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