Saturday, January 27, 2007

In which I step in the path of a bus

So I've sort of been having a killer week, and I'm starting to worry that somewhere someone is digging a huge karmic hole I'm inches away from falling into. My knuckles are starting to get bruised from knocking on wood all the time, which seems to be some random superstition I've recently embraced.

Regardless, I feel pretty great right now. I've resisted falling back into my go-to-bed-late, waking-up-is-totally-painful routine, so I get up at 7am feeling refreshed every morning, and even tried to sleep in today but only made it until 8am, which is fine. I brewed some coffee, made some pancakes, watched the news and a little food network, then headed down 14th Street to see the new shows in this ridiculously awesome, sunny weather. After a number of email exchanges, I finally met the new gallery owner down the street, who gave me a peek at what they've got in store there. Then I got a couple housekeys made to replace the one I lost in India and went to the grocery store, so I actually have food to eat in the house now (and immediately resorted to ice cream, which I'm eating now). Hmm, this blog post is starting to sound like a Kafka biography. Without the Kafka-esque-ness.

I've got India Week Three up for you on Flickr, and started a Best of India set for my favorites, and for those of you with shorter attention spans, though that one won't be complete until I get week four up soon.

But it'll make me look smart sitting on my bookshelf, right?

Wow, they're making a movie out of Bridge to Terabithia?? I can't find the link, but maybe you remember (from your deep, lasting knowledge of my old blog posts) that I called that one of my most influential books for some meme I was passed? I still couldn't tell you why, it's just one of those stories from childhood that stayed with me. Though, I don't really remember it being as "magical" as the commercials make it look, but it's still going on my netflix right now.

In other book news, I may have to give in and just stop reading my current book. The name itself might tell you why: A Biography of Kafka. You know what? Kafka was fucking depressing. You might be thinking, "But Heather, why would you buy such a thing?" When I left for India I brought two books with me; one that I finished on the plane over there, and the other was a huge volume, The People's History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons. This was truly a fantastic book, and I'm glad I lugged it around with me all month. I wrote a whole journal entry about how it gave me a little bit of a career epiphany, but I'll bore you with that later...or not. Anyway, I finished it in the Bangalore airport waiting for my plane home (you know, the one that was 6 hours delayed). I bet I don't have to describe to you the total randomness that is an Indian airport bookstore. It's not exactly Barnes & Noble, my friends, and A Biography of Kafka was looking pretty good.

I should say, I really love biographies (and non-fiction in general, if People's History didn't give that away), and it's not fair for me to blame it on Kafka. Kafka wrote a lot of things, but not this insufferable biography. It's possibly the most poorly written book I've picked up in awhile. It reads like a play-by-play of every day of his life. It's a little like this blog. Like, "Then Kafka went to the bank to make a savings account, where Jane, Bob, Lester and Steve still worked." Except Jane, Bob, Lester and Steve are totally inconsequential people who will not appear again in Kafka's life, or the book. SO WHO CARES. And I was being nice to you. In the book they're all difficult Eastern European names that read like a mouthful of consonants.

I also picked up The Alchemist at the airport, so let's hope that's a bit less agonizing. I'm off to some art galleries.

Friday, January 26, 2007


One of the things I like best about doing photo of the day over at DCist is finding link trails to the most unusual things. So many of these photos have great stories behind them, some of the photographers have amazing personal web sites or blogs, and those have links to other interesting things.

Today I was looking at Flickr user birdcage's photos and clicked through to her blog. This story was hilarious, but what totally sucked me in and will most assuredly take up most of the rest of my day was this post, about FOUND Magazine. Birdcage has her "favorite find" up there, and I did exactly what she described, read the note and opened my eyes very wide right around the middle. So yeah, now I'm clicking through the rest, to find gems like this, this, this and especially the first one. I could probably link to all them.


Update: Okay, now I'm just internet stalking her a little bit, but I followed the book quiz from her blog, which is very short and interesting, and it turns out I'm a book I've never heard of before. It's all pretty true except the "focus on Europe" part, and I'm not really sure why it focused on war so much, except I said I appreciate history, but okay. Time to go to the library.

You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can diplomats."

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Afternoon Entertainment

Second set of India photos are up here. These include elephants by the car and monkeys in the car, laundresses, one of the 23 photos I had taken of me at the boat park, carrots being washed in a river, and some fancy Hindu temples.

The video that goes along with the carrots-in-river set is here.


I just received a txt & pix message in my email from my mother.

(Her new cabinets. Natch. They're nice, Mom.)

Bush: Bringing People Together In Anger Since 2000

My college ex and I used to keep in touch pretty regularly - in fact he's probably one of the people who helped me get through law school. But you know, years pass and I really hadn't heard from him in quite awhile. Last night out of nowhere, just after the SotU starts, I get a text from him that simply said, "He looks like an ass."

Speaking of asses, why does CNN suck so bad? I hate to turn into one of these people, but every time I go abroad and come back I remember that American people must be fucking morons to put up with this mindless crap. It's like E! but with politicians. This morning before work, Miles O'Brian - formerly of the perfectly respectable science news segments - was doing a segment on how People in D.C. Go Out To Bars and Drink During the SotU! Wow! People in the nation's capital like politics a lot? They go to bars with lame political names? They play drinking games? Stop the Presses!

But really, I hope you were all watching last night before the speech, when some asshole leaned over a huge table map, like he was about to show us how we're going to invade Poland from the south, and a map of downtown D.C. appears. He takes a huge NFL-style playbook pen and neurotically whips a huge red circle around the White House, "The President and the First Lady will be entering their limo right here! Then DRIVING downtown to the Capitol," whipping huge lines across the map and circling the capitol building, while Paula Zahn stands next to him trying not to laugh in complete embarrassment. This is news people. While CNN International has serious roundtables about the future of Iraq, CNN USA gets the President's mapquest directions for his three block drive.

So, the speech was actually pretty boring. Now that he's essentially powerless, I am both 1) able to listen to him now without my blood pressure spiking at the dire future of the nation and 2) not really all that concerned that he can wreck our country's car many more times. He knows it, too, which is why most of it was pretty flat. Except for the 20,000 soldiers thing. This, my friends, is a lose-lose situation. I haven't had time to read the pundits opinions on this issue, but I'm not sure I see what other choice we have. When the R's point out that the Democrats are waffling here - saying it's a bad idea but giving no alternate plan - they're right. The real problem is, we should have done this YEARS ago. I've never been a pacifist - I come from a military family and I know full well that occasionally you have to fight for things. But you aren't supposed to do it like some pansy who finally gets the compunction to face his bully, without taking boxing lessons. If we were going to invade Iraq (and I believe we shouldn't have), we should have taken Shock and Awe seriously. A major reason we ran out of the Baghdad suburbs during George the First's reign is that we didn't have the troops there necessary for such an exacting scenario (and because they knew then that even a huge invasion would have lasted years, and he was up for reelection). In other words, if we were going to take Iraq, we needed to fucking take Iraq. But everyone knows this by now and I've repeated it a thousand times in the past five years.

We're very much at the point where the past is the past, and however we've fucked it up, we're going to have to play the cards we're dealt, and an escalation now - though it won't be as effective than if it'd been done years ago - may be the only way to stamp most of this fire out. We can talk about turning Iraq over to the local military and police, but that's a much tougher situation than most people understand. I don't think it's been made fully clear to the people (shocking) how Bush completely fucked this part of the mission.

I may have talked about this on the blog already, but a few years ago I worked for a law firm that represented one of the factions in the Iraq, advising them how to negotiate their new constitution. This wasn't imaginary scenario work, our research really went over there and played a part in the negotiations. Our team was split up into every issue, and I worked on military restructuring. That means I researched conflicts of every shape and size during the last century, compiled information about the current state of the Iraqi forces, and advised the best way to first, disband the old ranks, and second, put them back together in a country rife with internal conflict and serious external pressures.

So here's how badly Bush fucked this up. After a year of work, all of my colleagues work went over there - on criminal statutes, incorporating sharia law, humanitarian rights, voting rights and the design of the new legislature. My work had to be thrown in the trash. Every month I was completely re-writing my advice because the situation over there would get so increasingly screwed that there was no saving it. In every other conflict in the world there's been a messy but somewhat similar approach to disbanding a formerly hostile army, but because Bush basically told them to go home, it's caused the chaos we're dealing with today and that's nearly beyond help.

This is why I hate the 20,000 soldier scenario, but am mostly resigned to it. What else can we do that this point? It's like letting an infection fester when you KNOW all you had to do was spend a morning in the ER getting it painfully cleaned out, but you decide to be macho and just use bandaids and neosporin for a few years, until you've got gangrene and have to cut the whole damn arm off. Except maybe a few hours of extensive, potentially deadly surgery will save it. And damnit, you'd kind of like to save your arm, because if you cut if off, the gangrene might just spread to the rest of your body anyway, and then you're screwed AND armless.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Upon returning

Going away is nice, of course. Get away from work for awhile, the boredom of everyday life, or even just some random crappy situation you want some space from. But sometimes coming home is even nicer. While I was getting warm in the front seat of the Super Shuttle van on Saturday, watching the approach of D.C. street signage I thought, "Ah, it's nice to be home." My friends called and came over with messages of welcome return. My bed was sitting there looking all comfy and familiar. My shower: clean and hot.

I've been walking to work, remembering how much I like my neighborhood, even if people do seem to get shot and stabbed all the time. The new condos they've been working on FORever next to the travel bookstore look like they're almost finished, and pleasantly, have kept the same facade as the rest of the block, instead of looking like some chrome and glass monstrosity. The 100% Mexico art store closed up shop, which is kind of sad, but I honestly don't know how they stayed open as long as they did. I haven't been to Solly's yet, but I hear they got a write-up in the Post and are now inundated with assholes, so, that sucks, but I'm not letting anyone take the first bar where everyone knows my name that easily.

Speaking of drinking, it's unfortunate I didn't realize that severe jetlag brought on by a month on the other side of the world + four straight days of traveling combined with a few beers will cause exactly the same result as being slipped a roofie, but not much I can do about that now. So aside from one shitty experience, it's been really wonderful coming back. I mostly feel like I haven't been gone at all - especially since it was over the holidays and a lot of people were gone for a week or two as well. But sometimes things make me smile, like this attorney who works on my floor. I've never actually met him, don't know his name, but I pass him in the hallway a few times a week and we always say hello. Yesterday we passed each other and he smiled and said, "Welcome back!" I can't believe he even realized I was gone, but it was really nice.

On top of that, I got some interesting and potentially really good news yesterday, but I don't want to share it quite yet for fear of the jinx. And if it ends up happening, I may celebrate by finally investing in some art I've been coveting for awhile. Because, you see, I've got this wall in my room that's just screaming for it. But first things first. And speaking of art, I've got dates lined up with a slew of shows this Saturday, and a walk-through at City Hall soon, because I'm raring to jump back into things. Once I get writing again, I'm going to try to figure out how to put this India story into something digestable for some magazine somewhere. It's a little tough to whittle it down, but I think I need to focus on small parts of it, or very narrow themes, and see what kind of venues I can peddle it to. Any suggestions on that front would be appreciated.

Oh, and the other thing I totally missed while away? Long nights at work...yeah.

P.S. Discussing our love for the absurd hilarity that is CSI: Miami earlier today, David sent me this awesome YouTube video, because no one can get enough of Caruso's one-liners.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monkeys Battle to the Death Next to My Car

Video the second:

Monkeys Everywhere

Video the first. I'm not sure why YouTube made this so blurry; it sure doesn't look this bad when viewing my computer file. This was my first close encounter with the monkeys - you can see how close they all are, since I didn't use any zoom until you see me do it in the video.

P.S. I think this video is the best evidence as to why I never pursued a career in surgery.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Commence Slideshow

Photos from the wedding have been uploaded here. Note that many of them are marked private, so if you're my "friend" be sure you log onto Flickr first. If any of you have experience with You Tube, holla at me. My videos are taking a ridiculously long time to upload, and one didn't work at all, the little icon just whirred around for literally hours before I just closed the window. However, I will have a few monkey/elephant videos for you tomorrow.

Happy Journey

That's the Indian version of Bon Voyage, and my driver would say it every morning as we left on the next leg of our trip. I have finally finished my journey, and it was indeed a happy one. Well, actually Paul said to me yesterday, "So tell me the honest truth, was it good, bad? Hard, easy? Ugly, pretty?" And I said, "Yes." I'm going to save the summary of my trip for when I've had a bit more sleep, but in short, the trip was all those things, and I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I'm home.

I actually feel like I'm living in a dream, only because I've felt semi-conscious for days on end now. Staying in London was actually pretty great, particularly since the hotel was totally posh, and compared to a month of Indian hotels, it was a fucking palace. Also, even though it ended up being a four day journey home, starting in Delhi, I actually got to sleep on the way, and in a time zone much closer to the one I would be returning to, but nevertheless, I still feel somewhat crazy.

And of course as soon as I step off the plane I'm like, "why don't I get drunk and go to a party?" Yes. So that's what I do, except first I take a shower, which was the most awesomest shower I've ever taken EVER and I'd never felt so clean in my entire life EVER. Then I meet up with some folks and drink so much beer and whiskey that combined with my semi-conscious state turns me quite delirious, and the party was so crowded that I started to have flashbacks of insane Bangalore streets and being cramped inside airports and airplanes for days on end, and at one point someone bumped me from behind and in my delirious reaction I freaking elbowed him. I immediately hear, "Watch it with the elbows" and turn around and naturally, it had to be my ex, which will no doubt bring the next chapter of meladrama that I've so been missing for a whole month. Otherwise, I had fun and was pretty happy to see familiar faces finally, even if I probably sounded like a mentally challenged person most of the night. I managed to wake up at a decent hour without a hangover, so I had brunch with Sylvie but was so dehydrated I still felt like I was swimming through wavy air all morning, until I had two diet fountain sodas (I missed you) and started babbling non-stop, which you might have noticed I'm still doing.

Okay, I'm going to go turn on the fireplace, watch some American television, and deal with this photo uploading situation.

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