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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Monday, April 28, 2008


Over the weekend, at the gracious invitation of Constantine the Younger, I found myself partaking in Easter celebrations at a Russian Orthodox chapel, Uspenja Bogorodice (Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God). (Yes, Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar.)

What a pleasant surprise! Eddie Woogy!

Who's that hiding behind Constantine?

A pair of rabbit ears becomes two, as Elizaveta joins Viktoriia. Hmm... with its super fast Ultrasonic™ image stabilzer, the Canon S5 IS is beginning to look tempting. Anyway, a much better picture of the irrepressible girls can be found here.

Everyone gets a candle.

For some reason, I like the previous picture better.

Patiently awaiting midnight.

Ever the rabble-rouser, I try to set fire to Eddie Woogy's goatee. (Hey, don't blame me. I learned from the best   :-P )

Ed retreats, plastering himself against the wall. I try to set fire to his neighbor's goatee instead. Estella remains blissfully unaware of the sizzling pyromaniacal drama unfolding.

The singing, led by a duo of nuns, was gorgeous.

Picked up by my camera's microphone, the jingling from the small bells attached to the censer ended up sounding like static.

The sanctuary.

Another view.

The service began at 11 PM, and ended at 2:30 AM. Standing room only.

         40 times.

The deacon intoning.

The celebratory spirit is palpable in the singing.

From left to right, the priest and the deacon. Interestingly, the latter's ethnicity is Korean.

Both change their vestments midway through the service.

One more video. This time, I was fortunate enough to record the choir mistress, Mother Olympiada, setting the tone for the choir.

More here.

Spasibo, Constantinus!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A little harder to get lost now

An automatic watch with a map meter and a compass?

I guess you do read my ride reports.

Thanks, bro   :-)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Himbo talk

         I wish my lawn was emo, so it would cut itself.  (Pax)

A post which piqued my interest: Doors or Walls?

If your past comes knocking on your door, would you open the door?

Interesting. Except, in my case, it wasn't an "if."

         Git de shotgun, ma!

No, this isn't going to turn into one of those pathetic, self-indulgent, vomit-inducing, self-pitying, "Where's my black lipstick?" sobfests. And, no, this is not about repression, suppression, getting back, or, becoming a bitter, woman-hating wino, but understanding that pain is very much a part of life. As we go through life, we are constantly faced with choices as experiences — good and bad; pleasant and unpleasant; necessary and needless — buffet us. Do we choose to be aware, to step up to a higher state of consciousness, and adapt — evolve — or, simply react?

I have been blessed to have wise friends and great men guide me in my darkest hours. Men, whose writings inspired — challenged — me, and whose otherworldly music and unshakable faith comforted me.

Hence, I look at the past as a source of strength, for I not only survived it, I am better than it — I am stronger for it.

When my longest relationship ended (just months short of a decade), I was in pieces. What do you say to someone who was with you since your late teens? What do you say to someone who you grew with? (And, audaciously planned the rest of your life with?) Someone who was your best friend and confidante? What do you say to someone who meant so much to you that the mere sound of her cries from missing you led you to beg for emergency leave and hop on the next flight out of SFO to Singapore on the first week of the quarter — on a student's budget? What do you...

It happened at the worst possible moment. A massive seminar paper and presentation was due in 8 weeks. It didn't help that a central theme was loss, loss of self; loss, loss of identity; loss of familiarity; loss of those we know, knew, love, and loved. Loss. Lord, even Humbert had two more syllables.

For a week I just sat and stared at the stack of twenty-seven (later, thirty-six) books I had to plow through; watched; watched the clock; watched time ticking by; watched my life slipping by; watch my dreams crumble; and cried. Then, somehow, it dawned on me, dawned on me with the clarity of spring's first morning — sharp, pure, and new; that, in your darkest hours, that which sustained you, defines you. My deeper, purer — deathless — love for language and literature gave me purpose and heart to soldier on. I wrote the paper.

Three months later: my paper was judged the best among my peers for that year. A man ran hooting, barefoot, round and round the lawn, before his apartment that day.

After that, cause expired, point made, I crumbled anew.

No amount of pity, soft words, gentle encouragement, empathy, booze, and drugs helped thereafter. It was an online forum acquaintance's three words, stark and flickering, on a laptop screen in a darkened room; dank with piles in dire need of laundering; empty beer cans strewn, souring past age; shades drawn in the dead of noon; that did:

Be a man.

I packed everything from that ten years — from half-filled U-Haul boxes in the room; in my closet; in the apartment hall cabinets; from the self-storage unit beside San Jose International Airport — jammed it in my car, and drove, drove, drove from Santa Clara; past Los Gatos, where, a lifetime ago, two self-conscious, young lovers sat giggling on a mini-steam train chugging through meadows flowering in spring; up and down treacherous Highway 17, over the Santa Cruz Mountains; blowing through Davenport's thirty-five-mile-an-hour signs; rocketing north on Highway 1, tearing along the Pacific Ocean; passing Pigeon Point at a-hundred-and-twenty-miles-an-hour; racing; racing against time; racing against hope; racing against tears; racing against the sun, low in the sky; to a barren beach at the base of the windswept cliffs in San Mateo, to burn, burn, burn everything away in one great, big, cleansing bonfire.

And I danced.

I danced until the sun set. I danced until the stars rose overhead. I danced until the embers turned to ash, and the winds blew them away. I threw two rings made of platinum into the bay. I drove home and slept the sleep of the dead.

The next day, I took Ivy, my first bike purchased in California, neglected for seven years, and climbed nine-hundred feet up from Stevens Creek Canyon to Fremont Older. After that, I climbed two-thousand-eight-hundred feet up Black Mountain. After I threw up for the third time — Gatorade, Redbull, phlegm, and spit — there was nothing left to hurl. I never felt better.

Relating another's trials and travails, a friend noted:

He didn't come out of it a better man.

At the risk of committing a Godwin (and in no way whatsoever trivializing the unforgettable, unbearable atrocities committed with the current subject — this is not a comparison, merely an (perhaps over-the-top) illustration):

It would be very easy to believe that anyone who survived Auschwitz must be a saint. This does not bear examination. Auschwitz was an extermination camp. A saint in Auschwitz likely died on the day of arrival. A saint who survived did so in spite of sainthood, not because of it. Those who survived did so because they had and exploited some advantage over the others. Doctors survived because early on the Nazis made a decision to spare them and enlist them in the administrative life of the camp, including human experimentation. Skilled workmen survived because their skills were needed. Polish prostitutes were spared for the brothel block. Hustlers, who made themselves indispensable to the camp authorities, survived.

                                                         [ . . . ]

Every morning, the inhabitants of each block turned out for roll call. Despite the chaos of the camp, the daily murders and deaths from disease and overwork, the neat German penchant for bureaucracy meant that the numbers must be monitored and that roll call would take place every day. Anyone found at roll call without his shoes would be sent to the gas chamber--but a moment of inattention and any personal effects could be stolen.

A teenager who survived Auschwitz related how he was raped in his bunk one night by another inmate. The next morning, he realized the rapist had stolen his shoes, to ensure his elimination. So he simply took a pair from someone who was still sleeping, assuring the other's destruction instead of his own.

                                                         [ . . . ]

Our high school teachers were fond of writing on the board the quote from Santayana that says if we do not remember the past, we will be condemned to repeat it. This is the most important reason to remember Auschwitz--a message which frequently is lost in the way it is delivered, for example, when the Nazis are presented as demonic "others" entirely dissimilar to us. I will pick up this theme below. The point here is that, whenever someone speaks about Auschwitz, it is worth asking what the subtext is of the speech. If it is ever in aid of an agenda like support of a particular country or the betterment of a single group, those who died there are being insulted. If the speech is in support of self-examination, an end to hatred and becoming better human beings, it should be heard.
         (Jonathan Wallace)

We may not always have a choice, but in the (fortunate) instances where we do, I like to believe that we owe it to ourselves to come out better. Stronger, not bitter; wiser, not harsher. Better.

Doors do (and should) remain open, but it doesn't mean that every visitor from the past is welcome. After all, we make the beds we sleep in.

What happens when 5 emos sit in a square room?
One dies because he has no corner to cry in.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Anger Management Redux

Occasionally, when you had a really bad day, and you just need to take it out on someone, don't take it out on someone you know — take it out on someone you don't know.

I was sitting at my desk when I remembered a phone call I've forgotten to make; so, I dug up the number and dialed it.

A man answered, "Hello."

I politely inquired, "This is Chris. Could I please speak with Robyn Carter?"

Suddenly the voice yelled out in my ear; "GET THE RIGHT F***ING NUMBER!" and the phone slammed down on me.

I couldn't believe that anyone could be so rude.

When I re-checked Robyn's number, I discovered that I had accidentally transposed the last two digits.

After talking to her, I decided to call the "wrong" number again. When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled, "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!!!" and hung up.

I wrote his number down with the word, "asshole," next to it, and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills or had a really bad day, I'd call him up and yell, "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!!!" It always cheered me up.

When Caller ID was introduced, I thought my therapeutic "asshole calling" days were over. So, I called his number and went, "Hi, this is John Smith from Pacific Bell. Sir, I'm calling to see if you're interested in our Caller ID Program?"

He yelled, "NO!" and slammed down the phone.

I quickly called him back and yelled, "THAT'S BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!!!" and hung up.

One day, I was at the store, getting ready to pull into a parking spot. Some guy in a black BMW cut me off and pulled into the spot I had patiently waited for. I hit the horn and yelled that I've been waiting for that spot, but the idiot ignored me.

I noticed a "For Sale" sign on his back window, so I wrote down his number. A couple of days later, right after calling the first asshole (I had his number on speed dial), I thought that I'd better call the BMW asshole too.

I inquired, "Hello, is this the man with the black BMW for sale?"

He replied, "Yes, it is."

I asked, "Can you tell me where I can see it?"

He answered, "Yes, I live at 34 Oaktree Boulevard, in Fairfax. It's a yellow rambler, and the car's parked right out in front."

I asked, "And you are mister?"

He said, "This is Don Hansen."

I asked, "So, when's a good time to catch you, Don?"

He said, "I'm home every evening after five."

I went, "Listen, Don. Can I tell you something?"

He said, "Yes?"

I said, "Don, you're an asshole!"

Then I hung up, and added his number to my speed dial as well. Now, when I had a problem, I had two assholes to call.

A couple days later, I came up with a really neat idea. I called Asshole #1.

He said, "Hello."


(But I didn't hang up.)

He asked, "Are you still there?"

I said, "Yeah."

He started screaming, "STOP CALLING ME!!!"

I said, "Make me."

He yelled, "WHO THE F*** ARE YOU?"

I said, "I am Don Hansen."

He said, "Oh yeah? Where do you live?"

I replied, "Asshole, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, a yellow rambler. I have a black Beamer parked in front."

He said, "Don't you move. I'm coming over right now, Don. And you had better start saying your prayers."

I shot back, "Oh yeah? Like I'm really scared, asshole," and hung up.

Then I called Asshole #2.

He answered, "Hello?"

I said, "Hello, asshole."

He too, started screaming, "IF I EVER FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE..."

I cut in, "You'll what?"

He screamed, "I'LL KICK YOUR ASS!!!"

I answered, "Well, asshole, here's your chance. I'm coming over right now."

Then I hung up, went to a public payphone and called the police, declaring that I was going over to 34 Oaktree Boulevard in Fairfax to kill my adulterous gay lover. After that, I called Channel 9 News about the gang war going down in Oaktree Boulevard in Fairfax.

After that, I quickly got into my car and headed over to Fairfax. I got there just in time to watch two assholes beating the crap out of each other, before six cop cars, an overhead news helicopter and hordes of news crew.

Ahhhh... I feel much better.

Anger management really does work.

Monday, April 07, 2008


       @ 3 AM.

The Cyclist Hunger and Eating Style

Hunger at a meal can reveal a cyclist. I notice that when I sit to eat with other people, they soon forget about eating and conversation and just watch me eat instead. People will take turns passing me food. Jessica Mosher reports that while other women are eating like birds, she is rapidly stuffing pizza, in spite of her thin figure. The eating method of cyclists has been supplied by Gary Lee:

a) Press food against face,

b) suck,

c) keep fingers out of the way,

d) repeat.

On one bike trip, I arrived at my aunt's house; they had already eaten, but she had a full meal waiting just for me. After I finished, I was sort of looking around, and she said, "You couldn't still be hungry, could you?" I said "no" but I had that look in my eye, so she went and got an already prepared second meal which I promptly devoured. She told me my mother had warned her, but she had found it hard to believe. Of course, I was polite enough not to mention that I had already eaten before I arrived. Anybody can be a glutton, but only a true cyclist® is a bottomless pit.
         (Subtle Little Clues that Indicate a True Cyclist)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

For the Flamed One

         April 4th, 2008.

Or, is it the prickly one now, Ed?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

A new suit of armor for Pinchy

The last time Pinchy underwent this process was on July 26, 2007. The molt on the left is from May 23, 2007 — the one and only molt I kept (gave her some sterilized eggshells as a trade). The molt on the right is from today. A growth from 8 cm to 21 cm: way to go, Yabby! When kept in clear, clean waters, these critters tend to turn blue, with gorgeous purple markings.

Yabbies grow by a process known as “moulting”. Moulting is the process of shedding the old shell (exoskeleton) and growing a new one in its place. The new shell is soft and prior to it hardening, the yabby will take up and store water within it’s body tissues thus effectively artificially expanding it’s size and ‘stretching’ the new shell. The water is expelled from the body once the new shell has hardened. The overall effect is that the yabby now has a shell bigger than it’s actual size into which it can then grow. In newly hatched yabbies, moulting may take place every couple of days. The frequency will decrease as the yabby gets older until it will only moult once or twice a year.

The hardening of the shell is achieved by drawing calcium from deposits in the body and from the surrounding water. Calcium is stored in the body by reabsorbing it from the old exoskeleton prior to moulting and depositing it in two calcareous deposits in the stomach wall known as gastroliths. Yabbies often eat their discarded exoskeleton after moulting in order to conserve calcium. The calcium is then redeposited into the new exoskeleton in order to harden it.
         (Biology of Yabbies)

Hemispherical in shape, gastroliths (stomach ossicle, stomach stone, crab's eye, or crab's stone) are resistant to weathering.

Occasionally, one finds small, round, stone-like concretions in a fish's stomach. These 'stones' are often seen in aquaria containing crayfish, and can also be found in the nests of some water birds and even in Aboriginal middens. They are gastroliths (literally 'stomach stones', sometimes called 'crabs' eyes') and are produced as a pair in the lining of the stomach of a crayfish preparing to moult. Being the hardest parts of the crayfish, they are either refused or are the last to be digested by predator. After the crayfish moults the gastroliths fall into its stomach, where the calcium of which they are composed is resorbed into the blood. In earlier times, gastroliths were used in medicine for their absorbent and antacid properties.

An entertaining article on calcium transport before and after moulting.

With a hard shell, how do yabbies grow?

The general process of growth is called moulting and involves a cycle of moult stages (A-D), which has to be repeated many times through their life. Periodically, they make a new, but soft, shell under the old hard one (stage D). Then, laying on its side, the Yabby breaks out of the old shell at the join on top between head and tail- an involved contortion called ecdysis. Amazingly, this involves all parts of the external shell (and some fore and rear gut lining): eyes, gills, legs,...). The new exposed soft shell is expanded quickly by drinking water (land insects take in air) (stage A), and then hardens so the Yabby can get mobile (stage B). During the subsequent intermoult (stage C) the Yabby feeds and replaces the water with soft body growth. In early stage C the Yabby is hungriest and most readily caught in a baited trap.

Yabbies often lose legs by fighting; they can completely replace a leg, gradually through 3 or 4 moult cycles.

Most people call the actual shedding of the shell "moulting", but this stage of the whole moult cycle is more correctly called "ecdysis".

Do they die often during moulting?

Yabbies are very vulnerable during moulting; most crayfish deaths occur while they're sluggish just before or after ecdysis or defenseless at ecdysis - they get stuck trying to emerge from the old shell or they're attacked by other crayfish or a predator. A Yabby on its side in shallow water is usually moulting; sometimes what you see is the old empty shell; if not, if you wait a few minutes the "new" Yabby will emerge. Don't disturb or handle an ecdysing yabbie; they can't breathe at this stage and any delay means they run out of puff before finishing. Small crayfish ecdyse in a few minutes but very big ones can take 20 minutes, or longer.
         (Yabby FAQ)

As before, I only borrowed Pinchy's old molt for the pictures. It's back in her tank now (she needs to consume it to reclaim the calcium).

Related posts
Pinchy growls... umm, grows
Lobster dinner
Rescue me

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In which we turned carnivore

Ah, meat and more meat at Mama Lucia's churrascaria. Our appetite for the caramelized pineapple with cinnamon was insatiable. Benny gobbled up several plantations himself. Expect the price of pineapples to rise shortly.

Benny mistakes Mr. Scruffy (No, not this Mr. Scruffy or this Mr. Scruffy) here for a caramelized pineapple.

I suppose I should be glad I wasn't mistaken for a leg of ham :-P

See you folks again soon!

9 (against the barbarians)

On a lazy Sunday, we celebrated Estella's birthday at Cafe Le Caire.

Don't ask me how the food was as I didn't have any (I was too spaced out from sleep deprivation), but one thing's for sure — with waiters that snap at you; thrust their trays in your face, expecting you to pass along the silverware; sigh with frustration (audiably) when asked a question — their service is a close runner-up to the hospitality at Abu Ghraib.

The company though, was first-rate  :-D

Here's one for Poblem Engrish:  "Lamb Carcass," a delectable entrée in the menu. Truth or Dare?

Next, we got to contest what of this offer means with our two charming waiters — both, who mangled the English language with such violence that the mechanized efficiency of the food processor in the kitchen, downstairs, pales in comparison. E.g. (potato) wedges, were pronounced as "widgets." Now, I know India is going high-tech, but this is ridiculous.

Their interpretation:  OCBC credit card users get to choose either the complimentary dessert or a high tea voucher for two (the bill was more than $100).

Our interpretation:  we get both.


"Wear - jeers."

Not "wee - jits" or "wee - zeds."


Not "complementary."

When you are done with pronunciation and adjectives, then — and only then — do we move on to reading comprehension, double-confirm?

Deciding that one experience with our 2 charm school graduates from Abu Ghraib was sufficient for our combined nine lifetimes, we opted for the dessert:  mango pudding. We were not disappointed.

Just as how this "authentic" middle-eastern restaurant had waiters from India, Singaporean Malay cooks, and reservations that disappear, the mango pudding was really... corn pudding.

Ed wasn't impressed by the corn... pudding. Nevertheless, like the Texas Death Row, executions must go on:

Cogito, ergo sum.
Sum, ergo edo.
Cogito sumere potum alterum.

After valiantly resisting the urge to toss our friendly, faux Middle-Eastern servers through the second floor windows (and thus edifying them with another word:  "gravity" — with a free demonstration thrown in), Inferno Ed mellows out on a backstreet.

Don't let the surroundings fool you, the friendly staff here (especially the ever attentive Nepalese server) makes this place seem like the Fullerton. A fitting comparison for Cafe Le Caire would be Whitley Detention Center — with equivalent security features too (we could have easily absconded), but that's a tale for another day.