Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog for you to check out...

I just received an email from one of my old friends, Bill. He's a Lutheran Chaplain, and was in my first unit many years ago. We spent a lot of time in Somalia back in 92-93, and in many ways, he contributed to the love of independent travel that I have now.

He started a blog on Blogger last year, and somehow I missed it until now. It's called "The Accidental Christian" and deals primarily with spirituality and military service. He's a very wise man, and it's a well-written blog. I encourage you to go have a look.

A bit more of Bill and his influence, since this is primarily a travel blog .

While we were in Somalia, we had a lot of time where we were not decisively engaged in any operations, planning, or "Army stuff." So, we spent a lot of time chatting. He's fluent in French (got his Doctor of Theology from the University of Strasbourg), and having had a couple of years of high school French, we developed an ongoing story to kill time. It was a good refresher for my French skills (poor, at best), and revolved around me taking a trip through Quebec via bicycle. Along the way, I had many adventures, culminating in my having to extricate myself from a Canadian Cannibal family who threatened to eat me if I didn't marry their daughter. Interesting, to say the least.

Incidentally, after I got back from Somalia, I did take a trip up into Quebec, hitting Montreal, Quebec City, and all the way out to the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Gaspe Peninsula. That was the first venture into traveling for the sake of the journey itself...just going wherever my whims took me. I did not, however, run into any cannibal families threatening me with consumption.

He also brought along a small propane stove and machinetta and would make espresso every morning that we would sip out of canteen cups while watching the bats try to bite our roommate Chris. We figured it was sort of karmic, since Chris would cut open MREs and take out the M&Ms. Eventually, one did bite him, on the big toe, and he had to get evacuated to Mogadishu. After a couple of days there, he worked his way back to Kismayu where we were, via the Mombassa, Kenya R&R spot. Every time I make espresso in my own machinetta, I think back to those days.

He is an accomplished musician, and not knowing how long we'd be deployed, both of us brought our guitars. Every Friday night, we'd have "Somali Nights," a sort of variety/talent show that whoever was around would come and participate in. We had jugglers, rappers, other guitarists, and comedians all emerge from the unit to showcase their talents and break the monotony of life there.

The picture posted above is when he and I went to the local Leper Colony to provide some entertainment for the kids that lived there. We spent an hour or so singing and hamming it up with the community, and, hopefully, made some desperate lives a little better for the time being.

All this to say go and have a look around his site. You won't be disappointed.

The link...The Accidental Christian

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another new photo site

I recently started posting pictures at TrekEarth, a travel oriented photo sharing site. I like it because it's more of a "serious" photo site, rather than a place to put up pictures of you doing something stupid over the weekend (ahem...Flickr...not that there's anything wrong with that is where we put up a bunch of pics).

One of the features is the opportunity to receive critiques by other members. It's an opportunity to learn more about the art and science of photography. So far I've got about 10 of my best pictures on the site, and have been working on preparing others. You can only upload one per day, so it forces you to cull through the thousands of good pictures to really pick out the best ones.

Check the site out.

The link to my Trek Earth page is in the links on the right...

Thy's Tours

While we were in Cambodia, our favorite driver was Thy Srey. He was the young fellow that set up our trip to see the village at Kampong Phloc (my own personal favorite part of the entire trip). What an incredible place.

Well, I offered to help Thy out with his burgeoning business as an independent tour operator, and went into the gratis website design business.

His site address is Thy's Tours. Please take a look over there, especially if you're headed to Cambodia and Angkor Wat. If you aren't going, well, you should be. If you know someone who is, please point them in the direction of the website, and of course, my friend Thy. He'll take great care of you.

That address again...

Check it out.

Friday, March 09, 2007

New Photosets at Flickr Site

I've recently started putting up a new photo set at our Flickr site. I've been rooting through the pictures I've got on file, and am pulling up the best "people" shots that I've got. Of all the things I like to take pictures of, People have to be the most interesting. Catching that shot of someone just going about their daily business, and then looking at it months or years later and trying to imagine what they were doing then, where they are never gets boring. I've also been tweaking some with my new software toy, Photoshop Elements 5. So far, a pretty big learning curve, but I'm gradually learning a few tricks. It's not as straight forward as the other software I've used, and I still go back to Microsoft Picture Manager if I just need to shrink something down. But, I'm learning to work with layers, putting in backgrounds, and labeling them with some copyright protection as well, just in case they're any good.

Check them out, and let me know what you think. Feel free to leave a comment if you see one you particularly like. If you hate something, let me know that too (not that I'll care, since they're my favorites!).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Checking in with a Friend

Earlier this week, I had to attend a conference up in Tokyo. Work was kind enough to put us up at a local hotel, and pay for it, too. So, Melody arranged to have Tuesday off, and came up after work Monday to meet me. After I got back from my social event responsibilities (we met with our Japanese counterparts), we actually got to spend some time with one of our Hong Kong friends. Nicole, whom I met in Morocco back in 1999, and with whom we've kept in touch over the years, is here in town on business with her company. She and her long time boyfriend just got engaged, so we met up with her at our hotel for a nice, celebratory Japanese dinner. We had a great time catching up with her, since we've not seen her since Thanksgiving 2005. I headed off to bed early, as I'm fighting some sort of chest cold that's kept me in a perpetual state of near cough for the better part of a week. Melody and Nicole stayed, though, and chatted until nearly midnight.

In any case, congratulations, Nicole and Lok! We're really happy for you, and promise that we'll not give you too much unsolicited advice on your engagement! But, just in case, here is...

"Dave's Semi-Tongue in Cheek 10 Commandments For the Newly Engaged Man"

1. Remember...this is not your wedding. It's hers, and you are just as much an ornament as the flowers you pick. Just not as expensive.
2. Set a date quickly. Long enough to get everything ready, but not so long that before the big day you decide to hop a plane to Vegas because you're sick of all the preparations.
3. Decide how much you want to spend. Double it. Double it again.
4. Decide how you're going to pay for it. Try to half the time it will take to do so.
5. Don't ever say something like, "You know, honey...I really don't have a preference on what kind of (napkins, invitations, cake topper, etc.) we get. That, in the grand scheme of things, is what I would call a 'mouse t*rd." This, despite it's wittiness, is not what your bride will want to hear. Have an opinion, and allow yourself to be eventually swayed to her idea. See rule #1.
6. Suffer the advice givers. There will be many, because everyone remembers their wedding, and what a great time they had. They give advice because they want yours to be every bit as wonderful. But don't be afraid to say, "Thank you for your thoughts. We may consider something like that."
7. You can't invite everybody. You will forget people, and despite what you or your family think, they will still be your friends. If they aren't, then you probably wouldn't have invited them even if you remembered to do so.
8. At some point, it will just be easier for you to say, "Yes, Dear. Whatever you want," and write a check.
9. Remember, when the panic sets in at the 11th hour because (insert crisis here), everything will work out OK. The snow will melt, your best man will run home and pick up the ring, and the rental van company will answer the phone at 2 in the morning to field the latest change in seating arrangements. Not that I would know this from experience or anything...
10. Have fun. It truly will be the greatest day of your life!