Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Maternity Ward and Placenta Pit"

My friend Jim just got back from running a photography workshop for kids in a refugee camp in western Uganda. He sent me an email with the following photo attached and "This is Uganda" in the subject line. Cruelly, he hasn't given me any juicy stories (or afterbirths) to chew on.

Jim gave me these scant details on the above sign:
"It's a concrete airtight box for disposing of placentas, but I'm having a hard time finding out why it's necessary. I think it's HIV-related but I don't know why. The sign was on the side of the road and there was no one to ask while I was there. I'll find out. - Jim"
Holy shit. Placenta Pits? What the fuck. Is this how bad Africa has gotten? Or is this a sign that it's getting better? I don't know. If anyone can shed some light, please do.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Found my new hobby: raising 2,000 shrimp in 55 gallon drums.

My friend Chris became obsessed with marine biology when he was a little kid. By his early teens, he had a sizeable collection of dead fish in plastic pretzel containers filled with formaldehyde stacked in his parents' garage next to rusty bikes and old weight lifting equipment. Imagine making eye contact with a channel catfish suspended vertically in a murky white solution, eyes bulging, whiskers askew.

Chris's obsession eventually landed him a job working on a shrimp farm in Gila Bend, Arizona. Summer temperatures that regularly hit 110 degrees may not appeal to you, but Chris was in his element, living in a jacked-up trailer beside hectare-sized shrimp ponds and plowing foot-deep muck with a backhoe between harvests.

Now Chris lives in the DC area and is itching to get back in the shit, and who better to help him than me.

It takes a full day of physical labor and multiple truck trips to transport thirty-three 55 gallon drums across Maryland, but since we're on a budget, that kind of work is the only option.

And it's surprisingly easy to get a permit. The Maryland DNR guy casually chatted by phone about obtaining import and project licenses and there are no fees for any of it.

We're looking at renting a basement to begin rearing 2,000 Michigan-bought Pacific White Shrimp larvae (shrimp are essentially insects) for next spring. It should take four months to have fully grown adults and then we're gonna have a barbeque like you never saw.

If you like shrimp, and you're not busy next August, I'll help you fill your damn belly.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Kramer Raps!

This will be hitting everyone's email inbox in a few days, but I thought I'd try and be early to the game.

"KKKramer rap" - if at work, turn the volume LOW.

The funniest part is that it's actually a well-put-together rap. The rhythm is flawless and the beats are sweet.

Man, he's never going to live this down.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In The Saltine Challenge, dog is superior to woman.

Some friends and I recently tested that time-honored eating tradition known as the Saltine Challenge in which participants attempt to swallow six Saltine crackers in 60 seconds. But in our competition, we wanted to see if a dog was faster than a human.

Our representative from the human race was my friend Sam, who couldn't even choke down two crackers in ten seconds:

Then, champion eating machine Oliver Parker stepped up to the plate (literally). My memory card ran out before he finished, but you can clearly see that a dog's instinct to gorge food makes the Saltine Challenge a walk in the park. He got them down in less than 40 seconds:

I've never met anyone who could consume six Saltines in 60 seconds ... anyone who wasn't a dog. Maybe the animal world has something to teach us.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I just got chased by a vicious turkey.

Today I learned that turkeys are sons of bitches.

I had to run some errands in the country near Annapolis and while driving I spotted a big-ass turkey standing on someone's front lawn. I stopped to check it out.

When I got out of the car, it seemed docile, so I snapped a few pictures. In turkey religion, this must steal their souls because at that point it flared out its tail feathers and charged me like a pissed off miniature grizzly bear. That sucker looked like he meant business, so I ran back to the car, narrowly missing a wound to my butt cheek. For the next few minutes, I watched him circle my vehicle like a shark. He began craning his neck like, "Bitch, I am for real. Do not fuck with me."

And the sound they make is definitely not a "gobble gobble"; it's more like a high-pitched death chirp.

Anyway, for the next few minutes he circled my car until I hit the gas, and then, that turkey CHASED MY CAR. I am not kidding. I managed to snap a three second video for posterity. If I hadn't been running for my life, I might have been able to get more video. Notice the turkey in full trot on the right of the screen:

Now I feel even better about eating these beasts for Thanksgiving. They are not nice animals.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm itchin' for a new hobby.

Winter's coming and that means being cooped inside till my first sail next March.

Meanwhile, I've got to come up with a new hobby to keep from going insane.

I've got a few ideas:

Learn to fly. Top Gun did nothing for me, and I've never been interested in learning to pilot an aircraft my entire life, but wouldn't it be cool? I'd get to know all sorts of ports and learn an invaluable skill. And the danger factor would keep life worth living, I suppose.

Learn to cook like a Frenchy. If you don't count knowledge of wine, French cuisine is simple, right? I threw some shit together based on a simple recipe two nights ago, and it tasted incredible. What've I been missing? Damn.

Learn Indonesian. When I lived in a group house (shudder) I once interviewed a potential polyglot roommate who claimed Indonesian was "baby talk" that anyone could learn in a few months.

Gym/Lose my gut. This would be the most unimaginative activity, but my wife would probably f*** me more often. Cheers to that.

Fuck hobbies, let's travel. Emily and John, who visited Argentina with me last November, have just moved into their new apartment in Buenos Aires and have extended an invite my way. In case you haven't read the New York Times Travel section in the past four years, Buenos Aires is now like Paris in the 1930s, so we better get it before the masses find out.

(BTW: That picture has nothing to do with this post. It's a picture of me in our rental car in Buenos Aires in November '05.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

This is a long time in coming, but thank CHRIST I'm not vegetarian any more.

I experimented with self-imposed starvation vegetarianism years ago when I was wooing a demure black-rain-cloud girl whose one passion in life was animal rights. Her allure was enough for me to put aside my love of meat for a moment and my vegetable affliction continued for years after the relationship soured. I kept it up to prove to my friends that I hadn't become a veg "just for a girl."

But I'm glad I went through that. I learned these things from my stint eating like a rabbit for a three years in the late 1990s:

1 - Jokes made by meat eaters toward vegetarians are universally annoying and cliché. End of story. We've all heard the fucking "People for Eating Tasty Animals" joke twenty hundred times. It was funny exactly once ... in 1985. Now, I have no qualms about eating anything that walks on two or more legs, but those jokes still irk me; it's like hearing someone make a "not joke" (see Borat movie). Have a sense of tact around vegetarians and be the fuck quiet.

2 - Vegetarianism means hunger. There's a reason why most of my ESL students and anyone from the Third World was shocked at my non-meat-eating habits. If you make more than $6.00 per hour, why would you choose not to eat meat?---in essence, deciding that you want to go hungry. When you're veggie you never feel full, no matter how hard you try.

3 - Human biology is not built to fully digest vegetables. Most intelligent people don't know that---and vegetarian propaganda has something to do with it---but humans are able to digest almost 100% of meat; on the other hand, the body cannot break down most of what's in vegetables---hence, the reason vegetarians always feel hungry.

And now my favorite meats are bacon and steak. Vegetarianism is a phase that most progressive-thinking people go through in their twenties and it's an important part of our development. It's also important to give it up. Those who don't, end up missing out on the simple pleasures of life, and subject to lifelong narrow-mindedness.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Shotguns, Yachts, Absinthe, Crabs, an Elephantitis Scrotum, and a Bathroom with an Open Transom: the Art of the Mancation

For some reason, I'm a regular recipient of mancation invitations and it's near impossible for me to turn one down.

This weekend's trip started off with Punkin' Chunkin', the most rednecked-out event I've attended. The fire power featured air cannons twice the length of telephone poles that hurt your ears from a quarter mile when launched, and medieval catapults made from Home Depot and farm supplies pulled behind Ford pickups. The side shows were a rag-tag collection of budget carnival rides, sparkplug sculptures next to rebel flags, a mechanical bull and two---count 'em---TWO tents giving away promotional tins of chewing tobacco. There was no typical separation between the carnies and the customers; at Punkin' Chunkin', everyone's an honorary carnie. I wore my grandad's WWII military jacket and an ironic "I Love Jesus" cap to fit in. When I received a compliment on my headwear, I responded with a quick "thank you", not realizing that the woman wasn't commenting on my sense of irony. I felt accepted. We unfolded our K-Mart-bought chairs and sat in the middle of a freezing cornfield drinking beer and bourbon while watching big orange vegetables fly across the sky at distances up to 3,200 feet.

Our next stop was Chestertown, Maryland for the tall ships festival. Our hotel room had a bathroom door with an open transom above it, meaning that every sound made echoed throughout the room. The mancation hit a little too close when I could hear my pal's poo splashing onto toilet water with clarity. And no, I did not share a bed with a man, but I can't speak for the rest of my crew ... Jim? Dan?

The next day, we sailed on the 74 foot schooner used in the movie The Wedding Crashers. Ok, technically they used its identical sister boat, but when I was holding the wheel I pictured myself as Christopher Walken.

Hours later, I was aiming a 12 gauge at flying Devo hats. I swear, there's not one person who could remain anti-gun after an hour of skeet shooting.

After gorging on crabs, we snuck into a sold-out showing of Borat's new movie, thanks to an elderly, flustered ticket taker. There's not much better than watching a rollickingly crass movie, for free, while sipping a pint of Jim Beam.

The next day I was gawking at freaks of nature at the human oddities museum at Walter Reed. The deformed fetal babies and stomach-shaped hairball from the hair-eating girl's stomach weren't so bad, but seeing a human leg and 16-inch scrotum infected with elephantitis didn't sit well with the crabs.

If considering taking a mancation, I recommend finishing it off by sipping Dutch absinthe while touring the world on Google Earth projected onto the wall. There's nothing like drinking green herbal liqueur that's 65% alcohol while musing at the geographical differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, then seconds later switching to an air tour of my home town.

How was your weekend?

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