Thursday, March 29, 2007


Doctor: But enough about me, what've you got?

Translator's note: I HAVE THE PLAGUE

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Internet: Making the World a Scarier Smaller Place

So less than twelve hours after putting this picture of the President of Tatarstan (autonomous republic in Russia) up as my facebook profile picture I got a facebook message from a random angry Tatar telling me to take it down. What the hell? He isn't in my network and we don't have any friends in common. Was he combing facebook to see if there are any pictures of random Tatar politicians being misused? Had run a random search seen the picture of the President of Tatarstan, gotten all excited thinking he could be his friend making up for his complete lack of friends in real life and then was crushed when he realized the real President of Tatarstan is not on facebook? Is he maybe just a jerk? Perhaps it was just his love and worship before the copyright alter, we all know how Russia is revered for its strict following of copyright law and how that is not at all the issue keeping them from joining the WTO. Clearly that must have been it. I mean, instead of a picture of himself the guy had a Jackie Chan movie poster for "the Tuxedo" as his profile picture, so clearly he was someone who felt everyone should use actual pictures of themselves, and someone with great taste in films. Jerk. Nobody cared when I did it with Ataturk, you know the founder of modern Turkey on account of whom youtube was shut down in Turkey because some Greeks had put up some videos calling Ataturk a homosexual.

The things is I like the President of Tatarstan. I like Tatarstan. I want to learn Tatar. I wasn't even making fun of the guy. I wanted to wish one of my tatar friends a happy birthday in tatar and though he would appreciate the visage of his president. Okay, so my status for a while was "I don't feel so hot," but I wasn't using it in a sexual sense, the President of Tatarstan is a fine looking man by any measure, but in the sense that I was sick. Come on, the man has a sash, he's awesome! So annoyed.

Maybe if Kazakhstan chills out and Sasha Baron Cohen is bored he should do a film about Tatarstan. They seem to want something to get upset about.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Immigrants, hurrumph

So the dorms here have cleaning ladies that go in your room and clean things (profound, I know). I suppose it is important considering we have showers in our rooms (though not toilets oddly) and I am not so good about cleaning those (read: I don't). None the less, after a few months here I understood why there was a specific provision in the student handbook saying that the school is not responsible for things broken by the cleaning ladies: they break things, kind've a lot of them. Though my personal experience is small compared to others, in a period of two weeks I went from having two drinking glasses in my room to none, also my knife suddenly disappeared (no not into a corpse, I always check when that happens). As I suddenly had no glasses I finally asked the cleaning lady if she knew what had happened (my room is smallish and box like so after several weeks of searching I decided they probably weren't hiding) , she started to freak out and then admitted to having broken one of them and tried to give me a glass she had found somewhere else though. Still don't know what happened to the knife though.

Anyway I was chatting with her today while she was in my room. She was complaining about how when she came to Austria from the Philippines there weren't many immigrants and it was easy to get a visa. That made sense to me, most of Austria was boxed in by the iron curtain/communist Yugoslavia so there wouldn't have been so there wouldn't have been much immigration, legal or otherwise from its neighbors from there. Anyway it was funny to hear her complain how there were too many immigrants now and how things basically weren't as good before in the 80s, partly because the mental image I have of the 80 makes it very hard for everything to better then (mainly leg warmers, snap bracelets, and Richard Simmons), but also because an immigrant complaining about immigrants amused me, though I supposed it is basically the same thing as anyone in the US complaining about immigration. Still though she is right, not about immigrants making things worse here (I have no idea about that), but there are a good amount of immigrants here these days, especially from Slovakia and the former Yugoslavia.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Portrait of a Day

I had to wake up early to let the shy, but toothless window washer into my room. I was not so awake.

I tried to buy a reproduction of an old map of Vienna I liked that had been in a display window. It turned out the store only sold very expensive pipes and they had gotten the map as a gift from a client. They didn't seem to appreciate my attempt to buy it.

A homeless woman selling the homeless magazine here in Vienna waved me on and didn't ask me to buy here paper, as if acknowledging that homeless people and students are pretty much the same thing.

I discovered that not only does Vienna have Christmas markets, it also has Easter markets. Substitute Christmas booze with Easter booze and add real bunnies.

The cleaning lady disappeared with my towels right as I came back from the gym and was ready to shower (i.e. was disgusting).

I found the Russian specialty store here in Vienna. They had the Russian vodka I wanted to buy as a present. The woman at the counter wouldn't speak with me in Russian after I greeted her in German.

I saw an piece of Austrian modern theater with a long monologue read by an Asian woman with a strong accent in an evening gown about eating another woman.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Christmas in March

Rex: Socks?
Santa: And you'll get the antidote for the death virus* next year. Maybe.

*Killervirus is cooler, but I don't think it quite works in English.


I know I learn a lot when I write longer papers. This is a fact. All the same whenever I write a longer paper I reach a point where I not only think that everything I have written is complete and utter crap, but that I swear that if I ever finish the paper I will never write anything ever again. I am at that point now. It happened somewhere between writing about President Kuchma in Ukraine and not caring about what Moroz had done for the Orange Revolution.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hey baby, what's your sign?

So I have never been into the zodiac stuff. Generally when people start going of about it I just decide they are slap-happy hippies and when they try and tell me I do something because of my 'sign' I find it pretty cringtastic. Still in my never ending quest not ot write my paper I found this description of my sign, which actually seems pretty accurate:

Modest and Shy
Meticukous and Reliable
Practical and Diligent
Intelligent and Analytical

On the Dark Side...

Overcritical and Harsh
Fussy and a Worrier
Perfectionist and Conservative

Smoking Kills, it also Sucks

Europeans and their smoking.
I have accepted that having European friends means putting up with smoke.
I have accepted that my clothes will stink and that I will have to wash them.
I have accepted that my hair will stink and I will have to wash it.
I did all of that and I still stunk.
I kept smelling smoke the whole day.
It was my beard that stunk.
I couldn't wash it.
I had to shave it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Moscow Still Calls but...

So I am pretty random, which leads to random Internet searches. Basically I found out that the OSCE offers a masters in Central Asian Politics taught in Bishkek and on full scholarship. The program is mainly meant for Central Asians (though it taught in English), but also allows limited applications from students from other OSCE countries (the US is one of those). They have had 'westerners' in the program. That being said, I don't know how good the program is. It is tiny there are only about 35 students. I am also not sure how the degree bit works either as it doesn't seem to be accredited by a university even though it is approved by the Kyrgyz Ministry of Education. All of the teachers had Central Asian surnames and they didn't' list where they had studied so it was hard to tell how western-oriented the program would be (though it is the OSCE so it really should be). Still seems cool and it would be a way to hand out in Central Asia for another year.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Moscow Calls

So my brother told me I should go to Moscow, I think I am going to listen.

Basically I have found this year that what I have really enjoyed has been Russia/former Soviet Union related and that I have been trying to relate everything to Russia. Also I am currently taking seven Russian classes and teaching my real classes the like the electives that don't count. I can't really say why but Russian is really important to me. By that I mean both the study of the country (and those of the former Soviet Union, whooo Kazakhstan! Happy New Year to all of my Kazakh readers!) and the language. I really want to speak Russian well in a way that is hard to explain, I get into French when I am speaking it, German I often forget isn't English or that English isn't German depending how confused I am (not a good thing), and Kazakh is sort of a novelty. I am not sure if it is an ethnic/heritage thing, in the states people usually consider me Irish because of my reddish hair, but I can't identify with it much and have never had a connection to Ireland or to Irish culture. I am half Italian, but that is something no one believes. I am part Ukrainian and that is something people can see and that I am proud of. I like it when people tell me I look Russian/Slavic and am likewise proud that I actually speak a Slavic language (one of my proudest moment was perhaps when my native Russian Russian speaker was shocked when I told her I didn't speak Russian at home). So maybe that is why I want to speak Russian well. I just feel like if I don't take a year now and really get good at Russian I never will. I just don't know when I would have the opportunity to do something like that again (seems fairly difficult when you are already working).

So I think I will be applying to Middlebury's masters in Russian program (in Moscow). I like Moscow, though I consider myself more of a St. Petersburg person perhaps because of love the old imperial days, but this is the only American degree program in Russia. It would have me writing a 60 page thesis in Russian and working hard for over a year. At the end I think I would either be sick of Russian or have taken things to a whole new level.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Georgia is being a jerk

I am lazy and as such I am not fixing the post bellow which went all whack one me when I posted it. Also I am mad at Georgia. No not the state, though it is in the south so I may be mad at it too, but the country. Mainly because I have been writing about it for three days now and I came to the point where I need to neatly summarize its constitutional changes and I have found three different sources telling me three different things. I don't want to have to go through the Georgian constitution (if I can find it) and figure it out for myself. I feel like whatever I write will end up not being true so I might as well make it up. I would like making up the Georgian constitution. I would rename the capital Atlanta or something, make English with a southern drawl the official language (it would attract call centers!), and forbid people from Georgia from clarifying while abroad that they were not from the state of Georgia [ironic note: I know a Georgian-American exchange program, almost all of the Georgians were sent to Georgia, you guess which one. That is cruel. It is something I would do]. That is all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I think I found my masters

Masters in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies

The Masters Degree in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies involves a taught component (one core and three optional modules) and a final 15,000-word dissertation. It runs over 12 months commencing in September.

There is a pressing need for analysts who combine mastery of analytical tools with in-depth familiarity with the culture of the geographic area of the Middle East and Central Asia. These regions have become central to contemporary security studies in that they are both the location of substantial world oil reserves and of its most intractable conflicts that have been viewed as generating the threat of international terrorism, clash of civilizations and are proposed to be the object of democratization experiments.

The course builds on the University of St. Andrews’ existing and long-standing research expertise in these regions, and will be taught by internationally recognized scholars who already enjoy an institutional history of collaboration. These scholars are primarily located in the School of International Relations and in association with the Institute of Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies (MECACS) which is co-sponsored with the School of History. The training program here will offer opportunities for researchers also to be involved in MECACS and in the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. Additionally, the course offers the possibility of intensive language tuition.

The program will allow students to combine modules from several different disciplines, or to specialize in one area. Examples of possible optional courses include: Central Asia in Global Politics; Nations, States and Nationalism; Conflict in The Middle East; International Relations of the Modern Middle East; Political Economy of the Modern Middle East; Politics & State Formation in the Middle East; The Political Role of Islam in the Contemporary Arab World; The Promised Lands: Great Britain & the Arabs, 1914-23; Egypt:1798-1970: Imperialism and Nationalism in the Middle East; Modern Arabic Literature : Exile and Identity and Special Topics in Modern Middle East Politics.

Students will also be offered the possibility of language tuition either at the University of St. Andrews (Arabic) or at the intensive language summer school at Indiana University with which it has an agreement (for example beginners’Azeri, Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik, Pashto,Uyghur, and Georgian).

In the first two semesters as part of your coursework you are required to take FOUR options, of which ONE is compulsory (IR5501) and the other three optional.

  • IR5501: Compulsory core module (Semester 1)
  • IR5029: Conflict and Peace in Post-Communist Eurasia (Semster 2)
  • IR5502: Global and Transnational Islamism (Semester 2)
  • IR5510: Central Asia in Global Politics (Semester 2)

I don't understand animal rights activists

Animal rights activists want to kill this polar bear cub in the Berlin Zoo. When he was born his mom rejected him and his brother, his brother died but the zoo keepers were able to save him and keep him and incubator. Since then one of the zoo keepers has slept with him every evening to tend to his every need. Apparently that was cruel. Animal rights activists want Knut (the polar bear cub) put down, because they say life in captivity is cruel. Yes the animal rights activists want to kill the adorable animal. No they don't want to give him a snack or a new ball or even do some sort of hippytastic re-enactment of Free Willy, they want to kill the polar bear cub, who looks really happy, because apparently his soul is barren and empty on the inside for living in captivity. You know, I have some sympathy for animal rights activists when they are like "hey drilling holes in animals heads to see the effects of drilling holes in animals heads is not a good science guy idea!" But when the animal rights activists want healthy animal dead I take issue. Sort of afraid they will try and assassinate him as they are clearly crazy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

American Invasion

It is spring break time and young American college students are out and about in the world. Specifically, in Vienna as in more than I am used to. It has just been interesting since two friends from NYC randomly appeared in Vienna on Friday and then one of the other Fulbrighters has a whole groups of friends from Barnard/Columbia visiting. It is weird suddenly having loads of people around who are from my university/high school/home town. It is also amusing to notice how I have sort of assimilated. Granted I still talk like a German when I speak German and by no means an Austrian, but the guys dressed up like Mozart selling concert tickets don't give me a second look, where all the visiting American get pounced on as if they were holding bird feed and were surrounded by pigeons. Also one visiting friend said I had a German way of speaking in English (i.e. not quite right English). The language bit is weird because granted I do with a lot with languages these days, but I also do a lot English, but I really do have trouble remembering a lot of English words. This has been painfully obvious as I have been writing my research paper and I am searching for a word and I play the game of sounds like, nooo, similar though. I think I knew the word once. It is kind of link not having a mother tongue and struggling in every language. So this is a bit of a down beat entry, but as I plot the course for the coming year and consider going to yet another, albeit fascinating country, I just sort of wonder what it will bring.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What will the Future hold?

I really don't know what I will be/should be doing next year and I need your help. Here are some possibilities:

1. Go and teach English in a French public school for a year. Pros: a year when I am being paid to work on my French. Cons: school sucks, I could be stuck in the French equivalent of Hicksville without a car.

2. Try and get a job in finance in New York. Pros: I might actually have money/an apartment and would be back in NYC. Cons: I would kind of be a major sell out. I would also be doing what my dad wants me to.

3. Apply for the UNESCO internship for former Fulbright scholars in Paris. Pros: It is Paris. Cons: I would probably be doing everything in English so my French probably wouldn't improve that much and it is only for six months (sept.-march).

4. Apply to the Middlebury masters in Russian program. Pros: I would get to improve my Russian Cons: I would have to spend the summer in Vermont and the year in Moscow when all my Russia learning-friends would be in St. Petersburg.

5. Apply for the German Parliamentary Internship Program. Pros: I know Berlin pretty well it sounds pretty coo. Cons: It is from March to July, which leaves the question what I would do before and would keep me from being able to do the Middlebury program the next year if I wanted to.

6. Try and get a job as a paralegal. Pros: Russia! Friends should be in St. Petersburg. Cons: I don't know if I could get one.

7. Be a janitor. Pros: I would have at least one pair of clothes and would never have to worry about fogeting my name. Cons: I would be a janitor.

Seriously though, give me some advice, I am kind of at a loss and feel like crawling into a cave for a year.


Skunk Number One: Don't you think the new bath supplement smells wonderful Ulrich?
Dog: Stop calling me 'bath supplement.'
Skunk Number Two: Quiet bath supplement.

Also, I am not girly enough to know the exact translation of 'Badezusatz.'

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Slovenia Time

I really liked Slovenia. In many ways Slovenia is Eastern Europe lite, the train station in Ljubljana is brite and new , there were no masses waiting to over charge you for a cab ride from the moment you got off of your train, and everyone spoke English and was pretty friendly, but those aren't the reasons I liked Slovenia so much. I just think that Slovenia and Slovenians are really intriguing. First of all there is the national history, i.e. being conquered by everyone and pretty much no one letting them use their own language. They were part of the Roman Empire, Venice, Carenthia, Austria-Hungary, and Yugoslavia, but they pretty much all (I don't know about the Roman Empire of Venice so much) tried to assimilate the Slovenes. Ljubljana is probably one of the few placed outside of France to still have a monument to Napoleon, who was the first one to let the Slovenians use Slovene in school. A lot of Slovenian history seems to be an underdog story and I respect that.

I also just find the Slovenian identity extremely interesting. I just found myself wondering what differentiates Slovenians from Italians, Austrians, or Croatians? Not the relgion, they are all catholic, not the landscape (Slovenian is a mixture of Austria's mountains, Croatia beaches and Italy's historic Venetian towns). It seemed to me that what was really Slovenian was the mixture of all of the different cultures. Even going into the Slovenian restaurant in Ljubljana I was struck by how all the typical Slovenian dishes I had been recommended by Slovenian friends were only side dishes, and all of the entrees were standard Austro-Hungarian fare. I don't know how representative it was but is seemed to say a lot about the culture and made me start to think that what was Slovenian was maybe the mixture of all the influences in Slovenia.

Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital, also really impressed me. The historic city center looks pretty much any medium sized Austrians city (Americans read: small), but Ljubljana is much more dynamic. Austrian cities are almost pretty and well kept, but especially the smaller ones lack any sort of a youth culture, to the point where they are nice to visit during the day, but God help you if you are stuck there at night (not true of Vienna to be sure). They are the equivalent of an old person's house, everything is pretty and in order, but the plastic cover sure as hell isn't going to come off the couch. In Ljubljana you got the feeling there were a lot of young people, there was interesting graffiti, and just the feeling that something was going on. It was nice to have the plastic off.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy International Women's Day!

I hope you all gave your Russian teacher flowers today just like I did.
An odd number, unless you are trying to give them a subtle hint that you want them dead.

In other news:
It has been a long week.
As of tomorrow I am Slovenia bound.
Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My very Random Day

I had a very long day. Here are some "highlights":

Discussing in German class how Austrian states are happy to pay women to stay at home with their kids, but don't want to make enough daycare available for them to be able to work.

Having international law where the professor is amazingly good about listening to my question, sounding like he is going to address it and then moving on without any apology, transition, or excuse.

Being the only American in the class who the professor doesn't know by name. He calls the the other two by name. It is always those two by name and then "the other Americans in the class." I am the other Americans. I am not plural.

Listening for a song for the hundredth time on my ipod that sounds like "Buddy Holly" by Weezer.

Russian classes at the university. Having the professor speak extremely slowly, articulate every syllable and then there being students saying they couldn't understand a word she said.

Having an old Austrian women who worked for an airline in the Caucuses insist on peaking to me in English even though we had spoken entirely in German the day before and are both trying to learn Russian.

Introducing myself to random people I have had way too many Russian classes with in the past few days.

Listening to a lecture by a Russian historian hero of mine. Having him sign his book for me. Arranging to meet with him for a coffee.

Russian at the Russian cultural institute. The director for some reason had randomly decided he likes me. Like a lot. Like if he wasn't a married old Russia man I would think he was coming on to me. He used to try and scare me away. Apparently I randomly became interesting at some point.

Watching over an hour long graphic film in Russian about Chechen terrorism. I have no idea why my teacher showed this to us. It lasted the whole class. A lot of people died. I didn't understand a lot of it. She didn't bother to stop the video to explain any of it. I have no idea why we watched it. Apparently she showed another part of it last week, today only about half of the class was there.

Planning a weekend trip with a Fulbright friend (i.e. being completely exhausted and being prepared to go anywhere suggested at any time suggested).

Downloading "Buddy Holly" by Weezer.

Taking a nap.

Updating my blog.

Procrastinating doing the work for French I am way too tired to do.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Zommunists of the World Unite!

I cannot tell you how long I have wanted a Zommunist graphic of my own, not only because I think Zommunism is an awesome political affiliation whose ranks grow larger each year (all those Eastern European communist are getting any younger people), but also because I think the mixed zombie/communist imagery is pretty awesome. So thanks to my good friend Antonella I now not only have an awesome letter, but this awesome Zommunist graphic. All hail Nella!

Thursday, March 01, 2007