Saturday, December 10, 2011

the incredible, edible itlog!

I was out at the grocery store the other day when I saw these trays of eggs. The trays were stacked one by one, in on the top of these trays were some eggs distinguished by the fact that they were purple. this is not a natural process. The eggs were dyed purple. I looked to the men at the register, and asked one of them," are those Filipino eggs?" he said yes.

The craving is not a simple craving. I didn't just look at those eggs and want to buy them. I started out knowing what they were, and realized I hadn't had them in a long time. These purple eggs are cured eggs. The way that they cure these eggs involves covering raw eggs in a mixture. Strangely on the Internet, many people have suggested that this process involves covering eggs in mud, but I found that's not necessary. Thing that makes these things unique, these cured eggs, is that there salty, very salty.

I also know that there is a satisfaction in being able to walk into the store, see the purple eggs, and buy them for my meal. I think the process of making them is more satisfying. I discovered that to make these eggs all I had to do was create a super brine of salts in water, and soak their eggs in the salty water for a long time. The salty water does all the work! I suppose that's why other people use mud. They cannot handle the simplicity of this project. They have to believe the mud is doing some work.

As a side note, I have to say that I'm kind of like these people who came out to watch a building being moved. The building was the old Montgomery hotel in downtown San Jose. It is on the books as being the heaviest structure to ever be moved on rubber wheels; the process was excruciatingly slow. You can't witness the process happening. So, when I take these eggs, and soak them in their brine, I take a quiet satisfaction knowing that I can wait for my salty eggs. This isn't like the Montgomery hotel. That building was moved in three hours! The salty eggs? This process takes two or three weeks at least. I don't have to watch the process happening.

So, to prepare the eggs, get a big container, enough to hold couple quarts of water. Dissolve a couple cups of salt into that water. Most recipes suggest boiling the water to dissolve the salt. Then, dump the raw eggs into the salty water, cover them with the cloth maybe, so is as to make sure the salting covers on all sides. Then wait. Hard boil the eggs after a couple weeks, and refrigerate.

I know. I know you want me to make this more complicated, make it more exciting. I know you don't believe the excitement is in the simplicity of it all. Regardless, I just say, use the eggs as needed.

I hear these eggs can be served with meat. That wasn't my experience. I had them serve with mangoes, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. I know in my heart there's many ways to use these. I will not direct you this way. Note curing your eggs will extend their lifespan, and will disturb your cardiologist. This food is not advised for salt restricted diets. To this I say, "Serve them up, and enjoy."

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back to the YMCA

I am now a member of the YMCA in downtown San Jose.I went to the YMCA today, and decided that I would continue this journey physical development. One of the things that's exciting about where I'm going is that at this location I am surrounded by staff that is eager to help me succeed. I spent time last week with a personal trainer, and she introduced me to two other personal trainers who all assured me that they would be working with me to create a plan for success.

Even today, I have a nervousness about transferring from my chair to the many machines inside the gym. I told them I want to work on every muscle that I can exercise. There is no muscle group of my body that hasn't gotten week as a result of my being in a wheelchair. So, I have to be up to the challenge.

The challenge for me begins with learning how to exercise with discipline, and to accept recommendations from the staff here were qualified to give recommendations. The challenge for me is to keep coming back, tracking my progress, then accountable to others about the work I do.

Today I came in, put away my things, and went to work. Right now, free weights are the easiest to work with. I've been showing some exercises with cables. Today, I was able to work on biceps, triceps, lats, and patience. I cannot use the cardio machines; many of the exercises I employed in past workouts are no longer accessible to me. I take comfort knowing that every gain will make way for the next one.

This concept of synergy is one that I have to take to heart when looking at things like this. I realize that every exercise has benefits beyond my initial intentions. I have to know that once two or three muscle groups start exercising together, I will enjoy a new health and greater optimism. For now I'll be satisfied with knowing that.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Martin Luther King Library, Old and New

See the old library here
So friend of mine's been posting these pictures online, pictures that are shocking, pictures I really don't want to see. But, I look anyway. The pictures are of the slow, deliberate demolition of the building that once housed the Martin Luther King Library. I have to admit it is a strange building, and I suppose finding a new tenant would be difficult. It's not a building design that would lend itself to many different purposes. I do, however, feel kind of sad watching it go.

I don't remember having much of a love for reading as a child. I do, however, remember my mother tried to encourage meto read often. It doesn't mean that I didn't see a power, and potential in books. I knew something exciting was contained within books. But, whether it was my limited attention span, or maybe I was just hyper focused on something else, I never gave books or school much attention.

But, I did have a family that wanted me to read. I loved exploring bookshelves, and I did enjoy our trips to the library. My earliest recollections of childhood is included trips to this little library in our neighborhood on Pearl Avenue. It was small, but it had a wonderful section for young adults that incorporated books of science fiction and fantasy that I would find myself reading in the coming years. My other great love at the time was fantasy role-playing games, and we had a group that would meet there regularly to discuss and play various games. We even had the opportunity to get indignant when the librarians would ask us to be quiet.

The Martin Luther King Library, the main library, used to be located on San Carlos Street in downtown San Jose. This building was different then our Pearl Avenue library. It was huge. Even with my indifference to reading, I somehow felt there is something exciting about any place that can house that much information at one time. I feel that thought alone makes me an enormous geek, yet I refuse to backtrack or modify that statement. I have to say that the Martin Luther King Library looked a lot bigger probably because I was only about ten years old at the time, and the only frame of reference I had was the small library at Pearl Avenue.

Well, I've developed my passion for reading, and still I read very slowly. It is hard for me to get through books. Now at this time in my life I feel compelled to put this on line, if for no other reason than because people keep giving me lots and lots of books. My world is made greater for all of the knowledge that I acquired through reading, and I'm glad to be in a family that has encouraged me to develop this habit. I suppose it is for that reason that I should feel some small level of sadness watching them tear down the place I spent so many countless hours in my teenage years.

The new Martin Luther King Library is located about six blocks away from the old one. It was built as a collaboration between our local university and our city. Instead of the original three-story building, this new library has an enormous foyer, wide open spaces, and multiple desks with people to help you. It has at least six elevators to take people's from the basement floor, all the way to its eighth floor. It is truly a magnificent building. With this exciting, modern building, it becomes difficult to miss the old library for long. I'm still sad that they have to take it down.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oak Hill Cemetery

I wanted to write about my day. And yet I'm not quite sure how significant this day was. I'm getting very grateful for the scan't four hours that I spend teaching every week. despite my insecurities, I find that I'm able to lead a group of people following someone else's lesson plan, and get some small satisfaction out of watching people learn.

Now, teaching English is really not all that complicated, especially when the lessons come out of a book, and I do have some history developing a competency in the subject matter. I do speak English fairly well. But this process- watching people follow a lesson plan, watching people get distracted, in developing strategies to keep focused-helps me to stay entertained while helping people develop a new skill. simply, having never done this before, I do find this to be a clumsy process.

I left Sacred Heart earlier today. I hopped on a bus, and found myself a place to eat. I wandered about Target's aisles with no intention of purchasing anything. I decided to go home. Now target is located in a shopping center called The Plant. When I cross the street I realized that I was at the Oak Hill cemetery . Yesterday was all Saints day, and today is All Souls Day, all blended in with the Dia de Los Muertos.

It just seemed perfectly natural for me to want to go in. I hadn't planned on it. I just decided that on All Souls Day it made sense to visit the cemetery. The people at the cemetery told me that they opened-meaning they started burying dead people there-probably around 1850. In 160 years I got to believe that a lot of people have found there final resting spot at this location. This includes in my case, my grandparents, and a number of friends. So, I do not feel bad when I forget where people are buried. I know several people who visit their relatives on a regular basis and I just don't have the history of doing that.

I found the main office of the cemetery. I told one lady inside that I wanted to locate a grave, and she copied down the names, disappearing down the hall to an office. She eventually came back to me, with a map in hand, and showed me the way to Veterans Park, a section where I guess many veterans are buried. All of the men buried in this section, were buried in 1970. I found the grave, spent some time in quiet, and prepared to leave.

I suppose all this when it just seemed like some silly quiet reflection, but there was an action sequence. I found myself most reflective about the fact that I last visited here on two feet. My exit was prompted not so much by my quiet reflection or prayer; I decided to leave when I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. The motors on my chair whirresd and whined. I I could feel my chair almost sluggish in the loose dirt and grass. I rolled my chair all the way to the meeting point between the the grass and the pavement.

An old cemetery like this has the benefits of having several visitors on a regular basis. when my wheelchair hit that meeting point, I discovered that my chair did not want to move anymore; it was stuck. I quickly surrendered myself to the fates. I knew that I was powerless at that moment. I also knew that I still had to go to the bathroom. My eyes scanned the roads separating the different fields of gravestones. sweat was breaking out of my forehead . I was no longer fixated on anything except finding someone to help me.One-hundred yards away, I saw a woman driving in a car, slowly.

I started waving. I started waving with both hands, and that car slowed down even more. Eventually, the car turned around and drove closer to where I was. The lady began by just staring at me, and I called out to her, explaining that I could not move. She came to my rescue. By leveraging her body against the back of my chair she was able to provide it just enough weight that I was able to force myself back up onto the sidewalk. I thanked her and I thanked her again. I then expedited my exit to the office building where a public restroom is available. (okay so it's not much of an action sequence). Another tragedy avoided.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ironically, I Love Ambiguity (but what, exactly, do I mean by that?)

somewhere back in the early 1980s, I seems to have a poetic mind. I don't even know what a poetic mind is. Of course, perhaps, it would depend-as Bill Clinton would say-what your definition of the word is is.

Back in the earlier times of this blog, years ago, I was able to write out a poem. the substance of that poem I don't remember, but I do know that it was fueled by fear, by anger, and by pride. My love of words and my love (ironically) of my own anger gave that one, last poem some substance. I'm not necessarily saying that it was a good poem, only that it was entertaining enough to keep me writing.

I'm not currently in psychotherapy. I can't say if writing poetry would be therapeutically good for me or not. I just know that there's a part of me that wants to be able to tap into that part of my brain again. I think I remember the day that I started to feel the freeze. A chill swept over my brain, and for one fleeting moment, okay, a few hours, I was able to tap out one more poem.

I'm not going to look for the poem, here. It really has little significance for me. If writing is truly that significant in my life, perhaps my last moment of poetry should simply be noteworthy on that account alone. But, I'm too busy thinking about this chill.

Years ago I found myself in a laundromat, and on the door was a note explaining that the laundromat will be closing. I already felt a bond with this place, a closeness to the glass, the tile floors, the quarter devouring machines. I believed that it was perfectly placed right in that part of town. I knew it's quiet times, and I knew it's busy times. This was a relationship I developed over years, and I felt as if a bomb dropped on me. (in the months that followed, I discovered that the laundromat simply changed hands, and never actually closed)

This laundromat operated right near San Jose State University, and right near my little studio apartment on S. 8th St. movement of people, the swirl of energy, mixed well with all of the people from the neighborhoods nearby; parents came in with armfuls of children and station wagons filled to the top with clothing to be washed. I remember well hovering over occupied machines, watching the seconds ticked down on them, and waiting for my opportunity to leap. This was an important part of my week, sad and true.

So, this day I decided to write a poem. I didn't know was going to be an important poem to me. If I had only known I might have found a way to guard it, protect its, and make sure that it would stay available to me in the coming years. But I didn't know, and I didn't protect it. So, almost 10 years later, I can only remember forty syllables of the poem, just enough to keep this sadness alive: forty syllables, four lines, the beginning of my last (my only?) sonnet. Like a meditation it was alive for me in the moment, and I couldn't find a poem more expressive of how I felt, and what I thought at that exact time.

I showed that poem one day months, maybe years, later to a person for whom I cared very much, and she read my thoughts. I knew better than to ask her what I wanted to ask her at a time when it was clear her silence meant something disturbing. Yet, I had to ask her what she thought of what I wrote. Without directly addressing the question, she told me that she does not like poetry, and remarked that it was after years of college that she developed this strong dislike for poetry.

She said that every poem seems to have unnecessary layers of meaning, and is fraught with an ambiguity that makes poetry reading very unpleasant for her. So, here it is for me, eight years later. I've written one substantial poem in all that time, and I never explained to her that there are no layers of meaning in my poem. I'm just not that deep. What I wrote about is what is, and I am still absolutely delighted in the creation of those words. She didn't give my poem a fair shake, because she hated ambiguity. Sad to think that it was on the one poem so simple, and so absent of ambiguity that she failed to see it for what it was.

I'm so tickled by this explanation that I just might start writing again. I'm glad I shared this with you. Wow!

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Exercise, a Remedy for Shrinking Clothing

I'm trying not to take it personal. If I wake up in I see things exactly as they occur, I know if my heart that not everything occurs because of me. Thoughts like these, these words even falling on to this page, serve as sufficient evidence my ego is way out of control. My readers, understand I'm not sad; I just realized that there's changes that need to be made.

I went to Sacred Heart community service today, and assisted at our regular English as a second language class. The instructor asked me to lead the day's dictation. I will reiterate: I know this is not about me. I know in my mind this has nothing to do with me. But, I am affected emotionally, and I must relate this to you.

The teacher tells me that she selects her dictation sentences based on the exercises, the homework from the previous week. She doesn't even seem to understand my concern. She handed me the paper and she said,"Keith, these are the sentences I want you to dictate the class."

1. Too many people in the United States each too much, and they are overweight.
2. Her grandmother was thin, and she needed a small size.
3. He wishes he was taller, but he is just average height.
4. My daughter is short, and she is thin.
5. He needs a big size, because he is fat.
6. I went to the store to buy a large shirt.

If the exercise was just to say the sentences once I would've been fine, but with this class- people totally unaccustomed to writing the English language- I was in the position of having to say the sentences over, and over again. It's like I was having an intervention. The only difference is the person doing intervention was me, while everybody else that is watching does not even know what is happening.

there's a comic irony that I should receive these sentences on this day. The YMCA has just approved a reduced rate for my membership, and I'm thrilled to be able to start working out again. Sometime, many months ago, a friend of mine saw me on WebCam and said," Keith, are your shirts getting a little tighter lately?" I laughed it off, and said it's just a cheap fabrics that keep shrinking on me. My largest of shirts had started to fail on me. So

I still have all my old clothes, some of which I received back in Indonesia. So, this isn't an unpleasant experience that I'm relating. It's just a strange one. The best way that I can celebrate the progresses that I've already made, is to keep them going. The strengths that I've acquired my shoulders and then my arms- as well as the strength, control, and balance- I have developed in my legs, can only properly be appreciated by building upon them. I assure you I will wear these clothes again.

Let it begin with me today. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Best Haircut, Yet

So today, I have to believe that there is something wonderful, something special, about being alive. I mean here we are, on the twenty-third of October, two days after the world was slated to end (according to the great pastor Harold" I misread my PDA" Camping). The very fact that I can go out and get my haircut is a special thing, indeed.

I will not cry over the lack of recognition-recognition that I am owed- from my ability to predict things. I have precognitive ability that is truly amazing. Year in and year out, day in and day out, I make predictions that come true. Unlike pastor Harold, I have predicted the world not ending, over and over again. I have been right every single time! That's why I feel little sad.

I have not gotten on any talk shows. I do not have a parish. Despite my desire to minister to the masses, I have no flock to which I can preach my good news. Still, I do not cry.

I went and got my haircut today. Feeling the sun in my face,the wind in my hair, as well as a growing warmth of gratitude that builds in my chest, I went out to Walmart, and watched people. Just like you, my readers, they didn't see me for the genius that I possess, and they don't know that when they woke up on October 21 that by me it was predicted, successfully, the day would go on normally.

So today, I felt imbued with this opportunistic spirit. I went and bought something, and I got myself some cash back. I went out, and got my haircut.

The lady who cut my hair didn't know how special it was that the sun came up today. She also wasn't letting on the fact that standing above me, as many people do, she was privy to information that I just didn't have. Scientists, doctors, geologic hipsters that groove off of scientific magazines, the kind of people that understand what's going on with the ozone layer all know what is happening above. In my life we've gotten reports from the news community about what was being said, from the scientific community, about the discoveries to a mate regarding the enormous growth of the hole in the ozone layer.

For me, to have this woman with her big m mirror, walking around my body, after completing was a perfectly acceptable haircut, threw me for a loop. I have to stare at that mirror in shock and dismay as I realized that that whole that into space of useless follicles, fallen into disuse, has become enormous. For years I've watched these growing spaces, these widows peaks, creeping their way up my forehead. I really did not know what happened on top.

Trying not to overreact, I pointed to my God made tonsure, and yelled," what did you do up here!" She smiled, took my money, and sent me on my way. I suppose this day went well enough. Celebrating my newfound life, enjoying another day free from rapture, I can stay grateful. The reality is I don't believe anyone can predict the future. I do not believe in psychic phenomena, I'm not a big fan of divination, and if your a Bible reader how could you ignore that passage that says" you will not know the day or the time" of Jesus's return?

So today, I celebrate a new day. I can enjoy my haircut, and I look forward to reading about more predictions about the imminent demise of planet Earth.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just One More Chance

Sometimes I believe I can train myself to like the that I didn't like in the past. I suppose that I probably could do Ithis. But, today is not one of those days. Realizing that here in the midst of Little Saigon I could find all manner of fruit smoothies-with tropical fruits and little black tapioca pearls- I decided on a couple occasions to try different types of fruit smoothies. The last time I went to the Bambu Snack Shop, I endeavored to try the avocado fruit smoothie.

The avocado fruit smoothie did not have much flavor, but it was cold and it was sweet. I love the chewy, tapioca pearls. because these avocado drink seems so popular in so many different countries, I felt challenged by the fact that it never seemed like a natural choice to put sweet frozen drink. So, I tried it out and I enjoyed it. But, even though I felt that I had tried this one fruit enough times to establish that I didn't like it, there was one fruit on the menu I wanted to try.

that fruit is durian. Grown overseas, this fruit grows the enormous balls, green balls, every inch covered with ominous looking spikes. Worse still, even from several feet away, ripe durian gives off this unpleasant, pungent odor. Even people who eat this fruit describe its odor is smelling like something like dirty feet or unclean clothes. I'm not alone in my perception of its smell.

But, someone is found a way to ship enormous quantities of this fruit overseas to America. Now, in the parking lot of Grand Central Mall, two ladies run a fruit stand; there they sell all manner of exotic fruits. This includes mangoes, grown locally, jackfruit, and durian. I decided I was being tempted again, challenged again, being asked if I had truly given this fruit a fair evaluation. After all, many people from all over the world eat this fruit every day.

Would I allow myself to be dominated by my olfactory receptors? After all, what part of my brain determines whether I should like to food are not? I have many friends online, overseas who seemed to think that durian is just a wonderful, wonderful food. So today, I found myself once again at the Bambu snack shop. I I ordered a fruit smoothie, made with durian, black tapioca pearls. The girl who sold it to me asked me if I know what durian is. She was shocked to see ordering this drink. Okay, maybe she was not shocked, but she did seem surprised.

After the fall equinox, we were hit with a cold day, cold winds, and all this occurred with the arrival of the fall season. So, I was surprised to find that the heat is still with us, and I went outside, with my fruit smoothie, and started to drink. I love the black pearls, and the drink was cool and refreshing. I enjoy the way it felt on this hot hot day. Still, there was something that I was bothering me; I realized what it was. The one thing that bothered me about this beverage is that it tasted and smelled like durian.

So I'm not going to make any guesses as to whether it is a genetic thing, a cultural thing, it comes from -environment, proximity, experience. I do note that this stinky fruit is gotten a fair trial from me. I do not like it. I don't believe I'll ever like it, but I tried.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who's Going to Close the Clubs?

I'm not much of an activist, and there are certain things on which I failed to have strong opinions. The other day I was walking along downtown San Jose stopped in the local Safeway The Market grocery store downtown. Outside of Safeway, just as are outside about every supermarket in town, was a man promoting some type of special interest, with a portable stand up table a clipboard, and a sign.

His sign said," keep the clubs open." Outside my disinterest -in recreational drugs, loud music, or free-spirited interaction with large groups of strangers-I love the party just as much as the next guy. So, when this man shows me a sign that says" keep the clubs open", I am inclined to access that libertarian part of my soul, and and ask myself, why would anyone want to close the clubs. Of course I had no idea what clubs this man was talking about. I certainly didn't know why they were danger. I had to ask this man what the heck he was trying to defend.

Apparently, he was getting people to sign a petition, a San Jose-only petition, that was aimed at making sure the medicinal marijuana clubs -clubs aimed at providing medicinal marijuana to those that need it-would not be closed by the political establishment that runs San Jose. Newspaper reports in recent months have talked about how San Jose city Council, and its mayor Chuck Reed, are trying to pass regulations that could close down 90% of the medicinal marijuana clubs in this city.

I don't smoke marijuana. I have no medical need for marijuana. I don't particularly like my experiences shared with people who enjoy smoking marijuana. But, looking at the whole libertarian spirited idea, one of few libertarian ideas that I would entertain, I have asked myself what does it hurt. the city of San Jose seems to be strangely schizophrenic for issuing business licenses to the people who opened up 110 marijuana clubs in San Jose, and then just a few years later decided that they could shut 90% of these businesses down just to entertain their constituencies.

Ironically, the groups most likely to want to shut down these marijuana clubs are the very people who are in favor of free markets. I'm sure the vast majority of them join in hand-in-hand singing the praises of 18th-century philosopher Adam Smith, and their belief that unfettered markets alone can sculpt a healthy society.

I am no more opposed to the smoking of marijuana than I am to the drinking of alcohol. If you want to live in a capitalistic, free-market society, why would you not want to encourage these legally formed businesses to thrive in our society?

So, I've met a new friend, Dana, who came down to San Jose just to get my signature and the signature of others onto this petition, in the hopes that we could keep our local pot clubs open. I believe that as a capitalist, I would hate for my local government to be so capricious as to close down a business to which they gave a green light to open.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A New Game... New to Me, I Guess

Living in the heart of Little Saigon, I actually enjoy exploring the different businesses that we have out here. I went to the grand century shopping mall found all kinds of wonderful businesses. Though when it came time to find food most of their food court was businesses that demanded cash only. That can be kind of limiting at times. As a person who likes to keep track of everything he spends,it's a bad temptation for me to start walking around with cash on me...

I don't know what point you can claim that there is some level of market saturation herein our little neighborhood.I can't count the number of noodle houses, herb shops, or beauty shops that we have in the immediate vicinity got a wonder how much we get out before they start diluting, and knocking each other out of business. I personally love the community here, anything that they can do to pull business away from Target and Walmart is fine by me.

So I look back to Vietnam town. It's grand opening was still on June 18, and now, were at the end of August North Vietnam town still not open yet. Everyday I come pass here I regularly visit the people at powder face coffee shop drinking my Americano coffees, while watching those glass doors and windowws installed as small pieces of evidence that business will eventually wake up inside the complex.
Outside of the occasional workman, all I see at that shopping center are men who set around drinking coffee drinking beer and sit huddled around game boards playing a game I am told is called Chinese chess. I've asked the men their and they told me that businesses here are expected to open probably in September at Vietnam town.

So these moments sits and they play their Chinese chess often with groups of 5 to 10 people each sitting around two or three game boards enjoying the facilities while the rest of us wait for the businesses to open. most of the moon there speak very limited English, and the images on these Chinese chess pieces are not the same from gameboard to game board. But, some of the men of offer to try and teach me how to play this game, and I have a friend overseas insists that his same easy game to learn and it is much much similar to international chess. I remain unconvinced.

I think the saving grace of international chess is the fact that each piece looks like something that you can identify real-life: a knight looks like a horse, a queen looks like a queen, a king looks like a king, bishops typically look like something Freudian, and out of all of it you can piece together some image of which are trying to accomplish. There is this movement of these images across the board each one with a carefully defined pattern of movement. The different gambits have been studied and learned throughout the centuries.

It is not to say that this same isn't true about Chinese chess. But in order for this game to have the same life that international chess has for me I have to be able to look at the Chinese chess board and create the same tactics the same story the same visions that make it possible for me to play international chess. Still, I do like the challenge and I do find it interesting the think that I could play this game along with these gentlemen. Many of these men can play for hours. Maybe ill see if I can learn

Thank you for reading.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Classes Begin Soon!

A lot of times passed since I detailed my end. In the realm of teaching. Despite the absence of our ESL classes, across San Jose, the people that I like to Sacred Heart community center have informed me that there offering English class for immigrant mothers and children. Even though the structureless classes go be a little different than the one that you excited for the opportunity to help in this capacity, again.

The teacher of the class to me in e-mail a request to come in and set up a schedule with her. I will come in tomorrow. It's a strange thing this wanting to volunteer. I know many people who volunteer who do jobs that they don't particularly like are will say here, give me some work. And they want desperately to just be useful someplace. Maybe there's something wrong with me that I waited for this opportunity.

Still, I get to meet a new teacher, and learned new solid teaching. I get the opportunity to teach English again. I'm seriously looking forward to this class opening, which will be in September. So, I will keep everyone posted see how things are progressing.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

As For Tomorrow

A woman recently sent me an e-mail where she detailed a plan to create a smart phone app or online role-playing game that could be used, I guess, for weight loss,and health related purposes. Her plan sounds smart, seems inventive and if she markets well could be very popular product. I guess for me this is no longer about a game. I don't even think I need to know how to make this health process entertaining. There seems to be a moment in time where an idea just germinates. I'm looking for that idea. I'm looking for that moment, and I'm looking for that time.

So, I look back to things that I've said in my blog in years past, and much of it seems defeatist. I said at one point in time that I would make you guys, my readers,my accountability group. That just seems silly. If I didn't want to do something I would just ignore it or not even talk about it. For now, I guess the one goal I'm going to share with you, is that I will look in my goals. Success speakers across the world have said that the people who make the greatest progress in life have written goals. The people who accomplish most of life have written goals.

One of my friends works in the teaching organization, and in that organization. Everyone is well-versed in the concepts of Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I was not terribly shocked when I found out that Stephen Covey's organization happens to be one of the sponsors of their school. Piece by piece. I listen to the different concepts contained within a book. I've read the book. Now, it's as if many of these ideas are congealing with me, and my need to turn everything into a game just seems to fall away.

The ideas that stick in my mind , the habit that sticks in my mind, is being proactive. In the world of time management, I'm learning how to take care of things that are important but are not urgent. (That's called quadrant two). It took a spark of genius on my part to understand why this stuff is important. Some days I just don't figure things out very well. So I sit here in front of my computer, sipping green tea, my latest beverage of choice, and I tried to cultivate a seriousness, a firmness of mind that would help me complete my plans.

Anyway, the fine people at the YMCA downtown called me and left a message on my answering machine asking me if I was going to follow up on this tour that they gave me throughout their facility. And old ranchero named Manuel talks to me every day in Spanish. (for that reason alone I understand only about half of what he tells me) But he was real clear about one thing: he is thinking that my belly's getting awful big.

Selective attention is the nature of the human animal. I thought of these two events at the same time, because it's time to think about these events, so my plan tomorrow is simple: Return the phone call from the people at the YMCA. Hop on a bus. Get my membership started. Now I can call my mother let her know that the bathing suit she bought me is going to get some use.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is Serving me Well

I remember a movie years back. It was a Star Trek movie, and in that film. They traveled back in time so that they could poach a whale and bring it back in the future. But during the time when they're in the 1980s, there's a scene where Scotty asks for permission to use a computer and he stands there talking to it and talking to it, and addressing it, waiting for the computer to respond.

While Dragon NaturallySpeaking is pretty wonderful -saving me the trouble of having to type these little blog posts- I'm very excited that this program also makes it possible for me to navigate my computer with very limited use of my hands. I can command windows to open and close. I can select computer programs to open. But, as I look at the potential of this computer program, there is an eagerness to find out exactly how much I can do with it.

According to Wikipedia, the prototype for Dragon software began in the early 1980s. It just makes me wonder how much headache,how much programming has been done over the last three decades to make this program is useful as it is for me today.

I suppose if I was to look it Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I would probably understand better this this obsession some people have with the buying things when they're new and clunky. I always said that I wanted technology only if it's about five years obsolete. Although I'm a little more progressive now, I still don't see any purpose to buying something that's not had some of the bugs worked out of it.
it seems funny that when a product is at its worst, it's when it costs the most.

So, if I'm going to continue in this journey, I suppose I'll continue to embrace products that are old, still highly functional, enjoy a certain level of practicality that comes from not being very rich.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Birthday Present

I think I'm just looking for the proper word. To say that I'm suffering from" writer's block" would seem to be a misnomer. Right now,I am trying to become competent using this program called Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking. with this program I am able to talk to my computer and it will print anything I say. The amount of instruction. I need is very limited.

With this program I am able to talk to my computer very natural, standard pace of speaking, and the only thing that limits me is my ability to put words together in a way that doesn't sound too awkward. It even makes it possible for me to be able to correct the mistakes on the screen without having to use my keyboard. If it types something that I don't want it to, I can just command it to correct itself. Even with all of the stuff that I heard about this program, it never occurred to me that it would work as well as it does, nor that I would find it fun.

The software comes with its own headset and I spent a few hours working with it, so that the program would come to know my voice, know my way of speaking, and after various corrections is even come to learn how to spell my friends names how to spell my web addresses, and I don't have to pull my hair out with mistakes being repeated over and over again. I guess the thing is, I don't know how to give up very easily. My own family offered me this a long time ago, and in some ways, I thought maybe would be a good idea, but I guess for me it is like getting used to having bad eyesight. You just get used to squinting all the time.

Understanding the application that is being offered to me is not the same as seeing how the application can change my life. I finally think I understood when I was listening to a commercial where man was typing very slowly, and it sounds like he is losing his train of thought as he was tapping on the keyboard. it was then that I realize that's exactly what I do, that typing with just two fingers slows me down, and I completely forget what I'm trying to say.

So, my mother encouraged me to accept this gift. I now realize what an incredible program it is, and this July, I had a great birthday. But, I can never say that I have writers block. I do not write anymore. And in conversation, I have no trouble speaking, so I guess you can't even say that I have talkers block. But for now, I'm just starting to get used to talking to my computer and it's amazing how easy it's becoming. I just let this software sit in the box for an entire month before even entertaining downloading it into my computer.

I now see that this will help me express my ideas faster and more easily and more naturally than ever before

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Striving for Balance: off to the gym

I have a friend who has been posting on his Facebook page, his latest efforts to follow a Calorie counting/budgeting program online. More offensive, he continues his efforts to record his exercise regimen, and his interaction with this program, detailing the computer counts. The program them tells him (accurately?) how much weight he will continue to lose. This public posturing is shameless. I will neither celebrate nor endorse these efforts.

But, unlike me, he is off living life on two feet, and I am closing on an anniversary of the time I stopped walking. I grew tired of waiting. I had spinal surgery on May 24, 2010, and while I am not afraid of disappointment, I did expect more progress, much faster. People in my life wanted me to lower my expectations, and even today, I remain resistant.

So, in the year since spinal cord rehab, my life has changed. I get nerve function where I did not have it before. I can move my body with greater strength and agility than in the days prior to my surgery. I continue to regain strength in both my right and left leg, while at times am able to stand upright (for 60 seconds maybe) unassisted, holding onto no rails or devices. I remain grateful, but not complacent.

What other change would seem relevant for me? Like my friend, I have changed my diet. Like him, I do not see this as a proactive measure. Both of us are responding to changes in our health. In my case, it may seem a tad more obvious. Though, perhaps I have not gained much weight, My midsection has expanded, and shirts that fit well six months ago, now have to be rolled on to my body like a pair of stockings. I feel my dignity challenged by this. My body fat index has raised several points, and I have grown intolerant (mostly of my friend losing weight).

Due to my personal success in the past year, I am now able to leave my home for longer trips, and I toured the YMCA near my home. My guide, Joseph, followed my instructions and wrote the date, July 6, 2011 , inside the folder I was given to assist in my rapid application process. Yes, with the fitness trainers they have there, I can make some serious progress health-wise.

I need to get a swim suit. In this place they have an enormous pool, I can use to exercise. The progress I can achieve is unlimited if I fill out the application. It almost makes you wonder why I might hesitate. I quit therapy eighteen years ago, and do not philsophize on my feelings. But, at this pool is a special chair. This is a mechanical chair that can lift me from the water, and lower me back in to the pool. I will get started just because I have not been swimming in a long time. I think I miss it.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teh hijau dan Jahe (Green Tea with Ginger) and Where to Buy it

Teh hijau dan Jahe (Green Tea with Ginger)

I am okay with the closure of the last, real grocery in my neighborhood. One of my friends, my dear friend Jo Anne, is one of the finest produce clerks in the valley (I do anticipate her reading this), and has noted I do not visit my old place of employment. Safeway, very often. I will hop on out there if I want to grab some groceries, see old friends.

But in the absence, there is this weird void in my neighborhood, as I wait for a replacement, a counterbalance. Wheeling through my neighborhood, I went past the closed SaveMart, and past the Dynasty Chinese restaurant, a collection of Vietnamese noodle houses, hair-nail shops, French bakeries, and sandwich shops. You can throw a stone in any direction, and hit a store where you can procure a Vietnamese sandwich, a fruit smoothie -with such ingredients as durian, avocado or lychee- or a place where you can buy five gallons of filtered water, asian DVDs , and cheap cigarettes at one time.

Across the parking lot is a huge complex called Vietnam Town, a fitting addition to our neighborhood aside from one small problem. They have not opened. I watched the June 17 closing of SaveMart unceremoniously, and without regret. One block away, were the glorious banners advertising the Grand Opening of Vietnam Town. The storefronts all bear names of stores opening or "coming soon".

The variouss units show signs of life as men pull away the boards and enter the structure with tool belts and ladders. None of this would seem particularly odd if it were not for one detail: the sign outside the building, the festive banner over the entry drive-way to the complex says Grand Opening June 18. I watched the parking loty fill with people. I saw food booths, games, and a general atmosphere of celebration and excitement. But, not a single store opened that day. Today, a month later, nothing has opened.

Still, we lack some products, some services, and I do not view Wal-Mart , on one side of the freeway, and Target on the other, as the answer to those needs. I entered a quiet little shopping mall, also bearing the Dynasty name. I spun around, crossing a whole new group of shops, including some more eateries, some jewelry shops and an herb shop providing a varieties of teas .

I stopped in there, and found boxes of Prince of Peace Green Tea, and Prince of Peace Honey Ginger Crystals. I bought them, remembering these products from my days at Orchard Nutrition in Redding. Having now toured this little mall, I will definitely come back. My only reflection on the products is one from before: what will Jesus say when he returns from Heaven to find "Prince of Peace" is now a registered trademark.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

today's exploration...

"And Sharkey says: All of nature talks to me. If I could just
figure out what it was trying to tell me. Listen!
Trees are swinging in the breeze. They're talking to me.
Insects are rubbing their legs together.
They're all talking. They're talking to me. And short animals-
They're bucking up on their hind legs. Talking. Talking to me.
Hey! Look out! Bugs are crawling up my legs!
(You know? I'd rather see this on TV). Tones it down.
And Sharkey says: I turn around, it's fear.
I turn around again, and it's love.
Nobody knows me. Nobody knows my name."
--Laurie Anderson , "Sharkey's Day"(1984)

Back in high school, one of the artists I thought most exciting was Laurie Anderson. So, when my friend gave me a copy of her album Mr. Heartbreak, I was thrilled listening to her poetry, her music, and her weaving of images and sound. Strangely, it is to her music to find my peace, and recapture hope. I listen to Mr. Heartbreak, and I listen for nature talking to me. I stay hopeful, thinking that nothing can be gained in dwelling in fear for the future.

Just now after listening to Sharkey's Day, I turned on a discussion about President Obama and his ominous statement that Social Security checks may not go out on August 3. Living in a house where everyone's rent and food come from those checks, it is amazing how scary that statement can be. I am not certain if I am the only one here who knows this news. This talk could do little but unsettle my home. I was listening to Laurie Anderson before all this; I feel a tad bit sidetracked.

Back in 2004, a friend in Canada told me she was going to a rally to protest "globalization." Being oblivious, overly proud, or profoundly indifferent, I never got around to asking her the question, what is globalization. Even after six years -of listening to comedians bagging on President Bush, watching countless Michael Moore movies, and insane ideological stonewalling over money in Congress- I still was not sure what this thing called globalization is, what all is encompassed, and what are the two sides to it.

I am grateful for a book my sister brought me in 2010. It was Thomas Friedman's third edition of The World is Flat. I eventually read it, a volume filled with glowing reviews on the blossoming of new life in old economies, an explosion in the movement of products/services across the globe, and how so much of it occurred because of the dot-com bubble burst of 2000. Because of Friedman, I now realize that millions of people losing their life savings in a stock market crash is unfortunate, but a small price to pay when a second generation of telecom investors get to buy up miles of installed fiber optic cable at pennies on the dollar. In fact, I see it is a good thing.

All of Friedman's optimism is exciting. It is good to pull from his forward thinking to capture a sense where all this unbridled market liberalism and full-on privatization of government services can take us. I will be reading his book Hot, Flat and Crowded next to see how his perspective stands since 2008.

But, I also started reading from economist Joseph Stiglitz, and his views on the state of globalization, privatization, market liberalization, and the flatness of the world. Unlike my friend in 2004, I am not under the belief that a global economy is a bad thing. Trying to stop it seems even silly, especially when the very means by which we share this information exists because of that global economy. The question is how do we exert our influence to manage it better.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan popularized the concept of trickle-down economics. Joseph Stiglitz says most economists regard it a failed experiment. Still, across the globe, many are singing the praises of this philosophy: where, if you load up the corporations with enough money, their prosperity will trickle-down to the middle-class, and to the severely impoverished. There is a large amount of information for me to understand, and I feel like I am starting to sort it out. Maybe if I started reading these books when they were written, I would have been able to come out of my cave sooner.

Still, I have Laurie Anderson playing online. "I turn around. It's fear. I turn around again, and it's love."

I will keep sifting through the books, learn in turn what the word aggregate means in the economy world, and wonder why the word profligate gets mentioned so much. But that is all I can share with you for now.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This Group Met on the Lawn at City Hall

"These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland … They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." -- Ronald Reagan (Labor Day address, 1980)

This is quite an exciting quote from that great friend of labor, Ronald Reagan. An hour after reading the words, I realized a few things. Labor Day is the first Monday in September.Back in 1980, that was September 1, a full two months before the landslide election that made him President.

I do not believe it is healthy to prejudice myself against politicians. I know easy it is to say things to ingratiate myself before others. I will not debase myself by suggesting all politicians are liars. What is possible, likely I believe, is many politicians are horribly forgetful. Luckily for them, many reporters have great resources, and more reliable memories.

In his ninth month on the job, President Ronald Reagan was faced with a crisis when the air traffic controllers union, PATCO, went on strike. It could be argued that such an act is like terrorism, using their weight of 13,000 workers to bring all air traffic to a stop. It does seem almost wicked to realize their jobs are so important, so powerful, that they could demand whatever they want if we want our planes moving safely through the air .

This union action was brought directly to the President, who- without much negotiation, without his care for the "free unions and collective bargaining" of PATCO, took action to squash it like a bug. PATCO was dissolved, and all striking workers were fired.

Now, state and local governments throughout the United States are voting to rob unions' bargaining rights for all levels of public service. Democrats and Republicans are marching, arms akimbo to squash the labor unions of all civil servants; this includes the mayor and city council of my own home, San Jose. It is a heartless endeavor, and it is a radical solution for the many city councils and state legislatures that have decided we can blame our social workers and teachers for our unbalanced budgets.

To the degree we can trace President Reagan's failing commitment to free unions even thirty years later, I think it is immensely sad that we have forgotten what caused our economy to crash a short four years ago. It was not our public employees. It was not our welfare recipients. Nor was it caused by people failing to read their mortgage papers properly. I wonder why no one remembers AIG, or Goldman Sachs and the multi trillion dollar con game they perpetuated to destroy our stability.

I am not a reporter, but I do see that as many local and state governments scramble to pass budgets, many are speaking out trying to get us to believe our problems reside in bad teachers, apathetic civil servants, and cell phone allowances. I believe civil servants are our allies. I believe that once we rob them of their bargaining rights, the numbers of good candidates for those jobs will diminish. All this and more can be ours as we watch television shows chronicling the failures of American education. Crippling our unions may seem reasonable, but it could be irreversible. I think this should be long considered before we move ahead with something so dreadfully extreme.

Our public workers are not much richer than anyone else. Most of them work very hard to provide services to our communities. I will not look at them as my enemy, just because doing so might make it easier for some other bureaucrat to balance a budget.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You've Been Down That Road Before. You Know Where it Ends

"You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you." --Heraclitus

"You know, even though we've watched Pretty Woman like thirty-six times, I never get tired of making fun of it. "--Michelle (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion)

I suppose if someone wants to escape from frustration or pain, the temptation is always there to grab onto an experience that was fulfilling in the past. I love many things, many experiences, many memories now colored and forever changed by my wants and fears. With that in mind, I may be totally lost about what some remembered nugget from my past gave to me. All I recall, really, are a collection: some images, some smells, and the choice feelings I associate with that time in my life.

I suppose hanging around people with various compulsions, I know my experiences are relatively common. Instead of pursuing a new experience, it is easy to remember, codify, and render in my head an image and feeling from the past that was so gratifying, so thrilling, or so filled with emotion that my desire would be to visit that experience frequently.

So, when Heraclitus was talking about a river, a river that changes and renews itself with each passing of new water, he reminds me that no matter how hard I try to replicate an experience, I will always have the experiences that have changed me. I will always carry every memory I had between the initial experience, and the attempt to resurrect a feeling from it.

Amongst my friends it is often said the alcoholic or drug addict is the extreme example of this. That in addiction the addict had a spark, a feeling of such great intensity when they started using, that every time someone engages in their addiction, he or she is striving to capture a feeling , a precise feeling from the time they first got hooked. But "you could not step twice in the same river", and recreating that feeling is pointless, if not impossible.

I heard a story where Sir Alec Guinness was approached by a child who excitedly told him that he had watched Star Wars over twenty times. The old man bent down, looked the child in the eyes, and told him never to watch it again. I don't know if the child cried, sulked, or perhaps had some epiphany, skipping along with a vision of newfound promise and hope.

Sad to say, I still watch some movies I watched before. I discover shows and movies horrifying in their lack of inspiration, while others seem to recreate themselves with each viewing. I revisit restaurants, and reorder familiar entrees. I listened to a recording of Tony Robbins asking the audience if they rent movies they watched before, and he admonishes them to "Get a fucking life!" (I am reliving my shame as I type )

Of course, there are times for quiet, and even when I pray a Rosary, when I focus on a mantra, a meditation, and every breath opens my mind to a flood of thoughts, I realize even here, especially here, my experience renews itself. Every prayer, every petition becomes an opportunity for a new experience. In fact, that is true for me with each moment of the day.

The one thing that seems to renew reliably for me, is a desire to be useful. If I study and learn- read good books, volunteer, and choose to be fully present- then I can stop looking for fulfillment in reliving the past.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SCI: San Jose ("I Got Shoes")

These are my legs. Only a small handful of people will note anything unusual here. My legs look about the same. Nothing terribly odd about my preoccupation with me. The legs as photographed have compression stockings, discount bulk package Fruit of the Loom cotton socks, and my most stylish ankle-foot orthotics (leg braces). This is my standard leg dressing from day to day.

As a spinal cord patient, I am thrilled my recovery of nerve function has advanced enough that my neurosurgeon, and therapists have closed my cases. I have experienced great recoveries, and they keep coming! As I have begun my second year of rehabilitation (anniversary May 24, 2011), I continue to grab onto my therapists' recommendations.

Piece by piece, I learn how many things, therapists' suggestions, that I pushed to the back of my mind- or disregarded out of hand- have turned out to be the points on which my greatest developments were founded. So, I realize many of my turn-arounds and breakthroughs came after my body had developed sufficient strength and nerve reprogramming to msake these experiences possible, I also know that following some, or all of my therapists' advice, may have advanced this process even more, and much faster.

So, in the past, my therapist recommended I wear stockings, but then my skin was unhealthy, and that had to wait. I was told long ago to buy shoes, and I told her I did not stand or walk and thus did not need them.

When my skin healed, and I was able to wear stockings, my life improved. Then, one day, I attempted to buy shoes, but only found sandals that fit. My life improved again. She capitulated and said the sandals would be fine for now. With my swollen legs sufficiently managed, I received my okay to get my legs cast for my ankle-foot orthotics. I discovered new abilities and new recoveries with each change.

So, with the eventual acquisition of my orthotics, I continued my therapy, my hours in my standing frame, my expectation of greater freedom, of eventually walking again. I realized recently that I had not worn shoes in over eighteen months, maybe even two years time. The sandals I bought over a year ago were falling apart; the velcro fasteners no longer fastened, and all my experience led me to one conclusion: it is time to buy shoes.

I attempted to find shoes with my mother once, and failed to find shoes large enough to accommodate my big feet. Then, recently I was near a Red Wing shoe store, and the man inside told me he does not have what I need. But, he knew a store that he assured me could meet my need.

I went to that store with my mother. Thrilled that I could finally find a pair of shoes that would meet my needs. I found shoes that fit, and were easy to put on my feet. Still, I was bothered by the pressure on my feet, and my Mom - still jet-lagged from a vacation overseas- reminded me that I am probably not used to wearing shoes at all.

I was assured enough to take the shoes, even wearing them out, and kissing my Mom good bye. I was out on the road when I needed to get out of my chair, and transfer to another seat. This is when I came to appreciate this one last piece of advice. My therapist's initial suggestion for me to buy shoes was now over a year old. When I lifted out of my chair, I stood temporarily to make my transfer, and had a brand new experience. My legs felt grounded. In fact, it felt like I had steel rods running through the heels of my feet into the earth.

At the same time, I was also able to move my feet with a fluidity and decisiveness I had not known in years. Today is a special day indeed. I am well pleased with these shoes.

Thank you for reading

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

My great frustration with the imminent closing of our neighborhood Save Mart is that it is the last traditional grocery store in the neighborhood. I stop in periodically to watch the closing down process. Old-timer employees run foot races down the spaces once filled with revenue earning tables of produce and baked goods. They are piece by piece closing down all of the functions of the store.

My room mate, Michael has been riding down to Save Mart daily for years, and his weekly routine has involved knowing the workers, haggling to reduce prices on late date produce, and memorizing the sales in the weekly supplement. Our home has enjoyed many a meal selected from the recipes they include each week.

So, he looks to me, and says, "Save Mart is looking like a ghost town." Of course, as the clock is ticking, I just watch the disassembly, and wait for the good deals. I pull discounted merchandise off the shelf; the employees nearby work quickly to take nonselling items off the shelves and into boxes to ship away. As a retailer, I remember many a manager telling me, "i do not want to see any holes on that wall." I have to believe that for anyone working years in the world of grocery, that nothing is more unnatural than preparing a store to close. Employees have to work in a manner contrary to years of training.

Recently, I watched the movie The Langoliers. In it, people land a plane in an airport where time has passed by. Food lost its taste, and clocks have all stopped, and this mechanical noise increase, as the passengers of this lost plane await the arrival of the Langoliers. No one knows what they are, but by they arrive, it is clear that these machines (or monsters) are the ones that come through, and destroy the past, after that time where the present has lapsed into the past. The plane barely takes off as the Langoliers chew cavernous holes in the tarmac.

I wonder if this closing is not like the Langoliers. These machines are eating everything. and my friend looks to me, and says it looks sad. He hates Wal-Mart, and I don't blame him. Still, our neighborhood continues to provide for all our needs. If I want to go to a real grocery store, I will have to climb on a bus.

It would be silly to get sad. This is a grocery store that opened as a Fry's over 40 years ago. Apparently its time has come. As a union grocer, I was taught the evils of Wal-Mart. I do not believe they are evil. But, entering that box, filled with inadequately paid employees, I just feel the chaos. But, I still comb their aisles, and sometimes, I shop. One day, the Langoliers will come for their store, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Class Closing

So, class ended today. We watched several students receive certificates of achievement, or completion as to their efforts to learn the English language. For a regular volunteer opportunity for me, this has been a chance to learn, to share, and of course, to teach. Here at our little community center, people have been learning to speak, read, and write English for decades.

So, I suppose today is notable. My time coming into this service was a blessing! I have helped here placing clothes on hangers. I have packaged food for the poor, and I remember fondly my chance to single handedly dole out an entire pallet of donated celery to the public, one case at a time! All these efforts have been fun. But, with the impact of nerve problems on my hands, even hanging clothes got to be for me time-consuming, inefficient, and frustrating.

Enter Kathy. Over eighteen months ago, I was chatting with this woman in our break room. Teaching ESL down the hall, she told me my help would definitely be appreciated. So, I said good by to the enormous bins of used clothing, the clip hangers, and the endless mess of decisions. I walked into the classroom, and found instant peace. I feel great gratitude for the invitation. Then, I learned more how to participate, to share, and to listen.

But today, the classes end. Not just here, but in many locations around the valley. These classes were financed by the discretionary funds from a cash-strapped school district. When the decisions were made, the discretionary funds got appropriated elsewhere, and now another set of useful services are lost to our community.

So, I should not have trouble finding another volunteer opportunity. One thing that increases in a poor economy is the pool of volunteer jobs. But, I like to think I will find something that brings me the same chance to grow and develop that I got here. Likewise, I wonder if I will find anyplace where I receive even a portion of the loveand appreciation I find here teaching English.

Today, we had a potluck, and we took pictures, shook hands, smiled and ate. After eating more than I wanted, one lady asked me if I tried the chicken mole'. She quickly brought me an extra plate of mole', pickled onions and carrots. My Spanish is limited, but I understood when she asked if I liked the mole'. Then she smiled, and asked if I am married. Maybe I underestimate how much I am appreciated here.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bite Your Tongue!

I love lengua- mixed in with rice, chili, and beans iin a warm, tortilla- nothing can be more satisfying this day Yes, with pollo(chicken), beef, carnitas (pork) to choose, what makes cooked lengua (tongue) so special? Today was a cool day, the sun lay hidden behind a blanket of clouds, and I am under a tarp, devouring tongue , purchased from a road side catering truck, knowing in my heart this burrito was the best choice I could have made.

I enjoyed the cool breeze. I knew I needed to eat, but I rarely would dare eat outside, unprotected from the elements, challenged by my own impulsivity , and realize that this beef tongue was calling out to me on this unique day.
I had just left Sacred Heart, and feel sad knowing our ESL class will soon end. The class year wraps up in days. The class provider, Metro-Ed, had sixty-six per cent of its operational budget cut, and our little class is one ofthe casualties. I love to teach, albeit for free, but now, many oif ther classes our city has provided to immigrant communities have fallen to the side.

I know in a bad economy, there is non end to places I can volunteer to help, but this service- well placed, and well utilized- is one I definitely will miss. People coming here, and learning English, are a delight to help. They are acquiring a skill which adds immediate value to their lives.

So, now I will search out new service to do, maybe another chance to teach, and move on. I thought about language, and about learning, as I devoured my tongue. Indeed this is just one door closing.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Save Mart Closing next Month

My roommate, Michael, told us in past weeks our neighborhood Save Mart will be closing its doors soon. This is an inconvenience. To the extent many workers may fail to find jobs at neighboring Save Marts, this is even a little sad. Still, it was a predictable closing.

Having worked as a union grocer, I appreciate grocery shelves well-stocked, and quality customer service. I love having an intimate environment where the foods I like are plentiful, and the workers running the store are cared for by their company. Despite meeting those needs, our local Save Mart was ill-equipped to battle when the Wal-Mart down the street remodeled to accommodate their own grocery sections.

I listened as people spoke optimistically about their vision of Save Mart being saved from the chopping block. The declines in business were almost immediate. I love the spirit of a dedicated customer base, but shiny new fridge and freezer cases -filled with Banquet microwave dinners at rock bottom prices- provide an enticement that trumps us hands down.

I suppose my irritation will fall back. I will accept that WalMart (or nearby Target) are the only groceries in the neighborhood. I won't feel too bad about it, either. Now, I cannot speak about the economic values of this. I know the big box on Story Road seems to be a mess of aisles, racks, hurried workers, and clients scrambling to find a fast check-out line. It is just chaos to me. But the chaos is fed daily by one simple fact: people love the savings, and do not mind the craziness.

So, as my neighborhood grocery closes its doors, I will show up, and participate by lending my dollar to purchase perishables at close-out prices. I will then wonder how long the storefront will stay empty before someone else attempts to capture market-share from Wal-Mart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Duct Tape Heals.

Years ago, I was told a man only needs two tools, a can of WD-40, and a roll of duct tape. Case-in-point, if something moves and it shouldn't, use duct tape. If something does not move- and you think it should- use WD-40. Recently, I put this advice to work.

A few weeks ago, I boarded a bus, and I found myself wedged in too tight for me to execute a trouble-free exit from the vehicle. I was blissfully unaware of the problem, read a book, and passed time until I reached my destination. Even the arm of my cchair is equipped with a variety of moving parts, including a joystic that retracts and extends easily.

Upon arriving at my stop, I prepared to exit, and waited for the driver to remove the securing straps. I noted my tight placement with my armrest located directly behind a folded up seat. Starting forward with the joystick, the armrest pushed into the seat, instead of rotating awauy from the seat, and the resulting force caused the whole armrest assembly to rotate backwards, making access to the joystick impossible for me.

Three passengers and the busdriver, eager to get back in motion, worked together to help restore access to mmy controller, and expedite my departure. Crazy, embarrassing, and annoying, this trip became more exciting realizing a bolt was missing in my arm rest; looking down at my controller, I noted several wires were exposed that had previously been hidden and protected.

No stress. I would not think about the immanent threat to my mobility, and make the calls to get this fixed. I made calls, and waited. I called my doctor, called the chair repair place, and waited a few days, a few days until...

I noted the absence of my ATM card while away from home. Unable to eat, I boardeds another bus, and rushed home! At home, my wallet was missing, my ATM card still missing, and my head was spinning. Throwing my jacket on my bed in frus3tration, my ATM card fell out. I decided my wallet did not contain anything needing cancellation or immediate replacement. Calm was coming back, and my need for food was growing. I left the house traveling one-half mile, when, the arm fell off my chair.

The next repair was with two unsecured bolts, and duct tape. I scrambled to get some food. Within days, my chair was completely restored, my wallet was recovered, and none of it was hastened by my frustration, distrust, or nagging phone calls. My chair does look much better without duct tape, too. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dinner at the E&O Trading Company

Last week , my family ass1embled at the E&O Trading Company to celebrate my sister's birthday. Since the 1990's, I am the only member of my family to have lived in downtown San Jose. Still, my family is always aware of all the cool, exciting food establishments in the downtown area. I felt a need to study up if I was to face this new experience without understanding the menu, style of service, so that my liberty will not be lost to my family. God forbid, I should be in a saituation where my mother or sister should take the food selection process from me...

I found the San Jose dinner menu online, and was excited by the mixture of influences brought together to create an exciting culinary experience.

I met with my family, and we sat. I read the menu expertly, as my mother and sister started ordering.The plates arrived one at a time, allowing us to share, and enjoy each selection separately. The Imperial duck rolls with plum sauce, and the`chicken dumplings disappeared so fast no one had tinme to photograph them.

Pictured above is Indian panir cheese flat bread with mango chutney and tomato-chili sambal.

There was crispy shrimp with a sweet chili sambal, and Indonesian corn fritters with a chili spiced ketjap.

We then shared a plate of nasi goreng (fried rice) that was flavorful enough I could have enjoyed it as a meal by itself. Followed by rich, elegant desserts, this was a marvelous meal to have with my family

Pictured here is me as I finish my "flourless chocolate cake with coffee gelato". The dessert pictured above is perhaps too elegant to be called a banana split, shared by my mother and sister.

Anyway, that is my report for today.
Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So, why do They Call This Powderface?

Pictured below is Michel Tran, owner of Powderface

With only one other Powderface in existence, I should not feel bad about not hearing about them. All I know is that there were no traditional espresso houses in my neighborhood, and still I was rolling around, hoping I could find a good espresso without having to wheel my chair over the freeway, and give my money to a specific big-name corporate coffee house...

On a stretch of Story Road, near Lucretia, there is a small strip of stores that is just big enough to block from my sight the mega monstrosity that is Wal-Mart. From the back I noticed va banner saying this establishment sells coffee. Be still my heart. An oasis in the desert.

The place is called Powderface. Until I entered the store did I start to comprehend what the name was about.

First, I had to ask what is a beignet

At around $3.50 for three pieces, I ordered a side of plain beignets . The beignet is a treat out of Louisiana, and I did not know what to expect... I looked, however at their wall which is covered with picture after picture of people eating beignet. One thing is true, with the mound of confectioners sugar on the plate, you almost feel wasteful if it did not get all over the place.
With my cafe con panna (espresso with unsweetened whipped cream) the beignet was delightful. With these hot, empty pockets of pastry, I was scooping up powdered sugar with a sense of guilt gnawing at me. I then was able to relax, and read my book, while waiting for the caffeine levels in my blood to stabilize
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