May 2008 minutiae

  • I love tutoring kids in history. There are many reasons why, but one of the main ones is that it's interesting to see how different people reduce the immense array of people and events that constitute history into a clear narrative populated by characters simple enough to understand. Case in point: a student and I are doing thumbnail sketches of various figures in US history, I say a name, and she says, "Oh yeah, he was like, 'Buh buh buh,'" squinting around in confusion with her tongue hanging out. Who was she doing an impression of? Calvin Coolidge.

  • When I was in college I never went to San Francisco town because I was afeared of it. Now I am not, but I still rarely go there and even when I do I tend to leave as soon as my business there is complete. The tall buildings make the streets feel like narrow trenches and I find that stressful. The steep hills are even worse, especially when I have to stop — I always worry that my car is going to roll backward into the car behind me every time I step on the clutch. And if something catches your eye you can't just pull over and wander around because parking is almost impossible to find. You can say that people shouldn't be driving in San Francisco town in the first place, but taking transit is enough of an undertaking that it's automatically no longer a casual visit.

  • I was stuck in traffic behind an SUV. The chrome tag on the back of it declared ESCAPE LIMITED. Rub it in, why don't you.

  • Elizabeth and I went to New Mexico for a few days. At the bottom of the escalator at the Albuquerque airport was someone holding a sign. The sign said CONQUISTADORS. Montezuma tried basically the same tactic in 1519, but it didn't help.

  • In Santa Fe we saw many signs and warnings that no refunds would be given to people who found the chile too hot. The chile was never very hot at all! It was slightly hotter in Albuquerque (even though there were no warnings there, presumably because there are fewer tourists) but still easy to handle. I remember being knocked around by the green chile at various establishments on previous visits, so I wonder whether the chiles seemed milder this time for seasonal reasons (May vs. August) or because I'm becoming less sensitive to capsaicin or what. I'm certainly not complaning — the green chile I ate on this trip had the perfect scoville reading so far as I'm concerned.

  • In Los Alamos we went to the LANL museum with exhibits on the Manhattan Project and subsequent nuclear weapon production and testing. On the way out I signed the guestbook. There was a space for comments, and it took me a few seconds to think of what I wanted to say. But then it came to me, and I wrote: All prams lead to the Kensington Gardens.

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