Wednesday, March 30, 2005


So the other night, before the below-mentioned crash, I was updating my wee l'il blogroll so that it wouldn't just be a popularity contest of my close and personals. Might as well 'fess up to my RSS feed and get some of those folks posted. But I paused after trying out the heading, "Strangers With Candy," because the proprieter of Drunken Bee, isn't precisely a stranger, as such, per se. She's the scrumptiously adorable wife of this schmo who was my next-door neighbor when growing up. Ed, the neighbor son in question, was a gifted and peculiar chap, the sort that seemed equally likely to cure multiple sclerosis as rally a posse of suburban Dallas anarcho-syndicalists. I don't know. I just wanted to say anarcho-syndicalist. Regardless, he landed a rad chick and if you haven't seen this blog, you must visit it at once and you'll not regret it. I recommend starting here, a post which caused me to unkindly wake up sleeping partners with snorting guffaws on my second read, it's so damn funny. Anyway I've been a secret voyeur on her site, sort of shuffling about the edges and hesitating to introduce myself properly. So, uh, if you follow your trackbacks: Hi Sarah! Thanks for the Christmas card! I've got some great Ed blackmail photos!

mother crap shit

I have always been roughly 7 years behind the technology curve. I was riding out the whole cassette tape thing well after the rest of you were rocking the CDs. I stuck to my trusty VHS until my brother finally broke down and bought me a DVD player, for which I was grateful, but really, my VCR shows movies too, so... In my car I would shove a tape adapter into the cassette deck and wrap the cord clockwise around my Discman in order to get the sound to come out both speakers. This went on for years before I got an in-face CD player. I am surrounded, for the majority of my existence, by failing, creaking technological refuse held together with spit and band-aids.

Which is why I so euphorically loved my Brand New Powerbook.

I felt anthropomorphically attracted to it. My laptop is a gorgeous piece of ass, I thought. It was all the things I never was: sleek, petite, fashionable, powerful, oh god, is my body image so out of whack that I'm threatened by my notebook computer? And after years of treading gingerly about my 8-year old desktop and covetously protecting its 64MB of RAM lest it become unduly overwhelmed, how wonderful to have a machine that would, finally, never fail me!

Mother crap SHIT!!!

I've had this P.O.S. Powerbook for three months, and the hard drive seems to have disembowled itself. It started a death-rattle clicking noise last night and now I just get the blinky question mark when I try to turn it on. It took my desktop eight years to finally die, and then I join the Cult of the Mac, and all I get's a lousy three months! I'm so sorry you spoiled bitch computer. Was it the silky scarf I wrapped you in everytime I took you from my home? Was it the pads I wrapped around my wrists to avoid getting any sweat discoloration on your wrist rests? Are you opposed to the gentle brushing I use to remove any residue from your keys, so precise I could be removing dust from the Hubble Telescope??? Huh??? What is it? Why did you leave me? What do you want from me?? AAAAHHHHHHHHHH.


huh huh.

Funny thing just happened. Computer, uh, appears to inexplicably work again. Can I retract my wigging out? (Do you think she heard anything I said? I didn't mean it, darling!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Best Years of Our Lives

Based on my experience as a miserable freshman at Northwestern University, I can say that Matt is exactly right in his diagnosis of why Harvard's social life apparently sucks.

People at Northwestern also had a host of reasons why the university was responsible for their collective spectacular failure at getting laid and the all-night dorm lounge boggle marathons (my favorite: the administration will not schedule keg parties in university buildings, so how are we supposed to get beer??). Like the Harvard students, Northwestern students also ignored the fact that, en masse, the student body sucked. Even frat parties, the last-resort bastion of underage hedonism was no refuge, as frats were voluntarily going dry and - honest to God - having smoothie parties. While the similarities between Harvard and Northwestern social life abound, Northwestern probably sucks slightly more, as in addition to the misery caused by being generally lame, obsessive, socially maladjusted suckwads, Northwestern students bear the further injustice that they are only at Northwestern because they got rejected from Harvard.

Many complain that the problem is the town of Evanston. And granted, Evanston makes the Perm Gulag look like South Padre. However, I'd like to note that Chicago is a short train ride away, while pointing all such plaintiffs to Exhibit A: College Station. Now, the Aggies may be backwards, inbred yokels with a strange fascist streak, no pass protection, and an uncomfortable relationship with livestock, BUT, they live in the most boring town in the middle-of-nowhere Texas and they have fun. Not my kind of fun, mind you. But undeniable fun.

But one day a year, ol' NU gets crazy and has a big party called 'Dillo Day. The way I heard it, this tradition was started by some students from Texas who couldn't handle the stuffy atmosphere and wanted to have some fun. I remember the lead-up to my first and only Dillo Day. Somebody knew somebody who knew somebody who would be coming down from Madison and would maybe have pot! And somebody's big brother was coming through town and could probably find a way to get us some alcohol! Oh my God! It'll almost be like college!!

See if you can handle this kind of fun:

An outdoor game of caps can only mean one thing ['re in highschool? you just got kicked out of the bar? it's Tuesday morning?-ss] :it's Dillo Day. It only took 2 hours of playing for the cops to come to this party and send everyone back inside the apartment.

Folks, except for the editorial comments, that's an actual caption. I could not make this up. And here's how one Dillo Day party-goer described a day of her precious youth that she will never get back:
"My favorite part was doing cartwheels on the lakefill," Muzzy said. "That's not something you get to do everyday."
I'm going to cry.

I for one spent Dillo Day so wasted that later in the evening when my boyfriend came to pick me up for our weekend trip to Michigan, he found me sitting on the floor with my head and upper torso in my closet, which was my way of attempting to pack. "What'm i sbosed to bring?" He was drunk too so all he could muster was "toothbrush" so that's all I brought for the weekend of meeting his Mom. Better than cartwheels? Probably not. It was an unpleasant year. But do I blame the school? No. I blame my peers.

When I announced I was transfering to the University of Texas, there was this uncomfortable silence around me. "You're really going to go to a state school?" my closest friends would venture, testing me gingerly, in case I hadn't realized. We were from different worlds, these kids and I, and all my explaining could not convey my idea of college, and why I did not find this idea of college embodied at Northwestern. This lasted until one of them came to visit me in Austin for Spring Break, which is of course fucking Shangri-La, then she returned to Evanston and cried for a month. I wish validation did not have to come in the form of weeping, crumpled friends, but we don't choose these things.

[DISCLAIMER: This all, of course, only applies to the undergraduate program. The graduate schools are so fun they might as well call it the Ibiza School of Journalism. Honest!]

Monday, March 28, 2005

Halo Grand Masters and The Women Who Love Them

Aren't boys cute when they're delusional?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Lost in the Meritocracy

What glorious twits we all were in college.

We drank our wine from boxes and ate our dinners by adding water and microwaving. We could drink sheer gallons every night without fail, keep a vampire's hours while still managing a class or two during the daylight, and above all else, we knew absolutely everything. Those debates we had! Could you, in all seriousness nowadays, even be in the same room as a conversation that began "To what end standards of beauty?" without pissing yourself at the sheer gall of it all?

And of course, with our eager, panting intellectual posturing, we were total frauds. But endearing frauds. In a recent Atlantic Monthly, Walter Kirn wrote this killer memoir [subscription only, sorry] reminiscing upon his days as a complete fraud at Princeton. He's really hard on himself, but as those of us who recognize ourselves in this description know [I'm looking at you, blogosophere], we totally deserve it.

An excerpt, as my Friday gift, describing Kirn's approach to English courses at Princeton:
With no stored literary material about which to harbor critical assumptions, I relied on my gift for mimicking authority figures and playing back to them their own ideas disguised as conclusions that I'd reached myself. The deployment of key words was crucial, as the recognition of them had been on the SATs. With one professor the charm was "ambiguity." With another "heuristic" usually did the trick. Even when a poem or a story fundamentally puzzled me, I found that I could save face through terminology, as when I referred to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land as "semiotically unstable."

The need to finesse my ignorance through such stunts left me feeling hollow and vaguely hunted. I sought solace in the company of other frauds (we seemed to recognize one another instantly), and together we refined our acts. We toted around books by Jacques Derrida, and spoke of "playfulness" and "textuality." We laughed at the notion of "authorial intention" and concluded, before reading even a hundredth of it, that the Western canon was illegitimate, an expression of powerful group interests that it was our sacred duty to transcend—or, failing that, to systematically subvert. In this rush to adopt the latest attitudes and please the younger and hipper of our instructors—the ones who drank with us in the Nassau Street bars and played the Clash on the tape decks of their Toyotas as their hands crept up pants and skirts—we skipped straight from ignorance to revisionism, deconstructing a body of literary knowledge that we'd never constructed in the first place.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

'Stan and Deliver

The word from the streets of Bishkek, anyway, is that the Kyrgyz government has been deposed and that the ministries and state television are under opposition control, and that opposition leader and political prisoner Feliks Kulov has been released. It remains unclear, if this is indeed true, who this new government consists of.

And again, if this is true, I need to learn a lesson about spouting off things knowledgeably in the office kitchen such as "Well, it's clear that this is a premature revolution and they may just be shooting themselves in the foot and setting the movement back ten years once Akaev reasserts control." Because when your more plugged-in colleague comes in and announces the above bits of news, you look like a bit of an ass. Which is really not the look you were going for this morning.

UPDATE: Interfax is reporting that President Akaev is flying to Kazakhstan with his family. So, wow, I guess this is a done deal. I'm pretty shocked. A few days of protests, and poof, the government's gone. What's especially unique about this case, as I understand it from those more expert than me, is that the real momentum came from the rural areas of the south. Unlike your Ukraine, where the movement was spearheaded by urbanites exposed to international organizations and often NGO members themselves, reports from the streets in Bishkek say that the rallying crowds were villagers, buttressed by students and others, but villagers. It's wild. Just wild.

UPDATE II: As we saw in Georgia and in Ukraine, this mass movement was sparked by allegation of voter fraud. Let this be a warning to the producers of American Idol. The people's voices shall be heard!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Of Cabbages and Kings

From the Greyhound bus ride to New York, some weeks ago, I present to you:
Hers and His reading materials.

Weakness like this are why I shall never be Great.

Wandering through Greenwich village one late afternoon, we passed by a delightful little bakery. My jonesing for cupcakes starting revving until I saw the line snaking around the side of the building and down the block. Back in DC, one would assume that Christopher Hitchens was autographing crucifixes inside or Bob Novak was plugging his leak. But this being New York, and a bakery, we hadn't a clue what the fuss could be about.

Passing by the line, I caught the attention of one fellow. "Sorry, what's the line for?" I asked. He shrugged. "I dunno. My wife told me to stand here." Okay. On down the line we went. Kriston grabbed another waiting near the end of the queue. "Hey, what is everybody waiting in line for?" he asked. "Not sure," came the reply. "I've never been here before."

New effing York. If it doesn't have a line outside, does it exist?

I bring all this up as an excuse to post this photo, which we took just past the bakery:

Monday, March 21, 2005

Don't Invite Me to Your Dinner Party

To Recap:

  • Georgia has revolution. Susan goes to Georgia shortly thereafter.
  • Susan goes to Ukraine, Ukraine has a revolution shortly thereafter.
  • Susan goes to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and now Kyrgyzstan is in throes of regional unrest, and the opposition has seized key buildings and an airport in southern cities.

Oh, also: Susan moves to DC on the day that the sniper shootings commence.

I am the bringer of destruction and doom, tremble all ye before me.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Sometimes events conspire in world events in such a sublimely perfect way, it makes you want to believe that a benevolent being has intervened to shuffle current affairs solely to give you a great big belly laugh. Here are two seemingly unrelated news snippets I heard yesterday:

Snippet One: [relating to the recent slaying of Chechen leader Mashkadov, which many fear will only ignite the Chechnya situation ten-fold]
"Whoever planned the operation [to kill or apprehend Chechen resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov], and I believe it was planned at the very highest level, was thinking like a second-rate chess player. But Chechnya is a game that requires a grand master." -- Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Aleksei Malashenko, in an interview published in "Gazeta" on 10 March.

And whaddaya know? Snippet number two, heard via NPR in my car:
Gary Kasparov won the world chess championship at 22. Now 41, he announced his retirement last week after winning a tournament in Spain for the ninth time. He tells Robert Siegel he's interested in playing a role in pushing Russia toward democracy.

Things are finally looking up for Russia. Their Chechen policy requires a grand master, and it seems one has become available.

(As I type, it occurs to me that this is not going to be so belly-achingly hilarious in the re-telling. But wait! Don't go! I have more! While out for drinks last night to celebrate Charles' birthday, we were trying, as good friends do, to think of the most disgusting drink combinations that would induce maximum turmoil in his stomach. Grand Prize goes to Tommy, who came up with a trio of three drinks entitled "Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash." Although nobody has yet been drunk or masochistic enough to try this concoction, it consists of: one shot of Rum, followed by one shot of chocolate liquer (that's right), followed by the Lash, which can only be tequila. Rum, chocolate, tequila, and undoubtedly, puke. Happy Birthday Charles!)

Friday, March 18, 2005


Hey everybody, it’s Friday. And do you now what is my very favorite part of Friday? My favorite part of Friday is the part where your rather stoic male colleague, who you know but don’t know that well, walks right past the closed door of your office just in time to hear you say into the phone,

“I need to schedule my annual gynecological exam and I need an advance prescription of birth control pills.”

Seriously, that’s got to be the highlight of my week. It’s also really fun when you hear the door slamming as said male colleague runs out of your office, thus eliminating any chance that we can all just mutually pretend that this never happened and nobody heard anything.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Just Wait Until We Ask Bob

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend to spark an intelligent design v. evolution debate with the following snippet. Rather, I am merely adhering to the SueAndNotU editorial policy which requires me to post to this blog anything that makes me snort coffee through my nose.

So, from an on-line chat at the Washington Post on the ID v. Evolution brouhaha:

The Discovery Institute, which is ground zero for the intelligent design movement, gathered at last count the signatures of 356 scientists who question evolution.

In response, the National Center for Science Education, which strongly defends the science of evolution, got 543 scientists named Steve to sign a defense of the theory.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Red Eye

We interrupt this travelogue to bring you an urgent message on the dire state of international travel on U.S. carriers.

Although my flight was officially on a United ticket, 3 of my 4 roundtrip legs were operated by Lufthansa. It was not until my final flight bringing me from Frankfurt to DC that I found myself on a United operated plane.

Let me set the scene.

As I board the United flight in Frankfurt, I am 15 hours into my total travel time of 24 hours. Said travel hours actually began at 1:30 am Almaty time, so I have actually, at this point, been up and about for 32 hours, and facing a nine hour flight to Washington. Attempts to sneak me into the business-class lounge during my six-hour layover in Frankfurt were fruitless, so I am left to wander the halls of the airport for that time, flopping from duty free shop to duty free shop. Buying gummi bears galore and big honking salamis until I try to catch a cat nap on some bench with all my belongings nested beneath me (a technique I've studied carefully from our street dwellers in MacPherson Square).

On to the plane, then, finally, only to discover that I'm strapped into a middle seat. Oh, the humanity. AND it's one of the old crap planes that doesn't give you your own television monitor in the back of the seat in front of you so you can select your movies according to your own taste. Oh, the injustice. Still, I settle in as comfortably as possible and count down the nanoseconds until I can get the flight attendant to bring me a beer so I can break out my Nyquil + Booze sleeping cocktail.

And then.

They announce that our economy-class customers may purchase alcoholic beverages for 4 EUR or $5 US.


I stopped a passing flight attendant. "Excuse me," I smiled sweetly. "I may have misheard but it sounded like they announced that beer and cocktails are not complimentary. But this is an international flight, so that's not right, right?"

"Oh, no, we now charge...." the rest was lost in the hum and storm of Western Civilization crashing to its very foundations. Subsequent research has revealed that as of January 5, 2005, all U.S. carriers now charge for alcoholic beverages on international flights for economy class. So, those Lufthansa coach seats my squeeze your kneecaps until they invert backwards and pop into your seat cushion, but at least they give you a mother effing glass of wine to ease the torture.

AND speaking of torture, the ignominy of my flight and the rancid taste of my 4EUR wine were compounded a thousand-fold by the screening of the Worst Movie Ever Made, aka, Ladder 49.

This movie has as its protagonist, gruffly and uninterestingly handsome hero firefighter Jack Morisson, who we know is Irish because a little whimsical pipe tune starts playing whenever he makes an appearance. We are introduced to young Jack when he is a naive and wide-eyed rookie who has joined the firefighting force out of a deep-seated desire to do good and save people. We follow Jack as he meets a nice young girl, falls in love, very quickly marries her as a good boy should, has darling little children that he devotes caring attention to, weighs the competing challenges of staying alive for his family versus his need to save people in a dangerous job and resolves the issue without much turmoil or fanfare, clowns around with the fellas at the station who are real jokesters, I tell ya, those guys. Jack hasn't any flaws or conflicts that go any deeper than how to make his wife and kids even prouder, and he is so boring that you want to impale yourself on a cocktail stirrer that you do not have because you do not have sufficient Euro for a cocktail.

Meanwhile, whatever city in which Jack lives and works must really investigate its building codes, because all buildings and structures seem to use rocket fuel as insulation and furniture upholstery. That at least, is the only explanation I can summon for how simple apartment fires turn into raging infernos complete with catastrophic explosions and massive, sudden structural failures that cause the fellow next to me to shout out loud, regularly, in the accent of my brethren of the South, "Holy Crap!" "Holy Crap!" (And when Jack faces certain doom, my seatmate intones, "Holy Crap! This movie's sad!")

I should mention that I am biased against these fire-porn pyrotechnics, because although I am a full-fledged pyromaniac, I don't really believe in the destructive power of flame. In college, my roommate and I were awoken in the middle of the night by her dog barking uncharacteristically at the front door. We looked outside to see that our next door neighbor's car, parked at the curb in front of his house, was on fire. Like, with flames and everything. We quickly dashed to try and move our cars out of the way, because as anyone who has seen a movie knows, we have about 15 seconds (just enough time for our Hero to start his dash for safety, but not so much time that he doesn't need to make a flying leap for cover) before the whole thing goes ka-blammo! So imagine our surprise when, after 10 minutes or so of watching the flames smolder, the fire departments limps by lackadaisically and sprays the thing out without any further fanfare. So. Cars don't explode. Buildings don't explode. Fire is bullshit. United Airlines is bullshit. Beer should be free.

Aren't you all so glad to have me back?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Goat Ball

Recreation of a recent IM conversation between Kriston and myself:

ME: So I have two choices for what I can do on Saturday.

HE: ?

ME: I can go to the bazaar...

ME: ...or I can go see this sport. It's like polo except really violent horse riding and for a ball they cut off the head of a goat and use the bloody body.



ME: Clearly, shopping.


ME: ew

HE: If you do not go and get me a bloody jersey, we're breaking up.

ME: But I need scarves!

HE: You've BEEN to markets. When can you see bloody goat ball? When they score, you can yell GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAT!

ME: That's true. Man, the Renegades [our favorite local little league team that we follow in the spring] have nothing on this.

HE: We could always cut off the head of a little leaguer.

Sorry everybody. I did not make it to goat ball, which is actually called something like buz kashi. (I have no idea how it's spelled). Word on the street was that the game didn't end up happening, so my innocence remains pure and my scarf collection has grown exponentially.

My plane home leaves in 6 hours. See you suckers soon.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Khujand Market

I have more to say - about the Lenin to end all Lenins, my continuing disorientation in this place, and the grossest sport ever played (Atilla the Hun was a champ, if that gives you an idea), but it will have to wait until a bit later. So for now, the market in Khujand, where this baker woman was a total hilarious camera hog.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What Liberal Internet?

Granted, I don't get a stellar connection here in Tajikistan, but even so, I believe that the GOP has invaded my internets. My repeated attempts to access the Washington Post are all greeted with an error window sternly proclaiming: The Document Contains No Data.

Alright, already!

Rocky Mountain High

Did I mention the mountains? The flight from Dushanbe to Khujand includes 30 minutes of looking at nothing but this:


Good News, Bad News

Good News:
You are flying north from the capital city of Dushanbe to Khujand, Leninabad under the Soviets, a city sired by Alexander the Great as he wound his way south toward India. This flight will be the most breathtaking of your life, to date, as the little Yak 40 spends the entire 45 minutes grazing the snowy tops of some of the highest mountains in the world. You desperately snap photos while your eyes are busy bugging out of your head and you try to fathom these unfathomable mountains (though your high-falutin' thoughts of permanance and nature and power are drowned by the gold-toothed Tajik gleefully shouting that he is drunk, he is drunk!)

Bad News:
You have developed something that the seasoned veterans of the region nonchalantly term "the Khujand Cough." You find this a demeaningly trivial term for what is clearly a tuberculosis death rattle.

Good News:
You are visiting a lot of polling stations on election day, and per Central Asian tradition, you are to be drowned in tea at each visit lest you mortally offend your gracious hosts. The tea calms your ravaged bronchial cords.

Bad News:
The tea, you soon find out, also means you have to visit the toilet quite frequently. You are a stupid, coughing idiot. Have you never traveled through villages before? Shouldn't you know better? And yes, I know that many of you have seen the hole-in-the-ground toilet at the bus stops when you were backpacking through Western Europe, and I assure you, you have no idea what I'm talking about with these outhouses. I can't really discuss it without a few more therapy sessions, but let's say it's deeply traumatic. Yes, I am a spoiled rotten city girl. But I'm a spoiled rotten city girl whose bare bum was hovering inches over the nether reaches of Tartarus whilst hacking up enough lung to reconstruct a working model outside of my body, so I think I deserve some credit.