Friday, January 23, 2009

Crazy delicious

Mental (blog) note to self. Have this food again sometime soon at Spider Kelly's in Arlington:

Hand cut fries seasoned with rosemary and garlic, dipped in fridge sauce.

Grilled Veggie P.E.T.A - Crunchy grilled veggies splashed with a savory vinaigrette, topped with crumbled feta & wrapped in a warm pita.

Don't go there for the draft beers. They don't have any. Go there for a nice glass of wine, or two, enjoy the easy-going atmosphere, and DEFINITELY order those fries again. And try not to be too devastated when the waiter takes away the bowl of fries when there are still some crumbs left on the bottom. I am going to say it again. THE FRIES.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood
Haruki Murakami

I read most of the novel on the plane ride home from Dublin. I did not particularly find it to be an engaging page turner -- the plane just did not have individual monitors on the backs of the seats, perfect for voracious movie watching. This is my third Murakami novel, and while this one was more normal, compared to the other bizarrenesses I've read, it just didn't strike any chords. The narrator recalls his college days and two of his significant relationships. I mean the language (translated) is pretty, but the story line was no stand-in for a good airplane movie, for which I happened to be in the mood.

3 out of 5

Inauguration Day 2009 POD

I am so thrilled to be home, and although I've joked about Obama stealing my thunder upon my triumphant return from Ireland, my tears of joy today were for him and for the greatness of this country.

Click here for my other Inauguration Day photos.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Departure checklist

1. Receive a bag full of presents from coworkers, including a card with a wad of cash paper-clipped inside. Check.

2. Drink one last Butler's hot chocolate, although the magic is slightly gone because it's just too warm outside. Check.

3. Go to the National Gallery for the third (fourth?) time to finally see Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid because she is back from Tokyo. Just in time. Check.

4. Call Mama and cry. Check.

5. Call Mama again to tell her about the wad of cash. Check.

6. Set up a flickr album with the "b-sides" Ireland photos, may of which, after some clean up, turned out splendidly. Check.

7. Go through an apartment "walk through" where soup spoons and love seats and toasters are all counted meticulously. Check.

8. Go to one last museum. Drink one last pint of beer. Walk past Grafton Street one last time. Check.

9. Post a final POD from Ireland.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewell to Ireland thoughts and feelings POD

Ring of Kerry view

Today was my last day at work, and I actually choked up when I was walking around and saying my goodbyes.


A week from now, in two days really, I will be entertaining millions of thoughts in my head such as: "Hey Katya, remember when you lived in Dublin?" "Hey, remember when you lived in Dublin and your coworkers, to initiate you, made you sing a Britney Spears song, a cappella, at a restaurant to a hundred people while they were daintily eating their chocolate mousses?" "Remember when you were living in Dublin and your shower broke while you were trying to wash stinging shampoo out of your eyes?" "Remember when you went to Prague from Dublin and missed your flight back (not your fault!)?" "Hey, remember when your parents visited you in Dublin and you went to a fishing port called Howth and took pictures of seals and yachts and ate delicious fish and chips?"


The three months have gone by quickly, obscenely quickly, too quickly. And yet, I had gotten into a routine. A routine that now tricks my mind into thinking (feeling) that I have been here for a long time, for forever.


I am starting to work on a new flickr album project, which I will name "Ireland - The B-sides." Too many photos did not make it online because I did not deem them arty or pretty or interesting enough for the original IRELAND set. They will now be acknowledged.


Some noteworthy events. A historic election happened while I was tragically asleep. I went to bed nervous, with Virginia being too close to call. I woke up with a new president-elect and was showered with congratulations all day long. Hurrah! My first Thanksgiving away from my mom's turkey was surprisingly bearable. The work folks brought in a "Happy Thanksgiving" chocolate cake, the sweetest of gestures if just a little misinformed, and we went to lunch fittingly at "Captain America's". For dinner, I made myself a full Thanksgiving meal and watched Anchorman. I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal. My twenty-fifth birthday, the big two five, holy shit. I woke up that morning, went to the kitchen, opened my first floor window, and there was Papa T walking around trying to get into the building. SCREAM. Run. Hug.


Give me a shout.
How are you getting on?
That's brilliant.
That's gas.
Send it by interoffice post.
Good craic.
What's the craic?
I thought it was interesting like.
But um
That's deadly.
Let's meet at half nine.


Saying goodbye is hard.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

The storyline of this novel is fairly simple, its prose and ideas are anything but. The first narrator is Renee, a 54 year-old concierge of a rich Parisian apartment building. She does a good job of acting out her role in public as the uncultivated nonentity that her wealthy residents expect her to be. But she hides from the world a secret -- Renee is highly intelligent and cultured and philosophical. She reads Russian literature, rents Japanese films, delves into philosophy, pores over Dutch Golden Age painting, and thinks profound thoughts about Art and beauty. The second narrator is a twelve year-old girl who lives in the building, wise beyond her years, who is determined to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. The lives of both of these females change when a new resident moves into a vacant apartment.

Reading this book is more akin to reading a treatise on philosophy and Art and nature and society, presented from two view-points, two kindred spirits who are separated by age and class. I must admit that some of the grand ideas and statements went over my head. I must also admit that this book made me cry. For me it was part heartbreaking but also part inspirational. Take time to appreciate beauty in everyday life -- not only a Vermeer painting on a museum wall, but also an especially moving melody or poignant turn of phrase or perhaps a completed hot-off-the-printer tax return that burns your hands. Simple pleasures.

Two additional notes:

1. This novel was quite popular in France in 2007 and was translated from the French last year.

2. It reminds me to one of these days pick up History of Beauty and perhaps its Ugly counterpart.

4 out of 5

Friday, January 9, 2009


by Malcolm Gladwell

This entire book may or may not be complete horseshit, all I know is that I ate it all up. Gladwell argues that successful people, exceptional people, outliers, do not achieve their success just because of who they are, just by their talent or genius or hard work. They also have the right set of opportunities presented to them, they are born in the right decade (or even time of year), they have the right sort of parents, they have the right set of great-great-great grandparents. Basically, the have tremendous luck. It's not enough to be a genius with an IQ of 200 to win the Nobel Prize. All of those other factors are either working in or against your favor. To me that's sort of self-evident, and yet I wanted him to keep persuading me with more and more stories. Gladwell's examples include Canadian hockey players, Bill Gates, Robert Oppenheimer, Asian math students, the Beatles, and top NYC lawyers. There was one example I could actually kinda sorta apply to my own life.

Gladwell begins the book by pointing out that a disproportionate amount of successful Canadian hockey players are born in the months of January, February, and March. Since Canada's cutoff date for hockey programs is January 1, a child born on January 2 would start out at the same level as a child born on December 31 of the same year. The January birthday has a twelve-month advantage (critical months when you are still a child), being both physically and mentally more mature. The January birthday will get more playtime, increasing his skills further, and will thus be picked for the stronger league with better coaching and better teammates in the next year, further increasing his skills, etc., etc.

Gladwell then parallels Canadian hockey leagues to America's public schools. A math and science test given to fourth-graders showed that the older students scored significantly higher than the younger students. From kindergarten on, the older students are ushered on as the ones with the more ability (teachers/parents/school systems are confusing maturity with ability), and are placed in the advanced reading and math groups. They learn better skills and next year do even better, etc., etc. And this is where my life story comes in. I entered the public school system in October of 1990. I was six, about to turn seven in less than two months. There were talks of placing me in the second grade -- I could read and I would be turning seven so soon after all. The parents and the school ultimately placed me in the first grade since I didn't speak much English. After that, I was always one of the older students in my classes and one of the successful. If I had been initially placed into second grade, I would have been the youngest, the most behind in my development. Perhaps that would have meant not being up to the standards of the gifted and talented program in the fourth grade, and thus no magnet program in middle school, no academic program in high school, no scholarship in college.

Obviously, just because a Canadian hockey player is born in December doesn't necessarily mean that he won't become a star or the youngest child in the class will not be the best student. But statistically, such cases are significantly fewer in number it seems.

The rest of the book details other components of success with other famous examples. It's an easy read, and you learn that it takes ten thousand hours to master a skill (is that really true??). I urge you to read this book so that we can discuss it and you can tell me what you think. Even if it's to tell me that you think it IS bullshit.

5 out of 5

Called in sick POD

I received this adorable jar of honey recently as a gift. It was gone in a matter of days, partially because I was sick -- and tea with lemon and honey is a go-to get-well pick-me-up -- and partially because it was so delightful, I mean even the packaging was so attractive that I wanted to lick the jar all over. As I fight to finally shake off this dragged out cold/flu marathon, I am scheming of ways to give the Savannah Bee Company more business.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


by Joseph O'Neill

This novel does not have a significant plot line to speak of. A Dutch-born financial analyst is living in New York City with his wife and son, but soon after 9/11 she leaves him and goes back to London. He rediscovers his love of cricket and befriends a Trinidadian entrepreneur/(gangster). The strength and the intensity of the novel does not come from following an intricate or explosive plot line. Rather, it comes from the depth of the protagonist's introspection into his life -- his nostalgic earliest memories of playing cricket, his remembrances of his mother and his childhood home in The Hague, his feelings about his opinionated wife and their broken relationship, his bewildered thoughts about New York, and his concerns about his new friend. At times I thought I was reading a memoir of a real person, albeit a memoir that is not arranged chronologically. Hence why the novel proves to be a bit of a challenge -- you must really pay attention. The protagonist may be driving in a car talking to his friend, but something he sees or something someone says turns his thoughts to a conversation with his wife from two years ago, which in turn reminds him of a childhood memory of his mother, and then he's back in the car again. The sentences are complex as well, with multitudes of dashes separating parenthetical thoughts -- I like to use them too! -- and some run on for lines and lines. Unlike most other books, I found myself having to re-read certain sentences and passages. Overall, a deeply satisfying read.

4 out of 5

Butler's hot chocolate is

(photo via Butler's Chocolates)

Butler's hot chocolate is velvet, in chocolaty liquid form. Butler's hot chocolate is stealing another few blissful moments of a lunch break spent over a steaming bowl of soup and a delicious novel. Butler's hot chocolate is standing in a queue that spills out of the doorway onto Grafton street, ordering, waiting, anticipating. Butler's hot chocolate is running past St. Stephen's Green, navigating through gusts of chilly wind, wearing a short skirt and boots, holding a warm cup full of treasure.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Merry Russian (Orthodox) Christmas POD

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and although it means little to me, having adopted "American Christmas", I thought I'd go ahead and acknowledge it. Christmas was officially banned in communist Russia, and truth be told I have no memory of how my family celebrated back in those days. A special dinner? Presents? My Christmas memories conveniently all start in America, where Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his abundance of presents is certainly never banned. In all probability, my first-grader self quickly delivered the rules of western Christmas to my parents after learning about them in school, very soon after delivering tales of tooth fairies and Halloweens and Thanksgivings. Little me, the only one in the family to grow up not knowing communist state holidays. October Revolution Day? Spoiled child!

This photo was taken at The Bank bar and restaurant -- kind of a fun place to drink a pint or eat a steak in Dublin. It used to be an actual bank and is mighty fancy inside, with a running stock ticker marquee above the bar and elaborate plaster moldings on the ceiling and walls. Makes you feel important. And makes your steak and your pint of Carlsberg feel important too.

So, Merry Russian Orthodox Christmas. Now all that needs to happen is for my visitors to return to my Dublin apartment so that we may recreate New Year's Eve but on the Julian calendar.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


by J. M. Coetzee

"Disgrace" is one of the strongest novels that I have read in a long time. The prose is beautiful, haunting even. It tells the story of a 52-year old womanizer, a poetry scholar living in South Africa, David Lurie. He seduces one of his 20-year old students. As a sexual harassment scandal erupts, he leaves his job and goes to live with his hippie daughter out in the country on her farm. Soon after he settles into his new life, native South Africans attack the farm, attack him and his daughter. The rest of the book explores David's relationships with his daughter, with the neighbors, with the family of his victim, with his work. This book is the winner of the 1999 Booker Prize, and Coetzee is the 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Go read it, READ IT!

5 out of 5

Beatlemania POD

December 31, 2008

This photo, for whatever reason, makes me think of the Beatles. It was taken after we shakily climbed the 107 steep steps (holding on to a piece of rope) to kiss the Blarney stone, marking the finale of our 3-day whirlwind adventure on the Paddywagon bus tour around the southwest of Ireland. The PARTY BUS. Prior to this moment we had slept on questionable beds in questionable hostels, bought identical Claddagh rings (you know, instead of identical "I <3 Galway" tattoos), partook in Bulmer's cider and Irish stew, got blown into concrete pits at the Cliffs of Moher ruining our boots (well, just one of us), had awkward encounters with other party bus passengers, and in general just created headfuls of memories. [For more of my favorite photos of the trip, click here.] Soon after this moment, we were ringing in the New Year. What happens at a Damien Dempsey concert, stays at the Damien Dempsey concert.


Saturday, January 3, 2009


Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3)
by Stephenie Meyer

Embracing the shame. Dear Lord Baby Jesus, help me.

3 out of 5

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! POD

According to my flickr statistics, this was my most popular photo of 2008. Internet, you like to see my feet wearing cute shoes, standing somewhere on Irish soil.