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.