Thursday, September 30, 2004

Earth is not round, it's dirty

In the old days, spam was simple. An email would come into your inbox that clearly was advertising a certain type of product, with a rather dull, obvious subject line.

Today, in an attempt to avoid filters, spam subject lines are getting more and more creative.

Besides the 'Resolve debt the Christian way' (which I presume means debt-forgiveness, since usury is forbidden in the bible, and it would be un-Christian to run a credit company), there are now the completely random subject lines. Today I received one that actually made me smile. Instead of saying 'coincidental ox buy vi4ggggra cheep' (all ploys to avoid filters), this one said 'Earth is not round! It's dirty!'. Well, the odd contrast in that subject line is riveting, and although I suspected that this was a porn ad, I had to open the email to see.

Instead of porn, this is what it said "A Soft Tab is an oral lozenge, mint in flavor, containing pure Tadalafil Citrate that is placed under your tongue and dissolved. Easy and imperceptible to take. Take just a candy and become ready for 36 hours of love. This is most modern and safe way not to cover with shame Only 15 minutes to wait FDA Approved."

Surely, this is the most briliant subject line I've ever seen for a viagraesque product, having nothing to do with the content of the email. Although, I must say, I wouldn't mind eating mint candies and becoming ready for 36 hours of love - and I would not to cover with shame, of course. One does have to wonder if the Japanese have started spamming - this subject line and the phrasing in the email are strangely reminiscent of Japglish.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

What to blog about?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, school's back in full swing. And as a result I have very little of interest to write about.

My friend suggests that in the absence of interesting things to write about, I should write about politics. Unfortunately, I have no desire to become one of THOSE bloggers who devote their ramblings to inane elaborations on the current political situation.

Instead, I suppose I will write about the future - muse about what my weekend's going to be like. Because this weekend, I am getting out of town. I am going to NYC for a nice weekend of partying and fun.

I could also write about my past - talk about my tragic middle school years, and how I suffered angsty growing pains that manifested themselves in really bad, pseudo-intellectual poetry.

Maybe I won't write about anything today, and go back to reading about the Baltics and Scandinavia in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In any case - I've got piles of work to get through before I leave on Friday - 2 papers to write, hundreds of pages to read, and countless pages of baffling international finance theory to get through.

So I'm going to continue to watch Bridget Jones for the hundredth time and try to get something done before going to bed.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Star Trek musings

Today I received the first season of Star Trek, the original, of course (in a snazzy collector's box). So of course I've been basking in the brilliance of Roddenberry.

However, sometimes I have to laugh.

In the episode "Balance of Terror" where the Enterprise first faces the Romulans, I noticed several amusing details. First of all, when both ships shut power down to remain invisible to each other, both crews whisper and work in complete silence. Now, this just made me laugh. How in hell could they possibly hear each other across the vacuum of space? What possible use is it to keep quiet? It's not like they have communication open between the ships.

Also, when the Romulan ship is hit, chunks of concrete fall from the ceiling on the Romulans. Why on earth (or Romulus, rather) is their ship built out of concrete? Seems like a rather stupid space-age building material. Or maybe this reflects their Roman influence? Maybe it's actually marble crashing down.

Nevertheless, despite these often amusing flaws, and the constant humor in the bevy of hot alien women who throw themselves at Kirk, I absolutely adore Star Trek, both for its entertainment value, and for its moral lessons about tolerance.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Japanese hierarchy on the streets

While running errands today, I ran into a large group of Japanese people, men and women, all dressed up in business suits. The man in the front, clearly the head hancho, walked quickly, and as I followed them (by coincidence, not on purpose) I realized that if the blinking red light was flashing at a crosswalk, the head hancho would simply walk across the street at a leisurely pace, forcing those behind him to run across the street at high velocity through a red light, while cars honked impatiently.

For some reason, this reminded me of my time in Japan, and reassured me that despite stories of cultural change and rebellion in Japan, hierarchy lives on. These people were mostly young, and yet they paid the traditional deference to their boss that I had witnessed as a child.

It's nice to know that some things don't change.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Applications - Why, God, Why?

From 10:30 this morning until 2:30 this afternoon, without pause, I worked on my applications to law schools and Ph.D. programs. And I have only one question to ask: why, God, why?

Why does every single school have its own application form? Why are all of the applications almost identical, but with nasty little differences such as order of listing employment, or amount of detail needed about parents? Why can't there just be one general application, found online, which gets sent out to all the schools? They seem to be doing that with letters of recommendation these days. Wouldn't that be simpler - one form for law schools, one form for graduate programs?

I have a dream for a future where when applying to 7 schools for law school and for Ph.D. programs, students will only have to fill out two application forms that will get sent to all of the schools.

In the meantime, I am going to continue ordering transcripts and certification letters, filling out innumerable spaces on countless forms with my name, birthday and social security number, and will go to bed every night, sobbing gently to myself as visions of online forms dance in my head.

Monday, September 20, 2004

School has truly resumed

After many exciting weekends of summer fun, I have to announce that it seems as if school is back in full swing. Instead of excessive partying, I stayed in for most of the weekend, reading about 1919 and the history of 20th century Middle East. Although I went to a reception on Friday, and then continued on to the bar, it was a quiet weekend otherwise.

It's amazing to me how nice it is to be back in school. There's always something to read, whether directly for class or simply for my further education. As long as I don't have to read too much more about double-entry bookkeeping and balance of payments I will be happy. I was clearly not cut out to be a financial expert, since anything related to accounting gives me the heebie-jeebies. Damned international finance theory.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah starts tonight. In honor of it, I'm celebrating with a little dinner for myself.

This little dinner seems to have spiraled out of control somewhat. What started as a vague idea to make gumbo turned into me making crawfish etouffee and chicken soup. Matzoh balls will follow later, once the chicken soup cools enough to allow me to skim the fat off the top. Right now I'm struggling wtih the rice. Yes, I can make etouffee and chicken soup from scratch but I can't make rice.

I have a number of small burns on my hands from making the roux for the etouffee - one website described it as 'Creole napalm' - a rather accurate description.

And as soon as the rice is done, I will open a bottle of Israeli cabernet sauvignon, sit down, and enjoy my etouffee. Any minute now...

Casablanca and the indictment of American isolationism

I'm rewatching Casablanca after several years of having neglected it. I finally have a copy of the special edition DVD.

Rewatching it as a political science/international affairs person, new nuances emerge. One line in particular struck me - early in the movie, Senor Ferrari says to Rick: "'When will you learn that isolationism is not a practical policy?" I am ashamed to say that until this point I had never understood the relevance of this line to anything outside of the movie. I suppose I have learned a thing or two in the past couple of years.

Jenga and Earthquakes

I was just semi-watching some stupid new reality show that involved a game of Jenga.

This made me think of something I hadn't thought of in nearly a decade.

It was New Year's Eve, 1994, I think. We were living in Yokohama, and my family and I were at the house of our friends. They had two children who were close in age to me, and at some point, shortly before midnight we went to play Jenga.

The game progressed for a while, and the tower began to become less stable, when all of the sudden the whole room began to shake. As we sat, frozen in horror, the whole tower collapsed around us. Then the shaking stopped. I felt that this was no ordinary earthquake - unlike most, this had seriously upset the balance of something that at that immediate moment truly mattered to me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


The receptionist at my hair salon is a man.

This is not so surprising in and of itself.

What is rather odd is that he is a man dressed as a woman.

The first time I saw him/her there, I was puzzled but not entirely sure of his/her gender. Yesterday, I decided that he/she was undeniably male. I'm still not sure if he/she is a transvestite or a transsexual - I lean towards the latter. Still, this person was distinctly a man at one point.

Interestingly enough, I have seen more men in drag in DC than almost anywhere else I've been (not counting Budapest - because hanging out at gay clubs with transvestites will skew the numbers.) I suppose this is only following in the tradition of the late, great J. Edgar Hoover.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Forties and $7 TV sets - The story of a weekend bender

One word summarizes my weekend quite nicely: booze. It started on Friday night. It ended this morning.

On Friday evening, I got together with a friend of a friend (who after this weekend is definitely my friend as well - you can't drink as much as we did and not become friends) for drinks at this bar in Adams Morgan called Dan's. Now, I was forewarned that Dan's involves a lot of low quality hard liquor. It does. You buy a half pint of vodka which gets poured into a little carafe (which looks remarkably like one of those little olive oil containers in nice-ish Italian restaurants). With this you also get a can of coke, as well as shot glasses and regular glasses. All for $12. Needless to say, much vodka was consumed. By much, I mean a really whole big lot of vodka.

The next morning, we decided to go buy more booze before going to the bar to watch the Michigan football game. So at 10:30 a.m. we were in the next door convenience store buying forties of Old English. The guy behind us in line was highly amused as we discussed the appropriateness of forties before noon and the necessity of porches to enhance the experience - 'Not only are those forties, but those are forties of Old English! Damn!' he said. The clerk wished us a pleasant drinking experience. And thus we embarked on part two of the drinking experience while listening to all of the Doors albums in chronological order (as a side-note - Soft Parade is a terrible album which explains why I never seem to have listened to it all the way through before.)

Part three came in the afternoon when we headed to the bar, realizing as we went that neither of us had eaten anything, and we were both somewhat soused. We got to the bar, met up with some people, ordered food and started drinking. Or rather, continued drinking. Pitchers of beer came and went, softening the painful experience of watching us blow fat chunks against Notre Dame.

It was towards the end of the game that my friend had a stunningly good idea - to go back to my place and watch Clint Eastwood movies while drinking Maker's Mark. Of course, the convenience store next door to me didn't have any hard liquor, and as we were musing where we might find such a thing, this very nice African-American gentleman of dubious sobriety and even more questionable wealth suggested that we go to 11th Street, even offering to lead us there. We politely declined, and wandered off, finding the store exactly where he had described it. As we exited the store, armed with a six-pack of beer and a fifth of Maker's Mark, an even more sketchy gentleman attempted to sell us a $7 TV set that he was carrying under his arm. Walking past the convenience store, we were hit up for a couple of bucks by the man who had directed us to the liquor store. He got $2 for his efforts.

Part four of our drinking experience involved Maker's Mark and A Fistfull of Dollars. The drinking unfortunately caught up to us at this point, and my friend passed out fairly early in the evening. I gave up and went to sleep shortly thereafter.

But have no fear - that was not the end. This morning, up bright and early, we welcomed the new day with a couple of beers at 8:30 a.m.

All in all - haven't had one of these weekends in ages - deliciously excessive low-brow alcohol consumption. And amazingly, through it all I managed to avoid all ill-effects except for a slight headache yesterday morning.

New image host

After a couple of hours of grueling, mindless cutting and pasting, I have all of my pictures back up. Yay for new image hosts.

Stupid photo hosting

I need to find a new site to host my pictures since photodump appears to have pooped itself and gone away. Until then, I have a text-only blog. The unreliability and constant flux of services on the internet is sometimes disconcerting.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Washington, DC

It's great to be back in DC after almost two months away. People slogging through the humid air in poor-quality, poorly tailored suits and sneakers, going to their mindless jobs as mid-level bureaucrats; large, imposing buildings surrounded by security personnel; and the magical fantasy land in which so many residents inhabit, believing that politics is the single most important thing in life.

My apartment was a mess of dustbunnies - spent a day and a half cleaning it (hadn't cleaned it for at least 2 months before I left for 2 months - it really needed it). Also had my first day of classes yesterday.

My first day of classes and last one for the week (I only have classes on Mondays and Tuesdays this semester) was marked by a certain professor's statement that international terrorism is being sponsored by the Russians. Islamic fundamentalist groups, he argued, are not about religion, or any economic and social factors, but rather are being funded by the Russian mob which is working for the Russian government who wants to control Middle Eastern oil, and sponsors attacks at the U.S. in order to defeat their sworn enemy - 'the Cold War never ended' the professor said, as I desperately tried to submerge images of Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind circling words in magazines to decode the Soviet messages.

Our assignment - to find out the truth that has been hidden from us - to find proof of Russia's deviously brilliant involvement (which is occuring at the cost of its own people, says the professor) - no small task - but one that, according to our professor, could make our academic careers - but more importantly, one that will reveal the truth. I feel oddly like Jeff Bridges in Fisher King, about to embark on a futile quest for the Holy Grail with a complete madman.

I love DC. Only here could such paranoid delusional lunatics be tenured professors. Or wait, maybe that's just academia.