Non PC songs…

There’s something refreshing about listening to songs where it’s obvious that they don’t care what the fuck you think of them. The one I’m listening to right now from Wilco is about driving drunk. (You’re going to make me spill my beer if you don’t learn how to steer… I’ve got a court day in June, I’ll be driving soon). Another great one for this sort of thing is Mojo Nixon, he delights in living the rock and roll attitude. Can’t say that I condone what they sing about, but the songs sure are fun…


Down to 207..

Only 8 more pounds to go to reach my goal of under 200. Maybe if I exercised some more (or at all for that matter) I could get there quicker, or go past that. I seem to have far less time than I did before, not exactly sure what I’m doing with it other than working, but exercise and my guitar have fallen down the list of priorities. I guess I shouldn’t fret too much, I feel good and I’m still gradually losing the weight. I think my diet and or tastes have changed considerably over the years. Went to Pizzarea UNO today to use a gift card that I got for Christmas. Nothing on the menu really appealed. Got one of their pizzas anyway and I feel as though I may have put back on 12 pounds in that one sitting. I used to like that stuff a lot, but now I don’t feel too good after eating it. I must be getting old, can’t be that I’m getting healthy right:-)


Spending money..

Got the paycheck with the big holiday money in it today and went on a little shopping spree. Ordered some new clothes, new ties (it really is time to retire some of them), a cologne I’ve wanted to try (it was on sale!), and I will order my train tickets for my trip to NYC tomorrow! All of that and another $1000 towards my trip to the middle east, not too shabby eh? I’ll be working both days of this weekend, I am in constant money mode from here on out… Overtime here I come!


For those of you worrying…

I had a quick discussion with Rick about the possibility of me going to Yemen, he thought I was nuts. I shrugged it off, but here’s a link that should put things into perspective. A few highlights:

“However, violent crimes against foreigners are almost non-existent”

“There have been no major terrorist incidents against Americans in Yemen since the bombing of the USS Cole in October, 2000.”

“Travel is particularly dangerous in the tribal areas north and east of Sana’a, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.”

The site is designed to help American businesses determine what kind of risks their employees face when going to different countries. It turns out that the big problems in Yemen are the same as any other poor country, sketchy emergency response personal, lawlessness in rural areas, etc.

True, there are some areas that tourists shouldn’t go to, but that’s the same with any major city or country. To put things into perspective, one guy that I have been corresponding with said that in the time that he was in Yemen, there were 10 homicides in his hometown and none, zero in Sanna a’. Where is his hometown? Washington DC. Since 1995, there have been 6 killings (as opposed to accidental deaths, can’t find any data on that) of foreign nationals in Yemen. Two of them were Americans in a southern Baptist sponsored hospital. Some lunatic walked in and started shooting. There was some tension between the evangelizing hospital workers and the locals… The other four were European tourists and that happened in a well known trouble zone (around Aden). In contrast, the snipers around DC killed 10 people in 2002 alone and there were over 2 thousand murders in DC from 1994 to 2000. By any reasonable measure, DC is a much more dangerous place to be than Sanna a’. What would the State department’s travel advisory to DC look like?

How have I managed to avoid the amazing violence in DC, simple, I don’t do anything stupid. Everyone knows where the bad places are, and we all avoid them. The same is true in Yemen. Over 370,000 tourists visited Yemen last year. 6 were kidnapped (once again, from a place they shouldn’t have gone to) and there were zero deaths. How would that stack up against tourists visiting America?

Not to sound too defensive here, but the family members I have mentioned this to have been, I think, overly negative and quite frankly a bit on the hysterical side. When I talk with people that have actually gone there, they paint a much different picture. Yemen is not like Syria, Lebanon, or even Saudi Arabia. If you want to see what a “Do not go here” recommendation from the state department looks like, check out their page on Lebanon. Now go to the one on yemen. Notice the difference in figures and the difference in the danger described?

I have not made up my mind on where I will be going, but if I decide that I want to learn a Gulf dialect, I will go to Yemen. The other contenders are learning an Eastern dialect in Morocco or going to Egypt and learning the Egyptian dialect (which is generally thought to have the widest amount of understanding throughout the arab world). I’ll be doing some research into which dialect would give me the best employment opportunities after I get back. In the meantime, don’t worry or fret, I’ve never been one to do stupid things why would I start now?


Some changes for my Egypt trip (and a new perspective on travel safety)

As the pressure was being put on to get my application in to the American University of Cairo, I started to think about the money situation. I would have to spend everything I have saved AND take out a sizable student loan in order to pay for a year there. Granted, it would be one hell of a year, but I decided to do a little more looking and see what else is available. There are several other language schools in Cairo, and they’d offer most of the advantages of the AUC (being in Cairo, learning a common dialect, etc.) but are far less expensive. I then took a closer look at some other places that I had glossed over before. WOW! There are a handful of programs that caught my attention in Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The ones in Yemen have piqued my interest on several levels. First of all, there are some great language schools there. There are 3 or 4 that have excellent reputations (are affiliated with Cornell and other really good schools) and are very very reasonably priced. A big savings comes from the lower cost of living there. Yemen also offers a cultural experience that is less affected by western influences. Both Cairo and Tunis are filled with nightclubs and Europeans. I really do want to know what it is like to live in an Islamist state, with little in common with where I’m coming from. I could almost afford to go for two years there (I could make it happen hook or crook), it’s that much less expensive.

Of course there’s the whole safety thing to worry about. Yemen has the reputation in the western press to be a lawless, wacko country that hates all westerners (and especially Americans). The state department suggests not going there, especially to the port of Aden. I have several relatives urging me not to go there. Here’s the trouble, the people that have gone, or are there right now don’t see what the fuss is about. Yes, it is a conservative Muslim country, and yes, there are parts of it that are dangerous, and not only to Americans. But in general, they seem to feel very safe there (in the capital of Sanna a’ in particular). The incidences of common crimes that we are used to are much less common over there. Muggings, murder, etc. are very unusual both because of the harsh punishments and the justice that rival tribes are likely to dish out…

It got me to thinking about people visiting the US. How many tourists are the victims of crime here in the US? I don’t really know, but my gut feeling is that there’s quite a number of muggings, and perhaps even some of the more serious crimes like carjacking, murder etc. It wouldn’t surprise me if some countries considered the US to be a dangerous place based only on what is seen in trouble spots in certain US cities (including our nation’s capital). In any case, I’m looking into it. I’m not convinced one way or the other yet, but one thing I do know is that I cannot afford what was my first choice, so Tunis, Morocco, and Yemen are all possibilities, I’ll let you know what I come up with..


My weekend..

It was good! Went down to Dad’s place and hung out. Didn’t do anything in particular, watched some football, ate a bunch. The fun came on monday. I had to get a physical and then run up to DC for a hockey game. Apparently I’m fine physically, and the game was fun. Hadn’t been to one in a while. The Caps came out pretty flat and stayed that way through the first period and a half. They turned it on in the last part of the second and most of the third, but it was too late by then. I’ll probably go to at least one more game this season, not sure when though, or with whom.

Tomorrow I order my tickets for NYC. I’ll be spending my birthday up there visiting both of my stepsisters and hopefully seeing some friends from college. It’ll be my first time in the city proper, hope I don’t spend too much money…


Ahh, analog bliss…

Just got in the LAST record cleaning system. It’s a 5 step process, two of which are for the stylus. I’ve got some old LPs my grandmother gave me and this stuff has made a dramatic difference to how they sound. Much less surface noise, and less breakup on loud sections. Overall a much smoother presentation, and that’s really the appeal of the records anyway:-) Anyway, listening to “Calypso in Brass” right now and it’s a lot of fun (Jump in the line, rock your body in time) I’ll clean up another Belefonte album tonight, and then probably go to one of my new albums. Nothing like virgin vinyl…:-)



ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is one of the leading proponents of so called “living wage” legislation. Interestingly enough, they requested an exemption to California’s minimum wage laws back in 1995. What was their rationale?

“According to ACORN, this adverse impact will be manifested in two ways: first, ACORN will be forced to hire fewer workers; second, its workers, if paid the minimum wage, will be less empathetic with ACORN’s low and moderate income constituency and will therefore be less effective advocates.”

Umm, and this doesn’t apply to any other business? Un-frickin-believable that they had the gall to try to get around the very negative consequences that they were responsible for bringing about! This is tantamount to them saying, “Yes, what we campaign for is bad for both businesses and workers, but we wouldn’t have any reason for existing if we told the truth, so help us out…”

Luckily, the court ruled against them. Still, how could anyone take that organization seriously when they attempted to get around the very thing they were trying to accomplish? More details here.


I thought so (metro chief continued)

An article in the post today confirms what I thought, the severance package of the outgoing metro chief is excessive. It doesn’t look like anyone else in a similar position with similar tenure would come close to his benefits. I’m not really all that upset with him really, after all, how many of us would turn down a deal like that? If you think you can get x amount of dollars from your employer, I wish you all the luck in getting it out of them. My real frustration is with the people that thought he was worth that. Too often, the people running companies aren’t real bright. Shouldn’t be too much of a surprise I guess, look at how metro is run, that says lots about it’s directors…