Jan 01, 2007

Superstition to Start 2007

Superstition Mountain, AZ.  Gorgeous image courtesy of John Hernlund.

My mom grew up in the Philippines where they have a superstition that anything you do on New Year's Day, you'll do all year.  Being the good son that I am, I keep the practice alive by making the most of each January 1. 

Here, my priority plans that I checked off today:

  • talked with Dave
  • visited Kaudie
  • spent time with my folks
  • prayed a bit
  • did some billable work
  • did some art
  • got hugs and kisses
  • exercised, and
  • ate well.

And, some happenings that I now expect to see again through 2007:

  • moved myself to a new housesitting gig
  • helped a friend move,
  • met some very nice new people
  • drove all over town
  • gave two back rubs
  • did laundry
  • wrote a blog entry

Not a bad start for my year.  I hope the same for you, today and all year.  Two thousand six was pretty rough on many of my friends, so I hope extra hard.

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Dec 25, 2006

Twelve Lyrics of Christmas

Rave2 Do you remember… back in ~’96 when someone made a quiz of ‘80s songs that you had to identify by recognizing a few words snipped from the lyrics? Yeah, well, if you don’t, go here.

But for today, a variation with just Christmas songs, most of which are not considered “traditional” unless you’re Jerry and friends.

     Have Yourself a Quizzy Little Christmas

  1. Woof, woof! Woof-woof-woof!

  2. Hangovers!

  3. Sister Suzie sitting on a thistle 

  4. …Light blue

  5. Not too shabby! 

  6. Just the thing I need, how nice!

  7. Four pounds of back bacon.

  8. And...dig this, man...he did it all in one night, man

  9. But now Vixen's in therapy and Donner's still nervous
    And the elves all got jobs working for the postal service

  10. He threw the breaker and the lights came on
    And we sang Silent Night

  11. But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree
    Was a letter from Santa and the dough's for me

  12. Ten voices harmonizing
    …Eight angels watching
    …Four mighty missionaries
    …Three praying preachers
    And He gave me the victory, victory

Unless you're Jerry, feel free to provide answers/guesses in the Comments section. Provided, of course, that you make some effort to add your own.  And Jerry, please feel to augment to your heart's content.

Bonus points to whomever recognizes/significantizes today's illustration.

12:03 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (18)

Dec 20, 2006

Memory, 2006

My God, where did the year go?  And what did I do with it?

I distinctly remember that parts of 2006 were really lousy -- with some parts labeled "this is a time of transition" and other parts labeled "this just sucks."  But to save my life, I cannot remember the details.

I wonder about that lack of facility in remembering unpleasant history.  I do remember that some things happened, but I don't remember exactly what.  This seems to be my nature.  I wonder how much of this is a good thing and how much a bad?  And how much of this nature was acquired on purpose and how much just happened to be there.  And I wonder if this is a little bit odd for a Scorpio(!)

"Doomed to repeat it"?  How about you?

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Dec 19, 2006

Filipino Labor -- Farther Away

OcwRecent studies indicate that on any given day, 8.1 million Filipino adults (~23 percent of the Filipino labor force) is employed outside the Philippines.  The three teachers who recently moved to Durham are but one small example.  Better-known work arenas include health care workers in the US (nurses, in particular) and household help in middle-eastern or Asian nations (e.g., maids and nannies in Saudi Arabia or Singapore).

Twenty-three percent!!!  And at last count, the money they send back home ($11.6 billion in 2004) represents 13.5 percent of the Philippines national income!

My guess is that these figures do not include former Filipino nationals who have become residents or citizens of other countries, but if you add those folks in, you get an even larger sense of the lost Filipino adult presence.  Notwithstanding the money they send home, think of all the roles they aren't fulfilling within the communities they were born to.


Note: This blog entry pulls data from The Effect of Filipino Overseas Migration on the Non-Migrant Spouse's Market Participation and Labor Supply Behavior by Emily Cabegin (Aug 2006).  Wired magazine did an earlier article (One Nation: Overseas) in 2002.  Cabegin's sources indicate that overseas labor migration has been accelerating in the years since the Wired article.

Related: a US military commander in Iraq recently said that "job opportunities" is one of the most important missing ingredients for a stable Iraq.  (And anyone who wants to help with the verb/number/punctuation challenge of that sentence, speak up!)


illustration "Overseas Contract Worker" from Diong at Objects and Pixels -- much impressive stuff in acrylics and other media.

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Dec 14, 2006

Work in Progress


The aforementioned work in progress.

Charles, do not spill the beans!

12:01 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dec 12, 2006

Me and My Shadow

Sfo_1206029_319x480 Pal Dave took up painting several years ago, and I decided to try my hand while visiting last week in SFO.

At left, that's me, with Baker down below.  You may recognize him from here.

I got halfway through one painting before the trip ended.  Next stop, A.C. Moore or Michael's.

Oh but wait! 

Are there any readers with neglected painting gear? 

Wish list:

an easel,
brushes (medium or high-quality)
acrylic paints
books on technique.

Just let me know, eh?  I promise to put them to good use or else to return them.

11:45 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dec 11, 2006

Pet Peeves for Pinky

Pet_peeve_04_by_grammar_nazi_club Not coincidoddly inspired by Pinky's recent comment, here's a fine topic for Monday -- Pet Peeves.

Most of mine don't occur to me except as they happen, but here some that come to mind:

  • hypercorrection ("The waiter served water to Jim and I")
  • spelling errors (though I'm getting less sensitive)
  • presumably progressive people using an over-broad brush in criticizing conservatives and/or stupid people
  • people who repeatedly complain about something without doing anything to fix/avoid it
  • people tossing cigarette butts onto the street or sidewalk
  • people biking against the traffic
  • public restrooms with hard-to-use (or empty) soap dispensers
  • public restrooms with the newfangled "tornado" (or something like that) 120 dB paperless hand dryers
  • blog illustrations yoinked without attribution
  • overcooked steak.

No longer on my pet peeve list (or at least, no longer as painful):

  • the use of "nauseous" as a synonym for "nauseated."  I've accepted that it can now mean just that, as well as meaning "causing nausea".
  • the use of "them" (or "they") as a gender and number-neutral prononoun ("I will always tip a waiter at least 15%, even if they forget to serve water to Jim and me.")
  • my mom's inability to understand that a rising peso-to-dollar exchange rate is meaningless unless she also considers inflation of peso-denominated prices, not to mention the cost/effort of carrying things halfway around the world
  • incorrect use of apostrophe's
  • lack of parallel structure in blog entries
  • "excessive" or "inappropriate" use of quotation marks.

What you got?  Feel free to use your own definition of "pet peeve".  Some people would exclude serious and/or large things (like US foreign policy), or things that just annoy through no particular person's fault (stickiness, in general -- but not, say, tabletop stickiness as a result of negligent wait staff).  I'm easy.


image yoinked from the very funny Demonic Redemption at deviantart.com. 

09:38 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (26)

Nov 30, 2006

Your Mother Wears Army Boots, and I Smell of...

68310l Bleah.  I'm sick.

But at least it's not the flu.*

Elderberry extract seems to be the new new thing for dealing with viruses.  I bought some of this Sambu Guard stuff at the Chapel Hill EarthFare.**

Of note, the Sambu Guard tastes pretty decent -- a very rich juiciness that reminds me of the pomegranate juices now on sale almost everywhere.

It's a bad time to be an oxidant, I'd say.  Everybody's against them.

In any case, it's fingers crossed for me that this cold passes quickly!


*I spent 90 minutes and some cash to confirm that, this afternoon, at the clinic.  And thank goodness, too -- -- I'm hosting my mom's 75th birthday party on Saturday and I need to be human.

**no longer open 24 hours a day.  Now open only to midnight.  Which makes a lot of sense.

02:25 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Nov 29, 2006

We Are (Not) Devo

Phildevo When I was a kid, my friends and I would use clay flowerpots for BB gun target practice.  If we had been really clever, we would have used the flowerpot "saucer" bases as pretend skeet, but we weren't that clever. 

(Either that, or no one wanted to volunteer for the throwing/walking/retrieving job.  I mean, sure you could minimize your walk by not throwing the saucer very far, but that would introduce other problems which even we dumb adolescent boys could predict.)

In my current housesitting gig, I recently noticed that a couple of the plants had completely converted their soil supply into one big rootball.  Thus the trip to Home Depot, and the obligatory Devo pose.

While my gardening efforts are far from substantial (cf. Sarah and Georg, et al.), I have to say that I really enjoyed repotting those two plants with new clay and new soil.  Happy little plants.

02:20 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nov 28, 2006

Response and Responsibility

Honesty Lately I've been thinking about friendship and honesty, and the potential power of what friends say to each other. And what occurs to me as of late is this set of distinctions:

Take 1
.  When a friend speaks and asks for an honest response, it doesn't mean that I need to say the first thing that pops into my head.  In fact, a honest and fully considered response may very well exclude the first thing that pops into my head. 

Friend: "Hey, Phil -- what do you think of my new car?"

Impulse answer
: "My God, you're a moron.  I can't believe you got this gas-guzzling ego-bomb."

Possible honest and considered response: "Well, Sean -- I'm really not sure. I mean, it's obviously gorgeous and if you let me drive it, I'll confirm my suspicion that it's an awesome frickin' machine.  At the same time...I'm not so sure this is the card I would have picked for you.  I mean... weren't we just talking last week about global warming?  That, and the fact that you might get laid off soon?  And did you check the latest Consumer Reports?  I'm just asking...

Take 2
.  Sometimes, though, the considered response would exclude something important and from the heart.  Even if it's not the complete answer, it might be something important for me to express (so that I can share the full range of what I'm feeling) and for my friend to hear (so that he gets all the data available to him) and for our friendship to need sharing:

Friend:  Hey, Phil -- guess what?  I ran into Heather last week at a party.  And for the first time since we quit living together, we had a civil and even fun conversation.  So, next thing you know, we made plans for lunch and it was really awesome.  I've gotta tell you, I had almost forgotten all the things that were so wonderful about her...

Impulse answer
: Are you out of your fucking mind?!

So anyway.  You get the idea. 

And if you have any clever hints on how to quickly determine which choice needs to be made at which time, feel free to comment.


image from here.

11:50 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nov 22, 2006

Portrait of the Artist as Phil

Portraitoftheartist598_1 Me, ca. 1993. 

Looking at this pic, today, the long hair doesn't scare me at all.  But the glasses...

I took this self-portrait in my master bathroom suite which I used as a painting studio. I used the towel rack for an easel and the wall for scraping excess paint off my brushes, which explains the pseudo-peacock pictured behind me.

But never mind all that.  Instead, check out yesterday's post with the glamour pic (which no one seemed to notice when I put it up without the full story!).

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Nov 21, 2006

(Not the) Girl with a Pearl Earring


ca. Dec 1994

For Halloween 1994, my theme was "uptight preppy chick from New England."  My housemates, Barb and Joelle, took care of the tweedy outfit, and suggested a lame Halloween lapel pin (a pumpkin with blinking LED eyes) to make people think I really was an uptight preppy chick from New England who couldn't bring herself to actually wear a costume.  I went to several parties and I'm told it worked.

The above picture was taken at one of those "glamour" places a few weeks later in Durham.  The staff told me that they got 1 or 2 cross-dressers a month, so it was no extra challenge to do me up.  The hard part for me was dealing with the makeup.  I could hardly move for fear that I'd mess it all up.  Obviously, makeup isn't actually fragile, but what do I know -- I'm a guy*.  The really annoying thing about this pic is that no one pointed out that my left earring was up way too high.  Maybe I'll Photoshopfix it some time. 

I cut the long hair soon after this pic, having grown tired of it after ~5 years of hairdom.  Nowadays I keep it very short and I'm wondering why it took me this long to get to this much more comfortable place.


*who doesn't normally cross-dress.

01:39 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (10)

Nov 17, 2006

Background Singers

Roxy_music16_prev Georg's recent post at Mondo Mundo got me thinking about the incredible backup singers whom I crushed on back in the 80s.  I didn't know the names of many of them, much less their faces.  But their voices -- sigh -- their voices. And me all young and longing... 

Some song-settings that come to mind as I type:

ABC's The Look of Love ("I care enough to know I can never love you.")
Joe Jackson's album Heart and Soul
Thomas Dolby's My Brain is Like a Sieve and Budapest by Blimp from the album Aliens Ate My Buick
Roxy Music's Avalon.

How about you?

Once, in the early 90s and not far removed from my 80s crushes, I was in a wedding party with an emerging professional singer/composer.  Post-wedding, we were singing our way through the airport when I told her that I dreamed of being someone's backup singer.

"You can be my backup singer anytime," she said.  A sweet if offhand remark, I think, but still good to hear.  Now she's got a real recording career, but I think I'll back off my request.  It's one thing to be a backup singer in a smalltime band -- a couple of months' practice and I could probably be passable in a baritone background.  But to risk a Peter Brady* while on the clock of people who are trying to earn a living?  Mmm, I don't think so.


*ed. note/correction -- thanks to Pants for pointing out that it was time for change when I mistakenly typed "Bobby" instead of "Peter".  For some reason, I always get their names screwy.  Maybe because I found Peter's character more interesting but Bobby's name more accessible.  At least none of them were named "Sue".

12:24 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Nov 13, 2006


Dang, what a game.  And perfect weather to watch it in.

With the score tied at 14 and just five seconds left in regulation, NCCU had the ball at the Elizabeth City State University 34-yard line.  Time for one more play before overtime.  I assumed they'd go for a long pass. 

Instead it was this:


Followed by this:


Note the ECSU's unfortunate No. 34, face down on the turf.  That was Brandon Fields, who had run for 29 of ECSU's 39 rushing plays (and 116 of their 149 yards).  In my mind, he was the most exciting factor on the field.  We knew he'd get the ball 3 times out of 4, and we knew he'd almost always get some yardage -- sometimes large.  We just never knew whether and where the NCCU defense was going to stop him.  In the end, they stopped him just enough.

Some interesting double-coincidences and comparisons

NCCU's kicker, junior Brandon Gilbert, won his second CIAA championship with a final-play kick in perfect weather. 

This evening, from the other side of the field, the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester caught caught a failed 52-yard field goal attempt by the NY Giants' Jay Feely.  After catching the ball 8 yards into the end zone, Hester faked some quiet end-of-play nothingness before launching into a 108 sprint for a touchdown.  His 108-yard return tied the NFL record for longest play, set previously last year by Chicago Bears' Nathan Vasher against the SF 49ers who were also attempting a 52-yard field goal.  I guess that Hester and Vasher had a nice time chatting on the plane ride home.  (NFL stats via ESPN'S game recap.

What a wacky weekend for football, which I almost never notice.  I'm lucky this time that I happened to watch when I did.

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Oct 13, 2006

This is the Drum*


DJ Chela and Carved Drum

DJ Chela's mom and dad have been my friends, heroes and role models for a dozen+ years.  I had a wonderful dinner with them this week and gave them a copy of this photo.  How nice it was that they loved it.

DJ Chela (aka Lauren) just moved to New York to become a full-time professional DJ.   We did a photo session to generate some publicity shots before she left Durham.  A happy encounter.


*title borrowed from Herbie Hancock's Dis is Da Drum (1995, Mercury Records).

12:35 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (10)

Oct 03, 2006

"Hey Dad, What Are These?" -- NC Gay Pride Parade

NC Gay Pride Parade -- Durham NC, 30 Sep 06

You knew it was going to happen. 

Half of the parade floats were slinging candy, and the kids in front of me and M. were going nuts.  Halloween four weeks early!  Mom and dad are letting me chase after cars in the street!


But then, well... you know:


"Hey Dad, what are these?"

"Uh, those aren't for eating, son.  Maybe you should give them to me."


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Sep 27, 2006

Me, Myself and I

Phil_pen Nope, today's blog is not about De La Soul but instead a theme suggested (perhaps unknowingly but not without appreciation) by Barry Cambpell who, in fewer than fifteen lines, quotes both Robert Burns ("To see oursels as others see us.") and his wife.

Which is a long way of getting to the sensitive core of this thing -- I want you to write about me.  No wrong answers (just interesting ones sure to elicit some unforeseen emotions).  Many thanks in advance.  This is a weird blog for me but I'm feeling the need for input these days.  That and I'm feeling kind of brave.  For me, anyway.  For now, anyway.

So here's the format.

"If Phil were a car, he'd be a(n): __________"

A few selected questions appear below.  Answer as many as you like.  Feel free to make up your own.  Feel free to make this a meme :-)

1.  If Phil were a car, he'd be _______________.

2.  If Phil were a book, he'd be  ______________.

3.  If Phil were a major or minor religion (or cult), he'd be ____________.

4.  If Phil were an appetizer, he'd be ____________.

5.  If Phil were a major or minor character from fiction (any media), he'd be __________.

6.  If Phil were an illness, he'd be ___________.

7.  If Phil were a city, he'd be ___________.

8.  If Phil were an attitude, he'd be ___________.

9.  If Phil were an article of clothing, he'd be __________.

10.  If Phil were a verb, his tense, voice and mood would be __________.



p.s. I learned this Q&A format in a game I played at a birthday party long ago (Jerry, do you remember? I think you were there.)  You start with a group of friends (eight to ten is good) where each player knows at least most of the other people reasonably well.  Everyone sits in a circle and whoever is Leader for that round secretly picks someone in the circle as his Subject.  (Note that the Subject does not know that s/he has been chosen.)  People in the circle then take turns asking the Leader diagnostic questions (like the ones above) to see if they can figure out who the Subject is.  At any time, any player can stop the game and say, "I know who it is" and take a stab.  If the guesser is right, the guesser gets to be Leader for the next round.  But if the guesser is WRONG, the guesser has to sit out the rest of the round (and presumably suffer the penalty of realizing, with every subsequent question, how obvious the right answer was, and how hard it is to now stay quiet).  Ugh.  That was a horrible description of the game.  But anyway, I think you get the idea.  Try it some time.  Especially fun with extended family.

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Sep 13, 2006

Losing (My) Sh*t

Gone These are the days of things gone walkabout, stolen or just plain GONE.

Someone hijacked my eBay/PayPal accounts back in March, so I had to get new checking accounts which of course meant I had to change all my direct drafts (like the one at Nationwide auto insurance).

THEN someone swiped my camera and wallet and checkbook in August so I had to do it all again!  Well at least the second time I had the benefit of experience, right?  So... back to Nationwide.

Visit 1:  I brought my debit card thinking that was enough.  Nope.  Need my checkbook.

Visit 2:  Got there late.

Visit 3:  Got there on time.  Forgot checkbook at home.  D'oh.

Home: Got to my desk and remembered that earlier that morning I had increased efficiency and reduced risk of loss by voiding a check, tearing it out of the checkbook, and putting it into my wallet so I wouldn't have to carry my checkbook with me.  Ensuant: giddy stupid laughter.

Visit 4: Back to Nationwide.  Gave check to agent who pulled up my account and then got a strange look.  The check I brought had the same account number as the one already in her computer.  Huhn?  Had I brought a check from the wrong checkbook -- the one that had just been closed?  No.  Turns out that the bank had already adjusted for the direct draft (through a complicated set of circumstances I sort of recall but won't detail here).  Oh for pity's sake.  More ill laughter.

Before I left, the concerned agent said "Take it easy this afternoon.  Don't try to do too much."  I took her advice.


imaged of Ryan Lowe's new instructional video yoinked from ElmwoodMagic.com.

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Sep 11, 2006

Travel Etiquette


In theory, it's bad manners to eavesdrop on your neighboring tables' dinner conversation, and worse yet to jump in.  And in theory, it's even worse manners to read other travelers' baggage tags to find out where they're from.  But sometimes it works out OK.

Two weeks ago in the dining car of a train crossing Canada, the folks and I were talking about sleep apnea and my plans to get a CPAP machine.  The gentleman at the next table overheard and mentioned that he used one and would be glad to show it to us.  Next thing you know -- we have new friends who have invited us for a stay any time at their spread in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Last week at an Oakland BART station I noticed that the woman next to me had luggage marked "Bowling Green, Kentucky."

Me:  Hey, I don't mean to be rude, but are you from Bowling Green?
Her: Yep!  Out here for a bike trip through Napa.
Me:  I just met some people from Bowling Green -- Jim and Susan Armstrong.  Do you know them?  They live out on a...
Her:  ...big farm!  Yes, I know them!  I used to live with one of their friends.  They have a great farm.
Me:  With a stained glass studio, even.
Her:  A stained glass studio?
Me:  Yeah, you didn't know?  That's Susan's business.
Her:  Funny, I was just looking to find someone to make a stained glass window for my front door.  Thought I was going to have to look in Lexington or Cincinnati.
Me:  Nope.  Just call Susan.
Her:  Will do.
Me:  And and tell her Phil sent you!
Her:  Will do.
Me:  Tee hee.

And never take advice from Rick Springfield.

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Sep 05, 2006

In Prosperity and Poverty


Melissa Boes and Brian Rice, 3 September 2006.

Sometimes the right things happen.

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Sep 04, 2006

Dave and Lorraine's Volleyball Clinic - video!

Sghd807 In case you're wondering about the Samsung SGH-d807, it's really cool.  I got mine last week after my otherwise excellent Sony Ericsson s710a (which took perfectly fine pix like this low light selection) started dying.

Like the Sony Ericsson, the Samsung has a 1.3MP camera that takes stills and videos.  Here's an example from Labor Day at Montara Beach -- a one-take volleyball clinic video with Dave and Lorraine showing them how it's done.

Dave is helping me Bluetooth sync the phone with my calendar, email, and address book.  God bless him if he succeeds.  He got the Bluetooth to do file transfers without much problem -- but also without much speed.  Bleah.  Bluetooth file transfer is important because the phone's cable socket cover is much like a fourth-grader's front tooth waiting to fall off.  Dangling, it remains connected by one strong thread.  But you know it's going to fall off soon, and the wait is excruciating.

11:34 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 31, 2006

"A" as in "Amusement"

Amuse "A" as in "Apple".  "B" as in "Boy".  Etc.

You know those useful little ways to indicate what letter you're actually saying when you're talking on the phone?  I've never memorized the canon of right words for these, but I usually do OK.  Right up until I bumbled into a choice more confusing than I meant.

But what if I meant it?

For your pleasure and maybe someone else's displeasure, some options:

A as in Audience (or maybe Afferent)

C as in Caesar (or Cthulu or maybe the Boston Celtics)

E as in Eulogy (or Elicit, Effete, Emetic, or Excel.  Or maybe even Euchre.)

G as in Enough (or Gnostic or Gnome or Germane)

I as in Island (just for the fun of it)

K as in Karat (or Know-it-all)

L as in Llewellyn

M as in Mnemonic

N as in Enmity

P as in Plenipotentiary

Q as in Qat

R as in Rappahannock

S as in Scent (or maybe Sent)

T as in Tsetse Fly (or Tsk Tsk)

U as in Uvula

W as in Wafer Thin (or Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home)

X as in X-husband (or Xta)

Y as in Why Not?

Z as in Adze (or Zamboni, which my cousin Dennis has driven).

Tee hee.

Image from FLoW

p.s.  if Dave is bored at work he can type out the alphabet story of the German and Japanese guys at the bar talking about an electronics supplier.   Or maybe about the time he got to illustrate "uvula" for a bunch of Pictionary players.  Or maybe not.

03:29 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (7)

Aug 26, 2006

Mt. Edith Cavell

By the lake at Mt. Edith Cavell.  Click to enlarge.

The short (1k) hike to this spot was so beautiful that I won't even talk about it.  I will post some pix, though, here at Flickr.  Or just click on the other link up there, one paragraph back.

02:40 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 24, 2006

Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park


No kidding.  It really looks like that on this small perfect lake.  To the right (off screen) there's a half-acre island with benches and much quiet.  If I lived in Jasper, I think I'd spend a lot of afternoons just sitting right there.

More Canada pix of various scenery and amusement at -> Phil's Flickr Pix. Come on in, the water's fine.

12:53 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 23, 2006

Fraser River -- Vancouver to Jasper


This pic an hour or so east of Vancouver.  Please pardon the flare.  The trip got crazy gorgeous as we left civilization and entered the mountains.

Also, please see the Mill Bay post from two days ago, with an updated pic.

Time for dinner, eh?

08:14 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)

Aug 22, 2006

Vrooming through Vancouver

Sb_train1At right, the Canadian -- which I'm going to hop onto in about thirty minutes unless I type too much here and miss the boarding call.  The folks and my aunt and I are taking a week to get from Vancouver (which we blazed through in 6 hours today, after coming over on the morning ferry from Vancouver Island) to Toronto.

To mention: Canadians really hate George Bush.  Graffiti today: "USA out of Canada".  Fortunately, they don't blame all of us.

Something I learned lately: don't pick blackberries close to the ground.  They get all the dust and some of the dog piss.

07:47 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Mill Bay, eh?

Cana085_1 Greetings from Mill Bay, British Columbia.  Pic from my first afternoon here.  Seriously, this is what it looks like.

On Saturday the folks and I joined our hosts for a progressive garage sale tour of lower Vancouver Island which looks a lot like this pic.

I bought a bunch of pencils and a messenger bag which I later repaired with a new zipper.  On Sunday I picked blackberries and made jam.  Shipped some of the most expensive jam ever back to the US ($18.50 Canadian per box.).

Mill Bay is small but with sassy teenagers who have nothing better to do on a Friday night.  One asked me what the US has that Canada doesn't (that's desirable, anyway).  I got to "some places with temperate weather" and got stuck.

Later, I added:

1.  Ethnic diversity that adds to the richness and fun (if not only for the eating and the music).

2.  Opportunity and obligation of the world's sole superpower.

...then I got stuck again.

What you got?  I promised to send a list to the girl if I ever got to ten items.

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Aug 11, 2006


It's always been important to me that I have something in reserve for when I need it.  Time, money, energy, calm, goodwill...  I know I need to keep some in reserve.  Because if I don't, unexpected stresses turn into some kind of spiritual deficit spending.

Not that my life is something to complain about, but I've had a few unexpected negatives in the last few weeks: a car crash, some work things that didn't come out the way I thought they should, and now the "invasion" of having some important things lost/stolen (camera, wallet, etc.) that force me to rearrange.

There's good to come out of all this -- I recognize that.  And (not "but" <g>) there's some bummer, too.  Bummer whose impact needs to be respected.

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Aug 10, 2006


Punch_clock_1 How much time do you spend working when you're at work?  How about your colleagues?

Never mind the question of value-add.  I just want to know how much time people spend working.

Back in the old days when I was an engineer, I think I spent an average of 50 hours at the office each workweek (not counting vacations and holidays), and an average of 25-30 hours actually working (as opposed to yakking, doing non-work tasks like reading irrelevant magazine articles, or sending emails to friends).  As you can imagine, this was a doubly bad situation.

These days I suspect that I spend an average of 30 hours "at the office" (i.e., at the desk or at a client's office with the intention of being productive) per week, of which I suspect I spend an average of 15-20 hours actually working.  I'd like to get the actual work hours up to a consistent 24 per week, and wouldn't mind reducing the "at the office" time by 2-4 hours.

For those professionals among you reading this blog (i.e., probably all of you), my work hours might sound either ridiculous or heavenly, depending on your attitude.  But I suspect all of us can count our blessings that we're not working in retail service where you have to work pretty much every moment you're there save for a couple of fifteen minute breaks.  I have never complained about bad service at a fast food restaurant.  And unless someone at Hardee's starts cursing or spitting at me, I doubt I'll change my habits any time soon.


Photo yoinked from Growabrain's jobblog archives, a hilarious "collected hahas of the world of work" blog that I just discovered while looking for a punchcard clock pic.

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Aug 09, 2006

Joie de V.


Pal Dave prepares to slam one on the Paris Plage in front of the Hotel de Ville.

I completely dig the idea of a beach along a river in the middle of town. 

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Jul 31, 2006

A Four Letter Word Meaning "Intercourse", Ending in the Letter "K"

Matisse_conversation_1 My friend Erika and I once chatted about our best conversational partners -- the people who we most enjoyed talking with about things with meaning or things without.  I was pleased to have made her top ten list -- something I didn't even know she had.

So who makes your list?  Or more importantly, what is it about them or you (or them-and-you) that got them there?  What sorts of variety do you have in your top ten?  Some because they listen and some because they talk?  Some because you know them from forever?  Some you don't even like, though you like talking with them?  And have people dramatically moved on or off the list in the years you've known them?

As for me -- my favorite longtime partners still include Erika (when we can find time), my best friend Dave,  Kaudie, and Timmy (on our rare visits).  There are, of course, others.  And sadly there are those who were once on the list but who are are now gone because we don't ever see each other.  For the ones still on my list, I appreciate how most of them speak clearly, teach me new things while still engaged with me as a friend (rather than an audience), and welcome the chance to listen and appreciate what I have to say, too.

I appreciate how they each have broad interests as well as numerous areas of deep knowledge.  And I appreciate how they all are (reasonably and usually) modest about what they have to share.  They don't think they know everything, or that the things they know are more important than things they don't.  And (did I forget to mention?) they're all funny.  Lastly, I appreciate that they all care about things and people outside of themselves.  I suspect that's at the root of a lot of things. 


Illustration: Matisse's "Conversation" from artchive.com

Courtesy of my high school teacher Branson Brown: the four letter word is "talk".

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Jul 28, 2006

45 Seconds to Back Up?!

Moodimg013maandgtrs I just backed up my blog -- 500+ entries since December 2003.  The whole thing burned to the CD in 45 seconds.  Wow.  That's not much time for a lot of time spent monkeying around on the web.

Is your blog backed up?  How about all your other data?  And do you have another copy off site?  Huhn, huhn?  Well do ya?

While you're at it, feel free to share stories happy or sad about backups, especially the off site kind.  I keep reminding my clients to do it, but I don't have any anecdotes to help burn it into their heads.


Image boosted from MKBack-Up who wants to know, "Hoe goed is uw organisatie beschermd tegen dataverlies?"

01:57 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Jul 22, 2006

Voices and Visions

Fortunes rise
Fortunes fall
In even the shortest
telephone calls.

Just a bit of doggerel to describe the life of a consultant who takes calls from clients with or without money and without or without options :-)

In other things: this week's dreams have been stranger and longer than usual, perhaps due to codeine-induced sleep patterns.  From last night:

  1. a dream in which I became the messiah, or at least something like the Dalai Lama, touching disciples and hanging out with statue-fans at a baseball game. 

  3. a dream in which I evaded a cop by pretending I was a server at the restaurant he was searching.  In this dream, I discovered a new recipe -- a pair of crepes sandwiching flavored rice.

FYI: Both of dreams were influenced by the visuals in Sin City which I viewed (in part) before bedtime.

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Jul 10, 2006

Digs in Denver

Denver_tennis_courtyard Vacation in Denver is nothing but a good thing.  Especially when I'm spending time with many sets of friends who have coincidentally wound up here.  They all have great houses with plenty of room for me when I visit, but in case I ever want a deluxe in-town apartment with a nearby tennis court, I could buy something here -->

-- pic from Denver's Craiglist.  The apartment is ~2000 sf for ~$300k.

01:46 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jul 04, 2006

Leadership and Popularity in Wartime

The declaration of American independence on 4 July 1776, the end of the war with the surrender by British forces in 1782, and the defeat which the loss of the American colonies represented, could have threatened the Hanoverian throne. However, George's strong defence of what he saw as the national interest and the prospect of long war with revolutionary France made him, if anything, more popular than before.

-- KingGeorgeIII.com

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Jul 03, 2006

Alfa Crunch -- Alas, Not a New Italian Breakfast Cereal...


Last Monday, eastbound on Mt. Sinai Rd.  A downhill curve, a little too much speed, and a wet and bumpy spot right where I started braking.

My gratitude list is long: no one was hurt, many people stopped to offer help, a nearby jogger gave me a hug, I had orange pool floats in the trunk that turned into nice substitutes for pylons, and I had a cell phone to call the wrecker.  The wrecker guy was nice and the troopers were sympathetic (even as they gave me a ticket for driving too fast for conditions). I have an extra vehicle, some funds to fix the Alfa (enough, I hope!), and a good and fair mechanic.  I'm self-employed (with a flexible schedule for when stuff like this happens) and have a cool self-employed friend who gave me a ride home from the mechanic's.  I have friends who have been most sympathetic.  Yep -- plenty to be grateful for.

Oh, and please pardon the fuzzy pic: some condensation got stuck between my camera lens and the skylight filter.

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Jun 26, 2006

Babe, You Can Drive My Car

Babeyoucandrivemycar6Hilary finds herself behind the wheel of a (not very) large automobile.  And she may ask herself "how do I work this?"

This pic on Arthur Minnis Rd., on the way to Maple View Farms.

I'm not the biggest fan of their ice cream, but the drive out from any direction is so beautiful that it's almost always worth the trip.  On Saturday night, the lightning bugs put on their show above the fields.  It was lovely.

Two questions for you
: (1) do you call them "lightning bugs" or "fireflies" and (2) do you know whether their populations have grown or diminished over the last several decades?

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Jun 23, 2006

Karmann Electra


A vintage Karmann-Ghia converted to all electric!

I spotted this at the Volvo-specialist garage on W. Chapel Hill St. near the Durham Food Co-op.

Got me thinking about a '79 MG Midget that I know of -- for sale at $1,000.  I'm told it would take ~$5,000 (and a bunch of time) to convert it to electric.  Hmmmm....

Better yet, I hope that my friends J and S will buy it for their mechanically inclined 15 year old.  Imagine -- he takes a year to build his own environmentally conscious vintage convertible: how cool would he be or what?  And his parents would be pleased that their boy is starting his driving life with a car that won't go way-the-hell-too-fast.  I wish my parents had done that for me.

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Jun 15, 2006

World Cup Analysis

Hemochess0a From this week's game between France and Switzerland:

Hilary:  ...the French defense rocks.

Phil:      True, but that's because they're not wasting any energy on offense.

A couple of other notes on the French defense:

1.  Did any chess-playing blog reader ever learn how to play the French defense (pictured here*)?  If so, why?  Why would anyone playing black begin a game with an act of self-constipation?

2.  Joke (which I should have posted in the blog of just punchlines) --

Q:  How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?
A: [in French accent] Nobody knows!


*image yoinked from some Geocities/Japan site.

12:01 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jun 14, 2006

Dang, I'm Glad I Bought That...

B0000ax7az01a1787xod7q2i4m_scmzzzzzzz_ Lately I've been moving a lot of big things, which makes me appreciate (again and again) my handy hand truck which I bought last year for ~$60.

Other sub-$100 things I'm really glad I've bought:

  • Chinese cleaver ($10 in Chinatown, SFO)
  • Champion C9 wicking/breathing t-shirts and polo shirts ($8-16 at Target)
  • Doc Martens ($10 at Goodwill, barely used)
  • Fix-a-flat ($6 at any C-store)
  • PaperMate blue, medium-point stick pens (~$0.07 in bulk at Staples)

That's all I can remember just now.

What about you?

12:08 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (8)

Jun 12, 2006

"A Computer Is Like Your Mommy's Bureau Drawers"

Dresser600_1 At right, a bureau that I helped move last weekend.

And above (in the title, I mean), the opening line from... Anyone?  Anyone?  Brian?  Anyone?

Yes, that's right.  It's the opening line from The Fortran Coloring Book, first introduced to me by the distinguished Brian T. Rice, North Carolina School of Geeks class of '85.  I thought I could do something similar for DCL which we used on the VAX 11/750s that connected us all within our ~25-acre campus. 

I said as much to our CS department chief who said,

"Every year, some student comes along and says he wants to do a VAX manual for his literacy requirement, and every year, the same student never gets it done." 

"But I'll do it, I really will!"

Yeah, right.  I got three or four pages and drawings done before moving on to better things like chasing girls and tennis balls (sometimes all at once).

"At any rate" (to sort-of-again quote Brian from the same period), the book's author, Robert E. Kaufman, has a fun page* about the history of the book, including plagiarized versions in other languages (like German) and other languages (like Pascal). Oh, the memories...



*Did you look at the same link twice?  Sorry.  I just had to make sure it got looked at least once.  Again, sorry.  In amends, I will send you a copy of the Archer Pelican Coloring Book.  Just as soon as it's complete.

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Jun 11, 2006

Birthday K


Thoughtful, Dearest.  Beautiful, Beloved.

12:56 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 31, 2006

Frozen Treats for Happy Pups

Heyman440 "Hey man, can't a dog eat in peace?"

Paris may have Berthillon and Cambridge may have Toscanini's.* But we've got LocoPops.**  And LocoPops has frozen treats*** in chicken and beef for happy pups -- all proceeds to, um, I can't remember.  But it's a group that does nice things for animals.

This puparazzi pic from Monday's first birthday party for LocoPops, which raised more than $1300 for Durham's Habitat for Humanity (now under new management, which is a great thing).  The Carolina Chocolate Drops provided ass-kicking entertainment and if you were there I wouldn't need to tell you.


*If you were in Durham in the late 80s, you might remember Rossini's, an ice cream place spun out from Toscanini's to land in what is now  Nice Price Books on Broad St.  Sharon M. once took me to Toscanini's and said, "start counting [the original features cloned south]" as soon as we walked in the door.  There were many.  Some day I may write about the unfortunate anti-relationship between Rossini's and Steve's ice cream way back when.

**Today's N&O has an article about LocoPops.

***Said product could use a good name.  "LocoPups" and "Pupsicles" are taken.  And did you know that "Popsicles" is also trademarked?

01:26 AM in Destination Durham, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (9)

May 23, 2006

Thai Massage

Fokep1_1 Thai massage -- I had my first visit on Monday.

What is Thai massage like?  I won't try to describe the healing aspects, which are plentiful.  But I will attempt to describe this newcomer's impression of the physical. Click bold notes for illustrative pics.

For those interested in experiencing the benefits directly in North Carolina or elsewhere around the world, here is some info:

My Thai Massage therapist is Bob Haddad whose clinic is in Chapel Hill NC.  Bob is also founding director of the Thai Healing Alliance International, the first Thai massage trade association and sanctioning body for practitioners outside Thailand.  Bob's contact info is at the website, here.


image from Thai Massage Center

10:45 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (13)

May 18, 2006

Inconveniences of the Moderately Wealthy

P_l5003g_1 Last Sunday, I helped host a pre-graduation brunch for Grace, which included massive amounts of scrambled eggs and bacon cooked in Calphalon (courtesy of my current housesitting gig).  Brunch was fun, by yikes those were some heavy pans for cleanup.

Thus, a first entry in my list of Inconveniences of the Moderately Wealthy:

1.  Handwashing heavy, large pans.  If you're not moderately wealthy, your pans are light and/or washable in a dishwasher.  If you're very wealthy, somebody else does the dishes.  But if you're moderately wealthy?  Heavy gourmet cookware that you have to clean yourself.

What else belongs on this list...  Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

12:33 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 17, 2006

Crude But NOT Clever


Spotted on the rack at Staples -- Dealing With People You Can't Stand, with an inscription probably not added by the author.  Clicking on image will make it larger (but not more sensible nor more grammatically correct).

12:32 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 15, 2006



Happy MA in Journalism to our pal Grace (with mom at her side, and sister off to the side capturing the moment).


Note to regular readers: thank you for your patience (or you're welcome for your time off) while I've been away from blogland the last two weeks.  Allergies, couch surfing, dog-care dictating my sleep (or lack thereof) and what do you know, I've been completely without energy and waiting for something to inspire me back online.  Thank goodness Grace graduated today (and thank goodness she and her mom are so photogenic), else I might not have come back online for two or three more weeks.

12:01 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 30, 2006

A Modest List of Things We'd Like To Do

Saturnprojbw_1 Last week, K and I were talking about those little things we'd like to do:  not the kind that require a lot of money, time, investment, or risk.  Not the kind of stuff that's "important." Just things that take a little bit of effort to put the pieces together.

Most of the things on my "list" are buried in the back of my mind -- appearing only when something reminds me.  Here are some I've recently thought of:

  • See Saturn and its rings through a regular (non-electronically enhanced) telescope. DONE Feb 2008.
  • Ride in a helicopter.
  • Shoot and clean a deer.
  • Print a series of photographs (on notecards or postcards) and have them sold through stores.
  • Weld something.
  • Be a film extra.
  • Play accordion as a backup musician in a band (one or two performances).
  • Cook a lobster.

Naturally, I also have a budding wishlist of bigger things I'd like to experience.  Among them:

  • Compose a piece for string quartet (or other small ensemble) and have it performed for an audience.
  • Sky surf.
  • Patent something.
  • Design and build a house.
  • Throw a mattress in the back of the van and drive around the country for a few months. DONE! July to Nov 2008.

What about you?  Got anything?  Crossed anything off?


Image from ArizonaUSA.com

10:45 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (16)

Apr 26, 2006

The Key to Success Is...

10115_1 Sure, Woody Allen had it right when he said that "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

But don't forget the other twenty percent, which sometimes involves having the housekey.

Tonight while housesitting:  I brought the dog outside for a pee and shut the door behind me.  Oops.  After a while I found an unlocked window and let myself and the dog in, and all was well up until I remembered that I had forgotten the dog's leather leash outside in the rain. 

Went back to get it.  Shut the door behind me.  Oops.

Fortunately, I hadn't locked the window.

Unfortunately, the dog (did I mention the part about the dog?) is extremely territorial and didn't like the idea of some semi-stranger climbing into the house through a window (right above her dog bed, by coincidence).  Did I mention the part about the dog being a German Shepherd?

OKOK.  I'm just kidding about the last part (the territorial part, not the German Shepherd part).  All's well.  And tomorrow I think I'm going to get a dupe key made in case I do something stupid like this again.*


Image yoinked from here where you can find out why the pictured keyring costs $50.

*Doesn't the story sound like something that the Dick van Dyke Show could have done well?

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Apr 24, 2006

Road Home Band at Apple Chill


The excellent Nancy Maeder of the excellent Road Home Band of Durham NC.

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