Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Year

It caught me by surprise that New Year's Eve is tomorrow. For some reason I thought there was an extra day in between whatever TODAY was, and New Year's Eve. Whoops. I was wrong! I was hitting tennis balls with Amigo and the subject came up, and the result is that I'm an idiot. I also stepped up to serve from the deuce court when I should have been serving from the ad court more times today than I ever have in my life COMBINED! I think my brain took leave for the day... To boot the ball was just not bouncing. It was so cold that even a can of tennis balls that was freshly opened today was bouncing like the balls were opened last year, sat around in a puddle of mud, rinsed on Heavy Wash in the dishwasher, and given a good scrubbing with an SOS pad to boot. I don't think I could possibly ever ascribe more detail to the bouncing of a tennis ball. Please shoot me if I ever attempt.

So, now here comes the cheesy sappy ooey gooey reflections part that every pretentious badjagaloop insists on prattling on about -- indulge thyself!

*SIDE NOTE* -- iTunes, two gooey pop songs need not be followed by three more...

2009 was a good year pretty much from start to finish, in such STARK contrast to the Annus horribilis that preceded it. I was shaking hands with 2008 and inserting the toe of my boot in it's proverbial hind end. Over half of 2008 spewed forth feces and melancholy at every turn, so you can, of course, imagine my despair at seeing it go.
2009 turned out to be MUCH better on all fronts. No epic disappointments. No fair weather friends. No illusions (or self delusions). Just good. I hope I carry the good mindset onward an into 2010, because I went through and learned a lot.

*Side note* do we say "Twenty ten," or "two thousand ten"???*

I'm looking forward to ringing in the New Year with some friends. It will be somewhat subdued as I have a flight out at 10am on New Year's Day, but that's ok. New Year's Eve is not the best night to lose your bearing and your wits!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Little Rascals

Sissified Tweety Bird
Barf-encrusted jumbo jerk
Muzak-warbling whimp

Are just some of the gems that I was able to remember and write down after I basically spent ALL FREAKIN' DAY in front of the TV. Those particular ones came from The Little Rascals. I remember going to see that movie when it came out with Grandmama and Granddaddy. It's a fond memory I have of Granddaddy. Ahhh, 1994, 2nd grade...ok, that's a little too long in the way back machine

I also had the urge to schlep to the refrigerator every fifteen minutes. That's a primary indicator that I'm bored. After I got home everything was absorbed with the buildup to Christmas -- which is of course, awesome. However, I'm now slogging through the post-Christmas doldrums, and after two days it's gotten old!!!! It's nobody's fault, but there's nothing to do. I'm tired, everybody's tired. I'm enjoying my new "toys", but two days of sitting around in front of the TV is about all I can take. Tomorrow I'm going to go and take care of a few things and/or just wander around and see if there are any deals just too good to be true. I do want a case for my computer, and just a chance to be out and about by myself. I've found this to happen a lot since I left for college. After basically living by yourself or with just one other person you have a lot of time to yourself and it's very easy to be alone when you want to be. Not so! when you go back home, and it usually shows up after about a week. Everybody wants to see you and they want to see you like every fifteen minutes. I love you but I need my space!!! lol. I'm sure that's a new degree of selfish.

I've thoroughly been enjoying the cold weather. It's nice to have to put on a coat and gloves and not be drenched in sweat. Ask me again after this next weekend in Chicago where it's due to be 18 degrees F!!!! Oh well, I've survived much colder!!!! 18 F = about -8 C. When I was in Armenia it was routinely down to -19 C, which is about 4 F, so coldwise I know I can survive it (which a giant butt coat). Me hiding somewhere in that coat:

We had good times with friends and family the week up to Christmas. Old friends of the family were at our house for most of the night and we spent most of the day prior and of cooking. We also were able to have lunch with Grandmama and then visit with my aunt and cousins for a little while after. There are four of us cousins that were born basically one after another. I'm the oldest grandson. The oldest grandchild is the only granddaughter of the crew. She's 9 months older than I am. My brother and her brother are also nine months apart, and about three years younger than we are so it's kinda weird! It also makes me kinda sad because my uncle and his wife had their child (my cousin) only recently. He'll be three soon. It makes me sad because we all had each other to play with at family functions and whatnot, and we more or less grew up together, but he won't have that. My uncle is the youngest child on that side of the family, and everybody else that had kids had them much earlier than he did. So the reality is that I probably won't know my new little cousin very well and he won't know me. Sadness.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I hate wrapping packages about as much as I hate writing "Thank-you" notes. Honestly, isn't me saying thanks enough? You're going to read that note in about fifteen seconds and take another five, maybe ten - max, to throw it into the garbage. Factor in the five it took me to write it, another three or four for addressing the envelope, and then the time (and money) it took to get the thing to you... do you see where I'm doing with this...

Wrapping packages is made infinitely easier when the back of the wrapping paper has the little grid lines. AMAZING! Odd-shaped packages are the devil.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my new MacBook Pro (did I mention I LOVE it?). Insert picture of me hugging it HERE. I've also been totally absorbed in copying most of my CD library onto my iTunes. It's amazing how many cheesy/fantastic country songs I have from the 1990's. I mean, Pam Tillis?? C'mon. It's also interesting to me how my taste in music is so completely random. I like some people's new stuff and hate their old stuff (Madonna is a really good example, not a fan of most of her early work). I also can't stand some people's new stuff and really like their old stuff (anything Toby Keith did after 2000 will not be found on my iTunes). Then, of course, there are some artists whose work I have the entire freakin' catalogue and they really cannot make a bad album (Stevie Nicks, Garth Brooks, and a few others). I brought Toby Keith up because I found a "Greatest Whatever" CD of his that had about ten songs from the early 90's that I love that i didn't know he did. Amazing!


I've been back home a week now. For the most part it's been what I expected. Family interspersed with friends. I figured if I wanted to go out then the first weekend was going to be the best option before New Year's because everyone (including me) was going to be spending time with family, and on top of that most of the best places are DEAD right now. Friday night (the night after I got home) Amigo, Redd, and I went to 8E's in Athens. Great place. I love 8E's music... so that says enough right there. The place would be perfect if only it didn't have more than its allotted per capita of cougars. Yes, that's right. COUGARS! Thankfully said Cougar had much more interest in Amigo than she did in me, but it got kinda of creepy. We had to team up to get rid of the cougar. CREEPY. I think we all had a good time regardless of the cougar. She only (from what I can tell) got to be a bit much the last hour or so of a five hour evening, so I guess it's hard to complain. Perhaps Amigo can add some commentary and perspective.

I found out that one of my favorite songs "Steamy Windows" originally recorded by Tina Turner was also recorded by Kenny Chesney and John Anderson (????) begging your pardon. This required investigation, so I Youtubed those two versions. The findings were less than satisfactory. Tina Turner doesn't exactly have a twang-free voice, so the song has plenty of twang. Then those two come in and add MORE twang to an already twangy bluesy song. That's just too much twang. And frankly she sang THAT song with much more enthusiasm than either of those two. They sang it half-heartedly and with no conviction. You're singing about a romp on a country road... at least act like you enjoyed it for cryin' out loud! Very often I enjoy remakes as much or MORE than the originals... but not here. Not here. Sad and epic fail on your parts Kenny and John...

Why are we still making American Pie movies? How many movies about hormonal teenagers do we need? Can we at least make them under the pretense of NOT having a chain of movies teaching you how to make stupid decisions??? We all do that so well on our own...

So I passed my first semester of medical school. Woohoo, right? I was in the mall doing some shopping and I checked Facebook (on my iPhone, we're long-lost loves reunited -- and it feels so good) and some people had posted that they had passed this class or that class or made a 4.0 and whatnot, and I immediately went into OCD-Jay mode and set about trying to check mine. It was a little tedious because they send grades to us in a word format, which the iPhone had to think for a minute about opening. But when I saw that I had passed everything I was massively relieved! All that work did pay off!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Home!

Here's my account of getting home. In retrospect it wasn't nearly as stressful as I made it out to be going through it. I think I just was ready to get home!

16 December 2009.

For those not in the know it's election time in Dominica, which means nuttiness. Dominicans also have an odd sense of humor and like to mess with people's heads. Put the two together and you can be ensured of a stressful experience! We left for the airport around 10:30 to make sure that we all got our seats on the plane (LIAT has a bad habit of over-booking). On the way to the airport the island exploded with rumors of the airport closing. Two people called us as said that taxi drivers were cancelling bookings because of "rumors." Idiotic! if you ask me.

We got to the airport and found that everything was business as usual. Checked in and then proceeded to sit around...and sit around...and sit around...and -- you guessed it -- sit around some more. Our flight was SUPPOSED to leave at 3:15. Well, 3:15 came and went and there wasn't even a sign of our airplane (knock me over with a feather). People were starting to get antsy because almost all of us were trying to get to San Juan that night, and many of us had connections to make that night (I was overnighting out of necessity). I took it upon myself to calm my own nerves I guess more than anyone else's to speak with the check-in agent. Of course, there was NO LIAT representative behind security... what a great way to run an airline...NOT! Ok, so, in a nutshell I went out of the secure area and back up to the check-in area. I bypassed the line and went straight to the agent and relayed our concerns and she (shockingly) appeared interested and concerned. Basically, she told us that the plane was still in Barbados and that it should arrive around 4:30. I also asked about our connections and twenty minutes later I was told "operations is aware of the situation and should hold the flight." That was probably about as good as I was going to get so I just had to let that one go! Why I had to extract this information out of them is a fight I guess I'll have to save for another day!

So, back to the waiting lounge and sure enough, at 4:40 the plane lands. Twenty minutes later we board the plane and they're literally pulling the door up and removing the chocks as we are buckling our seat belts! The flight was a short one -- thirty minutes -- to Antigua. I was relieved to be going to Antigua because if all else failed I could get home from American Airlines. It wouldn't have been cheap, but I could have trotted down to the American Airlines ticket counter and bought myself a one-way ticket to Atlanta. Getting home for that night in 8E's Bar and dinner at The Diner was that important!

And the pilots seemed eager to get the plane on the ground. On the ground was a VS 744! Antigua airport is actually quite busy and sees heavies from Virgin Atlanta and British Airways among others. It sees a slew of LIAT flights, but LIAT and the Antigua Airport Air Traffic Control have a rather tenuous relationship (partly responsible for their omnipresent delays). This is my second and hopefully last time transiting the Antigua airport. There are just more efficient places to change planes.

I would have liked to snap a few more pictures of it than I was able to get but we were herded off the plane, onto a bus, and driven 100 yards across the tarmac to another Dash 8. We were basically shoved into that aircraft, and were met by a much friendlier FA than on the flight into Antigua. As before, we were buckling our seat belts as the plane was moving out! To their credit they know how to make up for a delay! Once onboard LIAT is quite comfortable. There is good legroom and the seats are comfortable. The FAs usually appear to give a rip

We fly uneventfully for about forty-five minutes and we land in Tortola. This stop was not stated on the flight itinerary but apparently was necessary for a "security check." I still haven't actually looked up where Tortola is so all I know of it is that it's a runway somewhere about thirty minutes flying time from San Juan... So we're on the ground there, and the FA explicitly states that passengers bound for Puerto Rico are to stay on, and sure enough, three or four people trot off the plane...luckily for them I knew them and alerted the FA that they had indeed deboarded and probably wouldn't care too much for being stranded in Tortola. Lucky for one of them I'm a nice person because I honestly couldn't care less if she fell off a cliff and got shredded by mermaids... Was that a little harsh????

After twenty minutes or so in Tortola and a passport check we take off into the night and head for San Juan. The flight was very uneventful. The only thing worth mentioning is that I listened to Proud Mary from Tina: Live! about four times and bought a Coke from the FA (for 5 XCD) to keep me awake. We flew over San Juan and I was amazed at how many baseball fields there are there! We landed with little incident, and then made our way off the plane. We had to wait a few minutes until we were ALL off the plane and were then escorted into customs and immigration. Immigration was a breeze because we were the only flight arriving at the time and I had made a beeline for the front of the crowd. No issues there.

I get down to baggage claim, however, and find that one of the 7 liters of rum I had in my checked baggage had indeed busted. I saw the liquid stain on the side of the bag before it even got close to me. As such, I draped my jacket over the top of it when i was going through agriculture check. I wasn't brining anything into the country that wasn't allowed, but I just didn't want the visible liquid to instigate a search and hold me up. I was hungry and needed food!!! At the end of the day I would have had to pay duty on three or four of the bottles, but that's it, they would have let me bring them in. I made my way to the Hampton Inn about a mile away from the airport. Because of my Hilton Silver status I was upgraded to a King Suite. Woot! I opened up my bag to find the (hopefully) one bottle that ruptured, and ended up also throwing away two or three shirts that absorbed most of the rum. For what it's worth I hate rum but was bringing it home for some friends. You could have gotten drunk off the smell! I wish I had taken a picture of my white undershirt stained yellow from the rum. Great mental image I know!

17 December 2009

I left the hotel relatively early for my 10:00 am flight to Atlanta from San Juan. Checking in wasn't too difficult. I just had to run my bags through the USDA scan right past the front door, then made my way to the Delta counter which was all the way in the back of the check in hall. There didn't appear to be much before checkin at the airport, so I went through security. This was rather annoying because they have a sniffer and it was going very slow. The TSA also brought through several people in wheel chairs, which slowed things considerably as they had to get OUT of their wheel chairs and walk through the sniffer. Annoying more than anything, really. Once past security I grabbed a Coke and bought some lame book, The Charlemagne Pursuit" I think is what it's called, just to have something to do. I ended up reading about 100 pages of it. I'm not sure if I'll finish it or not, but it was nice to have. I probably would have read more BUT the film for this flight turned out to be Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I love Harry Potter! I caught a few pictures of the "action" on the ramp.

The flight was DL420. I subconsciously thought to myself if the flight number was indicative of the refreshments served on board...I was in Zone 4, seat 23C, so I boarded fairly early. This flight was slam full and it took a while to get everybody situated, though it was done with much more order than anything I've seen on LIAT. I saw a friend who had been on the flight from Dominica with me get on this flight. He was going to LA. We pushed back on time, and taxied all the way past the American Airlines terminal. There wasn't much action at the airport at this time of the day. Most of the American Eagle flights go out in the early afternoon. We jetted into the clear skies over San Juan, and toward home!

I purchased the fruit and cheese platter Delta had as one of their BOB options, and I must say it was pretty good, well worth the $6. I sat back and read for a little while before they started the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I had seen it a few times before (thank you Graboid video), but honestly, Harry Potter never gets old!

My seat-mates for this flight were a Flemish couple traveling home. The wife/girlfriend was reading a book in French, but it sounded to me like they were speaking Flemish to each other. I say Flemish because they had told me they were going home to Belgium. They could, however, have invested just slightly in some deodorant... The FA serving our section was fantastic! She was an older lady but was very pleasant and had an air of sophistication about here. I would've asked her how long she'd been working as an FA, but she was very busy, and Harry Potter had my attention!

We had some turbulence over South Georgia, and we made our approach over the western suburbs of Atlanta. On approach with us was a Delta 738. We landed on the South runways, it landed on the North runways. We did not land on the outer runway that runs over the Perimeter. It was a rather long taxi toward the terminal because the planes were landing in the direction of the E concourse, and that's where we left the runway. We slogged our way down to the T-side of Concourse A where we docked at A18 I believe. I was plane to baggage check in ten minutes, where my dad and brother were waiting on me. We had to wait a few minutes for my bag, and after the run incident in Puerto Rico I wanted to open up the bag and make sure that nothing else had broken. I didn't see any liquid stains, but the smell of rum nearly knocked me out when I opened the bag. Sure enough, another bottle had been broken. Oh well, life goes on. The good bottle intended for the following evening's festivities was intact!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nerdy Song translation

Ok, so, I heard the song "What's Love Got to Do With It?" while I was studying for histology/physiology a day or two ago (I thought I'd catch a ride) and the first line sent off this chain of events. I am a complete and total geek/nerd/epic failure ;)

"You must understand that the touch of your hand makes my pulse react"

Translation: the sensation of your epidermis on my epidermis via Meissner's corpuscles increases my sympathetic innervation and makes me tachycardic.

"It's only the thrill, of boy meeting girl that opposites attract"

Translation: Your pheromones are initiating a subconscious response...

"It's physical"

Translation: It is ingrained in my physiology, and cannot be helped

"Only logical"

Translation: such a topic will never find itself on a behavioral and/or Doctor Patient Society question

"You must try to ignore that it means more than that"

Translation: Psychiatry is a joke ;)

Ok, you must be shaking your head by now. Worry not, for I am too, and was the minute that popped into my head. However, it tells me that I am indeed learning...something... If you get me and/or my sense of humor this should come as no surprise, but just in case you don't -- I'm sorry, but not really. I am what I am. Learn to live with me, or give me a lobotomy...

Friday, December 11, 2009

This week's rambles...

It would really suck to be a man in Botswana. Their average life expectancy is HALF of what it was TEN years ago... due almost entirely to HIV. Honestly folks... is a condom THAT much to ask...

Five Whitney Houston ballads in a row is enough to make even Ghandi throw in the towel... I had my iTunes on (shuffle was off for some reason). I went through "Run to You", "I Have Nothing", "I Will Always Love You", "Exhale", and "Didn't We Almost Have it All" before I noticed that I had heard A LOT of sadness in a row. I was only half paying attention because I was studying. I started to think about all the sad things like dead puppies, jet lag, cellulite, holes in the ozone layer, epic failure on the final, and that all-important Tibetan Freedom before I thought, what on earth is going on here. OH! My shuffle is off... A quick click of the button brought about much happier music mixing... One mark in the LAME and PATHETIC category for me.

December 16th cannot come quickly enough. and January 6th is going to come far too quickly.

I'm incredibly and inexplicably annoyed by peoples' inability to distinguish between YOUR/YOU'RE and THERE/THEIR/THEY'RE and the inability to use pronouns properly, or adverbs at all. I mean really's not that deep. It takes ten minutes to learn the difference. I learned them in 7th grade and can still spit them out. I guess I should send Mr. Klempner a Christmas card this year...

Taylor Swift is incredibly annoying. Period. Paragraph. Add Lady Gaga to that list (she's a crackhead I swear).

I read pieces of Barack Obama's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize (a perennial joke if you ask me regardless of who receives it). I actually developed a little respect for the man.

I don't know how I'm going to be able to cope with the fact that I'll be missing a Hee Haw themed Christmas party at my old job this year... What will I have to chemically alter myself with to deal with this loss...

The Lion King is still one of the greatest movies of all time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Well on the way to certifiable...

Central State hold a place for me... Ok, scratch that. Complete and total apathy has set in and I just do not give a hoot... it's me absorbing the local Dominican motto! Ok, scratch that too, and shoot me if that ever happens!

Yesterday we were in the middle of an EIGHT (EIGHT!)hour study session. During said session a small Mack truck LOADED with speakers came through and parked right outside the campus gate. The music was so loud it was vibrating the tables and windows in the rooms. I'm sure you could have heard it in Guadeloupe... it was THAT loud. Well, not only did they park there, but they stayed for ten minutes. Finally, enough was enough, it was impossible to concentrate. Apparently a few others felt the same as I was not the only one leaving the study room at that time. We went over to the group of people sitting mere inches away from speakers that were eight feet tall (where's the sense in that)and attempted to explain that the noise that thing was making was rather distracting and if they wouldn't mind either turning the blasted thing off or moving on down the road. The guy next to me was less than polite about it, I was trying to be a little more tactful, but it wasn't working. Not only did they not care that it was bothering us (shocker), but they didn't seem to understand HOW it could bother us. So again, dude, we have a test in two days... it's impossible to concentrate, and you've been here ten minutes. He said "we'll go in a minute." Sorry chief, that isn't going to cut it. "A minute" in island time could be tomorrow! We finally had to ask security to make them move. As they were moving I tried to give a wave of thanks, but it wasn't received friendly. We weren't trying to be jerks about it, but that attempt fell on deaf ears.

Now, why would they be doing that at all might you ask. Well, as it turns out it's election time here Dominica. I hate politics and politicians, and their mindless drones, er um, supporters, irritate me to no end. People's brains just get checked at the brain bank. AHHHHHHH! Rant! Also, continuing with the no-brain thing, the whole area around the school is 99% students. They weren't stopping to campaign, or if they were, that's wasted time!

On a totally different note. They cleaned out the anatomy dissection lab yesterday. They then cremated the bodies. The whole area smelled like Dachau. It was kinda creepy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One of my favorite songs that I think helps describe where I am in my life right now. Especially with TWO (TWO!!!) weeks until the final!!! And everything else in between. On a side note I think this would have been a better choice than an endless loop of "We Are the Champions" at the White Coat ceremony. I hate that song once, much less 63 times.

Growing up, you don't see the writing on the wall
Passing by, moving straight ahead, you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain
You'll find you're all alone, everything has changed

Play the game, you know you can't quit until it's won
Soldier on, only you can do what must be done
You know in some way you're a lot like me
You're just a prisoner and you're tryin' to break free

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire

Burning up, don't know just how far that I can go (just how far I go)
Soon be home, only just a few miles down the road
I can make it, I know I can
You broke the boy in me, but you won't break the man

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire
I can climb the highest mountain, cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin' in me, burnin' in me

Just once in his life
A man has his time
And my time is now
I'm coming alive

I can hear the music playin', I can see the banners fly
Feel like you're back again, and hope ridin' high
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I'll be where the eagle's flyin' higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire
I can climb the highest mountain, cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin' in me

Burnin', burnin' in me, I can feel it burnin'
Oooh, burnin' inside of me...

- Man in Motion, John Parr

Monday, November 30, 2009

More drivel...

More sensationalist drivel from TIME. Honestly folks, SH*T happens, has always happened, and will continue to happen. The 2000's were no worse than any other decade in history. We've just become more wired and are able to read about it NONSTOP 24/7 and THEN we get to discuss it. In thirty seconds I can pull up the news of the day for March 16, 1998 (totally random date). And then I can read a bunch of self serving analyses about it! If I really wanted to I could in about a day's time probably come up with a similar story for every decade of the past two centuries based on written reports alone. Sounds like TIME needed a filler story.

Technology has done a lot of good things for us, but for some reason it has deactivated our ability to take things in stride and realize there is a bigger picture and it's not all the time me me me, now now now I want my cookie, I want my Xbox, I want my Escalade. People have become incredibly short-sighted, childish, coddled, and frankly, idiotic -- WORLD OVER!

Everywhere we go we're bombarded by idiots like Katie Couric, Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jerry Farwell, and their cronies telling us their half informed deluded and self-serving opinions. Before people had to actually seek information and the truth. Now it's obliterated by episodes of American Idol and 24/7 sports networks.
If you really think the 2000s were just terrible you obviously are very short-sighted, didn't pay attention in history class, or let the 90's delude you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Turkey Day...and other ramblings...

So, who's not thinking about Christmas right? It's amazing that literally as soon as the plates are cleared from Thanksgiving dinner our thoughts turn to Christmas. Call me a Thanksgiving Scrooge but I've never been a huge fan of Thanksgiving. Maybe I'm callused, I don't know. Turkey's never been one of my favorite foods (at least non-deli sliced turkey), and there just doesn't seem to be any buildup, anticipation, or sort of frivolity associated with Thanksgiving that I've always associated with Christmas. Maybe Christmas just has more meaning to me, too.

Thanksgiving came and went this year and I really didn't find myself missing anything. Actually it came twice, as I celebrated Thanksgiving with my Canuck friends as well in October. They both were about equally exciting to me -- in other words let's eat and then get back to studying. Thanksgiving to me means cold weather (relative to Georgia, that is), cousins, and football. We had football, and it wasn't a game I was even remotely interested in. I mean really, why broadcast the Lions EVERY stinkin' year. I am very much looking forward to Christmas, however.

With Thanksgiving over all the associated things were there. The James Bond marathon. The Grinch. The Home Alone 1, 2, through 63 reruns. And HOOK!! Side note: What would the world be like without Captain Hook? I always associate these movies with Christmas (some of them are no-brainers). It's analogous to Halloween and Hocus Pocus. Now, many of these movies are made for children, but as I was a child especially when the Home Alones came out they'll probably never get old to me! Even the Third one is amazing, and I don't care what you say about it! It's amazing...and we'll leave it at that.

Don't even get me started on the blown pass in the last 90s of the Georgia v. Georgia Tech game. I sat there and watched the blasted ball fall out of the schmuck's hands! (Yes I know what a schmuck is and believe me it's appropriate here!). There were down by six, and the receiver in between the 30 and 40. If he had caught that pass in all likelihood Tech would have won the game. I'd love to be happy for UGA but jeez SEC fans are so freakin' obnoxious and it doesn't help that all the dumb people pull for them. Not many dumb people pull for the ACC.... What does that say about my social prejudices, lol. Let me also say that people who can't leave the game when they turn the TV off are SAD!!!!! I grew up in the South, so these people are frequent, and unfortunately they are on both sides (more on the SEC side but whatever). Sports become a religion and their world revolves around how their team did. It's really annoying and pitiful. Ok, enough about that!

Is wrong to really looking forward to be able to dress in clothes that don't make me look like a slob????? T-shirts and shorts all the time, I feel like an undergrad, which I am most decidedly not! I enjoyed being able to actually dress like I had an ounce of self respect while I was working. Here, forget it. Polos don't breathe very well, and jeans, well I don't even contemplate wearing jeans if the sun is up. I like wearing jackets, nice shirts, clothes that present me as somebody who takes himself seriously.

I would love to have some little insights in Dominican culture, but I just don't have any revelations into that yet. I'm looking for signs, and I just don't see anything that's unique. I'm in the frustrated stage. I was around for Dominican Independence Day but they really didn't seem to do anything they don't already do. All I see is people sitting around carryin' on. Um, can you say front porch evenings? I grew up on that. That's nothing special to me about that. What did they do? They went out on the streets and danced and then stood around for a few hours. Well guess what, minus the dancing that's what they do every day anyway. It's really annoying. Do people work? Yes, but many of them act like petulant children being made to clean their rooms when at work. At first it makes you feel like you're imposing to ask for your lunch...That doesn't last long because you eventually see that they want to act like children no matter whom they're serving.

Below is an excerpt from a blog I read sometimes. The blogger's post was in response to this quote, but I just was flabbergasted when I read it so I have to include it in my own!
“In conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, this blessed kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, Allah be praised, is the most conservative in the Muslim world, in which a woman maintains her honor, decency, and modesty, and she does not reveal anything – not her hands, her face, or anything – how can she drive a car? Those who call to allow women to drive – according to what has been written – can be divided into two groups. The first group includes Westernized people, who want to westernize the society, to tell the truth. They want to destroy society, corrupt it, and drag it down into the depths of decay and permissiveness, like in Western societies. These people have been blinded by what they saw there when they studied or visited there, and they want our society to be like other societies. They want it to be devoid of all values, morals, and modesty. They want women to go out on the streets all made up, like a harlot, with her face uncovered, like they see in the West. They think that the shortest and best way to reach this goal is to allow women to drive, because if a woman drives, she will reveal her face, drive without a male chaperone, will have an easy opportunity to meet all kinds of young men and women, and she will get all made up, will mix with men, and so on. I don’t think that any woman throughout human history has been as oppressed as the Western woman today – and they still claim they have given her freedom. They took her out of the home in order to exploit her - to exploit her honor and dignity. Furthermore, in many countries, her salary is lower than the man’s, but she works more than him. She does not get what she wants unless she sacrifices her honor, to her bosses or her co-workers. How strange! Even though they have permissiveness there, and any man can satisfy his desires outside of marriage, he’s not satisfied with ten or twenty. Any girl he sees, who has certain features, he wants. If she consents, fine. If not, he rapes her. “

Do what??????? *insert picture of my jaw hitting the floor* This is a response to the question of why women in Saudi Arabia shouldn't be allowed to drive. Never mind that the response opens up with a MASSIVE run-on sentence, the answer completely circumvents the question!!!!!! I'll readily admit there is too much religious influence in the GOP but at the very least we don't have our entire or even a plurality of the US government run by people who spew drivel like this!!!

Well, I guess that's all I've got time for at the moment. I wish I had more time to write insightful, well thought out, cohesive posts but as it is I just basically have time to put my thoughts down in a hodgepodge fashion. I'll work on the flow for the future!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Little friend greeting me as I get home...

I got back to my apartment tonight and went into my bedroom. Right after I turned on the light I noticed something frantically scurrying across the wall. I freaked for a second, thinking it was a centipede (vile, evil little cretins). I looked up to see that it was just a gecko. Whew! Ok, you must be asking why am I freaking out about a centipede?? Well, to be frank, THEY STING! A friend of mine was bitten just the day before yesterday. And it hurts! And they're aggressive. Sometimes the spawn of Satan will chase you down (the larger ones anyway). So, back to the Geiko gecko...It scurried behind my AC unit and I haven't seen it since. A rational person would say, well, dummy, it's still behind the AC unit. AHA, you'd be wrong! I looked with a flashlight and the little bugger is nowhere to be found! Honestly I don't mind that he's there. One fewer ant for me to worry about. Here's a picture of a gecko at a friend's apartment, since this little fella was too quick for me to snap a picture of him!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

bladdy blah...

That's how I feel! I've been rather tired for about three days in a row. I've been sleeping a fair amount, though, so I'm pretty sure the tiredness is the normal end-of-the-semester wind down that I've experienced since the beginning of undergrad. When tired, of course, certain things (and people) tend to irritate me A LOT more: superfluous talking, people who stand in the middle of sidewalks and don't get out of the way, idiots who don't know what they want when they get to the counter because they're too busy blabbing about the color of their toenails.... At the moment the focus of my aggravation has been the I-don't-give-a-rip attitude of the Dominican worker. Sadly the worst offenders are the Subway workers! It's like they're doing you a huge favor. Sorry lady, you're not doing me a life-saving favor by fixing that sandwich for me, I can very easily eat somewhere else. I saw one lady insult and just being flat-out rude to the three people in line in front of me and when I said I didn't want a combo and she said "cheap" under her breath, that was it. I got my card back, took my sandwich, and said, "It's generally considered rude to insult your customers when they can hear you..." She said "I beg your pardon" in the sense that she couldn't hear me, but I had said what I wanted to say, and she was going to be too dense to try to make a point with, so I just walked out the door...I won't be patronizing Subway if she's there... Give me my sandwich and I'll leave you alone so you can go about sulking about having to work. Honestly, what else are you going to do??? There's nothing to do on this island! AHHHH, rant!!! That's not always true because there are plenty of nice people who at least pretend they want to help you. I'm going to have to chalk it up to differences in upbringing because otherwise it just makes me mad!

Today it's official, just one month until I'm back in the States, and I think it's going to go FAST. Think about it. Three tests and a final between now and then, yikes!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Lately as I've been stalking on Facebook and just talking with random friends I've noticed a "longing" -- for lack of a better word -- for the "undergrad days" or "undergraduate fun". I haven't felt that AT ALL since I graduated in May 2008. I wonder if that's weird? I mean, there are reasons, I think, why I feel this way, and the biggest one I think is that several of the friendships that I thought were solid, good friendships seemingly dissolved in the span of a week. Unfortunately that week was ACS New Orleans, which was supposed to be a good time! I hated it, and had a lousy time. That's really unfortunate because my other conference experiences were fantastic. Now that time has provided some perspective, I can talk about without some anger. I also sit there and ask, um, OK, so you want to be without money and would you really be happy with an endless repeat of class, test, drink, class test, drink...I don't about you, but that got old after about two or three repeats...

Junior year of college was AMAZING. I pretty much enjoyed every minute of it. I loved all my classes, research, and just thoroughly enjoyed it. The group of people I was around at the time all got along rather well, and we spent time together outside of class. A lot of us went to Germany that summer as well. We get back to school however and the mood had changed. Wanting the "Summer of Love" to continue I was looking forward to the year. Turns out that maybe we had been overexposed. It took a few months for it all to sink in, and I was probably distracted by the fact that I spent most of my time after ACS Boston getting ready for Armenia (which was fantastic, see my blog about that!). Had I not been involved in that it probably would have happened before Christmas. Some of it also involved someone that I wanted to maybe be more than friends infatuation may also have occluded reality (since of course that never happens).

Then basically January to March just SUCKED!

I get back from a great time in Armenia, and back to classes, but something just didn't seem the same. It felt really awkward. Looking back I think the biggest change was me, and that I had begun moving in a new direction, but I hadn't fully realized that moving forward is much better than moving backward, and that my new directions didn't necessarily mean I could keep old ones. Due to that I felt really isolated and alone. Just to make the story better was the situation with my roommate. There was no ugliness, no bad blood, or anything like what is often seen between roommates. Up until then we hung out a lot in the evenings, which was great for me because it let me unwind from classes, and I had a stressful class schedule. Well, just before I left for Armenia he found himself in a relationship. Cool for him, right? Well, for a while I found myself by myself at home with the roommate and the girlfriend...which was exceedingly awkward for some reason. Cue more feeling alone. You might say, well, why didn't I just go out and find something to do...easier said than done when I still had a lot to do because I was taking the class from Hell (PCHEM, which also saps your spirit) among other things, and remember things with my other friends were awkward. Thank God for Steele and DM or I would have been completely miserable.

So, that was a cycle of horrible, miserable PCHEM, awkwardness around chemistry friends, and awkwardness at home that continued from late February to late March, then it hit the fan, and just exploded in my head all at once. Rewind just a bit. I bought my ticket to New Orleans while I was still in Armenia because the tickets were cheap ($179 round trip), and all anybody was hearing on the news was how much oil had spiked, so of course the rational thing was to buy tickets BEFORE the airlines raised their prices. I passed this on to people, and most actually bought their tickets, all of course except those with whom I'd made arrangements to stay. Knock me over with a feather, right? Looking back I'm not sure why I was so surprised because I called the event well beforehand... Well when the light bulb finally clicked on in their heads of course ticket prices had almost doubled as oil had sky rocketed...What do said friends decide to do..they buy a package deal through a website three weeks before we're due to leave (way too late for a conference considering all the deals were gone). All good and well, except when it came time for hotel, suddenly it became prohibitively expensive for me to stay with them because to add me would've driven the price up from their prearranged price through the website so I'm told. Bullox I say to that because I would have been paying the difference! It was obvious to me that I was not wanted around. You know what, it's fine if you don't want me around but DON'T screw me over at the last minute because you don't have the guts to tell me straight up. At that moment everything I had been feeling boiled over. I didn't get outwardly angry and didn't say anything to anybody, but inside I was livid, and seething with rage. I felt like a pest and a bother, in other words embarrassed. I ended up having to stay by myself (not cheap) because I had made arrangements that had then been yanked out from under my feet. Also, while we were there because I was staying alone it wasn't easy to do things with people, and even though I made an effort to suggest things to do I felt I wasn't included. People who had told me they would call for food or going out never called. It would be a fluke if it only happened once, but over and over with several different people. I wasn't asking for concrete plans, but everybody wants to feel included, and I felt like I was having to force myself upon my "friends." Cue feeling a pest and a bother again. After the second day I finally said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I remember watching Gorillas in the Mist that night on television (funny the things you remember) and barely being able to see straight I was so angry. I was angry at the situation, angry at them, but most of all I was angry with myself for being foolish enough to put myself in that situation. I barely said anything to anybody the next morning as we went to the airport and instead pretended to do work. I hate feeling like a pest or a bother, and these were supposed to be my friends and people I wanted to spend time with, yet I was making a fool out of myself...Why shouldn't I be angry? After that it was over for me. I wish I could say my little hissy fit in New Orleans was a one off, but my feelings of anger and embarrassment remained...for months. I think one of the smartest things I've ever done was to not say anything about it at the time because I was venting my anger at three or four specific people. Some of the anger looking back was understandable, but not all of it. I STILL feel like I was shafted, however. I hit a precipice. I felt that if I had created the situation for myself then I would just remove myself from the situation. I wonder if people noticed a change in my demeanor or presence? I wasn't making an effort to have people notice a change in my behavior, but I'll be damned if I was going to go out of my way for them like before when I tried to be accommodating. Why bust my hump for people who obviously didn't give a hoot about me. Wish them well but I became a little more selfish after that. I also became much less apologetic. Again, thank God for Steele and DM, because without them I would have been completely miserable at school those last eight weeks.

Those last eight weeks I just went through the motions. I went to class, didn't really say much, and kept to myself. I was still very angry, and I had to be around the people that I was angry at all the freakin' time. Graduation came and went, and like high school, I was very ready to go. It makes me sad sometimes to think about it because unlike high school I enjoyed most of college, but the end sucked. Everybody I've spoken to about it says they had a semester that was terrible. It's just unfortunate that mine was the last one, and for now seems to be what I think of FIRST when I think about undergrad. It certainly wasn't all bad. DM asked me to be in his wedding and I've been to Arizona twice to see Steele, so I can say I left GCSU with two solid friends, and that's definitely something good! Hopefully time will soften the bad memories and I'll get better about thinking about the great things that came out of that horrible semester. I just wish I could have learned sooner, and honestly that's the one thing I've taken out of it -- if it isn't there, it isn't there and my time is too valuable to waste.

Fast forward to now, almost two years later I think I'm a much happier, better, and smarter person for having gone through it. I wish I hadn't been stupid and learned my lesson a little earlier, but what can you do? I certainly wouldn't want to rewind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A little Dominican culture

First off, let me reiterate that Dominica is NOT the Dominican Republic. I've had to explain to people several times the distinction. They're not even that close together, at almost 600 miles apart -- or the distance from Chicago to Atlanta. Also, getting to The Dominican Republic is much easier than getting to Dominica! Unless you live in a city with non stop service to either Antigua, Barbados, or San Juan it's going to take you at least two connections an an overnight to get here!

The Dominican Republic is a Spanish speaking country, while Dominica was colonized by the French and British. As a result, English is the standard form of communication here. However, there is a "French-based" language called Patois that floats around here. However, it about as much resembles French to me as English does Swedish. There is a significant African and Carib influence on it as well. It's not a written language, and I only hear it used by older folks. I'm sure there are plenty of younger people who understand it and can speak it, but when walking by groups of young people talking amongst themselves it's almost exclusively English I hear.

From a Caribbean standpoint I'm told Dominicans are very friendly. Define friendly??lol. I come from a culture (Southern) where "friendly" is defined as disgustingly and at times invasively nice. Manners are an art where I come from. Here you say hello to somebody you're just as like to get a simple "OK" (to a "hello", I know) as you are a "fine thanks". It's a little disarming at first.

On a DISGUSTING side note was lab demo yesterday. In a nutshell, not every group does every dissection -- that would be pointless. We split them up and then show them to the other groups. In a nutshell he kept finding ways to uncover and/or touch the cadaver's vagina. He had absolutely no reason to as nothing he was talking about had anything to do with the vagina. But he JUST KEPT TOUCHING IT. I wanted to just say STOP IT! It was very bizarre, and I asked the other people in the group about it, and they noticed it too, saying it was very hard to pay attention to anything he was saying because he kept touching it! Note to all future medical school students -- be well aware of where your hands are at all times.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The completely random things one thinks about...

Let me just first off I am incredibly jealous of everybody at home getting rained! We have a two year drought and then it starts to rain when I leave! For the record I love cold/cool rainy days in the fall. Say what you will about my psyche but that makes me happy, lol. Watch us have the warmest Christmas in twenty years when I get home...And watch Chicago be in the fifties in January, haha!

I usually listen to some music while I study to block out background noises, and today the song "Your Love" by the Outfield came on. I instantly flashed back to that night at 8E's with five or six good friends standing around in a circle screaming the song at each it too much to smile and want that to happen again? I remember dancing with Feet and Awad that night too...and I'm instantly sad that my friendship with Feet seemingly dissolved over my trying to do what I thought was the right thing. I am also still angry with the people who put me in that situation because they cost me a good friend. Feet, if you by any chance ever read this I hope you know I'm sincere. I'm a lot of things but insincere isn't one of them. In fact, I'm so honest at times it's brutal (not always a good thing). Would I still do it, more than likely because I still believe it to be the right thing...why can't doing the right thing always work out for you?

I think I'm at that stage where I finally have something nice to look back on, where I was just "me". No school, no studying, none of that, just me, living a little bit. I wasn't defined by anything related to school. People at work saw me as an employee, an equal, and my friends were just my friends. Not my friends because we were in the same department or worked in the same lab. Yes, some of my best friends stem from school/lab, but that's no longer our environment and we're still friends. If that's not clear let me know and I'll have a go at explaining it again, haha.

I have to learn how to take it for just that. Sorry Bon Jovi, but you can't always go home. Well, you could, but nobody would be there, and by having left you're a different person and your life has changed. I look back on those events/times/places with smiles because I'm only thinking about the happy times at that moment. When my thoughts go a little further and I remember why I was there, I'm not missing it quite as much. I was in/near Athens solely because I worked nearby. I was able to do nothing from Friday afternoon to Monday morning if I so chose because that was just it...I had nothing to do once work was over. Unfortunately it wasn't getting me anywhere. I know I've written about that before, but it's been an adjustment. Nothing I don't think I can't handle, but nonetheless, it's an adjustment.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately, though exactly why I'm not sure. I remember her machine gun rat-a-tat laugh, going to the bookstore on an almost weekly basis, traveling around Georgia when I was younger. I remember she took us to Williamsburg and D.C when I was 9 and 10. I remember going to the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, TN. I remember those weekly drives to Alpharetta for piano lessons. I remember a lot, and they're all happy memories. It's interesting that I should have these reflections now. She died almost nine years ago. It makes me wonder what I'll remember about Granddaddy...

I don't know what the deal was today, but song after song came on that resonated pangs! haha. "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" by Stevie Nicks came on a little while ago, and the song always makes me want to cry. Why I'm not entirely sure. Like most Stevie Nicks songs there isn't a great deal of linearity and/or transparency in the lyrics. BUT, nonetheless, it's moving. Incidentally, there's something just flat wrong with hearing a song like that followed immediately by "Womanizer"...or the like. I mean, c'mon iTunes, have a little tact! I'm sorry, that's just wrong!

Has anyone ever written anything for you
In all your darkest hours
Have you ever heard me sing
Listen to me now
You know I'd rather be alone
Than be without you
Don't you know

Has anyone ever given anything to you
In your darkest hours
Did you ever give it back
Well, I have
I have given that to you
If it's all I ever do
This is your song

And the rain comes down
There's no pain and there's no doubt
It was easy to say
I believed in you everyday
If not for me
Then do it for the world

Has anyone ever written anything for you
In your darkest sorrow
Did you ever hear me sing
Listen to me now
You know I'd rather be alone
Than be without you
Don't you know

So, if not for me, then
Do it for yourself
If not for me then
Do it for the world
Poet...priest of nothing
Poet...priest of nothing

-- Stevie Nicks, Keith Olsen

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This is about a week-long trip I took with Dr. R to Moscow in July 2008 to attend and present the 5th International Conference on Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (say that five times fast). I'll let you know now that the travel details may be a bit much, but this is basically a copy and paste from a travel forum I blog on, with extra details added in the middle.

Living near Atlanta the most convenient option was Delta. I was excited to try out their 767-400ER having flown the 767-300ER several times.

4 July 2008
I arrived at ATL around 130 for my 330 flight. I checked in and was through security in approximately five minutes. The airport wasn't very busy which surprised me considering it was Friday afternoon, maybe it had something to do with it being July 4th? As usual I walked to my gate. Is it just me or do people need to learn to GET OUT OF THE WAY of other people who are trying to move?? My flight left out of gate E33 so I headed there initially and nabbed an exit row (30A I believe). Since there was nothing going on down at that end of the concourse (and no windows to view the other concourses to boot) I walked the length of the concourse. The KLM A332 to Amsterdam was there waiting at its usual gate E22. The Lufthansa A340 was sitting pretty a few doors down, though I was thrilled NOT to be on it after my trek from Charlotte to Munich in December '07. I saw all the various DL flights on the FID, though I think the only one other than mine that was actually boarding was DL to Dakar and then on to one of the South African Destinations. Eventually it came time to board. I looked around and noticed there were A LOT of children on this flight, all under the age of ten. Oh goody.

Once on board I was lucky to have the seat next to me empty. Don't take row 30 on the 764, the armrests don't move due to the personal tvs being stowed in them. We sat at the gate for at least another half hour due to a malfunction with the AVOD system. It never got fixed so we left the gate with no distraction for the next 11 hours! A FA sat in the jumpseat across from me and we struck up a brief conversation as we lifted into the hot skies over a rain-deprived Georgia.

A meal service followed about two hours after takeoff. As usual I took the pasta over the chicken offering with the granite-for-bread substitute and the complimentary wine. I definitely don't consider myself a wine connoisseur but I'm not a huge fan of DL's wine offering. After dinner I tried to settle down and catch a little bit of sleep but I could not get comfortable. I have difficulty sleeping upright. Being on the exit row I curled up in the floor and was about to fall asleep when the FA told me that I couldn't do that...........
After I got settled back into my seat all of the kids on the plane decided they'd had enough sitting, and seemingly all at once started sprinting up and down the aisles, which would have been fine except for the thumping those little feet made on the floor! I managed to get two hours or so before the plane woke up.

The FAs on this leg were mostly good. There were three or four Russians, and they all wore the red dress uniform. The one who had my aisle was dutiful, but a little to brusque, though compared to some of the people we encountered later she was downright friendly. I had the usual DL breakfast of a banana, granola bar, and tea. We landed smoothly in Moscow a few minutes behind schedule. I had been talking with the FA for a few minutes again before landing and she gave me a few tips. Another Delta flight from JFK flight had beat us as we were late.

I had heard immigration at Moscow's Sheremetyevo (yup, that's the name, say it without spitting and I'll give you a cookie) could be rough, however I had no problems. While we were in line a Russian and an American who had apparently exchanged words and bad feelings let everyone else in line see their little display. It was rather humorous, as the Russian carried on for at least five minutes before the immigration officials escorted him to the front of the line just to shut him up. I was through in less than ten minutes, where I waited on a ride.

The ride took a while. Thankfully the ICPP people organized buses/taxis from the airport to the various conference-sponsored hotels, otherwise it probably would've been an astronomical cab fare. NO WAY was I braving the transportation system in a country that a) I didn't speak the language, b) said language has a totally different alphabet, and c) there was absolutely no indication of where my hotel was in relation to the city and how to get there on the second busiest metro system on the planet. As it turns out that was probably the wisest decision, as, come to find, it would've involved a bus, a train ride that involved at least TWO transfers and then ANOTHER bus. Sheisse! The thought of all that with two bags does not sound appealing at all! As it was it took almost two hours to get to the hotel. Moscow traffic is horrendous, and was the entire time we were there. I wondered for a minute if I was in LA by mistake.

The hotel itself, called Hotel Youzhny, was not fancy by any imagination. I would barely call it comfortable! It was in an old Soviet block, and there basically clusters of four rooms sharing one bathroom. Dr. R actually had an apartment just down the hall as they had Br. and By. with them, made sense.

The city

The first day I guess I got to the hotel around noon, and then crashed for a few hours before heading out into the city to learn my way around. Let me say the metro at first is not foreigner friendly. Whereas in most places the metro merely has multiple lines running through one station, in Moscow, oh no, they have to be special. Each line has its own name for the station. The way the maps are laid it it initially looked like they could actually not be near each other. Anyway, after one time of getting it wrong it clicked, and basically you learned to follow colors first, then as my proficiency with the Cyrillic alphabet developed follow colors and then look for our station. We didn't get lost again! The metro rides are very long in between stops, but it's not as though there is a shortage of stops. And the Metro itself, wow. The Soviets did a lot of terrible things and my opinion is that their ideas of economics were flawed (I guess history supports my ideas, haha) but they did a fantastic job designing many of their metro stations in Moscow, especially those closer in. Aside from the initial difficulties transferring lines it's a very easy system to use. Note: if you're going to be using the Moscow Metro alone...LEARN THE CYRILLIC ALPHABET. Are there English maps available...yes, but not in the stations or on the trains themselves, so they're really kinda pointless. Something that is useful is an English/Russian map, but unless you get it in size 72 font it's not much help because the words are so freakin' long. The system is for the Muscovites and their Russian-speaking brethren. Others are more than welcome to use it, but get out of the way because they couldn't care less if you get it or not!

The little blue circle at the bottom left is the station we had to get off on, and THEN take a twenty minute bus ride!
Buying tickets could also be very interesting! Bus tickets had to be bought on the bus, I wasn't made aware (not like I could read about it or anything...) of any other option. I had my numbers down pretty good actually, and would usually buy tickets in packs of four. Once or twice I didn't have a bill small enough and wasn't sure that's what the driver was trying to tell me. After one round of that she got a little testy. That also happened at the train station once. I was trying to buy tickets and the ticket agent was an old woman. Probably miserable in her old existence having to schlep train tickets to pay her rent. Anyway, the simple "dva" and holding up two fingers didn't do the trick this time. She asked me a question and when I hesitated she screamed the question at me. If I had been able to I would've said "Lady, I'm not retarded, but I do not speak your inexplicably convoluted and unnecessarily complicated language. I want two tickets, and I'm in the metro difficult is that...give me any tickets that will let me get on the train..." She screamed again. I looked at the guy behind me with a look that was half "help me, please, I'm desperate" and half "If-you-have-any-prayer-of-getting-out-of-this-line-get-your-ass-to-the-window". Thankfully he (very nicely) handled the situation, asked me what I needed, and I gave him my money and profusely thanked him in Russian and English. Note: if you're traveling to Moscow and need help, ask the young folks. They are almost always willing to help even if their English and your Russian isn't great. Older people are hit or miss, though frankly I ran into more misses. I guess it's not too upsetting considering the whole tourism thing and contact with Westerners is still a relatively new thing to them, but yeesh it can be frustrating!

I explored Red Square a little, and just randomly walked around hoping that I wouldn't find myself in a precarious situation! The hotel was not near a metro station, so getting there involved either a long walk on Leninski Prospekt or a (just as long sometimes!) bus ride. I headed back to the hotel and got some well needed sleep.

Dr. R and company arrived the next day, and I happened to be returning to the hotel (where I had gone I don't remember now) as they were checking in. By. and Br. were conked out and the adults were looking zonked as well. They settled down and I helped watch By. so the adults could sleep. Br. as usual was a ball of energy. and By. a mess, lol. Br. and Mrs. R and I grabbed some food at a Georgian restaurant. We had absolutely no idea what we were ordering, but it turns out I ordered dolmades and they got some sort of chicken. It was pretty good.

We did the whole conference thing, which was exciting and interesting. At the same time it was difficult because a lot of the presenters were Russian, shock right? Some of their English could've been better, and the jetlag made you very sleepy. Once or twice I fell asleep in the middle of a talk. Dr. R did as well, several times (and I must say, she snored). Nothin' but love Doc! We met two girls from Ireland one day at lunch. One was a researcher, and the other an accompanying friend. We ran into each other several times over the course of the conference, and enjoyed chatting and exchanging out stories of getting lost on the Metro. Presenting at the conference honestly wasn't a big deal. It was just like any other two hour poster session I'd done several times at the ACS, except now these were porphyrin specialists. I must say, I was thrilled to have the chance, but if they didn't like it, oh well. Honestly, if they thought I was unqualified or shouldn't have been there, well, maybe they're right, haha! The way I looked at it was it was a learning experience and more than likely I wasn't going into research (a year later that's confirmed) then no harm no foul, I got to present my work (which I worked very hard for I might add, whatever that's worth).

The conference had also organized a tour of the city, which was a lot of fun. We went all around the city, and I must say, I'd already experienced it, but I was reminded of just how BIG Moscow is. Unsurprising I guess as Moscow is the center of the Russophile world, but still, it's just so MASSIVE. That night Dr. R, her husband, and I went to a grocery store just down the street from our hotel. On the way we passed a group of kids that had gotten into an ugly fight. I would say they were in their early/mid teens. Several of them were bloodied up and the cops had been called. We went on our way and found our way into the grocery store. We were there, frankly, to buy vodka. I mean really, you can't go to Russia and not come home without some Russian vodka! Incidentally I also had a bottle of cognac from the banquet. I don't think it's been opened but it's there nonetheless, lol. Anyway, it didn't take long to find the vodka because the vodka section was an entire freakin' wall! The hard part came in choosing which kind to buy! The only one I recognized was Smirnoff, and I sure wasn't going to buy being that when I could get it at home! Anyway, after about ten minutes of walking up and down the WALL trying to figure out what kind of vodka we wanted to buy, a local observed our difficulty, and started talking to us, in Russian of course but his intent was rather clear. We bantered by pointing for a minute, and I pointed to one bottle and his shook his head vigorously and pointed to his head indicating that choosing said brand would result in an unpleasant morning. He then pointed to a brand (which was quite well stocked incidentally. We promptly between the three of us bought forty bottles! It was absolutely hilarious when we got up to the check out counter and the cashier saw us with a buggy full of mostly vodka. Her eyes got so big, and I couldn't help but laugh. She spoke no English and I tried to convey that these were not just for us!

The conference banquet was cool as well. It was held in a palace on the outskirts (by outskirts I mean like Atlanta halfway to Athens) that was built by Catherine the Great. It was apparently a small palace, but it was definitely opulent. The food was pretty good. I definitely took advantage of the free wine, haha.

One afternoon Dr. R and I just went walking through the city. I honestly have no idea where we were as we just started walking "that way". Somehow we ended up near a train station after like two hours of just wandering (Beloruskaya Station IIRC this far removed from it). We walked through a part of Moscow that was very old and compact. It was very pretty. We had hoped to stumble across a church or two that we had seen on our tour, but alas, the city proved just too big! I like walks like that because you see the most interesting and unexpected things. Honestly, I don't think I would've seen the statue of Catherine the Great cut into six or seven pieces or a group of teenagers carrying an "Apteka" sign in front of the Polish embassy had we not done that walk. I do remember Doc saying "Oh Jay, we've gotta get you married!" Um, thanks for the interest Doc, but I'm perfectly happy being single right now!

12 July 2008.
After a week in Moscow it was time to head home. I had arrived alone but we were traveling back together so that made the cab fare much cheaper, though it was still approximately RUB4000 (or about US$200). We arrived for our 1040 flight at 800, just as the check-in counters were opening. I believed we used counter 1-3. We were lucky to arrive when we did because we were among the first ten people in line and soon after the line got very long. I was sent to the BizElite counter to check in. Both of my bags had been well under weight when I left ATL, however 10L of Russian souvenirs had weighed one of them down a little The check-in agent must have been in a good mood since it was still early because she let me through. Incidentally the baggage searcher winked at me as she came across my souvenirs! After clearing immigration we mosied through SVO airside which is an unimpressive string of duty free shops. I found a spot upstairs to watch the array of Aeroflot jets come and go, and watch the KLM 744F land. We weren't initially permitted into the waiting area, but once we were we were all exhausted after the week so we just relaxed. Again there were going to be a large number of young children on this flight. Both the ATL and JFK flights were waiting in this lounge.

The plane in this picture is the actual plane that we flew from Moscow to Atlanta and was taken THE day we were leaving Moscow. Judging by the angle the plane is flying I must assume it's landing, so unfortunately I cannot say I'm in the picture! I didn't take the picture but was able to track it down at Boarding was finally called and I made my way to 27F. I noticed that no headphones had been placed on the seats contrary to custom. I asked the FA if they were going to pass them out because if they weren't I still had mine from the last flight. She said they were running short and that if I could use my own that would really help them out. The only reason I asked at this point is because they were buried in the bottom of my carry-on and I didn't want to disturb my seat-mate once I was situated. This particular FA would serve my section most of the flight, she was fun. Most of the FAs on this flight were very jovial and carried on conversation with all the passengers. We settled in and pushed back only a minute or two late and proceeded straight to the runway and lifted off into the sky. At this point the Captain came on and gave a rather long winded talk. As most of us had already booted up the PTVs this was rather annoying as they not only went on standby when he spoke, then the FAs came on translated what he said, then came on AGAIN. It was a very chatty first hour!

The food service came around and I chose the pasta, I remember this time it had spinach in it! The PTV system on DL is very user friendly and had enough choices to satisfy me, though my seatmate brought his own. He watched what appeared to be old Soviet movies that seemed to take place during the time of Ivan the Terrible? Just a guess. Looked like rather cheesy acting to me but I wasn't following it that closely. I watched on my trendy PTV Charlie Wilson's War, Stop Lossed (good movie!), a few episodes of Bill Engvall and I started Fool's Gold. I didn't finish that one as it was predictable after the first thirty minutes. It reminded me of Sahara and National Treasures 1 and 2 all over again, and I didn't care too much for those movies to begin with. After that much TV I couldn't focus on the TV anymore (I don't watch that much TV at home) and listened to music and read for the rest of the way. The FAs were very attentive and per usual came by with a veggie-cheese pita and ice cream (vanilla Yuck!). Plenty of drinks also followed. Two hours in the kids got tired of sitting. I tried to be less irritated at this point but there were plenty of parents who were keeping their kids from running and screaming down the aisles. I understand its difficult for a child to sit still that long but my grief!

Once over South Carolina and Georgia I had fun picking out some local landmarks. For the local folks I flew over Lakes Hartwell and Lanier, the Mall of Georgia, Stone Mountain, and around the southeast end of Downtown. We landed on the North Side of the airport. I was one of the first ones off and hauled ass down to immigration to avoid the line. I got stuck behind some Lufty FAs who were oblivious to the fact that I was behind them and wanted to go around (in case you haven't noticed that's a big pet peeve of mine, get out of the way of someone behind you!)

The line for American citizens was very short and I was through in no time. The line for non-American citizens was a little longer than the last time I had flown though this may have been because I arrived earlier this time and the LH, KL, and an AF flight had all arrived along with DL flights from AMS. BRU, and MAN, as well as our own SVO. Baggage claim was interesting because a customs beagle named Button was standing at the end of the belt. This was the first time I had seen that so it was interesting to watch. I claimed my bag, then proceeded through customs blah blah blah. Put the bag back through and proceeded back through security. This time I was too tired to walk back and wanted to get home so we took the train back down to baggage check. For the first time ever the bags took FOREVER to arrive on the claim. I had two so I had to wait even longer. Eventually they both came and didn't reek of distilled beverage so all was good!
I would definitely recommend a trip to Moscow. It's a BIG city so plan a head and don't even think about trying to walk very far. The streets aren't exactly laid out in a logical fashion, but the Metro is fantastic and thorough.
Hope you enjoyed!

Some thoughts

The settling process has occurred now that the first mini is over. I think a lot of us feel more at ease now that a) we know how the tests are structured and b) we know how we did and not EVERYTHING is an uncertainty (BIG HELP!). As in undergrad, I continue to be amazed at the show some people put on about how much time they spend either studying and/or in the lab. I mean, really, either you're just that insecure about your abilities, or you never learned how to study and your brain just doesn't retain information. Either way it's really annoying when you're around people who can ONLY talk about class/material and demand to be quizzed while eating (school is off limits during meal time for me, unless you're going to make fun of a profess). For cryin' out loud people, did you never learn that you learn best taking frequent breaks. I have always been convinced that if all you do is study, you're going to do poorly. Could I study a little bit more, probably, and I'm still getting back into the rhythm of having to be productive after five. It's getting better and better, but nonetheless, there is room for improvement. I refuse, however, to sacrifice my sleep. The brain is useless when it hasn't rested, and my brain in particular revolts after one night of lousy sleep.

I know people who only go home once a week, and practically live at the student center (disgusting if you think about it from a hygiene perspective) -- said individual carries the same towel around and as a consequence -- it stinks... I know people who never leave the library. I ALWAYS see them at the library when I walk by. Personally the library is too crowded for me, and I've never been a library studier. My frequent breaks (at least once per hour) aren't conducive to that environment. Post mini observation -- I've talked to two people who claimed to have panic attacks, and I know of one person who didn't even answer twenty questions (out of 126) on the mini because he literally fell apart. I felt really bad for said individual, however, he was one of those who was ALWAYS at the library and rarely slept. Hopefully such results will encourage people to rethink some unhealthy habits!

Another thing I'm not comprehending is people who have spent HOURS, as in the majority of their day, in the Gross Anatomy lab several days in a row. Personally the smell is revolting, and spend that much time with your face THIS CLOSE to dead bodies filled with preservative (and some of them are starting to mold) cannot be a good thing. More than one friend has complained today of having had severe headaches since Monday. The first question I asked them was how much time have they spent in the lab... Not to say I'm not studying or haven't been in the lab, but I try to limit my time in there to max three hours at a stretch, no more than once a week, the smell is just too intense. Also, the fact that at least ten people are standing around each cadaver drives me crazy and having to wait ten minutes to get one on the body is frankly a waste of my time!

Classes are hit and miss, totally dependent on the professor. As such, I only attend some professors' lectures now. I go to class daily, just some lectures are pointless to attend because the professors either have a droning-shoot-me-now-I-could-drive-to-Cleveland-before-you-finish-this-sentence kinda thing going on, or their slides are ludicrously thin on information and just show pictures. This is fine until one has to write down what they say. Of course it's impossible to transcribe everything they say, but even jotting down notes becomes futile because by the time you figure out not only what they're talking about (not easy with say, an Indian subcontinent accent) and then what they've actually said, they're usually on to something else. As one can imagine the scenario quickly gets out of hand! As a result, with such professors (thankfully there are only a small hand-full) it's easier to just read the book and watch the lectures online later. Side note -- being able to speed up a lecture actually enhances your willingness/ability to focus and concentrate. It's beautiful thing!

With regards to Dominica it's a hate/ok I'll tolerate this relationship. And it's honestly just about everything. Something I highly doubt I'm ever going to get over is the lack of variety with food. If I were being honest (way overrated) I would probably say that not being to eat what I want when I want and not having a supermarket is by one and only beef, but it's a disgruntling one that permeates and affects my attitude about other things, haha. I want Barberitos and Thai food right now like nobody's business. I'm also having an intense craving for such I've eaten pizza like every day for a week, and I'm still on a cheese fix...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things that drive me nuts...

* Slowpokes in the fast lane.
* Drivers who drive UNDER the speed limit
* People who don't get how to go through security at airports -- it ain't rocket science people -- shoes off, liquids and electronics out
* People who complain about something being different the first time they experience it
* Dubbed movies/TV shows
* Pronouncing "pecan" as "pee-cann"
* Italian and Vietnamese (the languages just tear up my nerves)
* Paris Hilton, Beyonce
* Knee-jerk extremists
* Nancy Pelosi
* Rush Limbaugh
* Island time
* Daylight Savings Time
* Politicians and people who make their living off politics in general
* The lack of trash receptacles pretty much everywhere outside North America
* Mac fanatics
* Britney Spears fans
* Madonna unequivocal ability to sap the fun out of everything by trying to political and preach
* Academic idealists

Jeeeez what a week...

MINI I is done...yay! Ok, now we get to do it all over again. If we actually had to spend all our time in medical school doing this I think space in the shrink ward would've been maxed out LONG ago. All we did was study and go over questions. No, I did not sacrifice any of my sleep (willingly anyway, the last couple of nights I've had difficulty getting to sleep). We then had a histology lab exam...can you say extreme monotonous drudgery?

A rather amusing set of events happened the other day while I was walking around. First, around eightish I was walking from campus to Rituals (the sandwich/coffee shop) for a smoothie -- I hate coffee. There was a young woman in the streets and at first I thought she was just being stupid. However, as I got closer it became obvious she wasn't playing with a full set of bocce balls. She was screaming, hollering, holding her head in her hands, almost got run over by a car, and didn't appear to be aware of my presence until she almost rammed into me. I was somewhat worried she was going to go postal on me. She was also throwing rocks at things/cars. It was a little disturbing!!

This morning I got mooed at by a cow on my road. Why it decided to moo at me I'm not entirely sure. It mooed at everybody, but why??? The cows are used to being tethered on that road where OF COURSE people walk by all the time. Interesante , I say.

In other news I did pretty well on the mini. I passed all the sections well above "Minimum Passing Score" (as in not even close to even be considered "poor" or "average") and somehow managed to score a 100% on the physiology section. Mental note, find out which specialties may involve a lot of physio, lol.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting used to living here...

It is always an adjustment when you move to someplace new -- always. There's just no getting around that. One of the biggest adjustments besides weather (which honestly isn't that much different than Georgia in the summer time) is the food. Not only is your variety gone, but you knock what you do have down a little further when you figure out where you can and cannot eat. Case in point, dealing dealing with a four-day shack attack. What's a shack attack you ask? Well, to be blunt, it's finding the wrong piece of chicken that's apparently sat there in a hot box for several hours and festered with bacteria such that when you eat it you are rendered incapable of holding in/down food for the next four days. Lovely scenario, no?

Said shack attack, as I said, lingered around for several days, and made life very unpleasant. It was difficult to eat since I would have to run to the bathroom within two hours of eating to avoid being sick in front of everybody and/or avoid SEVERE intestinal cramps -- it's really bad when they both happen at the same time. As such, you get dehydrated and easily cramp. Try playing a tennis match with little to no sustenance in your body for four days -- it ain't pretty, I lasted a whopping four games before my legs shut down. My opponent played a good match though, so all the credit to him. I have learned that I can not take a chance any longer on eating something unless I have seen it myself come off the stove or grill, or have a drink that was not made with bottled water. Oh yeah, the water tears up my stomach. My stomach must be more sensitive than post people's because most people haven't had multiple rounds of this stuff like I have -- I've had three, though this has been the longest one. One only lasted a morning, got sick and it was over.

Another thing that takes getting used to is "Island Time." Case in point, your laundry gets picked up and you're told you'll get it back by 7 that evening. You don't get it until seven the next evening because the driver apparently had something better to do. Not a GREAT argument considering I don't have to do the laundry myself, but nonetheless, why hasn't the whole punctuality thing made it down here? Bear in mind A LOT of these aggravations stem from lack of sleep and nutrition stemming from said shack attack!

A few bits of nostalgia hit me the other day. They didn't make me homesick or anything (still waiting for that to blindside me), but they were nice memories. I enjoyed thinking about tennis with Amigo in Athens once or twice a week. Just getting away for the weekend(s) (thanks again Amigo), and viewing with disgust the Love-birds and their trials and tribulations...well I don't need to go to anymore detail about that. The pinot noir and tapas at Casa Mia, the sushi, the Thai Food at Thai Spoon...ahhh yum. Those usually followed by dancing at 80's Bar with Skinny and/or Nasty and AD joined too. I don't miss A LOT of things about where I worked, but I do miss having the music turned up in the lab and making fun of Nasty's singing (and vice versa). I miss the group lunches. I miss the quiet Saturdays to myself. And God do I miss Frohmuller's!

All of these things are nice when isolated, but the combined picture unfortunately isn't worth me leaving where I am now (heck, I'll only be here another 14 months) and what I'll have and be able to do! Not going to lie though, there are times when it would seem really nice, but then where would I be? Somewhere I'd rather not find myself in the long term... And some of them if I were to stay or go back for them, they wouldn't be there anymore because the situation and circumstances were short term anyway, though weren't they fun! I'm missing them at the moment because I miss when I was able to do nothing when I wanted to. I didn't enjoy it most of the time because there literally was nothing to do...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mini Eurotrip

I was browsing the internet at work one day (oh the shame! *Wink* in late June/early July and came across an email from Delta advertising some pretty good fares to Europe, and in particular Budapest. Now, Budapest is a city that I had wanted to visit for quite some time, partially because for Americans it's not necessarily a well-traveled destination and I got to put another country on my list. What I found was a very enjoyable, colorful city. I had also wanted to visit Prague when I was in Europe for two months in the summer of 2007, but never made it out there. SO, I played around with some dates and found a fare for about half of what one would expect to pay for a transatlantic fare in the summer. Considering I would be starting medical school at the end of August (have since started) I pounced, not knowing if I would even get the chance to go back any time in the next three or four years AND with a bargain that good. The bargain allowed me to splurge a little more on the hotel side too Smile The end result was flying into Budapest, and out of Prague.

Booking the ticket was a little bit of a challenge because every time I tried to book a particular itinerary it would come up unavailable. I called Delta and they were incredibly helpful and in a nutshell told me to book through Northwest, because the identical itinerary was available through them. In a nutshell I wanted a PTV for the overnight to distract me from the inevitable lack of sleep. For the return I knew a good book would suffice, because, well duh, I was supposed be awake Wink So, in the end I booked a flight through AMS on KLM, connecting to Malev. Interestingly enough, after booking with NW, I transferred the flight over to my DL SkyMiles account (I'm stackin in miles for somebody's who 23, haha) and when I checked my itineraries I noticed that a SECOND itinerary (routed through CDG) was posted. After spontaneously emptying the entire contents of my GI tract I promptly called the friendly folks at Delta, prepared to battle this one down. Nothing had shown up on my credit card statement (the NW one had, so I knew it should've). My thought was if worst came to worse my dad could always accompany me (I'm a Jr.), haha. As it turns out, I never had to get ugly because even though it was posted in my itineraries, it was "On Hold" so I was told, and no payment had been received. Apparently the incredibly helpful agent I spoke to at the onset of purchasing the ticket had put a placehold on it for me should I want that routing. There were plenty of routings through CDG when I was trying to book, but I wanted the KLM flight, as mentioned, specifically for the PTV. So, after about three minutes that was cleared up and the itinerary removed. It wasn't that big of a deal, I understand they're still getting all their ducks in a row from the merger.

NOW, having rambled on and on with that soliloquy, let's get to the flying part!

17 August 2009
I arrived at the airport just after 1400 for the 1640 departure from ATL. It was very hot that day. I had checked in online and was going to just walk on through and present my passport at the gate. I was not checking any bags. However, when I got there, there were a grand total of three people in line at the KLM counter, so I went ahead and had my passport scanned. I proceeded through the T-Gate security in a slugish four minutes and meandered my way down to the E-Concourse. I splurged and treated myself to a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc and some sushi while the KLM A332 was prettied up at it's usual home of E-22. I exchanged some money into Hungarian Forints, which incidentally thicken up your wallet as it's approxmately 200 to 1! The name of the A330 was the Plaza de Something Madrid. An odd name for any aircraft, I thought, much less a Dutch one... but I digress.

Boarding started an entire hour prior to scheduled departure, which I thought was rather odd. I had a window seat toward the back (sorry don't remember which one) and settled in. We sat there in the aircraft for approximately 45 minutes before FINALLY pushing back and meandering toward the Southern runway and lifted off.

A note, KLM's economy seats I find recline more than their Delta, Austrian, and Lufty counterparts, but their lumbar is just in an awkward place for me. In order to be comfortable I had to stuff two pillows under my neck despite the presence of the adjustable headrest. Delta wins the seat competition for me.

The PTV system was fine, a sufficient number for the flight at hand. Over the course of the flight I wanted, though not necessarily entirely, Star Trek, 101 Dalmations, Memoires of a Geisha and Changling. The interface was very user friendly, though getting the blasted controller in and out of its place could be a bit of a challenge if you aren't thin as a cotton swab because your hip/thigh significantly impedes your access and work room since the bloody thing has to be tilted for removal. I would put it an infinitesimal notch below Delta since Delta's is a touch screen and I don't have to fumble with the controller and above Austrian's for being AVOD (only two carriers I've flown with PTVs).

The dinner service was just bad, but that was mostly personal preference. I fail to comprehend how black olive and green beans mix with penne rigate and some unidentifiable cheese. YUCK! Our attractive blond frequently came by with water, wine, and any other libation that struck our fancy. The breakfast service was excellent. We received, IIRC, a ham, egg, and cheese hot sandwich and a box that had IIRC some granola, cheese, and a few other goodies. Much better than Delta and Lufty (the only other two carriers I've flown on overnights).

The flight itself was uneventful, which is what you want. There were no screaming babies *bounces up and down* and the crew were friendly. The movies and drinks were plentiful, and I just rode out the flight with maybe forty-five minutes of sporadic sleep. Made for a fine flight, but an unpleasant morning, as we shall see.

We landed around 7am in Amsterdam on what could only have been the infamous Polderbaan as we taxied forever. I thought we had landed in Rotterdam and were taking the road the rest of the way... We deboarded in the E concourse. I went through immigration and made my way over to the C Concourse, which is a much less pleasant environment than the E Concourse I must say! It was a very easy connection though. I stopped by the bathroom to brush my teeth and freshen up as best I could before my two hour layover. Annoyingly, my gate, C10 was situated right at the end of a moving sidewalk that bleeped "MIND YOUR STEP" every time somebody got to the end. I mean really, airports all over the world have these things and people manage to not spontaneously impale themselves on the end without having to be told to watch your step... In a nutshell, it got old very quickly. Thankfully I had my iPod and cranked it up while I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (I'm behind on the times) until boarding time came. By this point I was hitting a wall. It was approximately the time I would have normally been going to bed (I had just spent two weeks in Mountain and Pacific Time) and was starting to have to fight sleep, something I do not normally do. It made for a slow two hours.

The Malev 738 strolled up to the gate and about forty-five minutes later (and twenty minutes late) we boarded. I had seat 9A, a windowless seat, bah! Oh well, I just pulled out my book and cranked the iPod again. The FAs came by with a drink service and offered a ham or cheese sandwich, which was nothing special. I was taking all the Coca Cola though that they offered me in a vain attempt to stay awake Smile This flight was even more uneventful than the KLM flight. The Malev seats were comfortable, but rather flimsy, I doubt they would survive being used in a long haul operation.

Being a Schengen flight and me not having checked any bags I saw very little of BUD-2. I bolted for the taxi line in the hopes of getting my happy ass to my hotel so I could grab two or three hours of much needed nap time. Normally when traveling in Europe I take public transportation to/from airports BUT, in both Budapest and Prague the airports aren't well connected enough and my proficiency in Hungarian and Czech is nonexistant, so I decided paying more for the taxi was worth not getting lost and not being able to decipher where the hell I was and needed to go. The same went for later in the week when I wanted to go to Memento Park, there was no metro, so I took a taxi. Had I been in France or a German speaking country a) the transit links would've been much better, and b) I would be able to make myself understand and understand enough to get my happy ass in the right direction Smile That is by no means a slight on Hungarians or Czechs, merely me being self aware of my deficiencies!

I stayed at the Hilton West End, very nice hotel in a good location for anyone who may be planning a trip to Budapest. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Budapest. And by some chance of fate, or I'm just that lucky, I was there on August 20, Hungarian independence day! I found Budapest a very friendly and open city, and it was very easy to meet people. One day I spent the day with a German and two Swedes. One of the Swedes had actually lived in my hometown while studying at UGA (bizarrely small world). The German, amusingly to me and the Swede, grossly extrapolated the correlation between Borat and American society. The four of us met on a river cruise of the Duna (Danube in English). A tried and true trick of mine when traveling in Europe is to search out people speaking English with accents -- 9/10 times they're single/double travelers just wandering around looking to meet people such as yourself. I also did a bus tour of the city to get familiar with it.
Some of the highlights included Memento Park and just meeting the random people. On Hungarian Independence Day (August 20) I spent the day with a Hungarian and some Belgians. I had a very good time. They enjoyed racing up and down random stairs that faced buildings. The fireworks display that night was amazing, with Buda Castle in the background it was just breathtaking. It lasted about half an hour. The bridges were lit up and there were air races during the day!

The next day it was time leave Budapest :( and head to Prague. The train ride was LONG. I didn't get much sleep the night before. My first seat mates were Spanish ladies, and they were very nice. After they left the train in Bratislava a mother and son got on. They have to be quite possibly the most obnoxious pair of people I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a space with...The kid felt it was ok to put his feet everywhere, the mother apparently felt no need to correct him. I would have been quickly reprimanded for that (even now come to think of it). After they got off (thankfully) in Brno, a younger couple got on. I thought this would be interesting, but no. The guy smelled like the salami sandwich that he was eating (which reeked by itself with no assistance). Compared to Hungarians the Czechs didn't smile nearly as much. I wonder if that's a Slavic thing? Russians never smile either. The train arrived in Prague late, and I took the metro two stops down to my hotel (carefully chosen for its proximity to the metro line). I checked in and explored a little bit of Old Town before bedding down for the night.

Overall my impression of Prague was that it is overrated. It had a DisneyWorld feel to it. It was much harder to meet people and it was much more crowded than Budapest (as in suffocating). The buildings were gorgeous from an aesthetic standpoint, but honestly, it's just too much. Paris even yields its prettiness. Turns out Prague was a trophy city/money dump for the Hapsburgs and as such EVERYWHERE you go is insanely beautiful that it's a little off putting. Plus, add again that Prague is a huge tourist city (and not much else in August).

24 August 2009
It came time to leave, and honestly I was ready to go. I didn't enjoy Prague as much as I had anticipated, though I think some of that was anticipation of moving in the coming five days. Anyways, to ensure a quick ride to the airport I took a cab to the airport. The cab driver must have thought it amusing because I was swaying and jerked all over the place during the ride. I had to look down at my feet as he sped at sixty kmh through tiny side streets barely big enough for the car, all the while revving the engine!

We arrived at PRG, which is a very nice airport, very clean, modern. It reminded me of Munich's aiport. Delta uses Terminal 1. I had a little scuffle with the check-in agent, though. He was of the opinion that my small carry on was fine, but that my backpack was too large to fit into the overhead bin. Never mind that people were carrying bags on the plane that were still larger than my two put together...admittedly it was a bulky book bag but that was mainly because there were three Harry Potter books in them and they had all slid on top of each other -- in other words easily adjustable. I argued with him and then the supervisor for a minute or two and said, "I'll happily put it under my seat, there's no need for this bag to be checked." She finally relented either realizing that the check-in agent was being overzealous or she realized I was going to be stubborn. Either way the two bags fit very nicely on top of each other in the overhead bin, hardly taking up any space...

I watched the flight from either ATL or JFK (dunno which) arrive. Its first officer was a woman, I think the first I had seen for an international flight, though that's not a HUGE number to pull from. I waited about an hour before seeing a really long line at my gate, B8, and panicked thinking it was mine. Turns out it was the one for B9, but a few others had panicked like me and a short line was forming, so I joined it and chatted with the people around me.

Soon we were through security (I hate individual gate security in the EU, drives me nuts) and then milled around the gate area for about twenty minutes before boarding started. I made my way to 36J and got settled. Before completely getting settled I went to the lavatory and I noticed there and on the way back that this aircraft had not been cleaned very well, perhaps something to do with unions at PRG? I've flown Delta quite a bit over the Atlantic and this aircraft was frankly not up to par. It was mostly the bathrooms, and it was mostly trash, not filth, but nonetheless...

The movies on this flight were the Soloist (couldn't get into it) and Monsters vs. Aliens (I watched just to kill time). The meal was an interesting chicken dish, better than the KLM pissy-pasta, though nothing special. The FAs came by frequently enough to be satisfactory, but this was another mundane flight across the ocean that did what it needed to do.

I must mention however that there were about fifteen YOUNG kids in my section, and two or three of them were allowed to holler and scream at will for the entire flight. One of them had this obnoxious "ehhhhhhhhhhhhh" every time he didn't get something he wanted...which was apparently often. We flew over Canada and down through Michigan. On approach into Atlanta we basically flew down I-85, over my house incidentally, the Mall of Georgia, and a few other local landmarks. For the last hour of the flight the girl sitting directly behind me talked as though she were giving dictation. I discreetly looked back and listened, though I couldn't understand a word of her Czech, and I swear hear seatmate just sat there with this glazed over petrified look on her face, every ten minutes or so mutter a "oh" while this girl seriously JUST KEPT TALKING, it was kinda funny, but seriously, how do some people talk that much....

We landed on the North runways with little incident. I proceeded through Passport control, didn't have to wait for baggage check!! and then went through customs and security, and hopped on the train back down to the South Concourse where I was picked up.

I must say I enjoyed the trip, in retrospect incredibly glad I did it, though I don't know if I would make Prague a destination again! Any comments are welcome, though again, I chose to include more of the rest of the trip than most people do. Thanks!