Friday, July 2, 2010

Returning soon

I'll be returning to the US relatively soon, much to my dismay. I've been quite busy with work, thus the lack of updates. I apologize for that.

I continue to do stuff in Asia. I'll tell you about it later.

"Travel is only glamorous in retrospect."
-Paul Theroux

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

My freshman year my mother suggested I look into the IRSEP scholarship at the university, I didn't. My sophomore year my mother suggested I look into the IRSEP scholarship, I didn't. My junior year my mother suggested I look into the IRSEP scholarship, I did. My senior year my mother asked me what to pack, I said "light stuff because Malaysia is pretty warm."

Just one of the countless examples that illustrates that "Mom knows best."

Happy Mother's Day Mom.

ps Everyone should become a member of the Minnesota International Center

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I got back from the Perhentian Islands early this evening. I had a wonderful few days there swimming in crystal clear water and laying on white sandy beaches. To think a year ago I had never heard of the place.

One of the most important things I've learned here is that you can't pass judgment on a place without being there. I've been traveling alone most of the time and had been quick to assume how this place is going to be like that and etc. For example I thought Laos was going to be like North Korea. But hey! I went there and discovered a beautiful country filled with some of the kindest people I have ever met sans Pyongyang totalitarianism.

The next time someone/a book/the internet/TV tells you the French are rude or Prague is better than Vienna or all the food in India will make you sick or Alabama is full of rednecks or that there isn't much to see in Sarawak, don't take their word.

Go find out for yourself.

Monday, April 19, 2010

300 Days

Today, Tuesday April 20th, is the 300th day I've been in Malaysia. What to do to celebrate? Why buy an overpriced beer and an under priced ice cream treat of course.

To the next 100 Plus (ha) days in Malaysia!

I'll be home in August.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Obama and Medvedev Sign New START Treaty

My mother is visiting me in Malaysia, so I don't have as much time to write about this as I'd like to as I need/should/will make hanging out with her my top priority.

If you haven't heard, President Obama and President Medvedev have signed a new START treaty which will reduce respective nuclear arsenals* by one-third. Coupled with the release on Nuclear Posture Review on Monday, this has been a fantastic week for the nonproliferation regime and human beings in general.

That's all I've got for now. I'll be going to Langkawi on Saturday morning, then down to KL on Tuesday. I'm liking blogging again, so I'll write something once I get back to Penang from KL.


ps Twins are atop the AL Central Division after three games and will stay there indefinitely.

*long range nuclear weapons. more one that later.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts on the Nuclear Posture Review

For a long time I've wanted to write about foreign policy issues that have nothing to do with Malaysia, I do study Political Science as a minor after all. Well, today brought some news that I could not help writing about.

On Tuesday, President Obama released the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. The report outlines what "the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy should be."

The NYT article states:

"Mr. Obama described his policy as part of a broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear ambitions. To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own defense secretary... For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack."

I think this is a very positive step in the RIGHT direction for strengthening the international nonproliferation regime AND US national security.

I imagine that critics on the right will be quick to portray the move as "weak" and "inviting an attack on the US." I think these criticisms are made clearly by those stuck in a Cold War mindset. I was lucky enough to have been born at the end of the Cold War and thus "mutually assured destruction" is not part of my regular vocabulary. I'd argue it should be out of everyone's vocabulary and only come out of the mouths of IR scholars and appear in print in IR textbooks. MAD is obsolete. Completely.

Now let me get a bit wonky here for a moment.

I'd argue that Obama's plans for drawing down nuclear arsenals and redefining the situations when nuclear weapons would be employed is completely in sync with recent moves the military has taken in restructuring itself. In short, the military structure was designed most in part with an emphasis for conventional warfare between two opposing powers (ie US and USSR) on a battlefield etc etc. However, the conflicts that our military has been involved in lately (Afghanistan and Iraq) are unconventional. How does a conventional military fight an unconventional war (counterinsurgency being the big one)?

The military has begun to adapt itself in order to better handle unconventional conflicts. It's a measure that is being taken in response to the realities: no a war with China isn't imminent, but executing a population-centric counterinsurgency is something that is going on right now.

Obama's decisions reflect this same reality. Nuclear warfare is obsolete, thank God.

If you don't agree with my analysis, seriously consider threats to the security to the US that would call for the use of nuclear weapons in the year 2010. If you answer: Iran or North Korea, you didn't read the Times article close enough. If you answer: Al Qaeda and other terrorists, consider how a nuclear warhead would be guided to wherever the terrorists are. If you answer China, consider that our economic ties will never bring us further than arguing about Taiwan or the Dalai Lama.

Also, consider the implications this will have for the NPT, Iran, and North Korea.

Many seemed to be baffled as to why President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize. I wasn't.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today in Bahasa Malaysia Class

Last semester I wrote about my beginning level Bahasa Malaysia class, LKM 100. I'm taking the second level course this semester, LKM 200. While LKM 200 isn't proving to be the enlightening "it's a small world afterall" experience that LKM 100 was, I'm still enjoying it nonetheless.

Today we learned about the prefix ter-.

Ter- can be used to:

a) describe an action done without intention or accidently
b) means "the most" when added to a noun
c) to show incapability of doing something when combined with the word "tidak," which means "no"

I'm the only native English speaker in the class and I find myself being constantly called on. My teacher has mistaken my first name as "Byrne" since the usual format of a name here is Family Name First name. I've figured it's just too late in the semester to correct him without embarrassing him or myself. When he calls on people, it sounds like the name of the person he's calling on erupts out of his mouth as if it were an escape of some sort. It's not, "Ian, could you please answer question number 3?" It's "BYRNE, answer question."

So, back to ter-

My teacher wrote the following two sentences on the board and called on me to translate them into English and distinguish the usage of ter-

1. Dolah terberak di dalam kelas.
2. Dolah berak di dalam kelas.

Teacher: BYRNE, translate the sentences.
Me: What does "Dolah" mean?
Teacher: It's a name.
Me: What does "berak" mean?
Teacher: You don't know berak? Somebody say what "berak" means.
Student sitting next to me: It means to shit.

Since English is everybody else's second or third language, it's common for people just use vernacular English without quite understanding what the meaning of the word carries. We all do that though. I myself throw vittua and perkele around like it's a greeting, no thanks to my Finnish roommates.

I continued.

Me: Dolah accidentally defecated in--
Teacher (interrupting): No! To shit.
Me: Dolah accidentally shit in the classroom.
Teacher: Very good. Next sentence.
Me: Dolah shit in the classroom.

Poor Dolah.

I had no choice but to laugh through each of the "in the class." It was a riot. I must say though, it was actually somewhat liberating speaking publicly about this fictional "Dolah" accidentally and purposefully shitting in the classroom. Nobody else seemed to find it funny though as the next student translated something about someone accidentally eating some cake as I continued to chuckle.

I guess today everyone learned how grown up their American peer is.