Well, this is a first of all firsts for me. I once got to be the first person to post on the daylog, but this time around I not only was granted that special boon, but I got the extra added bonus of being able to create the node shell. Should I be honored? Perhaps.

But this is, after all, only a daylog, just another addition to the greater nodegel that is E2, bound together by a misasmic and spindly web of other nodes and people, most of whom I have not and most likely never shall meet. Bygones.

I went on a date tonight, the first one in a few months. This is a woman who I have known for a while now, almost two years. When we met, we were total strangers. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we had some other human beings in common- namely, our landlord. We lived in the same house and never even knew it. Well, that's not quite true- we were destined to live in the same house. At the time, I was in the middle of multi-million-dollar negotiations with her landlord for a piece of software I'd created (the deal fell through, and I shall thank myself later for pouring just a tad more salt on that ugly wound). Part of the negotiations was for me to move to Nashville and train the company's tech staff on how to use the software. The company would provide living arrangements during the training process until the training was complete and then I could go on about my business and spend my money from the sale of the software any way I liked. Just my luck that the company lost its primary funding source a week before the contract got drafted- I had already moved into the house when the deal fell through. Anyway... the woman I had made friends with was also a tenant in that house, a sometime-employee of the company I almost made millions from.

So... over the last two years I have been trying to recover from the devastation caused by that blight of a business deal. I ended up staying at the house for a small amount of money per month and this newfound friend and I continued to enjoy a small friendship. Nothing romantic or anything like that, strictly platonic. She is, after all, a decade younger than me and I have absolutely no place in dating someone so young.

Irony: I had a date with her tonight.

It wasn't one of those "Hey, you're cute and I like you a lot. Let's date" kinda dates. It was more like one of those "Hey, you're a human being I can stand to be in the presence of for more than ten minutes at a time and I feel like going to a movie this weekend, but I really don't feel like going alone. Wanna go with?" kinda dates. And that's exactly how it went. We saw "Mr. Deeds" at the theater I work at as a projectionist (it's a side job which allows me time to write.. mostly... and let's not forget the sleep I get to catch up on while movies are playing and I have nothing to do for a couple of hours).

The movie was funny in all the proper places. I even laughed and clapped out loud a few times, which is somewhat of a departure for me as I am rarely so demonstrative at the movies. What can I say? Sometimes Adam Sandler's sense of humor appeals to me.

So we met at the cafe and shared some quiet conversation while I was in the throes of trying to set up a web page for a client of mine. The topic of conversation: her current romantic interests. Ugh. Friend or not, I personally find it to be bad form to talk to a person about one's current romantic interests when said person is treating one to a free movie and night out on the town.

I guess I should add, though, that I have since decided that this young woman is quite fetching and attractive and intelligent and... dammit... she's still too young and a whole other world apart in the maturity department. To her credit, she is totally aware of this and bemoans the fact that she doesn't have a boyfriend like myself. Yet again I get to go on a date with a woman who views me as "the unattainable goal, the peak of gentlemanly behavior." When the movie was over, she went right back to blathering on about this person she's interested in, even apologized for it in the car but kept right on talking about it. When we got back to the cafe, she bumped into one of her current romantic interests... guess who she left with not fifteen minutes later? Hint number one: it wasn't me, for here I sit, bitching in a daylog while my date for the evening is off, somewhere, obsessing about somebody she doesn't have the courage to pursue.

"Is this a healthy crush?" she asked me at one point tonight.

Fuck.

I'm either an eligible bachelor or unattainable. Isn't there a happy medium somewhere in there? Can't I be the guy who is "eminently single and available" at the same time? Can't I be the guy who ends up crossing that finish line, last or otherwise?

Being single sucks. Especially when it's by no fault of your own. Even Adam Sandler gets the girl at the end of the movie when he's playing a nice guy. Hollywood has got to stop lying to us: nice guys are lucky to finish last, if at all.

So... I haven't been on E2 for a while, kinda checking up on the site off and on, but no real noding.

Sitting here, in my small room, it's almost 1, and I'm dead tired. My friends are upstairs watching a video of a trip to Kenya, and I'm supposed to be doing physics problems. I'm not all that upset by that idea, but for some reason today was weird enough in its own way to leave me feeling different... not sad, happy, nostalgic? I'm not sure.

It's the feeling one gets (or at least I have had before) that I desperately want to shut my door to the world and say good night, but then still feel like finding a huge party and getting lost in the crowd, or maybe just taking a nice long walk by myself.

This summer isn't going as well as I had planned, mainly because I didn't think I would be doing so much physics. It's not all that hard, actually, I'm a biology major so I just have to take the introductory courses (101-102). It's not even calculus based, it's "conceptual" physics. Although my calculus knowledge does allow for a somewhat better understanding.


Anyway, I'm rambling...


Maybe I need a break in routine. A close friend just arrived in Ithaca two days ago so I saw him last night, instead of studying for physics. That was okay, I guess, although that procrastination is going to end catching up with me soon if I don't stop.

Not that I'm complaining about my work, cause I don't really mind it so much.

I think a change would be good (I repeat myself...). Maybe I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything. I'm not, really... I'm paying a ton of money to take two classes, and then making a tiny fraction of that by working in the library. That's pretty much my summer. I'm not accomplishing anything for myself (besides just plain getting physics over with, and therefore saving my sanity later) or for anyone else. Maybe I've just hit a rut. I should go back to physics, at least that's constant, something to stand upon...

Thanks for letting me ramble.

dixi.
Christmas Eve, 1996. 10 years old.

   The entire family of my mother's side is gathered around the tree in the living room of my maternal grandparents' ranch house. In our family, it's tradition to open gifts on the evening of the 24th, not the 25th.

   So far, the evening has gone wonderfully. Great gifts, good, family fun. Suddenly, the elf for the night, the person who's job is to hand out the presents, one by one, discovers a small 2x9x11 wrapped box that I had, until then, completely forgotten about. I had thought it a hilarious idea the previous day, but now my breath hissed inward with the realization that it really was a bad, very bad idea.

   The label under the bow betrayed the victim as well as the origin, and was read aloud with cheer, and awe. I watched in fearful anticipation as the package was handed to its target, the sappy 'awww's coming from around the room -disbelief that someone like me would care enough to get his big brother a present- only made it that much worse. He ripped the bow off and tossed it in to a bag we always have set aside, so my grandmother can reuse them after people finish decorating the dog. I squirmed further back in to the cushions of the couch as he ripped the snowy paper from the box; I knew nothing would save me now. The box was opened, to reveal a layer of crumpled paper padding. What could be hiding under there? It was a very thin box.
   My brother, the one who's always been there, four years ahead of me, breaking a path into the thicket of the world through which I can follow along, tipped the box toward him, spilling the paper padding. I pushed myself as far back in to the couch as I could, as he turned the box around, trying to catch the inky glint coming from the bottom. He managed to tip it just right, so as to allow the flourescent lighting of the room to fill the cardstock innards of the box, displaying the words, "Gotcha, sucker!"

This is why I cannot sleep tonight. 2,010 days later, 2,200 miles away, and I cannot sleep.
I hate what I've done.

Having read up on the Cut-up technique and looked at an example of it at "Cut the (idea) Technique up", I dug out an old essay I had done and decided to try cutting it up and rearranging it. I kind of like the result; the essay still seems to make a fair bit of grammatical sense even though the meaning is partially "lost". Try reading it - it's kind of interesting to try and piece together how it jumps back and forth.

After the discovery of nuclear fusion, which created even more energy and that very high temperatures and pressures could cause a fusion reaction, American scientists surrounded some hydrogen with a fission bomb, and two days later a second was exploded above Nagasaki. Upon seeing the destructive power of the weapons, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

Now that World War II was over and the USSR and US no longer needed each other’s help, and the thermonuclear hydrogen bomb (or H-bomb) was born. The first one to be exploded was exploded by the US in 1952. Soon after the USSR and Britain exploded theirs.

That is why they considered themselves rivals, probably due to the fact that they had two conflicting systems of government and were the two biggest countries in the world, the two superpowers, East and West. there was soon a good deal of tension between them. If either tried to start a war against the other, an all out nuclear war could commence, and When one considers the fact that both superpowers had thermonuclear weapons, you can understand why both sides had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other (and everyone else) many times over. there was a constant mistrust and fear spanning four decades until the breaking apart of the Soviet Union in 1991. There was such a fear of nuclear weapons that a fairly intensive movement against nuclear weapons began, in the form of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or CND.

Fearing the destruction of everyone on their island, the British government produced a pamphlet entitled ‘Protect and Survive’, outlining the government’s advice on how to survive a nuclear bomb explosion. Protect and Survive leaflets were handed out to households throughout Britain in 1980, allegedly to prepare the public in case of a full scale ‘nuclear conflict’.

The Protect and Survive leaflet informed the public that because ‘the safest room in your house is not safe enough’ you must take doors and furnishings from around your home, pile them up against an inner wall, paint your windows white, get several gallons of water and tinned food in closed containers, then hide under your pile of doors, surrounded by tables, chairs and supplies while the bombs come raining down. You must then stay under this pile of doors for two weeks without coming out from under it, eating food from tins, drinking water from jars, then putting your sanitary waste in them and bagging them up. The booklet included a checklist to make sure you had the right supplies, and told one a little (though not too much) about the possible effects of a nuclear bomb exploding several miles away.

After reading the P&S booklet, I felt that much of the advice within it was next to useless, even though it sounds right and makes sense. I was afraid, because the booklet really helped me to experience the fear which the public must have felt throughout the eighties, knowing that at any moment air raid sirens could sound and they would all have to hide before being blown to there was still time to use these new ‘atom bombs’ against North America’s Japanese enemy, and were – to devastating effect.

This new item of warfare could completely obliterate the core (and much else) of an enemy city, make it completely uninhabitable for weeks, even months afterward, disfigure and maim most survivors, and then cause those survivors also On the 6th of August the same year, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima could survive a direct nuclear attack, they chose to delude us into thinking that maybe if we did do everything that our leaders told us to do, we would be able to survive it all, and defeat our enemies. This was convenient for everyone, because those in charge would stop people from which it iterates itself is irritating and patronising; those at the moment’. It was also very disturbing to see him refuse to acknowledge the insurmountable carnage and destruction surrounding his home, and worrying to watch him tell his wife Hilda that everything is all right, and to reply to her every uncertain query with something like “Don’t worry, the powers that be know what to do for us, and will take care of us.”. in the electorate’s best interests. Whether or not Jim and Hilda survive is afraid because it confirmed my belief that the government would lie to people just because it was more convenient for them. Rather than tell everyone that there was no way they Nuclear weapons were originally developed by the USA and the USSR during World War II, driven by the fear that the Germans (who had already come up with some very powerful weapons like the V1 and V2 rockets) would create something even more destructive. In 1939 nuclear fission had been discovered, and was one of the scientific hot topics of the day. After the development of pieces. I was detonated one of the first three atomic bombs in the early morning of July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo in New Mexico. Though they had been built too late to finish the war in Europe, the atomic ‘pile’ in 1942 by Fermi, it was only a matter of time before it was discovered that the tremendous energy created could be used to create an explosion. The Americans realised the importance of this development, and to give birth to mutated offspring. not the issue. The issue is whether who have written it know that their target audience is very ignorant and would have no idea what to do in terms of apocalyptic survivalism. The text is not user friendly - in fact, it is hardly at all friendly, and contradicts itself frequently. For example, if the panicking by convincing them that a nuclear explosion was easily survived, and because the people could convince themselves that a nuclear explosion was easily survived, thus avoiding the fear of it.

The style of the P&S text is stern, authoritative and tries (but not too hard) to be reassuring advice in the booklet to the letter in order to stay alive, or Perhaps the high point of Jim’s distressing denial is when he quotes the Tennyson poem ‘Charge of the Light Brigade

I think my reaction is probably what the makers of the film were intending. While watching the film, you get the distinct impression that the filmmakers wanted to make you think about whether the government is really acting to think that the advice in the booklet was nonsensical propaganda. Those most likely to think the former were gullible or uninformed people whose only source of information was the in response to Hilda’s doubts about the efficacy of the Protect and Survive advice, saying “Ours is not to reason why, dear...now what was the next line?”.

The next line of the poem is “Ours is but to do or die”. government. Those most likely to think the latter were well informed people or those who mistrusted the government.

It would’ve been perfectly understandable to mistrust the advice of the booklet, since it is very unhelpful, although in theory it does make sense. The booklet basically orders one to collect some supplies immediately after an explosion, then retreat to a small shelter for two

In addition to this, the chances are that the advice will not save you from a nuclear explosion. If an explosion is close enough, you will be instantly vaporised. Even if you are not blown to bits, then your house will probably be, though its subject matter (whether or not you will survive an A-bomb landing in your back garden) is very uncertain. The way in ‘safest room in your house is not safe enough’, then why shelter inside it? If the fallout comes back down from the air very quickly and is very dangerous, why do we have to ‘go outside, putting out any fires and closing doors’ Admittedly, however, after the bomb has detonated?

the leaflet is very easy to understand. It tends to use words with only one and two syllables which have simple meanings (‘in case of an attack, you must be prepared’), with the only exceptions being the terminology (‘fallout’, ‘radioactive’ and ‘nuclear’ being examples), which is itself not very difficult to understand. It is obvious that in addition to knowing little about the nature of nuclear warfare, the target audience would probably be very trusting of the advice in the booklet and try to follow it through.

The booklet would probably have had two effects on different demographic groups, these being either a determination to follow the at least partly demolished and you will be exposed to the radioactive fallout. To remain safe from the fallout would require you to stay under at least a yard of wood, or about five inches of solid steel, with absolutely no openings anywhere. As such, your house will not provide protection, especially if you remove many of the doors from the doorways, leave any windows open, or have any holes in your roof. This means that it is ridiculous to shelter inside your home, especially if your shelter has a large hole in it for you to enter, since the radioactivity will merely permeate throughout your entire house, and then into your shelter.

Many people criticised the P&S booklet for creating unnecessary panic weeks, thus exposing one (at least in theory) to only the “prompt radiation” of the nuclear bomb, the worst of which will not even escape from the epicentre of the blast.

This in itself does make sense, but the simple fact is that this ‘practical’ advice is not in the least bit practical. It suggests taking a large number of bulky items (tables, doors, chairs, cushions) from around the house and bundling them in a large pile against a wall. It also recommends whitewashing all of your windows and covering them with thick, nonflammable curtains. Few people would actually have the time to bother going through all of this due to the inconvenience, and as such the advice is impractical.

At one point the P&S booklet tells panicking about the likelihood of nuclear aggression, because panicking about a problem generally makes any attempt to solve it haphazard or unstable. Being alert about the problem makes it easier to react to new developments, such as the fact that it is no longer superpowers but smaller countries with grudges that we should be taking notice of. It seem to be fine, though they do get annoyed when they find that the utilities have stopped working. After venturing outside into a very dark and very quiet morning, they walk around for a while, and decide that it won’t be too long before everything is rebuilt. After they feel ill a few days later, Jim tells his wife that it won’t be long before they can go the chemist, and that the ‘powers that be’ will soon come with emergency services to help them. However, nothing arrives, and the two mooch around unhappily in the house, getting progressively sicker, until they get into large sacks and die of radiation poisoning, alone. The book is a very depressing read, and some time after it was published, it was made into a 50-minute animated film with the same title.

When watching the film myself, I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer naivety of Jim and his unwavering belief that the Prime Minister and his cohorts will salvage the situation, ‘no matter how bleak it looks or not the government would be hard not to notice that in recent weeks India and Pakistan have both made each other pressure would cause any perfectly aware that they have nuclear weapons and are prepared for war, with Pakistan even testing short range ballistic missiles. It is possible that they could declare war on each other, and that such a war could escalate into a nuclear war.

However, if either were stupid enough to allow such a war does occur, then it is perfectly possible that it would not become a world war on the scale of the pair in the past, since such a conflict would probably only take place between us to stay within the ‘inner refuge’ (your makeshift shelter) for 14 days without government published it to avoid creating unnecessary panic and worry about the fact that we could do nothing to survive a nuclear attack.

Nonetheless, to counteract these accusations of scaremongering, the Government produced a booklet entitled “Civil Defence” explaining to the public why Not only that, but because of the USSR’s dissolution in September 1991 the US was left as the major superpower, leaving it with less tangible and more distant adversaries, such as Iraq. Public administration which used nuclear weapons to be vilified.

I feel that the public is right to no longer feel terribly fearful of a particular nuclear threat any more. I think that it is counterproductive and causes more harm than it gets rid of in the long term. Since nuclear war is now a lot less it was necessary to be prepared for a nuclear blitz. Apparently, Britain needed civil defence for the same reason we need seatbelts; as a preventative measure – even though venturing outside of it, and to keep all supplies and sanitary equipment within the inner refuge. This is physically impossible, considering that the inner refuge could not be any more than a few cubic metres big. It is difficult enough to fit a family inside the inner refuge, let alone two dozen litres of water, a potty, bags and a dustbin, and as such it is not possible to follow all of the advice. and worry among the populace, though originally the we hope that we will never be in a car crash, it is always best to be prepared for one. It also tackled the concern that being partially prepared for a nuclear war will make it more likely since complacency may occur. The British Government used its convenient seatbelt analogy to show why not; though we have seatbelts in our cars, they do not increase the likelihood that car crashes will occur.

For the most part, the fears of the public were allayed, except for those who happened to have a GCE in Physics or who were Ukrainian immigrants, despite the patronising tone of the Civil Defence booklet. The effect on myself was not great, the biggest effect being the development of the opinion that whoever had written the Civil Defence booklet was greatly lacking in perception for believing that the British would actually think that this was true. However, the public, not knowing better, did apparently think that it was true, at least for the most part.

Raymond Scott was not one of these people. He produced a children’s book, ‘When The Wind Blows’ about an old couple, Jim and Hilda Bloggs, who live peacefully out in a village in the country. One bright morning a panicky announcement on Radio 4 informs that bombs are about to land, and the pair follow the advice in the Protect and Survive booklet. They hurriedly squeeze themselves into their crudely constructed ‘inner refuge’, and the bombs hit. Surprisingly the Blogg’s house survives, though the wallpaper has disappeared, and the walls and furniture have turned black. The Bloggs also survive, and were actually thinking about the safety of Jim and Hilda and whether or not they were telling the truth rather than pumping propaganda through the media and then leaving the unfortunates to die. They want the viewer to worry and feel frightened about this, because it is only then will people actually choose to do something about the problem, even if only to stop feeling anxious.

Nowadays there is a lot less unease concerning the threat of nuclear war than there was a generation previously. This is probably because it is now widely acknowledged by almost all that nuclear war is an immensely stupid and irrational thing to initiate, and that trying to prepare for it and survive it is impossible. likely, it would be more sensible to be alert rather than the two aggressors, and the rest of the world could ignore them, leaving them to destroy each other or come to a peace agreement. And that is why I feel that, at least for now, the nuclear menace has been diminished.


The contents of this writeup are in the public domain.

Today I sit at home, preparing to go. I am surrounded by my beautiful girlfriend, my brother, and my sister. Today was supposed to be my mom's wedding. After so many years of nothingness, of drugs, and crap, and just a rough life with her, she was supposed to be married. And to a wonderful guy too. "Big Al", though I don't really want to know why she calls him that, he doesn't look that big to me. ;) My whole family is here, from Tennessee and Virginia and Florida, and just everywhere. I was the best man in the ceremony, and my girlfriend the maid of honor.

Instead, today I am burying my mother.

Last Sunday, when I left church, my fire department pager went off. It was my chief, and he needed me to stop by the station immediately. It was on my way home, and so I stopped in. He was the one who told me. She was sleeping Saturday night, and just didn't wake up. No reason why, no drug overdose, or being shot, she just died. And it has been hard going through all of that. I've never planned a funeral before, and trying to discuss things like costs and money and procedures when you are talking about your mom has taken a toll on me and my whole family. She was only 46, and it has been really hard.

But somehow I will get up, I will gather up my brother and sister, and together we will go to that funeral home, and celebrate those things that we have to celebrate. We will look beyond the past few years to the time when she was beautiful and perfect and everything. We will remember and forget all in one sentence. And most of all we will love each other and her together.

We are a family.


Thank you to all of the E2 family who have expressed their condolences and prayers and thoughts. It makes me proud to be a part of such an outstanding community of friends.

Y’know what? E2 makes me happy. I like reading nodes and surfing around, I miss my votes as soon as I’m out, I like writing comments on things that I read and then getting messages minutes, hours, or days later and realizing I’ve made a new acquaintance, maybe even a friend. It’s great when someone writes to tell me that what I’ve written touches them, and even though I was taken aback the first time I was *hugged*, I’ve gotten used to it—and feel all warm and fuzzy when it happens.

I had only had my computer for about a month before I found this site, and so I learned copying and pasting and HTML from E2. I had visited a few chat rooms here and there, but was supremely unimpressed. I don’t use a computer at work; this is mostly for fun (and occasional report-writing). About 90% of my time online is spent here.

I’ve got a Word file called wertperch words where I stash the /msgs I get from people (guess whose words I started with?), so that I can go back and read them later. I love it when a writeup or a /msg makes me laugh out loud, and I love it when I find myself in conversation in real life with someone, quoting something I’ve learned here.

I didn’t understand “node what you don’t know” when I first heard it, but now I get it. I may have a vague understanding of a place, or a book, or an idea, but because it interests me and I feel the urge to share it by recording it in the nodegel, I end up researching it. I like learning things, and I wouldn’t have done as much of it in the past four months without this site.

I’ve found that, if I’m in a bad mood because something in my life isn’t going the way I want, or I’m feeling tired or listless, E2 often distracts me and refreshes me and sends me off in new directions. It also works as an extension of the alarm clock (in my case, alarmcat)—I drag around in the morning, I’m not a coffee drinker, I’d rather sleep until the last possible second. But I can bribe myself out of bed with E2.

I did put my money where my mouth is, and I’ll do it again, once I pay off my ridiculously high credit card bill. In the meantime, I wanted to thank y’all for being there, for being funny and smart and open and friendly.

Long live E2!

I did tell dannye that I wouldn’t node about noding anymore, but I think probably a daylog is okay.

Diary: Brazil

For those wondering at my abrupt absence and noding hiatus, (only a few of you, when writing I presume my audience consists of dmd, three pregnant women, and possibly Getzburg) I was not away waxing my toenails, kayaking down the Rio Grande, or visiting Disney World. Instead, I was whisked away by my cynical, cigarette-huffing aunt for a cathartic trip in the glorious land of Brazil. As the first visit to anything exotic besides the vagrancies of Mexican border towns, I embraced the culture shock, the sights and the Portuguese language. Quite frankly, some things made me indignant about America in comparison to The Way Things Are Done in Brazil, things that I will hold in my heart even when I go back to the selfish way I did things before I left.

I suppose I should explain the circumstances that led to my sojourn. As the salesman that I conversed with while buying a magenta, teenie-weenie-Ipanema bikini told me, "people don't just up and away go to Brazil." While I'm intimately familiar with the goings on of my terribly-Southern-and-proud-of-it maternal side of the family, my knowledge about my father's side would render me loser if there was ever a Haralson Family Trivial Pursuit. I guess it's not entirely my fault- constant divorces, marriages, and nasty lawsuits have transmogrified the family tree into a knot. Concerned with the fact that the last time I saw Abuelita Dona Elena I was still wearing Garanimals, my aunt arranged for us to travel for 9 days throughout Curitiba, the Foz de Iguacu, and finally my grandmother's hometown, Rio de Janeiro.

Despite mild autism and the slightest err in reading maps, I made it unaccompanied from the McAllen airport to Orlando International. I ran to the terminal and embraced my aunt, a horticulturalist and cigar/cigarette aficionado whose face has prematurely wrinkled ("They give me character") she frequently spiels in self-defense. Despite the nicotine, we managed to have a couple of Deep Talks until 4:30 AM, while I gleaned some precious nuggets about the family. Most surprising: after my grandfather passed on, she married a Brazilian senator for 10 years, and has now inherited a glorious estate after his death. I started to think that maybe I should be a soap-opera writer.

First in our itinerary was Curitiba, the premier city of southern Brazil and perhaps the most progressive town I have ever visited, American or Brazilian. Besides the myriad, lush park system, great public transportation and the cool, inviting climate, Curitiba's streets were spotless, something I've never witnessed in the Rio Grande Valley. We walked the streets and took advantage of the abundance of Brazilian currency we had -reals, beautiful, Monopoly colored money adorned with pictures of scarlet macaws and Roman-looking women. The same beauty in the city was true for the people- almost everyone was elegantly and richly dressed, with a sense of style and comportment that most American teenage girls canonly attempt to reach. I counted one person who was borderline gaudy. Not only that, but even people with the humblest jobs treated us in good humor; the waiters at coffee shops chatted us up and asked us how we were doing, the newspaper vendors asked us how our weekend was. Complete strangers held the door open for my aunt and I; and instead of honking and being lewd, the men who expressed interest torwards me calmly said "Hello" (the language barrier quickly ended hope for those flirtations, however). I was genuinely impressed not only by the beauty of the town but by the apparent paucity of corruptness. Even the campaign ads by politicians boasted about their progressive environmental efforts and their commitment to keeping Curitiba a beautiful city. My aunt fielded my questions about their use of alcohol instead of gasoline in car engines- why can't Americans, living in a first world country, employ the efficacy and cleanliness of alochol as opposed to gasoline? I suppose Big Oil has something to do with it, but nevertheless I am more than a bit miffed that the Greatest Nation in The World is still stuck with fossil fuels.

After Curitiba, my aunt and I flew away from the graciously elegant Curitba airport to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world- The Falls of Igaucu, known as "Las Cataratas" or "Foz de Igaucu" (aren't phonetic derivatives grand?) Despite my fondness for expression the sights are perhaps the hardest to describe. Swarms of butterflies of every color in the rainbow, little rodents that looked like raccoons that the travel guides identified as "quchias", deer, a jaguar, and a dense canopy of verdant plants were merely the frame of the waterfalls, pounding against rocks that were perfectly rectangular in shape. Being a product of the Disney generation, it was hard to believe that 1. the waterfalls were unceasing and 2. the waterfall itself was an actual product of nature. I had my first elegant dinner that night, Auntie quietly but firmly explained the difference between a dinner and a salad fork and why I should put my napkin on my lap. You learn something new every day, nee?

Finally, we bid goodbye to the falls (the plume rising from the falls was visible from high in the troposphere) and embarked on a 2 hour flight torwards Rio de Janeiro. Now, I was already impressed with Curitiba and the Falls, but I did not expect be moved to tears when I saw the mountainsides of Rio, dotted with little favela districts alongside water so blue it made the gray tides of the beach near my home look like a homely cousin. Previously my investment was only for entertainment. As we passed over Pao de Azucar, it became emotional. The juxtaposition of mountainside and coast is a wonderful thing.

"Baby, this is all for you." Tio Roberto's words as he drove us in the darkness through the insane nightlife of the Copacabana and Ipanema districts. He showed me his wife Cassia's store, a little botique in Leblon (another district) where she sewed "Brazil cut" jeans for savvy Rio teenagers. We passed through Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Tijuca Barra until we reached Campo Grange, where my grandmother keeps a country estate along with Berto, the hired help.

The communication that transpired between my grandmother and I was clear yet wordless. As a toddler I of course could not notice our resemblance, but it is unmistakable- the same green eyes, the same blonde hair, even the same shoe size. It is hard to not feel a connection with the person who gave you your genetic thumbprint. We spent the next few days talking, eating Parmalat crackers and tangerine rind jam in bed, and shopping in the malls of Rio. At night she would dress me up in her dresses from the '60s and escort me to dinner parties in the mountains hosted by the affluent, where other people my age would either mumble disdainfully in Portuguese about me or earnestly try to practice their English with me in conversation. I enjoyed myself, and noted quite a few distinctions of superiority among Brazilian society:

For starters, the manners and general treatment of the Fellow Man in Brazil. Now, before you cry "American-rich-girl-pampering", for the most part I was assumed to be Brazilian (my aunt speaks fluently, I picked up a few bits and pieces along the way.) Most everyone we encounted was genuinely nice, with the single exception of the corrupt police known as federales that searched our car on multiple occasions and made me pray for a caped avenger to rescue us.

The bathrooms of Brazil are perhaps the strangest fascination. Bidets, or a special toilet made for the cleansing of the genitals, was lauded by me; an attempt to explain them to my American parents just yielded a scowl of disgust from them when they called it "a form of masturbation." The same reaction was invoked when I told them that Brazilians kissed each other on the cheeks instead of the American-formal handshake- "Are those men faggots or something?" said my stepfather as I gleefully tried to share the news.

I will forever be spoiled away from American coffee. The Brazilian fashion? Extremely concentrated, dark beans percolated with intensity and served in ceramic shot glasses, topped with a shot of whipped cream and stirred in with brown sugar. Anything else will now taste hopelessly watered down. To think of it, quite a few things were creamier about the cuisine- the cheeses, the sauces, the richness of the breads.

Immortal in my mind will stand the unerring Brazilian soccer obsession. I learned to cheer for Ronaldinho Gausho, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, and Rivaldo- who wouldn't, when school closes, work stops, and life halts for a day just to watch the games? Most amusing was a replica of the Statue of Liberty clad in a Nike soccer jersey downtown, and the constant fireworks celebrating the victory against Turkey.

Politically, the hatred of George W. Bush (at least among the upper echelons of Rio society that I got to meet) is intense and dry. The disdain is mainly propagated by an incident in which Bush commented to the current Brazilian president (who is of black ancestry) that "he did not know that Brazil had black people." As my Tio Roberto says, "Brazil is the second Africa." While I cannot claim to speak for the country from seeing it only a few days, environmentalism is a much bigger agenda for them than for the typical American, and I think this contributed to their cynicism about the American political system as well.

I enjoyed the trip.

Instead of going to the party in New Jersey with all the PYTs, I went out to dinner with my mom and my uncle. I'm sure I had just as much fun though.

When I was riding the Q train back to Brooklyn, I saw three guy with some weird tattoos. I don't think they knew each other.

One guy looked and dressed like the Undertaker. (I think there was a WWF match at MSG. A number of gentlemen at the other end of the car were being very boisterous. One guy had a replica Championship Title Belt and was hitting his friends with it.) This dude was wearing those contact lenses that give you spooky red eye. He had a tat on his forearm of a skull wearing an headband of alternating skulls and flowers. The one on his shoulder was of a lich siccing a devil dog on something.

Another guy had some kind of geometric design on one shoulder and an eagle on the other. I couldn't tell if it was a Native American Thunderbird tribal-type vibe or a White Power Third Reich Iron Eagle-type thing. Maybe it was both. I didn't ask him.

The third guy was a straight-edge with huge bicyclist calves. He had a big X on one arm with Straight above, Edge below, and a big fist coming out of the center. I was a little worried he would smell the tobacco smoke on me from my mom's place and pound me until I repented for my transgressions. On the other arm, he had a huge guy with an axe beheading a cow with a demonic human face. I was mystified about the meaning of that, but my roommate said it was probably making a point about the moral equivalence of meat and man. That makes a lot of sense, but I got the feeling that beheading that demon cow was a good thing.

I looked out over the harbor when we crossed the bridge. You can see the Bayonne Bridge, the huge loading cranes in Jersey, the lady, the Seaport.

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