Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TED´s Excellent Andean Adventure - Part I

And let me just say, right up front, that before you judge, YOU should try typing on a Peruvian keyboard while slightly drunk.  Fun fact: when typing a blog entry in Peru, almost every word, even ¨Peru,¨ gets highlighted as a spelling error.

Anyway, I am having a great time in Peru.  I will post some details at length later (I'm keeping notes), but for right now, please enjoy this small sampling of some of the street art from the Miraflores district of Lima.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


So, if memory serves (meaning that I'm too lazy to look it up), two, three, or four years ago on one of my blogs, I said that I was going to make the day after the final tax deadline the day when I allowed myself to whinge on my blog. And then I never did it again because, well, whinging is very, very common in the blog world, and it's almost always tiresome, even when it's well done (i.e., rarely). Also, I have a strong inhibition against whinging. I have an even stronger inhibition about whining, which is why I'm using the British version: it makes doing it more palatable somehow. Which is strange, when you consider the U.K.'s reputation for barely palatable food. But I digress. Of course.

Anyway, this past filing deadline (for those of you who don't know -- i.e., everyone -- Americans who can't or won't get their returns filed by the normal April 15th deadline can get an extension to October 15th; this means that when you get close to 10/15, what you have left are a) the most difficult returns, and b) no possibility of a further extension) was especially intense, and I went three weeks without even a Sunday off, and I guess I could whinge about that, but I knew what I was getting into when I took this career and this job, so it would be bad form to complain. Besides, after all these years, I'm kind of used to it, and when you get to the Friday before the deadline and realize that all of your work is done, there's a certain level of elation. And then having a weekend off is suddenly a big deal, and that's kind of great.

The thing that I'd really like to complain about, of course, is politics. Almost everyone I know considers me very laid back, sometimes to a fault, so they would be surprised if they could hear my inner monologue about American politics, which boils down to "Really?" and "AAAAAAAAAAGH!" It depends on the day which of those two predominates, but let's just say there are plenty of both. But I'm not going to say much more than that because it's impossible for me to talk about American politics without eventually concluding that a substantial number of my countrymen are idiots, and then heading down the rabbit hole of whether particular people are stupid or evil and how blurry the distinction can become.

But maybe "idiots" isn't even fair. I have long since concluded that the world has become such a complicated place that we who live here aren't intelligent enough to handle it. What I mean by that is that there are so many complexities in so many areas that no one person is smart enough to understand everything that needs to be understood to get by. Even if you're a rocket scientist, chances are you don't understand tax law. And if you're a tax whiz, like me, you might still not understand very well how your car works, even if you know how to change a tire and the oil.

 So most of us, myself included, end up relying on experts. And that works out pretty well with things like auto repair because even if you don't know a tachometer from tachycardia, there are mechanisms by which you can find out whether your mechanic is competent and/or honest. But these mechanisms fail in the political sphere.  If you're getting your information from people who are only pretending to be impartial when, in fact, they have an axe to grind AND (this is important) you don't have a healthy level of skepticism, then you end up like this guy:

Where to begin?*  As a general rule, I don't favor bumper stickers.  I'm willing to give you two, or possibly three, but after that, you devolve pretty quickly into eccentricity slouching towards madness.  Even if your bumper stickers are all things I agree with, I don't think you need to wear your heart on your bumper. 

That said, I suppose I'm a pseudo-hypocrite because while I don't have any bumper stickers on my car at the moment, I do have a yard sign supporting Maryland ballot question 6. I'll be voting absentee this year, for the first time ever, because I'll be returning from Peru on the day after election day.  And it'll be an even longer flight if Willard wins. Visit Peru and come home to a Republican victory.  That has the potential to be the steepest descent ever.

Romney's very candidacy is incomprehensible to me, but let me leave that alone for a moment and pivot to a couple of other things that I also don't get, but that I managed to take a picture of.

Let's start with Martha Stewart pet toys.  Really?  Really:

It strengthens, if only a bit, my faith in humanity that these were on clearance because no one was buying them.  I have nothing particular against Martha Stewart, most of the time, but pet toys really doesn't seem like a natural fit for her brand.  When I saw these at PetSmart, I averted my eyes and quickly purchased a different brand of toy to replace one that Luna had chewed to bits after months of diligent effort.

Speaking of Luna, I was out walking her  a couple of weeks ago when I spotted this:

Usually, Americans' fascination with their NFL teams bugs me a little, but when someone goes to all the trouble necessary to put a pair of ten-foot, inflatable football players, I have to give them a) some grudging respect for effort, and b) my sympathy over their addiction.  DC-area football fans are particularly rabid, which cannot help but intensify their frustration when the Redskins fall short yet again.  In my youth, I was a rabid Skins fan, and I would like to say that I gave it up out of solidarity with native Americans, but I have to admit that naming sports teams after indigenous peoples is something that doesn't really bother me, though I do draw the line at anything involving tomahawk chops or other weapons of individual destruction.  Grow up, sports fans.

Off topic, and totally comprehensible:

Here are two quotes from a semi-recent post from Mimi Smartypants:

Nicholson Baker is somewhat well known for writing about sex. For the record, I don’t particularly care if he writes about sex, although the sex certainly deteriorates with each of his “sex books.” Vox was semi-enjoyable as a wank book, Fermata was an elaborately sick postmodern fantasy about how it’s kind of okay to rape as long as you are extra-considerate and make sure your victim enjoys herself, and House of Holes is an unreadable disaster that lurches from scene to scene while employing some of the most ludicrous sex-talk ever. “Fill my mouth with your manly nutbag?” Please.

It has become something of a mission for me to work the phrases "Apply the wire brush of knowledge to the foreskin of ignorance" and "Fill my mouth with your manly nutbag" into my personal discourse.  I reckon the former belongs in a political debate (I can't believe Joe Biden didn't use it.) while the latter needs to be pillow talk, uttered -- obviously -- to someone with whom I never again want to share a pillow.  I have, as yet, been unsuccessful on both counts, but I think you'll agree that it's a worthwhile project, and I encourage you to take up the cause.  If you manage to say either of those, let me know, ok?

*You'll note that the guy is a cat owner, and I point this out only because I understand that some sort of microorganism that cats carry can end up in human brains.  I don't believe the full extent of the effects of this infestation is known yet, but maybe we can blame birtherism on the cats.  Then again, in medieval times, they blamed the plague on the cats, and the cats were, in fact, helping to keep the true disease vectors (the rats) in check, so maybe we shouldn't be too quick to blame Fluffy.