Chinese pastry and a James Brown tribute

I got into New York on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve been messing around with friends. Ava and I made an impromptu tour of area bakeries: Chinese, Jewish, and Italian. Our exploration of Chinatown brought us to a Chinese market where we had dinner. That did a lot to dispell the myth that the places where Chinese people eat are better. I’ve been eating bagels as much as possible.

I’m in New Jersey now with Evrim. We went with Annie and Sara to the city last night to see a “tribute” to James Brown by Rekha, a local DJ known for her Bollywood-based mixes. She totally disappointed us: there was some footage of James Brown in her video accompaniment, but no soul music whatsoever. She’s probably glad he’s dead.

Christmas Eve

Adam in a blue plaid flannel shirt cradling newborn Jackson in his arms.Everyone’s watching football, which bores the hell out of me, so I’m posting a photo of my nephew Jackson. He sleeps almost all the time. When he’s awake he’s feeding or getting changed or taking a bath. He’s not very “interactive” at this point. My dad showed me a photo of me when I was an infant, and I looked a lot like Jackson.

In Colorado

Rows of unclaimed luggage line the baggage claim area while people wait on a very long line to go through the security control.My flight to Denver went just fine, but it took about two hours to get my bag. The ice on the ground was slowing down the baggage trucks. When I landed there were phalanxes of snowplows plowing away. The airport is still reeling from the blizzard. I didn’t see any “campers” but there was a lot of stranded luggage. The line for security control was queued all the way around the baggage claim area, which at Denver International is pretty far away; a three hour wait one of the airport workers told me.

Colorado blizzard

It’s snowing like damn in Colorado. I just called my brother and they’re totally shut in there, not having to go work, with his loving wife and their newborn baby, and his in-laws who cooked a delicious turkey dinner. Those, poor, unfortunate bastards.

Conveniently, this natural disaster is scheduled to end tomorrow at noon. That should give C-DOT plenty of time to plow me a route between Denver International Airport and my folks’ place in Longmont.

Meanwhile, it’s hardly seemed like winter is upon us here in Iowa. Since that frigid weekend earlier this month it’s been no worse than winter in, say, the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Apocalypto

Caution! Possible movie-spoiling below!

“Apocalypto” is gruesomely violent. I think it’s safe to say Mel Gibson is obsessed with violence. And not in a childish Quentin Tarantino way.

I briefly looked up the film on Wikipedia. The culture depicted is supposed to be Mayan, but is more of a fictionalized and anachronistic composite of Aztec and Mayan civilizations.

Visually, the film was amazing. Especially the make-up. The scene in the city comes across as so alien, both to the viewer and to the characters who arrive there for the first time. The plot was much less engaging. It’s about a civilization in decline with all of it’s symptomatic decay, but the story is more like “Predator”. And the violence is excessive, even for a film about a culture obsessed with human sacrifice.

Unseasonable warmth

Today was really nice! Warm and sunny. I got out of the visitor center for the first time this week. I’ve had to work at the information desk all week (one fucker asked me if I was a receptionist). But I went out and walked around the prairie this afternoon. The sun was low and the cured brown grasses looked like gold. Too bad the interstate is our southern border; it is so noisy out there.

There’s supposed to be northern lights tonight. I’d like to drive somewhere dark tonight to see them, but I can’t find any information about it. I’ll be out tomorrow night. If they’re still around I’ll see them.

Work has been so slow the last couple of weeks. We hardly have any visitors. I’ve been catching up on some research. Yesterday, the superindent told me that when I prepare official correspondence the “Iowa” has to be spelled out, not abbreviated, except on the envelope label. I explained that the label addresses and letter addresses of the 40-letter mailing I prepared were generated from the same database and that spelling out “Iowa” would require manually changing every single letter, thereby wasting all the time I saved from merging the data. It’s not like the recipients don’t know what state they live in.

Anyway, that’s just one example of the nitpicking that goes on there. The other day I received an e-mail asking me not to put down the doorstop on one of the doors when I open it. To me that’s like the toilet seat: if you want it down, put it down. Hardly seems worth mentioning.

Good riddance to bad rubbish

Well, Augusto Pinochet is finally dead. Good riddance, but I’m sorry he managed to evade all accountability for his actions. He won the race to brutalize Chile’s citizens before the communists got to brutalize them. But at least he freed up Chile’s market economy so they could export cyanide-laced grapes (in 1989) to the U.S. And Jean Kirkpatrick croaked this week too. She wrote the intellectual justification of American support for people like Pinochet. And Saddam Hussein. Maybe he’ll get executed this week for an asshole trifecta.

The Christmas tree harvest

Rows of small, conical evergreens in the late afternoon sun.Yesterday I went with Susan and her kids to Waverly (near Waterloo, about two hours north of here) where her friend owns a tree farm. They picked out and cut a nice fresh Christmas tree. I feel like a haven’t seen a real Christmas tree in forever. My mom went artificial after I moved out. I have yet to purchase my own Christmas tree, as I am always away during the holidays.

Freakonomics

I’ve finished reading “Freakonomics” by L. Ron Hubbard… I mean Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It’s a book of nonsequitor statistical research by Levitt, who, among other things, claims he’s found a causal link between legal abortion and a drop in crime. He’s also shown that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns. So he’s pissed off everyone by now.

The book doesn’t have a unifying theme, but does poke holes at “conventional wisdom”. Though I don’t always understand what he’s getting at, or at least he may be missing the point. He demonstrates that a lot of things parents do that might raise their childrens’ test scores, such as having a lot of books at home, contributes nothing to them. But how could it hurt? And he doesn’t demonstrate that parents who keep books in their home do so for the sake of test scores or that they even care about test scores. After all, if you raise your kids in an enlightened, inquisitive environment, the test scores will probably take care of themselves. He pokes holes in “conventional knowledge” and creates his own.

However, the book is well-researched and well-argued and is worth reading. Run to your library.

The Iraq Study Group Report

I’ve been slowly making my way through The Iraq Study Group Report. So far even I am shocked at just how grim the assessment is. President Bush has been acting like a kid who just got a Christmas gift he doesn’t really like, but has to pretend he does. He said it is “full of interesting suggestions.”

It frustrates me that it took over three years to get an objective official evaluation of the situation in Iraq, and that it took a panel of unelected people to produce it. I had had it with this administration a long time ago, but just reading through this report incenses me. The president is such a screw-up. He’s playing with people’s lives (must be the “culture of life”), and when he screws up it’s a catastrophe. This is what we get when let members of the elite run the country. They have no regard for the people the serve, just a belief that they are entitled to govern. In spite of this, we’ve suffered from the popular fantasy that the president is a regular good-old boy. I could go on and on but I won’t because it just pisses me off more.

Viral videos

I’ve rediscovered IFilm Viral Videos. They post clips from “The Daily Show”, which since I don’t subscribe to cable I never get to see except when I stay in a motel. I must sound like a damned donkey braying at it. Anyway, I’ve wasted a few hours over the last week watching it. I actually muted “BBC World” on the television to listen to Jon Stewart on the Internet. What a dipstick I am becoming.

Speaking of “BBC World”, it’s on now. Bush and Blair are meeting. The British must think our president is an absolute retard, saying “nukular” and “things in Iraq are bad” and his stupid laugh. It’s so embarrassing. And they have to pretend to like it because we’re the USA. We are the Evil Empire now. I’m proud to be an American but not real proud of America.

Ivory-billed woodpecker

This month’s National Geographic Magazine has an article about the ivory-billed woodpecker, once believed to be extinct, but reported recently in Arkansas. To see for myself, I looked at the only video evidence of its existence. It’s like watching a video of Bigfoot: it’s blurry and very brief. I slowed it down and, yes, it does look like an ivorybill in some frames, but it is not so clear in the others. The video quality is so poor. I’m surprised the Cornell Labratory of Ornithology announced their discovery based on it.

Grateful Monday

I’m glad the weekend and that event is over with. Man, was it cold this weekend. It was about 20 degrees yesterday afternoon. I spent part of it on a street directing traffic. The evening before I spent three straight hours on a horse-drawn wagon. It was even colder. The event was well-attended. It’s funny that there is no carry-over effect for the town. When there’s no event, the town is still dead. In fact, even though we had about a thousand people in the visitor center this weekend, only three people came in today. Sigh.

Yoga was pretty rough tonight. I stood on one leg and one hand with my other leg and hand in the air at right angles.

Over a hurdle

West Branch’s “A Christmas Past” event is this weekend. I was stressing out over my little part of it: recruiting volunteers and setting up our annual popcorn and hot cider service. I was stressed mostly because of the lack of direction from my boss and coworkers and because I had to recruit a lot of volunteers. But it went really smoothly tonight. Two more days to go.

When we make hot cider, we heat the apple juice and add–get this–red hot cinnamon candies to it for the spice. I had never heard of such a thing, but all the locals seem to know about it.