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.

Silk Dragons

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:11 pm on Saturday, April 14, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Books & Literature, Lotus Blossom, Self-Spotting

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

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Written from: Great Falls, Virginia
Weather: 52° and raining

Today I was grumpy, but I didn’t know why. This happens from time to time.

“I’m grumpy today for some reason,” I said to La Raymunda.
“Yes,” she said from the treadmill, “you are.”
“I have no idea why.”
“Do you think it’s the Google thing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should take a shower. Clean up from mowing the lawn. You’ll feel better.”
“Maybe I’ll just get drunk on the couch.”
“That might work too.”

I split the middle instead. I built a great big fire in the fireplace, poured a snifter full of Poire William pear brandy and read the funny papers (which aren’t really very funny anymore, but are rather stultifying, inane and obvious) and read Simon Winchester’s The River at the Center of the World, about the Yangtze River in China.

From page 267:

“Her grandfather was seated under a persimmon tree at the edge of the cliff, smoking a pipe and gazing down at the boiling river below. He was quite deaf and made no move when I walked up to him and then stood beside him. He was dressed in an old gown of dark blue silk adorned with dragons. He looked perfectly at peace with his world, warming himself in the late spring sunshine, puffing on a tiny nut of tobacco, watching the ships churn by.”

I packed up and lit my own pipe and thought about that paragraph for a while.

There’s a lot going on…all the time. And it all moves pretty fast. Too fast.

I spent the better part of seven years of my life, from 1991 to 1998, wandering around, meeting people, seeing what there was to see, doing what there was to do and, to keep with the metaphor, keeping out of the faster currents. After nearly ten years in the rapids, and yes, they’ve been rewarding years, I’m feeling like I’m ready to head back to the riverbank and just watch for a while. There’s enough to do and be and see without being in the midst of all the turbulence.

Anybody know where I can get a comfortable chair and an old silk gown adorned with dragons?

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.

Self-Spotting - 05.09.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:43 am on Tuesday, May 9, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Books & Literature, Lotus Blossom, Self-Spotting

Last night, I spotted myself in Henderson the Rain King, a novel by Saul Bellow.

This snippet, from page 89, as Eugene Henderson contemplates exploding a homemade bomb in a cistern plagued by frogs in order to save a remote African tribe from drought…

“Oh, Mistah Henderson – you ‘strodinary man. But sir. Do not be carried away.”
“Ha, ha, Prince – pardon me, but this is where you happen to be wrong. If I don’t get carried away I never accomplish anything.

…inspired this snippet between La Raymunda and me:

Me, with great gravity: “Here, listen to this. It describes me perfectly.” I read the quote.
La Raymunda waits in silence for another shoe to drop.
Me, wounded: “You don’t understand.”
“I do understand. If you don’t get carried away it means you’re not interested and you don’t get anything done.”
Precisely. So people need to stop telling me not to get carried away. All my life people are telling me not to get carried away with things”
Sensing the drop of the other shoe, Debra replies, “I’ll alert the media.”

“Super! Beautifully written.”

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:39 pm on Monday, May 8, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Books & Literature, Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel

In early April, La Raymunda and I submitted short travel articles to the founder, writers, and editors of Bradt Travel Guides; we received our feedback today!

La Raymunda’s:
“…very moving – the hairs on the back of my neck tingled…”
“an evocative piece of writing that made me go cold.”
“…a good and moving read. It’ll stick in my mind for a long time.”
“One of the best.”

“Super! Beautifully written.”
“I loved the piece – it simply bounces off the page, full of life and sparkle…”
“…paints very vivid word pictures, capturing the scene nicely…”
“…a super piece.”

Even better, this was addressed to both of us:

“[we’d] be happy to discuss the possibility of commissioning you both to write a Bradt guide…So – if you plan (or dream of!) a trip to some place that isn’t yet covered by Bradt, do contact [us] beforehand.”

I mentioned to these same folks, during a travel writing seminar they gave at the Smithsonian, that I would be interested in writing a travel guide to Easter Island. Looks like we may get the chance. SWEET!!!

Genghis Khan and the American Idol Hottie

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:32 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Books & Literature, American Idol

Becky O'Donahue

How come my favorite American Idol contestant had to be voted off on the first night? C’mon America, why Becky and not this nasty bee-otch? Now I’ve gotta find a new hottie on the show.

I’ll miss ya Becky. You and your Babeasaurus Rex twin sister. Who knows, maybe Playboy has them both on speed dial.

And I’ll stop right there before I get myself into trouble.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan has spoken and he has said, “Come to Central Asia.”

Yes indeed, The Debra and I are investigating trekking trips in and around Kyrgyzstan, one of many lands conquered by Genghis which became grazing lands for his horses. By all accounts, the country is safe and free from whack-jobs bundled in dynamite corsets and the country sports some of the highest and most beautiful mountains in the world, the Tien Shan (the Celestial Mountains).

Some of the peaks in the Tien Shan, which delineate the border between Kyrgyzstan and western China, are over 7000 meters high; a pass through the southern reaches leads across the border into China and the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. From there one can take the Karakoram Highway, a four day road trip past K2 into Islamabad, Pakistan. How cool would that be??? Unfortunately, the Karakoram Highway is reputedly infested with gentlemen wielding hand grenades and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers sold to them by the Republicans and it might not be wise to travel that route right now. Anyway, we’re looking into taking a walk through the mountains and cities of the Silk Road this summer. More to come!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I wish The Debra would bake some cookies this weekend.

Snow Day

We got a little snow last week. Didn’t last long, of course, but it sure was pretty while it lasted.

Emperor Dubya?

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:02 pm on Tuesday, October 25, 2005
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Politics, History, Books & Literature, Stupid People

Claudius, Emperor of Rome
George W Bush, Emperor of the USA
Emperor Claudius
George W Bush

I find this interesting. I won’t tell you what to think - it’s your brain - but apply the following to our current regime as you see fit.

“In the year A.D. 41…a chapter of accidents…brought the clownish scholar Claudius, to the throne of the world…Hence we find emperors elevated by chance whose unbridled and capricious passions were their only distinction, whose courts were debauched with lust and cruelty, who were themselves vicious or feeble-minded, who were pawns in the hands of their counselors or favourites, decreeing great campaigns and setting their seal upon long-lasting acts of salutary legislation… [Claudius] was attracted by the idea of gaining a military reputation. He gave orders that this dramatic and possibly lucrative enterprise should proceed. In the year 43, almost one hundred years after Julius Caesar’s evacuation, a powerful, well-organised Roman army, with numerous elephants, was prepared for the subjugation of Britain.”

Winston Churchill
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. I - The Birth of Britain