Monday, June 22, 2009

Back to the Grind

It's back to the grind today after a delightful four day weekend during which I did little other than read, purge some junk from the apartment, visit the parents, and cook. It was nice. Very nice. Calls and/or text messages from work were kept to a minimum (mostly) and those that I did get I generally ingored.

An interesting observation though: usually a little time away from the office restores my energy and enthusiams for it and increases tolerance for all the daily nonsense and pettiness that transpires. But it's a little different this time around. I have no desire, no interest in returning to that wretched place. Tendering my resignation and starting anew somewhere else has a powerful appeal, but it's not realistic at this time, at least not until other employement is secured. Were it not for bills to pay and trips abroad to plan, I would almost risk being unemployed for the short term. to have more coffee in hopes of fully bracing myself for the terror of the day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dinner June 21

Thai style beef and basil along with rice.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


On a whim this morning, I headed over to Norfolk Stationery to spend a little time lusting over their broad selection of fountain pens and inks. Almost immediately upon arriving, I noticed on a shelf behind the endcap full of Moleskines, a collection of notebooks unfamiliar to me.

"Whazzat?!?" I said to myself.

Writersblok notebooks they were and, as they seemed a viable alternative to Moleskine, I picked up a pack each of the smaller (pocket sized) and medium soft-cover sizes to try out. As to paper selection I chose the dots, which seems a novel concept for those who like blank pages but have the singular inability to keep the lines straight without some sort of guide sheet placed beneath the page. What's more, the dots are somewhat narrower than the lines found in ruled Moleskine journals which is a Godsend for my miniscule handwriting.

So today I've a new thing with which to experiment. I'll write a review of sorts later today or tomorrow after I've put the Writersblok notebooks through their paces.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Today's Wisdom

Tourists don't know where they've been; travelers don't know where they're going.
-Paul Theroux from The Happy Isles of Oceania

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Burn baby burn

Have been somewhat out of sorts today due to a rather severe case of sunburn acquired during a photo expedition to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge yesterday. As it turned out, I egregiously miscalculated (no surprise as I'm bad at math) the sunburn threat. Low and heavy clouds? Pfffft! Will leave the sunscreen at home. As a result of this error, I'm red today, the degree of which is several steps beyond lobster red. It's more along the lines of a mean and angry red. A Republican red.

As yesterday was my first Free Day in ages, I decided a photo expedition was in order and, thus, early in the day I gathered the camera and sallied forth to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Sandbridge in Virginia Beach. With the low clouds and spitting rain, it promised to be an ideal beach day, when conditions are dark and moody and I'm the only person for miles around. This is much preferred to those sunny and hot days when one can't take a shot without some overweight and frightfully under dressed tourist from New Jersey wandering into the frame.

But if anything, I was the one decidedly under dressed yesterday given the brisk north wind and grey skies spitting rain, that overpriced-camera-hating rain which seems to follow me on every photo expedition. Shorts, sandals, and a light polo shirt. Under dressed, yes, but not frightfully so. I had dressed for summer and yesterday was more akin to October. But the rain had stopped by the time i arrived at the preserve, so I decided to press onward along the trails of the Back Bay side in hopes the tangle of bushes and stunted trees would serve as a wind break at least until it warmed enough to allow beach wandering in comfort.

I pressed on along the bayside trails and discovered the open areas within the bushes and shrubby trees teeming with dragonflies of various makes, models, and colors. This pleased me greatly as as I've long been fond of those seemingly clunky, over sized insects. Alas, they weren't particularly cooperative to photographic endeavours save for one which, I would later discover when reviewing the day's photos, was missing a wing. So there it was. Less in the way of photographic prowess, and more in terms of a damaged insect probably in need of a breather. Dragonflies were soon to rise even higher in my estimation when I forayed out along the marsh trail boardwalk where I encountered the wrath of those wretched biting flies-the bane of picnics anywhere near the coast, which soon had me in full retreat back to the sheltered areas of bush and trees. Finding me very much to their liking (or perhaps delicious), the biting flies pursued me into the sheltered clearing. And here the air duel began. As the biting flies swarmed me, the dragonflies swarmed them, those big and surprisingly unclunky insects diving here and there in close proximity to me, presumably picking off their lunch. Within moments the biting flies had vanished as had the dragonflies and I was left alone wishing I had studied Odonata and not Diptera for the masters in biology.

Having been cleared of biting flies by my new Odonatan friends, I wandered back towards the trailhead and onto a low wooden platform over a pond and immediately noticed to my lower right a log floating in the water. A brown scaly log slithering among the light gray branches at the water's edge.

Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes.

And not just any snake, mind you. A cottonmouth moccasin about three feet in length and with a diameter larger than my arm. As is often the case in predator/prey relationships, I froze in place, trembling like a field mouse. A six foot two field mouse. The snake paid me little interest and began to swim out towards open water.

Go away, please. Just go away.

Whether attracted by the clicking of the camera, or perhaps my mouse-like whimpering, the snake stopped, turned and, waving its head left and right, flicked its bifurcated tongue a few times in my direction. A moment of hesitation, a moment of assessment, and serpentine decision.

Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.

With alarming speed, the snake launched in my direction. It's robust body undulating upon the calm surface of the water, leaving a wake in its path. I took defensive measures, but the Vile Serpent was undeterred by the heavy curses hurled in its direction. I then considered my options.

A. Wet my pants
B. Scream like a schoolgurl
C. Run away! Run away!
D. Both A and B
E. Stay and fight like a man

Thankfully I have long legs and with but a few great strides I found myself on the beach, a half mile away, where I spent the remainder of the day photographing waves and shore birds and horseshoe crabs long dead. And getting sunburned. Terribly, terribly sunburned. Even with the by then partly cloudy skies. But at the time, sunburn was the furthest thing from my mind. The beach was deserted save for a few Clean the Bay Days folks in the far distance, visible only because of their bright orange trash bags fluttering in the breeze. I was alone on that beach, with the constant roar of the breakers, blowing sea foam and the smell of salt air, and the flight of birds and sand crabs scurrying here and there, cautiously peering at me with stalked eyes from the safety of their burrows. Here one feels a certain connectedness with their surroundings, where two worlds meet, aquatic and terrestrial, and the life that flourishes at the angry and malleable juncture of the two. There is something restorative about time spent in this setting where life is reduced to things elemental, which, for those so inclined to look deeper at things, constitutes a meditative endeavor.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Begins

Ahhhh. The Memorial Day holiday. The official start of summer fun. The incessant laughter and high-pitched squeals of small children playing in the pool next door brings to mind this song....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A New Dawn

Having had a late night out with family and some friends, I allowed myself to sleep in a bit this morning, finally crawling out of bed at the ungodly late hour of 8am as opposed to the usual 5:30-6am time frame. I was slighly out of sorts when I first woke due to last night's alochol, but after copious amounts water and coffee I'm feeling back to normal, or at least very nearly so. In a bit I'll ready myself to foray to the parent's house for a Mother's Day cookout, which is the primary activity on today's agenda.

Yesterday proved to be highly productive in terms of the issue mentioned in my last post (the "control my life and not have my life control me" thing). A good portion of the day was spent evaluating this issue, which included reviewing daily journals and diaries and giving serious consideration as to patterns that are so much more apparrent when documented in such a format than, say, via memory alone. To say that the endeavor was a real eye-opener is a bit of an understatement. I've long been convinced that the task of daily journal keeping, though at times mundane and tedious, has merit which was confirmed during yesterday's evaluation process. But at any rate, the key point I want to make here is this: a number of key factors were identified, from which I was able to develop a work plan (or road map, if you will) to regain control of my life. I cannot begin to describe the peace of mind, the excitement, the determination I now have. It's a new dawn, a new chapter of my life beginning to open as long as I maintain the discipline necessary to see the endeavor through to a happy conclusion.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday blurb

Been up for about an hour and am working my way through the third cup of coffee. Not much on the day's agenda other than some assorted chores (laundry...yay!) and such. There is a pronounced need to go to the office to do some things today, but for once I don't see that happening. I've worked the last few Saturdays and want this one to be my own.

The need to claim today as my own is symbolic of a much larger issue going on in my life. My traditional iron discipline has slipped and I feel as though I'm letting things control me and not the other way around as it should be. This has been vexing me for quite some time and it has finally gotten to the point that I have to say no more. So beginning today I'm putting into effect a more vigorous attempt at being in control of my hours, my days, my ultimate destiny.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.
- Bertrand Russell

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama's Address

President Obama's address at the Summit of the Americas. One familiar with the United States' long and painful relationship with Latin America cannot help but to take heart with the following words:

"All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. (Applause.)

There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration. (Applause.)

To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I am very grateful that President Ortega -- (applause) -- I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. (Laughter.)

Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.

I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future. (Applause.) I believe, as some of our previous speakers have stated, that we must learn from history, but we can't be trapped by it."

President Obama's Address on Cuba at the Summit of the Americas.

Che: A Review

Today I broke from my self-imposed exile of home to scurry forth to the Naro Theater across the street from me to see the movie Che (directed by Steven Soderbergh). One word can sum up the experience: OMFG ( maybe not a word, but who cares); it was absolutely brilliant! Benicio del Toro's portrayal of Che alone is worth the price of admission (not to mention the four hours and a bit of sitting- Parts 1 and 2 back to back- talk about butt fatigue-thankfully a souvenir Che movie pamphlet was provided to commemorate the experience). Equally stellar is Santiago Cabrera's portrayal of Camilo Cienfuegos in Part 1, both physically and in character portrayal. Camilo was one of the stand-out figures from Anderson's Che biography and it was really nice to see such an portrayal on screen.

At times the movie did get a little tedious. After all, how many times can one watch a rag-tag band of guerrillas stalk about in the jungle: lush tropical foliage of Cuba: check and check again; the more arid foliage of Bolivia: check and check again. But this minor drawback is more than offset by the powerful acting by the principle characters.

Each of the two parts were good in their own way. Part 1 deals with the Cuban Revolution and is generally the better of the two in terms of pacing and overall presentation. Those not familiar with Che and his writings would find this the more accessible of the two (though honestly I think for the average American moviegoer, the films are generally inaccessible). That being said, I preferred Part 2, which dealt with Che's failed Bolivian campaign and was based on his Bolivian Diary. I read this diary late last year and was impressed with Soderbergh's ability to capture and portray the feelings of hope and then despair one gets from reading of the failed expedition in Che's own words.

So at any rate, Che was certainly worth the afternoon spent in the theater and it's equally certain that it will be one of the rare additions to my collection of DVDs. Four stars out of four.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


How's this for a coincidence:

Having finished Don Quixote, I moved on last night to Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America which I picked up from Barnes and Noble earlier this year and on which I was eager to get started. Whilst reading the news just now I ran across this from an AP story about the Summit of the Americas (emphasis added):

"As the first full day of meetings began on the two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Obama exchanged handshakes and pats on the back with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who once likened President George W. Bush to the devil. In front of photographers, Chavez gave Obama a copy of "The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent," a book by Eduardo Galeano, which chronicles U.S. and European economic and political interference in the region."

El Presidente Chavez must have somehow obtained a copy of my reading list. :)

Quote of the Day

"I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats."
- Eckhart Tolle

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Keith Olbermann having some subtle fun with the teabaggers. ;)

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Missive

"Should be the envy of the lunchroom tomorrow" -me, April 12, 2009

Less prophetic words have seldom been spoken. As it turned out, the presumed bout with allergies with which I've been condending the last couple of days was actually a cold and one severe enough to force the expenditure of a sick day from the office. Given the prevailing climate at work, I didn't mind not being there for once.

So anyway...the rest today has been nice, as has been the time to get some reading done. Also in a period of Benadryl-free clarity I finished up and filed my taxes. At the moment, it's a cup of coffee slowly sipped, after which I'll get back to the primary purpose of the day: rest.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dinner April 12

Thai-style roast pork with coconut mushroom sauce over garlic/ginger rice. All topped with a fresh salsa made from green onions, cilantro, thai chilis, and a variety of spices in perfect proportion. Should be the envy of the lunchroom tomorrow. :P

Sunday Update

It's been rather the eventful week. First of all, my grandmother shuffled off this mortal coil on Tuesday, which set off the requisite chain of events that culminated with visitation on Friday and funeral yesterday. Her death was expected, as she had been in declining health for quite some time. When I last saw her Tuesday a week ago she was incredibly tired and ready to go. She was at peace with the course of nature, which, in turn, served as a balm of sorts for the family.

Meeting with the extended family and old friends over the last few days was a bit of an adventure in its own way. Most of these people I had not seen for probably 15 to 20 years, so polite conversation (those generic things one talks about with total strangers) was amiable, but admittedly awkward given the fact that I knew these people at one time, but now...well, not so much. Most of my cousins are married now with children of their own, but their collective world view was of the small town sort that for the most part doesn't extend beyond the boundaries of their hometown, immediate family, and church, safe from the "other," the unknown that occurs beyond, which, once encountered and understood, necessitates the casting off of old ways and the adoption of a more liberating world view.

The funeral yesterday was well done save for the memorial service, which started out as one (a memorial service), but somehow ended up as this obnoxious fire and brimstone sermon, an inappropriate attempt by the pastor to win souls by going after sorrowful hearts. The tone of the sermon earned rounds of "amens" from those inclined towards such nonsense, and rather the amount of indignant eye rolling from the few (myself and my sister included) whose broader view of life allows them to see such nonsense for what it really is.

So in some ways, the events of the last few days amounted to what could correctly be considered culture shock. To return home and discover strangers in the place of long-lost relatives and old acquaintences was something for which I had not sufficiently prepared myself. Certainly it was I who had changed, and not them. At times I felt more out of place there than when I was in Bangkok a number of years ago, where I spoke not the language and the culture was prevailingly alien to me.

But there's an interesting observation in all of this. My grandmother was largely responsible for who I was to become and am today. Some of my earliest and fondest memories of her are from my single digit years, those biweekly summer excursions to the library in her ancient green Dodge Dart where she, my sister, and I would comb the shelves for interesting books to eagerly devour over the coming weeks. She instilled in us at an early age her passion for reading, thirst for knowledge and, by extenstion, the inevitable consequence of questioning things, of seeking out a world larger than the one into which we were born. Whether or not this consequence was intended...well, that's difficult to say with any degree of certainty. She was born in 1920 and was certainly a product of her era. Yet with her love of reading, I cannot help but to think that perhaps there was a certain twinkle in her eye as we puttered home from the library so long ago, with my sister and I prioritizing our respective stacks of books or already quietly at work on them as broad fields of corn or peanuts passed slowly by.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Woman calls 911 over lack of shrimp in fried rice
04/07/2009 5:08:47 PM

A woman called 911 to report she didn't get as much shrimp as she wanted in her fried rice at a Fort Worth-area restaurant. Police on Tuesday released the taped emergency call, in which the customer is heard telling the dispatcher, "to get a police officer up here, what has to happen?" The customer also said: "He didn't even put extra shrimp in there."
The upset customer was gone when an officer arrived Monday afternoon.
Restaurant workers said the woman had been denied a refund after leaving with her order, then returning to complain.
Cook June Lee said there was nothing wrong with the meal, and that "some customers are happy. Some are not."
Information from Fort Worth Star-Telegram & KDFW-TV: &

Odd....usually they just call the health department.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fish Tacos: revisited

So once again tonight I opted for fish tacos, but with a different and much lighter presentation, perfect for a light summer meal.

The broiled, seasoned fish I topped with roasted red and green bell peppers and onions stuffed into a warm, white corn tortilla and served with a side of fresh pico de gallo (loaded with diced jalepenos and cilantro) and accompanied by lime wedges. The pico de gallo is served in a shot glass, which is about the right amount for two tacos (and will be suitably apt for a special fish marinade I'll use when making this dish again).

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fish Taco

The cooking endeavour tonight took me south of the border (no passport required). Using what I had on hand here, I concocted a blackened fish taco served over a bed of black bean, roasted jalepeno, and lime salsa along with sides of fresh pico de gallo (lots and lots of cilantro added) and tortillas with an uber secret dip. The dip and tortillas would normally be served as an appetizer, but as I was cooking for one, I really didn't care too much about staggering the courses.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two years ago...

This was the vista two years ago this weekend. Batad village and rice terraces on Luzon in the Philippines. I had arrived in Banaue around six in the morning, having taken the overnight bus from Manila, and almost immediately found myself, along with a few other tourists who happened to be standing nearby, in the back of a Jeepney bouncing along a road towards the ridge above with a guide and her family in tow. The shot was taken from the ridge overlooking the village right before the climb down. And so without sleep, or coffee, or breakfast, the climb down to Batad was underway, during which I made several unsuccessful attempts at falling to my death. The adventure did not stop upon reaching the village. The guide spoke of a great waterfall at the bottom of the valley just beyond the village. Seeing this as yet another great opportunity to fall to my death, I immediately set off across the rice terraces, up the corresponding ridge, and then descended into the valley along a narrow and winding path comprised in part of dirt track, steps, and a good measure of faith, as one can see below.

The guide had called the way down to the waterfall somewhat "difficult" which, in retrospect, rivals "it's just a scratch, a flesh wound!" in terms of the greatest understatements in history. I recall that day being terribly hot and humid, which made the rough and treacherous trail even more rough and treacherous and the goal of the fall's cool waters even cooler and more inviting.

After several delightful hours resting in the spray of the falls, the trek up was underway. If gravity was a foe on the way down, it was even more of a nemesis on the climb up, reaching out with its invisible hand to tug at you whenever your sandaled foot lighted upon unsteady terrain, which was often. During a break upon reaching the ridge of the valley from which one could again see Batad, I took a few moments to scribble in the journal these words: "...most gruelling hike ever. Great!.." (though not in italics as featured here) along with other similar nonsense that suggested heat and fatigue induced madness, or simply just the thrill of adventure and successful conquest, though I subsequently did try to fall to my death a few more times while crossing the rice terraces themselves. Otherwise, the trek back up to the ridge where the adventure began was uneventful.
So as the day drew to a close, the Jeepney navigated the road back to Banaue where accomodations were found and after the most refreshing shower in history, I immediately fell off to the equally most refreshing sleep in history. More adventures were in store for the next day, with the trip to Sagada and its intriguing hanging coffins.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wet Spring Morning

About halfway through the second coffee of the morning and will shortly be making a sally to the office to take care of some paperwork, including wrapping up a personnel project that I began last Saturday. The hope is to be finished by noon or thereabouts, though I will stay as long as necessary since there's really nothing else on the agenda today. And besides, I'm on call this weekend, so am more or less chained in town should something arise that requires my attention.

As I might have mentioned on here previously, I've never really minded going in to work on weekends. The office is wonderfully deserted and quiet and so much more can be accomplished in a few hours on, say, a Saturday morning than what one normally could on an entire weekday, with phones steadily ringing and staff floating in and out of my office. So this morning I'll throw on a pot of coffee immediately upon arrival, bring up the playlist on the Blackberry and click "shuffle song," and enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted, highly-caffeinated productivity.

At any rate, off now to ready myself for the day. Perhaps more later.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."
-- Dom Hélder Câmara

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Break from the Kitchen

A quick cup of coffee and a few lines whilst taking a break from the evening's cooking. The evening's culinary creativity tonight manifests itself in the blending two recipes, one for coffee-roasted beef and my usual shepherd's pie concoction.* So I guess the end result might be coffee-roasted shepherd's pie. Or something to that effect. Will invent the name later on, but am open to suggestions.

So anyway, the balance of the day was spent in the most delightful of ways: reading. After morning errands and chores and a light lunch, I curled up with Don Quixote and read for the entire afternoon. The Knight of the Sorrowful Face and his trusty Sancho have once again taken to the field, with their misadventures leading from the cart of Death to the encounter with the Knight of the Woods. As I've said before: absolutely delightful.

*Note: No recipe link for the shepherd's pie. I make it up as I go along, so I guess "usual" is somwhat of a misnomer in the sense that it's different each time I make it.

In My Shell

A sunny, but cold Sunday morning here in Norfolk. Laundry is just now underway and I'm on the third coffee of the morning. At present today's agenda remains largely undecided beyond laundry and associated chores which I'll get to eventually. Under consideration is a sally to the office to wrap up some things I didn't quite finish yesterday. I'm not super excited as to this prospect as I was there about six hours yesterday even though the plan was for a maximum of three. Working both Saturday and Sunday usually sets the stage for mid-week burnout and there's far too much this coming week's agenda for such to occur. So we'll just have to assess the level of motivation once laundry is done in about an hour and a half.

It seems that I've been in a bit of a rut as of late. The extent of variation in life has over the last couple of months devolved to the point of consisting of no more than long hours at work or solitary puttering about at home. A cursory review of the daily journal reveals that I've allowed myself only one social activity this year and that was meeting up with an old friend for dinner (which probably doesn't technically count since I found the outing so very miserable from the outset that I paid my tab even before the food was brought out, called it an early night, and retreated home with to-go box in hand to read and enjoy blissful solitude). To examine this phenomenon even further, a review of the cell phone bill reveals only one personal (non-work related) call in the past month and that one was simply a quick test of the new Blackberry on Day 1.

From time to time I've been known to retreat into my shell from which no one can drag me, but I don't recall such episodes being as pronounced as the one at present. The interesting thing is that thoughts of socializing on weekends or evenings do not even cross my mind when considering how to spend leisure time. I'm perfectly content to run my errands, make my solitary trips to Barnes and Noble, read my books, cook long and involved dinners for one, and simply be left alone. And woe unto anyone should they dare to disturb the glorious solitude.

So at any to take care of laundry and start the day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Two years ago today....

…..I was en route to the Philippines. Factoring in the difference in time zones, the 747 had lifted off from Nagoya for the final leg of journey to Manila. The flight was largely uneventful and consequently received very little time in the journal save for a few remarks about the girl seated next to me in the window seat who had perhaps the worst cold in recorded history. I just knew that in a few days time I too would have the worst cold in recorded history, but the gods of travel favored me that time around and a cold never came to pass.

On that flight I jotted a few notes about the anxiety and thrill that come with visiting a place for the first time, those feeling of uncertainty, the looming unknown in which one will soon find themselves for which one can only plan up to a point. It’s that moment of reflection, the deep breath before the plunge; you hope that upon hitting the water you’re able to navigate the rushing currents of culture and life.

It’s remarkable to consider that two years have passed. Wandering around Manila, both on foot and via Jeepney and exploring the rice terraces and mountains around Sagada seem much more recent a memory. The trip was memorable in many ways and I’m looking forward to a possible return later this year.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Not sure what I think about the glowing eyes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rainy Afternoon, The Sequel

For the moment at least the rain has stopped, or very nearly so. This is but a temporary respite in the gloom which is to linger through Tuesday. I'm taking a break from scrubbing the kitchen floors to have a coffee to prattle on a bit at the computer. Once I wrap up the kitchen cleaning I'll move on to bill paying (probably) followed by the evening dinner ritual.

I have been somewhat of ill humor this weekend due to receiving the news on Friday that one of the brightest and best people in the office is leaving due to moral objections over the recent and terribly nasty personal issue to which I have alluded on here. That employee, like myself, was caught in the crossfire between the Evildoer and their innocent target in another department. This is such an unfortunate development and one that has thrown me into a bout of despair. We had a long and heartfelt private talk on Friday afternoon, which out of necessity had to be somewhat guarded at times due to the Evildoer chugging back and forth outside my closed office door like some gunboat on patrol. While I hate to see them go, I agree wholeheartedly with the departing employee's decision and admire their courage to take a stand.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rainy Afternoon

A cold and dreary morning has given way to a cold and rainy afternoon. From time to time the clanky old steam radiator hisses to life, drowning out the patter of the rain striking the windows and the leaves of the ancient magnolia just outside my study window. I have just now finished the weekend's laundry chores and the temptation is great to take full advantage of the weather by napping an hour or so before I get moving with the evening's cook-a-thon. Not sure what the specific dish will be; I do have on hand some beef and vegetables and a bottle of red to spur on the creative process.

After a bit of a lull in the reading, I've gotten back into it full bore this week and am continuing to churn my way through Don Quixote. The book is an absolutle delight, though I'm looking foward to finishing it and getting back to something a little more substantial in terms of current issues that have captured my attention. now to read/nap. Perhaps more later tonight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First Issue

The first issue of International Socialist Review arrived yesterday. Though I've given it only a cursory browsing thus far, it seems to be an intriguing periodical.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Afternoon Break

Despite my intentions this morning to go forth into the sunny and warm day, I have thus far contrived to remain in the apartment. The day has not been a total loss, however, as I have managed to get a good bit of spring cleaning done and have put together the menu for tonight's cooking endeavor which I will begin a couple hours hence once I make a run to the grocery for a few things. While I have a good idea as to what I'll be making, the specific presentation remains somewhat in question. But that's part of the fun of cooking, particularly if you're proceeding sans recipe as I most often do.

Sunny Sunday

I tumbled out of bed this morning at the typical early hour (though one hour later due to the daylight saving time thingie) and launched immediately into the morning's productivity, the hope being to get laundry and other sundry chores out of the way so as to have time suffficent for taking advantage of the sunny 80 degree weather. Laundry will be done in about half an hour or thereabouts, after which I'll make some decisions as to how best to employ the day. It's going to be important to make such a decision early and then get a move on with it; otherwise, I will fall into ennui and end up just wandering about the apartment, accompanied by much sighing and forlorn looks out the window (the cabin fever thing of which I wrote a few posts ago).

As for today, I'm trying to motivate myself for a photo expedition of some sort, which I have not done in quite some time. While I'm somewhat indifferent towards this endeavor (at least for the moment) it would nonetheless get me out of the apartment for a while. One of my greatest failings is locking myself away in here and not leaving once over the course of the weekend. This is a habit I really need to break. So at any rate, off to wrap up laundry and then devise some means of taking advantage of the day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Greenhouse Therapy

There are few things more restorative to ones sense of well-being than to sit for a while in a greenhouse, soaking up the warmth and and the feeling of being surrounded by new and well-nurtured life. A brief time in this setting validates Thomas Jefferson's assertion that:
"those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God,
if ever he had a chosen people."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Evening Prattle

What a difference a few days make: snow, ice, and roving packs of Yetis on Monday and today 70 degrees, with sun-yellow jonquils turing their faces to the equally sunny sky, and packs of robins flitting about, poking here and there for whatever tasty bits they manage to find time of the year. The forecast is for much of the same tomorrow and even warmer on Sunday with highs pushing the 80 degree mark. It will be imperative that I try to get out and enjoy the weekend weather as it's not going to last; cooler temperatures and rain are in store for next week. An ephermeral weekend such as this sets the stage for a near-terminal case of cabin fever, which manifests itself in the form of much sighing accompanied by lingering, forlorn looks out the office/home/Jeep window with the memory of the taste of spring that was, but is no more, at least for a month or so yet. Mother Nature is just cruel this way.

Never has a weekend been more welcome than this one. Work this week can only be decribed as insane and this might even been an understatement. Extraneous personal drama cast a dark pall over much of the day to day business and sent those so inclined by their nature to find such bickering pointless scurrying for cover. It's interesting to note that those of us who tried to rise above such nonsense were dragged repeatedly back down into the muck, or if our altitude above the buffoonery was too great, were bombarded by artillery fire. It seems that some believe personal drama must be shared by all those around them. I think what bothered the Evildoers more than anything was my studied, stoic indifference to it all. I refused to react or even comment (though at times my inclination was to tear our their throats with a pen), which drove the interested parties to distraction. While there was some gratification in this, I'm rather tired of the ongoing ordeal. The hope is that the weekend will allow sufficient time for the perpetrators to see the error of their ways so we can once again achieve some sense of normalcy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snow, for what it's worth

Not a blizzard, but nice to see nonetheless.


Upon tumbling out of bed (again before 5am, grrrrr), I peered out the window into the darkness to confirm earlier pronouncements on here regarding the fundamental improbability of snow here in Norfolk.

Rooftops of white?

I blinked.

Wazzat?!?!, I said to myself.

Against all odds, we've finally received a wee bit of snow. At present it amounts to little more than a dusting on the grass and cars and rooftops; laughable amounts elsewhere, but technically a Significant Event here in Norfolk. And the best that I can tell in the light of the streetlamps, it's still falling, or perhaps it's just blowing off nearby roofs.

While the roads are at present perfectly clear, I'm altogether certain some staff will call out today due to the inclement weather. As of yet, I've received no call or text messages from my people, but it's still early yet. I would consider calling out as well, but such a request would be ridiculed for two reasons: 1.) I live five blocks from the office and 2.) I have a 4wd Jeep Wrangler, which pretty much negates any claim of impassable roads. But I don't have to be at work for a couple hours yet and if the snow continues and begins to stick to the roadways, perhaps, just perhaps, we'll receive word as to appropriate closings.

At any to ready myself for work and the journey there against dangerous snow drifts and menacing packs of Yetis.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Coming soon....

This movie will be coming to the little neighborhood theater across the street from me next month. Having read Anderson's wonderful Che biography last fall, I'm particularly excited about seeing Che on the big screen.

Sunday Morning Coffee

I ended up staying much longer at the office yesterday than originally planned. Was hoping to get out of there no later than noon and ended up staying until 2pm and only left then due to the 4pm meeting with the graduate advisor. Even after six hours of paperwork and filing, more -much more actually- remains. The biggest accomplishment was reorganizing the filing system in my office. Whereas before controlled chaos was the system of choice; now everything is neat and orderly, with one drawer devoted to personnel files and another set up (and divided further) to accomodate policy, prodecure, codes, and the more technical things we deal with on a daily basis. Begun also was the task of reordering the in- and outboxes on my desk, which is proving a little more difficult given the number of projects and such going on simultaneously. While the present system is workable, it, as with most things in life, can still be improved upon. So all things considered, yesterdays office time was a success. Under consideration is another few hours there today, though at present I'm altogether indifferent towards that. Perhaps with the completion of laundry in about an hour and a little more coffee, the sufficent motivation for another foray will arise and I'll go in for a few hours....

......before the Great Blizzard sets in.

Yes, once again, snow is in the forecast and once again I'm confident that we'll be gravely disappointed despites hopes to the contrary. It's interesting that the National Weather Service keeps shifting the Winter Storm Watch/Warning/Run for the Hills line eastward towards Norfolk as the storm system develops, though I refuse to get my hopes up about this. It's bitterly cold out and windy with dark and ominous clouds, but that means little more than cold rain around here.

So going to bring this post to a close and take care of some chores and make a grocery run for tonight's cooking endeavor.

Totally looks like.....

Fabulous Bug Totally Looks Like Gay Pride Skater
see famous look-a-like faces

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Morning

I tumbled out of bed just before 5am this morning (this is early even by my normally early standards) and already am well into my thid cup of coffee. The sun has yet to rise on this wet and windy morning. There is much rain in the forecast with a possibility of it changing over to snow (yeah right!) by the time the storm system leaves us late Sunday or Monday.

Today's agenda is at present relatively low key. The plan is to foray to the office to catch up on some things before heading off to a meeting with my graduate advisor at 4pm. While I'm not exactly super excited about sallying forth to the office today, it's somewhat of a necessity as two entire days of sitting on an interview panel have put me behind on a number of things due forthwith that were already behind schedule, or very nearly so. Moreover, going in on weekends isn't bad as there are no distractions from staff and phones and emails marked urgent; so much can be accomplished in a short period of time than occurrs during the typical weekday. And, If I'm feeling thusly inspired, I'll continue the office reorganization began last fall. The project was about halfway complete before distractions (ok...a loss of interest) set in. It will be a rewarding thing to bring the project to a happy conclusion. The only thing I'm waiting on now is for stores to open so I can pick up a few things (office supplies, a plant or two, and possibly a floor lamp) before heading in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lessons for a Leo

Tensions are running high right now, and you're going to have to put extra effort into not flying off the handle when someone says something that sounds rude to you. Give people the benefit of the doubt, especially the newer people in your world. They might not know the rules, and it's really not up to you to teach them to them. This person will learn the lessons they need to learn eventually, and it's best for you to walk away from any dramas that they create. You don't need it.

I've never really paid much attention to horoscopes but today's stopped me dead in my tracks. It could not be more perfect in terms of a few issues around the office. Perhaps there's something to these things after all.....

Sunday, February 22, 2009


As predicted earlier, the menu for tonight did undergo a change, though not all that dramatic of one. Instead of southwest, the menu headed south with the result being fried chicken pasta. I cheated a bit since I bought pre-made fried chicken from the grocery which is just as well since theirs is far better than what I could do. Come to think of it, I've never actually made fried chicken here at home. But at any rate, regardless of the origin of the friend chicken, the pasta dish turned out exceptionally well. It's a little involed in terms of steps (though they are easy), but it's well worth the effort. I didn't use a recipe, so I will try to recreate it here for future use.

1 link of smoked sausage, diced
1/2 onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced
1 can of chicken broth (or just make your own if you tend to be Martha Stewarty)
1/2 can of diced tomatoes
lima beans
1 diced red bell pepper
2 Thai chilis
Thyme (to taste)
Majoram (to taste)
Salt y pepper (to taste)
Parsley (diced, to taste)
Kale, chopped
Several pieces of fried chicken diced
Pasta (style of your choice. I used Ziti since it's what was on hand)

1. Dice the sausage and fry until brown. Remove from oil.
2. Make a brown roux with oil (equal parts flour and oil). Set aside
3. In a different pan saute onions and garlic in a little vegetable oil until tender. Add the sausage and Thai chilis.
4. Add tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and chicken broth.
5. Add the roux, parsley, thyme, and majoram.
6.Simmer until vegetables are nearly tender then add the red bell pepper.
7. Boil pasta in seperate pot. Drain.
8. When much of the water has been absorbed and vegetables are tender, add the kale. Cover and steam a few minutes until tender. Do not overcook the kale.
9. Once kale is tender, add a bit of corn starch as a thickener. Mix well.
10. In a mixing bowl, combine pasta, diced fried chicken, and veggie mixture. Mix well and serve.
11. Enjoy!

Sunday Afternoon Randomness

After a delightful rainy morning and early afternoon, the sun is now beginning to come out.

*shakes fist at the heavens*

This is altogether disappointing as I was in the mood for one of those dark and dreary days wonderful for curling up with a book and very little else.

But anyway...I've just now put on a pot of coffee to get me through the remainder of the afternoon. Two cups now and another one right before I begin cooking. After that, I'll switch over to a glass of wine which is one of the key ingredients for the cooking process. Not necessarily to add to the food (though sometimes that is the case); in very modest amounts wine seems to aid in culinary creativity particularly if you are proceeding without a recipe as is usually my case.

Tonight's culinary creation (as least as it stands now) will be some sort of chicken and vegetable pasta. Knowing me, the menu will change five or six times between now and when cooking starts about five-thirtyish. Most likely the dish will be southwestern in nature as I have on hand the necessary ingredients to carry it off in that direction (tomatoes, corn, jalepeno peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic). But again: it's still early yet. By the time I turn off the stove, I might end up making adobo.

I am wondering if I might be coming down with the cold that has been circulating around the office for the last couple of weeks. I'm feeling only about 70% of my usual self. I'm lethargic and sneezing and congestion are a bit bothersome today. The biggest indicator suggesting the onset of a cold? When a sneeze is immediately followed by a chill. For me at least this always indicates a cold is in the works. The lack of energy today is the most bothersome element. I didn't feel up to sallying forth to the gym this morning and even the trip down to the laundry facility in the basement was rather the ordeal. Ah well. At any rate, I'm uppping the intake of vitamin C just in case.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Test image

Test of mobile pic blogging :)

Out of Sorts

It's going to take a lot of coffee to get me going this morning due to being awakened just before 4am by the Harpy dowstairs engaged in a riotous argument with what I presume to be its boyfriend (must consult the guides to ancient literature to discover what male Harpies, if such exist, are called; if such are a new discovery I'll write an appropriate new species description). The affair ranged up and down the apartment- from the bedroom to the front of the apt and back again to the bedroom and included much yelling and screaming, slamming of doors, and throwing of things. Such affronts to ones sleep are generally rare due to the nature of this building. It's old and solid and, thankfully, one can't hear much of what going on either below or across the hall. This speaks much as to the intensity of last night's argument. It ultimately came to the point that I had to bang on the floor with a broom handle which had some effect, though by that point my sleep was so broken it took almost another an hour to drift back off. So at any rate, it's extra coffee this morning to get me going. Of course I'll be firing off an email of complaint to the management company, but this will be done in due time. The initial instinct was to hammer out said email last night, but it most likely would have been less than civil.

I rather don't comprehend the degree of raw fury that was on display last night. This could be due to some personality defect on my part. Arguments are very rare for me and if they do occur, they're more along the lines of a thoughtful discourse, even if it's something about which I feel strongly. I don't get agitated about things, I don't raise my voice, and I certainly don't carry on in an uncivilized manner as the the neighbors last night. This trait has from time to time earned me the appelation of cold, indifferent bastard, which is terribly unfair. Perhaps I'm just a bit more analytical than most when it comes to matters of contention. Whatever the issue is that inflames the passions generally is of very little consequence in the bigger scheme of things and if such matters are of greater importance, they are worthy of thoughtful and civil discussion. Nothing will be solved by screaming and yelling and throwing objects.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blackberry Review

I've had the Blackberry Curve for almost six days now and if I had to choose one word to sum up the experience thus far it would be: Impressive.

I'm not sure where nor how to begin heaping plaudits on the Blackberry. It's very nearly perfect is so many ways. It's features, the ability to switch between active applications, and so on could scarcely be improved upon. Yesterday I really put the device through it's paces and was well pleased with the experiment. All at the same time I was utilizing one of the Instant Messaging features while texting, utilizing the Internet, AND listening to music, all without any difficulties and no real disagreeable impact upon battery life. As most of my friends know, I'm a fairly rabid texter and am enjoying the full keyboard; it's large enough to navigate with ease.

Thus far I've encountered no real downsides to the Blackberry, save for perhaps availability of instructions. The guidebook with which the phone came is limited, so one has to rely on the help features in the device itself. Installing a memory card and subsequently loading music was a bit of an ordeal (of course I'm not the most technologically savvy person on the planet), but with a little trial and error, all is well.


Mobile blogging test

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tonight's cooking project was chicken tortilla soup, a very easy but incredibly flavorful recipe. The most involved part of the dish was making the chicken stock from scratch. Presumably one could just use canned chicken broth, but I'm inclined to make my own when and if time allows. I prefer this (even though it requires a lot of time) as the end product is generally more flavorful than the canned stuff (with the addition of cilantro) and probably contains much less sodium. As I have no life, there is sufficient time to make the dish totally from scratch.

The recipe (which is very forgiving even if you don't have all the ingredients or wish to make modifications) is as follows:

  • One chicken breast
  • An onion diced and halved
  • Four cloves of garlic
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Two diced jalepeno peppers (one green, one red)
  • 12oz bag of corn
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • Mexican style cheese
  • Lime juice
  • tortillas

In stock pot, combine the chicken breast with half the diced onion, half the diced garlic, and cilantro and simmer for an hour and a half.

Remove the chicken breast and drain the broth. Dice/shred the chicken.

In a heavy saucepan saute the remaining onion and garlic until tender and add the diced chicken and saute a few minutes.

Add chicken broth and water (if needed) to make a suffficient quanity of soup. Add the diced jalepenos and corn and simmer for 30 to 45 minutues.

Once the appropriate flavor has been achieved, add cilantro and lime juice (to taste) reduce heat and simmer a few moments. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and add tortillas and queso.

Enjoy. :)

Technological Tether

With the expiration of my cell phone contract imminent and having nothing better to do yesterday, I sallied forth to look at new phones and associated plans. This was, in effect, the culmination of a few weeks of periodic research into various phones. I've had a Motorola Razr, of which I'd grown fond, over the last two years. Not a moments worth of trouble, not even after accidentally dropping it on a stone street in Sagada, where it bounced along in the shadow of the hanging coffins for what seemed slighlty longer than an eternity. At that point, I was nearly ready to curl up in one of those coffins, and would have done so, but the phone emerged with nothing more than a few very minor scuffs. Such was my fondness of the Razr, I considered sticking with it for two more years. But as with so many things, life gets in the way. More numerous and complex responsibilities required something a bit more comprehensive than the Razr in terms of data access and scheduling and so on. Choices had been narrowed down to either the Palm Centro or the Blackberry Curve and I was leaning towards procuring the former as I had experimented with one recently purchased by a coworker and found it to my liking. All thoughts of the Palm, however, were banished after but a few moments of experimenting with the Blackberry. At that point, there was really no choice and I returned home with the Blackberry in my clutches.

As it turned out, the decision as to which phone was the easy part. Learning its multitue of features and how to navigate around the menus ate up much of the evening and even a part of today. Emotions varied between elation and frustration, which astonishingly sometimes occurred at the same time. But at this point of the trial phase, I'm still very much pleased with the purchase, though in a weird sort of way I have a few reservations as to just how deeply connected I'm going to be. SMS, email, all versions of instant messaging, the Internet, and so on. There is something almost fundamentally wrong about this level of connectivity to the world.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


The Thai-style roast pork with rice. Mixed in with the pork are mint, cilantro, shallots, ground roasted rice, fish sauce, lime juice, and diced Thai chilis, all to taste. The two ingredients that seem to require equal measures are the fish sauce and lime juice (in this case, a tablespoon of each). The key to this recipe is to simmer the pork a couple of hours (along with diced garlic, ginger, and cilantro) to ensure tenderness then immediately remove from the broth, cube, and then throw under the broiler to roast a few moments. That way it's crispy on the outside and still very tender inside. The broth I used to cook the rice.

Sunday Evening Prattle

Almost 70 degrees here today and sunny. Taking full advantage of the spring-like weather, I more or less stayed indoors engaged in the usual pursuits of reading and scribbling in the journal. The planned walk over to Starbucks for a coffee and a bit of reading was shelved when I saw the crowds outside; from what I could tell not a seat remained inside or out and, as I wasn't really up to dealing with people today, I chose instead to make a pot here at home. At present some pork, ginger, and cilantro are simmering away for use a bit later tonight. The broth I will use to make rice and the pork will be pan-roasted and topped with a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, mint, shallots, cilantro, diced Thai chilis, and ground roasted rice.

For the first time in weeks, I broke out the fountain pens with which to write today, mainly due to a shortage of the usual micro-fine point pens typically used for such endeavors, thanks to heavy handed people at work. Hand a pen to them to sign something and it's handed back all broken. I've lost three like this recently and one would think I'd have learned my lesson. I now have to order some more and keep on hand for staff signatures a box of crayons. But as to the fountain pens, they are such a novel and delightful writing tool. While I can't write with them as small and precise I normally do, they nonetheless provide a nice change of pace. The way the ink just glides across the page with the lightest of efforts and the ability to flair letters make the endeavor so very worthwhile. Needless to say these don't get lent out to staff for any reason whatsoever, though presumably they are much more difficult to break.

Desert Fever

I have been battling as of late a rather mild case of travel fever which has begun to morph into what seems to be a pronounced case of desert fever. The best cure for this malady is a trip to Arizona; otherwise, one spends far too much time sighing and staring mournfully out windows while hoping the condition passes on its own.

It has been exactly two years this week since I was last out there and that trip remains my favorites of all time, in terms of domestic excursions. I've made three trips to Arizona since 2005 and with each visit I become more enamored with the region. There is something about that part of the country to which I am deeply drawn. Were the opportunity ever to present itself, I would relocate there with but momentary debate. If anything, I've already had that debate; it's now just a matter of putting the process in motion. Of course the economy at present isn't exactly conducive for relocation, which is just as well since I still have that pesky masters thesis write-up to finish. But in the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on air fare and giving some thought as to a possibly travel ininerary for late February or March.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Icy Doom

The consideration of an evening walk to the grocery for a few things was summarily dismissed when I remember the forecast of probable snow for later tonight and tomorrow. The mere mention of this word, even in passing, by local weatherpeope is usually sufficient reason for the masses to flock to the grocery stores in order to stock up on enough provisions to stave off starvation for weeks, if not longer, in the event they are stranded at home by the one to two inches of snow we might receive. Not wishing to take part in the madness and, not really needing anything in particular, I postponed the walk until a more suitable time, such as the End of Days.

As to the snow, I am very doubtful that we'll receive much, if any at all. It is such a rare thing here, even on occasions when it's all but guaranteed. Such occurred on Inauguration Day. We had a 100% chance of snow, with accumulations ranging from 3-5 inches. With all schools and colleges closed in anticipation of the Great and Terrible Event, grocery stores emptied of everything but discounted Christmas trees out front, and families huddled at home, mothers clutching children and fathers bravely posted at windows nearby, braced for the Savage Fury of mother nature, the day came and went with no more than one or two early morning flakes. By the early afternoon, it was evident to all that the Great Calamity would not come to pass and with relief neighbors rush out into the streets to hug neighbors, tears of joy streaming down their cheeks and glistening in the sun emerging from behind the dark, but impotent clouds.

So as for the coming "snow?" Not bloody likely.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Lazy Sunday

The events of the day transpired more or less according to plan and amounted to very little other than some cleaning, scribbling in the journal, and ample time curled up with a book. I also took advantage of the sun and 60 degree temperatures by taking a long and rambling afternoon walk around the neighborhood before parking myself over at Starbucks for a couple hours of reading and being jostled by by the coming and going of patrons, many with small annoyances (aka: children) in tow. But at least the weather was warm and most ended up sitting on the patio outside, parents distracted by their lattes and conversation whilst their offspring dug around in the flowerbeds for cigarette butts and broken glass.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Return to the Roost

After about a month away during which I enjoyed the blissfulness of relative quietude, the Harpies in the apartment below have returned and with all their customary cackling and squawkwing and carrying on so at the strangest hours. It's the most curious thing. You won't hear a peep until three or four in the morning when you are suddenly awakened by a bout of loud and obnoxious squawking, almost as though they have joyfully returned from a successful night of hunting with hapless victim clutched in their bloody talons. They have this habit of carrying on long and involved conversations from opposite ends of the apartment, presumably one is in the kitchen heating up a skillet and the other is down the hall somewhere field-dressing the prey. Presumably during their time away they've learned to cook since they're not setting off the smoke detector nearly as often as they did prior to the hiatus. But in all fairness, they don't carry on so every single night, though it happens frequently enough for them to earn the label of "annoying."

Speaking her mind...

Never heard much about Senator Claire McCaskill until I saw this video yesterday. Suddenly she's one of my favorite politicians....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon

I am most creative and productive on dreary and rainy days. As today fit into that category, I rushed home early from work filled with An Holy Zeal to hammer away on the thesis write up and immediately fell asleep. Rain pattering against the window and ancient steam radiators hissing away overruled writing in lieu of a nap, with which the cats were in hearty agreement. Upon waking an hour or so later, I grabbed a jacket and Don Quixote (the book, not the man) and, not yet fully awake from the nap, staggered over to Starbucks for a coffee and a bit of reading. It was an ideal afternoon for such a venture. Positioned at my favorite table by the window, I divided my attention between the book, the coffee, and the comings and goings along Colley Avenue: people passing by half hidden by umbrellas, the muted light of street lamps reflecting on the sidewalk and parked cars, and the gentle rain falling, dripping off the lonely patio tables and pooling on the brick floor below. And in thus manner was the afternoon spent, until at last the coffee was gone and queue of patrons hopeful for tables necessitated gathering up the book and scurrying across the street to home through the gathering darkness and lingering rain.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Project

A forthcoming reading project will be a study of socialism, beginning with theory then moving on to historical applications. Why would I do this? you might ask. Much of my reading over the last couple of months has dealt with the history of Latin America, specifically the human impact of U.S. backed wars of terror against purported leftist insurgents nancing around Central America in the 1970s and 80s. If you have never read about this period of history, I suggest you make a cursory exploration of this overlooked part of history, which is one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. It will be an eye-opener for you much as it has been for me. The time and effort and monetary resources the U.S. poured into stopping the leftward drift in this part of the world makes me curious as to what about socialism was so fearful and terrible that we turned a blind eye to egregious and broad scale human right abuses, if not supporting such violations outright. By this I mean to get at the theoretical foundations, not the typical propaganda dutifully regurgitated pertaining to the threat of leftist idealism. What do we really know about socialism beyond what we are told by its ideological opponents? What is it that makes capitalists fall into paroxysms of anger and threat at its mention? It is as wretched of a social order as we are told? These are the questions I seek to answer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The List 2008

In 2008 I read a total of 17 books comprising 4,988 pages (for an average number of 13.62 pages read per day). This is a miserable failure. The goal at the start of the year was a minimum of 20 books with unspoken aspirations of 30. Between getting bogged down in a couple books and encountering an assortment of distractions (combined with a lapse in the discipline customary with such endeavors) the year slipped away before the reading goal was achieved. However, it must duly be noted that the last five books (29% of the annual total) in the list below (comprising 1,440 pages, or nearly 29% percent of the annual page count) were all read in the month of December, a time when both discipline and focus were high. So at any rate, The List of books read this year is presented below in a Title (Author) number of pages format.

1. The Discovery of the Igorots (William Henry Scott) 332p.
2. Jerusalem Delivered (Tarquato Tasso) 413 p.
3. The Diary and Life of William Byrd II (Kenneth Lockridge) 166p.
4. Histories of the Dividing Line Expedition (William Byrd II) 320p.
5. The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch) 206p.
6. Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond) 464 p.
7. Beowulf (Author unknown) 105p.
8. Travels Through America (Jonathan Carver) 228p.
9. Utopia (Sir Thomas More) 150p.
10. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) 167p.
11. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) 229p.
12. Che: A Revolutionary Life (Jon Lee Anderson) 768p.
13. Hegemony or Survival (Noam Chomsky) 255p.
14. Hugo! The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution (Bart Jones) 487p.
15. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor (Paul Farmer) 256p.
16. The Bolivian Diary (Ernesto “Che” Guevara) 276p.
17. Profit Over People (Noam Chomsky) 166p.

Which book of 2008 was my favorite? While they all had their varying degrees of merit, the best when considered in terms of totality was unquestionably Pathologies of Power. If there was ever a book that bring about a true conscious-raising as to the structural violence that constitutes the underlying causes of poverty and illness, of which we’re all culpable, this is it. The book will make you angry; the book will enlighten you; the book presents a masterful, broadly applicable theoretical framework into which many of the world’s injustices can be logically subsumed. I do not recall ever marking up a book as much as I did this one with notes scribbled in the margins, key phrases underlined, and important pages dog-eared. What’s more, the bibliography is among the best I’ve ever encountered and serves as a great resource for further inquiry into structural violence, the savaging effects of neoliberal economic policies on the developing world, economic and social rights, and, of all things, liberation theology. Much ink and many pages of the personal journal have since been devoted to the oft quoted phrase “preferential option for the poor.”

My favorite author of 2009? Chomsky. If you have never read Chomsky, I strongly suggest you do. He’s a powerful and insightful writer and even if you don’t necessarily agree with him, his arguments will make you think. Hegemony or Survival was the better of the two Chomsky books read this year, much of which dovetails nicely with the arguments put forth by Farmer in Pathologies of Power regarding economic and social violence, though Farmer takes it a step further in his application to sickness and health. I foresee reading much more of Chomsky this year.

On to 2009. The goal will be a minimum of 30 books. I've already knocked out two: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck and Chomsky's Failed States and am well into my third: Beatriz Manz's Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Hope, and Terror.