Saturday, February 9, 2008


It looks like I'll be going on two tours soon: from April 3rd to May 4th I'll be going to Kwajalein, Guam, Korea, Japan, and Hawaii. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a dream tour for me - there's no part of the world I'd rather see. From May 5th to May 12th, I'll be going on a second tour to Syria.

I hope to use this blog as a travelogue during that time, and to have a link here to a Picasa site where I hope to have pictures from my trips. Assuming I can take any good ones - my photography skills have always been a little haphazard. Nevertheless, with destinations as cool as these, I'd have to leave the lens cap on not to get a few good shots.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Junot Diaz

I've always loved This American Life, the radio program on NPR. I was listening to it once, about five years ago, and as part of the program they had someone read a short story by an author called Junot Diaz. The story was called "How To Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, Or Halfie)". I listened to it and I was knocked out by a couple of things - the rhythm of the language, the natural, colloquial quality of it, and how the author didn't try to sugarcoat anything about the story. It was absolutely a riveting story. When the host gave the author's name and the book that the short story had come from, I wrote it down, even though I was driving at the time. I went out and bought the book the next day.

Man, this book is a winner. Its just the greatest thing ever. I recommend that everyone read it. Try not to like it. Go on, try.

I've been waiting for many years now to hear about another book from Junot Diaz. It hasn't happened yet. I keep re-reading his first book and hoping and hoping. The other day, I looked at his Wikipedia entry and saw that his first novel is supposed to be published later this year. That's a book that I'll devour like a hot doughnut.

Incidentally, JD just had another short story published in the New Yorker, which is - big surprise here - fantastic. It has this line in it, something like "it was like a fight between an egg and a rock - you knew who was going to win." Is that a great image or what?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Green Tea

I used to be an avid coffee drinker. Whenever I left the house, I would find a way to visit a Starbucks on the way to my destination. I always just got coffee. I loved everything about it - the ambience of the store, the smell, the ritualistic aspects of it. It was more than just a hot drink. What can you really say about coffee that hasn't been said? It was a fetish for me.

I decided to stop drinking it about two years ago. I've always been interested in health and healthy living - even if I don't always measure up as much as I'd like. At the time, I was drinking two venti coffees a day, at least. When I stopped, I had headaches and an all-over ache, both of which lasted about two weeks. It was scary.

I don't claim any special virtue as a result of having quit. I still miss it, and I think there are a lot of people who manage their coffee habit much better than I did. But green tea can be pretty exciting, folks.

I first had what I would consider real green tea when I visited Japan back in 1999. The hotel I was staying in provided tea bags and hot water in our rooms. Drinking green tea felt like an authentic sort of japanese thing to do, so I did it. I was surprised by the tea's bright green color and fresh, grassy taste. I came to enjoy it quite a bit and I've been drinking it ever since, and even more since I don't drink coffee any more.

I remember reading somewhere about someone trying to get into green tea, and saying that compared to coffee, it just wasn't much. I know what that person was trying to say, and yet I've come to feel in life like there are comparisons that are just worthless. You really can't compare the two.

I especially like the fact that you can drink and drink and drink green tea and not have to feel funny about it, like you're harming yourself in some way. Oh sure, there's caffeine in it..but lets compare it to a cup of Starbuck's finest, shall we? If you look here you can see that a 12 oz. "tall" coffee at the 'Buck has 279 milligrams of caffeine. The same amount of green tea would have around 30mg (according to this website) - although to be sure, that number can vary depending on how it's brewed or for how long or the type of green tea itself. You may have heard that green tea has 1/4 the caffeine of coffee, and that may be generally true. Starbucks, however, is notorious for high caffeine content in their coffee. Not to say I don't still love them - I still go at least twice a week. They do sell green tea after all.

So I do miss coffee. A high-quality, fresh cup of green tea, though, can have an aroma nearly as evocative, in my opinion. And I guess I'm stuck with it, until they invent coffee that's good for you.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I Swallowed a Bee

Yes, and it sucked.

I've been training for the Marine Corps Marathon, my first real effort in long-distance running. I've always been interested in running but this last year has been the first time I've been able to sustain the effort over a long period of time. I think it's finally taken - it seems to me that with running, like so many things in life, there's a "hump" you have to get over before it becomes a part of your life.

Today was a "long run", a staple of marathon training. I started out with the optimistic intention of doing 14 miles. I got an early start, thinking I would beat the heat that way. I was following a winding road through some fairly dense woods, and for the first five or six miles, I had a nice, uneventful run, listening to a podcast and focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

As I was running along, without any warning, a bee or some good-sized flying, stinging insect flew straight into my mouth and right down my throat - gaahhaaaggghhhhhh! I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and started making sounds like a cat with a hairball. It was one of the grossest sensations imaginable. It was way, way down my throat before I had even a second to think about it.

At that moment I realized I had two options. One - to cough it up. This would have been difficult, and completely disgusting, and might not have worked - this thing was in there. Two, I could swallow the damn thing and be done with it. I quickly opted for door number two, grabbing my water bottle and taking a few gulps. After swallowing it, I kind of had one of those all-over shivering fits for a second - it was so gross.

After I swallowed it though, I started to feel a funny feeling on the back of my tongue, and I mean waayyyy back on my tongue. I realized quickly what had happened - the bee had stung me on its way down.

I started to wonder - is my tongue going to swell up and keep me from being able to breathe? I started having visions of turning purple and collapsing in the middle of the road. I didn't think I had any bee-sting allergies, but I thought that this would be the worst possible way to find that out. After a moment to verify that I was indeed going to go on living, I started to run again, but couldn't get my mind off of what had just happened. A bee sting on your tongue is, not surprisingly, hard to ignore.

It was an indescribable sensation. It didn't hurt like you might think it would, but swallowing was kinda hard - like when you have strep throat and you try to swallow and it hurts a little. Eccch. I don't think I'm going to start running with a surgical mask, but I tell you, it sounded like a pretty good idea for a while.

To add insult to injury, I only managed to run 12 of my intended 14 miles. I could have kept going but I felt like I was going to die if I didnt drink something, and all my water was gone at that point. Hydration is an issue on these long runs - yes, I brought a water bottle, but that's only 20 ounces. I've weighed myself after long runs and found that I can lose as much as 6-7 lbs. of water on these runs. How am I supposed to replace that? Do I need to plant bottles in the bushes all along my route? Sigh. Its complicated, because you're running - you can't just drink water until it comes out your ears. It'll slosh around in your stomach and make you feel sick. Maintaining the proper level of hydration is no joke, I'm finding. Trying to run with no water in you is just brutal, but so is running with too much water in you.

Anyway, bees and dehydration notwithstanding, I'm going to keep running.