Friday, March 30, 2007

This photo was taken on a recent hash just outside Bamako.
I was a substitute teacher at the American School here in Bamako again this week. Yesterday morning I was assigned the preschool physical education class. Preschool phys ed is pretty much a euphemism for recess. I was supposed to organize a T-ball game, but everything quickly descended into chaos, complete with wrestling, tripping, crying, running, screaming, pushing, hyperventilating, etc. Since my experience with preschoolers is limited to my own time in preschool, I didn’t know what to do (short of crying myself). So I didn’t do anything. I let them do their thing and prayed for a low body count. At the end of the period, no one was dead or even seriously injured, which I considered a moral victory.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Here’s the cover of the paperback version of my book. Astute observers will note that the subtitle has been changed from “How the Steelers and the Eagles Saved Pro Football During World War II” to “How the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles Saved Pro Football During World War II.” This, presumably, will prompt residents of those cities who don’t know the name of their local football team to purchase multiple copies of the book.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, I have to submit corrections for the paperback version by April 9 (your dear correspondent’s 41st birthday, coincidentally). So, if you found a typo in the hardcover version, please let me know ASAP. Your help is greatly appreciated and will be rewarded with an acknowledgement in my next book – provided there is one.

Friday, March 23, 2007

This is a photo of me, Allyson, and our friend Adair outside the March 26th Stadium here in Bamako. March 26th – this coming Monday – is a big day in Mali. It’s Democracy Day, a holiday that commemorates the popular uprising that brought down dictator Moussa TraorĂ© on March 26, 1991. Incidentally, the Malian national soccer team will play a big game against Benin at the stadium Sunday night. We can’t go, though, because the embassy believes there will be violence “before, during, and after the game.” Guess we’ll just have to stay home and watch House instead.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

There’s an article in the New York Times today about finding cheap airfares between the U.S. and Africa. It includes such helpful hints as “shop around” and “avoid traveling in the busy June-to-August vacation period.” But my favorite is “use your frequent flyer miles.” One travel agent, the story notes, “recently helped one of her clients design a trip using United miles for round-trip business-class tickets on Lufthansa from Chicago to Addis Ababa.” Great idea – if you’ve got, oh, I don’t know… maybe a trillion frequent flyer miles. Thanks New York Times!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Last Wednesday I went to the Bamako Zoo – one of the saddest places on earth. The lion just sat forlornly on a concrete pedestal inside a small (and filthy) cage. There was barely enough room for him to walk in a large circle, and there was nothing in the cage to stimulate him – no toys, no ropes, nothing. The chimpanzee was even more pathetic. He was sprawled out on his pedestal with a glazed-over look in his eyes that bespoke mind-warping boredom. It’s how those supermax inmates who spend 23-and-a-half hours in solitary confinement every day must look. Outside the warthog’s cage was posted a handwritten sign: “Please do not give cigarettes to the animals.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here’s one from the you-learn-something-new-every-day file: John McCain was not born in the United States of America. He was born in Panama – the U.S.-controlled Panama Canal Zone, to be precise. Article II of the Constitution says, “No Person except a natural born Citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President.” So, is McCain a “natural born Citizen”? Most Constitutional scholars seem to think so. But I have my doubts.

Friday, March 09, 2007

R.I.P. John Vokovich

John Vukovich, a member of 1980 world champion Phillies, died of complications from brain cancer yesterday. He was 59. Curiously, three other men who played in the 1980 World Series – Ken Brett, Tug McGraw, and Dan Quisenberry – also died of brain cancer. That means the incidence rate of the disease among the 50 participants in that World Series is eight percent. Nationally the rate is less than .02 percent.
Did you see House this week? There was this guy with a really bizarre disease and nobody could figure out what it was. But then Dr. House limped along and, after a brief struggle with his personal demons, voila! – he figured it out! Gotta love that Hugh Laurie!

Actually, I didn’t see House this week. But I’m assuming that was the plot, because that’s the plot of every single House ever produced. Gilligan’s Island had more interesting and varied plotlines than House.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The mosquitoes are horrible right now. One got inside the netting around our bed last night and bit me a couple times before I finally woke up around four a.m. with two huge welts on my arm. I moved to the couch, but within minutes I heard that high-pitched buzzing in my ear – another mosquito. It was like some kind of sleep-deprivation experiment. Actually, it was more like torture. We asked the State Department’s exterminator in Washington – yes, the State Department has an exterminator – about the problem, and he e-mailed back and said we should remove all standing water from around the house. Fair enough, but we live on a river – the Niger River, to be precise – which at this time of year is basically a swamp. Kind of hard to remove that.

Meanwhile, our extremely neurotic cat Copernicus (a.k.a. Mr. C) began obsessively licking a spot on his back over the weekend. We have no idea why. He’s just weird. So we put one of those cones on his head (which we’d saved from the last time he obsessively licked himself). Well, he kept trying to lick the spot and eventually rubbed his chin raw on the cone. So now he has a sore on his back and one on his chin. The vet (Dr. Boubacar - pronounced "boob-uh-car" - love that name) is coming over on Friday to take a look at him. I’m hoping he prescribes some feline tranquilizers or something.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Did you see the eclipse last night? It was pretty awesome here in West Africa.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Our “consumables shipment” arrived last Friday. (We are permitted to have a certain amount of groceries shipped in once a year.) When I opened up the crate I thought, hmm, that seems to be a lot of cranberry juice – and cat litter. Turns out we accidentally received twice as much of both. We’re going to have the healthiest urinary tracts in Mali. And the cats will exercise theirs in only the freshest litter.