Saturday, December 31, 2005

Weekend in Copan

Due to an early morning bout with...ummm.....gastro-intestinal distress, I opted not to go with the gang to Lago e Yojoa, the largest natural lake in Honduas which is about a three hour drive or so from Copan. The distance seemed too far, too remote for someone suffering from such a stomach malady. So off the group went this morning, leaving me here in Copan to recover. No matter, really, as I'm enjoying the additional time to myself. I took care of a load of laundry this morning and went for a walk around town once the stomach issues cleared, which they soon did. So here I sit now at the nearby Internet cafe wondering where to go for lunch. Most likely it will be Carnitas, which is were I've had most of my meals in Copan.

So it will be a lazy afternoon of reading, penning a few lines in my travel journal, wandering around Copan and probably a nap at some point. The latter will be important as it's going to be a very late night. Some friends here are planning their own New Years celebration thing, complete with fireworks at midnight and I've been invited. This is way past my bedtime and I hope I can stay awake long enough to partake in the festivities.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Free Day in Copan

Finally a free day with nothing on the agenda. No excursions, no plans, nothing beyond what I'm in the mood to do. As usual I arose early, had my coffee, and was out wandering about Copan not long after the sun rose. I so cherish such quality "self time" and am certainly going to relish today.

This has been a very busy vacation, obviously and time to post as been scarce. As such, I'm going to hammer out an abbreviated list of some of the most recent highlights of the trip since I last posted. Most likely, I'll expound on some of the more interesting points once I get home next week.

1. Expedition to Guatemala. Yesterday seven of us piled into the back of the pickup truck to make a trip over into Guatemala. Our destination was Esquipulas, the location of a large church famed in this area for its statue of a black Jesus. Such a trip was more sacred for my friends down here than to me. I more or less viewed the whole thing as a novel curiosity and I was and am still trying to decide which was more of the curiosity: the statue itself or the behavior of the devout. They certainly take such things very seriously. Probably more on this later.

2. Maya Ruins and Coffee Plantation. On Wednesday I toured the principal Maya ruins here in Copan and got many good pictures. That afternoon we ventured up to the top of a nearly mountain to visit a working coffee plantation. This was my own pilgrimage of sorts and it was interesting to see the process from picking the coffee cherries to the sorting, washing, and sun drying. It's a small operation but their coffee is very, very good.

3. Cutting coconuts. My host as a tall coconut tree in his front yard and a few days ago we got one of the local guys familiar with such things to climb the tree and cut several bunches of coconuts that were ready for picking. It's a rather tedious affair in the sense that the picker is way up in the top of the tree and climbing here and there as though he possessed a natural aboreal ability. As is the supposed tradition, I was the first to drink the water from a coconut once it has been cut open. Rather interesting save for the bits of coconut husk and probably a few ants or whatever else was cavorting about on the coconut at the time.

Will close for now. Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Copan Update

It's been a very busy last few days, almost a working vacation of sorts. Between the party of the evening of my last post, the "Santa Rounds" on Christmas Eve and yesterday's activities, I haven't has as much free time to post as I originally expected. In a sense, much of my first week has been a "working vacation" of sorts, mainly in preparation of and then assisting with the "Santa Rounds" on Saturday. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, this entailed preparing and then distibuting "stocking" to poor kids who otherwise may not have much in the way of Christmas. This all day endeavour...we had 109 stockings to give out...was a truly memorable experience of which I'll write in greater detail once I get back home next week. To see the look of sheer surprise and joy on some random little kid's face when we handed him or her a little bag filled with toys, candy, and other little gifts was perhaps the most heartwarming experience I've had to date.

Yesterday's activities were much more laid back and probably the first real "vacation" day since being down here almost a week now. A group of us went up to the hot springs about an hour drive from Copan. As is very common here, we rode in the back of the pickup truck when afforded some fantastic scenic views of the mountains and valleys as we snaked our way up winding dirt roads. We also had a number of "stockings" and candy left over from the previous day, which we distributed on the way to the springs. These were some of the most special of the gift giving moments as the kids we encountered were rural and presumably living in extreme poverty. I can't recall if I've ever seen such looks of complete surprise and huge smiles. As relaxing as the time was at the hot springs...other than the occasional strong odor of sulphur on the trail....the last bit of gift giving made the day memorable.

Must close for now. Hope that everyone had a great Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Copan Ruinas

It's a warm and sunny afternoon in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. I'm simply just taking a break from a stroll around town to fire off this quick update. More than likely, I'll wander off to Carnitas, a great local restaurant, for a mid-afternoon coffee once I finish up here. One thing that has impressed me thus far is the centrality of everything to where I'm staying. Carnitas just around the corner from home, this internet cafe is only a block away, as is the local market. One pretty much just has to walk anywhere they may need to go. In some situations this may not be as easy as it sounds since Copan is very hilly AND lined with cobblestone streets which don't offer the most stable of footing.

Anyway.....going to bring this brief note to a close and head out for a coffee. This morning my host, a few local friends, and I have been preparing for tonight's Christmas party. Should be a lot of fun and most likely worthy of a few lines in my next post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hola from Honduras

Made it safely to Honduras yesterday, depite the ONE HOUR delay leaving Norfolk. Not a big deal other than whittling the time from an hour and a half down to about 20 minutes to catch my connecting flight in Miami. Was rushing from one part of the airport to the other ever fun. No matter though as I made my flight. Unfortunately, my luggage did not. Will have to go back to the San Pedro Sula aiport later this morning to see if it has arrived.

So far Honduras seems very nice. One of the things I've noticed thus far is that everything moves at its own leisurly pace. No rushing around, no hurrying. Rather nice.

Anyway....will update again later on when I have more time.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Preparations Complete

Packed now and more or less ready to go. As usual, having a slight bout with pre-trip anxiety, but that's just normal I suppose. The real trick is going to be sleeping tonight. Though my flight isn't until 9am and I'll be waking up at the normal time (5am) the excitement and the fear of oversleeping (as improbable as that is) will conspire to make rest elusive tonight. Yet I feel the need for sleep watching from the shadows, a welcome vision on the edge of perception. May as well head off and try to make that vision a reality.

Hopefully my next post will be from warm and sunny Honduras.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Race Is On, 2005

Two days to pack and prepare for the vacation. Not a lot of time, but will be sufficient to finish up what I need to do. Other than having to administer a final exam to about 100 students for my advisor (another pleasure of being a graduate student) tomorrow morning early there is nothing on the agenda this weekend other than final preparations. So tonight I’ll prepare the lists of what remains to be done as well as the packing list, then tomorrow when I get home from the final around noon, the race is on. Reminds me so much of this very time last year (hence the temporal demarcation in this post's title).

Thus far I’m very happy with the new digital camera purchased on Monday. As I needed to familiarize myself with its functions before the trip, I’ve been a total shutterbug this week. The camera is small enough that I can carry it around with me wherever I go without me looking like a total dork. I was going to go with a larger Olympus (the same digital SLR model I have for work), but opted to go with the smaller Canon due to the ease of transport. No large camera and clunky case to haul about Central America. Just slip it into a pocket and go. Since one of my photographic goals is to capture “unnoticed,” daily routine things, having the camera readily at hand will be a benefit. I’m altogether rather pleased as to its capabilities (though it doesn’t have quite the zoom capabilities as the digital SLR I have for work) and the two extra memory cards I purchased will store about 500 pictures each with large file size and fine resolution. I’m still experimenting with the latter two features to derive the most appropriate setting for crisp, clear (and in some cases, printable) images.

A frustrating learning process at times (like accidentally reformatting a full memory card on Tuesday. Oops), but nonetheless enjoyable. Perhaps I’ve rediscovered a rewarding hobby.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rainy Night...Again

Rainy and miserable again this afternoon, though not quite as cold as it has been most of the week. I took off an hour early from work to give me a head start on tonight’s activities, which includes laundry and the second night of cooking for tomorrow’s office Christmas party. Only making Polynesian cocktail meatballs this evening which are relatively easy compared to the cook-a-thon last night: five hours in the kitchen making mini-cheesecakes. Very tedious and time-consuming and I gave up after making 72. Yes, Seventy-two bite-sized cheesecakes. I crawled off to bed sometime after midnight and was up a few hours later for a very early day at the office. I cannot foresee a late night tonight…though the thought of a late margarita is tempting.

Ah well…off to take care of laundry duties.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Day Off

Other than the two days in June when I was out sick, today is my first day off from work since mid-April. I arose at the usual early hour and went through the morning routine. The only difference is that I’m still at home. Oddly enough, I feel somewhat guilty about not working today, even though I have nothing pressing on my to-do list for this week other than finish up an employee evaluation that is due on Friday. Possibly, I’m becoming too much a creature of habit, or work has become too central a component of my life that on some level I feel as though I should be there. No matter though. I have my pager and I’m sure I’ll be summoned at least once today.

Many things on the agenda today, the most pressing of which is the long-overdue acquisition of a digital camera. I’ve done some comparison shopping (mainly online), but am still not sure what to get. Whatever model I choose, additional memory cards are going to be equally important as I tend to take a lot (ok… maybe too many) pictures whilst away on holiday. Perhaps because it is so close to Christmas, I’ll be able to find something on sale. The downside of this is that it gives me less than a week to familiarize myself with the assorted functions.

Other things on today’s agenda are:
1. Haircut
2. Buying some additional clothes for the trip
3. Buying a new watch (my old one rusted in Thailand and has not been replaced)
4. Buying some walking shoes/hiking boots (not essential, but will shop around)
5. Cooking for tomorrow’s departmental Christmas party.
6. Stock up on cat food and litter
7. Buy assorted travel items (toiletries, a few rolls of film for backup camera, etc.)
8. Find passport and other travel documents

Will I accomplish all these tasks today? Probably not. I’ll be lucky if by the end of the day I can scratch the camera, haircut, and clothes buying off the list. Such a procrastinator sometimes. Not a big deal, as I still have six days.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Morning Surprises

This morning I made the obligatory pre-trip visit to the parental units, which went well. No guilt trips about being abroad during the holidays for the second year in a row, so perhaps they’re becoming accustomed to my new tradition. This is a good thing, as the tradition is going to continue with Philippines tentatively scheduled for next December and a probable return to Thailand the following year.

Christmas? Bah! I’d rather be cavorting about in the tropics.

Such a cold, heartless son I am.

I was happy to hear this morning that the parental units are going ahead with some long-overdue home improvements/renovations in the very near future. What they’re planning sounds rather extensive and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product. As it stands now, their house remains virtually untouched since construction in the late 1960s, with the same floors, cabinets, tile, etc. all original. It’s in remarkably good repair, though the forthcoming work will certainly add a fresh, new atmosphere to an otherwise tired environment. This was surprising news as the parents rarely ever do anything out of the routine, let alone anything as drastic as this.

What was even more suprising was them showing off their first-ever passports, which means that they actually intend on attending my sister's destination wedding in Scotland next September. Quite an event for them as they've never flown before or been abroad. This means that I've probably lost the wager with the future brother in law about them actually going through with it (OK...I'm being a bad son again as I had absolutely no faith in their fortitude and suggested they'd rather view the wedding via webcam broadcast). Perhaps now that they're in their retirement years, with the 9-5 workday long over, they're beginning to realize the full potential of life.

Certainly a remarkable morning.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Early Rising

The heavy, wind-blown rain woke me shortly before five this morning and despite the temptation to burrow deeper under the warm blankets, I crawled out of bed and began my day. Just finished cup of coffee #1 and will shortly pour the second cup. I managed to acquire a halfway decent parking spot when arriving home from the office (not quite half a block away) so I won’t get too terribly drenched on the walk out to the Jeep when heading to the office in a bit. Unfortunately both of my umbrellas are in the Jeep. Little good they’ll do me there.

There’s something to be said about getting up at such an early hour. Plenty of time to catch up on the news and various blogs, have coffee, and leisurely plan the day. On drier and warmer days, an early morning walk around the neighborhood is sometimes part of the routine. Not today though. It’s absolutely miserable out. Of course the great temptation is to take off from work today, but I think I’ll just wait until Monday to use a day of leave, which will still give me a three-day weekend and presumably a better day than this to run errands and pick up assorted things for the trip. I’ve decided that such shopping (trip preparation) won’t occur on a weekend due to my pronounced dislike of crowded stores and long lines. So I’ll try to knock most of that out on Monday.

Off to get coffee #2 and get ready for the workday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Just a brief note....

…before I head out to the university to give my presentation for class. Those paying attention may recall that last night was the night scheduled for talks, but the professor added an additional night of class (tonight) for the student talk and final lab session. So it’s going to be a late night between the presentations and lab. May have to partake in alcoholic refreshments afterwards as I haven‘t done such in a while and it will be most needed. The professor also extended the research paper deadline until next Monday or Tuesday if we need more time. Since mine is done, I’ll more than likely just turn it in by Friday thus creating a happy mood to the start of a free weekend.

So very mentally fatigued and sleepy right now, probably due to the dehydrating effects of too much coffee and not enough water during the course of the day. This is something I tend to do all too often and it’s probably not a good thing for the kidneys. So I’m now in the process of rehydrating myself and will get some caffeine going shortly to prepare for the talk. Otherwise, I might go to sleep during my own presentation which is something I want to avoid as it’s boring enough as it is and there’s no need to encourage the rest of the class to nod off.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cold and Rainy Monday

Very cold and windy today with a stead cold rain. Most of Virginia is receiving snow but right here on the coast, its just very cold rain. This is the usual pattern around here as the bay and ocean tend to moderate the air temperature just enough to preclude snow. Needless it say it has been rather the miserable day which was compounded by the temperamental old boiler system at the office which only worked for a few minutes at a time before shutting off. The problem had not been repaired by the time I left work at 4:30, so I suspect the tropical plants in my office will expire tonight from the cold.

Speaking of tropical things….two weeks from today at this time I’ll be in Honduras enjoying the warmth and sun of a more tropical climate. Such an attractive proposition given the miserable weather here today. Once the semester is over Tuesday or Wednesday evening (we’re having an additional class Wed night for our presentations), I’ll focus more on the travel preparations. Still so much to do between now and then. But all that I’ll start worrying about later in the week. Still haven’t procured a new digital camera which is beginning to worry me as I need time to familiarize myself with it before vacation. I must get it by this coming weekend.

The weekend was productive on the academic front only (in addition to the usual chores of laundry and cleaning). Socializing and such were kept to a minimum due to approaching class deadlines. I’ve more or less finished off the research paper for parasitology class which took longer than anticipated as I spent a lot of time tabulating my data, then deciding how I wanted to present it. Later on tonight, I’ll do a few revisions and begin working on the Powerpoint for the presentation on Wednesday.

Finished the coffee and feeling a wonderful caffeine buzz. Off to be productive.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Decompression Time

The experiments for the parasitology project are finally complete. Though I didn’t quite get the results I was expecting, the data is still sufficient to qualify the work a success. As such, this weekend I’ll spend writing up the results and preparing a presentation for class Tuesday evening. As usual, several more research questions arose from this project and whether or not I’ll eventually follow these additional lines of inquiry remains to be seen. At the very least I’ll informally replicate the experiments next summer in order to assess the probability of seasonal variability in parasitic activity.

So for right now the agenda is coffee, cigarettes, and much needed decompression time. It’s very cold and windy this evening and the warmth of the radiators is especially comforting against the howl of the wind and rattle of leaves.

Must…not… take…nap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday PM

Just home from the office and relaxing with the usual cup of coffee and cigarette or three. It’s been a rather eventful work week with my assistant starting on Monday followed by the implementation of a few long overdue procedural changes. So at the moment things are rather unsettled around the office as everyone adapts to a new way of doing things as well as the revamped organizational structure. Adjustment takes longer for some than others and most are coming around as expected save for the Gang of Four. They’ve dug in their collective heels and are actively (and might I add vocally) resisting, so they will take a little more time. So this week has required much communication and team-building and patience with these four (and admittedly perhaps a little “divide and conquer”) and I suspect that by next week they’ll be back into the fold save for the One. At this point things will become umm… fun. Out comes the policy manual, off come the gloves. Hopefully it won’t come to this as I greatly prefer resolution via diplomatic consensus building juxtaposed to more forceful, and usually messy, means.


Hard to believe that it’s the first of December. Vacation starts in 18 days and I have a lot to do between now and then. The semester will be over on Tuesday which will free up some time to knock out some things here at home and begin planning trip preparations. Looking forward to the break though as I haven’t taken an official day off from work since mid-April and I am rather burned out at present.

Off to the university now to work on an experiment, the write up and presentation for which is due on Tuesday. Thus far, it’s been rather unsuccessful, but that’s science for you. Just hope I have enough data to make it all worthwhile. Otherwise, I’m screwed. So totally, royally screwed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Almost Human Again

Got home from a friend’s birthday party a short while ago and after a shower and a large cup of coffee I’m feeling almost human again. A little groggy still from the alcoholic refreshments and tired from the lack of sleep, but I’m otherwise functional. At least for a while. I suspect that around noon I’ll suffer a system shutdown which will force a few hour nap. Though not quite an all-nighter, the event may as well have been as an hour and a half of broken sleep doesn’t count for much these days. Thankfully there was a functional (though rarely used) coffee pot at my friend’s condo, so I was able to make a strong Cup of Life to sufficiently revive me for the trip home as morning sun broke the horizon.

I did much of the cooking for the event (most of Friday and all day yesterday spent in the kitchen) and it’s always gratifying to see various offerings well-received by guests. But it was a lot of work and a break from the kitchen is needed. I don’t want to see an oven or mixing bowl for at least a few days.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Meet the Parents

Had Thanksgiving dinner at the sister’s place for the second year in a row (do I sense a tradition brewing?), but with one twist: her fiancé’s parents made the trip from out of town to attend. This set the stage for the first ever meeting between the respective sets of parental units and depending on how that went, the possibility of high drama. At long last, our rural, deeply religious parents face to face with well-traveled, worldly heathen parents. Two worlds, same small, small room.

To be honest I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this today and had visions of my sister, her fiancé, and I struggling to maintain some semblance of polite dinner conversation whilst the sets of parents glared at each other from across their respective sides of the table. Alarming from a strategic perspective was that my place at the table was in the far corner away from the door, so if food and plates and utensils started flying, I had no way out.

Much to everyone’s surprise and relief, the meeting was very cordial and the all the ‘rents hit it off. Even my wizened gnome of a grandmother (Yoda) was on her best behavior and kept the “1942 a dark year was…” stories to a minimum. Food, conversation, atmosphere were all pleasant so it was certainly a successful gathering. Certainly something to be thankful for on this day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Various Updates

So I haven’t updated the blog in quite some time. Don’t know why this is really, other than being distracted with other things and probably more than a little lazy. And besides, not all that much to report. Life is very good, though a bit routine at present.

I suppose the biggest news is that I finally procured some living room furniture from the Ikea up in Northern Virginia. It looks very good and is functional and was reasonably priced, The latter is proving to be important since the cats are already turning the sofa into their personal play toy/scratching post/bed. Other assorted acquisitions were side tables, a coffee table, a leather chair and matching footstool. The leather chair I keep in the study until I find a proven cat attack deterrent.

Now that I have the foundations of the living room out of the way, I can begin the task of decorating. This is where the fun begins, though I probably won’t do much with this until I get back from Honduras at the beginning of January. I leave on vacation in just over three weeks and have much with work and research and day to day activities to wrap up between now and then.

OH YES…how could I have forgotten about this. Even bigger news that furniture: I am FINALLY getting an assistant manager at work!! The department underwent some restructuring this month, the result of which was shifting of some vacant positions to my division. We interviewed for the assistant manager last week and they start on Monday. From the administrative perspective, this is a wonderful event as we’ll be able to take on more projects and enhance most of our core functions. Some of my staff is considerably less excited about this than I am as indicated by a few long faces and bit of grumbling with the announcement at staff meeting today. The heart of the problem is that the restructuring and management addition constitute change and I’ve mentioned in previous posts just how difficult change can be for some. Medusa, (the bitter old employee for whom change is feared more than death), once again threatened to quit. Such irrational behaviors are difficult to handle in such a group setting without it becoming a spectator sport for everyone else present, though I discovered the statement “Then I expect your resignation on my desk” will bring to a quick end such outbursts.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday AM

One of these days I’m going to have to learn to start sleeping in. Up a little after five again this morning and I’ve been ready to head out for some shopping for almost two hours. Trouble is that nothing is open this early. Ah well. Enough time for another cup of coffee. As if I really need that.

It has been a relatively quiet (ok, very quiet) holiday weekend. I’ve been unable to pick up the bedroom set from Pier One due to logistical problems (truck-owning friends have been singularly unavailable… OK Kim, you can laugh now), so that’s still in the works. Store staff is holding it for me until tomorrow I believe, so I may just pay extra and have it delivered. Much easier this way as I don’t have to worry about hauling things up three flights of stairs. (Me + hauling furniture = pathetic, ridiculous scene. People from the coffee shop across the way would take notice and gather around, pointing and mocking as I drag furniture up the sidewalk).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

And the winner is...

Very proud of my fellow Virginians tonight. We elected Tim Kaine as governor, which makes the second Democrat in a row to hold that office. Glad I voted. Now I can gloat at work tomorrow.

*evil grin*

Monday, November 07, 2005

Busy, busy, busy

A productive hour and a half since coming home from the office: a load of laundry washed, dried, and folded, kitchen cleaned, trash taken out, and so forth. Now comes decompression time with a coffee and some music. It seems that I can get so much more done if I launch into things as soon as I get home as opposed to taking a while to unwind and relax first. Unwinding too frequently translates into naps and that leads to lazy evenings. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the occasional lazy evening, but when there are things to do, the last think I need to do is put myself into a position where it’s hard to get going (e.g., nap time).

Still working on the reinvention of the living room and it seems that the project has evolved into a redo of the entire apartment with each room slated for modification to varying degrees depending upon frequency of use and general need. The kitchen, bathroom, and study/guest bedroom are fine for now, so that leaves the living room and bedroom having the higher priority. Since Friday is a holiday from work, that may be the Great Shopping Day during which I’ll finally procure the bedroom set I’ve been lusting over for months at Pier One. Of course this depends on successfully bribing (with beer) a friend who has a truck since there’s no way a dresser, headboard and footboard, and a nightstand can possibly fit in my Jeep.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Failed I Have

The last ditch bid yesterday to retain my top lab employee was unsuccessful and I now have another vacancy to fill. Very disappointed I am with Human Resources by this whole ordeal. Even at the very end of the day when they finally began to get the picture, they were still reluctant to move in any way that would lead to retention of this talented, talented employee. Their solution was to reevaluate and reclassify the position once it’s vacant. A bittersweet victory of sorts. While I lose current talent, the position will eventually become something more attractive (and better paying) for acquiring and retaining future talent. Of course the operative word here is “eventually.” Such a process takes a long time, possibly up to several months, particularly with Human Resources’ reputation of moving at Ent-like speed (“Don’t be hasty.”).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Office Party and a Challenge

Tomorrow is the annual office fall cook-out/party and I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen since around six this evening and am just now done. I made enough lap kai (one of my favourite Thai recipes: savory minced chicken salad) for about twenty and since the consensus of my staff was for me to make it as authentic as possible, it’s rather hot and spicy. But it’s still not quite as authentic as it could be since I ran out of fish sauce! (I am ashamed. What self respecting cook runs out of fish sauce??) Nonetheless, the dish seems to have turned out exceptionally well. I may scout out a local grocery store for fish sauce tomorrow morning and tweak the dish ever so slightly, but it’s not absolutely essential that I do.

Tomorrow’s big challenge at the office will be a second attempt at retaining a top lab employee hired by another agency. Over the last week I put together a justification packet as to why we need to retain this person and the proposal was soundly defeated by human resources today on salary issues. The penny-pinching analysts at HR are being just that: penny-pinchers. No real case beyond what I feel to be a secondary issue. I know my budget; I know what I have to work with. This the my first defeat at work, the first time I’ve been overruled and I don’t like the feeling at all. So tomorrow I will pull out all the stops, make a last ditch attempt at employee retention.

While it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t succeed, it does deal a terrible blow to my long-term organizational vision as the employee I’ve groomed to be my “second,” my backup when away (remember, I don’t have an official assistant) goes elsewhere. Besides, they’re the most talented of all my staff and talent is so hard to come by. But this just seems to be the natural progression of things: you hire talent and they move up and on. The employees who are little more than chair warmers…well, they’re not going anywhere.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Dropped a wine glass tonight whilst washing dishes and the damn thing did not break. That’s what I get for buying the cheap stuff; they don’t even break when they’re supposed to.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

This and That

Three large bags of clothes made it into the trash yesterday, thus freeing up some valuable closet and storage space. I thought about donating them to charity, but they were far too worn and probably wouldn’t be accepted. Another two bags of this and that also went away (old magazines, sundry papers, etc). Books I cannot throw out, so I’m taking a box of them to work tomorrow for anyone so inclined to give them a home. So some progress was made yesterday, but I still have a long way to go. Having a coffee now and will probably get back to the sorting once I finish.

Rearranging the bedroom is going to be the project for this afternoon/evening as is pricing online some living room furniture. Outfitting the living room is way overdue. I think I’ve found a home from my Ancient Futon so that will clear the way for the procurement of a few matching pieces. I’m certainly not going to buy anything expensive. I have cats, after all, and whatever I buy they’ll most likely just tear up in time. Inexpensive and moderately respectable are the main buying points. Ikea, anyone?

And, of course, before and after pictures will be taken. Whether I post them or not depends on the degree I’m able to transform the living room from a cold, heartless, undecorated room to something passably livable, warm, and inviting. Given my complete lack of skill in this area, the room upon becoming furnished will probably be colder and more heartless. My friends will have to help with this. Otherwise, I will never hear the end of it.

What might be interesting is to turn the living room project into a “community/group effort” of sorts for those out there who relish such endeavors. I could post images of the current layout, specs of the room, and the look I’m considering and get feedback/recommendations from whomever happens by the blog.

Hmmm. May have to give this some thought.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Afternoon Update


Maybe a two hour nap wasn’t on the agenda, but it was nice nonetheless. Since crawling out of the warm bed just a short while ago, I’ve ambled over to Starbucks, talked briefly to various people whiling away their afternoon over coffee, tea, and pastries, and returned with my own Cup of Life. Once I become saturated in caffeine, I’ll begin some of the cleaning/organizing/sorting chores on today’s agenda.

Never made it out to Barnes and Noble, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or the Asian market this morning. There’s always tonight or tomorrow; no hurry, really. I did, however, make the much needed grocery run to Harris Teeter. I walked instead of drove, which limited the number of things I could buy. It’s only four or five blocks, but that’s a long way to carry armloads of bags. So I just procured what I needed for the weekend plus a few additional odds and ends.

I can feel the beginnings of a truly wonderful caffeine buzz. This is a good sign as I’ll become a blur of jittery activity for at least a few hours. So much can be accomplished with proper caffeination. Certainly this is a sign of addiction, but there are worse vices.

Off to be productive.

The Agenda

For only the second time since it has turned cold, the boiler in the apartment building kicked in early this morning and the old steam radiators are hissing and clattering away. It’s a good sound, particularly when you’re wrapped up under the blankets trying to stay warm. I suspect the thermostat down in the basement (the only such temp regulatory device for the entire building) is set too low, perhaps in an effort to save on heating costs. So for only the second time in the last week or so it’s comfortable in the apartment and I don’t have to walk around in two pairs of socks and layered clothing to keep warm.

Other than having emergency pager duty, it’s going to be a free day. I want to be productive, though; to take care of a number of activities in which I’ve fallen behind or have wanted to do for a while now, but just haven’t had the time (or have simply been too lazy). Among the things on today’s agenda:

1. Grocery shopping. This is sorely needed as the kitchen is practically void of food. Even as creative as I try to be in the kitchen, I simply can’t do much with a bag of coffee beans, salt, and pasta. So today I’ll be making runs to the Asian market and the local grocery store. I made the list this morning and this task will be today’s priority.

2. Cleaning. The bedroom need a good cleaning and the study need organizing.

3. Barnes and Noble. For a change I’m in the mood to read a novel. Not sure what, exactly. I’ll just browse the shelves until something strikes my fancy.

4. Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Need to replace the baking dish that I dropped last Sunday as well as pick up a few kitchen essentials. Should make a list for this shopping trip to and STICK TO IT. It’s Bed, Bath, and Beyond, after all. I can spend far too much in there if I am not mindful.

5. Finish sorting through old clothes. This ties in with (2), but not quite so I will assign it it’s own number. I need to make a little more room in the closet before buying some new things.

So I guess we’ll see just how many of these things I can get done today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Keeping Up Apperances

It has been a long week at the office and I’m looking forward to the weekend. Mostly. This is my duty week with the emergency pager which puts a damper on activities (e.g., no research trips and more distressing: very limited alcohol consumption), but that’s ok. I need a weekend just to putter around the apartment or do some shopping.

I’ll probably make a run to the Asian market out in Virginia Beach in preparation for next week’s annual office fall cookout. I’ll be making chicken or pork satay and/or lap kai (savory chopped chicken salad) and need to get some essential ingredients that are virtually impossible to procure from a regular market. My contribution to the cookout should prove interesting given that many of my staff are steak, potatoes, and apple pie sort of people whose idea of international cuisine consists of French fries or possibly even Canadian bacon. Hopefully my skills at preparing Thai cuisine are polished sufficiently to provide passable renditions of these dishes. But if not, who’s going to notice anyway? It will be a unique offering either way.

Clothes shopping may also be on the agenda this weekend. Over the last few evenings I’ve been hauling fall and winter things out of storage and it’s all too big now. Causal “lounge around the apartment” things are still passable given their limited function, but dress shirts and pants..well, they have to go. The shirts were a little large last year, but now they’re huge. On a windy day they would billow like sails. Can’t have that. The same problem (if it can be called that) exists with pants. Way too big now. I look like an ill-clad hobo when I put on last year’s clothes. Hardly respectable. Ah well. The consequences of successful dieting.

But I wouldn’t necessarily call the process of the last year “dieting.,” per se. It’s more along the lines of simple behaviour modifications rather than any real attempt at dieting. The word “diet” has so many negative connotations and I don’t like using it. I prefer to use the more accurate phrases “changes in behavior,” which may or may not constitute dieting depending on ones definition of the dreaded “d” word. I’ve been much more mindful of what I eat, when I eat (very few late dinners and no snacking), moderate alcohol consumption, and small adjustments such as walking to the grocery store or bank instead of driving. I certainly don’t starve myself and do indulge in the late meal or the unneeded margarita or beer every now and again. But the key is moderation. Taken together, these small changes have made a real difference and various people have certainly noticed and their favorable comments are a source of inspiration. At least partially. Unfortunately, all too frequently someone says something like “Wow. You’ve really lost weight” followed by “Have you been sick?” The latter irks me to no end. The implication is one can’t simply improve themselves on their own; there has to some underlying cause.

I still have about ten or so pound more to go before I reach the goal of once again being officially lean and lanky. Lanky really isn’t all that hard to do as I’m six foot two. Lean..well, I’m still working on that. Once I reach my goal, I’ll start the next step and that is to work on adding some muscle. This will likely mean joining a gym, and going to the gym is something I utterly detest. The last time I joined a gym, I think I went there no more than 20 times over the course of my two year membership. This is pathetic of course, but in my defense, the gym was dark and creepy, hardly an environment that inspires physical activity (unless fleeing the place counts). Rejoining a gym (and actually going there regularly) will be exactly like the whole behavior modification (“diet”) thing. It’s all a matter of proper focus. The hardest part is deciding to make some changes and starting down that path.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dinner Is Served....

A mantid having its own dinner party at the condo last Sunday..... obviously dinner guests were also on the menu...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday PM

The dinner party last night was a success which is somewhat more significant considering that I tried out a new entrée recipe. I never like using untested recipes for social events as you really aren’t quite sure how things will actually turn out. But I took a chance and it paid off. Cooking for seven was a bit of work, but I nonetheless enjoy such endeavors. I’ll take a weekend off from the dinner events then start thinking about something for the week following.

A steady cold, wind-blown rain has fallen since late this morning. Perfect night to curl up under a blanket and read. Off to do just that.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Photo Op

It was a good afternoon at the ecological preserve. As usual, it was deserted save for me. I was out there about four hours, only one of which was devoted to research. The rest of the time was spent wandering here and there with the digital camera, taking pictures of this and that. I’m testing out the capabilities of the digital camera I have at work and I’ve almost decided to buy the same model for my own personal use. Subject matter today ranged from open landscape shots to specific images (mushrooms, lichen, plants, etc) to micro-photography (ants). The camera’s capabilities with the latter aren’t all that wonderful (perhaps it‘s partial user ineptitude as well), but how often am I going to be using micro-photography anyway? Otherwise, the camera performed exceptionally well with everything else.

Below is an image I took today that seems interesting on some level. I think I’ll call it “Same, but different.”

Saturday Morning

Will be heading out of here in a bit for one of the last forays of the research season. According to the schedule, I have one more weekend to go, which is supposed to be next weekend. Unfortunately, I have the emergency pager next week so the concluding research trip will be delayed one week. It’s cloudy, cool, and a bit foggy this morning which should make for an interesting setting at the ecological preserve with fog shrouding the pine barrens and muffling the snapping of branches and growls and the crashing of Balrogs passing nearby.

Anyway… to get busy.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday PM

Oddly bored and restless this evening. Usually a book or some music is a sufficient occupation to pass the hours until bedtime, but they’re just not doing it for me tonight. Obviously not in the “leave me the hell alone” hermit mood that typically comes at the end of a long workweek. But I’m not necessarily in the mood to socialize either. I know what you’re thinking: I just need more caffeine. Possibly this is true, but I’m on my second coffee of the evening.

I haven’t done much reading lately, at least not since the bout with cluster headaches back in early September. At least I think it was early September; the weeks are going by so fast that I’ve quite lost track. I’ll read a few pages here and there, usually before bed, but I haven’t engaged in any of those all day “read-a-thons” that I enjoy. I still have “Guns, Germs, and Steel” that I bought back in early August that I’ve barely started (and I was hoping to be finished with it by the start of Sept) so that’s going to be the project over the next few weeks.

One recently acquired book that I’m rather enjoying it Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Finding Our True Home,” which is Thay’s translation of and commentary on the Amitabha Sutra. A rather insightful work that I’ll post on in greater detail at a later date. Very thought provoking.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Food Fight!

Now I remember why I’ve long avoided fast food like the plague. Due to time constraints and against my better judgment, I grabbed lunch from a fast food place (and I will not mention that it was Hardees) on the way back to the office early this afternoon. It was typical fast food fare (greasy burger and cold fries) and left me feeling queasy and listless. Ugh. No more fast food for at least another year or longer if I bear today’s lesson in mind as my body is begging I should.

Something else about today’s visit will keep me out of fast food places: behaviour of the staff. Two employees were in a rather heated argument about who had duty at the drive-up window. The staffer at the window obviously thought she had been stuck there beyond her allotted shift and her replacement was obviously in no hurry to take over. At one point, they were all but yelling in each other’s faces and brandished their weapons: one had the French fry scoop and the other, a drive-up customer’s drink. Before the argument became an exchange of salt, fries, ice, and soda, the manager temporarily suspended her search for a lost roll of dimes to break things up. A pity, really as a fast food fight would have added entertainment value to the long wait for my food.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Hopefully this cup of Starbucks coffee (my third of the day!) succeeds in waking me up; otherwise, I’ll be totally useless this evening. Of course the two beers I had whilst having dinner with a coworker a short while ago have done nothing to help the productivity level, but after the busy weekend, I deserved alcoholic refreshments.

So to summarize the weekend:

1.) The research Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning went well and didn’t take as long as in months past due to the lateness of the season. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) one insect group on which I’m conducting a taxonomic study was collected in relative abundance, so I spend more time at the microscope this week than in sessions past taking care of various curational procedures (e.g, pinning, labeling, specimens, etc).

2.). A friend and I went to a relatively upscale, trendy Latin American restaurant about four blocks from the apartment called Luna Maya. Despite the fact that it’s been there about five year, this was my first visit and certainly won’t be my last. The food was first-rate and the ambiance was….well…orange. Minimalist décor save for a few mirrors and lamps against a backdrop of orange walls all around. In the subdued lighting the color actually worked well (e.g., I didn’t once feel I was dining inside a pumpkin). Certainly will be back.

3.) I attended (and did the cooking for) a casual dinner part at a friend’s condo Sunday evening. Prepared basic Italian cuisine (homemade soup, spaghetti , etc) and it turned out well…so well in fact, that we’re having another dinner party there next Sunday with French cuisine featured this time around. It’s a little more involved and I’ve started putting together the menu. Will have dust off my pastry baking skills this week in preparation for the cook-a-thon next weekend.

All in all, a very good weekend. Very busy and productive and most importantly a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Finally the Sun

I am in a very good mood this morning, perhaps because the sun is FINALLY out, or perhaps it’s because that wonderful fall feeling is in the air. The latter is difficult to describe beyond a feeling of change, a feeling of excitement and anticipation of new things to come.

The next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun. The days will progressively get shorter and cooler, the nights crisp and clear, and the research season will draw to a close leaving weekends free for road trips or just lounging about on warm afternoon with a book over at the coffee shop. Summer clothes will be packed away and the fall/winter wardrobe hauled out of storage. This year most of the cool weather wardrobe will go away as what I wore last year no longer fits and needs to be replaced with smaller sizes and nicer styles.

Anyway…I’m off to gather the field equipment and think about heading out of here. Should be a good, quick afternoon of research.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday Evening

It’s been cloudy, rainy and/or drizzly and cool for over a week now and I think we’ve had enough of this gloom for a while as it is conducive for little else beyond naps, hot cups of coffee, warm blankets and reading. Certainly not the most productive of weeks. Tomorrow, though, is supposed to be different. Sunny with highs in the low 70s. Perfect for catching up on the research. Things should be winding down sufficiently that it won’t take up the entire weekend (though it will involve field work both tomorrow afternoon and Sunday morning).

The continual gloom took a toll on my office today. Several of the staff, including my secretary, “abandoned ship” at lunch leaving only a skeletal staffing arrangement. This was just as well since it was a Friday, which are usually slow anyway. I spent my day either puttering about in my office or preparing slide mounts of various beasties in my lab next door, none of which was truly essential, only a way to pass the time in a somewhat productive manner. Busywork can certainly be an asset from time to time.

So it’s late Friday afternoon and I wonder what I’m going to do with the evening. No real plans, though a friend mentioned having a “movie night” over at his place. May have to make an appearance depending on my energy level and movie selection. Energy level shouldn’t be a problem as I’ve just finished off a cup of coffee strong enough to ward off any thought of or desire for nap time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Perils of Beach Driving.......

I wonder where the rest of it is????

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Beachcomber

The road this morning took me east to the oceanfront. I suppose southeast is the more correct orientation as I avoided the main tourist beaches and headed to the remote beaches south of Sandbridge near the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge in southern Virginia Beach. It's a much longer route down narrow, winding roads, but it's always wothwhile as fewer people care to venture this far off the main path.

The beach was all but deserted this morning. It was cloudy and cool with mists and fog in the air, certainly not optimal weather for most beachgoers. A strong northeast wind roused a continually growling surf and the beach was littered with marine vegetation left by the churning, crashing waves. I walked for miles this morning past the occasional shore bird pecking about in the vegetation and small sand crabs scurrying here and there, avoiding the overwash of waves, the gaze of hungry shore birds, and my steps. I don't know honestly how far I walked before retracing my steps back to the access point. It may have been a mile. It may have been two miles. No matter, really. Time and distance meant little on a day like this.

Sunday AM

The rain has mostly stopped, at least for now. It's still cool, very cloudy, and misting but that's an improvement from the torrential rain of yesterday. I could actuallly cross the street to Starbucks this morning without either getting drenched or spending an hour looking for an umbrella that I may or may not have somewhere in the apartment. I didn't even make it over there yesterday, which was noted by staff this morning ("Where were you yesterday?? Hmmmmm???"). Ugh.

Yesterday was far too lazy of a day and I feel guilty for the singular lack of productivity. Today will be different, though as of yet there's nothing on the agenda. Perhaps I'll do some cleaning and laundry, both of which I lacked the fortitude to accomplish in the lazy blur that was yesterday. I plan on doing some cooking tonight. No reicpe, no specific plan; I am going to see just how creative I can get with a few basic ingredients. This is when cooking gets fun.

I'm feeling restless today. Once the morning routine is complete, I think what I'll do is grab the digital camera, hop in the Jeep, and just go. No destination, no goal. Just go wherever the road leads.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Image Test

Testing Blogger's new image uploading feature ('s not necessarily new, only new to me. I believe it's been around a few months). These are my cats, annoyingly sweet and sometimes just annoying. But that's what they're supposed to be. They're cats, after all.

Lazy Day

Due to the heavy rain that has continued to fall since the early morning, my advisor and I decided to cancel the research fieldwork, thereby giving me a free weekend. This welcome development will allow for a cherished lazy weekend ahead with little to do other than some cleaning and other assorted projects around the apartment. If I should choose to do so. If not, no matter. It's going to be my weekend and I'm going to spend it however I see fit, even if it means doing absolutely nothing.

A second pot of coffee is brewing and I'm feeling much better now that I've had lunch. I awoke this morning with a bit of a hangover due to perhaps one margarita too many last night whilst out having dinner and drinks with my sister and her fiance. Not a serious hangover, mind you; simply a minor headache and a somewhat groggy feeling, both of which began to dissipate with water and coffee rehydration therapy. It's quite remarkable just how much my alcohol tolerance has dropped this year. I feel like such an amateur.

My gosh, the rainfall is abosolutely intense right now. And it's so very dark out. The street lights on Colley Ave (the main drag) are on and there's not a pedestrain to be seen. I don't think we've had such rain since Hurricane Isabel blew through here in September of 2003. It was certainly a wise decision to cancel the fieldwork this weekend. The ecological preserve is almost certainly by now a lake. Of course having a Jeep makes this but a minor detail. :-)

The in-country ininerary for Honduras is coming along well. I found out yesterday that my local contact is setting up a side trip into Guatemala which will last anywhere from one to three days depending on what else is planned. I'm excited about this as we'll venture futher into the heart of Mayan country. Next up is organizing a few days in La Mosquitia, the vast expanse of unpopulated, rarely-explored rainforests in easter Honduras. I hope there will be time to fit this trip in, but if not, I can always head back down there in April. to read and relax with a coffee.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Calm Before the Storm

Cloudy mild, and continued very humid this evening. Remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy will be overspreading the area later on this evening bringing rain, rain, and more rain. And then we may even get a little rain on top of that. From the looks of the radar, the wet weather should be rolling in over the next few hours. Looking foward to a few rainy, lazy days.

I'm almost tempted to go back to the office tonight to work on a couple ongoing projects in the lab. The key words here is "almost" and I'm not quite inspired enough to head back to the office; I spend too much time there anyway. But it's so different there at nights and on weekends when no one else is around. No phones, no employees, just the task at hand and wonderful, wonderful silence. Perhaps I'll just go in early tomorrow and get some things done before staff starts to arrive.

Earlier this year I painted my office (ok..I didn't actually do any painting, I had others do it) and generally gave it a very personalized makeover including assorted accents acquired during my time in South America and Thailand. Despite the criticism that it looks like a National Geographic episode, the office turned out well and I've been enjoying the fruits of, wait...other's labor since. The next project will be converting the empty office next to mine into my personal laboratory. I'm already using it in this capacity, though infomally. A long lab table, compound and dissecting microscopes, and trays of assorted microtools and related equipment. It's functional, but it can be so much more than what it presently is. We do have a main lab complete with all the bells and whistles, but it's general use and given the time and space-consuming nature of my projects, a more secure workspace is needed. many possibilities.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

In for the Evening

After rushing home from work to shower and feed the cats, I headed off to class and just now have returned home. It's a good feeling to have the day over and I plan on doing very little tonight other than finish off the cup of coffee I bought when I got home. Some friends were idling about over at Starbucks and despite the invitation to join in on the conversation, I politely declined and retreated upstairs to the apartment. Not trying to be overly anti-social; it was just a long day and I need the solitude.

Off to putter about the apartment.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thrilling Afternoon

A long, but VERY productive day at the ecological preserve. In a post last night I mentioned a unique discovery made by a fellow graduate student last weekend and the hope that we would be able to replicate the finding today. Not only did we replicate the discovery, we replicated it FIVE times. We were almost euphoric from the excitment of scientific discovery and wrapped things up only reluctantly as the sun dipped below the western horizon. There are no paths where we were working and trying to find our way out of the inpenetrable thickets in the dark would have been difficult if not outright treacherous. We now have sufficient data for publication, though I want to accumulate a little more over the next few weeks before we being the writing process. The more comprehensive we can make the article, the greater the chances of publication in a worthwhile scientific journal.

It's a pity that the discovery came at the end of the research season. Several good reserach questions have arisen from the finding, but we'll have to wait until the next field season to conduct the experiments. But on the bright side, it is something to think about and prepare for during the offseason.

December Destination

Here's a link to Copan Ruinas, Honduras website where I'll be visiting in December. The pages on ecotourism are quite interesting and have a lot of information that my travel book glosses over. Waterfalls, caves, hiking.....ahhh....I foresee much excitement on this trip.

Friday, September 30, 2005


Just now back home from having dinner with a friend at Guadalajara out in Virginia Beach. Though it was a cool, almost crisp evening, we sat outside on the patio. Thankfully I had the foresight to dress suitably warmer tonight. It certainly paid off with the cool breeze blowing in off of the least until I got the first margarita down. After that I was nice and toasty. A wonderful invention, those margaritas.

Tomorrow is going to be a very busy day. As I was unable to do reserach last weekend due to guests, I have to double up this weekend. So I'll be at the ecological preserve almost all day tomorrow and probably half a day on Sunday. While it's unfortunate that I have to sacrifice practically my entire weekend, it's tolerable given that I have about a month left before I call an end to the field season. An additional component of this weekend's work (which makes it all the more exciting) will be attempting to replicate a very unique discovery made by one of my fellow graduate students last weekend. If we can accomplish this, it's a publishable paper. to read then turn in.

The Ups and Downs of Flying

I absolutely love to fly. This is not to say that I don't have the occasional case of anxiety before a flight. I do from time to time, but this usually dissipates when the whine of the engines changes to a roar and we begin rolling down the runway on takeoff. This provides among the greatest of adrenaline rushes and is a odd statement coming from someone like me who loathes (ok..maybe "scared of" is a better word choice) roller coasters.

There are two things I don't like about flying. The first is leg room and the second is the "open seating" used by some discount airlines. I don't know why I'm not fond of latter other than the "cattle car" feel to the whole ordeal. Everyone lines up at the gate well before boarding time and it's this mad rush for good seats once boarding starts. It's "mobocracy" at its finest and not for me. I like to know beforehand where I'll be sitting and enjoy the option of changing seats online as needed before the trip. Window seats are great for short excursions and for those long, non-stop fights an aisle or bulkhead seat is a must. I'm six foot-two; I need the legroom. As I'm too cheap to pay for first or business class, I have to make do with whatever leg room options are available in economy. And in some situations, these are of little real benefit. I had an aisle seat last year on the flight from Chicago to Tokyo and it just wasn't sufficent for a 14 hour non-stop excursion.

Apart from the two aforementioned factors, flying is a wonderful part of travel. I consider the adveture under way as soon as I board the plane. And when it comes to type of plane, those big commercial jets are altogether boring compared to some of the smaller planes in which I've ridden.

Probably the most enjoyable flight I've had was when I was in South America a few years back doing some public health consulting work. As part of our project, we did an assessment of some villages in the interior of the country and to reach this otherwise inaccessible region, rented a plane (complete with pilot for no addtional charge!) from a small, local company. It was a old twin engine prop (an Islander, I believe) that appeared to have long since past its prime. Not something to inspire confidence, particularly given the observation that the ground crew was reinstalling the seats when we arrived. It served dual purpose runs into the interior: light cargo and/or small groups of passengers. So after weighing the passengers as a group and assigning seats to distribute the weight evenly we were off.

Southward we flew at a relatively low altitude. High enough to clear low mountain ridges (usually with a little more climbing involved), but still low enough for ease of observation below. We followed the course of a river for a portion of the flight then banked left over nothing but jungle. No roads, no houses, nothing but canopy as far as the eye could see. Eventually, we began to decend and the translator annouced that we were landing.

"Landing???" I thought. "Where?" We still couldn't see anything below other than jungle, but as we banked sharply there appeared in the near distance a narrow sliver of brown slicing through the green. A small dirt runway. So in a cloud of dust we landed (rather bumpily) and collectively were glad to be back on the ground. It was nonetheless a remarkably enjoyable flight and was one of the factors contributing to the adventurous nature of the time in South America, along with travelling far upriver in traditional dugout canoes to visit other remote villages, but that's a story for another day.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rainy Evening

I wrapped up an evening walk to the grocery store with almost perfect timing. A few minutes delay somewhere along the route and I would have been caught in the steady soaking rain that now falls along with the temperature. It's going to be a cool and comfortable night; probably the first real blanket weather we've had since spring.

So here I sit with an evening coffee, listening to the patter of rain outside. Now that everything seems to be working properly, I'm rather enjoying having DSL connectivity. It's not quite as fast as my computer at the office, but much better than where I was. Dial-up was nothing but painful and I'm certainly not going back to it unless absolutely necessary and even then I may consider comaratively faster avenues of communication such as the U. S. Postal Service.

Roll on December

After much vacillation on length of stay and probably too much time price comparison shopping, I finally booked and paid for the flights this morning for my Honduras trip in December. I'll be leaving Norfolk on December 19th and returning on the third of January. Not quite as long as my trip to Thailand last year, but it's sufficient. I don't want to overdose on travel too early in the season considering that the big trip will be in February or March. Haven't worked out the details of that trip yet other than the destination being somewhere in Southeast Asia.

It's a relief to have the flights organized and paid for. This logistical element is always the most vexing part of travel. Now I can start focusing on the in-country ininerary. A few weeks ago I picked up my travel guide and have been spending more time with that than Pat Robertson does with the Bible. My base of operations will be Copan Ruinas which is in the heart of Mayan ruin country and many hours will be spent touring and photographing ruins. Other than this, the itinerary is wide open. Now comes the ever-so-enjoyable aspect of putting things together. Two months to put together a memorable holiday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Experimenting with my new DSL connectivity tonight. Having all sorts of issues. Not impressed thus far. Must be something amiss with my settings. Ugh.

More later.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Back to Normal

The weeked guests flew up to DC earlier this afternoon so things are back to normal around the apartment. While I enjoy having guests drop by for the weekend (as long as I'm aware of the visit beforehand), I'm always glad when they're off. I'm not being harsh mind you; it's just that I enjoy my routine as well as living alone.

All things considered, it was a very enjoyable visit and, as I predicted earlier, it was great catching up with a couple old friends. No newsworthy adventures to report; we more or less just hung out in the neighborhood, spending too much time (and money) hanging out at Starbucks.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Weekend Host

I came home early from the office to begin tidying up the apartment for weekend guests coming in town tonight. The big challenge was coverting the study back to some semblance of a guest bedroom. This was a chore, but everything is now prepared for their arrival (or at least it's ready as it's going to get), so it's just a matter of waiting to make the respective trips to the airport. My old roommate, also a private pilot, is flying himself in around eight-thirty and an old friend from the U.K. will be in around ten. So two trips to the airport this evening.

Complicating the weekends festivities is the pesky little contrivance called the "emergency pager." It's my week on the duty rotation and this means staying relatively close to home (no road trips this time around) and very limited alcohol consumption. Should be a nice weekend though as it will be good catching up with a couple old friends. Two more victims..errr....people to torment with a long slide show of my Thailand trip.

**checking batteries in laser pointer**

**evil laugh**

Monday, September 19, 2005


Just now in from giving a presentation to a local civic league and I'm officially pooped. A long day at the office was follwed by two hours of significant and frantic modification of an old Powerpoint presentation then the talk itself immediately afterwards. The presentation and subequent question and answer session ran almost an hour. Ugh. Too tired even for dinner, but a friend wants to grab a bite to eat after he gets out of class at ten. Hopefully I'll be able to stay awake that long.

Only one more presentation in the immediate future and that will be Saturday. Still not sure exactly what I'll be doing beyond being on a panel question/answer session. Perhaps I'll find out my topic of discussion tomorrow so I can get working on the Powerpoint.

As I've mentioned before, I hate presentations. And Iwould REALLY hate them if it wasn't for Powerpoint.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Religious Tolerance

My long-held belief in religious tolerance was put to the test this week. The ordeal affirmed my openness towards and tolerance of differing belief systems, demonstrated some failings on my part, and brought up a few questions for which there are no real answers. Matters of religion and belief are ever so messy, which is one of the reason why I tend to avoid them in the first place. But on occasion, such as this past week, they are forced upon you.

And it was all my secretary's fault. I've mentioned her in passing in previous posts. She has many, many personal problems, most of which are of her own making, and as is common among those feeling overwhelmed by life, she experienced a "religious conversion" earlier this summer. Now it's "Jesus this," "God that," "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." While this is a little annoying to an atheist such as myself, I'm perfectly OK with it, other than the fact that it all too frequently spills over into the workplace. Unfortunatly she has crossed the line between her personal and working life several times and I've had to counsel her on the use of company computers to brows religious sites (her reaction, and I quote: "If you want to fire me for loving Jesus...go ahead!" Talk about nailing oneself to a cross. Termination wasn't even brough up. Only the issue of company policy regarding the appropriate use of company computers .Sheesh). Other than policy issues, I'm nonetheless glad that she's found some souce of peace for her life. She certainly needs it.

Last weekend, my secretary attended a religious conference up in Washington, D.C. hosted by some "hot" evangelical minister out of Texas. She returned to work on Monday filled with extreme holy zeal, the conviction that her views on God and religion are right and everyone else who doesn't believe as she does is not only wrong, but boud for an eternity in the fires of hell. She didn't hold anything back in condemning Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and, in particular, Buddhists. Though I don't discuss it at work, she's aware that I'm a long-time student of Buddhism, so presumably the objective of the latter attacks was to pick a fight. Despite her harsh, goading words, I did not take the bait and simply let the matter drop with a gentle smile.

Afterwards, one of my other employees, who is also a good friend, asked why I simply stood there and took the abuse. He saw it clearly aimed at me and certainly would have gone off on her had he been the recepient of such vituperations. Other than simply not wanting to stoop to her level, there are several reason why I let the issue drop. First, belief systems should not be discussed in the workplace. Second, you cannot engage in a thoughtful discourse with the ignorant, particuarly when the ingnorant, enflamed by zeal, are looking for a fight. Nothing good could possibly come out of this sitation. And lastly, it's simply not the Buddhist way.

Over the course of my seven or eight years as a student of Buddhism, I have gravitated towards the tradition practiced by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, which is rooted in Vietnamese Zen, though westernized for a larger audience. This tradition emphasizes mindfulness (happiness/living in the present moment), the interrelationship of all things, socially engaged practice, among other things. It's altogether a very logcial philosophical outlook on life. Within this tradition there are something called the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, the purpose of which are to guide practitioners to a deeper understanding of Buddhism and, by consequence, a happier, more compassionate life. The First Mindfulness Training addresses this very issue and goes as follows:

"Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctine, theory, or idealology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for."

So during the verbal lashing, this Mindfulness Training came to mind and kept me where I needed to be. But this is not to say that I wasn't angry. I was to a degree, but not necessarily due to the severity of her verbal attack. After all, she's certainly free to think whatever she wants, no matter how misguided. Other than being a little angry with myself for becoming angry, it was the sheer ignorance behind the attacks that most troubled me along with the demonstration of dichotomous thinking. For her, it's an all black and white, good or evil, wrong or right issue with no shades of gray. From my experience most things in life are shades of gray; most issues cannot be boiled down to simple black and white.

The greatest unanswerable question to come out of this ordeal was where does one draw the line when it comes to religious tolerance? While I firmly believe that everyone has a right be believe however they see fit, what happens when those beliefs begin to encroach upon others? I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and know very well that for many evangelicals, condemnation of others and conversion of others to their way of thinking is a core belief. Live and let live is not usually an option. To what degree should this core belief be tolerated since it has the potential to extend beyond individual belief and into society at large? It's a messy issue. If you draw a line, you run the risk of being accused of "persecuting Christians" (they love saying this) and if you give them free reign to evangelize, to mold society to their liking, you potentially violate the liberty of individuals for whom such evangelization is unwanted and way of thinking offensive.

Humans still have a lot of work to do before we're able to throw off such detrimental qualities as ignorance, intolerance, and dichotomous thinking, particularly when it comes to issues of religion and belief, or the lack thereof. These are factors inhibiting the social evolution of peace, harmony, and understanding of the wonderful differences that make us a unique social animal. A great step forward it will be when we can accept our respective differences and put into practice the words of Thomas Jefferson: "What difference does it make if a man says there's one God, twenty gods, or no God. As long as it doesn't pick my pocket or break my leg."

Such a visionary, that Jefferson.

Up Before the Sun

The only problem with going to bed early last night was that I was up well before the sun rose. I was even awake before my cats, who really didn't care for once. They gave me a rude look, climbed under the covers on the just-vacated warm part of the bed, and went back to sleep. So after a long and rambling walk around the neighborhood and a stop by Starbucks on the way home, here I now sit in front of the computer, refreshed, energized, and ready to start the day.

The highlight of the weekend thus far was attending an employee's wedding Friday evening at Blue Pete's in southern Virginia Beach. It was a small affair, but very well done and enjoyable. The only drawback was sitting at the table reserved for coworkers and having to endure the antics of a bunch of car salesmen (coworkers of the groom) as they progressively became more annoying with each drink consumed. Perhaps their highly aggressive Type A personalities work well in selling cars, but in a formal social environment, they were more than just a little out of place. And manners? Pffffffft. Ukrainian goatherders probably have higher standards of etiquette.

Otherwise, a very nice wedding. And I didn't end up buying a second car.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Early Night

It's going to be an early night. Other than washing my Jeep and visiting the parental units, I really haven't been all that productive. There were many things on the list that I just didn't get to, including shopping for Jeep tires, making a run to Barnes and Noble as well as the grocery store, and the usual round of cleaning. Though it sounds counterintuitive, perhaps being lazy today just wore me out. to do some sitting medition and then fall into bed. I'll be more productive tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hurricane Ophelia?? Pfffffffft

For those of us in Norfolk, Hurricane Ophelia has amounted to nothing more than tropical humidity and breezy conditions. I am disappointed. While I certainly didn't want hurricane conditions here, or anything even close to that, some rain would have at least been nice.
So I'm sipping a cup of coffee whilst waiting for laundry to dry. We're down to one functioning dryer in the basement which creates all sorts of delays when more than one person decides to do their laundry at the same time. If they're doing two loads... well it's going to be a wait. Thankfully, the wait this evening was short.

There have been a few new developments on going down to the Gulf Coast to assit with hurricane relief. We were "on hold" until after Hurricaen Ophelia passes and the current thought is that we'll be activated by early next week. But there's also a catch to this. Due to personnel shortages, it has been determined that only one person from my department can go for the two week deployment at a time. Only myself and one of my employees (the guy for whom I've been a mentor....I posted about the whole mentorship thing back in July) are slated to go. I gave this issue some thought today and I'm going to allow him to go first. I've mentored him for years and I think it's time for him to gain his first real humanitarian experience. We've talked about such endeavours for so long and it's his time, his opportunity to act and I suspect the experience will be very muich like my very first humanitarian mission a few years back: he'll come back a changed person, if not a complete idealist. And there will still be ample time for me to go.....but just in a few weeks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Churning Northward

Hurricane Ophelia churns off the North Carolina coast and we are beginnning to feel some of the storm's effects here in Norfolk, mainly in the form of breezy conditions, low, cloudy skies, and wretched tropical humidity. The air is just so saturated with moisture tonight. We haven't seen much in the way of least not yet. That will arrive tonight and into tomorrow with the forecast predicting anywhere from two to four inches depending on the northward track of the storm. It looks like Tidewater Virginia will escape the worst of the storm, but you just never know. So unpredictable, these hurricanes.

Today's venture into teaching went very well. The class consisted of approximately twenty or so students who actually paid attention and asked questions. Pretty good performance for a bunch of undergraduates. Guest lecturing like I did today gives me a renewed respect for teachers, college professors or otherwise. It's a lot of work and certainly takes a lot out of you, particularly if you're conducting both an hour lecture followed by a three hour lab session. I can also certainly see the reward of teaching. The look on a student's face when something "clicks" makes all the time and effort put into such an endeavour worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Such a geek

Just in from the parasitology lab course and am enjyoing a cup of coffee before going over the presentations for tomorrow. No matter how many times I've give such lectures, I still get nervous. Guess this is just natural. And I have noticed that the more frequently I do this sort of thing the more comfortable it becomes.

Lab was fun tonight. We were experimenting with slide mounting techniques, specifically preparing slides of protozoans that live in termite guts and digest the wood that termites eat. This involved dissecting termites (not really as hard as it sounds, but it does take a steady hand) then prepping and mounting their guts on a slide. The interesting thing is that the protozoans are still alive and at 40x magnification you can see them moving. Several different species too, but alas, we didn't have time to key them out. So maybe I'll do that this weekend if I get bored and stuff.

Certainly having a geek moment this evening.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I have decided that the presentations are coming along well enough that I can just finish them at work tomorrow. This gives me a few free hours before bed to do..well...nothing. OK....nothing and drink coffee. But since drinking coffee is technically "something"....hmm... I guess i lied.

I have also decided this evening that the guy in the house next door to my apartment building is singularly annoying. And loud. Almost every night his part of whatever conversation they're having down below drifts in through my open study window up here on the third floor. Always complaining about the poor and the evil of taxes. Pretty big words for someone who is in his late 30s, unemployed, AND still living at home with mom and dad. And his laugh...such a piercing schoolgirl laugh. A Republican laugh. I wonder how many points I could score by flicking cigarette butts out of the window and into his glass of wine somewhere beyond the fence down below.

Of course he would complain about this too. The poor have not only obviously moved into his trees, but they're also littering.

Monday Ramble

No time to cook tonight due to the need to finish up the presentations for Wednesday, so I'm doing the quick and easy thing by heating up a container of spaghetti sauce that I froze about a month ago. This is one of the rare occasions that I wished I had a microwave since a slow thaw on the stove top takes so very long.

Of course it could be that the preparations for my Wed. lecture will be for naught if the university closes due to Hurricane Ophelia.

Despite the fact that I haven't had any coffee since 11am (reader: **gasp**), I am wired this evening. When I got home from the office late this afternoon, I immediately launched into productivity (washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom) and it seems that the momentum has yet to abate. This is a good thing as there is much on the agenda between now and bedtime. A coffee or three after dinner will ensure that everything gets done.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternooon and Hurricane Ophelia churns off the Atlantic coast. The latest forecast by the National Weather Service Hurricane Center has the storm moving northward and potentially striking the North Carolina Outer Banks by Wednesday before veering eastward back out over open water. If this is the case we'll surely feel some of the effects here. This will be an interesting week weather-wise.

Today's thesis research went well and I'm glad things are beginning to wind down. About a month and a half to go and I'll hang up the field equipment until next April or May. It's been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work and the break will be most welcome. Having research obligations practically every weekend of the summer quickly got old. Though certainly a small thing, I'm looking forward to having free weekend to spend as I see fit. Of course I'll still be involved with the research during the off-season, but the work will primarily be data analysis which can be done at my leisure.

The only thing of any real importance on today's agenda is working on the presentaitons for this week's class. I haven't focused on these as much as I would like, so what I'll most likely do this evening is recycle one of my old presentatios, tailoring it to the specific needs of the class I'll be teaching. So if all goes well I'll have most of that accomplished by this evening, leaving on the presentation for the lab session which will be relatively easy to put together.

Ah well. Off to book the December flights.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday AM

About halfway through my second coffee of the morning. Sufficient caffeination will be important as I have a lot on the agenda today including the ususal weekend research and working on the Powerpoint presentations for next week's foray into college teaching. I met with the professor yesterday to get keys to the classroom and the lab and to finalize what I'll be going over. Should be fun, though I'm not without the ususal feeling of nervousness. This is nonetheless important as it keeps me mentally focused.

Off to putter around the apartment and think about formally starting my day.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Thursday PM

I am really out of it this evening. I went out with some coworkers for an early drink and dinner right after we left the office and unfortunately had to leave the festivities early (pretty much before they even began) due to the onset of a migraine. This one was rough, very rough. Perhaps the most severe of the ones I've had over the last week or so. None of my precription meds would touch it so as I result I suffered through several long hours. The attack is over, but the residual soreness remains.

The odd thing about tonight's migraine attack was that it was of a different character than what I'm accustomed to. The pain was still focused behind my right eye, though the afffected area seemed to ecompass that entire side of my head. This had me worried for a bit and as soon as I was able I did some online reserach on stroke warning signs....just in case. Certainly I don't think there's any cause for alarm, but the attack nonetheless brought to mind a number of unhealthy behavours on my part that could lead to such unpleasantness (e.g., smoking, too much coffee, etc). Will have to give some serious thought as to modificaiton of such behaviours.

In other news, two people in my department were activated to head down to the Gulf Coast on Saturday. I was not among them, but as the wheels are finally turning, it shouldn't be long now. But just in case the process is as slow as it has been, I haven't cancelled plans to guest lecture at the university next week. With my luck I'll get paged right when I'm handing out the lecture notes on the first day.

In other, other news, I've just about finalized the winter holiday travel schedule. Despite the very strong desire to go back to Thailand over the Xmas holiday, I'm going to opt to visit Honduras. Haven't been there yet and I've heard that the Christmas holiday there is something to see, or hear actually. Incessant fireworks on Dec. 24th. Hopefully the spat of migraines will be over by then.

I'll be visiting an old friend who retired to Honduras back in 1998. One of the reasons for going there over Christmas is to assist him with his "Santa Rounds." On Dec. 24th he loads up his truck with assorted gifts, toys, and candy, throws on a Santa hat and heads into the poorest parts of his city to distribute the presents to kids who otherwise may not get anything. It's fairly involved endeavour and distribution takes nearly all day. But it's a wonderful tradition he's started and I'm looking foward to taking part.

So flights will be booked this week. And the much anticipated return to Thailand? Well...that's February. :-)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Crickets and Cool Nights

For the third day in a row the air conditioner has remained off. Carried along tonight on the cool breeze coming through the study windowns is that certain sound of late summer crickets, a hallmark of the season. Mournful in some ways and yet a promise of change, of crisp nights and colorful leaves.

Fall is in the air.

But this is Virginia. Fall here is never in a hurry; it arrives when it wants to, regardless of the official calendar date. It may tease us early on, such as the remarkably pleasant days we've had as of late, but that's all it sometimes is: just a tease. The temperature climbs back up and thoughts of changing leaves and crisp nights dissipate in the renewed heat and humidity. But on occasions very rare we're treated to an early autumn. I would like to see that this year. Though I'm not one to mind the heat and humidity, I'm ready for all the wonderful things that autumn entails.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Laborless Day Activities

It has been a good day with little on the agenda other than relaxing and more or less just doing nothing that requires real work. What better way to celebrate Labor Day, eh? Of course this doesn't mean that I haven't been productive. There are a number of activities that always require attention, though the pace of their accomplishment today was much more leisurely.

I finally caught up on my email correspondence whilst having coffee early this morning. I hate getting behind in this, but with my busy schedule sometimes its simply impossible to sit down and hammer out a thoughtful response within an acceptable time frame. And there was several emails from more than two weeks ago that had gone unanswered. Ugh. I must do better with this.

Perhaps even more rewarding that catching up old friends was the time spent this morning reading/studying Buddhism followed by sitting meditation. Not having anywhere in particular to go or anything pressing to do, I was able to focus a little longer on this than ususal and the result was a strong sense of peace and renewal. This has long been an important part of my life to which one day I'll perhaps have to devote a post or two. I'm certainly not religious in any sense, but I do believe that certain applied aspects of Buddhist philosophy can have a positive impact on ones life.

In keeping with the Laborless Day theme of low-impact activities, I walked down to the local video store (a whole block away!) and acquired a few DVDs that I will likely watch tonight, among which is Alexander. I've heard from a variety of friends that this movie sucks, but we'll see. For a period back in the liberal arts undergraduate years, I became quite interested in Greek history and devoted some time to studying Alexander the Great, so if nothing else, the film's subject matter may be of interest even if the movie is less than inspirational.

Rounding out today's activities was lunch at Colley Cantina followed by a stop at Starbucks on the half-block walk home. I ran into a couple old friends at the Cantina that I haven't seen in ages and it was good catching up. And no, Kim, I did NOT have any margaritas with lunch, though the temptation was certainly there.

And still no word on deployment to the Gulf Coast other than some time late this week. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sunday Afternoon

Much cooler weather today which made the lunch foray to Guadalajara (the restaurant in Virginia Beach, not the vacation destination) just oh so pleasant. Sitting outside on the patio under sunny skies and with a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. It was perfect. As were the margaritas. Granted, it's a bit too early in the day to get a little buzzy, but oh well. It's a holiday weekend after all and still ample time to continue the productivity that I began early this morning.

Off to amble over to Starbucks for coffee.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Lesson of the Non-headache

Feeling much better now, having fended off a bout with a migraine this morning. This was unexpected as they typically occur in the evening, usually right after work, or right after I go to bed. I went to the doctor on Wednesday and got prescription meds for such occurrences, which seem to work in relatively quick order. The real trick is going to be remembering to bring the pills with me when I'm out and about.....just in case. The silver linging to this issue is that the headaches seems to be tapering off in frequency, so perhaps the series of attacks is coming to a welcome end.

The recent bout of headaches has brought to mind one of the earliest lessons I learned when I began my study/practice of Buddhism seven or so years ago. This is the peace and happiness that can be obtained by living in the present moment and the awareness of such contributing factors as, say, the "non-headache." When we have a headache, or a toothache, or some other physical ill, we focus on that and only at that time do we realize just how wonderful it is not to have that particular malady. But how often in our day to day lives are we truly aware of such a thing as the "non-headache?" We get so busy with living in the past, the future, or involved with other distractions that we lose sight of the reality of where life truly is: the here and the now. We shouldn't have to wait until we're ill to realize just how wonderful not having a headache is.

In my sitting meditations of the last week I've tried to focus on the idea of the "non-headache." It's an elegantly simple practice to keep one consciously focused on the present moment and aware of just how much peace and happiness can be derived from seemingly small things like the "non-headache." With such an awareness everything falls into a proper perspective and there much is joy in this realization.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gulf Coast

The logistical details of the mission to the Gulf Goast were more or less finalized today. The first wave of support personnel (the "ground troops") will be leaving as early as Monday morning. I'll be leaving with the second wave towards the end of next week. This second group will consist of senior and administrative staff, those (at least in theory) capable of managing specific program operations.

While I'm a little frustrated not to be leaving right away, the delay may be for the best as my director will be on vacation next week and I'll be covering their responsibilities as well. An additional advantage is that I'll be able to enjoy the long weekend in some personal capacity. I don't have any thesis research lined up, so this will be my first free weekend in ages. May as well try to enjoy it as the next two weekend are going to be busy, busy, busy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just when I was looking forward to the long weekend...

...a late afternoon email and a subsequent flurry of phone calls have put me on the brink of heading down to the Gulf Coast to assist in the hurricane relief efforts. It will be a two week mission and things should be finalized one way or the other by tomorrow afternoon. Departure date: uncertain (other than asap). Departmental clearance for two weeks away: uncertain. Mission: uncertain, other than talk of cholera, typhoid, and mosquito-borne diseases. A health crisis, indeed.

And people think a career in public health is boring. Ha!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Not your ordinary ol' migraine

For the second evening in a row I've suffered a bout with ocular migraines/cluster headaches. Each incident lasted about an a hour, which seems much longer (days and days longer) when you're in bed with a pillow over your head and wishing for any relief no matter how slight. The only silver lining to such occurrences is the almost euphoric high one experiences after the headache passes. Gotta love those endorphins.

If you've never had a cluster headache/ocular migraine, I strongly recommend you try having one. Certainly an experience you'll never forget as the pain is like nothing else you've probably ever experienced. A throbbing, unbearable pain in and around the eye. You break out in the cold sweats, you may get sick to your stomach. Light and noise become intolerable.

And the statisitical record suggests a rather alarming rate of suicides as a result of this class of headaches. This is creepy and unfortunate, but I can understand the rationale behind this phenomenon....sort of.

I began having this class of headache back in the beginning of 2001. Because of the sheer intensity and the focal point in and around the eye (and I kinda need these for lab/microscope work) I went to the eye doctor who ruled out such things as glaucoma. The eventual diagnosis was ocular migraines/cluster headaches, which was a relief of sorts. They occur infrequently (I had occurrences in 2001, the summer of 2003, and this week), but when they do, individual bouts may come on nightly or daily (or several times a day) for a few days to a week or two and you're totally immobilized until it passes. You have little warning when one is coming on either. And the really vexing part is that NO over-the-counter painkillers even begin to phase these headaches. My sister also suffers from these on occasion (so maybe there's a genetic predisposition here?), but was long ago wise enough to get prescription meds, just in case one comes on.

I should follow her lead.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I awoke early this morning (as usual) and since I was out of cigarettes I went for a walk around the neighborhood, the path of which passed a local convenience store on the way home. So this morning was a combination of healthy (walking) and unhealthy (buying cigarettes) activities. And the stop at Starbucks on the way home? More than just a healthy activity. A requirement for life.

Other than this afternoon's research, there's not much on today's agenda. Coming in the middle of the day as it does (noon to five), the the timing of fieldwork excludes participation in most other time-consuming activities. I have to plan my day around the research and though this is somewhat frustrating, it's important to keep in mind that it's an impermanent thing. The field season will cease in October and depending on the quanitity of data collected this year, it will most likely be completed by next summer.

I'm looking forward to the fall semester starting next week. I'm taking 9 graduate credit hours, six of which are research credits and three of which are for the advanced parasitology lab techniques course previously mentioned. It's going to be a rigorous semester, particularly with the parasitology course, but that's ok. I look at it as an investment for the future, which makes it all worthwhile. And besides, it's going to be a lot of fun.

It's also an exciting thing to consider that this time next year I'll preparing to transition to the next stage of life, whether it be PhD school, the Peace Corps, or some other form of international humanitarian endeavour. Practically everything I've done with the career and school over the last five or six years has prepared me for the next big step. There are so many possibilities, all with risks to one degree or another. But risks--calculated risks-- are worth taking if they ultimately result in the greater good. Of course I still have a lot to learn, but this is all part of the process.

Of course, there's always the option of just staying put where I am and buying a house or condo. I have a comfortable career and this would be the most comfortable option, certainly moreso than giving up everything for something like two years of volunteer work with the Peace Corps or becoming an impoverished PhD student for the next four or five years. Or, sequentially, both. Yet these latter options have so much more appeal than simply settling down and settling for the easy route. If I were to do this, I would probably regret it years from now.