Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Now I know why I love House

House, as I've mentioned here before, is the best medical drama ever.

And now I know why.

Dr. House, lead character of the show, played by the invariably sexy Hugh Laurie, went to Michigan. As did his boss, Dr. Cuddy, who is a tough as nails (and somewhat sexy female) doctor.

The entire crew of Apollo 15 also went to Michigan. And they were real.

Michigan rocks.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Right now, we suck"

Headline of the Michigan Daily today:

"Right now, we suck"
- Jason Avant, Senior Co-Captain

Yup. You said it.


I finally come back to Michigan where I have TV access to all the Michigan games as well as football season tickets, and we suck.

And I have a cold.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some days...

Some days I feel like I have to get out of this country with an urgency that's hard to explain. I've been living in the States for 10 years, longer than anywhere else. I feel more and more that I've exhausted everything it has to offer for me personally and that it's time to move on.

But then there are days like today, where I'm reminded that there are some things about the States that no other country in the world has.

Today I went to Hamtramck with my parents. We ate at a Bosnian restaurant, the only one in Detroit, which had terrifically authentic Bosnian food and phenomenal Bosnian bread. Then we went grocery shopping at a Polish grocery, which carried such disastrously hard to find items as sorrel in jars and lots of different kinds of lard (for cooking and for spreading on bread).

Where in Europe (or any other part of the world, for that matter) are you going to find a place to live where you're within an hour's drive of grocery stores that carry such diversity of ethnic foods as Japanese (both junkfood and regular), Korean (fresh kim-chi anyone), Polish, Middle Eastern and South American? Where would I find chipotle chilis in Hungary, multiple different varieties of tahini in Argentina, or umpteen kinds of seaweed in Cameroon?

What I'm hoping is that the internet will spread its tendrils all over the globe, so that for a price I can get anything I REALLY need online, no matter where I am in the world. Or, even better, I can have my friends ship me whatever I need from the US.

Still, there are some things that make the US a unique and amazing place, and today I was reminded of that fact. (Note that my life revolves so much around food that the only reason I feel hesitant to leave the States is because I'd have limited access to certain ingredients. Sad, isn't it...)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Quote of the day

One of my online friends, dj4aces, made this comment today:

"Bush is about as conservative as a welfare mother with no common sense in possession of a FEMA card."

I just had to share that. I'm still giggling.

The glory of Meijers

Today I went grocery shopping - not to my usual haunt of Whole Foods, but to Meijers. Where I discovered that they had a few things I really wanted that Whole Foods simply doesn't have:

1) Lard. I've decided to cook more with lard - screw vegetable or olive oil - lard is a full-bodied manly substance. Also great for pie crusts and pastries. Not that I make a lot of those.

2) Cherry-vanilla Dr. Pepper. Only the diet version was available in the northern states for months. Finally they have regular cherry-vanilla Dr. Pepper. I bought two cases. Now I'm rethinking that. It sort of tastes like extra-cherry-flavored Dr. Pepper. Not really that different from regular Dr. Pepper, just not nearly as good as that ambrosia. When it comes to funky sodas, I much prefer Pepsi Holiday Spice.

3) Beef kidneys. I didn't buy any - but I've been dying to try making steak and kidney pie when I have a chance. Since I've never had steak and kidney pie, I'm not sure how it's supposed to taste. I do know that I'll have to wash the kidney thoroughly, otherwise the pie will taste like piss.

4) Lumps of beef suet. Also didn't buy any - but that's sort of nifty. I wonder if steak and kidney pie crust should be made with beef suet.

5) Chicken gizzards. That I bought. It's cheap and supposedly great when breaded and fried. I'm trying a new austerity program in my food life. We'll see how long that lasts.

And all of this was on top of some other funky things I found - like pig ears, pig feet, pork neck - unfortunately no full pig heads - otherwise I'd try making head cheese.

In short - Meijers is much more amazing than I'd thought. I'll have to frequent it more often.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Liberal racism

My dad sent me a link to this article, which made me reflect on some of my own experiences.

I've been told by people who have been to Harlem and Detroit that they found those places to be uncomfortable, especially late at night. These people were invariably white, middle class people.

Invariably, I get asked by people who haven't been to Harlem whether it was scary living there. Those people are also invariably white, middle class people.

No, I reply. It's actually scarier living in Ann Arbor. I usually get blank stares at that point.

Many white people are afraid of black people. Even liberal, well-educated white people. It's what I call liberal racism. To these people, it is more frightening to be on a street with many black people at 11:00 pm than to be in a white suburban empty street at 2:30 am. Why? Because white people are afraid of black people. Why? Because they perceive black people as being more violent than white people. Why? Because they fail to understand how violent crimes usually work. And they've been brought up to be afraid of black people.

OK - I'll give them this - I don't think I would have been happy running around Harlem in the 1970s. There was a lot of genuine hostility at the time - it was the days of race riots, urban decay, and real interracial hatred, on both sides. And their parents probably instilled in them their own fear of black people, even if they were proponents of liberal, non-racist viewpoints.

But here's the thing with crimes today - most violent crimes don't occur when there are a decent number of random people walking down the same street. Violent crimes happen in deserted areas, back alleys - not in places with many potential witnesses. Also, many of the murders in urban areas are gang-related. Unless you are a gang member or get caught in the crossfire, you're probably OK.

I really mean it when I say that I'm more frightened in Ann Arbor than in Harlem. I live on a quiet, tree-lined street, with poor street-lighting. When I walk home from the bar at 1 or 2 in the morning, I'm walking alone, without anyone around to help me should I get assaulted.

Moreover, look at serial killers. Most scary predator types who repeatedly assault and murder people are white. Black crimes tend to be more crimes of passion. The BTK guy didn't live in Harlem - he lived in the middle of a quiet suburb in Kansas.

In all honesty, when I first moved to DC, I had some of that liberal racism in me. I was wary of black men walking down the street at night. And I recognized that this was irrational. Very quickly, I also recognized that I was in no danger. Living in an "up and coming" neighborhood, on the border between yuppy and ghetto, I was exposed to more black people than I ever had been before on a daily basis (growing up in Europe and Japan - there weren't a whole lot of black people around). And soon it became a community, just like any other.

My experience in Harlem was marked by an awareness that there was a much greater sense of community there than elsewhere in Manhattan. I could see myself being stabbed and bleeding to death in the Village while people gingerly stepped by me. I couldn't see that happening in Harlem. People look out for each other, talk to each other, and offer random acts of kindness to strangers, irrespective of race. Whether it was the little old lady who helped me carry my laundry to the laundromat, or the offers of help from strangers that a friend of mine's pregnant wife kept experiencing, people in Harlem were just nicer, friendlier and more open than in the rest of Manhattan.

Racism exists inside most people, whether they know it or not. Sometimes it's manifested in subconscious fear, not of a location, but of the color of its inhabitants, which is then translated into a fear of location. Would these people feel so uncomfortable if all the other people on the street were white? I highly doubt it. It's not about the poverty of an area so much as about the color of the people.

Personally, I find myself manifesting a new form of racism. I'm scared of mullet-wearing, Nascar-watching, pickup-truck driving white men. They're the ones who get loud and angry in bars, look to pick fights with liberals, disrespect anyone who isn't a beer-swilling white guy, drive like maniacs on the highways, and won't leave you alone in bars. They're the ones that I feel most targeted by, and who cause me to cross the street when they're walking towards me. Not the black men in Harlem.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I needed a new cell phone anyway...

I've had the same cell phone for the last 3 years or so. And I was contemplating upgrading to a newer model. Now I have a reason to - this magical Star Trek communicator/phone will be the coolest thing on the block. It comes out on September 30 - dad, my birthday is November 7 - I'd consider getting me one.

I don't care if it's not compatible with anything. I don't care if I have to switch phone services - I want this damn phone!

Endless activities

I've never been known for taking part in lots of extracurricular activities. In high school I had quizbowl and choir, as well as piano, which took up most of my time. In college I had...well...nothing really, unless we count video games as an extracurricular activity. In my master's program I had...well...again nothing, unless cooking counts (although I did have internships at times).

I've vowed to get involved in more things in law school - and as a result, I appear to have signed myself up for just about everything. As a result, my schedule is looking more and more confused - with such things as salsa dancing lessons occuring tonight, language luncheons at various random points, and chamber music, not to mention all of the official law school activities I've signed up for but done nothing in yet.

The problem I face is that most activities in my limited experience turn out to be more dull than they first seem. I also have a limited attention span, and no patience for things like committee meetings. And a lot of law school activities appear to revolve around the concept of committee meetings.

Nevertheless, I am excited by the prospect of having extracurricular activities other than watching TV, cooking, reading books and petting my cat (which while fun, is sort of repetitive). The question now becomes - how much can I possibly do while continuing to study for classes? That remains to be seen. For now, I'll get back to working on my legal practice memo so that I'm not panicked tonight and can enjoy salsa lessons.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Time capsule

The other day, I googled myself, like I do periodically, and in the process came across a link that took me to an archived site that contained the first thing I ever sent into cyberspace, back on December 8, 1993.

The shock of seeing something that I'd written at the age of 13 for some penpal email thing, that I'd never expected to see again, and that had been completely honest on my part was rather profound. It was like finding a time capsule, buried somewhere, that I'd completely forgotten about.

Here are some of the choicer excerpts from the posting:

"The things that really upset me are child abuse, and the ozone holes."

Followed two sentences later by:

I love cars and motorcycles. My dream is to have a 1950's Cadillac, a four wheel drive turbo all terrain car, and a Harley-Davidson."

So while I cared about ozone holes, I really loved cars. But lest you think I didn't care about my role in preventing ozone holes, later in the message I wrote that in order to make the world a better place "
I can never buy a car, but I really want one."

Regarding my career goals:

When I grow up I want to be an author, a film director or an air-force pilot. I love writing stories, I have good ideas on how to make films, and I always wanted to fly an airplane and perform a duty for my country (U.S.A.). I know that none of these bring much money, so I need a rich husband."

Well, at least I was a very pragmatic 13 year old. And oddly militaristic and patriotic for someone who had never actually lived in the US.


I want the world to be better by decreasing pollution, decreasing totally useless violence, and education for the masses."

Somewhat useless violence is ok, however.

Man, was I a strange kid.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Still the conscience of America

My mother always said that Kurt Vonnegut was the conscience of America. Tonight, he was on the Daily Show, proving that at 83 years of age, he's still the conscience of America, and of humanity in general.

Two of his statements on the show stood out in particular and bear repeating:

"I think we are terrible animals. And I think our planet's immune system is trying to get rid of us and should."

And his lesson for Iraq:

"In democracy, after a 100 years you have to let your slaves go. After 150 years you have to let your women vote. And at the beginning of democracy is quite a bit of genocide, and ethnic cleansing is quite ok and that's what's going on now."

Monday, September 12, 2005

On the seduction of ducks

From the case Keeble v. Hickeringill, from my property law reading:

"To learn the trade of seducing other ducks to come there in order to be taken is not prohibited either by the law of the land or the moral law; but it is as lawful to use art to seduce them, to catch them, and destroy them for the use of mankind, as to kill and destroy wildfowl or tame cattle."

I think I'm a little aroused now...I too want to learn the trade of seducing ducks, using art (works great on pseudo-intellectual undergrad girls too, or so I hear).

A reason to go back

I recall reading about this last year some time - but it was nice to be reminded of the project.

I think it's great that Bruce Lee is to be the unifying symbol for the ethnic groups of Mostar, Bosnia. And it will definitely make a return trip to Mostar even more imperative than it already is. So far on my list of why I need to go back - 1) best burek I've ever eaten, 2) I want to play with the ridiculously cute Mostar kitties more, 3) some of the greatest cafes in the world, 4) stunningly beautiful location, and now, 5) statue of Bruce Lee.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ale to the victors! (a sign seen in front of the drive-through Beer Depot)

So last night I went out to meet up with some classmates for some drinks. This being one of the first weekends of school, it was a huge party weekend in Ann Arbor, and as I walked home at around midnight (not wanting to stay out too late due to the football game today) I kept passing large groups of drunken undergrads and multitudes of parties spilling into the street.

I felt old. Grumpy and old. Muttering to myself, kids these days, look at them stumbling around, drunken fools, and the girls think this makes them attractive to the men - it just makes them easy...and of course I realized that a few years ago I would have been one of those stumbling girls.

But I have noticed that more so than when I was in college (or maybe I just didn't notice it back then), all girls look like clones. They dress the same, have the same vapid facial expressions, have the same haircuts. I thought ages 15-21 were a time of rebellion - but I find myself at almost 25 being the one with the punk haircut, the spiked collar, dressed all in black when I go out. What happened to healthy teenage "rebellion"? I realize it's not really rebellion, but when I was that age, I was all about wearing raver pants with old army jackets, smoking pipes or cigarettes through holders, and in general being pretentiously different (by which I mean I looked the same as a lot of other people) - but now, there isn't even that "looking different by which we mean looking the same as a relatively large subsection of the population" trend - everyone just looks exactly the same.

Also, a lot of people seem to like dressing like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the like. I guess these are the kids who "grew up" on that kind of music - where it wasn't the music so much as the appearance that mattered, whereas our generation was the Nirvana generation, which was all about looking studiously grungy but more so about the music (I maintain that I'm not sloppy in my day-to-day dressing - just retro-grungy).

So this was sort of depressing.

Oh well, I'm off to buy some Michigan apparel (realized that all of mine is ancient and falling apart) so I can look like everyone else at the game. But that's different. It's a ritual expression of mass support for the same team - and I wouldn't want to be caught dead looking different.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back home and thoughts on Katrina

I'm back in Ann Arbor, and survived my first day of classes.

I will post a long entry on my thoughts on my trip once I get caught up with the readings.

In classes today, there were a number of new faces in classes that were supposed to be populated only by fellow summer starters. It was pointed out that those were the kids from Tulane and Loyola in New Orleans. I'm amazed at the efficiency of the legal community in getting those law students situated at various schools in time for the start of classes.

Looking back on the coverage I saw of Katrina, all of which was abroad, I have never felt more acutely that the US was a third world country. We looked really bad. I mean, amazingly bad. The federal government's intervention in preventing some of the states from responding immediately was particularly offensive, as was the inability to prepare for the hurricane despite earlier requests for aid. As Nic Robertson on CNN apparently said, the aftermath of hurricane in terms of the displacement of people reminded him of Kosovo.

Katrina was not an unforeseeable act of terrorism. There was warning. And many of those who stayed on, claiming they were going to ride out the storm, did so not out of brash arrogance, but out of pride, unwilling to admit that they were without means to evacuate the city.

To the rest of the world, coverage of Katrina brought to their attention the poverty found in the US that our government has long been trying to sweep under the carpet. It is hopelessly wishful thinking to say that maybe this will force us to reexamine our methods of dealing with poverty.

Having seen the coverage outside of the country, I was one the one hand proud to be an American because of our grassroots outpouring of support for the victims of the hurricane, and on the other hand deeply ashamed because of the way it highlighted not only the ineffectiveness of our government (which we already knew anyway) but more importantly, how we treat our poor.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Wine, jazz and drunken singing

We just returned from the beautiful old city of Plovdiv (well, the old town is beautiful - the rest is standard Commie fare). While there, we ate, drank and were very merry.

Our hotel was lovely, an antique gem with nice antique furnishings, and a restaurant attached which had been voted best restaurant (no indication of where - presumably Plovdiv) (Sept. 7 correction - my traveling companion said it was voted best in Bulgaria. Damn.) by some magazine. Since my traveling buddy's stomach was still woozy, we opted after touring the city to get food there. First of all, while it was horribly expensive by Bulgarian standards, it was a magnificent meal - I had fresh wild mushrooms as an appetizer, rabbit in a fruity game sauce, Bulgarian sheep cheese, and fresh berries in an Ouzo-sugar sauce. And we had copious amounts of wine - 2 bottles between the two of us, with me probably consuming the lion's share. Our whole meal came out to under $50/person with tip included and was an absolutely delightful experience - eating outside in a little courtyard, with great jazz.

Yes, there was live music. First it was a trio - piano, bass and drums doing really good renditions of various standards. The quality of the jazz was better than what you'd find in most run-of-the-mill American jazz clubs. Go figure. Then two guitarists started playing, and the music quickly devolved into a jam session with various musicians who were all just sort of hanging out at the restaurant (we assume that the owner was somehow involved in the music scene) coming and going. By the time we were the only ones besides the musicians in the restaurant, they'd started jamming at the table at which they were sitting, and one of the non-musicians was singing all sorts of song (he also, it turned out, played the guitar rather well).

Well, the wine was flowing (not just for us but for the musicians) and before too long yours truly decided to request my all time favorite song, House of the Rising Sun - to which I lustily sang along. I can honestly say I never would have imagined myself in Bulgaria, in a Bulgarian restaurant, singing along with a bunch of middle-aged Bulgarian musicians, but it was great fun. Moreover, the one Bulgarian seemed to know the lyrics to every pop song of the 60s, spoke remarkably good English and had studied in Romania with one of the other musicians. The bass player, it turned out, was an electrical engineer.

All in all, this was rather memorable, and a good time appears to have been had by all. More importantly, I was able to get out of bed in the morning and had only the teensiest of hangovers. I still don't know what possessed me to sing. Probably the really great Bulgarian wine.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Trip to the Rila Monastery

So yesterday I wrote a big old post about my first impressions of Sofia which I promptly lost due to the crashing of the hotel's internet.

Don't expect a big post tonight.

I just got back from an exciting adventure to the Rila Monastery (south of Sofia in the Rodope mountains). My traveling companion was down with a stomach flu, so off I went by myself, on local buses, through the countryside of Bulgaria, not speaking a word of Russian or Bulgarian, and the Bulgarians seemingly not speaking any French, German or English.

The trip was well worth it - the Bulgarian countryside is simply stunning, and ranks in the top five most beautiful countries I've ever been to. Rolling hills, mountains, cliffs, greenery, brownery, greyery - 8 million people in a big country means that even with agriculture there's a lot of room for nature to just be wild.

Also, while I immediately noticed upon arriving to Sofia that it is about 10 years behind Hungary in economic development and 5 years behind Hungary in terms of the cars people drive, traveling around the countryside made me appreciate how different Bulgaria really is than Hungary. The people, while poorer than the Hungarians, seem somehow happier, or at least more laid back (the Hungarians are horribly depressed people). I'm assuming this is in part because they aren't neighboring any Western countries who they have to constantly compare themselves to, and because anything's better than Ottomans, and they're still thankful for their freedom (which only happened in the late 19th century).

So today I saw myriads of cafes in tiny towns, people sitting and relaxing, and donkeys. Oh, and even a goat on a rock on the side of a mountain. One of the odder things I noticed was driving through the outskirts of an industrial-looking town (belching smokestacks) and seeing that while it was industrial, people were driving home cattle, sheep and goats and the locals were rounding up their animals for the night.

Anyway. It's time for me to eat. A bag of chips, two espressos, a bottle of Fanta and a bottle of water isn't quite enough.