Wednesday, October 27, 2004


I have my first macroeconomics exam on Monday. Additionally, I have a term paper due on Friday, the intro to a term paper due today (not going to happen until I go to the archives tomorrow), a panel presentation on Tuesday and a five minute presentation on the Israeli position vis-a-vis Jerusalem, also on Tuesday.

And I plan on having a social life this weekend.

But what made me post, after such a long absence (due to studying contraints) was a discussion thread in TotalFark that reminded me of what I told my dad after the first few weeks of macroeconomics.

I hate macroeconomics. Particularly this international finance theory stuff. I'm much more of a microeconomics person, probably because it's more understandable and has more realistic elements. It is incredibly hard for me to understand why I am studying such things as the supply and demand of money. And the first thing I thought about was this quote from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd, because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

The pretty much encapsulates macroeconomics for me. Maybe I'm shallow. But I'll always associate that quote with my macroecon class from the Fall of 2004. It's the only thing that keeps me sane while I study for my exam.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

DC cab drivers

Last week, I went down to Georgetown to do a bit of shopping - middle of the week, middle of the day so I wouldn't have to deal with packs of crazed people swarming the streets in their own mindless shopping frenzies.

After walking there and buying some stuff, I decided it would be simpler just to take a cab home. So, I stood on the side of the street, stuck my hand out and waited for a cab. There was one cab, empty, at the other side of the intersection, but since there was a red light, the driver couldn't get to me, and I couldn't cross to him. Meanwhile, a cab came around a side-street and stopped. I got in. Perfectly normal - you flag a cab, you take the first one that gets to you.

The other cabdriver, meanwhile, starts freaking out and honking his horn. At first, my cabbie and I can't quite figure out why. We get to the next red light. The other cabdriver leaps out of his car, runs over to us, and starts yelling at my driver 'You sold a brother out. What the hell! You sold a brother out for a $6 fare' (he went on for a bit longer - I'm paraphrasing). I'm sitting in stunned silence. My cabbie is sitting in stunned silence. Other driver goes back to his cab and gets in. We're in shock and awe. My cabbie and I agree that this guy is nuts, and he wants to get his cab number, so I agree to let him go down another street and follow him to get his info (DC cabs aren't metered - they're zoned).

My cabbie and I ended up having a nice chat as he drives me home - agreeing that neither he nor I did anything wrong. Besides, this is Georgetown that I was picked up in - the other driver could have gotten another fare in approximately sixty seconds. My driver said that in his 20 years of being a cabdriver, he has never had this happen. Well, in my 20-some years of taking cabs around the world, neither have I.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Formula 51 - Sam Jackson in kilt

I'm beginning to wonder if DC isn't an amazingly hip, bizarre place after all.

In New York, no sight is strange. People wear the oddest things, do the oddest things and say the oddest things, all in public.

In DC, however, things are usually different. Except that in the past few days I seem to have slipped into an alternate universe where random people cross my path while being extremely odd.

Let us begin with this weekend. I was walking around Dupont Circle (the logical place to find strange things in DC), early afternoon, when I saw a girl bike past. Nothing extraordinary. She was normal looking, with a fleece, a backpack and a decent mountain-bike. Young, not crazy, not homeless. Yet, there was something so odd about her. She was wearing black spandex biking pants. Again, not so odd. Except that these were see-through black spandex pants. In fact, they looked more like pantyhose. And underneath, she was wearing a black thong. I stared after her backside as she biked off into the horizon, mesmerized by the visibility of her undergarments.

Fast forward to Monday. Again, I was near Dupont Circle, early afternoon, when I saw a man ride by on a Segway, wearing an overcoat that had coat-tails. His coat-tails were flying behind him as he rode by, making him look like some sort of strange demonic presence.

Today. Two sightings. First off, I was walking to class, about half a block from my apartment building. In the opposite direction, a black man was walking in a kilt. Well, I happen to think men in kilts are sexy. I also happen to think that you don't find a lot of men wearing kilts in DC, particularly not black guys. And of course, I happen to love Sam Jackson, even in Formula 51 - or maybe particularly in Formula 51, where he wears a very sexy kilt. So that was my Formula 51 moment of the day.

Next, I'm around K street, when another guy rides by on a Segway. Huh? Two Segways in two days? Very unusual. Oh, and I've decided - it isn't coat-tails that make a person on a Segway look demonic. It's the damn Segway itself.

To all the neat odd people in DC - rock on - keep making my days brighter. And I'll keep watching out for you.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

America the Uneducated

So I was reading this editorial, and it made me think of a previous experience of mine.

We all know that a vast majority of Americans are underinformed or simply uninterested in current affairs, and particularly, issues of international concern. We blame it on education. I blame it on isolationism.

In 2002, I was hanging out with a Gypsy (or Roma if you prefer), and met his family. They were among the 10% of Gypsies in Hungary who retain cultural identity, meaning that they speak the Roma language (the dialect most prevalent in Hungary) and maintain traditional customs.

I spoke with the men and the women. The women in the family had even more limited education than the men. The most educated had an 8th grade education. And yet, as we discussed the Israel-Palestinian conflict, they were remarkably well informed, and had an excellent grasp of the issues at stake in the region. Undoubtedly, they sided more with the Palestinians, being an oppressed group themselves, but even so, they didn't resort to the incredibly biased rhetoric one often finds among pro-Palestinians in the U.S. In short, these uneducated people, part of the most looked-down upon minority in Europe, had a better grasp of international affairs than half of the kids I went to college with.

I think this is a testament to something. Maybe it is a testament to the fact that education isn't everything, and independent thought is everything. Maybe it is a testament to the fact that an oppressed minority will be more likely to look at international issues. Whatever the reason, it serves as a sobering reminder of American narrowmindedness.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Conspiracy theorists abound

First there was my professor and his theory on the Russians.

Now there's the guy from Starbucks.

I was sitting in Starbucks on Thursday morning, about to start studying some finance theory, and just off the phone with my mom after discussing the debates, when this guy at the next table over asks me who I thought won.

Well, this sparked a nice, normal discussion for about a minute. The kid was normal looking - in his early 20s I'd say, with a laptop, button-down shirt, conservative haircut - basically, could pass for a young republican. All of the sudden he informs me that there are rumors going around that Bush was doing coke during the debates. Well, I simply blinked a couple of times, smiled, and suggested that perhaps he was just grinding his teeth.

Nevermind rational explanations, as I was to realize - we had entered the realm of the wacky. This guy then proceeds to tell me that September 11 was engineered by the administration, and after I express indignation and immense skepticism, starts spewing 'facts'. For instance - the Pentagon was not hit by a plane but by a Cruise missile (snopes has done a good job debunking that one, if you still believe it), there were bombs going off in the WTC, because otherwise the buildings couldn't have collapsed, and that many eyewitness accounts of hearing these bombs (would that be earwitness?) were suppressed in the week following 9/11. He quoted the names of several firemen and others who had reported hearing bombs. None of my suggestions of 'maybe the noise was from the sound of steel girders' snapping' were acceptable to him. Oh - and the WTC fell without any resistance - it was physically impossible unless the floors were detonated.

Apparently, he's been driven to research this for the past three years, and cited audio evidence of the 'bombs'. I'd hate to be the one to break to him the possibilities of photoshopping, audio-editing, and other elements that can easily make any situation look more suspect than it is.

I did inform him that I thought he was wrong - he was forgetting the role of the Russians. At this juncture, the guy looked at me with confusion. Five minutes later, I'd briefed him on Russian sponsorship of international terrorism - planted the seed of fear and doubt in his already addled mind. That should keep him busy for a least a couple of years more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Weekend update

So as my school week winds down (Monday and Tuesday classes - oh what a stressful schedule), I finally find time to review my weekend.

In short - Friday - watch debate, drink; Saturday - watch football game, drink, go clubbing, drink; Sunday - recover.

What's wrong with me, you might be asking at this juncture. Where have my previous excesses gone to?

Simple answer - I had a cold.

So I am now recovering from the cold, and getting ready to watch the next and last debate on Wednesday, preferably with a lot of alcohol.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Vronsky and Anna still sat at the little table - more tales from spamland

Yup, there's another masterpiece of spam in my inbox - an email entitled "Vronsky and Anna still sat at the little table." Amazing - not even Tolstoy is safe from the abuses of spammers.

So, the question of course is what is the spam about?

Most of the message is undecipherable. Something about "implement frocks pragmatics excepting whitewash fo." However, towards the end we get a clue as to the meaning of this gibberish - "Cialis Sioft Tabs ajlso haove less sideobacks (you coan drive or mjix alcojhol drionks witjh Cialis" (I am directly cutting and pasting from the email - one has to presume that the author consumed a few 'alcojhol drionks' himself.).

This is followed by another line of random words - "ntelope castled indefinitely Galilee jealousy Dakar Dunedin irate." Yes, ntelope not antelope.

Finally, it all becomes clear - "This is maost modvern and safe wcay not to covaer with schame."

Ah hah - gotcha! If you recall the 'earth is not round, it's dirty' spam, the same exact phrase was used, although more properly spelled.

So we'll have to see. Maybe once a week I'll get a great piece of spam with a brilliant subject line that will force me to open it. And once a week I will be told about Cialis and how it will make me not to cover with shame. And eventually, the sheer brilliance of these emails will lead me to impulse-buy a case of Cialis, despite my lack of a penis.

Stay tuned for the next spam update, brought to you by Cialis.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The surprise attack of the cold

Until 3 p.m. today, I felt great. By 9 p.m. I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, had tampons shoved up my nose and hot-sauce covered fish bones stuck in my throat.

Undoubtedly, this will not vanish as abruptly as it showed up. I will suffer days of stuffy, headachy agony before it gradually fades away leaving me pasty, worn out and with a reduced tolerance for alcohol - something I really don't desire and certainly can't afford.

Monday, October 04, 2004

New York: Complicated but Fun

I spent the weekend in NYC. This was a nice change from DC, and involved a lot of food and booze (most of my fun weekends involve at least the latter). Of course, as a result of spending Friday through Sunday there, I got nothing done on those days, making it a singularly unproductive weekend.

Unfortunately, I will not be posting with commentary on all of the events of this weekend in order to protect the anonimity of some of the parties involved and to prevent further drama, an element that this weekend was rife with.

Suffice it to say that my friend managed to have over 70 people show up at his birthday party, not all of whom were necessarily on best of terms with each other. It's surprising how many people have issues with each other and how sensitive situations can get. Luckily, I manage to stay out of things.

Finally, the best quote of the whole weekend (source shall remain anonymous) (quoted off the top of my head): "I managed to get over my hangup about blowjobs. I just started thinking of them as food, and since I like food so much, that made them ok."

Thanks to all of the participants this weekend (whether voluntary or involuntary) that made it such a fun time, and I'm sorry to my readers that I can't go into more detail. Understand that I have no intention of implicating any parties in accusations of misconduct or of furthering any existing tensions. I will not take responsibility for any incidents of violence resulting from this blog entry.