Election Day

Posted by: elraymundo at 1:32 am on Wednesday, November 5, 2008
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Euphoria




The Woman of the New Millennium

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:14 am on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Books & Literature, Stupid People

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Green - The reader may proceed without danger of reading anything related to American Idol.

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In the book American Prometheus, a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, there is a discussion between physicists about the potential of igniting the earth’s atmosphere - the entire atmosphere, like, all of it - when the first atomic bomb is detonated. The fear is that the explosion would cause nitrogen to combust and, since the earth’s atmosphere is made up of 79% nitrogen, cause all life on the planet to be snuffed out.

The scientists got together, ran their numbers, and determined that the risk of lighting the world on fire was minimal.

Imagine that conversation.

Oppenheimer: Did you run the numbers, Hans? We’ve got to be sure about this and we won’t get a second chance. We’ll destroy all life on the planet if we’re wrong.

Bethe: Understood.

Oppenheimer: No pressure or anything.

Bethe (finishing his equations): I think we’ll be ok.

Oppenheimer: Are you sure?

Bethe: I am sure.

Oppenheimer: It’s only every living thing.

Bethe: I am sure.

Oppenheimer: On the planet.

Bethe: Oppie!

Oppenheimer examines the calculations.

Oppenheimer (pointing at the chalkboard): You forgot to carry your two.

Bethe: %$^@!!&

Glad they got it right.

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This is only for word geeks, but I thought this comment from Terry Eagleton’s book How to Read a Poem was funny:

‘Mercifully’ [we pay more attention to the content of speech and not the form of the language],because this insensitivity to the texture, and rhythm of our speech is essential to our practical lives.There is no point in shouting ‘Fire!’ in a cinema if the audience are simply going to linger over the delectable contrast between the violently stabbing F and the swooning long-drawn-out vowel. (Those among the audience disadvantaged by an old-style literary education might even detect in this verbal performance a mimetic image of the fire itself: the F representing its abrupt beginnings, and the swooning vowel the rush and roll of its inexorable spreading…)

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Lest you think that I’ve gone all highbrow, I’ll leave you with this goodie: I think I may have found The Woman of the New Millennium.

I wonder if this is what Gloria Steinem was thinking when she fought so hard for equality of the sexes.

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:49 am on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, American Idol, Nature, Argentina

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Orange - There is a small amount of American Idol content present in this post. Proceed with caution.

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When La Raymunda and I talk about where, ultimately, we’d like to live, I usually tell her that I’d like to live somewhere very far away from Virginia and somewhere where the mountains meet the sea. That narrows the possibilities right away: the Chilean Andes run right up to the edge of the Pacific, New Zealand has mountains and glaciers all over the place and is surrounded by the Pacific. Washington State, though not perfectly qualified, comes close. Alaska and western Canada might also be in the running, and Iceland (active volcanoes!) and Norway, of course, with its spectacular fjords.

Normandy pops up a lot in this conversation also, but usually when I’m more in the mood for WWII battlefields, medieval history, Norman manors and castles, cuisines based on meat, heavy cream , cheese and brandy, pastoral landscapes dotted with orchards abutting seaside cliffs, cathedrals and the incredible Bayeux Tapestry. Oh, and Paris is just down the road from Normandy, too.

I never considered Argentina, though, since its only mountains are the Andes and the Andes form Argentina’s western border with Chile - the Argentine side of the mountains do not meet the sea. But once I got a look at Ushuaia from the air as we approached the airport I had to add Tierra del Fuego to the mix of possibilities.

At nearly 54.50 degrees south latitude, Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city and currently has about 100,000 people living there. It sits on Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost edge of South America, ringed on three sides by snow-capped mountains (see the Photo of the Day just above here) and is fronted by the Beagle Channel, named for the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his famous naturalist voyage and which gives Ushuaia access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The chief industry is the Antarctic tourist trade, so there are photo shops and gear shops and plenty of restaurants and pubs. Working for a company that traveled regularly to Antarctica wouldn’t be bad, either. The local seafood is tasty (the king crab and the king crab soup at Volver, a seafood joint working out of what looks like an old wooden weather-beaten house sitting just across the road from the water’s edge, was great and the local dark beer, Artisanal Beagle, was really good, too).

I don’t speak Spanish, which is initially a problem, but fixable. Aside from that, though, with mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, ocean, good food, good beer, adventure-type stuff all over the place and a decent camera shop, Ushuaia has just about everything I need to be happy. Oh, and the dollar is actually strong against the Argentine peso, so we wouldn’t be broke all the time like we would be in Normandy.

Anyway, something to think about.

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By the way, was it just me or could you actually see Haley’s uterus peeking out from under her miniskirt last night on American Idol?

Elephants Are Strong and Cleopatra Is Dead

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:40 am on Monday, April 2, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Travel, Nature

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Green - The reader may proceed without danger of reading anything related to American Idol.

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An elephant can lift (and carry and move) a 500 pound log with its trunk (that’s 227 kilos for you Euros).

The snake guy on the Discovery Channel speculates, after a lot of fiddling with the poisonous snakes of Egypt, that the cobra is the species of snake Cleopatra chose as her executioner. She committed suicide after she learned of the death of her husband, Marcus Antonius - known to us Anglos as Mark Antony.

I guess in Cleopatra’s mind death by snakebite was a better choice than waiting a suitable period of time and then logging on to eHarmony and looking for a new match.

Anyway, elephants are strong and Cleopatra is dead. Those are the two things I learned Saturday while running on the treadmill.

I passed the 100 mile mark on Saturday and am one-third of the way through the eighteen week marathon training program. Weight loss is still stubborn (fluctuating between nine and twelve pounds), but I am in my medium (not skinny) pants and I do feel like I have a lot more stamina.

La Raymunda is firming up travel plans for May’s Fifth Anniversary Victory Tour. Looks like the current plan is to fly into Denver, drive west through the mountains to Moab, Utah, where we’ll stay among the cowboys, Mormons and adrenaline junkies (“Adrenaline, Michael and Debra!”) for three or four days while we hike in Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Then we’ll drop down through Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods and Four Corners and stop in Mesa Verde for a few days of hiking among the Anasazi ruins before heading back to Denver and flying home.

Scotch Whisky & Heroin

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:53 pm on Wednesday, March 21, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Books & Literature, Jokes, American Idol, Nature, Liquid Diet

Q: What’s the dirtiest line ever uttered on television?

A: “Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night.”

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Ran five miles today, surprisingly easily. Learned a lot about castles on the History Channel in the process. Also set June 24 as Marathon Day.

Total mileage thus far: 70 miles.
Weight lost: 7 pounds (A colleague of mine at the Place of Toil and Labor said, along with my eating more, that my body could be storing any extra calories as reserve energy due to the higher demands I’m putting on said traitorous body, and that once my fat backstabbing uncooperative self figures out that this running-business is normal activity that it will release those calories and the weight loss will resume. Or begin. Or not. I’m holding out hope that a crash diet of scotch whisky & heroin cocktails does the trick.)

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Google Earth image of the Yangtze River's hairpin turn

Started a new book last night - The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester. Interesting premise: that the existence of China, the history of the Far East and even the world would have been different had the Yangtze River, which rushes south from northern China for several hundred miles, not “slammed head-on into a massif of limestone, ricocheted and cannonaded off it and then promptly thundered headlong back up to the north.”

Winchester speculates that, had the river not made that hairpin reversal of course at Cloud Mountain, a hairpin turn which apparently doesn’t occur to any other major river anywhere else in the world, the Yangtze would have continued south parallel to the Mekong, passed out of China and dumped itself into the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam) instead of becoming the great waterway that served as the backbone of trade, communication, unification and conquest that made China the power it was in the past and is becoming again now.

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“I thought Sanjaya was good last night,” said Jeff the security guard.
“You mean his rape of The Kinks?” I said.
“Yeah. I thought he did good.”
“Jeff, have you ever actually heard The Kinks?”


“There’s more to rock ‘n’ roll than jumping around onstage and screaming like a fifteen year old playing air guitar in his underwear in his bedroom.”

Sumo Wrestlers and Racists

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:30 am on Monday, August 28, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Politics, History, Books & Literature, Stupid People

When I stepped onto the front porch at 4:49 this morning it was already moist and swampy out, like the warm damp spot under the belly flab of a sumo wrestler. Looks like I’m staying indoors today. El Raymundo likes hot humid weather as much as Elvis liked a low-carb diet.

El Raymundo Weatherometer prediction for Monday 8/28/2006: Gross


I just opened and washed a pint of blueberries that I’m going to eat for breakfast. A small snail crawled out and is now making its way across the lid of the container. I guess that’s why you look at what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth, eh?


Of the three books I’m reading right now, one actually gave me a nightmare last night. Here are the three books:

Imperial Reckoning gave me nightmares; the last chapter I read before bed described the torture techniques used by conservative British colonists and settlers to extract information from native Kenyans. The British were fighting to keep their colony in Kenya and used genocide, mass murder, torture and concentration camps to do so. And all this in 1953, only EIGHT YEARS after Hitler’s concentration camps were exposed and the world shouted, “Never again.”

I recently finished the Pulitzer Prize winning history of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt’s life on the home front during WWII, No Ordinary Time, and was struck by how racist and intolerant America was at that time. I also noticed that every time there was an objection to integration of races, equal treatment of women, tolerance of Jews, fair wages/hours and opportunity for laborers or ethical treatment of American citizens of Japanese descent that it was the conservative element which objected.

With that in mind, I am unable to determine why conservatives maintain support unless it’s to serve as the political voice for bigots, racists, the intolerant, and Big Business. If you’re none of those things (a bigot, a racist, etc) then why would you ever vote for the people who are?

Take this person for example, the schoolbus driver in Coushatta, Louisiana who a few days back assigned seats in the front of the bus for the white kids while the “nine [black] children were assigned to two seats in the back of the bus, and the older ones had to hold the smaller ones in their laps.” Hello? Didn’t we move past this fifty years ago?

I don’t know if that bus driver voted in the last election, but I’ll lay you 20-1 odds if he/she did that they voted for the conservatives.


Posted by: elraymundo at 8:35 am on Monday, July 31, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, History, Nature

I got up early this morning and ran on the treadmill. About halfway in I wavered between vomiting and suicide. It’s now just after 8:00am, and I’ve neither barfed nor slashed my wrists, so I’m chalking up a moral victory.

I added a few Photos of the Day that I was behind on posting:

I have a cool surfing plug-in installed in Firefox called StumbleUpon:

“StumbleUpon helps you discover great websites. With a single click you can find and share cool sites matched to your interests.”

You can configure it to go out and find sites that match the interests you’ve checked off in your profile. My profile is full of history sites, some science, linguistics, photography, travel and so forth. Pretty slick stuff - I use it all the time. Once in a while, though, it returns some curious things.

I have “Chess” checked off as an interest. As a result, I found out there are sites dedicated to chess hotties. You can even vote on which gal you’d most like to spend time in a hot tub with chatting about the Nimzo-Indian Defence or the weaknesses inherent in the Giuoco Piano.

Some other Stumble finds:

The Bradshaw Foundation has a very cool animated app that shows the paths of human migration over the last 160,000 years. It’s generally accepted that human origins are rooted in Africa, but did you know that 125,000 years ago a branch of that first group migrated across a green Sahara and up to the Levant? (The Levant is the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, where Lebananon, Israel, and Turkey are.) They didn’t survive, dying out 90,000 years ago when temps dropped and the Sahara turned into a desert. A second group broke out and got all the way to Indonesia and South China before a huge volcanic explosion wiped out everyone but 10,000 adults. Zoinks! Anyway, definitely take a look.

Here are some beautiful time-lapse photographs of atmospheric changes, like stormclouds and lightning, aurora, comets, moon-sets, etc.

Finally, I will never say I am cold again:

Photo of Geneva in winter

News of the Clever and Life in 1940

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:10 am on Tuesday, July 18, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, News of the Clever

I’m reading a great book about the Roosevelts (Franklin D and Eleanor) during the war years. William gave me the book and it’s called No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Brilliant book. A couple of things I found interesting:

In 1940,

  • 17% of the workforce was unemployed
  • 1/2 of men and 2/3 of women made less than $1000/year
  • From a population of 132 million, only 48,000 taxpayers earned more than $2500/year

Granted, those are 1940 dollars. I don’t know what that translates to in 2006 $$$, but it doesn’t sound like much.

Also in 1940,

  • Only 40% of Americans 25 or older had been to school past eighth grade
  • Only 25% of Americans 25 or older had graduated high school
  • Only 5% of Americans 25 or older had completed college
  • 31% of 35 million dwelling units did not have running water. One third!
  • 32% had no indoor toilet
  • 39% lacked a shower or bathtub
  • 58% had no central heating (and AC was just being invented – today we are under a heat warning: “more humid compared to Monday…temps ranging from upper 90s to around 100…high humidity…heat index between 105 and 109 degrees” Imagine what that would feel like without AC – ick)

1975 was (roughly) 30 years ago. It was also 30 years after the end of WWII. In 1975 I don’t think there was much, if any, of America that did not have running water, an indoor toilet, and a bathtub. Over the last thirty years, the only ubiquitous household items that were added (that I can think of right now) were the microwave and the VCR. Not quite the same, is it?

And in the days before Pearl Harbor was attacked, “casual visitors were allowed to stroll around the White House grounds during the day…feeding the squirrels, taking snapshots and hanging around the portico hoping someone interesting would come out.”

Hanging around the portico? Hanging around the portico? Can you even imagine that? You can’t even drive a car past the White House now, with Pennsylvania barricaded the way that it is, much less “hang around” the portico sipping lemonade and waiting for Jar-Jar to emerge so you can chat about foreign policy and the electoral process. What a different world it was sixty-six years ago!


In other news (some of this not so fresh because I’m slow to post):

  • Oops. Pete Coors, the Coors brewery’s silver-haired TV spokesman, seen on Sunday afternoons hawking dog pee beer, was arrested for drunk driving.
  • Batwoman is a lesbian. This doesn’t surprise me in the least - comics have always tried to be edgy and hip. Remember in the ’70s when Nick Fury started swearing and talking like a “real” person? And when comics discovered African-Americans were underrepresented (slang for “completely missing”) from the comics world and suddenly we had a bunch of superheroes with either Black or references to Africa in their names? (Black Lightning, Muhammad X, Nu’Bia, Black Panther, Brother Voodoo, etc. – my fave, BTW, was always the Falcon). So now we have lesbian superheroes? I’m not at all shocked. She’s a hot redhead, too. That’ll bum out all the fanboys when they realize that A, she’s not real and B, she’s unavailable.

Thanks to Mr. Gosa for the leads!

Photo of the Day - 07.14.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:13 pm on Friday, July 14, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Photo of the Day

US Soldier in Vietnam
Soldier, Vietnam - Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Exif: ISO/50; f/8.0; 1/25; 70mm
07.02.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Photo of the Day - 07.13.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:56 pm on Thursday, July 13, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Photo of the Day

Sculpture of US Soldier in Vietnam

Soldier, Vietnam - Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Exif: ISO/50; f/8.0; 1/25; 70mm
07.02.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

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