Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

"That is just NOT FAIR. You can NOT blame me for that damn dog's diarrhea!"

--Half a cell phone conversation, over heard on the way to happy hour. Connecticut Avenue, 5:25 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

Posted by Dakota on 11:09 AM link |

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

On a handshake:

Let no airline or insurance firm use this insigne on the glossy page of a magazine as an ad badge under the picture of a retired businessman stupefied and honored by the sight of the technicolored snack that the air hostess offers him with everything else she can give!

Vladimir Nabokov kills me.

Posted by Dakota on 2:57 PM link |
Quoth le Monsieur:

If you're like me, you'll take an important lesson away from this experience: Namely, when faced with a tough task, seemingly insufficient preparation done at the last minute will always see you through.

Words to live by.

Hee hee!

Posted by Dakota on 12:11 PM link |
You jia hao le.

Done. Certified. Bona Fide. Bonus-point-laden. Chock full of goodness. Blinded by the light. Traumatized by the exam. Came out alive. That which did not kill me made me stronger.

And here we are. The waiting continues.

Posted by Dakota on 11:30 AM link |
Last night: hyper linguistics mode. It hasn't really happened since I stopped being a Chinese major with tests and exams and kaoshi and xiaokao and that sort of thing, and it's nice to know that in a crunch, I've still got it: 150 odd words, on notecards, memorized in a snap (twice through, done. Using that memory tool that Chinese majors are forced to learn: the concept of 'I WILL remember this. Period.')

Yi ben yufa shu, an entire grammar book, cover to cover, cross referenced with a second grammar book for clarification when needed (god knows we all need more examples for things like 'The pre-positioned Emphatic Rhetorical Marker').

The long and short of it: if/when I don't pass this exam this morning, I won't feel like I didn't prepare. Even if 'preparation' amounted to little more than a huge amount of cramming the night before.


Posted by Dakota on 9:13 AM link |

Monday, January 26, 2004

According to monster.com, at my currently salary and rate of savings, and given DC and federal taxes, I can expect to be a millionaire by the time I turn 115.

THAT'S a comforting thought.

Posted by Dakota on 3:53 PM link |
Currently being forced to call state Education Commissioners and their ilk.

Just got off the phone with Massachusetts. He did receive our fax from 20 January.

"All right. And has that been forwarded on to the appropriate team leader?"
"All right, well, I'm glad you received it, and this call is just a reminder that those forms are due back by January 30th."
"Yeah. Thanks. I can SEE that."

So mean to me.

Hate mean people so damn much.

Posted by Dakota on 2:28 PM link |
I was the shadow of the Waxwing slain
by the false azure in the window pane.

It is monday, and there is snow on the ground, and I am at work. The unconceivability of this situation is widely akin to waking up on Christmas morning only to discover that mid-November threats against misbehaving have been carried through and that Clean Skies Act be damned, there's nothing but a few sullen petro chemical lumps in the stocking, and nothing under the tree to speak of.

Is there... is there balm in Gilead? Tell me, tell me, I implore!

Friday: drunken spree, beginning happy hour at the Big Hunt (Johnny Cash on scene yet again, courtesy of the generosity of KM's juke-box fund; she herself sadly departing 1789ward pre-M. Cash on the air), moving to Dragonfly to hobnob with hipsters (until a malicious bartender talked us out of our seats) leaving no recourse but to retreat back the Big Hunt to hobnob (or ignore) the more vociferous of the breeder hookup crowd.

Saturday: Eastern Market to Budget Rental in Virginia to Eastern Market to Glover Park to the stairs and the stars and the bars and the barmen oh my carmen (those reading a hypersexual nature into those words should supress the inner Humbert Humbert with a deep breath). Helping someone else move helped somewhat to assuage my inner guilt at having forced Alexander James on numerous occasions to help me move; precisely how helping other people move assuages my inner guilt remains to be seen, but that's the heart of the matter. In related news, as much as I claim a Buddha-like lifestyle, said move was much more easily accomplished by the PFL-- Possession-Free Lifestyle-- of the movee in question. He's quite simply better than me at it.

When you find out you can live without it and go along not thinkin' about it I'll tell you something true... the Bare Necessities of life will come to you.

Saturday evening: Post a post-move burrito retreated Casa-ward; mid-evening nap lasted till midnightish, followed by late-nite couscous (is there any other kind?) and the more sleeping. The grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams in every kloof.

Sunday: spent 6 hours at the Caribou coffee. Half A Life, V.S. Naipul: finished. I remain: baffled as to why he won the Nobel. While Half a Life was considerably better than Biswas (implicat: fist shaking), it still doesn't merit so much as a second reading. If there's depth to it, I have no desire to find it.

Quoth the Chinese Girl at the Big Table at the Caribou Coffee: my mother is still in the process of learning english. 2 weeks ago, she started to curse. But she doesn't really get it, so much, so she swears half in Chinese and half in broken English. Her favorite line now is "What the SHIT?" Last week she was at the Grocery store, and someone cut her off in the parking lot. She rolled down her window, and in her best American accent, screamed "SLUT!"

Naderbret would be in love.

Posted by Dakota on 1:24 PM link |

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

"A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by president Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."
--G.W. Bush, State of the Union, 20 January 2004

I don't even know where to begin here. I suppose I should start by saying that this part of the speech made me bristle with hatred and fury, while simultaneously making me somewhat sick to my stomach: homophobia is the socially-acceptable counterpart to racism, and the White House is rife with it.

Consider this sentence by sentence, shall we?

"A strong America must also value the institution of marriage."
I don't think it's the government's place to tell me to value marriage, but I have no major issue with this sentence, so we'll let it slide and move forward.

"I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization."
All of a sudden we're knee-deep in bullshit. I particularly like his homage to respecting individuals-- he has the utmost of respect for individuals, especially heterosexual individuals, and he's more than willing to treat homosexuals like individuals so long as they stop sleeping with other would-be individuals of the same sex or, if unwilling to do so, at least shut up and stop agitating for rights. Once the individuals in question sit down and recognize their status as second class citizens, then this whole debate can stop right here.

And while we're on the subject, since when is marriage one of the most enduring institutions in our civilization? I mean, sure, people have been getting married for a long damn time. But 60 percent of marriages end in divorce in this fair country of ours. Till death do us part? Hardly.

"Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by president Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states."
Congress, no doubt, needed to be reminded that gay-bashing has already been legalized.

"Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people..."
This is my favorite part. Shades of Lucian Wojciechowski! The judicial system is FLAWED! It's all arbitrary enforcement of the will of judges! And not just a regular ol' black-robe wearing arbitrator, mind you, but ACTIVIST judges who are the problem. It's no doubt in my mind that Bush links together the judges who are trying to legalize gay marriage (How, he must wonder, can these activist judges be so pro fag? Don't they remember that we are sinners, all?) with the ones pushing for 'legal rights' for the American Citizens detained in Guantanamo with no access to counsel and no legal recourse. It's the same thing: activists, pushing their will on the people.

And on an issue of such great consequence, 'the people's voice must be heard.'
I seem to recall another activist judge--you might remember him as Abraham Lincoln-- who failed to take into account the people's voice. And look what happened! THE DARKIES ARE EVERYWHERE. Some activist goes and makes up his mind, and BAM, suddenly I have to make my own toast in the mornings, no one around to call me 'massa'? This is the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard in my entire life. If the will of the people had anything to do with the legislative process, then there would be no income tax or no speed limits, none of the minor annoyances of life under this government. And if the will of the people were an issue, he wouldn't be looking for billions of dollars to send a man to Mars. In my informal polls, I can't help but notice no one's all that keen on the plan.

"If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."
And there it is, the heart of darkness. The threat of a constitutional amendment. Don't mess with Texas: we'll legislate your ass out of existance.

The simple summary is this: George W. Bush gave the state of union, and blathering on about Iraq, he talked an awful lot about domestic policy. The root of his domestic policy is the concept of the Strong Family. His ridiculous calls for money to promote abstinence-- programs which only seek to reinforce the self-esteem of the hopelessly celibate, and to raise scorn and contempt from the happily promiscuous-- as well as his other policies all have at their base the concept of The Family. We are a stong nation, precisely because the very base of our nation is Family, with Family Values and Family Views.

And with all this in mind, the whole struggle for gay marriage is no longer about the idea of being married, with all the rights and priveleges entailed therein. It's not about tax breaks and inheritances after death, nor about making it easier to adopt, or even the simple idea of a blessing of union. By constantly harping on the idea of the family and it's fundamental root in the strength of our nation, and then by conclusively excluding gay people from the definition thereof to the extent of reforming the constitution to do so, Bush has made it clear: it's us vs. you. You are not like us, and you are not welcome here.

And in my humble opinion, such a person should never have been made leader of the inappropriately named "Free World."

Posted by Dakota on 1:45 PM link |

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

For the record, the man I voted for, writes this as the second and final paragraph of his candidate statement:

But as I started to campaign for office, 2 women filed fake charges against me, forcing me to go to court, crippling my campaign. They caused me to miss the presidential debates. The Imperial County Case # CM06035B continued with the District Attorney maliciously prosecuting me. In the end the hand picked jury said guilty to a crime I did not commit, lewd conduct. So we decided to run a petition for initiative or, through Congress an order to shut down the whole court system, removing lawyers from the bench & replacing them with psychics & psychiatrists. They have the answers. Eliminating corruption, lawyer, lawyer. Leading an appeal path to a psychic psychiatrist, probably in leisure cities. Eliminates the public defenders office, if you want a lawyer, hire one. Eliminates the District Attorneys Office,if you complain, you prosecute or hire a lawyer. Eliminates the probation dept. No more innocent people on probation. No psychologists studying innocent people to drain state funds. No more juries, the psychic is enough. Also a module that if you stipulate, a lawyer cannot contact you by phone, internet, TV, mail or enter on private property. It will be hooked up in the companies systems. Also no lawyer needed in any corporate case, etc. I ask the people of the United States to give me the power to put people of corruption out of our offices. To make this nation a more safe place to leave to our families.

[Signed] Lucian Wojciechowski

Posted by Dakota on 2:47 PM link |
It is Tuesday morning following a holiday, and I am craving buffalo wings.

My craving for buffalo wings in no small part stems from the fact that I had some Sunday night, and they're more addicting than anything else in the world. While the wings at Fast Eddie's were accompanied by a long discussion with the bartender about his pending MBA and dabbling into the seedy underworld of group sex, I'm really just in it for the Tabasco sauce.

There is nothing further to report concerning this weekend. I think perhaps the reason that I'm now so completely antsy in this relationship, so desperately looking for an out, is because it has yet to produce anything bracingly new, exciting, worth writing home about. The more I dwell on the subject, the more discontent I become with the whole ordeal, made all the more acute by the intense generosity and courtesy of the person in question-- picking up tabs left and right, calling the next day to say 'I enjoyed the evening, thank you,' and ending plan-making phone conversations with 'I can't wait to see you.'

But there's been no real spark, no surge of emotion on this end, and that's almost reason enough to end it: we're skimming the upper reaches of mediocrity, and it's just not enough. There's no witty banter to spur things on, nothing to grab on to the next day and say: that's worth remembering, that should be written down.

But obviously I'm not willing to treat said individual like an ass, and on the walk to work I found myself browsing the mental catalogue of humiliating occurences which could end this faster: decline in sexual appetites, sudden 4 a.m. bouts of incontinence -- desperation, at this point, knows nearly no bounds.

I don't know how this will end, but I'm guessing it won't end well.

Posted by Dakota on 1:33 PM link |

Friday, January 16, 2004

The Grand Restaurant Week Finale:
Meal #6, Thursday, 15 October 2004

Dinner, 8:00 p.m.
The Caucus Room
The 'White Plate' Appetizer: Calamari, Scallops, Shrimp, Crabcake.
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
Medallions of Beef, with winter vegetable medley and whipped potatoes
Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Sauce

The Caucus Room: Nice place. Deep wood panelling, the smell of old money and power politics, and walls lined with wine bottles. The food was worthwhile, the service was somewhat slipshod (partly on account of my brother befriending the waiter and throwing decorum out the window), but the atmosphere was really what I'd go back for. There's something to be said for leather chairs and high-piled plush carpeting. I don't know that the food would necessarily justify the price tag-- on any week except restaurant week, I can't imagine paying $75 for an appetizer-- but for a reduced price meal, it was certainly worth going to.

With The Caucus Room, my dabbling in restaurant week has come to a close. I'm pretty excited to go back to living off mozzerella, tomato, basil sandwiches and boxed macaroni and cheese. One can only bathe in opulence for so long before the lifestyle (and implicit hike in cholesterol therein) begins to catch up. While I can't kid myself to think that I'll be vegetarian from here on out, we're certainly going to be entering into a new Plan for Healthy Living that will allow me to stop feeling so sluggish all the time, as well as perhaps shave a few pounds off my midsection. The concept of me dieting horrifies most of my co-workers, but one week later I am hyper-aware of a pronounced difference in physique with which I am not at all pleased. So long as I continue dating someone whose midsection is chiselled, there will be a concerted effort away from the deep fried and towards the organic. Period.

Posted by Dakota on 5:20 PM link |

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Approaching Overload on Restaurant Week:
Meal #5, Wednesday, 14 October 2004

Dinner, 7:00 p.m.
Cafe Promenade, Mayflower Hotel
Maryland Crabcake
Roast Chicken with Wilted Spinach and Basmati Rice

Cafe Promenade proves yet again that DC has two different kinds of nice restaurants: places to go to EAT, and places to go to GO. Promenade's a GO sort of place-- nice meal, but nothing special or out of the ordinary barring the former presence of massive celebrities whose notoriety revolves around Executive genitalia. Worth going to, but certainly not some place I'd go back to if it weren't on someone else's dime.

Posted by Dakota on 9:31 AM link |

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Putting the 'rest' back in Restaurant Week:
Meal #4: Wednesday, 14 October 2004

Lunch, 12:45 p.m.
6" Meatball Sub on Italian Herb and Cheese Bread
Bag of Baked Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Total Cost: Less then $4. And everything I've ever wanted in a meal.

Posted by Dakota on 1:20 PM link |
God bless Restaurant Week:
Meal #3: Tuesday, 13 January 2004

Cocktail Hour, 7:15 p.m.
Rosa Mexicana
Pomegranate Margaritas

Delicious! Albeit a bit overpriced, but antioxidants aren't free so it was worth every penny.

Dinner, 8:15 p.m.
Red Sage
Grilled Lamb Sausage with Cabbage Ragout and Fried Southwestern Grits
Pork Tenderloin in Apple-Cranberry Butter with Southwestern Cornbread Stuffing
Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake with liquid Bailey's in the center.

The lowdown: Red Sage blew me away. Not only was the food crazily good (CRAZILY good; as soon as they plunked down the appetizers we knew it was going to be amazing), but the setting was cozy and intimate (underground, red backlighting, private booth with a round table), and moreover, the service wasn't snobby at all. T-Rempe and I each had a beer; Paige had a glass of wine. We didn't feel pushed to order more drinks, no one was looking down at us for ordering off restaurant week, the server was madcap friendly. And the food blew me away.

The long and short of it: the next time the parents come to town, I'm dragging them to Red Sage; I can't wait to go back.

Posted by Dakota on 9:36 AM link |

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Restaurant week continues:
Meal #2: Monday, 12 January 2004, 6:00

Ten Penh
Amuse Bouche: Summer Squash soup with Kaffir Lime
Filipino Lumpia Style Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls with Trio of
Dipping Sauces
Shrimp in Thai Red Curry with Pineapple
Mango Panna-Cotta

It's interesting to note that Ten Penh, theoretically one of the best Asian restaurants in DC, keeps at least two kinds of rice on hand in the kitchen. Specifically, the folks with slabs of fish (which looked great), were served short-grained imported Japanese rice. I, sadly, was slapped with plain-Jane medium-grained American rice, the functional Asian equivalent of Uncle Ben's. Whether they feel this more appropriately complements a curry, or were just banking on customers just not knowing the difference is hard to say, but while I was pleased overall with the meal, I was assuredly disappointed by the rice; such things might seem intensely trivial to outsiders, but having spent a considerable amount of time in Asia does wonders to refine the starch palate.

Also, I can't help but wonder if the name 'Kaffir Lime' is still in vogue-- 'kaffir,' being the Afrikaans equivalent for 'Nigger.' It goes without saying that the name didn't offend me, but it certainly roused my curiousity.

Update from a co-worker who lived in South Africa: Indeed, the term Kaffir is crazily offensive to anyone you shout it at. That said, apparantly the Kaffir lime has a thick black skin, from which the name derives. He was unaware of alternate names for the fruit; simultaneously, he was unaware that the name 'Kaffir' would be offensive to anyone who heard it here in America. So that's that.

Posted by Dakota on 12:19 PM link |

Monday, January 12, 2004

Restaurant week update:
Meal #1: Monday, 12 January 2004, 1:00

Taverna de Alabardero
Hearty Tomato-Chicken Soup with Potatoes and Tuna Steak
Cod in Olive Oil with Garlic and Roasted Pepper 'Sofrito'
Traditional Spanish Rice Pudding with Cinnamon and Vanilla

Everything is going RIGHT.

Posted by Dakota on 2:53 PM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

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