Saturday, September 6, 2008

the compromise

The way things seem to be working out, it looks as though I'll be in Walla Walla until the end of the month to give my knee a chance to rest. This decision is the result of some wrangling with my folks.

As my constant readers know, my father's been wanting me simply to stop here in Walla Walla and spend the winter. I, on the other hand, feel it's way too early to think about stopping, and would like to soldier onward as far as I can get before hunkering down for the winter. The problem, however, is that Mom and Dad are about to do some major renovating, and Dad's uncomfortable about coming west and leaving Mom alone in Virginia while this is going on. The renovation may take up to a month-and-a-half.

Mom seems to think she'll be fine at home by herself; my brother David lives close by and can check on her periodically (in fact, he already does, visiting the 'rents fairly often), and the folks doing the renovating are Koreans whom Mom came to know through her Korean Women's Society connections.

So the compromise, based partly on discussions with the parents and partly on arrangements with a CouchSurfer found by recent CS host Amanda, is for me to stay in Walla Walla until September 30. The following day, October 1st, I'll shove off and, hopefully with Chuck's help as chase car driver, will do the 2-3-day walk to Pendleton, where I'll await my father's arrival. Dad will then take over as chase car driver, and together we'll make our way about 220-240 miles along I-84 to Boise, and that's where I'll winter. We should be able to make that distance before Halloween. I'll shack up in Boise, get a temp job, earn some cash, lick my wounds, and join a gym to keep on burning calories.

I'm going to be researching Boise to find out what's there, not only in terms of employment opportunities but also in terms of academic and religious institutions: with whom might I have some interesting religious discussions?

So that's the current plan. It's not set in stone, but it seems to be the most satisfactory solution for all concerned. To be honest, I dislike the idea of being immobile for so long; by wintering like this, I'm kissing my "finish before turning 40" goal goodbye. Then again, if I'm able to use that time to plan the rest of the walk out in greater detail and set up a network of willing chase car drivers, this might be, as they say, a blessing in disguise, and I might even be able to finish the walk before August 31, 2009. While I'm not big on "hidden harmony" theodicies, I do think there's no yang without yin.


today's agenda

First, an apology to Hotelmeister Adam, whose BBQ I missed last night (will there be other BBQing nights?). I ended up spending a long time talking with my father about the immediate future; by the end of that conversation it was around 8PM, and I schlepped over to the teriyaki place for dinner.

Today, I'm going to try to do several computer-related things. I want to record another video or two for upload onto YouTube; I then need to get over to the public library to try to perform the upload; finally, I want to spend the afternoon seeking out whatever electronics shops are in the area so I can think about purchasing a small laptop.

It's killing me to have all this data and no consistent way to upload it to the blog in a timely manner. I'm coming around to the conclusion that a laptop's benefits outweigh its risks. Those risks, by the way, almost all pertain to the laptop's exposure to inclement weather. If, however, I'm able to walk large chunks of the US with a chase car, this problem should be minimal-- the only major concern with a car is the mini-greenhouse effect during hot weather: I don't want my computer to fry in the summer heat next year.

What I would need is a laptop that has a decent processor (2GB or higher), a decent amount of memory for storing photos and movies (say, 40-80 gigs for starters; I'm not talking about anything larger than YouTube shorts), fast WiFi capability to take advantage of the motels and hotels I stay in, and a suite of programs related to word processing and graphic design (which might also be a way for me to earn a little cash, either by making more CafePress designs or by doing freelance design work for people willing to shell out). I might also be interested in some sort of filmmaking software, but that's out of my price range right now.

Lots to do today.

UPDATE: I might need to scale down my memory and performance requirements, and think about getting something like this. I've been quietly watching the progress of these minis for a while.


hangin' wif mah PEEPS

Not counting the college student population, the city of Walla Walla has only about five Korean residents, at least half of whom work at the teriyaki-jip down the street from my motel. I went over to the resto again this evening and was met by the same Korean waitress. We spoke in Korean the entire time I was there, which was good practice for me, and which is how I discovered how few Koreans there are in these parts. Upon hearing about the dearth of Koreans, I said, "Ah, so you must be learning a lot of English." The waitress said she was learning mostly restaurant-related English. I guess she either doesn't have much time to mix with the townies or, like many first-generation Korean immigrants through the ages, she's more of an insular, hang-with-da-peeps type, keeping with her tribe.

One thing about establishing friendly relations with Koreans who work in or run restaurants is that you end up with free goodies. Tonight, this translated into extra types of kimchi (only one type, a fairly standard cabbage kimchi, is featured on the menu for a whopping $3 per serving, but I got oi-kimchi, ch'onggak-kimchi, and ggakkdugi for free, and for no reason other than that I can speak the language (well, somewhat).*

When I first met the waitress and her opba** yesterday (he's one of the cooks), he told me "Jaju-osaeyo," or "Come often." Tonight, the waitress said, "Kagi-jeonae ddo-osaeyo," or as I might translate it in this context, "Come back before you move on." (I had told her yesterday that I was only in town for two weeks.)

Dinner tonight also included a tall, unasked-for glass of misu-garu, a drink made with a gritty, grainy powder that might remind Americans of some diet drinks or bodybuilders' protein shakes. Not one of my favorite drinks, but I do like it, and appreciated the chance to have a little taste of Korea. I asked the waitress whether her family had brought the powder from Korea, and she said it had been bought, along with a ton of other Korean products, during a run to a Korean market waaaaaay the hell across the state in Seattle. "A five-hour drive," she said, a mite sadly. The family makes the Seattle supply run several times a year, usually before important events like Ch'useok (the Korean harvest festival), an event with which I'll be out of touch this year.

I'll probably visit the resto once or twice more before I leave Walla Walla, and while I'm likely to give the URL for this site to the restaurant staff, I have no idea whether they'll have the time, energy, or motivation to read it with any regularity. All the same, it doesn't hurt to network.

*A similar phenomenon occurred with the French dudes running the Cordon Bleu academy in the building where I taught in Seoul: once they discovered I spoke fluent French, the world opened up to me and I was told I could come by anytime and take whatever I wanted-- baguettes, various meats, pastries, etc. Some of those guys spoke no Korean at all, and since French isn't a very popular language in Korea in general (English, by contrast, is an academic requirement), the cooks and bakers generally had to get by in Korean society with English. It therefore came as a relief to some of them to find a non-French person with whom they could speak at full speed in their native tongue. My experiences with the Seoul branch of the Cordon Bleu are worth a whole book unto themselves, but I'll stop here.

**Opba (more commonly romanized as oppa; pronounce it "ohp-bah") is the term a Korean woman uses for her older brother; it's also used by women when they're calling out to their boyfriends or husbands.

I had one memorable discussion with a female Korean colleague who found it creepy that Americans would use the same terms of endearment in both parent-child contexts and romantic contexts-- terms like "honey" and "sweetie." I pointed out that the whole opba thing was equally creepy to me. My interlocutor smiled.

Back in undergrad, I had a friend, Paula, who'd spent her junior year in a French-speaking African country (I'd spent my junior year in Fribourg, Switzerland, picking up decidedly German-accented French). She would sometimes make reference to mon mari-- "my husband," so I finally asked her whether she'd gotten married. She laughed and said that many francophone African women say "mon mari" in reference to their boyfriends. I guess that's pretty harmless, as expressions go, when you compare "mon mari" to the way some American boyfriends and husbands say "Who's yer daddy?" to their women --an expression I always mis-hear as "Hoosierdaddy." I can't imagine calling myself "daddy" when talking to my girlfriend.


Friday, September 5, 2008

and the verdict is...

Not long after I finished my previous entry, the exam room door opened again and I met Dr. J, whose real surname is Jauhiainen (try pronouncing that one, boys and girls). We shook hands and made some small talk about long-distance walking and biking, and then Dr. J got right to it, palpating the knee joint, gently pulling and rotating it in different directions, and asking all the while about where and how intense the pain was. I walked across the exam room floor at one point, did some flexion and extension exercises, and talked about how I thought the problem may have occurred. There was no MRI, X-ray, or CAT scan today, but Dr. J learned enough to diagnose the problem:

Medial collateral ligament strain.

There's no problem with the meniscus (the padding separating and cushioning the upper and lower bones of the knee), but the ligaments on the inside of my right knee have suffered some strain. The good news is that this is nothing serious; I need to continue resting the joint, icing it down, and taking ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory.

The bad news is that, as I suspected, the problem might not be related to that fall: it may instead be the result of simple overuse. This is bad news because it means the problem may recur simply through the act of walking.

The only way around the danger, as far as I can see, is to minimize the amount of weight bearing down on the knee. There are two ways of doing this: (1) continue using chase cars to keep that pack off my back, and (2) continue losing weight. Both of these are difficult propositions; as long as I'm resting in one location and not walking long distances, the temptation will be to eat at the same rate I've been eating since the beginning of the walk. That obviously won't do, so I'm going to have to find some way to occupy myself, to distract my mind from eating.

The doc also looked at Chuck's brace and decided I needed a new one. "That one's almost shot," he said. My new brace has an enormous adjustable joint (Terminator squared) and is easily belted on by wrapping it around my knee, not sliding it up the leg like panty hose.

Because I have no insurance, I was asked for an up-front payment of $137. If the cost of the exam plus the brace goes above that amount, the clinic will mail a bill to my family's residence in Alexandria (I'll pay for it by check, of course). If the total cost proves to be less than $137, a refund will be sent to northern VA instead.

So I've got a new brace and plenty of ibuprofen; the question now is how much time to take to ice the knee down and rest. I was in Arlington for a week, and despite all the rest, my knee didn't feel all that much better. I'm hoping that an ice-down will help significantly.

We'll soon know.


Walla Walla Clinic's special walk-in

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in the waiting room

The walk from the motel to Walla Walla General was as close to excruciating as such walks have been, so today was probably a good day to see a doc.

I followed the signs to the hospital's main entrance, having ruled out the ER since my problem isn't life-threatening. When I told the receptionist about my situation, however, she asked a hospital volunteer to guide me over to the ER: "We can't admit you without a physician's recommendation, but the ER might be able to look you over."

So I followed the volunteer over to the reception area for the ER. The ladies I talked to there told me that "there's no such thing as an emergency MRI," and also noted that an MRI would run me $1500 to $2000-- way more than I can afford.

The ladies therefore referred me to the Walla Walla Clinic, a walk-in urgent care facility that, according to them, would be able to look me over for a substantially cheaper cost. That's where I am now: I was just taken into an exam room and had my temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure measured (the latter is high; the nurse says this can be true despite all the exercise-- some people need meds for hypertension).

I'm now waiting for the physician, who I imagine will be coming in any moment. Stay tuned.



Just to allay the fears of the people who've written me privately over the past few days: yes, I'm visiting the hospital today. Walla Walla General is located on 2nd Avenue, about a mile or so from where I am. I'm about to shower, shave, and limp on down that way.

I imagine that today's visit will be about scheduling an appointment and determining costs and payment options for someone in my situation; the actual MRI will probably occur on another day (though I'm open to pleasant surprises).

I'm as morbidly curious as everyone else is about what's really happening inside my knee. Here's hoping that the situation isn't too serious.

It's strange... I hadn't really thought of it this way before, but I've been living with some degree of pain since at least Portland, limping for the better part of two hundred miles. I was also struck last night by the thought that the knee problem might not have anything to do with that fall almost three months ago. I'd like to think that that's not true, but to be honest, I really don't know for certain that there's a connection. If the knee problem is the result of some pervasive problem (like being overweight, out of shape, and carrying a heavy pack) as opposed to being the result of a single incident, this could have serious implications for how I continue the walk.

Dad just wrote me and wondered aloud about whether I might simply winter here in Walla Walla. My gut feeling is that it's way too early to think about stopping just yet, though I recognize that it all depends on how serious the knee problem is. I'd rather get the knee looked at and patched up, then continue as far along I-84 as I can before stopping and wintering somewhere.

Much to ponder, but right now it's time to de-smellify. I'll tell you what the hospital says once I'm out.



[NB: For whatever reason, I'm currently able to surf from my motel room, so I'm taking advantage of this to write the following post.]

There are several jokes I hear repeatedly on this walk, two of them more frequently than all the others. The first is the "Ah, just like Forrest Gump!" wisecrack, given in response to my saying that I'm crossing the country on foot. I saw "Gump" when I was in Korea in the 90s, but didn't realize how deeply the story must have affected American pop culture. It's 14 years later, and people are still making "Gump" references as though the movie had come out yesterday.

The second joke I hear is that a guy on a religious pilgrimage (I've already expressed my discomfort with this word) might end up attracting followers. I realize it's a joke, but this is a truly disturbing prospect. Anyone who gets to know me well enough will realize that they'd be better off seeking wisdom from a pile of horseshit than from me. While my ego would love for me to play the role of guru, my conscience would know it was all a sham. To imagine people latching on to my walk and following me... that would give me the heebie-jeebies.

If I acquire a traveling companion (the word "companion" is derived from Latin roots that point to the idea of sharing bread), I hope it happens something along the lines of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef's cool collaboration in "For a Few Dollars More," which is still one of the best buddy flicks out there. So, no: acquiring a gaggle of lost souls and then ministering to them just ain't for me.

This brings me to the Blogger "follower" feature, which is apparently some sort of new cyber-gadget I can tack onto the blog. Over the past few days, whenever I sign in to Blogger to write a post, I've been seeing a line of text informing me that I have X number of followers. You can imagine my chagrin-- my inner pansy is cringing in a corner and screaming "Oh, no! It's happening!"

I'll need to find out more about what Blogger's "follower" feature is; more likely than not, it's just some innocent gizmo I can add to my sidebar (unless it's there already...?). I'm hoping it's not a tool that makes stalking easier.

Keep your fingers and tentacles crossed as I find out who my followers are, what they want, and whether they plan to eat my brain or take me to the mother ship for anal probing. I've currently got four followers, according to Blogger, and in East Asian numerology, four represents death.*

*In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, the pronunciations of the Chinese characters for "4" and "death" are the same, despite the fact that the characters look completely different. In Korea, you'll often find yourself in buildings with either no fourth floor, or an "F" floor instead of a "4th" floor (you'll see "1, 2, 3, F, 5" on the elevator buttons, or just "1, 2, 3, 5, 6").

I guess it's no more ridiculous a superstition than our obsession with the number 13.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Styx" by Deborah Butterfield, 2002 (bronze, not wood)-- Whitman College, close to the library

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Whitney Houston, we have a problem

I'm sitting in a teriyaki-jip (yep, it's Korean-owned, like the others I've seen and written about) and still having trouble surfing the Web from my browser. This is a bit worrisome. For the moment, I'm assuming the problem is external to the BlackBerry.

When I first arrived at this motel, the situation was actually different: the signal while inside the room was weak, but I was able to surf the Web. Now, for reasons known only to the cell phone gods, the inside-the-room signal is strong (the "many bars" promised on those AT&T commercials) but I'm unable to surf, and the problem seems to have followed me outside, which means it <i>might</i> be a device-related issue. If it is, and if it turns out that this BlackBerry will also need to be exchanged, I'll have gone through two BlackBerrys ("-Berries"?) in three months. That's got to be a record.

In other news:

A walk over to a local sporting goods store led to the discovery that a "gear bag" (that's a fancy term for a small backpack with many specialized pockets) would run me $50 before tax. If I could find the same sort of bag for about $30, that would be nice.

A clarification about the local library's policy: townies can check books out as long as they've got a library card; the "live more than 50 miles away" rule applies to all other people without cards.

I received an email from the Whitman College's Associate Dean of Campus Life and Director of Residence Life and Housing, Nancy Tavelli, that confirmed what I had learned yesterday: there's no guest lodging currently available on campus. That's too bad, but not unexpected, what with the start of the fall semester.

I also learned that Walla Walla University's semester doesn't begin until September 29, which is surprisingly late in the year. I'll be curious to look up the rest of their academic calendar online; WWU is Seventh Day Adventist, so they move to the beat of a different drum. Whitman College started off as Christian but now has no religious affiliation (at least according to Wikipedia).

More updates to come.

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sortie imminent

I'm about to go out on several errands. In case you left a comment over the past fifteen hours or so, be assured I'll approve it soon. For whatever reason, I'm unable to surf on my BlackBerry from my hotel room despite a strong signal, so I've been Net-blind since yesterday evening. (I can, for some reason, check email.) If the Net-blindness continues while I'm out and about, have no fear: one of my errands is a stop at the nearby public library, where I hope to upload some photos and some YouTube clips. I'll be sure to approve comments then. Meantime, thanks for your patience.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

watercourse: I expect to see young John Connor on his moped

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blog improvements

Over the next two weeks, I hope to be making some small additions to the blog's sidebar. The first is a new "Interactions" section that will be devoted to links of wholly or partly transcripted interviews, as well as to reflections on interactions that weren't recorded (you have no idea how many conversations I've had that should, by rights, have been recorded).

The second addition will be a "Video Podcast" section devoted to links to whatever goofy or not-so-goofy videos I stick up on YouTube. Because YouTube tends to attract a lot of idiotic commentary, I never allow comments, ratings, etc. on that site, so if you want to react to a video, please do so here. There will almost always be a post on this blog announcing the placement of a new video on YouTube.

Stay tuned. Things are changing.


nothing to show for it

So in the end, I did rest a while, first watching a censored version of "Uncommon Valor"* on the American Movie Classics channel, then wobbling out in no particular direction to grab a bite to eat.

I ended up at a small pizzeria called Sweet Basil, where I ordered two slices of their Luau pizza and one slice of Margherita. The latter was good, but damn-- the Luau was fantastic. It's a variation on regular ol' Hawaiian pizza; like Hawaiian, the Luau has cheese, ham, and pineapple, but it also has pork sausage and uses a sweeter-than-normal sauce whose exact ingredients I couldn't identify. The combination of flavors, though, was memorable, and before I leave Walla Walla I'll have to go back to Sweet Basil and order a few more slices.

From the pizzeria I limped over to an ATM, then made my way over to Whitman College's campus, which isn't far from where I'm staying. I was delighted to see that the college has language houses; not ten minutes ago, I passed by the French House, which was quiet as a graveyard. I was tempted to barge in and start speaking French to everyone I met.

I also went into the Campus Center, where I hoped to get information on cheap housing. Alas, the young lady (God, I'm old) at the information desk told me that no spaces were available. According to her, the campus has only one(!) guest room, and because there was a larger-than-normal influx of freshmen this semester, there were no empty dorm rooms for rent. Before I left, I gave her my blog's URL and my standard line: "This is just so you know I'm not some random crazy perdon." I say this to almost everyone I meet, but it never gets me chicks. What's that all about?

So I guess it's a bust for housing at Whitman College. While part of me wonders about housing at Walla Walla University, I'm hesitant to stay there because the campus is actually outside the city proper, way over on the west side. It's likely that I'll simply stay at my motel (a very nice motel, by the way; I've got a patio!) for the second week.

So today's search for cheap housing ended in a crash-and-burn, but I'll keep looking. Hope, like intestinal gas, springs eternal.

*"Uncommon Valor" is probably the only good movie of its subgenre: the Vietnam War prisoner extraction fantasy. While Stallone's "First Blood" was in some ways a sympathetic look at the psyche of traumatized vets and their subsequent mistreatment by American citizens (remember Rambo's tearful rant at the end of the movie?), "Rambo: First Blood Part 2," which was part of the prisoner-extraction subgenre, was positively insulting to US war veterans. (Trivia: Stallone caught flak in the 1980s for playing soldier after having dodged the draft.)

"Uncommon Valor" was, by contrast, a movie that showed how a prisoner extraction might plausibly work: you'd need private funding, recruit gone-to-seed veterans who would have to be retrained; there would be painstaking planning (not constant improvisation with bows and arrows), and great emphasis would be placed on the importance of teamwork.

The movie also wasn't afraid to show show what happens when plans go awry: the team ends up losing four of its members, and team leader Colonel Rhodes's search for his POW son Frank turns out to have been in vain: we find out that Frank has died of disease in the POW camp.

"Uncommon Valor," despite its frequently cheesy moments, allows for actual plot and character development; it's a human film, unlike the robotic actioners by Stallone and Chuck Norris (the Missing in Action series), both of whom portray ruthless killing machines. You learn to like and respect each team member.

Best UV moment in my opinion: the old guys are undergoing an accelerated boot camp with young rookie Patrick Swayze as their drill instructor; Swayze is facing off against old vet Sailor (former kickboxer Randall "Tex" Cobb in one of his best roles) in a team contest where each team has to chop away at logs-- planted vertically like telephone poles-- until one of the logs falls first. Sailor gets through his log; Swayze's character sees Sailor's log topple and stops chopping: the contest is over. Except that it isn't: Sailor rushes over to the log that's still standing, and over Swayze's protests, chops that one down, too. Sailor then whirls on Swayze and rages, "You never give up!" While not an Oscar-winning acting moment, it's probably the best moral lesson in the film, one I fail repeatedly.


torii? Stonehenge? JK Rowling's gateway to death? (Whitman College campus)

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in my new digs

I survived the walk from the Comfort Inn to the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn thanks to Chuck's brace and two painkillers. Adam the manager was there to check me in, as was Suzanne.* I'm thinking about getting some lunch right now, but am also tempted to stay and rest my knee.

Which impulse will win out? Stay tuned!

*Last night as I was making my reservation, Suzanne rather suddenly asked me whether I was left-handed. I said I was. She then told me that all the Kevins she has met have been left-handed. The only right-handed Kevin she knows wasn't named Kevin at birth.

So now I'm curious: is Kevin Bacon left-handed? What about Kevin Kline? Kevin Costner? Kevin Dillon? Kevin Spacey?


via dolorosa

Tuesday was a symphony of pain. It's funny: I managed 24-point-something miles to walk from Mile 312 on Route 12 to the Comfort Inn, and had done a twenty-mile day just before that... but apparently, if you put me up in a nice, comfortable hotel for a few days, my knee becomes a nova of agony.*

My limp into downtown should have been filmed; I was actually chuckling at my own gimpy shadow at one point. I walked less than two miles into town, spent an hour on the computer at the public library, and found a motel to which I'll be shifting my base of operations. Many thanks to the hotel manager, Adam, and to the front desk clerk, Suzanne, for charging me a cheap rate despite the downtown location.

So for those who are tracking this sort of thing on Google Maps: I've reserved a room at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn at 325 East Main Street. The reservation is for a week, and might be extended to two weeks. At $55/night, the price is hard to beat. Here's hoping tomorrow's short trudge into town goes more smoothly than today's excruciating foray.

*The staff at the Comfort Inn has been great. I just wish I was paying less than $107/night (before tax) to be here.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

computer usage: the narrow pipeline

My CouchSurfing correspondent Becky (how're things out east?) had told me that Walla Walla University probably wouldn't be able to cater to my computer usage needs because they operate on something like a members-only system: no guest logins.

I therefore called the other big college in the area: Whitman College, and found out that the library would probably not be able to help me out because the school year has started, which means the computers will all be occupied (it astounds me that so many students are still without computers, given how cheap the midrange ones are). Not only that, but Whitman College also allows students to log on for only fifteen minutes(!).

The librarian I spoke with suggested I try the Walla Walla Public Library, so I called them and was told they would indeed allow guest users, but only for 90 minutes per day. The library also has a bizarre policy: the guest-user courtesy is extended only to those who can prove they live more than fifty miles away. I didn't ask the staffer why they had such a policy, but I imagine the library sees itself as helping out-of-towners on the assumption that local yokels would have their own easy-to-access computers at home or at the office. Come to think of it, that's not such an outlandish rationale, especially if you're a library IT person trying to minimize the amount of virus cleanup you have to do every day.

There's a community college in town as well; I might limp over to them, too, but right now the object of the game is to find a new place to stay. The Comfort Inn at which I'm staying is over $100 a night; I'm used to prices in the $40-$65 range.

I sent an email to a contact that Becky had given me; haven't heard from him yet, but hope to hear from him soon. He's attached to WWU, as is Becky, and I'm hoping that a meeting with him will also lead to meetings with local students. We'll see how things go.


rise and shine!

Woke up at a more normal 7:30 this morning and am finishing up a complimentary Continental breakfast* at Comfort Inn. I'd rather have a baguette with real butter and jam dipped in a steaming-hot bowl of chocolate milk, but I'll settle for danishes, cereal, fruit salad, and apple fritters. I skipped the do-it-yourself Belgian waffles; am feeling too lazy to make them.

I can't afford to stay in this hotel another day, so I'm hoping to secure either dorm housing or another, cheaper motel. More on this later today, so stay tuned.

*Those who know me know that I rarely eat breakfast.


teacherly wisdom

My good friend Charles has written an excellent essay on what he learned from his previous semester of teaching.

Check it out.


Monday, September 1, 2008

solar-powered depilation

I ended up falling asleep without showering last night, and woke up today (Labor Day Monday) at the crack of 10:30. Guess I was tired.

The morning shower involved scrubbing off several layers of dead skin from my face and forearms, as well as saying goodbye to a lot of hair. To be baked in the sun is, effectively, to suffer radiation burns, and as might happen to the victims of a nuclear plant disaster, my hair fell out in startling amounts as I was scrubbing my scalp clean.

I exaggerate, of course: I didn't exit the shower half bald, with fistfuls of hair in my tub's drain. But I did lose a lot more hair than the usual five strands, and I do think the loss had a lot to do with my near-constant exposure to sunlight.

The list of things to do over the next few days includes:

-laundry (always a must)
-leg exercises
-familiarizing myself with the path ahead (i.e., reading maps, gauging distances, looking up city info online)
-sending out feelers to colleges along my projected path to see about gathering some profs, students, and interested locals for talks on religion (as well as to help me navigate the path ahead)
-finding out about a hospital visit (thanks, Lori, for the contact info)
-contacting some of the folks on the list Becky gave me (to arrange meetings)
-to see about whether I can find some cheap on-campus housing for a week or two (I want to take advantage of my pause in Walla Walla to do more transcription at a university library computer)
-to finalize dates and locations for my dad so he can come out west and be my chase car
-to learn how to get around Walla Walla if there's a public transportation system here

There's probably more that I need to do (I've actually got a few ideas for mug and tee shirt designs I'd like to slap online), but I need to jog my memory about what those things are. Tomorrow, I'm going to visit the nearby Walla Walla University, whose access road I passed a couple miles back while on my way into town yesterday evening. This week, I also need to visit Whitman College where, according to Becky, I'm more likely to find computers I can use. I'd also like to visit the Whitman Mission, which promises to offer a great deal of insight into how two very different cultures and religious systems interacted.

Much to do. Saegyae-ga neolb-go hallil-i mantda-- the world is wide and there's much to do. (This was the title of a long-ago Korean bestseller.)


Sunday, August 31, 2008

in Walla Walla at last

A quickie before I shower: I arrived at the Comfort Inn that sits on the western edge of Walla Walla at 8:30PM on the dot-- exactly as I thought I would. My walking speed was a gimpy 2.67mph; the distance, according to Chuck's odometer, was a little over 24 miles. I would never have made it without Chuck's help (he brought along my huge backpack, which I left at the hotel in the morning), my painkillers, and Chuck's knee brace. Take away any one of these factors and I would have been a quivering, weeping mass of Kev-jello. Instead, I moved along at a decent clip, was twice offered a ride into town, and even saw Marti (my massage therapist) and her hubby Merlin, who were heading west on Merlin's bike. Merlin struck me as a laid-back guy, and there did seem to be something of the wizard about him. In all, a good birthday. My thanks to everyone who sent in birthday wishes, as well as to the folks who called me while I was on the road.

Now I need a shower, and possibly some dinner, though as always I'm more thirsty than hungry.


6 miles out from Walla Walla: a good example of the perils of intercultural (and interreligious) encounter

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a piece of history

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Route 703 and Lowden Road: the most incredible bird house you'll ever see

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lunchtime reading

A very good post on the deterioration of Sino-Korean relations can be found over at the number-one English-language Koreablog, The Marmot's Hole, written by fellow Hoya Robert Koehler. As always, enter the comments section at your own risk.


what sort of idiot hunts horses?

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hee hee hee

[Pic removed after reader objections.

While I agree somewhat with the nature of the objection-- "Joking about something potentially tragic is fine as long as the joking remains general in tone and doesn't involve anyone in particular"-- I'm curious about what it is that makes joking in general about tragedy all right.

We might agree, for example, that deaths resulting from drunk driving are a horrible thing. My own father was nearly killed by a drunk driver in 1997. If drunk driving is already horrible in the abstract, how is the sin compounded by making jokes that might involve specific people? I suspect the dark and uncomfortable rationale is that joking about tragedy is all in good fun unless it has a human face. As long as it's not somehow "my" tragedy, it's fair game. There's a deliberate "hear no evil" dynamic at work here: "Your joke is funny as long as you don't force me to think about it in specific terms."

The pic I removed showed a street sign that said "Please Don't Drink and Drive." I had photographed the sign with my index finger covering the "Don't." I hadn't bothered to read the sign below it, which said "Sponsored by the (X) Family." Two commenters felt my humor went too far because I seemed to be mocking that family's pain.

The objection works if we grant two assumptions: (1) that I made my joke in full awareness of the "Sponsored by" sign, and (2) that the family had indeed suffered a drunk driving-related tragedy, which is why they had sponsored that cautionary sign. As it turns out, (1) is false and (2) is unknown unless we ask the family.

Should we always err on the side of caution when we joke around? Should we always be at pains to make sure that we're not hurting anyone, or is it enough to unleash our humor as long as the potentially hurt or offended parties aren't in the same room with us? How do we determine when a line has been crossed, and is it possible that where that line is may depend on who's doing the joking and who's doing the listening?

Discussions about the nature of humor are almost always unfunny, but I invite you to voice your opinion on the subject in the comments.]


24 miles to go today

Many thanks to the folks who've wished me a happy birfday. The big Three-Nine today, 31 August. Chuck drove me all the way in to Walla Walla so I could reserve a hotel room and leave my large pack there, then he drove me back to Mile 312 on Route 12, which is where I'd stopped yesterday.

I'd like to spend more time thanking all the folks who've been so generous with their time and resources, but because I need to reach the hotel at a decent hour, I'm gonna leave off here and pick up again whenever I have the time and energy. There might be a few photos along the way, though.



no burden at all (Chuck's military "Alice pack")

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