Thursday, September 22, 2005

Finally ...

After getting nothing but voicemail for two days, I finally got word that everyone in the family made it out of Houston and is safe. Mom is in Waco, while the rest of the family is in Dallas. I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Oh Boy ...

And it gets better. Rita is now a Cat. 2 hurricane and may become a Cat. 4 by the time it reaches landfall. Ahead of that, mandatory evacuations have been ordered, so my family in Houston will have to evacuate ... Mom will go to San Antonio or Waco, while the rest of the family is heading to Dallas after boarding up the home.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sigh ... Not Again ;-(

As some of you know (or may not), part of my family (sister, brother in law, and niece) lives south of Houston, TX, between Houston and Galveston. According to my sister, Tropical Storm Rita is predicted to strengthen to a hurricane (possibly a Category 3) and the current storm track (if it turns into a hurricane and stays one through the weekend), indicates that it may hit landfall at Galveston and continue northward right through the area that my family lives.

If they're fortunate, it veers east and hits elsewhere, and they're looking at bad weather: heavy storms and maybe some tornadoes. If they aren't, then it would mean evacuation farther north before the hurricane hits.

Unfortunately, there are some complications: Mom has some acute-care issues that need monitoring and meds, so she would be moved with her nursing home's residents to a sister facility in San Antonio. Adding to that, sis is also expecting later this weekend and they will have their hands full with that; they would likely evacuate to my other sister's place south of Fort Worth.

This has been one of these years ....

Friday, September 09, 2005

Carrying Your Candle (aka, Going to Light Your World)

A day or so ago in the local newspaper, one of the editorial columnists wrote a thought-provoking piece to compare the circumstances in New Orleans to what would have happened here, if we had had a hurricane-like disaster. FYI, Des Moines actually came quite close (anyone remember the Midwest floods back in 1993?) But in the space of a few paragraphs, he painted a grim picture. And to be honest, a disaster may be something we'll experience here in the Midwest 50 years' hence; not everyone realizes it, but the central Midwest may (at least, according to the prognosticators), be the site of a major earthquake, due to the New Madrid faultline.

This has been one of those weeks where it's been hard to look for the positives. Between watching the toll from Hurricane Katrina on the news and hearing of friends' personal losses (from Katrina and otherwise), it's been hard not to encounter someone who has lost someone or something dear to them, or who has lost everything. And this Sunday marks the 4 year anniversary of 9/11. I don't think any of us can truly say we understand what the survivors have been through, unless we have experienced it ourselves.

Looking for the bright spots, this Wednesday, I was practicing a piece I'll be singing in church Sunday. Called "Go Light Your World", it has this lyric: "There is a candle ... in every soul. Some brightly burning. And some dark and cold. And there is a spirit. That brings a fire. Ignites a candle. And makes us whole." For all the horror that we've seen on the media, for all of the political bungling, we've also seen giving on a scale not seen since 9/11. It's not a red state/blue state issue. It's not a Bush-hater issue. It's a human issue. In the years since 9/11, I have seen our country fragmented by soulless politics, by religous fundamentalism, by narrow- mindedness bordering on economic and racial prejudice, and by a dwindling share of compassion for others. It is my prayer and hope that for once, we see less politicizing, less divisiveness, and more compassion, and that our compassion for those in need, our candles that in recent years seem to have almost been snuffed out, are reignited and remain brightly lit.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

Hi all, just taking the time out from the weekend to post. Weekend's been great so far; mini golf with a friend on Sunday, followed by a local blues festival downtown. This afternoon, I'm going casual at the grill. I did have a line on a new-agey gathering, but that didn't pan out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Planet of the Apes

I was looking at a story online this morning ... two, actually, which when paired together, underscore the tragic nature of extinction:

1. Geneticists have recently discovered that a very small portion of DNA (about 26,000 bits, I believe), separates chimps from humanity, and that both chimps and humans share 99% of our active genetic material.

2. According to environmentalists, within a single generation we could see the near-extinction of the great apes and certain breeds of chimpanzees in the wild due to human encroachment (logging and habitat removal, hunting, and the onset of Ebola, which can be transmitted to them).

I know in the greater scheme of things, we have other concerns (the ongoing war in Iraq, the economy and rising prices, caring for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina) which are pressing, but it saddens me that we've discovered how close we are to another species and, at the same time, are now just realizing how poorly we have done by them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Allez Cuisine!

I'm home this evening watching one of my few TV show must-watches: Iron Chef. Only the Japanese could make gourmet cooking a competitive sport. Tonight's surprise ingredient for the competition (ie., the "battle") is "Sea Urchin". I'm not sure what amazes me the most: the improbable combinations of ingredients, or that somehow, Chairman Kaga managed to stay so slim after tasting all 2,500 different dishes brought before him during the show's run.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lions and Tigers and Bears (Not Really)

I was taking a look at my blog so far, and noticing with envy that my blog template didn't have a few things I saw and liked from other blogs, like space for additional links, and a cleaner design, so with some quick browsing and some edits, I've slapped a new face on the ol' blog this evening, after enjoying an interesting afternoon at the local zoo. (No, I wasn't an occupant ...).

Okay, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've lived here for 6 years, and I haven't been to the local zoo once, so when a friend wanted to go see the new baby camel (born a week ago and quite cute to look at), I shrugged and joined her. What followed was a fascinating afternoon of checking out the animals (everything from the sea lions, to snow chimpanzees, to the aforementioned lions and tigers and baby camel, named Charlie), and an interesting philosophical discussion about keeping animals in zoos. On one hand, the discussion went, it would be really nice if these animals could be kept in or returned to their natural habitats. On the other, for some of these animals, a return to the wild would lead to an untimely death at the hands of a poacher. At the end, we agreed that at least in a zoo environment, they would be well cared for medically, would be fed well, and would have a better shot at surviving than out in the wild.

Friday, August 26, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

For something completely different, I'm going to let my closet sci-fi fan come out and play ... growing up, I missed out on the phenomenon that was Star Trek, with the exception of reading the James Blish novelizations of original series episodes (bear in mind, this was way before the era of tape and DVD). But I managed to make do with syndicated episodes of Space: 1999, and later on, PBS repeats of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, shows such as Incredible Journey (a short-lived series set in the Bermuda Triangle that disappeared just as quickly), and Battlestar Galactica, as well as the original Star Wars and later, Buck Rogers. Finally, leading up through '79, the Trek movies kept me occupied until the resurgance of sci-fi on TV in the late 80s and 90s, with various incarnations of Trek, X-Files, Babylon 5, Farscape, and Stargate, now leading up to shows such as Firefly and the recent reimaging of Battlestar, which has made me consider why I like sci-fi. I guess I've always been a dreamer. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, and I always seemed to identify with being "out there". Being one of the few Asian-mixed ethnic kids in a rural Southeast Kansas community, one became painfully aware of being "different", and I found my solace at the local library. I also had an innate fascination with technology and history, having grown up reading books like "Tom Swift", and Richard Scarry's Busytown series, as well as David Maculay's architecture and construction books: "Cathedral", "Castle", and "Pyramid", and in both the past and the future, I could see and visit places far away to remind me that there was more to the world than just the place I called my home.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

End of Rant ... Back to Some Introspective Thoughts ...

Okay, end of rant (EOR). And on to some commentary about other matters in the news:
President Bush said on Wednesday terrorists had converged on Iraq and that pulling U.S. troops out "would only embolden them".
Now before you criticize me as a left-wing liberal, hear me out. I support the troops, and I agree that we have made some progress in giving the Iraqi people a better way of life, laid the groundwork for democracy, and started rebuilding their infrastructure (despite the excesses and waste of a certain company who shall remain nameless). But at what cost have we given the Iraqi's what they have gotten? It grieves me to see our military ground down on a yearly basis in a country where, despite the gains we've made, we've put our troops in harm's way because the justifications for the war have repeatedly shifted as the evidence for them has turned up empty. We ignored the risks (which were identified), prior to going to war, and we made some very bad assumptions about the conditions in Iraq following it, one of which was assuming that when the war was over, the fighting would be over as well and the troops could be brought home immediately.

Our situation in Iraq is rather like the story of the monkey that reached into a jar to grab a handful of nuts. Unfortunately, in grabbing a handful, the monkey realized he couldn't pull his fist out of the jar. Likewise, we've created a situation where we have no choice but to stay the course in Iraq; to leave now would likely lead to further destabilization and probably civil war. But we'll pay a price for what we've started.

The Sad State of Dating, Pt. 2

Just an additional thought or two to add to the previous post: I know that some people are busy with their lives, and that I understand completely. But when I invest time in getting to know someone and doing things with them, it's a little frustrating when that effort and investment isn't returned, or it stops getting returned. Oh yeah ... I may have given everyone the impression that I'm a little desperate in my search for a relationship. Desperate, not hardly. I enjoy my own company and have done so before. But there are some events that are best shared, and it's frustrating when you see people make promises (ie., to spend time with you or do things with you), that they don't keep and don't even share a good reason why. I wouldn't treat them that way, so why do people make promises and then fail to follow through on them? There's an insensitivity I've seen that, frankly, makes me glad that some of the people I've encountered I didn't get into a relationship with. After all, if that's how they're going to treat me online, how are they going to treat me in person?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Sad State of Dating in Des Moines

Tonight's post is going to be a bit of rant. For awhile, I've had a personals ad up on a dating service called, and if anything, I've discovered a few things that really make me question the $24.95 a month I pay for it. Don't get me wrong. There are some wonderful people on there, and I've made some great friends off of it. (Lauren, Anne, Ann, Angie, Jenny, Megan, Martha, Kristi, you know who you are). But I've discovered a few trends which don't speak well for some of the women I've encountered on the site: 1)Some of them are seeking relationships when they shouldn't be, or have issues that need some serious self-work and, left unresolved, are not conducive to a good relationship. I had one case where someone I'd gone out with told me that they "weren't good with relationships" and pointed out that they didn't even have a pet or a roommate (even though they were on the site and looking!). 2)Some of them play insecure head games, or are dishonest with me, even if they don't realize it or not. Witness the women on the site who "wink" at me to express interest or at least go so far as exchanging an e-mail, but then suddenly disappear for no reason that I can discern. Then there are the women who swear that they're tired of the guys they run into on the service or dating in general, but then you see them right back on the site actively looking. 3)A few of them are extremely superficial and picky. I have had several cases where someone simply stopped communicating with me after swapping pics. Add it all together, and it makes me wonder if I'm ever going to meet someone who shares some common interests and might be open to an honest relationship. At this point, something a friend once told me is coming back to me now: it's their loss, and it's all a numbers game.

Naked Corn Dogs, etc.

The ISP tech finally showed up this morning to check the interior wiring and signal levels, and after about 45 minutes of redoing cable connects and also rehooking me up to the building splitter, determined that he'd done everything he could. It looks like things have improved ... internet's staying up, seems a little faster, and even the cable picture seems improved, so he's done his job, and I can resume adding to this blog.

It's been an interesting week, so far ... with the 'net down, I've taken the opportunity to get out and about, and had a really good time with friends at the Iowa State Fair (the only State Fair that's had both a musical and movie made about it), made a few new friends, watched some familiar musical acts (including a really wonderful "Stomp meets touring band" called "Vocal Trash" out of Texas), and managed to stay away from most of the good but not good for you Fair food. It amazes me that they somehow manage to find something new to deep-fry every year, from the deep-fried Twinkies and Snickers bars, to the "naked" corn dog this year ( a deep-fried hot dog minus the corn dog breading), and also find something new to put on a stick (pork chops, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.). The official Fair website is, if you're curious.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Today's been an off day for me. Woke up this morning with bad allergy issues (the sniffling and other symptoms were pretty positive clues), so I called in sick to work, took my meds, and stayed home. Fortunately, the internet connection is back up; the local cable ISP has been doing something that's been causing connection drops since last Thursday. When you're used to always-on, suddenly off gets a bit frustrating.

The theme to this week so far seems to be "reconnecting". On Monday, I jumped onto Yahoo for chat, something I haven't done in ages because I'd resolved to spend less time online and more time getting out and seeking connections in real life rather than virtually (then back in the days when I was working two jobs and going to grad school and couldn't meet many people outside those arenas). In the last three days back online, I've encountered a friend from the West Coast who I lost track of for awhile after she got married and moved out to D.C. I'd heard from her once between then and now, and this time, I discovered that she had gotten divorced and is now in Tucson, pending a move next year back to San Diego. Then today, I had a nice chat convo and reconnected with a long-time friend from Oklahoma, who I met online when I used to live in Kansas. Funnily enough, we never actually "met" in real life until she had moved to Chicago and I had come to Iowa, but she was someone who was there for me and made the lonliness bearable during the first year following my breakup with the ex, and I realized today that I have never thanked her for being there for me.

Encountering both was a very pleasant surprise, and also a reminder that life has moved on for all of us. And a reminder that I'm still searching for (and yearning for) a sense of close connection here in Iowa. Yes, I've made some close friends across the country ... some from high school, quite a few elsewhere (some in MO, some in CO, some in MI ... all with some common interests and bound by the tenuous virtual filament of phone line and fiber-optic cables). I have also made a few close friends here as well, but seems like quite a few of my "friends" here are, in their own way, friends who come and go because they, like me, are also looking for a serious relationship, and when they get involved with someone, their other friendships get neglected. Why this is, I don't know, but I wish some people would be more considerate. After all, who is going to be there to cry with you when the relationship goes sour, or rejoice with you when the wedding invitations get sent out? Just a thought ....

Monday, August 08, 2005

I've Been Here How Long?

As I'm fond of telling people here, I'm not from Iowa originally. This past week marked six years that I've been in Iowa. How I got here is a story in itself, but for now, I took a moment to reflect on what I've experienced. Moving up here was (and was for awhile) a happy time for me. I'd just finished graduate school, I was moving to be with my fiancee, and I'd just gottten a job that paid above 33k (just in time to start paying off my student loans). It should have been the point in my life that any good storyteller would have called a happy ending. Since then: I'm still single (the ex had some bipolar issues), still have the job, and I've by and large made a good life for myself and had the chance to experience quite a few moments where I was "in tune with the rhythm of the universe" ... a last-minute choral concert at a local church featuring two Lithuanian/Latvian choirs, one of which (with only seven vocalists), created a moment of perfect beauty. Or a Saturday morning practicing Tai Chi after sunrise at a nearby park. Or being able to enthrall a congregation with a soaring tenor voice in harmony. But sometimes, I do think about life currents ... the decisions that led me to be "here", and I think about choices that could have led me in different directions ... cases where I should have acted on my feelings and told someone I cared about them. Cases where I could have done something different, or gone to a different part of the country. Would I have had similar experiences? Or would something completely different have awaited me? I suspect somewhere out there, there's an alternate quantum version of me who's sitting in Chicago, where I'm working for the National Archives, or out in Las Vegas, living with a soulmate who in this possibility track didn't realize it, and thinking the same things.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Gardens of Stone

Was out shopping yesterday and picked up a copy of the movie Gardens of Stone, based on a novel by Nick Proffitt that I'd read when I was younger. It's not bad; as a writer, if I've read a book prior to watching the movie adaptation, I have this visual picture of what the characters look like and what scenes should look like because I've already imagined the scene, and by and large, it's a faithful adaptation. Both the book and the movie are named for the "Gardens of Stone" that make up Arlington Nat'l Cemetary, and tell the story of the Army unit detailed to do ceremonial burials, "the Old Guard", during the Vietnam era through the eyes of a seasoned sargeant and a young, idealistic officer assigned to the unit, who is later sent overseas and rapidly becomes disillusioned by his experience.

As a movie, I think it captures most of what Proffitt was trying to say about Vietnam and war in general: that we stereotype our enemies, the people who oppose the war, and the people who defend us, and we also romanticize the entire notion of going off to war while failing to acknowledge what it really is (something that Twain did as well in his short story "The War Prayer"). The reality, as Proffit notes, is that wars cause deaths, and as his narrator, Pfc. (later 2nd Lt.) Willow comments: "We lost three good ones yesterday ... it's always the good ones, isn't it?"

I saw that there's a new "reality TV" series about serving overseas in the Middle East ... it makes me wonder how future generations will view our war on terrorism. Will it be seen through the lens of reality TV, or, as with Vietnam, will they take the time to pause and reflect, decades afterward?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

First of Many Random Thoughts

After a couple of years of lurking and watching other friends post their own blogs, I decided this evening to take the plunge. In the future, expect more random thoughts ... musings on life in Iowa, society, and my interests. Garrison Keillor, this won't be. But expect to muse as my own muse strikes.