Adventures in Bureaucracy
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Another Christmas come and gone, and now we're already on the last day of the year. Sorry I didn't find these carols in Latin (via Professor Bunyip) until after Christmas, as I could have practiced singing them while crawling along I-70 on Sunday. As luck would have it, I had my new favorite Christmas CDs to pass the time away. Other drivers on the road probably thought I was howling in frustration at the traffic jam, but I was just singing along to "Ave Maria". I know the words. Pity I can't hold a note.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

Merry Christmas.
More things that needed to be said:

"And the Van Dyke moustaches! Guys. Look. There are two mods available to the Van Dyke wearer: Mephistopheles, or the tart-tongued epicure. The Van Dyke does not go with a knit cap pulled down to one’s eyebrows anymore than a handlebar moustache goes with a yarmulke. That’s how it is. Sorry."

Now if someone would just sit down those bald guys with pony tails...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
On the other hand, this Santa is probably not welcome at all.
God help Santa when you bring in the immigration lawyers. And this one brings in a lot of extraneous stuff no less - I guess that comes with hourly billing!

Sure, my imm law's a bit rusty, but there are a couple issues to consider. First, and most important, he's only coming for one night, so he's not residing in the U.S. and he's not engaging in paid employment. Thus a green card and the E, H, L, O and R visas aren't for him. Why bring those up? He would probably qualify for a C1 transit visa, since after all, he's just passing through. Visa Waiver or a B visa might be appropriate, although since he arrives on a private conveyance, that might knock him out of Visa Waiver eligibility right there for not traveling on a signatory carrier.

But that gets back to the important matter of citizenship. He may have been born in Turkey, the Netherlands or Germany, but this business of him being a Finn is silly. Ask any child about Santa and they'll all tell you he lives at the North Pole, not Helsinki. Don't buy into the Finnish propaganda! Anyway, by all accounts he's the guy in charge up there, so I think that would qualify him as head of state, and since he's coming in his official capacity, that makes him exempt from just about every requirement there is - he'd be considered an A1, just like the Queen of England or the Pope, and he wouldn't need visa or passport. In fact, about the only reason a head of state can be kept out would be if the Department of State considered his entry to be prejudicial to the national interest, and I'm pretty sure Colin Powell isn't about to do that.

And if that's the case, that knocks out all the port of entry concerns, since those state visits are set up months in advance, so all the possible issues with entry are smoothed out months before the dignitary actually arrives. I'm sure Santa will stop off at the White House for some milk and cookies and a nice chat with the President about matters of state before continuing on to visit the rest of the country.

Santa's made the trip many times before and since NORAD tracks him every year, even through the tricky airspace around Washington and New York, he's obviously welcome. There's certainly no need for a consultation with immigration lawyers here. After all, he's got more important things on his mind at this time of year.
My first experience with European plumbing was at a pension in Vienna, and I marveled at the differences in such a basic piece of equipment from the ones back home. Not enough to write about it, but I wondered... and apparently I wasn't the only one.

But then I went to Asia and experienced Narita Airport. Let's face it, after a fourteen hour flight and two meals' worth of airline food, you want to sit down for a little quiet time, and that little bowl in the floor with the foot peddles on each side isn't what you want to see. No, what you want is one of the premium Japanese models, especially on a cold winter day. Once you've ridden one of these babies, you'll never want to go back.
Monday, December 22, 2003
The Sydney Morning Herald comes out with a list of the ten most important Australians. Bollocks. Well, OK, John Howard I'll agree with, but Germaine Greer's as good as a pom, and Rupert Murdoch's gone seppo. I'd say this is a much better list of Top Aussies.
This one takes me right back to those days at the airport. One of the challenges of working in inspections was to try to sort out who was telling the truth and who was trying to come in with a cover story. I'll bet half the waiters and waitresses in Manhattan came in saying they just wanted to visit the Empire State Building / Disney World / Las Vegas.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
How many strokes did this interview induce in desk officers at Foggy Bottom? (via LGF)

My favorite part:

Nevine Khalil: And what if there is democracy in the region and the people decide to elect governments that are not friendly to the US? What would you do about that?

Welch: You mean like France?
Thursday, December 18, 2003
The end of the year is fast approaching, and that means trying to meet all those year-end deadlines at the office. I've been swamped all month, but it looks like I might actually finish a long-term project tomorrow. And there will be much rejoicing.

But in between the frantic pace at work and the procrastination on preparing for Christmas (as long as those cards are postmarked by December 24th I'm fine), I found the time to see "The Return of the King". It was an amazing movie, and no doubt I'll get the DVD, but somehow I was a little disappointed in it. Maybe it's because I loved the books, and this movie varied a lot more from the original than the other two. Maybe it's because I expected more after reading all the glowing reviews. Jonathan Last had some valid points in his review, but I think he's the only critic who hasn't heaped lavish praise on the film. But maybe it's because it was so visually stunning - the citadel of Minas Tirith, the beacons on the mountains, the battle of Pelennor Fields - that I'll never again be able to visualize any of it with my own imagination the way I did when I first (and second and third...) read it. Now any new re-readings will probably bring to mind Peter Jackson's recreation, not mine.

And they say there's no melancholy because the Scouring of the Shire wasn't included in the movie.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Two inches of snow piled up on my balcony over night, and when I turned on the news this morning, I heard this. I think the Munchkins said it best:

Tra la la la la la la la la la la!
Tra la la la la la la!
Tra la la la la la la la la la la!
Tra la la la la la la!
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Over the river (three actually, plus a few creeks, streams and assorted rills) and through the woods to Grandmother's house I went for Thanksgiving, and it was a good one, with several relatives turning up to help demolish the turkey and various side dishes. Conversation eventually turned to President Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, and consensus opinion at dinner was that it was an impressive thing to do. Well, except for Grandma, who didn't trust his motives, but to be fair, she doesn't trust the motives of anyone who's in politics.

Returning to Virginia always catches me off guard. Every year I get caught in the back-up at the Breezewood interchange, and every year I swear next year will be different. Somebody remind me to find a different way next year.

But after Thanksgiving there are always a few radio stations playing all Christmas music, and that never fails to get me in a good mood, even when crawling along I-270 with a good portion of the population of Virginia. Sure, there are some songs I could do without - John and Yoko's "Happy Christmas" and everything from the Carpenters come immediately to mind - but by and large I enjoy hearing the songs. Traditionalist that I am, I prefer hearing the songs the way they were written. Funny how Mariah Carey can mangle "Oh Holy Night" (it's much more powerful to get those notes at the end and hold them instead of going through the scales) but do a great job with the more modern rock songs.

It's also kind of funny to hear the novelty songs trotted out. So far I haven't heard Adam Sandler or "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", but the Chipmunks are still going strong. Do any children recognize Alvin, Simon and Theodore at all? I mean, I don't remember them from my childhood, and I'm rapidly coming up on middle age. But their Christmas song comes back every year. Same for Snoopy's Christmas (another one I can do without). Hard to believe that was such a huge phenomenon back in the 1960's. Maybe it was all the drugs.

And then there's "Christmas Eve in Washington", which gets played over and over and over again in this area. It's one of those songs described by a friend of mine as slow and whiny. For a change of pace I'd like to hear about Christmas Eve in Detroit. That song would probably have a catchier beat.

But don't worry, it's not "Bah humbug" quite yet. It's hard to resist the Christmas spirit once the decorations are on all the buildings downtown and the Christmas trees are lit up at the White House and the Capitol.
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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