so much to update so little time

Several exciting developments in the last few weeks that I've been meaning to post, but have lacked time that is otherwise devoted to hundreds of pages of weekly reading assignments. Ugh. On the upside: I'm really enjoying all my classes this semester and so am even happier to be working less and devoting even MORE time to reading. Hooray!

On to the excitement (in pictures):

First, it actually SNOWED about a week ago. And since then it's been flurrying on and off every few days. This is the kind of snow I can deal with -- light coats on the trees and streets. Just enough to make everything pretty and not-slushy or otherwise dangerous and a pain to deal with. Here's what it looked like outside my front door last Sunday:

In other Exciting Developments, I attended my first honest-to-goodness Washington protest (and really my first actual protest ever seeing as how journalists can't protest.) We got to chant fun phrases like "Bush! You liar! Your cowboy ass is fired!" Though, I must say, my favorite was Eve Ensler's (of "Vagina Monologues" fame) getting all the women in the crowd to shout "Pull out now!" Ahhh. Hippie humor.

Here's what the streets surrounding the Capitol looked like as we marched:


Also, in exciting appliances news: A couple weeks ago I bought a TV for $25 from a moving sale. This weekend I hit up Target for a DVD player and a little TV stand. So now we have what passes for an entertainment center in our little television-deprived household. Still don't have cable, but that does mean that visitors will no longer be reduced to watching movies on our laptops. Hooray!

Finally, SoCal kids, get out your Blackberries/DayPlanners/scrap pieces of paper. I'll be home March 3-11 for spring break (hooray! I get spring break!) and am bringing with me a certain native of Detroit, Michigan for the ride. So you best be prepared for some good times.


this must be what it feels like for the rest of the country to watch the super bowl

Since I missed the Big Time Dem Party on Election Day (which totally should be a national holiday for many reasons, not least of which the fact that win or lose you're going to want to drink at the end of the day), I figured I had to do something appropriately DC-esque for the State of the Union.

Alison and I tried to go to a SOTU bingo party but apparently RSVP'ed too late. (Yes, in Washington these types of parties fill up fast. MASSIVE nerds.) So instead we hit up Adams-Morgan and settled on a bar that advertised $5 buckets of beer and jello shots every time Bushie utters your chosen word (mine were "energy" and "diplomacy." Energy, as you *should* know came up several times. Diplomacy not so much. Though Whelan kindly corrected me to point out that he did say it four times. The midget barkeep owes me jello shots!)

The packed bar actually fell silent once the speech started, though there were appropriate boos and cheers. Being a blue-tinged bar, Hilary got a lot of whoops and hollers and Bush plenty of hisses. To be fair though, more than a few of us suggested Ted Kennedy was perhaps past his prime, if I may be so bold.

Some of my favorite comments from the night:

"More Dikembe, less Bush!" (By the way, I do believe Georgetown was the only university mentioned in the speech. Go HOYAS!)

"Woohoo terrorism!" (She wasn't actually cheering jihad so much as hollering for her free shot.)

And my favorite: "Ethanol sucks!" (From your tree-hugging friend and mine: Ali D. You stay classy Ali D.)


basic human rights

This story saddened me for so many reasons. Not least of which the fact that Hrant Dink was an Armenian voice of reason in Turkey. He also took a stand for freedom of speech in that country in the hopes that it would make his home nation one day acknowledge that so as to join the EU. I admired (and still admire) his principles.

After this week's horrifying murder of an NDI staff member in Baghdad and now more fatal oppression in Turkey, I do question why I'm so devoted to promoting freedom of speech. But I know that it's simply because I truly believe that guaranteeing such basic human rights is a strong step toward a more peaceful world, where we can debate one another without going to war.

I hope some world leaders are taking note of the same thoughts.


war is hell

When I first started tinkering with the idea of graduate school, part of what drove me was the realization that a master's degree is essential to doing international work. I'd always been interested in conflict zones (like last spring's travel itinerary), partly as a result of my parents own flight from civil war in Lebanon, which was fed by their constant addiction to news, whether it was NPR, NBC Nightly News, or the LA Times. With the war in Iraq settling down a couple years ago, I thought it would be great to be able to work in a post-conflict zone and help establish a functioning participatory democracy, one in which a newly independent media can thrive.

But some scary news at work today really drove home the dangers of Iraq. Not that we weren't already cognizant of the Wild West-like atmosphere of kindappings and ambushes, but it had almost become routine. A dozen Iraqis killed in a suicide bombing here, four more Marines killed in an IED explosion. Sadly, it was no longer shocking. Just another bloody number to add to the ever-growing toll.

Then came this:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide car bomber killed 17 Shiites at a teeming Sadr City market Wednesday, while gunmen in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad shot up a convoy of democracy workers in an ambush that took the lives of an American woman and three bodyguards.

The attack on the marketplace came one day after car bombings killed scores of university students just two miles away, indicating that al-Qaida-linked fighters are bent on a surge of bloodshed as U.S. and Iraqi forces gear up for a fresh neighborhood-by-neighborhood security sweep through the capital.

Although nobody claimed responsibility for either day's car bombings, such attacks are the hallmark of Sunni militants, who appear to be taking advantage of a waiting period before the security crackdown to step up attacks on Shiites. There had been a relative lull in Baghdad violence since the first of the year.

An Iraqi army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the attack on the Western convoy took place in Yarmouk, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad.

The three-car convoy belonged to the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, according to Les Campbell, the not-for-profit group's Middle East director. He said the four dead included an American woman along with three security contractors -- a Hungarian, a Croatian and an Iraqi. Two others were wounded, one seriously, Campbell said by telephone from Washington. Their names were withheld until their families could be notified.

''It appeared to be an attack with fairly heavy weapons, we don't know what kind,'' Campbell said. ''We have some information that a firefight ensued. Our security company responded to the attack.''

Campbell said the ambush took place at midday as the group returned from a program elsewhere in Baghdad.



Just a few of the happy reminders that I'm back in Washington:

* Celebrated Armenian Christmas (again) on Monday at the Armenian Embassy, with an Armo soprano's recital.

* Marked a friend's birthday dinner at Cactus Cantina. Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought the place appropriately festive. From last week's WashPost: "Laura Bush, Condi Rice, Mary Matalin, Margaret Spellings and Harriet Miers at Cactus Cantina for a surprise birthday party for Karen Hughes. A dozen Bush administration power babes gathered at the Tex-Mex restaurant for fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas, margaritas and chocolate cake with a "classified" number of candles. (Hughes turned 50 on Dec. 27.) No word on how many hot chilies Miers ate, but she announced her resignation yesterday morning. Hmmmm." According to the waiter, I share my taste with Condi -- we both had the chicken fajitas.

* Overheard a public policy student on the bus to Georgetown talking to a friend about his morning on the Hill: "Well, you know I'm from Illinois, so there was this coffee thing and we were chatting with Obama."

* At a work lunch at Palm, spotted Mary Matalin's husband James Carville taking a seat a few tables down.

It's good to be back.


and we start anew

Good friends, good drinks and some fabulously retro music helped ring in the New Year for me in Hollywood on Sunday night. At first, I really wasn't looking forward to an LA night out. But I doushed my negative attitude with a few well-spiked cocktails and had a good time, no less. Still: One of these years, I'm determined to have the perfect New Year's Eve at home. Perhaps a la Moon.

This time last year my grad school applications were posted and on their way to several discerning admissions committees. I was (still) recovering from my wildest New Year's Eve ever in Long Beach, and I was (still) slaving away at The Paper, wondering if I'd ever get out. As I (we all?) are wont to do, I was wondering what my life would be like at the dawn of 2007. Would I be in grad school somewhere? Would I still be a singleton? Would the Republicans rule this country forever and ever and ever?

Happily, the answers to those questions were: Yes. No. And (Sorry Whelan), a very resounding NO.

A LOT has changed in the last 12 months. So much so, in fact, that I'll be content to keep up with the status quo in 2007. Grad school is going great. I'm really enjoying working in a new environment. Building a relationship with someone is as wonderful as I remembered. And there is hope for the political future of this country. (See, I'm totally a Washingtonian now.)
And so with that, I'm anxiously awaiting getting back to forming this new life of mine and enjoying it every step of the way.
Happy 2007!