Those responsible for that at the University of British Colombia took a slightly different tack – it was built at the bottom of a depression. It's not visible until you are in front of it. I expect whoever was responsible for the award of the contract took it to their boss, who said “Egad! What is this concrete slab beast with alternating yellow and purple windows going up each corner?” But, by then it was too late, the contract was signed and all that could be changed was the location. To the bottom of a ditch.
Cornell, in Ithaca, is where Dave Curtin, former office mate at Melbourne, is doing his PhD. A whirlwind tour seemed in order to meet his fiancé Nicole, and we went to waterfalls, ate frogs legs (+1 to the list of animals I have eaten), and checked out wineries. It seems one on Cornell's strengths is breeding and tinkering with its own varietals, which has fed an industry of vineyards on each side of a long, thin lake, which also have moved into fruit wines. There were two kinds: the wineries where people know and care about wine, and those who are selling lolly water to undergraduates who think they are sophisticated for getting loaded on grape juice. He first kind have dry wines. The second kind have names which contain puerile double entendres. The first kind have little bland biscuits to clear the palate. The second kind have big sugary cookie-things that are nice to eat, but I don't know why don't they have crisps or something?
Speaking of food, there were wars, damn it, to ensure spices are in my kitchen when I want them. Wars between the Dutch, the Portuguese and the English. They just weren't very good, because I can't get cardamom or rose water in Mexico, and I can't get savoury outside of North America. But, in hoity-toity upstate New York, I can.
And, while much has been said and written about Southern red-necks, let us ponder the smug Northern sophisticate. The red-neck will be happy enough if you just tacitly nod and go along with their vile rants. The smug fellow is one one level worse, as he will be smug and superior no matter how you react. The following illustrative story takes place in a male bathroom:
After breakfast at a local café with David and Nicole, I head to the facilities and occupy the stall. After about a minute, a man comes in with his son, maybe 4 years-old, and I hear that they encounter the problem in that with the stall taken, the son can't reach the ceramic bowl urinal, so I hear “Stand on daddy's feet so you can reach. Don't pee on daddy's feet.” They finish before I, and I meet them at the sink, at which time the father says to the son “Hurry up, there's someone waiting”. I reply, as protocol dictates, “Don't worry, take your time”. To this, the father turns to me, and says, as was the case for that followed, with a warm friendly smile that was at odds with the content of his speech,
“Who's the parent here?”
Taken aback, I say, “Err, not me.”
And he says, still beaming, “I'm trying to teach me son that there are finite resources, and one of them is bathroom time is one of them. He has to understand that someone will be outside about to pee down there leg.”
I answer, with a similar Cheshire Cat smile “Hey, sorry to interrupt the flow of you parenting”, and begin to wash my hands.
As I'm leaning over the sink, the kid says “Yeah, who's the parent”, which I vaguely knowledge, and the father says “It's hard enough to teach these ideas sometimes”
My reply? “Thanks for the free parenting advice”
and, you couldn't make this up, he makes the pistol finger gesture and says “Hey, from me to you”.
Congratulations, you procreated, the special miracle that any doofus can perform. And to all the smug, smarmy parents out there, a tip 'from me to you': if you are a hot-shot awesome parent, your kid isn't going to answer back to strange adults. This was my introduction to small-town America. I hope that kid did piss all over daddy's feet.