Friday, August 29, 2008

Nicaragua: Linda, Preciosa

Oh, my precious peonies, I am happy for so many reasons. First and foremost being that Managua, a city that had been built up in my head to some gothically horrific nightmarish place is, it turns out, perfectly pleasant. Driving in to town in a taxi last night I was stunned by the lack of awfulness, which is a weird thing to say, but there you have it. Now, let's be clear, I'm staying in the nice part of town, which is still fairly crummy in places by U.S. standards, but this is great! The staff at the hostel I'm staying at is super friendly and helpful. In fact, all Nicaraguans I've encountered so far are incredibly friendly and helpful. The hostel manager took me on a walking tour of the neighborhood and helped me find the house I'll be staying at. What's more, right now I'm sitting by the swimming pool in a hammock surfing the internet on a very decent wireless network. All I need is a cold beer (damn, I forgot beer at the grocery store) to make this absolutely perfect.

So let me tell you what's up. Today I bought a cell phone for $25 (TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS!!!). If anybody in the States wants to give me a holla, just dial 001-505-490-2264. Also, I found a place to live, and it seems wonderful! I'll send out an email later with my address for those who want it, so just let me know!

You want to know what's crazy? Managua doesn't have street names. Seriously! No street names. Addresses, as a result, are completely bizarre. For example, my new address (in English) is:
From the Evangelical University, two blocks to the south, three blocks to the east, house #97, Los Robles Neighborhood, Managua.
Crazy, right? But here, it's a legitimate address, recognized by the post office and taxi drivers alike. And that's not even the weirdest of them. One I was trying to find ended up with something like "across from the big tree, next to the green car, third door from the left." I've seen some bizarre cultural oddities in my day, but this is pretty awesome. I think it has something to do with the fact that after the '73 earthquake they never rebuilt the city like it was? Not sure on that, though.

The other weirdly awesome thing is that in comparison with Texas the weather here is FANTASTIC. It's only like 90 degrees, with sporadic sprinkly rain showers and cool breezes in the evening. Sigh... I'm in love. All right, off to find some rice and beans for dinner. Love to all, more news forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ooooooh, spooooky!

So I don't know what amazing technologies Apple has concocted recently, but y'all are not going to believe what just happened. I'm sitting here packing up, waxing nostalgic and misty-eyed about leaving home and listening to my iTunes on RANDOM. Shall I emphasize that point again? RAN-DOM. So guess what songs have just played back-to-back.

1. Leaving on a Jet Plane, by John Denver

2. I'm Gone, by Dolly Parton

3. Gone, Gone, Gone by Alison Krause and Robert Plant.

Maybe my laptop is haunted?

Next post from Nica!!!

Unforgetable, Regretable Quotes From the 2008 Olympic Games

I read a short story in The New Yorker once called "Thoughts on Radio Televese" in which the author purported to be commenting upon a new linguistic phenomenon in which radio and TV announcers have created their own language. A non-sensical, primordially dumb language, each announcer competes to see who can provide the most inane commentary on current events, politics, and sports. I don't know how to find it now, but if in the midst of Olympic coverage and the Republican and Democratic Conventions you find yourself gritting your teeth, pulling out your hair, or going cross-eyed from the vapid commentary, here's a few little nuggets to remind you that sometimes it's just damn funny.

Here are some of the funniest comments made by NBC Summer Olympics commentators that they would like to take back. Numbers 5 and 9 , in my humble opinion, are the best by far.

1. Weightlifting commentator: 'This is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning during her warm up and it was amazing.'

2. Dressage commentator: 'This is really a lovely horse and I speak from personal experience since I once mounted her mother.'

3. Paul Hamm, Gymnast: 'I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.'

4. Boxing Analyst: 'Sure there have been injuries, and even some deaths in boxing, but none of them really that serious.'

5. Softball announcer: 'If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again.'

6. Basketball analyst: 'He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces.'

7. At the rowing medal ceremony: 'Ah, isn't that nice, the wife of the IOC president is hugging the cox of the British crew.'

8. Soccer commentator: 'Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field.'

9. Tennis commentator: 'One of the reasons Andy is playing so well is that, before the final round, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them... Oh my God, what have I just said?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Scoop

OK, cats, here it is, my blogalicious plan for the next few months. First, I leave Thursday for Nicaragua. I do not yet have a place lined up to stay, but here is what I do have: a small army of people (read: two) working to contact people they know who might have suggestions of where to stay. I've got one option on the line that is a wee bit expensive for Managua, although I laugh at the prospect. $425 for a room in a home where the lady will cook my meals AND wash my laundry? But I've been warned off - this is apparently (unbelievably) more than I need to pay, so I'm still looking. Also, I've got reservations at one of the only hostels in town for the first few nights, so I'll have some leeway in finding accomodations.

Internet cafes are apparently abundant around the UCA (Universidad de CentroAmerica), where I'll be working at the historical archives, so I believe I can post with some regularity. Not so sure how easily I can upload photos, but I'll figure that out when I get there. I'm hoping to spend my weekends off exploring the wilds of Nicaragua (oh, volcanoes, ah, beaches, oh, adventure!) so I'm shooting for two to three posts a week. No promises, just possibilities. :)

The best news of all is that I found a TRAVEL BUDDY!! Yahoooooo! I sent out this big schmemail to folks in my address book saying Adios, here's where I'm off to, send your address if you want postcards, and guess what. A friend knows a friend who'll be living in Granada, a cool colonial city only a short bus ride away from Managua. So we've been in touch, and are planning to meet up down there and plan some weekend getaways together. Giant sigh of relief. It's not that I can't travel by myself. I've done so many times before, and enjoyed it. But it's just always nicer to have somebody to sit with over a beer and talk about the crazy things you've seen and done. Or to help you put the pieces back together after you've been robbed at knifepoint. Ick. Let's hope that last one isn't necessary. I knew I had some friends planning trips down there (Maxita, Varunski, Umulu, I can't wait to see you!), but their visits are all kind of lumped up together in November, so this is a super nice special treat from the Travel Gods.

I'm pretty much packed, and ready for Managua, Nicaragua and the great beyond. Look, I'm even ready for air pollution. Bring it on, black-smoke-belching Central American city buses! I am SO ready for you.

In short, I am so excited for my trip. Regretful at leaving, sad to leave my friends, my city, my life behind for a while, but excited at the prospect of new and interesting people and places. Oh, itchy travel bug, welcome back. It's been a while, and I've missed you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Musical Sort of Purgatory

I am absolutely horrified. My good friend Cookie just sent me a link where you can find out what song was Number One on the Billboard charts in America the day you were born, and I naturally was curious and looked it up. I should not have done so. I was born on December 8, 1977, and on that acursed day the number one song in America was "You Light Up My Life" by the incomparable Debby Boone. I think I might throw up. If there's a single song in the universe that is more frequently played as elevator music than that one, I'm sure I don't know it. Curse you, Kenny G! Oh, how I wish I weren't the punchline in a joke about Delilah After Dark. Do you think this is like a horoscope? Can you tell something about a person based on the lyrics or musical stylings of the hit song on the day they were born? I can just see me at dinner parties now: "Yeah, I'm like, totally a Saggitarius, which is, like, totally a fire sign? But thank God for my birth song, which is so totally sappy it just totally tones down my otherwise totally firey nature, you know? Yeah, it really mellows me out."

So are you curious? Click on the following link to discover what your special birthday song is, and be sure to let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: I am somewhat appeased. I just looked up the Number One song on the (approximate) day I was conceived (March 8, 1976) and you know what it was? OH WHAT A NIGHT! LATE DECEMBER BACK IN SIXTY-THREE, WHAT A VERY SPECIAL TIME FOR ME, WHAT A LADY WHAT A NIGHT! yesssssssssss! A very big thank you to The Four Seasons for redeeming my faith in life, humanity, and the possibility of world peace.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Argument For Never Giving Out Your Number

You know, sometimes I bemoan my perennially single status. I talk about how it's hard to meet people, how all the good guys seem to be taken, how I always meet wonderful men at the worst possible times and then it never works out, and yada yada yada. Well as of today I officially renounce even the slightest inclination to complain, because in all the history of my life nobody has ever left me voice mail messages like this. Listen. Really. And keep listening, because OH MY GOOD LORD, THIS DUDE IS CRAZY.

I got this off another blog, and here's the back story to these phone messages, according to him:

The back story on this is that a girl named Olga was out with her friends in the Marina district of San Francisco and she talked to this guy named Dmitri for all of two minutes. Then she gave him her card and said “give me a call.” The following are the messages he left. Listen to the whole thing, it just keeps getting better and better. (4 minutes) - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oh, Bug, How I Love Thee

One of the nicest things about being home for such a long while this summer was getting to spend time with my amazing littlest brother Bug. He's 4 and a half years old now, stubborn as hell, smart as a whip, unbearably cute, and a complete and total riot. These are the things he loves:

1. Mom
2. Dad
3. Numbers
4. Kipper, Nemo, Sprout (TV shows, for those without toddlers)
5. Swimming
6. Exploring
7. Cars
8. Trains
9. Bread. Also, Other People's Food
10. The Rest of His Family

This is one of my favorite recent pictures of the Bug, as it encapsulates something totally awesome about his character.
Here he is, sitting up in a little tree-housey-climbing thing that Superdad built for him. He's about 6 feet off the ground, completely oblivious to the world, reading Car and Driver Magazine.

You know what he'd do if I were right there calling him? He wouldn't even look up, he'd just ignore me. And if I persisted? He still wouldn't look up, but he might holler out, "Just a minute!" That's his very diplomatic way of saying "Buzz off, lady, can't you see I'm busy?" "Just a minute" might be the most common phrase to come out of his mouth. Make no mistake, world, this is a kid with a very busy schedule. He doesn't talk much, but he is ALWAYS doing something.

Like here, for example. We're snuggling. Actually, let me correct that statement. I am snuggling. Bug is multi-tasking. While he lies resting in the warm embrace of his loving sister, he is simultaneously watching his favorite TV show (Kipper), eyeballing Superdad's lunch-making process in hopes of snagging a bite, and arguing with our mother about whether right now is the appropriate time to have his fingernails clipped. Mom seemed to believe it was, but Bug disagreed. "Just a minute, Mama," he said.

I love my Bug.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Love This Joke, Eight.

And now for a new joke in my ongoing 'I Love This Joke' series. Ta-ta-ta-raaaaaaaa!! Fasten your seatbelts, put on your crash helmets. It's a pretty good one, if you're a Democrat. And if you're a Bush-loving Republican (Hi, Dad!), you'll get over it.

One day recently George W. Bush had his daily meeting with his advisors to find out what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Well, y'all, lay it on me," Bush began. "How's it lookin' out there?"

Condi cleared her throat. "Well, sir, let's start with casualties. It hasn't been too bad, lately, but we did have two Brazilian soldiers killed yesterday."

Bush's mouth dropped open and his face turned ashen. "Oh, dear God, what do you mean that's not too bad?! That's terrible, that's awful, we have to do something. Call a press conference!"

But then he paused, and furrowed his brow. "Wait a minute, Condi. Before we go on national television with this news, tell me one thing. Just exactly how many is a brazillion?"

Bah-dum-bump-chaaaaaa! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Babelfish, You Nutty Thing, You.

Once upon a time, Superdad sent me an email in Spanish that read like this: "Dear daughter mine, Your you are very special for my. I want muchissimo to you, and I throw to you much of less when estes far. Kisses, Pope."

Of course, what he meant to say was "My dear daughter, You are very special to me. I love you very much and miss you when you are far away. Love, Papa." Sadly, he'd succumbed to the immoral and unreliable temptations of a translation website called Babelfish. My poppets, you are forewarned. If you have any interest in accuracy or precision in word choice, stay far away from this nefarious internet poseur. Stay far, far away.

Unless of course, you're after a good laugh, in which case you ought to strap on some Depends and dig in. These things are hilariously bad, and today, thanks to my dear PrincessPi, I experimented a little bit with some of the finer permutations of multiple re-translations. Don't ask me why, but when faced with a blank screen, this is the first thing that occurred to me to type:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
was lost, but now I see.

Why a hymn? Couldn't I have spontaneously quoted from Aristotle, Churchill, or FDR? It must have something to do with years and years of Sunday School, church suppers, and Bible Camp. It'll scar a girl good, I tell ya. Anyway, I translated it into traditional Chinese, and came up with this:


Yeah, I don't know, either. Oh, but you're curious? Want to know what all those pretty characters mean? Well, why don't we get to the bottom of this little mystery and RE-TRANSLATE it back into English. Witness, my friends, the literal translation of Amazing Grace from Chinese to English.

The astonishing permission period,
how did the delightful sound rescue wretch to look
like my me once to lose equally, but I discovered now,
already lost one's sight, but I understood now.

Stunning, right? No wonder those missionaries had trouble over there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Welcome Back, and a Mystery, All While Watching Olympics.

Well hello there, my pumpkins, my pets, my sweet petunias! My goodness, it's been a while. The past several weeks have been a welcome respite from school, from responsibilities, from business as usual, but I'm glad to be back online. When last I posted up here, I was in North Carolina, helping my family out as Superdad recovered from his stay in the hospital and getting to spend time with my little little brother Bug, my big little brother the Fairy King, and, of course, Captain Mommypants. Life was good. Now I'm back in Austin, and life is still good. Actually, it's totally awesome, but I'll tell you about that later. For now, I'd like some help solving a mystery.

We'll call this little story "The Completely Confounding Case of the Castaway Key." (I'm a big fan of alliteration, and that title just gave me a tingly thrill. I hope it did the same for you, you naughty, naughty thing.) So imagine me, your Amazing Cheastypants, [pause to watch Michael Phelps swim the 100M butterfly prelim. Ok, he won. Good. Back to the story.] Where was I? Oh yes, I remember. Me and my acres and acres of gorgeous, bounteous hair were about to go to the grocery store. I needed blueberries and carrots. So I pull up in my sporty little Mazda (zoom zoom!), turn off the ignition, get out of the car, lock the door, and head into the HEB. I get my stuff, pay for it, and head back out to my car. Approaching L'il Mazdie, I reached into my purse and grab my keys. But whoa, what's going on?! My key chain had opened up, so lots of the keys were falling off in my hand. But no sweat, I just put them back on, right? Except wait. Where's my car key. Good question. The damn thing was gone. G-O-N-E, gone.

I mean, it's not like I didn't look for it. I emptied my purse, shook it out, looked under, around, and on top of my car. I opened the door and looked on the seats, between the seats, under the seats, under the steering wheel, in the cupholders, and on the floor. It was nowhere. I retraced my steps in the grocery store THREE TIMES. I went to customer service at every store in the strip mall. And then I gave up. I called my dear and reliable Penata, who picked me up and took me to my spare set of keys over at Umulu's house. The key, I decided, was a thing of the past. [Pause for Nastia Liukin on the uneven bars. Good, she rocked it. Back to the story.]

Well, I was just confused. I mean, there were only a finite number of places my key could've gone, you know? Flummoxed, perplexed, befuddled. But whatever, I moved on. [Pause for Shawn Johnson on the uneven bars. She stuck the landing!! Okay, back to the story.]

So you know what happened? I found it yesterday while I was cleaning out L'il Mazdie to pick up my parents and Bug at the airport. And do you want to know where I found the stupid thing? UNDER THE PASSENGER SEAT CARPET. Under. The carpet. On the passenger side. If I had to sum up my thoughts upon finding it there in one word, that word would be "what the everloving hell." If previously I was flummoxed, perplexed, and befuddled, now I am simply stupefied.

I mean, how did it get there? Did it magically discover the properties of osmosis? Or perhaps the key walked to the carpet, lifted it up, crawled under, and settled in for a nice long nap. "I've had enough of this starting the car business," it thought as it snuggled down and closed its eyes. "Time for a well earned vacation." Or maybe a well intentioned stranger saw the key drop, picked it up, and thought, "Hey, I'm going to do a good deed, but I think it'd be funny to make it so nobody knows about it for a long time. I'll put the key back in the car, but I think I'll be tricky and HIDE IT. Mwa-hahahahaha."

At this point, your guess is as good as mine. As for me, I give up. Welcome home, key. I missed you. And welcome back, internet. I missed you, too.