Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recurring Themes

Don't leave your laptop on the floor overnight, at least not at my house.

One of my big motivations in starting, and maintaining (insofar as it is maintained) this blog was a desire to write about the challenges I experience living here in this culture so different from my own. I know I get whiny with frequency but hey folks, this is therapy for me, and let's face it I'm most amusing when I'm whining.

One of the themes I did not expect to come up so much are the ants. I wrote about them once showing up in my keyboard and then I wrote about the refrigerator killing ants... and now, ladies and gentlemen, ants have once again reappeared to pertubar minha vida (drive me nuts, loosely translated).

A dude I met in New Zealand told me that if you add up all the ants in the world, and stick them on one side of a balance, and then add up all the humans in the world, and stick them on the other side of the balance, they will balance each other out. That's as much ant-mass on the planet as human-mass. Tangentially, a science teacher of mine once told me that if you add up all the humans in the world you could fit them into a single cubic mile and 'drop them in the Grand Canyon.' At the time I believe the global population was about four billion, but last time I bothered with the calculations you could still fit all the humans in a single cubic mile, which kind of boggles the mind when you think how much damage we are managing to wreak on this poor planet of ours. Apropos to nothing, by adding the first neato science factoid to the second one, it follows that you could also pack all the ants in the world into a cubic mile- wouldn't that be horrible?

I've learned more about ants than I care to admit living in this house- you can pave paradise and the monkeys and parrots will go away, but the ants aren't going to budge. Anyone who thinks that we'll live in a post-apocalyptic world without a blade of grass or a single bug but still have mobs of humans wandering around has obviously not spent much time in the tropics - humans may be tough, and we certainly are destructive, but we ain't gonna outlast nature- we're gonna make a mess of things, already have, but ants will be dancing on our powdered remains long after we've gone extinct.

Anyhow, ants have been on my mind today- very much on my mind, because when I woke up this morning and sat down with my morning coffee as I always do to read my email and such, one crawled out of the keyboard. No big deal, happens- ants get into everything around here... and I didn't worry about it until about ten more crawled out. Then I worried about it, a lot.

I think the main reason I was so concerned about ants in my computer, unlike the last time this happened, is that last time I had three working computers and now I have just one. Not only that, but I have no money to buy another one, and I am utterly reliant on this machine to make my livelihood. Here comes another fun science factoid: do you know why they call them 'bugs' in software? Because back in the day before microchips if you got a real bug in your computer it could raise Cain in there. Or, as I learned with my charming refrigerator, it can kill the thing. I can't let that happen to my computer.

One of the charming things I've learned about ants is that they periodically migrate en masse from one spot to another- I'm not sure if it's because the colony gets too big, or if the old home becomes inhospitable, but I've often seen ant migrations in their little ant files from one spot to another in the house. Turns out this time they decided to migrate to the computer. I, not realizing the ultimate consequences of my actions, had left my laptop on the floor last night when I went to bed. The ants moved in overnight.

I guess it makes sense from an ant's point of view to move into a dormant computer- lots of nice little ant-sized spaces in there, presumably protected from the violent and deranged humans who also inhabit the house. Problem is that once the computer got turned on, it got hot in there, so they decided to leave. Their exodus caused me to freak out and shut the computer down, lest it short out with them in there, which made them less excited about leaving. So I spent most of the afternoon whacking on the laptop's case, moving it from place to place, sweeping migrant ants away from it so they couldn't find their way back in. And occasionally turning the thing on to speed up the process.

Deprived of my laptop for diversion and unable to get any work done on it, I naturally turned to the next best thing- my iPod. That's when I discovered, much to my shock and alarm, that ants had invaded that too. I guess it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise- it had been sitting on top of my computer all night.

Now it appears that all the ants have finally gone. I've been at the keyboard for most of an hour now and no ants have wandered up out of it, nor crawled out of the USB port, or out of the CD slot. Once again it appears I'm out of the woods.

But then again, this is a recurring theme.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Time passes and no posts. It's not that I've lost interest in this blog, which is now in its fourth year, but rather that it's found its way onto the long list of back-burnered projects that I maintain in my head. I suppose that means I have lost interest to some degree. Or maybe that I'm not feeling the need for the cathartic release I used to get from my posts, or maybe things have just gotten too serious in my life to publish them for the world to read.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to wonder what the hell I'm talking about because that's all the explanation you're gonna get.

The real problem, as it has always been, is a life that doesn't slow down combined with a self that has less than enough energy to deal with the events thrown at it. Since my last post, I made another trip back to the States with Lucas, and we got back over two weeks ago. It was great- for the first time Lucas spent Christmas with his Grammy, which was a big deal for her and I expect for him as well. I reckon he's at the age where he should remember these trips into adulthood, I know I remember all kinds of stuff from when I was five.

The big thing I mention to anyone who asks about the trip is how Lucas got to experience snow for the first time. We got lucky in that regard, there was snow on the ground for the entire time we were there, and it wasn't nasty, melted-then-frozen, snowed-then-rained type crusty stuff, it was nice powdery white stuff perfect for sledding and tobogganing - not so great for snowballs and snowmen (ok, snowpeople) although we got a forty-degree day right at the end which made up for it. Here's some pics:

Let me tell you it was freakin' cold but for the most part we dealt with it well- especially Lucas. I also learned something about mattresses that had never occurred to me, which is that for every nice warm blanket you toss over yourself there is a nice warm mattress underneath you, making a nice warm human sandwich. However, the formula breaks down if the mattress underneath you happens to be filled with two feet of air, which won't stay warm on a cold night. I discovered this the hard way, with a toasty warm top part of the sandwich, and a heat sink down below. It reminded me of the time I slept on the deck of the ferry from Italy to Greece, when despite being wrapped up in every item of clothing I had with me, the steel of the deck sucked all the warmth out of my body and I woke profoundly chilled. Luckily I didn't let it get to that point - a simple remaking of the bed with blankets both on top of and below the human part of the sandwich was adequate to remedy the problem.

We had a great trip and spent a lot of time with my family which was great. Only three grumbles, which for me is pretty good:
  • Not long enough
  • I didn't see any of my friends
  • I miss my dad
In other much more recent news I did something yesterday I've been planning for some time- I packed up a bunch of cans of paint, pumped up the tires on my poor neglected bicycle, and hit the road. In two hours I did four little paintings, plus a couple that didn't amount to more than doodles. If I could do that another ten times I'd be a formidable presence on the streets of Salvador. Here's a couple of the pieces:

Actually I've been painting a fair bit over the last few months, at least for me. I've done some much bigger pieces, but I'm not going to post them here. In fact, I'm done for now. Happy 2011 to everyone and thanks for reading.