Hi all. I have been in Almaty for about a month now, its cold here, and the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have just informed the Kazakhs for the 12th time that they will not be supplying electricity to Almaty anymore on barter terms, they actually want money instead of coal. I will have to get in touch with Tom Jacobs about this, its just not fair, and I like to take long showers.

What is interesting about Kazakhstan is that the average man on the street is fairly conversant in the subject of energy, so that you might hear a conversation between two pensioners about bcm of gas or how many megawatts their neighborhood is getting.

*Self promotion alert*  Gosh that reminds me, anyone who wants the low-down on the energy situation in Kazakhstan *self promotion alert*  should turn to the Financial Times, of January 21 and 28 *self promotion alert*  page 4 which is actually quite near the front page *self promotion alert*  if you think about it, and and read the unmistakeable prose *self promotion alert*  of Charles Clover whose name appears in about 86 point bold font, which is why he's willing to work *self promotion alert*  practically for free as a stringer in a place with no hot water.

By the way, it's true everyone at the FT does have to dress up in frilly pink nighties when we're inside the office, and all the food in the cafeteria is dyed pink. Apparently a public school holdover.


Hi fellow exSAISers,

I wanted to let you know that my email address has changed, and thought I'd include bits of news as well. To serve your varying degrees of interest and/or patience, we'll start with the new address, then the short and long versions of the recent news ...


News (short):
The Portland SAIS graduate population rose by one (Cigdem Oktem).

I turned 30, and am rapidly on the way to fat and bald.

I walked in to work to find my job gone (hence address change), and now I'm paid to do nothing for a while.

Visiting back east soon, would like to see folks.

It's still wet here.

News (long, i.e. I try to make the above sound interesting ...):
Another exSAISer reports from the wide world, in this case from the western wilds of Portland, Oregon (motto: "if it could float, nail it to the floor").

Work continued crazy-busy as usual until one Wednesday morning a couple of weeks ago, when my colleagues and I walked in to find out that we'd all been canned and the project canceled - after 1 1/2 years of work and just a week before shipping it out the door. [In techo-dork terminology, the cutting edge turned out to be a precipice.] So it's update-that-resume time, and probably a change in venue (current nominees include NYC and Luzern, or maybe somewhere nice and warm). Alternatively, since we all got fired at once, my team is talking about starting a new company. The international marketing portfolio is conspicuously un-filled ... hmm ... or perhaps can I get a job watering plants at the WTO office in Geneva while Markus skis? Anyone got a PhD program to recommend?

It was hardly equivalent to getting married for Swiss immigration purposes whilst ducking bullets in a hotel in Sierra Leone and dining on Bishkekian sheep, which is what I gather we're supposed to do post-SAIS, but I did get mildly caught in the recent winter flooding. Fortunately both my home and office are on high ground, so my adventure was limited to a lengthened and sloppy commute. All kinds of stuff floating around, from branches to small animals to road signs to ... um, I think I even saw a couple of things Julia reported missing go floating by toward the Columbia river ... Julia, if you hurry out here we might be able to catch 'em before they get to the ocean. I also got to watch a tree fall over and actually shatter due to the amount of ice caked on it, that was a new one.

Cigdem Oktem is also in Portland these days. She's working for US Bank, one of the big regional banks out here, in the international banking division. We saw a really funny play around Xmas time, about the town of "Tuna, Texas" - catch it if you can.

My family has two recent additions, kittens by the name of Aslan and Bertha. Nearly forgot to mention it, but the raging fight I just broke up reminded me. They're cute as all get-out, but can get nearly as rowdy as oh, say, Jame with a couple bottles of wine in 'im.

And yes indeedy, I turned 30 sometime back there. For those of you who ain't there yet, don't worry it's not that bad. For the rest of you, you know damn well I'm lying. Amazingly, fully 1/2 of my hair spontaneously leapt from my scalp as the clock struck midnight on my 30th. I'm unsure what to do about this: rug? Rogaine? weave? or just let 'er shine? Then there's the weight thing. Now I attribute this to being a professional on-ass-sitter who drinks a lot of beer, rather than age, but the results are disturbing nonetheless (the squeamish should avoid reading the next sentance). I started going to a gym and I can still say I have never weighed in over 200 pounds, but last week I only managed it by the extraordinary measure of, well, dropping the towel. And besides all that, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm turning into an old grouch.

So that's the news from lake PaulBGone. A happy 1997 to all.


Serra and I got married.

Unlike Craig, we are pretty sure we did it for real. Proof is that there were numerous Swiss people around stamping documents, photos were taken, and our mothers cried. Serra carried a bouquet of plastic flowers courtesy to her mum who brought them from Istanbul. We almost canceled the wedding since I refused to wear the tie Serra's mum apparently bought in the same shop. Only, and really only in parentheses: This tie exhibits true Turkish ingenuity when it comes to circumventing the Multifiber Agreement. Just don't put any fibers whatsoever in your products and you are all set. As expected, the tie did not burn when it caught fire, it melted. Now that we are married, all the cross cultural troubles begin, of course. Do I need to get circumcised? Will our kids be Muslim or Christian? Will the sharia apply to them? Do I really need to get circumcised? If I become Muslim, may I beat you regularly? Do we have to meet all the neighbors every time we visit Turkey? Won't it hurt a lot, such a circumcision? and many more.

We did not have a party, as we married on short notice to avoid Serra's expulsion from paradise Switzerland. So it was just signing papers. The real party will happen in Istanbul in the summer (early August, we reckon). We are still trying to find the proper i.e. best place and will send out invitations to you all some time soon.

Geneva is under clouds since New Years and you have to climb up the mountains to see any sun. Skiing around here is just phenomenal. Some of Europe's best slopes are between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours away and we are going skiing all weekends. On particularly good days, the WTO closes down and we all go skiing together. It's great to have trade unions!!

Workwise, things are picking up a bit. The WTO has given itself a mandate to explore whether they should simplify and harmonize customs procedures, and I was asked to prepare the background paper for the delegates. Yeah, it's not exactly the coolest project one can imagine, but at least I get to do something other than wax my skies during the week. (For all those who are already corrupted by all the dirt on the internet: This is not figurative language) Most surprisingly, none of the old ladies at work has died yet. I always thought, also women die around 85 or so, but these here seem to be hanging in until they have watered their last office plant to death. I keep you updated on any casualties here, since it means jobs for you all!!!!

PS: Serra's email is 106360.1457@compuserve.com

Am alive and well in Hong Kong.

Living on the opposite side of the planet has doubled my appreciation of not only the Internet but the efforts of Stefan to maintain this Web site and the contributions everyone makes to keep it interesting and fun. For the regulars on these e-pages, let's try to get some of the other folks to write in every so often....

Life is a bit of a mess right now. I have a new apartment but it has fewer beds than Mr. Sinclair's new pad. In fact, it has fewer of everything, or rather, it has nothing. Living on the floor will soon end but the move has been a little more trying than I expected. I've moved yet I have bills to pay in the US and I'm at the office but have to develop my news sources from scratch, and so on. I'm half-here, half-not. This netherstate is temporary but wearisome.

On the other hand this is a pretty amazing city and I am happy to rant on the Fictions page of this site, for those interested.

My e-mail address is, I think (I'm quite cyber-clueless), dibiasio@netvigator.com. If someone sends me a message and doesn't hear a reply after a week or so, it may mean either I haven't figured out this newfangled stuff--or that I don't like you. Gimme a try.

Talk to you later,

Oh, and regarding New Year's Eve: no comment;)