Tuesday, August 29, 2006


A tremendous match. Andre Agassi vs. Andre Pavel.

Men's tennis. First round of the US Open. Agassi will be retiring from tennis after this, so many eyes are on him, including mine.

Agassi has been having chronic back problems for a while now, and you can see it in this match. A little hitch-step here. An unusual turn of the body there. An unusual number of errors. A couple of times he skips like a little kid, but I see something else. I think he's testing his back, seeing how it feels.

I like Agassi. He has a tremendous work ethic, and by reputation he is a very nice guy. He and I are very close in age, 36; he's ahead of me by only a couple of months. Also, I've had a back injury similar to his, so I understand why he does those little hitch steps, the unusual turns; I can see that there's a price paid for every time he has to make an extra reach for the ball. It's a hard court -- the surface offers no give, no forgiveness.

But Pavel started having ankle problems during the third set. The match becomes not just about standard ability, but how each can overcome their own issues while using their opponents issues against them. Not just about ability but also about willpower. And still, some amazing work from both.

There is honor here as well. On a controversial call, Agassi thought he hit a serve that went in which the officials initially called out. Pavel sided with Agassi, so Agassi challenged the call, and the challenge sided with Agassi -- but Pavel showed honor, because he could have feigned ignorance very easily. The audience, no surprise, is supporting Agassi, to the point of being occasionally rude to Pavel. A shame: he deserves their respect for his play. He's not being a jerk.

The first three sets went to a tie break. Pavel won the first; Agassi won the next two. Agassi came back from 0-4 to win the third set. (And I'm up late, this match is going to 12:35am, and I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, and I just started rehearsal for Sleeping Beauty last night, and I had an audition just a few hours ago, I really need some rest.

Fourth set. After Agassi's comeback in the third set, Pavel finally started to fade. Agassi quickly took the lead.

A brutal, tough, beautiful game. 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2. Here's a quick NYT article HERE.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Puedes Oir Los Elephantes?

I think my neighbors are teachers, of a sort. Many months ago, it seemed that they were trying to teach me a bit about the Spanish language. Now I suspect they want me to learn more about the physics of elephant communication.

They used to play their music quite loudly -- the latest Latin pop hits, clearly audible in every room of my apartment. My Spanish is good enough to recognize the language, but not good enough to translate much of it -- which of course means they were just trying to inspire me to learn more. But the timing of their lessons was a problem -- irregular days, frequently early in the morning. I would occasionally knock on their door and talk to them about this, saying things like, "EXCUSE ME BUT COULD YOU PLEASE TURN THE MUSIC DOWN WE CAN HEAR IT IN EVERY ROOM OF OUR APARTMENT."

They eventually moved on to new lessons, and new times. The lessons are more regular now: every Saturday and Sunday, mid-mornings and afternoons (but sometimes late afternoons on weekdays, lately). The lessons are one to four hours in length. The overall volume is less, but they have some sort of bass boost thing going on, so now (in every room of the apartment) you can hear some variation of boom-BOOM, boom-boom-boom, boom-BOOM, boom-boom-boom . . . .

Here's the deal: the soundwaves of low tones have longer wavelengths than those of high tones. Low tones can travel farther than high tones because longer wavelengths are less likely to be deflected or absorbed (it's the same idea with red sunsets in polluted Los Angeles -- red light has a longer wavelength than the other colors we can see, so red isn't as easily absorbed / deflected by the particulates in the air).

Elephants use low tones as a means of communication -- they can reach distances of up to 10 km (just over 6 miles) using infrasound: sound lower than we can hear. They can hear it, and they can probably even feel it in the sensitive pads of their feet. Know what else? They can generate a volume of up to 112 dB (similar to a construction site) and have a vocal range of up to 10 octaves, with up to 6 octaves of variation in a single call! A good (human) singer might have 3 octaves, and supposedly Julie Andrews at one time had 4. Learn more here, and once you get to the site, click on "Acoustic communication."

To express my appreciation for my neighbors' efforts, I have sent a letter to the rental office saying essentially, "Could you please get the neighbors to turn down their bass." We'll see what lessons come next.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ant Go Boom

Last night I dreamed of being stuck in a sewer with rats. The water level was very high, and the rats were very good swimmers. I also dreamed of finding rats in a basement that had been temporarily (until I moved a wooden board, oops) sealed off. I got a good luck at a very light colored rat with glowing eyes, and he got a real good look at me, too.

Not one of the most pleasant dreams, partly because at the time it felt very real. Some dreams are like good summer entertainment, you know? You can just go along with it without getting too involved. This was one of those dreams where everything is vivid, not just visually, but by touch as well. I woke up abruptly, and not wanting to slip back into Ratland, I forced myself up. My body wasn't ready for that. Getting myself out of bed was like . . . imagine being an orange trying to peel yourself out of the rind. It was like that.

Now then, some time ago I mentioned some time ago about exploding ants, yes? I erred -- they're not from Madagascar, they're from Malaysia (although Madagascar does have the "Dracula Ant," check that out here). I sifted through a massive amount of search engine pages (I would say "googled," but apparently Google doesn't like their name being used as a verb, even if it is a huge amount of free advertising), I couldn't find a site that really gave me all the info I wanted. But here's one that gives a touch of explanation (you'll have to pay $20 to get the whole article) and there's apparently a cool book that'll tell you about this and other weird animal stuff -- the name of the book is (surprise!) Exploding Ants. The gist is this: some of these ants have a couple of glands that release some chemicals. When these chemicals mix, they will cause these ants (or at least their heads, apparently) to explode, spraying out this nasty chorosive chemical stuff. So when the colony gets invaded, most of the colony will run away, but a few of these guys will wait for the enemy. The enemy arrives, these ants explode, taking out them and a bunch of the enemy as well. Yee.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

MANATEES! (The final frontier.)

Finally, the last of the Wedding Saga series (except for occasional anecdotal and pictorial visits, okay). Upcoming entries will probably be not-so-longwinded. What follows is a poor account of the second tour we did while on honeymoon:

Friday, June 30.

Okay, if you’re gonna go to San Pedro, you have to see some ruins (which we did!), and you have to go snorkeling! Uh, unless you have some scuba training, which we didn’t. So: snorkeling! But before that, manatees!

Okay, this is one of those touristy things that we set up at Mata Rocks. This goes through “Seaduced” (company and boat) again. Leon is with us again. Ricky (that guy I called Ray, from the Lamanai tour? His name’s actually Ricky) wasn’t. Our tour guide was uh, uh . . . Okay, we’ll call him TG, ‘cuz I can’t think of his name. And by the way, snorkeling equipment is not included, so ya better rent that first. But that ain’t hard, ’cuz there’s plenty of dive shops in San Pedro.

So, we’re off on “Seaduced”! We speed along in our fast boat to where are likely to find manatees. I don’t sit quite as close to the front this time; it’s only been two days since that spanking I had. It’s a beautiful day! Sunny! Now, there will be a sunburn after this; every silver lining has its cloud. We end up going to a little park marked by posts in the water. There is a $5 BZ (that’s $5 Belizean, which is equal to $2.50 US) charge per person for going into the park, which you give to the park ranger. The park ranger is in a little shack on posts in the water:

This park is where you are almost guaranteed to see manatees, and, no surprise, you can’t run your boat motor there (potentially extremely harmful / deadly to manatees, doncha know). You have to use a pole to move along. Okay, here’s why manatees like this place: manatees eat the roots of turtle grass. The silt in this spot is fairly soft, so the turtle grass is easier to pull up. Hey, it’s a buffet, like a Golden Corral for manatees.

We sit quietly in the boat. We wait. Every once in a while, someone sees a manatee nose 40 or 50 feet away and says, “There!” And then everybody looks, just in time to see the ripple that remains when the manatee dives down again. We theorize that the manatees are screwing with us. And then one of us (me, actually) says, “There!” and even though this manatee dives down again, it’s close enough for us to pole closer, and then we can see the body shape, and this manatee is nice enough to come up for air often enough for some of us to get pictures.

Leon said a manatee looks like a smiling potato. Judge for yourself:
I think it looks like a smiling gray potato. Regardless, I HAVE SEEN A MANATEE!

But wait, there’s more. We head off to Goff Caye, which is a tiny island next to the reef. We wade into the water, put on our snorkle equipment, and start swimming. AMAZING! The water is so clear! Amazing coral, very colorful fish. We swim to where it suddenly gets much deeper. This is where the reef is. And here, we hit a jackpot: by pure luck, there’s another manatee! It’s a gorgeous animal (okay, a gorgeous gray smiling potato with a broad, flat tail). It’s maybe 20, 25 feet away from me, below and in front, roughly at a 45 degree angle. At first it’s looking in our direction, and then it turns and slowly, gracefully, swims away.

On the return swim, we see more fish, coral, neat stuff! I try to follow a small crab, but it buries itself in the sand -- very near a shiny faux-gold earring. So, no fan of litter, I pick up the earring. And as I'm getting ready to climb out of the water, I take one last look -- and find myself within 10 ft. of a stingray! Gorgeous creature!

We do a second quick snorkel after lunch -- more plantains and rice & beans and rum punch, all yummy. This time we see a couple of nurse sharks and a bunch of rays of some sort. You can sometimes touch the rays, which I do. They feel . . . soft and slick. Once again, amazing, beautiful creatures. This is a sort of "cheap and easy" snorkel -- they throw some bait over the side and the sharks and the rays come to us. The shy nurse sharks don't stick around long but the rays ain't so shy.

A marvelous time. Snorkelling is awesome! On the tour we also meet another newlywed couple from Seattle -- Mike and Gianne. If you look at the picture of the ranger station, you can see the top of Mike's seriously sunburned head. Gianne, I believe, is hoping to teach scuba diving in the future, once she's certified. So if you wanna learn and you're in her area . . . .

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More of the Wedding Saga

What good trilogies are out there? Matrix was pretty good, but I thought it lost some of the magic as it went on. Star Wars was essentially two trilogies, and the first set (Episodes 4-6) did pretty well, if you don't pay too much attention in Episode 6 to the Ewoks or the dialogue. Lord of the Rings! Ah, there we go. Well, our ceremonies are kind of like that, but without the, oh, orcs, the baalrog, without Christopher Lee, and without quite so much sword play (of course, there was some, this is me and Jen, you know).

And so, it's time for Peter and Jenny Get Married, Part III: The Final Ceremony!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Imagine: seats are set up for a ceremony in front of a quaint light house, and nearby a tent is set up on the grass field between the Maritime Museum and the Decoy Museum. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, it's warm but not too warm, it's a beautiful day for a 6 pm wedding ceremony!

Well. It's beautiful until about 5 pm. Hmm. The clouds roll in, and let's just say the angels above were crying tears of joy for the union of me and Jen. Ooh, and they cried a lot. Apparently they were quite joyful.

So we move to the backup space, the Maritime Museum. But in a way, this worked out well for us. You know how, with weddings there's so much energy into making sure everything is "perfect"? Well, we didn't have to worry about that anymore, so I think it made things a bit looser and free form. And fortunately for us, everybody who was there for the wedding was ready to "go with it"! First, the guests that were already there carted in chairs from outside and set them up inside. Meanwhile, I set up the laptop and some speakers and made sure it was working right by playing -- what else? -- Niel Sedaka's "Laughter in the Rain." (My friend Laurie Felton took over as "wedding DJ" for the remainder of the evening.)

Jen arrives. I could tell not because I saw her, but because I saw a whole bunch of women with very large umbrellas (obviously, protecting the dress!) arrive at the front door. So we got into place. People sat. Up center (you theatre folks know what that means) was Reverend Barry Male, Jr. (a Methodist minister, and Jen's brother). The music starts -- Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole'. Groomsmen (my little bro Matthew and friend Tom Felton) escort mothers and bridesmaids in (Jen's friend Paula and sister-in-law Sara), and then comes my best man Phil (aka my big brother) and Jen's maid-of-honor Jamie (aka her cousin). And then the flower girl, Kate, comes down the aisle. Kate had sprinkled most of the petals early on her walk, so in those last dozen feet or so she started "sprinkling" petals one at a time, so that she wouldn't run out too soon. Then Jen came in, escorted by her dad. A vision of beauty (Jen, not her dad, though he is a handsome man in his own right) in a cream white dress with accents of green.

By the way, I wore a nice white button-down shirt with French cuffs, green slacks, and . . . sandals! The groomsmen also wore sandals, as instructed. Ties were not worn by us, and were generally discouraged for the witnesses. A joyous occasion should be a comfortable occasion.

(Is that what the people attending are called? Witnesses? Sounds like a trial. Insert joke here.)

Okay -- Rev. Barry begins the ceremony. Things went fairly traditionally and simply, but with a couple of variations. During the ceremony Jenny and I said a few special things to each other. People laughed, they cried, they liked it better than Cats (really, people laughed and cried. And none of them had decided to go to Cats that day). The other fun little thing was Kate, who was not in the best spot to see the show -- she was "on stage" with us, next to her mom, Sara, so she could only see Jenny's back -- so Kate kept stepping forward an in to see better, and then Sara would pull her back. I thought it was cute.

(The picture up top is of Kate with her finger up one nostril, the day before the ceremony.)

Okay, we finished the fun little ceremony, and (Rev.) Barry presented us to the crowd. Applause, pictures galore, and cheering! Many of these folks are theatre people, after all. We walked down the aisle, followed by the "entourage" -- people didn't hear our exit music at first, not until the applauding and cheering died down. And then they heard The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog. A perfect song, for us.

Finally, the reception. Still rainy, and under a tent that was too small (the rental place said the tent was big enough for 80 people to sit comfortably, but they were wrong). But everyone had a good time. Maybe it was the good food. Maybe it was the excellent Boordry's Vidal Blanc, or the Coronas. But I think it was the beverage that was served in a fountain: Lynchburg Lemonade. Mmm, yummy. Although my dad seemed to be most fond of the Boordry's. Thanks to Pat for driving.

Coming soon, the final chapter of the Wedding Saga: Manatees!

Saturday, August 12, 2006


("Fardleblah" is my own word, at least I think it's mine, essentially meaning "nonsense" or "absurdity," but with a more caustic, epithetic sort of feeling.)

Sometimes I'm too busy to blog, and the rest of the time I haven't felt motivated. Perhaps its the moronic spewings after Lieberman's loss in CT -- gee, I guess the talking heads can't handle the thought that, in this war-thing we have going on now, those in charge have really dropped the ball time and time again, and so people are now thinking of dropping those in charge and those who support them? Perhaps it was referendum on Lieberman? And could we stop with comparing the Democrats to the Taliban?

(By the way, I don't trust either party, generally. I think most of the politicians are more interested in power than in this thing called democracy. If Lieberman respected democracy, he would have said something along the lines, "While I disagree with the choice the majority of voters have made, I shall respect their choice." And then there's Bob Ney, and Tom Delay, and "Duke" Cunningham, and that guy who was keeping money in his freezer, and "the internet is a bunch of tubes" . . . man I'm tired . . . look, I'm very in favor of term limits for congressmen, and I'm often anti-incumbent.)

And then there's the Floyd Landis debacle. I was so inspired by his comeback during the Tour de France. So now, supposedly, he had synthetic testosterone in his system. There's a few possible conclusions to this, none of them good: 1) He did it on purpose, so now he's lying. Our good, American, Mennonite-raised, adversity-overcoming guy is lying. 2) Somebody did something that put something into his system without him knowing it. Which means someone's screwing with the players without their knowledge. 3) Somebody doctored the urine samples, so that the tests would come out bad. Which means someone's screwing with the players without their knowledge. 4) There's something wrong with the tests, so the tests came out twice with a false positive. Which means the tests can't be reliable.

See what I mean? There's no way I'll be able to watch the Tour again and be happy about it! Are there any scandals yet with tennis / marathon / triathlons / chess? I can still happily watch those, yes?

Meanwhile, a couple of minor local triumphs, Jen guessed that the antagonist on Stargate: Atlantis was actually a Replicant before it was actually revealed, and I predicted that a certain minor character on Stargate:SG-1 was about to bite it right before it happened (he got attacked by what looked a big mutant bear-boar thing).

And there you go. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Koalean Pondering

I'm eventually going to talk about whether koalas spend their lives in a permanent state of "whoa, duuuuuuude," but first I need to introduce the concept of TWP.

TWP stands for "That's Weird, Peter," coined by friend, fellow blogger and fascinating personality Larry Dahlke, whom I worked with in The Killer Angels at Wayside Theatre. One day I mentioned to Larry that the metal content of pennies had changed around 1982, which I'd learned by flipping pennies in the air as a bored teen -- pre-'82 pennies made a different (and more satisfying) sound that post-'82 pennies. Larry thought that was wierd and did some research. He posted his findings (zinc is to blame) on his old blog, with the heading of "That's Wierd, Peter."

A second TWP was recently added (and now oddly I'm copying my words from his blog):
"TWP: In order for a non-Belizian to leave the country of Belize, you have to pay an "exit fee" in US dollars. You can not pay in Belizian dollars. This is when you are in the Belize International Airport, talking to the Belizian staff. But they do take Visa and Mastercard."

Larry and I recently chatted about TWP, and he said that if I contributed 2 more then TWP just might get its own subcategory. So I mentioned that I'd heard koalas spend their lives high because eucalyptus leaves contain a mild narcotic, and maybe that would qualify.

So I researched koalas and their potential drug addiction. The results are . . . undetermined. First, none of the scientific stuff I read said that eucalyptus for sure acted as a narcotic on koalas. And second, for something to be high suggests that there must also be a norm, right? If koalas are always high, then that's their norm, which doesn't make any sense. So, I thought, not high. But then I thought of this: koalas spend about 22 hours a days sleeping. The scientific rationale for this is that eucalyptus doesn't have much energy content, and so koalas conserve their energy by sleeping. Okay . . . but consider this: pandas eat bamboo, which digests poorly and so doesn't give them much energy, either, so to get enough energy, they eat all the freakin' time! So why don't koalas eat this way? Well, obviously: because they're high, so they're sleepy! But then again, if they were high, wouldn't that give them the munchies?

So, is this a TWP? Well, what is a TWP, really? I'm still trying to feel it out, but certainly a TWP is some sort of odd fact, odd in such a way that you respond to it with something like "hunh" and by cocking your head slightly to the side, the way a dog does when it hears a high-pitched noise.

*Sigh*. I guess the high koala doesn't qualify as a TWP, because it's difficult to be sure of the facts. So, Larry, I think I shall look elsewhere. Well, there are the exploding ants of Madagascar.

Oh, by the way, to the ladies out there: Larry is a wonderful man and phenomenal actor who, I think, deserves to be stalked in a gentle, affectionate manner. Swing by Wayside, see if I'm right.