Sunday, March 27, 2005

Kayaking with Seals

Great day today! I went kayaking with two friends and we had the good fortune of great weather and an abundance of harbor seals. There's an area off the coast where the harbor seals like to hang out and while we were kayaking in the area a few of the seals came over to investigate us. (Yeah, the little blob in the lower right of the picture is a seal. Honest. Click on the picture for a slightly better view.)


Lately I've found myself saving quotes from various people. I like when I find a sentence or two that conveys a lot of meaning or feeling in just a few words. Today I was reading the liner notes for Moby's latest CD Hotel and came across this snippet:

"we exist and we strive and we love and we cry and we laugh and we run around and we sleep and we build things and we have sex and then we die and, not to sound too depressing, the world is wiped clean of our biological presence. which, from my perspective, makes our brief biological time here all the more precious due to it's relative brevity."

Note: the lack of capital letters and incorrect grammatical use of "it's" are in the original liner notes. I'd prefer to leave the quote it in its original form rather than insert [sic].

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Zero down-time

It seems the past week or two I've had no idle time for musings... hence no blog posts.

Since I have so little free time lately, I figured it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of books to read (note, this is my attempt at irony). I was recently in a bookstore and the following books struck my fancy (and my wallet):

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time This is a unique novel written from the point of view of an autistic teenager. It's total fiction, but for some reason is quite interesting and entertaining.

Running with Scissors While hanging around in the bookstore, I was standing in the biography section and I commented to a friend that I've never really found biographies interesting. I'm not a big reader and when I do read it tends to be fiction. So, after commenting on how I don't like biographies, I decided maybe I should give them a chance. So, by chance, I happened on this memoir by Augusten Burroughs. The title initially caught my eye, and I was further lured by cover which had a washed-out photograph of a child with a cardboard box on his head. It's a pretty odd book about someone's strange childhood, but I found the writing style quite engaging and after reading the first few pages I decided to buy it.

How the Mind Works This is a non-fiction book by Steven Pinker. The title pretty clearly describes what it's about. From skimming a chapter or two, it definitely looks like good stuff.

A Japanese Reader This is a collection of lessons on reading Japanese. I took a semester of Japanese back in college many years ago. I enjoyed it, but I was also taking Chinese at the time and was starting to get the two confused, and Chinese won out. Since I'm now studying Okinawan Karate, I thought it might be useful to try to work on the Japanese language studies again. I think all of that knowledge from college has long since faded, but I'm hoping I can make a new start and maybe find I haven't completely forgotten all the details.

The Science Book This is almost like a coffee-table book - not something you will necessarilly read from cover-to-cover in one sitting, but it's a nice reference with lots of pictures. It's a collection of 250 milestones in the history of science - starting with the origins of counting (back in 35,000 BC) and ending with the Human Genome Sequence in 2000 AD. Every two pages are dedicate to a specific milestone, so you whatever page you open the book to, you get a nice summary of one specific milestone.

Ultimate Flexibility, A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts I've always been pretty poor on the flexibility and since I started karate back in January I figure I can use some extra pointers on stretching. This book is pretty comprehensive and covers a lot of the details on the physiology of stretching, the muscle groups involved, what types of stretching are best for certain applications, plus it has good descriptions and photos of over 200 individual stretches.

In addition to these books I just bought, I'm still reading two novels: Fade and A Confederacy of Dunces.

While I was waiting in the check-out line at the bookstore, I was standing in front of a collection of CDs on their "impulse-buy" rack. I noticed they had the new CD from Moby which I had been meaning to pick up, so I add that to my purchase. It's very good music, especially the track Slipping Away. I'm glad I had forgotten to buy it on iTunes earlier this week. The in-store version includes a second disc with a bunch of ambient music tracks.

Friday, March 18, 2005

I prefer mine mashed

I friend of mine keyed me in to this cool mix of the Beatles album Revolver:
It's called Revolved and is a form of mixing called mashing where several songs (from different artists) in the same key and tempo are combined. The person who made these mixes did a great job. It's definitely worth checking out.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Back in Detroit

I have no idea how this picture will end up looking full size. It looks pretty lousy on my phone.

I'm back in the Detroit airport and have 3 hours to kill so I figured I'd wander back to that fountain I saw a few days ago. I made the mistake of listening to my stomach and grabbed some sushi first, so it was again getting dark by the time I wandered by the fountain. Not the best conditions for my low-res camera. Oh well.

Here's a picture that hopefully shows the look of terminal A which I had attempted to describe earlier.

The monorail can be seen in the upper right.

I really like the new movies-on-demand they now have on NWA international flights. You get to watch any of the movies at any time. While I didn't watch anything on my overnight flight to the UK (I tried to sleep), on the flight back to the US I got to see three films I had missed in the theatres: The Incredibles, Finding Neverland, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. It definitely made the flight time pass quickly. I'm not usually one to watch movies by myself (I feel like I should be doing something else) - which is why I missed these in the theatre - so this flight was a good opportunity to catch up on some recent films. Of the three films, I liked Finding Neverland the best - it had the biggest emotional impact of the three. The Incredibles was good light fun and the computer animation was impressive. I didn't care for A Series of Unfortunate Events very much. It seemed soulless - the unfortunate events (such as people being murdered) were handled so lightly and without much reaction from the main characters it left me cold and uncaring. I suppose since it was a children's film the deaths had to be lessened in their emotional impact, but it seemed they went to far - making it all too detached emotionally.

The Secret History

I just finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Talk about a sad book! The very first page starts with a narrative by the main character - a college student - making reference to how he and his friends murdered one of their friends. I suppose from that intro I should have expected a dark tone, but it still was a bit more depressing than I expected. It was a well written book, but I found all the principal characters so unlikeable that it was hard to have any sympathy for them. I was often left wondering what the author's point was meant to be. Maybe it was the pointlessness of life?

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Some signs found around London:

The above useful signage helps keep the tourists from getting wacked by speeding cars. They've saved me quite a few times. It seems like a simple thing, but when you've spent your whole life conditioned to look left first when crossing a street, it's surprisingly difficult to break the habit.

I liked this emergency exit sign. I find the panicky look of the stick figures amusing.

Tranquil Sunday Afternoon

What could be better than a lazy Sunday afternoon in Starbucks, a decaf café mocha with whipped cream on hand, about to play a game of Lost Cities with a good friend? And I managed to actually win... I think that brings my winning percentage for this game up to about 5%. I really enjoy the game, but usually don't do too well.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

More pictures from Brighton

Brighton was an interesting place. It was a mix of the typical narrow British winding cobblestone streets with quaint historic architecture, along with the Coney Island carnival atmosphere on the sea shore.

The Brighton Pier has all the trappings of a carnival - games of skill where you can win stuffed animals, a video arcade, food booths, and rides. Heck, they even fit a flume ride and a small rollercoaster on that pier! It reminded me of an amuzement park called Rocky Point that was on the ocean near where I grew up in Rhode Island.
Down the beach from the glitzy pier is the torn wreckage of another pier. Apparantly it had been destroyed by gale-force winds several years ago. It was a nice quiet contrast to the other pier. Yin and yang on the ocean's edge.

After taking a wander about the trendy shopping district of Brighton (including a stop in Starbucks for an obligatory hot chocolate), I was pleasantly suprised to find myself in front of a Lego shop.

For a while I had this obsession with Lego, perhaps because I never had any as a child. And now, after thinking I was over this mania, I found myself in front of a whole store dedicated to them. So of course I had to stop in. Bins of loose Lego pieces lined one wall - like a candy store. You could fill different sized cups with the pieces and pay a fixed price. There was also a large barrel filled to the rim with Lego minifig body parts. It was a build-your-own minifig for something like £l. I managed to escape the store having spent only £6. Phew!

As I was leaving Brighton, it was getting dark and the pier was now all lit up in its full carnival glory. I tried to get a snapshot of it, but my mobile phone doesn't do too good with pictures in low light. At least you can get an idea of how large the pier is.

I think I took a few too many pictures of the Royal Pavilion...

*yawn* Ok... that's enough pictures of the pavilion. You can wake up now.

Home thata way!

It's a big ocean, but somewhere waaaay out there across those waters is my home.

Back from Brighton

Well, I'm happy to say there were no head-on collisions and I'm now safely back at my friends' flat in London. To tell the truth, her driving was quite good. The only close call was due to my own absent-mindedness. I was looking the wrong way while walking across a street. Thankfully, one of my friends managed to grab my arm and stop me from walking into the path of an oncoming car. I hate to think what may have happened had I been alone.

Brighton Royal Pavilion

So far so good. No car mishaps, not even any near-misses. Saw this interesting looking building in Brighton. It's not what you think of for historic British architecture, but it was built in the late 1700's - commissioned by King George.

Currently on the drive back to London listening to a one hour interview with Moby on BBC London. Very interesting stuff and great musical interludes. Moby is extremely articulate. I've never heard him interviewed before... They're playing bits from his new album. I must buy it. I especially liked the song I think was called "Slipping Away".

Friday, March 11, 2005

I might die tomorrow...

I suppose the above title applies all the time, except after the inevitable finally does happen, but today I am particularly a wee bit nervous. You see, tomorrow I go on a car trip across the English countryside. And a friend is driving. And even though she's lived in London for the past 5 years, she is American, and doesn't own a car in the UK, and she pretty much only drives in the US (where, for those who are missing the jist of this, we drive on a different side of the road). Oh, and years ago she once ran herself over when she borrowed my jeep (and that's a story I'll have to tell another time). So, as I said, I am a wee bit nervous about this car trip. I'm not saying it would be better if I drove - I have a hard enough time remembering which way to look when crossing the street in London (and they even have it printed on the pavement in large letters at every crosswalk with a nice big arrow - "<- LOOK LEFT", "LOOK RIGHT->". Trouble is, I'm so busy looking down reading the pavement telling me which way to look, I'm not actually looking at the traffic).

So, in case you never hear from me again, I bid you all a fond farewell. Thanks for reading my ramblings. Hopefully it wasn't all a waste of time. And remember what Buddha said.

Get Smart

These cars in London sure are small. This one - called a Smart Car - is pretty odd looking. It only seats two and it doesn't look like they left any room for an engine. Maybe it's powered a la Flinstone style?

Snazzy Airport

I am currently traveling and one leg of my flight left me in the Detroit airport with about 3 hours to kill before my next flight. I was originally dreading the layover, but was pleasantly surprised at how nice this place was. The terminal I was in (terminal A) was an extremely long building - so long that it had a monorail running its length (just like a theme park). The architectural design of the ceiling supports was such that it gave the feel you were inside a very large airplane wing. About mid-way down this terminal was a large marble fountain. It was the type that looks like a gaint wet circular slab punctuated with small holes. At various intervals water would shoot out the holes in an arc making the fountain look like it had a large number of curved glass tubes sitting atop it. (I really ought to have taken a picture but the lighting wasn't too good and all I had with me was my mobile phone which does quite poorly in low light conditions. Maybe on the way back...)

To top off the pleasant airport experience, I was pleased to discover a decent sushi restaurant near my gate. What could be better than that? If you ever get a chance to eat there (it's near gate A38), try the spicey tofu roll!

Monday, March 07, 2005

So much to learn

I started karate classes back in mid-January this year and I now find karate is slowly taking over my life. It's strange - not like anything I've done before. The classes are very challenging and tiring and usually make me feel totally humble about how little I know and can do. Yet, rather than dreading the classes, I find myself wishing they were longer and more frequent. It seems each class teaches me something new and adds to the ever increasing list of all the things I need to work on. Maybe that's what makes it so absorbing - for every one little detail I think I finally get right, I become aware of 5 or 10 more details that I need to work on. There are so many things to learn, it never becomes boring or tedious.

Plus, it seems karate has significantly altered my approach to daily life. I still can't figure out why it has - but it has. I'm now much more productive with my time and procrastinate much less. Maybe it's something in the incense they burn in the dojo or subliminal messages in the background music. I dunno... maybe it was just a simple phrase I once heard Sensei say while teaching one of the children's classes. He said, "Just because something is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it." It's a very simple thing, but for some reason this just resonated with me. Now, whenever I might not feel like doing some chore around the house, or something at work, or some other dreaded task, I remember this quote and find the motivation to do what needs to be done. I really ought to thank Sensei.

Brown paper packages tied up with string

For some reason I like the simplicity of wrapping gifts in brown paper and tying then with twine. No tape is used at all. Maybe it's the rough feel of the paper. Maybe it's because I was too sloppy for normal "pretty" gift wrapping and this method hides it. I just hope it's not because of that song from The Sound of Music.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Are blogs good or bad?

I've been wondering if blogs are actually a good thing or a bad thing. Does it increase communication among people, or decrease it? Does it make someone more self-absorbed or more introspective? Should our time be better spent writing individual messages to friends or does this masss-market approach to speaking ones mind provide a better service to reach all one's friends and acquaintances at once? Is the blog just another step in the de-personalization of society, making us more insular, or does it expose us to many more points of view that we may have never encountered without this technology?

Hmmm... whadya think? Feel free to use the "comment" option below to voice your opinion.

New start

Ok, after fiddling around with a few different blog utilities for my mobile phone/PDA, I think I've found one that offers all the features I was looking for. It's a simple program from Normsoft, called hBlogger. It supports uploading photos and text and it supports quite a few different blog web sites. Normsoft is probably better known for their PocketTunes utility for the PalmOS - a handy little program for listening to MP3s on Palm OS devices (such as the Treo).

I can't guarantee there will ever be anything worth looking at here, especially if the first two test messages (below) are any indication of future content. But feel free to poke around.

Holy smokes! It's a giant cat!

I didn't think it would end up being that big.

This is just a quick test of uploading a photo from my phone. Not much to say about the picture - there's this cat that keeps following me everywhere I go.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Is this thing on?

Short on time. Must not dally. Clickity-click-click.