Friday, April 29, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
It is amazing how many hours of amusement a strategically placed calculated comment, a modicum of acting skills honed in a year's worth of community center classes, and an air of innocence helped along by a healthy dosage of the youthful looks of fortunate genetic coincidence can buy you.
Yesterday I was bored after work (as is not uncommon for me these days), so I decided to attend a talk entitled "An Atheist's Guide to Objectivism" offered by the friendly neighborhood atheist organization of Silicon Valley. Now, I'm not a fan of being lectured to, especially with regards to philosophical matters, so the plan was to infiltrate the organization feigning interest, and then stir up some entertainment by opportunely affirming a strong fundamentalist Christian bent. As you may know, this was a masterful recipe for excitement, for never has there been such strong dislike between two belief systems as these diametrically opposed two (well, not counting the philosophical disagreements that caused things like the Crusades, the Reformation, terrorism, and several other similar stirrings of no consequence, that is).
Anyway, so I arrived and, deliberately looking all shy and flustered, took my seat on one of the back rows after picking up every single pamphlet about atheism available to visitors, which ensured that my entrance was noticed and remarked upon. And as I was sitting patiently through the presentation, which involved a lot of explanation of the Objectivist axioms with the luxury of long and oversimplified complex examples, I mentally organized the subsequent divertimento by strategizing on how exactly to make my assumed position known to this mostly male audience of people at least 10 years my seniors.
At last, the time came to open the forum to the audience for discussion, and my hand promptly shot up straight and high without hesistation, which seemed to surprise the organizer of the talk, who was the one that welcomed me and had remarked that I looked shy before asking me to fill out a name tag. Of course, being the newcomer, and the only hand that had shot up so quickly and unflinchingly, I became the source of the first audience commentary, which was a happy convenience for setting the tone and direction of the subsequent speaker-audience dialogue....
So in a very humble and innocuous way, I posed a query that highlighted a possible weakness in one of the fundamental Objectivist premises, which I hoped would, with a bit more discussion, give me a clear enough opening to express more controversial views as the debate evolved.
Soon into my exchange with the speaker, however, I started noticing that the gentleman sitting to my right was agreeing with some of the things I voiced and actually interjecting, in-between some of my statements and the speaker's responses, the precise type of more inflamatory views I was planning to later develop. And at one point, while the speaker was replying to another request of mine to clarify a point, the gentleman slipped me a pamphlet advocating the defense of creationism and denouncing evolution. Bingo!!! I was in the presence of a honest to goodness infiltrator! A spy from the opposing camp. This was going to get a lot more entertaining than I had hoped, and, what was best, I wouldn't have to move a finger!!
Unfortunately, however, since the infiltrator was not there for entertainment purposes like I was, he had a minor blemish in his technique. By being too invested in his viewpoints, it soon became clear to the speaker and the rest of the audience that this gentleman was, in fact, stirring things up and trying to swing a roomful of atheists into accepting his antithetical views, which resulted in his being ignored and actually actively being cut off from further commentary by granting speaking rights to the other audience members instead of him........pity. He left soon after the question and answer session was over, but not before congratulating me on my very insightful and commendable views.
I decided that the evening should not end in dissappointment, however, and as I had not yet succeeded in exposing myself as a religious fanatic, a second attempt should be made by hanging around and talking to the little discussion groups that were forming around the cookies and tea table. I was a bit too subtle in my attempts, however, for at the end of the evening I was saluted by everyone I met as someone "observant" (and even, paradoxically, "knowledgeable"), and "here's a letter I wrote to the newspaper decrying the actions of the late pope tell me what do you think it is good isn't it?", and "let me welcome you to our group by playing you the atheist anthem on my harmonica, we need to make a recording on some real instruments soon" and "you should come again to more meetings", and "where do you live/work/come from?" and "I'm so glad you asked those questions because those were questions I had too".
So..... I had come to this meeting with the aim of dropping an apple of dischord and instead what I got was that both of the two antagonistic groups represented in the meeting recognized me as one of their own.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Today I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and thought up the following Limerick:
There was once a woman from Bristol
who couldn't think up of something to rhyme with Bristol.
When asked to write a Limerick
she also couldn't figure out what to rhyme with Limerick,
so she shot the requestor with a......rifle.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Hee hee hee he!! Ho ho boy, sorry, I know I'm not supposed to laugh at my own jokes, but....
Anyway, think you can do better? Then submit your own Limerick in this post's comments section! Best one gets a prize, offensive ones will be deleted, insert standard disclaimers here, etc. etc. Ready? Go!
Friday, April 22, 2005
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane at the airport getting back into the United States was....the cold.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Yesterday, I went with my dad to the airport to pick up two of my aunts who were visiting him from Italy.
Amidst the cheerful greetings and immediate repartition of a generous portion of characteristically Italian-flavored chocolate and liquorice candy, it was quite nice, hearing once more the rhythmic cadence of the dialect of Riultelina.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Nice, isn't it, spending four and a half hours with a very old friend, sipping vanilla ice cream soaked in Coca-Cola, whiling away the lazy afternoon reminiscing about other old mutual friends, laughing as we catch up on the current vicissitudes, and planning the next meeting, which we both know will not come any sooner than a year from today at the earliest, and though not wanting the present one to end, and we sip the ice cream languidly and as slowly as possible to prolong the moment, we nevertheless can't wait for the excitement of the next one?
Friday, April 15, 2005
Hospitals are strange places.
On the 1st floor of national healthcare (IMSS) clinic no.45, a large pair of hands cradles a tiny head less than two minutes after the initial C-section incision. Another pair, a woman's this time, cuts the umbilical cord and proffers the infant to another pair of hands that aspirate the nose and mouth, and then at the welcome resulting high-pitched cries, pass the parcel along to the head pediatrician who examines the tiny human and makes annotations with the precision and detachment of a worker in an assembly line.
Fifteen minutes later the mother sits chatting on her bed with other waiting mothers to be, and four minutes after that another pair of newborn eyes, a natural birth this time, shut themselves in protest at the bright surgical room halogen lights that signal the incipience of life.
In Mexican state hopsitals, this process repeats itself, over and over with periodicity of about one hour and ten minutes, and the thousands of births witnessed by the head pediatrician over the past 10 years of service must by now seem routine and......boring, even.
Two floors below, in the emergency and intensive therapy rooms, death too, is equally mundane and quotidian.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
So today I went to listen to one of my mom's lectures, as she teaches pathology at the Autonomous University Medical School.
Today's topic was the nature of infectious disease, and as she was explaining and going over the names of the cells and their functions: macrophages, neutrophils, phagocytes, and so on, I thought: "particle physics".
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Every time I come to Mexico, my mother says that I look "as white as an aspirin tablet".
So on Sunday, I went biking with my dad along the Via RecreActiva, which is a recent city government initiative to promote health and good living (whoever thought that up, man, is a genius!): a long street that traverses three quarters of the city east to west, and is closed to traffic on Sunday mornings (8 to 2) but open to pedestrians, bikes, rollerbladers, and the like, for three whole hours under the warm Mexican sun.
Monday, April 11, 2005
The first morning after I arrived here in Guadalajara 4 days ago, my mom invited me out to grab some coffee at the nearby corner store. When I said: "Wait, let me grab my sweater..." as is my custom in Sunnyvale at this time of the year, where I live, she laughed.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
One of the things I had forgotten about my hometown of Guadalajara is the richness and variety of blooming flowers that greet you as you drive into the city from the airport. When you live in a place where you only see flowers for two months a year, and they're shy, tiny wildflowers in three different color tones, it is a delight to sojourn for a few days here in my hometown, where the azaleas, bougainvilleas, hibiscus, jacarandas, and gardenias greet you in an explosion of hot pink, bright purple, shocking yellow, creamy white, and where the blooms are big and abundant filling the whole of your eyes, and where the jacaranda trees leave a delicate soft lavender rug on the sidewalks for days and days on end.
It is amazing, that for the full 14 years I had lived here, I'd never noticed this.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The other day, I saw a very strange sight indeed.
It was a woman, who was flossing her teeth while driving.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Yesterday I had to transport a small piece of office furniture from the parking lot to my 2nd floor apartment. It was a small assemble-yourself (insert tab A into slot B) computer desk, but even so as I am a rather small-framed person the box was about three quarters of my height and at least that same proportion of my weight, with the result that I could only lift one corner of the box a few inches off the ground at any given time.
Not having a cart or a dolly, I simply stood the box up such that I could little by little pivot first one corner and then the other corner of the box in turn to "walk" it down the path that crosses my apartment complex recreation area, the swimming pool and garden. It was a very warm and sunny day, and there were lots of people about, many of them children, but at least four of which were gentlemen between 20 and 45 years of age. Of these four gentlemen, two were jumping noisedly into the pool, one was looking on at the swimmers, and another was scolding his toddler children for being children.
As I travelled the path, they looked up, for the "pivot walk" was making quite a racket, as there was a lot of box-dragging going on (for I couldn't lift it to dampen the noise), but I then saw as I stopped to wipe the sweat off my brow that they turned absently back to what they were doing.
And I looked confusedly around me, and saw a woman in a nearby balcony looking straight at me immobile with an interested expression, and then as I lifted the corner of the box again I turned back to see the two men, diving again into the water, the other one scolding his kids and smiling at me, the fourth oblivious.
Now, I have lived in this country for 11 years now, and thought that by now I was immune to culture shock, but as I travelled the despairingly slow and agonizing length of the interminable pathway, furrowed brow and cheeks burning humiliated in a sea of immobile stares and amused smiles, inch by punishing inch up the stairs and finally into my apartment door, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.