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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2 wrecks on 151

There were 2 bad wrecks that closed down 151 tonite, the second one going in my direction. Fortunately I was not in either one. At least not tonite. It's just a matter of time

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Random" searches

I haven't been pulled out for a secondary airport security search for years. Before September 11, 2001, I was pulled out for secondary searches about half the time I traveled. I would ask why they had pulled me out, what they were looking for, and they would just say it was a "random" search. Random, my foot. It was like I had "random" tattooed across my forehead.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, I traveled a lot and was not pulled out once for a secondary search. I no longer met their profile. After six months someone pointed out that racially profiling searches was not that cool, so they went back to their old profiles. I was pulled out for more secondary searches than ever until the TSA finally realized just how silly and useless these searches were. So, a couple years ago, the secondary searches stopped entirely.

Until today. Leaving San Juan, Puerto Rico, TSA had their thugs on the jet bridge. They pulled me out for a secondary search. When they were done once again I asked why they had pulled me out and again they said it was "random." Random, my foot. I told them that I used to be pulled out all the time for "random" searches, and that I did not believe that there was anything random about their searches.

No, I don't feel safer for them doing these "random" searches. First, I haven't done anything, so I know that hassling me is not going to accomplish anything. Second, TSA stopped these searches precisely because they are notoriously ineffective at their stated purpose. Just for an example, I had a souvenir "Puerto Rican Senate" letter opener from the MALAS conference in my backpack. Neither the initial TSA scan, nor this secondary cursory search, found it, though surely it should have raised red flags.

TSA and this entire security apparatus is more about putting fear in us and cracking down on legal dissent than protecting us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

El Yunque

I suppose if I go to a rain forest I should expect to get wet, and indeed I did get wet, very wet. Today was overcast & rainy, and I debated canceling my trip. But I had already rented the car to get out to El Yunque, and other than grading senior sem papers what else did I have to do today? I did have a good hike up to the top of El Yunque mountain, but when I arrived at the top I couldn't see anything because the park was completely clouded in. I'm regretting not staying these last 2 nites at a lodge in the park, and leaving straight from the lodge for the airport in the morning (it would have been easy to do that). That way I could have enjoyed the park, and got some of my work done at the same time.

I arrived back into San Juan about 5pm, and the entire old city was a slow moving parking lot. I'm not sure what was going on with that. After looping (really more like caught in permanent gridlock) for an hour I finally lucked out when someone right beside where I was standing w/ the car pulled out. So, the last hour of daylight during which I was going to hang out on the hotel's roof disappeared into waiting in traffic.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The MALAS conference ended this afternoon after a couple more panels fixated on the national security state, a luncheon in a freezing cold room, a latin music that was not at all to my taste. So, I came back to the hotel and am trying to grade my senior seminar papers. Part of me wishes I would leave my work at home, but I would pay for that when I returned and, after all, I'm not really on vacation. So, I take the papers up to the rooftop until nightfall & the approaching rain chase me back inside. From the rooftop I look back over Old San Juan to the Capitolio where we met, and the neighboring San Cris fortress that I've thought about visiting but haven't quite made it yet.

Friday, November 21, 2008


We're meeting at the Capitolio where Puerto Rico's senate meets. They have the AC turned up so high my brain freezes. That, together with the fixation on the national security state, means that I needed to escape for just a bit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Play day

I arrived in San Juan at 10pm last nite, and the MALAS conference didn't start until tonite, so basically I had the day off. Last week I when I was in Eugene for the ASE I told my students that I wasn't playing hooky; that while they were in class I would also be working (and I was--I presented my paper at the same time that they were in class). This week I joked with them that I would be on the beach while they were in class. Well, I hate beaches so that does not sound like much fun. So, was this a play day or a work day? Should I write it off on my taxes? Should I turn it in to Truman on my expense report?

I woke up early this morning and went to Charlie Car Rental to go exploring. I picked up the car, but promptly got lost. After finding myself, I drove west on the autopista. Sometimes latino drivers can drive me crazy. I don't understand why people drive slow in the fast lane--and sometimes significantly slower than traffic (families in beat up cars driving about 40 mph). So, driving on the autopista involves weaving between lanes, with cars and trucks going at significantly different rates of speed. Once, years ago when I lived in South Texas, I asked a friend why he was driving slow in the fast last. I thought I would finally figure this out. He said that he had forgot to pull back over to the right lane. Maybe it is nothing more than this--maybe (despite the signs along the road for slow traffic to stay right) driving in the right lane is a cultural assumption that I picked up in my high school drivers ed class and is not universally shared.

I headed out to Arecibo. First stop: Bosque Estatal de Rio Abajo. Lonely Plant talks about a visitors center and 24 trails. The visitors center was closed, and the only trail I could find was a short loop behind the (closed) visitors center. But it was a very pretty (tho humid) area.

So I continue on to Parque Ceremonial Indigena Caguana. When we were here several years ago I really wanted to visit this Indigenous ceremonial site, but we did not have enough time. It is a small site, and I arrived in the rain & together with several hundred high school kids. The mud and the kids surely altered the experience for me.

So then it was on to the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, but I decided that the $15 was too expensive and I would rather spend my time doing other things.

Then I continued on to Arecibo Observatory and the world's largest radio telescope. Everybody makes a big deal out of this, but I'm not sure it was worth my $6.

By now it is the middle of the afternoon, and I start heading back to San Juan--again, through some incredibly beautiful scenery. I think about taking pictures, but I don't have the concentration or skill to capture what I'm experiencing.

I don't need to be back until 5pm and I seem to have time, so I take a slight detour to the Hacienda Esperanza, a former sugar mill. When I was planning a study abroad trip with Steve we were going to bring the students here. Well, the map and directions are not as clear as the physical world around me, but after some looping I finally find it--only to find out that they are years behind in reconstructing the mill and it won't be open until January--or maybe later. Oh well.

I get back on the highway and head into San Juan and arrive at Charlie's right at 5pm to return the car, but Charlie has already left for the day. Oh well.

I spend way too much of my life in a car, and so I spent another day of my life in a car. What I did today was a list of things (starting w/ the Indigenous ceremonial site) that I had wanted to do last time I was here but did not have time. Or, rather, other things took priority over these. And I think I made the right call. The scenery was pretty but none of the stops were stunning but at least I have them all crossed off my list now.

So what do I do on my last day here? Should I go out and play (maybe to El Yunque)? Or should I hang out on the roof of my noisy hotel and get my work done?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can you drink the water?

Going from 28 degree weather to 28 degree weather is always a shock (from Fahrenheit to Celsius in this case). I debated bringing sandals along but didn't want to carry the extra weight, I didn't even think about shorts. I should have.

One of the "cheap" options in San Juan (and nothing is cheap here) for places to stay was Da House. I maybe should have kept looking, cuz this place (like the website says) is right over a noisy street full of bars. If I leave the window open, the sound overwhelms me. I wonder if I'll be able to sleep.

The MALAS conference doesn't start until tomorrow nite, and I'm debating getting up early tomorrow morning, renting a car, and driving out to Arecibo. I wish I had someone who wanted to go with me.

And do I drink the tap water? Such an old & standard travel question, and you'd think I'd have it figured out by now. Quick google searches put answers all over the map. The tap water in Puerto Rico is supposed to be at EPA standards, but people debate whether it is really trustworthy. This blog entry says no, and don't trust the bottled water either because it probably just comes straight from the tap as well. And don't trust the food or other beverages for that matter as well. In fact, don't trust anything. Just go home and live in a little glass bubble.

So I go out to the corner store and buy a gallon of bottled water for $3.25. It costs more than gas. The last resource war is upon us.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I voted today. The line was two hours long. I have never had to wait in such along line. When I have observed elections in Nicaragua and Venezuela where very long lines and waits are common, I was amazed at people's dedication to the democratic process. I thought in the U.S. people would not have the patience for such long lines, but there we stood passively, like sheep, just like people do in Nicaragua and Venezuela. I stood there wondering whether the two-hour wait was really worth it, because no one for whom I ever vote actually wins. It all seems so futile, even tho Jerry thinks that I would be a good candidate, and Stoda blames Obama's loss on me:

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