Archive | July, 2004
July 31, 2004

A few reasons why The Bourne Supremacy is awesome

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1) Matt Damon
2) Antagonist is Russian oilman (Helloooo Mikhail Khodorkovsky)
3) Awesome car chase through central Moscow

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Matt Damon walking around Moscow with a bottle of vodka

Anyways, go see this movie…pretty entertaining…and really, do you have anything better to do? Probably not…

July 28, 2004

Rejoice, for I have been offered housing at LSE!

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Woke up this morning to find an e-mail from LSE – an offer of accommodation at Bankside House, my first choice dormitory (well, after 10 Downing Street and Hugh Grant’s apartment).

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Bankside House is located on the South Bank of the Thames River near Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Gallery of modern art, which is ironic considering the fact that I am a fan of neither Shakespeare nor modern art (perhaps I’ll grow to love them). The dorm is a 25 minute walk to campus, which is nice because some of the other dorms are 40 minutes away from campus BY METRO.

The dorm also has a restaurant (I’m sure the food is just deeeeelicious…uh yeah) and a bar (WTF? A bar in a dorm? Nice!) Oh, and of course each room has ethernet…

Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to get all my stuff there.

July 25, 2004

Back from Oceanside

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…and now in the hell known as Palm Desert.

We spent Saturday at the beach. The weather was a bit gloomy, but it was a million times better than the 110 degree heat we left behind in PD. I didn’t take my surfboard since it wouldn’t fit in Kat’s car, but I had a good time body boarding (aka boogie boarding…yeah, being a damn “sponger”) and generally frolicking in the waves. Ah, Oceanside, how I love thee…

On the drive home to PD we stopped at the newly opened Krispy Kreme in Temecula. It was actually the opening day of that particular Krispy Kreme and it showed. We pulled up to the drive thru and ordered two donuts and a medium skim milk. The girl operating the drive thru window said they only have bottles of milk…and no skim, only 2%…ok, fine, we’ll take that but you might want to take the size and type of milk options off the menu. The girl then said “Your total is…ummm…we’ll tell you when you pull up to the window.” Haha, OK. So we pull up and the guy at the window says “Your total is $16.83.” What?? For two donuts?? Well, I guess you had to be there, but it was hilarious. All the workers were a bunch of kids…16 year olds and such, and this is probably their first job in customer service. I wish them well and welcome them to the wonderful world of customer service.

Kat and I have also decided that Temecula is really the perfect place to live. You have everything Palm Desert has, plus more, and it’s not 115 degrees outside. You are only a short drive from the beach, there is no congestion (well, compared to LA and San Diego), and the housing prices aren’t ridiculously high.

We stopped at Vista Point to take pictures of the Coachella Valley. Here is one:

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A view of Hell.

There was a German motorcycle gang at Vista Point when we arrived. Alright, so they weren’t a gang, but it was a group of German tourists that are touring the U.S. on motorcycles. Kind of odd…yeah, let’s drive motorcycles across the desert in the middle of the summer. Oh well…

While driving through PD on the way to my house, Kat spotted this:

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Ummm…yeah….welcome to Palm Desert.

Tomorrow I go back to Office Supply Hell. If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, I gave my two weeks notice to my asst. manager at Office Depot. Two weeks…10 workdays…at most, another 80 hours of hell.
And to all you lucky bastards that are at the Democratic convention in Boston, I hope you are having fun right now.

July 21, 2004

Local Indian Tribe establishes political program at GWU

Interesting article from The Desert Sun. Apparently the Cabazon Band of Missions Indians, a tribe based in Indio, is prepared to enter into an agreement with The George Washington University to establish a program that teaches Native American students the finer points of political management:

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians is working to establish a center at George Washington University to teach Indian students how to lobby, run campaigns and work with the media.

About 18 Indian students per semester would take part in what is thought to be the first program of its kind in the nation.

Although other universities offer programs that teach Indian history and culture, George Washington’s would focus on the process of politics.

“The hope is to extend these skills to the Native American community,” said Christopher Arterton, dean of the graduate school of political management at the university.

The center will be another milestone in the development of the California gaming tribes as political players on both the state and national levels.

They have become some of the state’s biggest political donors, having spent more than $135 million in the last five years on initiatives and legislative campaigns.

“We know how important education is to our society,” said Greg Cervantes, director of public affairs for the Cabazon Band.

“The tribes are now part of the process where they have choices and opportunities that they never had before,” Cervantes said.

The Cabazon Band, which owns Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, already have used their casino revenues to offer scholarships at UCLA and the University of California-Riverside, Cervantes said.

The tribe also plans on hosting a seminar in the next few months for California lawmakers that will bring in experts from George Washington University to discuss sovereignty and other Indian issues, Cervantes said.
The movement to educate politicians about Indian issues in the ways of politics comes at a time when tribes are wading further into the political process.

They have been giving increasing amounts of money to candidates and stepped up efforts to get Indians to the polls.

Also, tribes face heightened political tension over gambling issues.

For example, state governments are trying to collect more revenue from Indian gaming operations and tribes, and the federal government disagree over how far federal labor laws extend onto reservations.

“I think it’s fair to say there is a fair source of tension between the white Americans and Native Americans,” said Arterton.

The university has been working with the tribe for about two years to set up a program that would bring Indian students for a semester to the university, he said.

The deal, which has not yet been signed, calls for the Indio tribe to offer the university a “sizable” endowment to set up the program, Arterton said.

He wouldn’t reveal the amount.

A year’s tuition at the George Washington runs about $34,000.

Seems like a great program…glad the tribe is working with GW…really, they couldn’t have picked a better place to send their future politicians, lobbyists, and campaign managers.

July 17, 2004

Your relations have tried to save you. They have failed and now we must shoot you.

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These were the last words heard by the Romanov family before they were brutally murdered by a group of Bolsheviks in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918.

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Tsar Nicholas II and his family (Empress Alexandra, Tsarevich Aleksei, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia)

Nicholas, his arm still around Alexis, began to rise from his chair to protect his wife and son. He had just time to say “What .. .?” before Yurovsky pointed his revolver directly at the Tsar’s head and fired. Nicholas died instantly. Alexandra had time only to raise her hand and make the sign of the cross before she too was killed by a single bullet. Olga, Tatiana and Marie, standing behind their mother, were hit and died quickly. Botkin, Kharitonov and Trupp also fell in the hail of bullets. Demidova, the maid, survived the first volley, and rather than reload, the executioners took rifles from the next room and pursued her, stabbing with bayonets. Screaming, running back and forth along the wall like a trapped animal, she tried to fend them off with the cushion. At last she fell, pierced by bayonets more than thirty times. Jimmy the spaniel was killed when his head was crushed by a rifle butt.

The room, filled with the smoke and stench of gunpowder, became suddenly quiet. Blood was running in streams from the bodies on the floor. Then there was a movement and a low groan. Alexis, lying on the floor still in the arms of the Tsar, feebly moved his hand to clutch his father’s coat. Savagely, one of the executioners kicked the Tsarevich in the head with his heavy boot. Yurovsky stepped up and fired two shots into the boy’s ear. Just at that moment, Anastasia, who had only fainted, regained consciousness and screamed. With bayonets and rifle butts, the entire band turned on her. In a moment, she too lay still. It was ended. – Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra

If you are interested in learning more about Russia’s last Tsar, I highly recommend that you read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie. Massie’s book was the catalyst for my interest in Russian history. In the summer of 2001 I randomly decided to take a world history class at my local community college (College of the Desert), and after sitting through a fascinating four hour lecture on the last days of the Romanovs, I ran down to Barnes & Noble to pick up a book so that I could learn more about Imperial Russia…I ended up with Nicholas and Alexandra and plowed through the book in a few days. I was hooked…enrolled in some Russian History and PoliSci classes at GW, eventually picked up a minor in Russian History, spent two summers in Russia, learned enough of the language to order blini and Baltika in a restoran, and am currently preparing to head off to the London School of Economics for graduate work in Russian Studies.

Kind of strange how one book could have such a large impact, eh?

Боже, Царя храни!
Сильный, державный,
Царствуй во славу,
Во славу нам!
Царствуй на страх врагам,
Царь православный,
Боже, Царя, Царя храни!
Царя храни!

- “God Save the Tsar”, national anthem of Imperial Russia

July 15, 2004

Is there anything interesting in Palm Desert?

So, one of my friends in Russia e-mailed me a few days ago. He moved from Moscow back to his hometown of Zlatoust, which is located in the Urals. To make a long story short, he started an English language club so that kids can get together and practice speaking English with each other, play American sports, learn about U.S. culture, etc. There are currently 50+ kids in the club right now…I think it’s pretty cool that the kids are showing an interest in becoming proficient in English and learning more about U.S. culture because, well, let’s face it, we’re not exactly the most loved country in the world right now.

Anyways, my friend asked me to e-mail him some photos of various places in the U.S., including some of my hometown. I’ve sent him a few of DC, but I then realized I have absolutely no photos of Palm Desert. I mean, really, why would I ever need to take pictures of Palm Desert? I’ve got the next two days off of Office Supply Hell, so any suggestions of something that is worthy of being photographed and e-mailed to 50 Russian kids would be appreciated. (“This is a picture of Starbucks. Starbucks is a place where an American does not think twice about spending $4.25 on a cup of coffee. This is another picture of the Starbucks that is located down the street from the other Starbucks.”…yeah, definitely not worthy of photography). Also, if anyone has any pictures of NYC, LA, etc (basically anything interesting) sitting on their hard drive, send them to me.

July 13, 2004

Glorified version of a pellet gun

The 10 day waiting period is over, and I have picked up my Mosin Nagant! Here it is:

In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of this rifle is the information located on the receiver, which is pictured below:

A quick glance at the receiver tells me that this rifle was produced in 1942, a year that is well known in WWII history due to the bloody fighting that occurred at Stalingrad. The lack of a smooth finish on the receiver also indicates that the arsenal was using various production shortcuts in order to get the rifles to the soldiers at the front as quickly as possible. At the bottom of the receiver is an imprint of an arrow inside a triangle. This indicates that the rifle was produced at the Izhevsk arsenal, which is situated in the foothills of the Ural mountains. The serial number of this rifle is “K3 4577.” The “3″ is actually the Cyrillic character that is equivalent to the “Z” in the Latin alphabet, so the serial number can be translated as “KZ 4577.” At the top of the receiver is the Soviet hammer and sickle enclosed in a wreath. There are a few more marks on this rifle, but I’m not sure what they mean so I will have to research them further.

This rifle is truly a beautiful piece of history, and will look even better once I clean all the Soviet grease off of it. Now, if only this weapon could talk! Did it see action at Stalingrad, Kursk, or Kiev? Perhaps its previous owner participated in the capture of Berlin? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. In the future, I would like to purchase a few more Mosins…I really want one that was produced before the Revolution, and an M44 would be nice, too.

Also, I need to put my Mosin somewhere…it’s just sitting in the corner of my room. I would like to hang it on the wall, but my mom isn’t too keen on that idea. Oh well.

More photos of my Mosin here.

July 7, 2004

News from Russia

St. Petersburg finally fixed the huge gap in their metro system. It only took them nine years! The metro tunnel collapsed in 1995 after it was flooded by a subterranean river, and since then residents have had to use several modes of transportation to get around the city. When I was in St. Pete, the metro stop located on our campus was useless because it was cutoff from the rest of the system. We had to take a bus to another station, Lesnaya…was quite annoying. The re-opening of the completed line was a big deal – Putin even dropped by for a visit!
John Paul Jones, the founder of the U.S. Navy, served in the Russian navy:
For the British, he is “Pirate Paul Jones,” feared and fearsome raider of the British coastline. Yet for a time he was Pavel Zhones, Kontra-Admiral in the navy of Empress Catherine the Great, and, later, resident of St. Petersburg.
Jones’ legacy in Russia is ambiguous, as was the rest of his life. Catherine gave him the admiral’s rank that he never received in the United States, yet he was constantly handicapped by the supervision of Catherine’s favorite Grigory Potemkin. Jones was loved by the Russian sailors under his command, yet he was never accepted by the aristocracy of St. Petersburg. And although he left Russia in disgrace, he always longed to return and wrote letters to Catherine for the rest of his life.

Don’t want to take the Moscow metro? In the future you may be able to take a helicopter taxi across the city.
London: Moscow on the Thames?
Suddenly, it seems, Russians are everywhere in Britain, London especially, as the nation becomes a magnet for the newly rich and super-rich who are looking for a safe haven for their money and the opportunity to buy into the essence of Western class and respectability.
They are competing against each other for the most expensive houses in the country. One billionaire has bought Chelsea Football Club and some of the world’s most expensive soccer talent, and others are basing themselves in London to buy and sell businesses in global oil, gas and metals. Russian businessmen (almost all men) and their families are putting their children into some of Britain’s most expensive private schools and spending huge sums at fashion houses, on art, and in restaurants. So much Russian is heard on London streets that Hampton Court Palace — 16th Century home of King Henry VIII — is about to add a Russian language version to its walk-around electronic guide.

Excellent…more Russians in London = more Russian restaurants that I can eat at (let’s face it, English food sucks). Oh, and maybe I can practice my pitiful Russian language skills while I’m over there.
Harvard may have to repay $34 million to the U.S. government! Ouch!
Harvard may have to repay millions of dollars to the government after a judge ruled that two of its employees advising Russian authorities on privatization violated conflict-of-interest rules.
The lawsuit arose out of work by the Harvard Institute for International Development in the 1990s to help the country shape its post-Communist government into a modern, capitalist system. The U.S. Agency for International Development gave Harvard about $34 million for the “Russia Project.”
Hay and Shleifer were advising the country on restructuring its economy. At the same time, they and their families allegedly made several hundred thousand dollars in investments in companies Hay and Shleifer were helping the Russian government regulate.

Sucks to be you, Haaaahvuhd.
Just who did smash Communism? Excellent article by GW professor James Hershberg. He takes on the “Reagan victory school” and discusses the real reasons behind the collapse of the Soviet Union. Also, check out the Q&A session with Hershberg regarding his article. I got a laugh out of this guy:
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Hershberg, the kids at GW are getting a lousy education if you’re teaching them what is in your article. Ronald Reagan didn’t just carry on containment, he instituted a revolutionary policy: Rollback of the Soviet empire. And it worked, much to the pain of liberals everywhere.
Thanks for the belly laughs while reading your article.
James G. Hershberg: You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. Actually, at GWU, at this as on other issues, I try to give students various alternative major interpretations, suggest further readings, and urge them to decide for themselves. (And sometimes make them do so on mid-terms and finals.) But if my own views provoke them to argue their own, and best of all to dig deeper into the subject, that’s fine.

Yes, I must have received a lousy education at GW since I refuse to fall in line with the “Reagan ended the Cold War” cult!
And finally, the Pro-Putin youth group “Moving Together” is picketing the offices of Western media companies in Moscow:
The pro-Kremlin youth group Moving Together is picketing the Moscow offices of Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France Presse, the BBC and Bloomberg, accusing them of failing to report about corruption in the Russian media.
[Group members] Fomin and Ryabchenko acknowledged, however, that they were not familiar with the Western organizations’ reports.
“I don’t read a lot and especially not in English. I do not know what they write, but our organization has given us complete details about it,” Ryabchenko said.
Fomin added, “I’m young, after all, and like any young person I don’t have any time to read the news.”

Classic…

July 5, 2004

Happy Birthday, America

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July 4, 2002 – St. Petersburg, Russia

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Celebrated Independence Day by visiting Dostoevsky’s apartment and then eating borscht and shashlyik at a Russian restaurant (you know, typical 4th of July foods). Afterwards, we wandered around Nevsky Prospect until the wee hours of the morning and took a cab back to our dorm…driver got lost several times, but we finally made it back.

July 4, 2003 – Moscow, Russia

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Celebrated America’s birthday by hanging around VDNKh, a park formerly dedicated to the achievements of the Soviet Union. While at VDNKh, we said hello to the Lenin statue (poor fellow doesn’t get many visitors these days) and proceeded to run around the park beating each other senseless with inflatable hammers and maces while astonished Russians looked on. Afterwards, we went back to our dorm and prepared our Independence Day feast: Hot dogs in lavash (we didn’t have any hot dog buns), deviled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad (my contribution, haha), apple pie, and – to drink – Baltika and Russki Standart.

July 4, 2004 – Oceanside, California

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Finally, a July 4th back in the States (although, to tell you the truth, I would like to be in Russia this summer). I was quite surprised when I learned that I wasn’t scheduled to work on Sunday, so I went to Oceanside. The beach was pretty crowded, but there were hardly any surfers. The lifeguards kept the surfing area clear of bodyboarders and swimmers, so I had a huge section of water all to myself…was quite nice. Had a BBQ and watched fireworks…the typical Independence Day festivities. Left Oceanside at 6:30 this morning in order to be at work by 10am. Yeah, everyone else gets a three day weekend so they decide to come into Office Depot and annoy us. We were having a July 4th “clearance sale”…because, you know, I’m sure that’s what our forefathers envisioned as they signed their names to the Declaration of Independence! “I sure hope businesses will use this day to get rid of all the junk they can’t sell!” This one lady went nuts on one of my co-workers for no reason…was yelling, etc…it was amusing because she was wearing a shirt with a big American flag on it…yeah, way to get into the holiday spirit, lady. Whatever…

Here’s some good Independence Day links:
The Onion: Good Citizenship Tips
The Onion: I Should Not Be Allowed To Say The Following Things About America (sums up my current mood)
The Onion: Hang In There! You Live In The Richest Nation In The World! (Yes, whenever I need a super-duper
pick-me-up, I just think about my elite status as an American citizen. That never fails to put the feather back in my cap. Sure, there’s a war going on and lots of other problems, but let’s keep in mind that over the past 20 years, our economy has grown at a faster rate than at any other time in our history. That means when Friday comes, it’s time to celebrate with a happy-hour raspberry margarita at Applebee’s! Why not? I’m from America, the wealthiest country in the entire world!
)

Anyways, I get the next two days off of work, so I’m happy…