Qui tangit frangatur.

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, September 29, 2006

A room with a view

Let's hope that the next will have one too, but experience portends that it would be one with blinds down, closed, where, even within one's room, one shambles about with blinders on (outside, one is frog-marched); peering at the world from the bottom of a well through filtered lenses; thoughts drowned out (reprogrammed)--spirit crushed (indoctrinated)--by the incessant blare of thinly-veiled propaganda; the life-denying dystopia of Huxley, with Hamm and Clov's nightmarish cell made real, and Machiavellian, life's means: Uniquely Singapore.

Unique is the word that best captures Singapore, a dynamic city rich in contrast and colour where you'll find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture. A bridge between the East and the West for centuries, Singapore, located in the heart of fascinating Southeast Asia, continues to embrace tradition and modernity today. Brimming with unbridled energy and bursting with exciting events, the city offers countless unique, memorable experiences waiting to be discovered.

[ . . . ]

Singapore is truly a city like no other, a world of possibilities. With its friendly and welcoming people, state-of-the-art infrastructure and something new happening everyday, your stay will be a memorable mix-and-match of all the things you have always wanted to do. Come and enjoy countless fascinating experiences, and take away memories that are uniquely Singapore.
(from "Brand Overview," Singapore Tourism Board)

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

(The Tempest, Shakespeare)

Still, one can hope, wait... bide one's time.

Ubi bene, ibi patria (Teucer, Marcus Pacuvius).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blog flowers, or rather, blog graphs

Here's an interesting meme (sort of), this applet turns your blog into a graph. The following pictures are visualizations of my 3 blogs. Click on any of the links to watch how the graphs form. They look like the pretty flowers in spring, no?

Sand Box's graph.

Pedal Damn It!'s graph.

Waltz of Words's graph


black: the HTML tag, the root node
blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
gray: all other tags

More about the creator of this HTML Graph Applet.

To make a graph of your own blog, go here.

When so little means so much...

A mixed bag of feelings tonight. There's this Mexican restaurant opposite campus, on Franklin Street, that goes by the name of Henry's. It is staffed by 3 very friendly ladies. They have a limited command of English and I have a very poor grasp of Spanish, so our conversations are usually restricted to formalities such as, "Hola! Como sta? Mui bien?" "Gracias!" "Adios!" More complex exchanges would require creative hybridization of English and Spanish, generously garnished with lots of pantomime.

Despite this, we would always be able to communicate the gist of our day across. Their cheery "Hola, Amigo! Como sta?" will always brighten my day when I step in. They would know by a glance whether I am enjoying a rare siesta or being an ant on a hot plate by the manner in which I consume my lunch. Some of my notes have enough red and green salsa stains on them to play a game of Risk on. Often, I step in there and order chips and salsa just so that I can read Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to blaring Mariachi music. Don't ask me why, but Spivak seems easier to understand with Mariachi music in the background and larger-than-life posters of bikini-clad women touting Corona. Loco, yes, I know.

Tonight, they found out that I was going to be leaving the area in short order, and not only insisted on giving me a free dinner, but cooked a double portion too. I tried to put the money in the tip jar but they were quick enough to hide the tip jar under the counter. I tried my best to insist. They tried their best not to understand English. They won.

The high that I have been feeling all day--since this morning (it is amazing how one voice can bring so much joy, but I digress)--was temporarily disrupted. I was touched. Greatly touched. But it was also tinged with a sense of melancholia. A kind of sadness that is felt when one only realizes the existence, significance or value of something (or someone) just when one is about to lose it (or him, or her). How often do we touch lives in passing, never realizing the significance it has on people? I largely view myself as an outsider, someone always on the periphery, looking in. It is a role I have long accepted, even gotten comfortable to. Sure, it does get lonely at times, but by the same token it also grants immunity from the fascism of group identity and the quagmire of group politics. It also frees me to indulge in fringe activities. In short, I see myself as a nomad. Thus, to suddenly realize that I mean something to these 3 ladies who I can barely converse with; who I only see a couple times a week; stunned me: I am part of the community--their community. A fajita steak dinner is probably an hour's wages for them, and yet they did not hesitate in giving it as a going-away gift for someone whose name they do not even know. Come to think of it, I don't know the names of any of them either.

I think some of the most generous and beautiful gifts are those given spontaneously, without expectation in return, and sometimes, to complete strangers. Years back, when I was living in Palo Alto, rushing for the train one drizzly morning, I hopped on before I realized I didn't have enough cash on me for the fare. After playing catch with the conductor for 15 minutes--slinking from carriage to carriage--he finally cornered me in the last car. As I was futilely trying to convince him that I do have money by showing him credit cards and ATM cards (cash ONLY please!), just before he was preparing to kick me off the train at the next station, another passenger intervened and paid my fare. When I approached the good samaritan later to thank him and to get his address so that I can send him a cheque, he simply replied, "Just help out the next person in your position." It is something I remember and practice today. Whether I give a spare tire tube or a patch kit to a biker with a flat, or a quart of oil, a gallon of coolant to a stranded motorist, I refuse compensation--just help out the next stranger.

When the food was ready, all 3 ladies stood before me, with smiles, and hugs, and blessings for my journey ahead.

I still don't know their names. But do we need to know names to care for someone? For them to mean something to us? For them to be part of our world?

What's in a name? I rather know his or her thoughts, dreams, hopes, hurts, regrets; what makes them tick? What makes them cry? What makes them laugh? What makes them them. What makes them more than a name.

I have always envisioned myself as a nomad, distantly viewing in from the periphery, never knowing that in my solitary journey, I have been creating a community whose borders span beyond the horizon of my hopes.

I did manage to slip a twenty into the tip jar under the counter when the ladies were all looking away. (See? I told you, I have long arms.)


Having a triple espresso iced mocha as I type this :-P

Trivia: Glycogen is the principal fuel for muscles and exhaustion occurs when it is depleted. A secondary fuel, which is much more abundant, is fat. As long as there is still glycogen available, working muscles can utilize fat. Caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel. This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for a prolongation of exercise. The critical time period in glycogen sparing appears to occur during the first 15 minutes of exercise, where caffeine has been shown to decrease glycogen utilization by as much as 50%. Glycogen saved at the beginning is thus available during the later stages of exercise. (Source)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dominus illuminatio mea

It was so nice to sing with the Santa Clara Mission Choir again. Not having sung for an entire summer, my vocal cords were exhausted by the end of the night.

Beautiful voices soaring through a resonant hall, what more can one ask on a Sunday night?

In his homily tonight, Father Jack Treacy quoted an old Jewish saying, "It is far holier to struggle with temptation than to be complacent in perfection."

Food for thought.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cell phone, thy true name

Christopher's latest post struck a chord with me:

Digital Shackle

Ong and I went to go look at getting new cell phones today. It is just my humble opinion that one must be insane to pay $100-200 for a cell phone. There is no magic voodoo or electronic greatness that can possibly justify paying that kind of money — particularly for something that so disposable.

A cell phone has unfortunately become a basic necessity. Your phone goes everywhere you go. And why? Again my humble opinion, the cell phone is designed to make it so you never have to think or have a moment to yourself. If you are have having a thought, you can quickly call someone to discuss something mindless and worthless. Or better yet, you can be interrupted to escape the truly urgent.

So why would someone pay $200 for a digital shackle?

Why indeed?

Oh, I know!
For the security of, "Oh, look at me! I'm part of the crowd!"


Saturday, September 23, 2006


Heraclitus once said no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man (Fragment 41). A poem I simply thought was cute and novel a long time ago now bears special significance to me.

Amazing which page a book can turn to when accidentally dropped, eh?

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

(e. e. cummings)

I miss noone.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nice to know I am not alone

Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A Blessing in Disguise

Yes, they are alive and can have those colors,
But I, in my soul, am alive too.
I feel I must sing and dance, to tell
Of this in a way, that knowing you may be drawn to me.

And I sing amid despair and isolation
Of the chance to know you, to sing of me
Which are you. You see,
You hold me up to the light in a way

I should never have expected, or suspected, perhaps
Because you always tell me I am you,
And right. The great spruces loom.
I am yours to die with, to desire.

I cannot ever think of me, I desire you
For a room in which the chairs ever
Have their backs turned to the light
Inflicted on the stone and paths, the real trees

That seem to shine at me through a lattice toward you.
If the wild light of this January day is true
I pledge me to be truthful unto you
Whom I cannot ever stop remembering.

Remembering to forgive. Remember to pass beyond you into the day
On the wings of the secret you will never know.
Taking me from myself, in the path
Which the pastel girth of the day has assigned to me.

I prefer "you" in the plural, I want "you,"
You must come to me, all golden and pale
Like the dew and the air.
And then I start getting this feeling of exaltation.

(from Shadow Train, John Ashbery)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pampering the enemy

When conditions for terrorists are better detained in prison than operating in the field, you know that the administration has gotten its priorities mixed up.


By Richard Miniter

September 15, 2006 -- GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA

ON the military plane back from America's most famous terrorist holding pen, the in-flight film was "V for Vendetta," a screed that tries to justify terrorism. It was a fitting end to a surreal, military-sponsored trip.

The Pentagon seemed to be hoping to disarm its critics by showing them how well it cares for captured terrorists. The trip was more alarming than disarming. I spent several hours with Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who heads the joint task force that houses and interrogates the detainees. (The military isn't allowed to call them "prisoners.")

Harris, a distinguished Navy veteran who was born in Japan and educated at Annapolis and Harvard, is a serious man trying to do a politically impossible job. I spoke with him at length, and with a dozen other officers and guards, and visited three different detention blocks.

The high-minded critics who complain about torture are wrong. We are far too soft on these guys - and, as a result, aren't getting the valuable intelligence we need to save American lives.

The politically correct regulations are unbelievable. Detainees are entitled to a full eight hours sleep and can't be woken up for interrogations. They enjoy three meals and five prayers per day, without interruption. They are entitled to a minimum of two hours of outdoor recreation per day.

Interrogations are limited to four hours, usually running two - and (of course) are interrupted for prayers. One interrogator actually bakes cookies for detainees, while another serves them Subway or McDonald's sandwiches. Both are available on base. (Filet o' Fish is an al Qaeda favorite.)

Interrogations are not video or audio taped, perhaps to preserve detainee privacy.

Call it excessive compassion by a nation devoted to therapy, but it's dangerous. Adm. Harris admitted to me that a multi-cell al Qaeda network has developed in the camp. Military intelligence can't yet identify their leaders, but notes that they have cells for monitoring the movements and identities of guards and doctors, cells dedicated to training, others for making weapons and so on.

And they can make weapons from almost anything. Guards have been attacked with springs taken from inside faucets, broken fluorescent light bulbs and fan blades. Some are more elaborate. "These folks are MacGyvers," Harris said.

Other cells pass messages from leaders in one camp to followers in others. How? Detainees use the envelopes sent to them by their attorneys to pass messages. (Some 1,000 lawyers represent 440 prisoners, all on a pro bono basis, with more than 18,500 letters in and out of Gitmo in the past year.) Guards are not allowed to look inside these envelopes because of "attorney-client privilege" - even if they know the document inside is an Arabic-language note written by a prisoner to another prisoner and not a letter to or from a lawyer.

That's right: Accidentally or not, American lawyers are helping al Qaeda prisoners continue to plot.

There is little doubt what this note-passing and weapons-making is used for. The military recorded 3,232 incidents of detainee misconduct from July 2005 to August 2006 - an average of more than eight incidents per day. Some are nonviolent, but the tally includes coordinated attacks involving everything from throwing bodily fluids on guards (432 times) to 90 stabbings with homemade knives.

One detainee slashed a doctor who was trying to save his life; the doctors wear body armor to treat their patients.

The kinder we are to terrorists, the harsher we are to their potential victims.

Striking the balance between these two goods (humane treatment, foreknowledge of deadly attacks) is difficult, but the Bush administration seems to lean too far in the direction of the detainees. No expense spared for al Qaeda health care: Some 5,000 dental operations (including teeth cleanings) and 5,000 vaccinations on a total of 550 detainees have been performed since 2002 - all at taxpayer expense. Eyeglasses? 174 pairs handed out. Twenty two detainees have taxpayer-paid prosthetic limbs. And so on.

What if a detainee confesses a weakness (like fear of the dark) to a doctor that might be useful to interrogators, I asked the doctor in charge, would he share that information with them? "My job is not to make interrogations more efficient," he said firmly. He cited doctor-patient privacy. (He also asked that his name not be printed, citing the potential for al Qaeda retaliation.)

Food is strictly halal and averages 4,200 calories per day. (The guards eat the same chow as the detainees, unless they venture to one of the on-base fast-food joints.) Most prisoners have gained weight.

Much has been written about the elaborate and unprecedented appeal process. Detainees have their cases reviewed once a year and get rights roughly equivalent to criminals held in domestic prisons. I asked a military legal adviser: In what previous war were captured enemy combatants eligible for review before the war ended? None, he said.

America has never faced an enemy who has so ruthlessly broken all of the rules of war - yet never has an enemy been treated so well.

Of Gitmo's several camps, military records show that the one with the most lenient rules is the one with the most incidents and vice versa. There is a lesson in this: We should worry less about detainee safety and more about our own.

Some 20 current detainees have direct personal knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and nearly everyone of the current 440 say they would honored to attack America again. Let's take them at their word.

Richard Miniter ( is a bestselling author and adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.


Many thanks to Amy for finding this article.

Anyone remember how the Islamofascists generally treat American captives (many of them non-combatants and civilians)?

Oh yes, they cut their heads off.

You heard it here first

The latest E. Coli outbreak is Bush's fault!

Wah! Waah! Waaah!

Big and Small

"Great Danes and Chihuahuas," by David Shankbone, 16 September 2006.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cassie at Briones Regional Park

Cassie is a Labrador and Basset Hound mix.

She is actually a stealth WMD delivery system :-P

Sunday, September 17, 2006

There was no end--only circles--like tendrils of bindweed--around and around--

Found myself re-reading The Story of Heathcliff's Journey Back to Wuthering Heights, by Lin Haire-Sargeant. It is an enjoyable read even though my first encounter with Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights in secondary school did nothing for me (most of the time I was wondering what was it with the morons sleeping next to windows that regularly burst open during storms. I mean, come on, any twit with half a functioning brain would have moved the bed away from the windows, no?)

One of the letters from Heathcliff which Catherine never read:

Gimmerton, 10 April 1784


It is I, Heathcliff--

I am come back to you.

I write this not two miles from where you lie asleep, and tomorrow I will wait in a carriage--my own carriage, Cathy--for the one word that gives me the right to claim you. Send that word and claim you I will, though to do it I must shed heart's blood in every room at the Heights, and wade through the results to carry you out.

But first you must read this account of my actions since I have been gone, so you will understand why I left, what strange imperative kept me away for three long years, and how it is that I am now in a position to rescue us both.


From the jacket:

Sprung from the soil, sky and brambles of the Yorkshire moors, the man called Heathcliff and his soul mate Cathy are two of the world's most unforgettable lovers--at the center of Emily Brontë's work of genius, the beloved Wuthering Heights. Vagabond son of nature and landowner's daughter, their hearts beat as one until ambition and destiny tore them asunder. For three years, Heathcliff disappeared--and transformed himself from a stableboy into a wealthy gentleman. It is these three lost years that Lin Haire-Sargeant masterfully chronicles in H.--. Beginning in 1844 as a train steams through the dusk from London to Leeds, this stunning novel transports us into a realm we feel immediately is no less real than our own.

On that northbound train, young Charlotte Brontë makes the acquaintance of a Mr. Lockwood, who shares with her a curious document: a letter written to one Catherine Earnshaw sixty years before by a man known only as Heathcliff. It is a letter that Catherine never received--a letter hidden from her by her housekeeper. Despairing of Heathcliff, Catherine wed her aristocratic suitor, Edgar Linton. Now the dying servant has turned over the yellowed chronicle to her friend Lockwood with a query: was she right to keep it a secret? Troubled by the question, fascinated by the spectres of Cathy and Heathcliff, who seemed strangely alive in the nether regions of her mind and in the snowswept night, Charlotte trims the lamp and begins to read the account of Heathcliff's missing years.

In Heathcliff's own words, here is what happened after he fled Wuthering Heights--determined to die or to become a gentleman worthy of Cathy's complete devotion. Guided only by the faintest glimmer of childhood memory, goaded by ambition, beset by longing and secret dread, he begins his journey . . . a quest that will take him from beggar's streets to gracious mansions, from blind jealously to a brutal confrontation with his rival, from the dark thornwood of his own roots to his rightful inheritance. Yet as he travels ever further from his old life, his heart quickens with one thought alone: of the day he will ride up the hill to Wuthering Heights, and return to Cathy's embrace.

Entrancing, moving and irresistibly vivid, H.-- portrays the dramatic transformation of one man and the enduring power of love. Beautifully true to the style of Wuthering Heights and faithful to the characters as only a gifted artist can be, Lin Haire-Sargeant neither gilds nor shadows the classic novel yet illuminates it as wonderfully alive. A writer of remarkable sympathy and craft, she has created both an unforgettable story and a vibrant confirmation of Wuthering Heights' timeless magic, which lives on in our imaginations and our hearts. (from Pocket Books first hardcover printing July 1992)

The real beauty of--and poignancy in--the book are the letters from Heathcliff, which Catherine never read. I believe it echoes an unspoken longing, a never-fulfilled sentiment in all of us: the wish for an audience, however remote, however far away, however much a stranger, to acknowledge our anguish and pain even in the most private moments of our suffering and angst. The letters unread represent a truncated moment of humanity, the act of communication forever silenced, passion unacknowledged, orphaned. Wilted. More than "What if?" this, I believe, is the locus of Professor Lin Haire-Sargeant's book.

What happens to thoughts unsaid? Love unheard?

Well, nothing. And, as a mad old king once warned, "Nothing will come from nothing." Thus, nothing comes of it. Nothing remains. Nothing, but echoes of what once was living, pining, grieving, dying, now dead. All that remains remain sheafed between torn yellowed pages. A dead world of whispering shadows within a crumbling book. Desunt cetera.

I was born to smile just as you turn your face to the door, and to wear a mask when you look back.
After the storm I was ill. I heard them say I would die, was dead already, so I let myself dream.
Our mother came to the edge of our bed, but she was in grave-clothes so I ran from her.
You ran from me, Heathcliff. You wanted to be done with me
You changed yourself into a hawk and flew far, far into the blue above the moor where I stood, until you were only a black speck against the sun--
But I became the spreading oak you homed to when your wings sagged. I closed my branches around you against the changeful moon.
But you saw it through my leaves. Coiling out of yourself you became a loathsome curling serpent, hissing venom--
Yet I was not afraid. I became the little bird that sang so sweet you rose your neck in the air and danced.
But you danced out of your skin and left it shimmering. I looked up. Now, on the very tip of a high mountain, you were in a stout castle, a castle with a hundred windows, at every window a huntsman's hand, in every hand a bow, in every bow an arrow cocked, to pierce me if I found you out--
But I became the bright lantern set in the highmost tower of the castle, beaming you the safe path home over the cruel mountains.
And I saw you coming, against the light, your outline as it was when you stood in the kitchen doorway from outside, and I in shadow
Then I woke and Nelly said husht
it was only a cloud across the sun, a
branch in the wind, a
bird on the sill
husht, my darling


I paid one last visit to the room I had prepared for you. I left a bud from a late-blooming rosebush in a glass on the ivory table by your bed as a covenant that you would be there to see it when it had opened out into its blossom. I locked the door behind me and put the key in my pocket. Alas, as I write, the crumbling petals of that rose must lie as they fell, fell day by day like the dry tears of one who is beyond hope, for I have not been back.


Everyday it is the same. He asks to marry me and I say, yes, by and by, I will live in a fine house adorned inside with white satin and outside with peacocks on an emerald lawn. Their cries the only things that speak of you.
When the sun shines I will take his arm and say yes and no and I will hold myself erect as I walk from room to room. My legs will not touch the lining of my stiff skirt.
And why should I not be happy? I will be happy, happy! For you will never return. If you were alive, you would have sent me word. You must be dead.
No, not only dead, but damned, for heaven would have let you speak--a branch bent groundward on a still day, a single leaf spiralling from a blank sky, an egg rolled out from nowhere across the floor--I would have heard.
No, not damned, but annihilated. Hell itself would not hold you from me. There is neither hell nor heaven in the place where you are.
On the day I am married I will walk from room to room in the spotless house, but that night I will slip from his bed and move barefoot over the silent clean carpets down down through the kitchen to the cellar where they hide the earth smell (they cannot scrub it away)
moving through the thick dark my feet will find the patch of damp earth in the corner. If I stand perfectly quiet in the dark, if I listen very hard, I will hear
the dry rustle of dead vines climbing the cellar wall
pale flowers flash behind the lids of my eyes
nothing to do but stand still


Tomorrow I will be a bride and he will come to me with his breast abloom.
But how can I flower without you? He is a stranger who comes for me, a gilded man in a picture, whose kisses are paper not fire like yours, my hawk, my eagle.

Not mine. You left me.
I dash you from the sky. You are nothing to me--never leaping the wall in the morning with the sun at your back, never reaching out from the barn shadows, never whispering a secret word in my pillow.
Never riding over the hill again.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


'Just got back from Big Sur. There is something special about driving at night in fall. Something about the brisk, dense, roaring cold air bringing out the scent of the woods, the falling leaves, the pounding surf, with its salt spray... It is best described as winter with color minus the wet, rainy roads. How did a line from The Art of Noise go?

Sound and perfume swirl in the evening air...

For a couple of hours, there I was, top off, windows down, hurtling through the darkness at up to a hundred miles per hour, the trajectory of my will only dimly imposed by a pair of anemic headlights. Inside, the radio off, all that accompanied me were the thoughts in my head, the heater on full blast, and the roar of the darkness outside. For a while, I became the unacknowledged third, accompanying Clov and Hamm, going about the routine, watching the hours pass, steadily wilting under its assaults, proving the terrible inscription, Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat, truth.

CLOV: Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.

Cacooned in my car, warmth, thoughts, possibilities, and yes, dreams; outside, the nameless roar of darkness, chance, and yes, perhaps tragedy.

HAMM: Outside of here it's death!

Peering through the glass darkly, I hurtled on through the night.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Growing up." Oh, really?

Why don't you grow up?

It's time to grow up.

It's about time you be serious and grow up.

What's listed above is a but a small sample of the messages I occasionally received from friends and acquaintances. The frequency of which has increased dramatically ever since Cloe was built. Which leads me to ask, what does it mean to "grow up"?

To these folks, it means getting married, having kids, and then spending the next 2 to 3 decades paying for it. I do not see how being saddled with baggage (in its entire range of meanings) qualifies as the mark of adulthood. If "growing up" means being stuck in a job just to pay for a situation of your own making, then I will have none of it.

I do not consider such advice as well-meaning. I do not even consider them deluded. I consider them malicious, for misery loves company. Why should I give up my precious mobility--geographical, economic, cultural, social and academic--just to please you? Pardon the French, but, Who the fuck do you think you are?

I can go anywhere I wish. Do anything I wish. Live anyhow I wish. If that freedom arouses unbearable envy in you, then, well, you made your bed, now sleep in it. If I decide to spend 10 years, like Professor Hammerud did, employing Derrida and Lacan to interrogate how "Pip" transmogrifies to "Handel" and then finally to "Philip" in Dickens' Great Expectations, I can do that. We are all agents of free choice, unless we choose not to. Be honorable enough to shoulder your own consequences and refrain from attempting to shunt your burden to others under the guise of friendship. A serpent among the flowers has more honor: it hunts because it must. In my not-so-humble opinion, slogging the next 2 decades off to pay for the consequences of one night's indulgence between sweaty sheets does not a man--or growing up--make. Billions of homo sapiens have rutted and bred, rutted and bred. You are nothing special. Get over yourself.

Lemmings. Lemmings. How strange that some are proud to be lemmings!

What do I hear most often from the breeders? Complaints about bills. Bills. Bills. Bills. They take on jobs not for the love of the work, but because they need to pay the bills. Suddenly, out of necessity, money becomes the most important part of their lives. It is no longer about self-fulfillment, self-development, but merely to keep afloat, keep the kids brats fed and clothed. Overnight, these people become zombies of Mammon. Well, excuse me if the applause you expect for your noble sacrifice is not forthcoming from me. Here are two syllables for free though: schmuck. Pardon me if I have no interest in joining your lifestyle just so that I can trade empathetic sentiments about the plight of Al Bundy with you over a beer.

To quote Professor Lin Haire-Sargeant,

Have you done with anathematizing me, sirrah? How much examination will your own life bear? Will your every action prove without blemish when exposed to the harsh light of conventional sanctity?

"Grow up"? When you were freaking out to Mommy about your first nocturnal emission, I was cycling up a 7641 ft (2329 m) mountain on a self-supported trip--in a foreign country where I do not speak the language. How's that for growing up?

Elevation 6593 ft (2010 m). Touring East Java with Michelle (Bridgestone MB-3), 1992.

Ordinarily, I would sign off with an image like this, but this time I think I have an even better idea: a series of pictures.

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards. (Edward Abbey)

Crater rim.

Active crater.

Shut up and ride your bike. C'mon (Lance Armstrong).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Innocents & Lolita

The first page...

From the back cover:

Written when Cathy Coote was nineteen, Innocents is a taut, wickedly clever descent into the anatomy of an obsession, the debut of a precociously assured and provocative young literary voice. Forcing someone vulnerable and naive into a sexual relationship to satisfy a twisted desire is perverted, even evil. But when the perpetrator is a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, is she culpable? And if the victim is her thirty-four-year-old teacher, shouldn't he have known better? Unforgettable, disturbing, and morally complex, Innocents permanently unsettles our notions of innocence, experience, and power, and suggests that we all are culpable.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Coote turns Nabokov on his head in this tale of an Aussie Lolita. . . . Coote deserves acclaim not just for the narrator's remarkably compelling voice but for so ruthlessly limning her deepening psychosis. . . . Tar-black comedy and psychosexual gamesmanship--both make for an enthralling and ultimately sobering debut.

Think of the claustrophobia in Dostoevsky's Crime of Punishment, but instead of sweltering with Raskolnikov in his musty room, under the sword of Damocles, one is trapped in an emotional maelstrom that excludes all--consumes all--as a teenaged predator preys on her helpless teacher and wrings all--girl, man, and reader--on the rack of illicit passion and forbidden desire. An indulgent, if tormented, voyeuristic read without the wider societal commentary--and thus, complexity--of Nabokov's seminal novel.

When I was reading Lolita for fun, the mere sight of this cover in class would drive the puritanical, sanctimonious, self-wedgie-giving, Exlax-addicted, self-appointed guardians of morality puritans crazy. Anyone who condemns this masterpiece based on a surface reading is a simpleton (and anyone who condemns a book based on its cover doesn't deserve to be in college). This is one of the greatest love stories ever told. Probably even the only possible love story in the last century. It is also the story of a hypercivilized Europe's doomed love affair with the New World.

Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion. (Simon Leake).

Monday, September 11, 2006


Deora Bodley
April 8, 1981 - September 11, 2001.

Quem di diligunt, adolescens moritur.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


It has been almost ten years (9 years and 11 months to be exact) since I purchased a bike, so I wanted the next one to be extra special. Rather than buy one off the shop floor, I decided to build one myself. Every component has been spec'd to my preferences--even her frame is custom made by master craftsmen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is truly unique--one of a kind. True to her namesake, she blooms with the sparkle, shine, and glow of virgin, polished Titanium, ready to hurtle, climb, and descend through verdant forest corridors, bare mountain tops, hidden canyons, and secret valleys. So, say "Hi" to Cloe.

Click on the image or here for more pics and her specs.

I have a feeling we will have much adventure and weather many a storm together...

1880, Pierre-Auguste Cot.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A quiet joy, but nevertheless real

There is very little that compares with the experience of initially cracking open a new book: the stark contrast of the bare title against a vast background of empty white; the hidden story (or stories)--that may never be revealed--behind each name on the dedication page; and the promise of entry into a world that has been so easily granted by a mere purchase.

Warm on my skin, the evening sun hangs low in the sky. The crisp winds of early autumn blow with gentle persuasion; weeds, flowers, shrubs and tips of branches bow and sway, whispering in agreement. As I open a new tome, a zephyr scatters a sprinkling of purplish wisteria petals across my lap, and the leaves of my book--a veritable druidic sanctification.

I look up and smile in gratitude at the unseen Architect of this joyous serendipity.

What is love?

Why, this is.

Brace, brace, brace for impact!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And so it begins...

When are you going to get married?

The more pertinent question is, was it social pressure, government propaganda, or relatives that got to my Mom and led her to put forth such a question?

Sorry, Mom. Don't wait up for grandchildren from me. Your hopes are better served directed at my siblings.

Haven't you heard? In the words of some of my detractors, I'm Peter Pan. I.e. I will never grow up. That's OK though. I will dance on their graves (since they are always in such a hurry to grow up--and grow old).

Besides, I haven't completely ruled this out yet. If I am going to be a mule or some other beast of burden, it will only be for the greater glory of God, no one else.

Ab imo pectore.


Related Tags:  Fail, test, microsoft

Voice "recognition."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

And the pounds just melt away...

145.6 lbs (66.2 kg).
7.8% body fat.
At 6 feet 2 inches (187 cm), the numbers may seem really skinny by normal standards, but, in the cycling world, it is actually the average for billy goats. I.e. climbers.

For the time being, 7.5% to 8% body fat is my comfortable level. At 7% body fat and below, I feel cold easily.

How important is weight?

What makes a great climber, especially in the mountains, is an excellent power to weight ratio.

Power to weight ratio has two components: first, the ability to ride for long periods of time at a Maximum Sustainable (MS) power.

Typically a top climber can ride at 10% or more above threshold power (or threshold heart rate) for 30-60 minutes.

Second, top climbers have a low enough body weight so that the MS power translates into an advantage going uphill. Having a high maximum sustainable power output will make an excellent time-trialist on flat roads where the main obstacle is wind drag.

To carry over this advantage to climbing, you need a low enough body weight in relation to your MS power. This is especially true on long and steep climbs.

On short climbs of less than 5 minutes, so-called "non-climbers" can still make it over with the front riders with their very high MS power even though they may have an inferior power-to-weight ratio, due to their heavier body weight.

Bjarne Riis, winner of the 1996 Tour de France, illustrated how much body weight can make a difference while going uphill. Riis beat the great Miguel Indurain in 1996. At the time of his win Riis weighed 150lbs (68kgs) and had a MS power of 480 watts while going all-out on a climb or time trial. This gave him an incredible power to weight ratio of 7 watts per kilogram (480 / 68 = 7). 7 watts /kg is widely regarded as the magic number in order to be one of the world's best.

Indurain had a MS power of 550 watts when going all-out, a much higher number than Riis. However, he weighed in at 176lbs (80kgs), 26lbs heavier than Riis! This gave him a power to weight ration of 6.8 watts/kg (550 / 80 = 6.8), 0.2 less than Riis.

Indurain's much higher MS power gave him the advantage in the time trials, where the main obstacle is wind drag. However, on the longest, steepest climbs of the Tour, this was not the case, as Riis' 0.2 watts/kg advantage made all the difference.

[ . . . ]

Some cyclists are already at 4% - 5% body fat (for men), and in this case the only improvements they can make to their climbing is by increasing their threshold and MS power.

Here's a mathematical example:

Utilization of a rider’s Power-to-Weight Ratio (P/W) is most commonly found when assessing their climbing ability.  Let us assume there are two riders of equivalent abilities with identical bikes and components.  Both cyclists will be climbing the same climb side-by-side at exactly the same time on exactly the same day under exactly the same conditions.
Rider-1 weighs in at 175 lbs. and has an average sustainable power on said climb of 475 watts.  Rider-2 weighs in at 130 lbs. and has an average sustainable power on the same climb of 380 watts.  If someone were to base their opinion of each rider’s climbing ability solely on their power, they might think that Rider-1 would be able to easily beat Rider-2 to the top of the mountain.  Granted, Rider-1’s sustainable climbing power is 95 watts GREATER THAN Rider-2’s (ca. 20%); however, power is not the only variable riders are aware of while dragging themselves up a climb.  TOTAL Weight (body, bike frame, components, wheels, etc.) also plays an important role

The effort a climbing rider (measured in power) is directed in part along each of these two vectors.  Although the rider’s mass factors into each of these directional vectors, it plays a bigger role as WEIGHT when you factor in the affect of gravity along the vertical vector.  Stated simply, P/W could also represent H/V as a means of determining how much of a rider’s climbing power will be used to move along the horizontal vector (general direction of progression) compared to overcoming the influences of gravity along the vertical vector.
Getting back to our two riders.  When we now account for each of their weights in addition to their climbing powers, we find that P/W1 = 2.71 Watts/lb, whereas P/W2 = 2.92 Watts/lbAll things being equal, Rider-2 will get to the top of the climb before Rider-1, even though Rider-1 can generate approximately 20% more power than Rider-2
. (Source)

Power-to-Weight Ratio (besides talent and physical fitness, of course) could explain for Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2006's latest sign up: Janez Brajkovic.

Janez is 5 feet 8 inches (172 cm) tall, weighs between 115 to 130 lbs (52 to 59 kg), and climbs like a bat out of hell.

Since his first racing season in 2001, Brajkovic has exhibited his skill at the top U23 level and had a breakthrough season in 2004, capped by his victory at the Worlds in Italy. On paper, Holland´s Thomas Dekker appeared unbeatable, but Brajkovic won the near 37km event by 18 seconds over Dekker at an average speed of 47.0km/h (29.2mph), and was the only man to break the 47 minute mark too.

Yes, cyclists who specialize in climbing look scrawny, but try keeping up with them in the mountains.

Any hulk, wrestler, or macho man who thinks otherwise is welcome to prove me wrong by joining me for a Mount Hamilton Double with 9536 ft / 2907 m of climbing (road), or a Mount Diablo Double with 9044 ft / 2757 m of climbing (off-road). Let's see how your giant pecs and 400 lb (181 kg) bench presses help you keep up in the mountains :P

Sunday, September 03, 2006


"physical intimacy doesn’t solve your problems."

The quote from Jared is so true. If there's anything I learnt from romantic relationships, it is that. IMHO, it is worse when the sex is great because it runs a higher risk of being abused as a crutch to gloss over incompatibilities and fundamental problems in a relationship. The orgasmic high and momentary sense of oneness becomes a drug to distract--to numb--one from the pain of a dead-end relationship. And when the relationship ultimately--inevitably--falls apart, the memory of intimate moments shared lingers on to resurface in the depths of the night--to cut deep, to remind one of the emptiness on the other side of the bed. It is amazing how a little space--2 feet by 6 feet--can seem so vast, empty and cold in-between the terrible private hours of drifting off and waking.

That is not to say I wholly regret these indulgences (religious implications of sin notwithstanding), it is just that sometimes the price seems too high.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Optimum Puncture Protection