22 June 2004

My Latest Web Addiction

Watching live as the elephants (and lions and pigs and...) come to the watering hole.

Kwa Maritane webcam

You have to sign up for a free screen name. Here's the home page too:

Africam home

At this particular "hide" in South Africa, you can sneak right up to the edge of the water by climbing down the stairs and walking down a long, long tunnel. When you get to the end, you sit on a stool and peek through a narrow opening in the wall.

To the elephant getting a drink outside, you look like just another gopher peering out of his hole in the dirt bank. When the animals come to the near side of the water hole, it is almost possible to touch their feet as they walk past in front of you.

And, once you've had your Wildlife Experience you can stroll back along the tunnel, up the stairs, and back to your gin and tonic (if you're so inclined). That's not roughing it, but it is kinda cool, if you ask me.

One note: last time my South African friends visited there, a spitting cobra crawled in the door behind them while they were sitting watching the water. It is still Africa, after all.

20 June 2004

Props

My friend wrote a nicely random bit about walking in Portland.

Original

I guess I'm not.

Another Zippy.

And here.

11 June 2004

Big Noise

Have you been watching the papers, looking at the news magazine covers at the checkstands, reading cnn.com? If so, there is no possible way you can not have heard about the passing of Ronald Reagan. It's everywhere right now, pictures, stories, photo galleries, they're even suspending US Mail delivery today for it.

Which leads me to mention my surprise at all the hoopla. Which also leads me to mention the fact that I'm sure that any even slightly critical remark about the whole thing is bound to lead to a virtual whack-the-liberal piñata lineup outside my door, which is not really what I'm going for here.

But I'll still say it: Reagan deserves attention for being a powerful and gifted communicator. I think he should be respected for the fact that he was a President who could speak in complete sentences (unlike our current President.) I like the fact that he didn't cheat on his wife or tell bald-faced lies on camera (like the President before.) It is, for the most part, true that he was a good leader for the nation (which is something, although not something extraordinary, in my book.)

But I'm wondering if we're getting a little excessive with all this talk of Reagan dimes and Reagan twenty dollar bills, Reagan TV specials, parading him around the country, holding back the mail. He was quite good. I agree. More important than a Founding Father? I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm a little surprised by the whole situation.

What is true is that he was an actor who knew how to work the camera. And he had a great, crinkly, smiley face. He helped to dig us out of the political pain of the 70s and refreshed us with his optimism. But he also took the country down into huge deficits, sponsored the whole Iran-Contra thing, came up with that whole loopy "Star Wars" plan, ran experiments in Grenada in pre-emptive warfare and called it "fighting communism" when, in fact, communism was on its last leg anyway.

So why are hundreds of thousands of people lining up to see the box that they're keeping him in? This is what surprises me: For the last ten years, no one has seemed to be too concerned about him as he suffered with debilitating disease. Now, if the news shows are any indication, they can't get enough. Where is it all coming from now? Are we in such desperate need of heroes, of someone to remind us of some vaguely better past? Are we really that lost? Or, thinking more cynically, is this all just a big media event, perfect for rounding up the Republican faithful?

I really hope not.

Also, I really hope that this would help the powers-that-be to realize that what we need around here are heroes to be proud of, in the present tense, people that don't embarrass us when we're talking to, say, Egyptians, or South Africans, or Malaysians, as I've had the opportunity to do in the last year. Some present day, real life heroes would be nice.

And, also, I'd like to say this: let's let the old man pass on in peace now. Let's nod our heads and let him go. He's had a rough couple of years and he deserves his rest.

09 June 2004

Good News Today

Jen's Big Exam is over AND we have apparently won the house renting competition. All this good news in one day! Of course, the Big Exam is much bigger news than the renting. 16 hours of High Octane Medical Inquisition -- I am in awe of the whole thing.

Here's how medical school works: first, you study like mad for two years straight, with make-or-break exams every two weeks or so. When you reach the end of your two years, you hide yourself away to study for hours upon hours of the day every day for a month and a half.

At the end of the month and a half, you sit yourself down at 8am some morning and take an 8 hour test, 400 questions. Then you go home, go over the subjects you're a little foggy on, sleep, and get up and do the same thing. 400 more questions, 8 more hours. At the end they call time and you hand in your paper. In 8 weeks they tell you if you can continue on with your life as a doctor-in-training. And that's the first $100,000 of medical school.

Me, I'm quite proud of her and also quite happy that I don't feel any such unquenchable urge to be a doctor.

08 June 2004

The Addiction Pays Off

I think I found the one, the place, home for the next year. I was hoping that when the right one came around, I would recognize it. Of course, it's just a rental but it still feels important. I can't imagine how crazy I'll be when it comes time to buy instead of rent.

Anyway, on Sunday, on a driveby, I got that tickly feeling in my stomach. Yesterday, on a study break, we got the key and poked around a little more. Then we went for a blistering hike up the front side of Mt. Wilson and spent the hour gasping for breath and talking about how we were going to arrange the place.

All of this added to the fact that realtor practically promised us the place when I talked to her yesterday and it seems that the search is coming to an end. Just in time too, I might add. I've gotten way too fast at that online search engine thing and I haven't gotten a thing done at work for about a week. But...uh...let's just keep that part between us, OK?

07 June 2004

A Few More Photos

If you haven't checked in awhile, I've recently posted a few more photos in the South Africa gallery.

06 June 2004

She's Getting Close

Two more days until the Big Test. This may not be flying to the moon or building the Pyramids or giving birth to a baby, but I'm still pretty sure it qualifies as Superhuman.

Like A Drug

Along with everything else that's going on these days, I'm also looking for a house to live in. The good part of it is that I'm looking for a house for two, not one, which is what it's always been before. That ranks right up there around the top of the list of all-time great things. The hard part about it is that for this one I'm even pickier than usual, and I'm pretty picky anyway. It's the Goldilocks Syndrome, needs to be not-too-big, not-too-small, needs to be just-right. And having good light in the morning is a major plus.

So I dropped 60 bucks last week for a membership with the hottest online apartment guide in Los Angeles. So far they've been pretty good, but they haven't landed me the big one yet. A few near misses. One perfect bungalow that I came on a little too late. That experience has served to make me a bit compulsive about the whole thing, checking online several times a day to look for new listings. I went out on my bike at 11:45pm a couple nights ago to skulk around one neighborhood in search of a mysterious cottage which had popped up on the listing a few hours earlier.

One of the things I've discovered is that reading the rental ads is a fine art -- watch out for the word "unique" -- not everything is like it sounds. Equal rent does not necessarily imply equality in other ways. "Spacious" is a more ambiguous concept that I had realized. "Airy" is entirely a matter of personal interpretation.

The whole thing is also complicated by the fact that sometimes I am convinced that I want the gritty, urban experience for my home neighborhood. Good for creativity. Good for keeping your edge. Good for keeping you from getting soft and complacent.

Then fifteen minutes later I'll drive down a nice tree-lined avenue and find myself yearning for that pergo-floored utopia, with quiet neighbors and sun-dappled lawns. Not good for keeping you on your toes, but a much better prognosis for the future of your car stereo. The illusion of security is just an illusion, yes, but it's a nice illusion.

All that to say this: I don't know where we'll end up living in August, but I'm hoping to find out soon so that, if for no other reason, I can get back to actually doing work while I'm at work. I don't know if I can keep this addiction under wraps for much longer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a website I need to check...

No, I Didn't Die

...or move away or go off on an expedition. I've just been a bit busy, what with life being the way it is. But I'm back now. Please forgive me.