Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dear Europe,

You have been so wonderful to me over the past few months and the years before that. You have provided challenges that have shaped me, new viewpoints that I have contemplated over, amazing sceneries that I have captured in my mind’s eye and memories I shall carry with me for a lifetime. My eyes have opened to the greater world because of you and your time spent with me and I will always carry that in my heart. I can not thank you enough for that. I will miss your cobblestone streets, patisseries, ancient cathedrals, charming villages, Roman cities and cultured people with language skills I still envy.

Before I leave you I would like to make just a few suggestions for your already wonderful way of life. Just a few notes really of ways to make life, if possibly, even more thrilling, peaceful and worthwhile. Although minor and meager in comparison to what you already have to offer, I found myself missing them greatly. Garbage disposals, I think you will find have been widely used with great enthusiasm and little complaint. Your pipes will be thrilled, as will your homeowners. It is quite amazing what this little invention will do to your life- trust me. Although I know you have perfect beer and made wine in an art, may I suggest you add to your achievements the mixed drink. Although a simple idea, a great deal is involved in the idea. The correct selection of glasses must be obtained, these include but are not limited to: Collins, martini, margarita, and rocks glass. I must also insist the use of ice when serving such delightful mixed drinks. May I also suggest the importation of sour mix. It does wonders with things like Amoretto, Vodka and Whiskey. I would also love to see the correct concoction and consistency of the milk shake. This simple task is not beyond your abilities, as I know you already provide them. However, they have gone horribly awry and must be corrected. I feel you should know the proper consistency of a milk shake should just be thick enough to barely be able to be sucked up a straw. There should be more ice-cream, preferably chocolate, than milk. Also, for loving cream as much as you do you seem to have left it out of this precious recipe where it has potential to do the most good. And although I have come to appreciate and prefer your modest yet filling proportions, the shakes should really always come in excess. I would like to remind you these really are modest notes, you may say complaints, considering my true ability as a complainer and general negative speaker on, well, any subject really. So take heart that these are minor alterations to the wonder you have brought into my life.

As I prepare to leave, my dissertation is in its final stages and I am more than eager to see it finished. Im hoping that the next three weeks will see its finish. I have still yet to find employment in Chicago but I have faith that it will come in time and hope that it is sooner rather than later. Until then I will enjoy my last week in Switzerland, relish the short stop I have in London Heathrow and look forward to seeing my family and friends again back in the States.

So until I see you again, this is not goodbye. No, for I shall be back. So, ciao for now. I will see you again soon; you can count on it!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The past few weeks have once again been a tizzy of commotion and emotion. In the past three weeks I have made major progress on my dissertation, seen old friends, and new friends, cheered on/worried over/and consoled family, gotten sick, read great books and seen good movies.

One of my dear friends from Camp of the Woods stopped by Nyon for a few days on his world-wind tour of Europe. He and his travel companion and I had a great time basking in the sun while at the spa, bashing around Geneva and laughing over wine, kirsch and fondue. Once again our topics of conversation were not in short supply. We covered all manor of subjects, as is the usual with us.

While my camp friend was here my book came. The book the whole world waited for in anxious anticipation. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. My giddy anticipation of this book has been well documented and sympathized with by friend and family alike, on both sides of the Atlantic. I did not wait long upon its arrival to delve into its pages. All I have to say on that note is that J.K. knows how to write a page turner, and I cried my eyes out. I am ashamed to say that I only just saw the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Through a number of uncontrollable events I was unable to see the movie on the opening night at midnight or the successive weeks after. I loved the movie on the whole, however was disappointed with the variations from the book and with what I felt like were many key elements that were left out of the film. Yet, this will hardly stop me from seeing the film on an IMAX screen once I get home and probably successive viewings after that.

It was not long after my friend’s departure that I became sick. I spent a day and a half feeling awful before I spent a full day completely miserable in bed with a fever. The last week I have been in recover mode, constantly blowing my nose, followed by coughing up a lung here and there. I have literally gone through three full tissue boxes at this point…and counting.

Through all of this I have been working on my dissertation, despite I may add the doubts of family in the states. Yes I am working hard on the final stages of my education. Thus far the dissertation is about 27 pages long with a total of roughly 10,000 words. Which leaves me with about 5,000 words to compare the two countries and their civil societies and then conclude with a brilliance unknown to me at this moment in time. Mind you it will be a very rough draft but I hope to be finished with the majority of it by the time I depart for the States at the end of the month.

Yesterday I rose extra early to cheer on my cousin and her husband in a mini relay triathlon here in Nyon. It was originally suggested that I too take part in the running section of it. But thankfully my illness came at just the right time for me to reasonable duck out of the ridicules idea that I take part in a timed physical activity (not to mention my running has been sporadic at best this summer). Other family members have been on my mind of late as well. All I have to say on this is ‘trying times’.

Disclaimer: Reading the article suggested by the author of this blog may induce outrage and a sickening feeling in the gut due to the loss of your civil rights. Any comments found in brackets [ ] are the thoughts and opinions of the me and not the NY Times.

And now on to something I read about this morning in the NY Times that outraged me.
For those who want to read the article for themselves the article is entitled “Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping” by James Risen. The title should indicate enough of the substance of the article to sufficiently explain my outrage, contempt and frustration. International wiretappings are now easier and legal. Phone calls and emails to and from the US are now legally tapped without such pesky things as search warrants and the like. Here are a few highlights from the article-

“By changing the legal definition of what is considered “electronic surveillance,” the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants—latching on to those giant switches—as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is “reasonably believed” to be overseas”.

“The new law gives the attorney general [a Voldermort fan no doubt, considering the Geneva Conventions to be “quaint”] and the director of the national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The court’s only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted. It will not scrutinize the cases of the individuals being monitored”.

And those ladies and gentlemen were your civil rights- being flushed away. I encourage you to now send international emails and phone calls containing commentary and opinions concerning this horrendous new development and your general displeasure with humanities current predicament. Best of luck to you all.