Thursday, March 29, 2007


well, i'm on my way from washington D.C. to new york. it was cherry blossom season in D.C., something i'd always wanted to see. there was no time to enjoy it this time around, but i managed to catch the sweet scent in the air and snap a shot from my treo.

the best thing about this trip is that i found an excuse to ride the train (acela express to be exact). i don't know what it is but i've loved taking the train since my late teens. europe opened my fascination with the train. i remember taking the eurail and stumbling my way across western europe with little more than a backpack and even less of a clue. it was challenging, but the sense of freedom and adventure i felt was without match. i remember the quiet churches of venice, nearly missing my train in germany after 2 huge beers with new friends in the hofbrauhaus (munich), a ride in the back of a truck in denmark, visiting an ex-girlfriend in the hague, and accidentally discovering an amazing peter gabriel concert (free!) in paris. i rolled back into madrid with just enough cash to buy a fresh baguette and some apples. note: there's a reason why you never see apple sandwiches on a menu.

fast-forward to graduating university of michigan and heading off to asia for a little more train adventure. first trip was a night long voyage to kuala lumpur from singapore with my freshman year roomie jeffrey lam. we were visting my mentee and pal mike louie who was staying in KL for a short period of time with a friend. KL was not incredibly beautiful or interesting to be honest, but it was the first time i realized the size and reach of islam as i stared at the world's largest mosque. juxtaposed with this likely the world's largest pirated software market. to commemorate the experience, i bought all the adobe products i couldn't otherwise afford for 5 dollars. i suppose i've been doing my penance in the software industry ever since ;-)

following singapore and malaysia, i headed over to japan to take the j-rail for a week. using my pass and serviceable nihongo, i traveled from tokyo all the way down to fukuoka where i visited a fellow wolverine (victor) who was taking classes at the university there. he took me to an amazing summer festival on a lake with fireworks and street vendors who sold tasty octopus dumplings among other strange and lovely things. on the way back i had the chance to stop by kobe and kyoto (one gorgeous, the other historic but somewhat bland). i can still recall walking by myself through pristine, silent japanese gardens, feeling like i had been transported a million miles away from the rest of humanity into a secret, alien place. i remember sitting in the train station, hearing a distant rumble, and moments later having my hair blown back as a speeding shinkansen blurred past the railstation at 190 mph.

so here i am in my 30s, back on the train with a decidely more complicated life than in earlier days before mortgages and jobs. odd how none of that seems to dampen the sense of freedom i feel as i write here on the acela. the moment at hand is as perfectly enjoyable as the memories.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

paso robles ponderings

just got back from a very quick trip to central cali for the wine country run with my pal jason emmons who introduced me to races about 10 years ago. finished the half marathon in 1 hr 44 mins 13 secs, which is not bad at all for me (but not my best time either). the run itself is beautiful as it winds through paso robles vineyards, complete with horses, cow, and sheep (the latter of which are completely unimpressed by herds of runners, who were equally unimpressed with the sheep's odor)

we spent our evening before the race at the carlton hotel in atascadero, which is the home of "terry's bar and grill". we dropped by for a nite cap and to take in the local flavor, which i would characterize as skoal bandits, busch beer, beef jerkey and line dances. the bartender was a nice enough looking blonde lady who looked very comfortable with the drunks leaning over the bar and the toby keith playing on the old juke box (10 cents a play!). when asking for a couple jacks on the rocks, she smiled to reveal a mouth half full of gold teeth that nelly would be proud of. yeehaw! after that we snuck in the back door (by accident) of a local hip hop club which had live performances that evening. thank god we didn't pay cover. the group that stepped up 2nd was announced as being straight from ohio and filming their big music video that evening ("ladies come on up if you wanna be in the big show!"). rightttttttttttttttt... isn't p diddy from cincinatti? and snoop dogg from columbus? not even atascadero was impressed. we lasted 3 minutes, 2 of which were spent looking for the exit amongst a crowd of 18 year-olds who were pretty sure ohio was a suburb of oakland.

after the run we took in a few wineries, namely peachy canyon, linne calodo and turley. the entire region is known for their zinfandels (among other things, like pinot noir), and turley has to be one of the best. we did a tasting of nearly all zins and they were impressive. scored a bottle of their dusi zin and the much cheaper juvenile zin which was still very good. downside: they have a waiting list to get on their mailing list (!) and don't wave their tasting fee with purchase. what the hell is a waiting list to get on a mailing list? is the postage that much? someone want to tell them about this little known phenomena called email that's pretty much free? sheesh... linne calodo is freakin' fantastic. we'd had a bottle of "leona's" the nite before in san luis obispo and it knocked our socks off. it's a zin blend with shiraz and mouvedre (sp?). the rest of their wine was in the same range of fabulosity. if you ever see them around, buy a bottle.

oh, and wired did a little story on the UFO sightings from the frenchies. no smoking guns but interesting nonetheless. the most convincing of all sightings for me has always been the ones that come from the airline crew since they are up in the air all the time and see lots of things that might normally be confused for UFOs by other people. that and they have little incentive to report unless they all see the same thing, making it more convincing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

grab bag & scrap book

seen in the news

france spills the beans on their ufo sitings over the years. sacre bleu!;_ylt=AiqF_4rkLF0ECnmZzwNPfw0FO7gF

music sales tank to new lows, down 20% and #1 albums now sell about 60k copies/week, whereas before it was about 500-600k. 800 music stores (including tower) closed in 2006. chk out the quote, they're finally getting it:

Jeff Rabhan, who manages artists and music producers including Jermaine Dupri, Kelis and Elliott Yamin, says CDs have become little more than advertisements for more-lucrative goods like concert tickets and T-shirts. "Sales are so down and so off that, as a manager, I look at a CD as part of the marketing of an artist, more than as an income stream," says Mr. Rabhan. "It's the vehicle that drives the tour, the merchandise, building the brand, and that's it. There's no money."

behold, the colossal squid. 30 of these and you'd have enough calamari to feed the 3rd world. but then you'd have a tartar sauce shortage. ah well...;_ylt=AhF1zBXu39SGVKzTlY.gidcTO7gF

young's bachelor party in vegas

cap'n jonathan and i on his first boat ride in te'os boston whaler. that's the lovely santa monica mountains in the background.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

current playlist

rehab - amy winehouse - back to black
hungerford bridge - underworld - breaking and entering o.s.t.
wish i could - norah jones - not too late
midnight marauders - fat freddy's drop - live in paris
the boxer - simon and garfunkel - greatest hits
multiply - jamie lidell - multiply
yellow - coldplay - parachutes
ted (bibio remix) - clark - ted e.p.
que pasa - j-boogie's dubtronic science feat deuce eclipse - om hip hop vol. 1
a conto do samba - tita lima - 11:11
nazarene - beck - guero
love rain - jill scott feat. mos def - collaborations

Saturday, March 10, 2007

a cab ride in mexico city

i'm not sure if i'm stealing someone's line, but as a seasoned traveller it always has seemed to me that if you want to understand the zeitgeist of any city, you have only to take a taxi with a chatty driver. there are some obvious caveats to this (some of them are nuts), but the cab driver spends all day in the car listening to the news, seeing the city, and yapping with people coming in and out of the locale. if they can synthesize and communicate this considerable flood of info, you've got the city's leading authority on your hands as a captive audience for the duration of your trip.

during my short trip (3 days) to mexico city to do PR and serve as a security advisor to banamex, i stayed near the following bldg, which is beautiful modern architecture and surrounded by gorgeous new hotels and legions of sushi restaurants (oddly enough). note that i was ushered here by my host and shuttled around to nice places during my trip, never left to wander on my own as is my typical M.O.

during the trip, i wondered how much mexico city had *really* changed since my visit over a decade ago. it just seemed too nice. one of the first indications was a thick layer of smog over the horizon that would make even a native los angelino blush. check it out in the pic below. sorta hard to see but you'll get the idea.

so as i was on my cab ride back to the airport the cab driver noticed i was not on my cell phone any more and struck up the basic conversation of where i was from and such. as is usual when any guero replies in kind with espanol, he praised my spanish and i demurred. then the real conversation began as he asked me if this was my 1st time in the DF. i replied no and made remarks as to the stunning progress that was made but the persistence of traffic and smog, feeling this was a balanced response. he glanced in his rear view mirror with his cheap sunglasses and told me that the progress was "una ficcion" and that what i saw in the lovely new sante fe area was not real. he pointed out the window to the scene below and told me that it was the real mexico city: a city of poverty run by indifferent politicians and businessmen of indiscrimnate wealth.

we delved into a conversation about politics which seriously strained my now meager spanish vocabulary, but we made it through the nonetheless. i was assured that he, as the rest of the people i met, thought hugo chavez was freakin' insane. not that anyone i met liked bush, who happened to be doing a tour of latin america this past week, but that they understood that socialism and anti-americanism is not going to advance their cause.

and this is a shot from the other side of the cab. he told me that 20 years ago the ppl in the now favela style living were habitating in caves in the same area. crazy. the progress that has been made didn't seem to brighten his hopes, and neither did the successful, peaceful xfer of power from vicente fox to the new administration. other mexicanos i spoke with felt differently, as they see the many attractions of latin america and mexico for US businesses and elsewhere. they're in a close time zone, most ppl speak english, its inexpensive, etc. my sense after taking it all in is if they can develop a middle class, solve some of their infrastructure issues and keep a stable govt, mexico could be a center of world economic activity in the future.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

ya me voy

yup, took a little hop on a not even half-filled mexicana flt this morning and i'm spending a couple days in mexico city. i've been invited here to be an advisor to the leading bank in mexico, banamex. my initial obligations seem to be signing an ominous sounding NDA and then presenting on the threat landscape tomorrow along with microsoft and a few other tech companies.

i was actually here about 11 years ago (oh man that sounds like a long time ago) on a churchy type trip. in the time i've been away, the DF has grown up quite a bit! check out the pics from my treo of the world's largest city.

this is the new corporate park, built from a former dumping grounds. it's pretty swanky, victor (my host), took me through the local mall which was nicer than most i've been to in LA.

this is the view from the top of the hotel i'm at (the vesta). i had a little ceviche and a beer for dinner while reading my book and taking in an old INXS album on the speaker system.

this is my very modern room at the Vesta! very W-esque and only 190 USD a nite. pretty impressive.
this is our new friend gustavo, he's part of a new style of mexican art which began about 80 years ago from a guy (pedro linares) who had wacky dreams about different animals being combined and such which he then turned into wood figures and stuffed animals. the style is called "alebrijes" and gustavo is a crazy pigfish alebrije and he's coming home with me. i found him in an art store in the condesa zone which was recommended by george. shhhhhhhhhhh don't tell jane...

Monday, March 05, 2007


coolest thing happened today when i went into my MRI: they burned me a CD with the images!!! nurse asked me if i wanted to wait for the CD to which i replied i wouldn't miss it for the world :-) needless to say i left feeling very 2007... i was going to say this is the world's first blog-based, collaborative diagnosis of a busted shoulder but i have to bet someone else has done this.

without further ado, check out the inside of my shoulder! the doc says i have a damaged labrum, which is a cushion of sorts between ball and socket in the shoulder joint. what do you think? i think it looks like bad weather system in most of the shots. so storm front or fragged labrum? you decide!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

pics from vail

... and some pretty funny billboards!

and yes, we have an 8 megapixel camera and i can only remember to bring my stupid treo to snap some low res shots. sigh.

here's me and the huynh brothers at the top of game creek bowl

and doug and i

Saturday, March 03, 2007

greets from vail & book reviews

howdy from the little hotel room i’m sharing with my cousin doug here in vail colorado! Spent the last 2 days hitting the slopes. yesterday was unbelievably cold, today the sun shone her face and warmed things up (just a little bit). i'm going to get my shoulder checked out on monday and dammit until then i'm going to live it up!

i looked at my blogs for February and I have to say I’m a little embarrassed to only come in at 5 posts for the whole month. Sheesh! Truth be told i was sick for a fair shake of the month but i'm fine now (except for my aching shoulder) so with a surge of residual catholic guilt i resolve to blog more in march and the months ahead. things are very much at a cross-roads now at work so that may require a bit more attention than before but c'est la vie, i'll do my best.

so while often i review albums and concerts i haven't really shared much about what i've been reading, which is a fair bit in recent months since i've discovered ebooks. ebooks are nothing short of stellar- now when i run i can focus on learning something as well. fantastic stuff!! here's a few reviews of books i've been reading:

the rise of theodore roosevelt / theodore rex
both are fantastic reads by edmund harris (pulitzer prize winner) about a man who is one of my heroes. while he certainly had his faults, his commitment to conservation, fair play, action and overall zeal for life is nearly unmatched. i've read a lot of history lately and only does richard a. clarke come close to harris' ability to bring the zeitgeist of the times and the complexity of a historical figure to life. it's probably a 1000 pages combined for both books but it passes as quickly as any fiction book i've read simply as a guilty pleasure.

against all enemies
speaking of richard a. clarke, hats off to the man for his superb re-cap of america's counter-terrorism history. danny erwin turned me on to this and i wish i would have read it (ok, it was an ebook so technically i only heard it) much sooner than what i did. i learned a great deal about how the U.S. has made mistakes in the middle-east dating back to the reagan administration and certainly extending to out nearly unforgivable involvement today. it's not all dark days, he paints what i'd like to believe is a realistic view of our struggles to battle terrorism and understand middle-eastern politics and culture. fair bit of nostalgia here for the clinton administration, who seemingly made a lot (but not all) of the right moves containing an increasingly aggressive al qaeda.

korea's time in the sun
read this during our honeymoon and learned a great deal about the modern history of korea including korean relations with japan, china, the u.s. and other nations. very heavy read from a man who betrays no sign of being anything other than a college professor. before reading this book, i had scarce idea that korea considered china it's "big brother" in a confucian sense and the power of the confucian mentality to hold back commerce in favor of the yangban scholar-led government. it tells the story of korean heroes throughout the time who challenged the yangban and traditional models which stifled opp'ties for the common folk, the most notable of which is king sejong who devised the hangul writing system to make reading and writing available to all people among other egalitarian and noble accomplishments. the book additionally chronicles the atrocities committed by the various military-led governments of korea as well as the oppressive practices of the chaebols (large conglomerates) which have catapulted korea to industrial success at the severe cost of intensely unfair labor conditions for many along the way. it wraps up with a look at modern korean politics and the flood of anti-north korean rhetoric which grossly mistates the real happenings up the peninsula. as with clarke's book, you see the folly of the bush administration as the progress made by the clinton administration in foreign relations with kim jong il are rolled back years by the reckless "axis of evil" crap that was fed to the american people and the world at large. not an easy read, but well worth it.

other stuff i've read lately
the google story (david vise, mark malsee)
the art of happiness (dalai lama)
the solitaire mystery (jostein gaarder)

in progress
american gods (neil gaiman)
the new psycho cybernetics (maxwell maltz)
voltaire almighty (roger pearson)