Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kristof's take on china and tibet

The NYT's highly influential Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about US/Sino relations. An excellent analysis and here's my favorite part:

America and China get on each other’s nerves partly because they are so similar. Both are big, self-absorbed, and insular nations; both are entrepreneurial overachievers; both are infused with nationalism and yet tread clumsily on the nationalism of others — whether in Vietnam or Iraq, or Tibet and the Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Both the United States and China also hurt themselves by petulantly refusing to engage leaders they don’t like. The U.S. shrinks from talking with Iranian and Cuban leaders, and China refuses to negotiate directly with the Dalai Lama, whom it recently denounced as “a jackal wrapped in a habit, a monster with human face and animal’s heart.


Ele-vision (joke stolen from article)

Filmmaker John Downer attached cameras to elephants to capture intimate shots of the Madhya Pradesh jungle in central India. My favorite shot from the collection:

if obama got tough

Jon Taplin writes the speech Obama could give if took off his gloves like she does. He calls it "the speech barack cannot give". An excerpt:

Mrs Clinton promises she “will fight for you.” But in the eight years of the first Clinton Presidency that she claims so much credit for–whose side did she take? Did the Clintons take the side of Big Media/Telecom in the 1996 Telecom act or did they take the side of the people? You know the answer. Did the Clintons take the side of the Big Drug companies so they could advertise prescription drugs or did they do the sensible thing and leave it up to doctors to decide what to prescribe? You know the answer. Did the Clintons take the side of Sandy Weil, when he merged his investment Bank/Insurance conglomerate Travellers/ SmithBarney with Citibank–against the rules of the Glass Steagall Act–or the side of the public, who now can’t get credit to buy a house because of the oversecuritization of American finance that has crashed. You know the answer. I could go on about the Clintons and the big business wing (the DLC) of the Democratic Party. I could tell you that Hillary did her part to sell NAFTA and its only since she started running for President that she has pretended to be against the treaty. Now those of you who have heard me talk before, know that I believe in an America that embraces the green movement we can create new jobs that pay like the good jobs at the Suburu Plant in Lafayette Indiana or the good jobs in the research labs of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But we’ve been losing those jobs since the late 1980’s.


Monday, April 28, 2008

coincidence or miracle: you be the judge

If five people compare you to a monkey, it's a coincidence. If six people compare you to a monkey, it might be a trend. I'm up to 8.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I updated my blogroll. For you Web 2.0 newbies, that's the links on the right side of the page. For you Internet newbies, Web 2.0 is the interactive user created media starting to take over the internet such as YouTube and Blogspot. For you online games newbies, a newbie is a whiny annoying baby who gets shot or mugged a lot depending on the game.

Feel free to peruse at your leisure.

more from my favorite comic

'Restraining Order" from XKCD

On Mondays I go running, so you'll have to get up early and follow along on a parallel street.  What fun!

Truth is everywhere

Something I learned from my grandfather though not in these words: everyone has an important piece of truth inside them although for some you have to dig quite deep. Whenever I get cynical and start to forget this, something like the following occurs.

While out at a quiet restaurant for drinks with a few Westerners, a guy started a conversation from the bar while having some tequila shots. I wrote him off as a loudmouth desi (Indian living abroad) but it’s hard for me to stop digging once I start talking to someone. He came from Canada and hinted that he dealt drugs there. He bragged about the quality hash he got when in Punjab because his uncle works on the border patrol and gets a cut of the stuff coming in from Pakistan. He talked a lot of bullshit and I wanted to end the conversation but felt obliged because of the shots he got for us. Then as we talk more, I find out his daughter stays with his mother there in India because he lost his wife in a boating accident a few years before. He told her to wear her lifejacket and he’ll always regret not pushing her a little harder to put it on. It made him value others more and “I find a beautiful piece of life from everyone I meet since I lost my wife.” Before he left the table, he quietly declared the purpose of life: “to find someone to share your pain and your joy.” Truth is everywhere.

How to design an olympic logo

from my friend Monia in Sweden:

Ye Olde Revolving Door

I'm cheating on this one. It's last week's column for my hometown newspaper, the Lititz Record. It's such a pain in the ass to get computer time that this will have to do. There's not much more I would have added anyway. And away we go:

Title: If you plan to be arrested, come to scenic and exotic India

Parole Board chairman: They've got a name for people like you H.I. That name is called "recidivism."
Parole Board member: Repeat offender!
Parole Board chairman: Not a pretty name, is it H.I.?
H.I.: No, sir. That's one bonehead name, but that ain't me any more.
Parole Board chairman: You're not just telling us what we want to hear?
H.I.: No, sir, no way.
Parole Board member: 'Cause we just want to hear the truth.
H.I.: Well, then I guess I am telling you what you want to hear.
Parole Board chairman: Boy, didn't we just tell you not to do that?
H.I.: Yes, sir.
Parole Board chairman: Okay, then.
-Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona

I had my second experience in Indian jail and my first all nighter. For awhile it looked like I might be getting 14 days so I planned to phone in a short column to the Record requesting beer and Martins pretzels but luckily it didn't come to that. Currently, I sit in freedom in another dusty field next to another highway and train tracks. A pile of dried cow dung burns next to me to ward off the mosquitoes. It’s late and everybody’s asleep after a hot day of marching so I am finally free to kill the mosquitoes that the monks consider to be precious and sentient beings. As for myself, I am delighted to clap my hands together to find a smear of blood stolen from some poor human or buffalo.

As for the buffalo, I found out why these giant black beasts always seem to stare at our group with a skeptical eye, something I noticed and wondered about before this story explained it all. The uncle of the buffalo is the Tibetan yak but the yak didn’t always live in Tibet. They used to live in India together until they ran out of salt. The yak went to get some from Tibet but soon returned. He complained to his nephew about the bitter cold that kept him from the salt that he wanted to get for both of them. The buffalo offered his hair for the journey. The yak gladly took the hair but then never returned from Tibet. That’s why the naked black buffalo always watches Tibetans distrustfully because he knows that their yaks have already stolen his hair.

But enough folks tales, I’ll tell enough tall tales in rest of the column concerning my bravery, valor and sheer animal magnetism. Hopefully, you have been paying attention to the Olympic torch as it makes its way around the world. I’d be curious about your opinions (especially the negatives ones) regarding the Tibetan protests around the torch and the attempts to put it out or break it. Feel free to email me at pelger@gmail.com which can also be found at my blog, A Blond Scientist in India (www.blsciindia.blogspot.com).

In New Delhi, many were dismayed at the Indian government’s response, you might even say kowtowing, to the Chinese torch. They simply shut down the city around the torch’s path with 15,000 policemen. Since the torch ended near the Parliament, all the government bureaucrats simply left after lunch because they were not allowed to exit their doors or open their windows from 1PM to 6PM. As far as I can gather, only 50 Chinese schoolchildren, a small group of media and a few busloads of Chinese officials and their guests got to see the Olympic torch in India.

In their favor, they did allow the Tibetans to stage an alternate protest torch run in a different part of the city which somehow ended up having six different torches. It sounded like quite a fun experience with traditional yak dances, great food and all of the media that couldn’t see the real torch. The descriptions in the paper about it made me miss the Ephrata Fair. However, I couldn’t see any of the festivities because I went to the one place in the city where they didn’t want anyone who even looked Tibetan.

I started the day in a cheap hotel room with a Scottish lesbian, a Belgian photographer and an Australian wanderer. If it sounds like the setup for a bad comedy, please don’t laugh. That bad comedy is my life. Eventually, Maryala from Poland joined us along with Jim, a cool older guy from Montana who used his life savings to come here for the Dalai Lama’s teachings and decided to stay for the march. We spent the morning letting Leanne the Scot paint our chests with slogans like Stop Killing and Stop Torture complete with blood like splatters of red paint applied liberally. In the coup de grace, she turned my tattoo of the little hero attacking the Jabberwocky (see Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky” poem from Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland) into a brave little man with a sword shouting Free Tibet at the monster of China in red with gold stars (see Mom, you said my tattoo was stupid, look how useful for a life of activism). After we donned our shirts and put Tibetan flags in our pockets, we looked like just one more random bunch of stupid white kids wandering India.

We set off for the torch’s final destination of India Gate. I got a call from a couple I know who interviews me every week for their radio show out of LA called the Tibet Connection. They told me quickly join them at the media entrance to India Gate because the press has just been standing around here waiting to get in. They said, “You stage a protest here and they’ll film it.”
So that’s just how it played out. We got there in the nick of time and they tipped off a cute female journalist from CNN/IBN7 that we might be a good story (I swear, the most beautiful women in this country are either journalists or living by the railroad tracks, I have to break into this business, journalism, I mean, not homelessness, I’ve had enough of that in the last two years thank you very much). She did a short interview and then gave us the go-ahead nod. We all took off our shirts, except for Leanne and Marayla, and started shouting Free Tibet while waving our Tibetan flags.

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to care for twenty seconds but now I realize that’s just part of India. The cops meandered over to us and gently led us away and then the press really started filming us and taking pictures. Apparently, we got looped a lot on the television here. Random people in the Tibetan settlement the next day came up and thanked us (no free stuff or discounts though).

By the time we reached the waiting police bus, we had a big crowd outside our window. Luckily, Leanne, the professionally trained actress leapt into passionate speech mode and gave a great sound bite for the media out of the bus window. It had gotten a little heated outside with the police because they kept trying to make us put away our flags. Once the bus pulled away from the little circus, everybody lightened up and the cops even let us smoke on the short ride to same jail we had been protesting outside for the last week. Only one cop didn’t seem amused by the whole situation and certainly didn’t think it funny when I mock made a break for it when we got out of the bus. Well, it amused me and who else am I looking to please here?

They led us into a courtyard surrounded by high walkways with a badminton court in the center. We only had a few Tibetans there ahead of us but we quickly learned to look forward to the entrance of more. Each new arrival brought out a chorus of slogan yelling, a few minutes of singing and once they even broke out in the national anthem. As I interviewed and talked to the other detainees, almost all of them were college age kids who I found to be wholly committed to a nonviolent path of resistance. Only one young guy, Tenzin Tashi, entered angry after receiving a punch in the face from a cop and from his recounting of the incident, it sounded like he deserved it. All of his peers quietly counseled him to calm down and be more peaceful.

Some of these young people got taken into “protective custody” (to protect ourselves and the torch according to the head screw) while actively jumping barriers or skirting police lines. Some, like ourselves, protested with signs and chants in areas legal for walking but apparently not legal for protesting on that day. Some incidents simply made me angry. The police sent plainclothes policemen (you can pick them out by their shoes) into the Tibetan settlement that morning and took dozens of young people into custody before they even left their neighborhood. A pair of engaged teachers wearing “Torch 4 Tibet” t-shirts and carrying an Indian flag had the cops offer them a ride to the Tibetan protest and took them to jail instead. Unfortunately, in the States, illegal tactics like these to muzzle protest occur with more frequency and a harsher response.

We had been told we would be released after 6PM when the torch run finished but then they told us that we had to stay and see a judge the next day for sentencing. By the end of the day, 58 protestors had been detained. The guards had been friendly all day and even went out to buy us cigarettes, milk and chocolate with money we gave them. However, all that changed after they counted us again after our late dinner. They only had 47 people in the jail. In all the loose confusion of the day with people wandering around the courtyard, playing badminton and getting chai from the prison canteen, 11 people had escaped including one girl who had the gall to come back the next day and visit us. The head cop went from smiling old uncle to “I’m going to shoot you and take away your bathroom rights.” I happened to be on the phone with my dad at the time so we could giggle together at this new revelation.

Then we all took a bus ride over to a hospital at 11PM for a waste of time medical checkup. The bus ride turned out to be a highlight because we spent the entire time chanting and waving flags out the window through the almost deserted streets of Delhi. They simply took thumbprints but in a sign of the new crackdown, we each had a guard locking arms with us the entire time.

We finally got back to home sweet home and they put all 41 men into a 150 square foot cell. Of course, in true Indian fashion, we all had to file out after ten minutes of head counting because every count resulted in a different number. The cell had itchy blankets and a squat toilet in the corner. It doesn’t sound so good (and we could have slept in the big open air courtyard if it wasn’t for the escapees) but the police would take us to the bathroom whenever we requested and some of the march leaders came bringing snacks and cigarettes. In addition, most of these guys grew up in India so they know how to sleep piled on top of each other like puppy dogs. I've been training myself to do the same. The only sleep skill I haven't conquered is napping with flies landing on me constantly. I lay there trying to sleep while shooing the flies away from my face and fantasize about various ways I could kill them if I had superpowers.

We spent the next morning sitting around making chess boards, eating our breakfast of bananas and white bread and playing card games with homemade cards. Luckily, I beat that damn Belgian in chess which only happens about 30% of the time. I also developed a crush on the woman from his embassy who kept yelling that we deserved better treatment in a cute french accent. I decided to ask her out (but never did) while getting annoyed with the American official who arrived late and remained quite unhelpful.

At 3PM, they loaded us all into the back of a truck to take us to the judge. They led in the foreigners first and the judge just looked up, asked where we came from and said that we can go. He said “don't protest like this again” and we said "OK." The American consular officer said the same thing when we emerged and we said "fat chance." Our fellow Tibetan inmates received sentences of 14 days but almost all got released within three days.

Thus ended my second Indian jail experience. Most likely, we’ll be stopped for a final time once we get close to the border as has happened to every other march to Tibet. That’ll give me an Indian prison hat trick. Luckily, the Three Strike rule doesn’t apply here because they never even bother to take my real name. I’m a revolving door offender. But hey, why not when the worst you get is a day of smoking cigarettes and playing chess?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

perfect timing

I find this comic to be particularly apropos.
via indexed

This installation in Milan by Christoph Klemmt consists of photo-reactive segments that turn opaque when in direct sunlight and translucent when in shade.

from dezeen, an excellent design blog

Interview with the oldest man picked up in the Delhi protests

Kunchok (Tibetans often have only one name) travelled three days from Kollegal, Karnataka to protest the Olympic Torch in New Delhi. The 61 year old Tibetan native told me, “I came because of our country and our people. It’s important to stand for the Tibetan people.” He got picked up today for wearing a “Torch 4 Tibet” t-shirt near the India Gate area of New Delhi.

He left Tibet at 11 years of age in 1959, the year of the First Tibetan Uprising when the Dalai Lama fled to India. His family followed the path of many other Tibetans when they began doing road work in northeast India before moving to farm land in Karnataka granted by the Indian government. He will return to his home disappointed because “I feel very sad about how India has stopped the protests. When I go back to my settlement, I have nothing to say to my people of doing this or that.

Tidbits from the road and Helhi, I mean Delhi

On our first day walking out of Delhi (finally), I saw a group of men walking on the other side of the road. One man carried the multicolored Jain flag while a 50ish man in the center did not have a stitch of clothing. Apparently, Jains walk naked on certain highways and this rather fit man smiled broadly as he walked down the highway, his junk flopping in the wind. I pointed him out to our fun and easily embarrassed nurse who has become one of my best friends here. She looked and turned away when she realized the situation. With a grin I asked, “How did that make you feel, from a purely journalistic perspective of course?” With a giant smile and only a trace of embarrassment she paused for a second and said ,”It was awful.”

At night, I had a reputation for disappearing or sleeping in some random spot on top of a roof. I just like being alone when I sleep. Especially because the monks get up far too early and keep shouting “Lax!” until I’m out of bed. I need 7 minutes maximum to go from bed to stuff loaded on the truck, breakfast in my stomach and ready to march. I dislike being woken up an hour before we leave. My friend Tenzin, a similarily disciplined guy who spent time in the army, feels the same way. Now, we spend our late nights wandering around the outskirts of the camp looking for a spot to hide for the night. It’s one of the highlights of my day as we slowly search, setup our little camp and settle down for the night, talking all of the time. Last night he said, “When we part, I will be missing you much. Even when I’m in my own home, I will be going outside saying ‘Lax’ and looking for a place to sleep.” I’ll be doing the same.

We got to do some nice cultural events in Delhi thanks to Time Out Delhi. We saw a reading from Woody Allen’s books, two movies about art in Nazi Germany and art in the Tibetan exile (which I missed from my only slight sickness of the trip) and went to the National Gallery of Modern Art for Raghu Rai’s interesting photos of India. On the way home from the museum, we had Leanne from Scotland, Marayla from Poland and Tenzin the nurse from Tibet. Everyone knew the words to “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” but nobody joined me when I sang “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” Leanne introduced me to the Scottish version called “You Can’t Push Your Granny Off the Bus”.

While catching a ride recently, Leanne and I got picked up by a truck with three smiling guys who offered us cigarettes and then settled into companionable silence. Then the driver heard a noise and ordered one of the young lackeys to swing out the door while the truck kept moving to check underneath. The lackey saw leaking oil so they pulled over to fix it. You could tell that were proud of their skill in the repair and justifiably so. I enjoy watching people good at their job, no matter what it is.

The driver removed the gear shift knob so they could remove the middle seat cushion from the queen sized bed that formed the cab of the truck. Underneath, a removable metal hump covered the engine and they removed this as well. They placed both of those large pieces outside the truck and took off the small length of plastic tubing connecting a metal oil line to the engine head. Various pieces for repair appeared magically out of small compartments throughout the truck. They used a candle to slightly melt a small piece of plastic tubing to form the connection again and then wrapped it tight with copper from an electric cord that they stripped with their teeth. They finally covered the whole thing with electrical tape and started the truck. It didn’t leak and the driver flashed us a big grin as the lackeys swung the bed back into place and we started off. The whole repair took less than ten minutes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

back in the clink

sorry about lack of posting. I spent Thursday night in jail and then we started walking the next day. And if I thought Haryana state was a dusty wind blown place with nothing around, I spoke too soon. I'm now in Uttar Pradesh which is the most populous state in India with a people that have a nation wide view as the most backwards. So far, so good, but hell, these people can stare with the best of 'em. Walking into this town with one barefoot boy (me), one tall shirtless Belgian and three girls, you would have thought we were 12 foot tall green scaly aliens with five breasts each.

Anyway, I'll write about jail when I get a little more time. Hopefully, tonight. First I have to write my article for the Lititz Record on the same subject.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, found out he only has two to three months left of good health because of pancreatic cancer. He gave a lecture about achieving your childhood dreams that he called "The Last Lecture." He's a smart guy who has done a lot of cool things in his life like getting onto NASA's Vomit Comet and working as an Imagineer for Disney. From just reading the transcript, I teared up a number of times and laughed even more.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Big Brother: London edition

London has more closed circuit televisions than anywhere else in the world. A recent San Francisco study showed it only affects certain types of crime and when it does, the same amount gets committed, it just gets moved a few feet down the street.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

ladies (said in a low creepy voices that fits in perfectly at a dive bar)

Once the march is over, I'll probably be leaving Mumbai. I wanted to see if it might be a place that I make my home for awhile and I learned it wasn't. There's a number of reasons but one looms above the rest: the treatment of women and interaction with them.

I watch how much annoying and unwanted attention Tessa receives walking down the street and it makes me pretty angry. I'm heartened by the fact that I've never seen someone so good at shooting down obnoxious guys. If you have a video of it, you can do a slow motion replay to pinpoint the exact moment when she stabs a needle or knife (depending on the situation) into his inflated ego bubble. She spends her days on Bollywood sets but still hasn't had one date that I know of although we haven't spoke much since I started this march. She even has a guy or two who call a few times a day even though she has never picked up the phone since the first time they talked. In her words, no one has been normal enough.

And on my side, my best friends tend to be girls: Emily Ku who made an awesome stenciled shirt with both our faces on it that I'm wearing now, Wenjay who I'm trying to get out of NYC to join me here so I have a monkey to entertain me on this march and Leanne the Scottish lesbian on the march who I call my wife for our mutual convenience. Upon hearing of that arrangement, Brett Burkholder said that must make her a Lexbian. Anyway, in Mumbai, I have yet to make friends with any girl. There always seems to be a reluctance or conservatism that makes the friendship awkward, even among the university kids I have met. Since part of this life journey is to find a place to raise my kids (although I think my mom will send me a bomb in a care package if I try to raise them outside Lancaster County), I'm going to move on from Mumbai to find a place where guys and girls can interact more normally.

That's what I love about being around the Tibetans and the few short weeks I have spent with Nepalis. Everybody laughs and plays with each other. With an emphasis on touch, you can walk hand in hand with a monk for a few miles of marching while you talk or put your arm around a girl designated as a sister. The "sister" concept is one I'm just starting to discover and greatly admire. Once you have spent enough time with a girl and became close friends, you just naturally start referring to each other as brother and sister. It stresses the platonic love and caring between the two of you.

It also means you protect her when needed such as an incident a few days ago that still makes me clench my hands in fists of rage. Actually, as I think back on it, I don't want to go into details because it gets me worked up and unsettled for awhile afterwards. Short version: Walking with my sister Maryala, the Polish girl most beloved by the monks for trying to learn the Tibetan language and being a friend to all. A guy pulled over and offered a lift and we said no thank you and then ignored him as he annoying persistent. He tried a few more times and finally "accidentally" and quite deliberately rolled his hand over her breast. There's nothing that can get me more worked up than violating a woman or child in that kind of way. I went to hit him before she got in the way and reminded me "peace march." I still pushed him down a hill and yelled for awhile with tears of rage in my eye. He finally retreated to his car and I felt like a little bitch for not punching the hell out of him and then throwing his car keys into a field. Instead, as I walked by his car window, I did the only thing I could. I grabbed an orange off his dashboard and threw the peelings back in his car at him. We agreed the orange tasted like victory.

The few people on the march who heard about the incident agreed that I was right not to him him although I'm not sure at all. Leanne had the most interesting angle on it. That man took power away from Maryala by doing that but I would taking power from her too because I would be defending her as the big strong man because she can't defend herself. It's a man who takes and a man who fights back. She's just the pawn in between them. Clay, the warm guitar playing hippy from California, suggested the best response: hold the guy down and have all 150 monks come back and spend an hour praying for him. That does sound like an exquisite form of torture.

All of this being said, India is still a great place to travel even as a single woman. Most people don't leave the normal tourist routes and the danger there tends to be massive price increases for stupid trinkets. You are even safer when you live a little family neighborhood like ours. It just means more attention because no other Westerners live there. The physical incidents are rare because for every grabby asshole, there's one hundred who would be glad to beat any guy who besmirches a woman like that. However, for me personally, I don't think it's a place I could live. I think I might move to Kathmandu next and spend my mornings teaching english for room and board so I can spend my afternoons writing and exploring. If I could live anywhere, it'd be in a free Lhasa (the capitol of Tibet) but we'll see what happens on that front.

A comment from the ever-present anonymous:
It's funny since you have been known on more than one occasion to violate women and treat them like objects. Ironic.

She (I assume) is dead right. I regret to say I don't even know who this might be. There's a number of options. However, I would like to state that if there's anything I could go back and change in my life, it would be my treatment and attitude towards women in college. I did some really shitty things that make me shudder now. As I reread this paragraph, I realize how patronizing it sounds but it's the truth.

mobiles to save the world

This is a cool article dani sent me about an anthropolgist who works for nokia studying people around the world and how cellphones can help them:
his blog:

article in the Brooklyn Rail

Through my friend, Nadia Chaudhury, I got an article in the Brookyln Rail magazine:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

whether you want to or not, you will waste ten hours on this

Nerve and IFC teamed up to collect the 50 greatest comedy sketches of all time. I am now officially aching for a computer fast enough to watch these:

Link via BoingBoing

two faced baby birl born in India or: a woman showing her true colors

baby girl india
Born in a village in India and seen as a living goddess, Hindus have been flocking to her house to offer money and touch her feet out of respect.

In other baby related news, I went with my friend to her uncle's house in the Tibetan Settlement in New Delhi. They had a 3 month old little girl named Sonam. A happy and very fat little girl, I spent the entire visit making her smile. I didn't say more than ten words to anyone over the age of one in the room.


Richard Dawkin's favorite books

I now have my new summer reading list:

Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan

Red Strangers, by Elspeth Huxley

The Creation, by Peter Atkins

Essay on Darwin's Illness, by Peter Medawar

The Tin Men, by Michael Frayn

The Black Cloud, by Fred Hoyle

And anything by Evelyn Waugh or P.G. Wodehouse


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

lancaster new era article

My county newspaper wrote a story about me although it has a few inaccuracies:

I do not think you can honestly refer to me as a man. I mean seriously, have you read this blog?

I have not said "I am not going into Tibet". It's very much an option. We'll see if we ever get there to make the choice.


Also, check out CNN. Apparently, me and my buddy Xavier feature prominently.

little leage game, major leauge prank

Link to Improv Everywhere via BoingBoing:

Working with the Hermosa Beach Little League Commissioner, Improv Everywhere turned a Little League baseball game into a huge event that slowly unfolded over the course of the six innning game. They started with shirtless guys and posters for the players but ended with live coverage by NBC and an appearance by the Goodyear blimp. I love these guys. You should also check out their musical in a mall food court.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I frequently go without shoes so I don't get blisters from so much time in one pair of boots. When going barefoot starts to hurt my feet, I just switch back to the boots and my newly healed blisters. While in Chandigarh, I made a long and, by the end, painful walk to an internet cafe. On the way home, a woman stops and offers to give me her sandals. I would rather have had the shirt off her back but I'll appreciate any kindness offered to me. However, I did refuse the sandals.

NYT's Howard French: Being a single mother in China

Howard French has an excellent piece about the tough life of single mothers in China where propaganda claims the revolution liberated women:

[After getting pregnant] The routine course for most women would have been to marry the man or to arrange an abortion. Ms. Lei, who was by then 33 and fiercely independent, did neither. Refusing to marry the man but afraid she might never have a child, she chose to become a single mother.

That decision carried implications that Ms. Lei never fully anticipated, marking her as something of a social outcast in a country that still strictly controls population growth and makes few concessions to women like her.

Today, at 41, Ms. Lei says she has no regrets, even after facing a life of bitter twists and turns: pretending to be divorced at one point to avoid bringing shame on her son and ultimately marrying a much older man in an effort to obtain the basic identification her boy needed to go to school or receive other social services.

For all this, Ms. Lei, who now lives with the older man in Beijing in what she describes as an abusive relationship, said she would do it all over again for her son. “I look at him today, and know it was worthwhile,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “He is so lovely, I cannot regret it.”

Link to full article


Coming from gun toting America, it's a little strange to me to watch all living things treated as a sentient being stuck on the wheel of life. I saw three monks gather around a bee injured by a car and use blades of grass to move it off the road as gently as possible.

You hate to laugh but I couldn't help chuckling at an older woman who had a cockroach problem. We stopped in an ashram for the night and about 5 cockroaches kept making a beeline for her sleeping mat. She kept gently pushing them away with a brush and they, in their Gregor Samsa way, kept on coming back. I sat there working for another 15 minutes or so and she never quit her gentle fight. I didn't stick around to see who lost patience first.

We have a fascinating older man named Albert who drove here from Holland in his old construction van. He has been studying Buddhism for many years now and it's patience seem to have infused him completely. Such a content man. I often enjoy walking next to him in silence (rare for me as he likes to point out jokingly but truthfully, hey, I think words equal wisdom, right guys?). Now, he's consulting on an organic farm outside Dharamsala and falling for a beautiful younger basket seller. Unfortunately, stupid lawsuits and the slow Indian court system have choked the organic farm to a standstill so he decided to join the March to Tibet. A quiet man who laughs readily and often drops pearls of wisdom.

Maryala, a Polish girl who has become the darling of the monks with her knack for languages and perpetually sunny personality, saw a butterfly hit by a car. She picked it up and as Albert
passed by, she heard him quietly say, "How many tragedies go unnoticed every day?"


We watched a documentary about the history of Tibet from the Chinese invasion onwards. I have never seen such an attentive audience. It's especially amazing because almost none of these monks speak enough English to understand what is going on. Nevertheless, when Jigmey, the big farm boy with the big gold tooth, talked too loud, he got shushed by many around him.
I only heard three sounds from the monks during the movie:
1. clapping at footage of a dead Mao
2. the Eastern tongue of disapproval at harsh police beatings captured by journalists in the harsh crackdown in '89
3. giggling at the Free Tibet rock concerts filled with headbangers and hippies (which also made me chuckle, I'm so far removed from that aspect of my life that I could appreciate the silliness of it)

This was at the Tibetan incense factory where we stayed because of an unexpected rainfall. Unexpected because it only happens three of four times a year outside the monsoon. As our long train of 200 marchers entered the crowd, one of the curious bystanders asked, in all seriousness, what time the circus show began.

I slept on the Top of the World, a self labeled small veranda at the highest point of the tallest building, a massive three story structure dominating the landscape. Of all the strange places I have been sleeping on this march so I can be off by myself, this might have been my favorite one. Except for all of the monkey poop.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

if you like Jack Handy

try Drinking for Two

the annual seal hunt has begun. I don't know what they have against that guy.

i knew a chinese girl that had a real sweet and sour tooth.

i've never been to a nude beach but have used the excuse that i thought i was at one.

hoisted by my own petard

I was just reading the Google blog and started excitedly shouting to my friends at other computers. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin and the ultimate rock star CEO, had a post about Virgin and Google teaming up to establish a Mars colony. Think about it I yelled, Richard Branson, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, great problem solvers on something I've always wanted to do. They had applications for "Virgle" explorers on the website.

I think I've been had. Deeply fooled and more deeply disappointed. You might call it just desserts for my little prank but I'm sure no one got as worked up about me as I did about the possibility of exploring Mars. I'm going to go cry softly in a corner and wish for magic powers.

Tibetan Truth podcast

If anyone is into podcasting, here's one about what's happening in Tibet called Tibet Truth.
It's at:www.tibettruth.com/podcast.html

my rides

I am now in charge of carrying a laptop with me during the march so the foreigenrs support marchers can use it get the word out. Yesterday was a bunch of stopping and hitchhiking to catch up. I have never been in a country so easy to catch a ride. I have never waited more than five minutes at any time of day. Here's the rides I caught yesterday:

A large brightly colored truck that resembled a giant playroom inside. Except for the driver's seat, It was just a plush cushion inside the whole cab level with the bottom of the windshield and filled with lights, pretty plastic flowers and pictures of Hindu dieties. The guys gave me their phone numbers at the end and all left the truck to shake our hands.

Then two guys leaving from a dhaba (roadside truck stand) picked us up for the slowest (and drunkest?) ride so far. He just weaved all over the road while we sat in the back where they normally transport the cows, or so your very own Sherlock Holmes deduced from all of the cow patties back there. The passenger, a nice Sikh guy, climbed out of the tiny truck while it was moving to walk along the side of the truck to the back and come into join us for awhile. They kept stopping the car to chat, start a cigarette or for no reason at all. Mostly smiling the whole time through the language barrier.

Then a truck driver picked us up and just smiled before starting to drive. We went through a toll booth and he whipped out papers exempting him from the toll. I was so busy trying to figure out why he didn't have to pay that I missed our campsite. Your very own Sherlock Holmes finally noticed a sheet of paper taped inside the passenger side of the windshield with the large words "ARMY SUPPLIES".

After he dropped us off, a nice older Hindu man picked us up before we could even put out our hand (no thumbs here, they just give you a thumbs up back, extend your arm with the palm down to stop cars, helps to be a single female). He fed us grapes until he stopped for gas and we decided it was time to turn around.

Two young New Jersey guido looking types pulled up next to Leanne and politely said, "Can we help you ma'am?" Very friendly guys. They drove fast, always a joy to observe that art in this country, and listened to Hindi techno. They told us all the places that we should visit. I asked them what they did and they said, "We drink." They proudly told me that the old man made money overseas as a NRI (nonresident Indian, a common term here) and if the money is there, why not spend it? Makes sense to me. (cough, nedpelger, cough)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

bad news

Bad time...
We were only drinking and joking last night when police arrived. Lex react in a bad way. He was so smashed he stared to put his clothes off and play with his pierced ball.
Police officers didn't find that funny, grab his arm and try to put his underwere back. At this moment he pushed the 2 officers away and start to run. apparently there was girls school nearby and they saw most of what happen. They had to give statement and said there was really scared. Lex is now in Haryana state prison. I visit him this morning. I just had a short chat and he told me that he had to pay 500 US dollar fine and make a public apology.
He don't ve the right to pass a phone call so i send this on his blog to ask some help to his family and friends...We ve 3 days to pay fine or he will face trial with possible prison sentence.

Lex want to say :"Send lawers, guns and money, dad get me out of this!"

Xavier (Belgium)