Saturday, December 23, 2006

No Hallmark Occasion: In Remembrance of Maya Lauren Penn

No Hallmark Occasion
December 20, 2006

There is no Hallmark card made for such an occasion.
There is no adequate explanation of feeling nor summary of emotions.
There is often a struggle to let go, to gain understanding.

So our minds wander, wax and wane,
And though we may feign to “know” how to act, how to be, how to support
We only follow the patterns of those before us with our own dash of zest.

Many explanations can be given for what happens now…
Christianity would say that a comfort should lie in that a soul is in a place of peace.
Modern Judaism follows the same pattern of belief: that the soul is immortal.
Buddhists would grant that a life of innocence is one of a truly open mind and therefore the equivalent of the enlightened being, moving infinitely through time.

None of us can make the choice of how another perceives life. The one known entity, the one commonality between all of us is that we have a choice to make for ourselves that can make the soul soar. The universe has provided that alone as our private consolation.

During times when there is no sense to the jolts that come with experience
And no logic or reason to change;
Here is the opening for clarity. For meditation and expression.
For mourning. For candid dialectic. And finally for finding our inner smile again.
How it’s found is up to each of us, uniquely individual, bonded together.

So now what? We find the intangible of love expresses itself in ways not seen before.
And we’ll start down a new path, saddened and slow at the start, trickling and winding;
then gaining agility. Gaining velocity. Gaining strength. Starting anew in the body, the mind, the soul.

It is precisely when no Hallmark card applies that new paths and connections are formed,
old bonds are strengthened and new ones take shape.
Lao Tzu said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dispute a Despot

Has anybody else noticed the severe lack of fair voting democracy in so-called democratic countries lately? It's downright frightening. Here I thought that the election of female leaders would lead to a new world order and it seems that instead we're approaching a big-brother world order.

Not sure what I'm referring to? I suggest a brief review of recent fraudulent elections the world over:
  • United States of America: The good ol' USA had not one but TWO fraudulent elections in 2000 and 2004. They were so fraudulent that there are actually proven individuals who swayed the results and decision made that purposely threw the election to the people already in power (i.e. the government of Florida and the conservative Supreme Court)! This is the home of "freedom" and democracy, right?

  • Mexico: Close on the heels of the USA 2004 election was the awesome Mexican election dispute of 2006. What a debacle. We're talking fraud on a grand scale and, unlike the United State of Apathy, people actually camped out in protest! There was talk of forming a second government alongside the first because the leading opposition candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was so convinced that no good could come of the current administration.
  • Zambia: the 2006 election just occured and was not only disputed but then marked by extreme violence. The pattern continues... What happened to a vote that is a vote? Seems to me that in elementary school the way to fairly settle something is to vote as a class. That's pretty basic. If the teacher swayed things and made the vote fraudulent wouldn't you supposed the children would lose faith in the practice of a democratic election? Fair? Who said anything about fair.

  • Yemen: September 2006 Voting was suspended in a total of 140 polling centres that witnessed violence, according to the country's highest elections panel. Elections-related violence killed five and injured 45 during polling 20 September.

  • Need I go on? Ecuador 2006 is coming up. People are already alleging fraud and nobody has voted yet! Does this disturb you? It should. The only right you have in this so-called free-will world is a vote on who becomes the next "man". If "the man" is so corrupt that he won't even cede power in a certified election to an alternate, wealthy, corrupt & immoral "man" than what's the point?

Will I stop voting? Hell no. I have some inkling of an idea of what it's like in China for people who have no true vote. Hell, even China's local elections are marked by fraud and violence. But I will use my vote to try to get the fraud OUT of office.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

An Ode to Audio Tape

Within the past 2 weeks, by sheer chance, I've kissed the audio tape goodbye. I was never one to linger on old technology. I'm a geek at heart and a gadget lover in the wallet but I had the stock stereo cassette player in my car and a dual-cassette deck on a mini-stereo system that I used as my alarm clock.

The car was purchased in 1996 so the cassette player was 10 years old and it still worked. With my commute being 35-40 minutes I was utilizing books on tape quite regularly and I still had 2 or 3 of my favorite mix tapes and a few live shows of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman at the Warfield.

The stereo was purchased in 1992 when I left for college. It was the all-in-one mini system from Sony that had a CD player and dual-cassette as well as a tuner and remote. What a barn stormer!

But who was I kidding? The transition was inevitable. I've owned 3 iPods in my life so far (currently a 4GB Nano). I have an iPod dock on my computer at home, at work and had one on the very same mini-system that had the tape decks. I have a full-function media center PC in my living room so I can stream audio to my amp and high-fi speakers. So when the opportunity presented itself to have an stereo in my car that has integrated iPod control I jumped. I'd waited years for true integration to be available and I'd be damned if I'd let a little red-tape (or black tape... har har har) hold me back.

Then just a few days after I made plans for the purchase of the car stereo I was given the opportunity to test-drive a clock radio with iPod integration. It seemed too good to be true. Suddenly all the draw-backs of my stereo with iPod dock were removed: I could wake to the iPod, there was a nap function, it charged the iPod when docked and it was about 1/8th the size of my stereo (did I mention the remote control with the snooze button and the auto-time-set to the atomic clock?). I wrote a check.

I'm an audiophile, gadget-geek and reader of PC Magazine. I admit it. But now that the tapes are gone, the books on cassette are back to the library (I'm moving on to Overdrive audio books through my public library) and the cassette players are sitting in the garage or have gone to Goodwill, I miss the magnetic wonder. It has a few benefits, after all:
  • CD's hold 80 minutes of music. Audio tapes hold 90 (on average).
  • iPod's have all kinds of digital rights management (DRM) to deal with. Audio tapes had none.
  • Digital files can be misplaced, deleted or moved with no proof of ownership. A tape always had a tape case!
  • CD's and iPod's have no room to decorate when making mixes. Tapes allowed for artistic license on the insert.
Of course, instance-access, no winding, no flipping, no quality degradation and the ability to hold thousands of songs on CD or iPod is a nice bonus. But I'll always have fond memories of my brother and I buying 10-packs of Maxell XL-II (chrome, type II) and MX (metal, type IV) high-end audio tapes and dubbing the entire Led Zeppelin collection of a friend or the latest Grateful Dead recording from a tape-trading forum.

Audio tape is dead! Long live the tape!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thank You Shimano

While I was there I grew up. I traveled the world: to Asia, to western Europe, to Australia, to the Northeast and Northwest USA, to the midwest and back and forth. I learned what it was to be a 'Premier' status member. I trained in databases, load balancers, Microsoft and Linux, backup, virtualization, management and self-empowerment. I cycled with professional teams, local enthusiasts and commuters. I bought my first home. I got engaged. I got married. I got divorced. I worked for 4 different managers and was liked by all of them. I got good reviews... repeatedly. I met with and helped interesting people around the world. I made friends in Nunspeet, The Netherlands. I made friends in Osaka, Japan. I made friends in Singapore. I stayed alone in the depths of winter far from home and stayed with best mates in the height of summer's enthusiasm. I skiied at a top resort, partied at the world's best party, ate cheese and drank wine amongst friends and colleagues. I participated in multiple triathlons and trained during my lunch hour with enthusiastic co-workers greeting me at the end of nearly every workout. I witnessed an American riding to victory on the Champs d'Ellyses. I helped expand a company from a chaotic, disparate web presence to a globally unified, branded, tool-driven business-empowering e-Business system. I worked with three ISP's. I helped expand the "global" web environment from two servers to over 40. I worked with SAN's and storage, LAN's and WAN's, global IT systems, ecommerce, content management, domain management, managed service providers, hardware vendors, software developers and an infinite host of 'techno' gadgetry that I'd never have touched in many places. I joked with colleagues about the future, the management, the bonus structure, the pay. I was disgruntled little. I was happy mostly. I learned to choose that happiness is indeed a conscious choice. My colleagues once called me "Angry Gary". My family now calls me "Buddha Roo". I learned to live the latter through my actions and presence.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June Gloom Be Gone

It's one of those days in SoCal. June Gloom has set upon us and we, being the least able to survive in weather (outside of sunny and 70 degrees) of all humans, have our heads in the marine layer. Despite a ride to work and a generally simplistic day, a solid AM meditation and a friend who called to have dinner I still sit here thinking about those non-present, non-controllable, unimportant issues of life. Jobs and bills and such.

My head makes lists. Need to go to the vet for prescription cat-food, need to buy a new pack of Advantage, need to buy a new set of contact lenses, need to service the car, need to get groceries, need to get a webcam, need to keep the phone bill under wraps... you get the idea. Are any of those things life? Is life any of those things? And yet one can't have starving kitties, starving self or a broken-down car. Buddha says to focus on the present. In the present I can pay for those things. I work to do so. I live to breath and breath to live and keep my focus on the bigger picture.

We are either breathing in harmony or out of harmony. I choose harmony. I choose peace of mind. I choose what I can be, do, feel, see and understand and what I cannot. Wrapped up in the June gloom sometimes it's easy to lose one's way. Feel lost in the clouds. But this marine layer will burn off soon enough. And when the sun comes back out I'd like to be seen wearing a smile rather than a look of dumbfounded shock.

And you? What did you choose today?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

To be present and realize the present isn't one

Every moment is a gift. That's what Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and the Spaghetti Monster all say. So it's hard to look at a day when the present is anything but. More like the present opens a can of whoop-ass on you and it's all a yogi can do to keep oneself balanced physically much less mentally.

So there you are. I finally met my match. And I faltered. I talked behind backs, I got angry despite my knowledge of my life's privilege, I felt let down by a presence that is entirely mine to control. But I did NOT jeopardize my integrity. And that's a big step forward from some time in the past... some time when I would have told myself a little white lie and moved onward -- marching as solidly as if I actually wasn't lieing.

It's that knowledge, the piece that comes from the 'universe' that tells you, "Hey, you did ok, pal" that lets one get through a day like this. There wasn't any defining moment for the day so, dear reader, you needn't seek one. There was not even any catastrophe. An outsider might look at the past 12 hrs and sigh at how uniquely unappreciative I can be of my own existence. But it's my realization that makes me know I can sigh too, and move on to a fresh evening, fresh night, fresh day tomorrow.

And what's the status... I'm still single, I'm nobody's husband, father, uncle, step-whatever or even distant genetic equal. I'm still employed, and rightfully so, stable and able to enjoy life. I'm still proud of my accomplishments and equally learning from my failures. I'm still able to smile. I'm still physically capable, strong, virile, open, loving, beating, breathing, pumping and feeling. I still like soft, hard, and all the tactile sensation that falls between (unless it involves my head hitting the cement). I am still introspective. I still laugh at myself, talk to myself in public and dance with my cats in private.

I'll teach yoga tonight and enjoy it. I'll awake tomorrow and smile. I'll have a party tomorrow night and understand that ego should be low, enjoyment should be high and worries won't help either. I'll go to my second Rusty Wells yoga workshop on Sunday and sing, chant, sweat and breath knowing that today taught me something. I'll determine from this minute that I don't need a workshop anymore (though it doesn't hurt!) to know that happiness is a conscious choice. I'll continue. I'll not be afraid of 'this' not doing so.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ode to Spring

Sometime after March arrived it got hot. And the weather warmed up too. I've found solace in opening the windows once again and letting in something fresh. The musty scent of too-oft-slept-in sheets and stale sex was cleared out and something akin to the Snuggle Bear moved in.

The government was still evil but society began to awaken. Ratings were down, hope was up. I cycled my way to work and back and did my part for the betterment of society. My integrity lifted about 10 notches on the scale of human worth. Got hooked and hooked again. And let myself off the hook. Must have found a use for those opposable thumbs. My cat taught me how.

Meditated and lost focus and tried again to find the purity of a new season. Struggled to find the patience of Winter in union with the unencumbered essence of Spring. Set goals, daily. Goals of enjoyment. Presence. Calm. Happy is a good one. Got that one down.

Found myself dancing in my own house, alone and ecstatically happy. Found myself questioning whether I was crazy. Talked to myself walking. Talked to myself cycling. So I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to... well, all sorts of folk. And it's resulted in all kinds of social activity. But I still talk to myself and I still dance in my house. And now I feel bad for the people who don't do so. What's with all the quiet concern for themselves? Let loose baby, it's Spring.

Found myself singing not only in my car now but also on my bicycle, on a run, walking around. You can't handle the singing? Try it yourself sometime. What are you embarrassed by? You're own happiness? Your ability to express joy? How sad. Spring isn't time for sad. It's renewal. Blossoming. It's flowers opening. It's sexual. Birds and bees and all that. Breasts and such. Fish tacos, carnitas tacos, pink tacos. Patties of sizzling meat from the hunt. Raw energy. Sun dance. Rain dance. Allowing circumstance to be heated.

Spring is upon us. The daylillies are in full bloom: pink, yellow, orange and maroon. The roses are abundant and clear and strong. Herbs are popping up for blessing, for eating, for smelling, for consumption in the purist form. Bulbs have burst into the air releasing their signal that all is well.

Time for BBQ. Parties. Dress in your summer duds and have an iced latte. Thank the universe for putting you somewhere that you needn't focus on a bomb dropping upon your head or a religious cult telling you to wear a smock, frock, shlock or otherwise. Groove to your own tune and listen to the music; take note of the symphony all around.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

When It Rains It Pours

In the time before time dragged
all the people round me seemed to live in a lag
and my whole offer was a nod or a wag
never thinking I would fly that white flag
and it's then I saw my life begin to sag.

I found heros and I found saints
but none could make my mind feel feint
or stand overwhelmed with a tear of restraint
Found solace never in the lies I did paint
'Til the day I began to re-acquaint

Feels like heaven is a place in my heart
living lightness, I'm a mile apart
from the place I was once and the one of my art
Isn't that why I chose to restart?

Oh one says yes in a hint of sin
the other looks with Cheshire grin
the last one seems to lure me in
But I still know, they'll wear me thin
Isn't that what last time did me in?

An offer stands before my throne
another lie to my face I just won't condone
As the hungry man tosses aside his bone
And yearns for the seeds he once had sown
So should I feel content now here alone.

Feels like heaven is a place in my heart
living lightness, I'm a mile apart
from the place I was once and the one of my art
Isn't that why I chose to restart?

We cause smiles, we cause strain
Indelible memories on a canvas we stain
and none of us can help but feel the rain
when it pours down and lets out the pain
leaving clarity in its wake as away it drains.

This open feeling seems to come down so fast
Like a sigh that builds up and releases, "At last!"
I put my sail up, raise it full scale up the mast
and set out for waters upon which I've cast
a mysterious fate that's mine to pass.

Feels like fate can carry a scythe
that troubles souls and makes them writhe
In my search for peace I do my best to strive
For change that's lasting; for love is rarely lithe.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Another One on the Way

She told me there's another one
unexpected but it still comes
and the rise might end but the cry won't
I'm sorry for you, I'm happy for you.

Hitch a ride to somewhere far away
come back again another day
Put your nose in the tough-life trough
smoke a long one, release a cough
I'll be here twisting poses
in this desert I'll be Moses
part the sea for myself and see myself
happy for once for now and yourself?

We're all alone to start with, only life
and we're all alone to end, only breath
so fill the middle with the way or someone elses;
choose for yourself and relish choices.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Holiday Discrimination

hol·i·day n.

A day free from work that one may spend at leisure, especially a day on which custom or the law dictates a halting of general business activity to commemorate or celebrate a particular event.

Read the definition above and riddle me this: why do we choose to only celebrate certain holidays? I, for one, celebrated Passover AND Easter this year. I celebrated Channukah and Christmas last year and for the past 23 years. I even celebrated Good Friday. Hell, it's called Good Friday! Have you ever had a lousy Friday? Rarely. But when you do, don't you yearn for the day when you have a really GOOD Friday? To make it Good you know what I did? I didn't go to work because my office was closed. It didn't require smearing ash on my head, putting my physical body in a church or eating special food. It simply required having a smile on my face.

Hell, every day should be Good Day.

But I digress. Why should religion dictate which holiday we can and can not celebrate? Why not use them all to our advantage? It's my belief that God/Master of the Universe/Great Spirit in the Sky is all about relaxation. The spirit invented that extra day just for chillin' out didn't it?

I'll keep this post brief because the point is really quite simple and clear: the next time you get a chance to celebrate life do it. If it happens to be on your calendar marked in ALL CAPS and named after an historical event, famous figure or seasonal occurrence then, please, for the good of the universe, take some time out and send your appreciation into the great energy source of being. We'll all be better off for it and you don't even need to put in for a formal leave of absence from your life to participate.

A Chicken on Every Desktop

It was sometime in the afternoon of April 18th that I installed a new widget on my desktop. For those who aren't quite as 'geeked' out as me, a widget is a small utility that runs on the desktop level of a computer system that performs a function. Examples are a notepad, a world-clock, an controller for iTunes or a battery drain check for a laptop.

I chose to install a chicken.

Amazingly, in my testing over the past 24-hr period I find that I've experienced the following widget usage patterns (keep in mind that I'm on the computer about 85% of my workday):
  • Wi-Fi signal check: 0 times
  • CPU usage checker: 2 times
  • Battery checkers: 0 times
  • Weather for 92653: 1 time
  • Clock to check time in London: 3 times
  • Clucking Chicken: 6 times
Why does one resort to putting a chicken on ones desktop and using it as a form of sick entertainment? If you have to ask, you've never seen a tiger pacing in a small metal cage in a zoo. If you have to ask, you have an outdoor job that lets you see the sun. If you have to ask...

Ironically, when I downloaded the chicken I already had a picture from the Nature Conservancy website of the Oklahoma Tallgrass Prarie Reserve. The chicken looks like the photo at the top of this article. Actually, that's him.

If you understand where I'm coming from, or better yet if you don't, then a glance at the results I've gotten from the chicken's suggestions to my more complex issues at work is in order:

Q: What should I put on iTunes?
Chicken: Tweet tweet tweet

Q: Should I keep working on this business continuity document for my employer or would it be more prudent to check my Yahoo mail?
Chicken: Tweet tweet tweet

Q: Why does Bill Withers make me feel inadequate?
Chicken: Bak bak bak!

Q: Chicken, should I just take some time out to write a blog entry?
Chicken: Tweet tweet tweet

Q: Why am I talking to a virtual chicken on a 78 degree sunny day?
Chicken: Tweet tweet tweet

Q: Only chicks say tweet tweet. Shouldn't you be clucking?
Chicken: Tweet tweet tweet

Q: I believe the meaning of life is love. What do you think?
Chicken: Bak bak bak!

Q: How do I get our eCommerce package to cache it's image content without conflicting with our CMS system's DLL plug-in for IIS 6.0 now that I've created a new Application Pool for each system and the caching still fails?
Chicken: Bak bak bak!

As you can see, the chicken is providing a great deal more to my productivity at work than any other widget could do. For that matter, I believe the chicken might be providing more to my overall life-sustaining happiness then most of my fellow employees (and that's a bold statement because I really enjoy a majority of my co-workers).

So next time you're thinking about doing something silly like asking an Magic 8-Ball what to do with your life or filling the gap in your work-day with something silly like actual real-time communication, think chicken.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Into Action

Spring breeds thoughts of new beginnings and floral bouquets literally popping out of the ground. It's all happy animals fornicating and buds abounding. To me this year it provides (as did winter and fall!) an opportunity for new challenges and some introspection.

It started simply. I read a quote by Stephen Covey, "If you start to think the problem is ‘out there,’ stop yourself. That thought is the problem." I had been denying my yearning to get out and ride my bike to work because it was still a bit 'chilly' in the morning and I was lazy. But Mr. Covey convinced me that only I was going to make myself happy. So I moved on my inclinations and my physical prowess overcame my mental disturbances. As I rode happily down the street at a maximum of 33mph I was literally overcome with joy and laughter. I'd found the freedom I'd been seeking.

Where's the introspection, you may ask? I found that the simplicity of my actions led me down a path of deeper thought. That is, 'Is it really that easy?' Action, re-action, acceptance, etc. etc.? Can I do the same with the rest of my life? The age-old answer is both yes and no. I would love to say everything is as simple as choosing to ride one's bicycle... and maybe it is.

Of course with things like relationships, taxes and work it's important to realize that there are outside influences that will ebb and flow with one's ability to adapt to their challenges. It's not to say that Mr. Covey is wrong. The ability to adapt is still within oneself. It's just a matter of internalizing that adaptation. One can awake every morning and say, "How wonderful it is to be alive! I appreciate the world, the animals, the rocks, the trees. I am the Buddha incarnate." But if the same person burns themselves 5 minutes later on the toaster and curses their life to hell then they've not really internalized the vision.

So if spring is a time for change then it's probably a time for re-organization and re-prioritization. Moderation for one. My moderate but overwhelming (see "Sorry, Sugar") dietary change and the cycling is a good start. Actually, travel has slowed down as well which has allowed me time at home to redecorate (another spring step!). I've even changed my musical selections: more Dylan and Chopin Nocturnes, less Coldplay and B-52's.

Does any of it make a difference? In the grand scheme of things I'm starting to feel that it IS the little things, yes. The more I read and comprehend the Tibetan monks who won't go outside during rainy season for fear of killing small worms or washed up insects the more I see that life is give and take. Moderation, moderation, moderation and a healthy dose of appreciation. By participating, consciously, in small change, in the growth of the season, one finds harmony. Spring allows us to see that we don't really need anything at all that isn't abundantly growing already. It's best to appreciate that which is thriving and let the weary harshness of winter fall away -- leave those thoughts to the cold and greed of a different time of life. For you, for me, for anyone the action needn't precisely match the seasons. Through winter's storms and cloudy weather the independent survive to create their annual beauty, announce their will to succeed, harmoniously assert their life-force upon nature itself and give new found energy back to the world.

That's what I want to be part of this spring. What do you want?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chronos Life

"Chronos is clocks, deadlines, watches, calendars, agendas, planners, schedules, beepers. Chronos is time at her worst. Chronos keeps track. ...Chronos is the world's time. Kairos is transcendence, infinity, reverence, joy, passion, love, the Sacred. Kairos is intimacy with the Real. Kairos is time at her best. ...Kairos is Spirit's time. We exist in chronos. We long for kairos. That's our duality. Chronos requires speed so that it won't be wasted. Kairos requires space so that it might be savored. We do in chronos. In kairos we're allowed to be ... It takes only a moment to cross over from chronos into kairos, but it does take a moment. All that kairos asks is our willingness to stop running long enough to hear the music of the spheres."

-- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Was An Olympic Orphan

I'm an Olympic Orphan. Stranded with no place to call my home I wandered through darkness seeking the light of the olympic flame in the houses of my friends and acquaintances. You see, most of you reading this don't understand what it's like to live without television. You think that cable-perfect reception is one of those things like electricity and natural gas: a utility. I've made a life-choice to not have cable and hence have orphaned myself from the rest of the viewing population. I'm far from asking you to feel sorry for me. I look at it as a benefit!

At last count, 184 million total, unduplicated viewers, two-thirds of all Americans, watched the Olympics on the networks of NBC Universal last month. I tried to join them after deciding I would adopt various families with whom I would watch (or more ot the point, they were asked to adopt me!). It seemed like the ultimate plan: bring wine, food, or a smile over to various houses and enjoy the world's greatest athletes in action. I did, however, encounter a few unexpected life lessons along the way. Most of them were things that were unforeseen, experiences I learned from. Others were simply ignorance. All were worth experiencing.


First off, my original choice of venues had a major flaw. You see, I planned to watch with a combination of friends (good ol' friends, gotta love 'em) and girlfriends (ok, so you really shouldn't have more than one and maybe that was my issue right there but throw me a bone here). Girlfriends are not to be counted on for two things:
  1. Allowing you to watch a sporting event at their house on-demand
  2. Being your girlfriend at the very time you intend to do so (Murphy's Law)
So I kept my options restricted to three houses of friends who regularly watched the Olympics. They were extraordinarily accomodating and understanding of my plight. But I couldn't invade them every night so I was left with the basic premise that I could watch every 3rd night of the games rather than having the viewing as a nightly event.

Another thing I realized I could not control but which had great impact on the sports: it's not the size of the TV, it's the content available on it. I found that at the houses with TiVo we could watch nearly 3-days worth of content in a single 4-hr evening session. The commercial content during the games was so long that I felt I could have written a short novel during all the breaks at the non-Tivo houses.

On the flip side, I found that having the commericals is what makes the Olympics a crowd-friendly event. It gave us time to talk about life, ethics, Olympic non-sense and family. Is Tivo ruining the concept of the 'group watch-party'? That's not for me to answer here, but food for thought.


The most interesting thing I learned along my journey was that the sports I thought I'd most like to see were both difficult to catch during prime-time and also turned out to be mundane compared to the less popular sports I did get to watch.

Personally I could do without ice dancing, figure skating and the like. However I thought that all the skiing events would be thrilling. I also thought I liked to watch bobsledding. I was wrong on both counts. Turns out that 2-man bobsled is the equivalent of watching a slow yellow schoolbus go down an icy street in Maryland during February. The more interesting sports of luge and the new sport of skeleton were absolutely thrilling, however, and use the same track. I also found that the sports I thought would be mundane were absolutely mesmerizing. This includes long distance ski jumping and cross-country racing. These sports take a while to get through, the athletes are all Norweigian (the US doesn't even have entrants in some of the jumping), and generally you can't tell the difference between half the entrants. But the final moments are what Olympic spirit is all about.

I never really thought much about the athletic prowess needed for a cross-country ski race, I now see it as the marathon of the winter games. It's long, grueling, and mentally and physically taxing. Bravo for those athletes. On the flip-side, ski jumpers tend to have these ridiculous spandex-looking wetsuit-like outfits with 6" of extra crotch-length that gives them more lift. With the giant skis it really makes them the virtual circus clows of the winter games. Giant suit, big floppy shoes... you get the idea.

But irregardless of the outfit-factor, these sports were so much better than what any major network had previously chosen for prime-time. I was quite pleased by my surprise.


This is definitely one I did NOT count on. But the truth is that the winter games on the west-coast were taped delayed. They did not begin until 8pm PST. That's late! When you're talking about 4-hrs of content every night with over an hour of commericals it's exhausting.
  • By the end of the 2-week period my eyes were tired (see the first paragraph above: I'm was not used to watching TV so I hadn't had proper 'training' for this marathon).
  • By the end of the 2-week period my brain was tired from tracking all the athletes -- some of them were in 4 or 5 events, there was drama and politics. Essentially, for 2-weeks every 2 years the Olympics become a world unto themselves. They use the word "village" to describe their living area because it IS one. They have literally created a small community and it's broadcast to a billion folks, worldwide.
  • By the end of the 2-week period my body was tired. First off, eating out every night or every few nights is hard on the digestive system. Combine that with beer and wine (it's a social event, after all!) and some good dessert every other night... well, you get the picture. Now add about 1-2 hours less sleep on those odd nights and you get some quality exhaustion.

A Two-peat?

So the quesiton now becomes: was it worth it and would I do this again? The answer is a definitive yes. For a single individual or even a happy couple, the Olympic Orphan concept is an absolutely wonderful excuse for some quality socializing with friends who you may not have really 'hung out' with. Here's some wisdom I can now impart to the world as a whole:
  • Go in with low expectations. This isn't a formal dinner party; you might see your friends kids in their PJ's (hell, if you're really casual you'll probably see your friends in their PJ's too). The orphan experience is about experiencing a life outside of your own in real action. You might hear spouses argue, you might see cat puke on the rug. You are the observer of both the games and the lives around you. Enjoy.
  • Bring dinner, dessert, wine, or just yourself -- be adaptable. It's really about how you feel. Sometimes I thought the evening would be drunken debauchery and ended up in a casual chat hogging down girlscout cookies or laughing at the crotch-length of the ski jumpers. The reality is, most of us don't socialize over other people's houses, mid-week, for hours upon end. We're so 'in the box' that we only see certain people on the weekends or when their kids are away or with a babysitter. The Olympic Orphan concept is all about breaking those barriers.
  • Watch the sports you've never thought about. This one is extremely important. As mentioned, some of the most entertaining moments for all of us (not just me) during those two weeks were when a new sport came on, an old sport nobody had ever followed came on, or some we thought would be boring ended up bringing the very Olympic spirit we'd been seeking right into the living room.
Mostly, be courteous, be open, be safe and be appreciative that no matter how you might feel during those two weeks every two years there are billions of other folks out there smiling, laughing and getting into the Olympic spirit. Sport of the people? Maybe not. Opportunity for building quality social karma? Absolutely.

Sorry, Sugar

This past week I came to the conclusion that I needed to take a step back from my relationship with Sugar. And whereas I can't really relate to being addicted to heroin or even nicotine I think I now have an idea of what it's like to quit something cold turkey. It's awful and after the bloodstream is cleared it's wonderful.

We were a relationship gone sour: Sugar and I were meshing quite well together every time we initially got together; but over the course of a few hours I started to feel like crap and Sugar was feeling... consumed. The beginning of the end was about a week prior to our breakup. I realized I was seeing too much of Sugar and we didn't quite have the same feelings we used to. It seemed to be going downhill.

And then the big fall-out came. We were stuck together with nobody else around in the Oakland airport for the better part of 6 hrs. I had been thinking about buying a box of See's "Nuts and Chews" (1lb box mind you) and after about an hour of waiting I gave in. As always, Sugar and I had a sweet encounter at first. It was all melted chocolate joy. I even felt confident enough to share Sugar with some other folks in the airport. Now that's confidence in your relationship!

But alas, things went south just a few hours later. I felt ill, guilty; a gluttonous lethargy crept over my soul and I wanted to bury my head and cry for help at the same time. "Oh, Sugar, you'll be the death of me," I thought.

Now, I've been through my share of break-ups. But this one was tough. I told sugar we could talk from time to time. I don't believe that isolation is the key to anything except a good Buddhist meditation retreat. And so we took a few days off. And that became a few more. I often couldn't clear my head. I just drifted from dessert to nuts'n'chews and back again.

As with all good things that come to an end, the pain was lessened with the presence of old friends. Orange and Plum came along and helped me through my highs and lows and evened out the long hours between meals. The worst was after I ate. I was reminded of all the times Sugar and I had shared sweets together after eating. I laughed at the variety of life. I cried at the sadness of being alone. And finally I accepted my life as it was: Sugar-free but happy.

I've returned now from my trip abroad. No more airport-spent hours waiting like potholes of life needing to be filled. My house still has ice cream and there are still 4 boxes of girlscout cookies waiting to be consumed. But I've reached a point of balance once again. Sugar is still there. She always will be there even if just in my memory. But she's not the one in control of my life. She has her own families to deal with; children's mouths to feed; she's an artist with a world of blank powdery white canvas.

I suppose the moral of the story is that only you wake up in your body everyday. And you can treat it as a temple and only give it what's good with some sweet indulgence (as my sister-in-law says, "Moderation in all things including moderation") or you can fret and whine and try to fill an ever-deepening void with more and more emptiness (empty relationship, empty calories). In the end the lesson is quite simple, a cliche of the most overused sort: You are who you eat. So don't eat in desperation. Eat up and enjoy with control, dignity and understanding and you and your Sugar can live happily every after.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Recipe for Smiling

- 1c Feelings of Elation
- 1/2c Lucid pain
- 2t tears
- 1T petting a fuzzy animal repeatedly
- 1/2t healing through silence
- 1-2 pinches meditation
- 6c yoga
- 1c cardiovascular exercise
- 3T thoughts about someone you love
- 1T thoughts about someone you almost loved
- 1/2t realization there are no regrets
- 1/2t realization there's but one life
- 1/2t appreciation for someone special
- 1/2T giving from the heart
- 1/2T opening yourself from the heart
- 10c acceptance
- Pinch of sorry
- Steadfast understanding, to taste

Shift life in a direction you can feel is right in your heart and mind. Mix by hand, slowly the elation and the pain making sure there's an equal mix at a 2:1 ratio of good to bad. Add first few pinches of acceptance and breath deeply. Add tears and pet fuzzy animal. Sit in silence and feel life rush over you like a swallow of the greatest medicine. Proceed to meditation and relax your sense organs. Mix half of yoga and stir. Add cardio. Don't overmix.

Take half of the mixture and add the thoughts about someone you love and the thoughts about someone you almost loved until both are dissolved and you can see there's really no difference if you can love yourself. Add realizations that there are no regrets but those that pity ourselves and that life is special. Whip appreciation to a thick cream and blend into life mix.

Add final giving and smiles from the heart being careful not to break the heart. Add open understanding and acceptance. Carefully and slowly add sorry. Be careful not to add too much sorry as the mix will become bitter. Sift understanding over mix until the taste is just right.

Put in stock pot and simmer for life. Stir often, tasting and smiling as much as possible.

** Note: If you are a male making this recipe be sure that your smiles aren't false ones to hide real emotion. You CAN make this recipe. You just have to know you aren't subject to anyone else's judgement. He/she/it/they can just be let go in lieu of this perfect cuisine.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Some Time Later, He Wrote

Some time later the uncaped crusader finds himself 6-hrs worth of workshops to the wind and in something of a dazed state. The yard's clean now. The house is clean again. The unsettling clouds are forming on the horizon but are no longer inside my skull. Grin. Content and simple is life. I can walk and find what I need because it was there in the first place! And it's not all inside me; the external forces come to me when I'm open. So attraction is not just internal or just external. Rather my devotion to allowing an open state has brought a combination of solid foundation and new energy into life. She and he and they are abounding beneath the unturned rocks. And I don't turn them with my hands but with the energy I give off. The same energy that created a passionate frenzy of saliva in Opah or made me feel bliss in LB is making me settled. Oh if I could but have it all the time; so close.

The calls are less desperate now. The phone has returned to its former self: a phone. The nashing teeth have been capped and whitened. And really what's a friendly monster but a needy friend? I almost feel bad for the people around me now who don't have the bigger focus. Friday night I put on my best attitude and experienced true draw. Yes, draw. I swear to you I didn't make any particular attempt. But I kept leading with my heart and my eyes wide open. I'm good at that. Good at that now. I'm learning so quickly and it scares the bejesus out of me and excites me. Took my Sunday walk to the grocery store and actually related to James Taylor lyric in a way that made me think, "Is my life story that much longer now?" Yes, I think it probably is. And I'm all smiles about that.

Meditation is coming along. 3-hrs yesterday to achieve a decent 20 minutes. 20 minutes is 20 times more than most people get in a lifetime. And again I feel pity. Oh what they are missing! And I want to reach out to those in the present and make them understand. Then I want to make sure everyone knows in the future. And, most touching, I want to tell everyone in the past. Stop and feel and see where your 3rd eye points. Did it point at my heart? Did you want it to? Did I wish it?

New faces and new features bring new energy. That's what I allowed to come into my life. And like a new passion, new friend, new love it's wonderful. Norah says,

Truth spoke in whispers will tear you apart
No matter how hard you resist it
It never rains when you want it to
You humble me Lord

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

So What now

So it fell through. And I told myself, "Self, you really win either way. If you get it, you'll go and your life will shift. And if you don't, you have had time for extreme introspection, reflection, re-direction and new expectation."

But that isn't the reality is it? I'm let down. I feel I did my absolute best. Most folks would be proud of doing their best. I feel I failed. Failed to make the leap. Attain the next level. I dedicated my entire emotional being to taking that step and then fate told me, "Sorry, son, you're destined to be elsewhere." And where is that, fate?

Meanwhile everything else surrounds me. Settling. It seems to be a theme these days! Settling for what she wants, settling for what I have, settling for what she does not want. Settling for what they all either want or don't want. Outcome: You can't control anyone elses likes or dislikes. Doesn't matter if you run a song and dance routine, beg your friends to stay put or tell them "All you need is love." Reality is, the latter is true but it's not really love of anyone else, is it? It's love of oneself.

So I try to internalize that. Day in and day out. And I look at what Lama Surya Das says about being selfless. I'm trying to do that. But aren't I supposed to succeed at the same time?!

Have you ever tried to be entirely selfless and shift your life to be more successful? What is success? The more I read what buddha says the more I realize that it really has nothing to do with the things people think it is. It's not money or title or anything even slightly related. So why do we crave those items? If our society is really that off the mark (and believe me, I'm pretty positive it is) then doesn't that leave us in a state of absolutely lost disgraceful self-loathing? God help us. How does one summon the energy to tie a rope to a sinking ship and try to pull it to shore?

Many questions. Asking them, however, makes you feel better than ignoring that they exist. And that puts me 99.99% further along the path to happiness than many other souls out there.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I've resumed taking guitar lessons. Along with the drums and 14 years of poetry (some lousy, some good) maybe I have the workings of something that can really be expressive. I'm trying to put this one to music:

Not quite sure of where I'm headed
Awoke today in a thickening daze
but the past is inevitable and next day's the same
clouded future lies ahead in the karmic haze

Sometime later I awoke a second time
and I looked around confused with a grimace and frown
not recognizing this place or moment,
a metaphor for your smile turned upside down

A call came in today, baby,
it was all hopes and grins
and I felt the haze lifting
though the visions of our sins
they keep me lifted up,
crashing down
crashing down.

It's no wonder I don't recognize the setting
us being two who've been set free
as the steel bars of the jail cell
placed upon what's determined to be.

And it's something of a surprise, I guess,
the memories of your smile;
or maybe it's just the pictures
that make each step away a mile.

A call came in today, baby,
it was all hopes and grins
and I felt the haze lifting
though the visions of our sins
they keep me lifted up,
crashing down
crashing down.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Today is not a dress rehearsal for the rest of your life.

Today is not a dress rehearsal for the rest of your life.
Today is your life.

Balance does not come in jerky, large movements.
It comes from small adjustments to where you already are.

Wherever you are today, be okay there.
Accept that you are in that state now but the world is constantly changing.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Connected Despite Distance

It's when time passes quietly
that I miss them most.
Buried in my memories
they rise like a ghost.

My head hangs lowly
but is forced back up.
Eyes focused on my being
begging, rattling tin cup.

And I know there's not pity
nor should there be any.
Don't be your worst enemy
in a world of so many!

I'll never find solace there,
I'm all too complete.
It's the thoughts that betray
and cause such defeat.

My physique is strong
my will is so needy
and the yearning to do good
is beaten by the greedy.

Not absence of vision
or love that I've to give
But the will that surrounds us
and makes us all live

will save this kind spirit
and allow it an absence
so focus can resume; 'our', 'we', 'us'
connected at such a distance.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thoughts Having Been Stood Up

Is tonight just making me realize what I should be feeling?

Am I just running so fast
that I'm not only
not seeing
my surroundings but
not feeling
them either?

Can one be so scared of missing out on life
it becomes difficult to tell
if one's afraid of something genuine
or genuinely afraid.

Maybe this is life. And you've chosen to leave it behind.
See what a life this is!
So what kind of life is this?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Steadfast Journey Off the Edge


The wall I hit this week
with my head
angled down
slight hint of frown
upon my face, now,
not from disgrace, though,
curious of how I became so blind
during a heat wave with clear skies but blurred mind;
and still resolutely moving forward
off the edge.

It’s no end,
they say,
only a friend, or friends...
groups and groups of them
and another day.
The loss is neither impenetrable nor permanent
but it leaves a scar
as though run over by a car,
no, a truck,
oh Fuck. Now it’s hurting. That’s the feeling.

So I’m flirting,
playing and saying,
“I’m ok, I’m ok”, mantra, mantra, Om Om
and it fools my mind
for a length of time
until I’m smiling again.
Another hit
Please stop; stop it. But it doesn’t.
Until I’m alone, here,
in this home that I
that should feel like an asset
but becomes more like a rusted anchor
cell for a joker more so every day.
That canker sore on my tongue
makes a strange dreamlike memory, that’s yet to
feel blissful
and painful
at the same time. That hurt we love to love.

Turtle doves and chocolates are
so conspicuously absent today
good riddance to those
objects, subjects we become for consumption:
hearts and candy.
Oh how dandy for those happy folk.
The one that got away
The one that broke
is a choice not a joke.
Just not anything else,
you see?
They won’t understand this though.
In a different moment your own world moves slow
and you feel,
for real,
the essence and pour it into a mold
with a hundred-year shelf life.
Not me boy,
I’m feeling it fresh as can be
young and vibrant, horny and hard,
skin deep and then some.
Feels good. Feels good.

So you’re tired and you’re up,
“Such a pup!” they say.
It’s merry and gay for a while
living in style
but keep coming back to the fray.
Laugh. Cry.
Breath in and be high
on life’s infections. A partner’s inflections.
The small things. Pet peeves torn sleeves and spots.
There’s still more to come.


It’s starting to feel like ’96.
Disturbing mix of
Joy and elation,
and loss. Sorrow and loss.
“Never again! We’ll write and we’ll win
the battle against age and
Find some bliss and never miss
each other.
But I do, now, brother, I do. Friend. Father.
Whomever! It’s damn well
forever until tomorrow.
And not a thing you can do to change that.

“The writing is good again,”
clucks the hen. And my teeth chatter
and my skin tears
and the holes bear the signs of age.
If she were here nagging the rooster.
It’d be the booster.
The company, comfort and smiles
hugs during those ‘whiles’ we all know
would kill the essence of
the ink.
AH! It would stink of rotting acceptance
and the paper
would become a toothy trap.
A bad rap.
So then we’d argue. Did we argue? You and I? Family?
Friends who I prematurely miss?
No. So it’s genuine, then.
Let the plague of unknown reciprocity begin!

Can’t win. Why do you fight?
Buddha is right. But something
irks me on the outside, round belly.
The inside, it’s at peace.
That’s a lie and a disgrace;
no, but we feel it, we do. For example?
Well, 15 minutes at a time.
Travel on someone else’s dime
I can pick up and go
find sun and snow and make memories
in essays and entries.
So what? So words? So I can bring them back
home. Home? HOME?!
And show the world.
The truth is unfurled and ugly.
We create all those feelings
and send them off so nicely wrapped
to have them never unpacked.
Does anyone look? Really look? Really know? Really read?
Do you read what others are saying,
peak your interests in their video spelling
bee of life. Not even a husband and wife
watches the other’s journey that closely.
We live and breath and smile for the rare exceptions.
I found one. Once. I think. Have you?
Want one? I’ll sell myself cheap! Pennies on the dollar
these days
the haze clears and I steer myself
back from the edge for one more entry.
The sentry must have us all infinite times by now.

It’s not all bad.
Life’s a la carte. I’m smart
enough so
not to fight the wind and rain.
But sometimes the drain makes the bucket overflow
and so
you get this, you see?
Pure outlet of energy and love. A gift to you on Valentine’s Day.
Doesn’t matter who you are.
Love doesn’t care.
Therein lies its beauty and it’s deception.
A Catch-22
just for you. Wrapped in a chocolate bow.


Try to understand, just for a moment,
this is how I love. I wish I knew how the rest do it.
I wish to find how the best feel it.
And I will. We all will.
Candy hearts and all.


Sarah McLachlan

Make me a witness
take me out
out of darkness
out of doubt

I won't weigh you down
with good intention
won't make fire out of clay
or other inventions

Will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come
while we're waiting

Everyone is waiting

And when we're done
soul searching
as we carried the weight
and died for a cause
is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand

Will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come while we're waiting
everyone is waiting

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Open Letter to TSA and US travelers

To Whom It May Concern:

It wasn't but in the last several years that I learned truly how to travel efficiently. I have become quite adept at the art of getting to, through and out of an airport in as little time as possible and with as little delay and confusion. This skill does not come easily but only with many many hours of practice and dedication travelling once or twice a month often through multiple airports, airplanes and customs. Thus it has come to my attention recently that many other Americans (in theory we could cover other 'folks' but, not knowing the intracacies of their cultures, I will stick with USA residents) who think they know the workings of the modern post-9/11 airport system are very much mistaken. It is with these very noble intentions in mind that I offer to you some travel tips that you may find useful to pass onto your fellow American travellers. It's my belief that the use of these simple tips will reduce costs for TSA by enhancing the efficiency of the overall system. The tips apply to both TSA and travellers alike.

  1. Travelers: you don't need 8 bags each to go away for a week. I realize you like to have your 'stuff' with you but truly you will enjoy yourself more if you just take your body, some minimum clothing to keep you warm, comfy shoes and a good attitude. You'll probably go buy some trinkets at your vacation destination anyway so you need extra room in your bag. Layer. Pack light. Travel easy.
  2. Checking In: If you're waiting in line for a ticket agent, please know who you are and what your destination is. I know it's easy to forget these things so just have an ID and a receipt handy. Also, e-Checkin is the same thing as checking in for tickets you bought on the Internet... minus the ticket agent. It's ok to use this new technology.
  3. Web Check-in: A long time ago in a galaxy far far away the world wide web came of age. It's time to start using it to check in. Many flights these days let you check-in even if you're checking bags. Then all you have to do is stand in line and give somebody your bag when your tag is generated. Good stuff. Take advantage.
  4. TSA: saying that it is 'suggested' to take your shoes off is the equivalent of telling people that there's a suggested fee for getting an airline ticket. If it's not suggested then just tell folks to take their shoes off, no holds barred. Yes, it's asinine but so are most new TSA rules so just run with it baby!
  5. People who have a lot of stuff on their person: your watch is metal. It will beep in the metal detector. Those keys you use to open the 50 different doors to your boss's file drawer? Well, you didn't need to travel with them. But since you did, they are metal and they will beep in the metal detector. Jewels. I know you like to wear all those jewels but maybe you really don't need them for that 6-hour flight to your cousin's funeral? Take them off for travel. They are metal. They will beep in the metal detector.
  6. Kid with a sombrero: you didn't need that Sombrero. But now that you have it put it in a box and check it. It doesn't fit through the security scanner, it doesn't fit in the overhead. Far be it for me to tell you that you'll regret buying that sombrero sometime 10 years from now, 8 drinks to the wind when your buddy takes a Polaroid. But I digress.
  7. People who checked bags: Bravo for not taking up the overhead space. However there is one more rule you should follow -- the law of physics. Two objects can't exist in the same space at the same time. So when you try to stand on my toes to get a place next to the baggage claim carousel you are smashing them. Please stop. Please move over to the next spot. The idea of the carousel is that the bags are distributed along a circular belt for all to have access to. If you crowd the loading zone you may be injured. I will injure you. Please stay away from me.
  8. Personal Space: Ok, I've moved down the carousel to get away from you. But now your 3 kids, grandparents and 2nd cousins have crowded in. They don't even have bags. Hitting me with the corner of your hard-case Samsonite luggage hurts. I will hit back next time. Please leave me alone.
  9. Guy on the plane eating McDonalds in Row 6: I realize the airlines, most of whom are in Chapter 11, have reduced the lovely airplane conveniences from full meals down to a poor box'ed 'snack'. However if you are going to bring McDonalds on the plane (which I don't blame you for) then please have the flight attendant dispose of it quickly after you are done eating. Otherwise about 2 hrs into the flight when we hit turbulence we'll all be holding airsick bags and the guy in row 34 will be cursing you and wondering why, in addition to being sick, he has to be nauseated by the smell of a rotting Filet-o-Fish.
  10. Airline CEO's: Have you flown lately on one of your own airplanes? I'm talking the full deal: coach class, international, no-premier-status and a shitty middle seat. If you haven't then you really need to get the full experience. It's something to behold. There's an entire airport culture of hurrying to wait. That is, rush to get yourself checked in, rush to get through security, rush through the miles of airport gates to arrive at your departure point. And then wait. Wait for hours to be told you have an additional hour to wait. And then wait to be told to wait. Can you guys do something about this? It's bad enough to be treated as enemy #1 by your own government. But I just paid you guys $450 for a shitty cloth seat and a can of Coke. How about if you tell me to get there 1-hr prior to departure you actually have the courtesy to provide a seat to wait in, some food that's not entirely unsavoury and lunch for less than $25 a person.
  11. TSA Gate Agents: I am not a terrorist. I realize there may be a few in the universe. But please keep in mind that the world population as of 2006 is 6.5 billion. Of those, I would venture to guess that less than .0000001% are terrorists. By those numbers we could basically scan every bag with an electron microscope, check for drugs in your spouse's anus and run animals repeatedly through X-ray machines and still not find a single 'thing' we're looking for. And it really is a 'thing' you're looking for isn't it? Because if it wasn't you'd just arrest or harrass everyone named Mohammed (oh, sorry, you already do) and inconvenience your own citizens to no end. And keep up the good work, too.
  12. Entering and exiting the plane: A few quick suggestions to enhance your boarding/de-planing process, ok? First, if you can't lift your bag higher than your ankle off the ground then how do you intend to lift it, in a narrow space, over the top of some pretty tall seats, up over your head and into a compact plastic compartment that already has other bags competing for limited space? Please just ponder that one the next time you decide not to check your luggage. Take care of your own shit and I'll take care of mine. If you have a cane, are handicapped or generally look feeble we're here to help. Second, when you're leaving the plane please don't stand in the aisle if you have no intention of actually leaving. Get your kids, get your spouse, get your relatives, put the bags in their hands, tell them "Ok, let's go!" and get the fuck off the airplane. The rest of us are waiting and we are capable of carrying ourselves and personal items without delay.
  13. To everyone: I know travel seems overwhelming. I know you think that Shareif Mohammed Achmed Kareshi is going to drive your plane into the Space Needle. And guess what? Somebody with a similar name might do that some day. But for the moment, if you could have the courtesy to move your beast out of the way if you're experiencing a "personal delay", check-in ahead of time, move your own bags quickly and efficiently and realize you are not God's gift to the frequent flyer then all of us will be better off.

Vegemite For All

In a world where vegemite is a standard topping for toast and you can get Kangaroo filet as an entree it's really hard to go wrong with cuisine. Admittedly, I'd only had vegemite one time since coming here but have now eaten a small amount of this vitamin-B rich spread daily. Food, in general, is the highlight thus far of the journey down-under. I've eaten kangaroo which really has the exact consistency of beef and the taste of venison. Delicious boychick! Our other cuisine seeking has taken us to an fantastic Chinese restaurant (Darlinghurst to Oxford to Crown) that was the closest I've had to authentic and tasty since my trip to China this past October.

Work here is definitely Aussie style. Keep in mind it is the very PEAK of summertime here with gentlemen and ladies showing up to the office in cargo shorts and mini skirts respectively. That means we 'Yanks' roll in around 10am and crank on the computers (projects, networks, meetings, whatever the world might offer up) until noon. Then one might be taken for a lovely lunch by the ocean or a hearty lunch with many beers to quench the afternoon thirst. Afterward, a return to the office for a few hours of work with the US (recall that lunchtime here is the end of the prior day in the USA so there's plenty of time to catch-up on email) and then it's off back to the hotel. Drop your things, go for a walk, do some yoga, take a nap, run an errand. Meet around 6pm for a cocktail followed by dinner at 7pm. This is the work-week.

Today will be a half-day after which we'll head to the beach. It's almost so tempting to get out into the ocean that it makes work extremely difficult. Puffy clouds fill a blue sky, heat and humidity make one order up another round of Lemon/Lime & Bitters, and the ocean breeze here makes even the heartiest of California beach-goers more than a tad jealous. The heat sticks around at night giving an East Coast USA feel but with perfect temps in the 70's rather than a sticky 80's I grew up with.

The Aussies themselves are pleasant enough. There's an intimidating feel for some westerners I think. Brought on by a different 'style' and some words that one may or may not be able to interpret the first time around it quickly subsides when one finds world-class service (and why not, like Europe the service industry here isn't paid minimum wage and it shows!) and a smile. "No worries," is the typical response to a thank you. Beats the false, toothy, "You're welcome" of your typical wait-staff in the states. You can feel the genuine contentment here. People are happy to be here. And while the Aussies have their share of political turmoil (local race riots are the latest craze) one does not encounter the divisive and disturbing chaos currently entrenched in US society.

Maybe it's just the summertime talking. Having come from the dead of winter in the US (and in Southern CA that's not much more than a high in the 60's instead of 80's) it feels downright tropical here. The sun rises and sets 3 hours before the northern hemisphere and, yes, the water still drains the opposite direction.

I don't think it's just my outlook. Word has it that Mr. Bush gave a State of the Union address. I have no idea as to it's content but I'm sure it was asinine. I heard that Mr. Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court. I heard that a good journey around the world will turn your perspective upside down. I think most things here drain the opposite direction. I hope to keep my head that way.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sydney - Day 1

I've had a day that has lasted about 53 hours now. Which isn't to say that I didn't sleep in the coach class of the non-stop United flight to Sydney. I slept 9 hours in total (not bad for a 14.5 hr flight). More that sleeping in coach class (even the bulk head I sat in) does not really qualify as the type of rest that would separate one's night from day, day from night or day to day. And so I write this after a full day exploring and enjoying, to the fullest extent, the very essence of a first impression of a new city. A new country. A new continent. And that, my friends, is unique.

Sydney is, upon first impression, a wondrous city. A mix of Seattle's laid-back attitudes, Europe's driving style and San Francisco's eclectic cuisine sprawled over the rolling hills of a modern metropolis. The streets on the outskirts have a modern US-suburbs feel -- organized and busy; convoluted but well-kept. Oh the wonder.

Post arrival we headed for the suburbs of Sydney to the Shimano office. Whereas the airport lies 5 miles south of the city proper (Downtown), Shimano is another few miles south in an industrial area. We worked straight off the plane for several hours. I pondered VPN and network configuration in a thick daze of post-international fight stupor and double-espresso clarity. Hashing through the hardware and architecture we found common ground and deepening trepidation about the swap of an technological infrastructure I'd travelled 8,000 miles to change.

And then came the break. Mid-afternoon we departed the office for the day and headed out for beers and sustenance. A solid meal of "Old" beer and a quality Turkish tofu sandwich. What's not to like there? The fries (frites, chips, whatever euro-style you call them) here are fantastic as well. Our hosts tell us that Australia is the 2nd fattest country in the world, 2nd only to the good ol' USA. But my initial impressions are that the people are beautiful and laid back. involved in life with an injection of a "We don't give a damn, mate" attitude. A few beers and some people-watching later we headed off to our hotel for a quick shower.

Off to the bars then, mates. We headed into Darlinghurst proper in which we are staying. Beautiful beings surround (men and women). It's a mixture of extremely gay eclectic cafes and bars, chique hotels and tourist trap attractions. We adeptly avoided the latter thanks to colleages who had visited previously and our most generous host, Greg. Mojitoes all around. And for those who think that leads to Sydney having any sort of decent Mexican food, I've been told that's all wrong. But the rum/mint/lime drinks were made with the utmost care and were absolutely on the spot.

All this warm-up (truthfully, work, lunch, hotel and bar were just the start) leads us to the finale of the evening: Fish Face restaurant. The fish and chips and grilled Kingfish were to die for. But the piece de resistance was truly what I happened to order: the Ocean Trout with Mushrooms and Leeks encrusted in a Filo Pastry. Right mate, it's the best! Accompanied with a Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand this dinner was among the top I've had in my business travels (and having been through many a travel to Switzerland's top establishments -- see previous entries) that's really saying a lot.

With a belly full of wine and the freshest of Pacific sealife, we proceeded on to the Fig and Pecan truffle. Lord help us. It was pecan pie taken to to the next tier of taste sensation. Normally I'd stop and say, "Well, the fish was fresh but the desert left something to be desired". But it did not. Truthfully, with an espresso in hand each of us was left with nothing but the tantalizing taste of satiation and gratitude. Thanks "Fish Face".

The night-cap and day's true awe-inspiring ending was a quick cab ride to the harbour overlook. From here the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are lit up for romantic yet fulfilling nighttime views of Sydney's finest. The Opera House at night is a monument to behold. A true spectacle of what fine architecture run amok and billions over budget can do. Though art lovely and spectacular Opera House. The round of dirty martinis (Grey Goose of course, we're travelling business here) kept the awe that much more inspiring.

And so my dear friends I find myself back at hotel Kirketon, a lovely post-modernist art deco hotel with an abundance of spacious red carpet, nouveau simplicity and tasteful clean linear architecture in what they call a "Contemporary Lifestyle Hotel". I do not fear that after 53 hours I will now get a proper night's sleep only to start the adventures anew tomorrow. Adieu, adieu. Don't let jealousy drive us asunder. With love from Down Under, GP.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Up Above to Down Under

so that's down under, well
then I'm up above.
for the winds blowin' strongly
and the buds rear their heads
as the challenges for my soul
ain't resting in their beds.

If one is a means to happiness
and two's a whole lot more
then three is just a launch pad
for a life I do adore
It's a trip, these smiles between us,
each leading to a road
we follow to its completion
embracing each new load.

here am I still smiling
no krishna in the sun
rather ready to depart
seeking out new adventures
and finding truth in winter
refusing my own censures.

If one is a means to be happy
and two's a whole lot more
then three is just a launch pad
for a life I do adore
It's a trip, these smiles between us,
each leading to a road
we follow to its completion
embracing each new load.

if die I must tonight
take with me hopes and memory
and I'll go happy for my life.
please invite my friends to dinner
and those I loved even more
tell them how it could be
if I'd found some room for four.

Neither, More,
Three Now Four,
Up Above to Down Under
Life's more... life is more.

Friday, January 27, 2006


When I was a kid my parents sometimes called me "Raving Roo" because I'd often times just go off on a tangent about some particular issue which seemed, at the time, important to discuss in a three-sided one-man forum between me, myself and I. It occurs to me that the last two posts are pretty heavily opinionated. But you know something, it's my blog. Go get your own damn blog if you're gonna complain. Not that I've had complaints. This is more of a pre-emptive strike against my own conscience for indulging in the guilty pleasure of writing whatever the hell I please and publishing it to the world. So just when you start to think, "What the hell is he trying to say?!?! I do that stuff!!", please look at the image herein and you'll realize that I once wrote an honors thesis about witchcraft & the black sabbath because I thought the dancing goats were cool (and got Cum Laude off it too!).

The Freedom to Go

It's a funny feeling I get when I have a full tank of gas in my car. I'm not much of a car guy but I know the models and usually engage in some typical watercooler conversation with the more 'car savvy' native Californian's in my office. Keep in mind I work in IT. That means two things: mostly men and toys.

But I don't believe it's my 10+ years in the IT field that gives me the all-consuming feeling of freedom when I gas up. I get a simlar feeling, actually, when I fill the air in the tires of my bicycle but not quite to the same extent. The feeling is one of convenience. As though I've just worked hard to earn the $25 that allows me to go whereever the hell I please. Maybe it's some form of American-ized super-ego Free to Be, You and Me attitude of a Generation X'er who spends hours dreaming of retirement. Or maybe it's the movies, magazines and posters that make me yearn for the freedom of the open road.

It's probably a little of both: hard work earning freedom and the American spirit. Somehow I don't think the Bedouins in the Egyptian desert are dreaming of the open road so they can fill their camels with water and ride off into the sunset. It's obviously some form of cultural absurdity that I usually try to avoid like the plague. And you know something? I don't really care. The feeling doesn't hurt anyone and it makes me feel good! At least I'm not driving a Hummer and I'm not driving a pollution machine.

So I've been socialized in some way to like the automobile. In Southern CA I have seen a lot worse than socialization. Interestingly, however, the feeling doesn't come on every time I fill-er'up. It usually happens on a day when I've actually washed my car (myself, by hand, not hiring Mexican illegals to do the job) and take some pride in several facts of life:
a) I am free
b) I am self-supportive
c) Nobody's foolish antics, attitude or lack of integrity can steal that
d) I'm gainfully employed
e) My net worth is approximately 99% higher than most of the world at large

As I look at the price of a gallon of gas under the long reign of terror known as the Oil Tycoon Presidency I have to wonder how good we still have it? Have you ever thought about the above list and compared your life against this list:
a) I'm free because I was born here and had good fortune not to be sold to a white slave trader on a family vacation to Trinidad
b) Chinese laborers die for my lifestyle; I support only capitalistic tendencies
c) I'm a weakling in a world of bears -- truly those with nothing to lose are those who can't have anything stolen so shouldn't we give it all away?
d) I work in a modernized slave quarters; at least on Jefferson's plantation I'd get some fresh air and get laid by the President (ok, that's offensive but I'm leaving it in there)
e) Yah, I'm richer than an AIDS patient in Kenya but one drive on PCH in Malibu makes me want to take a shit on the lawn of a few 'inheritance' victims.

That's just an alternate view. In some honest soul searching I definitely lean toward the former list as the latter is awfully self-pitying and that's just pathetic. If you have everything and still complain... well, you need to be taken out back and dealt with. If you have money and want more then you're American.

Just as an example of the illness surrounding us despite our freedom, take a hypothetical. Jane earns $100. She spends $20 on gas to drive her new car that costs $40 in monthly payments. She has $40 leftover and really wants to go party with her friends. But she expects that because her friend Janet made $200 last week that she'll buy drinks. And you know something, if she has good friends maybe Janet WILL buy a round. But Jane if you expect Janet to pay... well, why? If Janet knew she should tell you to go fuck yourself. Jane, you're American. You want more money? You go get 'em honey. But if Janet has more you're not entitled to any. Not a loan, not a free ride, not even a drink. It's your SOUL that will get you that drink. Your essence. Your being. Your personality. Your karma. Some transcendental energy in this world that makes your being benefit because it's inherently good. Expectation of care is not means for kismet. It's means for somebody driving by in a nicer car and giving you the finger. Oh Janet, you need to find the Buddha and learn why you tend toward the more pitying souls in this world.

But I digress. Complain though we may about the price of gas (still HALF that of Europe), all the while driving Ferrari's and Hummers around, I have to note we still have it pretty sweet. The reality is that I don't drive a camel (which isn't to say I don't have experience doing so). My car is 10 years old but it's in beautiful shape, runs like a champ. I have the ability & opportunity to drive something manufactured in Japan where they care about quality because I live in a country where we can import foreign goods. That's pretty unique. That's pretty amazing. That's pretty great.

Though this is a blog and I may or may not have a point herein (that's for you, my dear Reader, to decide), I feel that our freedoms are so taken for granted it's no wonder there's a Jihad across the planet. So the next time you are stuck in traffic, burning gas at $2.69/gallon and cursing the 'crumbling infrastructure' in America's cities do a Google Image search on Haiti, Iraq or Sudan & the word "violence". And then go out to your oversized truck or sedan and think how freakin' lucky you are just to be alive today. Because the reality is that you got lucky. You were born in a country where you're more liable to die from over-eating (in the ole' days it was called the sin of gluttony folks) than from a bullet through the head shot by a 14-year-old uneducated child trying to be a civil war hero.

Drive safe. Enjoy the freedom of the open road. And wipe that grimace off your face when you see the gas prices.

Postscript: What the hell does "Support Our Troops" mean? Wouldn't the best support be bringing them home so they can get a job and drive on the open road too?!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Revenge of the Beard: Superbowl Swami

I'm not much of a regular season sports junkie. I like a good Angels game and have always had a weakness for some bloody hockey. But when it comes to playoffs of any sort I usually get pretty hooked. Luckily for me, I don't have TV in my house so I don't have the temptation to spend an entire weekend indoors on the couch when it's 73 degrees and sunny in southern California.

However, I did watch one NFL football playoff game this weekend and in the course of viewing I had an epiphany that, amazingly, none of the commentators mentioned. The power of the beard.

The leaders of the two teams that proceed to the AFC championships next week, the Pittsburgh Steeler's Beth Roethlisberger and the Denver Bronco's Jake Plummer both sport some serious post-season beards. How can the major networks not understand that this is where their underlying power comes from? This is a serious oversight. Wake up people! I've found the fundamental key to sports victory. Just take a look at the winners:

And now take a look a the losers, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts:

So you say to yourself, "Self, I don't believe Mr. Penn. I believe he's so full of shit it's likely coming out his ears." And to the doubters I say the proof's in the pudding. Please take a gander, if you will, at Mr. Tom Brady when he WON the SUPERBOWL in 2003:

Yes, view it and weep all you Patriots fans. With all the sports analysis of 'What Went Wrong 2006' the reality is that if these gentleman had put more focus on the damn pigskin and a little less on shaving so they'd look pretty for press conference they'd be much better off. God help us if Ben and Jake shave prior to next week's game. And the NFC? Didn't see any footage (not that into football, sorry) but from viewing photos on Yahoo it appears they have some serious facial hair growth to pursue in Carolina and Seattle. Lets get growin' boys... else you'll seriously struggle in the 'big game'.

For those who doubt, I want you take a look at one other piece of proof. Power is in the beard, folks. Who has more... George Bush Sr. and Jr:

or Sri Swami Satchidananda:

Personally, I'll take the Swami by 10 points on Superbowl Sunday, February 5th. What crazy loon out there will take that bet?

Women Rule? or Women Rule!

Lists of recently elected leaders, male and female instincts and suggested Presidential slogans

Has anybody beside me noticed the abundance of female world leaders lately? It seems like all the news organizations are reporting these powerful women rising to power but nobody is putting two and two together: Men are hairy monkeys, women are sleek.

Lets review:

  1. Chile (that's in South America for all you geography deadbeats) just elected Michelle Bachelet as their first female President. This woman rose to power without the help of any man. That's a first for South America. Everyone else has been the "wife" of a former leader. You go girl.

  2. Germany elected Angela Merkel as the first female Chancellor. This is quite a feat for a country that still wears nothing but black and has a still too-scary-to-believe percentage of folks who wish the Nazi's would come back. Heil Merkel? I doubt it. This is nothing but positive change even though she seems to be siding with President Bush on a few too many issues for my taste.

  3. Liberia just elected their first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. This woman was in jail for similar reasons to Nelson Mandela. What's amazing is that Africa is the most corrupt and backward continent on the planet. It houses double-digits of dictators (or deposed ones). Sirlead is neither a dictator nor a political virgin. She's on the up and up and it looks like a quality change. Side note: Wasn't something positive bound to happen in Africa at some point? Even with no education you make progress eventually.

So where does this leave the USA? Hillary Clinton seems the natural progression of the trend. But that just doesn't feel right for conservatives or liberals. We live in a country where 80% of the geography is filled with 95% of the people that hate. That includes all kinds of top-notch, high quality hatred: black, white, rich, poor, Asian, Jew, you name it. I don't foreseee a woman getting into the most powerful office in the USA anytime soon because, believe it or not, a few of these hatred filled monkey-folk actually vote! But I hope to see the trend of female leadership continue.

Why? Because women, to be quite honest, are just better rulers. They rule, to some extent, the same way they think. There is some semblance of emotion involved. Now the average mid-western red-neck might say something along the lines of, "Damn boy, you want that there Preseedent to be all whinin' and complainin' once a month? You're one damn crazy Jew boy. Ya'll just go back where you came from." To which I say, "Actually, Mr. Neck, based on the average age of the US Presidents, if a woman got elected, she's probably already be post-menopausal... idiot."

Men are not necessarily born leaders. They have no need to nuture others as women do. Why would you think they could nuture a country? Men have the following instincts:
  1. Spread seed of life
  2. Hunt and kill animals to feed ones self
  3. Defend territory from other monkey men
  4. Spread more seed

Given these instincts and the general knowledge of the universe I pose the following question: What the fuck are we thinking?

Lets review the basic instincts of a woman:
  1. Accept seed from first willing monkey to create small monkeys
  2. Gather or grow food to feed self and monkey (monkey comes first)
  3. Nuture mini-monkey into large monkey
  4. Help any non-monkey offspring to find monkey companions and berate them for not being good hunters, seed spreaders, etc. (i.e. Mother-In-Law)

Desperate times call for desperate change. So I present to you, the good people of the USA some slogans for the next Presidential election:

  1. Vote woman, not monkey for the next President.
  2. Monkeys unite to get us the hell out of office.
  3. Less war, more bananas. Women for President.
  4. Go Goddess. A return to the feminine ideal.
  5. Women's lib is on the march. Or was. Whatever.
  6. Roe v Wade is going away. You will be responsible for your seed like never before Wake up Monkey Men!