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.