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But a Key


At a time when decimals deeply mattered, I was a kid of 11.48 years bereft of everything I held dear. Some thirty years ago my parents moved us from Fairport, New York. It was situated outside of Rochester, an engine of industry right up till digital photography burned down Kodak in a green-flame heap of celluloid. But I digress. We moved form Fairport to a small town on the eastern edge of Finger Lakes appellation by the name of Skaneateles, a town of some seven-thousand inhabitants nestled amongst rolling hills at the northern end of a sixteen-mile long lake.  Picturesque.  Quaint.  Charming.  Everything you might want from a New England town.  But for me, as a kid disoriented and feeling abandoned, it was a desert and I surrounded by philistines.  I found myself in a school system where everyone knew everyone since kindergarten. I was a stranger, a ghost, a kid alone who did not have the social graces to fit in. Sure, I would eventually make friends. Kids do that. We bounce. But as was my wont, I was soon looking out to when I could rejoin civilization.

Civilization is filled with universities, libraries, museums and bookstores, or so I deemed as a kid. Nowadays I think about such things differently, but I am getting ahead of myself. But still, that story, the story of seeking civilization persisted with me for quite some time after my graduating class’ diasporas when we either went abroad or university or both. Still, as a kid I had an insatiable curiosity for knowledge.  Skaneateles seemed the farthest thing from anything, my own Tatooine as it were.  What I thought I needed was a world of knowledge and culture.  As a means to that, I used to sneak on the Greyhound bus that stopped near our house in order to go into Syracuse, some forty-five minutes away, to visit the university library and read books. For those too young to know, I grew up in a time where inter-library loans controlled the flow of information, and online bulletin-board systems were still in their infancy, so getting your literal hands on books took a bit of adventure.  And adventure it was! It would be seven more years, as a first year of undergraduate studies at Purdue University, that the World Wide Web would become a twinkle in the public eye … and everything with respect to the concentration of knowledge and wealth in city centers would start to be challenged.  But that is a story still playing out, and it is, as they say, another story, even if it is nonetheless intertwined into this story.

Before I got to where I am sitting now, on a patio looking over the town of Chelan, Washington, let me mention another story. A year before moving to Skaneateles, I saw WarGames. It would be an understatement to say I idolized Matthew Broderick as computer-genius. I wanted to be him. I ached to be his character. It is likely I also was infatuated with Ally Sheedy who played his girlfriend in the film. When I saw him on a bike riding out into the Washington state pines of the Puget Sound, I felt an instant connection. Years later, much to my mother’s disbelief and likely heartbreak, I told her my destiny was to live on the West Coast.  It would be decades later still before I finally understood my truer motives, but as a kid of ten I thought it was a sign, seeing those scenes of mountains and rolling greens telling me where I belonged.  So when my path converged on the University of Washington graduate programs to study technical Japanese and computational fluid dynamics, it is not hard to imagine I thought Destiny had come to my door and knocked.

That was some seventeen years ago, and in that time I graduated, worked at three major hometown enterprises, bought a condo, and even got married three times, all while living in Seattle. I have been busy, what can I say. I was all about Seattle. I commuted through neighborhoods by the bus and by foot. I spent both my mornings and evenings at cafes reading books and doing artwork. Some days I quaffed up to sixteen shots of espresso, a poster-child of a Seattle hipster who was tens years too early to be of that generation. I spent summer weekends listening to Shakespeare in the Park, and my winters and springs at Benaroya Hall listening to symphonies and Nat Geo Live. I walked through museums with a sketchbook in hand, and through the zoo with a camera. I soaked in civilization. But then something happened. It waned. I found myself forever over-stimulated, the constant traffic and crush of people overwhelming. I could not breath, as it were. We were all strangers to each other. It is true I had found civilization, but discovered that what I — we — needed was community.

A little over three months ago we moved ourselves to Chelan, Washington. For over two decades I was chasing after civilization, only to end up in a town half the population of Skaneateles.  Nor is it amongst the lush forests of western Washington, but instead nestled at a end of lake, much like Skaneateles, albeit surrounded by the high desert of central Washington.  It is a town not unlike my adolescence.  It has the same ebb and flow, the same energy and vitality and even socio-economic struggles. My spouse’s parents live just down the road, and I feel a bit rudderless if I do not see them at least once a week for dinner, watching TV together and just hanging out in each other’s presence. There is regret, too. I now recognize that the very same motivations that brought my parents and I to Skaneateles, are the same that bring me and my spouse to Chelan. I can, for the first time, see the virtues of the place my parents have now been at for some three decades.  And to add to all of this, I am now of the same age my parents were when they moved to Skaneateles. I find myself suddenly in the shadow of my parents, and from that I now possess a key of sorts.

We have replaced the trappings of civilization for the comforts of community. My mornings no longer include a forty-five minute trot to get to a bus, but instead a stroll out amongst the hills and river that flow from the end of the lake. I have emptied my iPhone of my bus schedules, and rarely use it if at all. There is but a single cafe to choose from. A single bookstore, too. Sure, there is a town museum to visit, albeit it is not one where I’d take a sketchbook. The zoo has been replaced by yard goats and a rodeo down the road. When I go into town, I walk out the door with a single key around my neck and tucked under my shirt.  I put on my headphones and jam to Daft Punk or listen to NPR … it depends on my mood and fickleness … something, I am told, that happens in your forties.  I do not carry a wallet, cash or even a credit card since I can get everything I need from the local grocer on credit.  I walk into town for yoga, or else get a crepe and coffee, or else stop into the local bookstore to make a new acquaintance.  I carry a simple messenger bag to gather my groceries, and I avoid using my car except on stops to the recycling center at the edge of town. And I find myself singing “to da dump dump dump dump dump dump dump” in the vein of the Lone Ranger’s opening theme song, not so unlike my own father whenever we took the garbage to the Skaneateles Dump. I look upon all the tourists, and hope they enjoy the town and at the same time hope they do not change its sedate way of community.   And I think more keenly and fondly on the town on the other side of the country where my parents still live. I get it now.  I get what I missed some thirty years ago that only now I can start to appreciate.  I am sorry, mom and dad, for not understanding nor appreciating what you trying to find and create.  I feel the key now pressed into my palm. I turn it and something inside of me clicks, and a door long locked slowly parts. Thank you, even if it has taken me some thirty years to appreciate the gift. Thank you.

Legacy


There is life, even Life.  And there is living, even Living.  But neither of these – life and living in either capital form or not – are necessarily related to each other.  To have Life does not mean you are living, unless you are also truly Living.  I have been coming to this conclusion over and over again this past year.  I am 41, and  I have been living, but I am pretty sure I have forgotten what it means to be Living.  Or to put in the modern vernacular, then consider Daredevil on Netflix:

Matt Murdoch: I’m not afraid of dying.

Priest: A lot of people aren’t when it comes right down to it. It’s living that scares the holy crap out of them.

Trust me, I have not been afraid to checkbox off a lot of living.  5 earned degrees, 4 of these conferred and 3 of those Masters of Science in engineering-physics, technical japanese, and applied computational mathematics.  I’ve lived abroad multiple times, and traveled abroad even more times.  I’ve ate and drank my way through cities, countries and even cultures.  But I am not sure I’ve ever known Home even if I was home. I’ve been involved in large, well-known projects including Boeing’s 787 program,  Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Amazon e-commerce.  Throw in a handful of shared patents, too.  Heck, as an overachiever I have been divorced twice, and now happily married for a third time.  Yeah, that is a life, but is it Life?  Sure, I’ve been living and even making a living, but is it Living?  What am I truly afraid of?  Because it is sure as hell not dying – not anymore, not really ever.  What am I afraid of? Isn’t it obvious?  I have been checkbox-living because I have been afraid of Living.  And now I fear living another 30 or 40 years only to end up still not having Lived.  You following?

But how do you stop living and begin Living?  By answering the essential existential question.  It’s the only existential question, really.  The question, of course, being: What is Life?  Hmm.  Yes, I agree with you.  It is a child’s question that we leave behind in adulthood, having learned it to be too immense a wall to scale.  So we stumble away from it, instead picking up our latest handheld device to read a wall of posts.  And those posts, this post even, don’t answer much of anything at best, and at worst a whole lot of nothing.  Still, we post about a myriad of life’s doings in the hopes we are heard.  So that question – The Question – comes to us without any seeming answer, and we yield in mute response.

I cannot speak for you, so please forgive me any generalities.  Let me step back into my own living, my own life and tell you how I got here:  I have spent four decades hanging my coat and hat on someone else’s pegs.  I looked for recognition in my father, my mother, my family, my friends and even my managers and colleagues at work.  I counted the number of reads and likes of posts, and I amassed my degrees and my accolades like Smaug hoarding treasure.  I got rid of all the mirrors inside of me, and instead hung you all up on my walls to tell me how pretty I am.  I am pretty, right?  I put down my pencil.  Then my pen.  Then my brush.  Then finally my words.  I burned them or else tucked them away, up on bookcases and in boxes.  Then finally I went to sleep in this den of my own making, unwittingly having cut myself off from the rest of the world to await the footfall of my own doom.  I had no idea what I had done, since living and Living seemed to be the same thing until now, when I see ahead to another four decades spent cowering under the weight and banality of that kind of living.  What remains around me is all baubles now, having no hold nor charm over me.  What was once an immeasurable treasure is now worth very little other than to be melted down and hammered into a key to open a door, a door to Living.

So yes, I’ve been a coward. I never realized that I already had all the wealth I ever needed.  But it was not the kind of wealth I knew to look for.  I looked outward, and so became blinded to who I am.  A beautifully imperfect human.  More so, I’m a beautifully imperfect brother, son, friend, colleague and spouse.  I only ever really needed what I was born with.  This soul given a Life so that I might pluck, feather by feather, the quills to write my own story for myself to read.  It is just a story; it may or not be worth reading.  But it was my story, and I forgot to read it, let alone write it.  That was the first misstep from Life to life.  And the second was not sharing it with the people I love, with the world around me.  And so I lost Living to living, left Life behind for a life.  Truly, the cake is a lie.  So then, what is not a lie?

Again, I do not know what all of this means to you.  Why title this post Legacy?  Well, now we get to the meat of the matter!  I used to think legacy a four-letter word, a thing that amassed estates and children alike to act as billboards posted along the road-side of history to proclaim to others: “I was here.  I will not be forgotten!”  And that was exactly what so much of my own living was about, even if I did not realize it at the time.  I wanted to be heard.  I wanted to be acknowledged.  I wanted to be remembered after death.  I wanted to be seen while living.  But how can anyone see me, if I am blind and mute to myself first?  I now know that was neither living, nor a legacy worth working toward.

I will admit that I began to recently think then that Legacy was having children, and that Living was raising a family.  In a way, it is, but not as ends, but only a means.  Bear with me here for a moment.  The greatest gift we give ourselves is ourselves.  The answer to Life is a simple refrain: Here I am.  In that refrain we give ourselves the permission and strength to have a voice for everything worth saying, “Here I am.  I love myself for who I am.  I love you for who you are.”  And then is not this the greatest gift to give our children?  It’s not estates or wealth or even ourselves, but instead we give them our compassion and love so that they might join the fray to say “Here I am, too!”  Yes, our legacy lies in our children and our families, but our true Legacy is that we might Live and Love so that they might join us in really the only refrain the Universe, Life, Living and Love will ever utter: here I am.

Here I am.

From The Vault


I thought I would dust off the blog, and in the process of the house-cleaning I came across these two drafts of posts that I never published (till now).  While inarguably from a different period in my life, I found in re-reading them something, something latent worth sharing – or, if I am to be honest to say they are worth exposing – for what they are: purpled and incomplete.  Like any draft, they are forever dying from a lack of words and lucidity.  Nevertheless, when has a parent ever not loved their own children over all others?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

DRAFT February, 2011

Calm thyself, little pollen.  The great river flows and we are just here as spectacle and spectator.   Oh, how we languish amongst the many eddies and tide pools believing it is our own gravitas that so conjoins the river’s waters into these turbulent times when instead it is the river in its buoyant, orotund song that carries the melody that is our life.  I am often reminded how spectacularly fortunate, lucky, even spoiled much and most of my life has been.  Even amongst the innumerable hallmark moments that capture my own picture-perfect postcard moments of auto-perfidy still I find a humored malaise that belies my contentment in sordid slices that sluice over me.

I As Coward

DRAFT May, 2011

I as coward? Yes. Coward. I am a coward. I wish it were different. I wish I might be truer to the many multitudes of words in my mind and in my mouth, spewing out the very shadows of lies that stand resolute to the image of my self that I wish I were. But I am the Napoleon on fears and the Caesar of defeats, I stand here resolute to say I am coward.

I remember myself as child in front of the globe, as well as standing in front of the many maps that can be found at Metsker Maps on First Avenue in Seattle, wherein in the five-year-old child in me screams to me over and over again “I want to see that and That and THAT!”. But I go deafly, even mutely, from the store knowing that I live here in Seattle, a displaced central New Yorker amongst the dander and down layers of PNW life. Here I am. Coward. Do you remember when I did not climb Kilimanjaro, starting out on the plains of Africa trekking my way to the summit where, even in this remote land, the steel cans puncture the azure skies? Do you remember when I did nothing on the treadmill while the planes slammed into the towers, the debris that fell in rag-doll time from heights meant for angels? There is was not much for me that I knew how to do when my grandmother died; just breath and hope there was nothing my absence would suspend. I remember fondly the road-trip I did not take to New Zealand in a beat up VW van, a sojourn to revere the sites that disciple Peter Jackson has, with 35mm cellular uncture, wrought now most holy. How many times I have not stopped to introduce myself to the smile wrapped in sunshine and water falling hair? Were there not nights I would have been better home with friends than trying to cram one more line of code into a source code that will never be there to help me when I am sick? How many times have I dared to not deviate from the marks on the door that everyone is trying to match? And when she asked for my hand for life, did I not willing give her mine because I believed any hand, even a cold dead hand, was better than no hand at all? I am a coward. But then so aren’t we all? Are we not all the compromisers and usurpers to our needs? We step to the beat drummed by The Others, and follow with musket resting on shoulder to do our duty and die. Cannon fodder us all. We cowards.

Curiously Enough


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the “internets” some weeks ago.  I, on some great fluke of luck, stumbled upon a lottery to participate in a cross-site NASA event sponsored by NASA Social to celebrate 50 years of NASA and the upcoming landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, also known more affectionately as Curiosity.  I have never bought a lottery ticket as I always know the odds are stacked; but, on this one I thought the worst thing was regretting not putting my name in the proverbial hat.  Lo and behold, some weeks later I received an email letting me know I was selected.  Flabbergasted is the best word to describe my reaction.  And so yesterday I spent today (August 3, 2012) on-site at Johnson Space Center down in Houston, Texas to get some behind-the-scenes access along with participate in a news briefing televised on NASA TV.

On my flight down to Houston two nights prior I relaxed to read the history of Queen’s Brian May in one of my favorite publications: Astronomy.com.  Many know that Queen holds a special place in me, but few know it has been a staple of my music since I simultaneously discovered David Bowie on “Life on Mars” and Queen on “Fat-bottomed Girl” on a dubbed cassette; this all way back just as puberty struck.  And of course, as a bona fide astro-geek since even before this I was (and still am) naturally enamored with songs like May’s “’39” about space travel, and Queen’s soundtrack to the 80’s version of Flash Gordon.  What many people may not know is that Brian May has become a hero to me (again) for his return to Imperial College to finish his PhD in astronomy, a body of research on Zodiac light that he left incomplete for some 30 years while he globe-trotted with Freddie Mercury et al. as one of the world’s recognized masters of rock guitar.

In reading the article about Brian May, the world-recognized-guitarist-(re)turned-astronomer, I remember when it all first began with my love of astronomy.  I was barely past my fifth birthday when Voyager II arrived at Jupiter.  It was then when images starting coming back that I got a taste of the infinite, and I have been hooked ever since. Before the internet and the now seemingly boundless ocean of rich media and richer information I would write letters to NASA to share with them my love of astronomy and space exploration, and in return they would return to me and my then ten-year-old mind unbelievably beautiful glossy images of spacecraft and even more priceless brochures filled to the brim with intoxicating details of their many programs.  And so concomitant to Voyager II helping frame in pictures a bit more of humanity’s place in the universe, my own universe expanded to something greater than myself.

As early as middle school I would, unbeknownst to my parents, grab a ride on a Greyhound to ride into Syracuse University to clandestinely visit their libraries to read up on astronomy and physics.  So deep was my convictions that I went as far as declaring since the age of ten that I would one day work Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California after I got a PhD in orbital mechanics.  I was on-track with this life-plan till I arrived at Purdue University where a combination of the previous year in Japan along with a recalcitrant aerospace engineering department steered me to University at Buffalo where I was free to pursue Japanese alongside my aerospace engineering studies.  The rest is history, as it is oft writ.  I entered Boeing as an aerospace engineer, flirted with Japanese interpretation for a year before eventually settling on software engineering and now program management.  As time flowed forward my steps seemed logical and congruent, but there is a part of me that wonders “what if”.  What if I had stayed the path and completed by PhD at University of Washington?  Where might I be now?

It is a thought that has more merit than merely an idle exercise in speculative reminiscing.  To place this in a bit of recently acquired perspective let me first comment that the common advice proffered to aspiring university applicants—Do something you are good at—is patently horrible advise. This tends to manifest itself to those students good at math (or Math, even) who are told they should join the ranks of engineering.  But even more subtle and more sublimely misleading to a person of my ilk as a (too?) deeply introspective person may be to also tell a person to do what they are passionate about as this may lead to an (overly) self-engrossed person.  This is inarguably nearly as wrong-headed, and pursuing my passions has not helped me garner a level of satisfaction that I once esteemed it would.  Something to the equation has been missing, but what?  Recently while waiting for my morning commuter bus to arrive another bus came to the bus stop.  On its side was a simple slogan for  local university: Do something you value.1 It may have been the choice of word value over what I had expected, passion, that reverberated and then resonated with me, but hidden in this simplest change of words is something that best frames my most recent rumination on the course and direction of my life.

I stepped off the path of my PhD in computational (plasma) physics because I had found something as equally compelling as uncovering and exploring the mysteries of our physical world.  It was a path I was and still do (in a latent way) value and am passionate about: acting as a Japanese-US liaison.  That path took me first to Boeing as an aerospace engineer, then as Japanese interpreter at Boeing helping Shingijutsu bring lean concepts to our facilities, and next when it seemed Boeing did not need a cowboy-wearing, Japanese speaking aerospace engineer Yank (how surprising, don’t you think?) I then went back to school to retool myself as a software engineering where I thought my Japanese language skills could be better leveraged.  It was then that I moved to Amazon.com and slowly transitioned into technical program management before moving to Microsoft where I now work on Xbox.  Certainly my path has been intellectually stimulating and at times even gratifying, but it does not answer the deeper purpose of engineering to me: engineers do not solve technical problems, but instead solve human problems using technical means.  That is an arguably overly lofty and even hoity-toity definition I have clasped onto the lapel of my profession of choice, engineering; but, I do not think my younger self really missed the mark with it, either.  In my love of the simplest of taxonomies, the dichotomy, I have come to appreciate I inwardly do what I am passionate about and want to outwardly engage in things I value.

So what do I value?  That is the very question I am deeply engaged in trying to uncover an answer to.  In the past year my pilgrimage to Mauna Kea to see the telescopes, my multi-day trip to Lowell Observatory, and now day at Johnson Space Center are all about trying to find clues and even reclaim something I believe I let get eclipsed by the seeming realities of life.  Maybe it is just an adult lavishing attention and extragavance to his inner-child, but I have glimpsed the hazy shape of a response to this query in this past year.  And I believe more firmly my path is starting to find itself meandering back to something deeper than where I find myself presently.  I do not know its exact shape of turns ahead nor where I will find myself in months and years to come, but my feet ever move forward.  And that is maybe enough for now; for now, mind you.

I am curious to see where I will eventually land, till then there is Mars and Curiosity.

Special Post Script : A very special and warm thanks to NASA Social who invited me to participate yesterday.  They are the new, more externally facing connection of NASA, replacing from childhood those mass-produced glossy pictures and jazzy brochures with the more intimate voices of real people of NASA.  People who, like so many of us, get excited at the merest mention of NASA and its grand legacy of 50 years of exploration and discovery.  Thank you.

Man in mirror?

1 Actually, it read “What do you value?  Create a healthier world with Bastyr University” but this is my story so I am redacting it to fit. *sticks tongue out*

A JAR OF BALLOONS or THE UNCOOKED RICE: A Response, Part IV


It has been awhile since I opened up a jar of balloons or the uncooked rice.  I honestly did not think I would let this project lapse for so long, but here I am in December with some six months separating me and part III.  What can I say other than I am honing my skills in procrastination or else building up suspense for those of you following along one installment at a time.

Note, I pretty much just transcribe these questions and answer as I go.  That said, if you come across incomprehensible questions or answers it is most entirely due to my inability to read and type at the same time.  Please let me know and I will remedy it or keep it as-is if it is funnier that way.

Would you say you “exist”, in the sense that you can sense some thread of you-ness tying together, as handwriting ties together a person’s hand-written words, the way you behave in bank lines, around bosses, around lovers, friends — in all situations, I mean?  Ah, the solipsist’s dilemma.  I can certainly feel my own “thread” even if it is, or is not, split across an infinite set of slices of infinitely small bits of space and time.  And in so much as I am aware I am also aware of my self; however, are those others with whom I interact with observing me truly?  Or are they, including yourself, just figments of my own who are “observing” me, which is really just some abstracted sense of my self observing my self from an externalized position?  Do you follow?  Maybe not, but frankly, this may not be wholly what you are asking, now is it?  I believe I have touched other people’s lives and I further believe that it is something we should all strive to do whenever (reasonably) possible, even if it is just to smile to a stranger or open a door for a parent pushing her child in a stroller.  In this we “thread” ourselves into others, knitting a fabric of community, as it were, if you can bear with me this rather saccharine metaphor.  But there it is and that is how I feel.

Doesn’t your heart just plummet when you cause a big mess?  Yes and no.  Yes in that I never wish to cause harm to another.  But at the same time we are all human, myself included.  (Surprise!)  And some times the mess I am involved with is more as catalyst or stimulant than as causer (sic).  In this I mean we are all responsible for how we respond to stimuli; I cannot bear the weight of any person’s response to something I do or say.

Do you hate the rich?  What a silly question.  I try not to spend too much time thinking about other people, nor do I spend much energy (anymore) concerning myself with the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” for either myself or others.  I do not think people are materially better off than others are necessarily “wealthier” nor just “better” than others.  For myself, the wealthiest people are those who have found love in themselves, nurtured love in others, and made the time for both.

Or pity them?  I try never to pity anyone anything; we are all on our own journey with our means to find ourselves, or lose ourselves, as the case may be.

How much help have you had in life?  In some ways I have had more help than others.  In other ways I have had very little.  I grew up under the guiding words, “Do not do as I do or say since I do not know what I am doing, just figure life out for yourself.”  And yes; I quote.  I took that advise to heart and raised myself … sadly not too well.  So I am starting all over in my mid-thirties.  I think I have a chance of getting it right this time, too.

How many beds have you had in your life?  I must presume you mean how many beds have I owned or at least were deemed mine, not just slept in.  Off the top of my head, I had a crib, child’s bed, waterbed, bunk bed, futon, queen, and two king’s, or eight (8) total.

As a little kid, did you consciously act like a little kid?  Oh god yes!  It was the best way to drive my father nuts, especially nonsensical baby-talk.

Do you see a shrink?  Not presently, but in the past I have sought the help of therapists and counselors.  Some of the best revelations have come from moments with a “practiced guide.”

Have you ever been on a blind date?  No.

Where did your grandparents end up?  In a grave.

Did they stay where they were or immigrate toward the heat, chasing sunshine like cartoon potted plants that creep about on tiptoe roots?  Oh, you mean that.  My one grandmother remained in the area where she was born and raised.  My other grandmother did an annual migration between summery north and wintery south.  Neither of my grandfathers I knew well, but one of my grandfathers, too, remained to his last days in the area we was born and raised.

At a certain point, will we all switch to “old people’s clothes”, or will we go on dressing as we always have until we learn what we have been wearing ARE old people’s clothes?   The latter.

Macs or PCs?  Macs.

Do you finish most books you start, or do they lie around on coffee-tables and night-stands, open, face-down, slowly deforming?  I am definitely not into the deformation of books.  Books should be respected, in my opinion.  But you are certainly free to crack the bindings, just not on my own, though.  And I normally finish a book once I start it.

Do you take good care of things?  Yes.

Have you ever had an injury from sleeping badly?  Yes.  I swear I have sprained my big toe from tossing and turning.

Do you belong to any online friend networks, or has that box where you’re asked to cram yourself into 200 words always been too intimidating?  Yes.

Are you very (or would you be if you let yourself be) hairy?  I am told by others I am hairy.  I consider myself average.  I have thought of going the other way (hairy) and removing hair from certain areas.

Where, if you have a choice, do you like to sit when at the movies?  Two-thirds of the way back and center of the row.

Do you like to turn around and look at the shining, rapt faces?  No.  And I do not go to those kinds of movies.

Do you like watching people watch tennis, the uniformly turning faces?  I have never really watched people play tennis, let along people watch tennis.

When did you learn to tie shoelaces?  I have no idea, but sometime between my birth and now.

Do you remember when three o’clock was the most important time?  Yes; those were good years.

Boxers or briefs (if such applies)?  Boxers.

What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained at a beach?  I accidentally ripped off the toenail on my little toe.  I did so by tripping over a rock I had hidden in the sand.  I hid it in the vain attempt to trip an unwary person.  One might say I discovered how quickly karma can get paid back.

Do you like to go in?  Do I like to swim at the beach?   Yes; except for the sharks.

Do you like going around shirtless or going around in bathing suits, or are you secretly electric with nerves?  I do not like going around shirtless.  And for the rest, I am not even sure what you are asking.  Are you smoking something?

As far (as) places you’ve been, if you are tallying the list for the sheer pleasure of a large number, do airports counts?  No.

Shoes with Velcro, have you ever owned?  Yep.  I love velcro shoes, especially my Vibram FiveFingers.

Who do you think has more friends, me or you?  You.  But then again, you spent all this time writing all these questions which may imply you are a quiet introverted writer.  And then there is me who is diligently answering all your questions, another introverted aspiring-writer.  So maybe we have about the same number of friends.

When indoors and too warm, is your impulse to blame the room or fear a fever?  I like warm rooms, but I assume the room is warm and not I with a fever.

Is a lack of exterior corridors how you go about judging a motel?  I have not thought of it till now, but on reflection it does seem to signify (to me, at least) a place of lower quality.

Have you ever walked along a highway for reasons other than a broken-down car?  I have walked along country-side highways, but never one with purpose-built on- and off-ramps.

Is there any ordinary walk more desolate than the longer-than-you’d think walk between huge joined chain stores (such as between a Best Buy and Home Depot) where you vacillate as to whether to drive but don’t because it’s all the same parking lot?  Walking along a road with strip-malls along the side is the most desolate to me, such as walking up and down Aurora Avenue in Seattle north of 100th Street NE.

Have you ever sharpened a knife?  Quite regularly.

As a teenager, did you loiter?  No.  I did not grow in towns like that.  We had garbage cans like most civilized places.

What is the longest you’ve ever gone without speaking to another human?  Months.

Do you think you could go a week?  When I was younger that was my norm.

For whom have you caused the greatest joy?  As an aspiring self-actualized person I hope it is myself.

Who has hurt you the most?  Myself.

When is the last time you purchased pornography?  Twenty or more years ago when I was in high school.

Do you tend toward pigeon-toed or penguin-footed?  Penguin footed.

Did you ever purchase CliffNotes?  I think once when I was in high school.

Do people generally listen to you or ignore you?  I depends on the person for sure, but I feel I am listened to by most people.  But then again, I might infer from the question, that you are referring to situations when I might give people advise.  I loathe giving people advice lest I am willing to take responsibility for my advice.

Are you vigilant about seatbelts?  Yes.  When I am the driver I will not move the car until everyone has buckled up.  It is one the few times where I will not respect individual rights.

Peppermint or spearmint?  Peppermint ice cream or peppermint chocolate.  Otherwise, spearmint tea or spearmint gum.

Which you find increases more rapidly, your age or your idea of what age is old?  I grew up with older parents so I tend to think “old” begins in a person’s seventies.  But as I have aged that age has actually decreased since I feel my own mortality more acutely.  I only apply “old” to myself.  I am old.   Other people in my same age bracket are not old, in my opinion.

Why does it feel like such a victory, just remembering certain instances, certain people?  Because you and I both likely have crappy memories.

Do you set you watch at the exact time or ahead?   Exact time.  This includes all clocks.  Ideally, I set them to within tenths of a second against a world clock.

If ahead, do you find you simply subtract the difference, thus making the point of setting your watch ahead entirely irrelevant?  For awhile I did this with an alarm clock.  And yes, I just ended up subtracting the difference.  And while I always knew how to read the clock, others did not and regularly complained to me.

Do you mess with things, such as a watch’s tiny winding knob, just thumbnail it out , then thumb it in?  Yes.  I love to mindlessly fidget with things like that.

Do you ever mess with the button inside the fridge that makes the light go on and off?  Only once as a kid to verify that is how it worked.

Does your weight go up and down or stay the same?  My weight used to fluctuate more than it does currently.  Currently it fluctuates by 1-2 pounds per day above or below my average.

What roller coasters, generally, is your mental health strapped into?  I am always one for the old timber roller coasters.  I like something that has character and can be a bit unpredictable in little ways but ultimately gives you a rocking good time and never really lets you down or gets you hurt.

Have you ever been caught in the act of sex?  Yes.

Were you secretly proud?  No.  I was mortified.

When was the last time you ran as fast you possibly could?  It is how I end every run no matter the distance is to sprint at the end.  It is a lot of fun.

You can recall when you were pooped on by birds, no?  Actually, I cannot.  But I can remember when a seagull pooped into my grandmother’s hair.  It, the poop, was the same color as her hair which made finding it rather difficult.  I recall it being very funny at the time, however, in so remembering it does not seem particularly funny.  Maybe you had to just be there in the moment for it to be funny, eh?

Do you ever find yourself (particularly when dressed up) tallying the total cost of all that you have on?  Yes.  It normally shocks me.

When naked, do you think “zero”?  No.  But it is a good point.

Do you say “take a shower” or “have a shower”?  In this instance I am a taker.  You?

Is “like” your vocal tic, or is it “you know”?  Neither.

At what age did you buy your final pair of cleats?  I am not certain of the exact age, but I was younger than sixteen.

Does scrawling your name on a screen when you pay by card scare you?  Never.  And nowadays I much prefer not getting a bag to carry my items along with getting my receipt emailed to me.  It seems all very much more environmentally friendly.

As if they might think you are a forger?  That has never crossed my mind.

In what grade in school did people begin to date?  I think people began dating, at least as far as I was aware of it, in sixth grade.   And by seventh grade it seemed pretty common except for myself.  I never dated till after graduating high school.

 Were you in on this?  Like kickball I believe I was in the position right behind the “last person picked”.

If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you?  The simplest approach seems to call the coroner.  Assuming I am in the middle of nowhere then I might dig them a grave.  And if it is the end of the world I might just leave them there.

Who is your least judgmental friend?  It is a tie between girlfriend and my best friend.  Both of them just accept people, but then again that is a quality I value very highly in people so it is not too surprising that they are also closest to me.

Do you own or have you ever owned leather pants?  No.  Wait, I may have owned a pair but I cannot rightly remember.  It seems like something I would have wanted when I was a teenager.

Is there anyone to whom you can tell everything?  Yes.  Finding such people is very important to me; those who I can form my closest ring of people with whom I share my life.  There is a very strong correlation between non-judgmental and me sharing everything.

 Can you sing any songs a cappella from beginning to end?  Nope.  But it would be neat if I could.

Do you like being followed around a house by an animal and then stopping, saying, hands on hips, “What are you looking at, little fellow?”  You are a very strange person.  No, I have not done that.  But I imagine I might do that if I had an animal living with me.

Do you prefer being more loved or the more loving, the hunter or the hind?  When I was younger I loved to be the one being loved.  Nowadays, and I like to think it is due to wisdom or maturity gained at the hand of my mistakes, I prefer to both love and be loved in equal parts.

How many dogs, alive right now, do you know by name?  Three.

What is the first website you go to after checking email?  Either http://www.facebook.com or http://www.google.com/ig

Who, of those you know personally, has had the shortest marriage?  Sadly, me.  And likely me in both instances of my two marriages.

What is the oldest couple you know that has gotten divorced?  I do not recall exact ages, but it seems like a lot of people get divorced around the twenty-year mark which would put the oldest couples in the late forties or early fifties.

Aren’t old-age divorces really sad?  Divorce is always sad.  The only time I truly mourn or lament over a divorce is when still-living-at-home children are involved.  Otherwise, I only hope that the couple involved is making a decision that will (eventually) lead to them individually both being happier.

Did you know that Robert Frost loved gossip and was secure enough, as an old man, to admit it?  Nope.

Do leather belts, when the excess isn’t tucked into a belt loop, ever confuse you into thinking they’re exposed penises?  No.  But I have thought it rather phallic when I used to tie my overly long, braided leather belt into a loop such that the excess hung down just a little to the side of the zipper.  I was young.  I was foolish.  I had no common sense.

Do you then try to sneak back into that unknowing place, and continue trying to see then as 2-D penises?  Ummm.  No.

Two piece bathing suits or one (again, if such applies)?  One.

Are you more an exhibitionist or a voyeur?  My entire life feels like I am just one continuous stretch of voyeurism.

But the sight of yourself having sex in a mirror is exhilarating, no?  No.  I used to feel sorry for my partners having to look on me.  Yes; I have a lousy body image.

Is there any furniture of your parents’ (a clock, an antique chair, a crystal bowl) that you’ve had your eye on for most of your remembered life?  No.

When you see an old man or woman in a supporting role at a film’s outset, do you immediately begin thinking, “Well, it’s a given this one is going to die”?  Yes.  I do so whenever I read, too.

Is it really a bad thing that most films are predictable, as little else is?  I do not think a story works, at some level, if it is not predictable.  Stories are deeply ingrained in we humans and there is a reason that cultures separated by time and space repeatedly reproduce the same archetypes because fundamentally we share a common human experience. And when a story is not predictable it is often because the creator follows the basic structure of a story and yet is sufficiently nimble enough to vary parts in a way that does not violate the fundamentals.  And whenever a story truly feels strange (e.g. French films) it because they are working at breaking down the deepest structures.  As an aside, it may be that like language structure is an instinct (see Steve Pinker) story structure is built into the human brain at birth.

Do you, if you celebrate it, celebrate Christmas on Christmas or Christmas Eve?   I celebrate it like it is 1999 and celebrate both on the Eve and the day of.

When making approximate sock matches, do you pair on texture (“these feel about right”), color (“well, these two have gold toes”), or both?  I do not make approximate sock matches.  I also buy socks in batches and ensure they are all the same style so I do not have to worry about this whole “approximate sock matching” farce.

Did you have chicken pox early in life?  No.  I actually had it when I turned 30.  I got it on my way to Florida for Christmas with my family.  I likely got it from one of the kids on their way to Disney World.  And karma being what it is, I was my most contagious while at Disney World with my family, so I likely infected a lot of kids.

How much money do you make?  More money than I need.

Is it less now than you’ve made in the past?  No.

Which dish of your mom’s is or was your favorite?  My mother used to make a delicious shepard’s pie made with real beef, corn, vegetables and potatoes.  In the intervening years she has replaced it with ground beef, frozen peas and fake mashed potato.  Sadly.

Which was your least favorite?  Her idea of “chicken soup” which basically involves chicken meat, chicken bones, celery and water.  Yes; no salt or seasoning.

Do you listen to phone messages all the way through or delete them?  It really depends on who left the message.  But I normally jump off the message and phone the person once I get a gist of what they need or want.

What is the longest book or series of books you’ve ever read?  I suspect that Hardy Boys is the longest series by number of books.  And certainly L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth series was pretty long and a bit more “mature” in nature.  The longest book, most likely, is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

Are you at a loss when you finish?  I love reading books, but I am not sure I have ever been at a loss for words.  But then you did not ask me if I was at a loss of words.  Some books I feel a loss then they end.  In particular, I feel this way whenever I read any of Tad William‘s books or J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

Are you a sucker for products on infomercials, adhesive putties, magnetic brooms, new devices for rapidly dicing vegetables?  Absolutely not.  Quite the opposite; I have an allergic reaction.

What about the extras, thrown in at the end, though predictable as a rock band’s big hit delayed until a concert’s encore, (“All this for only…”)?  I do not get them.  Both physically and intellectually.

Are you a sucker for those, too?  Nope.

Do you find it frustrating that although you know how certain things “work” (for instance, how a love interest not calling you back automatically increases your interest), you can’t help but being drawn in?

But isn’t it human to be drawn in?  Sure, it is human to be intrigued.  But that does not mean we have to react to it, either.  We can achieve self-actualization and allow ourselves the opportunity for interspection.

But then again, what is it to be “human” anyway, and why do we even want to be it?

Why not something else?  Who says we are not something else?  Who says you are human?  Or me?  A bit presumptuous, aren’t we?

Which would you rather be?  A blue whale, unconscious and in tune, or God?  A blue whale.

Do you ever miss appointments entirely?  Yep, but only if it is a group of people getting together where I may only know one or two people.

Are you ever guilty about wanting too much, and monitor, like a waistline, your wants?  Yes.

Isn’t it nice to stir butter around in, say a pot of pasta, and watch the pat dwindle and dwindle — “Oh, and here it comes again, now a little smaller”?  I actually very much love seeing butter melt in things.  Because I know it will soon my yummy-in-my-tummy time!

Do you think that?  Umm, didn’t I already answer you?

Likewise, do you like watching flying helium balloons disappear into specks?  No.  It makes me mad because I think of how much it will likely impact the environment or kill some animal later on.

Do you watch loved ones disappear on train platforms or in rearview mirrors?  I like to the stand in the front of my place and be sure to watch my guests leave safely.  I only return inside after they are out of view.  Does that count?

How often is it, would you say, that your life, to you, resembles a movie?  Never.

Less often as before?  I do not think I have ever thought that.

Are you adept at remembering birthdays?  I cannot remember squat.

As a host, are you skilled and willing, skilled and unwilling, unskilled and willing, or unskilled and unwilling?  It really depends on a lot of factors.  I am willing if the party-size is small and intimate.  And I think I am skilled for these size parties.  But as the party size grows so does my willingness and skill diminish, likely exponentially.

In general, do you feel it’s your fault if someone is not having a good time?  I used to think it was my responsibility.  Nowadays I think everyone is responsible for themselves.

Are you a person that thinks he can fix people?  No.

Can you? Even if I could that is not the issue.

Can you recreate the facial expression you use when purchasing items like condoms or Preparation H?  I have a specific facial expression for this kind of purchase?  I guess I use my normal face.

Plastic or paper at the grocery?  First I use my own cloth bags.  Then I ask for paper bags.

Are you one of these people who just doesn’t give a shit?  I give a shit about myself.  And I care about others.  But at the end of the day, where my responsibility for myself ends my caring begins.

If no, do you think that these people actually exist?  Yes.

Are they conscious of the fact that they don’t care and chant their un-caring down their collars?  Yes.

Do you ever wish you could break dance, just spin and spin on your head in a subway station on a pizza box?  I used to dream of that when I was younger, but I never could bust’a move.

Who would you guess is happier, me or you?  I am pretty sure you already asked me this.  Oh wait, you asked who had more friends.  I know I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.  But I do not know you so I really cannot answer that with any amount of confidence.

Do you like black liquorice?  Yes.

Do you ever invite yourself?  No.

Tonic water or soda water (yellow label or blue)?  Tonic water.  I believe it is the yellow label.

Bottled water or is doesn’t matter?  I normally do not care, but on occasion I like bottled water.

Do you buy generic?  If I buy bottled water than San Pellegrino.

Do you think you’re capable of letting yourself fall without bracing your body in any way?  No.

How much money would that take?  Nothing.  It founds like a fun experience.

How much will?  It is not a matter of will but a matter of mitigating the risk of injury.  In that regards it takes will to not care about injury.  And I think it irrational to intentionally hurt yourself.

How little must you sleep before you round down to none, tell others you didn’t sleep a wink?  Three hours?  Two?  One?  No sleep.  Pretty simple, huh?

Do you still have possessions in someone else’s attic? No.

How conscious are you of your breath?  Not at all.  But I am now that you have asked.

When eating Thanksgiving, do you like to mash together the turkey and stuffing and potatoes and beans or keep them apart and them eat them separately?   When I was a kid I loved to mash all my things together.  Nowadays I like to largely keep them separate and on occasion add some of the carbohydrates to the proteins.  And yes; I keep my favorite dish to the last so I am ensured my last bite is the best.

What’s been your toughest birthday?  The day I turned 30.  My first wife had contacted me on IM a few weeks prior while I was abroad on work to inform me she was divorcing me.  I returned around 11PM the night before turning 30 to an empty house.  The newt day, on my birthday, I went to see The Two Towers in a packed theater by myself.  It was smothered in “awesome” sauce.

Are their any card games you’d say you were good at?  I won the single poker tournament I was in.  I used to be pretty good at Black Jack.  I am otherwise not a card player of any repute.

Can you predict the rain with aches?   No.  But I can smell the rain in the air.

Do you knock on wood?  No unless I am trying to be “ironic”, as it were.

Are you famous?  I mean, do more people know who you are that you haven’t met than people that you have met?  Marginally famous for somethings, but overall no.

If you opened the hood of your own smoking car, would you have any idea what you were looking at?  Yes, an engine that is smoking.

Do you like to pretend?  I have an enormous imagination so I love going on trips in my head whenever I get a chance, especially when I am running.

How often do you Google yourself?  Rarely if ever.

Do you have any collections of things (books, wines, sports cards, jeans, fountain pens, stamps, toy figurines in original packaging) that you actively grow?  Yes.  I love buying (and reading, too) books.  I also have started to collect wines, and yes I love to drink them, too.

Who is the animal you’ve loved the most?  I had a goldfish I had for a few years that really grew on me.

What was its name?  Kipper?  Munchkin?  Jake?  Goldfish.

Do you like guessing names?  No.  I actually think it is rude and tends to indicate a more a prejudice of the caller than the callee.

What about guessing games?  Those I enjoy.

At what age was your first kiss?  I think I was 19 years old.

How often do you think of this?  More than once a year?  Never.

How often do you sleep till you wake?  Normally I never sleep till I wake when I am working.  But I am now do that more and more now that it is winter and I have less of an urge to go running in the early morning.

Is there anything better than climbing into bed and knowing this, knowing you’ll be sleeping an indefinite length?  Only when another person is in bed with me.

What’s the most you’ve ever shelled out for shoes?  $350.00

Do you like to camp?  I love to camp, especially when I can see the stars.

Have you ever killed an animal with a car?  I killed a few birds.

A gun?  I once killed a bird with a BB-gun.  It was the worst feeling ever.

Have you ever been in a boat from which you couldn’t see a shore?  No.

What catalogs do you get?  Catalogs that I want?  None.

Can you ski?  Yep.  I just started skiing again after a near 20-year hiatus.  It is awesome!  I will be a ski instructor for kids with various challenges in the Outdoors for All program.  I assume you mean alpine skiing.  I used to nordic ski but not often.  And I have also done water ski.

Id you could own a pro sports franchise, which sport would it be?  Soccer or ice hockey.

Which team?  Seattle FC Sounders or Buffalo Sabres (but I would move them to Seattle).

Who was your favorite teacher?  My high school art teacher, Smo(lenski).

Is he/she still where he/she was, still teaching?  I do not know.

What alterations to your form have you imagined?  Unscrewable limbs?  An extendable neck?  A third arm, very short, projecting from your sternum?  Perhaps four more fingers on each hand to fill the gaps between fingers, so as to double the noise you could make when drumming on tables while waiting, four more fingers to keep fine things like sugar from falling through fingers (though a doubling of fingers would, of course, double the number of gaps)?  I used to think bionic lower legs would be cool so I could run faster.  But all your other options sort of convey your sense of imagination at the expense of pragmatism or any degree of aptitude for engineering.  Just saying.

Do you wash your hands before you eat?  No.

Can you play any guitar?  No.

Do you floss?  Yes.

Have you ever pulled your car to the shoulder due to driving rain, and then just sat, waiting, totally overwhelmed?  Yes, I was once in a thunderstorm with visibility down to 30 feet or so.

Are you disappointed by your windshield wipers’ highest speed?  No.

Can you talk like Donald Duck?  Yes!  I heart Donald Duck.

Are you a fast walker?  I am a moderately paced walker.

Do you or have you ever had a nickname?  I have had a few nicknames.  Wardo.  Wardly.  Interestingly, “Wardly” has been given to me on distinct occasions from different people who did not know each other or the shared nickname.

Were you one of these people at whom nicknames, like noodles at cabinets, were thrown?  Just a little bit.

Do you count the books you have by a certain artist and then just delight a moment in the number (“ah, 13” or “ah, 7”)?  No.

If you smoke, do you stub butts mid-way or always suck them down to the filter’s end?  I do not smoke.

Do ringing phones on televisions cause you confusion?  No.

Do you take your pulse a lot?  No.

Are you ever afraid to take it, in the way one is afraid to take a receipt from an ATM?  No.  My pulse is between 45 and 60 depending on how rested or relaxed I am.

Are you salaried or hourly?  Salaried.

At what age did you cease taking baths or cease exclusively taking baths?  I stopped when I was very young.  10?  And then I started taking them again in Japan.  I love hot baths.

How rare or not rare are those days in which you don’t leave your home or don’t spend any money?  I can certainly leave my home without spending any money since I love to run.  And now that it is winter I enjoy staying inside, but I still try to get out at least once during the day for physical activity.

That feels great, doesn’t it?  Yes.

Who am I?  You.

Have you ever let a roach or some other bug in your apartment or home live?  All the time.

Do you always eat breakfast?  It is very rare that I ever skip breakfast.

Did you cheat in school?  No.

Did you let others cheat off you?  No.

At what age (if such applies) did the thought of a pink room begin to sicken you?  Does it sicken you?  I cannot say I would love it, but I cannot say it would sicken me, either.

Were you allowed, as a child, to watch R-rated movies?  Nope.

Which minds do you admire? Any?  That has changed over the years from abstractions, or at least people I did not know, to people I know.  I used to admire Einstein and Feynman and Jobs.  Nowadays, I admire the people around me who exhibited a sense of measured proportion and balance such as my girlfriend.

Have you ever stayed overnight in a hospital?  No.

Do you like being patient and having people coming to see you like a kind, or are you driven mad that you can’t get up and go?  That is an interesting characterization of two extremes without a middle ground.  I like to be patient.  But I also like to get up and go once something is decided upon.  And I do not like people coming to me like I am a king.

Do you hope for a swift, abrupt death, or would you rather spend time on the deathbed?  I think it is important to let go and help yourself and the people love move on, as it were.  In that sense I think spending time before my death is an admirable and worthy way to spend some of your time living.

Have you ever, imagining the deathbed as a kind of perfectly edited highlight reel of your life, filed away certain items to recall later, such as “Yes, the first time I biked home from work through Times Square at about 4 am, hopping through red lights, and no one was there, and the whole square, that 75-foot-tall cube of light, was something I was having to myself, and the wet white litter was everywhere, just an unbelievable amount, yes, yes, absolutely, that definitely makes the deathbed reel”?   No.  But I do often think upon what I will be remembered for.  I hope it is for kindness.  I hope it is for some sense of wisdom and empathy toward the people in and around me.  I hope that if I have children they will strive to duplicate and then exceed these attributes about me, the things that I believe make a human noble even not always humble (in so much that it is not humble to have these thoughts).

Would you put low-lights on your reels?  I think we think a bit differently.  And I am not too sure that that means.

Say, some childhood scene when you spilled a whole quart of yogurt on your lap, or the time you waited in a 45-minute line on your birthday for a roller coaster you ended up being too afraid to ride or when you pushed a friend’s little brother into a swimming pool in his clothes and their mother screamed at you and screamed at  you because the child could have died?   I prefer either the touching scenes or the ones that make fun of me.  Like when my sister put me in my grandmother’s bra and snapped shots on grandma’s camera without telling her and she only realized that her grandson was dressed in drag after the pharmacist who developed her film commented on the pictures and then she called us up mortified that everyone thought her grandson was gay and that everyone in Kitchner-Waterloo knew it.  I am not gay, but that is not the point.  She yelled at Renee for what seemed like an eternity; it was the best thing ever.

Do you begin to think of yourself as a year older before your birthday?  Yes.  I turn 38 in a week or so and already I feel it better to round-up ahead of everything.  It is just easier that way.

If so, how many days or months before?  By November rolls around I have already added a year to my age.

Do you mind when dogs lick  your face?  No.

If so, will you pretty much let any non-stray dog lick your face?  Yes.

What websites do you like?  Wouldn’t you like to know, eh?

Have you ever flown first class?  Yes.  I got bumped up to first class on my first return trip from Japan.  And I happened to have caught mono but did not yet know it at the time.  I was popping aspirin like it was candy to manage the pain in my throat.  I did not enjoy the experience at all; sadly, too.

Do you ever fantasize about returning with your present abilities to a situation where your lack of those abilities caused you shame or just ordinariness?  Yes.  I wish I could go back to Japan as an exchange student but being as fluent as I am now.  And then once this break in time-space continuum is generated, it loop over infinitely and then 1 second afterwards I will be a world-expert in Japanese.  It will be awesome.

What is your favorite month?  I love August and September.

Are there businesses that you boycott?  No.  But I prefer to buy from local stores and those owned by people living in my community.

Were you a real go-getter when it came to selling raffle tickets?  Raising money?  Securing magazine subscriptions?  Once.  I sold the most items when in Cub Scouts.  But I really did not enjoy the experience; it seemed a lot like manipulating people.

Among relatives, who is the biggest low-life?   My mother’s sister.

How tall was your dad?  I think he was once 5-foot, 10-inches.  He is now closer to 5-foot, 8-inches.

When you sense your breath is bad, do you exhale into your cupped hand then attempt to sniff with your nose?  Yes.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the cold showers you’ve been forced to take have survived in memory, have they not?  Yes.  I love them.

From top to bottom, off the top of your head, are traffic lights red-yellow-green or green-yellow-red?  Red-yellow-green.  That is to ensure that the red-light is visible from the furthest distance since stopping is more important than going.

Do you know who know things like that?  Yes.  Me.

How frequently do you say your own name followed by “is dead, is dead” in the imagined voices of sorrowful friends?  Never.

Hawaii, Hawaii


Hawaii, the “big island”, lives up to its name. To the west it is tumble-weed dry, to the south lush and wet under rain forest clouds, to the east tropical with floral scents and aviary songs, to the north rolling greens with bovine bliss. I arrived on Saturday mid-afternoon and immediately headed out to Hawaii Volcanos National Park situated in the south-east corner of the island under the shadow of Mauna Kea. Everything is inarguably under the shadow of the fourteern-thousand beheamoth beast; it being the largest volcano by volume in the Solar system, second only to Olympic Mons on Mars. But when you are on the face of giant it is hard to perceive it slumbering bulk and so is the case with this volcano. One of the disadvantages of not doing a lot of pre-travel research, as is my wont is to discover and rather belatedly mind you, that the park is inside a rain forest; read, it rains. A lot. This makes viewing and camping a little bit more of a challenge; by the time I arrived near sunset I was not in the mood to throw my tent up in the rain and instead found a small B&B to grab a few winks. For those interested in a bit of travel advice, the best deals are the ones found on the spot. I grabbed a few hours of sleep before going back out at shortly after midnight when the clouds move offshore and the night sky opens up. In my limited time at the park this proved the best time to see everything as it allows you unparalleled views of the glow from the lava flows framed under a deep blanket of sky filled with stars. I later drove down to the shore to stargaze before heading out onto the old lava flows just before sunrise. It is another world being on these old flows. The terrain is rough and utterly devoid of any color other than charcoal black and the occassional splash of barely perceptible ruddy red from basalt. While out on the flows it is hard to comprehend the extreme challenges this island and its extremes in terrain and environment posed to the people who have called this home over the millenia; it is intimidating landscape that brokes no negotiation.

One of my goals for many a long while and specifically a part of this year is to visit the telescopes up at the summit of Mauna Kea. The drive from the park up to the basecamp at 9200-feet took less time than I imagined (or Google predicted). Instead of hanging out there till everyone departed at two o’clock in the afternoon for a guided tour, I opted to drive up to the summit on my own to enjoy it to myself for a few hours. The road out of basecamp requires 4WD, stretchinh over eight miles of switchbacks till you finally arrive near the top. The drive up is itself worth the trip as you ascend up and out of the cloud layer. It is, of course, an inhospitable landscape strewn with boulders from a time when a glacier eons ago sat atop the mountain. Nowadays there is no snow except for when it falls in the Winter months. There are a few small trails on the summit that you can trek along that help remind you that at this elevation your lungs are not up to the normal morning run.

Mauna Kea and Chile duke it out to lay claim to the title “best terrestial mountain-top viewing in the world”. Both of these sites sit atop mountain tops where there is less atmosphere to obstruct viewing. Mauna Kea has a few factors above its high-altitude setting that make it a favorite amongst astronomers. These include the relatively uniform conical shape of the volcano which helps smoothly guide the trade winds around the volcano. This has an additional effect of creating protective lower strata of air mass that quiets the air mass above it. As a consequence the summit lays claim to the most clear night skies in the world allowing the facilities atop it to stay in operation almost every night of the year. There are a number of different facilities owned and operated by different organizations from around the world here; Canada, France, Japan and of course United States among others call this place home. These telescopes operate over a range of wavelength including submillimeter, infrared and visible wavelengths. Some of the telescopes operate collectively with other telescopes from around the world using a technique called interferometry, allowing them to combine their signals to create an effective aperature roughly the distance separating them; in the case of the arrays on Mauna Kea this is the diameter of the Earth. And while this technique is normally reserved for radio waves and other electro-magnetic waves with long wavelengths, Keck Observatory, with its two monsterous lenses and unparalleled engineering precision, is used in the same fashion for the infrared ranges. Most of the facilities are closed to visitors; however, Keck Observatory has made a room accessible to vistors where they can look up at one of its telescopes. They are enormous, enclosed in their individual domes some ten stories high. And even though each scope and trestle holding them weigh in at over 380-tons, the mounts are so well-engineered that a single-person can by hand rotate a telescope along the vertical axis.

I can certainly continue to repeat here all the various facts and trivia that you can more easily find on the internet or read in a book; however, what is not found elsewhere nor readily transcribed is my experience of being so near to these facilities and the cutting-edge science they help forge. For those who know me, I have been studying astronomy and physics since before I knew there existed the words “astronomy” or “physics” that encapsulated these as hardened epistomologies; so focussed was I in my pre-teens on understanding gravity and stars and planets and galaxies that my vocabulary and my awareness were deeply woven into the meat of these epistomologies, not their skins. More particularly, at a very young age I was already deeply and viscerally rooted to the notion that when I looked up to the night sky I was looking back thousands and millions and billions of years in a way that connected all things and all persons over all times. It is then not surprising to me that I am deeply moved when I visit such places as Mauna Kea, similar to when I visted Lowell Observatory, LIGO and others. I am still brought to tears when I see these places and the questions they are trying to answer. This connection goes in some ways deeper and more geniunely more simply to the infinite complexity of our universe, more so than the later mathematics I learned even if it is mathematics that is ultimately the lingua franca of science. We can take some pride in the things we have uncovered in our pursuit of enlightment under the torch of science; but equally more so, hubris is granted when we allow these gained insights to put ourselves in perspective to this said infinite universe.

Here are links to sets of pictures:

Kauai, Hawaii


May we toast to here, the inbetweens, where in the crevices and the nooks and the crannies with the tumbles and some times the fumbles, goes the things we hold locked in our heads and in our hearts. It is where we hide and then later, sometimes much later, discover and discover once again the things we want most. It is where life is found. Kauai might not come to mind as such a place nor such a crevice, as it were, but here I have tumbled down inbetween the folds of volcanic rock and six millions of years of sandy erosion to find reminder of life and Life.

I arrived without much fanfare after a 5-hour flight from Seattle into the hub at Lihue. And quickly, as quickly as island-time may permit in the absence of any tick and tock way, threw my gear into my rented jeep and drove up to Kalalua in hopes of trekking it into the Napali coast. But alas, as late in the day as it was, I underestimated the 18km trek-time (which is 10 hours, half as slow as when I am hiking mountains in the Pacific Northwest) and opted to instead watch the sunset off a point a few clicks in. Once back, I watched from the northern beach with some consternation a thunderstorm set in over the western part of the island, but for a few hours I had reasonably clear skies observing the stars. I ended up parking at a beach facing due East where I sat and watched the night sky for hours, and where I eventually fell asleep. I would awake from time to time, especially when the Moon was directly overhead, startled to see Orion blazing in vivid glory unmatched in my many decades of star-gazing.

Kauai is an island of small extremes: lush and wetn to the north and east; sunny and humid to the south and west. On my first full day on the island I drove all over the island stopping in at both ‘Opaeka’a and Wailua falls before grabbing highway 50 to Waimea canyon and state park. The falls are spectacular from a distances but made inaccessible by the State due to concerns with safety. With the sun finally making its way out, I headed to Waimea canyon, an amazing sight of eroded rock that in some ways rivals the Grand Canyon for beauty. What is hard to grasp is that the island is only 6 million years old and only has another 1 million years before erosion drives it back into the sea. The drive itself offers numerous stop-offs that make it a leisurely drive up winding roads which crawl alongside the canyon’s rim. Toward the northern end you arrive at Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila lookouts that provide unmatched views of the Kalalau valley. This is where, as I am told, a Kauai tour-guide quipped in tongue tied fashion, “here is where <insert famous actress’s name here> received a big banana-scented blow-dry from King Kong”, but they did not say “blow-dry.” Tongue twister, indeed.

On my way back out of the canyon I decided to take a less-traveled road where a bit of late-afternoon sleep overtook me in a sudden rush. I parked the jeep under a tree and promptly fell alseep. A bit later I heard a car pull over near me and a few folks get out. It took a few more tens of minutes from under the dazed of late-afternoon nap for me to realize that they had car trouble. I should note that while I may know a bit about airplanes and software, I know near to nothing about the inner workings of cars. However, when did that stop an engineer from believing they can fix anything? Which is another way of saying I sauntered over to see if I could help them repair it. I knew enough to recognize that with the coolant was leaking out that either air or water had most likely contaminated the system and minus possibly driving the engine to ruin they were going nowhere. I offered to stay around till a tow-truck could be called; it seemed the most neighborly thing to do, as it were. In the intervening time we sat around and chatted, discovering that we are from the East coast and even one from Cortland, New York which is just down the road from Fairport and Skaneateles where I grew up. We eventually piled into the jeep and I drove them back to their home on the otherside of the island, chatting much of the way under the appropo and oddly juxtaposition of Miles Davis and James Taylor. It is that human connective tissue that tripped me up and had fall blissfully down into one of those greatest nook of life, found along a wayward roadside in a chance meeting with four strangers. I am reminded of the saying “strangers are just friends you have not yet met.” I do not pretend that I can be friends to everyone, we are all in our own natures different and thus by extension not always mutually compatible; and thus when I do find travelers of a kindred spirit along my path I am deeply appreciative of the chanced fate. I think it is this aspect of life I hold most precious: the best things are those things that come unforeseen and unplanned. Thank you to my Kauai friends.

On Friday my two friends, Victor and Mike, from my days at SUNY Buffalo along with their partners climbed aboard a Sunshine helicopter with Captain Steve who took us over and around the island of Kauai. After driving the length of the island it is surprising to discover that it can traversed in this time from one to the other and back. Along the way we saw numerous waterfalls, many of which can only be seen after a few days of heavy rain. While many think of the Hawaiian islands as a place of sun Kauai boasts itself as “the wettest place on Earth” with some areas of the island feeling some five-hundred inches of rain annually. This explains the extreme erosion of this the oldest island in the chain and also provides it some spectucular waterfalls many of which have made their way into Hollywood movies.

Tuesday after returning from my sojourn on Hawaii I drove up to Polihale State Park separated from Highway 50 by its some five miles of unpaved road. It is here where you can see the start of the Nepali coastline which is now only accessible by water or over the eleven-mile Kalalau trail. The beach is on the north side of the island where the higher swells can be found and therefore is a favorite haunt of surfers. It is general inaccessibility makes it equally enjoyed by folks looking to get away from the more tourist-centric south centered around Lihue and Popui. As fate or karma would have it, I heard back from one of the people I had helped out a few days prior when their car broke down. She works for Captain Andy and offered to get me on a catamaran headed for a five-hour trip up to the Nepali coast and back. Now that I had seen a bit of the island from the foot, jeep and helicopter it was now time for me to see it from the ocean. I headed back down to Port Allen where I and some two dozen other folks jumped onboard with Captain Kurt, Captain Jon and Katy for one hell of a spectuclar jaunt aginst head winds. For some two hours we beat against the waves and as our captain quipped, “once upon the Pacific Ocean it reminds no one of its namesake: peaceful.” Once at our destination we hoisted sail and headed downwind in a wing-to-wing configuration for a few hours while we enjoyed dinner and drinks and the setting sun.

Here are links to sets of pictures:

Aside: The island is overrun with wild chickens along with feral cats. And obviously the cats are not doing a great job as upper managemnet as there are a lot of chickens to be had. In particular the roosters are horrible at telling time; they start making noise, a lot of noise, some three hours before sunrise. Three hours. I thought people woke to roosters at or right before sunrise, but apparantly roosters in Kauai did not get this union memo and instead begin work very early. Most importantly, they like to do their job with gusto for long stretches of time. Needless to say I was well awake by the time I set up my camera for sunrise. Roosters suck.

Road-tripping down US2


There is nothing quite like a road-trip to make everything a-oh-kay.  Saturday proved itself to be the perfect day to jump into my car and drive East toward Steven’s Pass along US2.  The snow in the mountains is just beginning to dust over the peaks while the valleys remain awash in decidious’ Fall colors and conifers’ forever green.  It is the kind of day where I roll down the window to drink in the cold air and turn up the heater to keep my toes roasting and crank up the music while I let myself cruise at just enough of a clip as to let it all flow on by.  As I got out of Sultan just past the trailhead to Lake Serene I pulled into a logging road and drove a bit into the mountain range before parking.  And as is my wont I started hiking through the undergrowth till I found an unobstructed ridge where the trees where still only a few years into recovering from logging.  While we may not approach the blanket of reds and oranges and yellows that hallmarks Fall back in New England, here in the pacific northwest it is a fair trade to have in their place the powder white of mountains under an azure sky.  And as I stood over the valley with my camera in hand and the sun overhead I can safely say this one spectacularly beautiful part of the country.

See all the pictures from my road-trip.

 

exhume


i have been waiting to put down this shovel and sit on the muddy grass.  grueling hands grumble not used to this kind of work that surely my friends’ fathers were natured to.  instead i and a generation of youth escaped under green blinks of cursor and curious’er tappity tap tap.  i can smell the autumn air, potpourri of tired leaves colored with some bruised and other some ripened apples tossed on tired bundles, piles now burning down a year’s worth of accumulated forgotten promises.  crows sit on branches come to conduct me to work this hole i have dug for myself.  soon enough you may envelop me and send me away, friends.  sooner than enough for me but maybe not soon enough for you.  i am done but only momentarily.  i do not know how to stop.  with every breath i exhale, with every shove then kick of blade i exhume.  it does not stop.  nor i.  when is deep enough when depth cannot be measured?  where here grows nothingness next there grows somethingness and on the sum it cradles my infancy.  i shall find you but not here where you are not and when you are already there.  first i will dig myself up.  and then next you.  but i will.  never stop.

wondering


sometimes i wonder.  i wonder if i were you who i would be?  where would i be?  when would i be?  were i you would i love me?  or would i feel nothing?  what kind of days might i have?  would i still feel the same about life and friends and love and life?  would i no longer dream of waking up to you if i were to wake as you?  would i worry your worries and cry over your sorrows and laugh at your humors and would it be queer to feel your flows and ebbs as par my natural course?  would i get up in the mornings still wondering where you are and whether words from you were going to find me in my inbox?  would i look down at myself and be aroused?  i wonder if you follow me.  do you?  would i get in your car and find it strange that the stations are not in the same place on the radio as in my own car.  would i listen to your music and know the words and sing along the way you do?  were i you would your shoes fit my feet?  and would i find it awkward trying to balance in them?  if i were you is it inappropriate were i to gently caress myself?  and would it be strange were i looking into the mirror wondering why i can see you staring back and not me?  would i even know i were you or would i just be me being you with no mind of distinction or difference?  would i just cease to be me with no way of getting back?  i wonder.