Archive for August, 2009

Parque Central, Antigua

A view from our roof.

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Unknown ruin, Guatemala

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More Antigua

The city from afar.

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Santa Domingo, Antigua

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Tikal, Guatemala

A pizote.

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Archway in Antigua

While the food in Guatemala didn’t always settle well with us, we found we could eat the desserts without getting sick. Maybe it’s the sugar. We ate a lot of desserts. Lovely cakes and pastries.

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Vulcan Pacaya

No doubt this wasn’t a safe day trip from Antigua, but I got great photos.

Those are people above.

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La Merced Cathedral

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Antigua Guatemala

There are a lot of hanging flowers around the houses in Antigua, the old capital of the country. The capital was moved to Guatemala city because of the rather chronic earthquakes. You’ll see many ruins over the next few days.

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Mayan folkwear

The clothes that the Maya wear are outstanding. Very bright and colorful. It’s pretty sturdy too. All of the cloth is made locally. The Maya are craftsmen and their crafts also involve making anything out of the wonderful cloth they make. Sometimes clothes. Sometimes pot holders. You name it.

I noticed a handy man at the hotel. He did gardening. He served us food. And then one time I saw him building the gorgeous furniture that was in every room of the hotel. I wish I was just a franction as self-sufficient.

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On this particular day, Jake was suffering from some food poisoning. We were very careful but the food really did not sit well with us. I decided to go for a long walk between the villages and I got lost in the jungle. It was very scary. I came upon people occasionally, usually men with machetes. You wouldn’t want to walk in this jungle without them because there’s so much foliage. I can’t speak Spanish and many of the people spoke Mayan anyway. So no one could help me find my way.

Eventually I came upon a British expat who helped point me the right way.

In the jungle, you see many people working. I saw some guys halling firewood on their backs. I can’t imagine how far their walk was going to be that way. I saw women taking care of some corn fields that had been planted right in the jungle.

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Lake Atitlan

Staying on the lake provided some beautiful scenery. The water was crystal clear and very cold.

1. Our hotel. I don’t think I took this picture but it somehow made it into my collection.

2. This picture is definitely mine.

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I’ll be cycling the Loire River Valley in France for the next two weeks. I need to keep things light, so I won’t be taking my laptop — which means no blogging. Instead, I’ve scheduled two weeks of photos from a vacation I had in 2003 in Guatemala. I hope you enjoy them.

1. Here’s a map of Guatemala. I can tell this map isn’t made for Guatemalans as this map doesn’t include Belize. All maps within Guatemala do include Belize and if you’re curious as to why you can click here.

2. On our first week, we went to Lake Atitlan. More on this extraordinary lake here.

3. And my photo here. That wide angle lens came in handy.

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Some lefties (BTW, I’m a proud lefty) are boycotting Whole Foods because of the politics of the CEO. I have long felt that John Mackey is certainly a bit nutty. You need just check out this article from 2007 here. But is that enough reason to boycott the store?

I don’t shop at Whole Foods because quite frankly I think they have substandard overpriced products. I think where they excel is produce, but just about everything else you buy in the store isn’t any better considering the ridiculous price. I bought charcoal there that was terrible. And graham crackers that were so bad I threw away the box. Sure the fruit is good, but does that mean I want to spend $3 on an orange?

Probably the main reason I don’t shop there is that I live in a city with fabulous alternatives. I’ll take the Town & Country markets any day over Whole Foods. It’s local and great. The produce is fabulous and they stock everything I need including Asian products. I especially like the bulk foods section and even the bulk seafood section.

A couple years ago, Hsiao Ching Cho wrote this at the PI:

Last week in my column, I shared my experience of discovering the apple pie I had bought from Whole Foods was moldy. I suspected I would hear from the company — and I did. But, imagine my surprise to hear from a reader in Oakland, Calif., and one in Bellevue who also had purchased moldy pies from their local Whole Foods locations.

This meant that my bad-pie experience was not exclusive to the Roosevelt store and it was potentially systemwide. I forwarded the reader e-mails to Jolyn Warford Bibb, who is the regional marketing coordinator at Whole Foods in Emeryville, Calif. Her return e-mail stated: “Thanks for the feedback. … I hate to read it, but at the same time it is good for us to see. We are committed to correcting this terrible problem.”

The week after her column appeared, several readers wrote in to say they too had been disappointed by Whole Foods’ substandard food.

So I don’t need to boycott Whole Foods because I don’t shop there anyway, but I am a reasonably political person and I do like to patronize places that have the same core values that I have. Sometimes that’s not possible, but if it is I’m happy to support places that share my beliefs.

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RIP Les Paul

I’ve been taking guitar lessons since January and I’ll be honest: I’m not very good. But I have to admit it’s a lot of fun. I never really had a musical background save taking clarinet lessons for one year as a child, so I don’t know that much about music.

My guitar teacher last night could not stop talking about how significant and monumental a figure Les Paul was. The way he talked, the world would be a completely different place if Les Paul never was. I took a look at this New York Times article, and sure enough this man was a total genius. It’s a good read.

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If you haven’t seen Office Killer, you should. Carol Kane plays a doormat secretary who accidentally starts enacting revenge on those who have treated her badly. The photography is extraordinary as you would expect from Cindy Sherman. I also love it when my favorite character actors get to play the lead — in this case it’s Carol Kane and she rules. I should warn you that the genre is extreme black comedy. The humor is dark and disturbing.

I’m not sure what this clip below is. It’s not from the film, but it kind of looks like the film. Some sort of art is going on.

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Remember the Maine

Remember how two newspapers spurred the country to war by reporting wild speculation just so they could sell some papers. I wish I could say we have progressed as a nation since then.

The explosion of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, ensured that the U.S. would not be content to watch the Cuban spectacle from the bleacher seats any more. Two hundred and sixty crew members died in the blast, and a Navy board of inquiry examined the cause of the explosion. Many New York newspapers, including the Times, Tribune, Herald and Evening Post, counseled patience and peace for the time being. However, both the World and the Journal jumped on the jingo bandwagon, concurrently publishing a “suppressed cable” that said the explosion was not an accident. 26 The cable was later discovered to have been manufactured. 27

The effect of the rabble rousing by the two largest newspapers in New York cannot be underestimated. The World claimed to have sold five million copies the week after the Maine disaster. 28 The public clamor for President McKinley to declare war was enormous as a result of the tainted reports in the papers. And though the Spanish-American War proved “splendid” from a military standpoint, it did not hold up to contemporary moral scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the World would be linked forever in history with Hearst’s Journal under the banner of “yellow journalism” for the role it played in exacerbating the conflict. However, the conscious disregard for the facts was an aberration for Pulitzer, and his later correspondence revealed that the episode haunted him for the rest of his life. (See appendix for Hearst photo and example of sensational World front page.)

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Here’s an interesting column about Mad Men where the writer talks about how she romanticizes the job of secretary in the 60’s after watching the show.

It’s twisted, but watching the heckled, thwarted women of Mad Men made me want to be a better assistant, and not (only) because I wanted to dress like them. I wanted to be them. On the surface at least—and surface was powerful in those days—these women (even the secretaries) are femme fatales.

Personally, I know a lot of great administrative assistants who are smart and extremely competent at their job, but for me I could never do it.

I actually started my career out as an assistant and it just didn’t work. I’m too opinionated for one, and very rebellious. Oddly enough, the better I performed in that job the more I was resented by my boss. He didn’t want me to be any better at anything than I needed to be. And he wanted to nitpick about things that didn’t matter. My wardrobe was often criticized. How Mad Men is that? Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a flashy dresser. The criticisms were a lack of nylons and I was told once that I dressed like a postman. Looking back the fact that all of the executives were men should have tipped me off but I guess I didn’t have Mad Men, this was the year 2000, to know what I was getting into.

Just one of the final straws was when I designed a database application that saved collectively 10 hours of time per week from other employees. The male executives took my design and passed it off as their own. I was sitting there in the meeting watching them do it and I couldn’t believe it.

After quitting because I couldn’t take it anymore, I turned down other administrative jobs to take a lowly data entry position. I felt that I wanted to work on something which I owned. Something that wasn’t boosting someone else but actually belonged to me. 9 7 years later I’m a database specialist and programmer. My strategy worked.

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I love the Russians

Such a passionate people. It’s like reading Dostoevsky.

The Louvre Museum says a Russian visitor hurled an empty terra cotta mug at the Mona Lisa.

A museum spokesman says the canvas of the Da Vinci masterpiece was undamaged in the attack last week, though the mug shattered.

He said Tuesday small cracks appeared in the glass protecting the museum’s most popular possession, but they will soon be fixed.

The painting’s security alarms went off immediately and police whisked the woman away, while viewing of the painting continued as usual. The spokesman is not authorized to be named according to museum policy.

Paris police said the woman was taken to a psychiatric ward after the incident, but wouldn’t say any more about who she is or why she targeted the painting.

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I like the way Eli Sanders phrased this story:

Meet Kenneth Gladney, 38, of St. Louis. He recently disrupted a town hall meeting to complain about health care reform, got in a fight with some union members, and, in the process, got hurt. Now Mr. Gladney is looking for donations to cover the cost of treating his injuries.


Because he has no health insurance.

The whole story is here.

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This is one of those studies that pisses me off. It says that the more you exercise the more you eat and so it is impossible to actually lose weight. For that reason, don’t exercise or go to the gym.

I’ve noticed this sense of hopelessness a lot in politics as well. If any one part of a reform doesn’t make the world a perfect place, you toss out the reform in whole. Let’s not reform healthcare, let’s not reduce our carbon footprint because if we can’t create a perfect solution then there is no point in trying.

The truth is that for most of our decisions in life we mentally create a pros and cons list. If the pros outweigh the cons then we go with the decision which gives the overall good.

I see myself in this study about exercise. I am fairly physically active with an average of one and a half hours a day of exercise and yet I wouldn’t call myself “thin.” Yet I get so much out of exercise. I’m passionate about food and I can enjoy my passion without having to worry about gaining a great deal of weight. And I have lost weight due to physically activity. Will I ever be thin? Perhaps not but the quality of my life is vastly improved.

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Here I am once again in Ashland Oregon for my yearly pilgramige to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Luckily the weather has been quite mild. Usually it’s 90 degrees plus which is a bit too much for my Seattle sensibilities — granted we Seattleites know all about 90 degree plus weather since last week.

This year OSF made the rather uncouth decision to produce a musical — something they never do. I suppose they figure there are plenty of places to see musical theatre and this isn’t one of them. Until now. This gave me the opportunity to see The Music Man for the first time. I’m not sure how it escaped me before, but I really enjoyed it.

As you may know, it’s about a travelling salesman who sells instruments and uniforms to unsuspecting townspeople so that they can start a band. He tells them he will form the band and teach all the kids how to play, only he doesn’t know anything about playing music on instruments. What was appealing about this musical is that he’s such a scoundrel and yet one that you can’t help but like. I liked also how music transforms the town into a happier place.

This first section on the train was absolutely brilliant. Much better on stage than on film.

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Just had an endoscopy

No posting earlier today because I went to the hospital to have an endoscopy on my esophagus and stomach. I’ve had mild yet chronic acid reflux for years. Part of me felt that perhaps this procedure wasn’t necessary. I’ve been reading a lot about how in America, many doctors draw a lot of revenue from expensive tests that may or may not be necessary. I don’t think all doctors are this way, but it has been a part of the health care reform discussion that it is important that we not only change how insurance works, but that we change the fundamental way American hospitals operate. Currently we financially hospitals for conducting expensive tests rather than financially reward them for overall healthy patients. More info about that here.

It’s been years since I’ve had general anaesthesia and I have to say it’s much better than it was the last time. I slept all day and who knows if I’ll even remember this post tomorrow.

The outcome of the test was good. I need not worry about taking expensive medications; I can continue with my favorite occasional cure: Pepto Bismol. I’d be lost without it.

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