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Two Boys Kissing...

I always feel like I'm writing a book review for school when I make a post here about a book I've read.

I just finished Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. It's technically a young adult level book, but I think it is more in tune with people my age...

Picture a non-sequential book -- meaning, it jumps between what's happening to different characters -- and has a 'Greek Chorus' of gay shadow uncles, who died during the AIDS epidemic and who are delivering lots of exposition about what's happening to the characters. Sometimes the level of exposition gets annoying, but there are some really good thoughts in there.

So I'll just throw a few quotes from the chorus out here.

Speaking of a gay bashing of one of the characters:
People like to say being gay isn't like skin color, isn't anything physical. They tell us we always have the option of hiding.

But if that's true, why do they always find us?

The chorus explaining who they are:
We were once like you, only our world wasn't like yours.

You have no idea how close to death you came. A generation or two earlier , you might be here with us.

We resent you. You astonish us.

On being rejected by birth families:
So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single one of us wishes we hadn't had to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn't had to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to have been loved unconditionally by our parents.

Speaking of online interaction:
It's a highly deceptive world, one that constantly asks you to comment but doesn't really care what you have to say.

On public affection:
We are not talking about sex. We are talking about seeing two boys who love one another kiss one another. That has so much more power than sex. And even as it becomes commonplace, the power is still there. Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a bit more.


Start of Holiday Baking

I thought I would try something different for Thanksgiving this year. I found a recipe for an Apple "Cake" Tatin from the Barefoot Contessa. The recipe didn't seem hard, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The proof will be in the tasting -- I plan to serve it with Cool Whip. I'll update this post after we dig into it.

Peeling/Coring the apples with the manual apple peeler/corer that a friend gave me for Christmas last year. It works beautifully, and I like manual kitchen machinery.

This is after I had made the caramel and poured it over the apple slices --

Coming out of the oven. Notice that as it baked, it grew higher than the edge of the pie plate!

After I turned it out of the pie plate onto a flat plate.

Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar...although I'm thinking now I should have waited until it had cooled, because the sugar has been 'disappearing' as it soaks into the cake.

Sabbatical*3 in Review

The Sabbatical*3 is over…I start work again next week.

Thinking back over it, I think that Sabbatical*3 was the best of them all so far! I got some traveling done, spent time with friends, met new friends, and I spent some time just goofing off. Most of all though, I learned some things about myself.

First off, I remember being scared when I took my 1st Sabbatical in 2007, wondering ‘should I do this?’ or ‘what happens if I can’t pay my bills?’ or ‘what happens if I can’t get a job after?’.

Not this time! I guess because I’ve done this before, I knew I could do it again. And I also had fallback plans if something happened. I had a lot more sang-froid going into this one.

Things I did:

  1. Brazil! I had been wanting to do this for many years.
  2. Getting to use my Portuguese in real life! I've been teaching it to myself for several years, and I finally got to try it out in real situations in Brazil!
  3. New Mexico! Good trip, and I loved Chaco.
  4. Hosting a Belgian guy at my house during the UCI Bike Races...and becoming friends with him! And getting to see as many of the races as I wanted!
  5. Atlanta to visit a friend.
  6. Took a lot of photographs. And I like to think that my photography improved as I have experimented.
  7. Eastern Shore.
  8. National Radio Astronomical Observatory.
  9. Started my “100 Strangers” photos!
  10. Spending time with friends - coffee, dinner, walking along the river, staying at my house, etc.
  11. Learned the importance of sitting and having breakfast. Nearly every day, I made oatmeal (long cooking "steel cut" kind) and coffee, and I sat and read. This contrasts with my pre-Sabbatical behavior -- shoveling down down cereal while I checked my e-mail. I will have to figure how I can continue my long luxurious breakfasts after I start work.
  12. Really enjoyed just living…goofing off…not being on a schedule!


I also learned what some of my attachments are. As a Buddhist, I guess I’m supposed to get rid of attachments…but for my part I’d rather think maybe I just need to know what the attachments are and understand their power over me, so that I can be more rational in my behavior.

For example before taking the Sabbatical, I had thought very seriously about selling my house and downsizing. And I had even thought very seriously about moving overseas to teach English. But in the end, I realized that I liked my house, and my friends and my life (generally). So, I decided to keep the house — for now. But I understand the attachment I have for the house, and I know that when the time is right, I can move on.

The time off also helped me clarify what my plans for the future might be -- like how long will I keep my house, and what do I want to do over the next decade or so.

Things I had as possibilities, which I did not get to:

I guess these will have to be things I do in the years to come!
  1. San Francisco again.
  2. Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright designed house outside of Pittsburgh.)
  3. Flying a kite! I had even bought a kite!
  4. New Mexico Badlands -- I had planned a visit there to hike, but it didn't work out.
  5. Bike riding! I did almost no riding this year...no motivation, knee injury, travel...
  6. No cross country driving trip! Partly the knee prevented this, and I also realized when I drove to Atlanta how much I hate long drives!

Serendipitous Events:

There were some things that just seemed to fall in my lap without my trying. It seemed I was just in the right place at the right time.
  1. Brazil trip — this was not something I organized. A friend of a friend knew I wanted to go, and she connected me with someone who was organizing a trip.
  2. Nude model — I had wanted to practice nude photography again because I was not entirely satisfied with the results the 1st time I tried it. And I ended up meeting a guy who just volunteered to be the model!
  3. Main Street Station Clock tower — in the area and talking to people, and got invited to climb into the tower.
  4. Hosting a couchsurfer (the Belgian guy). I had signed up for Couchsurfing.com years ago and had not used it. I had forgotten all about it until he contacted me through the site!


As for budget, I have not done the reconciliation yet. But I believe that I am more or less on track with what I thought I would spend. I had planned to be out 6 months, and this weekend is the 6 month anniversary of leaving my last job.

Also as far as the budget goes, I could have stood fine with a couple more months of time off before I would have had to resort to any backup plans.


Great decision to take the time off!

Of course, every action has consequences. I did not save anything for retirement during these 6 months. And I spent nearly every drop of what I call my "Suzy Orman money" (called that because I kept her recommended number of months of money in primary savings).

Tearing the ACL in my knee was not the best way to kick the Sabbatical off! But I handled it (and still am handling that!).

But I feel way more in tune with my life now. And more in control of myself -- I don't think I have to 'do the thing that everyone else is doing'. And I'm not afraid of trying a different path!

Lazy Wednesday

Last night, a friend and I went to see a set of 'experimental' films.

I'll tell you, I didn't know what to make of them. I know every artist makes their own art...but I had no emotional connection with with these films! I was mostly just waiting for when I could leave! Glad to see the friend though :)

Anyways, today I met up with some friends for coffee, and as we walked around, I took some pics.

Introspective lately.

This book has been hard to read...

Reading a book on the experiences that dying people have, as told by 2 hospice nurses. I knew it might be hard to read, but it really has transported me back 20 years!

For example, the authors say that near the end, dying people often see people they knew or even people/beings they didn't know...but who bring comfort to the person. It reminded me that my first partner saw his childhood dog in the weeks before he died. The dog had been dead 15+ years before then.

Ceci n'est pas une libellule....

The cold has really affected my mood this year -- it has been a HARD transition for me, and I'm afraid it will only get harder as I get older! So, I just hadn't felt like taking the camera out.

But today, I got a 'testimonial' on Flickr -- very nice of the Flickr contact to do. Here's what he said --

Getting that 'testimonial' sort of shook my out of my slumber...So, I just took the camera out to the yard.

This is not a dragonfly ....


Antique Photos

When a friend was here recently, we spent some time in a local antiques mall. I snapped this shot while I was there of a tray of old photographs.

I think I should print more of the snaps I take of friends and family. I especially might try to edit some portraits in the style of these old photos and create a collage of some where.

Otherwise, I've just been hanging out with friends or by myself, trying to get used to the sudden cold weather...I am a warm weather baby! The cold weather has made me want to hibernate, which means I haven't taken the camera out much lately. The other night, I did take some shadow pictures of a chair in the house --

And a couple pics from the local school --

This touched me. It was written by a man in Paris whose wife was murdered by the terrorists in the recent Paris attacks.

The part that really touched me was the part I bolded below. Speaking of his wife -- "I know that she will accompany us each day and that we will find each other other in that paradise of free souls to which you will never have access." Besides being a striking sentiment, it is also a strong contrast to the terrorists' belief that they will wake up from death in Paradise...

I think when I read it in French, it was even more striking because I was reading it aloud. My voice faltered.

(Whenever I am able, I prefer to read something in the original language: French is below, and then a link to the video in spoken English is at the bottom of this post.)

Vendredi soir vous avez volé la vie d’un être d’exception, l’amour de ma vie, la mère de mon fils mais vous n’aurez pas ma haine. Je ne sais pas qui vous êtes et je ne veux pas le savoir, vous êtes des âmes mortes. Si ce Dieu pour lequel vous tuez aveuglément nous a fait à son image, chaque balle dans le corps de ma femme aura été une blessure dans son coeur.

Alors non je ne vous ferai pas ce cadeau de vous haïr. Vous l’avez bien cherché pourtant mais répondre à la haine par la colère ce serait céder à la même ignorance qui a fait de vous ce que vous êtes. Vous voulez que j’ai peur, que je regarde mes concitoyens avec un oeil méfiant, que je sacrifie ma liberté pour la sécurité. Perdu. Même joueur joue encore.

Je l’ai vue ce matin. Enfin, après des nuits et des jours d’attente. Elle était aussi belle que lorsqu’elle est partie ce vendredi soir, aussi belle que lorsque j’en suis tombé éperdument amoureux il y a plus de 12 ans. Bien sûr je suis dévasté par le chagrin, je vous concède cette petite victoire, mais elle sera de courte durée. Je sais qu’elle nous accompagnera chaque jour et que nous nous retrouverons dans ce paradis des âmes libres auquel vous n’aurez jamais accès.

Nous sommes deux, mon fils et moi, mais nous sommes plus fort que toutes les armées du monde. Je n’ai d’ailleurs pas plus de temps à vous consacrer, je dois rejoindre Melvil qui se réveille de sa sieste. Il a 17 mois à peine, il va manger son goûter comme tous les jours, puis nous allons jouer comme tous les jours et toute sa vie ce petit garçon vous fera l’affront d’être heureux et libre. Car non, vous n’aurez pas sa haine non plus.

-Antoine Leiris

English version video --

Semi-Annual Lemon Tree Migration!

I got my grandmother's lemon tree inside today. I think the latest I have been able to leave it outside was 3 Dec in 2009, but 18 Nov is a very respectable time outside.

It does not thrive inside, so I like to leave it outside as long as possible -- the shorter the time inside the better. I sprayed it several times with insecticides over the last few weeks because one year, I brought spider mites inside with it, and by January all the plants in the dining room were covered in webs!

In place in the dining room -

I tied rope around it this year to try to minimize the scratches from the thorns -- both on my furniture and on me! This is at one of the rest stops -- I can only handle it for short distances because it is heavy and I am getting older!

Picture of the danged thorns!


Let's talk about the Apocalypse...

Brief note -- I'm going to use the term Daesh instead of ISIS because I like the term better. Also, this post is totally rambling and simplistic because my thoughts are not settled on all this -- it's more of a stream of consciousness...

I found this article from the Atlantic interesting. I already knew that Daesh was a religious cult whose aim is to bring on the apocalypse. And the article confirmed that for me.
All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

I find it interesting that Daesh is re-creating Medieval Islam...like a throwback to the days of the Crusades! Except they use modern weapons. And modern terror-inducing strategies. Even their terminology has a Medieval feel to it: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women....” Rome? Crosses? 12th Century much?

I also find it interesting that both Christianity and Islam have "end of the world" apocalyptic traditions. I don't know enough about Judaism to know if it has that tradition or not -- I know it has a Messianic tradition, but I'm not sure if that is really an 'end of the world in war and fire' sort of tradition. But it seems that possibly all the religions out of the Middle East have some sort of tragic end planned for the Earth.

Poor Earth, right?

Somehow, I don't think holding hands around the fire and singing Cum-Ba-Ya is gonna solve this issue. It's hard to deal with religious fanaticism - crazy is as crazy does, especially when the believers are willing to perform things like suicide bombings. Reason doesn't work.

Military efforts can control the spread, but often play into the hands of the cult.
The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims.

So, how do you handle a crazy person in real life? Typically if you see a crazy person talking to themselves on the street, you avoid them. Maybe you cross the street, or you look straight ahead and walk quickly by them. But what if the crazy person attacks you? Then, you have to defend yourself...

Usually, the best defense is a good offense. But if attacking them is what the crazy person actually wants, then I wonder if a different tactic is better -- some sort of combination of defending yourself as needed, but trying to contain the crazy person.

Like I said -- simplistic and rambling stream of consciousness -- but since I don't subscribe to the belief in a tragic end for the Earth, I would like to postpone World War III for as long as possible!

Shadows and Balance

Marathon day yesterday means I was pretty much trapped for most of the day because my house is completely encircled by the marathon route. It's okay -- it's an annual goof off time for me.

I was most fascinated yesterday by shadows and how people balance on their legs & feet when they are running --

Acontecimentos Recentes

I've been sort of busy and sort of not busy lately. Part of the problem is that it has gotten dark and cooler, which makes me hibernate...so less motivation to get out!

I had a friend stay here 2 (non-consecutive) nights. The first night -- ouch -- when we got back from dinner, he tripped on a bad spot of concrete on my carport in the dark rain, hit on one knee, then in the effort to right himself, launched himself headfirst into the side of my house!

wheeeww...it was like a slow motion silhouette of his falling. Afterwards, he was dizzy. I helped him to an outside plastic chair...then into the house. Because he was still dizzy, I took him to Patient First. He turned out ok, but with a nasty bloody scrape on his head.

Had a coffee date for the first night of InLight. Nice guy. It was SO FRICKEN crowded at InLight this year that I did not enjoy it. Thought about going the 2nd night, but was too lazy. Below are photos of the only exhibit I took photos of. I liked the exhibit and would have liked to know more about the meaning, but there were just too many people!

Fall has definitely arrived. I've walked the Texas Beach trail (this is the trail where I jacked up my knee last June) a couple of times lately. The good news -- although still damaged, the knee is MUCH better -- it's starting to be less of a consideration when I am walking and hiking. I only hopped one rock -- mostly, I scrambled down and up the rocks.

Here are a couple of other Fall pictures from around town --

Last or the butterflies and bees a week or so ago in the front yard --

Took some photos through a toy handheld kaleidoscope the other evening, then played with adding effects --

Murals around town --

Belle Isle yesterday --

Maymont a few days ago --

Face à la terreur

Face à la terreur, la France doit être forte, elle doit être grande... -Hollande

Sad to hear about the terror attacks in Paris today.


Is the saying that all good things must come to an end?

I start work again soon. Time to refill the coffers.

I may try to slip out for one more short trip before then...and in the future, I will make a concerted effort not to go back to sleep :)

The Last Fire Show

We went to 1st Fridays last night to walk around, to eat at a food truck & see the fire show at Gallery 5 and then later to have a beer.

I took some photos of the fire performers, but I also took some of the surrounding crowd. After I edited this one, I decided it reminded me of 'The Last Supper' -- people sort of in a line with a central figure.

For fun, I decided to label the names. I figured the one in the middle was Jesus, perplexed. And then the shadowy figure hurrying along is Judas, of course. I didn't label her, but I figure the person next to Jesus is Mary -- there are more than 13 people in my photo, so I'm picturing a larger 'Last Supper' than traditionally told.

Hard to see the names, but you can click on it to open in another window if it helps.

Anyways, I seemed to only get good shots of one particular performer. I liked how the light shown off her face, and I think because she had 2 fire fans, she moved slower, which is why the shots were better.

Here's a little video clip to show 1 of the performers.

And a couple of other shots --

Hollywood Cemetery / Night

Same as last year, the local Photo Meetup group arranged for the group to go into Hollywood Cemetery at night. Unlike last year, it was lightly raining on the night I went. Made it misty, and I only stayed an hour and half because I was getting too damp.

It was fun...although I wonder if I will do it again - a couple times seems enough for me. One thing which scared me was when 2 animals ran near me growling at each other -- I presume they were racoons in heat, but at night things are bigger and scarier. I'm afraid I screamed like a girl when they ran by :)

Also, at the first gravesite I stopped, I had been taking some long exposures working with the camera and was planning to use a flashlight to do some additional light painting. I had brought a separate flashlight because incandescent bulbs cast a nicer colored light for light painting (more yellow, whereas LEDs are more blue.) But the flashlight stopped working almost as soon as I pulled it out! I tried tapping it against my other hand, and I unscrewed and screwed the cap back in, but it wouldn't work! I took that as my cue to move onto another area, where the flashlight worked fine.

Come to think of it, when I came back out of the cemetery, I stopped very near the 1st gravesite to take a photo of a mausoleum, and the flashlight would not work there either....huh...

Last year, I did something similar to the pictures below, where I stood with the tombstones. What I did differently this year was to do a long exposure. What that allowed me to do was to get myself in the picture by standing still for a few seconds, then walking out of the frame. When you do this on a long exposure, it makes you look transparent. Long exposures are fun like that because moving objects don't show up, or they show up as a misty blur, so you can leave the frame and leave a partial imprint of yourself there.

I'm in the 1st 4 photos --

Vitruvian Man

Last night, I grabbed the camera and took some multiple exposures of a book of Leonardo's diagrams --

I have been listening to this song, and I like it, but I think it's a little bit of a crock. No matter who you know...no matter how close or loving or supportive of you they are...in the end, you have to live your life on your own. It's great to have friends and family. But in the end, humans live a solitary life inside their own heads...

Halloween Report

I had about 7 sets of trick or treaters last night -- more than I expected. And it was enjoyable to see neighbors dressed up bringing their kids by. Having the hedges gone is a real change!

It was also nice to have a friend over for wine while we waited through the inevitable lags between the groups of kids.

This being Halloween, later that night and this morning I watched a downloaded horror flick.

I have to admit that I am a wuss when it comes to gore in movies, especially when there are psychological issues underneath the violence. For example, I watched A Clockwork Orange in my youth, and it was only 30 years later as an adult that I was able to watch it again! As an adult, I was able to process it better, and as a matter of fact I recently bought the DVD because I found the ideas in it interesting...

The movie I rented last night was particularly hard on me, watching as a crazy person with a surgery fetish cuts off body parts...This actor did an excellent job of screaming & puking in pain.

But you can tell it was gory, right? I was EXHAUSTED afterwards!

The movie was called The Hostel. I read that it was pretty offensive to Slovakia, since that is where this torture chamber was set. And it certainly did paint a grim picture of the country!

I found the movie by reading an article (practicing my Portuguese) of the 13 most homo-erotic films of all time -- Os 13 filmes de terror mais homoeróticos de todos os tempos.

I'm not sure whether the films really live up to the title, but I get that there was some tension between the male characters of the movie. But any enjoyment I might have had about that was totally blown away by the gore!


Celtic Knot

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November 2015


In order to be effective truth must penetrate like an arrow — and that is likely to hurt.

-Wei Wu Wei

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