30 January 2006

Leaning Left in the Southern Cone

It's less than a month and a half now until I head off to Peru, and things are starting to change. At first there was no intensity of emotion about the trip itself. My heart jumped at the thought of seeing my girlfriend there (she's been there for a couple months already), but Peru itself seemed an odd choice of travel destinations. Hadn't I been contemplating a trip to Australia for much of the time that I was in Alaska? And hadn't I already been to Peru? The answer to both is of course yes, but they have proven themselves mostly irrelevant now that I have a ticket in hand so to speak. They were obvious questions in the face of my new decision, but they have faded as the new trip comes closer. And as I prepare more thoroughly than I ever have for any trip, the excitement grows enormously by the day.

My excitement largely stems from what my reading has begun to show me. A power shift is under way now in South America. With Hugo Chavez leading the way, most of the continent has begun to stand up to the United States and the northern hemispheric financial powers. Brazil and Argentina have both paid off their debts to the IMF, and Bolivia is in the beginning stages of massive social and fiscal reforms under the new president, Evo Morales. Chile just elected Michelle Bachelet, a woman, as their new socialist president, and Uruguay has also recently elected a socialist president,
Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas. And Peru is in the midst of a presidential campaign that could bring a politically ambiguous, but Chavez friendly, Ollanta Humala into power. Perhaps our southern neighbors are finally beginning to shrug off the yoke of colonialism that has held them for so long. We can only hope.

I am excited to be in Peru during the weeks leading up to the election. Hopefully people will have things to say about what's happening there, and how they perceive this political change that seems so dramatic from my perspective here in the states.

18 January 2006

Do you really want to step to this?

For some reason anonymous commenters have been taking issue with my blog lately. Actually, there have only been two, but it's a little disconcerting. There was of course the absinthe issue. I took that up in a post a couple slots down. Now there's someone who doesn't seem to understand the humor in the phrase "floppy a."

Anonymous Commenter II claims that there is no such phrase. I beg to differ. If AC II cares to look three sentence back, I think he/she/it will find a phrase of interest, surrounded by quotation marks. The notorious "floppy a" in effect. I know for a fact that there are now at least three documented cases of use. Sure they're all on this blog, and all the undocumented ones are in my head, but lets not nit-pick the details here. My question in the previous post was not asserting that "floppy a" is a phrase that people actually use. It was merely associating the phrase with a floppy disk drive, commonly referred to as the "a:\ drive" as AC II so knowledgably points out. It was an attempt at humor (that's sort of like a "joke" AC). It's also possible that the double entendre I was alluding to isn't quite as obvious as I'd hoped, but I'm not going to make it explicit here.

I think I've made my point. Anyone else want to step up? Look back, there's plenty to comment on, and I'll respond in kind b*****s.

Beards and more beards.

Absinthe II

If you look, loyal reader, at the archives to the right, or below to the post called "Absinthe," you'll discover that I've included a descrpiption of how we consumed the drink. It had to do with flames and a big spoon and a sugar cube. There are pictures.

I'd never consumed the stuff, and had little knowledge of it, but an anonymous commenter took issue with the method that we employed, apparently concerned that we were trying to get high from the hallucinogenic properties of the constituent herb, wormwood. I had indeed heard the rumor that the stuff had more than just the normal alcoholic effects, but hallucinations were not the intended result. I can't speak for the others, but I did it out of a sense of irreverance. The stuff is illegal after all, and if a trip had been what we were after, I wouldn't have been very satisfied.

Our commenter says that the burning of the sugar cube is an invention of the Czechs, and that all Czech absinthe is fake anyway. Thank you commenter. Now I'm really confused. The absinthe I was drinking was from a distillery in Germany, and the guys that brought it claimed with great certainty that the real stuff is from the Czech and other Eastern European countries.

Check for yourself with the Wormwood Society website.

Who doesn't chuckle to themself at the phrase "floppy a?" Really.

15 January 2006

How do you pee?

Check out Moondog's pee poll post. Please read and leave comments. We're very curious.



I was barely over a wicked case of strep throat, and not as well rested as I should have been, yet nevertheless participated in a night of absinthe drinking on New Years Eve. It arrived with my friends Max and Moritz, brothers visiting from Germany and Switzerland, respectively.

In the pictures below you can get a feel for the interesting method of preparation. There is a special perforated spoon with a wrinkle between handle and head that keeps it balanced on the edge of a glass. The spoon goes on top of your glass, an
d a sugar cube on top of that. Absinthe is poured over the cube, and then the alcohol-soaked sugar is ignited. It's not entirely clear to me why this is necessary, but I was told it has something to do with carmelizing the sugar. The melted sugar is then dumped into the liquid in the cup and stirred in with some water. Bottoms up. Tastes like licorice.

11 January 2006

Glacier River Panorama

This is the big bend in the river that I wrote about in the Artic Trek entries. I just stitched all these photos together for the first time. I think that the picture is rather huge, but I like it.


The top one is fourth grade test scores and the bottom one is free lunch in New York City.

Be Cool, Eat at School

Thinking about my middle school brought me to a website called "great schools" which will show you statistics about pretty much any public school you want. It has an option to compare schools as well. Interestingly, the only real criteria for comparison are test scores, and percentage of the student body receiving free and reduced lunch. If you look at the comparison of schools in this area, there is a loose correlation between high test scores and low free lunch numbers and vice versa. Notably, the top scoring school has by far the smallest number of poor kids eating free lunch, and down in Rochester over half the kids are eating reduced and free, and wait a minute, they've got the lowest test scores. Hmmm.

Boxer Briefs

Last night I dreamt about running around in my underwear. It wasn't a self-conscious dream at all, as one might expect. In fact, my most vivid memory involves using a pocket knife to cut my boxer-briefs down to size. I guess I wanted to have that traditional brief look. So I cut the legs up high. It was a little ragged, but I'm sure it was pretty hot. Then for some reason I was at Jefferson Middle School, as a student I think, but in my current body (sans pants and boxer legs). Escape was obviously the only option, but I had to find a path away from the school where there was always something between me and the office windows to obstruct the principals view. I got away no problem, but the dream gets fuzzier from there. A swingset, a pretty girl with a wad of toilet paper stuck to her shoe walking down some stairs. I don't know.

06 January 2006

And Now: South

Four years later I'm planning another trip to South America. This time I'll be heading down to meet my girlfriend Cassandra. She's there studying abroad as a grand finale to her Evergreen education. We don't have a set plan, and our travel priorities are rather different, but one crazy itinerary involves heading south into the Chilean Atacama and then East and North through the Bolivian altiplano, across lake Titicaca, up to Cuzco and the cordillera, then finally down to the coast for time on the beach. We'll see.

04 January 2006

Not a poet

Don't worry. I don't fancy myself a poet. I just liked the way those words sounded when I wrote them, and I thought the rythm might be accentuated by breaking up the lines. The intended meaning is probably totally unclear. But whatever. I'm sure what I was talking about is impossibly opaque and ridiculous anyway.

Our Stories

In dens
over moss shrouded heaps,
and corners without light
where smoke still wafts
from unlit doors
in back alleys,
the voices of quiet conspiritors
murmur in the night.

Bare lightbulbs
cracked walls,
concrete floor
and dinge tinted shadows
and teeth,
shown in sly smiles
and resting,
lost on the cold damp floor.

And outside
where whispers rifle
branch tips,
sending the hanging drops
to forest floor,
to compost,
to bed--
the solid ground regenerates.

Then daylight,
and our stories
swirl through sunbeams
after the rain,
and scurry
into undiscovered recesses
waiting to lilt
through dark and damp again.