31 March 2006

In working on my taxes today, I've encountered such helpful instructions as the following:
Ottoman Turkish Empire Settlement Payments. Gross income does not include settlement payments received by an eligible individual, individual heirs or estate, as a person persecuted by the regime that was in control of the Ottoman Turkish Empire from 1915 until 1923. If you reported settlement payments on line 21, column A, enter the amount of settlement payments in column B.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no advice on how to report the income from your web site.
You can also get Strongbad emails for the iPod.

29 March 2006

Now that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are available for download from the iTunes store for $9.99/month, cable television is officially obsolete. If only they offered Unwrapped!

27 March 2006

Well, I made it back safely from Bombay to Brooklyn. I’d like to take a moment to recognize the following, which made my trip bearable:
1. Dial soap.
2. Gmail. (Particularly the chat feature, which made it possible for me to arrange last-minute lodging in London, courtesy of the Dewar sisters. Without it, I probably would have ended up staying at a youth hostel with a bunch of soccer hooligans.)
3. The iPod Shuffle. (Charged just once at the beginning of my trip, it lasted me through three weeks of traveling, used for half an hour every day, with plenty of juice left over for the long plane ride home.)
The following, however, are dead to me:
1. Orbitz.com. (I got a good price on the trip, but Orbitz booked me way too tightly at Heathrow, causing me to miss my first connection and nearly miss the second.)
2. A certain five-year-old con artist at the Gateway to India. (You know who you are.)
3. Dave Freeman. (A yoga-related mishap? Well, great. Who am I going to have brunch with now?)
But in the end, if there's one thing that I learned while I was in India, it's that you should always check the sugar bowl for fly larvae before adding sugar to your coffee. Trust me.

26 March 2006

On Friday morning I hurt my back in Yoga class. I couldn't sit up or move without sharp pain, so the gym staff called an ambulance. The (very nice and professional) paramedics gave me morphine and took me in an ambulance to the hospital, where I lay for a long time (in the hallway, because they had no more rooms), was given more painkillers, and once I could walk again I was let go. I've been resting and recovering since; today I made it out of the house and even smiled a little bit. But I'm not really ready to sit in a plane for six hours and then try to deal with mass transit, so I unfortunately have to cancel my upcoming New York trip.

I was very lucky that Torrey was in Berkeley and could be with me throughout my ordeal. She took some pictures of me looking pathetic in the hospital. Some questions that might cross your mind as you look at them:
  • What is the tube going to my nose attached to?
  • Why is the IV bag empty?
  • When did I get eight chins?
  • Where is the Yoga mat now?

Ironically, I took up yoga recently as a way to strengthen my body, increase my flexibility, and prevent injury.
Tonight is my last evening in India. I just got back from watching the sunset on Marine Drive in Bombay, which gives you a beautiful view of the city. It's been an awful, wonderful, exhausting, crazy trip. In spite of everything, I'm going to miss India, but I'm really looking forward to doing all of the following once I get back to New York:
1. Taking my first hot shower in three weeks.
2. Seeing Inside Man.
3. Picking up the new Morrissey album.
4. Figuring out what the heck happened on 24 while I was gone. (Is the First Lady still alive?)
5. Sleeping in my own bed, with my own $6.99 synthetic fill pillows from Target. (Indian pillows have left me unimpressed.)
All this, and Dave Freeman, too. (He'll be in New York on Tuesday.) Man, I can't wait to get home.

20 March 2006

My last post may have sounded grouchier than it was meant to be. I'm glad to be here in India. I love Goa, for example; despite its reputation as a stoner dropout zone, it's very quiet these days, and the beaches are beautiful. It's the sort of place where a guy can daydream about running into a girl who looks more or less like Virginie Ledoyen, even if that isn't very likely to happen.

On the other hand, even Goa can manage the occasional classic India moment. A few hours ago, I was on the beach, looking for a shady spot to doze off for a while. I found what looked like the perfect place, between two large boulders, and was about to lie down when I looked in the crevice between the rocks and found--you guessed it--a dead dog. Thanks, India!

19 March 2006

The Onion has reminded basketball fans of why J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison get so much attention all the time.

18 March 2006

I'll say this much for going to India: it's definitely the cheapest way yet devised for having a bad time overseas. Not that I regret coming here. I've made some great friends, I've seen a lot of elephants, and I've been successfully conned by a five-year-old. (More about this later.)

But every day is something of a siege. There's no concept of personal space, and I'm constantly on guard, which can be a bit exchausting. I love India, and I hate it. More and more, I find myself daydreaming of New York, where hot showers are plentiful, and the beggars don't actually follow you back to your hotel.

17 March 2006

I was posed the following question tonight at a party: what happens if you send a werewolf to the moon? Is he always a wolf? Only if he's on the light side? Only when there's a full Earth? It's really quite a serious philosophical dilemma.

(The party, by the way, was described to me as a "typical college stoner party" by someone who knows about such things. Lots of pot, an 18-year-old crasher, a keg of Guinness which someone was drinking directly from the tap, etc. We stayed for about 20 minutes.)
The Greatest Spring Break Ever continues with the NCAA tournament. For various reasons, I've never been able to watch much of the tournament, especially the early rounds. Now, I'm making up for past time.
I just got back from the Arizona Winter School, which this year was in fact held in Arizona, specifically at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It was one of the more intense math experiences I've had -- we were up working past midnight every night, including until 4.30 am preparing our presentation on the last night.

I was not impressed with Tucson. Everything is huge and spread out -- as my friend Tony observed, even the small side streets are 8 lanes wide. And I didn't have a decent meal the whole time I was there. However, I was very impressed by the cacti. I'd never been anywhere where cacti just grow on the side of the road, some of them as big as ordinary trees.

All in all, I'd rather visit New Mexico.

14 March 2006

This could become the best spring break ever. Hiking in Big Bend was a blast (though I wouldn't recommend going between May and October) and within thirty minutes of coming home I had a job offer for the summer and a place for my wedding. Sweet.

I even got to see javelinas, which are kind of the wild pigs of the desert southwest. And Noah, in case you were wondering, the Rio Grande is probably a third as wide in Big Bend as it is in Northern New Mexico. I swam across it to Mexico, which took approximately 10 strokes. The minutemen should really look into this.

12 March 2006

Today I had my first symptom of gastrointestinal distress since coming to India. It cleared up pretty quickly, and it wasn't hard to figure out what disagreed with me: I'm pretty sure it was the lamb kebab that I ordered from a restaurant at "Bombay's number one brothel." (Needless to say, I didn't know that it was a brothel until my friend's friend--who had brought me there for a late-night snack--pointed this out, and I didn't get beyond the restaurant.) As a longtime New Yorker, I've eaten in some pretty sketchy places, but this one probably takes the prize.

10 March 2006

Some of you may have noticed that when you log onto an Indian website, you're immediately deluged with dozens of pop-up ads. I used to be amused by this. Now that I've been in Bombay for a couple of days, I understand: Indians are just naturally good at filtering out distractions. Walking through Colaba is like using a search engine with erratic results and no pop-up filter. Within two minutes of going onto the street, I'm offered marijuna, hashish, cocaine, "an Amsterdam coffee shop," a "massage" from a "pretty girl," train tickets to Goa, and anything else I might need, when all I really wanted was a pay phone.

All in all, Bombay keeps gaining and losing my goodwill. Sometimes I'll be struck by a moment of beauty, let my guard down, and then, bam--another atrocity. Here's one observation: whenever you think you've just seen the worst slum in the world, there's always a more horrifying one around the corner. On the other hand, there's something touching about a city where you can leave a sleeping baby on the sidewalk, and apparently trust that it will still be there when you get back.
Hooray! It's spring break and I'm about to travel 600 miles south and west to Big Bend National Park, where it's 30 degrees warmer than it is here. I'm not quite sure what to expect, except it's the only place I've ever heard of that encourages backpackers to stash extra water in special animal-proof water caches. I wonder if the Minutemen know about this - it seems like it could help illegal immigrants survive in the desert and lead to further cultural decay.

08 March 2006

Now for a real-life mix between Rudy and Hoosiers:

You're the second year basketball coach at Princeton and you're slogging through a horrible season (which includes a loss to a Division III team). The conference season rolls around and you're still losing. So what do you do to turn things around?

If you guessed that you might promote a 6'4" walk-on from the third team and stick him in the starting lineup at center, then you would be right. (The walk-on, Justin Conway, used to play on my city league basketball team, and my brother coached him in high school.) Faster than you can say "Disney," the team starts winning and the announcers rave about how the players seem to have "re-discovered their love for the game."

They wrapped up their season with a thrilling win over conference champion Penn in which Justin scored the winning basket en route to 21 points. It wasn't enough to get them to the NCAA tournament, but they ended up second in the conference with a lot of weapons returning next year. Maybe we'll get a Rocky II-type sequel.
My trip to India is off to a rather inauspicious beginning. (And no, I'm not talking about this.) I made it from New York to London without incident, but because of an absurdly tight schedule booked for me by Orbitz.com, I missed my connecting flight to Bombay, despite arriving at Heathrow more than forty minutes before my scheduled departure. Apparently you absolutely need to check in an hour early for all flights, and the Orbitz scheduling algorithm didn't take this into account. Anyway, I'm stuck in London for the day, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, for the following reasons:
1. I've rebooked another flight to Bombay for tonight, free of charge.
2. Because of my international circle of friends (aka Bessie), I was able to spend the night in a cozy and charming apartment only a few blocks from King's Cross, complete with a warm quilt, wireless Internet, and an exhibitionist neighbor next door. (It's like a BBC sitcom around here.)
3. I have the entire day free, which means that I can have a spot of tea and check out Searching for Shakespeare at the National Portrait Gallery.
On the other hand, I'm dressed for Bombay weather, and believe it or not, it's foggy outside.

05 March 2006

Well, I was right. Darn it.
I don't think I'm going to be doing my usual play-by-play of the Oscars this year, but I thought I'd post my predictions:
Best Picture: Crash
Best Director: Ang Lee
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffmann
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Wiesz
Best Original Screenplay: Crash
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
If this list of predictions seems slightly boring, it's because it is. This is another year when conventional wisdom will win out.
The swim-a-thon is over, and here's what I've learned: it's easier, much easier, to stay awake all night if you do a short burst of intense physical activity every hour. I'll keep this in mind the next time a brief is due.
Quiz: which is bigger population-wise, San Diego or San Antonio? Bill Simmons has the answer. Hint: I got it wrong, and I was so mad I went to the Census website to check it out.

By the way, I'm an hour and a half into the swim-a-thon (I'm on break right now), and no one has drowned yet.

04 March 2006

Wow, what a week. I'm flying to Bombay in a couple of days, there's a new shareholder letter from Warren Buffett, tonight is Oscar night, and Blue Velvet is playing at the Film Forum.

Of all my favorite movies, Blue Velvet is the one I talk about least frequently, and until an hour ago, it was the only one I hadn't watched since coming to New York. Seeing it again tonight for the first time in years, I was forcefully reminded that this is basically the best American movie ever made. As several critics have pointed out, modern independent cinema starts here, but Blue Velvet also harks back to a tradition of surrealism in mainstream pictures that probably reached a high point in Vertigo. It's as well-constructed as a Hitchcock thriller, but it's also radically experimental, which is probably why I'm still not entirely sure of my responses to it, even after many, many, many viewings.

Even if you've seen Blue Velvet before, experiencing it in a theater is worth a special trip to New York, despite the fact that the Film Forum has some of the smallest screens in the city. (If it were playing at the Ziegfield, I'd be in heaven.) The sound is cranked up to just the right level of intensity, and the utterly pristine print reveals telling details—like a fly crawling across the hand of a dead body—that are invisible on video. Above all, seeing Blue Velvet with a receptive audience is one of the great experiences in moviegoing. There's always a lot of laughter, sometimes condescending, sometimes uneasy, but also long, uncomfortable silences and gasps of bewilderment. The reactions of the people around you—and your reactions to their reactions—are a crucial part of the show.

Put Blue Velvet together with The Red Shoes and Chungking Express, and you've got a triptych that sums up most of the reasons why I go to the movies. Amazingly enough, over the past ten months, I've managed to catch all three of these movies on the big screen. And that's why I love New York.
Wish me luck! In a few hours, I'm going to take part in a fundraiser for the UNM Triathlon team where we're going to swim from midnight to 6 a.m. (I assume we'll do it in relays or something.) I've tried to take some naps today so that I don't fall asleep and drown...

01 March 2006

I finally noticed my first earthquake!

I'd been despairing of ever noticing one. And there was a 3.4 this morning during my commute to school and I missed it entirely. But now I feel like I really live in California.
Yesterday was my last day at work. I'd been joking for a while that my decision to quit my job wouldn't really sink in until the following morning, when I'd wake up at the same time as usual and realize that I had nowhere to go. That's more or less what happened today, although I still don't think that I've quite come to terms with my new situation. There are times when I feel something like separation anxiety, and other times when the past four years seem like a dream. Occasionally I'll look around at my new life—which, truth be told, looks a lot like my old life—and wonder, Is this all?

Luckily, on Tuesday, I'm going to India for three weeks. Stay tuned for updates.
Apparently BJ is on the "Amazing Race." As one friend observed, "the inevitable has happened." For those of you who don't know BJ, he's hard to describe. The Crimson article does a pretty good job at it, but they didn't mention BJ's peculiar trait that he seemed to be everywhere at once and know everyone's name. That made it easy to take interest in his antics.

And of course, Noah has his own first-hand account of that fateful Thanksgiving flight.

Speaking of the "Amazing Race," it's the reality show that I'd most like to be a contestant on. (The show I'd least like to be on would probably be "The Flavor of Love" on VH1.) My brother and I thought about trying to enter a while back. But really, who would you rather watch riding a helicopter - me or BJ with a beard and pink tuxedo?

Thanks to END for the link. (To the BJ story, not the Flavor of Love website.)