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.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Further examination of the triathlon website indicates that only three other males in my age group (25 to 29) have registered. Which means if I can edge one out, I'm guaranteed a prize. Which is probably a plaque or some other nonesense, but hey -- free plaque. Huzzah!

Posted by Dakota on 12:38 PM link |
Well, it's official.

This message is generated as confirmation of your recent registration on Active.com. You have been successfully registered for the following:

Registration: 21st Annual Pohanka Cadillac Colonial Beach Triathlon
Purchase Date: 06/24/05
Group: Individual Registration
Category: Non-USAT Triathlon Member - INDIVIDUAL
Name: Dakota

God save us all. And now, I must go excercise as if it were my JOB.

Posted by Dakota on 12:34 PM link |

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I was quite surprised to discover that the Tamil Tigers, one of the most fundamentally evil terrorist groups on the planet today, speak a language that is shockingly soft and mellifluous.

Posted by Dakota on 10:11 AM link |

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Don't get me wrong, I'm really all for gay pride. But I stopped by the fresh fields at 14th and P, and they had the peppers arranged in a rainbow pattern, and that offended me. Because even though I'm very much for gay rights, when it comes down to it... I just... well, I really just feel that vegetables should be apolitical.
--Molly, senior State Department Official and friend to gay and vegetable rights activists everywhere.

Posted by Dakota on 8:08 AM link |

Monday, June 06, 2005

Things that drive me inexplicably crazy: people who pronounce the word 'experiment' as if though it were 'ex-spear-a-mint'

Don't do that. I hate that.

Posted by Dakota on 8:07 AM link |

Friday, June 03, 2005

Last night over beers, it came up that while living in China I had consumed more or less every exotic animal that's available to be eaten. This led the topic that several of us had jokingly concluded just before we left China: we've covered all the bases -- bugs, pets, internal organs, things that are generally disgusting -- and the only thing that's left for us is human flesh.

Before we go any further here, on the off chance someone who'll be renewing my security clearance is reading this, let me go ahead and say: I have never eaten human flesh, and will never eat human flesh during the course of my employment with the United States Federal Government, or any time thereafter.

The conversation about human flesh (which I, several beers in to the evening, was referring to using Chinese syntax, calling it 'people-meat') started with the predictable that's-disgusting-and-immoral-you-freakshow ('are you honestly trying to JUSTIFY cannibalism?' 'No, not really, but roll with the punches') into a discussion of pure logistics.

And once you've put down a few mojitos, the concept of people-meat logistics is FASCINATING.

Specifically, if you were going to eat people meat, where on the body would you want the people-meat to come from? Would arm meat be more tender and meaty than, say, breast meat? I stood by saying that arm meat would be the place to eat from; if nothing else, you'd have a REALLY satisyingly large drumstick like thing to hang on to; Johnston was arguing for meat from below the rib cage, or from the back; I know far too little about cows and their butchery to know if there's any logic behind this. It obviously begs the questions, though: there an organization chart put together by cannibals similar to the ones we have of cows that point to the different parts and label than is flank and brisket and strip steak and all that?

And while we're at it, what would be the ideal build to turn into dinner? Would a muscular person be more tender than a fat person? Could the grotesquely obese, supersized Americans amongst us who never exercise and dine almost only on McSomething, Miller Genuine Draft and deep fried bar food be considered the Kobe beef of people-meat?

Is the cow allusion wrong? Is people-meat, in fact, not at all red meat, but rather the extreme alternative other white meat? The OTHER other white meat, if you will? What the hell kind of wine would you serve with it?

And the subject of the color of the meat, there's a million other fine points to consider: Can the human body be divided into light meat and dark meat? Would white people taste different than black or Asian people? Do you let the meat speak for itself, as one does with a fine porterhouse? Or does people-meat require a sauce?

So many questions. You can say what you will, but once you've had a few cocktails, this becomes a FASCINATING thing to conjecture about.

Posted by Dakota on 2:22 PM link |

Thursday, June 02, 2005

This morning I was late to work because I spent a healthy chunk of time tearing apart my wallet in a desperate search for my wallet.

My apartment has exactly two rooms. It shouldn't be this hard.

The wallet was never located. I vowed that after work, I'd head home and clean the damn place, both because it needed it, and because I was sure the wallet was there somewhere.

Taking a page from someone else's book, I list for you:

Things I found underneath the nasty cushions of my couch.

--Two wooden dowels to furniture I do not seem to own.
--Two black socks which don't match one another.
--A receipt from Timberlake's dated 9/18/04 (shortly after my return to the district from Eastern Europe).
--Fifty-one cents.
--An exploded ball point pen.
--A really nice red felt-tip pen that I clearly stole from Quixote, and
--A candy necklace of unknown origin.

It's the necklace that's really got me thinking. I know that I haven't purchased a candy necklace since I was approximately six years old and figured out that gnawing on sometihng you're wearing around your neck is just going to leave you with an uncomfortably sticky neck. I can't think of any situations which would warrant someone giving me such a thing, although I suppose it's possible. I'm almost positive it didn't come with the couch.

The burning question here is of course: is it still edible? Am I that hard up for sugar?

The answer to both these questions is: maybe.

My wallet, in case you were wondering, was in the 'living room,' underneath the Poang, half-covered by a book on linguistics, and next to a third of a bottle of tabasco sauce I didn't know I owned.

This aggression (Hurricane Dakota) cannot stand. Operation Keep The Apartment Clean is in effect from now on.

Posted by Dakota on 3:04 PM link |
Last night I went to the safeway and stocked up on essentials like refrigerated pre-made ravioli, and hummus, and ground beef, and various other things. But mostly ravioli, with which I'm currently slightly obsessed, noting that I'm in the theoretical carb-loading phase pre Race for the Cure, in which I am bound to lose 2 burritos after having made 2 stupid bets -- my time, to beat Walnut by faster than 3 minutes, and Quixote by faster than 8 minutes.

On the way home, I ran into The Famous Hoya Columnist, Nick Johnston, and diverted a block in the wrong direction to chat with him en route to his imminent (and much needed) haircut.

Post Johnston I swivelled left on 18th and continued southbound until I got to the small park at Church and 18th. Someone was sitting on the bench, doing a bang up job of playing solo clarinet jazz. He had no hat in front of him, wasn't playing for coins or dollars or tips -- just maybe felt like playing the clarinet on a sunny afternoon.

I have never been so entranced in my entire life.

I have no idea what the individual in question looks like, but trust me when I say that I am overwhelmingly attracted to him, and can only hope that he shows up again some time in the near future so I can properly throw myself at him, instead of just walking into a light post while swivelling my head to continue staring at him as I walked by.

Posted by Dakota on 2:52 PM link |

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

This morning I woke up early, at some ungodly hour like 6:35, and hustled through a shower with the overarching thought in mind that I needed to hurry. My car was set to become illegally parked at 7 a.m. and it seems that parking attendants have been circling the streets at earlier and earlier hours, doling out hundred dollar tickets and flagging cars with bright orange stickers that scream 'TOW,' insult to injury if ever there were. So I hurried.

But after showering I turned on NPR and NPR invariably makes one move slower in the morning, because Carl Castle's voice is hypnotic and you have no choice but to sit on the bed, holding that inverted sock that you were planning on turning right-side out and staring out into space and then realizing three to seven minutes later that you still haven't touched the sock, it's there, draped across your knee, a small hurdle to leap over but by that point you can't be sure of where the sock's partner is because you were pacing the room while listening to that voice, that magical voice, and then several minutes later you realize that the missing sock in question is already on your foot and all that's left to do is lace up the boots and go.

By the time I got my socks on it was 7:15. I begin the boot lacing process, finish and then look for my bag. Find it, glance out the window and see the shark-like figure of the Parking Attendant, in her stupid white boxy car parked (ironically, illegally) in front of mine, and she's got the little gun in her hand that she types things into and the tickets print out but she hasn't started typing my license yet, there's still time, so I crank open the window and shout, in a high pitched and somewhat breathless voice:

"Miss! Ma'am! Hello! Parking Attendant lady, ma'am, miss, hello! Excuse me, parking enforcement, miss! Ma'am! Hello!"

And I'm getting progressively louder, but let's be honest, it's 7:19 a.m. and my neighbors are no doubt asleep, but still with rising desperation I shout, louder and louder, 'MISS! PARKING ENFORCEMENT!! MIIIISSSS!!!"

And her head swivels off of the gun and up to my window where my left arm from below the elbow is working in frantic overtime, back and forth, in an attention grabbing mechanism, and her eyes meet my eyes, and she hisses, hisses in a manner that somehow carries from her position, two stories below all the way to my window without any problem, she hisses:

'WHAT do you WANT?'

'Miss, ma'am, I'm running a bit late, just got my boots on, I'm coming down now, I'm about to move my car, I'm sorry, I'm literally walking out the door right now, please, I'll be right...'

'I don't care,' she hissed, she's really mastered that hiss, perhaps it's some part of the parking attendent training process, hissss: 'You're TOO LATE.'

And in my mind she laughed a maniacal and horrible laugh as she turned back to the magic ticket gun, but in reality she just tore off the ticket as it rolled off the machine, and stomped to my car, and slid it gracefully under the windshield wiper before swivelling with military precision on her heel and goose stepping southbound on the west side of 17th.

Given that I had no coffee in the fridge (where I normally keep it, brewed, to pour over ice in the mornings and take to work so that one cup has already soaked into my brain before the first hour of class while a second cup sits on my desk, waiting to cool enough that it can be consumed without the slightest hint of a slurp, which, even though my teachers have never mentioned anything outright, is still (I'm sure) an insult to the very core values of a Pakistani), I had been planning to take a diet coke to sip on during the commute. This was immediately forgotten as I saw her (Die Wolfe) pull up and I grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder, snagged the ID badge off the doorknob that leads to the outside world, and sprinted down the stairs, blood boiling, determined to do SOMETHING.

And she was one car away, one other unlucky sap who like me perhaps overslept or was caught in the magic of Carl Castle's mellifluous voice, but regardless was running late, and I ran from the building over to her and said, I'm so sorry, I'm moving the car now, is there any way...

And she swivelled her head up and said, still in a hiss, my god I hate that fucking hiss, 'I TOLD you're too late. I don't care if you're moving it now; you've been parked illegally for 21 minutes.'

And she sneered at me, a true sneer, an awful twisted smile that made me rage with anger, and as she tore the ticket off the machine for the other guy's car, she hiss-sneered her way through the phrase 'have a nice morning,' as if daring me to punch her in the face like I so very much wanted to do.

It's about so much more than that 100 bucks, even though I spent all morning mentally spending that 100 dollars on other things.

I am a person who has no rage. Dakota does not get angry. But as I drove to work, I had that feeling you get when you're so unbelievably upset that you want to take a small living creature and rip it in half with your bare hands, just to feel the blood flow, that feeling that attacks you right in the back of the knees, the outrage, the anger, it puddles right there, back of the knees, and there's nothing to be said or done beyond that.

The fact that I had left my diet coke (nay nay, Safeway Select brand Diet Cola) in the house, leaving me caffeine free the entire drive to work (23 minutes!) did not in any way help the mood.

And now I'm at full blown Jihad with Parking Enforcement. A simple, nicely articulated, 'There's nothing I can do, I'm sorry' and things would be different. But instead I spent the day fantasizing about doing things like 'accidentally' running over her legs and then stepping out of the car and slashing open her face with the razorblade that I was considering purchasing to keep in the car for just such a purpose should I ever run across her again.

And then I realized that such outflowing of anger, even if only mental, can't possibly be healthy, so I instead resorted to mulling over all the things I WISH I had shouted at her (despite the warning on the ticket that 'All assaults against parking personnel are fully prosecuted'), horrible things, 'I hope you get raped in front of your parents,' and 'I wish I could be there to see you get set on fire,' and even your basic simple 'You must hate your life, you horrible fucking whore.'

And then deciding that even that much rage was too much rage, decided to go exercise, work out some angst, and so I biked, post-work, Dupont, to the Key Bridge, to Reagan, to Old Town Alexandria, and back, and now even though I'm crippled and can't really feel my legs (which are to Dakota as heel was to Achilles; they contain a shocking amount of fat for a little guy like me), I nonetheles feel aglow with health, and am very much looking forward to the arrival of my new book from Amazon, on long distance biking in the DC area, huzzah.

Dakota non grata is back on the air. To all of you, the best of days.

Posted by Dakota on 7:08 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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