Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Radio KFSO

And now, my top five songs on the Foreign Service Experience, or what I imagine it will be like anyway. I had a couple more on the playlist, but if you want more than five songs you have to pay actual money for the widget and I don't love y'all that much.

What are your top five?

(Yes, I am well aware that the Animaniacs have a somewhat tenuous grasp of geography but I don't really care.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

Now that I have perfected my surprise Posh Spice hairdo, I have completed my long, slow transformation into the exact kind of woman I spent my teenage years vociferously denying I would ever become.

Every morning after my shower I do my hair. This requires a hairdryer, a straightening iron, and not one but two hair products. Suitably coiffed, I put on some makeup. And I'm not a lip-gloss-and-go girl; au contraire, on the average day no fewer than 10 separate goops and powders anoint my visage. Up to 13 if I'm feeling fancy. I put on some clothes - not infrequently a dress and some heels - and get on my merry way. I pluck my eyebrows. I shave my legs. I exfoliate. Every once in a while I even get a pedicure.

Any one of these activities would be blasphemy to my T-shirt-jeans-sneakers-ponytail 14-year-old self, and the combination is nothing short of sacrilegious. I have sacrificed significant quantities of precious time, sleep, and money to the twin golden calves of my own vanity and societal expectations. I have finally bought into the beauty industrial complex.

And I'm pretty much okay with it. As it turns out, the extra effort it takes to make myself look a bit nicer in the morning is probably less than the effort of just throwing something together in five minutes and then spending the rest of the day trying to pretend that I don't care how I look. Because I do care, always have, and this way I can just check off the "deal with body image insecurity" box before I leave the house and have the rest of the day to concentrate on more important things.

So maybe I'm the same kind of woman I've always been, just a little more honest about it. Maturity!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Word Nerditry

Last week Slate published a piece entitled "Space Invaders: why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period." As a lifetime one-spacer - although forced by professional necessity to alter my habits in recent years - I highly approve. And clearly I'm not the only one at the State Department who shares this view, as evinced by the raging (and entertaining) debate on the subject on the Sounding Board (State only).

For those of you not blessed with access to the State intranet, I have provided a link to the thread's best reference, a delightful article by former SecState Dean Acheson on the intricacies of regulating diplomatic prose. An excerpt:

We won a few opening and easy victories over phrases with no solid support — villainous expressions like “as regards to,” “acknowledging yours of,” “regretting our delay in,” and so on. Then came our first major attack on a departmental favorite. The target was the use of the verb “to feel” to describe the Department’s cogitating and deciding process. “The Department feels that to adopt the course you urge would not,” et cetera, et cetera. The Department could, I insisted, decide, agree, disagree, approve, disapprove, conclude, and on rare occasions, and vicariously, think, but never feel. It had no feelings. It was incapable of feeling. So the ukase was issued that departmental feeling was out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Things I've Liked on the Internet Lately

The Beauty of Maps - The BBC looks at some historical maps and new maps of virtual spaces and the larger universe.
Paula Deen's English Peas - Come for the recipe, stay for the comments.
How did colleges teach young women to be mothers in the early 20th century? With real "practice babies." Seriously.
The Forty Elephants - Victorian London's girl gang
Impossible colors - What they are and how to see them
Physicist + city + data = urban science

Border security fail:

Thursday, January 13, 2011


After Flag Day I made a conscious decision not to get too freaked out just yet about the logistics of moving myself, my cat, and my earthly chattels to Conakry. I had a good leisurely seven months ahead of me and plenty of other things to sort out in the meantime: health insurance, Christmas presents, French classes, and the like. I permitted myself to put it out of my mind until the new year. Guess what? It's time to get down to business.

The Overseas Briefing Center at FSI has a handy checklist of things one may wish to consider in moving to a new post. It's fifteen pages long. Some of those things I've done already and others - particularly the items concerning children and real estate - don't apply to me. However, even with those omissions I have a good long list of information to track down, paperwork to fill out, items to buy, appointments to schedule, calls to make, documents to copy and stash in safe places, needles to be stuck with, and a host of other things to arrange before I can get on a plane. It's all pretty intimidating. Fortunately, I have a little over four months to get it all sorted out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Show and Tell

Okay, mostly show, since there's not that much to tell. I picked this up on Tuesday:

It's just like a regular one except it's black, it's a little thicker, and there's that one extra word on the front. But it's also a symbol of something I worked hard to achieve and a reminder of (hopefully) fun and exciting times to come, so I'm a little giddy about it. Still, I do feel like it ought to be at least a little bit jewel-encrusted or something.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hors d'Oeuvre

My language learning experience is a combination of Good French Days and Bad French Days. Today was a Bad French Day. This is partly due to last night's lack of sleep, partly to returning to FSI after a week and a half of semi-vacation, and partly to my new French teacher, Corinne. FSI rotates teachers every four weeks to make sure you get exposure to different accents and teaching styles, and every time I've gotten a new teacher they have upped the pressure 100 percent.

Corinne is a polisher. She's quick to correct the errors in each sentence, almost as soon as I've made them. And if, by some miracle, a mistake-free sentence should emerge from my lips, she asks me to say it again but rephrased more elegantly and concisely. At the end of a month with Corinne I will either have solid 3/3 French or she will have whipped my brains into a terrine and eaten it on toast points with champagne and caviar. Or possibly both.