Excuse my incoherency, Mr. Rhinoceros
February 4, 2002
Dear [71 names],
The city is a ghost town. The streets are void of all traffic. Except for the familiar sound of two tires and my breath as I slowly bike my way up Summer street, I only hear the faint, remote sound of silence. Flickering lights emerge from people's homes and the smell of beer and popcorn wafts through the air.
``What the hell is going on?'' I ask myself (in English). Surprised (but used to the fact) that I talk English to myself I drift away to a small country far away, where things are different. In that country, they still have kings, queens, and marriages from fairy-tales that even move an anti-royalist like myself to tears. (I watched it 6 times over the Internet. I even forced my roommates to see it twice.) In the country of Legoland, as many Americans tend to think---the difference between Danish and Dutch is too subtle, my heart longs to be. Especially during times like these... during Super Bowl, when America in its entirety succumbs to primitivism. Even more so than normally.
But hey, this is the country with the moral right to bomb any country it wants while the President gets so drunk watching a football game that he loses consciousness and slams his head into a table. The excuse was easy: the guy is dumb enough to choke in a pretzel, so, hey, that was it! They all knew that nobody would question his imbecility. Personally, I'd rather have a President that experiments with cigars and young ladies. It shows a plan; it demonstrates character and creativity.
Excuse my incoherency, but I have a new toy. A webcam! Many hours per day you can see me live in my natural habitat---at home or MIT---from http://mirror.thomer.com/cgi-bin/find-thomer.pl. If you're waiting for the embarrassing moment that I start to pick my nose, don't wait too long: I can tell when I'm being watched. Often, at night (in the morning and early afternoon for you) and on many other occasions, I turn it off. Sure, I am an exhibitionist, but not a crazy exhibitionist.
``A 54-year old document,'' the army General said in his answer about human rights on the X-Ray base in Guantanamo bay. He happened to be referring to some document also known as the Geneva conventions. You Europeans better start bracing yourself, because YOU ARE NEXT ON OUR LIST and don't start whining when we bomb you. We warned you: if you're not with us, you're against us. We will push that Super Bowl down your throat, you hear me? Not that I think that we shouldn't beat the shit out of those people, but let's not call the Geneva conventions a 54-year old document, will you? I started wondering who else is beating them up after seeing that picture of the guy who was carried INTO the questioning room ON A STRETCHER. Missed that? http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/americas/02/02/guantanamo.prison.ap/index.html On how many stretchers was he carried OUT of the questioning room?
When a President can publicly question what the definition of the word ``is'' is, should we believe an army general that claims that ``nobody'' is being tortured?
Anyway, who cares about prisoners of war when we just won the Super Bowl?! Yeah! Boston is probably a nightmare tonight. Partying Americans is surely an order of magnitude worse than partying Dutch people; just think how angry Americans have a whole different feel to them than angry Dutch people.
Speaking of Boston, I went to the theater last night. Oh God, how naive and stupid can I get? I could have seen it coming. First of all, the play was called ``Fresh Fruit has Venus envy''. Secondly, as soon as I walked into the theater my gaydar went red. The whole freakin' place was crowded with gays. Many of you know that I have a pretty high tolerance level, but they were definitely pushing my limits. After we sat down, it suddenly occurred to us that ``Venus envy'' rhymes with ``Penis envy''. At that point, the words ``gender-bender'' in the little description we read a few hours before fell into place. We walked straight into a gay drag-fest. It was hilarious: a compilation of cynical sketches about politicians, Muslims, Jews, and women. Performed by men, all dressed up as women. I had a great time. I couldn't believe I had missed the signs, though. I'm losing my Amsterdam edge, and, clearly, I'm not hanging out with enough gays lately. That, at least, has been taken care of for the coming few weeks.
I cannot stop wondering whether Computer Science research is useful at all and if so, to whom?
Speaking of useless things: I passed both my classes during the first semester at MIT. A minor elaboration, I think, is in place here. Passing those classes was a true nightmare, especially a class called ``Theory of Computation''. People who were present at my graduation surely remember me fulminating about theory. My resentment and hate swelled to immeasurable, indefinable, heights. It was horrible. Sometimes, when I was slaving away on some problem set at 4am in the morning, sitting in my office at MIT, I wondered ``What the hell is going on?''. In English, that is.
Which reminds me... For the other class that I did---Distributed Computer Systems---I had to write a paper for a conference. Conference papers come with deadlines. A few hours before the deadline, at 6 freakin' AM in the morning, I was still working on the paper. At least 12 other people were working on their own paper, so at least I didn't feel sorry for myself. When I was finally done I submitted the final version to the CVS repository---a system to keep different versions of ongoing work---with the following message:
``After arguing about one single freakin' sentence for an hour or so, here it is... the final version of the paper. I feel humbled and proud to commit this baffling description of highly innovative technology at 6:07am in the morning. It also makes me feel sick and tired. But then again, I asked for it myself. All of this is my own fault. Grad school, MIT, the whole thing. What was I thinking? Was it the promise of eternal fame? The desire to understand? Or just women? No, that could not have been it. I can't remember. Help.''
After telling my former adviser, Andy, about my success at MIT he replied: ``Good. So why did you only take 2 classes?'' I nearly passed out.
Malls in the US are the pinnacles of organized, unbridled, and grossly embarrassing capitalism. We don't have those things in Europe, as far as I know. Anyway, imagine a 5-floor building. Attach a parking lot to it. Fill the building with many, many stores offering junk in a variety of shapes, colors, and smells. Add to that 2000 or 3000 overweight people with lots of whining babies, many escalators and elevators to transport them between the different types of junk and, finally, place a big ``Food Court'' in the middle and you're getting the picture. A real American Mall.
Food courts. (See also: ``Malls'')
Food courts are the average Botswanian's wet dream and the average American's place to indulge and enjoy the high standard of living that everyone around here seems to be taking for granted. Grab a bite. A food court is a large (LARGE) hall surrounded by several counters that offer a wide variety of foods. American, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, French, and ``healthy.'' Dispersed throughout this grandiose hall are trash cans. In those trash cans goes all the unconsumed food---the portions they give you are too much for a full-grown rhinoceros---Styrofoam, plastic, paper, sodas, and, finally, glass bottles. I went back to the Chinese counter to ask where the recycling bin was. They got the ``bin'' part, but ``recycling'' sounded less Chinese.
So, anyway, I went to a mall last weekend and bought some nice sweaters.
When the car in front of us flipped 180 degrees in the middle of the highway, we agreed it was time to leave the road and let the snow storm do its work. This is how we ended up in a hotel in the middle of nowhere (Stamford, Connecticut---don't pronounce that in Dutch). It was a lot more fun than sliding over the highway at 25mph. We ordered room service (hamburger with French fries. ``Mayonnaise please?'') and watched a terrific movie (``As good as it gets''). Sometimes we'd open the curtain and look at the poor bastards on the road. The next morning at 6am I didn't think it was fun anymore.
It is 2 years ago that I came to the US for my first adventure. I remember well the first day that I strolled around the neighborhood searching for a bicycle store. I felt so hopelessly lost. Now, of course, I *bike* around and feel hopelessly lost. A subtle difference.
Seriously, though, I love and hate this place. What my friend R says about the US is true: whatever claim you make about the US, the opposite is true as well.
My little trip to Amsterdam a month ago seriously challenged the definition of ``vacation''. I did not recover from my semester at all. It was too tiresome, stressful, and frustrating. Next time things will be different. And, hey!, why don't YOU people visit ME?!
Finally, I include a copy of an e-mail that I recently sent to some people after they were joking about Dutch royalty. Never mind the inaccuracies.
A Dutch stream of consciousness coming right up. Don't touch that button.
Our lovely crown prince Alexander is marrying a girl (Maxima Zorreguieta) who happens to be the daughter of a bad, bad person. This bad, bad person was secretary of agriculture in Argentina under the Fidela regime. The Dutch prime minister Wim Kok (pronounce: ``Wim Kok'') forced him---over a course of 2 years---to admit that he didn't know anything about the disappearance of, ah well, 10.000 people, give or take few thousand. Recently, however, he said in an interview with an Argentinean newspaper that he wasn't crazy, and that, of course, he knew all about it. Everyone acted East-Indian deaf---a Dutch saying, stemming from colonial times when we robbed and killed lots of Indonesians; it means only wanting to hear what suits you and ignoring the rest.
Anyway, his daughter is going to be our future queen. And, yes, prostitutes pay taxes in our country. That buys them the right to go to the police when they get beaten up. Americans, on the other hand, act as if prostitution does not exist and are fine with people beating them up. You have many other problems, too. If Bush had one higher IQ, he'd have the intelligence of a waterlily. Another issue, though.
Since the Dutch are famous for finding compromises (pronounce: ``afraid to take a stand''), we decided that we couldn't stop the wedding, but that Maxima's father was not allowed to come for the wedding. In other words: we punish HER. (In another example of compromise, we have a law against buying and/or selling large quantities of pot. We also have a word called ``gedoogbeleid'' which basically means that you can break that law without anyone really caring about it. It's not tolerant, it's weak.)
We can't blame the poor girl, of course, but we can blame her father. It was about time that Alexander got married, by the way. Prince Alexander is getting old and he has 4 brothers who are each an order of magnitude smarter than he is. Their father is a robot under guidance of the remote control hidden in our queen's purse. Bzz. Bleep.
Because nothing has happened in Holland since the end of WWII---except an El Al Boeing 747 that crashed in a large apartment building---everyone was so happy with finally having a new scandal. Our prince would marry an Argentinean witch!
Until the girl appeared on television... speaking Dutch with a very cute accent. Suddenly everyone loved her and the scandal was over. The couple made a ``tour'' around Holland. This involved lots of windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes, of course. This was around the time that I decided I have to get out of that place and move to the US.
This explains why we still have a royal family: we'd have nothing to talk about if they suddenly disappeared. However, many people believe we'd be better off as a republic. I agree. The royal family has rather expensive hobbies. Unfortunately, the taxpayer is paying it. Furthermore, in another scandal last year it turned out that the queen, who is officially the supreme ruler of the country, was pulling many political strings behind the scene. Many were upset that she was actually exercising her powers in stead of being a brainless puppet---what we are paying her for. Personally, I don't care about expensive hobbies, but I do care about democratic principles.
Anyway, Lang leve de koningin! Hoera! Hoera! Hoera!
God, give me the strength to shut up when I run out of topics.