Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cafe Alt Wien

Here in Vienna my hang out of choice has been Cafe Alt Wien. It is pretty central, but manages to be off the beaten tourist path while still having a strong student following. It is probably the place where I have felt most comfortable here in Vienna. Anyway here are a few pictures.

Me and Özlem

I drink.

Özlem drinks.

I explain my (somewhat intoxicated) treatise on the nature of man.

Özlem clearly thinks I am not spouting BS.

Reiko arrives and studious work begins.

Özlem and Reiko don't agree.

And this picture clearly explains the end of our story. Clearly. It's like a choose your own adventure except the page you chose is blank. That or we killed Özlem and bow in honor of a job well done.

Friday, June 29, 2007


As of Wednesday I have been completely done with school work. It was not easy (on Wednesday alone I had three exams), but it is finally over as is my year here in Vienna. I'd like to say I did well on everything, but I didn't so at this point I mainly celebrating the completion(also important). In previous entries I have listed my complaints about the Euoprean education system (little room for creativity, all emphasis on memorization and little to none on analysis), and in many ways this year has been how the two of us just don't really get along. Nonetheless, I was really touched in my Russian composition class when the professor told me how impressed she was with my style and how with every sentence she could tell I was trying to say something. To me, it seemed like validation of the priorities of the educational system I come from.

Now we are on to the end of the year parties. There is a trip to an Austrian wine pub tonight (heuriger) and tomorrow there is the big end of the year party where students, faculty, and alumni will mix. It all promises to be pretty nice. For me, though, it amusing how there is much more of an emphasis on networking here. They sent out an e-mail of all the alumni who are coming and their jobs specifically for the graduating students to be able to make connections with those people. I know it is nice, but for me it is still weird. Maybe it is because I don't have much in the way of concrete career goals, but I just wouldn't walk about a random person who had a job might want to have one explicitly for the purpose of making connections. I might do it if it were something I was really interested in and wanted to know if the person liked the job, but me that is different. Oh well, let the networking begin.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Snow Globe

My friend Hannah and I went to the Vienna Snow Globe Museum. They claim to have made the first snow globe in 1900, and after being alerted to the places existence it seemed worth checking out. The snow globes were very nice (there is also a 'museum,' but we weren't too interested). Their snow globes were just sort of different, they were well made, but not too expensive. Mind you there were a lot of really corny ones (like Hoki Poki, the advent sorceror, above), but a lot of them were cool because they showed different scenes from Austrian life and bits of the country we had seen. Oh yeah, and the place seemed to be run by recovering drug addicts. Not trying to be mean, just how they seemed.

Interestingly, though this place claims to be the first one to make a snow globe, the wikipedia entry for 'snow globe' makes no mention of it. The entry marks France as the birth place of the snow globe, though not mentioning a specific person or place. The German entry does mention does mention the shop we went to, but as the first place to get a patent for a snow globe, not as the first place to make one. Oh snow globe politics [insert metaphor about their fighting somehow being like when you shake up a snow globe and all the snow goes crazy]. Yes.

Governors Island

Governors Island has pretty much always amazed me. First there is the name, which I think is great, and which refers to the time when it was the exclusive property of the British governor of New York. Then there is just the fact that you have this 172 acre plot of land so close to one of the the most space cramped part of the Unites States and next to nothing has been done with it (they uses it as a dump for a while). The place just clearly has a lot of potential, the view alone says that.

Over the years the island has changed hands quite a bit being given by the army to New York State, from New York State to the Department of the Interior, and from the Department of the Interior to the National Park Service. The fact that is belonged to the military saved it from the clutches of Robert Moses and now they are getting ready to develop the property (as a park and leaving the historical buildings on the north face of the island in tact). Anyway here are my favorite and least favorite plans for Governors Island (there are five proposals in total and you can see them all here):

"The Mollusk" - Involves flooding big chunks of the island with more chunks being flooded at high tide. It is supposed "evoke the mollusks that once encrusted the island's shores." Yes so they don't say flooding, they say 'tidal pools,' but either way I think it is stupid. First I don't think anyone will get/care that they are trying to make the island look like a mollusk and I don't think most people are too interested in the island's mollusk past. Also, it just seems a waste to flood good land, not to mention the tidal pools would be big mosquito breeding grounds in summer (not fun). They did want to put in thermal pools though (for people) a la Iceland facing the Statue of Liberty, though, that was pretty cool.

"The Island" - This plan involves creating a big meadow, a working farm, a beach, and a ravine within the island that you can kayak around in (with fantastic views). This one just works for me better, it seems to make better use of space while differentiating the areas and providing a lot of variety of nature in one of the most urban areas of the world. This endorsement may be the kiss of death for the proposal.

Anyway, look at the link for the full plans, the images are pretty cool (would have posted them there, but sadly they are not swipeable).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prince Philip, My Hero

Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, has a habit of saying offensive things at public events (usually about the ethnic group/nationality the event is for). Eddie Izzard said that he has habit saying things like [insert stodgy British accent] "you are all a bunch of bastard." An itemized list stolen from wikipedia is actually quite a bit of (offensive) fun:
  • Speaking to a driving instructor in Scotland, he asked: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?"
  • When visiting China in 1986, he told a group of British students, "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed".
  • After accepting a gift from a Kenyan citizen he replied, "You are a woman, aren't you?"
  • "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." (1986)
  • In 1966 he remarked that "British women can't cook."
  • To a British student in Papua New Guinea: "You managed not to get eaten then?"
  • Angering local residents in Lockerbie when on a visit to the town in 1993, the Prince said to a man who lived in a road where eleven people had been killed by wreckage from the Pan Am jumbo jet: "People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still trying to dry out Windsor Castle."
  • On a visit to the new National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, he told a group of deaf children standing next to a Jamaican steel drum band, "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf."
  • He asked an Indigenous Australian, "Still throwing spears?" (2002)
  • Said to a Briton in Budapest, Hungary, "You can't have been here that long – you haven't got a pot belly." (1993)
  • Seeing a shoddily installed fuse box in a high-tech Edinburgh factory, HRH remarked that it looked "like it was put in by an Indian".
  • During a Royal visit to China in 1986 he described Beijing as "ghastly".
  • "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?" (in 1994, to an islander in the Cayman Islands)
  • At the height of the recession in 1981 he said: "Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed."
  • Upon presenting a Duke of Edinburgh Award to a student, when informed that the young man was going to help out in Romania for six months, he asked if the student was going to help the Romanian orphans; upon being informed he was not, it was claimed the 85-year-old duke added: "Ah good, there's so many over there you feel they breed them just to put in orphanages."
  • At the University of Salford, he told a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut: "You could do with losing a bit of weight."
  • In 1997, the Duke of Edinburgh, participating in an already controversial British visit to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (Amritsar Massacre) Monument, provoked outrage in India and in the UK with an offhand comment. Having observed a plaque claiming 2,000 casualties, Prince Philip observed, "That's not right. The number is less."
  • During a Royal visit to a Tamil Hindu temple in London , he asked a Hindu priest if he was related to the terrorist Tamil Tigers.
  • He once attributed a badly finished carpentry job to one having been done by an Indian.
  • In 1988 he said that "In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation."
  • In 1996 he drew sharp criticism when he said a gun was no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman. The comment came in the wake of the massacre of 16 children and their teacher by a gun-toting psychopath in Dunblane, Scotland.
At this point I think he must be trying, planing his next offensive remark. Oh yes, but to top it all of, he is worshipped as a god in the South Pacific.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Feeling a bit duncish today.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mr and Mrs

So in my post-war European history class the professor talks about 'Mrs. T' a lot, I being an educated individual first think of the wife of Mr. T. You know similar sass, maybe similar hair, somewhat more female. He means Margaret Thatcher. I rather like the though of them being married. They are both forceful in their own way, and just think of the children.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

So on this ad there was some graffiti.

Here is a close up:

It translates as: Why do you only see women with perfect asses everywhere? 99% of real women have cellulite. I do too.

I though it was pretty cool sort of social/gender activist graffiti is pretty cool (it is true though, there are a lot more asses, female, in Austrian ads and they are all pretty much perfect).

What was awesome too was that there was response graffiti below it. I don't have a good picture of it and don't quite remember what it said, but it was cool to have a sort of deep conversation going on a pretty superficial advert.

Belarusian Embassy

Also, I have wanted to share this for a while:

This (the Belarusian embassy here in Vienna) is next to this:

A montessori school.

Am I the only one who finds it amusing that the last 'dictaitorship in Euopre's' embassy is right next to the kinder gentler sort of preschool? Do they balance each other out?

Time a tickin

So I have been posting so much lately is has been amazing (also a warning, blogspot is stuck in German mode again so there is no spell check so spelling should be 'interesting,' and by that I mean 'creative,' and by that I mean crap).

I have, however, had many things I have wanted to blog about. Here is a short list:

1. Cambridge - how I really liked it, but probably still wouldn't study there.

2. England - my relationship with five years on.

3. Governor's Island - the development plans of this huge piece of New York real estate and how most of them are pretty crappy if not just very weird. One I really liked.

4. There was a big storm here - how everyone complained about it and I wasn't really phased as it was the only big storm the whole year and trees falling down due to storms I recall happening fairly often where I have lived in the states.

5. German exam - how there was a giant kids event opposite where we were taking the test and how their screams of joy while I was stuck in a dark room writing a business letter for a coffee company made me die a little inside.

6. Plane tickets to Ukraine - my having of them! I am going t Kiev in under two weeks.

7. A forward looking update of 'those who left us this year' - present hopefuls include Mugabe, Castro, and Kim Jong-Il (well come one he doesn't look that healthy does he?).

Some of these may still happen, though if you actually want one you should let me know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Oxford is very pretty. Especially the older part of town (where the bus took me) is strikingly more historical than both American architecture or the architecture America chose to copy. After first arriving I was sort of sad that I have yet to have the opportunity to study at Oxford (I thought about applying, not that that meant I would have gotten in, when I was in boarding school in England; I also could have gone there instead of Berlin and Kazakhstan for my year abroad). At Oxford I would say there is a real sense of tradition and through the colleges I would say a greater sense of community and belonging than say at Columbia, though it is not grand in the way Columbia (or many other American universities) are.

What did strike me after walking around, however, was: 1. Oxford is really rather small 2. it very quickly becomes like an American small town or suburb (though to my knowledge Oxford, unlike Cambridge, does not have a Chilis). Of course, Oxford does have great bus service to London (cheap and very regular) so it does have access to a big city . Still as I have learned I am a fairly urban-oriented person I realized that Oxford would not have been the place for me to be (not to mention in the British educational system in general is is harder to do all the random things I like to do, i.e. the mixture of German, Russian, politics, and history I did at Columbia would not have been possible).

More than anything else, Oxford struck me as a being a great back-drop for life, be that studies or working.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Weekend Break

Over the Weekend I was in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. I'll have more on that later, for now here are some of my favorite pictures.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Improv Team Names

Once in a while I come a across a word awesome enough to be a name of an improv team. Today I stumbled upon one of those: Polydactyl. Give it a second to set in. Let it just roll off your tongue. Poly-dactyl. Now if you don't know Latin or whatever it is from, as I most clearly do not, the first association is a pterodactyl combined with poly (many), so like many pterodactyls. Could it get much cooler? Than a storm of pterodactyls soaring past you? I think not. Not to mention it is actually the medical term for a cat with too many toes.

In case you are curious, the full story is here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Good Weekend

So I am not sure if I can pull of a green bee header for my post (sooo not girly at all), but it was the best image I found after doing a google image search for "weekend" after having been disappointed by what came up with "Weekend Update" (really you would expect better images).

I had a good weekend.

Okay it wasn't perfect, but for me it is really important that I have time to hang out with lots of different people, have meaningful conversations, and also good of a bit. All of this achieved.

Well come to think about it the weekend basically started for me on Thursday. Late Friday afternoon I went to hang out with a Turkish friend of mine of the Franz Josef Kai and met a really good Turkish friend (Özlem) of hers from Ankara (don't ask, it is a complicated story though interesting). The set up is pretty funny as the water in the canal is pretty dirty and the scenery is pretty urban, but there are drink bars, sand, and lounge chairs, so it is all pretty good fun. Good conversations (anti-Americanism, the Austro-Hungarian relationship, and the joys of Ankara).

After that I headed over with Özlem to a cool Israeli falafel/pita place where we by chance met a friend of hers from the university (Dima). Dima was very cool. A Moldovan Jew whose family came to Austria when he was still quite young he has dived full force into his various identities (Jew, Russian, Moldovan, Austria), and speaks an astounding number of languages. Anyway, he knew a film I had seen in my Russian class called Passport (about a Georgian guy accompanying his Jewish brother to the airport to wish him well in Israel, who ends up going to Israel in his place) so we all spoke about that for a while. He also told me a bit about the owner of the restaurant who is an Azeri Jew who went to Israel for a while before coming to Austria (and who also speaks a ridiculous number of languages). Anyway, that was Thursday. Really very pleasant.

Friday night was the end of the semester party at the Orientalistik (yes I know oriental sounds better in English, but it is everything from Turkish and Middle Eastern stuff to East Asians studies so you tell me what to call it in English). That was quite cool. Entry was cheap and came with good amounts of food and booze and there was a great Turkish band and fun dancing ensued. Also a success and so ended Friday night.

On Saturday I had a few drinks with a really cool Kazakh guy. Good conversations. It was cool getting to talk with someone about Kazakhstan again who has a personal connection to the country.

After that it was hang out time with a bunch of the Fulbrighters. There was falafel and much chatter. A bunch of them are leaving next week so it was a but of a goodbye thing though many of them unlike me will be staying next year. So yes we chatted, and then headed over to the Museumsquartier where they have big comfy block things you can lay on. Well we finally snagged one of those and hung out there and that was pretty much the night.

A nice mixture of different people with lively conversation, really can't complain.

Also if anyone is out there is reading this these days feel free to leave a comment it will ease my quasi-worries.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hip Agony

I have a trip planned to the UK next weekend. The original plan was to stay with my old host parents for a couple days before going up to Cambridge to visit some friends studying up there. My host parents had really wanted to see me so I had planned the trip really to see them, only to see I had the time for a somewhat longer trip and could get two birds with one stone by seeing friends and making it to Cambridge for the first time. So far so good.

Well last Wednesday I got an e-mail from my English host mom telling me that my English host father was going to have to have a hip replacement that weekend and that they wouldn't be able to host me. She phrased it if I could now head up to Cambridge earlier. All fine and well, except I have nowhere to stay at Cambridge until Saturday, and now no place to stay elsewhere in the UK either (does complaining about this make me a horrible person?). Grumble.

So have been more or less scrambling since then. It doesn't help that I suffer from travel anxiety (freaking out a bit if I don't have everything in order). I have been trying to stay with other friends in the greater London area, which makes me feel super awkward as it is sort of late notice and I really don't like imposing. So far no luck. I could stay at a hotel, but I don't know where would be a good place to stay/at the end of my year abroad I am a little short on funds and London is not known for its affordability.

To make thing worse, I haven't heard back from the person I am supposed to be staying with in Cambridge, which under normal circumstances wouldn't be an issue, but with my general state of confusion and travel anxiety is a little worrying.

Sigh. I just don't know if I should cancel the trip and get back some of the money from the flight or bravely push ahead.

[Poster's note: image of hip replacement above = creepy]

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thanks a Whole Hell of a lot Mr. Morgan

In the US when you buy something in a store you generally have two options: cash or credit. More and more you have debit too. Generally, people don't care which one you use. Cash is always accepted.

Now welcome to Austria. Credit cards are rarely accepted (generally off of the hardcore tourist track the credit cards signs disappear damn quick), super markets never accept them (most Austrians find the idea of grocery story accepting credit cards abhorrent), and if you do somehow manage to use a credit card for a smallish purchase the sales people will probably think you are a criminal who stole someone credit card.

So that all bothers me. But to be fair, they do do more with debit cards here. Yet the best ones are really the places that accept neither credit cards, nor debit cards, nor cash. Yes they want direct bank transfers so they never have to deal with the cash, it just means the money magically appears in their account. All fine in well, if it didn't involve you having to go find out how much it cost, then going to the bank filling out the form, and then having to go back to the original place where you needed pay for the thing, show them the bank transfer form and then finally get whatever the hell it was you needed to do all of that for. The fact that opening hours are much shorter than in the US, lunch break are much longer, pretty much nothing is open Saturday, and there are far more random holidays when businesses close down makes all of this a lot of fun.

How could it get any worse? Well when I needed to buy travel insurance for Russian today (less than 20 euros) I was told that they didn't accept credit cards, debit cards, cash, or normal account to account bank transfers, rather you had to to go to the bank give them cash, pay a fee for paying in cash and then they would transfer the money to the business. Apparently that would be faster than a normal bank transfer. You know what would be even faster? Accepting the cash I had with me when I went to your business in the first place.

What kills me here is like to give you only one way of paying for things and then attach a fee. There is often both a credit card fee and a cash fee. But if that is the only payment you offer then that is your fault, and if you really want the money then it isn't an optional fee, it is just the price.

So morale of this story: paying is so much easier in the US! You don't have to carry around loads of cash, if you do they will accepts it, and either way they are unlikely to make you go through a complicated bank transfer system that will penalize you for paying with cash, the most basic form of money. They want you moeny in America and don't make it so difficult for you to give it to them. Glory to the evil capitalist empire!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Les Fatals Picards

I love the Fatals Picards! They are amazing. Yes the played at Eurovision, but they are great and even their song for Eurovision was great ( I posted it here a while back). I think I like them so much because they basically have my randomness, but in French! It gives me hope that I can be expressed in French.

In any case, my love for them has only grown since I got their newest album in the mail. Here is a brief list of things about the album that make me love them:

1. A song about what dictators you would choose to play which positions if you were making a soccer team entirely of dictators (and why). Rightest dictators get to play right to attack. The song then follows this same model then continues with other activitiesm (making a reggae group for example).

2. An audio track with Dart Vader performing various every day activities (basically activities you would have to drill in a French class). Darth Vader goes to the bakery, Darth Vader reserves a torture hall over the phone. Also just the notion of a French Darth Vader greatly amuses me.

Okay it is a short list, but the fun thing is that I don't understand all of it so each time I listen to the songs it is like cracked out listening comprehension as the songs are ridiculous and at first you wonder if that is what they are really saying.

Long lives les Fatals Picards!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Internship That Wasn't

The gentleman above is Rakhat Aliyev, son-in-law of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Aliyev has been quite influential in Kazakhstani politics for quite some time now holding numerous high-profile positions in government, and most recently having been the Kazakhstani ambassador to Austria and the OSCE. He and his wife were particularly noticeable on the Kazakhstani political field as, well, the field is pretty barren and he and his wife not only have major media holdings, but his wife until recently headed a high-profile pro-presidential party Asar (besides being a judge on the Kazakhstani version of American Idol).

Well, last week Aliyev was dismissed from his position as ambassador only to have international warrants for his arrest issued by the Kazakhstani government. You might ask yourself, what they hell happened? Well a few things. Aliyev had had clashes with the president before (tends to happen a bit more often when you want to be president yourself), though the officials grounds for the arrest was the abduction and presumed murder of at least one manager of the Kazakhstani Nurbank. The interesting thing is it seems that everybody already new about that and that Aliyev was responsible, it isn't really new, but back then Aliyev was still under the presidential shield. Family is very important in Kazakhstan.

So what really happened? Well in Kazakhstan they recently passed amendments to the constitutions. Most of it fairly standard stuff, strengthening the legislature a bit t0 appease Western critics and maybe win Kazakhstan the presidency of the OSCE (really symbolic in a country so overwhelmingly dominated by the executive). Well standard, except for one provision exempting the current president from any term limits. It is a but ridiculous as: A. The current president has been running Kazakhstan pretty much since the pre-independence days B. Just started another seven year term last year C. He will be well into his seventies by the the time he would need to be re-elected.

Well, presidential-hopeful Aliyev didn't like that so much and openly criticized the move. Shortly there after he found himself stripped of his post (and by extension his diplomatic immunity), and shortly after that on Kazakhstan's most wanted list before being taken into custody by Austrian authorities. His tv channel was shut down in Kazakhstan was shut down for three months (officially for violating the 50 percent Kazakh language content requirement), and he is applying for asylum status.

In any case, Aliyev was a pretty sleazy character know for his corruption and violence, refereed to in several news sources as one of Central Asia's most despised men (if you would like a counter argument to that you can look at this deligthfully biased wikipedia article, which pretty much credits him with every good thing ever to happen to Kazakhstan). He will probably patch things up again with Nazarbayev, and for the moment it has added quite the bit of excitement to usually controversyless Vienna.

What is interesting, is that I really wanted to do an internship at the Kazakhstani embassy here in Vienna. I like Kazakhstan, you know. It is a small mission and it would have been cool...if I would have been linked to a guy currently accused of murder and on Kazakhstan's black list.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Excerpt from the index of Carl Bernstein's book:

Clinton, Hillary Rodham

aggression and confrontational mode of, 219, 274

aloofness and detachment of, 32, 36, 44, 87, 145

anger, temper and hurt of, 7 32-3, 39, 88, 97 148, 180, 188-9, 280-1, 303, 303, 306, 309-13, 331, 357, 371, 382, 443, 452, 510, 518, 526

bossiness and control of, 27, 32, 76, 84, 90, 266

depression of, 39-40, 393, 408, 413

distractedness and disorientation of, 222, 309, 313

divorce considered by, 6, 26, 76, 553

egregious errors and failures of, 9, 44, 92-3, 95, 143-4, 147, 217, 304, 320, 408-11

entitlement attitude of, 217, 228, 229, 285

grudges of, 161, 224

holier-than-thou attitude of, 308-9

identity problem of, 188-9, 223

introspection lacking in, 44

lying of, 324, 335, 446, 452n, 453, 469

oratorical problems of, 70

tin ear of, 143, 228

unhappiness of, 310-11

I don't think he likes her.

Also, I think I showed good self-restraint with this post, I could have started it off with this pic:

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Die lange Nacht der offenen Kirchen

Ah summer is coming and Vienna is filling with obnoxious tourists. There are pluses and minuses. On the minus side are the obnoxious American girls who just finished their first year of college loudly complaining about their less than stellar grades, and the ever growing packs of Mozart impersonators that prey upon them by getting them to buy over priced concert tickets (come to think of it that might be a plus), but on the plus side there are some cool events going on like the long night of the open churches. Rather like the long night of the museums earlier this year, on the long night of the churches churches are open much later than usual with special concerts and lectures going on and with things like the crypts being open and free of admission. There is also some free food and the whole thing also has a "Seeeeee, church is coooooool, you should come more often. It is sooo always like this, yeah with rock star lighting. Yes." Unlike the US, the proselytizing is pretty harmless, though you do sort of want to take those people out for a drink and get them some friends.

So yes churches. Well I saw a crypt, but they had redone it so there was only one room with bones all over the place. Bit of a let down really. I did, however, finally see the church where the hearts of the different Hapsburg emperors are kept. Yes, the hearts are kept separately from their bodies. I think it would be a great place to take your sweetheart on Valentine's day. The hearts were in a really small room and you had to look through a whole in a thick door to get a look. The urns they were in were pretty small, but there were a lot of them. All together, so sweet.

The other really cool things was at one of the Cathdrel's near me (Karlskirche). I have been there before, but on the inside it isn't that nice right now because they have been renovating and there is scaffolding going all the way up to the top of the dome. Well yesterday they were taking people up in an elevator and letting you stand right under the dome while an art historian lectured about its history. It was pretty cool.