Well, its been one of the many posts I've been meaning to write for a few months now, but I'm finally getting around to it - a layman's description of the type of work I'm doing here in Africa.

I remember I was with a friend, near the ocean, once upon a time, and we saw a freighter steaming on a southern heading. I told her that it was coming from Oakland, was about 50% full of cars, was headed to LA and then back to Japan. I could tell that much from looking at it a couple of miles off. She told me that she had no idea what it is that I do for a living. I told her that its hard to explain. So, with that in mind, here's what I'm doing in Africa.

Last year around this time I interviewed internally with a group called ACN* Developing Partnerships (ADP, for short) - the very small and very cool not-for-profit practice that my company operates to provide 1st world consulting services to organizations (mostly charitable NGOs) that are doing work in 3rd world environments. That's the external selling point, the internal one is that the executive in question gets to go travel, see the world, do fulfilling work like helping bring medical training to countries that need it, etc., and all at the cost of 50% of their salary. You keep benefits, they pay for travel and put you up while you're there. Its a pretty cool gig if you can swing it.

Anyway, I made the cut, which places one in the pool of potential applicants to join a project, should one be sold that requires someone of your skill-set / experience. I dabbled with a few potential projects with organizations that I was mildly interested in (UNICEF, etc.), before my dream project just kind of fell in my lap.

I've been a fan of World Vision - a private, Christian relief and development organization, financed mainly through child sponsorship - for quite a while. For my last 7 years out of college, I've been volunteering with the youth group at my church, and I've made it to the 30-hour-famine that WV runs with youth groups around the globe for every one of those years (including the one that I only showed up to play guitar for, when I was on my deathbed with the flu). So through that, as well as a number of other volunteering opportunities (packing boxes at their warehouses, etc.), I've had some great exposure to their organization. I respect what they do and when the opportunity came along to work with their Global Supply Chain Director in South Africa, doing Strategy Development, I'm pretty sure I peed myself just a little, out of sheer glee.

I don't make top-10 or top-5 lists or what have you, but South Africa has been one of my TOP desired planetary destinations, ever since a couple of Au Pair friends of mine told me all about it, as a teenager. And World Vision is like my dream organization to work with. And strategy development is the one arm of Management Consulting I've really been wanting to break into. Dream organization in dream location, doing dream work for them. Tres awesome, as the French say.

Essentially, ADP's work with WV is to help them operate more like a top-performer in the commercial world. They are surprisingly not far off from being able to accomplish that - thanks, I think, in large part to both the quality of people they have in their organization, as well as their massive size - they're the largest NGO doing emergency relief and development work (only WFP, UNICEF, and WHO - all govt. orgs, have bigger annual spends). But there are a number of specific areas in which Supply Chain, in particular, needs to be maximized within their organization, and that's what I'm here doing with my team - another manager, and a consultant.

Specifically, my work involves the creation of process manuals that help WV guide their Supply Chain operations - which we've grouped under what's called a Process Model, which has 4 parts: Plan, Source, Deliver, and Return. An initial pass at the Source (how they find and procure goods for delivery to beneficiaries) manual was created in the previous phase of work (although we're now revamping it), and I've been focused mainly on creating the Plan (how they plan the SC structure and functions) and Deliver/Return (how they move goods from point A to point B, and return them when necessary) manuals. We're also doing a couple other work streams - one helping them to define and develop their SC Organizational Structure, and another to assess the IT systems that they need to implement to facilitate both the Org Structure and the procedural guidance laid out in the manuals I'm creating.

So that's kind of a high level of the work. It involves working with various stakeholders throughout the organization, based in different functional groups, across the planet - Europe, all over Africa and Asia, Australia, the States, Latin America, you name it. They specialize in everything from emergency operations to donations management to in-field infrastructure development, and much more. And its incredibly high exposure - I'll be back in their global headquarters again in March for more presentations to the Advisory Committee on our work.

The project has taken me to Denver, LA, London, Nairobi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and of course here in Joburg / Pretoria, where I'm based. Further plans will add Mozambique and perhaps Malawi, Uganda, and/or Ghana to that list. Basically, I've only been able to look at the work I've been doing, shake my head in disbelief that its actually me here getting to do this, and then wish I could be doing an even better job for them, somehow. Because at the end of the day, my (and their) work won't help drive up a share price, it will put food in a hungry kid's tummy.

And here's a treat: recently, the ADP program got a shout out on CNN. Bon appetite.

*(ACN is our NYSE abbreviation - I think most of you know the name by now anyway, but now you know how to find out on your own if you don't)


(Retro- blogging. Going to get shorter and sweeter. I'm determined to get caught up and be normal- blogging this trip.)


London was good. I had to go there about a month into my time here in ZA for some training, so I headed up early to spend the weekend before kicking around. So that must have been...let's see. End of September, last year. Holy bovine am I running behind on getting these things blogged.

Anyway, its a long flight from the bottom of the planet up. I was tired. The hotel was near Hyde Park, which was nice.

Met up with Grant and walked south of the park looking for good places for him to live. I told him he should live in one of these old converted carriage houses on this street. He didn't go for it. So we went to a bar and had...

YES. FISH AND CHIPS AND BEER. This made me happy. We were watching the rugby but ZA wasn't playing that weekend. Didn't matter much, I could already sense the impending doom in ye ole kingdom - the Springboks were destined for glory.

I took off for So. Kensington Station and headed over to the Abbey, waterfront, etc.. Ended up walking back through the theater district, most of the way back to my hotel. People like to sit in the middle of the street here.

And why, oh why, won't somebody tell me why don't they have these wonderful blessed delightful brilliant little signs on the escalators in the NYC subway? I can't say how happy these made me, I really can't. Simple pleasures. This is pretty much the only part of the London metro that's better than NY's, however.

Sunday was a beautiful day. After church downtown, right behind the Gurken, with Grant and Jenny, we walked over to a market across the river, apparently its a farmer's market / produce thing during the week, but on weekends its pretty quiet, even at the cool little pub / restaurants that are open there. So, we had another awesome meal of... YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssssss

Then there was more walking around and seeing the sights. Like, extremely useful stairs, for instance. Also the Tower, London Bridge, the whole other side of the river including the Shakespeare house thing, back over to St. Pete's, down to that circle with the big pillar with the lions at the bottom - right in front of the museum - can't remember then name, then more Hyde park, then back to parts northerly to meet up with Brian and his friends for drinks and dinner. That was a big day.

Also, this sign is awesome.

As is this one.

Also, here's a few more pictures that I don't really have the energy to type anything about at the moment, other than to say that they were taken in London, and the one in the tube station got picked up off my Flickr page (see here) by some magazine that requested to use it in some article, along with one that I took at the South Kens station, so that's cool.

This much I will say about London - I had what is arguably the best 10 minutes of my 2007, as well as not-one-but-two of what I considered the worst 10-minute-experiences of my year as well. So it was a brief trip of some pretty crazy downs and ups. I don't hope to return too soon.


This one made everything OK for a minute.

The parents were in town through the weekend before heading off to Cape Town, and on Saturday I took them to the Apartheid Museum and then a tour of Soweto, both repeats for me.

On our tour, however, we stopped a grocer to buy a few head of cabbage and some sweet potatoes - filled up a couple of boxes and then headed into one of the poorest neighborhoods in the whole of Johannesburg. Shantytowns. Hard to describe in detail. Dirt and mud and random wood and tin and whatnot cobbled together to make a series of small dark spaces that people call homes. Just hard to believe people live in places like this.

We're walking back towards our van, getting ready to leave, and we're being swarmed by the kids, not begging but just seeing us rare white people as a brief afternoon entertainment. Happy that we've brought dinner, wondering what else we might produce.

I'm standing there with my camera in one hand and the other one hanging listlessly by my side while I watch 15 or so of them posing for pictures with the one Chinese guy in our group.

Then I feel her little hand just slip into mine like the most natural thing ever.

Melt my iceberg heart.

It had been so long I think I kind of forgot what just holding someone's hand is like. Everything that was wrong with the world just faded away for a minute while I held my new friend's hand. There was no black or white, rich or poor, no getting on a bus back to steak dinners or sleeping one more night on a dirt floor. There wasn't family that doesn't always get me or friends who aren't always there when you need them. There wasn't any wondering where the next meal would come from. There wasn't too much work and not enough time, there weren't flights to book and new positions to consider and trying to figure out what continent to live on. There wasn't the knowledge that you couldn't go to the bathroom in the dark because it wasn't safe to walk that far. All of my problems and all the things I'm trying to figure out about life and what I should do with it just kind of didn't matter, while I was holding my friend's hand.

I just hope it was that way for her too.


Zimbabwe quasi-wrap-up, in no particular order (I'm home now, and the 'rents got into JNB just a couple hours after I landed, so I have them here for the weekend until they leave for Cape Town on Sunday. But most of this was written prior to leaving.):

- I make a point to greet people I pass on the road during my morning runs (not just here in Zim, but anywhere). I don't know the local tribal dialect well enough to give it a shot, but the people here understand basic Zulu so I can use either that or English. Half of the time, when I use English, I am returned with a "Morning, master." I hate that. But it is just another part of Africa.

- The exchange rate in Zim is 30,000 dollars to $1 USD. That's the unofficial rate, and that's the rate you generally pay for anything, assuming you're not an idiot tourist. They only want you to pay in USD, and they'll only give you change in Zim dollars, but unfortunately the change always comes assuming the official rate, of 250 dollars to $1 USD. So if you're not paying in small bills and expecting little or no change, you need to expect to get ripped off. Everyone here generally assumes white people are fabulously rich and therefore the general unspoken goal is to help us rid ourselves of whatever funds we may have. They're not really all *bad* people though, however, so much as they're just hungry. More on that soon.

- The World Vision team we've been working with here is a wide assortment of the coolest people on the continent (and a handful from beyond). The team is comprised of the supply chain pilot leads from the 5 primary countries that have been implementing our quick-wins initiatives from the previous phase of work (WOW that was a sentence spoken in perfect Consultantese). But it really is good, relavent work that we are doing, and they can see that. These are the same countries that will be leading the implementation of the work my team and I are completing right now, and they are: Ghana, Somalia, Zambia, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. I've been especially interested in learning as much as possible from my colleague and brother David, who is here from Sothern Sudan (as some of you might have guessed). I'll be writing more about the humanitarian situation there from WV's perspective once I've had a chance to flesh out my notes from the meetings. Also, I've spent some good time with Diana, from Uganda, who is trying to help me set up a trip to there (on my own time) to meet counselors who are working with child soliders rescued from the LRA. Horrible, horrible stories, but that's why I want to go, to help stop them.

- We're staying in a hotel that is semi-reminiscent of Las Vegas, set in an African utopia. The food is usually buffet style, but they apparently ran out of food on Wednesday because there were only 2 menu options, and no buffet for a change. And the quality was iffy, at best. Running out of food in Zimbabwe is not an unusual occurence. Also, the power shut off for anywhere from 2-10 hours at a time, every day. They had a generator, but it wouldn't power the AC. I was not comfortable at those times.

- There's wild animals everywhere - mainly wart hog wandering the streets (or lack thereof) and the occasional baboon or monkey. You have to keep the sliding door to your balcony closed and locked so that they don't come in and take your stuff. The hotel is a series of buildings (full of rooms) that all surround a central area where the pool is, but that's surrounded by some natural-habitat pond, complete with fish and the occasional baby crocodile.

- The falls are pretty cool but the views aren't that incredible. There's almost too much mist shooting up from the bottom to make good pictures from the better vantage points possible. But it was neat to see. More on them later too. Theoretically.


(first blog ever from Zimbabwe. hah.)

Yesterday morning I decided to boldly strike out from the safety of the hotel for a run. It was raining pretty steadily but it was that typically warm rain that they have here in Africa, all it does is make you wet, not cold. Its kind of refreshing, if you get out early enough in the morning.

We're a good deal further north here in Zimbabwe than where I've been living in ZA, and as such the sun doesn't make it up quite so early, and with the weather as its been in the mornings, its fairly hard to tell if it's actually up anyway. That is my way of explaining that it was dark. And rainy.

There's not much that passes for a town here. Its probably the 3rd or 4th biggest "city" in the country (Harare being the first), and yet there's almost nothing here. There's about 2 places that would pass as "restaurants," and even they are only open when they actually have something to serve, which isn't a guarantee. There are a few tourist-y shops on the main strip (about a block), but they are sparsely stocked and kind of grim. But not so grim as the shut-down shopping mall across the street - banks collecting dust as they sit in a country where the currency has become devoid of any meaning, food stores closed because there's no supply of food to sell - much less the money to afford what could be found, shops and such with no purpose for being anymore. Little electricity or lighting to speak of within view. Last evening while standing on the street, Paul and I were picking up 1,000 notes of currency off the ground, which, given the current exchange rate, are worth about $0.03 US. There's one petrol station that is sometimes open when they actually have some to sell, and that's about the end of town. Head the other way from the hotel, and you hit the bridge to Zambia.

So off I ran out of town, into the lush Zim countryside. They've been getting way too much rain the past couple of years - the Zambezi river continues to rise above flood stages currently and is now affecting not just Mozambique, but also parts of Zim and ZA. So saying that things are green here is a bit of an understatement. I passed people walking from town (those leaving their overnight jobs, I assumed, for the most part), and even more walking in (to their day jobs), and I must have been a rather strange sight - its doubtful that many tourists venture far past the hotel gates when not in a tour van, and there simply are not any white people living here. And it was raining.

Leaving a quiet town into an even quieter country-side was quite peaceful, and given that I love running in the rain, letting my thoughts sort themselves out, I was in the midst of a rather wonderful introvert's euphoria.

That's when I saw something strange on the grey horizon where the road curved away. I don't wear my glasses when I run, so my nearsightedness kicks in and I have trouble making out certain things at a distance, but it was clear enough to see that there was what I could only guess were people in the road, a few hundred yards ahead of me. A lot of people.

Now, this was strange. In Africa, you see people, simply everywhere, walking along the sides of the roads. You can't drive anywhere without seeing this, its just a very normal fact of life here - having cars is a luxury afforded only to the favored few. So most people are seen walking on the sides of the road - you might sometimes see someone crossing the road, but people walking in the middle of the road, let alone a large group of them, well - something seemed immediately off.

I had read all the warnings of the potential for political rallies, riots, etc. in the area, but it didn't seem to make much sense, in the rain, at quarter to six in the morning. Outside such a dead little town, on the border. Surely not here. I kept running. The dark shapes got closer.

As I got closer I could see more clearly that the dark figures were short. Quite short. Children, perhaps? On the way to school? But then every second or two one of them seemed to grow suddenly taller, and then shrink again. And why would they be in the road?

What the…

Curiosity killed the cat. I kept running. And then I was upon them.

I was running directly through a herd (or whatever the heck you call it) of baboons. Hundreds of them, all walking down the road in the direction of town, like they owned the place. Big baboons, medium baboons, baby baboons, you name it. There was one that looked like he might be about 5 feet tall if he stood upright.

A car coming from the other direction - heading towards town - had to come to a stop, as none of them were turning around to acknowledge it. They paid little mind to me, which I was happy about, as I continued to run and try not to look any of them in the eye, or smell of fear in any way whatsoever. I struggled to not entertain the notion of 20-30 of them turning on me and ripping me to tasty shreds in a puddle on the side of the road. And so I just kept running.

Once I was a hundred yards or so past them, I heard what must have been the herd of baboon happening upon a herd of wart hog coming out of the long grass on the side of the road. I couldn't see anything at that point, but the sound was fairly unmistakable.

I like it here.


Pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop
Upon the heart
Until in our despair
There comes wisdom
Through the awful grace of God
– Aeschylus

Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself. – Madeleine L’Engle

We might have learned, even from the poets, that Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. He has often rebuked us and condemned us but he has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us. We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child an artist may not take much trouble. But over the [magnum opus] of his life—the work which he loves—he will take endless trouble—and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way it is natural for us to wish that God had designed us for a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less. You asked for a loving God; you have one. Not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way…but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as an artist’s love for his work. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring. We should not ask that God’s love should reconcile itself to our present impurities—not more than the beggar maid could wish that the King should be content with her rags and dirt. What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not in the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall [finally] be happy. – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


Warnings have been the theme lately. I'm off to Zimbabwe / Zambia this weekend, the first of which took a measure of finangling with the Asset Protection group to get a waiver to actually go there (I'm an asset). From an email with the Global AP guy:

...the restriction remains in place. In fact, tomorrow (12 January) is the launching of the nationwide rally followed on the 23rd by rallies isolated in Harare. We will gain a better understanding of the security environment after tomorrow’s rally and the one on the 23 January.

The main wing of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has announced the launch on 12 January of a nationwide ‘New Zimbabwe Campaign’. The campaign includes plans for 300 rallies to be held in rural and suburban areas in January, as campaigning begins for presidential and parliamentary elections expected to take place in March.

The rallies are planned primarily for rural areas, where support for President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is traditionally strong. However, initial events will be held on 12 January in the Mbare, Glen View and Dzivarasekwa suburbs of the capital Harare and Chitungwiza (19 miles (30km) outside Harare). Rallies in Harare itself are apparently planned for 23 January, though police approval has reportedly yet to be granted. The security forces tend to deal heavy-handedly with opposition gatherings, though Mugabe has recently announced his willingness to open up democratic space, and is unlikely to encourage severe repression as long as ZANU-PF’s continuing – but increasingly fragile – negotiations with the MDC continue. Nonetheless, Control Risks warns that there is a credible risk of clashes in any area where a rally is planned or held.

This also means I'm back on the malaria medication, which I hate. Its called Mefloquine, the brand name for the generic Mefliam. Here's some of the fun stuff it does to people:

Mefloquine may cause psychiatric symptoms in some patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia and depression to more serious hallucinations and psychotic behavior. In some instances, these symptoms have continued long after mefloquine was stopped, according to reports. Rare cases of suicide and suicidal ideation have been reported, although no causal relationship with mefloquine has been confirmed. To minimize the chances of these adverse events, mefloquine should be avoided in patients with depression or a past history of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, psychosis, including schizophrenia or other psychiatric disturbances.

If psychiatric symptoms such as unexplained anxiety, depression, restlessness or confusion are evident during mefloquine prophylaxis, the medicine must be discontinued and alternative prophylaxis instituted, as these could be prodromal to a more serous neuropsychiatric event.

Also, for good measure, some highlights from the US State Dept. website when registering my trip with the embassy there:

The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are volatile and could deteriorate quickly without warning. In response to growing public protests against deteriorating conditions, the Zimbabwe Government continues to authorize its security forces to suppress all dissent by whatever means deemed necessary. In recent months, political leaders at the highest levels of the Zimbabwean government have condoned the security forces’ use of violence against opponents of the government. The government has defended its right to treat individuals roughly, including those in custody, and has warned of more such actions.


As campaigning and preparations for 2008 presidential elections take place, there is an increased potential for political violence, particularly at large rallies or demonstrations. Government security forces have attacked peaceful demonstrations protesting political repression and a deteriorating economic situation. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid all political rallies and demonstrations, or large gatherings of any kind anywhere in Zimbabwe.


Crime is a serious problem in Zimbabwe, and is driven by the country's deteriorating economy.

Street crime in Zimbabwe is a serious problem. Americans and other foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and are frequently targeted by criminals who operate in the vicinity of hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas of the major cities and tourist areas such as Victoria Falls. Although the majority of crimes in Zimbabwe are non-violent, perpetrators are generally armed with weapons, which can include firearms. The downtown sector of Harare and its high density residential suburbs are particularly high-crime areas. A number of American visitors have been assaulted or robbed while walking in the town of Victoria Falls, especially after dark.

File under "don't tell mom." Click here to learn a bit more about Zim in pictures. Click here to learn more in words.


(A while back the story of the snake was finally put to type. You can find it here. This is the story of how I got that pimp-pad of a room for my junior year, as promised in the story of the snake - a story for another time that is now being told.)

It is now time to talk about the pimp-pad.

Near the end of my freshman year, I had the sudden realization that I needed to join a housing group. Our school had fraternities, and housing groups. I'm not really sure what the difference was, all I know is the housing groups had Greek names and did a lot of the same things as the fraternities, but technically weren't frats. Even the frats, however, were not the same national ones you find at big schools. They had Greek names, but ones made up at some point, unique to our small, private, Christian college. Lame.

Anyway, I had realized that I needed to join one because I found out that otherwise I was going to end up in Hicks, basically the worst dorm ever, where no girls would ever talk to you, much less visit. This, of course, presented a huge dilemma for the freshman male.

I pretty much had my choice of fraternities or housing groups to join. I was not yet cool, in my own right (that would come with time), but I was like one of 2 or maybe 3 kids from California in my class, so I had the whole surfer dude thing going for me. That helped me more with the ladies than with the guys, but doing well with the girls got noticed with the guys. Perhaps even more instrumental with securing my position as a solid rush was the time I stood up to Chip Kosher.

(brief side story)

Freshman year you are forced to take a "Fitness and Wellness" class (a.k.a. "Fitwell") which is basically a college version of PE. Which was ridiculous. They're going to try to tell an 18 year old who runs 7 miles a day, lifts regularly, practices martial arts, and is on 2-3 intramural sports teams at a given time, how to stay in shape. Like I needed that.

Anyway there were two parts - half the semester was spent in the classroom learning useless stuff about exercising and food, the other half was in the gym doing useless workouts (which I opted out of, more on that in a second). So on the first day of class, all of us nervous freshmen men (this was the one class on campus that was not co-ed) were sitting there in our assigned seats in the auditorium. The seats were assigned alphabetically, based on your last name, so sitting to my right was a one Chip Kosher - captain and star linebacker of the football team.

Class is just about to start when Chip did what I came to suspect he did in any academic course he ever took in his life. He leaned over and put his elbow on my desk, pulled his shirt sleeve up to expose his bicep - which was roughly thicker than my waist, at the time - and, nose to nose with me, told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to help him pass this class. He then sat back, please with himself that he was going to pass another class I suppose. So I leaned over, put my elbow on his desk, pulled my shirtsleeve up, exposing my bicep - probably about as thick as Chip's thumb, at the time - and said exactly 4 words, starting with "The..." and ending with "...I am."

I don't think anyone had ever done that to Chip, and, surprisingly enough, he respected my massive (MASSIVE) gamble. So he turned to the other scrawny white kid on his right and did his schpeel again. The kid actually turned whiter, which I wouldn't have believed was possible for a Pennsylvanian.

From that day on Chip was like my best friend - inviting me to frat parties almost constantly, trying to get me to come over to their hall to do shots, introducing me to upperclassmen girls, etc.. I politely declined most of the time, as it wasn't really my scene, which made him call me up even more. Chip thought I was cool and nobody knew how I had done it.

The second semester of that year, I finagled my way out of the gym half of the PE class by "testing out," informally. The coaches that taught the class worked off of that same alphabetical list of last names, so naturally Chip's came just after mine again. When we got to the pull-up test (they tested you at the start and end of the semester to measure improvement), Chip was getting mouthy with the other guys as the coach got nearer to his name on the list - making fun of them for not being able to do the 30+ pull ups required for the highest marks. Then Chip turned to the coach (one of his buddy-coaches from the football team) and told him that he bet he could do 31 pull-ups, and if he did, he would get excused from that part of class for the rest of the semester. No discussion was made of the penalty for failing, to my recollection, but the coach took Chip up on his offer. 2 guys later it was my turn, and I walked up to the bar, and told the coach I'd be taking the "Chip deal" as well. He didn't get what I meant at first, but when I explained it, he laughed and said "OK." So I did 31 pull-ups (I weighed about 135 at the time, so there wasn't much to lift). Chip did the same thing right after me. He took me back to his dorm for a celebratory drink, at 10:30 in the morning.

Chip would sometimes try to tackle or punch or otherwise abuse you for little or more often no reason at all, and this was how he found out I knew martial arts. One day in the mail hall, between classes, he saw me through the crowd and started shouting at me: "KNOWLES! I SEE YOU KNOWLES! DON'T YOU MOVE KNOWLES! DON'T RUN!" Well of course I tried to run but there were too many people, and he got to me about halfway through the crowded hall, and hoisted me up in the air, pinning me to the top of the wall with my head kind of crammed against the ceiling. He then just put one hand on my chest and leaned into me, securing me hung and helpless in midair, with everyone who walked by (most importantly, the girls) having a good laugh. Chip informed me that he'd only put me down when I agreed to party with them in the city that weekend. We argued for a minute and then I told him I was going to make him put me down. "If you kick me Knowles, I swear we are gonna fight, right here."

"I'm not going to kick you."

"You're not going to try and piss on me, are you?"


"Then how are you going to get down." (It was more of a statement than a question.)

I grabbed his hand on my chest, which happened to be perfectly positioned for one of the basic aikido moves, and next thing Chip was on the ground with his arm bent behind his back. He was a mix of "Uncle!" and "Holy cow KNOWLES KNOWS KUNG FU! Knowles you didn't tell me you were a ninja! Etc."

Letting Chip in on this turned out to be a mistake. Years later when he sat next to me in a finance class, his favorite thing to do was still get everyone's attention, announce that I knew kung fu, and then say "watch" and proceed to slam his arm in to my chest, sending me flying.

Chip had a really loud, obnoxious old pickup truck, a very cute blond girlfriend, and his family were rich - his dad owned the most successful hunting-dog-food company in the northeast. That's about all I remember about Chip.

(end brief side story)

So where was I? Oh, yeah, how I joined a housing group. I decided to go with the Nu Dels, because they were the only guys who had a double room left with no one to fill it, and since I was the only remaining rush they had, I would get to pick my own roommate, and he didn't have to join the housing group. I planned on remaining as independent as possible, so having the only indy roommate on the hall fit well with that plan, and I got to room with my buddy Kevin, who was awesome.

Because I wasn't down with most of the housing group activities (parties, drinking, running around in your underwear), I didn't end up "getting along" very well with some of the guys, although I did get on just fine with some of them. But there was some latent angst about my laissez-faire approach to the group, and about half-way through spring semester, things came to a head (one of them tried to attack me with the wooden ladder to his bunk bed, at one point), and I told the dean of men, Toncic, that I needed to move out of there before someone got seriously injured. He moved me the same day into a single that had just come open in the next dorm over - Lincoln.

I thought things were great, but there was a rub. That same day that I moved just happened to be the day that they had room-draw for the ensuing year, where all the rising independent men picked numbers to see which order they would pick in, in their class year.

So, since as of that morning I had been in a housing group, which didn't have to pick numbers for their rooms, I missed room draw, and after informing me of this Toncic told me to come to the room-picking session (where you selected whatever best room was left when your number came up). He said he would "See what he can do," which translated to "I was going to pick last out of the whole sophomore class," I was pretty sure.

That evening, I walk into the auditorium, and there's this sly Italian kid who was a year ahead of me, a rising junior - Frank Fagan. Frank was suave - smooth as a movie star suave - he had a way with the ladies that I deeply respected. I remembered Frank, even though we weren't really friends, because he won his freshman talent show with a song that he made up on the spot on the piano. I had met him when I tracked him down after *my* freshmen talent show (which I didn't win, sadly), where he performed at the end, as the previous year's winner always did before presenting the prizes. I asked him to teach me that song that he played and he told me he couldn't really remember what it was because he had just made it up. I asked him if it was the same thing he played at his show the year before, when he won, and he told me he just made that up too. This was Frank.

So there he was, just cool as the cat's pajamas, and he's sitting all sprawled out across a couple of the auditorium seats - and he sees me wandering in and beckons me over. He tells me he has a "proposition" for me, but I have to promise to keep it on the DL. I'm game for anything at this point so I shut up and listen. Frank tells me he has 9th pick out of all the seniors. He tells me he wants to give it to me, let me do with it as I will. Any room in Alumni (the best dorm at the time) that the Pans (rich boy frat) don't already have is mine...so what's the catch?

Frank's dad was paying for his senior year, so if Frank could get a job and support himself, he could afford to live off campus in a booze-filled apartment. Problem was, the admin wouldn't give him the OK for it, because they had the sneaking suspicion that Frank would fill his apartment with booze (and probably women, too). So he needed someone to keep up the facade that he was actually living on campus. I got to have a roommate-free double in Alumni, my pick of the room, and all I had to do was make sure everyone got the impression he actually lived there. He said he'd stop by a few afternoons and take his shirt off and study, etc., to help towards this end, which happened all of like once, which is part of why we ended up getting outed, eventually.

There was another catch, however. In addition, I had to find a way to turn in 48 or so chapel cards that year for Frank, but - there was a bottle of my choice from the liquor store waiting for me upon completion of that (how's that for irony - going to chapel for booze?). The college had a policy that you wouldn't receive your diploma unless you had turned in your chapel cards (one per service), or alternatively wrote a book report on a theological book for each chapel card outstanding. I won't divulge my methods, but I never wrote any book reports for Frank.

The pimp pad was a nearly perfectly positioned room in Alumni, the 2 story building that housed most of the athletic department offices, plus the gyms, racquetball courts, mail room, and student union on the first floor. It was centrally located, one easy flight of stairs up, and had lots of great views, especially if you picked a room like mine, which was right above the main entrance to the building that most of the female population at the school used every day, coming to and fro between their dorms and the classroom buildings. (It should be mentioned that despite being a pimp pad, it in no way to be compared, whatsoever, to the passion palace, the room I would wind up in on the other side of Alumni, my senior year. *That* is another story for another time).

And that's the room I lived in when the whole snake thing went down. (Its also the room that my buddy Dave from down the hall started crashing in half the time, because his roommate snored like a diesel engine. Dave and I would become good friends, and I would later learn most of he and his brother's smooth ways with women, when we all roomed together later that year, once the snake thing happened and it became evident that Frank was not living with me on campus. Dave and Steve - his brother - were a big help to me in that department, but that, too, is a story for another time.)


(Retro- blogging) (Cape Town Part 2 - see here for Part 1)

On our second morning of the Cape Town trip, we woke up to find the ocean still beating away at the rocks on the coastline there in Gansbaai. Ate a hurried breakfast of leftover pizza (we had, in our infinite wisdom, saw fit to order that in addition to dinner, the night before), and then hopped into our swim gear, warm clothes over that, and off for the boat.

(It should be noted that I didn't really take one good digital picture from the boat at all, because I was either a) in the water with the waterproof camera or b) capturing everything on video from the observation deck.)

After a brief morning briefing, we loaded our plump tourist torsos onto the ship of death, and off we chugged into the surf. 15 minutes later we were a few hundred yards off the coast, albeit on the far side of the sweeping bay. You could hear the surf crashing in the distance, and there were 2-3 other boats in view, all preparing to do what we were preparing to do. The water was green and inviting - didn't look very cold at all (it wasn't).

After they maneuvered the steel cage into the water and secured it next to the boat, the portly captain gave us his final warning speech on the particulars of getting in and out, and when he got to his question of who wanted to go first, Brian and I already had our hands in the air. So we wet-suited up, grabbed some goggles, strapped weights on, and hopped in the cage. They were chumming the water all the while, and once we were in a largish (say about the size of a nerf football) chunk of tuna was tossed out, on the end of a rope with a small bouy to keep it afloat. It hovered there just below the surface, maybe 15 feet in front of the cage with 4 sacks of human meat encased in neoprene in it.

About 1/4th of the cage is above water the whole time, and they tell you to keep your head above water so that you can hear them shout at you when to go down, if they see the shark coming. Screw that, I had my face under the water the second I was in there. I tried to keep one ear above water for the most part, to hear when they did shout, but for the first few minutes I was busy swimming around the bottom of the cage, trying to see something before anyone else.

Which I did, go me. An 20' long 2,000 lb. beast from the depths, swimming non- chalantly about 15 feet under the tuna, acting like it wasn't really interested. It just kind of faded into the green haze, and then, just as I was going up for air BAM, out of nowhere she comes flying up at a 45 degree angle, honed in on the tuna. Chomp. Gone.

That was the nature of our sightings for the next few hours. You'd see them poking around from time to time, checking out the boat, the cage, the tuna, but you'd rarely see them just before they went for it. Most times they'd just come straight up from the bottom, engulf the tuna in their massive jaws (most of which had roughly 16,000 massive razor teeth), and then they were gone, as quick as they came.

After seeing at least 2 or 3 of them take multiple tuna samplings, we got out so that the next group could go in, and went up to the observation deck to take pictures / video. We went in again later in the morning, and although we didn't see as much, we did get our closest exposure, when one kind of came at the cage as it struggled to get the tuna off the line. They thrash their massive tails around and it causes a lot of bubbles/foam, but 2000 lbs. of shark muscle is hard to miss when its right next to you. So I decided to give it a little love tap, and stuck my stupid hand outside the cage to touch it, on the top of the tail, just behind and down a little bit from the dorsal fin. I'm pretty sure it didn't notice. I still have my hand.

All in all we probably saw 12-15 different sharks, most of them multiple times. Its hard to tell exactly, they look a lot a like when all you see is a flash of grey and then enough teeth to tear a cow in two.

So then we packed it in and headed back for dry land, which is safe, and where you have much more chance of seeing death by massive creature coming for you, which is rather comforting. Like the penguins, for instance, which we stopped to see, and more unfortunately smell. Except they are not massive, and they do not want to eat you. Well, they might, but they're clearly not well organized enough to be much of a threat.

We drove off to Franshoeck, one of the 2 main wine countries outside of Cape Town, and found our B&B. After unloading, we sauntered around the town a bit and then found a nice bar/restaurant that opened onto a kind of enclosed square in the artsy little shopping area. They had a massive screen put up for the rugby qualifiers so we watched that, accompanied by many beers and plates of not-very-good-for-us food.

The next morning we hit a few of the wineries, the first of which, although it was signed like a winery, in the middle of a massive vineyard, and looked for all intents and purposes like a winery, was actually a private residence on the side of the valley with an incredible view from the portico between what apparently was the house and the big building that was certainly not a winery. Maybe it was a library. Who knows. Anyway the guy, looking like a guy our age who had just woken up on a Saturday morning, politely informed us we were mistaken, but let us take some pictures of his view.

Then we went to some real wineries, the best of which was Cabriere, which I hope to get back to. They have a Pinot Noir Blanc (not a red) that was incredible, but it may have just been because it was the last one I tasted. The old dude who showed us around was pretty funny and closed his act by inviting pretty girls on stage to help him open bubbly bottles with a sabre, the old fashioned way. Their reward for success (or failure, for that matter), was a kiss from Mr. Lech.

Back to Cape Town. Found our hotel downtown, checked in, took off for Table Mountain, climbed it - about a 3 hour climb but we were hoofing it a lot faster than that. Great views of the city from the top, then on the way down in the cable car I brilliantly recorded over some of my shark footage. Idiot.

That night we headed out to Long Street with Jenny, who was also in town. Billiards, Mexican dinner, more billiards, then copious amounts of late night dancing.

Sunday after packing everything up we hit the waterfront for some light shopping and lunch before heading back to the airport. Met some other US / UK consultants in the airport headed back to JNB as well, Brian and Jenny got to know them better over the next month or so, but I was a little busy for follow-up at the time.

The best part about Cape Town was the sharks, hands down. I won't say its the best part of my time in Africa so far, because there's been a lot of incredible things, but seeing those things up close vaulted right up there next to skydiving, for me. It made you feel your humanity, it reminded me that I am just food, albeit with a soul. But the shark neither knows nor cares about the second part.


It is now time to talk about the eyeballs.

My eyeballs, in particular. Unlike most of the rest of me, they are not perfect (refer to every picture taken of me since my teenage years). I hate the idea of contacts in general and so I've never tried them, which is rather like hating the idea of driving a pickup instead of an SUV without ever having tried it, but I digress.

So, I wear glasses, to correctly slightly-off vision. Which, ironically, determined a lot more about where my life wound up going than most other things I can think of did.

I was 16 or 17, I can remember I wasn't living at home at the time, but as I had recently graduated from high school, I was thinking about next steps. I had decided I wanted to fly planes, but not just any planes. I wanted to fly fighter jets for the Navy. It would either be fighters, or nothing at all. I didn't want to fly if it didn't mean extreme high speeds and blowing things up. I remember this much clearly. I remember telling a Naval recruiter that.

Said recruiter was kind enough not to try and pull one over on me, and made it clear that my chances would be as good as anyone elses' at landing a pilot's seat if I went straight into the serve. He said that I'd be a lot better off applying for their flight school if I was coming out of a top private flight college. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, here I come. I was filling out the applications paperwork and pretty much planning to go there and nowhere else.

That's when it happened. Talk about timing, I mean, I had a half-completed ERAU application on my desk at home, sitting at the tippy-top of my to-do stack. I can still see it, clear as day - next to the first TV I ever owned, in the corner of that ugly, oppressive yellow rented room I lived in at the time. But I wasn't there when it happened, I was at work.

I worked in a supermarket and, thanks to unions and whatnot we had stupid ridiculously long break time with every shift that we were basically forced to take (I'd have rather worked an 8 hour shift straight through half the time instead of having to sit around for an hour and a half and be there 9.5). So, naturally, we had a fair deal of spare time on our hands each day, a few of us being on breaks together at the same time. This led to lots of interesting stuff, ranging from whip-its in the dairy refrigerator box, to flirting with the waitresses at the diner across the parking lot, to a hybrid form of wiffle-ball in the stockroom where the rules changed daily based on the locations and amount of product in the stockroom at the time.

The latter involved all sorts of weird specific rules that we made up as we went. Many times if you hit the ball, you might not be able to see where it clearly landed. If the pitcher saw that the landing location was out of the batter's view, he could offer the batter a gamble by shouting "food item" or "non-food item" (a term that's come back to haunt me on my current project here in Africa, ironically). The batter, already making his rounds of the bases, then had the choice to either guess the item (e.g. "Corn chips!") - hence accepting the offer, or, alternatively, decline the offer (by shouting "No thanks!" or some derivative thereof, often ranging towards the more vulgar). If the batter guessed correctly, he got to round the bases as in a home run, and it counted for two points. If he accepted but guessed incorrectly, it counted as an immediate out, and minus one point. It was, naturally, a gamble that was rarely taken except in desperate situations (e.g. low scores, break time perilously low, etc.).

Well, one day I was at bat, had a hit, and the offer was made. Rounding first base I had a view of the item the ball had landed on (in the liquor section) which the pitcher hadn't realized I would have. The rule involved that the pitcher couldn't touch the ball til the offer was accepted or denied, and failure to accept or deny on the batters part before reaching the next base caused an immediate out, however the batter could stop anywhere along the baseline to try to see where the ball was, without incurring any penalty. So I stopped, sized up where the ball was sitting, and guessed that it was liquor (duh). "Hah!" shouted my shift manager, the pitcher, then informing me that it was a box of pasta sauce. Argument quickly ensued, but upon walking over to check it out for myself, I found that yes, indeed, there was a lone stack of Ragu sitting in the liquor department area, far from where it should have been.

"I thought the big 'Ragu' on the side of the box might have tipped you off," Greg said.

"I never saw it."

"What? How did you miss it? Its right there. It was even facing you, from that direction."

I thought about what he said for a minute, and then walked back towards first base. It was a big stockroom, and I had put quite a smack on the ball, so it was no small distance, but still - standing there some 30 or 40 feet away, I realized that while I could see something written on the side of the box, it was a little fuzzy. To fuzzy to determine the difference between "Ragu" and "Malibu," I thought.

And that's when I realized I might have a very minor vision problem, which was not a very minor thing at all for a kid who knew he needed 20/20 unassisted to fly the kinds of planes he wanted to fly.

That all flew through my head about 10 times as fast as it takes to read it, and I immediately had that sinking feeling in my stomach.

A month or two later at the optometrist, it was confirmed - I had lost, and would never regain, my perfect vision (literally and figuratively, I suppose).


A friend of mine recently got Lasik, and I realized that the reason I've never been interested in looking into it is pretty closely related to this story. You see, they require perfect vision unassisted to fly fighters, but of course the first thing I looked into upon getting home from the optometrist was whether or not you could get in with surgically-enhanced 20/20. Something about the g-forces and the pressure on the eyeball and the potential to undo the effects of the surgery mid-flight. No go.

I had decided not to fill out the application for ERAU any further than I already had, back on that fateful day in the stockroom, but the second thing I did when I got home from the optometrist (after checking on the surgery option) was to throw that thing in the garbage and sulk bitterly.

So that's most of the story of how I wound up going to a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania with no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. It never would have happened, if it hadn't been for the union-enforced long lunches, or the batter's choice rule, or the misplaced Ragu, or perhaps my slight decline in visual acuity.

And that's why I've always had a small, stupid little thing against Lasik. It was the surgery that wouldn't help me out when I was in my worst bind. So screw it.


It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

RIP Sir Ed.


Back safe in ZA. Long flight, through Dakar again, which I loath. But I was next to two smallish and very devout Jewish girls (they got kosher meals and would stand right in their seats to do their morning and evening prayers) so it wasn't nearly as bad as the monsters I had to sit next to flying to the states. Anyway, they were nice and said they'd like advanced copies of my books on Africa when they start coming out.

Got to watch 3:10 to Yuma and 75% of Into the Wild, so that was nice.

My Hertz super-elite double-extra-platinum brilliant-shining-diamond premier-top-executive president's circle status got me an upgrade from the economy car I reserved to a freakin beamer - not a small one either, roughly the equivalent of a 520 in the states, I think. Haven't bothered to check yet, but it smells of leather and is fun to drive.

And I started my new running program this morning, and it was painful. Aclimating.

That is all. More soon.


This morning I was watching Reel Talk (randomly, don't usually watch TV on Sat mornings, but I'm awake early because I'm still sick). I was trying to keep up with their Top 10 lists (2 of them) for the movies of 2007, but then I had a minor social explosion. Margy texting me about good old Simon Peter Plummer, catching up on Bootlegger's notes from Peter and Joey from the past few hours, and chatting simultaneously to 3 different people on 3 different continents on 3 different IM applications (Trillian/AIM, Gchat, Skype - you know who/where you are).

Anyway, thankfully they have their lists on their website, so I was able to complete my recap. I liked their lists for the most part and below I've added my comments where applicable.

Jeffery's Picks
10. Across the Universe - Sony Pictures makes the list, naturally. One of the many that flew under my radar whilst in Africa - a musical comprised of Beetles songs. Looks not half-bad, will be Netflixed.

9. Nanking - The book on my sidebar - Flyboys - referred to this story somewhat colloquially as "The Rape of Nanking" which is really what it was if you know anything about it. Absolutely will Netflix this one.

8. I Have Never Forgotten You - Just like #9, a movie I will certainly Netflix, because its important.

7. The Kingdom - The DVD machine at the grocery store hasn't had this in stock my entire time here and I'm too lazy to go to Blockbuster. Might have to be NF'd as well. They showed a little too much of this movie in the trailers.

6. Ratatouille - Watched on my flight from Joburg to NYC. Was fun. Not sure it was top 10 fun.

5. Into the Wild - Want to see even though its a bit morbid, I read the book years ago, I devour anything Krakauer writes, the same way I devour anything Sean Penn screenplays and directs. Likely NFer here too, sadly, though, due to time constraints at this point. This one also gets soundtrack of the year award in my book - its Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder's first ever solo album, with some beautiful stuff (visit the site).

4. Beowulf - Not that interested, although it does have Angelina Jolie. Won't watch it until after I read the story again, however.

3. Waitress - Two words: chick flick (although sadly, the writer / director was murdered late last year).

2. The Kite Runner - Want to see, but also not until I've read the book, which I haven't picked up yet, I prefer to read popular books a couple years after their craze phase.

1. No Country For Old Men - REALLY really want to catch this one before I leave the states, maybe Sunday afternoon.

Allison's Picks
10. Gone Baby Gone Morgan Freeman with his usual Midas touch. Also Ed Harris and Casey Affleck. From the same author as Mystic River. Haven't seen it but will NF.

9. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Going to see this evening, at the Angelika, for free, thanks to Viv's co-worker's boyfriend. High expectations.

8. Margot at the Wedding - Not very interested in a sarcastic Nicole Kidman. Jack Black is probably the only redeeming feature of this film.

7. Paris, Je T'aime - How did I miss this one? 18 shorts about falling in love in Paris. The 21 directors include: Walter Salles, Alfonso Cuarón, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Alexander Payne, Gérard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, the Coen Brothers. Cast includes Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Sergio Castellitto, Willem Dafoe, Maggie Gyllenhall, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, and Lewis Sewell, to name a few. Another NFer.

6. Across the Universe - See Jeffery's #10.

5. I Am Legend - Another one of the few I've seen. Liked it, cool to see NYC completely empty. Hot mustang in the first scene.

4. Rescue Dawn - Saw this one too, last summer before leaving the states. Christian Bale and Steve Zahn in a based-on-a-true-story flick about being imprisoned and escaping a Vietnam POW camp. This one was pretty good although it didn't get much press at the time.

3. Atonement - Chick flick but apparently I HAVE to see this one at some point (although the idea of my Keira making love to another man is admittedly a difficult one). So, NF.

2. Knocked Up - This looked kinda "eh, I'll see it if I happen to be in the same room" when I first saw the trailer, which is how I still feel. I heard mixed reviews. Unlikely to be NFed.

1. 3:10 To Yuma Missed this one too, but it might still be in the theaters in ZA when I get back there. Looking forward to it.

Honorable Mentions (actually these were where they called out breakout performances by certain stars, but it helps list a couple more movies, so I've reworked it)

Transformers - Michael Bay did not destroy much of what was good and right about my childhood.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Just missed it coming out in the states when I was leaving last year, will have to NF.

Juno - Out now but I'm only mildly interested.

In the Valley of Elah - Saw this one when it came out in ZA. Expected it to be better based on the title, which if you aren't aware, is biblical - its the place my namesake picked up 5 smooth stones. Anyway, the movie was pretty depressing.

American Gangster - Really want to see this, its another one I'm hoping will be in the ZA theaters when I get back.

Bourne Ultimatum - Also caught this one in ZA. The Bourne series has stayed high quality.

Update: Since writing I've seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (great, but sad), 3:10 to Yuma (pretty cool), most of Into the Wild (great, about what I expected), and American Gangster (very very cool).

Where I've been on the internets lately (aka: links):

The Edge World Question of 2008 is out with 164 of the world's leading minds weighing in on the question "WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?" As usual, its some of the most fascinating reading on the internet of the entire year (scroll about 1/3 of the way down the page to get to the index of the actual responses).

I've been writing elsewhere as well, about what I've changed my mind about, as well. So to speak.

I recently finished this blog. Yes, its a blog with an end, for a change. Fictional, but really, really creatively written. I actually linked to it a couple of years back but didn't re-find it and make the time to read it until just recently.

Found out I wasn't crazy for having a blah New Years Day. I had a really wonderful Introverts Day, before I even knew it was.

Moleskine Project.

Also, what I didn't get for Christmas:

An ORK Poster

A quilt made from all my favorite old tee shirts (OK I'd rather not pay these guys to do it so much as get someone I know to do it).

Speaking of shirts.

A WarBowl (OK I'd really rather just make this myself but I haven't figured out how best to do it yet, but I'm closing in on it).

Season 3 of The Office is out (I should add that I still need seasons 1 and 2 as well).

A dog. I still can't be a good dog owner yet but man do I want one.

Basically anything from Mxyplyzyk.

And a couple of things I did get:

A bunch of new drawing stuff - sketchbooks, blank post cards / notes & envelopes designed for drawing, a really cool graphite pencil set. So I started carrying my smaller moleskine and a pencil around again. I'm in the right mood for it.

My Sigg Bottle (mine? MINE? mine?).

Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition 1.5TB External Hard-drive (from me. to me.).


Wow. That went fast.

Let's try and recap the holidays, fast forward style.

After work in Denver I was home with the folks in Sacto / Nevada City for about 5 days before heading to LA for work and then the Santa Ynez wine country (found a second white I love in '07 - a viognier, the first being the pinot from Franschoeck) and then Santa Cruz island. Back to NorCal for the Christmas times, then off to NYC via the aforementioned Chicago.

Last Friday was Jason and Julie's wedding which was a whole barrel of monkeys fun. Nice ceremony followed by incredible hors d'oeuvres and a nice dinner with a bunch of the old crew there. Everything seemed to go really well and then they were off on their honeymoon leaving me to house-sit for the week.

The next morning I headed off for DC in a 'stang and managed not to have a run in with the 5-0 for the whole trip. It was Sarah's birthday and there was hiking and bouldering and Irish pubbing and movie-going and burgering and game-playing and game-watching and movie-watching. It was a good, long day. Gretta has grown HUGE since I saw her last, she's so big now.

After church on Sunday Jack and Rebecca cooked a truly awesome fritatta brunch for us with lots of bacon and these cool toast things with tomatoes and goat cheese YUM. And they got me one of my favorite Christmas presents - one I've been wanting ever since I saw it on Rebecca's blog. Also I found out that almost all of Hopper's best pieces are currently being exhibited at the DC Art Museum and my Moleskin with my as-yet-uncompleted sketches sits back in Africa on my desk, useless. Bah.

Once I got back it was already almost New Years Eve. There was like no sleep this past weekend, basically. Had spiced wine at Nicole's pre-party / housewarming thing at the coolest apartment that any of my friends have. That, plus walking around the village this afternoon, pretty much sealed where I want to live when I come back. I love that nabe. Anyway, headed over to Jen's apartment to pre with the Daves and Chris (Negrin's little brother). Then we caught a cab down to the party that Amber and Erin et. al. put together in a loft in Tribeca. Had the bitterest, angriest cabbie ever. The party was good, saw a couple old faces, met some new ones, all of a sudden it was midnight and soon after we shot out of there for the bars, ended up in the West Village (where else) at some bar I had never noticed there before, even though it was on Hudson. I turned into a pumpkin a couple hours later and headed home. Hoboken was, as expected, insane.

New Years day I watched a lot of football, then headed over to Dave's folks place to help them clean up Christmas leftovers, his mom makes the tenderest turkey ever. Caught up with his parents and Jon and Ann Marie, then Dave and I saw Sweeny Todd, which was more gory than Sin City, I'm pretty sure. But the musical parts were actually quite nice.

This week has been catching up on sleep, cleaning up the various computers and discs etc. in preparation for the great back-up of '08 (I ponied up for a 1.5 terabyte - having officially left the realm of GB - when I was back in CA. Merry Christmas to me.), which begins shortly, when I stop procrastinating.

Today started my social-catch-up with the NYC folk who I didn't connect with yet, brunch with Nicole and then dinner with the guys at Arthur's tonight, which will be exceedingly fattening. I think I have lunch tomorrow with someone but can't remember who, and then dinner with Bo. Then more people and meals and hopefully catching a showing of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at the Angelika - one of my favorite cinematographers ever. Sunday will be church and youth group and seeing all the kids again, plus meeting the newer leaders. Monday I'm at the Cookes' but might hit the office, then I think its either Tues or Weds I'm back to good ol' Zed A.

So that's what I've been doing. Should be returning to more frequent blogging shortly, including more retro-blogging, also story time, as well as my inaugural annual list of things I didn't get for Christmas (hint, hint, birthday present buyers).