Monday, February 25, 2008

-- a therapy fable (or what matters in life)

Once upon a time, a woman moved to a cave in the mountains to study with a guru. She wanted, she said, to learn everything there was to know. The guru supplied her with stacks of books and left her alone so she could study. Every morning, the guru returned to the cave to monitor the woman's progress. In his hand, he carried a heavy wooden cane. Each morning, he asked her the same question: "Have you learned everything there is to know yet?" Each morning, her answer was the same. "No," she said, "I haven't." The guru would then strike her over the head with his cane.

This scenario repeated itself for months. One day the guru entered the cave, asked the same question, heard the same answer, and raised his cane to hit her in the same way, but the woman grabbed the cane from the guru, stopping his assault in midair.

Relieved to end the daily batterings but fearing reprisal, the woman looked up at the guru. To her surprised, the guru smiled. "Congratulations," he said, "you have graduated. You now know everything you need to know."

"How's that?" the woman asked.

"You have learned that you will never learn everything there is to know," he replied. "And you have learned how to stop the pain."

-- back from Death Valley

I'm finally back from Death Valley. The whole trip was incredible. Neat that I learned how to blog from my phone, though I couldn't figure out how to capitalize or use punctuation very well.

Song that's been in my head the whole trip: Incubus, Wish you were here

I dig my toes into the sand.
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket.
I lean against the wind, pretend that i am weightless
and in this moment I am happy.


I grew up near the ocean and always felt like it was a part of me. My past week in California reminded me of what it felt like to take long bike rides by the shore, just to be off meandering around, taking in the world slowly. I need more of a sense of getting lost in life, losing myself. It didn't hit me that I was home until I started unpacking yesterday, I had this sense of loss that I wouldn't be gazing at the beautiful mountains, my trip is over.


Today was good but there's much to catch up on. I am distraught because I just realized I left an addictive novel at work, what am I to do? I started reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore and wow, talk about getting lost. The entire story is like one big endless dream, it's incredible. Haruki writes in the style of magical realism which might turn me off if I only heard that as a description because I don't believe in the unexplainable but the story is so compelling I couldn't put it down. I ended up staying up until 2am and was a mess when the clock went off at 7 this morning. At least I'll probably get to bed earlier tonight.


Here are some teaser pix of Death Valley. Keep in mind that the weather wasn't all that great (we had rain in the desert, remember?) Will post more when they're ready.



Flowers south of Furnace Creek

Artist's palette, looking backwards instead of forwards from the lookout.

Me in Ash Meadows, Mojave Desert, CA.

Friday, February 22, 2008

-- rain in the desert

It rains 1.9 inches a year here and it is all happening right now. Lucky us.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

-- flowers in death valley

Dan is on antibiotics and feeling better. We are exploring death valley, the scenery is stunning.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

-- discovering pahrump unwillingly

Dan woke up sick with a fever, so we drove 60 miles to the nearest town, pahrump. Have been here 2 hours and still waiting.

-- wetlands in the desert?

Ash meadows is a wetlands area in the mojave desert, also home to the endangered devils hole pupfish that have been here for 10,000-20,000 years. Pic is from my cell, will post more later. reached death valley last night but no reception.

Monday, February 18, 2008

-- visited Hoover Dam today

Though we flew into Vegas to see Death Valley, we took today to see the 726-foot tall Hoover Dam, about 30 miles from Vegas. I didn't realize it's right on the AZ/NV border. The Dam was built during the Depression as a way to harness the water for energy and to store water from the Colorado River and control its frequent flooding. About 3500 workers daily toiled for only $4/day to create this engineering marvel (but that was actually a nice wage during the Depression).

The job was too big for one company to tackle so 6 companies did it together.

The 5 million barrels of cement used would normally have taken 125 years to "set" but this process was sped up by embedding pipelines inside the structure which were used to channel chilled water through for cooling. It was completed in only 5 years.

Officially, 96 people died during the construction of the dam but in reality it was probably closer to 700 -- those who died in the hospital later were not counted as "official." Carbon monoxide poisoning and heat were common killers. Living conditions at the time couldn't have been very comfortable. Workers lived in tents nearby which did not offer ample protection from the elements.

Today the Dam supplies electricity to:
-Southern California: 56%
-Arizona: 19%
-Southern Nevada: 25%

Out of all the electricity it supplies to Southern NV, only 3-4% goes to Vegas, and none of that to casinos, only residences. (Perhaps because it's owned by the government and thus does not make a profit and instead sells electricity only at cost.)

Today they were only operating 3 turbines but they've said in the summer when everyone's using the A/C, they often go to full capacity and run all 17 turbines.

The Dam itself holds enough water to equal fill the entire state of Pennsylvania to a depth of 1 foot. Lake Mead, formed by the backup of the water from the dam, is the largest man-made lake in the U.S.

This area of Nevada is the 3rd most seismically-active area in the country so it was constructed to withstand an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. It's built of interlocking concrete blocks and is held in place by water pressure from Lake Meade (either side is not attached). This is so it can, in effect, "float" in place in case the ground rocks. The dam is shaped like an arch because that is the strongest shape architecturally.

We were only 2 of about 1 million visitors to journey here this year. Will post more pictures when they're ready.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

-- sign on ceiling in hotel

These signs are all over the ceiling in our room - who would hang clothes from the sprinkler?

-- flight from hell


We spent the entire flight trapped next to a drunk Mahir-type guy who alternately grabbed at my hair and groped at Dan's crotch. Ok I am exaggerating -- he only grabbed/groped once -- but there was lots of shoulder hugging and passionate storytelling. "You are so American! You are the embodiment of America!" he exclaimed, reaching for Dan's face, "Your glasses! So American!!" He loved everyone and everything, which was great... but maybe a little too much. At least he wasn't a mean drunk.

Originally I was sitting next to him but when Dan sensed what was about to unfold (after the guy said, "as long as I'm touching you I'll be ok!") he leapt in-between us and bore the brunt of the guy's drunken affections. The next five hours were spent under a cloud of bad breath from the starving people behind us and the alcohol stench to our left. It was a loooong flight.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

-- Getting ready to fly

This is so cool. I'm nowhere near a computer but can still post to the internet. Note to self: this could be useful during an alien abduction.

Friday, February 15, 2008

-- Worst example of text and background color

Look, if you're writing stuff online, how about making it legible? This is the worst combination of text and background color that I've ever seen. (Click here, scroll down to "Aquarium Filtration 101.")

-- Test post from phone

Seeing if i can blog straight from my phone.

It worked! Meet my keet, Homer, the pretty yellow bird who is always chewing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

-- Divorce court in America, on Valentine's Day

Valentines Day is a fine day for divorce, don't you think?

I went with a friend of mine going through this sad process to a local courthouse and the people-watching alone was fascinating. I felt like I was from another planet observing the behavior of an unusual and perplexing species. The courthouse always feels like a bus station or DMV; lots of riff raff aimlessly milling about.

We were in the divorce waiting area listening to some woman in the hall screaming about her husband's infidelity in grossly explicit terms when I noticed the magazine collection: Modern Bride, Wedding, World Bride, Bridal Guide, and Wedding Cakes.Bridal magazines in divorce court? Either this is someone's idea of a bad joke or they're serving an audience of people who are only getting divorced to marry someone else.

I didn't realize this, but you don't need a lawyer if the divorce is simple and agreed to by both parties. The person filing (the plaintiff) is really the only one who has to show up (with a "witness").

We got called into the courtroom with a slew of others and listened to the litany of questions from the judge as he reviewed the paperwork:

"You said you were married on x date, is that true?"
"You said you were separated on x date, is that true?"
"Have you been separated since then with no marital relations or cohabitation?" (in Maryland, it's at least a year.)
"Did you have any children as a result of this marriage?"
"Is there any chance of you getting back together?"

Then the witness is called to back up the story: "They testified that they were separated on x date, have you been to their house since then? Have you noticed any evidence of them still living together?" "Do you think there is a reasonable chance of them getting back together?" "Is there any reason I should not grant this divorce?"

The actual hearing in front of the judge takes only 10 minutes. Then you get a paper acknowledging the divorce and can leave.

A woman in front of us changed her mind about the alimony issue. When the judge asked "You checked off the box indicating you do not want alimony, is that true?" The woman said, "No, I do want to seek alimony." The judge said, "Ok, but you'll have to file paperwork to this effect, and give him enough time to file an objection if he wishes." and granted a new hearing date for the alimony issue.

The guy looked annoyed at this sudden turn of events.

The judge glanced over their paperwork and said, "You've only been married a year. You may not be entitled to alimony but you can ask. You know, he can also ask you for alimony."

The guy brightened up a little at that fact.

Then we got the paperwork and left and had some lunch. In actuality the whole process of a civil divorce is very surreal and sad, as it's a formal admission in front of society that a relationship you really wanted did not work. (Well hopefully you wanted it, but I wasn't so sure this was true for everyone else.)

Every new day is a start of the rest of our lives. We take the building blocks of our past and create a future from all that we've learned, all that's shaped us to date, and hopefully carve out a fulfilling path along the way. We mourn what we've lost or left behind. And we forge ahead, always learning. There shouldn't be any shame in a failed relationship.

Two beautiful quotes from Maya Angelou:

"You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better."

"I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition— about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

-- delayed opening FAIL


This morning wasn't any more fun than last night. The ice storm that prevented me from voting yesterday continued throughout the night leading to a delayed opening at work. I didn't even check so raced to work as usual only to learn that I could have lazed in bed an extra two hours. Blast!

Then I found out the polls were open late last night after all, due to the weather. So while I was sailing by thinking "crap, they closed 11 minutes ago" they were really open.

-- thwarted from voting by the ice lord

I tried so hard to get to the polls in time. I left work and found my car completely covered in ice from an impromptu ice storm and my scraper -- the only one I owned -- had utterly vanished. I started clawing away at the ice using the only other thing I could find -- a can of "tuff stuff" upholstery cleaner, but it just wasn't working. So there I was, sprinting across the icy parking lot in slippery fashion boots flagging down the only other person I could see exiting the building. Thank goodness they had an ice scraper. But between how long it took to de-ice my car and the slow, careful ride home, I missed my chance to vote.

sigh.


This pic isn't me but I sure felt like this. Pic from BBC.

Monday, February 11, 2008

-- NJ visit


So this past weekend I went up to NJ to see my family. At my sis's house, I saw my nephews and M. is turning 11. I gave him $18 cash, which is supposed to be a lucky number. When I explained this to him, he joked around with me, "But my lucky number is 72!" He is so funny.

Here's a pic from when we were walking the dog. He's not a terrorist, just chilly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

-- piece of #!$% floor!

This freaking floor is brand-new and look what happened when I dropped a spoon on it. Not only is it hideously ugly, which I only realized as it was being installed, but it acts like its made out of soft clay. DO NOT BUY DURASTONE.I find it odd that a product morphed out of the words "durable" and "stone" be so freaking fragile that a simple utensil can carve a miniature valley into it. Beware of artificial tile, that's all I'm sayin'.

Monday, February 4, 2008

-- my dog's cute little tongue

Here's Tycho sleeping with his tongue cutely hanging out... so adorable!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

-- Death Valley info on pg. 666

This is too funny. I was looking up info on Death Valley in some California travel guide and it actually fell on pg. 666:(From crappy cell phone camera, which is all I had with me in the bookstore.)

Here are some hospitable-sounding places to visit while in Death Valley:
Starvation Canyon
Funeral Mountains
Devil's Golf Course
Desolation Canyon
Dead Man Pass
Coffin Peak
Deadfoot Canyon
Devil's Cornfield
Ash Meanows
Badwater Basin

Kinda tells about the history of the place, no?

Friday, February 1, 2008

-- smileys make me smile only if they're on fire

So I'm surfing the net for work-related info when this pops up and dominates my screen:

"What could be better than thousands of cute smileys?"

I'll tell you what could be better. Thousands of cute smileys ON FIRE.
Death to pop-ups!

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