Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Gut Tells Me This Hurriacane Season Will Be Bad

We've had it pretty easy since Katrina and Rita. 2004-2005 were terrible years. With the news today:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/05/31/ts.arthur/index.html

that we already have a named storm before the season even starts (okay, it starts tomorrow), I get the feeling that we're in for a long Summer. My gut also tells me to sell insurance and offshore-Gulf-of-Mexico oil stocks before the fourth of July. I'm not claiming to be (in)auspicious, but a betting man knows when his luck's run out.

We've got our 72-hour kits loaded into backpacks and ready to take with us should we have a hurricane here. You laugh, but we've seen what they can do....first hand.

RIP Lorenzo Odone, the Myelin-deprived Subject of "Lorenzo's Oil"

As part of my Family Science 210 class at BYU in 1998, we had to watch the movie, Lorenzo's Oil, about a mother and father who refuse to just allow their son to die of a disease called ALD. This morning I learned from this article:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/30/lorenzo.odone.ap/index.html

that Lorenzo had finally passed away. Not from his disease, but from pneumonia caused by aspirating food into his lungs. The Odones were able to study their son's condition and devise a treatment based off rapeseed oil that prevents the deterioration of the myelin sheath of brain nerves. If I remember correctly, Mr. Odone was given an honorary medical degree by Harvard or Yale or somewhere due to his discovery. The oil treatment cannot reverse myelin loss, but it can prevent it from happening. Scores of young boys have been spared agony and death due to his efforts. If only all these diseases could be cured so easily. Rest in peace Lorenzo, Job 19:26.

On a different note, this movie earned Susan Sarandon an Oscar nomination, and it marks the last time that Nick Nolte did any praise-worthy acting, in my opinion

Friday, May 30, 2008

Shooting the Koran, Burning the New Testament, Mocking Hillary Clinton from the Pulpit, and Pissing on the Book of Mormon

There are a maelstrom of stories out there right now about "insults" to religion or by religious leaders. I'm sick of hearing about the racist asshole Jeremiah Wright, or about this Catholic priest mocking Hillary Clinton from the pulpit (that's very Christ-like there padre), or about Jews burning copies of the New Testament (have they learned nothing from their own history), or even about a soldier using the Koran for target practice.

Jesus Christ was a peacemaker. He spread love, kindness, long-suffering, and empathy wherever he went. Islam, The Religion of Peace, purports to be about submission to God's will and how we are all children of God, brothers and sisters (at least parts of the Koran say that; others seem to contradict these ideas). Both the Bible and the Koran exort people to do what is right and show consequences for poor behavior, violation of the commandments. These are teachings to be revered, to be cherished, and if they are judiciously implemented in one's life, they can have a positive effect, some would argue a perfect effect, on your growth and satisfaction in life.

But, they are just teachings. Printing them on paper and binding them in a book (the meaning of "bible" incidently) doesn't give them any kind of sacred or holy power. Their power comes from heeding what they say and learning from them. Their physical presence on a printed page is just a means of counteracting our imperfect memories. In Werner Herzog's brilliant, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a group of conquistadors in the Amazon comes across an indigenous man. Through another Indian interpreter they let him know that they are servants of the most high King Phillip and of God. They show him the Bible and explain to him that "God speaks to us through this book." When the man takes the book, puts it up to his ear to listen, hears nothing, hands it back and says "I don't hear anything," the Spaniards overreact and run him through with a sword. This kind of zealotry of one's religious beliefs is behind all the pissiness currently out there in the world.

That's why I'm grateful that I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe that my Church, is the one, and only, true church on the earth, that it is lead and guided by Jesus Christ through a latter-day prophet. Apparently, the world reacts poorly when you make this claim, as I suffered no small amount of rejection, name-calling, attempts to hit me with cars and buses, throwing boiling water out your door at me before I've even knocked, etc. And yet, in spite of all this antagonism, all this rancor towards me for my beliefs; despite Baylor University and Erskine College (amongst others) telling me, point blank, "We don't hire Mormons;" in spite of the looks in people's eyes I get when I tell them what religion I practice; in spite of people telling me "you're going to hell" (as if hell even existed, it's a metaphor people, read the scriptures!) on numerous occasions in my life, and in spite of out-and-out anger towards me over what I believe, in a country that guarantees me the right to believe whatever the hell I want, I don't get upset when people attack my beliefs. And certainly, most certainly, I would never react with violence or anger, if someone used the Book of Mormon or the Bible for target practice; heaven knows there are enough copies thrown away or given to the Salvation Army everyday for someone to be upset on a continual basis, if they wanted to be. You could heap a pile of copies of the Book of Mormon together, ignite them, and then urinate on them to douse the flames; you could use their pages to wipe your ass after defecating, and it wouldn't offend me to the point of anger.

People need to farking grow up. Religion isn't worth bloodshed; its doctrines, almost universally, would seem to advocate against it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This Post Has Nothing to Do with Harry Potter

Go read this article:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/25/potter.killed.ap/index.html

and then ponder this, that London, a city of some 8,278,251 as of their 2001 Census, had this to show, "The fight did not appear to be gang-related, police added, but it puts the number of violent teenage deaths in London at 14 so far this year." 14 this year! In a city of surely now 8 1/2 million people, they have had 14 violent teenage deaths.

Compare that with this data:
Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 overall. In this age group, it is the leading cause of death for African-Americans, the second leading cause of death for Hispanics, and the third leading cause of death for American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Asian Pacific Islanders (Anderson and Smith 2003). In 2001, 5,486 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered, an average of 15 each day (CDC 2004). In 2001, 79% of homicide victims ages 10 to 24 were killed with firearms (CDC 2004).

So, in a country of 300 million, we had 5,486 murders among 10 to 24 year olds, or one murder per 54,684 people (I know that not all citizens are teenagers). In a city of 8,300,000, they've had 14 murders, or one murder per 592,857 people. That's amazing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bittersweet Homecoming

So, we're in Georgia over the weekend to see family, have Marley 6th birthday party on Saturday with all her cousins, and to help my mom clean out the mountains of junk in her house that my dad accumulated.


I cried harder tonight that I ever have in my life as I looked around as was confronted with multiple memories at every turn. Seeing all my dad's stuff brought back the memories of thousands of bygone days, and it was almost more than I could bear.

I sobbed for a full fifteen minutes as I "let it all out." I miss my dad so much. If your parents are still alive, go to them, forgive them of all their wrongs, get them to tell you the old stories you've heard a million times before. When they're gone, you'll long for these days. Avoid the mistakes so many others have made of waiting until it's too late for goodbyes.





Family first, nothing before kin, unconditional love; in the end, that's all that matters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fleetwood Mac: The Peter Green Years


Like most Americans of my generation, I remember Fleetwood Mac's mid-70's success that my parents played over and over again (will they ever break the chain?). On Monday, my Mom sent me this album via iTunes:

http://www.amazon.com/Jumping-at-Shadows-Blues-Years/dp/B00005V5CJ

If you like the blues, it is spectacular! Rarely do I immediately like new music (music I've never heard before), it usually takes me a couple of listens to begin to enjoy something. Not so with this album. Wow, just wow. The song "Green Manalishi" is highly-polished and sounds like something I know I've heard before (no, I'm not a Judas Priest fan, so that's not it), and I had no idea that "Black Magic Woman" was a Fleetwood Mac song that Santana covered.

If you're into bluesy rock, seriously consider getting this album; it won't disappoint.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gender Is a Performance, But Boys Are Hardwired to Like Choo-Choos

Jack, unlike Marley, is fascinated by all things with wheels. We found a bunch of my car toys from my youth and he loved them. His Aunt Erin gave him a bunch of Thomas the Train toys a couple of months ago, and now he calls everything with wheels a "Choo Choo."

I've marveled at the differences between my two children, even as I've tried to treat them the same when it comes to gender stereotypes. Yes, I buy Marley pretty frilly dresses, but I also encourage her to play baseball, get dirty in the mud, and pretend that every stick is a sword or a gun. She'll have none of it.

Jack on the other hand, he likes to throw things to see what will happen. He jumps off things; he hits, he relishes being outside; and, he is mesmerized by anything with wheels. While I've guessed that part of my parental work has influenced both of my kids into what Judith Butler might call "gender performances," this article from the New Scientist makes me feel somewhat vindicated. Don't get me wrong, I like manly men and womanly women, but I don't want to be the one to shape my children's personalities; I want them to do it for themselves:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13596

Apparently, even male rhesus monkeys, immune from advertising and parental encouragement prefer cars and trucks and things that go.

Cool!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ways to Save Money on Gasoline and Electricity

So, with the gas prices climbing ever higher, and now with analyst not ruling out a $200 a barrel "price spike" as inconceivable, I put forward some common-sense ways for Americans to save money on gasoline. Some are no-brainers, others are common sense. I'm not talking about the obvious things like trading in your car for a hybrid, driving less, etc. I'm talking about small things that can add up. These are in no particular order of importance.

#1 Buy a deep freeze. When you're out shopping and you see a deal on something, load up. Having food on hand will reduce your trips to the grocery store and a full deep freeze is more energy efficient than an empty one. To save gas, buy one online from Sam's Club. They have the cheapest prices I've found on them, the 7.0 cf freezer is small enough to fit easily into a laundry room, garage, or even a big closet.

#2 Car pool as much as you can. When I have a meeting a school, church, etc, I always see if I can carpool. On my recent trip to Mexico, we had to drive 2 1/2 hours to the Myrtle Beach airport. One of my students had an SUV, so all four of us pitched in gas money totaling around $64. We needed a big car to handle four people + baggage. If we had each driven ourselves, it would've been $64 x 4 cars. We used 25% of the gas that would've been expended by pooling our resources. If we all did this, even if it were every once in awhile, it would make a difference, in the overall price and in our personal consumption of gas.

#3 Parents, let your kids ride the school bus. My daughter's school is kindergarten only, and half the students are driven to and from school every day by their parents. This is patently ridiculous. Not only is transportation to and from school provided free of charge, it is a highly efficient means of getting everyone to and from school. Multiple parents taking their precious snowflakes to school every day means more traffic and waiting in line, which uses even more fuel. Parents will sit and wait for a half hour before school gets out so that they can be one of the first kids to go (because so many other parents get their kids too). All the while they let their engines run because they need the AC on. The school bus is safe; not using it is just foolish and wasteful.

#4 Switch to in-home entertainment. If you've always wanted a bigscreen TV, well, buy one now, create a home theatre. Then get an account with Netflix (so you don't have to drive anywhere to rent the movie), and watch DVDs at home. You'll save tons on gas, tickets, refreshments, and hassle. I would imagine that with a family of four, a $2k home theatre system would pay for itself in two years. Also, if you have cable TV, don't forget about movies on-demand/pay per view. Oftentimes you can get recent films for around $4-$5, that's one ticket, no matter how many people watch. To further increase the savings, invite another family over to watch and rotate back and forth between houses.

#5 Proper tire inflation. Whenever you get your oil changed, make sure to have the mechanic check that they tires are all properly inflated. Overinflated tires cause less friction and boost fuel efficiency, but they can be deadly on wet roads or at high speeds. Under-inflated tires cause more friction and drag, using more gasoline. Be sure they are perfect every oil change. Since this is every 3,000 miles, you can avoid inefficiency.

#6 Get all the junk out of your trunk. Why haul around stuff you only use once a year. When Mickelle and I moved from Utah to New Orleans, I had 2 full garbage bags of JUNK in the trunk of my car (RIP Bob Marley). Those bags probably weighed about 30 lbs. combined. It might not seem like a lot, but if you carry around an extra 30 lbs. a year, that's a few tanks of gas over the life of the car.

#7 Pay more for something close to your home vs. driving all over for the best deal. Especially in Atlanta, people will drive around town for better prices, when they probably burn up the savings in gasoline during the commute. If it takes $1.50 in gas to drive to a gas station that will save you $2.00, is it worth it to save 50¢? Now, obviously, you can save tons by going places like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, or Costco (my favorite), but if you need a piece of hardware, go to the little local shop vs. driving 10 miles to Home Depot or Lowe's, seriously.

#8 Walk if you can, or get a bike with a basket. This might not work for everyone, but if you can, give it a try. You won't know until you try. I walk home from work whenever I can. It probably saves about a twelfth of a gallon, so every twelve times, that's one more gallon of fuel on the market. Saving a gallon a month doesn't seem like much, but if all 180 million car drivers save a gallon a month, and with 45 gallons per barrel, that's 4,000,000 barrels per month. We consume 600,000,000 barrels per month, so that's less than 1% of monthly consumption, but that's just with each person saving a gallon a month. If we could all save 16 gallons per month (one take of gas), that would be 64,000,000 barrels per month, and that would decrease our energy consumption by 10% of current levels, something that would have a profound impact on gas prices...worldwide.

#9 Grow a garden and plant some fruit trees. It's good exercise and it will provide you with fresh vegetables and fruit. It's more expensive the first year to grow a garden than to buy the stuff fresh, but after you've got seed put away and all the tools, you will enjoy ripe vegetables for years to come. An orchard takes longer to come to fruition, but it's worth it. I've got a satsuma mandarin orange tree in the yard with about 15 little fruits on it. If it makes it through this next Winter again, I'm going to plant four more. Peaches, plums, cherries, pears, and pecans all do well in the Southeast. Rather than planting ornamental pear trees, replace them with the fruiting kind. Look for drought resistant kinds. You can find an excellent selection by ordering them online, and save gas in the process. Try growing the pricier crops that you enjoy. For example, we're trying leeks, fennel, and spaghetti squash this year, along with the standard corn and tomatoes.

#10 If you live in a major city, go to the main farmer's market during the week (not the weekend) and buy bushels of crops. You don't have to know how to can, rather, you can deep freeze most things and enjoy them throughout the year. (e.g. corn, strawberries, peaches, beans, squash, chiles, okra, cassava), and if you know how to can, you can put away almost everything you see at a farmer's market. If you'd like to learn how to can, ask a neighbor, friend, fellow church-goer, or family member over age 70 to show you how. Canning is becoming a lost art, and if you don't know what you're doing if you're canning, you can make yourself sick. This website offers excellent tips.

#11 Say "no" to meetings. Oftentimes we feel pressured to attend meetings at church, school, or work. Sometimes when I am supposed to attend a meeting, and I can't carpool with someone, I just say "no." Many times we can find out what happened at a meeting via asking someone who went, a newsletter, or if someone takes minutes. My church holds meetings 26 miles away in Florence sometimes. That's about $16 in gas just to go to a meeting. If I can't carpool, I rarely go. See if some meetings can be done over the phone, and if your employer gives you a telecommute option, well duh, take advantage of it as long as it doesn't affect your performance and professionalism.

#12 Whenever you purchase a new appliance, bite the bullet and get an Energy Star-rated one. It might cost 25% more, but it will use far less energy in the long run, and more than pay you back the increased cost in the long run. If just one in 10 homes used ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, the change would be like planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

#13 Reduce, reuse, recycle. Try and purchase things that will limit the amount of waste that you create. Reuse things that can be reused. Mickelle and I save sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese containers and use them to keep leftovers. You can also give people food to take home (after a party) in them and not worry about getting them back. They are always airtight and it seems wasteful to throw them away. Finally, recycle. If your community has curbside service, make full use of it. If it doesn't, see if there is a nearby dropoff center; if it's far away, don't waste gas driving your trash somewhere, instead, lobby for a closerby center or curbside pickup (the most efficient recycling method).

#14 Buy a composter. You can recycle all household food and paper waste in a composter, as well as virtually all of your yard debris, clippins, and windage. For example, this composter, would be a great first one for someone who isn't sure about composting. If you keep the organic matter out of your garbage it has many benefits: You dispose of less trash, less gas is needed to haul your organic matter to the dump, your trashcan won't smell, you'll have a rich fertilizer for your garden, and it will make you realize how much food you throw away (which will diminish your wastefulness).

#15 Go bulk shopping with friends, family, or neighbors. You'll save money buying in bulk. However, sometimes when you buy in bulk, you buy far more than you need. Five gallons of peanut oil at Costco will save you TONS of money, but that much oil might go rancid before you could ever use it all. If you create a bulk-buying club, you can go shopping together and divy up the purchases, saving money, trips to the store, and extra packaging for all the little purchases you might've made. We're so hell-bent on convenience that many people don't try this, but if you want to save money, you can make this work.

#16 Have to drive between cities by yourself? Consider using a service like RideSearch.com Not only can you find a ride, but if you're doing the driving you could find a rider, a vetted one at that. Sharing the gas cost always makes it better, and having a companion on the trip can make the time go by faster.

#17 Consider Amtrak. I know the train isn't an option in most of the country, but along the eastern seaboard, it's viable. I plan to take Amtrak to Washington D.C. this Summer for my NEH Institute at Howard. It's far cheaper than driving or flying, and I can read or watch DVDs the entire way. If you're going to DisneyWorld, they even have a take your car train that will save you a ton of money (via gas and avoiding rental car fees).

#18 Think. Before you do something, think about how you could save gas. Whether it's planning your route for errands, making only right-hand turns, traveling during off-peak hours to avoid waiting in traffic, calling someone to see if they want to go shopping with you, renting an apartment closer to work, living in on-campus housing, or investing $136 billion in energy research rather than buying votes in an election year with "rebates." Anything that we do to save fuel will make a difference; every little bit helps. I'm not saying that we take draconian steps that lead to no fun, but we can do certain things that will help. Start today.




Useful sites:
http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/ (Full of energy-saving tips from the DOE)
http://www.energystar.gov/ (Energy Star Home)
http://foodsafety.ifas.ufl.edu/HTML/preserve.htm (National Food Safety Database)
http://www.netgrocer.com/ (If you're upper middle class and can afford it, buying groceries onlines saves gas).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Baby's Name

So, Mickelle and I have pretty much decided that the new baby's name will be:

Calliope Marisol Williams

Calliope, Greek muse of epic war poetry

Marisol, Common Spanish abbreviation/nickname for María de la Soledad

discuss

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here Comes Another Post about Mexico; I Just Can't Help Myself











Here are some photos of my trip. Bonus points if you caught the Refreshments reference in the post title.

Weezer The Red Album -- Rivers, Pat, Scott, and Brian Have Done It Again


Thanks to my best friend, I've got my hands on some of the new Weezer album (don't worry, I will buy it the day it comes out). I've only heard eight of the ten tracks from the new eponymously-titled album, but I have to say that what I've heard is good, really good, as in, "holy crap this is unbelievably good" when you hear some of the songs for the first time. Whereas the masterpiece Pinkerton was Rivers Cuomo exposing his angry-young-man fears to the world, the Red Album appears to be his coming clean about his true feelings and about how he feels about life and his art. But, so much more than that, this album sounds like a true collaboration, with the musical talent of all the band members allow to flourish. Rivers' genius is well known; now the other guys have been given more say in how the band goes, making it sound more like their band than just his band.

Enough pop psychology, let me tell you about the tracks:

#1 "Troublemaker" it reminds me of that classic Weezer sound. It has a catchy chorus, the guitar drives things along at a steady clip. The lyric, "I'm gonna be a rockstar and you will go to bed with me" might be predictive or an imperative. The lyric "Marrying a biatch, have seven kiads, givin' up and growin' old and hoping there's a god" might at first cause a rub, but as Tim pointed out, "that would suck." I agree, having lots of kids, getting old, and giving up, without a firm belief that there is a god might make someone seem disappointed with life. Moving beyond hope into faith is the goal. I'm sure he didn't mean it that way, but I sneer at authorial intention (when it suits me).

#2 "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)", this really isn't one song, but like ten all blended seamlessly together. Put quite simply, this is a work of staggering genius, lyrically, musically, and performance-wise. Let it be confirmed forever that Pat Wilson has mastered the playing of drums and other percussion instruments; he astounds repeatedly and never ever misses a beat. Rivers' voice hasn't sounded this good and strong since "Across the Sea." The mens-college choir that comes in is awesome, in the original sense of the word. Also, there's something great about singing "I'm the greatest man that ever lived" over and over. Free of all hyperbole, this is as close as I've heard someone besides Queen make a "Bohemian Rhapsody-"style song. I can listen to it over and over again, as I already have.

#3 "Pork and Beans" This is classic hit Weezer. The lyrics speak volumes about the crap that bands must have to deal with vis a viz their record companies. "Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of charts, maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art." That's not a dig on Timbaland, it's point-blank aimed at the record execs (probably at Geffen) who want Weezer to make "more commercial" type music. That a veteran band like Weezer is till being told to think about their image cracks me up; "maybe then I can perfect the art" is so laden with sarcasm it's hard to type. The refrain, chanted over and over again, "I don't care" is a flipoff to the record execs and the world, that Weezer isn't about image (think of the photo on their first album cover for pete's sake).

#4 "Heart Songs" this song will be huge. It's Generation X nostalgia, and a theme that we can all relate to, songs that are close to our hearts. We each know which music we love, but then there's the guilty pleasures. I know every word to Rob Base's "It Takes Two" and I loved the Escape Club. We've all got heart songs. I'm banking on it. http://www.thesearemyheartsongs.com/ belongs to timmac.

#5 "Everybody Get Dangerous" These is a really strong song, but compared to the other gems on the album, it doesn't seem quite as good. I like it, the guitar is good, and the lyrics are clever and keep your attention. If it had a chorus that didn't just repeat "everybody get dangerous" eight times, it would be better. "What would we say, when our kids come to us, and ask with a smile on their face, "hey dad, my friends got some new ninja swords, is it cool if we smash up this place?" That's good writing.

#6 "Dreamin'" It starts like any old really good Weezer, off Green or Maladroit, and then at 2:20 into the song, we have a two-round repetition between Brian and Rivers, it is just great, and shows how talented these guys really are. This level of creativity in their late 30's cements for me at least, their place among the top-50 rocks bands of all time, and ensures their entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (like that matters to them).

#7 "Thought I Knew" Brian Bell sings lead on this song. His voice, on this track at least, reminds me of Son Volt, Sister Hazel, and maybe a little Steeler's Wheel. This song confirms my belief that Brian Bell could front his own band, his Space Twins band has a really good song called "Osaka Aquabus."

#8 "Cold Dark World" A middling song compared to the other ones, which really isn't fair to it or the band. The lyrics are crisp and poignant, but after the other seven tracks, this one seems weakest. But Weezer's weakest is still pretty strong; e.g. I don't skip over this track to get to the next one.

I cannot wait until June 3rd when I can hold this one in my hand. Good job guys, this one's a monster.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mexican Things

Ten things I love/will miss about México:

1. The chance to speak Spanish all the time
2. How cheap service are. I paid someone to wash, dry, and fold all of my clothes today for $66 pesos.
3. Tacos are more than just ground beef, iceberg lettuce, and hothouse tomatoes with a pinch of cheap cheddar.
4. People love to hear about my country, which is always gratifying, no matter where you´re from.
5. I am a foot taller than almost everyone I pass on the street.
6. Dickering over the prices of stuff, if the person puts the price for you to see on a calculator, that means he´ll negotiate down to around 60% of his original offer.
7. Internet cafes that cost $1 for an hour.
8. The sublime beauty of the blueness of the Caribbean Sea
9. Las palmeras ubicuas
10. The constant memories of a thousand other days of my life that the sights, sounds, and smells provoke. I feel like Antonio Machado gazing at the Guadarrama mountain range:
Por tus barrancos hondos y por tus cumbres agrias/mil Guadarramas y mil soles vienen/cabalgando conmigo

Ten things I won´t miss

1. The smells that only the tropics can conjure.
2. Taxi drivers
3. Drinks go warm immediately if you don´t have ice in them.
4. Being the only gentleman in shorts
5. Being embarrassed by the behavior of my countrymen
6. Men starting conversations with, ¨hello meeeestur¨ and then telling me they have my size guayabera when they clearly don´t.
7. Always feeling like I have gunk in the creases of my neck.
8. No traffic lanes
9. Crushing poverty
10. the chance to come back again soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

When in Mérida

So, before I forget, I simply must tell my loyal three readers about the best foods I´ve had since I left New Orleans a year ago. We went to a restaurant in Mérida called La casa de Frida (calle 61, by 66) and it was spectacular. It´s a little hole-in-the-wall place with awesome ambience, but most importantly, awesome food. For an appetizer I had arroz con mole. The mole had over 18 listed ingredients and was excellent; it didn´t taste like bitters. For my entree, I had the multiple-website-recommended ¨chiles en nogada,¨and folks, let me tell you, it was like I had died and gone to cuisine heaven. Imagine a chile poblano stuffed with ground beef, apples, pears, chícharos, and then smothered in a pureed pecan cream sauce. The chile was perfectly cooked and none of the flavors was too strong, perfectly balanced. The portion size was perfect: I wanted more because it tasted so good, but I didn´t have room for anymore, nor was I overly full. They have a retractable roof, so we ate under the stars.

If you´re visiting Merida, please consider this your #1 stop for excellent dining. I had an appetizer, entree, two diet cokes: total= $190 pesos ($19 USD). It was the best meal I´ve had in 2008.

My Mom is awesome. I reiterate, my mom=awesome. Here's a list of why I think she's awesome, updated from years past.

#1 For not giving me Fetal Alcohol Syndome
#2 For knowing my father´s name
#3 For never wringing my neck in spite of her repeated threats
#4 For having taught me that being racist is a bad thing
#5 For teaching me to say "sir" and "ma'am" after I say "yes" or "no
#6 For dropping out of college for 19 years to raise me
#7 For giving me an oatmeal bath when I was 16 & delirious from a chicken pox 104.7F fever.
#8 For letting my kids call her "Lala" instead of "grandma"
#9 For being an artist and not caring what others think about her
#10 For never saying anything negative about my wife. Ever.
#11 For being there with me when Dad died.
#12 For never making me post bond to get her out of jail
#13 For letting me go to Canada with my best friend for the Summer when I was 16
#14 For drawing a huge picture of my daughter and me at Mardi Gras 2004
#15 For Keeping my cat Paisley alive for 17 long years
#16 For that big scar across her belly where they excavated me from her blessed womb
#17 For calling me "Mac". I have a great nickname
#18 For teaching me to read before I went to public school
#19 For letting me fail on occasion
#20 For telling me I should be an organ donor
#21 For being Southern
and the most important thing is:
#22 THANK YOU FOR NOT HOMESCHOOLING ME! This one should be self-explanatory.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hola, desde Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, México

So, we descended down from the hills of central Yucatán onto the hot coasts of Quintana Roo and the seaside city of Playa del Carmen. It´s very small, but it has an Office Max, Sam´s Club, and Wal-Mart----it´s full of gringos.

We spent the last two nights in the isolated village of Tinúm, sleeping in hammocks and eating corn tortillas made by hand and cooked over an open fire..with every meal. Yesterday we went and toured Chichén Itzá, which I didn´t like as much as the spectacular ruins at Uxmal. I was able to finally buy a little Chac Mool statue so I can explain the eponymous Carlos Fuentes story to my students better.

We´re here until Monday....we´re going to the ruins at Tulum tomorrow. I should be able to write again before I leave. I wish, oh wish, that Mickelle were here with me....I don´t like be without her.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bienvenidos desde Mérida

So, I´m in Mérida, México right now in an internet cafe right by the oldest cathedral on the American mainland (1560s). We got into Cancún, got two rental cars, and immediately drove all the way across the peninsula to the colonial city of Mérida. We´re staying at the Hotel Reforma, and my room has air conditioning. I like Mérida; it´s very clean and safe. The city is teaming with people and life, and I haven´t seen any indications of dire poverty and crime like I assumed I would see (like one sees in Juárez). I was pleasantly surprised that our bus tourguide pointed out the Mormon temple, without her knowing that I´m Mormon.

We´ll be here until pasadomañana, and then we´re going to stay in a small village for two nights. Ojalá no me enferme.

A few things that I didn´t expect. Goods cost about the same as the do in the USA; services are dirt, and I¨m talking dirt, cheap. It´s far more expensive to eat here than I expected. A lot more people speak English than they do in Costa Rica. And most shocking of all, it´s not that hot.

I´ll try and keep my loyal readership posted. Adios.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Voy a Mexico

A partir de ahora mismo, voy para México. Vamos desde Myrtle Beach en Spirit Air a Cancún, de allí a Mérida y el resto del Yucatán. El Daily Miscellany estará en hiato (hiatus) hasta el 13 de mayo, si no encuentro un internet café barato.

Adiós.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Alma Mater & Kelly Pickler

(From memory, it's been 18 1/2 years since I had to memorize this)


There is something something

In everything we hold

Within our alma mater's walls

Behind the blue and gold


We stand beneath the endless skies

And watch our eagles fly

To represent our loyalty

And love to Etowah High


Though the years here

Have an end for us

We'll go our separate ways

To start again in some new place

To learn another day

But we'll look once more at all our friends

With tears we'll say goodbye

And leave behind a part of us

With love to Etowah High


Etowah's in the news again; nope, no one killed themselves or someone else. This time it's because the rich kids can afford to send 500k text messages to WKHS 101.5 FM so they can get Kelly Picker to come and give a concert.


Well, it beats the hell out of Dan Quayle!




Pragmatics and Hawaiian Independence

CNN is reporting that a small group of "Native Hawaiians" has taken over the grounds of the former royal palace:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/01/hawaii.palace.takeover/index.html

While I am fully aware that the United States "annexation" of Hawaii was borderline criminal, and I am aware that President Clinton issued an official apology to the Hawaiian people, such attempts in the 21st Century, to return a land to its rightful "owners" is foolish.

First, the island is a state of the United States, which means that at some point, the residents of the island decided to apply for statehood, and were granted that right, by plebescite. The people chose statehood over commonwealth status or seeking independence.

and

Second, just who exactly is a native Hawaiian? Most people in the island are so interbred with others that many can claim a little Hawaiian in them. Where do you draw the line of who is "Hawaiian" and who isn't?


These protests, hopefully, are a P.R. ploy to bring attention to the impoverished conditions of many hawaiian citizens and how little the federal government has done in making amends the way it has done for the American Indians; truly, more should be done. But, independence is not going to happen...ever. One thing is for certain, anyone seeking to truly restart the Kingdom of Hawaii must know this (How many separate "kingdoms" are there I wonder?". T'ain't gonna happen; the economies and national securities of both places are inextricably linked.

Remember that!

Happy Anniversary to Mac's Daily Miscellany

I forgot that Monday was the three-year anniversary of Mac's Daily Miscellany. Fuming over having just failed my dissertation prospectus defense, I came home and decided to vent a little on one of these newfangled "blog" things.

http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2005/04/first-post_29.html

Little did I know that three years later I would have a dedicated readership of my sister, my mom, JC, chattypatra, and a few other kind souls.

I invite each of you to scour the archives and nominate three posts for a "favorites section" I'm thinking of creating. Leave them in the comments section, please.