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.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Browsing today on several translator's blogs, I found a fairly interesting chunket-- specifically, the TRUE translation of what the director is saying to Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the
words. As if you are Bogie in “Casablanca,” saying, “Cheers to you guys,” Suntory time!

The famous line in Casablanca, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ is translated into Japanese as something like ‘Cheers to your eyes’ (Kimi no hitomi ni kanpai). This is regarded as a brilliant translation and it is this to which the director in ‘Lost in Translation’ refers. Bob was to imitate Bogart saying ‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’ not ‘Cheers to you guys’.

Posted by Dakota on 1:13 PM link |

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Last night: Eagleward. TDJ departs early post overindulgence in alcohol and says to me: give me your key, I left mine at home, I'll hide it under the first stone in the walkway for when you get home. I reply: you won't forget, will you? I keep drinking with T-Rempe for a while, then he too leaves. I'm hitting on the bartender like a madman until I ask him: you're not HIV positive, are you? And he was. Inquiry as to my status: Negative. And I'm sorry. He said he understood.

Wasted. Taxi cab homeward. It goes without saying that underneath the first stone in the walkway, there was no key. I was so intoxicated that the only places I could think of as potential places to stay were: con Quixote or Walnut, but both couldn't have been farther away and were completely inaccessible. So I went in to the alley that leads to the backyard, and lay down on the stone walkway and fell asleep for an hour. Woke up when the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Lay shivering on the ground for a while before it occured to me that I could go to my office and sleep there, which I did from 4 until nearly 10.

All in all, this evening has made me rethink my semi-formed plan to land in Estonia and go immediately to the train station to wait out the night. Hard floors I can handle; driving wind is an entirely different story.

Posted by Dakota on 9:47 AM link |

Friday, March 19, 2004

Reasons I'm leaving the country as fast as possible:
The recording artist Curtis Jackson, known as "50 Cent," freely acknowledges he's a homophobe, but goes on to say, "But women who like women, that's cool." Thank you, Mr. Cent. You've got your finger on the pulse of the nation.

In related news, Compassionate Conservatism is again working for ME. If any of you loyal readers (either of you) voted for Bush, then I'd like to take a moment to say: Thanks a whole fucking lot. I look forward to beginning my career in a few months, and being forced to remain in the closet.

Posted by Dakota on 11:51 AM link |

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

My Amazon cart is now crammed full of books on Translation Theory. I also spent some time googling to find a bibliography on comparative grammatical theory, and while doing so stumbled across complete linguistic reference grammars for Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Czech, Macedonia, Polish, Romanian and Russian. This wishing to waste hours and hours of their lives immersed in comparative grammar can do so by clicking here. Let there be light!

Posted by Dakota on 3:09 PM link |

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Nisi mecum concubueris, phobistae vicerint.

(Which is: "If you won't sleep with me, the terrorists will have won.")

I've spent my morning resolutely not doing work, but instead reading about translation theory. This couldn't be less interesting to anyone else, which is shocking to me, because it's so damn interesting.

Consider: In english, there are two kinds of nouns-- count, and noncount. Then there's a hazy subset of nouns that are both count and non-count, and that's where the trouble lies. So you've got words like 'beer,' and 'cheese', that just don't play well with others.

In english, count nouns take 'fewer' while noncount take 'less'. "There are fewer problems now than before." "You should use less sugar." Both are correct. "There are less problems now than before" and "You should use fewer sugar" are both bracingly incorrect.

"The English eat less cheese than the French."
"The English produce fewer cheeses than the French."

Both correct. Count, non-count.

But then, consider this:
"The English eat less butter than the Dutch."
"The English produce fewers butters than the Dutch."

One correct, one bracingly incorrect. Noncount only.

I mean, come on now: that's just FANTASTIC. Hooray! Hooray for grammar!

Posted by Dakota on 1:39 PM link |

Monday, March 15, 2004

This just in from the Department of State:

"Your case is still pending field work from Jakarta."

Jakarta! Continuing to ruin my life!

Posted by Dakota on 4:04 PM link |
Saint Louis came and went, and I will now have fond memories forever of a town I have no choice but to refer to (lovingly, of course) as the shit pit.

Augusto Roa Bastos's Paraguayan Epic about everyone's favorite Paraguayan Dictator, I The Supreme, has been put back on the bookshelf, possibly forever. I re-started it, got to page 8 and found the bookmark where I had last left off. Then I started to flip to the end to see how many pages there were in the book total and discovered a bookmark at page 16 and another at page 25. It appears that god doesn't want me to finish a book about Paraguay, and I'm not going to argue with him on that front.

I started King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov, and was asleep in seconds.

Determined to finish a book, I picked up my copy of Under The Tuscan Sun, but it was so damn poorly written ("The grape vine that is buried to sprout anew in the sun is clearly a metaphor for life itself") that it made me chew on my wrists. 15 pages later, it too went on the Wounded Soldiers shelf, to remain for the forseeable future.

I am so desperate to do laundry that for the third day in a row I am undergarmentless. This is, at best, a gamble, but I'm hoping that my luck holds and that I don't roll the dice and lose.

There is little else to say. I leave for Estonia in 15 days. I am counting every second. I am terrified, financially speaking. I am also going batshit insane here in America, and cannot wait to get out. Yesterday after work (indeed, Sunday officefest), I went with my coworker to Target, and am now the proud owner of 12 new pairs of socks, 4 new pairs of boxerbriefs, and 12 rolls of 1200 speed film to supplement ye olde digital. And that's that.

Posted by Dakota on 2:09 PM link |
Before we start the blogfest (I'm going to be COASTING for the next two weeks; chances of my doing a lick of actual work are so close to none that I've already started thinking about how to stack my timesheet so it looks like I did some vague amount of something during the pay period), let's go ahead and get this little site out of the way. It's called MelodieSuche, and it's german, and it's cool. It's not english-friendly, but you can feel your way around. The concept: you plug a mike into your computer, you sing a few bars or hum the melody of a song you've got stuck in your head but don't know the title of, and it searches through the 3000 songs they've got digitized and comes back to tell the title and artist. If THAT's not the coolest thing ever, then I don't know what is.

Posted by Dakota on 12:18 PM link |

Friday, March 12, 2004

Dispatches from Saint Louis.

The President Riverboat Casino is now 95 dollars richer. The Dakota Gambling Tally stands at even for the week. If nothing else, I took them for a fistfull of Bud Lights, a handful of vodkas and soda, and an awful lot of quality time spent with horrific cocktail waitresses who've been so completely stomped on by life that you wonder where they find the will to continue living.

In related news, who would've thought it possible to score in San-Louie? Conference participants, how ARE you.

The plane leaves in t-minus 8 hours, and I have never been so excited to get back to the district in my entire life.

Posted by Dakota on 12:13 PM link |

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Dispatches from Saint Louis.

The President's Riverboat Casino is now 95 dollars poorer. Dakota's living the highlife off the riches, and the roulette table is wondering what in god's name hit it.

It's the SYSTEM, people. The SYSTEM never fails.

In related news, Coworker Wang is AMAZING on the roulette table. A streak of like 15 in a row: unheard of.

Posted by Dakota on 9:25 AM link |

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Dispatches from Saint Louis.

Met yesterday at the speaker check-in line a gentleman named Marty Daybell. He seemed completely normal, and more friendly than most people who check in in the VIP/Speaker line.

After he was gone, my coworker ran up to me. "Do you KNOW who Marty Daybell is?" she asked. I didn't. "He's the guy who DESIGNED AND IMPLEMENTED FedEx's ONLINE TRACKING SYSTEM!"

So what I'm saying here is: we're in the presence of greatness.

Posted by Dakota on 5:13 PM link |

Monday, March 08, 2004

T-Minus thirty minutes before departure to the airport for ye-olde 1st ever business trip. Saint Louis, Missouri (the German in the house pronounces the state name like "misery." Apropos, I'd guess), here we come.

Posted by Dakota on 2:32 PM link |

Friday, March 05, 2004

I just handed in my time sheet, only to have Mini-Boss kick it back at me. There was a week-long blank in the blog last week where I was too busy to write, staying at the office until 8 or 9 and that one fateful day until midnight.

And miniboss just informed me: 'I'm really sorry-- overtime wasn't authorised for this.'

Which means that I was working FOR JESUS. Pro Deo baby, because ESI sure as fuck isn't forking over the cash for it. I mean, honestly, are you fucking kidding me? Do they think I work here because I like the walls in my cubicle? That I have nothing better to do in my spare time than to sit in the office all night and then go home to go to bed to get up early to come in early to write their FUCKING PROPOSAL, for FUN? All that upper management can talk about in the annual meetings are how fast we're growing, how many new projects and staff and whatnot we're taking on, how we doubled our revenue to 19 million dollars-- NINETEEN MILLION DOLLARS-- and hey! Thanks for getting us new business! We appreciate your help so much that we're going to buy you a pizza from the California Pizza Kitchen! Because that's all the fucking compensation I'm getting.

Miniboss has been in collaboration with boss to give me the hardsell to stay. Nothing over the top-- they know I'm on my way out, and so it's been sort of half-hearted. But honestly-- do you fucking WONDER why I'm leaving? This company treats their employees like ABSOLUTE SHIT and they WONDER why people don't want to stick around!

Boss asked me this morning to work on Saturday, and I told him I could. But now I'm SERIOUSLY reconsidering that decision, and we'll just have to FUCKING see if I feel like coming in. And if I do-- you can SURE AS FUCK bet your ass I'm going to get paid for it.

Excuse the profanity in this post. Tempers are running a little high right now.

Posted by Dakota on 5:01 PM link |

Thursday, March 04, 2004

All right, so I'm in love with Nicholas Kristof. You'll recall that he partnered with his wife to write 'China Wakes,' a stunningly good insight into modern Chinese political issues (albeit written in kiiiiind of short-sentencey journalistese). This was his op-ed from The Times yesterday. Worth perusing.

Op-Ed Columnist: Marriage: Mix and Match

March 3, 2004

Shakespeare's "Othello" used to be among the hardest plays
to stage in America. Although the actors playing Othello
were white, they wore dark makeup, so audiences felt
"disgust and horror," as Abigail Adams said. She wrote, "My
whole soul shuddered whenever I saw the sooty heretic Moor
touch the fair Desdemona."

Not until 1942, when Paul Robeson took the role, did a
major American performance use a black actor as Othello.
Even then, Broadway theaters initially refused to
accommodate such a production.

Fortunately, we did not enshrine our "disgust and horror"
in the Constitution - but we could have. Long before
President Bush's call for a "constitutional amendment
protecting marriage," Representative Seaborn Roddenberry of
Georgia proposed an amendment that he said would uphold the
sanctity of marriage.

Mr. Roddenberry's proposed amendment, in December 1912,
stated, "Intermarriage between Negroes or persons of color
and Caucasians . . . is forever prohibited." He took this
action, he said, because some states were permitting
marriages that were "abhorrent and repugnant," and he aimed
to "exterminate now this debasing, ultrademoralizing,
un-American and inhuman leprosy."

"Let this condition go on if you will," Mr. Roddenberry
warned. "At some day, perhaps remote, it will be a question
always whether or not the solemnizing of matrimony in the
North is between two descendants of our Anglo-Saxon fathers
and mothers or whether it be of a mixed blood descended
from the orangutan-trodden shores of far-off Africa." (His
zoology was off: orangutans come from Asia, not Africa.)

In Mr. Bush's call for action last week, he argued that the
drastic step of a constitutional amendment is necessary
because "marriage cannot be severed from its cultural,
religious and natural roots without weakening the good
influence of society." Mr. Roddenberry also worried about
the risks ahead: "This slavery of white women to black
beasts will bring this nation to a conflict as fatal and as
bloody as ever reddened the soil of Virginia."

That early effort to amend the Constitution arose after a
black boxer, Jack Johnson, ostentatiously consorted with
white women. "A blot on our civilization," the governor of
New York fretted.

In the last half-century, there has been a stunning change
in racial attitudes. All but nine states banned interracial
marriages at one time, and in 1958, a poll found that 96
percent of whites disapproved of marriages between blacks
and whites. Yet in 1997, 77 percent approved. (A personal
note: my wife is Chinese-American, and I heartily recommend

Mr. Bush is an indicator of a similar revolution in views -
toward homosexuality - but one that is still unfolding. In
1994, Mr. Bush supported a Texas antisodomy law that let
the police arrest gays in their own homes. Now the Bushes
have gay friends, and Mr. Bush appoints gays to office
without worrying that he will turn into a pillar of salt.

Social conservatives like Mr. Bush are right in saying that
marriage is "the most fundamental institution in
civilization." So we should extend it to America's gay
minority - just as marriage was earlier extended from
Europe's aristocrats to the masses.

Conservatives can fairly protest that the gay marriage
issue should be decided by a political process, not by
unelected judges. But there is a political process under
way: state legislatures can bar the recognition of gay
marriages registered in Sodom-on-the-Charles, Mass., or
anywhere else. The Defense of Marriage Act specifically
gives states that authority.

Yet the Defense of Marriage Act is itself a reminder of the
difficulties of achieving morality through legislation. It
was, as Slate noted, written by the thrice-married
Representative Bob Barr and signed by the philandering Bill
Clinton. It's less a monument to fidelity than to

If we're serious about constitutional remedies for marital
breakdowns, we could adopt an amendment criminalizing
adultery. Zamfara, a state in northern Nigeria, has had
success in reducing AIDS, prostitution and extramarital
affairs by sentencing adulterers to be stoned to death.

Short of that, it seems to me that the best way to preserve
the sanctity of American marriage is for us all to spend
less time fretting about other people's marriages - and
more time improving our own.

Posted by Dakota on 1:25 PM link |
Conspiracy theorists amongst us: enjoy this. I can't say it's necessarily something I buy into-- it's not-- but it certainly makes for an interesting read. Certainly something I'd never considered--were there no 9/11 hijackers?

Posted by Dakota on 12:30 PM link |
So I went to a rally to end marriage discrimination last night, and today I'm browsing a bit online, and I find this, and think, ahh, THAT'S why it's so familiar!

On Dec. 12, 1912, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry (R-Ga.) proposed this amendment to the Constitution:

'Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians . . . within the United States . . . is forever prohibited.'

The amendment did not pass, even though the majority of Americans opposed interracial marriage and advocates argued this amendment was necessary to save the sacred institution of marriage.

Posted by Dakota on 12:14 PM link |
Yes, I'm a public transportation geek. Fine. Aren't we all, a little, deep down inside? And as such, I was pretty dang excited to stumble across a website that does to-scale comparative drawings of all the major subways in the world. Huzzah!

Posted by Dakota on 12:03 PM link |

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Bush Administration-- God Bless 'em, really, has decided to cut the budget. And they're doing it in brilliant ways. Amongst them, they're weeding out Satan, and they're doing it by cutting funding for close captioning for any shows that talk about or deal with Witchcraft.

Honestly, I wish I were kidding. The result of this: there's now no close-captioning allowed for things like SCOOBY DOO. (Ruh-roh!) This ain't a joke, folks. For a complete list of the shows whose funding has been cut, including both Major League Baseball and I Dream of Jeannie, go here.

Posted by Dakota on 2:24 PM link |
INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population.
Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Hat tip to Quixote on this one.

Posted by Dakota on 2:07 PM link |
We're way behind here in the world of blogging. I mean, honestly, it gets to that point that's the make or break of any journal, online or otherwise, where you feel like you have so much that's worth recording that it becomes unbearable and you just can't face doing it. So, with that in mind, let's start with this:

Walnut's got a girlfriend. Inconceivable! It makes one almost want to go to church, because believe ye me, all ye sinners, The End is Nigh.

In T-Minus 5 days, I'm off to Saint Louis for my first ever Business Trip. This is being accompanied by a FLURRY of misery here at ye olde office that's hardly worth commenting, but I can't help but envision myself immersed in a veritable maelstrom of paper, and if any one of those pieces of paper gets lost, I get in trouble and the company loses money. At any given time, it seems like things might break down. In other words: there's a distinct possibility that people will be presenting themselves at conference, going to the hotel and saying: I need to check in. At which point the hotel will inform them: You don't have a reservation. They'll respond that they talked to Dakota, who had them booked. The hotel will inform of the presence of a Motel 6 just down the road ("No, really, they actually WILL leave the light on for you"), and I'm going to get in so much trouble.

This weekend, Quixote went Costa Rica-ward con JMH. Did EITHER update their blog to reflect this? No.

Friday marked the end of a crazily long week in which, you'll recall, I was working on a crazy proposal. 10 sections total, of which I wrote five. Boss on Thursday gave flowers to all the females, and sent an email to the males as follows:


A sincere thank you to each of you for your hard work on the proposal this week. Your willingness to pitch in was much appreciated. I know it was a stressful experience for all; but it was heartening to see how well we collaborated as a team and how much we accomplished in such a short time. It really is remarkable. We produced a very high quality proposal in a very short period of time. I am also grateful for the extra time that you each put in last evening-sorry to have kept you so late, it wasn’t my preference but the crazy deadline made it imperative that we do so.

Just so you know, I’ve also expressed the same appreciation to our female team members and presented each of them with each flowers. Now Dakota, before you pitch a fit, I’ll gladly buy you flowers, too. But so none of you would be discomfited by getting flowers from your boss, I thought I’d offer to buy you a drink after work one day soon as an alternative. But, Dakota, if you insist, I’ll bring you a corsage. A big one.

I forwarded the message to Gatsby with the tag: I get no respect in this office. He wrote back to say: No respect? You just got an open invitation to PROM.

I responded to Boss that I would, in fact, like a corsage. But preferably one that was edible, sort of like a stalk of brocolli I could pin to my lapel. On Friday morning, wrapped in a paper towel, boss presented me with three small carrots, pulled from his own garden, and tied with orange, green and white ribbons. The proposal was a crap load of work-- but it's not every day that hard work earns you a carrot corsage. That's all I have to say on that front.

Have I mentioned about Walnut having a girlfriend? I can't even discuss.

Worth discussing: the word Chutzpah. We're all familiar. That said, beyond knowing that it describes Martha Stewart and other spunky individuals, I'd never stopped to think about the actual Yiddish involved here. The actual definition:

Chutzpah: The act of killing one's parents and then pleading clemency, on the basis of being an orphan.

There's more to be said here, but god knows I can't think of anything else. To the volcano!

Posted by Dakota on 2:00 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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