Part 1 can be found here.
We were up to the summer of 1919, but let's backtrack a little and look at how the Republic evolved.
First off, it wasn't very big. According to the Treaty of Batum, forced on Armenia by the Turks in May 1918, Armenia was a tiny state consisting basically of Yerevan, the holy city of Echmiadzin, and some rocky land around Lake Sevan. It was about 2/3 the size of modern Armenia (which isn't that big anyhow). The Turks took everything west of the Araxes River -- including Mount Ararat, which had been Armenian since forever, and the fertile plain around Kars -- snipped off the rail line that ran north towards Russia, and claimed Armenia's only industrial region (around Alexandropol, modern Gyumri).
Second, it was in a hell of a mess. In very round numbers, Armenia in 1918 had about 700,000 people... 300,000 native Armenians, 100,000 non-Armenians (Azeris, Kurds, some Russians and Greeks), and 300,000 refugees from the genocide. Starving, penniless refugees were everywhere. Since Armenia had no large towns except Yerevan, the countryside was full of beggars.
And corpses. The Spanish influenza swept through in 1918, as it did everywhere else. Then a major typhus epidemic followed it... typhus, spread by lice, moved with particular ease among the ragged, ill-clothed refugees. Meanwhile the winter of 1918-19 was one of the coldest on record. The Turks closed the borders so no trade went out (not that there was anything to trade) and no outside aid got in.
So in the first year of the Republic's existence, between 120,000 and 150,000 of its people -- roughly 20% of the population -- died.
Third, there were still a lot of Armenians outside the Republic's borders. Putting aside the distant populations of the Diaspora, there were plenty of Armenians in the southern districts of Nakhichevan, Zangezur, and Karabakh; tens of thousands in Tblisi and Baku (even after the pogrom); and some number still hanging on in the debatable lands across the Araxes, in what's now Turkey. This complicated the Republic's foreign policy considerably.
I love the first sentence of this article. I guess this goes under "our cool century". (Hm, need to create a category for that.)
Speaking of things that are Awesome, I urge all American readers of this blog to write or e-mail their Senators in support of H.R. 392. That is, of course, the bill that would extend the State Quarters beyond the fifty states, by issuing six additional quarters for Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas Islands, and the District of Columbia.
Yes, it was introduced by Eleanor "gummy residue of the Civil Rights Movement" Holmes Norton, but so what? It's a great idea. Think about it: if this bill doesn't pass, then after next year there will be no more new state quarters. That tiny little thrill you feel sorting through your change, when you see a state quarter you haven't before? That thrill you've had about forty-five times now? It will end forever, unless H.R. 392 succeeds.
And if it does pass, the number of people who are aware of the existence of the Northern Marianas Islands will increase tenfold! That has to be good. So, if you have a Senator on the relevant committee, go now and do your civic duty.
(One caveat: the bill says that if a territory becomes a state or leaves the US before its coin is issued... then they lose their quarter. So Puerto Rico will have to put that discussion on hold until 2010.)
First, the game. Dallas 37, Green Bay 27. Here's my private prediction to Doug:
The Packer D is dinged (though not as badly as the Colts). Favre will probably pick on the Cowboys' secondary. I'm inclined to agree with the predictions of the Cowboys by at least a TD, but on the other hand, I never expected 10-1. The key variable is turnovers. I *think* we're past the time when Favre would get rattled in Dallas -- it was a third of a lifetime ago!What actually happened was that Favre tried some long passes which were slightly off -- probably could have done short slants, made the downs, and got a rhythm, dammit -- and then got his elbow hurt by a face mask during a pass, which was intercepted.
And then Aaron Rodgers stepped in. Who knew? Dallas won, of course, because they exploited the holes and
mental weaknesses in the Packers defense, and it goes without saying that Romo and Owens are very good. Like I said, I expected Dallas to win, pretty much by the amount they did, and pretty much in the way they did.
But Rodgers? That was shocking. Hope Brett is OK, though.
And so it begins.
The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. -- Samuel R. Huntington
The Cowboys may say they're America's Team, but we're God's team! -- Chad Durbanski, Pardeeville, WI
Commentary would be superfluous.
History is complicated. But history in the Caucasus? Master class time.
Armenian history is so goddamn complicated that only now, after almost two years in the country, am I starting to get a handle on it. This is partly because there aren't a lot of good sources in English; partly because a lot of what there is, is a chapter in someone else's history book; partly because the few Armenian histories in English tend to be very, um, Armenian; but mostly because it's just complicated.
Here's a short history of the First Armenian Republic (1918-1921). I am not making any of this up.
From David Gilmour's The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj:
In 1870 [Indian Civil Service] salaries were slightly lower than they had been forty years earlier although the cost of living had risen over the same period. More serious for Civilians, however, was the subsequent depreciation of the currency. In The Importance of Being Earnest Miss Prism instructs her pupil Cecily Cardew not to read a chapter on the fall of the rupee because the subject is too sensational and melodramatic for a young girl. It was certainly an undesirable sensation for men who earned a salary in rupees but spent much of it in sterling.
A recipe from Hostess's The Twinkie Cookbook: An inventive and unexpected recipe collection. More specifically, from Chapter Nine: Twinkies and Meat. You heard me.
Pigs in a Twinkie.
Just spotted this recent Doonesbury. (Keep cliicking on "next" to read the whole sequence. It's mildly amusing.)
Now, "Berzerkistan" is obviously inspired by Turkmenistan, which does indeed share a land boundary with Iran and which was indeed, until recently, run by a maniac. However, the country on the map -- with mountains, lakes, and a 19-mile boundary with Iran -- resembles Armenia. (Well, insofar as it resembles anyplace, which it doesn't much).
Apropos of nothing, I've been reading Doonesbury for over thirty years now. Dang.
Cause, effect. I have hometown papers to keep myself occupied while I don't use the power drill on my forehead to relieve the pressure. (Anyway, I already have three stitches there from over the holiday. C'est la guerre.) Some headlines!
I have mild ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So does Alan. In his case, it's not yet clear if the adjective "mild" is warranted... his ADHD isn't horrible, but on a bad day it can make all of us pretty crazy.
ADHD is one of those modern disorders: complex, still incompletely understood, and forced to go through a long trial period as a "syndrome". As recently as ten or fifteen years ago, there was a large minority of specialists claiming that there was no such thing as ADHD. As it turns out, not only is it a real condition, but it's something that can be seen without a microscope these days. Scan the brain of a kid with ADHD, and he (it's usually a he) will have, on average, a smaller frontal cortex, especially in the right lobe. The difference is structural and gross. And people who have damage to this area of the brain -- injuries or lesions -- may suddenly develop symptoms of ADHD.
But what's it like?
I think I hate flying. Not the act of flight itself, which I rather enjoy. But the rest of it. A cumulative bunch of annoyances that add up to something more than dislike.
The Pure Product of America: So it's like dating then?
At least dating I get a decent meal out of it.
On the other hand, flying is great for people watching. I can practice my eye stalking on unsuspecting thousands.
Anyway. Regular November daily blogging tomorrow.
First real snowy day today.
Armenia has a dry-ish climate, but you wouldn't have known it today. It was early winter snow -- fat soft flakes falling through damp air just above freezing. It quickly turned to half-slush, falling off the trees with those little snow-sighs.
I slept late, until about 9:30 -- we take turns on the weekends, so Claudia gets it tomorrow. The boys ran around outside for a while but most of the day was indoors. Cartoons in the morning, Legos a bit later. Claudia made turkey soup and a really good chocolate chip coffee cake. At 2:00 in the afternoon Alan watched Power Rangers Mystic Force, which he watches religiously at that time every Saturday. We killed an hour or so fooling around with these puzzles on the computer (warning: starts with stuff a bright five year old can enjoy, but moves on to stuff that will have his parents cursing in frustration).
I played some Civilization IV on my laptop in the living room. Jacob took a nap in the afternoon, and Claudia went upstairs for an hour of quiet time. Alan drew pictures. David played with magnets. Uno and Zingo were considered but vetoed by Alan, who is going through a phase of not liking games. Jacob woke up grumpy but got better after having a snack. ("Eat it and smile" could be Jacob's coat of arms.) There was some poop-related stuff that I won't burden you with. David and I practiced the "jump-hug", whereby the child runs at you, jumps up, you lift him and hug, and he grabs you with all four limbs. When done smoothly, this produces a sort of "whump" that is deeply satisfying to all concerned.
In the evening we watched three episodes of Justice League. (Man, the DC Animated Universe was so much better than the Marvel cartoons. There's no comparison.) David kept putting the magnets in his mouth, which is strictly forbidden, so I took them away. The ensuing crying jag went on for twenty minutes, and he was still asking for them back an hour later. David is nothing if not tenacious.
Bedtime was late. David got the "On Top of Spaghetti" song. Alan got a short story about Batman. (How a bat flying in the window gave Bruce Wayne an idea. I got to say "criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot".)
As usual, I'm the last one up. But not much longer.
A book review this Saturday, the new Gene Wolfe. It's often hard to summarize Wolfe briefly. On the other hand, I've read a lot of Wolfe. The narrator, a mobbed-up Jersey kid in post-Communist Cuba, is sent back in time to pirate days. Mayhem ensues. The narrator is now a Catholic priest in our time. He's got a plan.
It's smooth, fast, and almost perfectly in control of narrative tone. Doug had a theory Wolfe lost it in The Knight and The Wizard. I disagreed, but neither of us could figure out why the shifts in register were happening when they did. Pirate Freedom favors my side of the question.
Also, after several books with some rather idealized images of the Catholic Church -- nothing wrong with that, but it's not all Bing Crosby and Bernanos -- Wolfe explores a little of J.F. Powers' territory. (Yes, I know the link is to Derbyshire. Blind pigs and acorns.) Doug, you'd like Powers.
A brief excerpt below.
It snowed today. Basically we had seven weeks of October, three days of November and now we're in December. This is, by Armenian standards, not unusual.
in other big news, I visited a Minister this morning, on business. And therein lies a story! Pull up a chair and light up a smoke, because I have to go back a little ways.
I wrote most of my posts this week ahead of time. But for this one, I needed the actual score of the game: Green Bay 37, Detroit 26, and it wasn't even that close. Some highlights:
Oh yeah: Favre is scary accurate; players are stepping up but still making mental errors; and if the defense only needs $500 to make the big plays, the cousins are more than willing to throw a few Benjamins into the pot. Just keep it clean, guys.
Now Carlos has me watching the damn games online. This is only plausible with early kickoffs -- I'm not in deep enough to stay up past 1 am -- but today's game started at noon.
That NFL Gamecenter thing is pretty awesome. Doesn't use a lot of bandwidth, but has nifty graphics and updates in something close to real time. Maybe it's not quite having the game on the radio, but I AM IN ARMENIA, PEOPLE. Watching the game.
Really, I love this century. Love it.
(Tryptophan, long day: I'm not going to make it to midnight. Late in the third quarter, 31-12 Pack. Enjoy, my friend, enjoy.)
We had a nice Thanksgiving. It was really Claudia's day -- she did all the cooking; I did what I was told -- so I think she should blog about it.
Thanksgiving is a totally constructed tradition, you know? Before the Civil War, it was about as meaningful as Flag Day. It didn't really get going until the 1920s. The modern version -- family, travel, big turkey dinner -- only came together in the Roosevelt administration.
Of course, constructed doesn't mean bad. Stopping to give thanks once a year is probably a good idea.
Gosh, I have a huge family. Both my parents had five brothers and sisters, so I have a small army of first cousins. Many of them have kids. I need a chart just to keep track of second cousins. The family roots in Wisconsin go back to territorial days, which is difficult to do unless you're of French or Native American descent. My family chose the difficult, stubborn, German route. The Danes came later, and the guys named Carlos somewhat after that. I have gone to Packer bars around the country and randomly found unsuspecting relatives.
There's the feast, and the Detroit game, and then sixteen hours of night. I brought some Proust, but I probably will pick on my sister's fiancé. My dad once made him eat a bug. We like him.
I have to get some Korbel brandy, for the old-fashioneds. (They taste worse with fancier brandy; there's been some coevolution between distilling and mixology.) Though my generation does the Jägermeister shots too.
The book is Between the Thunder and the Sun (1943) by Vincent Sheean. It's one of the volumes from the mysterious 1945 bookshelf I mentioned a couple of posts back.
Vincent Sheean was from the second rank of literary-social figures of the 1930s and '40s. He was friends with Hemingway and John Gunther and Edna St. Vincent Millay; he was in Paris a few days before the Wehrmacht marched in; he was in London for the Blitz, on Guam two weeks before the Japanese attacked, and within arm's reach of Gandhi when he was assassinated. Hitchcock's movie Foreign Correspondent (1940) was loosely based on his life. He wrote half a dozen novels and ten or fifteen nonfiction books. He is almost completely forgotten today.
This post, and me.
Me: I have something. Don't know if it's a cold or an allergy, but basically my nose has been dripping nonstop for a day now, my eyes are red, and I'm all bleary and stuff. Bah.
This post: I'm reaching. Did a post over at the Fistful today. I don't think that counts towards my post-a-day here, but if you can't get enough of my deathless prose, there you go.
Also found a cool description of a visit to the Yezidi Kurds, from Christian Garbis' blog. No, I don't think that counts either, but it's neat.
Yezidis are Armenia's largest remaining minority; there are maybe 50,000 of them, or just under 2% of the population. We've driven past those villages, and we've seen Yezidi herdsmen on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, but I don't think I've ever talked to a Yezidi.
(Mike Ralls had an interesting suggestion the other day: since we know that we have just five or six months left, maybe we should make a list of "things to do before leaving Armenia". Claude?)
Or Herondas, who flourished around 270 BC. He wrote mimiambs: mimes + iambs, which is not helpful. A mime at that time was basically a sitcom, a stereotyped sketch comedy, and not a Gaul in whiteface trapped in an invisible box. An iamb was something very much like rap... but by Herodas's time, the iamb had been a classical form for a few hundred years. In other words, the mimiamb was a typical Hellenistic mashup.
Herodas's mimes were found in an Egyptian scroll dating from the second century AD, and first published in 1891. The British codebreaking eccentric Dillwyn Knox published a bizarre, nearly unreadable translation in 1929, which he felt captured the strangeness of the text. I'll use Cunningham's more recent edition.
They're kind of smutty.
Not a lot of English language bookstores in Armenia. Bucharest had half a dozen places where you could look for English books, old and new; Armenia... not so many. And Amazon doesn't deliver here.
Since I'm one of those people who gets dizzy without a regular supply of new books -- even if I have very little time to read just now -- what then do we do?
When I was last there, after a very luxurious trip across the country, I was thoroughly sick of being wined-and-dined. Since Jeddah is one of the few places where a vaguely Arab-looking man in Western clothes can walk around unnoticed, that's what I proceeded to do. That led to an impromptu basketball game with a group of Filipino expats. I automatically blurted out "Kumusta-ka!" when their car pulled up in front of me as I watched other people toss a ball around on some public courts, and an invitation to play naturally followed.
So when they told me that the below sculpture had, in fact, been designed by a Filipino, I was not surprised. I have also been unable to stop laughing.
And a close up:
Brought to you by the country that named its first independence movement the "KKK." I am not surprised, and I am still laughing.
Okay, the Mattavilasa. Lorenzen translates it as 'Drunken Games'. Some context. It's a Sanskrit comedy written slightly after 600 AD, by an artsy king of an upstart dynasty, the Pallavas. It's a religious farce. India is far from timeless: in this period, Buddhism was still big and active on the subcontinent. The religious scene was varied but moderate: Boethius and Plotinus wouldn't have looked out of place here, next to the sky-clad Jains. The full food prohibitions were still developing, and caste had yet to ramify to its full complexity.
On the other hand... there was the sect known as the Kapalikas. That root kapala? Means 'skull'. You know the cognates. They were, hm, transgressive. In imitation of Shiva, who after accidentally on purpose decapitating Brahma, went around begging using Brahma's skull as a bowl -- Brahma had spares -- so too the Kapalikas went around using human skulls as begging bowls. Where did they get them? Cremation grounds! (One hoped.)
They were also believed to break the five basic prohibitions of renunciates: liquor, meat, fish, parched grain, and getting it on. Often.
So the stereotype was of creepy horny drunk carnivorous beggars covered in human ash, accompanied by hott chick acolytes, carrying around someone's skull, asking you for money.
I think they used to squat in Tompkins Square Park.
I haven't blogged much about Georgia.
Well, recent events have been kinda disappointing. Like a lot of people, I had high hopes for Saakashvili. Not so much because he was "pro-Western" -- that's a pretty meaningless metric, especially around here -- but because he seemed like the kind of leader who pushes my particular buttons: a sane, pragmatic, energetic problem-solver.
In retrospect, there were warning signs. He rehabilitated Zviad Gamsakhurdia, for starters. (If you don't know who Gamsakhurdia was, good for you. He was Georgia's first leader after independence, and was probably the most thoroughly incompetent leader of any post-Soviet republic.) His reforms were mostly good, but they were all top-down; the Caucasus is stony soil for participatory democracy and stakeholder input. And he was all too willing to play the nationalism card and whip up foreign threats to support his rule.
If Saakashvili resembles any other post-Soviet leader, it's Putin. Ironically enough.
Anyhow: I ran across a good short summary of recent events in Georgia, from the always worthwhile Transitions Online:
First, Alan was up in the middle of the night with an earache. It turned out to be no big deal, but it did keep both of us awake. I was having a bad night already, thinking about stuff (see below); I did eventually get some sleep, but Claude got almost none.
Second, I'm starting to break the news about no follow-on projects to the staff, one at a time. This gets a little tricky. We have people who will certainly land on their feet and find other jobs that are just as good or better. But we also have people who've come to rely on this project, and who will struggle to find new positions -- not so much because they aren't competent (everyone at the project is competent; most are good, several are excellent), but because it's just hard to get out there and look for a job in Armenia. It's not a big place, nor a rich one. So, instead of announcing this at the weekly staff meeting, I'm doing this one by one.
Kneel before Zod, whitey.
The Packers are 9 and 1? The Packers are 9 and 1. It's eerie. You know how you never thought you'd live past thirty?
The Pure Product of America: Sure! Nuclear war.
No. You know, under the old Soviet targeting plan, there would have been one team left in the NFL? Guess which. Anyway, it's like that. I'm just happy they made it this far.
Yes, New Hampshire has projects. While New Hampshire has a high median income, $57,352 in 2004 — £31,438 at 2004 exchange rates, compared with £24,302 for the rest of the U.S. of A. and £21,700 for England and Wales — the state still has lots of ordinary people.
Now, we don’t knock on every door. We’ve got a list of registered voters, and we only go to Democratic households. The standard spiel is, “Hi there, we’re with Barack Obama, have you decided on a candidate yet?” Beat … beat … then, regardless of the answers, “Well, what issues are most important to you?” Followed by then the sales pitch. Which can last for half-an-hour, if you hit if off with the person at the door.
In New Hampshire, the pitch includes telling people when and where they can personally meet the candidate. Now, I’m the first person to say that the American political system is entirely broken. Congressional districts have metastasized into gerrymandered monstrosities of 700,000 people. The Senate is a travesty by definition, and I wonder about my countrymen’s lack of outrage about its existence. And we won’t mention the Electoral College — why should the switch of a few thousand votes in Ohio been enough to save the American people from the results of their own temporary insanity in 2004?
But for all its faults, having the primary season kick off in places like New Hampshire is, quite simply, a Very Good Thing. It brings a moment of sanity to a media-drenched political machine badly cobbled together to select a chief executive for a continental nation of 300 million people. And I love it.
Another beautiful fall day. Had a nice walk this morning with the boys. Jacob and Claudia are napping. Alan and David are watching Yin Yang Yo on television, killing time until 2:00 when the Mystic Power Rangers come on.
(There's a post yet to be written on the jaw-dropping awfulness that is Power Rangers Mystic Force, and why Alan loves it so very much. But not today.)
A bit of news: last night at the Marine Corps Ball, we found there won't be a follow-on project. Or at least not until long after our project has closed its doors. This is IMO unfortunate, but nobody is asking my advice. So we close our doors in May and that's it.
What does this mean for family Muir? Well, it puts a clear limit on our time in Armenia. When the project ends in May, we won't have anything to keep us here. We might leave a little earlier or later, but it's unlikely to be later than June. As of today, we're probably about six months away from leaving.
(Leaving for where? No idea. But that's the nature of the business.)
So, this will be our last autumn in this house and in Armenia. That's a little sad. I guess we should enjoy it as best we can, while we can.
I'm going to go out and rake some more leaves.
That was fun. Like doing an autopsy for the county in the middle of the night, or stuffing processed pork into pig intestines on the swing shift. But everything checks, everything is at least bronze, and now I can deal with this cold, or whatever it is I have. My body is craving okra, spinach, smoked Gouda, and shots of three-buck Serbian slivovitz. (The good stuff, made by people who want to forget/re-enact war crimes, not the well-meaning kosher kind distilled in Parsippany.)
Anyway. Here's an incredibly geeky link for Doug. I was looking for an even geekier link -- scans of the Ennis/McCrae comic book of the Haunted Tank (haunted by the ghost of JEB Stuart) and Jack Kirby's rhyming demon Etrigan going up against zombie Nazi tankers invading the U.S. -- but they've gone mysteriously AWOL from the Internet.
It's not too early to think of Christmas.
Short post today.
Saturdays are usually busy... kids at home. It was a lovely sunny day today, so we spent a lot of the day outside. I raked leaves! -- I am not very domestic and don't enjoy most chores. Two exceptions: washing dishes and raking leaves. No idea why. But it was a lovely day, and there's just something about raking leaves on a cool sunny afternoon in autumn.
Tonight we go to the Marine Ball. Every November, US Marines around the world celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. In certain quiet corners of the world -- places that have a US Embassy, and thus Marines, but not a lot of American citizens -- this is the big social event of the year. No, really. So, the baby sitter will arrive in half an hour.
What else... oh, yes, the gas has been off since Thursday. (Not just for us. The whole neighborhood. Some sort of work on the pipes, nobody can tell us the details.) So, tonight will be our third night without heat. Fortunately the evenings have been mild for November, so with an extra blanket and a space heater in the boy's room we're all right. That said, the cool house makes Claudia (who doesn't thermoregulate) walk around sort of clutching herself. So, fingers crossed that this is done by tomorrow.
Life in the developing world.
Well, that was not fun. Removed the CD-ROM drive and internal hard drive from my old desktop, put the internal HD into an external USB enclosure -- and let me just say that the young red-shirt guy at Staples was much, much, *much* more professional about this option than the various language- and socially-challenged floor people at J&R -- and the rest, well, it resembles an organ donor after the harvest but before the stuffing and the duct tape. It's four in the morning and I am testing everything on a laptop (and I hate laptops, almost as much as I do Blackberrys).
I am now playing Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina": music files, check. He gave the roofies to his dog, man.
Here's the other link from the coin-flip yesterday: The Ballad of Big Mike. Like I told Doug, if I started to blog about The Blind Side where would I stop?
Let's see... what have we got.
The Müller formula for predictable color preferences. I didn't quite get this, myself. Anyone?
It's probably not surprising that the writer's strike has generated some interesting writing. Here's a good piece by John Rogers (long, explains what's going on) and another one by Joss Whedon (short, on why writing is work).
You know what? I don't have a lot of random links today. So let me briefly talk about some random stuff.
A little background: we're having an election here in February. It's for the office of President, which has a moderate amount of power and a lot of symbolic importance.
In this corner, there's establishment candidate Serge Sarkisian. Sarkisian is the long-time lieutenant of current President Robert Kocharian; he was Defense Minister for many years, and is currently serving as Prime Minister. Sarkisian, like Kocharian, is from Nagorno-Karabakh, and the two men have been close for many years.
In the other corner, there used to be a bunch of squabbling and not very effective opposition candidates. However, in the last few weeks a real rival has emerged: Levon Ter-Petrosian, President from 1991-1998, who was forced to resign by Kocharian and Sarkisian almost a decade ago. Armenia has a two-step Presidential election -- if nobody gets 50% in the first round, the two leading candidates go to another round two weeks later -- and right now Ter-Petrosian looks good to reach the second round. Already one opposition party has announced that it will back him.
You know, I haven't done a Balkans post here in a long time.
So Serbia will get a Stability and Association Pact with the EU (SAA). The pact was initialed last week; barring a catastrophe, it will be formally signed in January.
An SAA is the step before formal EU candidacy, so this is good news for Serbia. It looks like Brussels is trying to strengthen the "liberal and Western" strain of Serbia's politics before December, when problems are likely to arise with Kosovo. (The current round of Kosovo negotiations is likely to expire on December 10.)
The big loser here, of course, is Carla del Ponte. The SAA was supposed to wait until Serbia had "cooperated fully" with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). Serbia's cooperation has been slow, reluctant, half-hearted, and in no sense "full"; Ratko Mladic is going to die comfortably in bed, and the current leadership of Serbia is good with that.
Back in March, I noted that the Belgians (backed by the Dutch) had put a freeze on candidacy negotiations because they wanted to see real cooperation with the ICTY. Well, eight months is a long time in politics. Apparently the Belgians and Dutch were argued around. The current paralysis of the Belgian government may have had something to do with this.
Albania got its SAA last year, and newly-independent Montenegro a few months ago. Bosnia thus becomes the only country in the region without one. Bosnia's goverment just formally collapsed this week, and they may well be going back to the polls in January or February. So, it looks like they won't get their SAA initialed until next year at the earliest.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this poem a hundred fifty years ago. Somehow I don't think today's cultural conservatives look back to the days when Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., would relax over cider and chat about the Ramayana, you know? (Even the South had Indian influences: Country Captain Chicken, which is clearly a transplanted British Indian curry. And, um, hm.) It's a little spooky how Emerson recreates some very ancient Indo-European effects. Actually the whole poem is spooky.
Man, I hate the Armenian alphabet. It's a big part of why I'm not picking up much Armenian.
I read Cyrillic, no problem. But Cyrillic is easy-peasy. I picked up Cyrillic in a day or two. Armenian... doesn't look like anything. The letters don't look like letters to me. They look like symbols for World of Warcraft tribes, or something. And when you put them all together, the visual processing center of my brain says "bar code!" and shuts down.
I can't read. I have to spell. I have to spell everything.
Before this, I hadn't realized how much of my language acquisition had been through reading... street signs, billboards, newspaper headlines. Cut off from that, the language comes much more slowly.
(Another thing that bugs me: the alphabet is used, exclusively, for pretty much all monuments and memorials. Isn't this missing the point? If you have a statue of a famous general, or a plaque on a house saying "this great writer lived here", wouldn't you want the whole world to know about it?)
I can understand why the Armenians are proud of their alphabet. It's been their thing, uniquely theirs, for half of their long history. But it doesn't exactly invite the stranger in.
Anyway. Here are some random facts about the Armenian alphabet.
On another blog, someone recommended this piece here. It argues that it would be very difficult for a modern nation to undergo a national mobilization on the scale of WW2.
I wrote the following, not about the piece, but about the philosophy of science:
For our foreign readers: "Starved Rock" is a poem by American poet Edgar Lee Masters. I guess you'd call it a minor classic. Like many classics, it's not much read any more.
The "Starved Rock" of the title is in the Illinois river, south of Chicago. Once an Indian tribe called the Potawotamies lived along the river. They were attacked by another tribe, the Illini. Greatly outnumbered, they retreated to the top of the rock. For a time the Potawotamies endured a siege by lowering a bucket on a rope into the river; but eventually the Illini cut the rope, and the Potawotamies had to choose between death by thirst or death in hopeless battle.
I've always liked this poem. But since moving to Armenia... well, read it for yourself.
I'm off to bed. Good night.
Tuesday is usually my long day.
Every Tuesday evening, I have at least one conference call with the home office, and sometimes two. Because of the time difference, these can't start before 6:00, and sometimes not until 6:30 or later. So it's not unusual for me to be at the office past 8:00 or even 9:00, and to come home long after the boys are in bed.
That's kind of a bummer. I enjoy my evenings with the boys. Well, okay, usually. If one or more of them is tired and cranky-whiny-just feeling difficult? Less so. Especially if I'm tired myself. But mostly I really like hanging out with them, watching cartoons, having a snack, maybe rolling around on the floor a little. It's a small corner of the day, but usually a pleasant one.
(I'm typing this while on the conference call, a sentence at a time -- mute button on so nobody can hear the keys.)
(Okay, this was another "daily minutia" post. Will do better tomorrow!)