Yes, it was tasty, and it was delicious, but for $150 it should have been succulent as well. So I would not recommend The Oceannaire unless it’s Restaurant Week and you can get the food for cheap.”

Or, alternatively, you can disregard my rating system and continue rudderless through your culinary adventures.

*There is, I must humbly confess, one exception to the mayonnaise and sandwhich rules. Shamefully, I found myself enjoying "the best sandwich in the UK" after having ordered it with "everything" knowing that there would be some mayo involved. My only defense, as I hang my head low, is that the mishmash of things they combine (hummus, mayo, hot sauce, lemon juice, mint leaves, and taziki sauce - I think) creates an unusual medley of flavors that, when combined with the chicken far exceeds the bare litmus test of tasty and delicious to the point that I have almost declared a Fatwah of succulence on said sandwich. If I continue to eat there once a week, it's almost inevitable that succulence will be achieved, a feat I thought impossible in a mere sandwich. As a final note, I could have the worst job on the planet and I would still want to keep it just because it's close to this incredibly fine sandwich shop (Halal, Lebanese style - but oh so much more than that).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Work, Sandwich, Train, Plane, Geneva

Well, I'm off to Geneva this evening. I'm pretty excited for the trip. It will be nice to see some more of the mainland since I've spent almost all of my time here in the UK. Of course, my excitement is tempered by two things: cost and topic.

The cost factor is obvious - those Swiss are so cute with their special little currency, their saucy chocolates, their exquisite fondues and their exorbitantly high prices. Fortunately, living in the UK gives me the strongest currency base in the world and it's about 2.25 Swiss francs to £1. So I got to make that work for me.

The conference I'm attending will be cool except for a couple things. Firstly, it's a UN conference which means lots of talking, little action, and no cross-examining. It's the last factor that really bothers me. I so badly want to grill some eurotrash. (Mmm, grilled eurotrash...) But really, the larger problem is that there is ONGOING genocide in Darfur, Sudan right now and we're having a smarmy little conference about refugee flows and migration issues? Please. They dodged Darfur last year, they're dodging it this year, and the UN is refusing to label it a "genocide". If the organization is to have any relevance, it needs to step up when people are getting hacked to pieces by racist and discriminatory governments. This is not to say the UN serves no point - since 1950, the organization has helped over 50 million refugees find safe residence and/or return to their country of origin at the conclusion of conflict. But no matter how vital a role that has been, that's NOT the UN's mission. Even Georgie W. was bold enough to write "not on my watch" when he received a report about Darfur (not that he did anything). My point is, the UN has consistently failed in its mission to preserve the international order and instead has focused on responding to the humanitarian aspects of conflict and crisis. It's a bandaid on a bullet hole.

(Alright, honestly, I'm just bitter I can't grill some Eurotrash. Although, if the opportunity arises, I'll be the first to speak up.)

Anyway, as soon as I finish up here at work, I'm headed to my favorite sandwich shop and then home. I have to pack a bag and then head to Victoria Station to catch the Gatwick Express. My flight doesn't leave until 6:30, but I'm flying EasyJet and they don't do assigned seating. Instead, they open up boarding at 4:30, first come, first serve. So I plan on getting there early. I want to sit in the front of the plane at the window so I can see the sights (never mind that it will be dark when I take off).

Real World just called me and wanted to know if our hostel had contacted me about her early arrival. They had not. I asked if she had contacted Eurotrash. She had not. I informed her that she should. The short version: I arrive at 9. She arrives at 2:30. We're sharing a hostel room. She can't get in until I get there. Eurotrash and the Moldovian are getting there at 3. They're in the same hostel. So, a reasonable person would be in contact with their fellow classmates so that they wouldn't be out in the cold all day. Sorry to spell this out like everyone out there is a two year old, but this is just how I have to break it down for Real World. And, as we all know at this point, she's not the reasonable sort.

Anyway, since I won't be updating the blog in real time over the next couple days, I have a few more pre-prepared essays/entries that I've loaded up. I should be able to get online to publish them. I'll be sure to bring my camera and take lots of pictures and will give a full description of the trip over the weekend. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


I have to say, last night was a pretty damn good time. We met up at the pub across from the restaurant. She got there a little early and had a glass of wine, I arrived just in time for the reservation. The conversation, as usual, was captivating. She told me at the end of the night that she "thoroughly enjoyed every moment" which pretty much sums up how I felt as well. I do have to confess that the conversation turned quite philosophical for a time and I was dangerously close to saying things that I should not say (at least at this point). Fortunately, I reserved my most inner of thoughts. Not to delve too deeply into the subject, the brief overview is that we're both extremely dissatisfied with the transient nature of our respective lives. I have been thinking this for quite some time, but ultimately, I have a strong desire to settle down somewhere and grow some roots. At this point, neither of us has done that and it can be a constant struggle when there is literally nothing in your life that you would consider "solid". The contest, as in most of life's pursuits, is to enjoy the moment you are in and not stress about the residually unsatisfactory reality. More on this at a later date.

Anyway, on to the important stuff: the food. Pierre Victoire is a very good restaurant. The food achieved the highest possible rating: tasty, delicious, AND succulent. It was a price fixe, three course meal and the options were great. For appetizers, we had bacon wrapped scallops lightly fried in butter with an indescribably delicious sauce that I believe had a very light tomato base. We also had pan fried foie gras, something I've always wanted to try after seeing Iron Chef and it was something she ordered (which prompted me to describe the Iron Chef since she'd never seen the finest piece of television available). It was not quite what I expected - light, creamy, and buttery. I would try it again, although I don't know if I would order it myself (unless, of course, Iron Chef Morimoto was on the scene). Really, the texture was a bit unnerving, but there was nothing wrong with the flavor.

For our mains, she had duck in a sweet sauce that I must say was outstanding. I had the lamb with a red wine demi-glaze. My only quibble would be that the lamb was cooked too quickly, but I'm certain that's because it was cooked as a steak and not as a roast. Still, very very good.

For our desserts, she ordered the passion fruit creme brulee, while I had the amaretto tiramisu. Both were exquisite and neither were finished. We'd simply eaten too much and the desserts were ultimately just too intense for one person to finish (even though we shared). One dessert would have been more than sufficient.

I have to say, I don't have much of a problem with Valentine's Day in general. Yes, it does cause people to go out and spend money in fairly useless diversions, but if you're in a relationship, they aren't meaningless diversions. Plus, February has the unique quality of being the worst overall month of the year (after Christmas, before Spring, no holidays), so it can be a nice thing (or at least a good excuse to have a nice meal). No, the people that hate Valentine's Day are those of the disaffected masses who are without a date (as I have been in the past) and are angry simply because it reminds them of that which is missing in their lives. I don't begrudge their hostility or bitterness, but at the same time, this is going too far.

In reflection, I'm somewhat on the fence with the Prototype. I know that I really like her and that when I get to see her, it's the highlight of my week. But at the same time, I'm not convinced I'll ever get what I want from her; I'm not convinced that she'll ever truly open up to me. I've let this run its course because I identified relatively early on that she captivated my attention and that's a rarity. But, in the end, I'm not going to wait around forever. If things don't start happening soon, I'll have to move on and look elsewhere. Ultimately, as André 3000 said, "I hope that you're the one, but if not, you are...the Prototype." And sometimes in life, you just need a small sign that it is possible to find someone like that, even if it doesn't work out.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Movie Review

So I went to my first theater in the UK yesterday. The Prototype and I saw Meet the Fokers. It was an enjoyable film, silly, but enjoyable. They basically have one or two jokes that they beat into submission, but overall, we enjoyed it.

The theater was something like I had never imagined, however. Inside the building, they have not one, but two pubs. Basically, people go in and get tanked prior to watching a film. You can't bring alcohol into the actual theater, but that doesn't stop people from having a few prior to the event. Needless to say, we opted out of that particular plan. They also have lounge areas for people to smoke, read the paper, or whatnot while they wait for the movie to start. It's a much more relaxed, leisure type atmosphere than US theaters. I kind of liked it. Plus, with the student discount, it only cost £5 to see the film, which really isn't to bad for London.

Oddly, they don't do "butter" popcorn over here. No, instead, they have salty and sweet. We weren't inclined to have any. The Prototype has had it before and she says it's ok, but it's just not the same. It will never satisfy the craving, so what's the point. I actually went looking for some microwave popcorn the other day and only found the sweet as well. I do imagine that they sell normal popcorn somewhere, finding it is just a whole nother issue.

I ended up watching Saving Private Ryan last night. What an intense movie. I had forgotten much of the story having only seen it once before. Spielberg did it right with that one.

Today I'm back at work which means that I'm being a bit delinquent in my responsibilities. I don't have a ton to do today, so that's part of the equation. Plus, I needed to sort out the details for the Geneva trip. We lucked out in that our hostel is about 5 minutes walking from the conference site. For some reason, the Swiss still have Swiss Francs instead of the Euro. I don't know how much things cost there (I've been told it's expensive), but the exchange works in my favor. It's 2.25 Swiss Francs to £1. I'm pretty excited to go. Geneva isn't exactly a prime tourist location, but it is a new country for me and I've been told that it's absolutely beautiful. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Clarifying Geneva

It appears that I was less than clear yesterday. So this brief message is intended to shed light on the issue.

I am leaving for Geneva on Wednesday evening for a three day UN conference on refugees and migration. It's for school. I am going with a bunch of classmates, although we're all traveling seperately. To save costs, Real World and I agreed to share a hostel room. It's cheap and I agreed to it in January. Now, I find myself not really wanting to room with her for obvious reasons, but will for equally obvious reasons.

I am not, repeat, not going to Geneva with the Prototype. My attitude would be entirely different if I was. I am, however, going to see a movie with her in about 30 minutes.

To sum up: Time spent with Prototype is time well spent. Time spent with Real World is time wasted (as of this moment).


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Pretty Good Day

I think I'll stop being a whiney little bitch for a few days. It's dragging on me. Always good to vent frustration, but there's no excuse for excessive complaining.

Anyway, yesterday turned out to be a pretty good day. My presentation went swimmingly well. I put in a good bit of time getting prepared for it, so I knew it would go alright. But the thing I liked is that everyone universally appreciated it because it was on a topic that no one in the class had studied before and they were all very inquisitive. Of course, my visual displays that I printed off the internet gave impact to my argument. Nothing like seeing satellite evidence of ethnic cleansing on a time-date basis.

After class, I went directly home. I had thought about doing some shopping, but was just not feeling it. I had not talked to the Prototype all week but was hoping to do something with her. She called immediately after she left work. I was pleased. We agreed to meet up in Covent Garden around 7 and went from there. We went to a pub for awhile and then back to The Loop which is where we were a few weeks ago. It's a decent club that isn't that expensive. While there, we had this conversation:

Me: "So Monday is Valentine's Day. Would you like to go to dinner?"
Her: "Are you asking me out?"
Me: "Absolutely."
Her: "Then yes, I would like to go out with you on Monday."
Me (Internal): "About time! I mean, did she just say yes to an actual date? Fucking A."

Anyway, as you can imagine, I was pretty pleased about that. In fact, I was pretty pleased with the whole evening. We had a great time, we didn't drink that much, and we just clicked all night long. Really, a great, great time. Also, she told me that her work friends had invited her out that night but she declined because she wanted to meet up with me even telling them that she "had plans with someone" when we hadn't actually talked all week. Pretty bold, although, pretty safe as well. (Like I was going to do anything else last night.)

Today, it was absolutely gorgeous out. The sun was shining, the air was crisp but not cold, and there was only a smattering of rain here and there. I was woken at the ripe hour of 8:30 by some construction out front which was most unpleasant, but I rallied by going back to sleep. I went out this afternoon though because I wanted to get into the city and I needed to make dinner reservations for Monday. I found this French restaurant that we went to a month or so ago that we were talking about last night. Neither one of us could remember the name or exactly where it was and we were lamenting that fact because it was totally sweet and romantic to boot. But, I'm pretty handy with maps so I knew it was on one of two streets and I found it today.

After I secured reservations, I walked down to Covent Garden to do a little shopping. Oddly, I ran into my friend Justin on the street just walking by. I met up with him for 1 pint after the store. I hadn't hung out with him in awhile, so it was good to chat.

When I got home, Real World sent me several annoying and insulting texts in a passive aggressive attempt to get me to go out with her and her boyfriend. Things like, "Stop waiting around your flat for the Prototype to call," and "don't be a lazy twat." With the utmost of patience I told her not to be an ass because it's not becoming. She called me up and tried to harass me into meeting up with her later, but I told her no. I'm just not feeling it tonight. Well, I'm not feeling her at all, but she's the 3rd person to try to get me to go out drinking tonight. But I'm so not interested in doing that. One night a week is more than enough for me. Not only that, it's just too damn expensive. I have many costs upcoming (dinner on Monday, trip to Geneva on Wednesday) and I'd rather spend my precious resources when I'm with the Prototype than with Real World.

The Real World situation needs to be addressed and it will soon. I'm sharing a hostel with her in Geneva (only because I agreed to in January), so I have to interact with her next week. But I think the most analogous situation is the end of 8 Mile when Eminem says, "I just think I need to do my own thing for awhile." I don't want to torpedo my friendship with her, but I think doing my own thing is necessary. When I spend lots of time with her, she drives me nuts. So establishing some distance is the only solution I see to maintaining an already tenuous friendship.

Tonight I think I'm going to do some laundry and some school work. Pretty lame for a Saturday night, but I think I'll enjoy it more than rolling to a club with Justin, Real World, or Victor. My neighbors invited me over as well, so I may go over there later tonight to have a decent chat. For two uneducated guys, they stay more on top of global events than half the people in my MA program.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Paying attention, aka Bashing the Real World

Wednesday's are, as I've mentioned before, the longest days of the week for me. Yesterday was no exception. Work was super busy and I barely escaped at 1:30 (30 minutes past when I was supposed to leave). Unfortunately, working in the same general area as Real World means that it's apparently required that we transit to school together. So, she called me and suggested we meet at the Moorgate Station. Now, this is a clear violation. Allow me to explain.

I eat shabby lunches four days a week. It's either peanut butter and jelly or something similar to that. So, the one day that I allow myself a "luxury" is Wednesday. It's the day I go to the most delicious sandwich shop in the world and it's something that Real World should be aware of. She's only gone there with me every week for the last month. But no, that's not the way this particular light bulb operates. Instead, we have to have the same conversation each week ("Are you working tomorrow?", "What are you doing for lunch?", "Are you going to school after work?"). It gets old, to say the least.

Anyway, after informing her that I was once again going to Leather Lane and said sandwich shop, she suggested we meet outside the "Car Warehouse". Now, this is where the question comes to mind. I've thought for awhile now that she is either dyslexic or has ADD or both. So maybe someone can authoritatively comment on this. See, it's not "Car Warehouse". It's the "CarPHONE Warehouse". Not that it's a huge deal, but this is a characteristic that manifests itself on a daily, hourly, and per minute basis. She either has zero attention to detail (possible), has a vast and undiagnosed learning disability (likely), or both (I think we have a winner). It's frustrating to me because I'm not one with vast amounts of patience anyway. So when we have the exact same conversation twice a week for 6 weeks, I'm gonna get pissy about it. When she habitually omits words in common speech that render her "sentences" incomprehensible, I'm gonna get pissy about it. And when she opens her mouth in class, well, I'm actually just going to quietly laugh my ass off.

Anyway, after class, several of us went to the Uni pub. The new guy in the program (I'm going to call him The Marine because he served for several years) came with. He's a good guy, really smart and sensible. I identify with him as well because he's 30. While there, Eurotrash, The Marine, and I got into a conversation about Iran. It's something that is a definite concern because if you read between the lines, the US has not said we won't attack Iran. Instead, we've heard, "We have no plans to attack Iran at this time." Not exactly comforting. Real World, however, was unable to keep up. And this is the difference. Real World enrolled in this program because she wanted to be in London. Eurotrash, The Marine, and I all enrolled because this is what we're interested in - this is what we read, think, and talk about anyway. Real World couldn't even locate Iran on a map, not to mention have any comprehension of what we're going on about. She doesn't read the paper, she doesn't pay attention to current events, and she has next to no interest in her chosen field of study. What the hell is she still doing here?

This post wasn't intended to be a Real World bashing episode, but since I'm all warmed up, I may as well continue.

Real World is clingy. In fact, from a relationship sense, she's every man's worst nightmare. Not only does she have vast insecurities, but she absolutely cannot do anything by herself. Two examples:

1. Last week I missed work on Monday. I was quite unwell. Real World called me on the phone because she had not heard from me via email and she wanted to get lunch. I didn't answer. It wasn't personal, I'm just not answering the phone when I'm at home with illness (unless it's the Prototype - she has a free pass). So yeah, I saw her number come up, but I put the phone back on the floor and went back to sleep. She called several times later in the day, same response. It ain't personal. I just was not in the mood to talk to anyone. So, the next day, she asks me what was up and I explained that I was ill. Her response? "I thought you were mad at me." WTF? Now I'm mad at you ho'!

2. For our Humanitarian Issues class we have to go to the Imperial War museum to see the Holocaust exhibit. I was going to go last week but I had some admin things to deal with and ran out of time. Real World has been bugging me about it because she does (did) not want to go alone. She can't do anything by herself. I've been noticeably shady about when I was going. Today, she knew that I was going to go, so she started calling me at 9:30 in the morning to find out when I was going to go.

Now, I must confess, I drank to excess last night. It was not intentional. I have not been drinking much the last two weeks and your tolerance returns to fairly normal levels in that time span. So while I did not think I was overconsuming, I was brutally disabused this morning. As you can imagine, receiving any phone call at 9:30 in the AM (after passing out at 3) was not likely to bring a positive response. I took the high road and didn't answer. Just like the cock crows, Real World insisted on calling back 3 additional times, finally leaving a message on the 4th call. Yes, that's four calls in a row. Later, when I was feeling a bit more normal, I sent her a text that just said, "Hungover, may go later. Not sure." That, apparently, was a green light for her to call me again, this time around 2. Once again, I met her call with silence.

And this is the bottom line. Rested and healthy, hungover and ill, it matters not. The LAST thing I wanted to do today was to go to a museum with Real World. Not only do I like to have my personal time, seeing any Holocaust exhibit is a traumatic experience. I would not like to do that with someone who is vastly insecure and is likely to break down and be hysterical. Now, don't think I'm a cold-hearted bastard. If I was with a girlfriend and she did become emotional, of course it wouldn't bother me. But there's a HUGE difference between a "friend" and a girlfriend, and I am completely fed up with Real World to the point that it's becoming difficult for me to be nice to her on a regular basis (like ignoring her idiocy, for example).

At any rate, I never made it to the museum, so it's academic. It opens at 10 tomorrow, so I think I'm going to go before class. I have to give a presentation tomorrow in class, so I decided to dedicate the limited brain power that I have today to finishing that up. Should be good.

So, to sum up, I've reached the breaking point with Real World, I'm angry at myself for drinking too much and losing a day recovering, and I'm still unsatisfactorily single. I got to make some changes.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Challenging the Universe and other wasteful moments

I was eager to get home from work last night. My lunchtime fuel had expired, the day turned out to be one of those long endurance fests, and I had a tasty menu planned for dinner. When I got home, I went to the fridge, pulled out my salad, my mozzarella cheese, my tomatoes and my...chicken? Wait, where is my chicken? Three possibilities came to mind:

1. I had forgotten to buy chicken on Sunday - I knew this to not be a possibility. Not only do I remember purchasing the chicken, not only did I remark to myself after I got home that it was the most expensive thing I purchased (which was funny since it was only £2), but also, I remember placing it on the shelf under my Tuna. I definitely purchased the damn chicken.

2. I had already eaten the chicken - Again, zero chance of that. I bought it on Sunday, ate the Tuna on Sunday/Monday, and specifically remember removing the tupperware container with the leftover tuna from on top of the chicken packet on Monday night. Unless I had a late night feast that involved cooking and eating without my knowledge, I didn't eat that chicken.

3. Some fucker stole, cooked, and ate my chicken - And I've hit the nail on the head. I've heard rumor of the food thief in the house. It's been a rumor that I've discounted mostly because it seemed unlikely that people would pinch items like uncooked chicken due to the labor involved and the risks of getting caught. But it appears that karma nipped me in the bud. Apparently, the food thief is real and has no compunction about stealing anything that strikes his fancy. I have half a mind to buy one of those mini spy cameras and catch that fucker in the act.

(*Once again, the perils of living in a student house with 30 strangers.)

At any rate, instead of bitching about it, I immediately departed for Tesco, purchased another £2 packet of chicken, and came home and ate my dinner. I'd prefer that little fucker just steal the £2 out of my pocket instead of my chicken. That way I wouldn't have to race off to the store and delay my repast in such fashion.

Yet another downfall of living in this house is that there is one TV. Normally, not a problem because I don't watch much TV here. But last night was supposed to be an exception. The BBC has a documentary series on Auschwitz ongoing and Tuesday at 9 is the spot. Unfortunately, the Tenor was already present, ass in seat, watching CSI also on at that time slot. So instead of watching something interesting and cultured, I was subjected to contrived melo-drama that merely sought to glamorize that which is ultimately unglamorous (and did a damn good job, as absurd as it seems).

After two disagreeable occurrences on top of an already disagreeable day of work, I was in a foul mood. But, I agreed to a game of Truco because it's enjoyable and I wanted to inform the Tenor that I now knew the proper rules to the game. My partner and I trounced the opposition; it was a rousing defeat. I was stirred up, however, and victory to me was merely an opportunity to castigate said Tenor on his unscrupulous description of the rules. Yes, there was really no point, but at the same time, I was irritable and frankly, it offends my sense of propriety that he would not give a full and accurate description of the rules and then use that to his advantage in the field of play.

Apparently, along with (1) Never start a ground war in Asia and (2) Never come between this guy and lunch, there is also (3) never impugn the credibility of an Argentine Tenor. He was mortified that I would accuse him of "having a rule in his back pocket" to use at his leisure. His description, not mine, but one that I readily agreed with. Not only did he feel affronted, he also blamed the confusion on me.

"Maybe, my English, it not so good, you misunderstand."

I'm like, uh, Tenor Guy, these were OMISSIONS, not things that were unclearly spoken. Plus, I'm indignantly offended by that statement. His English is as good as necessary when required. Yes, he has trouble understanding when I speak quickly, but using "poor English" as an excuse is a huge cop out. At any rate, after going back and forth (with him at several occasions suggesting that he didn't know what I was saying - something totally untrue, especially since a Spanish guy translated when necessary and then the Tenor claimed he didn't understand that), he finally stated that he "would no longer play with [me]".

Maximus said, "the time for honoring yourself is almost over" and that's how I feel about the Tenor. I think I was so irritated with the barbecue because he's a prideful SOB - it's part Latino machismo, part (aspiring) opera singer. And this is just another example. The Tenor told me once about how Pavarotti requires 4 whole chickens to be at his disposal during his performances. On one such occasion, someone ate a small portion of one of the chickens and Pavarotti refused to go back on stage until they found a replacement chicken. This is the ego that you deal with when you confront an opera singer.

The Tenor is no different. He may have only performed in Argentina, but he's well schooled in the art of the ego, and frankly, that pisses me off. Ego is why he cares little about his physique. Ego is why he *must* win at cards no matter the cost. Ego is why Argentine barbecue *must* be the world's best. Ultimately, ego is why I don't respect the guy and why I take special delight in beating him in cards.

Anyway, now that I've dissected this particular situation, he's something truly disturbing. I have no comment whatsoever.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Someone get me a pillow

I have a developed a very bad habit that knows no solution: restlessness. Instead of sleeping properly, my body insists on sleeping for an hour or two, awakening for an hour or two, and then finally falling into a deep slumber. This has the wonderful effect of leaving me chronically sleep deprived (fatigued) as you never get a proper rest when you break it up like that. So, needless to say, I'm very tired today and all the coffee in the world seems insufficient to perk me up.

I've been missing the US of late for really no particular reason at all. Of course, watching the Super Bowl didn't help in that regard because it is an experience uniquely American. I much would have preferred grilling up delicious food and imbibing with my mates in the States than sitting solo in an uncomfortable TV room until 4 in the morning. But you do what you can. At any rate, they have this ad that they show on ITV that only helps you miss America more. It shows perhaps a dozen scenes from US movies that basically show famous places in the US: NY, LA, the Grand Canyon, etc. Then they say, "you've seen the sets, now see the real thing." It's a pro-US tourism ad. And yeah, it does sell the beauty of the land pretty profoundly.

The secretary next to me apparently quit in a huff last week, not that I blame her. She was going through the partner's trash (because he often throws away important documents so she filters out his trash pile before actually putting it in the bin) and found a printed copy of a job solicitation - her job that is. This particular attorney (American) is a total jerk and was going to replace her without giving her any notice. So, she went to the office administrator and quit. She got a month's severance, so bully for her. I had seen a good deal of office gossip but was typically out of it until this week. But my mate the Roving Alcoholic clarified things for me. Apparently, in 2.5 years, this partner has gone through 12 temps and now 3 permanent secretaries. He's a nightmare to work for. The temp they hired this week is already being driven nuts by him. So, obviously, it isn't sufficient to keep our office politics domestically, we also have to export them to the world.

If there's one British expression that I really like and think should be used everywhere it's the term "clever". The first time I heard it was when my IPE professor had to cancel class in the middle of the session because he wasn't "feeling too clever". Just now, an attorney called in and told the secretary next to me that he's "not feeling too clever". I think that's brilliant. I always have trouble when I call in sick because I never know exactly how to put it. I think the term "clever" is great because it gives you cover if you're just hungover, while also implying some greater illness. Essentially, it's sufficiently vague to be applicable in multiple situations.

I played the Tenor again in cards last night and he had the Devil's luck. Seriously, every time he needed a card to win, he had it. I informed him that the next time he sells (rents) his soul to the Devil, he ought to shoot a little higher. Being the luckiest Truco player ever is pretty good, but the man is an aspiring opera singer. We were playing teams last night (sort of like how you play Hearts or Spades) and he was totally annoying. There are various signals to let your partner know what cards you have with the idea of minimizing table talk. But, a gregarious (arrogant) Tenor knows no way to shut up, so he just talks and talks the entire game. Of course, it didn't help matters that he was beating our ass out of sheer luck. I hate losing. I used to think that the Tenor cheated at the game (and he may), but now I understand it more simply: he just omitted a variety of rules until they came up in the game at which point he would claim victory even though he had never previously mentioned said eventuality. Now that I have the rules, however, it's my turn to turn the table because there's one part of the game that we have never played and it's time.

Anyway, today looks like a pretty dull day at work. Not a whole lot to do and none of it interesting. Hopefully the day will pass quickly because I'm in no mood to suffer fools gladly.

Monday, February 07, 2005

File this away...

So I stayed up to watch the Super Bowl last night. I figured it's a part of Americana that must be experienced, even at the risk of leaving me sleep deprived to the point of passing out at work. Start time: 11:30 GMT. Finish time: 3:40 (or so) GMT. Yeah, that's right. Four hours of sleep.

I was sort of hoping that the game would be a blowout so that I didn't feel compelled to stay up and watch. But, at the same time, the US media has been falling all over themselves about how great the Patriots are and what a genius their head coach is, so I was pretty pleased when Philly didn't just lay down and let the "brilliance" of the Patriots run up the score. New England fans have now become the new Yankees fans. Totally annoying. These people are best evidenced by ESPN's Sports Guy who used to be highly entertaining, but is now just a rag for Boston sports nation. The arrogance of Boston fans now knows no bounds. I just can't wait for the inevitable string of "dynasty" stories...

At any rate, watching the game from here (which I'm sure is more interesting than my take on Boston sports fans) was totally bizarre. I don't think we had the same video feed at all. The pre-game show was run by a typical British blond, a footballer (world), a lineman who plays for Carolina, and the former kicker from the London NFL Europe team. Not exactly a stellar lineup. It's pretty damn amusing, I must say, listening to a Brit say that for the Eagles to win they have to "move around a bit more".

ITV, the network showing the game, also totally screwed up the entire pregame because they obviously weren't showing it live. So, they kept switching around from various musical performances until finally, they just cut off something in the middle and went to that god-awful rendition of America the Beautiful by Alicia Keys (which I turned off). Their coverage during the game was better except that they kept reverting to bizarre angles that barely showed the action.

I still don't understand why Will Smith introduced the Eagles. Just because you're famous and your hometown team is in the Super Bowl doesn't mean you should be on the field or taking any part in the event other than rooting from your luxury box. I found him to be annoying.

All in all, I'd have to say that the entertainment surrounding the Super Bowl was curse inspiring - as in, totally uninteresting and did little but ensure that I only got 4 hours of sleep last night because it delayed the game by at least an hour. I really didn't like the half-time show (is there ever a good half-time show?), the pre-game was terrible, and I really think that the threat of FCC oversight chilled whatever edgy material that Fox would have produced. Bottom line, Super Bowl without some sort of scandal is just not that interesting (unless the Redskins are playing).

The Brits, however, had the right idea. They routinely made fun of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" and the camera's spent tons of time on the cheerleaders. I think they might have just had a dedicated cheerleader cam because they flashed to the cheerleaders at more regular intervals than you would ever see in the US (like every 5-10 minutes) in a clear attempt to market the sport to the European audience. It would have been decent of them to put a box in the upper left corner with just cheerleaders on all the time...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Head Nob on the pier with shoreline in the background.

The shoreline at night from the pier.

The carnival style pier at daytime.

The Royal Palace. Every town in Britian must have a royal palace.

They even have historic buildings.

Green Day was playing at the building on the right.

The English Channel. It's actually more blue than green, but you can't really tell in this picture.

The beach path.

Old pier that was vandalized and is now polluting all the water.

Shoreline of Brighton.


Well, the internet was out again, so I haven't been able to detail the last two days. Here goes.


I was going to go to the Imperial War museum but I needed to get to school and deal with my check situation, so the museum was out. It didn't take anything more than a bit of my time, but I finally got the check deposited. God only knows when the money will be there. I asked the teller how long it would take and she said "4 days". So, being that it was after 2 on a Friday, I replied, "then will it be next Thursday or Friday?"

"Yes, that's right."

No, really. Which is it?

"Yes, that's right."

Obviously this conversation was going nowhere, so I left. I should have a pool going on this.

Anyway, after the bank, I went back to school. (For those following at home, that's home-school-bank-school.) There was a new student meet and greet which involved free drinks, so who was I to argue. It actually turned out to be pretty lame. Well, not entirely lame because there were free drinks and I ended up hanging with several of my mates. It's just that it was supposed to be for the "old" students to meet the "new" students and only one new student showed up. That's weak. I plan on ridiculing several of my IR classmates on Friday.

The Prototype and I had plans to meet up after that event, so I left at 8 and headed back to Earl's Court. We met up around 9 and had a great time. We ended up at Scream again and even went downstairs and danced a bit. She owed me about 8 pounds, so I didn't have to spend much money at all. At some point, she asked me if I wanted to go to Brighton on Saturday with her and I leapt at the opportunity. She used to live there, talks about how great it is all the time, and I will pretty much always say yes when she invites me to spend the day with her. Plus, London can be a bit claustrophobic at times and I wanted to get the hell out of there for a bit and see something new. We called it a night about 1. Neither of us was in the mood to rage and we needed to get up at a decent hour to catch the train.


We met up at the Tube at noon and took that to Victoria Station. The round trip (return) ticket to Brighton was 16 pounds - not too bad. The bus is about 9 pounds and it takes 2 hours minimum each way. The train down took about 50 minutes. Plus, at the Prototype's advice, I'm probably going to buy a national rail discount card. It costs 20 pounds and you get 30% off of every trip you take. Since I know I'll be going to Brighton at least once more (5 pounds) as well as doing some traveling with my friend Maria, it will be well worth it.

Brighton, in short, is essentially a New Jersey shore town located on the southern tip of England. And I'm not just being funny here. I'll post some pics in a bit, so you can see what I'm talking about. But there are essentially two things there: the shore and "the lanes".

The Shore

The beach is a rock beach, not a ton of sand. It also has garish tourist attractions like skee ball and things of that nature. The really nice thing about it though is that it has a wide walkway that people bike and run on. I'm sure in the summertime (as the Prototype mentioned) that it's amazing to run on. The weather doesn't get "hot" there (no matter what the Brits think "hot" is - 75 is awesome) and it's right on the English Channel. She used to run there when she was living down there.

There is also a very large and long pier that has New Jersey all over it. It's basically one of those carnival type deals - rides, games, pubs, cotton candy, etc. Instead of funnel cakes, they had crepes. They play American hip hop on speakers all over the pier and it has the feel of something entirely un-European. The whole thing is totally awesome in the sense that you feel like you're stepping into this bizarre world of yesteryear that for some reason still manages to survive even given increasingly sophisticated tourist tastes. Apparently, the French love the place. Go figure...the French frolicking in Americana.

The Lanes

Much like Amsterdam, Brighton has many twisty, narrow streets that are overflowing with shops of all kinds. We didn't do much shopping (except when we went to the first shopping mall I've seen in this country), but we did walk through it a bunch. This is where Europe comes in. It's more authentically European than London which, aside from Covent Garden/Soho, has a distinctly different feel from the mainland. We walked around a good bit and I got to witness the incredible power that shoe stores have on women. Pretty much every time we passed a shoe store, the Prototype went to the window and just gazed at the offerings whispering sweet, desirous nothings to herself. Women clearly love shoes.

Anyway, the primary reason she wanted to go down there was because she wanted to get her hair cut. This is quite amusing to me. She goes to a Supercuts down there that has the best hair cutter she's ever had. He's some Greek guy who works at the salon because "money isn't everything" and he hated working at the Toni & Guy salon (I think that's the name). I'd have to say, after seeing the before and after, he did an amazing job. She looked fantastic (and yeah, I'm biased - deal with it).

The Supercuts was located in a "mall", or at least as much of a mall as I imagine they have over here. It was smaller than the Wheaton mall (which means nothing to about 95% of you), but it was definitely a mall and the Brits were eating it up. The place was packed. While there, I saw that they had a Quizno's. I resisted the urge to have a sandwich. Totally bizarre to see a Quizno's there and gave me hope that maybe I'll turn the corner someday and there, shining like the Holy Grail, a Chipotle will magically descend from the heavens. It's ok to dream.

While she was in the Supercuts, I went to Borders for this book I need for school. Damn thing costs 23 pounds! I may have to buy it anyway, but I couldn't spend that much on Saturday, so I just sat there and read it for awhile.

Eventually, we got hungry and found a place to eat. The food wasn't too bad and the company was great, so we had a good time. We were talking about going out to her favorite club, but the last train home was at 11, leaving us with no time for that. Instead, we had a drink at a posh pub right near the train station. I was totally exhausted on the ride home and even managed to sleep a bit. She had brought a book, so it wasn't rude of me to pass out. I wouldn't have been much conversation anyway as I get pretty grumpy when I'm that tired.

The train home was delayed, so we didn't get back until almost 1. From Victoria, for some reason, there are no night buses to Earl's Court. You either have to take a bus to Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square and neither of us were keen on that idea. My cat nap had perked me up, so I suggested we just walk. It's a good ways, but we always had the option of hopping the N74 or N97 once we got to Brompton Road (15-20 minute walk). She was amenable.

We ended up walking all the way home. It took about an hour, but it was fun. The fresh air and good company kept us interested and alert. Plus, we were walking through Belgravia, Chelsea, and Kensington (in that order) which are all really nice neighborhoods (and safe).

Today I've just been doing errands and things of that nature. No matter what you do in life, laundry still has to be done, rooms have to be cleaned, and cupboards have to be stocked. Sigh. At least I had a good weekend. Much preferable to just going clubbing as usual. That's pretty much my mission - going places that is. When I first got here, I went clubbing a lot and had a good time. But I want to spend my free time this semester traveling and seeing what there is to see. In that vein, I think I may go to Paris in between quarters. We have a week off from school at the end of March. I have to investigate that.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Amusing myself

I will confess something here: I read my horoscope almost every day. No, it's not because I have a new found belief in "new age" mysticism (what exactly is "new" about this brand of spirituality?). Instead, it's because I find them to be singularly humorous. Follow me for a second if you will.

IF you actually believed in horoscopes, then wouldn't it seem odd that millions (billions) of people sharing the birthday's between March 21 and April 19 shared exactly the same fortune? Of course that's absurd. But, the argument is that it's never going to be entirely accurate unless you get a personal reading. Different birthdays, different times of birth effect your astrological disposition or some such noise. For example, I'm Stephen, born March 24th, at 5 pm (just in time for cocktails), with a cigar in hand. (I can not verify either the time or the cigar, but just go with it.) If my "star chart" (or whatever) was taken, those relevant details would enable the "psychic" to pinpoint my exact disposition and accurately foretell my future. Since a generic horoscope can't assume those details, they issue generic overtures in the hopes that they're sometimes close. So, by that logic, every now and then, your horoscope should be 100% accurate (raising the question: Is it better to be 100% right 1% of the time or 1% right 100% of the time?).

Exhibit A

Yesterday's horoscope (courtesy of Yahoo!):

"Ready for some serious romance? You'd better be -- and from an unexpected venue, too. Someone you've thought of as nothing but a friend for possibly even years is about to hint that they'd like to change that."

After reading that, I had to chuckle because I'm always ready for some "serious romance" and there's no one that I could think of that I would buy what they're selling. Next step, check email. Hmm. What's this? Email from someone I dated last February and haven't seen or thought about in about a year wanting to know when I'm coming back...

Exhibit B

Today's horoscope (courtesy of Yahoo!):

"You have a busy day ahead of you, mostly due to one particular person -- someone you see as a very exotic, special individual. Someone who just so happens to think of you the very same way. Well. Needless to say, with all that mutual admiration going on, you two certainly won't be bored."

I do have a busy day, but not necessarily because of a woman. But, I'll overlook that little detail and roll with the rest. I am seeing the Prototype tonight.

I rest my case, your Honor.

Of course, I can't say all of this without giving a little cultural comparison. Yahoo!, as many know, is an international site. So, if you click on the UK version, guess what? The horoscope is entirely different.

Exhibit A

Today's UK horoscope:

"You can't seem to relax when you're on your own so try to involve friends and loved-ones in your plans. Insist, however, on dividing shared expenses fairly otherwise your generosity could leave you strapped for cash later in the month. If setting off on a journey today, be sure to check timetables as there's the possibility that you haven't been informed of some changes."

This one is nothing even similar to reality, so now I'm at the horns of a dilemma. If you're in the UK, but from the US, does the US horoscope apply? Extraterritorial provisions should mean that I get extraterritorial application of said star chart, no? Because if I go with the UK version, I'm likely to have a stressful expensive day. But if I go with the US version, I'm likely to be involved in something more exotic and significant than the doldrums of budgeting.

Yes, I just spent 30 minutes thinking about this stuff, and if you got this far, you just spent some of your time reading about it. I win.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nobilarity Redux

Today was very busy at work. The kind of day that you feel good about because you gave it a good effort, were mostly competent, and at the end, got the work done at a high level. At any rate, I took a few minutes out of my day to ring the university office to see if my loan check was in. See, the process works like this:

Bank gives money to St. Louis (home campus). St. Louis wires money to Regent's (satellite campus). Regent's deducts tuition from funds. Regent's cuts check. I get check. There is much rejoicing.

This process takes just under a month if things are working smoothly and it's anyone's guess if your number is up or if you'll luck out and get the money on time. In the first semester, I got the money really fast, so I was a little fearful of a karmic swing.

When I rung the nice lady who administrates the grad program, she told me she would "look for it". After some rummaging noises in the background followed by a pause and more rummaging, I was expecting the worst. And I was rewarded.

"Sorry Stephen, I don't have a check for you for this semester. The funds that were sent were only sufficient to cover your tuition, nothing else...."

I'm like, uh, great. Let's see, I have 60 pounds to my name and I don't get paid for another 3 weeks.

"...I do, however, have a check dated September 24th that I don't quite understand..."

After some discussion and negotiation, it appears that Webster disbursed an excess of funds to me in September in two separate checks. I got the first one, but was never notified about the second one (Par). Fortunately, the 2nd check is still good until March, so I now only have to wait 5 days for it to clear (the same time it takes terrorists to purchase a handgun in the US, but not an assault rifle - they can get those at the KMart without a wait).

So, to sum up, minor heart attack + sweet relief in the form of 1400 pounds = nobarriffic excellence on an unparalleled scale. Of course, I'm not really complaining because if they had done things the right way, my check would have been for 900 pounds. Or, if they had given me that check in September, I might have spent some or all of it and been totally screwed now. I just thought the whole episode to be surreal.

Anyway, someone at work showed me the coolest thing the other day. Maybe they have it in the States, I don't know, but I love it. They sell Vitamin C tablets that you dissolve in water like an Alka Seltzer tablet, except they don't taste like fetid ass. Instead, they taste entirely delicious. But that's not the best part. The best part is that you get a shot of 1000 mg of pure Vitamin C infused directly into your body. I'm telling you - I feel like I'm getting high when I gulp down a glass. What a rush. (Ok, I'm clearly a dork.) Still, good stuff. Much more fun than just popping a horse pill every day.

New Thoughts

Class was quite lively and interesting last night. I've found myself siding with the pro-Israeli contingent in the group (which is basically Eurotrash and me and maybe one other guy half the time). It's not that the Palistinians are completely wrong or anything, it's that, as I said last night, I'm a "realpolitik" kind of guy. At many times, the Israeli's have agreed to compromise, but the Palistinian/Arab world has almost never compromised - and certainly never on the two state solution. Allow me to sum up the entire debate (for those of you not as familiar with the conflict).

There are two issues in the Arab-Israeli dispute: the right of Palistinian refugees who fled the country from November 1947 - 14 May 1948 to return (roughly 4 million people now) and the status of Jerusalem. Everything else is (now) negotiable.

Refugees: Israel says no return because the Arab states attacked in 1948 which was the primary cause of refugee flight - it's their problem. Arabs say that the Jews stirred up the refugees and scared them into leaving. Truth is in the middle. I say: It was war - even before the 1948 invasion. It was a civil war, Arabs against Jews. I care not if the Jews ousted the Arabs or not. They were in it for the species. Ongoing civil conflict in the land between Jews and Arabs since the 1930s, 6 million killed in the Holocaust, and now you have 7 Arab states ganging up and attacking at once? Anything short of atrocities is good to go. Cold reality: Israel won't grant the right of return because Palistinians (as they're now called) reproduce faster, there are 4 million refugees and 6 million Jews, do the math.

Jerusalem: It's a holy city for both sides. Israel was willing to cut it in half in 2000, Palistinians said "no", they want it all. I say: Either share it or neither gets it. Cold reality: The end game on this one is likely to leave Jerusalem an "international city" like the Vatican, except under UN control.

Peace Process: That's it. Two issues. There isn't peace right now because Arafat walked away from the table in 2000 and refused to compromise. The Israeli's were willing, the Palistinians were not. (I'm writing a paper about that.) In the end, we'll probably see the same deal on the table in the future. Two states, Jerusalem either shared or international, no refugee return.

Anyway, I had some thoughts last night that continued into the morning that I'll share for consumption and feedback. I'm strongly considering not taking classes in the summer session and pushing back my completion of this program until December 2005. I have two reasons for considering this. First, it extends my stay by two months which I think would be nice; and second, it makes more financial sense. Here's the breakdown:

1. Is it permissible: Yes, getting a visa extension is no problem and I'm not "required" to take summer school.
2. Is it financially feasible: Yes, when school is out of session, I can work up to 40 hours/week meaning that I could earn more than enough to live on and save money. Essentially, I can live on my 20 hours a week salary and pocket the remainder. At the end of the summer, it's feasible that I could have north of £2,000 in the bank. That would be a big help because I would prefer not to work during my last term as I will be focusing on my thesis.
3. Is it academically feasible: I believe so. I need to check with my advisor on this one, but I'm fairly sure that it would work out class-wise. There isn't a lot of flexibility in the courses offered because it's a small program, but I believe that there is enough built in that, combined with my thesis, I wouldn't have to take any independent study classes (which are always offered, but don't look that great on a transcript).

Now, the other part of this is likely to be more upsetting to certain family members located in the mid-Atlantic, but I'm also strongly considering attempting to stay and work for a year after the program. The reason for this is quite simple: money. If I can get a job starting at £35,000/year (which is what the political consulting market begins at over here), then I really couldn't turn it down. That comes to about £3000/month before taxes or about £2000/month net. I can live frugally on about £700/month meaning I could pocket about £1300/month. Over the course of 1 year, that would add up to over £15,000 - i.e. enough to pay off my student loans in one fell swoop. How can I refuse this if I receive an offer?

Of course, this is easier said than done. Getting a 6-month work visa is easy. It's a matter of forms, nothing else. But after that, you have to get sponsored or you have to go home. Firms may not wish to employ me in a limited capacity or give me a work permit. The Prototype has run into this problem. So, alternatively, I could end up making a lot less working on a contract basis. I have yet to make up my mind about this, but I'm leaning toward giving it a go. The fact is though, I don't really have to decide at all for awhile. I do have to decide about the first issue fairly soon, however. So that's what I'll be pondering over the course of the next week.

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