Archive for March, 2008

Clap Your Hands, Everybody. Everybody, Clap Your Hands.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I haven’t had much to say lately, so I’m just going to recommend some music: She & Him: Volume 1.

Zooey Deschanel is awesome in an annoying “you’re already a successful actor, do you really need to put out a great album too” kind of way. But it’s a really great album. Some credit goes to M. Ward (Him) — the arrangements and guitar parts are pretty fantastic — but what I like best are the plentiful harmonies. There are a lot of Zooeys singing on this album, and they’re ALL good! Oh, and she uses the line, “I’m alone on a bicycle for two,” which hits close to home, so that’s nice nice too.

The album also includes one of my new favorite hand clap songs: “Sweet Darlin’.” It joins the ranks of Beck’s “Go It Alone,” Belle & Sebastian’s “Boy With The Arab Strap,” the Tremeloes version of “Here Comes My Baby,” and the song at the end of Revenge of the Nerds.  Man, are there any bad songs with hand claps? I think it’s my favorite song gimmick. Hey musicians: make more songs with hand claps!

Finally, Something We Can Do As A Family

Friday, March 21st, 2008

After 3 straight days of traveling, we finally got back to O’Hare and as we were leaving I saw this sign for the “Family Companion Toilet”

Anyone know what this is? Because I imagine something like this:

Photo Credits: Delgoff, foundphotoslj

I Do Need A Tractor

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

You know those green bins all over the place where you can donate used clothes? I always thought those clothes ended up on the racks at Village Discount, but now I think they might end up in Guatemala. Many of the villagers wore random American shirts along with blue jeans and a baseball cap.

Most of the shirts were pretty innocuous. Often they were from American universities, and there were quite a few with American action movie stars (Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone…)

There was one shirt, however, that stood out. Manuel’s:

After working with him for several days, some of us wondered whether it was mean for us to be talking and joking about his shirt when he didn’t know what it meant.

Brad: I think he does know what it means… and I think it’s true.

UPDATE: It turns out those green bins are a little shady. So are the red ones, although less so. Both do indeed sell clothing to third-world countries.

From Lines of Code to Rock Lines and Back Again

Friday, March 14th, 2008

A bridge, it turns out, requires a lot of mass to keep it from being pulled down into whatever crevasse it happens to be spanning. In the case of the bridge in Guatemala I worked on for the last week and a half, that mass came from rocks and concrete. The Benque River was abundant with rocks of all sizes. Unfortunately, those rocks were in the river, quite a ways from their eventual home in the abutments on either side. After hours of pulling rocks out of the river and stacking them on the banks, we’d form a long line and pass the rocks from one person to the next until the last person could place it appropriately.

I’ve been a member of Engineers Without Borders for several years and whenever someone returns from a trip they are often accompanied by grand adjectives: wonderful, amazing, life-changing. I get the point now. These trips offer something that’s hard to find: a chance to interact with a different culture in a truly cooperative way.

There are a million stories to tell from the trip, and I’ll probably tell many of them here, but the thing I’ll remember most is those rock lines. It was the time when those of us from Chicago and the Mayan Kichi’ villagers who lived near the bridge site really bonded. It’s no coincidence that the two Kichi’ words we all knew by the end of the trip were heavy (al) and rock (pek.) It’s also no coincidence that the English word all of the Kichi’ knew by the end of the trip was “Oops!” Occasionally a particularly “al li pek” would make it almost all the way up the embankment when a combination of mud, sweat and aching hands would compromise someone’s grip and we’d all watch it roll back down to the river accompanied by laughs and shouts of “Oops!” from Chicagoans and Kichi’ alike. Good or bad, we were all in it together.