I’m taking a much-needed vacation for a few days.
That’s pretty much all I have to say about that, but here’s a useful reminder that it’s not cool to jump out and scare people:
Friday, the second full day of our NYC adventure, began with the sort of intense muscle soreness that only those who live in commuter cities and don’t exercise enough can truly understand. For my part, I understand if your cup doth not run over for our plight. Stiff legs aside, we set off for Brooklyn via the bridge of the same name.
After marveling at a truly impressive feat of 19th-century engineering (seriously—they used glorified diving bells to put the supports in place under the East River, which is really hardcore), we descended into the subway system again.
After the previous day’s subway (mis)adventure, I figured I had this whole public transportation thing down. I was wrong. For reasons I still don’t understand, it was announced that our train would be skipping our intended station, which led to a sort of circling around the stop we wanted. I hope one day it will seem funny.
Picking up where we left off yesterday, let’s talk a bit about the New York City subway system. See, you might think that you are pretty adept at navigating a city’s rail system, based on the fact that you had no problem with the metro systems of Washington, D.C. and multiple European cities*, not to mention the bus systems of Washington, D.C. and Reykjavik. You might think that, but you still might not be prepared for the rainbow-hued, alphabet-soup, spaghetti-like clusterf*ck that is the New York City subway. See, from the map, it looked easy: hop on at the nearest station in Queens, about five blocks away, take the only line running out of that station (the purple one) to Grand Central, then take the green line going towards Brooklyn for 2 or 3 stops (I forget at the moment), and presto! You’re two blocks from your new hotel!
I didn’t account for two words, because I had no idea they were an issue: “local” versus “express.” We did eventually get to the hotel, and were able to reflect on how this was, on the scale of vacation f***ups, pretty close to the bottom.
From here, we began the walking. Oh, how we walked. I kept expecting my exercise tracker to ask who I was and why I stole an exercise tracker from a guy who takes an average of 3,000 steps a day. Continue reading
I’m a life-long Texan who has never lived in a city with fewer than 1 million or more than 4 million people. My wife is a Midwestern girl from a small college town. We are off on an epic adventure to New York City, where the same number of people that live in Austin probably live in one city block.
So far, all we’ve managed to do is take a cab from La Guardia to a nearby hotel, eat some extremely Hunan-style food, and sleep. This morning, I wandered around until I found a place that sells decent-looking breakfast (it didn’t take long), noticed that the lounge on the top floor of the our hotel remains accessible even when no one is on duty there, and gotten kicked out of the lounge on the top floor of our hotel.
Today, we venture into “the City”—for my fellow country mice, that means Manhattan—for more adventures. All of this will culminate in (I shit you not) the ICCA Finals, as seen in the movie Pitch Perfect. That’s on Saturday.
Soon I will be vacationing in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It is located in the panhandle of Idaho, which is just about the only thing I know about the place. Well, Dennis Franz apparently lives there. I know that.
My wife’s family periodically takes vacations together. Two years ago we all went to Florida. This year we’re going to Idaho.
Florida and Idaho, as you may recall, are the two states for which you should really get your parents’ help if you’re making a costume:
Classic Ralph moment:
“The Simpsons: $pringfield (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) (#5.10)” (1993)
Principal Skinner: And now, a special award for those students who obviously had no help at all from their parents, Lisa Simpson and Ralph Wiggum!
[Lisa is wearing the “Florida” costume that Homer made for her; Ralph has a piece of paper with “Idaho” written on it taped to his chest]
Ralph Wiggum: I’m Idaho!
Principal Skinner: Yes, of course you are.
I have a whole bunch of blog posts queued up for my reader(s) while I’m fluttering about the country, so don’t fret.
Photo credit: Via eyeonspringfield.tumblr.com.
According to the Facebook page True Activist, “every time she goes to a country she gets it colored in.” While I think this is a pretty sweet idea, I have a few critical comments:
– She used the Mercator projection, which she didn’t need to do, considering that her back is a curved surface. The Mercator projection was a clumsy attempt to transfer the not-quite-spherical world map to a flat surface, making the Northern Hemisphere, and the Arctic region and Greenland in particular, seem much, much bigger than they actually are.
– She hasn’t updated her map to show the independence of South Sudan. Either this picture is at least two years old, or she is not attuned to the political upheavals of summer 2011. I can’t really tell, but it looks like she may have acknowledged East Timor. Let’s not even get started on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Transnistria, though. In fact, the Caucasus part of the map only has two countries, when there should be at least three. Continue reading
Mark Manson, an American living abroad, has an amazing post up on his blog entitled “10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America.” In the form of “tough love,” he offers some observations of how we Americans tend to view ourselves versus how the rest of the world views us. Generalizations? Hell yes there are generalizations, but that’s not the point. America is something of an echo chamber, with a majority of people purportedly unable to locate Iraq on a map, and it does us all a world of good to get some damn perspective on the rest of the world–especially since we think we’re running the place.
Read the whole thing. I’ll wait.
Now then, I want to focus on part of #10, “We Mistake Comfort For Happiness,” that defined me far better than I’d like. I have always considered myself well-traveled, having been to something like twenty-one countries. Most of those were either guided tours or study abroad programs. Some were backpacking trips where I saw lots of museums and hostels, but very little real life. I got to visit families in their homes in Belize and Russia, but even then it seemed like we were guests of honor, not experiencing everyday life. I spent a month in Spain for a study abroad program, where I lived in a dorm and spent almost all my time with the other Americans and a handful of Italians. Which brings me to why I felt a written GPOY moment.
The American public is becoming docile and complacent…When we travel, we look for giant hotels that will insulate us and pamper us rather than for legitimate cultural experiences that may challenge our perspectives or help us grow as individuals.
At the end of May 2012, we went to one of those all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, Mexico. It was sort of all-inclusive, anyway. I won the trip in a raffle last year and did not entirely know what I was getting myself into (there was a timeshare presentation component that we worked very hard to avoid). Long story short, though, we barely ever ventured away from the hotel. The same goes for our trip this past month, which, to be fair, was our honeymoon, during which time all we wanted to do was sit on a beach/by a pool and not do anything. After five days in the Turks & Caicos, I can’t really tell you anything about the place except what I learned on the internet.
Of course, going off the beaten path sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of exposing people who aren’t expecting dumbass Americans to dumbass Americans. I can’t speak for how those people actually experience that, but I for one don’t like being a dumbass. I lost count of the number of times I tried valiantly (I think, anyway) to communicate with people I encountered in Germany in actual German. I thought I did well, considering that all the German I ever learned was in one year of college classes that I almost never attended without a hangover. I guess that’s the point of this rant. Not everyone can travel the world, but we can all learn about the rest of the world, and at least make an effort to talk to them in their own language, even if we’re hung over.
Meet the larva of the Megalopyge, a family of moths that sound highly unpleasant.The Wikipedia page explaining this guy is in French, but there are a few English-language pages talking about some of his siblingsand cousins. Note the seemingly luxuriant fur coat.
The moth Megalopyge opercularis has numerous common names, including southern flannel moth, pussy moth,puss caterpillar, tree asp, and, asp caterpillar. It is visually striking in both larval and adult forms. The inch-long larva is generously coated in long, luxuriant hair-like setae, making it resemble a tiny Persian cat, the characteristic that presumably gave it the name “puss.” It is variable in color, from downy grayish-white to golden-brown to dark charcoal gray. It often has a streak of bright orange running longitudinally. The ‘fur’ on early-stage larvae is sometimes extremely curly, giving the larva a cottony, puffed-up look.
Well, that sounds positively dandy! What could be wrong with that?
The ‘fur’ of the larva contains venomous spines that cause extremely painful reactions in human skin upon contact. The reactions are sometimes localized to the affected area but are often very severe, radiating up a limb and causing burning, swelling, nausea, headache, abdominal distress, rashes, blisters, and sometimes chest pain, numbness, or difficulty breathing (Eagleman 2008). Additionally, it is not unusual to find sweating from the welts or hives at the site of the sting. Ironically, the resemblance of the larvae to soft, colorful cotton balls encourages people to pick them up and pet them.
Okay, so there’s that. We have these guys in Texas, except the caterpillars are usually black. Don’t touch them, seriously.
If you’re feeling bold, here’s a video about their life cycle:
Seriously, what are these giant mosquito-looking bugs??? They are everywhere, not just in Austin, but apparently all over Texas. I can’t walk through my front door without a few coming in with me. They have turned my entire backyard into a breeding ground–if insects had their own pornography, my backyard is their Van Nuys.
A Google search for “giant mosquitoes in Austin” turned up nothing. I’m not even sure what to call them, since “giant mosquito-things” gets old after a while. According to Wikipedia, they might be crane flies, part of a very large family of insects that shares a suborder with mosquitoes.
They are also quite fearless. Or just very stupid. As I sit at my desk trying to work, at least one lands on me every 20-30 minutes or so. I assume all the recent rain has brought them out in droves. I also know that they eat mosquito larvae. Or mosquitoes. Or something that we would prefer be eaten. In the winter absence of the bats, I welcome that. Just please, stay out of my house. And stop landing on my nose when I’m trying to go to sleep.