Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Paris

My inspiration for this blog was to tell of my travels which were made easier when my sister Alison got a job at Continental Airlines. As the story goes...

My sister left her job in Denver to live in Paris. She lived on a student visa for years and finally decided to get a job. She called me to ask for me to be a sounding board; it was uncharted waters. She got her act together. It's not easy in a foreign country but she's smart, a good accountant and is very professional. Still there were moments of doubt as we started into the process at the beginning of the summer of 2006. But by the end of the summer she had three job offers and was then asking for advice on which job to take, plus she was very clever in negotiating an addition 20% on to the salary on the offer she did take...after all she was in demand. She took the job with Continental Airlines. As she is single, she gets to choose a "designated spouse" for travel benefits, and I was her choice.

I was going to visit her at Christmas last year. It was last minute but no problem for us, sometimes we book less than 24 hours in advance. So, I'm on the phone with Alison and sorting out plans. Economy was oversold and the only seats were in Business/First. Alison said to me, "Just pay the difference, it is so worth it. The steak is this big." "That big," I joked into my phone. Yeah it's great. I had another this time, but it wasn't easy. Paris was overbooked so I went via Brussels, but I did get first class, great steak, good conversation with the gay Episcopal Minister and Theology professor (whose 30 year partner, wow!, was working the flight), and it's so much easier to sleep in those big chairs with space to stretch out. You're practically horizontal.

A couple of years of free champagne, thick steaks and hopping about, I was back in Paris. Alison is a great host, she loves to have friends over. I love small gatherings but don't have the knack for hosting. We talk menu, decide, she's very good at certain things and I charm the guests, then we change places when she's done and I take over the kitchen.

She's got great friends in Paris. I don't think she'll ever leave. (I tell my story about how I feel so at home in NYC, to me Alison is the same about Paris. She says she'll be in Denver again someday, but her heart will always be in Paris in someway. As Heminingway said...Paris goes with you as it is a "Movable Feast", great read.)

Alison is very American, yet has taken to the French mannerisms and savoir-vivre.

Florence et moi, dans la cuisine. (That's not a stain but a lens-light thingy.)

Letting loose, being silly: Anastasia, Martin, Marine, Katherine, Florence, Samir, plus Alison.

What a great Christmas eve! Lovely and lively conversation, beautiful people ... happiness can be so simple.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Can I Overcome B.O.?

A few weeks back I got an email from Beth that made me laugh so hard. She informed me that if you search "Barack Obama" on Facebook, I came up third. Well by the time I read the email and tried it myself, I was down to fourth.

Today, I'm up to second. What would it take to overcome the man himself? How can I overcome BO? How can I better a man who raised a record $750 million?

I need to make a mistake. I mean a monstrous f*!k up such that the US government will give me $750 billion ... that's with a b, so that I can out spend the BO.

What do you suggest?

Thank you for your support,


PS: Is it because I live in a NYC, in a blue state that I never heard any cheezy jokes before about his initials being BO?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tagged by Coffey...

I'm so busy, still, not much more to go to finish school, Beth nicely roped me into another blog, this time it's a one word "question"...

1. Clothes? Being back in school I decided not to spend any money on clothes and just wear out what I have. When I get a real job, I will toss them and buy a new wardrobe. (I must say I do leave a lot behind in Honduras.)

2. Furniture? Best place to shop – the streets of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. On garbage night, these people lay out some good shit on their curb. I picked up some nice chairs, organizing bins for my closet, vacuum cleaner (needed a cleaning – ironic – but I got it working nice), and all sorts of stuff. Plenty that I say, "Looks great, I've no place to put it. (Therefore I don't need it.)" Best find = 250GB external hard drive.

3. Sweet? Great expression for something that was great, excellent, wonderful…

4. City? That’s where I live…in the city and New York City is the city. But even for NYC, Manhattan is the city. If you live in Brooklyn and you say you’re going out in the city, everyone knows that means Manhattan.

5. Drink? Yes, too much. I love beer. I really like wine and stay away from the hard stuff. My saving grace is that when are exams are over and I’ve celebrated their departure, I stop.

6. Music? I love it all. My collection has tango, heavy metal, fado, teenie pop, bossa-nova, rock, blues, opera, lots of musicals, mariachi, plenty of jazz, and the list goes on.

7. TV Series? Numbers, CSI, Law & Order, etc. All those crime investigation shows. I especially like Numbers as it explores math and Judd Hirsh went to my school.

8. Film? As vast as my music selection: Star Wars, Cinema Paradiso, La Reine Margot, Anything Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Chariots of Fire

9. Workout? I love it when work is out and I can go home. I haven't jogged in the park in months. I miss it. There was a time not more than a year ago I could run a 5:40 mile.

10. Pastries? Mille Feuille (Napoleon); I love them. But a simple croissant can be just as heavenly.

11. Coffee? Oil slick. The Exxon Valdes was a terrible disaster, I brought a straw.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to Honduras...

I've been out of the loop as I've been busy preparing for our next trip. We've got a good group of 10 enthusiastic and smart people, so we're looking good.

Someone found our first project on Google Earth. A bit to the upper right of the center is the construction of the tank; the picture was probably taken 1/2 way through.

Here's the skinny on the next projects...
La Nueva Suiza
The work in La Nueva Suiza continues as most of the homes do not have chimneys, so the smoke from the stove/oven remains in the kitchen.
There is no electricity, but now that the dam and tank are working and managing the water, there is actually more water than they need. The overflow can power a generator to produce electricity.
Las Chicas
Currently Las Chicas has a small tank but has serious problems with water distribution. The community is quite poor and has difficulty raising funds. At the same time the tank has no lid, is covered with mold and has no chlorinator.
There is no electricity in Las Chicas. There are two options: the town is 300 m from an electricity distribution pole or an off grid solution like La Nueva Suiza is a possibility.
Many of the homes do not have proper latrines. Gray water and waste management area serious problems. Some of the homes do not have "pilas" or a water basin (25-30 gallons) that are used as the water management center for all homes – washing clothes, dishes, bathing and everything water, they are essential.
A fairly large community of 4,500 people,they have more resources. We see our role more as the pure consulting engineer. They need the big picture, the calculations, the plan for water usage, conservation and management for the next 10 years.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Looking for extra cash?

While in San Diego hanging out with Jenn and her friends as part of her send off before moving to Albuquerque to start the MFA in Creative Writing, we spent time on the beach with her friend Karen.

Karen has traveled much of the US and shared the story of someone she knows who, if I recall, wanted to be a stay at home mom. Money got tight but she found a great job working at home for $300 an hour. She's a dominatrix. She doesn't even get naked, just a two piece leather ensemble and a whip. Even better, she makes them clean her dishes and scrub down the bathroom. While in LA, she wouldn't be able to pull down that sort of cash, she works in conservative Orange County where it has to be hidden.

It's a wacky and wonderful world out there, so get out there and enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book Commentary: Life on the Color Line

First book that I finished this summer is a wonderful autobiography of Gregory “Billy” Williams who happens to be the President of The City College of New York where I currently attend. He spent the first 10 years of his life in Virginia on the road that divided the white neighborhoods from the black, US 1. His father owned a bar/restaurant that served both communities; it was not typically tolerated for a white business to serve blacks but it was as it was war-time and many of the patrons were military. His father worked hard and started another few business, then it all fell apart as alcohol took its toll on his father.

His parents broke up after his mother left to not take any more beatings; she took the youngest two kids with her. The eldest boys, “Billy” (the author) and “Mike” his brother returned to their father’s hometown of Muncie, Indiana where he and his brother discovered that they were black.

He struggles for acceptance, he fights for and against his drinking dad, he tries to help his brother Mike find his own way and not take to the same path as his father. Through it all he pursues his dream of becoming a lawyer.

Well written, it’s a very enjoyable read that shares the mood and madness of life under segregation.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The List!

After an Engineers Without Borders meeting, a few of us went to the pub for some bonding. Joanna is great and we get along too as we are both second degreee students. She spent 5 years as a journalist covering the courts here in NYC.

So she mentions that she'd like to set me up with a friend but wants to what I like, blonds or brunettes or what? And I try to share how I'm more about relationship and really like to spend time with people who have been overseas, are cultured and have a friendship as a part of dating. Joanna tells me about how she's reading a book about how we chose our sex partners and the need for mystery in the chemistry. I explain that I understand many people are like that but not all. A humble friendship in the midst of the thrill of dressing up and going to opening night doesn't burst everyone's bubble. The book seemed to suggest that by design we are about the excitement of the unknown and the competition and the chase. I avoided saying that if left to our natural instincts we might act like chipanzees and focused on "I'm not like most people."

Joanna was didn't know where to go with the conversation so she relied on what she knew and asked, "Do you like blonds or brunettes or what?"

"I want a woman who likes museums."

"You know those glasses you were in the lab, the goggles; you should wear them when out at the pub." She explained.

"So as to let everyone know up front I'm a geek; I'll consider it. It might save me some time."

Years ago, I believe it was in a flight magazine, I read an interview with Renée Zellweger and thought what a wonderful person, she likes to read, her father is Swiss and mother Norwegian, she's from Katy, TX nearby Austin and loves the city as well as the country. I also like a lot of her movies and so if I were to mention someone for the moviestar fantasy, she comes to mind. Although, the recent supposed plastic surgery that has not been confirmed or denied did put me off; she's quite elegant without it. But I don't go for looks first (plus I haven't found anyone to replace her).

I would never mess with a married woman. At the same time, when Keith Urban went into rehab, I was hoping he'd get help for his problem and a divorce from Nicole Kidman. I guess I got a Cold Mountain ménage a trois fantasy. (Actually, I don't, one woman at a time is perfect for me, but this is a blog so we say stuff like Cold Mountain ménage a trois fantasy.) And she'd always have the curls. She looks fab in curls. I think she'd do that for me.

Many years ago I saw the movie Gotham with Virgina Madsen; she was smokin hot and I was too young to control my hormones.

The first three are blondes, yeah I know but it's been said men have wanted blondes since the thirteenth century.

Being hands off married women also means no Halle Barry. But she's hot. Her streak of bad-boys makes me think she'd never look at me unless I was doing something strange like wearing lab goggles, still this is a blog so I get to say she's hot. I chose the bond girl pic.

It's always that last one that makes life so difficult. Actually, I know nothing about these women so it's over before it started. Still, I won't put up names of women I admire as that is so not sexy, especially once you see the list: Cokie Roberts, Madelaine Albright, Condaleeza Rice, and there's the dead ones Mary Cassat, Princess Grace Kelly, Ella Fitzgerald, Marie Curie. Anyway, let me just roll with the illusion...

There's another bond girl that I think is so hot...Lucy Liu. She is so sleek and sexy when she's kickin ass and so elegant on the red carpet...très hot. While the attraction of a woman wrapping her legs around me while doing the horizontal mombo gets my motor running; I don't think it's hot that she could tie me into a pretzel at any moment. I'm not really into kink, especially if my bones get broken.

So, I don't expect to meet any of these women ever, but if you do, let them know I'm still available. If that works out, then I need another on the list. If Renée wakes up next to me realizing that it's forever, I'll need another to give her the list of five women.

I could sing duets with Shania Twain. She'd have to dress down a bit; I'd look stupid next to her looking like this, but it is my fantasy so I chose this picture.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I love psychology...

It just fascinates me. Three times I considered changing careers for something in that field. Three times I decided not to, each time based on good information from professionals in the field. I am very happy with it as a hobby.

So I was looking for some info the other day when I was going to comment on Schwartzy's blog and I came across this article:Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature. An interesting read.

A personal favorite is number 10 when they discuss the "hostile environment" claim for sexual harassment (which is distinctly different from sexual harassment for sex which is terribly inappropriate behavior). It reads...
Sexual harassment cases of the hostile-environment variety result from sex differences in what men and women perceive as "overly sexual" or "hostile" behavior. Many women legitimately complain that they have been subjected to abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment by their male coworkers. Browne points out that long before women entered the labor force, men subjected each other to such abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment.

Abuse, intimidation, and degradation are all part of men's repertoire of tactics employed in competitive situations. In other words, men are not treating women differently from men—the definition of discrimination, under which sexual harassment legally falls—but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

Women who create a hostile environment use abuse, intimidation, and degradation, but are typically labeled a bitch by those enduring the poor treatment. It is just a part of competition.

It is like any political campaign. I laugh when the candidates pledge to no mud-slinging like in the good old days. Mud-slinging has always been a part of the competition.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I love Central Park !!!

Tuesday was another wonderful day in the Central Park. (I'm a bit of a Manhattan snob; I came here to live in Manhattan and not be a bridge-and-tunnel person.)

So, I've got friends in from France: Julie and her brother Mathieu, who was the photog for the evening. Lots and lots of people...the "ambiance" is fantastic!

The music was great too...
The warm up band was a group of 20 kids from the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music which was the subject of the Oscar-nominated film Music of the Heart and the Oscar-nominated documentary Small Wonders.

The main event...
Bramwell Tovey, Conductor
Shostakovich: Festive Overture
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, Italian
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
Sousa: Selected Marches

I love Tchaikovsky's music. Then for the encore, the audience could text in their vote between Rimsky-Korsakov's The Flight of the Bumblebee or Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. No surprise we heard a new version of Jimi's classic played classically.

Of course fireworks after the show...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Your thoughts on making the transition to the real world...

As you know I'm working with Engineers Without Borders at my school. Over the past few years, I've observed some things that students need to learn so as to make the transition to the real world. I want to incorporate it into how we at EWB do business.

For example, you've got to be able to jump on a moving train; rarely do you start at the beginning of a project, you come in somewhere in the middle.

I'm looking for your thoughts on the subject. Now it may be some time since you made the transition but you have probably seen others come into a company where you work and struggle with this or that. What is it they need to know?

So far I've come up with:
* Your decisions have consequences on others, no choice is made in a void.
* Punctuality is also how you show you care.
* You need to be able to talk to strangers (especially on the phone).
* There are four basic fears (failure, success, looking foolish and rejection); you have at least one, which one(s)? How are you going to deal?
* You can't ignore the money and live in an idealized world.
* You must be able to function with incomplete information.
* When you start your job, you are part of an already functioning business. Your start is not the start of the business, so you will have to jump into an operation that is already in motion.

Or share nice expressions that have been helpful to you, one boss gave me these two:
# Accuracy is the price of admission.
# Speed is the currency of the future.

I know you are all a bunch of Gurus, so put on your Swami cap and give me your thoughts?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Could there be a better day? Exams are over - finishing up last night at 8 pm. By 8.30 I was at the pub.

Slept in this morning and the sun is shining in The Big Apple! My parents are in town; they are finishing up a one week elderhostel - awesome that they've the main tourism with a group. We'll do our own thing.

I've spent the morning reading the ecards from around the world. What great fun!

I'm thinking of treating myself to everything on my Amazon.com wish list. For $100, I can get everything. That includes Amy Guth's book "Three Fallen Women" which I became especially interested in after seeing her interview in New Orleans. I got some recommended reading from Schwartzy in her recent interview with Farmhouse and her book Emotionally Pantsed is coming out this summer. Both Katie and Amy are reading at the Pilcrow Lit Fest. Exxxcellent! Wishing them well in their work. Break a leg.

Roberto, the property supervisor, just gave me a knock to let be know that the water will be off for the next hour or two, no shower yet to start the day, so I will just have to chill in my jammies...today just keeps getting better. I couldn't get any work done if I wanted to.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tagged - part 6

Jobs I've Had

Growing up and this was before moving from Lima to Naperville, so before I was eight; people would ask, "So Marty, what do you want to be when you grow up?" And I replied, "I wanna be an alcoholic!" My best friend was Tom Schroeder and he wanted to be an alcoholic and so I had to be one too. I had no clue what an alcoholic was but it was what Tom wanted and so it was definitely for me.

[1] Model. So, I was living on the upper east side and doing my laundry one day as the laundromat. I met this girl who did advertising for Broadway shows. They desperately needed someone for a photo shoot and I didn't have a job. For 3 1/2 hours I jumped up playing air guitar; the next day my calves were so sore I couldn't walk up or down stairs...I lived in a 4th floor walk up.

[2] Accountant. Yeah, that exciting. I did travel to Latin America quite a bit for a while and I loved it. The people were great; I'm still in touch with a few of them. My boss joked that I had the longest title in the company: Manager of Budgeting and Finance, Controller for Latin America.

[3] Writer. I actually got paid to write something. I was so excited I didn't know if I should cash the check or frame it. The dream goes on…

[4] Waiter. I loved waiting tables when I was in college the first time. I worked in fine dining and adored the prestige of it all. (I tried again when I came to NY with no job – God didn't want me to wait tables any more.)

[5] ESL teacher. I really enjoyed teaching English as a second language. I met some wonderful people. Mostly in France and Brazil but casually when I lived in Spain.

So, this leads to who am I tagging. Seeing as I am yet to have 2 comments on my blogs, it seems like a way to see if people are even reading my blog. Of course, that's not fair; I'm a sporadic writer. Plus, I have so little time, I've not cruised too many sights of friends of friends. I'd tag Schwartzy but she got tagged by someone who got tagged by Kevin Bacon or something. So,

Jenn (aka Je Sais), come on down, you're the next contestant on this meme.
Coaster Punchman, come on down, you're the next contestant on this meme.
Jintrinsique, come on down, you're the next contestant on this meme.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tagged - part 5

Places I’ve Lived

[1] New York City is home to me. After living here for 6 months, I went to see “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – a good laugh. Many of the outdoor scenes were filmed in Chicago and I saw that and thought very casually, that’s where I’m from. I did hold any emotional attachment as it being home. It was bizarre as I’ve traveled the world telling people my home is Chicago and in 6 months, it was no longer. It is New York. I must add it is amazing how place plays a factor. I lived in the Chicago suburbs for years as I always got the best job offers there. For as much as I wanted to be in the city, I wouldn’t do the commute and just decided to make my own way and be me and blah, blah, blah. Stunning how being in the environment that is New York was perfect; I no longer felt as though I was fighting my surroundings but moving in step with them. Awesome!

[2] Chantilly, France. I posted earlier that it still feels like home. It was a wonderful year. CP was also an exchange student there two years prior to me.

[3] Orleans, France. The city is proud of its savior Joan of Arc. I did my sophomore year at the Université d’Orléans (Molière studied there). A good experience – I really got my French fluency down and I met some wonderful people.

[4] Glasgow, Scotland. I attended Strathclyde University and received my Master of Finance. A nice place, I’m still in touch with some friends there. (Today was a big day as one of the soccer teams was in the UEFA cup tournament.) I have plenty of stories to tell but I’ll save those for when we meet up. I must say it was bizarre that the shortest day of the year, the sun rose at 9 am and set at 3 pm. Summertime, I left the pub at 10 pm and the sun’s glow was still on the horizon.

[5] Bilbao, Spain. After finishing my Master’s I went to Spain and had a great time. The neat story here is that I worked for the engineering company that built the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. I left before construction, but I was the one who translated the firm’s bid into English.

[6] Rio de Janeiro. The last major stop on my sabbatical in 2000-2001, I lived for 6 months in Copacabana only three blocks from the beach. I have been told that the three greatest parties in the world are Carnival, Oktoberfest, and San Fermín (Pampolona). Well, I was at San Fermín when living in Spain (and I ran with the bulls) and it is a great party – incredible! Carnival is ten times better…truly amazing and beyond words. I was there for New Year’s, Carnival and Easter – an experience like none other.

I’ve skipped the towns were I grew up… Naperville, Illinois and Lima, Ohio. If you’re interested, google them. Last time I was there was for my sister’s wedding and I stayed with a friend. Gretchen has a nice home with a yard and was telling me all about home ownership. I explained that for me, I have two back yards: Riverside Park which is has the Hudson River, the famous George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse, Grant's Tomb (guess who is buried there?), a trapeze school, a beautiful recreational port, the aircraft carrier US Nimitz, and people like Justin Timberlake film their videos there like Dick in a Box. Meanwhile, Central Park hosts amazing artistic triumphs like The Gates and every summer there are concerts typically with a headliner like Billy Joel. Billy Joel isn’t playing in no backyard in Naperville. And I don’t have to mow the lawn.

Honorable mentions

[a] Buenos Aires, Argentina. My brother now lives there; he married a Porteña, so it is clearly a sentimental favorite. But I was there first. Ahh, I love Argentina. I also fell in love there. I could tango forever...

[b] Caesarea, Israel – a great experience doing nautical archeology.

[c] Moscow, Russia – a little mission work way back when. I didn’t stay long but I’d have to say St. Petersburg was better. I was ecstatic to visit the Hermitage! Stunning!

[d] Mexico City – great city, great people and as they say, “Like Mexico, there is no other.”

[e] San Diego, California. My best friends live there and I go there a lot. I love it. But I must admit, if my friends were not living there, it would not make the list. It is making its way as a big city and cultural center but it’s not there yet.

Tagged - part 4

Three Bad Habits

[1] I do too much. I am so overworked and doing way too much. It’s all good stuff but it is really too much. Between school, work and the rest, I work 80 hours per week. It really cuts into living life.

[2] I swear too much. I laugh at the scene when I was 8 years old and was playing baseball in the park. Suddenly, I left and the other kids didn’t understand. “I don’t hang around kids that swear.” I said.

[3] Rather than say something gross like I pick my nose and seeing as I’m going through a tough time with something…I ask of people that they be responsible for themselves but somehow that seems to be asking too much; still think that they should.

I could share more but that conflicts with my perfectionism.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just a few pics from Gracie Mansion

The Mayor was quite witty (my compliments to his speech writer) and I met and chatted with some wonderful folks...however, none of the folks in the pics decided to hang with eebie. (Also see #7 of the list from the meme of the last post.)

And yeah, Jessie Martin (no realation) of Law & Order was there...picking up a prize for supporting NY Film, Television and Broadcasting.

One last pic of all the winners, great stuff...

The irony is too much. The last post was "If I was a billionaire" and sure enough I'm chillin' with the Mayor who is a billionaire. Appearantly some who make billions go into politics and do things like running the greatest city in the world.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tagged - part 3

I didn't want to dive in to completing the impulse blade project so the meme goes on...

If I Were a Billionaire

It’s a lot of money. It’s quite difficult to spend that kind of dosh. Let’s start with me ‘cuz I think it would be fun, especially as I am so poor right now.

I’d certainly buy a place in NYC and I’d probably stay on the Upper West Side. With a billion, I’m sure I could get into The Dakota and I’d see Yoko Ono in the elevator, but it’s not so much my style. I may not wander far from Central Park West. The only exception I could foresee is The Plaza; it is renovating for condos/co-ops. I’m not for big, I don’t like to clean it all and I don’t like to be far from anything in the house. But who knows, I could get a cleaning person and change my habits.

I would probably buy a place in Paris as I have so many friends from when I lived in France and one of my sisters, so I would certainly be traveling there more often. Buenos Aires would be tempting too; I love that city and one of my brothers lives there. It is no small trip, at least 11 hours by plane. Not sure if I’d buy but I’d visit more often.

I’d like a boat and so perhaps a place on Long Island or the Jersey shore, depends which has better scuba diving. That would also mean doing a dry suit certification, been meaning to do that, not enough time.

But that’s all together only $3 million tops (well, $12 million if I get a crib at The Plaza). I’ve not put a dent in a billion. Assuming also that it is a billion after taxes otherwise the question would be “What would you to with the $11.36 in after-tax proceeds from your billion dollar windfall?”

I have my favorite charities such as EWB. I also have some pet projects. When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, I saw 11 abandoned vessels in the Guanabara Bay. I recall a news report saying it cost R$1 million just to check in on these abandoned boats. (Not all the boats in the pic of Rio are abandoned but certainly some are.)
Also, I’ve added a nice pic of the Atlantic Trader that ran aground near Puerto Cortes, Honduras (not far from where I work with EWB). As an avid scuba diver I, like my colleagues, love ship wrecks. They have been shown to make nice artificial reefs. So, let’s find a nice place outside of shipping lanes and sink these babies. The great advantage to this is they can be prepped in advance: chemicals removed, doors taken off, bubble holes created, etc. – all make for safer waters and safer diving.

Clearly, I would give lots towards building agricultural systems in Africa, solar stoves/ovens, and the like. I’m trying to keep to things that are a bit off the beaten track for the meme.

I’d give some money for writers too but I can assure you that if I don’t get any freakin’ comments to these memes, that idea will get nixed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tagged - part 2

The meme goes on...this is great to be able to eek out 4 posts.

Five Things on Today’s To-do List

I never have less than 15 things on a to-do list.

1. Check on my babies…glioma cells (brain cancer cells) to see if they are confluent. If not, which is likely, feed them with 5 ml of DMEM. [done] In the pics, in one area of the flask, they cover about 80% of the surface, but in another area they are sporadic at best. I need the entire flask to be about 95% covered (aka confluent) to run my experiments. In the lesser filled picture, you can see two interesting things. First, the big cell in the middle has lots of appendages, this is what characterizes astrocytes. Second, this cell is huge! Most remain below 100 micro-meters (µm) and more often less than that. But at 200 µm, this baby is gigantic! Look closely and you will see two circles in the middle. They are two nuclei. The cell has finished mitosis (division of DNA) and about to start cytokinesis (separation into two cells). Pics were taken this morning.
2. ecard for Mom. [done] I promise to be better with real cards when school is over.
3. Figure out and get ½ completed of my Thermal Systems Design paper on the design of an impulse blade for a steam turbine. The velocity triangle calculations are simple enough mathematically but conceptually I’m not there yet.
4. Clean house a bit, got a guest coming, oooh, and buy flowers for the entry-way.
5. Write “Tagged – part 2” of the meme from Beth. [in progress while enjoy downloads from her...now done]
6. Review notes for micro-/nanotechnology test on Tuesday.
7. Do laundry! I need to have something to wear on Monday eve...I have a reception at Gracie Mansion with the Mayor thanks to my work with the Mayor’s Office of Television, Film and Broadcasting to move the industry to using cleaner fuels when doing onsite shooting. (It has been fairly successful, but there is a press lock down until it all comes together, so don’t ask any questions, I can say a thing.) I so need new shoes and I'm such a shoe guy, ugh! That's student life. I don't have time to shop.
8. Bring tools purchased for Eng w/o Borders (EWB) to campus. [½ done]
9. Email a Rotary Club on Long Island about the art auction our EWB chapter helped them with and see if they have decided on how much of the proceeds will come to us. This impacts how many students can travel on the assessment trip in Aug 08.
10. Thank you letter and 501(c)3 letter to a Rotary Club in Brooklyn for their contribution to EWB. Also ask if they will hook us up with a Rotary Club in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
11. Practice piano and voice. (Usually in the morning but I slept in, the ol’ bod’ needed the rest.)
12. Write up Aero-thermo-fluids lab on parallel and crossflow heat exchangers. This one may take some time as the theoretical results from the correlation equation are way off from the experimental results.
13. Email condolence to friends who lost their baby at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Pray they find peace and recover together. [done] Try not to cry. When I found out they were pregnant, I immediately offered to babysit and we were all so excited. And now...my thoughts recall the expriences of several friends who have endured this sorrow and for all the compassion and love, I can do nothing ... so I pray. (This is not just another item on the to do list, yet at the same time that is today's blog. Everyday has incredible highs and lows, so I included it.)
14. See what classes are available in the summer and fall and fill out the forms.
15. Find a sneaky way to remind my potential new boss how much I get paid so that when I move I still get the same amount of cash. I currently work in bio-medical engineering which is great but my area is energy, so I have an opportunity to do solar nano-wires. If the EE department can come up with the $, I will work both this summer part-time and switch next semester (Fall 08).
16. Get an extra set of keys for the apt made.
17. Fill out dental forms, new dentist.
18. Oh, shit! My week for lab duties. I’ve decided not to do any aliquots of chemicals as we are low on people for the moment so they are not being used up fast.
19. etc., etc., etc. and a whole list of stuff that ain't gonna get done until after exams...

I must admit, this list is light on homework. Most projects are done and I’m waiting for finals. I also have an unusually light final schedule as the three tough engineering classes have open notes finals. I just have to review a few things.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tagged - part 1

Tagged by the best Coffey on the net, I'm following her advice to break it into pieces as I'm in my busy season.

Ten Years Ago

I had just been promoted to Manager of Budgeting and Finance, Controller for Latin America for a marketing research company. My boss and I joked that I had the longest title in the company. Very exciting as it was really the first big step into working internationally – a long held dream – and I love Latin America. (And I was often busy fighting with the US Controller, the man got off on playing politics.) Traveling was great, quite a few times to Mexico and once to Brazil before I left. We also had a lot going in Chile and Argentina.

I also had recently broken up with Karen, which was a turning point for me. There was a real moment of truth about learning to take a different approach to relationships, with that came sorting out some personal stuff. That was very liberating.

For as much as I had been idealistic, it began to fade when I turned 31. I must say it was quite helpful to be idealistic; it kept me out of a lot of trouble. I swear I would have been a coke-head in college had I not been proud of my principles.

Around the same time I began re-examining the idea of faith, God and looking to find what it is to forgive and to be forgiven.

Friends recommended that I consider acting as I loved to tell stories and physically act them out. A favorite one was about an insurance claim. Oh, and thanks to the magic of Google, here it is…

When I got home I found that my father's brick silo had been struck by lightning, knocking some of the bricks off at the top. I decided to fix the silo, and so I rigged up a beam, with a pulley and whip at the top of the silo, and hoisted a couple of barrels full of bricks to the top. When I got through fixing the silo there were a lot of bricks left over.

I hoisted the barrel back up again, secured the line at the bottom, and then went up and filled the barrel with extra bricks. Then I went down to the bottom and cast off the line.

Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was and before I knew what was happening, the barrel started down and jerked me off the ground. I decided to hang on, and halfway up I met the barrel coming down and received a severe blow on the shoulder. I then continued on up to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers jammed in the pulley.

When the barrel hit the ground it busted the bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel and so started down again at high speed. Halfway down I again met the barrel and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground I landed on the bricks, getting numerous painful cuts from the sharp edges.

At this point I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go of the rope…You remember the bucket? Yeah… The barrel then came down and struck me another heavy blow on the head, putting me in the hospital for three days.

Of course, I embellished this little gem with dramatic pauses and silly chin tapping effects on a ladder, and getting the audience so involved in the injuries then letting go of the rope, they had forgotten about the bucket, then “You remember the bucket? Yeah…” Folks were floored. So, I took an acting class; it went well. I’ve kept with it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tax Evasion Celebrities

I saw an article on tax evasion celebrities and it caught my interest because I was an accountant. I felt sorry for Judy Garland and Buster Keaton but boy was I happy to see Richard Hatch on the list. That guy always annoyed me. I was overseas during the whole survivor craze and I came home to see him do some cheezy interview and well...I never had much respect for reality TV and Richard Hatch is the icon of that crap.

Some will call me out of touch with American culture. Think what you like, but don't tell it to my face 'cuz I'll give you a tongue lashing on you being out of touch with a real life.

So, Richard did not declare his $1,000,000 winnings from Survivor on his taxes. National TV! Does he think the IRS folks don't watch TV? 4 years and 3 months in the slammer for tax evasion. Best news I've heard all day.

Wesley Snipes is the guy that triggered interest again...too bad, I kinda like his movies after a 6 pack. But the can is the place for people who blatantly avoid millions in taxes.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Calculus + The Cat in the Hat = Drag Coefficient

So, I’m taking one of the hardest classes in the ME curriculum – Aero-Thermal-Fluids lab. Essentially, each week we work on a new experiment. These past two weeks we’ve been using the wind tunnel to calculate lift and drag coefficients for an airfoil, specifically for the NACA0012 - first with pressure taps on the wing and the second (only the drag) by measuring the momentum thickness of the wake.

I need some help with the error propagation calculation and naturally I go to the prof (Dr. Andreopoulos) for a bit of insight. It’s usually pretty simple: get the equation in standard form, do partial differentiation on the key terms, finally solve based on the error amount. I don’t expect everyone to understand that but know that there is a process. After talking to him for a while, I can not get our variables into the standard form but he goes on and on talking out his butt about the next few steps which are easier but make no sense because step one is not completed and that is essential so as to move on.

I don’t like to waste anyone’s time so I left to work on it myself. Granted through it all, I did get a few bits to gnaw on and with some work I got the standard form. I come back to discuss the manner he did the partial differentiation. There are lots of ways of doing it, in this case only a few, but I’m not getting what he did.

So, I’m back in his office and trying to get what he did, he won’t even listen to my question, which pisses me off a freak of a lot because it is like a disease among profs at my school. Once they get tenure, they flush the listening skills. He goes on and on about simple bs in the partial differentiation which like I said is the easy bit. Finally, I abruptly and poignantly say, “Can I finish my question?” A friend in the room braces himself for what’s next. I ask my question; he explains he is using a substitution but he didn’t write it down. “Oh, now I get it.” I say. (I could have had 20 more minutes of life instead of that meeting had he listened from the beginning. It also would have spared me 2 hours of second guessing myself.)

The worst part was as he was going on and on he kept saying, “It’s partial differentiation. It’s partial differentiation.” I’m thinking “No shit, I wouldn’t be in a 400 level engineering class if I didn’t know how to do it.” I will give him that we do have quite of few people who graduate with many mercy C grades.

Anyway, I go back to the drawing board and solve the bloody equation. I compare to what he did and his work is wrong! It is dirty stinkin’ wrong! (For you math gurus, he used a substitution in the chain rule but squared the sub-elements when he should have only squared the entire element after reverting back from the substitution.)

I’m pissed! Hours wasted! I tell my buddy Jake, I am dedicating this semester to being the Dr Seuss of pronouncing that prof’s name. This week he is Prof. Andrepreposterous.

Tune in next week for the story of the Greek family during Nazi Germany who hired a nun to take of the kids. While she sprightly sings about her favorite things, the Van Tropoulos children chuck plates at her feet – shattering and augmenting the gaiety. The father of the house is elated she brought music back in to the home. Eventually the family escapes the Nazis but where do they end up? Tune in next week!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A bit of a confession, a new addiction ...

As part of the play, we were asked to check out videos on YouTube for the interludes. One was to have an oriental theme. What does that mean? Depends on whatever creative work we get from the video research. It wasn't my part so I didn't have any input, still, I always do the research. Well, I checked out a few from Bollywood and sure enough, I'm a full blown addict. Check out a few favorites.

The Lemon Song featuring Aishwarya Rai.

Dholna means boyfriend. This one is typical in that people are running through nature and it seems that at every new angle shot, the actors are in different colors.

This one takes place in the old west - good cowboy theme. I asked my Indian lab mate and she said it is about competition for a beautiful woman, the name "Layla" is often used, she is from an ancient fable. The dancing is spectacular!!!

Another favorite!

Sorry, I couldn't figure out the youtube direct links like many of you do, some day I will be so clever. Until then follow the links to enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bonnefoi, le notaire

The play was fun and I got out of it what I wanted to get out of it. (When I start like that, you know it wasn't brillant but I don't want to rag.)

The play is very well written, no surprise that Molière has the reputation that he does - marvelous piece! I like my role in particular for a bit of history. Molière began his studies in law at the Université of Orléans but left to pursue acting en provence. I too studied at the Université of Orléans and I even had a law course. Playing a notary, it was neat to have all the connections.

I got my school credits (I even got an A), I got to be in a show, I got back in touch with the craft. And it was a period piece. Typically, I do stuff that has no budget; it wasn't big budget but is was enough to call it a budget. Cool costumes! I think mine was one of the best too.

After the show, I said not antoher here. The day after I said, I'm too close to the show; it was tough also because I was so sick. (My eyelid was infected for a couple of days it was more or less swollen shut, then I got a chest cold.) Now, I think, maybe. The first show they put you in a big production to see how it is to work with you. Afterwards, you might get into a smaller maybe 8 person show and all the actors are experienced. If I could do that which is often not at the end of the semester when preparing for exams, it could work for me.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I forgot to mention ...

On my lovely adventures, I fly first class.

They give you this nice little case with a toothbrush and paste, lip-balm, hand-cream, blindfold, earplugs, socks, folding comb-brush, tissues and a few other things I don't recall ... oh and a wee packet of mints.

About the second week of December my sister in Paris called to find out what I was doing for Christmas. We had plans to fly down to Buenos Aires together to see my brother. But she was tired; she's an accountant and had a lot to do for year-end so she was staying put. It felt like she didn't want to be alone and neither did I, so I checked online at the Continental website (I fly them because my sister works for them, so it's cheap for me) and thinking that the best day given my calendar was Friday the 21st of December, I'd see what's up. It was certainly a popular day to fly home for the holidays, the work-week is done and leaving on Friday means maximizing the time with the loved ones on the other side of the big blue ocean. Economy was full; oversold by 5. My sister said, just fly first class. She gave me a free pass but even if not, it is only $130 for me to fly first class one-way to Paris (1/2 that if economy).

I had flown first class before - short flights to/from Latin American cities - but never on a flight over that big blue ocean. And I must say it was lovely.

I arrived at my seat and there's a thick wooly blanket and the wee case just waiting for me. Plenty of room in the overhead compartment, wide chair to settle into when a delightful person greets me and takes my order for an orange juice and asks if I want ice. He returns to serve me the drink in a real glass and hands me the menu. My sister had recommended that I get the steak, "It's huge!" With shitake mushrooms it was an easy winner. That's right no one pushing a cart asking, "Wo'd ya like 'e chick'n o' 'e beef?" Nope, four course meal plus warmed cashews with an aperitif - I like a nice kir or a red or white porto, this time I felt a bit tired (up early for my last final exam) so I went with a Perrier. I did have red wine with dinner and snuck in a port with the cheese. The ice cream sundae was rich and heavy so I needed a cognac to rinse the palate. Delicious!

I pulled up the screen from the arm rest and saw they have 300 movies to choose from. I was tired but feeling too stuffed for sleep and what the heck!?! I've got Netflix at my finger tips. I didn't want to spend hours looking at what to watch so I picked the first thing of interest - Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix - and ordered another cognac. Delicious!

I had replied "Yes" to them waking me for breakfast, so I enjoyed an omelette with lots of cute delicacies. After the full meal from the night before, the fresh fruit got the most attention. The other charming slices of cheese and grilled veal mini-steak were a lot yet looked irresistible. I questioned if I should force myself through the trouble of getting stuffed before arrival; where's the pleasure in that? Sacrifice myself with belly aches just to not insult the chef? Oh, in French there is an expression "you have to break some eggs to make an omelette"; I took it upon myself to clear the plate after all it was clear that the chef had cracked fresh eggs to make the omelette. In my own way I returned the compliment.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chantilly...still feels like home.

During my time is Paris, I snuck out to the suburbs to visit some friends who were my host parents for three months while on a high school student exchange (back in 1984-5). CP stayed with the same family; twenty years on, we're all still in touch.

Prior to meeting up for lunch, I strolled through town to see what was new. Not much had changed; it is still a lovely slice of French suburbia. The main road, rue de Connétable, was adorned with lights and the season's decor. There were also loudspeakers playing Christmas music; half the songs were in English.

Another tourist snapped a shot of me by the statue of the Duc Condé then I took a peak in at the horserace track (in the background of the picture). Finally I meandered down to the château. It was featured in the James Bond movie "A View to a Kill" along with a few others I believe. A bit of construction going on so my pics aren't anything special, check out the link.

Lunch with my former hosts - let me tell you, I was so lucky. I stayed in five families during those 11 months, and in each one, Mom was a fantastic cook. Lunch was heaven. My host sister, now married with two children, brought over the kids as they were out of school and she headed off to work. We all went for a walk to work off a wonderful meal at the Etangs de Commelle.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ahh, la belle France…

Christmas in Paris is delectable, I just eat it up. Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” And it was great to go back and freshen up the grand buffet of the heart that is Paris.

Some of you know that I was an exchange student to Chantilly, France a way back when. (Perhaps a few also know that is how I know CP, he too was an exchange student to the same town two years before me.) More on that tomorrow but by way of an intro, when I was 17, once maybe twice a week, I’d hop the train to experience Paris.

Christmas with my sister was lovely! She’s been in Paris for 8 or 9 years now and is very much at home. It was a great joy for me to have her open up that petit home. (I think she is the only one in the family to have less space than I. Aahh but we live out – we’re city people; that’s why we live in great cultural centers of the world.) The pictures show she has a lovely place with a courtyard in the 6th arrondissement – Saint Germain des Près. It’s right near the center of Paris – a quick jog over the Pont des Arts (no pun intended as I do jog across it to run in the Jardin des Tulleries) and cross the Seine; the Louvre is at your feet.

Naturally, after being there for such a long time, my sis has met some wonderful friends and we were seven for Christmas eve dinner. She loves to host so it was a bit of work preparing and all but so worth it. She’s a wonderful cook and a very cheery host. I did quite a few holiday meals for our big family of 7 kids plus the parents so she confidently turns to me to pop in where needed and it’s a thrill to be a part of the ritual. Still, it is really her favorite recipes that are on the table and with time, trouble and love, she’s made them her own – a personal something special to share.

I greeted guests while she worked the kitchen so I don’t have any pictures of her. What I do have is a couple of guests arriving and enjoying the tree.

May the joyous, giving and heart-felt togetherness of Christmas last with you all throughout 2008 when a year from now we can once again smile and eagerly offer the same simple gift to each other.