Thursday, August 31, 2006

Storms, External and Internal

Ten days now without a cigarette and going strong. Cravings have tapered off in frequency, though on occasion a powerful urge to smoke will unexpectedly arise, toss me about for a while with the shoals of temptation perilously close by, then finally subside. The randomness of these urges is what makes them particularly dangerous to the non-smoking endeavour. No predictable triggers involved for which you can brace yourself; one minute you're contentedly involved in this or that and the next you're fighting the urge to rush down to the coffee shop patio to paw through the ashtrays for any useable remnants and ready to break anyone who happens to get in the way. Thankfully, these periods are infrequent.

It's a rainy Thursday evening and Tropical Storm Ernesto (perhaps it's a hurricane by now; I haven't checked in a couple hours) is somewhere south of here, off of the Carolinas where it will make landfall tonight. We're supposed to receive mainly rain here and lots of it, with precipitation amounts of five to ten inches possible. Rain began around noon and has been steady since. Winds are beginning to increase as well, though that is not predicted to be much of a problem. Either way, the next twenty-four hours are going to be messy.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Below is an image taken during yesterday's road trip to Charlottesville. Though I've visited Monticello a number of times over the last few years, the house and ground remain as interesting as they were the very first trip.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Current Book

One of the books I'm currently reading is called This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, a novel set in Java ca. 1898 that deals with such themes as colonialism, culture, and individual and group identity. The book is very good and can be enjoyed on different levels. The story itself is interesting, but the real strength of the novel thus far is its richness of symbolism invovling the aforementioned themes. This book would have been ideal required reading for one of my undergraduate English courses as . it's one of those gems that would certainly inspire lively class discussions over the meaning of this or that in the context of time and place.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Morning Update

1. Almost five days now without a cigarette. It seems to be getting a little easier with each passing day. Cravings are decreasing in frequency and intensity and the smell of cigarette smoke is becoming disagreeable. I am certainly not out of the proverbial woods yet, but seem to be well on my way to that objective.

2. Much research to do today at the preserve. On the agenda is the seasonal ecologcial assessment of the various plant/habitat community types including measurements of light intensity and canopy cover and microhabitat characterization. This takes a lot of time and I most likely won't be back home in Norfolk until very late this afternoon, or possibly early evening. I will also be conducting an additional experimental survey in collaboration with another graduate student, so that is going to add the duration of the site visit.

3. Will most likely make a roadtrip up to Charlottesville tomorrow to visit Monticello. Haven't been up there since the summer of 2004, so it's time once again to pay homage.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day three...

....has been a little rough, but I am still smoke-free. Last night late, early this morning (by early I mean 4am), and several times today these powerful urges to smoke came out of nowhere and presented by far the most significant challenge to the quitting endeavour. Resisting these temptations, despite the difficulty at the time, has made me stronger and more prepared to face the next challenge. I have been told that the first three days are the worst and quitting becomes easier thereafter. Let's hope this is the case.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So Far So Good

Two days and a bit without a cigarette (55.25 hours to be exact, but who's counting) and so far so good. Urges have not been too bad today. At times I really wanted a cigarette, but mainly the urges manifested themselves in a sense of mild restlessness or anxiety at times customary for a smoke. Cetainly nothing overwhelming.

So anyway...on to other news. This afternoon I finally got around to booking my flights to Scotland for my sister's wedding which is taking place in three weeks (and NO we are not of Scottish ancestry). On many levels the idea of a destination wedding is very interesting and will certainly be a memorable occasion, yet it is also somewhat tedious for those who are obligated to go and are expected to pay their own way including flights and accomodations and other expenses that arise. A "mandatory vacation" they call it and I guess I can go along with this, though the rationale nonetheless seems a little off. But at least it will be a short trip. I will be there and back again in five days.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Conquering the Habit: Day 2

I have been smoke-free for about 28 hours now.

Only once today have I really fiended for a cigarette and that was this morning soon after I arrived at the office. My ever-helpful secretary, Medusa, offered me one of her cigarettes, but I declined the offer and the urge soon passed. Smoking crossed my mind a few other times today, but each time it did, I rushed off to get a cup of ice as a substitue of sorts. By the time I devoured the ice thoughts of the Habit had passed and my mouth was well...frozen. This conversation occurred at one point today:

Lab assistant: How's the no-smoking thing going?

Me: So far so good. The ice trick seems to be working. The only problem is that my mouth is as cold as my heart.

Intern: But you have no heart, sir.

Me: Well this is true, isn't it. Then it is as cold as my soul.

Assistant Mangar: You don't have one of those either.

Me. Dammit!

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Good Day to Quit

It is partly cloudy this early afternoon. The temperature is such that I was able to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. It's still a little humid, but the fan makes that bearable. Two loads of laundry are...well...laundering, so I am making a litlte progress today, though much more needs to be done. The cluttered study is about to drive me crazy and will received attention this afternoon. I'm about at the point where I want to throw everything out (except for the books) and begin anew.

After weeks (ok, maybe months) of on and off again participation in The Habit, I have decided that today is the day when I will finally and permanently lay down the cigarettes. It is a good day to quit. I have reached that key point of utter disgust with the habit and myself (for not being able to quit) that the only option is to make a change for the better. Being a little under the weather today helps since smoking seems only to exacerbate the general malaise of today. I light up and the headache begins to stir from the shadows of perception, threatening to return. Of course quitting won't be easy, but few things in terms of progress or improvement really are. It's just a matter of staying the course and keeping my thoughts on the bigger picture and not the temporary gratification that comes with lighting up in a moment of weakness. The patch has been on just over an hour, the first few steps on a very long journey.

Sick Day

Taking a rare sick day from the office due to just Yesterday afternoon and evening I suffered through what seemed to have been a mild migraine headache. Or it might have been a sinus headache. Whichever it was, it's gone now, but I am tired, occasionally dizzy, and have absolutely no energy. The simple task of tidying up the kitchen from dinner last night was a chore. As I would be totally useless at the office today, I'm just going to rest at home and try to knock out out a couple low-impact activities like laundry and organizing the study.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Research Day

Just a few lines whilst I have the morning coffee. Will be heading out to the ecological perserve in a bit for this weekend's preliminary round of research, about which I am more excited than usual. Not necessarily for the research itself; mainly for the theraputic effect of being surrounded by nature for a couple hours. Observing deeply the interactions of nature is an exercise that's almost meditative. It certainly has a restorative effect upon my wellbeing. It provides this opportunity to slow down, take a deep breath, and realize clearly the artificiality of daily life, those stess-causing hurdles we set up and those silly things we incorrectly view as critical to happiness. With a little critical observation, thought, and understanding so much becomes clear.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How much are they asking?!?!?!

On a whim early yesterday evening, I met up with a realtor friend of mine to look at two condos for sale just down the street from my apartment. They were mirror images of each other, the only difference being one was a former rental unit that had this careworn look about it and was about thirty thousand cheaper than the more pristine unit. Though they had a nice overall layout (the second floor loft/study/wet bar that had a fireplace and overlooked the living room was uber cool), they were small and had these equally miniscule kitchens, which would never work for me. And they were terribly overpriced. For what they were asking I could have bought a stand-alone three or four bedroom house with a garage and yard enough for a garden.

I am not quite yet in the home-buying market, though I am beginning to pay a little more attention as to what is out there and beginning to learn the process. Financially I am at the point where I can make the transition from renter to owner, but I am reluctant to do so at this time as there are many uncertainties as to where I will be and what I'll be doing once I finish the masters degree in either December or May. But nonetheless home buying is a nice diversion, a nice dream of things to come.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Early Monday Morning

Up and about extra early this morning, even earlier than my usual early standards. Not sure why this was so other than I just wanted more time to catch up on the news and current events before heading off to work. I hope things are relatively quiet around the office today, due to the likelihood of taking off early if practicable. I had pager duty this weekend and things were busier than ususal, so I have a few hours of comp time eaned over the last few days to burn.

Today I will need to touch base with one of my staff to pin down a date for the annual office cookout at his house this month. We usually hold it in mid-July, but as I was away then the thing was never organized. Need to get this in the works as soon as possible or run the risk of it falling through the cracks. Such affairs can be a little tedious, but are excellent avenues for maintaing morale among the staff.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


As the supply of unread books at home was getting sparse, I made a trip out to Barnes and Noble this morning for a few acqusitions. There was nothing in particular I was searching for, so I just wandered about the store for titles that caught my eye. This can be an expensively dangerous thing, reminicent of grocery shopping when you are starving. But I was careful today and came home with only three books: The Motorcycle Diaries, (rented the movie last year and loved it), a biography entitled Che (why not read up on the author of said Motorcycle Diaries), and lastly A Short History of Cambodia (only because it looked interesting). to get some coffee and think about what to make for dinner.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Cooler Saturday Morning

The series of thunderstorms that began early yesterday evening brought some much needed relief from the insufferable heat. Though I am not one to mind hot weather, the week of triple digit temperatures was excessive to the point of misery. My one little air conditioner here at the apartment (a window unit) provided but little respite and that coming only in a limited area at the back of the apartment. I should probably procure a second air conditioner for the front of the apartment, but as it is already August, I am not sure if it would be worth it this late in the summer.

As it has been too hot to do much of anything else this past week, I have largely occupied myself with reading. I finished Angels and Demons early in the week (a good book, though the ending was a bit too over the top for my taste) and have continued with Pathologies of Power. Last night I also began devouring (not literally) Becoming Jefferson's People by Clay Jenkinson. This latter book largely concerns itself with the application of Jeffersonian ideals to the present time and is thought-provoking on many levels.