Wednesday, December 31, 2003

If you've ever edited a document that has been translated from a foreign language into "English," you'll understand why returning to my long-neglected blog suddenly seems so appealing.

It's a brilliant New Year's Eve Day today, and unlike the New Years's of my recent youth which were usually spent drink-sodden in New Orleans, I don't have any extravagant plans. Though Kriston insists we'll be ringing in 2004 in a hospital ward because I'm forcibly demanding an afternoon on the outdoor ice skating rink in the sculpture garden on the national mall. He must have never been invited to a single girl's birthday party between the age of 10-14, because the boy has never been on ice. I'll try to snap some charming photos of his scowling, snarling holiday cheer.

Several years ago, I made a New Year's Resolution to stop making New Year's Resolutions. This relieved me of the trouble for a few years, just as my Lenten commitment to give up giving up things for Lent was a coup in the annals of uninterrupted gluttony. I'm reversing that trend this year, but I won't bore you with my new self-improvement programme, except to say that at some point this year I will learn how to kick some serious ass and Lord help any street urchin with designs on my wallet. Plus I'm going to be nicer.

So ready or not, here comes 2004. I have a frightening tower of books that I'm frantic to read over the next year, so if I ever get around to the Da Vinci Code, it probably won't be before the movie comes out. I will be ready to begin graduate applications next summer, but the GRE seems an unnecessary nuisance. My January trip to the Ukraine fell through, though I hope another will come through by October. Was there always such a see-saw to our years?

So long '03. You brought me many fine moments, but there's no time to dwell. Time marches on, and besides the office closed half an hour ago.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2003

Oh yeah. My blog.

Hmmm. Maybe later.

For now, this:

Vagrants Fragrance: that irresistible force that causes the dog to strain his leash in hopes of an up-close whiff of the homeless guy crouched on the streets. Often leads to--
Bum Sniff: the awkward situation that ensues when the above scent successfully attracts the dog.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Country roads...

Do my eyes deceive me, or will it be 70 degrees and sunny in Shangri-La Austin when I visit next Saturday? Why, that's warm enough to roll up my jeans and sit on the outdoor patio at Crown and Anchor with a pitcher that costs as much as 1/10000 of my Saturday night bar tab! Speaking of the dread night, I realize that I spent a fair portion of it yelling at a poor boy after he claimed that he didn't care for Austin. I also forgot my credit card and may or may not have spent $20 on a chili dog that I don't remember eating or ordering.

But I said 3 Hail Marys to Our Lady of the Grey Goose and I've recovered my bearings in time for another round of holiday parties. From which I will heal in time for my one-day Austin Extravaganza featuring margaritas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and open-toed sandals no matter what the mercury says. I've got plenty of slushy Winter Wonderland up here, so sue me for wanting a tropical christmas (with salt, please).

Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday Fluff

[via gawker] Madonna, who is apparently still explaining the Britney kiss, helpfully clarifies that it was not shameless famewhoring:
"We were playing with lots of post-modern iconography."

Now poor Brit is going to have to look that up or perhaps just nod vigorously.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Maybe it's the mountain cedar in the air, but lately I've developed a serious allergy to uncomplex thinkers and simplistic generalizers. And people writing authoritatively on subjects they know nothing about has also had me popping Benadryl these days. I say this with full awareness that I too write about things I know nothing about, but I at least have the good grace to not be published in a nationally syndicated column or grant interviews to reporters.

So I don't mind that much when bloggers (except Sully) wax philosophical outside their spheres of knowledge. We're all just scribbling in our public diaries, more or less. But I do mind when William Safire thinks he has the answers to Russia's troublesome democratic development just because he started paying attention five minutes ago for the Duma elections. (Yes, Safire, the pre-election period was seriously marred by unequal access to state TV and opposition parties did not enjoy adequate funding. But if you think that a few more commercials for Yabloko and springing Khodorkovsky from jail would have lead to a landslide defeat for Putin, you haven't been paying attention.)

In the un-complex thought category, I place former eXile editor Matt Taibbi who has somehow gained entry back into our country after doing a perfectly good job being a brat in Moscow for the past decade. A NY Observer profile quotes Taibbi in The Nation explaining his distaste for Wesley Clark:
it troubled him that anyone in the anti-war crowd could support the general, because "it seemed to me that no person who found the Iraq war morally repugnant could have gone on television and talked sunnily about how this or that weapon was ravaging Iraqi defenses.

"I remember watching Clark on CNN," Mr. Taibbi continued, "and at one point he was actually playing with a model of an A-10 tank-killer airplane, whooshing it back and forth over a map of Iraq, like a child playing with a new toy on Christmas morning. A person who was genuinely opposed to the war as wrongful killing would be sick even thinking about such a thing."

Oh Jesus H. Christ, I thought. Anyone in the anti-war crowd who expects a four-star general to be a pacifist is a fool. Note to Taibbi and fellow protesters: a gag reflex to war in general is not the only way to be opposed to Bush's actions in Iraq. It is possible to think a military policy was sorely misguided and reckless without being squeamish about guns and thinking blood is icky.

Call me crazy, but I figure Clark's familiarity with the machinery of war encourages him to use it judiciously. But to the unreconstructed peaceniks, there is no judicious use of war. I don't want a president who is constantly brandishing weapons, but I also don't want one who shrieks at the sight of a missile silo. In other words, I'm not voting for Kucinich.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I was going to write a post about how I'm depressed that Gore is backing Dean, and how this will make the holidays very difficult, as I was looking forward to holding up Clark to my family as an alternative we maybe could all agree on.

But I don't have the will, so instead I'm going to talk about jury duty.

Jury duty, it turns out, is as boring as they say. Contrary to my beliefs, you don't actually get to listen to the judicial process very much, you get to listen to Miss Little in the jury lounge mispronounce hundreds of names. Like "Hernandez." When you do finally get to go through the voir dire process, you do not get an exciting criminal trial featuring remorseless thugs as you had hoped. You get a stupid little personal injury trial featuring two sad little lawyers that you can totally picture with 1-800 numbers across their chests. And you fortuitously don't get picked for what promises to be the Judge Judy-est trial of the day. You do, however, get $4 which is nothing to sneeze at.

Friday, December 05, 2003

To the hoodlum in Austin who has been using my checkcard to buy gas for the last 5 months at the Corner Quick Stop:

I may be slow, but I'm on to you now, chief! No more free gas from me! You may think you ripped me off, but the joke's on YOU. Because I didn't miss the money at the time, but now I'm totally broke and my bank is about to hand me a wad of cash. Whereas YOU are going to have to find some other sucker who had no clue where their money is going. HA!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Shameless promotion

Some book reviews, written by an immensely talented friend who should be having her own reviewed:

Vicious Spring, by Hollis Hampton-Jones

Eyeshot: Poems, by Heather McHugh
On their new EP, Yo la Tengo has apparently taken to covering themselves. That's right, a few of the songs are covers of past Yo la Tengo songs. And because they are Yo la Tengo, I can't help but believe that this is awesome. None of us will never be cool enough to do something audacious and self-indulgent and have it come across as great. Same for most musicians. Can you imagine - the Strokes covering themselves? Robbie Williams? Not awesome. Yo la Tengo recording a toilet flushing for half an hour? Awesome. Somehow. They've earned it.
I'm only linking to an Andrew Sullivan post again to point out that I agree wholeheartedly with him and the Cato study he links to which advances the following appeal:

Everybody should shut up and let me drink!

In Eastern Europe and Germany, I believe, they have (had?) a rather popular political party known as the Beer Lovers party. Now that is a bipartisan effort that can truly unite and bring people together under the biggest tent of all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Loose nukes

I try to ignore Andrew Sullivan, you know I do. But every now and then my resolve breaks, especially when he displays an especially egregious example of something all bloggers are guilty of: having no clue what you're talking about:
But what is serious is that Dean seems to think that we can prevent proliferation by buying the stuff from North Korea, Russia, or whoever. But what's to stop rogue nuke states selling to Iran and to us? Is Dean that naive? And isn't it true that the real source of Iran's nuclear material has recently been Pakistan anyway? My bottom line: I don't care if a presidential candidate commits a gaffe in foreign policy. I do care that his instinct is to buy off enemies, rather than confront them; and that he's not on the ball about where the real threats are coming from.

The U.S.-Russia Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Agreement has been in effect for nearly a decade.
We're buying 500 tons of Russian uranium over the span of the agreement, and blending it into low-grade stuff so it can be used as fuel or something.

While the program has been plagued by problems with price negotiations and delivery timelines, it is rightfully lauded as one of the most inventive and successful non-proliferation programs around. It reduces threat while pumping money back into Russia's economy and employing thousands of Russians. It is not a comprehensive cure; without increased security measures, the remaining stockpiles are still at risk of threat, for example, but it is an integral part of a solution.

To Sullivan, this is naivete and foolishness. We should "confront our enemies," not "buy them off." The disincentive to sell to rogue states is that we can offer more money, encourage employment, and do it all in the open with the blessing of international opinion. Sullivan's president would march in with guns blazing. You decide who is scarier.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

You're not in Texas anymore

The two most recent entries into the ever-expanding list of "Ways to know you've been in DC too long":

1) Your former roommate sheepishly tells you, one year later, that there was a triple-homicide on the block about a week before you began your sublease. You don't really care.

2) Team names at the local pub quiz reference steel tariffs. People laugh.

Don't forget your rubbers

Looks like DC is going to start offering free condoms all over town: in government buildings such as the DMV and the Housing Authority, in nightclubs, in barber shops and salons. This is the district's hearty response to statistics that show DC with the nation's highest incidence of AIDS.

Naturally, the usual characters are in a huff. The good-time gang down at the Heritage Foundation (with government-issue blinders firmly affixed and fingers plugged resolutely in ears) don't see what condoms have to do with preventing sexually transmitted diseases:
"I'm not aware of any evidence that that sort of activity has a positive effect," said Robert E. Rector, a family-issues researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "The number-one determinant of whether a person will catch a sexually transmitted disease is the number of lifetime sexual partners. We seem to go out of our way as a government and a nation to avoid telling people that, but we hand out a lot of free condoms."

Yes, Robert E. Rector, it is probably true that if you only sleep with one person your whole life, your odds of getting a nasty case of syphillis are lower. And my Mom always told me that abstinence was the number-one determinent of not getting pregnant. But in the interest of crafting public policy that is not devised by plugging fingers in ears and saying "lalalalalala" really loud, I think that making it easy to put on a condom is a more practical initiative than convincing a city full of 20-somethings to stop having sex with people.

At Dream, a DC nightclub, 900 condoms were distributed over a 2-day period. [Yeah, I had to read that twice, too.] If Robert E. Rector wants to corral those folks in a room and waggle his finger at him, he's free to do so, but somehow I think those pesky STDs might find away to survive that brutal campaign.