Saturday, September 27, 2008

homeward bound

Got to Houston fine. I'm on the plane headed for National Airport: Continental Flight 458. Will be arriving 5PM, DC time.

Lots of empty seats on this flight. Maybe everyone's avoiding our Congress.

Side note: ululate for Paul Newman, who lost a battle with cancer yesterday.


will make it to Houston

I'm on the flight to Houston, and I heard it's looking good to DCA.

About to board.



After a 200-mile drive that was essentially a backwards-running reel of my walk from early July, I find myself once again at the same Portland Super 8 motel I went to after my week-long stay at the Metanoia Peace House.

I have to wake up at 3:45, hitch a ride on the 4:30 shuttle to the airport and, we hope, make the 6AM flight to Houston. I'm flying standby, so let's all keep those fingers and tentacles crossed.

Many thanks to my host Bob in Walla Walla (and by extension, to Jeanie and Rob, whose house Bob is renting); as always, my thanks to Chuck, Lori, and Kaylee for their love and care.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

FLASH: in the midst of the crisis, Obama and McCain to marry

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2008 (Reuters)

In a move that has rocked the Capitol, senators and rivals John McCain and Barack Obama, the respective Republican and Democratic nominees for the presidency, joined hands in front of a stunned press corps and publicly declared their intention to marry.

"With age comes experience," said Obama, looking slyly at McCain. "And there's no substitute for that."

"Once you go black, you never--" boomed McCain before an aide managed to shush him. "I mean, I've always preferred lovers who were more cerebral. There's no denying it: Barack completes me."

"We've made a pact that, no matter which of us wins, we're getting married on January 21, the day after the inauguration," said Obama.

Pundits were quick to respond to this new development.

"The Audacity of Grope!" was the headline of a bitter post that appeared at the liberal blog Daily Kos. The post decried Obama's "unforgivable betrayal of his own party."

"Hmm," wrote Glenn Reynolds of the moderate-right blog Instapundit, who then updated his post ten minutes later with "Heh."

"It was about damn time," said an obviously moved former President Bill Clinton. "These guys could usher in a new era of true bipartisanship."

Despite reporters' best efforts, neither Cindy McCain nor Michelle Obama could be persuaded to comment on the situation.

"Bang on this door all you want! We've got nothing to say!" shouted an obviously inebriated Mrs. McCain from the utility closet in which she and Mrs. Obama had locked themselves.

"Apodictic cockroaches, tennis ball fur, rib cage battering rams, and gopher-shaped soul batteries!" screamed an equally distraught Mrs. Obama.

After these exclamations, the ladies fell silent. Reporters next to the utility closet claim to have smelled the distinct odor of Schlitz and marijuana.

How this new revelation will affect the outcomes of both the current financial crisis and the presidential election remains to be seen, but many are hopeful that President Clinton's prediction of a new era of bipartisanship will come true.


many goodbyes

I didn't get to see Adam (the cool motel manager from my early days in Walla Walla); the lady at the front desk told me that he's on a trip and won't be back until next week, so I asked her to tell him that "Kevin says goodbye. He'll know who I am."

I also didn't get to see Mechelle today, though I did just send her a goodbye message; we were supposed to watch "The Matrix" together and discuss its religious tropes (a lot of sci-fi efforts are essentially religious parables or moralistic sermons; "hard" sci-fi is often difficult to come by), but given the suddenness with which my plans coalesced, this isn't going to happen.

I did, however, get to say goodbye to the Korean convenience store owner and his lovely wife (they've got two kids). I took their picture, talked about my plans, and promised to swing by their place again in the spring.

I also had a late lunch at the teriyaki-jip, where I said goodbye to the Korean couple running the place (yes, they're a couple!). They wished me well and even tried to give me a framed brush painting that was hanging on their wall. I also gave them this blog's address and told the wife to comment often. The husband had to take off for the bank, but before he did, we all took some pics together.

I also stopped and talked with two dudes who were busy renovating a house. One of the dudes, Mark, was the house's owner; his friend, Tony, was helping him out. We talked about their progress, and I told them about my walk and about staying in Walla Walla. I got their picture, too, and will slap it on the blog when I'm back in Virginia.

My route took me past the local K-Mart, where I bought a button-down shirt for $3.99 (end-of-summer clearance) and a container of oatmeal for Bob, who's been making my breakfast for the past week. Had I found some quinoa at K-Mart, I'd have bought that for him, too.

I'm bizarrely proud of the shirt purchase; I so rarely shop for clothing, and when I do, I almost never purchase it when it's on sale. Today's something of a red-letter day in that regard. I know, I know: my savvier readers are rolling their eyes. Big deal, Kevin. So you bought a shirt on sale. Yippie.

I've decided to save laundry for early tomorrow morning. I imagine that Chuck will be by in the early afternoon (is that right, Chuck?). Meantime, I need to figure out how the heck I'm going to pack my backpack and carry-on bag. The backpack has to remain under 50 pounds to avoid the dreaded excess baggage fee, but the carry-on can't be overstuffed: if it doesn't fit into an overhead compartment, it'll have to be checked as well. I wonder what, among my possessions, I can leave here.

Cousin Marie has forwarded me my e-ticket, so it looks as though I'm set. Because I'm flying standby, I won't be able to give Dad an exact arrival time until I'm safely aboard a flight from Houston.

One last note: today, I probably walked close to five miles. It was largely pain-free, but it became obvious, toward the end, that I've still got some healing to do.

I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to Walla Walla yet; will do so tomorrow. I'll just end this entry by observing that, if the townies are any indication, Walla Walla is a very likeable city. I look forward to coming back here early next year, chase car in tow.



Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

busy day ahead

My host Bob ended up having other social engagements yesterday, so he couldn't make the Shermer talk, but when he got home last night, I played my recording for him, minus the Q&A (where all the politics was).

Bob's an LPN, like Mechelle, and he's been generous about sharing from his cupboard for breakfast, a meal he gently insists I eat to keep my blood sugar level roughly even throughout the day; spikes in blood sugar can apparently start you down the road to diabetes. The first meal of the day is usually tea along with Quaker oatmeal* and some fruit; I've flavored my oatmeal with molasses, or even sugar (Bob regrets the current lack of honey), and most recently with a fantastic compôte that's apparently a mix of berries and even some small chunks of apple. I'd steal Bob's whole supply if I could; it's that good.

Today, I've got a lot to do, since this is my last full day in Walla Walla. A list of tasks:

1. Goodbyes to (and photos of) some of the people I've met-- Adam and Suzanne at their motel, the Korean folks at the teriyaki-jip, the Korean folks at the campus convenience store, Mechelle, Connie at the bus stop, etc. I'd like to get pics of the folks I've met at the last two Spirituali-Teas, but tracking them down will be a task. Maybe I'll hunt them down in the spring.

2. One of the strictures of the Continental Airlines buddy pass is a mild dress code. I need to buy a button-down shirt with a collar. Kinda makes me regret having sent back my other shirts.

3. Settle final arrangements with Chuck and Cousin Marie; she'll be contacting me with a reservation locator number for my e-ticket; Chuck will be arriving tomorrow after he's done with work, and we'll make the over three-hour haul to Portland, where I'll hit a motel.

4. Figure out how and where I can reduce weight on the backpack, and how I'm going to handle carry-on baggage. I already have an idea.

5. As always: laundry. I regret doing it so frequently, but I've got only one pair of pants, three tee shirts, a few pairs of socks, and Spandex biker shorts serving as underwear (the shorts' legs protect my thunder thighs from rubbing each other raw).

There's doubtless more to do, but I can't think of it now. This morning, I cleaned the upstairs toilet; yesterday, I repaired a chair; tomorrow, I think I'm going to vacuum the upstairs floor before I leave.

Right-- off I go, then.

UPDATE: Items 6 and 7: launder my bed linens and buy Bob some replacement oatmeal. Perhaps Item 6 is really Item 5a, as I can do the linens and my clothes in one fell load.

*One day Bob asked me whether I was familiar with quinoa ("kee-nwah"). I wasn't, so we had quinoa with butter for breakfast. It looks like birdseed when dry, cooks fast like couscous, and tastes a bit nutty, as Bob noted. I asked Bob, who's an ex-restaurateur and an astute gourmet, whether quinoa might serve as a couscous surrogate; he brightened at the thought and said that it probably could.



It's hard to believe I'll be back home in Alexandria, Virginia this Saturday night.

I'm actually looking forward to some Korean food, though I have no idea whether the kitchen is even serviceable, thanks to the renovation going on.

This might mean a trip to Koreatown. Let's hear it for my favorite Korean restaurant in NoVA: Joong Hwa Weon!


interesting presentation

I successfully recorded the Michael Shermer presentation on "Why People Believe Weird Things." Quick synopsis: Shermer, who in the right lighting resembles actor Harry Shearer, covered pretty much the same talking points you can find in Carl Sagan's The Demon-haunted World: belief in alien abduction, inability to deal with the implications of statistics, scams like therapeutic touch, tarot, palm reading, etc.

Interesting highlights for me: Shermer is a libertarian, so he also blasted the heavily left-leaning demographics and political tenor of academe. His take on the current financial crisis is congruent with those conservatives who say, "No bailouts!" Strangely, he avoided the topic of mainstream religious traditions.

I've got more to say on this, but will wait until later.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

going offline for an hour or so

I was the first audience member inside Maxey Auditorium at 6:25PM. The tech girl setting up the place asked whether I was the presenter (so did the tech guy, when he appeared). I should've said yes.

It's 6:45, and people are only just now starting to trickle in. There's a chance that my host Bob and his friend Elyse will be here; I'm saving seats for them.

Once the presentation starts, I'll be turning the B-Berry off and the digital recorder on. I don't know how long the presentation's supposed to be, so things may be dark for an hour or more.

Will report on the speech later.


command decision

I've decided to spend a few months recuperating at home in Alexandria, VA, doing temp work of some sort (test grading, tutoring French, etc.), and helping the parents with their house's renovation.

It's been hard, deciding to make this move. I'll be losing so much time by doing things this way, and whatever hopes I had for finishing the walk before my 40th birthday have severely dimmed.

On the bright side, I'll be able to use the time constructively. Not only will I be able to earn some cash, but I'll also have access to a host of religious institutions in the DC-Metro area. Perhaps I can recruit some people to help me plot my path. As commenters have suggested, I can use this time to create a network of interested hosts (CouchSurfing and otherwise), connecting the dots a goodly way across the country.

As a friend suggested privately, there's no reason to think of what I'm doing-- going back to Virginia-- as "giving up." The walk will continue; it's immaterial whether I rest for four or five months in Walla Walla or Boise or Alexandria-- rest is rest, so why not do it where the lodging and meals are guaranteed to be free of charge? After all, I will pick up where I've left off. Walla Walla will see me again in the spring-- perhaps slimmer, stronger, and more energetic, if I'm not lax about training.

So that's my command decision. With so many offers of help leaning in the same direction-- a free ride to Portland (well, we're gonna pay for gas), a free flight to Virginia, and free room and board once I'm home-- it seems almost silly to say "no" to all the signs.

Remember the classic joke about the man in the flood? It goes something like this:

An awful flood caught a certain city unprepared, and people suddenly found themselves in a mad rush to escape. But not everyone: one man stayed put even as the streets were buried inches deep in water.

A jeep drove by and the driver called out to the man: "Get in! We'll get you outta here!"

"No, thanks," said the man. "I have faith that God will save me." The driver shrugged and sped off.

The water rose. The man scrambled onto a balcony and continued to wait. A motorboat puttered by; its operator shouted through the rain, "Come on board!"

As before, the man said, "No, thanks. I have faith that God will save me."

Soon, the water had gotten so high that the man was on his roof. A helicopter flew overhead, swaying dangerously as it tried to hover in the storm.

"We're throwing a line and harness down to you!" a man shouted from the copter's side door. "Grab it, hitch up, and we'll pull you in!"

The man smiled beatifically and waved the copter off. "No thanks," he shouted into the downdraft. "I have faith that God will save me!" The helicopter left.

Not long after that, the waters rose even higher...and the man drowned.

Finding himself before God's throne, the man shook his fist angrily at the Lord and said accusingly, "I'd put all my faith in You! Why didn't You try to save me?"

"What, are you blind as well as stupid?" countered God. "I sent you a Jeep, a boat, and a helicopter!"

Substitute the word "pride" for "God" (my pride will save me), and I'm that guy.

I don't want to be that guy, so I'm going home. Final details are being worked out, but Operation Extract Kevin is under way.

Many thanks to all the commenters who've helped me think this through. The input's been helpful.


leaning heavily toward the nuclear option

Chuck, still recovering, has offered to push me all the way to Boise to get me to a major airport. Cousin Marie can probably swing me a buddy pass out of Boise (I have to check whether Continental serves Boise). My folks in Virginia can offer a free place to stay, free meals, and a chance to keep recuperating. Most of the signs seem to be pointing in one particular direction: home.

More on this in a bit. I've got a few calls and emails to make.


where we go from here

My host Bob doesn't have a Windows XP startup CD, so I'm not sure what the next step will be, as far as my unresponsive laptop goes. I might be able to go back to that pawnshop ("All purchases final!") and ask to use the shopkeeper's CD. Something to worry about in the morning.

Right now, though, I want to think aloud about what options are available to me. I don't want to spend all night discussing the implications of each one, so I'll confine myself simply to listing some of them from off the top of my head.

1. One idea that Dad has been gently pushing at me is simply staying put in Walla Walla for the next few months: find a job here, keep working on the leg, then take off when winter wanes.

2. Find a way back to Portland, bus or train, and take up Marie's offer of the "buddy pass" to Virginia. Winter in Virginia, then fly back out to Portland and roll to Walla Walla. Take up the walk again from there.

3. Start a-walkin' down to Boise, hoping people will donate enough to get me there, then implement the original "winter in Boise" plan: find a place to stay, get a job, etc.

4. Walk down to Boise (donations, etc.), then use Marie's buddy pass to fly to Virginia and winter there. Pick up the walk again from Boise.

5. Walk along I-84 and stop wherever someone offers work. Might not be bad to stop at La Grande, Oregon, which is a college town.

Continuing the walk without a chase car is going to mean either attempting to walk with the backpack on, or obtaining one of those fancy trailers that I can harness to myself. The problem with walking without a trailer is that I now have a heavy backpack with a laptop in it. I might have to "pull a Steve Vaught" and hang the smaller pack off my front. That, or I should somehow rid myself of the computer and software before leaving Walla Walla. Sell it all at reduced prices?

MS Office, Home Edition: $50
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6: $50
NetGear Wifi CD and USB module: $15
Optical USB mouse: $5
Cranky-but-salvageable laptop: uh, $10

Everything but the laptop would be almost totally new, and all the above-quoted prices are approximately 50% reductions. Any takers? Heh.

So those're the options. Feel free to help me think this through, and/or to add other possibilities to the list.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

assorted thought-dump

1. Spent two hours fruitlessly attempting to boot up the laptop, which has decided to rebel. Gonna ask my host whether he has a Windows XP startup disk so I can try a boot-from-disk. No transcribing done today; whether you'll see a transcript tomorrow is in doubt.

2. Went to the Spirituali-Tea, which today was about meditation and mindfulness. Much to write about, but would rather do the writing on a regular keyboard. Typing on the B-Berry's keyboard remains as pénible as ever.

3. Conferred with Cousin Marie, who can swing me a "buddy pass" so I can fly for free back to Virginia. The catch: I have to leave from a major airport, which rules out Walla Walla and Pasco/Tri-Cities. Marie's suggestions: Seattle or Portland. Ouch. That's 200-350 miles back the way I came.

4. Just talked with Dad, who reports two major setbacks (I'm tempted to say "disasters") on the renovation front: (a) the house's ancient oil-based heating system is being taken out rather unprofessionally, and heating oil now covers the basement floor; (b) construction apparently has to stop because of a problem with the plans being used. Long story. Upshot: Dad says, "I'm sorry, Kevin, but I simply can't leave Mom alone to deal with this." Believe me, I understand.

5. Obvious fallout: no chase car for the foreseeable future, which means it's time to consider options. I'll devote a separate post to those.


Monday, September 22, 2008

a sudden dilemma

So Dad calls me up today around 5PM, Walla Walla time, and says he has a modest proposal:

Why not winter at home in Alexandria, Virginia?

Right now, with almost no money to my name, the thought is tempting. My cousin Marie, fresh from the recent hurricane that passed over Houston (she lives in Conroe, TX), also thinks I should come home. Her own reasoning was somewhat sentimental in nature: "Your mom misses you." But she and Dad both hit on the practical aspects of such a move: staying at home would mean not paying rent, and the knee would have a chance to keep healing.

There would be other advantages to wintering in Alexandria:

1. I confess to missing my family, too. It'd be nice to see them, especially now that my brother Sean has moved back into Virginia. Same with friends: my buddy Mike lives a bit south of Alexandria; my buddy Dave lives in Maryland.

2. I'd be able to help the folks with their current renovation project. Dad says he could use another hand.

3. If I were to take Alan's recommendation for work, I'd be able to work from a hard-wired connection (in fact, the folks are upgrading to Verizon FIOS)-- no money spent on commuting, and I'd be able to leap to Dad's aid whenever he needed it.

4. No money spent on food: I could regress to my plump childhood and just raid the fridge.

5. I could hit the Fort Belvoir gym with Dad after raiding the fridge; Dad's retired military, and he's signed me in before.

6. Dad could postpone the expensive effort of having to come out to Walla Walla right now, right in the middle of his renovation project.

There are a few disadvantages, though. Well, two, really:

1. By leaving Walla Walla to winter in Alexandria now, I'd be losing a month of walking. Think about it: if I leave now, the 260-some miles ahead of me will remain unwalked. I'd also be wintering for five months (October through February) instead of the original four (November through February, and possibly part of March).

Worst of all:

2. I'd feel as though I were cheating. Given the many promises I've already broken over the course of this walk-- No rides unless seriously injured foremost among them-- perhaps this shouldn't matter. Trans-America walker Steve Vaught went home several times. He also accepted occasional rides. George Martin invested $150,000 in his walk and did it with a huge team helping him out. What could possibly be so shameful about flying home and staying put a few months? After all, I've spent nearly a month in Walla Walla.

But I still can't shake the feeling that I'd be cheating. I don't know why. It's not rational, and I admit it has a lot to do with pride... but pride in what? There's nothing stopping me from taking the walk up from Walla Walla once I'm done wintering, i.e., starting right where I left off. Hell, I could even start right at the Comfort Inn-- my first stop in the city.

The advantages of going home seem, from a distance, to far outweigh the disadvantages. A healthier Kevin might tackle the 260 miles from Walla Walla to Boise with greater ease; five months is plenty of time to work on overall fitness, to walk along the George Washington Parkway bike trail until it's too snowy to do so, to train at the Fort Belvoir gym.

And yet... and yet...


meeting Connie

While I was weeding this morning, a lady walked by the front yard and stopped within twenty feet of me, apparently waiting for one of Walla Walla's infrequent buses.* We got to talking, and she told me about her three sons, one of whom suffers from cerebral palsy and has a plate in his head after suffering a massive cranial injury. Since the insertion of the plate, he's suffered occasional seizures, but he's a tough kid, and has dreams of long-distance riding-- pedal, not motor. Another son, it turns out, works at the Comfort Inn-- the very one I checked into when I arrived in Walla Walla on August 31! Small town life, eh? I'll have to go back to the Comfort Inn, find that guy, and say, "Dude, I metcher Mom!"

Connie told me a bit about her history, and after a while I noticed the bus hadn't arrived yet. I offered to use my BlackBerry to call the Valley Transit Authority (big props to them for good customer service), and Connie graciously accepted. We found out that the bus wasn't late: it was simply one of those routes where the bus appeared only hourly.

Eventually, the bus arrived and Connie gave me a hug. "You gonna be here tomorrow?" she asked. I said yes; I'd be here until the end of the month. "Good; I'm usually out here every day, so we'll see each other again." With that, Connie, who's also a grandmother, stepped onto the bus. Before the doors closed, I heard her telling the bus driver about me and my walk.

Well... here's hoping I see her tomorrow. What an interesting lady.

*I'm not a big-city sophisticate, but I did live in Seoul for eight years, which can spoil anyone. Seoul's transportation system-- both the public transportation and the taxis-- is one of the best out there. Despite being a city of twelve million people and despite all the horrible traffic jams, it's still possible to move about for fairly cheap compared to many American (and European) cities of comparable size. Seoul's buses run until very, very late, and in the downtown area they often come at three-minute intervals. In Walla Walla, the time between buses can vary from about thirty minutes to an hour, so for spoiled people like me, that's painful. (By the way, the DC-Metro area is similar: if you're in Alexandria and trying to take the 9A-Pentagon bus northward, expect a half-hour wait if you miss your ride. Go, Korea!)


thanks, Bob!

When I told the story, earlier, of my having spent part of the morning and early afternoon weeding, I neglected to mention that Bob paid me $50 for the work. That's pretty generous; even though I did work continuously, at the end of the four hours I didn't feel as though much had been accomplished. Then again, that might just be the nature of weeding: with so many of the little boogers to deal with, you can spend hours in a single corner of the yard. I filled two 45-gallon trash bags with weeds, and when I looked around afterwards, it seemed as though I'd done little to nothing.

Hats off to Bob for his largesse.


Spirituali-Tea and Michael Shermer

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the second Spirituali-Tea of the semester. The topic is "Meditation and Mindfulness"; as I said previously, I plan to be there as a fly on the wall-- a silent, 260-pound fly.

Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic Magazine, is speaking on Whitman College campus on Wednesday evening at 7PM. The posters I've seen for the event offer no phone number to call, nor any indication of whether admission will be free, so I'm hoping to crash the party.

The topic of the lecture: "Why People Believe Weird Things." This is apparently the title of a book he wrote, as well.

Religious folks should pay attention! Despite my interest in religion, my generally pluralistic attitude toward religious beliefs, and an inkling that the scientific worldview doesn't quite cover all the bases (though I'd say I'm largely a physicalist), I do think Carl Sagan was right to argue that religions contain a great deal of bamboozlement (read his wonderful The Demon-Haunted World). Anyone who professes to be religious has an obligation, in my opinion, not to suppress their critical, skeptical faculties in the name of faith or obedience or revelation. This may put me on shaky ground with fellow religionists, but as someone who appreciates the commonsense nature of Zen and often has little patience with magical thinking, I feel it has to be said.

Heh... I may have lost most of my readership right there, but for those who remain, I do plan to sneak my voice recorder into the proceedings. I'm unsure of the legalities involved in transcribing Shermer's speech and putting it on the blog, but we'll eat that bridge when we come to it.


laptop trouble

Installation of Photoshop Elements 4 was successful, but now the laptop's having trouble starting up. It's working right now, but at some point I might have to get it looked at. Oy.


get well soon, Chuck!

I got an email from Lori, who told me that Chuck's down for the count right now, having undergone a medical procedure (I won't get into it here). I hope to give them a call later this evening.


no pain is a gain

I was outside weeding Bob's front yard for a few hours today to earn the cash to pay Mechelle the final $35 of a $135 debt ($130 rent plus $5 for half a pizza-- a very good pizza, as it turned out). After a while, I noticed that the knee was doing just fine despite all the squatting and kneeling. Eez gud nooz.

Bob drove me over to Mechelle's, where I dropped off her spare key (I'd forgotten to give it back to her), gave her her money (she had told me I didn't need to pay it, which was nice of her), and picked up the second FedEx package from Dad: Photoshop Elements 4.

I'm doing laundry right now; while the clothes are perking, I plan to install the program, shortly after which graphical mayhem will ensue.

I'll have to get creative about some of the design work. If, for example, I want to make mug designs with my cartoons or hand-drawn Chinese characters, I'll have to shoot the images with my digicam since I lack a scanner. While the lens does create a very slight fisheye effect, this should be easy to correct in Photoshop, where you can reverse or undo such distortion.

So I'm excited. I'm also hopeful that some of you might be interested in whatever I come up with.

A wild thought occurred to me a little earlier: I'd like to hunt down some theater geeks and have them perform living sculptures reflecting the concepts of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. They'll assume each position, I'll shoot it at hi-res on the digicam, and then I'll make some posters like those motivational ones you've seen-- courage, perseverance, etc. With CafePress, it's easy to upload one's design and apply it to a product, so I might have some posters ready within a week. The hard part will be rounding up theater people and convincing them to allow me to make money off their images. (I'll credit their troupe on the poster-- free publicity for them.)

I'm going to tomorrow's Spirituali-Tea, which is about meditation and mindfulness. I'll be tempted to talk at length on the topic, but will instead abide by my promise to shut up this time around. I talked more than enough last week. While at the tea, I'll check to see who might be associated with the theater. Here's hoping I can find about seven to ten people.

Cross your eyestalks for me.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

coming to you Wednesday (we hope)

The next transcript you'll see, which ought to be ready sometime Wednesday, is the transcript of my conversation with a group of residents of the Metanoia Peace House in Portland, Oregon, a Methodist-run communal living space that very generously housed me for about a week while I rested from knee pain (I was in Portland a total of about two weeks).

A quick reminder of what the group looked like (scroll down).


halfway normal

I did something today that I haven't done for a long time: I dropped off into an unforeseen afternoon nap. It lasted only about an hour, but when I woke up I saw that it was 2:20PM.

I'd had an excellent breakfast conversation with my host Bob (again, dammit, no recording to show for it), after which I took my sweet time getting ready for the day: morning bathroom ritual, laundry, first of many email checks. Somehow, a little after 1:15PM, I ended up on the bed, leafing through cyberspace on the BlackBerry... and woke up to find myself transported forward in time to 2:20PM. A sudden pressure told me that it was time for another consultation with the porcelain oracle. Bob had alerted me to the fact that the hardcover version of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations was there on the toilet tank, which is how I found myself on the throne, flipping fascinatedly through the pages long after it was time to arise and walk. But I was hooked: with my hemorrhoids gently brushing the surface of the toilet water, I pored over the book-- which is mostly a photo compilation-- and enviously wished for some of Bourdain's writerly mojo to waft into me.

By the time I was downstairs and about to leave for campus, the long-promised visit from the house's true owners was under way: I met Rob, who was repairing the garage door along with my host Bob ("I'm supervising"). Rob extended a beefy, powerful hand and shook mine; for whatever reason, I've never been very good at handshakes, and some guys tend to crush my fingers before I've had a chance to secure a decent grip for the gesture. Sorry, Rob; I'm the bowing type.

Rob's better half, Jeanie, wasn't there at that moment; she was out somewhere (with their son?) and was walking back to the house. I felt bad about leaving; according to Rob, the idea to allow me to stay at their house was "all Jeanie." In retrospect, I think I should have stuck around a few more minutes to thank my benefactress, but I was already late and feeling the pressure of a mountain of work.

Today, I decided to take the final step of weaning myself away from all the props. I had stopped the painkillers last week after some unsettling bleeding episodes; a few days later I had dropped the leg brace; the time had finally come for me to leave the trekking pole behind. I'm happy to report that the walk to campus today went just fine, pain-free, despite the added distance that came from making a few wrong turns early on. Bob's/Rob's house is about a mile away from Mechelle's, so I'm re-learning the route to campus. In truth, the new place is closer to campus than Mechelle's, but I equalized the distance by getting lost. Won't happen tomorrow.

So I'm about halfway normal again. I've got another nine or so days to get back to a point where I can walk ten miles or more without pain; I need to factor those walks into my schedule. Tomorrow, I might start the morning off by earning some money doing some weeding (long-time readers will recall that I did this at my very first stop in the US, in Blaine, WA); I still owe Mechelle a slice of her rent (plus a little pizza money).

Tomorrow, a FedEx package is arriving from Dad: Photoshop Elements! If you're in the market for some sort of design, or just want to see yourself handling a lightsaber or shooting lightning bolts at Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin), I'm your man. I can even make the design into a tee shirt for you.

In other news: Alan wrote me with an interesting employment opportunity for when I settle into Boise: standardized test evaluator, a job that only requires a computer and a brain. The hitch: for security reasons, people who evaluate student work (e.g., scoring essays for the SAT or TOEFL) need to have a physical hookup, not WiFi, and cannot move around. This probably means I'd need to rent a space (will likely need an address), get a contract for Internet service from whichever companies service Boise, and stay put. I'll probably want to stay put as the weather gets colder, and I'm sure my knee will be screaming again after the roughly 260-mile trek down there.

So I need to get cracking on research:

(1) I have to find a place in Boise where I can stay for about four months, paying little or no rent. To that end, Alan will be re-tooling the CouchSurfing message he broadcasts to potential hosts, and I plan to talk with Mom about whatever Korean community might be out that way (surely there have to be some Koreans in Boise, ja?).

(2) I need to find out what service providers exist in Boise, what the setup fees and monthly rates are, and most important, whether it's possible to get a service contract for less than one year. I suspect I might have to bite the bullet on this one, paying for a year, then paying a penalty for early withdrawal from the contract (or receiving only a partial refund for withdrawal).

Assuming I secure the above two things sometime before I reach Boise, obtaining the test evaluator position ought to be easy (UPDATE: "Don't count your chickens before they hatch," writes Alan). Grading papers isn't anyone's idea of a pleasant way to spend one's day, but the nice thing about it is that it doesn't require you to flex your knee thousands of times.

Along with the above, I need to take some time to stare hard at the route ahead and plan where Dad and I are going to stop. It would be mighty awkward-- not to mention dangerous-- to spend the night parked on the freeway's shoulder. Spending the night in a town's or city's parking lot also poses certain risks, so CouchSurfing might still be relevant to the upcoming Walla Walla-Boise sprint.

It may, at points, come down to finding little turnoffs not on any map. While walking along I-84, I saw plenty of those: spots where, for example, the driver of a maintenance vehicle might safely pull off the freeway for a snooze. It might be advisable for Dad to scout ahead while I'm hiking, and to call back when he finds a satisfactory spot. Parking in such places has one special advantage: it's cheaper than parking in a town, where we might feel obliged to spend the night in a motel.

It occurs to me that one possible in-town solution (aside from finding a CouchSurfing host) would be to call up a church and ask permission to park in their parking lot for the night. I suppose the only real awkwardness here would be the shit/shower/shave situation in the morning; I doubt the congregation would take kindly to finding us performing our morning constitutionals on their well-manicured lawn.

Much to think over; much to discuss.

Right-- back to transcription.


at long last

I finally-- finally-- found a Q&A site that provided a decent link to a Digital Wave Player download site. I downloaded a ZIP file of DWP, went through the setup procedure, hooked my recorder up to the computer, and voilà-- the computer finally recognized the hardware.

So victory is mine: the rest of the sound files have at long last been downloaded to the laptop. Transcription can finally continue!

Shall we slay the fatted calf?

I say yes... and let's save the fatted thigh for later.


if you're into philosophy of mind...

Fascinating post on nanointentionality over at Conscious Entities.