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I spent my Thanksgiving not with family, but with brothers-in-arms. I drove out to Annapolis and hung out with MonkeyPope and a dude we both knew from language school. Somehow we all ended up in the same line of work, and we got to share some
stories over a massive dinner for 12ish with MonkeyPope's sister's-in-law family. Good to see you, bro, even if both of you had iPhones and I don't. =P
Apparently the future is here, in the Amazon Kindle. Ugly son of a bitch, isn't it? Oh well. My buddy somehow procured a Kindle early and forwarded me a pic of my biography page displayed on it. Ew. The idea of e-reading is spot on, and digitally saving notes and bookmarks and key quotes is what I want most in an e-reader. I seriously think the digitization of books and integration into online databases will have massive cultural effects...but I think the Kindle is probably the Newton of these devices...
There are approximately two weeks left of this semester in which I am sucking at international trade. Our class continues to remain tight, which I really enjoy, since I was able to transition from one community (Army) to another relatively easily. I am applying for a Google fellowship over the summer in my never-ending attempt to get a job with them once I graduate. I've pre-registered for classes next semester, including what I think will become my future all-consuming interest: social entrepreneurship. It's taught by a kickass prof and it will let me develop the idea I have into (hopefully) a viable business opportunity.
I finally sold all my stocks and Nintendo a couple weeks back when Bernanke said growth was slowing. That concluded a year-and-a-half hold of Nintendo from when the Wii was announced, during which the stock more than tripled. Thank you, Nintendo, for a hell of a ride!
Last week the temperatures in DC dropped a bit for the first time this year.
Classes are going well although I'm overloaded with 18 credits (including Arabic every day) and an internship affiliated with USAID. We've gotten a few grades back and I'm doing fine.
My classmates continue to rock the house. Such a diverse crowd. Our camaraderie is still there but we're in midterm-season so it's stressful.
I'm settling into the city, getting to know the public transport schedules, visiting different neighborhoods, meeting friends on the street, going for long runs through downtown.
The other week, Bill Richardson came to talk at Georgetown about the military and Iraq. He pushed for immediate withdrawal and support services for re-deploying troops. I'm hoping that Obama will win the nomination, choose Richardson as his veep, and then pull in Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Edwards, among others to be in his cabinet. Wouldn't that be something?
I visited the Solar Decathlon this weekend on the Washington Mall, a competition between twenty universities to build the most energy-efficient solar homes. The houses looked outstanding and were ultra comfy and cool on the insides. Lots of people, though, meant for long lines waiting to go inside each presentation.
It's been an exciting month, recorded in my Wuntsah. I went to Manhattan with my parents and Julie and met my grade school friends, visited MoMA, Cooper-Hewitt, the UN, Magnolia Bakery, the American Craft Museum, Spamalot, Perilla, Central Park (perfect weather), Harlem, and more. NYC is so seductive.
I also moved to DC with all my stuff in my car and IKEA'd out my room. Our program started with a two-day orientation with lots of hand-shaking and wrapping our heads around the diversity and experience of our incoming class. My classes: international trade, international finance, globalization in intersocietal relations, and international relations theory. I'm already overloaded with articles, books, and memos to write! Plus a daily Arabic class, an upcoming internship with a USAID contractor, and jogging along the Potomac and around the city.
Soon enough the much-ballyhooed Petraeus report will arrive. That people are already spinning some successes in Iraq (by shady deal-making) as overall justification for invasion and evidence of productive policy, is disgustingly misleading. Violence is at its highest point on average this year compared with past years in the occupation. And Al-Sistani's aides are being assassinated while Al-Sadr and Al-Maliki are contending with corruption, loss of control, and division. How sad it is that what passes in Iraq now is considered success.
Last weekend I went to my grandmother's (first time I'd seen her since before I enlisted in 2002) and to Georgetown for housing search. I checked out my new campus and met the owners of the impressive row-house I've rented out with some fellow classmates in the Burleith/Georgetown neighborhood north of campus. It's quite a beautiful area -- and having also lived in Monterey, CA, I'm perhaps a bit spoiled.
I walked around the DC area and just missed Cindy Sheehan getting arrested at the Capitol -- when I got there, there were only a few anti-war/impeachment activists outside. I didn't realize how large the Iwo Jima memorial was. I walked solemnly through Arlington National Cemetary. I saw the Air Force officers in their uniforms taking the metro to the Pentagon.
I've been going to cooking classes at the Farmer's Market here in Dallas while I've been waiting for class to start. It's great because the best chefs in the area come to give the classes and you get to taste their food. Today's chef was Richard Chamberlain from Chamberlain's Restaurant and he served us up some delicious, buttery kobe beef and warm espresso cake. I'm trying to learn to cook better and now wonder if I can spare another two years to attend the cooking school here in Dallas (which would be free for me!). With Top Chef and Ratatouille, I'm guessing cooking is the big thing right now too!
Just three weeks till class begins! I'm so psyched! I've met a lot of my future classmates through the Facebook group I set up, and got to meet some in person. It's going to be wild.
Coming up soon: a week's trip to Manhattan with my family!
For Father's Day, my brother and I took our dad to see Day Watch, the second movie in a Russian trilogy about tenuous relations between good and evil forces requiring day and night watches to police each other. It looked promising with a Russian take on the action genre, and amped up computer graphics, but the story seemed so laborious that people were walking out of the theater and I sort of wanted to also.
For Father's Day dinner, my brother cooked up some steak on the grill and we had Pakistani-style corn on the cob and green beans.
Undergoing right now are several large operations in Iraq as General Petraeus flexes his Iraq strategy. Early indications from journalists like Michael Yon and Michael Gordon are incredibly positive and from this lowly ex-soldier's perspective it seems like the operation to trap Islamic State of Iraq operatives (who are often lumped as Al-Qaeda or Sunni insurgents, inaccurately), while probably fruitless in the long-term, at least shows how a battle should be prosecuted. I don't know how much influence Petraeus had in these operations but my sense is that he has restored confidence and competence to our military efforts in Iraq.
Perhaps the main requirement for the mission's success will be the capture or killing of significant ISI members. If it comes out that we didn't get them, and even worse that they had been tipped off and fled beforehand (as had happened in just about every mission I witnessed while in Iraq), then the mission will be a failure.
PBS Frontline has an episode viewable online called "Endgame", a valuable look at the timeline of the war from the perspective of the war planners in Bush's administration. If you don't quite understand how we've gotten to this point in Iraq, I recommend you watch the episode. I would also add that any solution in Iraq will not involve the Bush camp -- their incompetence is suffocating.
On a more personal note, I heard one of my buddies got a Purple Heart in Iraq, getting hit by a sniper ricochet in the upper thigh, but he'll be okay. I am taking macroeconomics and microeconomics courses right now at the local community college to satisfy my pre-reqs for Georgetown admission. I've really taken an interest in economics and am enjoying going over the fundamentals in my classes. I've 95% secured a residence in Georgetown a couple blocks away from the campus with some really amazing roommates so I'm looking forward to that!
And as for the iPhone: well, I really want one, but the AT&T data plan promises nothing but suffering. I've been cellphone-free for over a month now and I'm really loving not getting raped by my monthly bill anymore.
Happy birthday, baby. =) Luckily I got to see you last weekend so we could celebrate a little early. I hope you were sufficiently spoiled and relaxed by the end of your stay here. You deserve it! I'm very proud of you and how you handle all your responsibilities with strength and grace. Many <3s your way!
On another note, tomorrow is Memorial Day. I spent ANZAC Day, Oz's and New Zealand's remembrance day, at ANZAC Hill in Alice Springs about a month ago, remembering the fallen soldiers from my unit in our last rotation.
This day is not fully appreciated unless you've worn the stars and bars, or if you're a family member of someone who did. There are a lot of people who wish for the occupation of Iraq to continue, yet who have never served. They offer excuses such as "I have a family" or "I'm too old" or "I would fight if called up". This, along with hand-wringing and crying on the House floor by Rep. John Boehner, means little to veterans. These chickenhawks label anti-war folks as cowards, yet these bellicose armchair quarterbacks had their whole lives to serve their country and they never did. I have no respect for these people. They claim we are in a decisive fight for freedom against terrorists, yet they continue their civilian lives knowing full well that they will never be put to the test, that they will never have to sacrifice anything, that they will never be drafted or taken out of their spots behind a keyboard to await instantaneous death like the hundreds we will remember by next Memorial Day.
So as another Memorial Day passes, this one during some of the deadliest months for American soldiers and Marines, leave the memorials for those who understand the sacrifice and volunteering to serve. To the chickenhawk, the day is just a day to make oneself feel good, to make oneself feel like he's contributing when really he's not.
For everyone else, it's a great day to BBQ, drink beer, and spend quality time with friends. So make sure you go do that!
First of all, I quit T-Mobile (they're a scam), so if you try to reach my cell number, it won't work. Call my VOIP instead!
I'd like to thank my mother who has been a supportive force in my life particularly this year as I've transitioned out of Army life and had to make some big decisions about school. She offered advice and listened to my deliberating about what to do next.
At the same time she's taught me some things about cooking and money, and cooks great meals and cleans too much and bears the burden of shopping for groceries. I try to help her out while I'm staying at home but it doesn't make up for all that she's given me. I'm very happy that she had a chance to go to China with her sister recently!
Today we're taking her to see Offside, a movie about some Iranian girls who disguise themselves as boys to go to a football game in Tehran. Then we'll head over to Kathleen's Art Cafe for dinner.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I hope I make you proud!
I just got back from almost a month spent on holiday in Australia and Fiji. I stayed in Melbourne and took an Outback tour from Adelaide up to Alice Springs, finishing with some more time in Melbourne and a few days in Nadi, Fiji. Talk about an adventure! Doing this was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thanks to my dad for the frequent flyer miles!
Also I'll be starting the Master of Science in Foreign Service two-year program at Georgetown in the fall. I even got a surprise tuition scholarship!
And finally, I'm officially out of the Army now. Almost 100 US/UK soldiers died while I was in Australia. The average killed per day right now is almost 4. It's tragic.
Yesterday I ran the half-marathon (13.1 miles) for the Big D Texas Marathon at Fair Park in Dallas. It was an extremely well-organized race that took us from Fair Park to White Rock Lake and back, passing through ultra-snazzy mansions with their palatial facades and yards to the run-down areas with their 9mm casings on the pavement.
This was my first race at this distance and probably the first time I've run 13 miles; I've done some 5k's and plenty of 2-milers in the Army. I felt really good until mile 9 and then time started to slooooow down!
The good news is that I came in 203rd out of about 1,330 runners. I was 25th in my age group, 25-29. I averaged about 8:30 a mile. I definitely slowed down as my stamina decreased at the end. I think with more experience and long-distance training, I can get down to at least 8 minute miles. In the Army I was running sub-7 minute miles, but that was only for 2-milers.
That was fun! Also, my parents came out with me to see me perform; thank you Mom and Dad for that. =)
So I've been notified of acceptance by both Georgetown's School of Foreign Service and UT Austin's LBJ Public Affairs School! I got wait-listed at both Tufts' Fletcher School and Columbia SIPA.
Right now I am still waiting for word from McGill's Political Science program and Johns Hopkins SAIS.
And today I went to the LBJ School's visitation day and I was extremely impressed. The representatives and other admitted students were excited and interesting and I just enjoyed the whole day.
I will have to decide where to go before I leave for Australia next month. My decision is getting harder as 1) I love Georgetown and UT Austin and 2) the other schools are taking so long to respond. =/
No matter where I go, I'm happy because this is a fulfillment of my discovered path and long-time dreams.
First of all, best of luck to my buddies who are deploying forward, and welcome home to those returning! Glad you guys made it home safely -- I will come visit soon!
I'm on my terminal leave from the Army now. I've returned home and am enjoying temperatures about 20 degrees warmer on average. Combined with Punxatawney Phil's early spring, I should be set!
I booked a trip to Australia, but the tour is not confirmed yet. I can also get a lay-over in Fiji. I might be running a half-marathon in about a month. And I've been accepted into UT Austin's Public Affairs Masters program. Still waiting on the other 5 schools to respond!
It's my birthday this Friday! WOOHOO! Not sure what I'm going to do, seeing as how all my buddies here are deployed -- but I'm sure I'll figure something out.
Also, I start out-processing the Army next week. A lot of stamps, paperwork, and driving all the way back home! Then I'm thinking of learning some cooking, going to Australia, and working on private projects until I find out what grad schools want me.
I updated Wuntsah so check out the neater template demo I worked on last weekend. It includes updated entries for the rest of 2006. Then, make your own Wuntsah!