November 2, 2004

Election Day

This election is making me super nervous. I need it to be tomorrow.
This is a cool map.

November 3, 2004


We stayed up late last night watching returns and now we're both to depressed to blink. My friend Kevin wrote a letter from Europe that sums it up neatly.

At least our house is coming along and we have a nice place to mope.

November 3, 2004

Demon Chasing Festival

As I've been in scanning mode all week I've finally been looking at hundreds of images I took two years ago when visiting a Demon Chasing Festival in Amdo (they've been sitting in boxes the whole time). It's funny how certain images stand out. These two were right next to each other on a roll of Kodachrome taken as I was waiting for the festival to begin.

November 5, 2004

Feeling woozy

Because of the previous post, I've received a couple of emails today asking me about traveling around Amdo... I keep going back to this area and over the years things have gotten progressively easier, but one thing hasn't's still basically many many hours in buses...

...but busses are cool because when you arrive someplace you always get invited in for tea:

If you want more detail I refer you to an old series of travelogue emails I originally sent to a Sino-centric travel list run by Peter Neville-Hadley. You can join the travel list by sending an email to this address.

Nothing much to report from Brooklyn. I have a cold. It's raining. I'm swamped with work and annoyed that I'm sick three weeks before Jenn is due (it could be any day now).

November 6, 2004

Local Color

Jenn and I have been debating the feasability of travelling with the baby during it's first year. My theory: while the baby is breastfeeding, travelling is relatively easy. Strange food is not an issue. The kid is still relatively light and emotionally undemanding. & The baby will open up all sorts of dialog with the locals. Jenn's theory: I'm crazy.

November 6, 2004


I generally steer clear of images of sunsets, fall foliage, or kittens (cats are evil), but sitting on the roof tonight watching the sun go down behind the statue of liberty was awfully nice.

November 8, 2004

Tom Wolfe's Hair

Ellis, the Uzbek, cut my hair again this morning. Apropos of nothing he asked, "Could you get me Mr. Tom Wolfe's phone number?"

"The writer?" I replied.

"Yes. The writer. I cut his hair for 30 years. Then he stops visiting. For three years nothing. Nothing! I thought he was my friend. I want to call and see if something is wrong."

Mr. Wolfe, if you are out there, stop by. Ellis misses hanging out.

November 9, 2004


To my European friends who look at our red/blue electoral maps on CNN and think we are all right wing rednecks, I offer this graphic by Jeff Culver at the University of Washington. It shows a US map proportional to it's electoral votes (and hence roughly proportional to population) and shaded by the intensity of the vote. This election was awfully close, in most places that matter... a landslide only in the eyes of someone who lost the popular vote last time and then declared victory.

This page by some folks at the University of Michigan offers a few more interesting cartograms.

Robert Vanderbei of Princeton also has some informative election maps.

Speaking of Princeton. This was the scene November 1986, 18! years ago:

November 9, 2004


After my haircut post. I received this bit of odd bit of SPAM:

You too can have gorgeous hair.





Hair that other men envy and women can't resist. You will be a Samson and your Delilahs will come flocking.

If you want the best man hair buy....

November 9, 2004

Visa mig på kartan var jag är

A Swedish man wrote in today and asked me today if I had any images of holy places in Amdo. The simple answer is yes of course, I have lots of images of monasteries, temples, and specific holy sites around the region, but the truer answer is that people who live there have a very broad sense of what is a holy place. This is one of the most isolated corners of Tibet. There are large swaths of unbroken plateau. Nomads tend to move around in small family groups gathering together only occasionally for festivals and trade. There are cities, but these are few and far between. Up in the mountains you will still find pockets of pre-Buddhist animists (the Bon). For the nomads who live in a world of such utter emptiness, the mountains, the rivers, the grass, the wind, and even the yaks all have some spiritual significance. For the most part these are not literate people... their faith is expressed simply and organically. A man on horseback will remove his hat when crossing a pass even when he is alone. Women will often circle a spring before collecting water. Children will often say a small prayer before venturing into a cave. In the mountains the traveler will encounter mounds of stones arranged into stupas often near key geological or natural features. This might not sound like much but if you have been walking for hours over featureless brown plains, seeing that simple marker near a patch of wildflowers can be a profound experience. Caves and springs are often marked with bits of cloth. Praying is expressed by circumambulating whether it be a stone stupa, a cave, or an entire mountain. So the holy sites often look like nothing special in pictures, a pass marked by rocks, a slight trickle of water — the mouth of a stream, or a small patch of hillside


People ask why I keep going back... hard to say exactly, but perhaps this slightly bastardized quote from H.G. Wells explains something of it:

"Most people in this world seem to live "in character"; they have a beginning, a middle and an end... They have a class, they have a place, they know what is becoming in them. But there is also another kind of life that is not so much living as a miscellaneous tasting of life. One gets hit by some unusual transverse force, one is jerked out of one's stratum and lives crosswise for the rest of the time"

November 11, 2004


You always know you are officially moved in when Albert shows up as a houseguest. His tale of being bullied into going to an initation ceremony for a quasi-cult has had us giggling for days.

November 12, 2004


With fatherhood impending, I've found myself thinking quite a bit about Jenn's dad. He died young of a heart attack when Jenn was a kid. At the time of his death he wasn't much older than I am now.

We don't have many photos, but in his formal portraits he always seems to be chaffing a bit in his suits, just suppressing a smile. By all accounts he was funny, hard working, and tough--a devoted son and father who doted on his family. I regret his not being here, just as I regret the absence of so many of the others.

November 12, 2004


No matter what you think of the war, it's hard not have a grim fascination with the events in Falluja. Kevin Sites blog give you grounds eye perspective on the American side of the battle.

This is the view from an Iraqi who lives there.

November 14, 2004


Need a Martin D-42K? This is a very fancy guitar. My friend JP is selling one that is brand new at an absurdly low price. Email me if you want me to forward you his info. This is an amazing instrument with incredible warm sound.
It's Saturday night so we must once again be a a birth/newborn class (I think this is our last one). Perhaps doing this stuff on Saturdays prepares you for parenthood... or not. We caught Primer, a low budget sci-fi time travel movie afterwards. Fun movie for geeks... reminded me a bit of La-Jette, cheap, dirty, moody.

November 15, 2004

View from the bridge

the view alone is worth the drive

November 16, 2004


On Sunday we were scheduled to have brunch with the doctors' Winkler. Mrs. Dr. Winkler was due a week after Jenn. It was supposed to be a friendly "let's talk about how things are going in the final weeks" get together. It didn't happen. About an hour before we were supposed to meet, I got a call..."Raul... (heavy breathing)... I'm sorry but we won't be able to make..... lunch. I'm in labor... we're headed to the hospital." The call won points for drama and it freaked us out a bit kicking us into high gear to finish up the details that remained. Now our bags are packed. The nursery is done & stocked. We've taken all the classes, discussed things till we're blue in the face. I think we're as ready to go...

From Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles:

I keep praying

For a double bill


Bad Day at Black Rock


Vera Cruz

November 16, 2004

Atlantic Avenue

New York Magazine has this handy map to our neighborhood.

November 16, 2004

Mail call

We live for mail around here. A good letter is always cause for excitement... but a package from Almaty. Well that's like hitting the lottery.

November 17, 2004

Gregor Mendel wherefore art thou

Jenn as an infant. Me as an infant. It's a genetic crap shoot.

November 19, 2004


Jenn was video chatting with Paul in Korea today. The video really makes the the miles shrink to nothing. Watching her model her pregnant self to her brother was like an advertisement for what these things should be. Now I want everyone wired up...


We had dinner with another couple who are due to have a baby on the same day as us. As both prematurely grey haired husbands walked in front of our ridiculously pregnant wives we got big smiles from virtually everyone who we were from some odd tribe. I know the ladies are tired of the belly, but we the husbands were discussing how we find them sort of glorious.

November 19, 2004

Oatmeal, Texas

There is this place far away from everything called Oatmeal where they used to listen to fishing on the radio. It's not much of a town--just a cemetery, a store, and a boarded up church. You can get there by turning off the main road between Austin and Burnet and following the the signs for "Live Homegrown Minnows by Pearl". The road is thick with cottonwoods and sometimes you have to swerve to avoid deer darting just in front of you. I used to drive out there hoping to find something.

An old friend having heard a few of my stories paid the place a visit. Apparently they don't play that radio show anymore.

November 20, 2004


Sometimes I doubt the existence of Australia.

November 21, 2004


Today in my quest to catalog family negatives I hit a batch from 1966 when my dad was in Vietnam. He had just bought a camera while on R&R in Hong Kong (a Pentax that was to become my first camera years later) and took pictures to send home. My mom was living in Monterrey, was pregnant, and was understandably worried, so most of the pictures he sent were of himself smiling and with friends. The images are usually labeled. "Beach at Vin Tau", or "Enjoying C-Rations", "Chuck Connors and Anne Margaret on USO tour", or something else innocuous.

But occasionally in the margins of the images you'll spot something that speaks to the seriousness of what was going on. There in the background of an infirmary shot, a body covered in a sheet with a prominent toe tag. Or of dark plumes of smoke in the distance. Tonight I was struck by these two images:

I also noted the progression of pictures. He took less than one roll a month, and usually the pictures were portraits of people or documentation of events. But in the last month, he shot many rolls, of the barracks, of the earth, of the sky, of the waterbuffalo beyond the fences, finally a flurry images unframed out the window of a jeep as he was headed for his last helicoptor ride out. It was as if he was straining to capture something of the place to hold on to. I know because I do the same thing.

November 21, 2004

Snow Show

Do you like snow? Architecture? Well the Snow Show is for you.

My favorites are the work by Cai Guo-Qiang + Zaha Hadid, Future Systems + Anish Kapoor, and Tadao Ando + Tatsuo Miyajima.


What about water and architecture?

November 22, 2004

The Ultimate Gift

Does anyone happen to have 5gs to spend on me for Christmas?
This is nuts.

November 24, 2004


No. No baby news yet. Technically Jenn's not even due for another week but since 2 of our friends recently had their kids early, we've been in it-could-happen-any-minute mode for about a week.

So we wait. It actually reminds me of travelling around the South America or Tibet. Your truck or bus breaks down and you wait. Could be a day, could be a week, the secret is to just be patient.

November 24, 2004

One year ago...

...we were celebrating Becky's birthday early with Jenn's family. Jenn was cooking a major Thanksgiving feast. Tonight Becks is doing most of the cooking and we're expecting my family...

Weird to think how much has changed in a year... and how much is the same.

I think about the old house sometimes and wonder what's going on in there, but that life is already distant.

As much as I enjoy actual weather here on the East Coast and as much as I have enjoyed the fall, sometimes I miss waking up in that light filled bedroom on Lakewood Ave. and the sound of all those birds every morning...

It was not much to look at on the outside, but inside it was so darned pleasant...

I believe the apple pie has just emerged from the oven. Smells delicious. I'm going down to check it out.

November 26, 2004


It was only after the meal, when we were cleaning up, that I realized I totally forgot to take any pictures.

Sad. It was a good time all around, and delicious to boot.

November 27, 2004

true mirror

We went to a restaurant tonight on Ludlow that featured a non-reversing mirror in the bathroom. I've always heard that these mirrors freak people out, but I looked fairly normal.

After spending a good 25 years of my life typing in front of a computer virtually every day, today I discovered my dad had no idea how a word processor worked. He seemed truly amazed.... "so it's like a piece of paper that you write on".

No, no news.

November 28, 2004

Bridge music

If you are into classical music and the Brooklyn Bridge, I can highly recommend catching a performance at Barge Music. It's a floating barge that has been converted into a small concert hall right on the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. There's a fireplace inside, and you have views of lower Manhattan bobbing in the background. Kind of an awesome New Yorky thing to do. Jenn and I (and my parents) enjoyed it thouroughly.

My wife objected to the size of the picture of her that I posted yesterday. I have now reduced it 50%. She generally objects to my posting pictures of her, but I do it anyway.


It's already after midnight. November 28th. A nice day to be born I think.

Did I mention I've been thinking about Jenn's dad lately. We don't have many pictures of him, and in many of those that we do have he is sitting in or standing next to a car. The images don't give away much.

What would he have thought of us and this life we have?

What do other people hope for their children befoe they are born? After her health, I hope our daughter will travel well. I hope she can get out there and see the world while she is young so the experiences become part of her and that she is free from fear. Is that a strange thing to put on someone not yet here.

November 29, 2004

the last days are the longest...

Technically speaking, the baby is due tomorrow, but practically speaking it could be up to two weeks...

We're getting lots of pressure from friends and family (as if there was something we could do)...

November 30, 2004

the right metaphor

Everyone keeps asking how we are feeling... obviously things are very different for me than they are for my wife. She's about to go through an experience that is physical, possibly frightening, and deeply emotional. Actually she's calm as a cucumber. For me, well of course it could never be as intense in the same way, but we both have full knowledge that in a few days (hell, possibly today) everything will be transformed (the truth is I've been a bit agitated). So it's one of those funny inflection points in life where you know that you'll be on the other side of the mountain soon, but you don't know what it looks like over on the other side, you don't know where the path is yet, you don't know how long it will take, and there are all sorts of hidden dangers on the way. So right now we stand there looking at it in the distance, contemplating it, and heading inexorably towards it, knowing that one way or another we'll get to the other side as long as we keep going..

Something like this:

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