Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Left-handers and bed-wetting

According to this article linked to from Fark, lefties are more prone to depression, drug abuse, bed-wetting, autoimmune diseases, suicide attempts, and being president.

None of these sound very good. I am a happy, well-balanced lefty, without any major psychological or physical problems. I am also not the president. I suppose there is some truth to all this, but I tend to categorize such information as part of the giant anti-lefty conspiracy that pervades every facet of society.

Of course, there is also a very large market for left-handed devices - I own a pair of left-handed scissors which I find invaluable. Some of the available devices are, however, nothing more than sales gimmicks. For instance, I recall being in a left-handed store with my parents, where my mom was excitedly pointing to a pair of left-handed manicure scissors and suggesting that she buy them for me. I gently pointed out to her that this made absolutely no sense, since in order to cut all ten of your nails, you'd have to switch the scissors from one hand to the other, thus invalidating any left-handed properties that those scissors might contain.

I'm proud to be a lefty. Now excuse me while I go and change the rubber sheets on my bed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


I'm about to embark on another one of my cooking adventures. Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying, since the results are usually unpredictable, and the food is occasionally inedible.

Part of the problem is my unwillingness to use recipes. Cookbooks are for wusses, and real men make things up as they go along. Well, actually, real men just barbeque, but since I'm not a man, I'll let my statement stand.

My dad always told me that cooking was biochemistry and baking was microbiology. He has a point. However, I did exceedingly well in biochemistry, and I'm nowhere near as good of a cook. My baking is nonexistent - I never did understand the concept of yeast very well. That said, cooking is fun, as long as you treat it as a science experiment. Although with my cooking style, I'd have to say it's more like organic chemistry.

Biochemistry requires a certain degree of precision. And this is my cooking downfall. I cook like an organic chemist - it doesn't matter what I add as long as something, somewhere in the pan/pot tastes OK in the end - the cooking equivalent of recrystallization. Even if 29 out of 30 pieces of chicken taste awful, if one of them tastes right, then I've succeeded.

Now I'm going to go and attempt yet again to cook. I've got about a 50-50 chance that it will turn out all right. I'll just try very hard to think as a biochemist and hope that the mindset will give me the necessary karmic qualities to make a good dinner.

Monday, June 28, 2004

One week

If you had asked me last week whether I was excited to be leaving DC and going away for the summer, I would have told you that yes, I was incredibly, insanely excited and just wanted to get away from this dump for a while.

Things change rather rapidly in my life. I'm leaving on July 6, which is about a week from now, and although I'm looking forward to seeing my parents (haven't seen them in several months), watching the interaction between my cat Kissy and their cat Nixie, and going to Hungary for a nice long vacation, I'll be sorry to leave DC for that long. First of all, imagine the dust bunnies floating around my apartment when I get back. Everything will be coated in a half an inch of dust, since I am surrounded by construction sites. Classes will start the day after I get back, preventing me from reading ahead for the tougher courses. And I've finally actually met someone in DC who doesn't spend their life worrying about the latest HR resolution or what some Senate subcommittee has decided should be done about apple orchards in Oregon and their impact on the weapons industry. Finally, leaving in one week means that I have to start packing at some point, and there is nothing more distasteful than packing, organizing and cleaning. Sometimes I really wish I had a maid.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Research paper update update

I suppose that technically I still haven't finished my research paper - I'm a few paragraphs off. Once I'm done that should add about two pages.

I have to confess that I didn't just sit at home and work on it yesterday. I actually left my apartment. It was definitely scary - but at least I didn't leave while the big yellow orb was still in the sky. That might have turned me into stone. And at least I wasn't by myself. DC can be a pretty scary place - always have to watch for those Capitol Hill people with their Blackberries - I've been almost bowled over a couple of times.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy at the moment, despite my incompetent inability to complete the paper. And I don't have much to post about at the moment. Weekends are slow for news, and I don't have any pressing angsty issues that need to be resolved.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Research paper update

The enthusiasm I had for my term paper has since died down. I am beginning to realize that trying to summarize the motivations of numerous countries and international organizations towards the resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict in 8 pages or less is nearly impossible. Russia alone has already taken me 3 pages. I have yet to work through Turkey, Iran, the EU, the US, the OSCE and the UN. Since Russia is the most important influence on the region, I suppose it makes sense that so much of that section is devoted to its various ploys to reexert control over the Near Abroad.

Still, I'm at 25 pages (the assigned length of the paper)and I've got about another 5 to go. Followed by some intense editing, some fixing of footnotes and bibliography, and a massive prayer that my prof will find this version acceptable.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Fog of War


I have always been an enthusiast of good documentaries. I am also fascinated by military strategy and defense issues. I have recently been reading Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Machiavelli in an attempt to understand the theory of warfare.

The Fog of War is a brilliant documentary. In the best of documentary tradition, it relies not only on McNamara's reminiscences, but also on historical conversations and archival footage to emphasize the points being made. It's also highly relevant to the study of the theory of warfare.

Until I watched this, my main source of knowledge about McNamara was the Simon and Garfunkel song, "A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)." I've never been much of an American historian. In fact, I could go so far as to say that I know almost nothing about American history.

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant documentary. Now if only they'd make one about my hero, Henry Kissinger...

Internet people

Last night I did one of (what I thought would be) the dorkiest things ever. I went out to meet some people I'd never met before at a bar. These were people from TotalFark. Now, I've been around the internet long enough to remember the days when if you were female and you got together with people from the internet, they were invariably male, had never left their mother's basement and were so terrified to be in the presence of the opposite sex that they either drooled or ran screaming.

In fact, last night proved to me that either a) the internet is changing for the better, or b) TF is just that insanely cool that people are not only funny online, but also normal, functional amusing human beings. It's probably a bit of both.

Everyone there was really normal, there were an equal number of girls and guys at the beginning, and the ratio then skewed so there was more girls, no one had any serious personality disorders (at least none that were readily discernable) and I actually got along with everyone. I normally hate most people - I'm not a very sociable person - but these guys were really great. And I had way more fun than I expected.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Research paper

I have been working on rewriting a term paper about Nagorno Karabagh for one of my classes. It's a bit of a drag - I thought it was fine before, but I had to reformulate my hypotheses to match the prof's guidelines.

Oddly enough, though, I'm starting to enjoy the rewriting process. Primarily because I have so much more to say now than I did a few months ago. What I have to say has nothing to do with new developments - not much has changed, despite some rhetoric about achieving a resolution. Instead, I find myself writing more about how the situation fits into a general theoretical framework. There's more writing that isn't footnoted, and I have a better understanding of motivations, particularly those of third parties. It's also nice that I can incorporate some of the research I did for another term paper on Russian foreign policy towards the Near Abroad. One of my case studies is particularly relevant in demonstrating how Russia's motivations have affected the negotiation process.

It's inspirational in a way - I am beginning to realize how much I've learned in the past year, not just about writing, but also about how to approach a research paper and how to think about regional concerns from a broader, more general perspective.

Bob Dylan


He looks positively uncomfortable in this picture, In fact, Dylan looks like he's going to eat someone.

Bob Dylan has been my rock idol since I was a kid. But seriously - to paraphrase Jose Jimenez - "Please don't let them do this to him!"

The Big Chill

During my freshman year of college, an old high school buddy dragged me to see a rerelease of the movie the Big Chill. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite movies.

The Big Chill is a U of M story - it directly references Michigan football, Ann Arbor and other facets of U of M life that I profoundly miss.

And in some ways it encapsulates my friendships. Only, over the years, what I saw as my role has changed. First, I was Alex, the suicide victim (originally supposed to be played as a corpse by Kevin Costner). Then I was Nick. No longer. First of all, I'm really not a Vietnam vet, and I'm not impotent. Still, there's so much of my friendships in this movie.

Part of me has been hoping since I first saw this movie that I'd never be in this situation. That I'd never have to see how my friends' lives had changed, that I'd never have to go to a friend's funeral. Today, I see it more objectively. I know we're all going to change. And for the most part, it's for the better. And someone will die, and we'll get over it, and grow stronger because of it. Some of us will grow distant. Some of us will grow closer. And whatever happens, we'll always have Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sex symbols


There is something incredibly irresistible about Alan Rickman. As far as current movie actors go, he is much more talented and better looking than most. He helps make the Harry Potter movies watcheable, and looks better in black than any man has the right to.

I suppose I have a skewed view of what makes a man gorgeous. Until I was 15 years old, I thought Humphrey Bogart was the best looking man ever. It was very hard for me to accept the fact that he was dead. Bing Crosby similarly took a place in my heart. Again, it was hard to accept the fact that he was dead. Jacques Brel was another sex god in my young eyes. And yes, he too was dead.

Alan Rickman belongs in the category of actors who are also sex symbols. Although Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are both good looking men, they have a bland, common appearance that prevents them from standing out from a crowd. Alan Rickman has the looks, the voice, and the talent. And he's alive. This is a definite plus.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

First greenlit Fark submission

This is indeed an exciting day - the link to the Reuters article about Gypsies that I submitted was approved. Considering that I lurked for several years, and that it's been almost a year since I got my TF account (never bothered with a Fark account), I'm very excited.

Yes, I'm a dork. But still - it's kind of neat.

Gypsy holocaust and IBM

According to this Reuters article, a Swiss court has decided that a group of Gypsies who lost family members during the Holocaust can rightfully sue IBM for providing punch-card tabulating machines that facilitated the extermination campaigns of the Nazis.

This is a particularly interesting connection, in my opinion, since the lawsuit is coming from one of the most underrepresented groups in Holocaust reparations - a group that is often denigrated for its lack of education and clan-type family groupings. Yet it is a Gypsy group who is suing IBM on very technical grounds. I'll be curious to see how this lawsuit develops, since it appears to be only a preliminary lawsuit designed to determine if a broader lawsuit claiming further damages will be feasible.

Monday, June 21, 2004

On delicacies and why they shouldn't be eaten

As much as I love food, I've had a few unpleasant culinary experiences in my life - experiences that go beyond the simple concept of 'bad' cooking. Most of these experiences relate somehow to 'delicacies' of various countries. It is a little known fact that the word 'delicacy' really means 'crap we won't eat but feed to tourists who visit our country so that we can laugh at them behind their backs.'

I was raised to be open-minded, both about food and other cultures, and was told that I couldn't prejudge any food without trying it at least once (so said my parents - of course I later realized they were hypocrites - my dad refused to eat the scorpion he was served in China.) As a result, there have been moments were I was forced to smile at the host/hostess while consuming delicacies that were clearly not meant for human consumption.

I recall eating a tripe and brain stew in Hungary. This was a combination of textures and tastes that was simply not meant to be. I also consumed a rooster testicle stew in Hungary - this was surprisingly bland and undisgusting, however, and can hardly count as a true delicacy since I've never heard of anyone else being served it in Hungary. The worst was in Japan, however, where I was served some sort of fermented/pickled uni (sea-urchin ovaries) from a tiny jar that cost about $70. It was a great honor to be presented this delicacy, and I am proud to say that I managed to suppress both my gag reflex and my facial muscles and lived to tell the tale. It was notable that none of the Japanese people present at the dinner were partaking of this treat, and that is when I began to formulate my theory on ethnic delicacies and the true definition of 'delicacy'.

A recent article on the BBC webpage linked to from Fark (see article here) deals with a creation by a Ukrainian chef attempting to create a new Ukrainian delicacy. The dish in question - chocolate covered pork fat:


This magnificent dish, so reminiscent of Catch-22's chocolate covered cotton, is scheduled to become even more popular as tourists flock to the Ukraine now that a Ukrainian won the Eurovision song contest (not making this up - see the article if you don't believe me.)

My final conclusion on this is that a) the recent Ukrainian case reinforces my hypothesis on the actual definition of 'delicacy' and that b) Ukrainians are delusional in thinking that they will have a massive influx of tourists. Between chocolate covered pork fat, Ukrainian mobsters and pockets of high radiation, I'd recommend staying far far away.

New York, New York

I just got back tonight from a blitz visit to New York City. I had a wonderful time, and discovered that I can travel from DC to NYC and back for the ridiculously low sum of $35. The Chinatown buses are absolutely brilliant.

New York is so unlike DC that it's scary. If I leave my apartment in DC wearing anything even moderately interesting (meaning, anything that could not have been bought at J. Crew, the Gap or Banana Republic) I get stared at like I'm some sort of mythical beast, or a giant tentacled slug. In New York, however, it really doesn't matter what anyone wears, because between everyone in New York at any given moment, every possible combination of clothing is being worn. It's sort of nice, really.

Also, New York is blessed with hot Israeli street vendors who like to flirt.

Furthermore, New York has my second favorite cafe in the world, which has my first favorite cappucino in the world - Dante's. It's almost as inspirational as the Muvesz cafe in Budapest, and if I could, I would go there every day and write the Great American Sci-fi Novel while getting completely wired on multiple foamy, strong cappucinos.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Nothing to say

I have nothing to say today. I'm free, I suppose, but I don't quite know what it means yet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


A new haircut is a marvelous thing. It provides a brighter outlook on the world and life in general, makes you feel light and airy, and puts a little spring into your step. At least if you're a girl.

I braved the incredible mugginess today to get my hair cut. And as I was walking home, not only did people yell from their cars (a rather common occurrence around my neighborhood for some odd reason) but I was actually offered a free cab ride by some cab driver. Needless to say I didn't accept, but I was oddly flattered. That was definitely a first, and considering that I wasn't dressed to kill (much too humid to contemplate wearing anything nice), I can only attribute it to my fabulous new haircut. I really should get haircuts more often.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

New army uniform

Well, I'm back. Slightly hungover, but back.

So, I ran across this article on TF (TotalFark - I'm getting tired of typing it out.) There is something very wrong with the newly redesigned (first redesign since 1981) US army uniform:


First of all, it doesn't look like it's any sort of camouflage, particularly not for anywhere that's green. Second, as this next picture shows, it looks like a cheap hunting outfit you'd find at a Michigan Kmart, designed to make you stick out in a forest, rather than blend in:


In fact, the only thing this uniform provides camouflage for is a stormy sky or perhaps a desert. Which leads me to a slightly alarming conclusion - this uniform was not designed to provide cover in greenery, because the US army won't be fighting anywhere green for a long time. Looks like we're in the Middle East for the long haul, at least if these new uniforms are any indication.

Monday, June 14, 2004


Sorry for not posting in so long (not that anyone actually reads this.) Today I took my LSAT - results should be emailed on July 6, so we'll have to wait until then to find out how expensive of a bottle of champagne I need to buy.

Thought it went great. Remains to be seen. Sentences short because me very hungry. Me not eat all day.

I'll post more when I'm more coherent and actually have time to surf the web again for interesting tidbits.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Pixie cat


My dad finally sent me some good pictures of Nixiecat. She's quite the wild looking kitten, with ears that are so huge she looks like she could fly. I think that due to her narrow face and huge ears, she looks rather like a pixie.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Resume advice

My school's brilliant career center decided to force us to resubmit our resumes for their new job-search website. They review each resume and approve them or deny them for publishing, suggesting certain changes.

Mine apparently had only a few incorrigible flaws, like daring to use italics and underlines. However, they did decide to comment on the content, suggesting that I perhaps had too much science and that this would make it difficult for me to find a position in international affairs. I suppose they want me to remove most of my science experience from my resume. Well, forget about it. I'm not removing five years of my life off my resume just because some snot-nosed career advisor thinks I should.

Afghan kittens

Found an article today on Totalfark about Manul kittens, an Afghan breed that has the longest fur of any known species (see article here).

Besides the fact that this article contains barely any written information, it has some delightful pictures of the little kittens. Apparently they're incredibly rare, and these four kittens were born in a zoo in Germany.


They are insanely adorable, in my opinion - possibly even cuter than my favorite breed, the Norwegian Forest cat (Kissy is a Norwegian Forest cat). Unfortunately I doubt that I'll be getting my hands on one of these any time soon - they're being bred in zoos, so they're probably not easily available. Still - they sound perfect - grow up to 8 lbs in weight and you can make clothing out of their fur (not making this up - it says so in the article).


Rrrrowr! Somehow I don't think these little ones want to lose their fur.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

State funerals in the modern age


Today, I braved the crowds and headed down to 15th and Constitution to see the funeral procession for Ronald Reagan. It was blazing hot, in the upper 90s, and very crowded.

The military troops marched out in full dress uniform and came to a stop. For over half an hour, they stood there, fully clothed, waiting for the casket to approach so they could start marching. Well, the heat started getting to them, and one by one they begin passing out. The military medics were taking them out of their formations, pulling them aside, giving them water and making them rest. Eventually, it became a sort of a game with the crowd to see who was going to drop next. In fact, several people called over some of the medics and pointed to this gray and shaking soldier in one of the units and told the medics that maybe they should go to him, since he was about to drop. After helping him, the medics said 'good call' and went on. It was fairly amusing, although I think everyone felt really bad for those poor uniformed folk, since even in shorts and t-shirts and in partial shade, we were sweating up a storm.

Meanwhile, one shrill female police officer kept screaming (and I mean screaming) at people behind us to get down from where they were standing on the huge concrete flower pots. Her screams became more frantic with time. I sort of wanted to go stand on a flower pot, just so that I could be arrested and later, at job interviews, tell people when asked if I have criminal record that yes, I was arrested, for standing on a flower pot at Reagan's funeral procession.

Also amusing was the widespread use of cell phones. Sine we had no indication of when the casket was going to come through, various people called their friends and relatives at home who were watching TV, asking them where Reagan's body was now. This kept us fairly informed.

I don't think anyone around me actually saw the casket pass with their own eyes. We were all too busy snapping pictures with our snazzy digital cameras, held at arms length.

And while I stood there, I realized how profoundly the nature of mass public events has changed with the advent of modern technology. No longer are pictures limited to a roll of film - people snap away continuously, ignoring everything around them. No longer is there the suspense of not knowing what will happen next - cell phones keep us connected to other forms of media and let us know exactly what will happen when. No longer do people turn out to events like state funerals to mourn - the constant barrage of media images has taught us that whatever we believe in, we want to be at events that may be of consequence, even if only of insignificant historical consequence.

I thought it was pretty exciting, although the atmosphere was more reminiscent of millenium London than of a funeral procession, albeit with much less alcohol. I don't know if that's what the cowboy would have wanted, but that's what he got.

Job options

In December, for the first time in my life, I will have to find full-time employment that isn't just a summer job. So I've been looking at the various openings posted by my school's job search program to try to determine what my options are. Unless I have more than five years of work experience, I don't have many.

Most jobs require one or more traits that I simply don't possess - fluency in Armenian, knowledge of Albanian, native Russian, experience managing NGOs, experience feeding refugees, experience in agricultural development, experience in setting up pyramid schemes in small developing countries, experience negotiating settlements between Hutus and Tutsis, etc.

Those jobs that I manage to be somehow eligible for have a geographic problem. They seem to be largely located in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, or other such delightful places. My guess is that the organizations in need of employees have completely given up on trying to get qualified people to work in such places and will now hire anyone who is willing to move there. Which means that most of their employees are insane. I'd be willing to move there, but somehow I doubt that my friends and family would be overjoyed.

My major realization is that I'm overqualified to work in those jobs that I would have been eligible for after receiving my bachelor's, and underqualified to do anything else. This puts me in the odd situation where I'm likely to end up working at Starbucks because no one else will be willing to hire me. And after they taste my coffee, it's doubtful they'll want to keep me around.


I finally watched Tadpole, on the recommendation of my best friend Steph. And I think I'm in love. See, I have an obsession with hands. I have ended relationships for no better reason than that I didn't like the guy's hands. Hands are very important. Hands define maturity, life experiences, psychological wellbeing, etc. And Tadpole, well, he loves hands.

My hands tell their own story. Pudgyish fingers tell me that I haven't done much physical work in my life. The muscularity of my hands shows that I'm not a completely useless human being, and that I've used my hands for something - I've played piano since I was 4.

How do I define an unacceptable hand? Hard to determine. Usually, it's a gut feeling. The biggest problem - small hands - and before you say anything, no it has NOTHING to do with THAT, and although, yes, I'm afraid of carnies, that's also not the reason either. Hands define a person. Looking at someone's hand may be the biggest first impression I get, both for men and for women.

Reading hands, for me, is like reading palms for those fake fortune-tellers, but more truthful and accurate. Hands alone are not enough, however. Brains are also required. The perfect man will have hands like my old piano professor, Mr. Laszlo, and the brains of my favorite prof from college, and will somehow be close to my age. Until then, I'll keep looking.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

This is the best picture of anthrax CNN has?

I stumbled across this picture on the CNN webpage while reading the news today:


This strange work of modern art was accompanying an article on a new test that will permit earlier detection of anthrax exposure. (The article in question.)

What struck me was how abstract, and yet cool and hyper-modern CNN's picture is. It looks more like the cover art for a new Anthrax album if Anthrax were to turn into a pop-alternative band than like the scary anthrax bacteria.

Needless to say, I'm really not sure what the picture has to do with anything other than having the word 'anthrax' written across it and having some quasi-bacterial shapes on it. Good job CNN! Clearly one of your graphic designers was bored and needed an assignment. I suggest that you also replace all of your photographs of world leaders with editorial cartoons depicting them. That would make reading the news much more fun.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Sleepy cat

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I look over at my cat and watch her sleep on the window ledge. She pushes the blinds back from the window so that the sun shines on her, and on my bed.

And like my cat, I suddenly become sleepy again, since there is nothing more stupefying and relaxing than the feeling of sun on my face. Unlike most people, who jump out of bed when the first light hits their eyes, I curl up into a ball, and go back to sleep. Sometimes, Kissy leaves her spot by the window and curls up next to me, and we sleep until the sun goes behind a cloud.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


So my parents finally acquired their new kitten - Nixon, otherwise known as Nixie. I have been unable to carry on a conversation with them since the cat was brought home. They have regressed to helpless baby-talk, and any attempt to have a serious conversation is interspersed by cries of 'awwww - you want to play with my toe?' and 'there she goes again - zoom.'

Hopefully I'll have a couple of good pictures to post later on. At the moment, Nixie hasn't managed to stay in one place for long enough for my parents to get a good picture of her.

The Gipper


Ronald Reagan is finally dead. More so than for most presidents, his presidency defined its decade. Whether you liked him or not, he was definitely the most influential global personage during the 1980s.

His effect on the conclusion of the Cold War, which has been underestimated by liberals and Gorbachev afficionados, was definitive. His vision of the Star Wars project, mocked by so many, played a significant role in undermining the remaining vestiges of Soviet economic and military power by forcing the USSR to engage in an arms race it could ill afford.

As a European child of the 1980s, I cannot comment on Reagan's domestic US policies. I can only state that with historical perspective, much of the credit given to Gorbachev should rightfully have gone to Reagan and his administration. He brought back the 'war' to the Cold War, and thus accelerated its end. This is not to say that without Reagan the Cold War would not have ended. It would have. But it would have taken a few more years than it actually did.

The legacy of Reagan resounds in our current administration. Whether you loved, liked, or hated Reagan, his role in shaping US and global policy cannot be ignored. And whether you loved, liked, or hated Reagan, you have to be glad that he is finally free from that horror that is Alzheimers.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Animal cheese

I have often wondered whether cheese could be made from non-standard cheese-producing animals.

I've eaten cow cheese, goat cheese and sheep cheese, and I've heard of yak cheese. Why is there no pig cheese? Pigs are mammals. They produce milk. Why can't that milk be turned into cheese? I'm sure it would become a yuppie delicacy in no time. Or how about horse cheese? I can already see the menu - "Arugula salad with raspberry-caper vinaigrette, olive bread croutons and horse cheese," or "Pig-cheese asparagus ravioli with a champagne cream sauce."

So why not?

Friday, June 04, 2004

RoboCop and the Reagan years


Growing up abroad, I missed many of the classics of 1980s American sci-fi cinema. The task has now fallen upon me to make up for lost time, and view as many of these classics as I can.

Take RoboCop, for example. I just watched it for the first time tonight. RoboCop is among the cream of the crop of 1980s movies, and reflects the tensions as well as the socio-economic concerns of the age.

The young executives are symbols of the coke-binging extravagance of 1980s Wall Street and corporate America. The jokes are highly topical, referencing the Cold War climate of the Reagan years. And there are boobies, and luscious gore and violence galore. And of course, Detroit is a dystopic hell-hole, not so different from the reality of Detroit in the 1980s.

The best movies of the 1980s had more violence, more nudity and more innovation than today's movies. There was more of a moral subtext, and the distinction between good and evil was clear.

This is not because film directors were more creative at the time - rather, these movies were a product of the heightened tensions surrounding the end of the Cold War. They reflect a time when our understanding of the world was simpler, and global affairs were not as nuanced. My current affection for these sci-fi movies is itself a manifestation of my desire to return to a more straight-forward world. The late Cold War years were good years, and I miss them.

Left-handed humor

According to some article, left-handed and right-handed people interpret humor differently. That still doesn't explain why I'm the only person who thinks I'm funny.

Weather forecast - wet, then more wet

So I checked AccuWeather to see what the forecast for the weekend is. AccuWeather informs me that Saturday will see "Rain, then a shower possible."

I know, I focus on semantics too much, but this is a truly perplexing weather forecast. If it is raining, then how do we differentiate rain from a shower? Is there a meteorological phenomenon known as a 'shower'?

Whatever it means, I expect tomorrow to be wet, with intermittent spells of wet, followed perhaps, by more wet.


Mushrooms are a curious specimen. In effect, they are an extremely large edible mold. They come in hundreds of sizes and shapes, and nature has camouflaged some of the most deadly varieties to look as harmless as your favorite household mushroom.

The oddest part about mushrooms is that since they are already a fungus, it is very difficult to determine when they are no longer fresh enough to eat. Sometimes, but only rarely, they get another fuzzy mold growing on them. Sometimes, the caps get really strange and spongy. And sometimes they turn a funny color.

The effects of spoiled mushrooms are quick and vituperative. Within minutes, the stomach feels as if the mushrooms have expanded to an unnatural size or the victim becomes convinced that he/she is shrinking in the manner of Alice in Wonderland. In fact, Alice in Wonderland fails to address the problems arising from rapid shrinkage in height. Since her dress shrinks with her, we can only assume that her stomach contents does too, but this overlooks some lovely possibilities for embarrassing situations.

After some gastrointestinal discomfort, the effect of the spoiled mushrooms becomes more noticeable. A sudden surge in malodorous flatulence serves as a sign that the nasty stomach pains will eventually be over, and that no hospitalization is necessary. Unfortunately, during this period, no beings with a half-decent sense of smell can stand to be in your vicinity.

My cat, however, is nasally impaired. She crawled under the comforter in the midst of the eruptions and nestled herself under my derrier, where she promptly feel asleep.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Brooklyn cheese artist

I stumbled across this article today on TotalFark, and I found it to be one of the strangest things I've ever read: "Brooklyn Cheese Artist Makes Bed of Ham".

What is a cheese artist? The byline for the article sort of explains it: Brooklyn Artist Who Painted Room in Mozzarella Cheese Begins Covering Bed in 312 Ham Slices. So clearly, this man creates art with cheese.

This is a picture of the creative genius making his 'bed of ham':

Cosimo Cavallaro, the artist in question, apparently moved away from the medium of cheese two years ago after he after he sprayed five tons of pepper jack cheese over a vacant house. His quote: "I was cloaking myself in cheese. I had started getting comfortable. I always need new boundaries."

And so he moved to ham.

All I can hope is that Cavallaro does not receive funding from the NEA. A madonna of feces is one thing, a bed of ham is another. What this man does is sacrilegious to the core - he wastes excellent cheese and processed ham to fulfill his twisted artistic goals. He would be better off shipping his materials to Africa.

My favorite president


This may come as a shock to most people, but Richard M. Nixon is my favorite American president. Despite his shortcomings, he was no more crooked than most of his predecessors and successors. He had some attitude problems - and recent documents indicate that he was sloppy drunk at some point during the Six-Day War. Nevertheless, he had intelligence, and his policy decisions continue to impact the world today.

Besides opening up relations between China and the U.S., Nixon embodied the element of randomness that made his outrageous threats so credible. As my international trade professor enjoyed pointing out, Nixon would occasionally act on one of his outrageous statements, and as a result was much better able to wrangle concessions out of foreign entities. For instance, Nixon threatened Hong Kong that the U.S. would support China's immediate regaining of control over it unless Hong Kong agreed with U.S. trade barriers on textiles and implemented a voluntary export restraint. Hong Kong was just worried enough that he would follow through with that threat that the export restraints were quickly implemented.

Nixon was an economic president, and since to me, economics determines the course of politics rather than vice-versa, I will continue to argue that Nixon was one of the best presidents the U.S. ever had, and will maintain despite great criticism from my peers and family that he is my favorite president of all time.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Horse racing

I haven't been a big fan of horses since I was a kid, and a horse tried to throw me a couple of times. Since then, I've vowed to stay away from horses - I will neither ride them, nor am I happy to be pulled by them. Horsepower will beat horse power any day in my book.

Nevertheless, for years I've harbored a secret desire. I want to go to a racetrack and bet on a couple of horses. I don't care if I lose. Ideally, I'd like it to be a small-scale race, where I can get betting tips from old drunkards and see the gritty side of horse-racing. The Kentucky Derby holds no appeal for me. The Triple Crown leaves me cold. The Budapest racetrack, on the other hand, is where I would like to bet on my first race. I envision it as being a place veiled in the sadness of lost pensions and paychecks, and tinged with the occasional joys of winning a small amount that might help buy new shoes for the children.

So go horsies! I'll put money on them and watch them race as long as I don't have to be anywhere near them.

Central Asian fashion design

I decided to do a GIS for Central Asia, and Google presented me with this gem:


Apparently, as the corresponding website informed me (the site in question), these are some of the designs of Olga Sergeeva of Kyrgyzstan, a 'famous designer of Central Asia.'

What struck me the most was the woman who is standing second from the left. Either a) she is freakishly tall and could be in the WNBA, or b) the other girls are freakishly short, and she is in fact only average in height. The way she is standing also seems to indicate that she only has one leg - it seems like she is nestling the stump where her right leg would be under the breast of the girl on the left.

The same website informs me that there are about a dozen discos in Bishkek and that, most importantly, "there is a circus and a zoo for children and for the really young at heart". Be forewarned - if you are only slightly young at heart, the circus and the zoo are not for you.


One of the most important questions that I face on a daily basis is what I will have for lunch. Some days, I spend hours determining what the best culinary option will be given the weather, my current mood, and any cravings I might have. The answer is never Thai.

Today remains enigmatic. I have no strong desires and since I am not yet hungry, my stomach cannot dictate my mind. Of course, it's only 10:30 in the morning, so I probably shouldn't be worrying about lunch yet.

I often wonder if those great artists - musicians, painters, writers - that starved in their tiny garret apartments ever found themselves creating works of art to fulfill their hunger. It would be most amusing if an analysis of van Gogh's paintings indicated that while painting some of them he craved beef stew and potatoes, and while painting others, he craved hot Indonesian food. Eventually, due to his poverty he was stuck eating a jar of hot Indonesian pepper sauce with nothing to accompany it, which drove him into such fits of madness as he attempted to quench the burning in his throat that he cut off his ear.

Roast pork v. roast pig - the seminal Chinese food debate

I have a menu from a local Chinese restaurant that advertises among its roast specialities both roast pork and roast pig. I have spent considerable time trying to determine what the difference may be.

The initial assumption that roast pork is a piece of pork while roast pig is suckling pig is clearly incorrect, since the prices are identical, and both are served over rice. Although it is theoretically possible that an entire suckling pig would be served over a tiny bed of rice for the low, low price of $4.95, this is highly unlikely.

Maybe roast pork is adult pig, while roast pig is baby pig, but I've never seen pig products differentiated by age.

My only explanation is that roast pork is a pig product, while roast pig is the abbreviated name for 'roast long pig' and thus, by cannibal terminology, roast pig is human flesh.

Other roast products on the menu include 'soya chicken,' 'intestine,' and 'triple delight roasting.' The questions multiply - whose intestine? Is the soya chicken a tofurkey of sorts, made from tofu products, or covered with soy sauce and then roasted? I don't even wish to contemplate what 'triple delight roasting' might be.

Even more fascinating is the 'BBQ & Soy Sauce' section of the menu, which advertises such delectable products as 'soyed chicken' (not to be confused with above-mentioned soya chicken), 'soy sauce intestines' (again, whose intestines?), 'soy sauce chitterling' (speaks for itself), 'soy sauce pig tongue' (since there is no pork tongue on the menu, I will assume that this means pig rather than human), 'soy sauce duck tongue' (how many ducks does it take to make a plate of duck tongue?) and my favorite - 'soy sauce dish' (which I can only assume is a plate of soy sauce you give to your kitty to lap up).

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

My alter-ego


This is my alter-ego. Her name is Kissinger and she meows with a heavy German accent.

Waltz of the Washingtonienne

I suppose I should be writing posts about my crazy sex life and all the middle-aged balding men I've slept with in the past 24 hours. Unlike the Washingtonienne, however, my life is nowhere near as riveting. Unlike her, I have some self-respect. Between $400 and a nice dinner, I'd take a nice dinner. You'd have to pay me a lot more than $400, or nothing at all. $400 is such an insulting sum.

Instead I choose to envision the young lady in question attending a ball in the years before the French Revolution. I see her in a borrowed gown, trying to hob-nob with the aristocracy, invited to attend by a lecherous syphilitic old count, thin of purse but long in pedigree. She is a peasant, and like all other peasants, she is a sans culottes. This is why she is here. In exchange for a quick bang in the servants' stairwell, she gets a chicken. And back to the sewage-filled streets of Paris she goes, to gossip with her peers about her 'success' in that magical kingdom of wealth that belongs to the aristocracy.

Soap operas

I only have two TV channels - ABC and CBS. So if I want to watch TV in the afternoon, the only available shows are soap operas. Today, I actually left the TV on during the afternoon while I wasted time online. After a couple of hours of being exposed to soaps, I no longer remember algebra.

So I suggest that the U.S. prison system should take away cable from the prisoners and instead force them to watch soap operas all day long. This will greatly reduce crime rates, since released prisoners will be incapable of doing anything more challenging than painting their nails and gossiping with their next-door neighbors.

How I broke down and decided to blog

Everyone's doing it. That's a good enough reason, right? It's not like I'm running off to join the Nazi party.