Monday, January 23, 2006

“Been Smoking Too Long”

Though Nick Drake was obviously not talking about tobacco with the above titled song, the point remains. The point in particular here, as the title should be adjusted to “Been Smoking Too Much,” is that I smoke a lot more either when I’m quite happy and relaxed or the opposite. I know, I pretty much smoke all the time, and being in expat land hasn’t helped, especially when the expat land has cheap cigarettes, but I smoke more (yes, yes dear friends, it is possible...) when on either side of the emotional range.

I’ve been smoking more since I got here, but relative to that, I’ve been smoking less as of late. And since everything is relative, that’s a good thing. Sure, it’s getting colder too, but that’s not the real reason. No, no, not at all.

So despite me loving “winter” as a concept, it’s usually my worst season. It does, after all, cramp my smoking style. I think I love it because it lets me fully revel in my misanthropic side...ok, so it’s not so much a side, so rather the other seasons have a lot more “counterarguments” to my misanthropy.

Despite my nature, I’m quite happy these days. I think I’ve fully settled into life here. And moreover, am starting to really enjoy life here. It’s gone from being routine in the blasé sense to routine in the normality, with usual ups and downs, sense. That’s good I think. Really good, actually, given the circumstances that I’m living under here in Kabubble. Partly, work is good and interesting, and I’m learning a lot of what I was hoping to come here and learn. Partly, I’m getting along with my housemates really well and enjoy their company. More than partly, things are really good outside of work/home, and that is especially good...and necessary.

Also I’m planning an RnR to Goa soon. I really hope that hits no hiccups because I’m really looking forward to it, and despite what I’ve said above, I could really use it. The sentiments expressed above are surely tied into the upcoming RnR too.

Though outside my comfortable world here in the Kabubble, things seem to be all mixed up, as usual. What makes it different, now, is it has some indirect if not direct impact on what I’m doing here. There have been quite a few news reports based on US Gov’t and other Gov’t statements that things are going stellar here. VP is much better about blogging on such, so I recommend hitting her site up for more reading on that.

So the news has been on the down side. On the up side, I’m in pure bliss. Despite my recent avowal of my fanboydom of The National, it’s been put in check recently. Of course, it would take a mighty mighty band to do such a thing, after all, The National is that good. So it’s one of the failsafes, one of the bands that will always be in the top five. Built To Spill has put out new music. Now has been teasing us poor souls by talking about the new album for over a year. It’s been a painful year. Partly the reason I came to Kabul was because I had given up all hope of BTS doing a new tour. I would have stayed back for that. I’m thinking of coming back for that, or rather when I see the tour dates and there is the usual 2 day stint at the 9:30, I’m gonna be very very homesick. You can hear the streaming version of the new song at their myspace site. It is glorious. Pure bliss. I’m so going to miss not being able to see this tour, especially cause it may rival the tour that had them at the Black Cat: 4 guitarists on stage at once, the typical incredible live adaptations of their songs, pure sonic bliss. The album, well this song off the new album hints more towards “Perfect From Now On,” and Dough Martsch’s statements point that way. If you google the song title, “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” some mp3 versions of the song will pop up.

So come April 11th, when the album is released stateside, someone is hereby delegated (or sincerely begged and pleaded) to get me the album and ship it here. Please. Please???

PROVISO: These are my personal thoughts and views, and do not reflect who I work for or am contracted to. I retain full responsibility for them and in no way are they anyone’s buy my own views and thoughts. (As a graduate of law school, I should be able to come up with a better disclaimer than that, no? And sorry for doing that as it’s obvious, but I felt it was more necessary with the topic discussed below.)

Also, there was a “major” announcement from the U.S. Gov’t on the 19th. VP, again on top of things, pointed it out to me. Though rumors had been floating about the impending shift for about a month, and the topic had already been discussed and was seen as nearly inevitable. Nonetheless, it was finally announced that U.S. AID was being brought under the State Department. Not directly mind you, but more than effectively. A new executive position has been created, and I forget the actual title, but the position is equivalent to a Deputy Secretary of State. I’m guessing here that it’s effectively ‘Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Aid.” This is all in the name of Bush’s “Transformational Diplomacy” efforts. So now Randall Tobias will be both the head of U.S. AID and hold the new State Dep’t position. (More on him later.)

Side-note: how big was this in the news stateside??? Based upon Google News, it doesn’t seem like it was heavily or even briefly covered. Most the papers seemed to have back-paged it. Is that true?

Though there was some news coverage (most of the articles I haven’t read yet):

CBS News: Their headline seemed to point in the opposite direction that I’m taking this as going in. The headline saying “Rice Seeks To Transform Diplomacy.” Somehow I don’t think the U.S.’s diplomacy style is going to change as much in the next three years as their foreign aid policy will. Especially the foreign aid dealt out through U.S. AID, i.e. it’s more focused now on development and relief. Not tying weapons subsidies to diplomatic or executive whims.

A fair amount of the articles focus more on the streamlining of aid that is going to happen. Bureaucratically, that is probably a good thing. But with streamlining, of course, comes a sharper focus. So the inevitable question is what is going to get cut. I think my guesses on this matter are clear. This all is yet to be played out. I’m also guessing I’m in an interesting part of the world to see how it does play out.

So the new guy, Randall Tobais—only a few articles point out the storied side of his past. He is a former CEO in pharmaceutical industry. And see...that made him a very controversial post to head up Bush’s AIDS/HIV program and efforts in Africa. That whole controversy of big pharmo and their market specific pricing, and particulary the accusation sthat bigh pharmo keeping prices inflated for AIDS/HIV cocktails. Tobais picked up a lot of heat for putting so much effort into abstinence programs instead of actually getting his old buddies to do something about getting drugs on the ground. Basically, as is obvious, the claim is that he politicized AIDS/HIV programs. The general fear is that he’ll do the same with Int’l aid and development more particularly.

Either way, I think I still have my cushy life and well paid job here in Kabubble. Given how much I’m really enjoying myself here, I really hope this post doesn’t change that.


Vasco Pyjama said...

Blissing out on life in the Kabubble? *gasp*. Dammit, does this mean you going to smoke more and I'm going to be totally kippered?

Babe, I'm glad to be of service as your news alert. As long as you explain to me some time what the State Department does. I have no idea of the significance, being a 'Strine and all.

Q. A. Shah said...

No, no. I'm happy with life here in Kabul. I'm blissing out on Built To Spill.

And you should know better than to ask me to "explain" something.

Lastly, can you pull out the Seppo to 'Strine dictionary and tell me what "Kippered" means?

Vasco Pyjama said...

You mean 'Strine to Seppo? *thwack*.

Well, you know what a kipper is? Like smoked herring that you poach in milk or grill, and serve for breakfast? So yeah, to kipper something is to preserve by smoking. And you, my sweet, I think, are going to have me kippered.

Happy is more acceptable than blissing out. But perhaps you will bliss out on Goa?

Shannon said...

Sorry to report, but the USAID news was usurped by two trapped coal miners in West Virginia, American Idol, and Osama Bin Laden.

This was by far one of your more schizophrenic posts! Smoking, USAID, Music, Bliss, seasonal misanthropy...wait, I think I need to reread it.

Q. A. Shah said...

No no, i'm sure it's Seppo to 'Strine.

I wouldn't have been surprised if the US AID news was usurped by the weather. To be realistic, it's only "news" or of concern to a small percentage.

Schizophrenic? I believe the post is more correctly labeled as broad and encompasing.

Elizabeth said...

"Somehow I don’t think the U.S.’s diplomacy style is going to change as much in the next three years as their foreign aid policy will"

Oh, come on, aside from being in different buildings, name one time in history when USAID has been more than an instrument of foreign policy. One. Single. Time.

ms. daisy said...

I regret to inform you that it is not physically possible for you to smoke more than you already do. This is why you should come back to California, where smoking is frowned upon and smokers are shunned (or at least scowled at).

Q. A. Shah said...

I really can't. Of course aid is always part of foreign policy, but I think there is a distinction in using it as a diplomatic tool, i.e. ends vs. means. Perhaps I'm just imagining things.

Ms. Daisy,
Heh, you doubt my abilities? My dedication? In Punjab, the farmers often hang a sheesha/hooka around themselves while working in the fields. I'm not sure how they keep the coals from falling, but I was seriously tempted to get one of the 24/7 smoking apparatuses.

And if I was willing to lose a job at a IP law firm in SF partly because of my smoking, scowls wont be an issue.