I just finished reading "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. I enjoyed reading it -- fast-paced, intriguing, and well-written. The story recounts the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where several of Krakauer's fellow mountaineers died in various, tragic ways and one defied death in an unbelievable manner. The tale is told in a careful way, but it is interesting to see how Krakauer alternately paints himself as a hero and a coward. I suppose he is just human and therefore has all of the fortitudes and foibles of any person.

The description of the terrain, the people, and the precise methods used to ascend Everest made me want to try mountain climbing myself (until I read the passages about HAPE and HACE and frostbite/hypothermia, oh my). It was a little difficult to keep track of the many characters, especially when the author would refer to someone by his first name and then, in the same paragraph, by his last name as though it was another person. But the book is certainly an attention-grabbing-and-sustaining account that leaves you tense (even though you know the outcome) and thoughtful (even after you finish the book).

Krakauer's new book, "Under the Banner of Heaven" , is about the "shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism" . . . I think I'll leave that book-group discussion to someone else! Next up: "Brick Lane".
uh oh. spaghettios . . . Khhhaaaaaaan!!!


Many people in Pakistan (and especially in Islamabad and really especially in E-7 and totally especially current or ex-goverment/military) have drivers. My uncle's driver, a very polite and quiet young man, had an uncanny resemblence to the famous Latif the Poet. So much so that, when N recognized him in a crowded office, she exclaimed, "Hey! There's Latif!" even though his name is Israr. Good ol' Latif.
Still recovering from jetlag and spent the better part of the pre-dawn morning uploading, labeling, and arranging pix from my trip (holla at me if you want to see them). Too lethargic to think of anything witty or interesting to say, so in the same vein as the news about a Taboo game gone horribly wrong, enjoy this scene from an episode of "The Young Ones" until further notice.

[Guys playing Monopoly]
RICK: Ha ha, Mike! Landed on the Old Kent Road, that's mine, rent, come on, pay up, now.

MIKE: Yeah, all right, all right, I think the Mike Exchequer can handle a debt of four pounds.

RICK: Hey, wouldn't it be a-mazing if all of this money was real?

VYVYAN: That is the single most predictable and boring thing that anybody could ever say while playing Monopoly.

RICK: Well, what about "Vyvyan"? I could say "Vyvyan", couldn't I? That'd be pretty boring.

VYVYAN: "You have won second prize in a beauty contest..."

RICK: Ha ha ha!

VYVYAN: "...smash Rick over the head with the bank!"

[VYVYAN literally follows the instructions on his card.]
RICK: It did not say that! Michael, Vyvyan is cheating!


MIKE: No, he's right, Rick, that's exactly what it says.

RICK: In Biro, Mike, in Biro, over the top of the print!

VYVYAN: But we had to change the rules because Monopoly's so boring!

RICK: "Congratulations, it is your birthday! You may set fire to Rick's bed!"

VYVYAN: Good one!

RICK: "Get out of jail free: You may keep this card, sell it, or stick it up Rick's bottom"! Vyvyan, you've ruined the game!



Wow. Just last week I walked by Abdul Qadeer Khan's house! It was the only one with flowers and armed guards across from it.


Winner of the Recipe of the Week (last week actually) -- Aunty Nusrat! She made Burmese Coconut Noodles - Ohn-no-khauk-swe - and they were delicious.
Do'h/Woohoo! On the one hand, I've been robbed of one of my countries visited (as part of the U.K., Wales does not count as a separate country). I also can't remember if I've visited Bermuda or not so until I verify that, I can't count it. On the other hand, I've gained a country (I forgot that the Vatican City State is considered its own country even though I deliberately mailed some postcards from there just so I could use their postal system). That brings the grand total to
27 countries
visited (12% of the world). I'll get one more in May when I hit Ireland (even though my second homeland of Scotland won't count).

Now you try!

(via upyernoz and waiting patiently for cherlina "we are the best and everyone else is the worst" to respond)


hilarious! Margaret Cho rocks.

(via upyernoz)
I can't believe this is real.

The President: I need some ribs.
Back home safe and sound, despite the snowstorm that hit just as we were landing. Still recovering from the 22 hour flight and lack of sleep for over 34 hours (add another 19 hours if you include the 3 hour nap i snuck in the night before). Will update blog soon, but in the meantime, enjoy this exchange between me and my grandfather:

"so, baji, have you ever been to london?"

"yes, many times. although, i am going to scotland and ireland soon with my friend and i've never been there."

(nods head absently, not really paying attention) "have you ever been to wales?"

(stunned look on my face and long pause) "uh, yes."

"baji, have you ever heard of a town called Merthyr Tydfil?"

(shock, longer pause, burst out laughing) "uh, yes. i was BORN there!"

(totally ignoring me) "it's got one of the strangest spellings of a name i have ever come across. i learned about it a long time ago. M-e-r-t-h-y-r T-y-d-f-i-l (notes my look of total disbelief). seriously! i can show you where it is on my atlas."

(mom cutting in as she gasps for breath after laughing so hard) "the only reason you know about that town is because i wrote letters to you from there when i lived there and your granddaughter was born there! you didn't learn about it from school or reading about it. it has nothing distinguishing or extraordinary about it!"

(smiling contendly) "yes, it has quite an odd spelling."


One of my favorite lines (brevity, delivery, accent) in Donnie Darko is uttered when Donnie gently places his hands on Cherita Chen's earmuffs, tells her that everything will be alright, and her explosive response is "Chut Up!"


Apparently, I'm a Riot Grrl. What kind of indie rocker are you?


Just watched "The Work of Director Spike Jonze" -- a collection of some of his excellent work including videos of the Beastie Boys, the Breeders, and Fat Boy Slim -- and I just found out that Spike Jonze was born in St. Louis and he grew up in Rockville, MD. Trivial Pursuit 20th Edition, here I come!


Handy info for travelers (especially those trying to pack glow-in-the-dark paint on their carry-ons). Do's and Don't's.
My goal: to pack and take only a carry-on to Pakistan.
My obstacle: Emirate's baggage limitations.
My solution: send along all of the bulky, space-eating items ahead with my generous parents and cram my backpack with snacks that will be eaten on the plane before we even touch down in England.


Awww, Pakistan and India, sitting in a tree . . .


No new Angel on again tonight. I barely remember the last time I saw a new ep. Why do I even bother anymore? Oh yeah. Spike. Now if he would only stick to the snark and lay off the soul-talk, all would be well.


For movie and book reviews, political discussions, and general blathery, check out my arch nemesis' blog and let me know if you notice him hatching any evil plots (i.e. traveling somewhere and racking up more pins in the map than i have).
Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins. Greatest little hobbit of them all. Sing along with Spock!!!


If ever you are in doubt on something someone has forwarded to you (hoax, warning, petition, etc.), please check out this site before you forward it to me. Seriously. I mean it. Many thanks.


Top Five Cafés:

Here is a list of my top five cafés (in David Letterman-style order):

5. Café Olé, Coconut Drive, San Pedro, Ambergris Cayes, Belize. Granted, the Italians have cornered the market on excellent coffee and so an Italian café should make this list. However, since I found that almost every café in Itay is excellent, the challenge was really to find a great café in a place where coffee is not as highly appreciated. Although Belizian dishes are mouth-watering, not as much attention is paid to the coffee. Charming Italian chef Ermanno La Bella serves a superb selection of specially-blended coffee in this gourmet deli which is situated directly across from the tiny airport. The warm and friendly atmosphere, the convenient location, and the delicious coffee puts Café Olé on my list.

4. Kaffitár, Bankastraeti 8 Reykjavik, Iceland. Frequent competitor and second place winner of the 2003 Annual World Barista Championship, Kaffitár is a lovely specialty coffee shop located in the center of downtown Reykjavik. The cozy atmosphere, well-made cappuccinos, and large picture window facing the main shopping street makes Kaffitár the perfect place to warm your bones on a chilly Icelandic day.

3. Baresso Coffee, Store Kirkestræde 3, 2. Sal, 1073 Copenhagen, Denmark. To catch a break during a long day of sight-seeing and shopping along Strøget, "the world's longest pedestrian mall," stop in at a halfway point at Baresso Coffee for a great deal on delicious coffee and croissants. Across from the pricey, "see and be seen" Café Europa and Café Norden, this little multi-leveled café overlooks the Storkespringvandet Fountain in the middle of the popular Amagertorv square and serves wonderful café lattes.

2. Chocolateria San Ginés, Pasadizo de San Gines, Arenal 11(Metro Sol), Madrid, Spain. Madrilenos know how to enjoy their food and drink at all hours of the day and night. So with hours from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., it is no wonder that this place is hopping despite its location down the end of an alley. While this café also offers the usual assortment of coffees and teas, the churros con chocolate cannot be passed over. The churros are pieces of deep-fried dough served hot and sprinkled with sugar and are accompanied by an incredibly thick, sweet, rich, dark, hot chocolate. Fantastic atmosphere, friendly staff, and the finest liquid chocolate ever!

1. Café de Flore, 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, France. Often touted as a legendary landmark since the 19th century (serving café au lait to the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre), Café de Flore offers an impressive menu in the most beautiful of settings. Found in the heart of the St. Germain district, the stylish café is the ideal place to indulge in the decadent café mochas, some light, flaky croissants, and hours of people-watching.


Saw "House of Sand and Fog" today which left me in a mopey mood. An odd mix (a mélange, if you will) of two strong, but desperate, people -- one, a former Iranian colonel now trying to make a home for his family in America and one, a recovering drug addict -- struggling over the rights to a house overlooking the Pacific. I love Ben Kingsley and don't mind slow, steady, films , but this could have used a bit more editing (although it certainly had the tears).


I. Love. This. Show


Started out the new year with a marathon session of Alias, Season Two. With Buffy cancelled and The Simpsons being sort of hit-or-miss these days, I'm left with few television options. The fact that Sark had some quality screentime made Sydney's irritating breathy-whisperspeak bearable. After several naps to recover from the previous night's activities -- celebrating the arrival of the year of the monkey with the Bourichas at Rafagino until 3 a.m. -- N and I split a dish of kik alitcha and will retire early.