20 December 2005

First (of many to come I'm sure) Party in Camden

Me and Hunter (the first person I met in London!)
A Brit Practicing Being a Cowboy
(already a donut - ha!)
My Super-hero Friends
Lindsay and Shawn - Fast Friends
(would you have known they just met a few hours before?)
Lindsay, Mark and Mara - Chillin Late-Night at the Post-Party

A Little (or a lot of) DCFC In My Life

So most of those who know my music tastes - or hang out with me for a few hours and I am near my laptop - know that I love Death Cab for Cutie. So... what felt like a late last night (still getting over jet lag... I got up at 6:30am today! not a usual day for me)... I indulged myself and bought two tix to go see them in London in March.

See... when I was a sophomore at university a friend offered me tickets but I couldn't go because I had Feminism 101 midterm to study for... what was I thinking?!

Then this summer Amanda and I tried desperately to get tickets to their show in NYC even though I had a volunteer night (don't tell Mike - or Chris either... who I would have had to BEG to cover for me!) Alas it didn't work out and I've tried to get tix but it always seems that I am moving away from whatever city I was living in right as they were coming...

Anyway... so I'm super stoked and am not quite sure who I should offer the other ticket too. I would like to see some more comments on here - or perhaps even a guest blogger or two - so... I thought I might offer this other ticket up as a prize or something... though I guess you either have to live in London (or the surrounding area) or pull some transatlantacism (brownie pts to whoever got that!) and get yourself over to Londres....

Anyway - just putting it out there!

Check out Plans... a fabulous new addition to their collection at www.deathcabforcutie.com.... once you open the site it also plays you continuous, shuffled songs so you can enjoy their music just by opening their website and then carrying on whatever you were doing - brilliant!


I just got home (back to Cali) last night after a hellish 14-hour venture on the same plane... it was supposed to be a 10 hour flight but over a 3 hour delay made the trip seem even that much longer.... However I was able to catch up on my movies by watching 3 of them - ha!

On the drive back to Auburn my mom and I stopped off for Mexican food in Berkeley which made up for it and then I proceeded to crash out as soon as I got home and gave my little sister a kiss... woke up throughout the night being really confused but got up early this morning and felt good. Still feeling twinges of culture shock... but nothing so bad yet.

Made myself breakfast this am (an egg, homemade bread, coffee and fresh mandarins from the local orchard) and took my mom to work so I could steal her car for the day... then spent the rest of the day working out (I LOVE having a free gym membership!), making lunch for Kath and her boyfriend, and wrapping presents.

My older sister gets in late tonight from DC and I think this week is just going to be all about chilling with the fam, finishing up Christmas shopping, catching up with emails and what not (and blog-posts!) I think more than anything I am just looking forward to one-on-one time with my fam... I feel like that hasn't happened in forever. Eventually I have to start writing my essays - but I need a few days before I can even work myself up to that.

I already have a few days planned to be in San Francisco - including New Years - in which we are going to a 1930s Cocktail Party at Swing Club with a bunch of people I went to university with - so that should be fun. And we have at least one Kings' game and a snowday on the agenda... so I'm looking forward to that as well.

There is just something I miss about California- maybe the fact that I was walking around last night in just a sweatshirt; went to the gym in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt... quite a difference from English weather. Caught a great sunset tonight and will have dinner with my mom... tomorrow hanging out with my grandparents and helping my grandmother with her computer and then having dinner at my dad's.

I don't have a cell phone here (nor a car) - so my social life will be a bit limited - limited at least to last week in London which was filled with a bit if Christmas debauchery (pictures to come). I am also waiting for Matt to send me shots of our week in London doing the touristy thing and of Ireland. Guess what I'm getting for Christmas? A digital camera for all of your viewing pleasures :)

For those of you in the States - give my mom's house a call - and happy holidays!

13 December 2005

Last Week In London

Back from Ireland and back in school mode (or getting there). After taking a few days off reading and writing - I feel I am getting thrust back into it out of pure necessity.

All I want to do is get my flat sorted, go Christmas shopping in SoHo, hang out with my mates before they journey off around the world and myself to California. BUT - this week instead is going to be spent at the library trying to get enough reading and research done for my upcoming essays... or at least which books I need to take with me back to California.

I met with both of my professsors this week about my essays that I just got back and my upcoming essays that are due as soon as I get back from California - meaning I have to do them there. Two of my marks were very good, while two were ok... which leaves me frustrated; though I know I should be motivated. I also had presentations yesterday and today... argh. Anyway - off to the library! I don't have internet at the house yet... so call my mobile if you need me!

09 December 2005

In Ireland!

Blogging from an internet cafe at the prodding of a committed reader - ha! Meanwhile a protest demonstration marches by.... which incidentally closed down Dublin's entire public transportation system. We were meant to go to Howthe, a small coastal city north of Dublin to have lunch, go hill-climbing and walk around... but alas, we are going to have to reschedule for tomorrrow.

So instead our afternoon will consist of lunch here in town, going to the Dublin castle, taking silly pictures and ending up at the Guinness Storehouse (awww yeah). Tonight we are going to go see an Irish indie movie, grab dinner and go out for drinks (maybe an Irish car bomb is calling?)

The city is great so far and I have been really enjoying it. I am here with my friend Matt from the Kerry/Englin/Corzine campaigns after a few days doing the touristy thing in London. I am always impressed what a small city Dublin is and yet there seem to be an endless amount of funky little streets each filled with its own legendary pubs and restaurants. We've been fortunate to sample quite a few so far and have had a policy of not getting more than one drink at each place so we can see as many as possible.

The first night we went out to dinner at a very chill bistro in Temple Bar, the Elephant and Castle... then last night went out to have traditional Irish food at Gallagher's Boxty House. Matt had cornbeef and cabbage; vegetable and potato pie for myself that was immensely enjoyable.

We have also been trying to try as many different kinds of Irish beer as possible - which means a lot of half-pints and sharing. Kilkenny is a personal favorite so far :)

It's been fun to learn my way around the city (anyone that knows Matt knows he is still working on it!) and get a feel for the place. The people here are genuine and warm, with unbeatable accents and firm handshakes. It's also been fun to wander down O'Connell street (shout out to the fam in Jersey!) and see some history.

Yesterday we went and saw the Book of Kells, the Long Room (a fantastic old library) and Trinity College. It's amazing to see the sweatshirts that say 'since 1562' when UCSD was established in 1960 and my country in 1776 - ha! Guinness (and most other Irish brews) are also older than that!

We were also able to go to St. Stephen's Green - a beautiful park just south of the city centre that is great to stroll along in and get lost in the maze of park benches, birds and wanderers. Grafton and George streets are filled with musicians and street entertainers, shops and great for window shopping. It's especially cool becuase whole streets are decorated with Christmas lights, trees, carrollers and the like... which is helping me get in the mood for the holidays! And for those of you living in Auburn... you'll get a few fun things from here as well as I indulged in starting my Christmas shopping.

Alright... as Mark says... it is almost beer o'clock! Cheers!

01 December 2005

Pictures from Scotland!

1) Mara and Shawn re-united!
2) Matt, me and Shawn scotch-tasting..
3) Suzie and Shawn with our chocolate soup in Edinburgh - yum!
4) Me, Shawn, Venu and Matt in St. Andrews
5) Shawn showing me the ways of the Scots :)
6) Mara, the boys and whiskey: what more could a girl want?

Halloween at LPH

Hey - better than never - right?

The Crew

Jillian and Mara the 1970s Ping-Pong Player

Pre-Party in My Room (Dorm-Style)

London Girls

Some people sing about Deutsche girls
And girls from California...
They might be alright
For a night alright
But don't trust them I warn ya
I've been to the east
And I've been out west
And I've been the world around
But I ain't seen no one anywhere near
A girl from London town

Give me a London girl every time
I've got to find one
I've made up my mind
Give me a London girl every time
I want a London girl
Marry a girl from London town
You know that you can trust her
She'll darn your socks
And wash your--
Even then your trousers won't bust 'em, yes
And they're all good cooks
And they've got good looks
And they won't lead you down
Said I gotta find a London girl
If I ever get to have a chance

Oh give me a London girl every time
I've got to find one
I've made up my mind
Give me a London girl every time
I want a London girl
London girls are the best in the world
There ain't no doubt about it
If you can't find a girl from London town
You're better off doin' without it
They don't grate
When you come home late
And you're crawlin' up the passage floor
They won't mock about you
When you're going out
With the geezer from the house next door

Oh give me a London girl every time
I've got to find one
I've made up my mind
I said honey give me a London girl babe
Every little day
Your legs turn to jelly
And I got a little smelly
But I know it's just what I want
'Cause I need a London girl
Oh, every time
They've always got a pound
To buy their round
When it's their turn at the bar
Tori Amos - "London Girls"... Pictures from Impromptu Girls Wine Night

26 November 2005

A Week (or two) of My Life in London

So I think I've been meaning to write this post for some time... and like many things are easy to do - have been putting it off... So first and foremost what is great about my life here is that no two weeks are the same. After coming off of a 10-day hiatus from being anything resembling social, this week was all about relaxing, catching up with my life and friends, and celebrating.

The 10-day hiatus was because of two things: deadlines and a ridiculous cough. The essays I knew were coming... they have been instilling the date in our head since before I even arrived in the U.K. All of our professors kept referencing to November 21st as if it was doomsday. To make it worse, after running in Hyde Park 2 weeks ago in the cold, (gloves and all) I developed a super painful chest cough that was making news around both my hall and the institute. One professor offered to give me an extension because I was so disruptive in class that there is no way anyone could have ceased to realize I was sick. I finally went to the doctor (way to go universal health care!), but alas I was told it was viral and therefore I just had to suffer through.

I really don't think I've ever been so anti-social and so academic in my life... it was rough. The only benefit as I saw it was that I was actually able to meet some new people around the hall - including one of my new favorites, Kate. I heard Modest Mouse being played in the Red Room Bar downstairs - so I asked the bartender where in America she was from. Modest Mouse has definitely yet to break into the mainstream UK music scene. She laughed and said Chicago - and turns out she and her roommate were both from there. Soon enough her roommate walks in and is the same girl I connected with at the Student Rep. meeting the week prior - small world. So now it's cool because I get to switch music tastes with Katherine and get to chill with Kate.

That same weekend I also was introduced to my new favorite pub in Paddington - The Victoria - which is a very traditional English pub, fully outfitted in Victorian decor - and they serve Leffe Blond - a super yummy Belgian beer that I was introduced to this summer with Kerry at the Belgian Beer Garden in NYC. I also was introduced to a girl from Puerto Rico who makes some damn good coffee after dinner and also hooked me up with some honey drops her dad sent her from home and some lemon-ginger tea. And it was so sweet - my neighbor Augusto (from Mexico) heard me coughing (yes, through the walls it was that bad) and offered to go to the market for me... so it was really nice how caring and concerned everyone was. The guy at the market (don't worry - he knows my name and calls it out even if I am walking on the other side of the street) gave me free lemons (saying it was to keep my business) - ha!

But 2 essays and 2 research projects later.... I finally started feeling better and the day we turned our work in we went out that night. We all met at school at 5:15pm (just after the deadline) and went to Guanabara - a great Brazilian bar/club with 1/2 priced mojitos ( = fun) and carparenas ( = trouble) on Monday nights. I had a fabulous time celebrating with about 25 of my colleagues, mostly Brits, Continental Europeans and Latin Americans. Elisa (Spanish) , one of my closest friends here, and I had a dance off; Matt and I pretended we were professional dancers; and Mark and Charlie entertained us all by break-dancing and doing handstands on the dance floor (with support of course). The picture above is the 4 roomies-to-be: Jillian (Canadian); Matt (Canadian); me; Mark (British); plus Kasia on the right (Polish) - just cause she is my girl.

After we got ourselves home (Mark was staying at mine for a few days) - slept - and then had to drag ourselves to class the next morning. After not having eaten in way too many hours, Mark and I then joined a 'mature student' in our course (Mark - another Brit) for a pint and comfort food (macaroni and cheese - reminded me of Danielle!). We then wondered back to mine, picked up KFC for Mark ( he had a craving), then just hung-out eating greasy chicken, chips (fries), etc. and eventually had a late-night ping-pong match that night.

Wednesday we slept in, got coffee and went to Camden to go see our flat, check out the area and sort out our paperwork. The flat is great - small - but brand-new and very stylish (see pics in the post below). Camden is a very funky area with a lot of character(s), restaurants, pubs, shops - but is best known for the markets it has everyday. It's also right on the canal - I think it's going to be great. We then went to Belgo's for moules, frittes and bier - and they were the bets mussels I've ever had. They have this thing called 'beat the clock' - so at 6pm we got a full dinner for 6 pounds - though Mark treated me :) Right after Mark left that night, Angela (Canadian) and Hunter (American - Connecticut) came over for tea and distracted me from preparing for my presentation on Thursday.

Alas, Thursday I had to get up early and work on it and then met Angela downstairs to walk to school. It was Thanksgiving and after trying for weeks - unsuccessfully - to find canned pumpkin to make pumpkin pie for my class, we found a bakery to buy mango cake. After our presentations we had a Thanksgiving party in our class and everyone remembered what I told them to bring and more! It was great - Californian wine, doritos, guacamole, salsa, candy corn and Liz (British) even showed up with a pumpkin pie just for me! Apparently she had to call ahead and reserve the very last one at one of the most expensive store in London (on Oxford St.) and paid a fortune for it... and it was damn good (though doesn't compare to Mom's recipe). It was great though to explain Thanksgiving to everyone (again - the only American there) and all the professors came in and were chatting - it was really nice.

I then carried the left-over pie with Mark and I to Camden to go sign for the flat - back to Paddington - and then invited Kate and Vanessa (1/2 Spanish, 1/2 Mexican but grew up in Pennsylvania until she moved to Madrid at 8) for pie and tea to celebrate Thanksgiving. I then had to run to go meet Jack (East Londoner) and his friend Fred (French) in Queen's Park for a few pints.

Friday morning I slept in, got a coffee and read before class, went to learn about research methods, then went to the market and to pick up another round of cough drops. As I walked out of the store at 4:40pm it was already dark - so strange. Got home, cleaned my room, did laundry, had carrots and tsaziki (straight from Greece!) and then met Kasia and her friend from Poland who is here for the weekend, Pablo (Brazilian) and his other friend from Brazil who is studying at LSE at a place I discovered a few weeks ago called Cuba Libre in Angel. The new 24-hour drinking laws just went into effect Thursday night here - so instead of all the pubs having to close at 11pm, many are now open to at least 12 and often 2am. After vetoing the idea of meeting Charlie and Matthew (both Brits) in SOHO an paying 11 quid to get into a club - we stayed there. Only problem is that the tube still closes at midnight, so I had to find my way back to Paddington by night bus - though Pablo was kind enough to come with me, walk me home before heading to Chelsea... super sweet of him.

At long last I went to bed at almost 4am, slept until after 1pm (crazy!) and then went to go have 'breakfast' with Hunter because we had long-missed the restaurant hours downstairs. We ended up at a Lebanese place which was both really good and cheap, walked back here and am now spending my afternoon blogging and emailing before I actually have to read for class.

Later tonight Nick (American - Thousand Oaks, CA), a Marshall scholar and mutual friend of April, Jesse and Vivian (all through different connections, randomly) will be coming down from Oxford and we'll go celebrate Thanksgiving. Each year all the Marshal scholars in the UK come to London for a big dinner and I just get to be his guest. It'll be funny to be with so many Americans - there are a few here in my social circles and I've met friends of friends, but I came to London not knowing one person in the entire city. Last time I was around so many was when about 7 people from my hall went to Oxford for the day last month and Peter, who I worked on the Kerry campaign with in AZ and then we were both in DC, took us to one of Rhodes scholar parties. There I was at this party that felt like an American fraternity party (complete with beer-pong), with my 3 friends Peter, Nick, and Hunter - Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright scholars respectively.... in the words of Mike Moffo, it was tremendous.

Pics of our Flat in Camden!

18 November 2005

One More Reason To Join Friendster...

My good friend Nicole in California sent this to be - a few weeks old - but definitely worth the read - Mr. Bill Maher is just one of those people I want to have dinner with (this is where I get jealous of Matt)...

New Rule: George Bush must meet some new people. You know, when Americans see their president giving every job to the same old cronies, they use words like "loyal to a fault" and "stubborn" and "close-minded," "lives in a bubble," "sock-puppet," "asshole." "Worst president ever." But they're missing the point. The problem isn't his political philosophy - "kill people and animals and take their gas" - the problem is he has to expand his circle of friends beyond his mom, Karen Hughes and the House of Saud. Which is why before George Bush makes another political appointment, he has to join Friendster.

This week, President Bush had to nominate a Supreme Court judge, and he picked the most qualified person within 30 feet of his office. Her qualifications: well, she is a lawyer and former commissioner of the Texas State Lottery. And she's seen every episode of "Judging Amy." Abortion, affirmative action, separation of church and state. Yeah, let's ask the lady who peddled scratch tickets to liquor stores.

Does he just go with the first person he sees? I wouldn't be surprised if Laura was his sister. Now, of course - I keep checking with him - of course, George Bush isn't the first politician to hand out graft gigs to his pals, but he doesn't seem to understand that that's what the bullshit jobs are for: ambassador to the Bahamas. The Recycling Czar. Head of the CIA. But George Bush puts stooges where they can do real damage: Director of FEMA? That guy from the horsie show is available. U.N. Ambassador? Dick Cheney knows a guy with a mustache and anger issues.

Supreme Court justice? Lady down the hall. Labor Secretary? The guy who helped me move that hooker's body at Yale could probably do it. You know - you know, Mr. President, when you got elected, we all figured you were no genius, but smart enough to hire qualified people. But it turns out you're just a dimwit who enjoys feeling superior. And the only way to accomplish that is to surround yourself with the likes of Mike Brown and Harriet Miers: Goober and Aunt Bea. Unspectacular souls who make you feel comfortable and unthreatened. Kind of like when Madonna used to hang out with Rosie O'Donnell.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble. But real friends are the ones who tell you the truth. They're also the ones who work hard so as not to embarrass you. These people who work for you aren't behaving like friends. They're behaving far worse. They're behaving...like family.

17 November 2005

Rumor On The Hill Has It...

Democrats just defeated the awful Labor Education HHS Appropriations Bill!

To quote my inside source on the house-side: "This is the first major victory for the Dems on a big piece of legislation in decades (ok maybe one decade!)"

Apparently it just closed half an hour ago and has yet to hit the news.

According to Laurel, the Republicans are all in a meeting right now because they were going to vote on the budget but now it looks like moderate Republicans might be in revolt.

They were still a few votes short- they made changes this morning but they were not that extensive, and so moderate Republicans are still upset.

They are concerned with $12 billion in cuts to Medicaid (reduced to $11 billion this morning).

John M. McHugh, R-N.Y., a fence-sitting moderate, said that he still has problems with the Medicaid copayments, because they will have to be paid by more poor people than in the past, and most of the savings would come not from the charges but from an assumption that people would forgo medical care rather than pay.

The vote on the labor approps was 209-224 - and the only two votes missing were Dems.

One year out (yesterday) to the 2006 Elections and the Democrats are looking stronger than they have a year out from an election than they have in years.

*Thanks to Laurel for the inside info... I already promised her part of the lawyer fees - ha!

16 November 2005

A Flat In My Future

Good news - we might have a flat! Don't want to jinx it.. but after a few weeks of looking with different combinations of possible roommates - different parts of London - and many friendly but ultimately unhelpful estate agents: we might have a winner!

It's in Camden - an awesome part of town that (supposedly) feels like a community, with a market every day and great jazz club. AND it's in walking distance to school - so I'm crossing my fingers. See - I've never actually been there :)

Though really - the colder it gets - the less appealing walking becomes. I went running twice this weekend in Hyde Park (which is something that I will truly miss if I move) - but got a horrible chest cough after! I actually had to go running in my full REI gear - gloves and all - it is getting COLD here! Seriously, this week the temperature dropped really quickly and I've had to bust out my winter coats, gloves, scarves and boots - reminds me of DC last winter! Though let's just pray it doesn't get as cold as New York...

Anyway, so hopefully all y'all will have a place to rest your pretty little heads when you come visit and won't have to experience grungy orange walls. I've come to the realization that no matter how many prints, photos, maps I put on the wall - it's still a rubbish color.

Ah well - here's to hoping! And to getting over this nasty sickness... I thought I was going to get kicked out the library today, my class on Monday and the lecture I went to last night on Reagan's foreign policy - I mean really... it's so not fair to be sick when you are also trying to write all these damn essays!

13 November 2005

Why Have One When You Can Have Two?

As I left the pub, Eva just told me that my response was typically American. Waldo gave me one kiss good-bye, Eva two.

I said - "Waldo: why only one?"

He said - "Because in Panama it is only one."

Eva responded - "But in Denmark it is two."

I responded - "Why have one when you can have two?"

Eva laughed - "That is very American. To me - that is American
thinking. Why drive a manual when you can drive an automatic?
Why walk when you can drive?"

I laughed - "I drive a stick shift and am damn proud of it."

Eva smiled - "You are different."

I asked - "Why?"

Eva said - "Because you moved to London. Because you have a

Then I remembered that in order to move to London, I had to sell my precious, bright-red Jetta. It's not that it was particularly nice or new or anything... but it was a symbol of freedom for me. It had a sunroof, a bike-rack and a bumpin' stereo. It got me up and down the California coasts; me and everything I owned to Arizona... then Las Vegas... and back up the West Coast. It weathered a DC winter and the New Jersey turnpike all summer. It still had the original John Kerry bumper sticker from the Spring of 2003... along with all of the other Democratic candidates I had worked for since then. It still had its' California plates, the Liz Phair sticker and a lai that had been around the stick since I bought it - in the '90s. What more could a 20-something girl ask for?

But besides just reminiscing about my car that defined much of my existence - this conversation struck me. Not because it was profound, or so unusual. It's that is typical.

It is a common understanding that people often identify more with their country when they travel abroad. They become more nationalistic, more proud because they are able to compare their culture to others' way of life. Naturally, people feel the most comfortable in the culture they were raised in.

Is this feeling what creates a rise of identity politics and strong ties to people's country of origin when they live elsewhere - such as in the States?

I have been reading the work of Samuel Huntington, an insightful and well-established scholar at Harvard who studies American identity and cultural issues in the U.S.

In his 2004 work, "Who Are We? America's Great Debate," Huntington writes at length of the identity crisis that America faces in light of the demographic challenges presented by immigration, the lack of a cohesive 'other' due to the collapse of the Soviet Union (and therefore the end of the Cold War) and the decrease in a consistent American identity.

I disagree with him on most of his conclusions, such that in order to rescue America from decline like that of Rome and Sparta we must recommit ourselves to Anglo-Protestant culture. But I am fascinated by his study of American identity as it stands.

What is American identity? Do we identify most with the governing principles of our Constitution? A shared history? A common language? A certain religious belief?

Or is it is exactly what Eva is referring to: a way of life, a way of thinking?

For me, she is right. It's not that everyone wants to drive used red Jettas, regardless of the bumper stickers that grace it. It's not that you can drive sleepless nights across the U.S. like Kerouac and Ginsberg. It's the symbolism that both represent: everyone wants to have a piece of Americana that is theirs.

It might be the SUV, it might be the road trips. It might be the single-family house or the cliche white picket fence. It could be the mom and pop diner or the stock options in Microsoft. These are things that I don't necessarily identify with... but as an American... I am identified with.

In all these examples, they are material posessions that are only temporily satifying. But if nothing else - it's theirs. It's this sense of identity through ownership and property that seems to be extremely American. If you can claim it as territory, than you have something to be proud of. You have something to invest in, something to work toward. And once we have that - why have one - when you can have two?

*also published at www.woodshavingsdaily.blogspot.com

11 November 2005

I Don't Fool Myself with Romance...

what was I in the mood for tonight?

coming up...

our father who art in a penthouse
sits in his 37th floor suite
and swivels to gaze down
at the city he made me in
he allows me to stand and
solicit graffiti until
he needs the land i stand on
i in my darkened threshold
am pawing through my pockets
the receipts, the bus schedules
the matchbook phone numbers
the urgent napkin poems
all of which laundering has rendered
pulpy and strange
loose change and a key
ask me
go ahead, ask me if i care
i got the answer here
i wrote it down somewhere
i just gotta find it
i just gotta find it

somebody and their spray paint got too close
somebody came on too heavy
now look at me made ugly
by the drooling letters
i was better off alone
ain't that the way it is
they don't know the first thing
but you don't know that
until they take the first swing
my fingers are red and swollen from the cold
i'm getting bold in my old age
so go ahead, try the door
it doesn't matter anymore
i know the weakhearted are strongwilled
and we are being kept alive
until we're killed
he's up there the ice
is clinking in his glass
he sends me little pieces of paper
i don't ask
i just empty my pockets and wait
it's not fate
it's just circumstance
i don't fool myself with romance
i just live
phone number to phone number
dusting them against my thighs
in the warmth of my pockets
which whisper history incessantly
asking me
where were you

i lower my eyes
wishing i could cry more
and care less,
yes it's true,
i was trying to love someone again,
i was caught caring,
bearing weight

but i love this city, this state
this country is too large
and whoever's in charge up there
had better take the elevator down
and put more than change in our cup
or else we
are coming

10 November 2005

Friday Night in SOHO - Mark's Birthday Extravaganza

2005 Elections: Observations and Impacts

Off-year elections are not typically seen as either momentous events, nor an indication of changing political currents. However, yesterday's competitions throughout the country are telling a story about the state of the two parties in America - one both sides were not necessarily expecting.

The outcome of the 2005 elections are significant for both what they represent, and what they do not. Democrats took the governorships of both New Jersey and Virginia. Democrats also soundly defeated ALL of Schwarzenegger's propositions in California in the special election he spent months criss-crossing the country fund-raising for.

Though Democrats didn't take all of the state-wide races up in Virginia (lost Lt. Gov and AG positions to GOPers), or all of the local races in other states (lost mayoral races in NYC and San Diego), when it's all added-up nationwide, the Democrats felt the sweet taste of victory in both blue and red states last night.

Democrats picked up governorships, state legisislative, and city council seats - but most importantly: Democrats picked up momentum.

The typical line since Democrats lost the 2004 presidential election has been that the Republicans, not just George Bush, has a political mandate in America. But Bush has been losing battles left and right (Miers, the Rove investigations, Scooter Libby just to name a few). So just as significant as Democrats succeeding in '05 is that Republicans DID NOT.

This change in political current might be just what the Democrats need: realizing their strengths through both messaging and campaign tactics.

In Virginia, first-time candidate David Englin crushed his Republican opponent (68-32%) by advancing a PROGRESSIVE agenda for Virginia. Though true the 45th House of Delegates district is in Northern Virginia and a safe Democratic seat, he won a fiercely competitive primary due to his strong convictions and commitment to progressive causes. Leslie Byrne (LG candidate) is an aggressive, progressive female candidate that received 49% of the vote statewide, with the moderate Tim Kaine winning the governorship over conservative Jerry Kilgore 51-46%. Afterall, this is a state that Bush won handily in 2004.

There is also another lesson to be learned from these impressive numbers in Virginia: it is not about MORE field, it is about SMARTER field according to campaign veteran Shayna Englin. Yesterday's victories were a signal of strength that Democrats can play on the ground in Virginia - and win.

In New Jersey, Senator Jon S. Corzine sailed to a staggering victory over fellow millionaire Doug Forrester. Here - it wasn't about access to resources - it was about messaging. Forrester came out slinging mud, and never stopped. Corzine continued to run an overall positive campaign; and when at the end of the campaign both candidates' morals were being called into question - this crushed Forrester. He didn't offer the state anything OTHER than Jon Corzine, a popular incumbent politician.

Even in the smaller contests like city council races in Tuscon, Arizona, Democrats returned the council to Democrats - ALL Democrats. In conservative San Diego, moderate, self-described 'green Republican' Kevin Faulconer picked up the District 2 seat against right-wing challengers. Democrats also picked up seats in Virginia and New Jersey state legislatures.

So what does last night mean for Democrats? I'll let the conservatives say it for themselves...

"The unexpected closeness of the Virginia race -- in a conservative state that President Bush carried by nearly 54 percent of the vote last year -- is a result in part to the GOP's eroding position in public opinion polls." -- Washington Times, 11/8/05

If nothing else, these wins give the Democrats a momentum to carry into the 2006 elections - in both blue and red states.

*Also published on woodshavingsdaily.blogspot.com

04 November 2005

Dinner Party at Mary's

4 weeks, 6 days and 3 hours

Since I arrived in London - so what I have learned?

#1 - It is easier to relocate than I have ever thought
#2 - 4 oz. can make a difference
#3 - I like being the token American
#4 - Drinking games are an American phenomenon; bar fights are not
#5 - How much you can learn when you are a full-time student
#6 - I love cities - but I miss space!
#7 - Watching football is a recognized sport in itself
#8 - Stars don't exist here
#9 - Being pale is not something to be ashamed of, it's a fact
#10 -The closer you get to Italy, the more people drink cappaccinos
#11 - If someone says they are 'pissed' - they are not upset; they are drunk
#12 - American movies are the things that make you miss home
#13 - A proper English breakfast is all you need
#14 - Brits are great on fair trade; but not on recycling
#15 - That no one in post-grad does ALL of the reading
#16 - I knew someday I would want all my books from under-grad
#17 - Riding a bicycle here is like handing your life over
#18 - Brits are mystified by the formalities of 'dating' in the US
#19 - 'Salad' is code-word for mayonnaise
#20 - More of my friends here speak Spanish than in San Diego!

02 November 2005

One Year Later: What a Stronger Country We Could Have Been

by Pamela Leavy

It is hard to believe that some people still think that George W. Bush is doing a good job as president. Why haven't some people finally seen the light? We've heard references to Voter's Remorse occasionally in the news, yet, some still stubbornly cling to the wrong-minded views perpetuated by the Bush administration and MSM.

The Bush administration is an affront to America. We see almost daily an assault on the very foundation of our country - the U.S. Constitution. On Monday, as Rosa Parks - a heroine of the civil rights movement, lay in the Rotunda, in an unprecedented tribute, George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Alito has a record of standing against civil rights, yet, George W. Bush had no qualms with offering up his nomination, while Rosa Parks lay in state.

Think about how different the past year would have been if John Kerry were President.

Think about that if, in spite of defeating a sitting wartime President in three nationally televised debates, the Kerry campaign had not been edged out by the Swift Boat sliming smear tactics. Think about the fact the MSM was complicit in blocking Patrick Fitzgerald's CIA leak investigation. Think about the politics of fear that manifested as an October surprise - Osama Bin Laden's appearance on tape which Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto labeled a "Kerry endorsement by Bin Laden."

Think about how different things could have been. This isn't just abstract could-have-been thinking. It is real. It is based on the facts. And, it has serious consequences for our families, our children, our troops, our veterans, our environment, and our country.

How do we know? Because a year ago, John Kerry made clear promises and offered specific plans that would have made America a very, very different place. Take a look at what could have been...


Instead of giving tax breaks to individuals making over $300,000, President John Kerry would have used that money to cover all 11 million children in America currently living without health insurance.

We know this because, on the first day legislation could be introduced, John Kerry made his first act as a returning Senator to introduce his KidsFirst legislation, which will do precisely that. And, he has traveled the country several times to galvanize grassroots support to get every child in America health insurance. As President, he said health care reform would've been the first bill he sent to Congress.


Rather than limit scientists' ability to discover potentially life-saving cures through stem cell research, President Kerry would have reversed Bush's policy limiting the number of stem cell lines available to scientists and provided significant funding for research. Every day that we wait, more than 3,000 Americans die from diseases that may someday be treatable because of stem cell research.

We know this because said one of his first acts as president would be to reverse Bush's stem cell policy.


Rather than selling off the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies for drilling, President Kerry would have protected it from oil drilling.

We know this because President Kerry would have kept his commitment to veto Arctic drilling.


Rather than walk through a field of wildflowers holding hands with Saudi Prince Abdullah, rather than nearly $3.7 million from the oil and gas industry during both presidential campaigns, rather than sign energy policies into law that the administration's own Energy Information Administration says will not lower gas prices - President Kerry would have taken record-high gas prices seriously.

We know this because John Kerry last year unveiled a comprehensive plan to lower gas prices, improve efficiency and move towards energy independence while creating jobs. Under the plan, Kerry would manage the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to protect our security without driving up prices by temporarily suspending filling the SPR until oil prices return to normal levels. He would also engage in diplomacy to ensure that US consumers are not held hostage to price fixing by OPEC. He would set goals to increase fuel efficiency and make new investments to assure American industry leads the way. His plan also called for an increased use of renewable fuels to reduce our dependence on oil.


Rather than muddle through with the prospect of a war without end in Iraq, John Kerry would have brought 20,000 American troops home over the holidays after the Iraqi elections. WE know this because John Kerry argued throughout his campaign that a long term American occupation would only exacerbate the insurgency.


Instead of facing a $1 billion shortfall in one year of the Department of Veterans Affairs budget, President John Kerry would have made veterans health care funding mandatory - eliminating the constant fights in Congress for more money, and reversing changes Bush made to the system that have increased co-pays and cut millions of veterans from the rolls.

We know this because John Kerry cancelled campaign events in New Mexico, turning his plane around and flying overnight to come back and vote in favor of a Senate measure to make veterans health care funding mandatory. As soon as John Kerry showed up to vote for the bill, Majority Leader Bill Frist cancelled the vote.


Rather than leaving our troops and military families in the lurch, President Kerry would have pushed Congress to pass and signed into law his Military Family Bill of Rights. Survivors would get more when their loved ones die in service to America, widows would not be kicked out of military housing after 6 months, and every member of the Guard and Reserve would be eligible for military health care.

We know this because John Kerry pledged to push for his Military Family Bill of Rights and sign it into law during the campaign, he has introduced it as a stand-alone bill, and he has repeated worked to attach provisions from it at every opportunity n the Senate. In February, Kerry said, "Starting with the coming debate on the supplemental, I will fight to pass as much of my Military Family Bill of Rights as possible. There is no time to wait. Congress must act now."


Rather than the embarrassment of a Miers nomination extreme Supreme Court nominees that Bush has put forward to appease the far right wing of his party, President Kerry would have respected the law of the land and not tried to skew the balance of the Supreme Court.

We know this because John Kerry said, "As President, I will only appoint Supreme Court justices who will uphold a woman's right to choose."


Rather than aggressively seek to undermine women's right to chose, both in the U.S. and abroad, President Kerry would have repealed the very first act Bush took as president. John Kerry would repeal with Mexico City Policy that currently prevents family planning clinics overseas that receive any U.S. funding from mentioning abortion as one of my options.

We know this because Kerry said one of his first acts as president would be to repeal the Mexico City Policy/global gag rule on abortion.


Rather than leave people in New Orleans stranded and praying on rooftops as FEMA twiddled their thumbs, John Kerry would have sent in C-130s to evacuate people before disaster struck.

We know this because John Kerry had a serious, five-point plan to improve homeland preparedness. One of the key parts of the plan was for disasters like hurricanes. Kerry also campaigned in Louisiana, stood on the banks of the Mississippi River with Louisiana elected officials, and pledged support for federal appropriations to strengthen New Orleans' levees.


Rather than allow our Gulf Coast coastlines to lose a football field every half-hour to erosion, President Kerry would have made the protection of our coastlines a national priority.

We know this because John Kerry said on Earth Day of last year, "A secure coastline means security for the families who live here, the business owners who make a living here and the sportsmen who hunt and fish here. I believe that a good economy, strong communities and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. Bush administration has cut funding for coastal programs, and in Louisiana, refused to release the results of a study that was to outline a comprehensive plan to address the rapidly depleting coastline. . . "When it comes to protecting our coasts, we don't have a moment to lose," Kerry said. "Today in Louisiana, a piece of land the size of a football field sinks into the Gulf of Mexico an average of every half hour. And, coastal erosion isn't just swallowing your beaches; it's drowning your economy. Fishermen risk seeing their nets come up empty, sportsmen are watching entire habitats disappear, and people living on the coast fear that their homes or their businesses may literally slip into the ocean."


Instead of spending $1 billion of American taxpayers' money EVERY WEEK in Iraq with off-the-books accounting gimmicks, President Kerry would have cut the deficit in half and paid for war spending out of the budget, rather than by deficits that will saddle future generation with mountains of debt.

We know this because John Kerry has always made fiscal responsibility a priority throughout his 20 years in the Senate. When President Bush unveiled his budget in February, Kerry said, "Every American family has to live within their means. Their government should, too. . . Americans are spending $5 billion a month in Iraq, yet there is not a penny to fund the war after December 31. The numbers simply don't add up and the American people deserve better." Kerry pledged he would cut deficit by half, at least, in first term, in part through repeal of Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans.


Rather than giving American companies tax breaks to outsource Americans' job overseas, President Kerry would have eliminated them.

We know this because he said so repeatedly last year. He said he would eliminate special tax breaks for U.S. companies with overseas subsidiaries. Under current U.S. tax law, U.S. companies with overseas operations can defer paying taxes on income at those operations until they bring the profits back into the U.S.


Rather than increasing unemployment, Kerry would have created 10 million jobs in four years.

We know this because Kerry had a solid, realistic plan to do it. As an incentive, he would offer an employer tax credit for new jobs created in manufacturing and other businesses and tax credits to help small and midsized businesses pay for employee health care, which has been blamed for slow job growth.


Rather than sitting by many Americans are priced out of college, President Kerry would have made sure that every American who had the skills and desire to go to college could have.

We know this because Kerry had a $3.2 billion community service plan for high school students that would qualify them for the equivalent of their states' four-year public college tuition if they perform two years of national service, and provided a tax credit for every year of college on the first $4,000 paid in tuition.


Rather than allowing corrupt lobbyists like Jack Abramoff to destroy Americans' faith in government, President Kerry, in his first 100 days in office, would have ended revolving door lobbying.

We know this because John Kerry pledged in the fall of 2003 that as President in his first 100 Days he would issue an executive order to instate a 4-year lobbying ban for Administration officials.


Rather than allow genocide to continue in Darfur, John Kerry would have intervened.

We know this because Kerry said last year, "I believe that the United States and the international community must act immediately to apply effective pressure on the Government of Sudan to rein in its militia proxies and to immediately provide unrestricted access for humanitarian aid and aid workers. We must also act swiftly to initiate negotiations aimed at securing a political settlement to the conflict. And because there is no guarantee that the Sudanese government will relent, we must also start planning now for the possibility that the international community, acting through the United Nations, will be forced to intervene urgently to save the lives of the innocent."


Rather than caving to political pressure and allowing the assault weapons ban to expire, President Kerry would have kept the ban in place. We know this because Kerry's pledges and consistent votes to keep assault weapons off our streets.

26 October 2005

Procrastination As An Art-Form

All the good - and the bad - that comes along with procrastination is amazing. The creativity that comes out of what you can occupy a few hours of time with is tremendous.

This afternoon after being nominated for Student Rep. for my Institute to the larger University (some things never change), I bought a A-Z (pronounced A-Zet) streetmap of London (yes, in Week 4!) and searched for a map of the world to try and hide the ugly paint job in my room (and defy American stereo-types!)

I spent a few hours strategizing a Field Plan with Stephen for a candidate I've never met and I'm afraid I spent about 2 hours IM'ing. Ah well - I can never feel too bad about catching up with friends and trying to get Dems elected in red states (again - some things never change!)

To be fair, I walked to school today (45 minute good walk), went to the library and read (everything I wanted to get was checked out) and fought a head-ache self-imposed by a late night last night. And because there were delays on the tube getting back to my pad, I read on the train... and hear I am blogging. Good thing I had lots of time on the train on Monday to get a lot of my reading done...

Off to dinner with Elisa downstairs soon and then back to my readings about the power struggles between the State Dept. and the NSC/NSA and the influence each has/does not have in affecting U.S. Foreign Policy. I do love it - and understand why people make themselves professional students... although maybe then I would have to study 9-5 and treat it like a REAL job instead of a vacation from the crazy campaign hours I was working... not yet, at least :)

25 October 2005


Back in London after what became a five-day jaunt in Scotland and I am still invigorated by it.

It feels good to be back, see my friends here at the Institute and be able to tell them great stories about my trip. What I should say first is that it seems everyone knew that I was there - including my professors because I missed my train on Sunday - and therefore was forced to miss my Monday class.

Of all the places to be stuck though, Scotland really is quite preferable.

I left immediately after my class on Thursday afternoon to journey up to St. Andrews to visit two friends - one from home and one from DC. The first night was extremely hard to get a feeling of the place other than it was dark and cold - requiring many layers of clothes, blankets, lots of chamomile tea and what I would soon be introduced to as a hot water bottle.

These devices are positively brilliant. It's a large plastic insulator that you fill with boiling water, covered by soft material so that you can clutch it as you are sleeping. Incredible! Suzie let me borrow her's for the weekend: adoringly referred to as Sexy Lady because of it's fuzzy, leapord-print decor.

Friday morning Shawn and I went to Taste - a fabulous and very popular coffee shop that serves delicious lattes and paninis. What more could you want in life? Perhaps a bit of The Doll House - an equally pleasurable dining experience... and two free meals - as a poor grad student - what more could I ask for?

The whole weekend really was quite decadent we all concluded - not because of the enormous amounts of money spent - but the time spent lounging in Taste, making dinner, drinking wine, whiskey (I take mine on the rocks) and pints of great lagers, ales and ciders.

After quite a night Friday complete with live music, Indian food and sampling whiskeys - Saturday we were quite satisfied with dinner, a movie and then climbing fences and running around the graveyard and cathedral ruins at night.

St. Andrews really is a beautiful town that at then end of 5 days I felt extremely comfortable in and almost considered a local. However, Sunday in Edinburgh took my breath away.

Shawn aptly described it as a city that feels as though it is built of the earth - as if it carved itself out of the landscape... I felt silly only providing myself with a day there, though great, I am eager to go back.

So after mis-reading the train schedule and missing a train, I was forced to spend another day in St. Andrews - cold and rainy - but beautiful and mythical in a way that really hit a craving in my soul.

17 October 2005

Musings On A Monday In Mid-October

What's great about blogging is that you don't have to be home to do it. I'm writing today from my Institute's student computer room, on an older computer with a keyboard where I feel as though I have to convince each key to go down... so let's just say this will be a short one. I had class this morning at 10 and woke up early to do the reading over bagels and coffeee with a classmate - because although we had 4 days without classes - neither of us had done much but print out the articles from the library. Went to class, discussed with my colleagues and our professor about the liberal tradition in American political history - not debating whether or not that's true - but whether or not a conservative political history exists in America and essentially why not.

The easiest answer seems to be that most people writing about American political history in the United States are liberals themselves. The history of American conservatism is written often in contrast to the liberal tradition, and often in a critical way. So there is a sense that we are missing a widespread understanding of conservatism in America as a result. Of course in academia when you have one argument presented someone else writes an article or review to dispute it; that argument being that it's not just that the scholarly research isn't there - it's ignored in academia circles and therefore kept out of the mainstream and overall consciousness of those that study it.

Both of these opinions made me ask first - is there a liberal tradition in America? Is it liberal in an Enlightment Lockean way of thinking about liberalism - or is liberal in terms of the reflecting the values and belief of the left of center part of the political spectrum in the US? I do think that there is a widespread misunderstanding - or maybe just lack of understanding - in America about the history, influences and thereby consequences of conservatism in American politics. This lack of understanding I think is what makes so many on the Left and East Coasts blow-off the Mid-West and Southern parts of the country, those infamous red states. It also is part of what is plaguing the Democratic Party - is there a thorough and comprehensive guide to understand the conservative traditions in America? How can we de-bunk some of the myths and then on the other hand embrace what could help adavance our own causes?

A lot of the questions that are framed in this academic debate on both sides of the Atlantic seem to come from a bit of jealousy of the sucess of the Republicans and the way that the GOP has captured the debate on moral values: they market patriotism like they get commision on every flag that is sold - and have embraced religion as their own.

It seems to me that it's almost gone so far that everytime a Democrat adorns themselves in red, white and blue they are seen as Republican-lite. I myself feel my own torn feelings - how far to to the center do we feel like we have to go to embrace Americana? And even in that question - is embracing those aspects of Americana moving center - or is that just because of the sheer success of them taking ownership of things that have been part of the American tradition (liberal or conservative) since our founding?

It's amazing that you can feel like you can better theorize about your own country when you are not in it - or I do. There are so many internal debates and discussions to be had... but at the end ofthe day the question always come back to - where do we go from here?

09 October 2005

Day 10

I swear I am going to try and make an effort to keep this at least relatively updated with stories, random happenings and thoughts. Trying to use this what blogs were originally defined as - online web logs.

So I think I'm on Day 10 here in London and definitely enjoying myself. It's amazing how you can feel at home so quickly in new places, even though you only have some semblance of space, scale and scope of a city.

Today is a perfect example of my typical Sunday here... slept in, showered and then had a scone, tea with milk and a fried egg with two friends here at the hall. I then put my pajamas BACK ON (this is where I love being a student), laid on my bed as the sunlight poured in my room, read a bit about the "reddening of America" in the 1970s and then went to a meet a friend of a friend for drinks.

I showed up at the South Kensington tube stop to meet a friend, realizing on my way over there that I hadn't the faintest clue what he would look like, and wondered if there would be something distinctly American about me. I thought if nothing else, he knew I was from California and I was wearing flip-flops, so I thought that be a clue. And at last resort, Anna and I have dated the same boys before, so I thought I might recognize her type (he would have to be tall, attractive and well-dressed). I found the first of my suspects and proved to be correct.

We walked around the posh areas of South Kensington and he gave me an overview of the Chelsea and South Ken areas (as it is properly referred to). We popped into a few cafes for cafe au laits and pints - and spoke of the relative weather, cultural differences and politics between the different places we've lived.

I wondered back and - probably influenced by the pints - had an enormous craving for fish and chips. They give you the choice of "open" or "closed" - but luckily I had been tipped off by a friend and knew the difference. These pearls of wisdom can be one of the most rewarding things... I never knew asking for something essentially unwrapped (ie: "open") so that you can eat it immediately could feel so gratifying.

And now I'm back - in my room with my favorite British pop band playing on my ITunes, back in my pajamas, blogging and trying to prep myself for a night of reading about the Republican take-over of America...

Fish and Chips

So today is the day that I completed a feat - and have accomplished many of the things I have set out to do. That's right folks: I had my first bout of fish and chips this afternoon - and it was damn good.

I am not sure I will be able to move for a few hours as growing up in California my body is in a kind-of toxic shock from the fried food... but I can't tell you I didn't enjoy it.

So now that I've had a proper fish and chips (complete with salt and vinegar, who knew) and a great Indian meal, I feel like a true Brit.

In all honesty though, I have yet to see anyone British eating fish and chips - I think it's of the same phenomenon that I am an American and don't eat hamburgers... ah well. Here's to stereo-types and cliches.

02 October 2005


So at hour 25 - I finally got my Internet up and running in my room - so here I go!

My flight was easy over here and people have been SUPER helpful... I swear being that lost girl with way too many bags really calls out for help!

I got in late last night into this rainy city that I love already. I threw off my bags, washed up and headed down one flight of stairs to my nearest bar - yes - in my hall - grabbed a Guinness and introduced myself to the first friendly face I saw. Turns out he's another American (Connecticut), so we had lots to talk about. Within a few hours, I had many new friends from Argentina, Jordon, Russia and Germany. I also befriended a bloke from Virginia and answered questions about both Hollywood and 2Pac - both of which I was the resident expert - ha! The night ended shortly after 2am and a marathon ping-pong match with the North Easterner.

The hall is comfortable and has lots to offer - including cheap food downstairs (veggie scramble for dinner - surprise, surprise) and people are still in the 'introduce themselves to everybody they see' phase. It's funny to feel like the new girl at school though; walking into the cafeteria by myself and choosing which table of foreigners to sit with. I'm getting good at it... (I know you were all worried)

My room leaves much to be desired and let's just say the first word that came to mind last night was - "shoddy". It has orangeish walls, light green linens, dark green carpet, curtains that try to tie all these colors together... but aside from the major decorating I want to do... it's clean and comfortable. Comfortable enough to spend about 12 hours sleeping today :)

Then I decided to grab a diet coke and power bar (thank you Connells!) for breakfast (it was about 3pm) and headed off to where every sensible person goes on their first day in Europe - IKEA. I went on a kind-of wild goose chase around the city by bus and asked just about everybody I saw for directions. Got there, bought as much as I could carry and made the trek back - at this point people were REALLY friendly!

So all in all - I think I will love this city and my time here. I still have LOTS to learn and am by no means a local, but at least am having a good time getting around so far...

This is in the Interest of Entertaining Both Friends and Self

This is in the interest of both entertaining friends and self - let's be honest. I will try not to be too nihilistic or self-deprecating.

Please add any musings, thoughts or criticisms because I really don't take this too seriously.