Saturday, June 30, 2007

lulz for the day

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Curse the rules!

This whole "no disks from home in the library computers" thing is really getting on my nerves. I mean seriously kids. How am I supposed to put the posts I've written on my laptop onto my blog when I can't use my flash drive? Stupid neighbors putting a password on their wireless network so I can't borrow it anymore. *sadface*

Actual posts when I've figured out how to successfully flout regulations. 'til then, peace out.

pretending to be a movie critic

...for lack of anything better to do.

Dad and I rented and watched three movies this evening, because we lead exciting lives like that. The first was American Dreamz, which had its amusing moments, I suppose. The thing I noticed though, and I guess this is pretty true of political satire in general, is how very quickly it can become dated. I mean, this movie isn't particularly old (it came out what, last year?), but a lot of it didn't seem all that fresh or funny, because it's all been so very done at this point. Wow, the president's a halfwit, ha ha. Never seen that one before. I really wish I'd seen this film in the theater when it first came around, because I feel like I might've appreciated it a lot more then. (Or maybe not; maybe it wasn't really that funny to begin with, and it's just easier to make excuses about it now. Who knows?)

The second one was Invincible, about the average-Joe bartender guy who goes to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. It was your pretty basic underdog sports flick, except that the end seemed rather sudden; it was happy, yes, but there was no miraculous championship run, ending in one amazing play by the rookie to win it all. It seemed a little darker and somewhat more subtle than your average Disney movie as well; I can't decide if I liked it more or less for that. If you want an all-out, feel-good football flick, Remember the Titans is probably a better bet. Thumbs up on the soundtrack though; you really can't miss with Ted Nugent and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, among others.

And to finish out the night, we watched The Good Shepherd, the one about the CIA, starring Matt Damon and enough other big names that if I'd had internet access, I could've actually kept myself interested for the full 2:47 playing six degrees on IMDB. As it was, I had to actually pay attention to the movie, which made things rather less enjoyable.

Okay, I'll admit, that's probably not fair. I suppose it's just the sort of movie you'd like, if you like that sort of thing. For me, well, not so much. To be completely honest, I actually missed the first twenty minutes or so. I was busy making a tortilla pizza. It was delicious. As for the movie, well, it's got a bunch of spies and mystery and intrigue and the like, and a lot of people telling other people not to trust people. And it's got a lot of Matt Damon, sitting around, standing around, sometimes walking or riding in a car, wearing old-fashioned glasses and not talking much. It takes subtlety past a science or an art and into the realm of the vaguely absurd, and it drags the viewer along by the ankle, keeping the plot just close enough to sensible to make you think that if you watch five minutes more, maybe you'll actually understand it. A successful movie, IMO, makes you feel something: triumphant, despairing, uplifted, intrigued, inspired, unsettled. This one left me with a feeling of vague confusion and mild glumness; it seemed way too detached to make a strong impression, and for a close-to-three-hour-long movie, that's not much of an achievement.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Heritage Days

I must say, there really is nothing in the world quite like a street fair. Technically, it ought to be a horrible experience. I mean, if you stop and think about it, there's no way you're going to enjoy yourself. For one thing, the prices are outrageous. For what you pay to get a fair number of tickets, you could almost go to a themepark for an entire day and ride more and better rides, and the "unlimited pass" armbands aren't all that much better. And have you seen some of the people that hang out at street fairs? That safety bar you're clutching for dear life has had who-knows-how-many other people holding on to it, with who-knows-what on their hands. You're eating deep-fried snacks sold by questionable-looking characters from dingy little trailers parked along the street with hoses running from the back into the sewer grate under the curb. You're whirling around at 30 mph, 50 feet up in the air, on a piece of equipment that's been taken apart, driven around, and reassembled countless times by people who often have a questionable-at-best mastery of English, and sometimes seem like they may well have flunked out of the third grade. And we do this for fun?

...Well, yes. At least, I do. I suppose I can't speak for you. But really, it's a grand experience, if you want look at it that way.

You can sit on a bench and in ten minutes you'll have seen a fascinating array of people walk by. There are parents shepherding herds of small children from one place to the next, the adults in various stages of mental breakdown, the children thrilled or overwhelmed or upset they haven't gotten to go on their ride of choice. There's the shirtless guy with a mullet, cigarette dangling from his lips and beer sloshing occasionally from the can in his hand, yelling friendly obscenities at one of his buddies he's just spotted down the street. There's the old couple strolling nostalgically past the game booth, smiling as they head for the car show on the next block. There's a knot of 13-, 14-, and 15-year old kids, girls with tight shirts and makeup piled on thick, boys with baggy jeans and ball caps turned sideways, all engaged in an unspoken contest to see who can be the hottest, the toughest, the coolest, and who can say "fuck" the most times in a sentence while they have the advantage of being away from their parents. If nothing else, it's a fascinating study in bahavior.

And then there's the smells. Above all, you've got food: the hot, salty smell of pretzels and fries, the tang of onion rings, the warm, slippery butter scent of popcorn. There's the sugary blanket of cotton candy, elephant ears, and ice cream, and there's the unmistakable aroma of hot, greasy pizza. Underneath those are innumerable slight undertones: the odor of too many people, of sweat and unwashed bodies; the sour atmosphere around a garbage can where somebody had one too many sodas before going on the scrambler; the clouds of cigarette smoke or the slight whiff of marijuana if you get to close to the guy running the spaceship ride. They all whirl and blend together into one fantastic concoction that's never the same twice, but is always unmistakable as the smell of a street fair.

I don't really have much more to say on the subject. I've probably bored you already (all like, two of you that might actually read this). But I just had quite a lovely day, and I felt like emphasizing the glory that is a street fair. The lights, the music, the deliciously gaudy displays and utter lack of class—it's irreplaceable. I can't wait 'til next year.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'll spare you the pun.

So, I know we're all tired by now of hearing about the guy who's suing the dry cleaners about the lost pants. Ridiculous, yes? The comparisons between him and the hot-coffee lady have been drawn, the American civil law system has been derogated and defended, and the pants man has been confused with Marion Barry (?!). Digression aside, I probably wouldn't bother to comment on it, except for one thing that kind of bothers me: I heard about it on the Australian news.

Now, I was only in Australia for ten days, and during those ten days, I think I might've watched a grand total of four hours of TV, one of them being an episode of SVU (shut up, okay? The obsession must be fed). Point is, I didn't watch a lot of news, so I can't say I have a great handle on the Australian news perspective. But I did see some (mostly because my roommate seemed to love obsessively watching the weather feed across the bottom of the screen), and I remember hearing exactly two things about the U.S., one being a brief mention of the alleged theft of George W's watch, and the other being a brief mention of the pants suit. (God, the puns really are unavoidable, aren't they?)

Assuming that this is a reasonably well-spread sampling of the Australian media (and as I said, that could be assuming a lot, but for the sake of argument, let's say it's not), what must they think of us? And this is Australia—as countries go, the U.S. is less of an anathema there than in many other places. *sigh* I really do hate the bubble that so often seems to surround this country. I need to surf foreign news sites more often.

(For anyone interested, it seems that there is at least some semblance of justice left in the world. Not much, but some.)

On a completely unrelated note, one of my lifelong dreams has been shattered: I will never be a contestant on The Price is Right as hosted by the inimitable Bob Barker. His final episode aired June 15, and I (being out of the country) couldn't even watch it. So I am left to console myself with various highlights on YouTube.

And finally, I would like to note that jetlag really, really sucks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Well, after what has probably been the single longest day of my life, I finally find myself in my own bedroom once more. It has been, as they say, a trip. Honestly, coming home wasn't that bad, for it being such a long day (3 AM Sydney time to 3 AM Indiana time: 38 hours in all). Qantas is an awesome airline, and they officially have the best in-flight entertainment in the world. Not only do they have movies, they have a huge selection of movies, on-demand (meaning you can start, stop, pause, rewind, etc.). Over the whole trip there and back, I ended up watching Pan's Labrynth, Borat, The Pursuit of Happyness, Freedom Writers, Words and Music, and The Blues Brothers. (Think how much money I've saved on movie rentals now!) And this is all not to mention the on-demand TV selections, video games, music library, and a dozen radio stations. I brought five books and my mp3 player, but honestly, I could've gotten away with nothing and not been bored on the long flights. Amazing.

Today was also a day of trying new things. I used the airplane bathroom (not once but twice), and did not freak out, as I am often wont to do in tiny bathrooms.I also slept—real, full-on, loss-of-consciousness sleep—for close to two hours straight on the flight from Dallas to Indy. I don't know if this will be a repeatable experience, as it only happened because I was utterly exhausted by that point and I somehow managed to be the only person in my row and so could lay down across three seats. Either way, it was certainly nice. (Of course, it also ruined my plan of wearing myself out and going to bed right when I got home so I could get up in the morning—I'm now completely wide awake.)

They managed to have a "special" (read: vegetarian) meal for me at every in-flight meal except for dinner, which was ironically the only one that actually included meat in the regular meal, so I got to pick around the chicken for that. I felt kind of bad for the flight attendant, because he was all flustered and apologizing, and I told him it obviously wasn't his fault and it was no big deal, but he still felt bad, you could tell. So then he went off and found a plate of vegetables somewhere and heated it up for me. It was spinach and mushrooms and something else in the middle, kind of mushy and gross, to be quite honest, but the guy was obviously trying really hard, so I thanked him profusely and ate most of it anyway.

And, wonder of wonders, I made my connection in Dallas! I know, I could hardly believe it either. This does not entirely disperse my utter loathing of that airport, but it does mitigate it somewhat. That and the fact that I now have a new airport (LAX) to completely loathe. Seriously, what were those people smoking when they built that place?

Anyway, I'm off to go stare at the ceiling now and pretend I'm sleeping, so that I can lie to myself tomorrow and pretend that I'm not tired. God love jetlag.

Friday, June 15, 2007

fin!

Just finished up with our final summit simulation, and I must say, it's a rather nice feeling. No more editing proposals, no more networking, no more griping about drunken members of the summit team not showing up...it's pleasant.

The simulation itself was fairly unremarkable, and pretty typical of these mock summits, I expect. My group's proposal passed uneventfully (environment); some others passed, some others failed. The public health group's proposal was passed unanimously, and the science and tech one also passed, despite apparently lukewarm support during the debate (I expect this was due to a number of vote trading deals; that's why we supported them anyway). So, yeah. It was mildly interesting, if you're into that sort of thing, but I'm definitely glad it's done.

Of course, this also means we are nearing the end of our stay, and though I have been enjoying myself to a good extent (despite my frequent griping), I am definitely ready to go home. The thing about these trips is, half the fun is getting back and telling people about them. And I must say, even though the schedule beats the hell out of the one we had for NYLC, it's still quite full. I'm ready to get home and relax, and work on some things I want to do for me (like getting this damn blog up to date). So, wish me luck on my ridiculously long flights tomorrow, and I should be stateside in short order.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

bleh...

I've been getting headaches on this trip, and I don't know why. I don't often get headaches, but when I do they're usually pretty much unbearable. These haven't been *so* bad, which is nice, but they're still highly unpleasant, and what makes it worse is the fact that I can't figure out what's causing them. I thought at first I was just getting dehydrated, but the last few days I've been purposely drinking extra water, even to the point where I have to pee more often than usual, and it doesn't seem to be helping. So then I thought perhaps it was sleep deprivation, but really, that can't be it, because I've actually been getting plenty of sleep. It's not too much time in the sun, because there hasn't been that much sun, nor any even remotely warm weather until today. My diet hasn't changed, except for perhaps a slight increase in starch (these Aussies like their potatoes, apparently), and I haven't been exerting myself any more than usual. So really, I can think of no reasonable physical explanation for these mysterious headaches.

The only thing I can think is that perhaps it's the seemingly constant contact with so many people, especially people that I don't really know all that well. I mean, I get that at school too, I guess, but I have good friends there, and I can usually find someplace to go be alone when I need to chill. So maybe I'm just getting temporarily burnt out on leadership. Pfft. Not really surprising.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

adventures in Australian cuisine

I had spaghetti for breakfast this morning. That in itself would be interesting enough, but the funniest part was, the flavor was exactly that of Spaghetti-Os. Seriously. Straight out of the can. I was really surprised the pasta wasn't in rings. (This isn't to say it wasn't delicious, of course; I'm honestly a huge closet fan of Spaghetti-Os, no matter how much they violate every law of what is good and healthy in the world. I just never really thought of them—or anything that tasted exactly like them—as a breakfast food.)

This has been only my latest adventure in what I am discovering to be Australian cuisine. I'm finding that it's a lot like American cuisine, in that it's hard to say exactly what constitutes a "typical Australian" dish; basically, it ends up being everything that's not explicitly "ethnic" food. It doesn't seem to be inherently bad, but I have to admit, what I'm finding so far has often been rather less than inspiring.

My theory is that the basic Australian palate is closely related to that of the British (makes sense, no?). This accounts for the prevalence of the term "chips" in referring to fried bits of potato, as well as such interesting concepts as baked beans as a breakfast food, and the horror that is Vegemite. (Seriously, how do they eat that stuff?)

However, there is significant Asian influence as well, undoubtedly due to the large immigrant population. This means that for every egg and mayonaise sandwich you have to choke down, there's a Thai restaurant somewhere nearby waiting to serve you rice and yellow curry to make up for it. So it all works out in the end.

Friday, June 8, 2007

the introvert speaks

If I ever tell you I've decided to go into politics, please, for the love of all things holy and good, shoot me on the spot.

Seriously though, we got to practice our "networking skills" today. There are not words to describe my utter loathing of this practice. I mean, it's one thing to go to some big gathering and go around meeting a bunch of new people, striking up some *hopefully* interesting and memorable conversations, and coming away with a few new contacts with whom you've got something in common and with whom you might want to work on something someday. There are numerous things I'd rather do, but to my understanding, this is ideally what networking should be. In its less refined forms, what you often get is people walking around, being smarmy and kissing up to gain a well-connected contact or a powerful ally. Even this I can understand, repulsive as it seems to my own personality. However, shoving your way through a crowd and yelling to each passing person about his or her preferences in sleepwear does not prepare you for either of these things, and serves no purpose except to give you a headache. Seriously, that was our exercise: go up to as many people as you possibly can in the next five minutes, and find out their names and what they wear to bed. This does nothing, except perhaps teach you how to shout, which is generally a skill one already has from early childhood.

Ridiculous exercises aside though, I find it interesting how much I really don't feel like I fit in with most of the people here. I mean, so many of them are those kids you know in school who are president of Circle K and leader of their Greek organization and all the rest; lots of business and poli-sci majors, lots of kids from big universities, lots of outgoing, type-A personalities.

I'm not a leader. I'm an observer. Sometimes, yes, I am even shy. (Okay, a lot of times.) Many times it's not even that though; I simply see no point in talking to someone unless I genuinely have something to say to that person. Call me lazy, but I long ago stopped expecting to be one of the ones to jump right in and make friends. It didn't happen in summer camp in third grade, and it's not happening now. The difference, of course, is that it really bothered me at summer camp. I was the only one who didn't have any friends, and I was pretty sure the others were all making fun of me behind my back. Now, I know that the fact is, they just don't notice me at all. Some people would be upset by this, but I actually encourage it. It makes life so much easier for me. I don't have to put up with awkward conversation about a topic in which I have no interest just for the sake of talking to someone; I'm instead quite content to stand off to the side and watch everyone else.

Granted, I'm pretty much guaranteed not to make a lot of close friends that way, but let's be real guys, we're only here for ten days. I highly doubt that I'm going to meet my new best friend and become bosom chums before it's time to go home, and after that point, we're not going to be anything more than perhaps Facebook friends anyway. I don't want to go out partying with everybody at night, and it's easy enough to latch on to a group for those "lunch on own arrangements" days, so what do I need a group of "OMG BFFS!" for?

It is interesting to talk to new people, to meet people from different backgrounds and hear what they have to say about various issues and life in general. That doesn't necessarily mean I have to have to be best friends with every one of them. I have no desire to keep in contact with most of the people here after I go home. Honestly, this whole thing so often makes me want to quote a crass t-shirt and say, "Fuck you! I have enough friends." Friendships require constant care and work, and I like to cultivate them fully; I'd really rather have five good friends than a hundred different Facebook friends I've only met once or twice. If I'm going to put the effort into a long-distance, online friendship, I'd much rather it be with somebody I already care about and with whom I have a little more than ten days' history.

Anyway, back to the leadership stuff: I know all the self-help books and motivational speakers and all the rest stress the importance of being a leader, but c'mon kids, we can't all be leaders. Remember the saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? I'm not a blind sheep or anything, but I really have no desire to be a "leader." There are other ways of helping people.

I really would like to change the world, but I have absolutely no desire to go into business or politics. I'd much rather write a life-changing book or something like that. And yes, I realize I will have to go out and interact with people in the "real world" at some point, and yes, even do some lobbying and networking, but I can do that already. I know how. It's not even all that difficult. I just have to have time to recharge after big crowd experiences like that, and it's not something I enjoy in the least, nor does it get easier with practice. On the contrary, the more I have to go out and conduct myself in large groups of people, the more loathsome it becomes, so I'd really like to keep my exposure to a minimum as much as possible.

I'm rambling. I'll stop now.

Monday, June 4, 2007

the amazing exploding laptop

Thankfully, it wasn't mine.

So I'm getting on into my fifth hour of sitting here in LAX on the 9-hour layover from hell, and after some stupid lady trips over my laptop cord and gripes at me for not sitting on the floor next to the outlet (!), I decide to give it a rest, so I head on down the hall to the Burger King and procure some grub. I do so in the form of a most delicious veggie burger and some decidedly soggy fries, and start heading back down the hall to good ol' Gate 41. Halfway there, I detect an acrid smell, and the air around me becomes very hazy. Weaving my way through the gathering crowd, I piece together what has happened: some guy's laptop overheated, exploded, and then caught fire. There were a bunch of TSA people milling around, and the requisite gawking travelers, and even some actual firefighters. It was—well, it was something. Broke the boredom, anyway.

I don't know for sure if it was related or not, but about ten minutes after the fact, there was an unidentified beeping noise that lasted for maybe a minute or so. I don't know whether or not it was a fire alarm, but if it was, I just have to say, well done, LAX. Well done.

Please note, if this post sounds angry and cynical, it isn't. I'm quite amused by the whole thing, and really am enjoying my ridiculously long day of travel, even if my legs do keep falling asleep.)

I'm headed for the land down under!

Yes, that land down under. It's for GYLS, and I'll be there for 10 days, give or take some international dateline crossing. It's going to be amazing. If I have internet access there, I might post about it. At any rate, catch ya in a fortnight.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Placeholder

I promise I'm not dead. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

I've got a bunch of half-written things that I need to post, that I WILL post, and backdate accordingly, but not now, because I have to get up in the morning, and not this week, because I'm leaving Monday for ten days in Australia. After that though, I promise I will get things back on track around here.

Has anybody actually even found this blog yet? I kind of doubt it, because I've only posted one link to it. Well anyway, I'll be back, I promise.