Friday, March 31, 2006

A musical interlude ....

So one of the things we've been doing over the past year at WXDU is dusting off some of the old vinyl in the stacks, giving it a fresh new review (and marking any FCC-problematic shit) and sticking it into "Classic Vinyl Rotation" in the MCR. Today one of my fellow djs posted a new review of a more-than-20-year-old album that's still sweet candy to my ears: Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. About a year ago I realized that album needed to reside in iTunes on my work computer so I could listen to it often (Nowadays it's sold together with their ep Explosions in the Glass Palace, which I also love). Rain Parade and other "Paisley Underground" bands of the early '80s helped my friends and I pretend we were some kind of neo-hippies--discovering substances they warn you about in high school health class, crashing on each other's floors and couches and dressing like street urchins. So of course as soon as the review came out over our e-mail list I though "Wow, Rain Parade would be the perfect thing to listen to right now!" And damn if it ain't. If this were an mp3 blog I'd post a track to tantalize any of you who may have never discovered the band ... but you're just going to have to trust me.

Meanwhile, would people please understand that "Innocent until proven guilty" is a legal term that refers to the burden of proof being on the prosecution and not the defendant in the US "justice" system? It does NOT mean that the average Joe or Jane is prohibited from forming their own opinion about someone based on whatever evidence they happen to have at hand (of course, expressing that opinion may in some cases be libelous, but that's another legal issue altogether...) I had a rant brewing about this but the Rain Parade I am currently listening to has made me too mellow to go into it right now ... maybe later after I go back to listening to The Gun Club ...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What's with the bacon today?

Have you ever had a word or a theme reoccur in reading or conversation several times over the course of say, one single morning? Even though you know it's just coincidence, you can't help but harbor a teeny bit of wonder over whether it's really the universe trying to tell you something ...

Today's theme is bacon-paired-with-sweetness. It all started when someone at work mentioned hearing about someone who made hamburgers with Krispy Kreme doughnuts as buns. I opined that it sounded rather disgusting, but that a Krispy kreme sandwich that incorporated bacon would be delicious ... then I started regretting the whole vegetarian thing because I was dying to try a Krispy-Kreme-and-bacon sandwich. Seriously, I think it would be fantastic.

Then I mosey on over to Mondo Mundo, where Georg has posted a link to a recipe for pig candy, which is bacon with a brown-sugar-and-cayenne glaze. Wowee. Then I went to Consumerist and read a reference to a bacon-and-peanut-butter sandwich.

Is the universe trying to get me to eat bacon?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's official, everyone hates me

According to a University of Minnesota study, atheists are the least trusted minority in the US and the the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Fortunately, it turns out that it's mostly only the stupid people who think this: "The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts."

I will continue pretending to pray along whenever they open a meeting or other work function with a prayer ...

This time it's South Dakota

I went to the dentist yesterday. Even with Ativan I hate that shit. But qawwali makes pretty good dentist music--put it on your playlist next time someone has to to unspeakable things to your choppers.

And this just in: another f**cking rant. Today it's Fuck South Dakota.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Home again, home again, diggity dig

I'm both relieved and sad to be back home. Relieved because we made out flight and don't have to pay the bastards (American Airlines) $1,500 apiece just to complete our journey ... relieved because the animals were all happy and healthy and overjoyed to see us ... sad because vacation is over and I'm not in Ecuador anymore. I love Ecuador. Sure, every now and then one can get stuck somewhere because of political protests, landslides or washed-out roads, but it ends up being worth it. The United States seems so boring in comparison ... everything here looks so cookie-cutter correct and orderly--although we do have a lot less garbage lying around, which is a good thing. I should concentrate on appreciating it here instead of thinking about where I can escape to next ... meanwhile so many of the Ecuadorans I talked to would like nothing better than to escape their country and get to mine.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Smell ya later, Latacunga!

Hooray! The indigenous movement lifted their blockade in Cotopaxi province today at 11:30 So we hopped a bus to Quito later in the afternoon. I actually started thinking I was going to miss Latacunga a little bit as we were pulling out of town ... but it passed. Actually, I will miss a little bit the safety there compared to Quito. In Quito, you can't really walk around at night because the risk of robbery is too high. In Latacunga, you can walk around very safely, but that's about all you can do because there is nothing else to do. Mr. Pants and I thought maybe we were setting our standards too high when we deemed Latacunga a very boring place, but after a few conversations with others--locals and gringos alike--our impressions have been confirmed. When there are no demonstrations, the only thing Latacunga has to offer is easy access to the beautiful surrounding countryside (and Volcano Cotopaxi). Trips which we couldn't take, of course, because of the transport stoppage ...

We are triple happy to be back in Quito because Mark had called American Airlines (Henceforth referred to as "The Bastards") to see what arrangements we would have to make if we couldn't make it back for our flight. The Bastards said the fee for changing our tickets, which were obtained throught frequent flier miles, would be $1,500 each--almost 3 times what a round-trip ticket costs in the first place. Did I mention that I think American Airlines are bastards? The only exception would be if the US State Department declared an evacuations of all US citizens, in which case The Bastards would fly everyone out on whatever ticket they had when the reached el aeropuerto.

So anyways, now that the excitement of being trapped in a boring town is over, I don't guess I have much to write about ...

"Mañana" means "sooner or later" ...

We are down to our last "mañana"--if we don't get to Quito tomorrow we will miss our flight home. I don't guess that's such a horrible tragedy because it's not as if we're in any danger or anything (this could change, here's the latest CNN coverage), but the uncertainty is making me anxious, which is making it hard to enjoy the few small pleasures the town of Latacunga offers.

The good news is that the transport blockade was lifted yesterday in the province of Tungurahua, which is south of here, and everyone is expecting and official end today in Cotopaxi province, which is where we are. We strolled down to the bus station this morning, as we do every morning, and while it's still completely devoid of buses, there is a lot of traffic alon the Panamerican highway, which indicates that the blockade has become symbolic at this point. It's likely that the many of the people who were enforcing the blockade have returned to tending their crops and livestock or gettint their perishable goods to market. So we could probably, for about $20 each (compared to about $2 each for a bus) get in the back of a camioneta (pick-up truck) and get to Quito. But since we are in complete agreement with the protestors, we don't want to cross their political picket line no matter how porous it may be at this point, and we're still not sure how safe we would be as gringos. We've nixed the idea of walking it just because of the safety issue--lots of Ecuadorans are making the hike up and down the panamericano, but tourists laden with luggage represent a potentially lucrative target for robbers. (Although lots of people assume Mr. Pants must be from the province of Esmeraldas until he opens his mouth and no Spanish comes out.)

I don't even know if we'll have a protest today to break up the monotony ...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I need some ruby slippers ...

I usually feel like my vacations are too short. This one may never end. Transport in the central highlands of Ecuador is still paralyzed, and it seems like the protests are spreading to other sectors besides the indigenous people.

We're getting into a routine: get up, eat breakfast, walk down to the abandoned bus station just to see if there are any buses, go watch the demonstration/march, then walk around or go to the internet cafe. Lunch at the yummy vegetarian place is the highlight of the day, but dinner is problematic because the only two vegetarian options seem to be pizza, of which we're getting tired, and Chinese food (or¨"Chifa" as they call it here), which we don't really like all that much. The other daily highlight is our visit to the ice cream parlor. If it weren't for all the aimless walking around we do we'd both be packing on the pounds at this point. At any rate, we figure that we should start looking for work tomorrow, and maybe we'll paint our hotel room a more cheerful color seeing as how we seem to be here for the long haul ...

People here keep asking me how I like Latacunga. I lie or dance around the question. I mean it's a nice enough town, but when one had one's heart set of four days of hiking through the páramo and instead one finds onself in a diesel-choked little city where the many trash cans and public bathrooms seem to go completely unused, one feels a bit disappointed. I really, really, really want to go home now. I'm ready to walk to Quito ... it's only 50 miles.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Even more saludos from Latacunga, Ecuador ...

The good news is that Latacunga becomes slightly more interesting on Monday morning than it was on Sunday. The bad news is that it's not exciting enough to be the place one wants to get stuck when the indigenous movement decides to paralyze transportation in the province to protest a free-trade agreement with the U.S. We can't even take an excursion to see the local volcano (Cotopaxi) because the roads out of town are blocked. Mr Pants and I were discussing the possibility of walking to Quito to make our flight on Saturday, because the indigenous movement is hoping this will snowball into a nationwide uprising. I'm in full agreement with their position, by the way, but I would like to make my flight home nonetheless.

Fortunately we found a kick-ass vegetarian restaurant (which, like most veggie restaurants in this country offers a meat option!) Unfortunately, it's only open for lunch. We also got a nice view of the volcano this morning ... from the taxi while we were looking for a way out of town. It was clouded over by the time we got back to our hotel and went up on the roof for some photos. Hey, maybe we'll have another view tomorrow morning ...

We did get to see a big demonstration, complete with piles of burning tires in the street (something that is never tolerated by the cops at demos in the US). I think during the remainder of our stay we're going to be telling people we're Canadian, just in case. Yup, the story is that we live in Bear River, N.S., and we have a little B&B there ...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

¡Saludos desde Latacunga, Ecuador!

I didn't really intend to blog during my trip because, well, I didn´t just fly thousands of miles to sit in front of a computer. But it's raining and we are in a town that, on Sundays at least, is so dead we had to go to the cemetery to have some fun. It's a seriously cool cemetery, though. They do cemeteries right in most Latin American countries, unlike in the US (With the exception of New Orleans). At any rate, we considered ourselves lucky to find an internet cafe that was open--not an easy feat.

Anywho, so maybe I should tell you something about our trip ... There´s too much to tell. My favorite part was the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve. We had gone there just for a day last year, and I loved it, so we went back and spent two nights. I could have easily spent two nights more, but we're on a bit of a budget. One fun thing was that we had the same driver who took us up there last year (transportation is included in the price), so I had several hours of Spanish practice. We shared the ride with a couple from Pennsylvania who were avid geocachers, and they wanted to stop at the Puluahua Crater on the way up to try to find a cache that was supposed to be there. It was a fun hunt, even though we never found the cache. Even Jorge, the driver, got in on the hunt and was very disappointed when we decided to admit defeat and quit (there had been a fire on the hillside and we suspected that the cache had burned). The not fun part of the trip was that a landslide, which is almost a daily occurrence during the rainy season, had blocked the road. So the driver said he'd take our luggage around the long, difficult back route while we walked the rest of the way to the lodge, which he thought would take us half an hour. He was using Ecadorean time, which means you should at least triple it to get an accurate idea of how long something will take. While at Bellavista we met a wonderfully fun woman from South Africa (via London) and she joined us for wacky hijinks and making fun of the serious birdwatchers.

After the cloud forest we went back to Quito, stayed the night and then took a bus to the town of Baños, where we spent three days. The highlight was a 5-hour hike on a trail through the mountains above the city. We never saw their volcano, Tungurahua, because it was obscured by clouds.

So here we are in Latacunga ... we only came here today because we want to go on to Chugchilán, a tiny town that takes 4 hours to get to from here (mostly because the roads are so bad--on the map it's quite close) and we didn't want to have to do the whole stretch in one day. The highlight of the day was when we glimpsed the Volcano Cotopaxi--usually it is clouded over this time of year. But because it's Sunday, there is no place to eat that's open, except for a few places where on can get some guinea pig or tongue soup. I think the main reason I became a vegetarian was so I could say "Oh, no tongue soup for me, thank you, I'm a vegetarian." Fortunately, there is lots of vegetarian food to be had at our hostel in Chugchilán. I think tonight we'll find a little grocery and buy some bread or something for dinner and watch TV all evening.

Apparently the trip to Chugchilán is exciting, whith the bus getting stuck a lot and the passengers all piling out to watch the efforts to unstick it. I can´t wait--it will be sooo much more exciting that Latacunga! There will be photos--more than you can imagine--of the whole trip on Flickr in a week. Or so.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I'm gonna need a vacation from my vacation ...

Going on vacation is a lot of work. Because we are going to have a pet sitter living in our house while we are gone, I need to have the place all spic & span before we go. Spic & span is not the normal state of our house. Some of that is the animals' fault ... they're always leaving their socks about and piling dishes on the counters. Plus they own too much crap--my little dog is never going to do all the arts & crafts she has supplies for. I need to go through and get rid of three quarters of the stuff in our house, but I don't have the time. I'm going on vacation, don'cha know.

I may check in while I'm gone from some internet cafe deep in the wilds of Quito. I may not ... depends on how I feel. I may come home, I may not ...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We don't care. We don't have to care ...

Yikes: I'm flying American Airlines on Saturday. (Can you tell I'm in pre-vacation "think-about-everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong" mode?)

Another thing I'm going to do is be on the radio. Tonight. 8-10 pm Eastern US. 88.7 FM if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not. It will be my first regular show in 6 weeks. I won't be back on-air again until March 29, because of the aforementioned vacation, but be sure to tune in from 8-10 pm March 15, when, Chris, the former Mr. Whig Hill, will be subbing my slot. He's relatively new to WXDU, so be sure to call him up and request "Cherry Van" by the Dirty Little Heaters.

Nature is a language, can't you read?

Arrgh, this morning was so beautiful I almost couldn't stand it. I took a walk for my morning break (we civil servants get breaks, but please don't tell anyone) because it would have been a crime to stay indoors. I played the Smiths on my iPod because the day reminded me of the kind of day way back when I might have been listening to the Smiths on a crappy old cassette Walkman. I was almost floating through the breathtakingly blue sky. "Ask me, ask me, ask me," I might have sung out loud joyously if I weren't so self-conscious, while I watched a little bird flying by. Suddenly, a gust of wind came by and WHAM! Little birdie hit the shiny granite side of the NC Department of Revenue and flopped to the pavement. I held out hope that he was just stunned and would get up and fly away as soon as he regained consciousness, but when I went over to investigate I saw that his little neckie was twisted in a way not unlike Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. I walked back to work with my feet on the ground.