Axis of Opportunity

ABB is an engineering firm that helped to build North Korea’s nuclear reactors. The ones that they’re using to make warheads for their ballistic missiles. The contract was signed in early 2000. One little interesting detail: Donald Rumsfeld was on the board of directors.

Enemy Combatant! Send him to Camp X-Ray!

Living In Silence

I’ve just sold my speakers. This means I can no longer listen to music at obscene volume levels. Curses. All I have is the impressive-for-a-laptop-but-not-exactly-great speakers on the iBook.

Hang on, this means I can't watch Buffy, Angel, or The Daily Show this week, doesn't it? Curses++.

As you might have noticed, updates are going to be on the small side this week. Lots of things to do, not much time to write. Of course, after next week, I'll have all the time in the world…*sigh*

I have a cheque from the IRS! They're paying my excess baggage charges. Hah! Just to rub it in, I'll be filing for another refund next year as well. I don't trust them with my money…

currently playing: The Beat - Save It For Later

Sun Is Shining

Only staying long enough to say this: you have no idea how messy a cake fight can get at 3am…

currently playing: Hole - Celebrity Skin

Formulating Insane Plans

I’m a danger to myself and my bank balance. Stop me before it’s too late!

currently playing: Slumber-Party - I’m An Example

A Helpful Washing Guide for Britons

To celebrate the final washing of the year, this establishment has put together a comprehensive tour of the facilities that Britons may encounter when visiting the colony for an extended period.

Your first encounter with an American washing machine will be a disconcerting experience. Unlike in Her Majesty's Empire, wherein the drum is mounted on a vertical axis, allowing your garments to spin up and down freely, the colonial machine appears to be mounted horizontally. Clothes will then, therefore, spin to the outward extreme of the drum, and tend to stay there in a wet crumpled heap after the alloted washing time has elapsed

Empirical testing seems to suggest that the Imperial method provides a better wash, but this research could be compromised by the next difference that we urge Britons to observe.

It has come to our attention that American detergents do not clean as throughly as the fine products you find at your local corner shop. Again, more testing is required, but three different brands failed to clean lightly soiled fabric in one cycle. This state of affairs seems to be acknowledged by the companies of the New World, who suggest adding more of their product to produce a cleaner wash. This publication urges caution at this advice, especially when using detergent in tablet form. On occasion, the washing machine will fail to utilise enough water to dissolve all the tablets, leaving your clothes with a disturbing layer of hardened soap.

Finally, we must make a note about tumble dryers. These abound in the Americas; the time-honoured tradition of the humble clothes-line appears to have died out in these lands. Our advice is to experiment with a selection of different dryers before settling on one to use for the rest of your time abroad. Although they may appear identical, certain machines seem to be better at their task than others, so experimentation is vital.

We hope that you will be able to put this humble guide to some utility. In closing, we would like to remind the reader that exposure to different cultures is all part of the travelling experience, and to bear this in mind when extracting a soap-encrusted trouser leg from the washing machine.

currently playing: PJ Harvey - Down By The Water

Dr. Pepper: Anti-Personnel Device

WARNING: Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing eye or other serious injury.

You know, I'm not certain I want the drink anymore…

currently playing: Blur - Song 2

Consider This A Warning, Phlebas

It’s only fair to warn you that this blog is likely to become increasingly maudlin over the next few days. In some respects, it would have been easier to leave in December; now that I’ve got to know people, it’s going to be a jarring experience. I’ll probably never see many of these people again. I’m trying to scrounge as many IM accounts as I can, and then there’s the top secret Insane October Plan, but many of the UNITAS group are graduating this year, scattering all across the globe like fireflies in the night.

Today's job was to try and get rid of the junk I've managed to pick up over the year. Lots of receipts, tax guides, cardboard boxes, and lecture notes all fed to the hungry recycling bins. That leaves me with a VCR, a microwave and a fridge to find homes for before next Friday…

currently playing: The Beat - Tears Of A Clown

Live From The Pit

I love to say that the lack of an update yesterday was due to not being able to squeeze it in among the hectic events of the day. I’d love to say that, really. The truth is more mundane: I didn’t have anything to write about. Still don’t, really, but now I can write about why I didn’t write yesterday. Aha!

There's nothing quite like sitting outside in the sun, talking with friends on IM, buying music from the fabulous new Apple Store, and wondering what I'm going to do next. Which reminds me that I should start looking into buying that wireless router for back home.

Back to writing my goodbye letters now. It’s turning out to be quite difficult. I spent five hours working on two yesterday (not spending all five hours on them, but writing a little, wondering what to say next, ripping it up and starting again, going off and doing something else for a while…), which seems like an extraordinary amount of time for two one-page letters which aren’t exactly mind-blowing. I’ve now finished Rishi’s, Laura’s and Sona’s, so just Kavi and Shafaq to go now. But I think I’ll have some lunch right now, as I’ve just realised that I haven’t eaten food since yesterday morning…

currently playing: James Taylor - Fire and Rain

For Future Reference

When somebody asks you to join in with a football game, it’s probably a good idea to remember that a) you haven’t played football for over five years, b) you’re really unfit, and most importantly c) that hip thing can come back at any time.

Now, where did I put the antiseptic?

currently playing: Saint Etienne - Boy Is Crying

Reach For The Sun (People Are Great)

There should be more people who believe in unbridled optimism and make wide-eyed, starry statements. There’s so much cynicism about these days.

Which, in a fortunate coincidence, brings me to my current musical obsession:

You can mock all you like. This record is fabulous. It's just so earnest, so musically pure and heartfelt, yet maintains a sense of humour about itself, so it doesn't feel like the group is trying hard to "keep it real" (unlike, say, refusing to use any sonic equipment made after 1963, which is just stupid). Instead, they acknowledge their sentimentality, embrace it, and refuse to apologise for their actions:

But if you see a man crying, hold his hand, he's my friend.
If these words sound corny, switch this off, I don't care.

The album is filled with wonderful tracks: "The Celtic Soul Brothers" is as good as an opening song as you'll ever going to hear, delineating the record's intent with broad strokes; "Jackie Wilson Said" (a Van Morrison cover) is transformed into a majestic love song, full of bombast and swing; "I'll Show You" contains the quote mentioned above, and is a lament on all the people left behind in today's world (or Thatcher's world, if we're considering the time period, but anyway).

And, rounding off the album, there's "Come On Eileen". Taken in context, the song is altered beyond all recognition; it transcends the "song played at weddings after Wham!" label it has been afflicted with, and becomes an affirmation of the album's principles; a joy-filled celebration of soul, pure and true.

I'm off to enjoy the sunshine.

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners - This Is What She’s Like