Photo of the Day - 5.1.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:54 pm on Monday, April 30, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Antarctica

Photo of a massive tabular iceberg in the Antarctic Sound, Antarctica
Tabular Iceberg - Antarctic Sound, Antarctica
Exif: ISO 50; f/8; 1/800 sec; 200mm
12.31.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Gunfight at the Tender Thigh Corral

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:37 am on Monday, April 30, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Politics, NFL, Stupid People, News of the Clever

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

- - - - -

Missed the video of George Bush dancing onstage with Africans, banging bongos and making chimp face? Already seen the clip but need something to kickstart your morning? Click here.

Yvette S. once said, “I’ve heard Bush is a great guy, a guy people can relate to, someone they feel like they could hang out with down at the local bar. The problem is I think for President of the United States and Leader of the Free World that we should aim a little higher than ‘good drinking buddy’.”

- - - - -

The NFL draft was this weekend. Minnesota drafted seventh in the first round and picked Adrian Peterson, a running back out of Oklahoma. I think Vikings fans are going to like Mr. Peterson very very much. Watch this (especially the two back-to-back runs starting at 0:52 and then the last two runs in the clip - ZOINKS!) if you want to feel old and slow.

- - - - -

I ran fifteen miles on Sunday, watching the second day of the NFL draft to keep my mind occupied, then mowed the lawn afterwards. I could barely walk to push the mower, not because of muscle soreness or tiredness, but because I’d chafed the sensitive inner bits of my legs. I spent half of Sunday walking around like a bow-legged cowboy getting ready for a shootout at the Tender Thigh Corral. By the feel of things, today will be more of the same.

This would be way cooler if I had some chaps.

Total miles run to date: 203 miles
Longest distance run to date: 15 miles
Upcoming longest distance: 16 miles.
Upcoming miles this week: 32 miles

Old Dead Hungarian Nuclear Physicists

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:53 am on Friday, April 27, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random

Strange dreams last night. Something about a lot of Hungarians. Old, bloaty Hungarians with pink-pale skin and flabby cheeks. They were wearing green tufted hats, like German oompah band guys. The hats had feathers in them.

There was a firing range visible through the window of the house we were in, or maybe it was a weapons-testing range. Which would make sense since last night I got right up to the part in the Oppenheimer biography where they explode the first atomic bomb in New Mexico. Edward Teller was a part of that; he was Hungarian. And Leo Szilard was running around telling everyone we shouldn’t drop the bomb on Japan; he was Hungarian, too. Maybe I was dreaming of old dead Hungarian nuclear physicists?

Yes, It Felt Nice to Help, But Did It Really Make a Difference?

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:27 am on Thursday, April 26, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random

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

- - - - -

There was a telethon last night to raise money to feed impoverished children in Kenya and the United States, to provide them medical services, schooling and care. Midway through the program the emcee announced that fifty million dollars had been raised and that a corporate sponsor was going to kick in another five million. A host of celebrities sang and danced and lip-synched and entreated viewers for donations. There was video, a lot of video, of the malnourished, the orphaned, the diseased, the dying - both in Kenya and in the USA.

You would have to be stone-hearted not to have been moved.

This isn’t the first time any of us have seen programs like this. Over the course of my years on this planet, I imagine hundreds of millions, if not billions, have been raised for causes just like those promoted last night. But - and I say this knowing full well that I will probably sound like a real bastard (it’s early, I just woke up, I don’t drink coffee, this is all off the top of my head and celebrity telethons really irritate me, so please, cut me some slack) - I have these questions:

Are the benefits sustainable?

Is any of the donated money having a long-term impact?

Is there any benefit to these children other than getting them through another day?

Nourishment and education are the bare essentials of life, but what is being done to change the self-destructive cultures of these countries (yes, including the US)?

What is being done to change a culture where corrupt government officials steal every last dollar of revenue and every last morsel of food, often from the piles of charitable aid raised by the West, and let their people starve?

What is being done to change a culture where men run around screwing everything in sight while refusing to take the most basic steps to prevent spreading a killer disease? AIDS is nothing new in Africa - it’s run rampant there for over twenty years - so does the same man who watches scores of people die from AIDS in his home or village or neighborhood make the mental connection between his action and the result?

Does he even care?

If no, why not?

Does self-destructive behavior continue because we’ve managed to feed a man as a child but left him to his own devices as an adult and, once set adrift he found nothing worth achieving - no job, no money, no hope beyond life in a slum - so he’s just moving from one friction-induced thrill to another?

In the United States, why does an impoverished woman, a single-mother living in a FEMA trailer, have SIX CHILDREN?

Even if she were a working-class single-mother living in a paid-for house on Bourbon Street, why would she have SIX CHILDREN?

Does this woman THINK about her actions?

There is a shocking lack of education in some parts of the USA and yes, that needs to be fixed, but are people this dumb? Do they not think AT ALL? This woman was not living on a farm; she’s wasn’t bearing and raising children to milk the cows and plow the fields and harvest the crop. So…why SIX CHILDREN? Why, knowing the desolate, hopeless and devastated conditions she will raise them in?

Back to my original question, is any of this aid building anything sustainable? Are we actually healing the body or are we just giving aspirin to the dying?

It’s noble to raise and give away money. It’s noble to feed the starving, to shelter the homeless, to care for the orphaned. It’s noble to actually give a damn about someone beyond oneself. But when the sun sets tonight and rises again tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that and the day after that, has any real difference - other than sheer survival - been made?

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.

- - - - -

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.

- - - - -

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…)

- - - - -

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.

Photo of the Day - 4.24.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:10 am on Tuesday, April 24, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Antarctica

Photo of an apparently headless gentoo - Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Nothing to Lose Your Head Over
- Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Exif: ISO 50; f/5.6; 1/125 sec; 200mm
12.31.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Drowning in the Nowhere Tub

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:09 am on Tuesday, April 24, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Stupid People

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

- - - - -

It was bound to happen. Someone farted in yoga class.

And it wasn’t me.

We do a lot of abdominal exercises in class, pushing the lower belly in, flexing the diaphragm out, and so forth. With all those core muscles squeezing and contracting and relaxing both The Debra and I suspected that it was only a matter of time before someone somewhere would inadvertently rip one off.

There would be the gentle voice of Kelly, the instructor:

“Now we’re going to move from Plank into Downward Facing Dog. Walk your toes back. This stretches the hamstrings. Ommmmmmm. And now lower back into Plank to stretch the lower belly…”

And then someone’s colonic trapdoor would come ajar - thhhbbbbbbt - and there would be a quick, tight trumpeting of release, with the trumpet’s note rising at the end.

That’s the way I suspected it would happen. But it didn’t happen that way at all. No, the offender was far more insidious. They waited until a quiet, peaceful moment - a moment of rest, when all defenses were down. And then they hit us with the most lethal weapon in the arsenal: the dreaded SBD - the Silent But Deadly.

Each yoga class concludes with a ten minute quiet time (no Kool-Aid or crackers, though). Kelly talks us down off our respective yogic ledges: “Now float into your heart. Feel the warmth there. Embrace that warmth. The heart is where you’ll find peace…”

I wasn’t in my heart, but I did find peace, floating peacefully in a black hole of nothingness, merrily watching crinkly lines of electric blue lightning dance about on the blackened stage of my mind’s eye. It seemed embryonic: floaty and weightless, like a very peaceful bar of soap in very peaceful warm water in a very peaceful Nowhere Tub.

I was 99 and 44/100ths percent peaceful.

And then my nose twitched and my floaty-self twitched. Something had charred my nose hairs.

“What’s that?” asked Floaty-Self.

“Not sure,” I said back to Floaty-Self.

“I don’t like it.”

“It smells like…a rotten egg?”

“Or out-of-date roast beef?” Floaty-Self was becoming less and less floaty as the scent flowed over us, intensifying.

“It reminds me of the catalytic converter on an old Buick on a hot, muggy, drippy summer’s day,” I said to Floaty-Self.

“But who would bring a catalytic converter into yoga class?”

“Or an old Buick?”

“Dear God,” said Floaty-Self, achieving an uncomfortable reality, slowly sinking into the suddenly choppy cold and smelly waters of the of the Nowhere Tub. “It’s a fart. Someone has farted in yoga class.”

“Oh, the humanity!”

Photo of the Day - 4.23.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:51 am on Monday, April 23, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Antarctica

Photo of a kelp gull at Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Kelp Gull
- Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Exif: ISO 50; f/5.6; 1/400 sec; 200mm
12.31.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Coke Bottles and Gall Bladders

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:37 am on Monday, April 23, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Family

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

- - - - -

Website Update: After months of neglect I have revamped and updated the Books and Recent Reads page on the main TeamRaymond website. If you’re interested, click here to check it out.

- - - - -

My sister, Lisa, had some back pain last week. She had it checked out and is now scheduled to have her gall bladder removed in two weeks.

Lisa is upset about this, the impending removal of her last vestigial organ.

It’s not the fact that she’s going to lose her gall bladder that’s really got her cheesed off. It’s the fact that I still have all my organs AND I’ve never broken a bone AND I got the good eyes AND the good teeth too. And she reminded me of all this when we caught up on the phone the other day.

“It’s just not fair. I got all the crappy organs from Mom and Dad and you got all the good ones.”

An accurate statement. I got Dad’s good teeth and Mom’s decent eyes while she was stuck with Dad’s blindness and Mom’s papier-mâché teeth.

“At least you don’t fall asleep when you read,” I told her. “It takes me six months to get through a book.”

“And I would be very upset if I did.” (Lisa is a voracious reader.) “But it’s small consolation.”

“I crack a book and narcolepsy sets in. I’m like an old man, constantly falling asleep on the couch and drooling on my books.”

“I’m still not impressed.”

“Wait! I had to get stitches once!”


When we were kids back in Minnesota some neighborhood kid sat on her finger, bending it backwards until it snapped. The parents were out that night, doing whatever social stuff good upstanding church-going folks did in the Seventies. (As long as they weren’t next door over at the Babcocks we knew everything was safe. We knew what happened over at the Babcocks. The Babcocks had board games with dice that had penises and breasts on them and cards that said things like, “Remove an item of clothing from the person to your left” and “Say the alphabet in French while kissing the person across from you in a way that makes them wiggle”. The Babcocks ran an underground Middle-Western den of iniquity. And right next door!)

But, as is my wont, I digress.

So the kid sat on her finger and broke it and I read to Lisa until she fell asleep that night, which stands as the only nice thing I ever did for my sister while growing up - although I still contend that smearing a spatula of peanut butter on her face was entirely justified and that the grounding was undeserved.

Shortly after the broken finger, out came the tonsils. And then she got Coke-bottle glasses. And a myriad of dental fillings. And then her appendix nearly burst and out it came. And now her gall bladder is angry with her and that particular Elvis will be leaving the building, too.

And me? I sailed into adulthood with all my groceries still in the bag and without even a cavity.

- - - - -

On the marathon front, I “lazed” through a “step-back week”, meaning my Saturday distance was shorter than the previous Saturday’s. “Only” ten miles. Next week it ramps up again, though, to fifteen. There better be something good on the television or I’m slashing my wrists.

Total miles run to date: 174 miles
Longest distance run to date: 13 miles
Upcoming longest distance: 15 miles.
Upcoming miles this week: 29 miles

Photo of the Day - 4.20.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:04 am on Friday, April 20, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Antarctica

Photo of the sun hanging over the glacier at Brown BLuff, Antarctica
Glacier Sun
- Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Exif: ISO 50; f/22; 1/250 sec; 15mm fisheye
12.31.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Next Page »