Saturday, April 30, 2005

No trip to the UK is complete without...

...A foray into the NHS for medical attention. I finally went to see a doctor today. I probably would not have gone except that one of my classmates told me that if I was coughing up green lung butter, then that could be pneumonia or other really bad things and I should get a professional opinion. She had walking pneumonia once so she was speaking from experience. Last night I hopped online and did a google search and sure enough, green stuff is bad. So the next step was seeing a doctor.

I didn't want to go to an emergency room; that seemed like a waste since I would be triaged out of there. But the NHS has something we Americans would probably call "urgent care facilities" which basically involves seeing a nurse, waiting 3 hours, then seeing a doctor. I located one of these walk-in clinics relatively close to where i live and marched down there. It also happened to be located in the hospital, so if there was anything really wrong with me or any significant tests needed to be done, they would have that on site.

The woman at the desk looked at me skeptically when I explained my symptoms. I could see "you don't look sick to me, yank" on the edge of her lips, but she swallowed those words and took my information. Expecting the worst, I had brought a book and some schoolwork with me. After a short 30-minute wait, I was ushered into a back room and seen by a nurse (a cute one too!). This is how they triage you. If you're not an emergency, then you can wait. Then the nurse determines the severity - more serious go to the front of the queue. I remained in the back. She took my temperature as well. In the states I believe there would have been blood pressure taken, but hey, when in Rome...

After my quick jaunt into the "staging area" I was dismissed back to the waiting room until a doctor was available to examine me. I waited and waited and waited. Three hours later, I'm still waiting. There's something about being in that type of facility that makes you think. No one there is on an emergency or they would be right next door in the emergency room. So, one starts to wonder - what is she here for?

One woman said that she couldn't feel her right leg and she walked in a limp-drag sort of motion that earned her a wheelchair from the staff, but not speedy attention. Numb legs generally don't get much worse, so you can wait with the rest of us plebes. Another woman came in and promptly passed out cold on the floor. The receptionist calmly sat there wondering what to do as several people rushed to her aid. I never did find out what happened to her as I was faced the wrong way and was feeling particularly assilicious at the moment. Another woman, who was quite cute in a 30ish sort of way, I diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. She was too healthy to have anything else and the diagnosis seemed clear after she gave a urine sample. The piecé de resistance, however, was the obviously drunk homeless guy that came in shouting, "I'm in pain here, real pain" ad nauseum. He shuffled up to the desk and explained to the receptionist that he had "fallen" on his face, broke his tooth on the sidewalk, tried to rip it out on his own, failed, and now needed some "pain medicine" all the while pointing at a jagged tooth that looked to have been broken years ago, not moments ago. After she calmly explained to him that the emergency dental clinic was closed and that he would have to go to another facility, he lamely copped, "can't you just give me something for the pain?" How 'bout some heroin, big guy?

Finally, my wait came to an end when they called my name. Five minutes with a doctor and he had correctly diagnosed the problem - whiny, snot nosed American abusing the NHS system when he's barely sick. Oh, wait, no that wasn't what he said at all. Instead, he said that it's good that my secondary symptoms are receding, that means it's probably not serious, but he can hear something in my lungs and it's likely I have a respiratory infection. Seven days of antibiotics should do the trick - if you feel better in 5, stop taking them. Cha-ching, £6.50 for the antibiotics and I'm on my way. All in all, I've had better Saturdays, but it was good to get some medicine. I haven't been to a doctor in a long time and I think my body could use a regime of antibiotics anyway. Plus, that green stuff coming from my lungs is really gross.

So, in the end, the NHS worked like it was supposed to. Of course, if this had been the US, I would have probably received that chest x-ray that the doctor wanted to give me but didn't because there was a 4-hour wait and he didn't think it was worth that kind of delay. But still, what do you expect from a national health care service anyway? And, since I don't want to have a repeat performance, I think I'll spend Tuesday at work trying to find a regular doctor so that I won't have to go to any more clinics (Monday is a Bank Holiday).

And since I'm sick, I treated myself to some chocolate ice cream with fresh strawberries on the way home.

Friday, April 29, 2005

I'm fat, can I have my plant?

I was exhausted earlier. Then I took an hour nap and I'm wide awake. Story of the week. Massive fatigue, short naps, followed by excess wakefulness. This sickness would be so much better if it was the knock you out all night kind. I heard of some great Brit drug that's essentially like Nyquil and does knock you out, but I was too lazy to go get it. Anyway, I'm slowly getting better and I think the worst is behind me. At least I hope.

I had the misfortunate of watching 5 minutes of Desperate Housewives on Thursday night. It's five minutes of my life I'll never get back. I've read about the show a bit because ESPN's Sports Guy raves about it (he loves bad TV). It took all of 30 seconds to realize two things: what horrible acting and are Americans nuts? I can't overstate how terrible the acting was. I'll never understand the bad TV movement (90210, Melrose Place, the OC, Desperate Housewives, etc).

Last night, because I was feeling weakened, I watched Super Size Me, the documentary about McDonald's. It was surprisingly good. Now, the director Morgan Spurlock is no Michael Moore (anyone else find it odd that the Right primarily targets Moore's girth when attacking him?), but I think he could be in time. The real problem with the movie is that the publicity stunt part, his consumption of nothing but McDonald's for 30 consecutive days, is less interesting or relevant than the "filler" material that is the heart of the debate - people are getting fatter in America because they are told to eat all the wrong things by an ad crazy culture that dominates our lives from the time we are very young until we are very old.

Spurlock makes this point very succinctly when he discusses the addictive nature of sugar and caffeine - two primary ingredients that McDonald's offers to kids - when he says they don't stand a chance. They are bombarded with TV spots from the age of 2 to eat junk food, fast food, soda, candy, etc. and on an average basis, each person in the US has over 10,000 such messages told to them a year simply by watching TV. His point? The food industry says that people should be informed and that parents should educate their children. But in the "never in a million years" possibility that a parent had EVERY single meal with their kids for an entire year, repeatedly telling them how to eat right, they still only imprint that message about 1,000 times. The ad industry is overwhelming the good messages with negative ones.

At any rate, it's a really interesting take on a serious problem. People put fast food into their bodies every day - some people literally every day - without thinking of the consequences. Americans are getting fatter every day to the point that former US Surgeon General (and Barkley Forum Georgia Speaker of the Year!) Satcher stated quite clearly that it's only a matter of time before obesity passes cigarettes as the number one preventable killer of Americans. That's frightening for all kinds of reasons, but should be truly terrifying when you think of the costs involved. We need to transition from a fast food culture to a healthier culture.

Spurlock, unfortunately, doesn't appear to be that bright of a guy. In fact, I'd say that he comes across as little more than trailer trash lucky enough to inherit a decent camera in a glorious dumpster diving find. Ok, that's a bit harsh. But one of the things about Michael Moore that I like (and it's not his tendency to play loose with the "facts") is that his films are never about him. And this movie definitely is about Spurlock. It shouldn't be. But, as an unknown director, I can see how he felt he needed an angle to make it big, so I hope his next film is more of a documentary and less of a Morgan Spurlock for President kind of approach.

...In other news, it's become apparent that the cold shoulder that I've been giving Real World is fairly obvious. She asked me if I was still mad at her. I lied and told her I was just sick. (Small lie of omission, but Mama taught me right - a lie's a lie.) Eurotrash asked me today if she was "on the outs". We haven't had a chance to talk much about it (I've been sublingual with this whole illness thing), but he's the perceptive sort. The truth is what I said the other day. I don't have time, effort, energy, or interest in giving a sh*t about her anymore. I can only be there for people for so long. If one of my "friends" wants to incessantly act like a child, then they can do that - on their own time. If they want to act like an adult, then I'll be happy to socialize with them. Until then, piss off.

I must once again state the power of dark chocolate. After rivers of multi-colored lung butter, my cough is mostly gone, but I still do have episodes. This morning at about 6 am, I was awoken to non-stop hacking. I drank water, had a cough drop, nothing was working. Finally, I downed the last of the cough syrup (straight from the bottle - because I'm hardcore like that) and that settled me down a bit. I had run out of chocolate the night before. This evening, same thing. Except this time, I had restocked my chocolate supply. Two bite-sized pieces later and the cough was killed. I'm telling you. Best. Medicine. Ever.

On a final note, it's absolutely killing me that I can't watch the NBA playoffs right now. Great games, great matchups, great energy and I'm missing it. D'oh.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The advantages to not sleeping properly

So I'm slowly getting better, but it's taking forever. The sore throat is like the rude party guest that shows up late and stays forever - it just doesn't want to go away entirely just yet. No matter, I loaded up on Halls and lozenges so I'll fight that bastard tooth and nail.

Anyway, I haven't been sleeping properly with this illness. Instead, I'll sleep for a couple hours, wake up and not be able to pass out again for an hour or so. Last night, after two hours of sleep, I got up and finished my paper. I decided to be productive instead of tossing and turning half the night. Now that it's basically done (need to make a few edits/revisions prior to class) I feel good about that. This weekend I can primarily focus on my Korea paper which I've been neglecting for weeks. Good thing I generated a ton of political capital with the Prof.

I know that Kylie Minogue is totally hot and tempting. And I know that she has some catchy tunes. But can anyone think of another singer that can sell out SEVEN shows in 10 nights in London? I'm not joking. Last night was night #1. Of course, I get the full gauntlet because the venue is about a stone's throw from my balcony. There's nothing like drunken revelers at all hours of the night doing their best Kylie impersonation at top volume.

I searched around for a new place to live yesterday and it's not as hopeless as it seems. I can't afford to move just yet, but I should be able to in July. I pay about 85 pounds/week now (which is how these backward Brits do things) and I basically need to be able to afford 100 pounds/week to get something worth living in. Not so unattainable if I'm working full time. I've already seen some nice places online that are not far from where I live now in that range. So that's the plan as of now.

Generally, if a woman gives you her number, she wants you to call, right? So why is it that the British girl I met last Friday did not answer when I called on Sunday and did not call me back? Frankly, I don't remember much about her aside from a few tidbits of conversation and that she was blonde, but I would have gone out with her once anyway just because she's British and I like the way she talked. I find it very curious that a woman who made a point to come over and talk to me (I was sitting on a couch), generally seemed to enjoy the conversation, and then gave me her number when I asked for it would ignore my call in such a cavalier fashion. Who knows, either way I gotta get a shower and a shave and move my ass to school.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Because I'm really bored...News highlights for all to enjoy

I'm desperate for some Simpsons True Tones for my mobile. 350 episodes and counting!

Why I love Bill Gates: "Asked if their friendship would entice him to buy one of Microsoft rival Apple Computer Inc.'s black-and-red U2 edition iPods, Gates said: "Absolutely not.""

French company builds Super Size plane for fat people. McDonald's not impressed.

When you have a strange itch, it's best to check it out.

Scientists have located 'organic material' on Saturn's moon Titan. Shortly after the discovery, the probe Cassini was swallowed whole as the celestial body is actually a giant Pac Man traversing the universe like episode 177 of the original Star Trek. No word if Cassini caused invicibility or not.

Brits go nuts over most overrated footballer of all time, David Beckham. They've officially created a "Beckham trail" that plots his course as a young boy - where he lived, worked, went to school etc. The "pilgrimage" is reported to be "less than Bethlehem" but better than the "Jack the Ripper walk". Worth clicking just for the pic of Victoria.

Quick, elope with your "ice queen" and marry on a glacier before this 5-minute fad expires! Family not invited.

From the Wall of Shame: Have fight with girlfriend, shoot self in the groin.

And my personal favorite advice of the day: when going in to have your prostrate removed and the doctor explains what removing the testicles will do, best to ask questions before the sleepy

Random Boredom

If I had me $100 million, I'd buy the Washington Nationals and build me a winner. That team needs an owner. DC needs an owner. As a DC (transplant) guy who will forever remain a Braves fan, I'll adopt the Nats as a second team because they deserve to be appreciated after spending years in meant Montreal. Now all I need is $100 or so million...

...and yes, I'm extremely bored at work today.

Just so you know I'm not making it up...

...Just had a coughing outbreak/fit. Topping up my medicine intake wasn't sufficient. So I broke out the dark chocolate. It seemed to work. Coughing over. I'll never go anywhere without chocolate again.

Slow Improvement

Finally beginning to feel almost like a normal human being. At least I'm well enough to get back to work. I must have slept 15 hours yesterday. Of course, I realized last night that I had missed a golden opportunity. When I went to Geneva, I read in the on flight magazine about a study suggesting that an enzyme in dark chocolate was the most powerful cough suppressant yet discovered - much better than the stuff you buy at the pharmacy. So, I went out and bought a bunch of dark chocolate last night and had a feast. Did it work? Who knows. I trust the science, but I also trust in any opportunity to consume chocolate.

Anyway, I managed to get about half of my Foreign Policy paper done last night. I'll probably finish it at work today. It looks to be a relatively slow day (as usual). I got my inland revenue tax form at work today. I'm not really sure what it's all about, so I asked our accountant guy here. He's going to sort it out for me. I'm due to get my entire £230 back. There is much rejoicing.

Today is sizing up to be a particularly normal London Spring day. It was cool but bright and sunny this morning, the temperature is expected to rise to 16 (61), followed by afternoon showers and things of that nature. At least there is sun. Tonight, I fully expect to pass out immediately upon arrival home. I'm already feeling fatigued and it's only 10:30. That's the odd thing about this latest illness. I've alternately incredibly tired and incredibly hungry.

I'm feeling a bit homesick this week. Being under the weather will do that to you, I suppose. But also, I think there's something quite nice about America and I'm a bit fatigued with having to speak slowly, listen extra hard, and things like that when I converse with non-native English speakers. Of course, my patience is quite low right now because I'm ill, but it does get tiresome at times. Well, I'm not making any complaints about the totally hot German girl that moved into the house a couple weeks ago. Her broken English is never going to be a problem. But everyone else is bothersome.

Speaking of the house, I'm getting quite annoyed with them and I'm once again thinking of moving out. The guy who runs the place is such a passive-aggressive nob and I'm sick of things never working, of getting my stuff thrown out (lost some tupperware last week) by the cleaning staff, and of being constantly harassed about every little detail. It's worse than living in a school dorm. I'll look around online today and see what I can find. At this point, even if I have to move to a smaller place, it would be worth it so I'm not treated like a child on a day-to-day basis.

I'm not in the most cheerful moods this week. I really hate being sick. Hopefully I'll be back to full strength by Friday. I have a lot of schoolwork to do this week and I want to get cracking.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Dog's Ass

That's what I felt like when I woke up this morning...the dog's ass. So, I called out of work sick. I hate doing that because I've done it like three times this year already, but there was no fighting it. I needed more rest. I finally got up around 1 and feel marginally better. At least I feel like I'm recovering, which is a good thing.

I ended up going home after work yesterday. Well, I stopped and got a tasty chicken wrap from my favorite sandwich shop. This illness has not taken away my appetite, so I figured if I was hungry it was best to eat. When I got home, I took a 2 hour nap and then got up and went to school. I really felt horrible but I hate missing class, especially when you think that I pay like 115 pounds ($230) per class session. I stopped at the Boots and got some all-in-one type drugs which seemed to help marginally.

Class was sort of interesting, but I was having trouble concentrating. People were giving presentations, one of which was good, two of which were ass bad. The Cliché gave a presentation on the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. Instead of talking about the legal aspects (it is an international law class), she went on for an hour about the history of the organizations and needed reforms. It was really a bad idea (the Prof was pissed) and also not even that smart. I took a whole class on that and I found her conclusions to be startlingly bad, primarily because, even though she is a cliche, she's a pretty smart cliche and I expect more.

The truly great presentation (sarcasm added) was Real World's. I was shocked that she even showed up for class, I thought she was going to quit the program. But there she was, acting as if last week had not happened, giving a presentation on the Right to Self-Determination. Now, no surprises here, but for Real World, it's always about race. So, instead of talking about self-determination, she split her time between that and non-discrimination. And, she blamed the entire colonial system on white, European racism against "minorities". Now, I have been reading the 'End of Poverty' and I have to say, race obviously played a role in justifying the colonial system, but it was primarily an economic system that worked for those who were already economically powerful. But, I wasn't surprised by her argument because it's always about race and anyone who disagrees with her is racist (or some such sophomoric BS like that).

Anyway, during the question-answer session, I was writing notes with The Tease, as we are wont to do when we are bored. Yeah, it's a little junior high, but at some point, you have to tune people like Real World out or you're going to go postal. Real World, though, having zero self-confidence, assumed we were making fun of her and her presentation (we weren't) and blurted out, "[Tease] do you have something to share with the class since you're passing notes?" This caused two immediate reactions, me giving Real World the "f*ck you" look and The Tease and I immediately making fun of her in our note passing.

We had a break right after that and Real World walked up to me acting like everything was normal. She asked me a question to which my response was, "You can pretty much piss off after that little incident. That was totally inappropriate and I can't believe that you of all people would call someone out in class for passing notes. I'm in no mood for that type of childish crap today." I was pissed off and I still am. She can go F herself for all I'm concerned. She apologized via text message later in the night, but I don't care. I've been nothing but a good friend to her, supportive and helpful and she's been nothing but dead weight and an ungrateful bitch. I wish her the best, but I'm done giving a sh*t.

Anyway, I'm glad I went to class. I got my first paper back and ended up getting the maximum number of points , so I felt pretty good about that. New professors always make me nervous because you don't know how they're going to grade. I shouldn't have worried, but my worry did cause me to work harder on the second paper, so hopefully I'll have a repeat performance. If things go well in that regard, it would be almost inconceivable that I did not ace the class which would certainly be a minor triumph since I don't like the class that much and it's historically been difficult to motivate myself in classes that I don't enjoy. I suppose that's called maturity.

Today I am going to continue to rest and work on my 2nd paper for my US Foreign Policy class. It's not due until next week but I want to turn it in on Thursday so that I have less to worry about and I can focus on my two finals. Plus I have a big paper (3000-4000 words) I need to write this weekend on Korea and the Sunshine Policy. So the hits keep rolling.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Feeling quite horrid

I've been fighting illness for awhile now - mostly just a cold/cough. The cold part left, the cough stayed. Now I'm onto the next phase. I woke up feeling as if I had been sequestered in a room full of tuberculosis infected homeless clowns who did nothing but breath on me for 24 hours. When I got to work, the aches and pains associated with the flu began and I'm fairly sure I have an elevated temperature. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the medicine I took for a "chesty cough" seems to have worked sufficiently. Plus, I only have to work a half day, I got here late because of a tube delay, and I'm down to two hours left. So, I'm going to head home at 1, grab a couple hours of rest, and if I feel up to it, go into class at 5. If not, well, it will be the first class I've missed since the first quarter of the program (aka, since October).

In other news, I decided to attend my graduation ceremony. I was going to skip it because I'm not really into the whole ceremony thing and it's not like I'm actually graduating yet anyway. But I must explain. See, the school I attend has rolling admissions. You can start any time during the year (five different starting points, that is). So, everyone finishes at different points. To resolve that, they have one graduation ceremony a year, in May, in which anyone expected to finish the program by the summer session is cleared to attend. That means me.

Anyway, I wasn't going to go because I didn't want to spend £35 on the cap and gown rental and because I'm not actually graduating in May. But, I decided to attend for three reasons:

1. My professor guilted me into it - A series of jokes about £35 not being much money and about how he would be there and he would be very disappointed if I was not there softened me up.

2. There's a yearly award for the top graduate student that I have apparently been nominated for and it would look bad if one of the nominees was not at the ceremony (not to mention if I happened to win the damn thing).

3. I know my Mama would like me to attend and get pictures and things of that nature and you gotta take care of yo' Mama.

So, I sucked it up and signed up (late, but still ok to go). At least they feed us afterwards.

This illness escalation has left me feeling highly pugalistic at the moment. I blame myself because I didn't take care of myself over the weekend as I should. Still, I think the world would suddenly be a better place if I could just take out my hostility on something (like a punching bag since I'm the lilly white, non-violent type). Hopefully I'll feel a bit better this afternoon and won't miss class. I hate missing class.

Friday, April 22, 2005

We've moved to warm!

Finally, after several days, we've moved from artic showers to warm showers even bordering on hot. We're supposed to be back up to full hot showers by the evening. There is much rejoicing.

I've been in a pretty good mood of late. The improving weather certainly helps, but I've also had a slight attitude shift that I think is quite positive. No longer am I really looking for a relationship. In fact, right now, I don't want one. I'd be happy to go out with a nice girl or two, but anything resembling commitment seems like a bad idea at this time. My life is ultimately in transit and I'm not wanting to be tied down in any way. Not only that, I don't feel like I'm ready to give myself to anyone else because I'm still deciding who I am and what I want. Identity in transition + serious relationship = bad idea jeans.

Instead, I want to focus on school and travel - those are my priorities. Since making that not-so-startling revelation, my outlook has improved greatly. Of course it helps that I've been very successful at school of late and there is certainly a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that goes with getting a lot of work done up to my "usual standard" as one of my professors recently stated.

That being said, I'm not exactly removing myself from the system. I'm still interested in meeting people, going out, having fun etc. There is definitely a learning process to meeting people from different backgrounds and experiences and at this point, I'd have to say that I'm more interested in that than anything. I'm in London for crying out loud. One of the best things about this city is that you can meet people from all over the world, connect with them, learn from them, at the same time that they're learning from you. Of course, if I happen to meet a nice British lass, my calculus may change. But as of now, I'm not interested in the endless pursuit of phone numbers, hook ups, and ultimately love.

At any rate, all of this comes on the heels of Miss Colorado leaving the country for good. That happens tomorrow. We went out for drinks on Wednesday night and had a good time. I'm certainly sad to see her go, but at the same time, I have more understanding about why she's doing it and why it makes sense. I think my previous comments about that were overly harsh, mainly because she hadn't fully explained her motivation. Now I understand that she's not "fleeing" the country or giving up on a dream, instead, she has a really good job opportunity in Colorado Springs that she basically can't turn down. If she had a similar opportunity here, she would have stayed, but when opportunity knocks, you answer the door and that's what she's doing. She's sad to leave, which is somewhat surprising, but it was interesting to hear her thoughts on the matter because I'm sure I'll be in a similar boat in the not so far away future.

Anyway, we're staying in touch and I feel good about that. We may never have connected in the way that I desired, but we definitely established the foundation for an enduring friendship and that's got value in itself. I wish her the best.

Real World finally turned up. My instincts definitely paid off on this one. She didn't return any texts all week (I sent two) and she didn't show up to class, so I was genuinely becoming concerned. But, at the same time, I felt that she probably was doing it on purpose because: a) she wants sympathy/concern and b) she's mad at me for not "helping her". Turns out, she is ok, she just took off and went to Bath for a couple days. Or, she's there now, at the least. My gut also says that she's likely to pull out of the MA program before she's done. She isn't doing well in class, she did not attend or even talk to the professor of either class that she missed on Thursday, and she clearly doesn't give a damn about her academic life at this point. We shall see. Bottom line, as the Tease said, "you never know what a crazy person is thinking, so watch out."

I finally met the Roving Alcoholic's girl last night. They've been dating for a month but aren't a couple yet. She's really quite nice and cute too. I don't know if they're going to be a couple or not, but he's over the moon about her and I can see why. She would be good for him, so I'm hopeful that they at least give it a go. Plus, she has lots of cute English nurse friends who are single, or so I'm told.

As I mentioned previously, I'm reading this book in my leisure called "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs. It's a really interesting book. The book is basically a blueprint for ending global poverty by 2025. I haven't gotten to the heart of the argument yet, but I can see that he's making a very persuasive case. Even the foreword by Bono was good.

I'm meeting Smooth Like Butta' for a couple pints in a bit, but after that I'm coming back home to do schoolwork and take it easy. I'm not so interested in going out this weekend at all. Instead, I want to spend my time working on two papers I need to write and making up some of the reading. I'm behind a bit, and even though I'm still kicking ass and taking names, I have not been able to engage school the way I prefer. So this is my weekend to catch up. Plus, it looks to be a gorgeous weekend meaning that I can do some of my reading outdoors in the wan English sunlight that people here actually think will get you tan but never will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Day 2: No Hot Water

We've now moved into the second day of cold water. This means several things, but most importantly, that I have not showered in two days. Washed myself briefly with Siberian imported water yes, but showered no. My hair feels greasy and unclean. Fortunately, I got it cut last week so it is reasonably tame in its paucity. My face feels as if rough sandpaper has been rapidly zinged across my stubbly cheeks until nothing but raw flesh remained. My body felt shriveled and small after my brief wash with artic chilled water. I feel uncivilized.

Of course, the positive is that it's Wednesday, I'm relatively well rested because I could sleep later knowing I didn't have to schedule a shower, and, as the song famously goes, "I can't wait...for the weekend to begin." (Euro-club music.) Really though, the troll that runs my student house should go in the Pantheon of Moron, a sure fire first ballot hall of famer if there ever was one. Not only does he appear to have two independent personalities, but his response to the broken water heater is, "oh well, hopefully we'll have it fixed tomorrow," and to exit the building off to God knows where. This is the second time the heater has broken in two weeks. Of course, his attitude to all things is to give a Parisian shrug and know that no matter how inconvenient it is for the residents, he's got a cozy flat somewhere that he can go to, all paid for by his salary that he doesn't deserve and should have retroactively reclaimed and distributed to more deserving folks (like myself).

Another example: He's a big fire safety guy, perhaps his only quality. So into it he is, that one time he turned on the fire alarm to get everyone downstairs at an unscheduled (and really f*cking annoying) meeting where he went on and on that he's seen two people burned to death in a fire and he takes it very seriously. Anyway, he's decided that the doors to the rooms are in need of replacement - not up to his own personal fire code. It takes two days to replace a door apparently (this is England, after all) so that creates a problem. How do you replace a door without inconveniencing the resident of said room for two days? Clearly, the only solution is to make the person move to an empty room that has already had the door replaced because that's the least inconvenient option. Yeah, I'll be fighting this one when my time comes. I'm not giving up my balcony so easy; nor am I giving up on logic. Less inconvenient? If you're a monk with only the clothes on your back maybe.

Anyway, the guy is a total jackass and I wish that he would get fired, retire, break a leg, something just so I don't have to deal with him anymore (ok, I don't wish bodily harm, but it would be nice if he retired)...

...So glad the Church took a real risk and elected a hard core conservative Old Europe Pope with a history of being in the Nazi party and all. Not that he's a Nazi or anything, just, as one commenter quipped, "joining the Hitler Youth is not something you want to boast about on your CV." Let's hope that Prince Harry doesn't pick out his outfits.

I find his claim that he will work to establish "an open and sincere dialogue" with other religions to be neither sincere or open. This is a man that has long argued that there is only "one true church" and that people from other faiths are in danger of not making it to heaven, or some such nonsense. His vow to continue Church reforms is a euphemism for returning the Church to the conservative, "know your place woman", type of role that was started under the last Pope and is sure to continue to drive the Catholic Church into the ground. And, since divorce, sex, gays, and female priests are all likely to continue to be interpreted as "sins", it's likely that AIDs in Africa will continue to tick upwards and that this Pope will share some responsibility in the millions of deaths that could have been prevented with the simple application of a condom.

Of course, I'm not shocked that they picked an elderly, conservative, turn back the clock kind of Pope. The Cardinals are a staunchly pro-John Paul group, having mostly been appointed by him. Hoping for a more liberal Pope is akin to hoping that George Bush appointed Jeffrey Sachs as the head of the World Bank or IMF. Sachs, for those of you unfamiliar, is a Colombia University economist and special advisor to the UN who is largely considered the most important and authoritative voice on how to deal with global poverty. I'm reading his book, The End of Poverty, foreword by Bono, of course. At any rate, in what was an obvious political decision (the Church, like all organizations, is a political body), the assertion that everyone should support this Pope because he was chosen via "divine inspiration" irritates me to no end. I'm quite sure that if God had been personally involved in this decision, we would not have had an old school German Pope ready to crack the whip on the back of modernity in the vain and desperate hope to restore "traditional values".

On a final note, my neighbor, who is quite prescient (and has predicted that Michael Jackson will be dead by December), accurately predicted that they would select an aging Pope who would undoubtedly have a short tenure. The real power in the Church is no longer in the highest office. Instead, it's the minions behind the scenes that run the show and they have every interest in appointing a man who is likely to become increasingly infirm in his dotage. So let's hope the damage that this Benedict can do is small and short lived. Perhaps he could retire as well...

...No word from Real World. I texted her yesterday to say that I hope she is ok. No response. Who knows what that means. She could be in a hospital, dead, or just ignoring me because I couldn't do what she wanted (whatever that was). I've washed my hands of this episode. Whatever she chooses to do with herself is her choice, not mine...

...Miss Colorado leaves London for good on Saturday. We haven't had much of a chance to hang out of late and I called her last night. We talked for an hour or so. She's sort of excited to go, but also is a bit sad and nostalgic about leaving London. It was interesting to hear her talk about it. I'm sure that I'll be in a similar position at some, as yet undefined point. London is a great place to live and gripe about, but when you leave, you're leaving a unique period of your life that is ultimately irreplaceable. We're going to keep in touch and she has vowed to see me again someday, even if it's in another place. I will miss her. We have our last London hurrah tonight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mo' Drama

I was pretty busy on Sunday and yesterday, thus no posts. I had a paper due, which I finished and turned in. Hopefully it isn't shite. I feel like I'm not giving my best effort in this International Law class, but that could just be because I haven't gotten any grades back on the work I've completed and I have no idea how she's going to grade. Either way, it's not my favorite class, in fact, it's mostly boring shite because it's taught more as a law class and less as a politics class. Plus, I'm not really fascinated with international law. Definitely need to know about it, but it's not my thing really.

I booked a flight to Dublin next month. I'm only going for 3 days, but it's a much needed break (after exams) and I've been wanting to get there. Only cost £30 return on Ryan Air. Of course, the actual ticket was priced £2, but there are £28 in taxes and fees. I'll never understand that one. After booking it I realized I could have gone to Cork for £20, but that's ok. Dublin first, Cork second. I have to start looking soon for a trip in July after the quarter is over - as in, after school is over (except for the thesis part!).

Real World's new nickname (although not on this blog) is Kensanity or Kensania, depending on usage. Yesterday in class I think she was having a manic episode. She kept tearing paper repeatedly in that obsessive-compulsive can't stop kind of way. It was quite disruptive so I asked, "having fun?". No response. Later, she showed me this thing she wrote (wasn't taking notes, not writing on the lines of the paper) that basically says that she can't find happiness or love in any guy that she's with and she doesn't know why. I ask, "have you tried loving yourself?" She says "no". I suggest that she try.

Later, in the middle of class, she gets up, packs up her things, hands a note to the prof and leaves. I get a text from her that is all sorts of dramatic about "wanting to die". Now, I'm not normally so skeptical about people with suicidal thoughts and maybe I should be with Real World, but for many reasons I think she's crying out for attention more than anything. I had a conversation with her before class where I stressed two things: her friends can't help her and that she needs to go see a professional. So later, when I receive that text, I send her a message back that instructs her to seek help now, not delay, get treatment, get better. She replies that she doesn't want to get deported or institutionalized and that she "doesn't want to put this on [me] but she needs [my] help". I have read that people with chronic mental illness always find excuses not to get treated, so I send her a text that said that there is nothing I can do because I have not the training and that she won't get deported or committed and that she shouldn't let her fear of treatment stop her from getting help. I don't know what she did because I haven't heard from her since.

I'm really at the end of my patience with this one. Maybe she is having suicidal thoughts, she's certainly a manic depressive, but I refuse to be an enabler for her to not get treatment. She always turns to her friends instead of getting real help and as I was saying to The Tease (finally found a nickname for her), it's time for her to help herself. It's not anyone's job except Real World's to get her head straight, so to put this on someone else, as she put it, while not even possible, merely risks repeating the manic cycle that defines her life. I learned a long time ago that you can't save someone else from themself and that the only thing you can do is continually encourage them to get help. Whether they do or do not is never up to you.

Anyway, enough of the heavy stuff. Here's a little ditty I wrote this morning while shaving with cold water, appropriately titled "Shaving with cold water" and best sung to the music from the Jewel song "Standing in Deep Water". (And yes, I'm a dork.)

When you find yourself rising anew
Your hopes in the sky but your head feels like you’ve been sniffing glue
And you try to find yourself
In the abstractions of a hot shower that takes you somewhere else
And you wake up to realize
Your student house has run out of hot water before sunrise

And when you're shaving with cold water
And you're shaving yourself with a cold razor
When you're scraping stubble off your chin
And your upstrokes make your blood churn
Well it's these little times that help to remind
There’s nothing like cold razor burn

When you realize your only pleasure
has always been showering in hot leisure
That's when everything fades or falls away
Cause the cold water which once was warm instead continues to cascade

And when you're shaving with cold water
And you're shaving yourself with a cold razor
When you're scraping stubble off your chin
And your upstrokes make your blood churn
Well it's these little times that help to remind
There’s nothing without hot water, hot water, hot water

So I compromise and skip the shower, sacrifice cleanliness
We must demand more, not from each other, but more from William Temple House

Cause when you're shaving with cold water
And you're shaving yourself with a cold razor
When you're scraping stubble off your chin
And your upstrokes make your blood churn
Well it's these little times that help to remind
There’s nothing without hot water, hot water, hot water

The dawn is nothing without hot water.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What I want

My Mother, ahem, sister (family joke, ha ha) gave me a book for my birthday about dating and things of that nature. It's a very thought provoking book because it speaks to philosophy or attitude as much as to practicalities. I've been reading it quite quickly, I'm almost done with it and I think I have learned some things. At the very least, the book has confirmed some things I had been thinking of anyway and it has sparked new thoughts as well. All in all, a good read.

Anyway, after reading the book and after last night, I think I'm shifting my attitude toward the fairer sex - or, my interest in the fairer sex. See, the main point, the central argument featured in this book is that dating should be an end in of itself. It shouldn't be about what you can get by dating (love, relationships, etc), it should be about the moment that you spend with someone, what you learn from them, and what you learn about yourself. I think regular readers of this space can clearly identify that I have not always acted or thought like that, so it's certainly a challenge. But the argument is quite strong and I know that there is some truth there. Even though I have some reluctance to buy in (because dating has been traditionally more frustrating than enjoyable for me), I know that change comes to us all and sometimes in ways that are distinctly uncomfortable.

Why am I talking about this and what did I mean about "last night"? Well, I've gone out with Miss Colombia several times now, getting to know her, seeing some possibilities. We went to a party on Friday night and had a great time. But, there have been several huge red flags thrown up, flags that became clear during my reading of the previously mentioned book. And last night seemed to crystallize things a bit. For some unknown reason, Miss Colombia told me she was "very angry" with me because of how I acted and that she could be friends with me but nothing more. This is at a club, mind you. I asked her what she was talking about. She wouldn't tell me. I told her that I can't read her mind and if I did something she should tell me since she brought it up. She wouldn't tell me.

Now, I'm a reflexive guy. If someone says, "you did this and that was wrong" I'll think about it and either apologize or defend my behavior. But this time, I know with 100% certainty that I did absolutely nothing wrong. I thought about it, I analyzed my actions, and I came to the conclusion that there is nothing that she could be angry at me for. I have theories about what's going on behind the scenes (and I'm not going into that here), but the actual incident isn't the point. The point is, I met a nice girl, went out a few times, and then, in the middle of a night out, she tells me something like that, won't tell me anymore, and expected me to just carry on and have a good time? Now I'm angry at her. And I didn't have a good time after that. I ended up going home early.

Mostly, I'm disappointed in her. Up to that point, she had shown an ability to communicate even though it was difficult. But she really let me down. If she had said, "I like you, but I just want to be friends" in an appropriate setting, that may have been disappointing, but I would not have been angry about it. But to cast me as a criminal without detailing the charges in that manner is ultimately disrespectful and I'm not having that.

I may see her again, I don't know. That's up to her. But I'd have to say at this point I would be extremely reluctant to see her in any capacity other than friendship. I was already thinking that she didn't need a relationship right now (and nor do I), so I was conflicted about how to continue seeing her anyway. This just fills in the blanks for me.

One of the other strong arguments that this book I'm reading makes is that people shouldn't be in relationships unless they are whole, healthy people. I know I'm not all the way there yet, but I'm much farther than Miss Colombia. There are several labels the author uses to describe character faults and she fits several of those labels to a tee (People Pleaser, for example). This is not to say she did (does) not have the potential to be someone of significance to me or another, but until she sorts that out, I won't want to be with her.

Anyway, all of this ties into the bigger picture which is deciding what I want and going after it. I made the decision to come to London and go to school because I always wanted to live in Europe and it was time to set myself on a career path that would be right for me. That choice has really paid off as I love school, I'm on a career path that just fits me, and I'm enjoying my time in London. But there are many other choices I need to make and that includes how I want to fill my time away from work/school, where I want to go next, and who I want to be. I think I have answers to most if not all of these questions, but to be perfectly honest, much like before I moved to London, I have been too afraid to make choices and become the person I want to be.

But, I was talking to a former co-worker from the States yesterday and she reminded me of something important, something that motivated my journey abroad, and something I have mostly ignored. She lived over here for a time on a BUNAC visa (most likely what I'll do in October). But instead of just working and whatnot, she worked for a time, generated some savings, and traveled all over Europe. Her mission, if you will, was to see as much as she could see and do as much as she could do.

And here's the cincher, I have friends and associates that always want to go to clubs and things of that nature. But for me (and maybe for them) that's a dollar for dollar tradeoff between travel opportunity and a night out. I understand why I did that when I first arrived. I was in London, making new friends, and having a good time. But at this point, I couldn't give two sh*ts about Ministry of Sound, even if it is the biggest club in Europe, for example. Instead, I want to see castles, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome, Budapest, Prague, the Mediterranean, etc, etc, etc. I have allowed my desire to be social and my interest in dating to corrupt my mission.

I don't want a relationship. Not now, maybe later. I'll be happy to date casually, but even that incurs costs that ultimately tradeoff with what I want to do. So if I meet a nice girl, yeah, I'd like to see her and see what happens. But at this point, that's lower on the hierarchy than it was previously. Instead, it works like this:

1. School
2. Travel
3. Social life

Speaking of which, I have a paper due tomorrow that I need to get cracking on.

PS - Thanks Nadia for bringing me a massive quantity of strong American migraine medicine. The Brit medicine does nothing for me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I rock

First and foremost, let me just restate for the record: Dr. Dobson is a radical jackass who has shifted from "psychologist" to evangelical politician. Is he a minister? Who cares. He has self-described "ministries", he routinely preaches to people on his radio show, and he makes no bones about his belief that policy should be shaped by his own particularly narrow brand of religious fervor. While he does explicitly say he is not an "ordained minister" on his website, if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and walks like a duck...Either way he's a total jackass and should be continually ridiculed into irrelevance.

Anyway, I normally don't go into the details of my school work because I know that they're not altogether entertaining, but this time I will. As I mentioned, this has been a tough week. Too many things to do, not enough time to do them. But, I got everything done and I was a smashing success. Yesterday was entirely enjoyable.

In our US Foreign Policy class, we have to engage in some role play. Not kinky, in the bedroom, japanese school girl type stuff - instead, we have to act like either Rummy or Condi and brief the Prez on a revelant foreign policy issue currently unfolding and what the US response should be. To go with it is a 1200 word memo (because Bush can't read more than 3 pages at a time) that describes the problem, discusses options, and makes recommendations. I selected Colombia and the FARC (guerilla movement). For obvious reasons I have been interested in Colombia for awhile and I figured this would pretty much be my only chance to study it since my program has zero classes on Latin or South America.

Anyway, the exercise was totally enjoyable because I got to act like Condi. This wasn't me writing a policy memo. This was what I though Condi Rice would say to Bush. And that's a pretty fun exercise because it's not every day you get to act like a neocon. But the real piece dé resistance was that I used my Colombian contacts to get a variety of graphic photographs of violence, cocaine seizure, and things of that nature that I inserted into my powerpoint presentation. It added a certain drama and flair to my brieifing that I never would have had without a few Colombian friends.

Of course, I felt really good about it because I was really only targeting one person with my presentation and that is the Colombian girl in my class. No one else in the class has any clue about Colombia or FARC. To Americans, Colombia is just where the cocaine comes from. To the rest of the world, they barely know that much. But Angela is from Colombia, she's from the ruling class of the educated and mobile, she knows what it's like there. In the end, I got her approval. She said that she thought I would miss a few details (being a "norte americano" and all), but that I hit everything I needed to hit and she was impressed.

The other thing that I really enjoyed is that there is a 15 minute grilling session after each presentation (questions, not sausages). Because I have a penchant to ask the tough questions that people are not prepared for, they always come after me with the most difficult questions they can imagine. I say bring it on. I'm ready. Last night was no different. The Q&A session actually stretched on for 25 minutes and I loved every second. I see it as competition. It's not that I'm necessarily smarter than these people, it's that I have years of experience being asked tough questions, having prepared answers, and having to think on the fly and make stuff up from debate. So they really have no chance. But it's nice to joust with Eurotrash and the South African because their questions are usually pretty good.

So, I'm in a pretty damn good mood today. I worked my ass off this week, I was a smashing success, I got a haircut (and a eurostyle that I had to immediately undo when I got home), and I'm going out with Ms. Colombia tonight. Absent winning the lotto, I'd say things are pretty good right now. Plus, Real World paid me the money she owes me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dr. James Dobson's Assault on America

I think I was deceived once into thinking that Dr. Dobson was just another conservative, religious icon of talk radio, one with ministries that did good work, with a positive message in general, and one who was mostly apolitical. Apparently, either the veil has been lifted, or he is becoming increasingly political. For those of you who do not know about this particularly shrill voice of the Radical Right Wing Conservative Movement, he's been running a multimillion dollar industry including books, radio, tapes, and more since the 1970's. He's a very wealthy man who fancies himself as a crossbreed between minister and shrink - something that breeds a particularly distasteful element of "I know better than you".

Recently, on his radio show, Dobson equated the "black robed men" on the Supreme Court to the "white robed men of the Ku Klux Klan". He was quoting someone else - but used that quote to make a point of his own - that America is becoming increasingly ruled by a tyrannical minority known as the judiciary. Think about that for a moment. Normal people, even if they disagreed with a court decision, can identify that the courts are integral to the checks and balances system designed by the framers all those years ago.

While I won't suggest that the Terry Schiavo case is akin to Brown v. Board of Education or Marbury v. Madison, the suggestion that the Supreme Court is instituting a "tyranny of the minority" has always been used by conservative elements as a means to protest decisions that constituents disagree with. If you were to extend Dobson's argument (and his host Levin who was shilling for his book), then the Court would be rendered into irrelevance and valuable and necessary social change would not be possible. The government should ensure that schools are integrated, the government should stay out of personal decisions about when to disconnect life support, the government should protect minorities from employment discrimination, etc. But Dobson specifically rejects that role of the Court because he's demanded that Bush appoint "strict constructionists", i.e. those that want to turn back the clock completely.

What is particularly frightening about this new breed of Radicalism is that not only has it established legitimacy (because Christian fundamentalism can never be a bad thing right? - Not like them Islamic Fundamentalists), but also, these people are running the country. And this is what's truly scary. In the mid-1990's, Dobson, who I see as representative of this new breed of extremism (he certainly carries a ton of influence through radio), rejected the "legitimacy" of the "current regime" and constitutional democracy because the courts were rejecting "divine law" (abortion and gay rights). This is just as frightening as former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the highest legal official in the land and noted coverer of Lady Liberty, a statue he deemed "obscene", suggesting that he would be judged by the "laws of God", not the laws of men.

Aren't with me yet? Here's a list of things Dobson supports and advocates:

Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General - Noted legal mind that wrote the pro-torture memos, surely something overtly Christian.

No gay rights - In fact, he said in 2004 that gay marriage will "presag[e] the fall of Western Civilization itself" and that "Homosexuals...want to destroy the institution of marriage" and that gay marriage "will destroy the earth." A bit dramatic, don't you think?

Supports Colorado's Amendment 2 - Bans all gay rights, grants special rights to heterosexuals. Didn't the bible say something about loving your neighbor? I didn't see any caveats in there about sexual orientation.

He accused Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) of being a "God's people hater".

His "family values" include placing a priority on spanking children - something that he has advocated in not one, but two books. "Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.'"

He attacked SpongeBob SquarePants as being a tool for the radical homosexual agenda (whatever that is). I have no idea what 'SpongeBob SquarePants' is or means, but I'm pretty sure that Dobson's attack makes him look like something that rhymes with ghoul.

He has attacked the Girl Scouts of pushing "radical feminism" and "humanism" because, as we all know, those Samoa's are really more than tasty cookie covered in chocolate and coconut. No, actually, those cookies are the "poison pill" of the new Girl Scout led feminist movement that seeks to overthrow the male dominated patriarchy and replace it will an all woman matriarchy.

He supported Alabama's attempt to have a concrete display of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building - a clear violation of church and state - by suggesting that it was "ironic" that the fight was ongoing in Montgomery, the same place that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat - because, you know, not being able to trumpet your religious beliefs in a courthouse is pretty much the same as being denied fundamental human rights in every category for hundreds of years. Here's a gem from that event: “It can be said that people of faith are being sent to the back of the bus, and we’re not going to go there.” I think I just threw up in my mouth.

He opposes all stem cell research.

He has long argued that "secular humanists" have stripped the nation of its Christian heritage, something that is a fundamental and embarrassing misreading of US history (founding fathers were deists, yo!, who were specially careful to create barriers between church and state because of the English model they just rejected).

He went nuts when the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that criminalized gay sex, suggesting that the Lawrence decision risks "the unraveling of a “God-ordained institution.""

I could go on and on, but I think you see the point. The new front of the Radical Evangelical Christian Political Movement is a man with demented ideas, rampant paranoia, and downright foolish notions about the world. In short, his increasingly vocal engagement in American politics smacks of the same type of social disease that enabled racism and sexism to survive for so long in America, something that is in direct opposition to his biblical message of tolerance and compassion.

He's more like Strom Thurmond than the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. And given the power he currently wields, that's simply terrifying.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

My morning

Pain. Never ending pain racks my body as I slowly awake from distant slumber. Like a baby kicking and screaming as it's brought into a cold new world, I slowly rise from my coffin like bed with the realization that if I do not, I will not be able to eat.

Scalding hot water cascades down on my shriveled flesh, steam rising to clog my breathing passages and obscure my vacant stare. Slowly, I reach for the shampoo and begin the morning ritual of clean. Quickly, for I'm late again, I eviscerate the dirt and grime of yesterday and emerge from the shower shiny and new. Nose dripping, I blow dirty gray barnacles idly wondering how many toxic carcinogens I inhale walking the streets of London every day.

Scraping a razor across my brittle flesh in a desperate attempt to destubblize my face, I feel woozy from exhaustion. Glancing around, I wonder if anyone has ever passed out shaving, hit their head on a bureau behind them, causing the blade to slide forward into neck, slicing jugular, and bleeding out. Admitting there was a possibility, I attempt to focus on the task at hand - getting as many nicks and cuts to match the razorburn as possible. Finally satisfied, I dress slowly and without direction.

An apple and a cup of cranberry juice make my morning ritual complete. I eat perfunctorily, without interest, yet with the knowledge that if I don't, I will consume my desk at work. Finally, I select a shabby red hand-me down tie and manage to secure it around my neck on the second try. A black jacket donned to fight the morning chill and I'm off to surf through the human morass that is the morning tube ride.

I need to get more sleep. Yet, I know that I cannot.

My life is out of balance and I have little means to restabilize things at the moment. If I had my way, I would have slept half the day and spent the other half with Miss Colombia. But as with much in life, I can not have my way. Instead I have to toil mindlessly at a job that a Neanderthal could adequately survive, vigilantly on the watch for drool drippings as I hang my head in disgust and fatigue.

I need a vacation from myself.

If I had known that three classes in one term was going to put me in such a state, I may have reconsidered. A snapshot of yesterday:

-Rise 800
-Work 930-100
-School work 200-500
-Class 500-915
-Work at home 945-300

That's no sort of life. But I have little choice. If I had been a little less social over the weekend and a little more dutiful, I would not be in such a state. But I wasn't, so here I am. There has to be a way to find balance between work, school, social life, and personal time. Because I'm tired the zombie life.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go hook up an IV drip of caffeine.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Weekend Recap


My Spanish friend Adrianna was having a birthday party (for herself) at her place on Saturday night and I was invited. I hadn't hung out with her or her Colombian roommate Fabian in a long time and as they only live 10 minutes walking away, I immediately accepted the invitation. Many people showed up and we had a blast. There were Colombians from school that I did not expect to see, as well as a random group of various Europeans. Good fun. Of course, salsa dancing was inevitable and I was pleased about that. My friend from school Maria (also Colombian) patiently gave me further lessons and told me that I had done well. A little more practice and I'll probably be ready for the big time. You can always tell who is good or not, so I make no claims that I'm an expert. But Smooth Like Butta' is not as good as he thinks he is and I must try to show him up!

Anyway, I ended up leaving at about 4. The party was still going strong but I needed to get home. I had school work to do and I was to see Miss Colombia as well and wanted to be rested. Good times.


I spent several hours doing school work for today's presentation . Also, Fabian gave me some pictures from Colombia to use in my presentation on Thursday. I'm writing a "national security briefing memo" about the FARC and narco-terrorism in Colombia. Very interesting stuff and once Fabian found out, he insisted that he burn some pics to a disc for me. He father was in the Colombian military so I have some amazing photos to intersperse with my presentation.

I met up with Miss Colombia around 5. We had a great time, as usual. I really get along well with her and even with some language difficulties, we've bonded quite quickly. Still, it may not work out and we're both cognizant of that. She's coming out of a fairly intense relationship that she ended and she just doesn't want to get into something new right now. Not only does she think that she needs some time for herself (to renew herself, if you will), but also she doesn't want me to be a rebound (and nor do I want to be that either).

There is no real solution to the problem of poor timing aside from keeping things slow and seeing what happens. She's very distraught about life right now and the best that I can do is tell her to focus on herself and just be a good friend. Friendship is the foundation for all good relationships, so I'm happy to play that role (although there is a bit more than friendship involved). In many ways, she and I are very alike and our reasons for moving to London are very much the same. The last thing I would want to be is an impediment on her personal growth so I'm committed to the slow approach. Of course, it's something that is probably ideal for me anyway given my inclination to rush into things these days (see the Absurd Incident of the So-Called Prototype).

In the end, I know I'm going to learn from her and grow with her no matter if we share a simple friendship or something more. I will of course be disappointed if we don't get a chance for more, but I'm absolutely delighted to have met her and gotten to know her even still. Frankly, she's utterly fantastic and whomever she ends up with will be incredibly lucky. We're going to a party together on Friday.

All of this needs to be placed in the context of the Artist Formerly Known as the Prototype, aka, Miss Colorado (because that's where she's from and I'm about spent creatively). I've been aware that the whole situation with her was a colossal failure on my part, but it's not something that is entirely my fault. I got played. I understand that. But a true prototype would never have played with my emotions, led me on, only to turn away and hide behind the excuse that she may be leaving the country and she doesn't want to get involved - when the truth is that I'm just not her type (or something like that). And this is the thing, Miss Colombia told me straight away (even though it was hard for her), that as much as she likes me, she doesn't know what she can give me right now because of her recent history. I respect her honesty and it's in glaring contrast to Miss Colorado.

The Roving Alcoholic, who met Miss Colorado on Friday, made an interesting point today and that is that she seemed very superficial. I was thinking about that over the weekend and maybe it's not just superficial, maybe it's materialism. I mean, ostensibly she's moving back to Colorado because she wants a nice flat, a Saab, and a good job. I understand all those motivations (ok, not the Saab, that's for wanna-be Yuppies), but when your stated goal is to have an international career and you give up because you haven't gotten anywhere in three months and you're dissatisfied with your lifestyle, well, I guess I just wouldn't want to be with someone like that. Is giving it six more months until your visa runs out really that much to sacrifice? To me that appears to replicate the mistakes that she's made in the past (and that I've certainly made as well) and I find it very difficult to respect her choice.

This is not to say that we did not have good chemistry or that I wasn't attracted to her. Certainly we get along great, we bonded fairly quickly, and I wanted things to go places. But after having time to reflect on it all and having a clear contrast with Miss Colombia, well, sorry, but Miss Colorado just doesn't add up. I erroneously elevated her to a level she didn't deserve because I was ecstatic that I found someone I was actually interested in. The challenge, of course, is to maintain a sense of objectivity and really look for the qualities that I demand and value. To ignore glaring incompatibility is to risk heartbreak in the long run and I should know better. When it comes down to it, Miss Colorado had two of the three critical criteria: physical and mental. But her emotional side is stunted and immature and I've learned not to settle for second best. I want all three or nothing at all.

Anyway, I've been kind of inadvertently dodging her for the past couple weeks and I think she's displeased about that. It's not really my fault as I've been entirely too busy and I'm trying to meet other women and whatnot. But I have to confess, I've been less interested in being with her because I'm a bit angry and a bit hurt that she just couldn't be honest with me. Not being honest is ultimately quite disrespectful and it's a "no fly zone" for me. Integrity and honesty are the most important things to me, so I take it quite hard when someone is less than honest. Still, I'll probably get together with her sometime later this week or at least chat on the phone. I do enjoy conversing with her at the least.

This week is going to be oh so chock full of stories. I have two presentations and a paper this week with another paper due a week from today. This quarter is murdering me. Too much day to day work for my liking. But it is what it is and I've got to get back at it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

About Last Night

Last night was a great example of why I need to keep my school friends and the Roving Alcoholic separate and distinct. There was this new student/alumni event at the school pub last night. I've mentioned them before, they have them regularly, and they're generally good fun. For some reason, I invited the Roving Alcoholic.

It was a clear mistake.

He had not had anything to eat all day and started with quadruple vodka red bull. Things went south from there. I figured I could contain him a bit by sequestering a pool table. Poor logic. That just made him want to play for money. He got wild, out of control, and almost started three separate fights. At one point (I was sitting down next to someone having a chat), the bartender came over and told me I needed to deal with my friend because he was about to get his ass kicked. I settled him down...temporarily. Eventually, the bar closed and we went home. I hope he got home safely, but at some point, I didn't even care. I reached my limit with his shenanigans. I will have a chat with him on Monday about all of that. It was totally uncalled for and disrespectful. I invited him into that environment because I didn't want him to go back to his house and sit around and mope (broke up with his 5 year girlfriend less than two months ago). To come into my environment, normally a very chill place, and try to start something, generally be a jackass to the point that you're about to get kicked out, well, that's just not polite to me or my friends.

Real World was noticeably absent from the event last night. In fact, she saw me on campus briefly and ducked out. She's dodging me because she doesn't want to pay me the money she owes me because she doesn't have it (or, more accurately, she's spending money on beer instead of dealing with her debt). I'm very angry about this and I'm going to have a sit down with her on Monday as well. If she wants to write off the "friendship" over 100 pounds, I will be willing to do that. But I still want my 100 pounds! Either way, she needs to know that her behavior is totally unacceptable and that she's not pulling the wool over my eyes - it's entirely transparent what she's all about at this point. So, if she doesn't want to hear what I have to say, and she tries to avoid me, I'm going to give her the business. Because I'm done with her as a friend anyway.

And last, but not least, smoking. I almost left that little comment out, but this forum is a place where I try to be 100% honest. Yes, I've become a bit of a smoker since I moved to the UK. I had been smoking off and on for about a year prior to moving here, but I wasn't really a smoker. It slowly became more of a habit than I intended.

This is how it works: You go out for some drinks, at some point, when all of your friends are smoking and you're a little tipsy, you feel the urge to smoke. So you bum one. Over the course of a night, you bum three or four. But, you know you can't keep bumming from your friends so the next time you go out, you buy a 10 pack (they sell those over here). Repeat a few times. Then you realize that a 10 pack is like 2.65 and a 20 pack is under 5, so economically, it makes more sense to purchase the larger size. Then, you're a smoker.

How much of a smoker? Well, more than I would like, but less than many around me, not that it matters. Any smoking is too much. I've gone through phases here where I haven't smoked at all for a time and I've gone through phases (exam time) where I've smoked entirely too much. It is what it is.

I know I should stop and I will at some point, I just haven't reached it yet. I remember one time in college when I was smoking (a brief month or two) and I was walking toward my car after taking an exam. I knew that I wanted to stop and I remember quite vividly reaching the sudden conclusion that I should just stop right then. So that's what I did. I flicked away my cigarette mid-drag and I didn't smoke after that for a long time. I know that I will reach that point again soon. And I'm also not worrying about it too much. Life is already overly complicated to the point that the smoking issue isn't number one for me right now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Debate (written October 12, 2004)

It's funny how the weather effects the mood. It is snowing here. Not much and not consistently, but still, there is an affliction of foul weather that is creating a sense of melancholy in my brain. That, combined with nothing really to report (I'll spare you with the sordid details of staying up late for school - it really wasn't that exciting) leads me to post this essay that's been in the queue for quite awhile.


I have this friend, a great guy; love him to death, who is the world greatest arguer. Now, I don’t say “greatest arguer” lightly. As 311 said, “In high school it was debate”, for me it was high school and college and two years after college. See, I must confess to having debated for 9 years spanning high school and college.

What is debate? Academic debate is not what you see on TV. It’s not John Kerry vs. George Bush in a staged show with 26 pages of rules. No, in debate, the only rule is time limits. You have a set amount of time to make speeches, ask questions, and prepare. After the time is gone, you’re done. Everything else is up for grabs. But this doesn’t tell you much about debate.

Academic debate isn’t what you would see in the United Nations, nor are you likely to see a debate in congress if you happen to watch CSPAN[1]. No, debate is not located anywhere in the real world, it’s only located in classrooms across the (US) country (and increasingly across the world). Academic debate is a lot like what you see in academic journals. Take International Security, for example. I was just reading[2] an article that argued that Japan is a militarized nation. The author explained the debate and then proceeded to make a series of devastating arguments against the notion that Japan is a military midget. That’s debate.

Another example, I once watched a debate in which one side advocated deploying a national missile defense. The other side made arguments that missile defenses don’t work, they provoke our enemies to build countermeasures, and increase the risk of war. It was an incredibly high level analysis conducted by both sides, something rarely replicated in academia, and certainly never in politics. The participants were high schoolers. That’s right. Not even old enough to vote and they were doing higher level policy analysis than 98% of the country is capable. Debate appeals to the brainiacts because of this.

But, debate is a perversion. It appeals to another type of person as well. And this is why I loved debate. See, I’m a closet speed freak. I love to do things fast. Drive fast, talk fast, smoke fast, eat fast. I’m always in a hurry. It’s just a personality trait that some Freudian would surely chalk up to some big worded development disorder that I probably learned about in Psych 101 but was too busy to remember. Now, why am I talking about being a speed freak? Easy. Debate involves two things: high level policy analysis and time limits. There’s a natural progression to talk as fast as you can. Debate as I knew it, more than anything, was a torrent of sound. You talk fast in an attempt to overwhelm your opponent, or to confuse them, or just because, in my case, you simply love it. Now, when I say “talk fast”, I’m not talking about the micromachines guy or even an auctioneer. No, that’s not on par with this. In debate, you’re making arguments, you’re reading evidence quotations from academic and media sources. It’s so fast that it takes a trained ear to understand. In fact, debate would be so much easier if it wasn’t fast. The entrance barriers would be so much lower. But, if anyone could walk in, stand at a podium, and discuss the merits of missile defenses in a conversation tone, it wouldn’t be debate. Instead, it would be something mainstream, something less. See, debate derives some of its mystery, some of its coolness, from the fact that it’s a distinctly uncool side culture than only a few are able or willing to participate in. When you actually become good at debate, then you go from being one of the huddled masses to a cool cat with nothing to fear. Never mind that it’s an absurdly small pond, sometimes it’s good to be the big fish.

But back to my friend, “the world’s greatest arguer”. As you can see, I don’t throw that phrase around lightly. My friend, however, deserves the label. Funny thing is though; my friend would be terrible at debate. So, there’s a difference between a debater and an arguer. John Kerry is a debater; George Bush is an arguer[3]. Debaters use reason and thought to attempt to achieve a certain goal. Arguers use reason and thought for no stated goal.[4] My friend is a great master simply because he can argue with anyone about anything for no reason at all. For example, he’s a great Yankees fan. He can’t help it, he grew up with the Yankees and he’s steeped in the tradition of Yankeeism.[5] So, if some nameless party was feeling adversarial and was to propose that Mariano Rivera shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame because he’s only a closer, my friend would argue vehemently that Rivera is the best closer of all time and that he’s a sure fire first ballot choice once he retires. Of course, if you were to argue that grilled kielbasa was better than grilled hot dogs, he’d take you to the mat in favor of hot dogs.

See, that’s the great thing about an arguer, it doesn’t matter what the argument is. Arguers just want to argue. It’s what they do, it’s what defines them. This type of personality appeals to me for two reasons.

First, I like a good argument. Sometimes you just need to throw down with your friends on stuff than no one truly understands. I mean, assuming you’re not actually talking about something that either side is truly expert in; you’re going to have a lively, off the cuff debate. In conversation, these are often the best kind of arguments to have because neither of you really has any idea what the hell you’re talking about, which has the dual benefit of leading to lots of questionably accurate statements that are ultimately uncontestable.

But also, there’s another, more devious reason I enjoy this type of personality. See, you must understand a little about me. I’m an Aries, the war sign. It means I’m competitive; I like to stir shit up. So when I’m in an environment where I can gleefully stir shit up without any of said fecal matter landing on my personage, well, I take advantage.

On time in college[6], I had two friends that were the most diametrically opposed of anyone I have ever interacted with. One was a neo-hippie environmentalist vegetarian type[7]; the other was a card carrying member of the NRA, not to mention a regular “heat packer”. We had a party at my house one October on a day you may have heard of, Halloween. Knowing that both of my friends, who had so little in common that they never would have said more than five words to each other had I not been the common link, were on opposite sides of virtually every field of discussion, I gleefully threw the proverbial hand grenade into the conversation.

Me[8]: “So [enviro-hippie-veggie type], did you know that [card carrying NRA gun toter] is in the NRA and owns five handguns and a pump action shotgun?”

And that’s all it took, folks. I had an hour of truly delightful argument unfold before my very eyes, none of which ever tarnished me in any way. See, I do take special delight in that, but not just because of the obvious level of consternation and discomfort that it brought to both parties. I also appreciate the arguments made on both sides of the debate. You learn much more about people when you see them wax poetic about things that matter the most to them.

But back to the world’s best arguer. I remember having arguments with him spanning from which of Grisham’s books were the best to the point at which Tom Clancy ceased to be a good writer and instead became a shabby scribe for the GOP.[9] We’ve argued about which Chinese restaurant delivered the best General Tao’s chicken, which dodgy late night Chinese restaurant had the best Mongolian Beef, and who is hotter Jennifer or Courtney. And I think when it comes down to it, in life, if you can’t have an argument about something, if there’s no controversy, then you’re just not living it to the fullest.

At any rate, I think that’s one thing the UK seriously excels in – a good argument. It's not just that old Monty Python skit where the guy pays to have an argument and instead of arguing, just gets repeated denials.

“I paid to have an argument!”

“No you didn’t!”

“Yes I did!”

Ad nauseam. I, for one, am tired of the culture of agreement. Let’s stir some shit up. And this is something the Brits are good at. Prime Minister's Questions have been particularly lively of late (election season), but not only that, you can have a lively argument with a Brit on pretty much any subject at any time (as long as it's over a pint or 4). Speaking of which...

[1] Like some of us are wont to do.
[2] As in a few months ago.
[3] Or maybe Bush is just argumentative.
[4] Republicans like to see Bush as a debater, but he’s not. In fact, with my definition, he may be neither because he’s usually not the type to use “reason” in a “debate”. Instead it’s bluster and bravado.
[5] Also known as “Darth Vaderism”.
[6] Emory, not “band camp”.
[7] Who went on to defend oil and gas companies. “Fate is not without a sense of irony,” said Morpheus.
[8] Adored in military fatigues, a fake beard, cigar, and frequently shouting, “Viva la revolution!”
[9] Executive Orders was my argument and I stick with it today. He felt that Clancy had one decent book after that.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Rant it up

Right - Another great perversion of American patriotism is underway, this time in the Southwest, Arizona and New Mexico, I believe. In case you haven't heard, allow me to describe the assininity that is currently being conducted in the name of country, flag, and God.

There is a sizeable number of "patriots" that are taking it upon themselves to police the US-Mexico border in a particularly harsh area of desert that sees frequent illegal border crossings. While watching the news the other night, I heard one such "patriot" (typically with a beer belly, American flag doo rag, and shotgun to go with his beard and shades) claim that they're trying to "stop the invasion of illegals from Mexico". Because, as we all know, there's this giant conspiracy to turn the homogeneous American population into Mexico-junior and all. So, thankfully these folks are staking out a portion of the border, armed and ready to defend America proper.

I have many problems with this, but perhaps the greatest is, when did gigantor's armed with beer bellies, foul language, and in some cases actual firearms all draped in the cloth of the Stars and Stripes earn the right to speak for me? I mean, it's not like any of us came from anywhere except good ole' US of A, right? I find the anti-immigration crowd to be so absurd. The US is a nation founded by foreigners, dominated by foreigners, and most importantly, a model to the world (excluding George Bush) because of the way we integrated a vast array of foreign cultures, languages, and living habits into our society. To now suggest that we shouldn't let anyone in, specially them illegal Mexicanos, is laughably hypocritical. And when Johnny Wanna Be Law steps up with his licensed shotgun and bad attitude acting like he's Lady Liberty, well, he can basically piss off. The Border Patrol has a job to do - an unenviable one, but they do it anyway. The last thing they need is a bunch of wildcard gringo's stirring it up in the desert, a ploy that has done little more than drive illegals around their watchful eyes.

Ok, I feel better now. That whole "invasion" line just totally pissed me off, especially since I was watching it on BBC and it's jackasses like that that give American's a bad name overseas. Immigration is a public policy issue that should be addressed, but in the public eye is often (always) a race to the bottom. I blame everyone.

Anyway, today, instead of spending most of my day on schoolwork (which would have been sensible in some ways and insane in others), I spent my day with Miss Colombia. I really like this woman, but I'm not sure if it's going to work or not. I'll say is up front that she really likes me and that she wants to keep seeing me, but it's more complicated than that (even though it SHOULDN'T be - but it wouldn't be "the story of my life" without complications). I'm jumping ahead.

We met up in Knightsbridge. She had English class in the AM and had to work at 6, so we went to lunch at Wagamama's. I met her at her bus, which she totally appreciated, and received a warm hug. A start. I had decided to be a bit more aggressive this time around because I wanted her to know that I was interested in more than just another Colombian friend and because I wanted to engage in the minor pleasure of holding her hand and whatnot (I'm a total sap and I admit it). She probably knew already, but it was the right thing to do.

At lunch, she told me about the complication. I won't go into extensive detail since what she told me was said in confidence, but the gist of it is that she broke up with another guy relatively recently, she's still kind of seeing him because she doesn't want to hurt his feelings even though she doesn't want to date him anymore, and she's conflicted about seeing me because she doesn't want to have to explain me to him. Yeah. This is what you get when you're too damn nice. We talked about it for a long time and it was a really good conversation. She was very nervous about it but she was totally honest and I made sure that she knew that I appreciated it.

In the end I told her that now is the time for her to focus on her. If she wants to see him because that's what she wants, then she should do that. If she wants to see me because that's what she wants then she should do that. And, with some reluctance, I told her if she didn't want to see me or him because she felt that she needed to take care of herself, then that's what she should do. Ultimately, I care about this woman already. And I can see how conflicted she is between meeting someone she really likes and not wanting to hurt someone she loved for a time but doesn't anymore. (I won't even get started on him - just know that I have a very low opinion of him already.) He's planning on leaving in 6 weeks time back to Brazil, so she's thinking that if we continue to see each other and take things slow, she won't have to deal with the problem. Much like the Two Bobs, "that will fix the glitch." (Office Space reference.)

I don't know. I mean, I was very honest with her. I told her that I have no problem taking things slow and in fact, that's probably the best idea for me ever given my history. But it can't be ponderous and nor can I just hang around waiting for her because at the end of 6 weeks she may not want to be with me anyway and that would have been a huge waste of time.

The really frustrating thing about this one is that, much like the Prototype (who desperately needs a new nickname), Miss Colombia has what I'm after in spades. This, I believe, would be woman number 3 in my illustrious 30 years on planet Earth. She's smart, she's funny, she's honest and caring, she's engaging, she's quirky, etc, etc, etc. I could go on for weeks, but that's not the point. The point is, and this is what I told her when she asked, "what is it that you want?", I've met a nice woman who I genuinely like and could see myself with. I'd like the opportunity to get to know her, to bond with her, and see what the possibilities are. Of course, just like the Prototype, she has a flaw that is impeding our ability to proceed normally.

Such is life. I'm seeing her again on either Saturday or Sunday. She's going to text me tonight after work and we'll make some plans. I wish I could see her both days but I don't think that's going to be feasible with my school work (and probably not sensible given our "go slow approach"). I have been stressing majorly this week because I am WAY behind. I have a paper and two presentations due next week that I haven't even started. It's not as bad as it seems (because the paper is only like 1200 words and one of the presentations is on something I'm intimately familiar with), but this is just not the way I like to do things. So I need to get my ass in gear, stop surfing the web for Spanish-English phrases and translations, and get the research done that needs doing. Cheerio.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I have a date with Miss Colombia tomorrow. Very excited. She's working as a hostess at a restaurant right now, so we're going out in the daytime as she's working from 4pm until the end of the night. Not sure what exactly we're doing yet, but I have some ideas. Once again, she asked me out! Of course, I called with the intention of asking her out, she just got there first. I'm working on a few more Spanish phrases. It pays to have several Spanish speakers (including 2 Colombians) living in my house.

Re: Pope Talk

After watching the tele and reading up on the news, it's evident that the media is softballing the Pope simply because he's a revered figure by about a billion people. This is not to suggest that a dead guy (Pope or not) should not be remembered respectfully, but to suggest that the Pope was a "perfect" leader or even that his policies were "correct" in all situations is to ignore the glaring depravity of at least two, if not more, of his central policy issues. Of course, the online media is all over this, meaning that the mainstream media will most likely get there eventually, but here's my take.

Condoms in Africa

The Pope's "no contraception at all costs" based on "moral" beliefs has literally costs MILLIONS of African's their lives from the spread of HIV. Regardless of where you stand on birth control, their is a deeply profound motivation to prevent the spread of AIDS, something that the Pope never addressed. This is a problem for the radical right (and yes, I think this position is RADICALLY conservative) because the "protect life at all costs" platform is at odds with the "no contraception" platform in areas where the spread of HIV is out of control. While the Church would argue that they have not "condemned millions of African's to a painful death", it is absurdly fallacious to suggest that abstinence is a viable option on the sub-continent or elsewhere. The reality is, people are having sex, they're going to continue to have sex, and no "moral" statement from any religious body is going to slow the tide. The only question is, are they going to have life saving protection or not.

This issue is further complicated because the Pope's position suggests there is absolute gender equality throughout Africa, a position that reveals the true naivete of the Church's position (I would say outright intentional ignorance). Anyone who has ever read anything (say a UNAIDS report, for example) on AIDS in Africa will inevitably stumble across this issue which makes the Church's disregard of it that much more shocking. Gender inequality is cited as a central reason in both overpopulation and HIV literature because women rarely, if ever, have the right to say "no" to their husbands, men who often fornicate with prostitutes. The spread from prostitute, to husband, to wife, to babies is NOT something that can be stopped with a simple "abstain" message. It's equivalent to telling someone who is being shot at to dodge a bullet instead of giving them a bulletproof vest. Or, even worse, burning the bulletproof vests so that no one can use them (as one Bishop in Africa suggested that they do with condoms). And none of this even touches on overpopulation and the attendant environmental damage that goes along with that.

In sum, the Pope's "no contraception at all costs" position was morally objectionable, flatly ignorant, and ultimately contributed to millions of people suffering life ending disease that was preventable. That is a huge black mark that should be discussed openly because that policy desperately needs changing and now is the time. Not only are there external motivations, these policies directly contributed to declining numbers of Church members throughout the developing world. Whereas Americans completely disregard the order, other, more strict areas, saw a decline in membership. Brazil, for example, saw a 15% drop in Church membership during the Pope's tenure, something that has at least partially (if not wholly) been attributed to the "no contraception" policy.


This Pope was also extremely regressive in the area of women's rights inside the Church. Vatican II started a reform process in the Church, a much needed process that would have liberalized some of the Catholic tradition while focusing on the central message instead of the dogma that was built around that message over a thousand years. One of those reforms would have been to recognize (at the least) the role that women play in the Catholic Church. I, for one, have great troubles attending mass because I feel that the institutions and ceremonies of the Church are sexist. While Vatican II in itself would not have made sweeping changes, it did start a process in motion that may, if allowed, have resulted in greater roles for women (perhaps even ordainment someday). To his credit, John Paul II did allow women outside the institutional structure to play greater roles. Women became eucharistic ministers, alter girls, etc. But inside the Church, the Pope ended any hope that women would be more than sideshows to the grand spiritual exhibition. Instead, he repeated Church mythology that "only [men] were present at the Last Supper" and "only men" were actually apostles, two propositions that have been clearly doubtful for sometime and look increasingly unlikely as more and more documents, records, and artifacts are turned up and analyzed.

Not only that, the Pope pontificated about the stereotyped notion of what is masculine and feminine (since he knows all about women and all): "Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is 'feminine' and what is 'masculine.'" This Pope literally slammed the door shut on any institutional role that women could play in the Church under the guise that the Christ wished for traditional gender roles (inequality), something that I find particularly galling.

In the end, what I don't understand is how anyone can term John Paul II a great Pope. The Church is dying in Europe, America largely disregards doctrine, the priesthood is in desperate shortage, there aren't any nuns left, and millions of people are now suffering long term fatal disease because of his blind advocacy for abstinence at all costs (and I didn't even mention that sex abuse scandal in the US). I'd say that puts him down in the category of abject failure, no matter how strongly he advocated against communism.

The Church now has an opportunity to liberalize in both structure and message, something that is long overdue and should be seen as an absolute necessity. Whether the Church rises to the challenge or not is a separate question, but there can be no doubt that reforms are in order and now is the time to make positive changes.

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