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April 29, 2004

Corcoran for the defence

I generally like Terence Corcoran. He can take on issues of government waste or boneheaded intervention in the economy like a pitbull with razor sharp teeth. But he's also what I call a 'business fundamentalist'. Whenever some business leader is getting grief in the news, Terry will rush to their defence. To him, business people are all pure of heart and honourable, and only government is corrupt and greedy.

But his column in the Post today (unavailable online) goes beyond his typical defence of capitalism towards outright paranoia. He says that the firing of the head of a private company by the representatives of the company's shareholders is because of, get this ... the government. Here's how he summarizes the case against Dunn:

There's a constant buzz around that Nortel's earnings were made to look good in 2003 to enable Mr. Dunn and all Nortel executives and employees to collect fat bonuses earlier this year on the basis of the company's 2003 profit report. This theory, based on what we know, makes little sense. Even after restatements, he company still appears to have been profitable in 2003. More importantly, it implies that Mr. Dunn et al deliberately orchestrated bigger losses in 2000, 2001 and 2002 so that they could report higher profits in 2003. Mr. Dunn would have had to be monumentally ignorant of the corporate world to have attempted earnings manipulation through that period.

Given the massive size of Nortel's financial numbers in recent years, the restatements border on the trivial. This is especially true given the accounting issues. The company is talking about changes to accruals and provisions -- notoriously hoary issues -- worth a few hundred million dollars in a company whose assets and revenue figures ran up and down by tens of billions of dollars every year.

So Corcoran's defense -- if I understand it correctly -- is: there's no motive because Dunn could have used his time machine to go to the future and see that the company would be profitable without having to manipulate the figures, Dunn would have had to be stupid to do it because he would probably be caught, and it's not such a big deal anyways -- only few hundred million dollars shuffled around. Somehow I'm not convinced, but Corcoran declares case closed anyway:
OK, so if there's no fraud and no scam and no malfeasance, what exactly is the "cause" for firing Mr. Dunn?
Cue the Twilight Zone music. Just as for Michael Moore and Paul Krugman there's nothing wrong in the world that's not the fault of George Bush, for Terry the source of all darkness is the government. (Whereas in truth it's only the source of most darkness.)
Could Nortel be trapped in a post-Sarbanes world in which the company's board, facing regulatory an legal nightmares created by laws and regulators, is forced to sacrifice its CEO so as to protect the company and the board?
Well, you can guess what his answer is. Corcoran probably imagines he's defending capitalism by sticking up for Dunn and other white-collar criminals, but I think he's doing it a disservice. Humans are always looking for ways to enrich themselves, and sometimes they they try to do it through deceit and corruption. When someone is responsible for other people's assets -- whether they are a government program administrator or the CEO of a large company -- that temptation may be very large. For capitalism to shake its bad rap we have to show that it has an effective way of dealing with corruption. To me, that way is to have those who have taken advantage of the trust given to them be punished for what they have done. As we've seen with Adscam and UNSCAM, government bureaucracies are terrible at doing this. Those that believe in free enterprise can set an example by not making excuses for immoral practices like Dunn's.

April 28, 2004

Nortel continues its meltdown

Nortel CEO Frank Dunn (and two others) have been fired for playing games with the company's accounting. Now this may be something others would not want to admit on the internet, but I have something of a fascination with accounting. As I understand it, what they did was move some of the expenses they knew they would incur in 2003 to the financial statements for 2002. This was the year that they 'came clean' and wrote off all the bad investments the company had made earlier and made the balance sheet come closer to resembling the true position of the company. When you're confessing to all these mistakes, who's going to notice a few extra hundred million dollars? And if this allows the company to to post a nice profit in the next year -- where's the harm?

Well, technically the books haven't been too badly abused. This is not an Enron where liabilities were hidden. Enron was a gambling addict using embezzled money -- hiding his loses from his employer and waiting for the big score to bring him back above water. This is more in the vein of a politician pushing the responsibility for problems on his predecessor and taking the credit for things he had nothing to do with.

But it's still bad. Especially when you consider than Dunn got a nice bonus for arranging that bogus profit. That might be enough to put him in jail. But more importantly, it's given a false impression of how the company is doing. This has lured investors to throw good money after bad -- quite a serious crime. I'm interested in how this will play out.

A perfect moment

In Swimming to Cambodia, the late Spalding Grey talked about his quest for a perfect moment. He made it seem like these perfect moments were hard to come by, but I've had quite a few of them. What makes a perfect moment is to have that feeling of contentment wash over you. All worry is gone, and you live in the moment feeling that all is right in the world. Most of these moments I've had have been related to travel and food -- sitting outside, watching the fountain show at the Belagio while dining on a delicious steak with blue cheese sauce, or an afternoon pastry and coffee outside a cafe in Vienna -- but today with my sweeties I had another one.

I was lying on the patio stones with my eyes closed under the sun. Max was crawling over my legs, back and forth, having a good time, while Talia was tottering around behind my head, saying to herself what she's been saying a lot lately, "Ta-ya ... Ta-ee-ya ... Ah-ya ... TA-YA!". The sun was warm, even though the day was pretty cool, and the insides of my eyelids were orange. This was good. I was happy.

Of course it didn't last. Max, the Gravel Gourmet, had moved out to the driveway so I had to get up to hook from his mouth whatever it was he stuck in there. But that's what makes them perfect moments, I guess.

I'd like to say that the reason I haven't been blogging so much lately is that I've been too busy enjoying similar moments and leading a contemplative life, but the real reason is that I've been spending my few free moments playing Unreal Tournament 2004. Not exactly peaceful or relaxing, but still very fun. Onslaught mode rocks.

But I'll get bored of it soon. Normal blogging will resume shortly.

April 24, 2004

A gold star for Let It Bleed

Good job!  But don't let it go to your head.After much deliberation, I've decided to award Let It Bleed with the first Gold Star, an infrequently occuring or soon to be discontinued feature at Autonomous Source that gives a cheery 'thumbs up' to what I consider to be underappreciated work. Let It Bleed deserves this because of the stellar job Bob Tarantino has been doing at fisking the daylights out of some of the more addled columnists from the wacky side of the political spectrum that write for the Globe and Star. I assume his work is underappreciated because of the few comments his site gets, but he has been invited to join The Shotgun so perhaps his star is rising.

Fisking is hard work. I've tried my hand at it myself, and found it to be an intensely frustrating experience. The world view of these people is so alien and far removed from reality that (for me) correcting their commentary requires correcting their ingrained pre-assumptions, which requires detailing the real nature of human society. Which is quite a slog.

Bob makes it look easy. He skewers the shrill Heather Mallick, smacks down the Mike Moore wannabe Rick Salutin, and demolishes the oblivious Haroon Siddiqui to the point where not one stone is standing on another. And if Gwynne Dyer sticks his head out of his gopher hole, BAM goes the hammer.

Keep up the good work, Bob. I'm glad someone is countering the nonsense these papers' peddle, even if it's just on a blog.

April 23, 2004

Very cute

Yes they are. I can't seem to find the camera right now so I can't show you how cute they are, but I'll mention a few things they've done in the last few days.

Talia has begun to tell us her name. She taps her chest with two fingers and with a very serious expression says, "Ta-ya!".

Since weaning them, we've replaced the bedtime nursing session with a cuddle, a story, and a cup of warm milk. Talia's favourite story is Goodnight Gorilla, which involves a naughty Gorilla letting all the animals out of the zoo to follow the zookeeper to bed. We must have ran through it at least a hundred times in the past few weeks. In the story, there's a mouse that follows all the animals around while carrying a banana -- which the gorilla eats on the last page. On every page she sticks her finger out and pins the mouse, exclaiming, "'Nana!".

Today Max was sitting on my lap and started to pretend to eat something. He picked up whatever it was between his thumb and forefinger and put it in his mouth. He did this a few times then looked at me with a tight-lipped smile and offered me some. I opened my mouth and he put his fingers in. Yum!

Talia is walking pretty well now. She has a sort of Charlie Chaplin gait. Yesterday Opa was over and had to see her new trick. With everyone making a big fuss over Talia, Max decided he wanted to walk too. He climbed to his feet and threw his arms up and fell forward, big smile on his face. Up again and down again. He was too excited. Finally he calmed down enough to get his balance before he tried to move forward and walked a few steps! Good job, Max!

Yesterday out in the driveway Max decided he wanted to eat some gravel. I used the pinky-hook to take it out of his mouth and throw it away. He crawled to where I threw it and picked up the exact same piece of grey stone, indistiguishable from all the other pieces of grey stone. Hook, throw -- and he sees where it lands and gets it again! He didn't find it the next time.

Max was playing with a ball. Talia crawled over and took it away from him. Max cried. I told Talia to give the ball back to Max, knowing that it would never happen. But to my surprise, she understood me and offered the ball to Max. What a smart girl! I thought. And not just smart but also capable of empathy! She's amazing! And then, while looking at me with an evil grin, she yanked the ball away just as Max was reaching for it. She's normal.

UPDATE: I found the camera. It was outside in the pocket of the stroller. Luckily all the rain we've had in the last few days didn't damage it. Now I can add a couple of pictures to this post.

Here's Talia destroying Mama's crocuses:

And here's Max ready to go on an adventure. He's loaded his cart with gravel to eat on the journey...

April 20, 2004

Synchronicity

Two comic strips have just begun storylines in which a character loses a leg in Iraq. One is the Very Important Doonesbury, where B.D. catches one:

And the other is my current favourite strip, Get Fuzzy.

I used to like Trudeau's strip quite a bit, but he's gotten pretty heavy-handed with his satire in the past few years and I've lost interest. I'll be expecting him to take out the sledgehammer to make sure everyone understands that the liberation of Iraq has been a complete disaster. But hopefully we'll at least see some respect given to those serving in Iraq who believe in what they're doing there.

With Conley's strip I'm not sure which way he'll play it out. Get Fuzzy's been mostly non-political up until now, and maybe it'll remain that way. But I've got that feeling of trepidation you get when your favourite musician/writer/artist is on a talk show and the subject turns to politics. Please don't be an idiot...

April 19, 2004

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most people know intellectually about what happened in Germany during the Third Reich, but I think many people find it hard to understand it emotionally -- and that's what people must do if we are to stop similar disasters from happening again. Here's the personal account of a liberator of one of the concentration camps, Fred Friendly, who would later become the president of CBS News. (found on LGF)

May 19, 1945

Dear Mother,

In just a few days I will be in an airplane on my way back to the APO to which you write me. Before I leave Europe, I must write this letter and attempt to convey to you that which I saw, felt and gasped at as I saw a war and a frightened peace stagger into a perilous existence. I have seen a dead Germany. If it is not dead it is certainly ruptured beyond repair. I have seen the beer hall where the era of the inferno and hate began and as I stood there in the damp moist hall where Nazidom was spawned, I heard only the dripping of a bullet-pierced beer barrel and the ticking of a clock which had already run out the time of the bastard who made the Munich beer hall a landmark. I saw the retching vomiting of the stone and mortar which had once been listed on maps as Nurnheim, Regensberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Augusburg, Lintz, and wondered how a civilization could ever again spring from cities so utterly removed from the face of the earth by weapons the enemy taught us to use at Coventry and Canterbury. I have met the German, have examined the storm trooper, his wife and his heritage of hate, and I have learned to hate - almost with as much fury as the G.I. who saw his buddy killed at the Bulge, almost as much as the Pole from Bridgeport who lost 100 pounds at Mauthausen, Austria. I have learned now and only now that this war had to be fought. I wish I might have done more. I envy with a bottomless spirit the American soldier who may tell his grandchildren that with his hands he killed Germans.

That which is in my heart now I want you and those dear to us know and yet I find myself completely incapable of putting it into letter form. I think if I could sit down in our living room or the den at 11 President, I might be able to convey a poertion of the dismal, horrible and yet titanic mural which is Europe today. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that for months or maybe a year, and by then the passing of time may dim the memory. Some of the senses will live just so long as I do - some of the sounds, like the dripping beer, like the firing of a Russian tommy gun, will always bring back the thought of something I may try to forget, but never will be able to do.

For example, when I go to the Boston Symphony, when I hear waves of applause, no matter what the music is, I shall be traveling back to a town near Lintz where I heard applause unequalled in history, and where I was allowed to see the ordeal which our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race have endured. To me Poland is no longer the place where Chopin composed, or where a radio station held out for three weeks - to me Poland is a place from which the prisoners of Mauthausen came. When I think of the Czechs, I will think of those who were butchered here, and that goes for the Jews, the Russians, Austrians, the people of 15 different lands, - yes, even the Germans who passsed through this Willow Run of death. This was Mauthausen. I want you to remember the word... I want you to know, I want you to never forget or let our disbelieving friends forget, that your flesh and blood saw this. This was no movie. No printed page. Your son saw this with his own eyes and in doing this aged 10 years.

Mauthausen was built with a half-million rocks which 150,000 prisoners - 18,000 was the capacity - carried up on their backs from a quarry 800 feet below. They carried it up steps so steep that a Captain and I walked it once and were winded, without a load. They carried granite and made 8 trips a day... and if they stumbled, the S.S. men pushed them into the quarry. There are 285 steps, covered with blood. They called it the steps of death. I saw the shower room (twice or three times the size of our bathroom), a chamber lined with tile and topped with sprinklers where 150 prisoners at a time were disrobed and ordered in for a shower which never gushed forth from the sprinklers because the chemical was gas. When they ran out of gas, they merely sucked all of the air out of the room. I talked to the Jews who worked in the crematory, one room adjacent, where six and seven bodies at a time were burned. They gave these jobs to the Jews because they all died anyhow, and they didn’t want the rest of the prisoners to know their own fate. The Jews knew theirs, you see.

I saw the living skeletons, some of whom regardless of our medical corps work, will die and be in piles like that in the next few days. Malnutrition doesn’t stop the day that food is administered. Don’t get the idea that these people here were all derelicts, all just masses of people... some of them were doctors, authors, some of them American citizens. A scattered few were G.I.s. A Navy lieutenant still lives to tell the story. I saw where they lived; I saw where the sick died, three and four in a bed, no toilets, no nothing. I saw the look in their eyes. I shall never stop seeing the expression in the eyes of the anti-Franco former prisoners who have been given the job of guarding the S.S. men who were captured.

And how does the applause fit in? Mother, I walked through countless cell blocks filled with sick, dying people - 300 in a room twice the size of our living room as as we walked in - there was a ripple of applause and then an inspiring burst of applause and cheers, and men who could not stand up sat and whispered - though they tried to shout it - Vive L’Americansky... Vive L’Americansky... the applause, the cheers, those faces of men with legs the size and shape of rope, with ulcerated bodies, weeping with a kind of joy you and I will never, I hope, know. Vive L’Americansky... I got a cousin in Milwaukee... We thought you guys would come... Vive L’Americansky... Applause... gaunt, hopeless faces at last filled with hope. One younger man asked something in Polish which I could not understand but I did detect the word “Yit”... I asked an interpreter what he said - The interpreter blushed and finally said, “He wants to know if you are a Jew.” When I smiled and stuck out my mitt and said “yes”... he was unable to speak or show the feeling that was in his heart. As I walked away, I suddenly realized that this had been the first time I had shaken hands with my right hand. That, my dear, was Mauthausen.

I will write more letter in days to come. I want to write one on the Russians. I want to write and tell you how I sat next to Patton and Tolbukhin at a banquet at the Castle of Franz Josef. I want to write and tell you how the Germans look in defeat, how Munich looked in death, but those things sparkle with excitement and make good reading. This is my Mauthausen letter. I hope you will see fit to let Bill Braude and the folks read it. I would like to think that all the Wachenheimers and all the Friendlys and all our good Providence friends would read it. Then I want you to put it away and every Yom Kippur I want you to take it out and make your grandchildren read it.

For, if there had been no America, we, all of us, might well have carried granite at Mauthausen.

All my love,
F.F.

April 16, 2004

Alas, poor Svend, cont'd

I'm generally not one of those people to tell you I told you so, but ... I told you so. It seems Svend was already in the sights of the RCMP before he did his public act of contrition. His 'weekend of great anguish' was spent trying to figure out how to play this exceptionally poor hand he dealt himself, and not due to any crisis of conscience. You have to admit, all this too much pressure, I just snapped, gosh I'm sorry, *sniff-sniff* stuff is pretty good. I never thought he was stupid.

A friend called earlier and said she thought I was being pretty hard on "poor Svend". Well, I think even for Sheila I'd be a bit more understanding, but this is a man who lived for making wild accusations and attacking people. He deserves everything he gets.

UPDATE: And then there's this, indicating Svend had been out shopping for a ring in the days before his theft (of a $50,000 ring!). Hmmm, he just snapped, eh?

Ahh, mud

Now that spring has finally arrived at this far northern latitude, my children can now be introduced to the outside world. Much of which consists of mud. They seem to like mud, so I think their relationship with the outside world will be similarly positive.

Yes, that is mud on Talia's head.

And I know, I've got to take those Christmas lights down sometime.

April 15, 2004

Alas, poor Svend...

It's okay, you're a victim of society...Via Adam Diafallah, I've learned that Svend Robinson, the man that has long occupied the number two position on my personal list of the worst Canadian MPs, is stepping down. (Number one is a nasty piece of work from Hamilton whose name sounds similar to Tequila Shots.) And not just for 'personal reasons', or 'to spend more time with my family', but because he stole some expensive jewelery.

Now he says he turned himself in (after a "weekend of great anguish"), but you can read between the lines and guess that whoever he stole it from confronted him about it and threatened to go to the police if he didn't go on his own. But because he is a member of the NDP, we can expect little inquiry into what really happened. In fact, apparently it's so difficult to believe that this paragon of virtue could ever be afflicted with such a base emotion as greed that the press is making excuses for him!

CTV's Craig Oliver noted similarities between this incident and something that happened in Ottawa, more than 20 years ago, that prevented MP Lorne Nystrom from running for the NDP leadership.

"What psychologists say about these two incidents, is that people who driven [sic] and under stress and can't bring themselves to quit, they do something that drives them to quit," Oliver said.

Sure Craig. Are you channeling Oprah?

Flakiness in the House of Commons has decreased 20%! A great day for all Canadians.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne thaws out a nice hatchet job he did on St. Svend to help celebrate the occasion.

UPDATE II: And now he's taken it down -- claiming to feel sorry for poor Svend. Man. The quality of right-wing columnists at the Post has really gone downhill in the last year...

UPDATE III: The hatchet job can be found here.

Baby update

Finally the colds are that Max and Talia have been suffering through are coming to an end. I can't complain too much about them; the kids were remarkably easy compared to how it could have been. They (mostly) slept through the night and only occasionally were completely miserable. Our secret? Multiple doses of liquid ibuprofin and liquid acetaminophen staggered throughout the day. And tissues, lots of tissues, the kind with the skin lotion included. As you can see in this early morning picture of Talia, our two little patients generated an enormous quantity of snot. If there was an industrial use for snot I might have been able to sell the contents of our wastebaskets for quite a sum of money.

I said their colds were almost over. Where's the fun in being sick if you can't share it with anyone? I took the kids to their playgroup today to cough on some toys. After all, they probably picked up the cold there, we should bring it back.

At the playgroup the first 15 minutes is the two of them gripping me tightly as they peek over my shoulders at all the other kids and the toys. Talia is the first to let go to play on the floor next to me. As long as I don't go too far, she's happy. Soon, Max will try to grab what Talia's playing with and she will start screaming. Then we're back to normal, and I can move around and talk to some of the other parents. Once they warmed up, they had a good time pushing each other around on this little buggy:

Our PM is lost in space and time

Back in '96, I travelled to Boston with another engineer to take a course. As we came in to land at Logan airport, she looked out the window to the plane and asked me, "Ohh, is that the ocean?" I assured her it was, and she was silent for a moment. Then she asked, "Which ocean is it?"

She wasn't much better in her understanding of history either, once asking another engineer of my age if they only had silent movies when he was a kid.

To me, this kind of ignorance is unfathomable. How can you be so unaware of basic geography? How can you have no idea of where you are? How can you not have a basic understanding of the past?

Our PM has recently displayed a similar ignorance, mixing up 'Norway' with 'Normandy' in a speech to soldiers about the Second World War. I'm sure the PM will try to brush this off a simple misstatement, but the fact that he did it twice in the same speech makes me doubt that.

You have to wonder what other facts are screwed up in his head. If he thinks Operation Overlord involved storming the beaches of Norway, is it that he doesn't know where Norway is, or just that he has no knowledge of how the war progressed? Each possibility reveals a man who has no curiosity about the world. He probably learned everything he knows about these subjects accidentally as he strived to look solemn in the many Rememberance Day services he had to attend as a politician.

I didn't think my respect for this guy could get lower, but it just did.

April 14, 2004

Should Bush apologize?

The headline for the CBC Radio News coverage of Bush's speech/press conference last night was President Bush refuses to apologize for 9/11! All that other stuff he said about his commitment to create a free Iraq was barely mentioned.

I watched most of the show last night. At least two reporters brought up the issue of an apology, one who suggested that "some people" find it very arrogant he won't do the head-bowed I'm sorry thing that Richard Clarke did in the 9/11 hearings.

But why should he apologize? Did Roosevelt apologize for Pearl Harbor? Did Clinton apologize for Oklahoma City? Of course not. But in those cases everyone knew who the enemy was and there was no dispute over who the anger should be directed at. But for the sins of radical Islam, there is a large part of the population that is unwilling to put the blame where it belongs.

It's a very maddening thing. Islamic terrorists kill 200 in Madrid and what happens? The fury that should be directed towards the intolerant and repressive ideology that the terrorists were inspired by is instead directed at the US:

"This is all the fault of the United States; they got us into this," said Santiago Ruíz, a 55-year-old electrician who lives in suburban Leganés, a block from where the four suspects killed themselves and a police officer on Saturday. "The way to combat terrorism isn't the way Bush has done. Spain is paying the consequences of its solidarity with the United States."
What a dope. No doubt he has been traumatized by what happened in his country, but he's unable to blame the true culprits. In all of the recent terrorist acts in the past few years there's been a similar tendency by a significant part of the population to attribute the blame to their own culture or government in some way.

This is at the heart of the press's need for an apology from Bush. There is this pervasive idea that the Western world has done something it must apologize for. It is as if the terrorists are wild animals that we have inadvertently provoked in some way. Certainly it's difficult to understand the rationals of people willing to kill themselves in order to murder innocent people, but to deny that they are human is to deny that they are responsible. And they are responsible.

April 13, 2004

Peru Diaries, Part IV

Our intrepid reporter has been joined by his girlfriend to visit the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. But instead of a few days relaxing in the tourist village of Aguas Calientes, they wound up at the scene of a disaster. Thrill to the story of inept crisis management and international tensions, with an special appearance by the President of Peru...

Anger gave way to mourning when darkness fell on the plaza, broken by a hundred white candles that flickered around the body of Juan Carlos Tapia Farfán, 13. Raging waters took his life when homes vanished into the Alcamayo River. Juan Carlos' body was found six kilometers from the town of Aguas Calientes, the last stop before the Inca city of Machu Picchu. Bodies of the other victims haven't been found and are presumed dead. Carlos Tapia, 27; Roberto Rossel, 40; Lenidas Yucra, 31; Alicia Gutierrez, 20; Ronald Yucra, 5; Lucy Layme, 30; Eleazar Tapia, 10; Romer Tapia, 3; and Carlos Daniel Tapia, 3 months.

Saturday 1:45 a.m. Swollen with heavy rainfall the Alcamayo river flooded its banks and devoured six homes that lay near its banks, about 300 meters from our hotel. The houses couldn't withstand the thousands of tons of mud, water and boulders that cascaded down the valley.

Saturday 2:15 a.m. A mudslide a quarter kilometer in length detached from the Peruvian jungle and ripped down the side of a mountain leading into Aguas Calientes. The mass of rocks and earth swept over the railway –- the only means of reaching Aguas Calientes –- covering it with tons of debris and pushing heavy machinery used to clear the tracks down into the torrent.

Saturday 2:30 a.m. Over the roar of the river and rain it was impossible to tell anything was amiss in Aguas Calientes. No one heard when six houses were destroyed and their inhabitants taken. But when water started to seep into hotel lobbies, local residents knew something was wrong. Tourists were raised from their slumber and told to evacuate immediately to the town's plaza. By then the river had jumped its banks and was running down the railway line, carrying mattresses and sofas.

Saturday 5:30 a.m. We woke up eagerly looking forward to a second day touring Machu Picchu. Our plans ended when the hotel receptionist said we should hurry to the plaza and wait for instruction on how to be evacuated. The town of Aguas Calientes can't have more than 10,000 inhabitants, who largely cater to the 1,500 tourists that make it their last stop before taking the bus up to the ancient town. About two months earlier the area was hit by a similar disaster, fueling optimism a contingency plan was in place. As the morning wore on, tourists began to filter down the steep hill through the center of town, coffee in hand and nervously laughing. A sign on the Perurail office said an announcement would be made at 10 a.m.

Saturday 8 a.m. Tour group leaders began to make lists of their groups, hoping to hand them to municipal leaders and be the first to get out of town. It wasn't long before others began to make lists, scrambling for pens and scribbling the words "Lista Oficial" on the top of the page in hopes of being the first. There must have been at least 50 pages of official lists going around.

Saturday 10 a.m. It became clear to most in the plaza that no one was in charge. The mayor, the rail monopoly, the federal government and the police were nowhere to be seen and the word was they were fighting about who would pick up the tab for the rescue. Peru's President Alejandro Toledo was in the area to visit to ruins and still hadn't made an appearance. Local residents though weren't waiting, and with their bare hands began to try and move the rocks, mud and debris that covered the site where houses once stood. An Air Force pilot with Toledo told us the problem was that the helicopters were on one side of the landslide and the pilots were about 30 kilometers away on the other side of it. Wouldn't it make sense to always keep the pilots close to their vehicles?

Saturday 11 a.m.The sign at the train station was changed. "Announcement at noon."

Saturday 11:30 a.m. A bus rolled down the hill from Machu Picchu and President Toledo stepped out wearing a white shirt and jeans and began to tour the site. I quickly tagged on to his group. "Those rocks weren't there last night, and now they are on the roof of a house,'' he said, pointing to car-sized boulders. Racing to catch up with Toledo, I lost my shoe in about two feet of mud that was 10 meters up from the river. Toledo scrambled down over a ledge to where the houses used to be; I was impressed he was taking risks. But the politician couldn't be suppressed; he stood up on a rock with the river behind him and posed for a camera crew that was with him. After the photo op was done, he said a few words and took off for the plaza.

Saturday 11:45 a.m. Toledo climbed up on the balcony of the plaza to speak to the crowds. He promised the use of his helicopter to first evacuate the injured and the sick. He pledged to build a wall to keep the river in and to relocate houses. Tourists couldn't care less. "My tickets won't be refunded. Will you evacuate us?", a Spanish lady yelled out. "This isn't Spain. We're not a rich country," Toledo answered. "Just as you couldn't predict March 11, we couldn't predict this." With the crowd unappeased, Toledo made his move. "I need to go now to leave the helicopter for you," he said. Yeah right. And with him left the only person who could have taken charge.

Saturday 1:00 p.m. The mayor came out and told everyone to move to the street where lists would be read out. Peruvians were told they would not be allowed to be evacuated by helicopter. This to me was the biggest outrage. I could just imagine the scene in Canada if Canadians were banned from taking a helicopter paid for with their tax dollars to leave a natural disaster site. Peruvians, strangely enough, didn't complain. One man who was kicked off a bus came out smiling. "I nearly sneaked on," he told me. Wrong, we were the ones sneaking on to their helicopters.

Saturday 1:15 p.m. About 1,000 people heckled the mayor as he tried to read the lists. Nobody could hear a word he said as he read down a list of names. People pushed, shoved, hit, scratched, spat and heckled as he tried to read out names. "Inutile," yelled some Spaniards. Tour operators came from nowhere to give him a 'special list'. I was told the first group gave the mayor $150 to be the first list. It worked. "You're not going to get my vote," an Australian yelled. "How much money do you want so that I can get out?'', an Argentine woman yelled. Frustrations boiled when more 'lists' appeared and the crowd got ugly, the mayor was heckled, people screamed about international flights, children, high blood pressure and promises. They mayor broke down and ordered everyone back to the plaza.

Saturday 1:30 p.m. A lady from the rail monopoly came onto the balcony came out and said they would attempt to restore rail service by 4 p.m. on Sunday and that nothing would be done before then. Just to be sure we got the message she said it in English, French, German and Spanish. "Now in Hebrew! Now in Hebrew!", yelled some Israelis. She said that the tracks were knocked out 10 kilometers down line and that it was unadvisable to walk out. No kidding. She was wrong. It was a 30-kilometer walk out, according to a U.S. couple I met in the airport after. Their shoes were worn out, the soles broken by the jagged rocks and both heels were bleeding.

Saturday 2 p.m. Frustrated with the enormous quantity of lists some people decided to walk down to the heliport and jump the line. The mayor came back out and said that due to fights at the heliport he was leaving to attend to that problem. People jumping cues were swinging fists in a bid to be on the helicopter. An American from San Francisco told me it sounded worse that the picture of the last U.S. helicopter out of Saigon. The last time I saw the mayor he was sitting in the plaza, his head down and with tears coming down his face. He had taken office thinking it was nothing more than free drinks and bribes. This guy was no Giuliani. Someone later told me his house had also been damaged by the floodwaters. He can use the bribes to repair the damage.

Saturday 3 p.m. Back in the plaza more lists started to appear. This was the official list we were told and another queue was made, with the usual queue-jumping tactics employed by the tour group operators. Even Gandhi would get ticked off after a tour guide with a list of 40 people jumps in front of you for the sixteenth time.

Saturday 4 p.m. We gave up and decided to try our luck at the heliport. It was a 30-minute walk down to the field where it was landing and we got there a bit late. About 200 hundred people stood before us. There was a fence at the end of the field where the groups passed through to get on the chopper and that's where it got most ugly. Dominik was an especially rude German tour group operator who attempted to sneak through the foliage to gain some yardage. His progress was halted by four South Africans, who together weighed as much as a rhino. "Where the hell do you think you're going mate?", one of them yelled out.

Dominik quickly retreated about 10 meters and tried to 'legally' get back in the line where he was originally. But by then he had lost his place and his efforts to jump back in were shot down. "Back of the line Dommy," shouted an Australian.

"Off you go mate," I said. "There's no room here for jumpers."

Dominik lost it at that point; his face, already sweaty and red from the sun, went to a shade of deep purple. "What's you're problem? One lady in my group has a funeral to go to!", he yelled. About 50 people around me burst into laughter. There were children in the line, pregnant ladies and elderly. A funeral for someone who was already dead wasn't going to allow get him and 40 Germans to the front of the line.

"My dog ate my homework," cried an American. "I need to get on the helicopter."

"If the lady is dead you can't do much about it Dommy can you? So back to the end of the line,'' the Australian yelled.

Saturday 6 p.m. We were two helicopters from getting out when the service was cut for lack of light. The canyons were dangerous even during the day, now with the fog and lack of visibility it was impossible.

Saturday 7 p.m. We got back to the plaza to see another list was being made. This was the 'official list', we were told. Just what I wanted to do --
wait in a line for another 2 hours. "Peru – Expect Nothing and Get Nothing," an Australian said.

Saturday 10 p.m. One of the bodies had been recovered six kilometers away. The family covered the corpse with a blanket and set a vigil, drinking fermented corn. It was eerily quiet. Around the corner, tourists, with voices hoarse from yelling, tucked into suppers and bottles of wine. One bar put tables out in the street for revelers to party through the night. Peruvians, who were forbidden to ride the helicopters out, mourned their dead. No mention was made of them, no sympathy was given to them. Screams about that "Iberia won't reimburse my $1,000 ticket to Madrid", contrasted with the quiet sobs of the families that grieved their dead.

Saturday 10:10 p.m. PeruRail, the monopoly which charges as much as $400 for a trip to Machu Picchu and a minimum of $700 a night at the Sanctuary lodge (the only hotel at Machu Picchu) did nothing. No donations, no food, no pledges. Nothing. Way to go PeruRail.

Sunday 5 a.m. Rise and shine. Time to get in line.

Sunday 6 a.m. I went to the bus stop and a queue was being formed to get down to the heliport. It was becoming routine.

Sunday 8 a.m. We heard (really) 'official' lists were being posted at the town hall for the helicopter evacuations. We decided to abandon our prime spots near the front of the bus line and run to the plaza. There it was in black and white: we were on list #3.

Sunday 8:05 a.m. All hell broke loose. People not on the lists went ballistic. "My father is 72 and ill and I was first in line," said a Brazilian liar. (I saw him later and there was no father). People threatened to rip the lists down and storm the municipality.

Sunday 8:30 a.m. Police officers (all minors) appeared and told people to line up according to list numbers. Thirty-something Spanish ladies left off lists manhandled the police officers.

Sunday 8:35 a.m. Our line was moved to the river. We were getting closer.

Sunday 9 a.m. Our line disintegrated.

Sunday 9:30 a.m. Our line was moved onto a bus

Sunday 10 a.m. Our line was moved down to the heliport.

Sunday 10:05 a.m. There were at least five helicopter loads before us and every third trip was to Cusco to refuel. We slowly moved forward. A coffin was unloaded from the chopper and for once in 48 hours all screams, complaining, laughing and cursing stopped. It started again when the white coffin with a yellow plastic sheet disappeared up the jungle path.

Sunday 11 a.m. Two helicopter trips away.

Sunday 11:05 a.m. Dominik was behind us. Ha. Take that.

Sunday 11:10 a.m. Another fight broke out; this time between an Air Force officer and a municipal worker who wanted to be in charge of the landing pad. Air Force 1 - Municipality 0.

Sunday 12:30 p.m. The chopper came down into the field and our group got inside. We were free. Hats off to the pilot who went back and forth through the narrow canyons to ferry rich tourists out of their ruined vacations. Beneath us was the wreckage of the five homes that were leveled and the residents still clearing debris. Pity the residents of Aguas Calientes, the mayor is corrupt and incompetent and the government prizes rich tourists over its own citizens. Overhead the last chopper out of Saigon made its way down the valley.

April 12, 2004

Van Helsing is coming...


My life.
My job.
My curse...is to vanquish evil.

I saw the trailer for Van Helsing the other day before my wife and I saw the delightful Ladykillers. I don't think I've ever seen a trailer make a movie look so potentially bad. It works so hard to create this serious, dark, gothic look that your only possible response is to laugh. Rain, thunder, a guy dressed in a costume from a Duran Duran video fighting, get this, Dracula, the Wolfman, and um, uh ... oh yeah, Frankenstein. (Or as modern gothic afficianados call him: Frankenstein's monster.) A flash of humour in the trailer might have made it look worth watching, but no, all they serve up is this serious gothic nonsense. I caught a serious whiff of Waterworld when watching it.

But the funny thing is that I'm sure I'll wind up seeing the movie on the opening weekend. I've a friend who's also a stay-at-home father, and he has a fascination with examining the latest droppings from between Hollywood's cheeks as soon as he can. I'm the guy that comes along with him. Mostly it's been a good experience. I've seen a lot of good movies that I never would have had an interest to see on my own (like The Rundown, or The Missing) and got out of the house for a few precious hours. I'm expecting Van Helsing to be completely terrible, but can't wait until it gets here...

April 11, 2004

Peru Diaries, Part III

Another report from the field from the Autonomous Source Latin American correspondent. Unfortunately, there's nothing exciting in this latest dispatch. Just a bird-watching report...

My Titicaca dreams crashed courtesy of striking fishermen that blocked the road to the lake and the border of Boliva. Instead, I made a beeline back to the Cusco airport and grabbed the next flight out to Arequipa, a colonial town in southern Peru. Arequipa lies in a valley below two snow-capped peaks, one of which is an active volcano. I was met at the airport by 6,000 taxi drivers and I haggled with one of them to take me to the Colca Canyon, a five hour drive up and over the Peruvian altiplano. The Colca Canyon is considered to be the world's deepest at 3 to 4 kilometers in depth, although some contend a neighboring canyon is even deeper. The drive took us along a dirt road that leads past ghost towns, once filled with miners, and up to 5,600 meters, where we were greeted by a blizzard. From snow-capped peaks we plunged more than two kilometers straight down into the green valleys below. My cab driver and I stayed in a humble hotel, where the toilets explode in the middle of the night and send water crashing down the hallways and into the lobby.

The purpose of the trip was to get a glimpse of the rare Andean Condor, the world's largest bird of flight. The day before I arrived only three condors had been seen, because of pounding rain and sleet that locomotived down the valley. The Andean Condor has a wingspan that stretches out to over more than 3 meters and at 12 kilograms is the heaviest bird that can fly. The problem is that it is so heavy it's a bit of a struggle to take to the air and so it nests in the cliff walls of the canyon, where it can step out the front door and ride the thermals rising from the canyon floor. I woke up at 3 a.m. in order to head out to the vantage point to see the birds. Condors are a relatively lazy bird, waiting for the sun to heat the earth before they get out of bed, but given the rain I was told it was best to get there early. The drive along the canyon is spectacular, with dozens of little pueblitos getting ready for Holy Week, stringing flowers around the church, polishing altars, sweeping the streets, while the ladies of the village cooks empanadas, humita and bread, sending the scent of cinnamon, chile and toffee wafting through the canyon. At the vantage point you sit on a ledge, whip out the binoculars and stare all the way down into the endless abyss for the condors.

At 7 a.m. the first condor, a male, launched himself into the void. The wings stretched out forever and he only flapped once as he moved up in circles and away from the rapids in the river bottom. I'm told the boss condor always goes out first the check the thermals. Apparently this day he didn't like them because he disappeared back into his nest for a late kipper. At 8.30 the canyon exploded (well relatively speaking) as three condors took flight at the same time, spiraling up and then disappearing down into the valley. The mature male is the most impressive bird. It's mostly black with white across the tops of the winges and a big black head and a white fluffly ring around the neck, as if someone slapped a sugar-glazed Dunkin' Doughnut on its head. At about 9 a.m. two younger birds, one male and one female, buzzed my head and being slightly curious perched on a rock 20 meters down from me. It was a wonderous moment, that wasn't even ruined by the German lady that had just about climbed onto my back for a better view. Then, with one flap of the wings the two condors dropped into the canyon and took off in search of rotting food. That day I saw 10 condors, out of a population of 40 or so.

Interesting condor facts:

  • They mate for life.
  • They can fly at altitudes of 6,000 meters.
  • They nest once every two years.
  • They can live up to 50 years of age.
  • They can't take off if they eat too much. A bit like me at Ashton's.

April 09, 2004

It's for you!

The kids are still sick, but I managed to grab a shot of Max in one of the few moments when he's happy and isn't sporting a glistening, goopy moustache.

It's amazing how they have the ability to learn concepts from so few clues. This toy phone looks nothing like the cordless phone he's seen Mama and Papa using, he's never seen a dial on a phone, and the colors are all wrong. Still, he pieces together that this is something you hold to the side of your head and talk to. My training is in technology, and there you become accustomed to the boundaries of a definition. Things must be expressed precisely and with no room for error. But babies get little snippets of information and manage -- through trial and error of course -- to build an understanding of the world.

April 08, 2004

Peru Diaries, Part II

Once again in the absence of anything interesting from me I offer a slice of adventure from one of those places you don't think of very much. This is some quite terrific stuff. My buddy the Latin American correspondent should really get a blog of his own. I'm sure he'd have a big audience in no time.

Pedro is a 50 year old taxi driver who has two children in the U.S. He took me from my hotel to the center of town.

Pedro: Where are you from?
Andrew: Canada.
Pedro: Is it true that in New York intersections the traffic lights make you wait 5 minutes?
Andrew: I don't know. I don' t think so, that sounds a bit much.
Pedro: What if it was a really busy highway that crossed a dirt road?
Andrew: Well I suppose then it would be reasonable to have a 5 minute red light.
Pedro. I knew it. Those people in New York are crazy.

Peru's history is basically string of bad luck. Earthquakes, tidal waves, storms, mudslides, coup d'etats, auto coup d'etats (when the president shuts down his own Congress), wars, famine and fog (about seven months of it a year). When the Spaniards first arrived in Peru the Inca empire was about at its peak, stretching from central Chile all the way up to Colombia. As luck (bad) would have it the Inca emperor had just died and his two sons squabbled over the empire. Son#1 saw the Spaniards and said "Voila, a good opportunity to conquer my brother." The Spaniards said they would help if he filled a room to the ceiling with gold. Son#1 filled the room with gold and was killed. The Spaniards then went to Cusco, where they were greeted by Son#2 as heros for killing Son#1. The Spaniards then killed Son#2. And that's just about how it all got started. 150 Spaniards took over the biggest empire in the Amricas in a little less than a month.

Natalia is a tour guide at the old fort on the part of Lima that juts out into the Pacific ocean. It is still an active military base and I jumped on a local tour that left earlier.

Natalia: Behind me are cannons that were used in the Pacific war against Chile.
Andrew: Who won the war?
Natalia: Chile.

About 40 Peruvians glared at me with disdain.

Natalia: And on your left are cannons that were used in the 1940s in the war with Ecuador.
Andrew: And who won that war?
Natalia: Ecuador.

About 40 Peruvians glared at me with disdain. I stopped asking questions.

About midway through the tour we stopped for a bathroom break. The ladies bathroom was blocked by a soldier who was "on duty" but had decided there was no imminent invasion and it was best to take a quick nap in the shade of the doorway. A lady on our tour then thought of no better thing to do than jumpstart awake a sleeping soldier who had a machinegun in his lap by throwing an empty coke can on his head. Luckily his sleep was so deep he didn't startle and fire off a few rounds. The tour was quickly getting out of hand and boring so I made a quick break for the exit. On my way out the two honour guards on duty stopped me and said I should donate some spare change to them so they could buy a Coke. No wonder Peru lost so many wars.

From the fort I made my way to the fishing port, which is always an exciting place to be. I walked to the end of the pier and sat down by Paco, a half blind man in his thirties, and his sidekick Pancho, who was 60 and looked more like 120. Paco said because of his poor eyes he couldn't take my photo and he passed the camera to Pancho who had never ever taken a photo in his life. It only took 15 minutes to do. Paco was a music lover and he told me so.

Paco: Do you know this song. "Baby, you flu ting tao. And I wanna go bling bow. Nah, nah nah, nah , nah, and I wanna go bling bow. Peas Dun Go. Peas Dun Go!"
Andrew: I think it's a dance song from the 80s called "Please Don't Go. Please Don't Go"
Paco: What does that mean.
Andrew: The singer wants some girl to stay with not to go.
Paco: Wow. (And therein was my fatal error. Paco had a list of about 300 songs he wanted me to explain to him).

The next thing I knew Paco had whipped out the biggest air guitar I've ever seen in my life and started to lick a few chords of The Police off for me.

Paco: Do do do do, Da da da da, all I wan to go is you. Do do do do, da da da da, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah.
Andrew: That's really good.
Paco: What does it mean?
Andrew: Nothing.

From the Pet Shop Boys to MC Hammer to Prince to The Doors to Iron Maiden and to Celine Dion we went. It was dizzying. Being an air guitar Paco's fingers never tired and sidekick Pancho seemed to enjoy the concert and bobbed his head. I on the other couldn't take much more and left in the middle of a very long Santana song.

Roast rat is a popular treat in Lima. I'm not sure it's a rat, it could be a big mouse or a guinea pig. The rodent is skinned and stuck on a skewer to roast over a plate of hot coals, where the fat runs off it and makes its glisten in the sun. You buy the rat and a bottle of Inca Cola (yes, it's gold in colour) and enjoy the treat as you walk down the street.

Leaving the port I flagged down another taxi to take me to the beach zone. Only after I haggled him down to 12 sols did I learn he was concerned the owner of the car would take it from him for failing to make a monthy payment and that his kids were in school but not for long if they took his car. Time to reverse haggle and give him more. Eduardo decided to try and boost his profit by taking a shortcut through a slum in the industrial zone.

Eduardo: I almost never come here because it's too dangerous.
Andrew: So turn around.
Eduardo: It's two sols cheaper.
Andrew: I'll give you 4.
Eduardo: Last week 10 guys pulled me over here, robbed me and even took my floor mats.
Andrew: I'll give you 8.
Eduardo: Then there was a time a few years ago they just took the whole car.
Andrew: Oh boy.

At this point a child flung himself in the dirt and lay in the ground, I was expecting the band of robbers to pounce and rob us blind when Eduardo stopped. Luckily Eduardo (AKA Schumacher) swerved and avoided the child and we rumbled on down the street. He got a nice tip.

As I walked back to my hotel (with no bathroom) a man walked up to me and began to speak. His name was Daniel and he was an unemployed English teacher. His English was really terrible, which likely explains why he was unemployed. But he wasn't an idiot.

Daniel: Can you do me a favor and tell people back home that the money the ONGs (NGOs) send doesn't get to us. The polticians take it all and put it in their bolsitas (pockets). I was stunned. I had gone from Paco the Air Guitar to Goethe. This guy was smart. He went on to explain to me how he had tried to get funds promised to him and they never came. What a sad story it was. Peru's history is really bad luck sometimes. Had Daniel been born in Quebec he would be me and I'd be banging chords of Aerosmith watching the tide roll away.

Andrew: Yes, I promise I'll tell everyone that you said that.
Daniel: Ok. Thanks. I want people to know. Have a good night.

Have a good night guys. I'm off to Lake Titicaca tomorrow. It's a 16 hour bus trip, but it's just such a cool name that I'd be silly to miss it. Plus nothing starts a good story like the words "Well when I was on the shores of Lake Titicaca I...."

The social engineers will save us

Spurred by the horrible firebombing of a Jewish school in Montreal, the federal government has decided to spring into action with, well, an action plan:

The 10-chapter blueprint is expected to include advertising to get the message out that racism is poison, measures to strengthen ethnic communities, and an influx of new money into crime-prevention programs aimed at reducing racist acts.
Yes, they're reaching for their big guns, the same ones they use for dealing with any crisis -- advertising, and handouts to special interest groups. I'm sure it will be as big a success as all the other times they've used it.

The path that led to this crime in Montreal is not hard to figure out. There have been violent public anti-Semitic incidents in Montreal before -- the most notorious being the riot at Concordia University on the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu -- but little was done about it. Excuses were made and hands were waved. The instigators took the message that they can take things to the next level, and they did. Even now, with this 'action plan', the problem has not even been correctly identified. Preaching love and understanding will have no effect. This is not about 'racism' as we normally understand it; it's the importation into this country of the strange and bizarre worldview that clouds the minds of many people in the Middle East.

Europe is further down this road than we are, and things are starting to get hot over there. I wish I had a solution for this disease because I think it's going to get worse.

I'm still alive

It's been difficult to get around to posting lately. Max and Talia have been sick and have just been weaned, so they're pretty cranky. My energy is low, so when I get some free time I just want to vegetate. Things are picking up though, and I hope to find some time to string some words together sometime soon.

April 05, 2004

Peru Diaries, Part I

I love to travel. Being in a place I've never been and having the pleasure of not knowing what's around the next corner or over the next hill is one of the great thrills in life. Right now it doesn't look like there's much travel for me in the near future so I'm forced to live vicariously through this blog's Latin American correspondent. He sends this (mostly) unedited report from Peru:

The best way to get a good first impression of any Latin American city is to ignore the airport taxi ripoff mafia and walk down to the highway and flag down any old rickshack. Nothing starts the day off right like haphazardly grabbing a taxi that doesn't rob you blind, besides I would't have been able to meet Julio otherwise. Well Julio isn't his real name, he's an indian from Peru´s Amazonian basin and I can't pronounce his other name so we called him Julio. Don Julio took me from the Lima airport to my hotel for 25 sols...less than a fifth of his starting price of 30 USD, I gotta say I'm getting good at haggling. Basicaly when the first offer comes out you spit your coke out of your mouth in a loud spiifffff, sending a brown sugar water mist into the air -- this shows you mean business. Then you slap the guy on the back, grin, offer him a tenth of his offer and quickly jump in the car, eventualy you land somewhere in the middle. Julio gave me a crash course on Peru. The economy is chugging along, but the president's popularity rating sucks because the rich seem to be getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and the middle class...well there really isn't a middle class. Julio then said he was bored of working and took a detour to the beach where we sat drinking 7UP and watched the surfers glide back to shore. You can't get stressed in Latam, if the taxi wants a rest, well you just have to go along with the plan.

Peru is split up into three regions: the coastline, the Andes and the amazonian basin. The mountains are home to some of the tallest peaks in South American and definately some of the most spectacular. I plan to on Monday go and check out some of the snowcapped peaks, though prolly won't climb them. Seems my climbing days are far behind me. This seems like a good enough moment to announce that I'm taking golf lessons now. I know I know, don't rub it in. Golf is a bit like climbing though, only without the mountains and the without the danger and without the excitment. Otherwise they are basically the same.

Back to Lima, which is pegadito (stuck) on the coast and that's good news for surfers and pigs. I mean surfers and sea-food lovers. I started off with octopus in a sauce of its own ink, olives and avacado, then had the best cebiche on this earth, where about six different fish lazily swam in a lemon juice soup that flowed right into my mouth, that was followed by a tucu tucu seafood mix and finally shrimp on rice, which was all washed down with mashed, boiled and chilled red corn juice. MMMMM!

About 2 blocks from my lousy hotel, which has a toilet six doors down from my room to the left and the sink six doors down to the right, I stopped at a park to stare at the ocean a while. Anyone who has ever ben to Latin America knows that you don't make out with your girlfriend at home. Nope, the place to get down and swap spit is the country's public parks. Lima is no exception. In fact there is a big park near my hotel called LOVERS SQUARE. It's a patch of grass on the top of a giant cliff that looks down over the ocean and the surfers. City councelors thought it was necessary to instruct the kids on what they should do in the park and built a HUGE sculpture of this guy making out with a girl in the grass. The kids took note. I had to steep over about six couples just to get to take a photo of the beach. Ahhh romance... I leave Lima on Monday and will head up into the Andes to Cusco (the actual spelling of it is QosQo) and then up to Machu Pichu.

April 03, 2004

Talia on two legs

The blog has been neglected for awhile, I know. Mama has been working 10 hour days this week and Papa has been too frazzled and distracted to do much besides keep up with his speedy offspring. I should share this though: Talia is now a biped, officially becoming a toddler this morning.

She's been working up to it this week, first standing when I let go of her hand, then standing on her own by releasing what she's holding on to, and finally this morning feeling comfortable enough to take a few steps towards me. She's still pretty tippy, but I'm sure she'll be running in a couple of weeks.

Max generally lags this type of development by about a week. He just can't stand to let her have all the fun. He's ready too -- he's been expertly maneuvering around the house using a stool as a walker. He can let go of it as soon as he realizes he can.