Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another 80 degree Christmas

I am on my way to the airport to pick up my girlfriend and I am
blasting the AC in my mom's car. Just another Florida Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Plan Z




How am I so good at missing flights that I show up early for?

No really, just today I have already missed TWO flights, although I
was at the airport 3 full hours before the first flight.



I shrugged off the first missed flight like a dust bunny, par for the
course, totally expected when I show up to the airport so early.

The second one was a complete surprise though, it takes real talent to
miss two flights in one day.

After missing the first, I decided I should at least try to get some
work done, which I did ever so dedicatedly. By the time my second
flight was drawing nigh I decided I should double check with the
flight board to mitigate any confusion. Lo and behold, confusion
reigns king when it's more than 60 minutes before my flight. I
confused it with a later flight and assumed my flight was delayed,
thus producing the inevitable outrageousness of A SECOND missed flight
in one day!

It's really ok, as long as I make this last flight to Orlando.
Totally inevitable and out of my hands at this point. I'll sit on the
boarding pass computer if I have to, but really I think the answer
lies within the fact that I began preparing for this flight within an
hour of departure.

I got his one.

I am all over it.

I hope.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rockin The Roots in the reference section

So I heard about a free Roots show today.

Yea, free.

And it's at the library!

So after waiting in line for about two hours...


Chilling out in a library waiting for The Roots...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow Pics

My girlfriend made a couple of snowmen. Her name is Amelia, which
means "industrious", so she really couldn't be satisfied with just one.

-Marco Mascioli

Snowing in Louisiana!

What the he'll is going on here? Either Al Gore is full of shit or
the End of Days is nigh and we should begin repenting for our sins.
Absolutely crazy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Some ramblings from work...

My friend and I invented a new term - Legman - similar to Wingman, but in his words "the subtle difference of a leg man would be a dude that just latches onto the leg of his friend that has game and gets carried." The wingman cares not for his own glory, but the Legman is only out for himself.

Only in Louisiana is it cool for an employee to spend his morning frying chicken in the break room. (the smell is amazing)

I just heard the same argument for eating pecan pie as I have heard for people that smoke - it comes from a tree man, it has to be good for you.

I am not sure who is being less productive - the guy frying chicken or the guy reading the Ford Motor Company business plan submitted to congress for the last hour. Neither have anything to do with work at the office, but the chicken is at least going to feed other working people.

I think it is a really good sign if we have a green day in the stock market today, it would mean we are seeing some strong buying sentiment around the 800 S&P level. Buy in around there and you should look good for the long-run.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

By Popular Demand...Halloween Pictures

I know its a little late, but there has been a lot to talk about since Halloween...the election, financial crisis, dance shows...and I never got to post some Halloween pics. This is me above and you can click on the pic to see some shots from the party. A friend of mine is David Bowie from the Aladdin Sane album, another friend is Onch from Paris Hilton's cancer of a show, and I think you should be able to pick out the rest.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Meltdown in English

For those of you that would like to understand, think you understand, or really do understand the sup-prime mortgage meltdown, I highly recommend reading this piece by Michael Lewis:

He wrote Liars Poker back at the end of the 80's, the bible of the excesses and failures of Wall Street that tore it to pieces in the late 80's, and he captures some truly poignant stories about how the great castle of mortgages, bonds, CDO's and CDS's all fell in a climactic mushroom cloud.

The article is only about 9 web pages, but it reads like a fictional account, plain english and good storytelling.

Check it out.

-Marco Mascioli

Techno-Groove Ballet in Houston

Lay down a track with some water sounds, waves and movements.

Throw a track of beads rolling down a steel table.

Add some cuts of skateboards.

Then every once in a while throw in a grooved out bass beat or a rhythmic tick.

Play the track in a large room with a ceiling of about 200 red, green and blue lights.

Add the talents of 4 beautiful dancers with skills ranging from classical and jazz to modern, techno and hip-hop.

Choreograph it for a 60 minute sensory overloading brain cramping performance...

And there you have it, Impulvium - a performance show put on by the Houston dance troupe Suchu Dance. My brain was hurting at the end, and its not done. That show will be running through my head for some time.

Suchu Dance

If you buy tickets in advance you can get them for $10 - outrageously worth it.

They are playing at the Barnevelder Theater in Houston (right by Minute Maid Park).

Buy Tickets

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ean's Nessie

Inspired by his most recent trip to Scotland, Ean constructed this Cake Ness Monster out of a few layers of homemade marble cake and some crazy high-tech sugar/plastic material called fondant. Julie worked with him to slave over this monsterosity for the first two hours of the wedding party, which I think went off as a huge success.

Click on the picture for a slide show from the party.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New President and a New Day

As I was listening to the acceptance speech on my ride home last night, every minute or two I got this eerie feeling that something terrible might happen. I specifically remember hearing a helicopter over the NPR audio I was listening to, and creeping out a bit when I thought the worst might happen. I thought of JFK, and John Lennon, I thought of Lincoln and even Reagan. The wackos are out there and I am not sure that we could really stop them if they really know what they are doing.

Later in the evening, my lovely lady had the keen eye to make out a layer of glass on each side of Obama while on stage, thereby connecting the dots and remarking that there was definitely bulletproof glass surrounding his podium. Even people (I spoke to a couple personally) who were at the event did not notice the 4 inches of glass used as a bulletproof wall to protect the nation's future. That proposes some interesting thought exercises that I am not sure I feel comfortable entertaining at this juncture.

I don't really have much else to say since I am kind of sleepy and a little tipsy on some red wine, but I want to put some words down from a friend of mine named Charlie. He put these words to me last night after the acceptance speech and I think they fit the moment just right.

"Tomorrow I can go back to being a cynical prick, but tonight...tonight I have hope"

God bless America...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Polls and odds and numbers

Polls, Polls, Polls!!!

Do they mean anything?

Are they accurate?

Who cares?

You might use the words "number jockey" or "queen calculator" or "slide-rule Sally" but prognosticating, predicting, and understanding trends and movements is something I enjoy.

Something I would be willing to bet on would be that voter turnout will be higher in toss-up states than it will be in giveaway states. Which leads to the sad truth that polls have their own effects on the outcomes of elections. Like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, you can't really measure without affecting the outcome. Do I even need to vote in the state of Louisiana? The polls are as red as a Commie Apple in this state, but if everyone thinks that then where is the impetus to cast your dissenting vote? Maybe this election will be a little different, there has been so much time and money spent "getting out the vote" by both candidates that we may actually see some record turnouts. Which is great, but the dollar totals adding up for this election are astounding. On one of my links below there is still a McCain campaign donation ad, "Don't worry, with even less than 24 hours to go we can still find fantastically creative ways to spend your money!"

But, lets not digress, the topic is polls...

In 2004, the average poll was only off by 1% by the day before the election. Follow this link to the Wall-Street Journal website and you will find a very cool graph that displays the trends in a myriad of polls throughout the election season. You can see Obama's bump after his DNC speech, and McCain's bump (and subsequent fall) after picking Palin.

Lately, I have also been hearing a lot about the so-called "Bradley Effect," which is named after a California gubernatorial candidate that lost the election after leading by a wide margin going into the polls. That election took place 26 years ago. If we haven't come any further since 1982, then I guess I could have just stayed in the womb till now. It would have been warmer.

Here are a couple of good links to follow the odds as they develop tomorrow:

Poll analysis and trending - they give Obama a 98% chance of winning at this point.

Futures trading and contracts based on all the elections. If you are a betting man (or woman), this site is for you.

We can even run our own poll - check out to the right --->

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writing with a Purpose

Purpose - isn't that what we are all striving for in life? That one shred of existence that permeates through all facets of our life, that piece of the world that just makes everything else worth doing. How does one find Purpose? How does one know that one has found Purpose? How does Purpose change and morph with the evolutions of our daily adventures?

I know I am being a little existential about all this, but someone asked me a question tonight, "What do you blog about?" and I didn't really have an answer other than "I just write and talk about shit." Of course she had a much better answer, but I was already too busy reeling from own ineptitude to prove my own validity to even listen to what she said. However, I know that she really was proud of what she blogged about. Which is kind of inspiring. I love meeting people that are doing exactly what they want to be doing. A friend of mine has had planes and dreams of Maverick and Goose since he was in the womb, and now he is flying with the Air Force (actually navigating, but still in the air) - which is awesome. Striving and pushing towards a goal is so simple and sweet. It just makes things easier when something specific needs to be accomplished and everything else can just take a backseat to it all. Let's go to the moon, or climb Mt. Everest, or fly across the English Channel on a jetpack, lets just do this one thing and make it awesome.

So anyway, I think it's time to narrow the focus of this blog and I am going to toss out some ideas about what I want to blog about. Hopefully I can figure out how to put up a poll so any passers-by can vote - just for fun at least. Feel free to post any ideas of your own, maybe you actually enjoy some of my rantings and ravings or maybe you just have s similar interest and you would like me to learn more about it for you.

I am all ears.


I can focus on specific companies - Apple, Google, RIM - or I can blog about software and or hardware issues. Programming using .Net or SQL Server are some of my top subjects, but I can learn more about Ajax or Linux or Android or Mac OS X or whatever if you are interested.

Living in Louisiana:
I spend a lot of time in Louisiana and it can be quite inspiring at times. I can also focus this topic down to New Orleans, Cajun food, swamps and outdoors, or housing and the local economy.

Cooking, eating, dining in, taking out, delivery, street food, beer and liquor, groceries and local markets, seafood, italian meals, budget meals, fast meals, grilling, tailgating, smoking, storage, travel foods, international cuisine, adventure foods, country, southern, creole, cajun...etc.

Finance and Economics
(Economics is one of my loves but I am so full of Panic 2008 coverage that I am ready to go Postal on anyone that mentions the words "crisis", "bailout", "derivative", "interest rate", or "stock market")

Life in General
Similar to what I am already doing, but maybe stepping it up a notch and turning this into an online diary. An interesting concept pioneered by one Melissa Carney (sp?) that could possibly bring us all to higher levels of self-actualization.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Walking around downtown minneapolis is a pleasure. A mix of classical
and nouveau architecture, a healthy dose of cleanliness and some real
friendly people. More pics to come.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Debate Drinking Game

Every time one of the candidates say "Fundamental"

Every time Obama makes that Clinton thumb point

Every time McCain references his war record

Every time either candidate uses the other candidates name

Every time they use the words "this country"

Every time either uses the word "change"

...I am open to more

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smoked Salman, Osso Bucco, and Indy

We had a nice evening yesterday, I made some lamb osso bucco (the sauce could have cooked longer, but it was a successful first attempt) and had some friends over. We made boudin balls, and watched a Star Trek episode and then put on The Last Crusade. Everytime I watch that movie a flood of memories and nostalgia rush through me. I remember watching it for the first time in the theatre with my parents and my sister, I remember watching it with my cousin during late-night sleepovers, and I remember almost every line of that movie. Its really hard for me to sit back and watch without quoting everything the second before it happens on screen.


"No Ticket"

"In Latin, Jehovah starts with an I"

"Let my armies be the rocks and the tress... and the birds in the sky"

"You were named after the dog?" "I have very fond memories of that dog"

So I mitigated my own intrusions while everyone else was watching by smoking some salmon throughout the movie. I brined it earlier in the day with some brown sugar, salt, and garlic. I washed it out and set it up to dry while the smoker was getting ready. Got a good smoke going for a little over 2 hours, and I tell you what - the stuff is like candy for adults, it came out amazing. I am about to put together an omelet with it, I have been dreaming about it all night. I only made about two slabs, but it should be enough to give us some finger food throughout the week - better than potato chips or cookies.

I also kind of want to say something about these debates and the presidential race, but I will save it until I can pull all my thoughts together. I will say this, I'm glad its been relatively clean, and I think we will end up with Better then Bush either way. I will miss Bushy though, one of the most quotable presidents ever, at least for comedy's sake. "Most of our imports come from other countries", "I'm a decider", "So long as I'm the president, my measure of success is victory -- and success."

Intellgence can only take you so far in this world.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gustav Slideshow

I put together a collection of images from my camera, my iPhone and Jeff's SLR to give my depiction of the events and the situation here over the past week. Getting power back is a gift from Jeebus, as there are still something like 100,000 families without power in Baton Rouge. There are some places they are not expecting to get back online for a couple more weeks.

Thats right - WEEKS!

So we are pretty fortunate, especially since the neighborhood two blocks over from me is in the 3 week zone.

Now that everyone is creeping out about Ike making Louisiana look worse than Tina Turner after some backtalk, I made sure to pick up some more pasta and start freezing gallons of water to keep my freezer cold. The Mad Max atmosphere is a little scary, but I have some faith in the human spirit so I am going to restrain from picking up a sawed-off shottie.

There are about 50 pics in the slideshow, I have some video but it really does not do the power of the storm any justice. I can let you check them out if you are interested. Click on the picture for more.

Power! and lots of debris

I literally just got power back while we were cleaning out my yard.

This my pile. I made this with some friends help cleaning out my yard.

There are bigger piles out there and still about half the city without
power. I'll get some more pics up tonight.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back in the office dealing with Gustav aftermath

So things are turning a little Mad Max around here since the power outage is so widespread. I have heard estimates between 100,000 and 2 million people still out of power. I know some of the parishes (you might call them counties) are still not even open to outsiders - Orleans opens tomorrow. The news is publishing some pretty hair reports of activity outside of a Walmart that hasn't even opened yet. Supposedly there are lines around the block and there are police reports of fights breaking out. Very few gas stations are open and we are running on generator power here at work. It was wild to see two huge tankards of gasoline drive up to the building yesterday after we were out of power for about two hours. There are tons of people sleeping on cots and showering here in the building. I worked about 14 hours yesterday and plan on just as hectic a day today. I would like to get some time to head home and clear out my fridge as I think things are going to start to fail in there pretty soon.

I had 4 ladies and 5 dogs spend the night at my house last night, you'd think I was running a Motel 6. Its kind of fun and crazy, but slightly tense.

Here is a picture of my baby with our lunch - MRE scrambled eggs with salsa verde.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Some Aftermath pics

Still no power and there is apparently a curfew for Baton Rouge starting at 8PM. I got a chance to take the dogs for a walk and took some pics around the neighborhood. LOTS of debris and some trees entirely uprooted. The levees appear to have held around New Orleans and the other coastal zones, so national news seems to have dropped off. This was quite a doozy for Baton Rouge, worse than Katrina or Rita for this neighborhood.

Albeit, I don't believe I will be going anywhere tonight, I have no intention of challenging police officers for a chance to play chess at Jeff's house.

I am going to be opening my fridge in a few minutes and it needs to happen with surgical precision to preserve as much cool air as possible. Looks like burgers for dinner.

I will have to wait until my internet connection improves before getting more pics up.

MacGuyver Jeff

This is a picture sent to me by Jeff to show his ingenuity in dealing with some leaky walls/ceiling.

This is the tree from my backyard - or maybe I should say the "Former" tree from my backyard.

Gustav Blog

We are just getting into some heavy rain here in Baton Rouge. The storm has been stirring here for just over three hours, New Orleans has been dealing for about 10 hours. I think things are a little hairy over there but it seems like everything is holding together (ie. no levee breaches).

The authorities spent the last several days evacuating all of coastal Louisiana, including New Orleans. Something like 2 million people evacuated, which is about half the population of the state. It is almost surprising to see the plans and the coordination actually coming to fruition. I feel confident in saying that if anyplace is ready to handle a direct hit by a major storm it is Louisiana. We have been coordinating and planning for this eventuality for the last three years. The governor's office, the state, the local parishes, and the federal government have all worked out their differences since Katrina and are doing a tremendous job of working together to manage and mitigate the destruction from this storm.

My lady and I are safe in our Baton Rouge home, and we have three sleeping dogs, a case of water, some beans and tuna, and a batch of jambalaya leftovers to tide us over for the day. As of yet we have not lost power, but a couple of our friends have, so we are crossing our fingers. The worst of the storm still has yet to come through here but an unforeseen danger for us is a little case of cabin fever!

I will try to keep some updates going throughout the day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fishin in the Gulf and Cruising St. Bernard

I was able to sandwich a fishing trip with a couple of drives through St. Bernard Parish this weekend. Fishing was fun, but getting up at 1:30 AM was not, although it is all worth it at the end of the day when you come home with a cooler full of good eats. A friend took me out on his boat from Pass Christian in Mississippi with a couple of his oldest friends for a 12 hour day on the water. If you are a novice fisherman or just trying to get out for a weekend, I highly recommend finding someone with experience to take you out. The details and minutiae can be overwhelming if you are unprepared, but when these guys have a hook for each type of fish, the pliers to pry, squeeze and pull anything from a crab, to a stingray and a seagull off of your line, fried chicken for breakfast, a cooler of water, the right weights to accommodate the water depth and fish, a battery charger for the boat, ad nauseum...really turn a possible calamity-filled adventure into a relaxing day on a boat. Not that we experienced any difficulties, but I had nary a stressful moment, unless you count reeling in and pulling a bonnethead shark out of the water.

My Catch:
4 Crabs - thrown back due to lack of value and materials for proper storage
1 Eel - head was cut and body thrown back, don't let the venomous bastards bite you
1 Seagull - these pricks kept diving after our baits when we cast it out, this one got my bait, but he got his just desserts when we had to pull the hook out of his beak. We let him fly away, although the message was sent and they left us alone after that.
2 Speckled Trout - One was too small for MS legal limits so we threw back, but the other was a massive piece of steak waiting for my grill.
1 Bonnethead Shark - A real fighter, these guys are not large, less than a meter, but they are feisty bastards. We immediately gut him and hung him over the side of the boat to let the urea out - apparently they piss through their skin and it creates an acidic flavor if you don't wash it out immediately.

Boat Catch:
7 Speckled Trout
1 Flounder
1 BonnetHead
2 White Trout
A bevy of catfish, stingray, eel, and crab that all got thrown back.

Once we got home we celebrated with a Fish Fry, which easily explains the 59 year average lifespan of Gulf residents. I love seeing normally healthy vegetables like broccoli, squash and zucchini getting battered, crumbed and deep fried en masse. When I opened the fridge and saw Cheese Dip I had a moment of clarity and made the obvious connection that broccoli dipped in cheese should not go unfried. So I think I will stay away from fried foods at least until after some angioplasty, and try to stick with some fruits and vegetables all week. Except of course when I blacken that shark, and cedar grill that speckled trout.

On my way home I drove down south a bit once I got into East New Orleans to drive back through Chalmette and Arabi on Judge Perez Dr. Those neighborhoods are still pretty skeletal, lots of trailers, vacant home lots, waterlines above the first floor, rotting buildings and few souls in sight. 3 years later, these neighborhoods have barely begun to recover. At this point I am not sure if that's a problem of FEMA, the state, the local governments, or the residents themselves. I heard an interesting viewpoint from a resident saying that when the previous residents got their FEMA checks they saw it as their first opportunity to get out of the city. That explains the mass exodus to nearby cities like Houston and also why almost half never returned. These neighborhoods that recieved some of the worst destruction and damage were also where most of the impoverished citizens lived. I think the neighborhoods themselves are a large part of the system and culture that keep the successive generations living below the poverty line. I do believe in the great American myth that anyone can pick up their bootstraps and break into a successful life, but these neighborhoods are feeding grounds for failure. We cannot take for granted the simple tools and habitats for success that can make a stark difference in the way we approach life that might be missing elsewhere. Good schools, healthy food, safe neighborhoods, open minds, extra-curricular activities, community involvement, caring citizens, even public transportation and quality healthcare. So I ask you, if you lived in a neighborhood like the 9th Ward before the storm and you got a fat check - would you rebuild your house behind a Category 3 Levee(1)? Or would you take that check and move to a decent part of Houston or Atlanta or DC or Chicago? Maybe these neighborhoods will never come back, and if they do I hope that city planners learn a lesson and apply it to the rebuilding process.

(1) The levees were rebuilt to their previous levels and can supposedly withstand a category 3+ hurricane - although Katrina was a category 3 hurricane and we saw how fast they broke down then.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Investing in Yourself

Do you ever feel like you are just not doing enough with your talents? Sometimes I feel totally secure with where I am at and what I am doing, but others I really feel like I am just wasting away. It's not that terrible, but there are so many great people out there doing great things and there are so many great things to be done, I tend to get a little hard on myself when I spend an entire evening sitting around my living room browsing the InterWeb. You wake up early for work, you work all day, you cook and eat dinner, maybe some physical activity, and before you know it the cycle is ready to begin again. I remember complaining when I first got to Louisiana that I had no time for the basics since we were working so often. Now that we have dropped to a mere 40-45 hour week, I still am having a hard time investing in myself a little bit and just checking things off my list. I still haven't even bought bread this week! Let's get this web page up, let's study for the GRE, let's invest my money better, let's buy a house. It's like if I was just a tad more productive or efficient I could already have all of these activities on some schedule or even completed.


Well I had a great weekend and I would like to thank the Kronengold's for entertaining the whole crew, and putting up with my very special brand of shenanigans. It was nice to see some of the old crowd. I also found some of the best cinnamon raisin bread I have ever experienced at a place called Sweet and Savory in Wilmington, NC. Apparently it has some humble beginnings as a bakery, but has expanded to be a full-service breakfast/lunch/dinner establishment. Great Brunswick stew and crab cakes, and my friends all had seconds on their Bloody Mary's. I am going to try to put together a Brunswick stew sometime for these cajun folk, it seems to be right up their alley. This weekend is dedicated to smoking, not the grass but the meat. I am going to try to get my ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman) up to snuff and get some ribs, salmon and pork shoulder on the grill.

All are welcome to attend...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My new favorite knife holder

If anyone really wanted to send me a message that might both elate and creep me out at the same time, you should consider purchasing and shipping me this product from Its a "designer" knife holder that's both chic and utilitarian, and a really great way to show your love to someone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome Back to Louisiana!

After a somewhat grueling 15 hours of driving from North Carolina to Louisiana, I finally made it back to the Rouge. I knew I was home when I stepped into a gas station and saw this sale rack of Rum right at the front. Oh Louisiana, I did not know how much I missed thee...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some China Highlights

I have been back home for nearly a week now and it has been a nice chance to put everything in perspective. I have been able to catch up with some old friends and hope to follow through with some more throughout the long weekend. I am happy to have cheese and hamburgers again. Its nice to be able to shower everyday and have clean towels. It is a little weird to slow things down, when I am traveling almost everyday is jam-packed and my schedule is always pretty tight. The culture shock has been minimal, and I have been getting plenty of sleep. I am not all that excited about going back to work, simply because it is so much of the same old...

My challenge to myself for this week is to plan out my next couple of years and begin executing my plan. I have been really impressed with my girlfriend's cousin and her husband, and it is really inspiring. Two years ago they were living out of a small rented apartment and still trying figure out how they were going to get married and start their lives together. Now they have a home that they designed and built from scratch, they have a child on the way, and everything was planned from the beginning. A friend of mine also reinforced this impression with a little story that I will share...

A study was done in a Harvard business class regarding goals and planning. Out of 100 students, 5 had explicitly written and set goals for their life. Years later, the study caught up with the students and found that each single one of the 5 who had goals were worth more than the entire sum of the other 95.

So not that monetary worth is at the top of my life list, but I think this can illustrate that it is much easier to get what you want if you know exactly what it is. If you are not making the decisions that guide your life then someone else is.

So right now the only goal I have written down is:

1) Spend more time at the beach

which I will be following up with this afternoon.

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone and be careful driving home when everyone gets out of work early. Take the back roads if you know them, it will be a much better way to start your weekend just easing into it rather than sitting in traffic.

Also - I have way too many China photos to show everyone, but I made a little highlight reel of some of my favorites. I still have no wedding pictures, but I will let you in on the combo Judeo-Chinese wedding when I get my hands on them.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back Home!

After 12 hours next to a group of middle school Chinese tennis players, 3 hours in DC, and another two hours getting ignored by a flight attendant back to Raleigh, we finally made it safe and sound back to Willow Spring. I am still trying to put my whole trip together and take some perspective, but as for now I will just have to post some pics that I hope you will enjoy.

Check out the Greatest Wall in all of China

Friday, May 16, 2008

Longman Grottoes

I am trying to get some more pics up for your viewing pleasure. Here are some shots from the Longman Grottoes. This is mountainside which has buddha's carved throughout, all different sizes and shapes. Many of the smaller buddha's have their faces smashed due to the upheaval during the Cultural Revolution after Mao came into power - a sad consequence, and many other entire buddha's were stolen by thieves and plundering armies throughout the years. All is protected now, and it all adds to the historical significance of the site.

Longman Grottoes

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Louyang and Chinese Wedding

We spent the last week doing alot of prep-work for the wedding and sneaking in some sights and stops in between. We went to one of the world's oldest buddhist temples in Louyang, it was commisioned in 68 B.C. by the Emperor after two monks arrived from the West on White Horses with teachings and scrolls from India. Not far was hundreds of thousands of Buddhas carved into the side of a mountain, some as small as my fingers and some as large as a house. For all of these trips we hired a private driver to take us out of the city and around the surrounding areas, Louyang is considered small as it has a mere 3 million people.

The rest of the week was devoted to buying suits, shoes, wedding rehearsal, and preparation. The wedding was a combination of Jewish and Chinese, so I didn't really understand a thing that was said or done throughout the entire ceremony (except for the "I do's" at the end). A funny thing about Chinese culture is that they really don't tell you everything you need to know because they don't really know until it is time to act. We found out at 11 PM the night before the wedding about a tradition that the man cleans the house the night before the wedding for the bride's parents to visit after the ceremony (keep in mind this was after we spent the evening in a local bar watching a friend defeat a Chinaman on TV in a MMA match - not the most sober of evenings). A tradition I really enjoyed was before the processional we (all of the dudes) had to run upstairs to the ladies' hotel room and use our money, songs, and fists to force our way into the room. We then had to find the bride's shoes before we could take her downstairs, which my friend had to carry her down the 12 flights...granted he got to use the elevator. The wedding then HAD to start before 12 (another tradition) and once the ceremony was over and the glass was broken we partied it up until they kicked us out of the hall. The party did not stop there as we got a room at the hotel and carried on until everyone stumbled home or passed out.

I also want to pass some general knowledge about our trip to hina, but I also feel like I have learned too much to pass along so easily. Travelling and meeting new people are experiences that cannot be replaced by books or words. Just learning how ater is consumed has been an educational experience. I eat beef at almost every meal but I have not seen a hamburger or a teak in three weeks. The language has shaped the minds of the people so that pictures and characters that represent ideas and actions are more important than specific adjectives and adverbs to express detail. The population density in urban areas is astounding, its hard to be alone and the crowds can be overwhelming yet there is very little crime. The free market thrives with little to no regulation, we could buy beer in one shop, buy bbq meat across the street and consume all of the above in the shop where we buy the appetizers and side dishes. Low prices and high quality can go together, but the low prices associated with the low quality items are astoundingly lower, mere pennies on the dollar. You can always bargain for a lower price, in fact it is expected nearly everywhere, if you pay more than half of the sticker price then you are geting a terrible deal. Taxis are a way of life, a metro would be nice in many of these cities, but when there is such an efficient and cheap taxi service there is little motivation to add public transport. I still do not understand the tax system, since every business is run nearly exclusively on a cash only basis, I have gotten maybe four reciepts (including two from ATM's). There are many common products here that you rarely see in the U.S. - many fruits and vegetables I have never seen, spices and teas, an astounding amount of Jade, bags of watermelon seeds, bbq squid, a dizzying array of cell phones, and outrageous ice cream products (not really ice cream - maybe soy cream) with beans and seeds inside, but finding a gallon of milk is like finding the Temple of the Crescent Moon.

I have lots of pictures, but I am also missing some as I will need to collect from other friends that I am visiting with. I uploaded some pictures from the Shaolin Temple, the internet is slow at the hostel we are staying at so I only have time to get these few uploaded.


Monday, May 5, 2008

China...the beginning

The lanugage barrier is hard to get through, especially since none of the signs make any sense and there are no real cognates or similar words. A waiter was trying to pour me more tea at dinner for me, which I tried to deny. The word "no" and waving my hands did nothing to stop him, but a simple "boo" worked (which is the equivalent to the word "not"). My friend that lives here is pretty fluent, so he helps us get around by writing his address down so that we can have a cabbie just read it and get us back to his place (written in chinese characters which are entirely unintelligible).

Here is a little twist to our trip...My friend that we are staying with has recently purchased and moved into a brand-spanking new apartment. To the point where very few people even live in his building, and most of the other buildings in the complex are not at a habitable state of construction. So apparently, upon unpacking, moving, and closing his lease on his old place, he finds out the new buildings are not on the city gas grid yet, which means no cooking on the stove or oven (a luxury that he had installed) and no HOT WATER! However, a lucky convenience, there are two bath houses across the street from the complex, where you can bathe, sauna, jacuzzi and get a massage for less than $2 (I think the massage costs a little extra). So the inconvenience of having to walk across the street to shower is easily mitigated by the pampering you get for such a low cost (kind of). Either way, I am no stranger to such travel twists and its just another way to unfold a good story.

The city we are staying in right now is called ZhengZhou (pronounced Jung-Joe), which is the capital of the province. They estimate the population to be around 6-8 million. So it is a massive, bustling thriving city. Taxi's are everywhere, (and they are metered - no negotiating necessary) and they cost around 1-2 dollars to get almost anywhere within the city. We hired a private driver to take us to a temple outside the city today, maybe an hour+ cab ride and it ran us about 50 bucks for a round trip. So getting around has been pretty smooth (knock on wood). The downtown is a little overwhelming, with traffic laws being merely suggestions and all kinds of traffic, from pedestrian, to bicycle, to electric motor bikes, to buses, taxis, vehicles, and the occasional three-wheeled trucks. I can't even count on my fingers the times we were in a cab and we were moving directly into on-coming traffic, but everyone drives pretty slow around town and everyone understands the unspoken rules of the road - basically if you can get your car there then it is fair game - so there is this feeling of organized chaos that is kind of comforting considering the line of work I am in.

We spent all day at the Shaolin Temple today, which is where they invented Kung-Fu, saw a great show there and a temple that is way older than Jesus. I have lots of pics and some cool video of the Kung-fu show. One of the dudes threw a metal pin through a glass plate...
I saw a really great show for the bachelor party, but that might not go into written form....
I have eaten like a king pretty much every meal, there is a lot of family style here with rotating tables and the big bowls of food, so we usually order as many items as we can fit on the table and just spin it around until we are full. Each restaurant is unique, although there are some similar dishes (like the roast duck plate) the menus and the ambience is an entirely new experience. When my friend is not around we are left to our own devices so getting a translated menu is quite a kick, I'll bring some example's back when I get home, but today we ate a dish translated as "Jam burns the roasted eggplant" and "fragrant flowering garlic roasting duck blood" - hilarious and delicious at the same time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Every New Beginning...

I am not going to finish that line because I really hate that song, but I think you get my drift. Jazzfest has come and gone, and what a wild and debaucherous time it was. Lots of friends, some old, some new, lots of music, lots of good food and a whole hell of a lot of booze.

Doug Buckmaster (yes, the original Buckmaster - whom you may know from some other debacherous times such as "CJ's goodbye party" or "The entirety of middle school") arrived in town with a fellow flight attendant in tow, whom I was able to scoop up at the airport and take a leisurely top-down ride into town. We parked the car in a spot oozing with destiny. I was getting a little worried that I couldn't get in touch with the landlord of the apartment I secured, when he showed up taking a stroll down the street next us as we unpacked the car. He let us in the apartment and we were off like Paris Hilton's nighties.

A rather quirky coincidence, Doug's fellow traveler - Stephen - has the same birthday as I - April 24th - and that also happened to be the day these shenanigans all began. We even ended the night by picking up some birthday cake from a street vendor, the memory of which had to be extracted from my brain two days later.

The next day led me to a little morning work, then some afternoon stoop-time in the French Quarter in front of the apartment. Some of you may be familiar with the phrase "The stoop is not a place, but a state of mind" - like how we used to burn 'em down with Whitney, Phil, Ralph and the rest. We just leisurely enjoyed the normal ebb and flow that is the French Quarter during the Jazz Fest - the occasional lost tourist, 5 inch pink eyelashes, Crocodile Dundee, 3 for $10 wine deals across the street, and boobs hanging out of every nook and cranny. Relaxation to the max.

All of the nights kind of run together, there was the gratuitous Bourbon St. outings, bounced around a bit on Frenchman St., some dancing on the ceilings, my lovely lady shakin her thang, hurricanes and kamikazes, my mom jumping in the air and screaming out "DON'T STOP! BELIEVIN!..." just burning, burning, burning that midnight oil, capturing the flames and the fires and running a general muck in the streets.

We also had an appearance by the great TimDini, I call Tim that because he was pulling some crazy shit out of his ass all weekend. He belly-flopped into a mudpit and starting doing the worm during the Billy Joel show, he dropped that he was dating someone, and he pulled this monster lump of crap out of his ass that he calls the "Serbian Man Kiss" story (thats just what I call it - he may reference it otherwise). Doug might even have that last one on film - which should immediately go to Sundance and become an instant classic. We will try to extract it out of Doug in due time, but in the meantime you should check out some of the pics and see the Great TimDini in rare form.

So this weekend was real amazing, one I will not soon forget. We blew it up and blew it out, and rocked on and rocked hard. My mom came in and had a total blast and some friends and I got to catch up and create some brand new memories .

Let this be a lesson to all of you who procrastinate and create excuses to delay your New Orleans visit - you will always have responsibilities and a plethora of excuses if you let them get in your way - the decision to make a difference can be made at any time and you just need to do it once. I say this to my friends who have yet to visit and to anyone who hasn't come through or hasn't come back. It is time, and we are coming back better than ever.

Do it.
Jazz Fest Pics

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Last Minute!

If you have spent any significant time with me, you know that I can't help but procrastinate like crazy before anything gets done. Its like a gun needs to go off every time something is due before I even get started. It's a plight of the absent-minded and the slightly overwhelmed, but only slightly.

So this whole China thing is approaching like a freight train (I know the freight train image is not the most comforting, but bear with me). I am running around still trying to secure my days off work, although I told them about this two months ago, I am trying to get all setup for the Jazz Fest (where Tim, Joel, Doug, my mom and maybe a few other special guests will make some appearances on the blog), I need to make some hotel reservations, I need to find a wedding gift for Phil, and I need to get a Visa just to get into the country. Apparently if I was going to Hong Kong I could get it all taken care of in that International City, but since I am going to Beijing my odds of creating an international incident just tripled.

So we finally get our shit together and send out all the Visa forms, apps, requisite passport photos (which I hope never appear as an identifying picture of me and my girlfriend on the news, because you will all be looking for two of most saddest stressed out people and will never actually find me), and I sent it all overnight to Houston for processing....then the train hits, I forgot to put the passports in the envelope! They need to see your current passports to issue the visa, so basically here goes another overnight delivery first thing tomorrow...As the chinese say...if you don't fuck with luck, then luck will fuck you.

or maybe I just made that up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Does anyone really enjoy paying taxes? You should be shot.

Everyone is a Republican on April 15th.

Really though, its my first year as an independent contractor, so it will be only that much more painful come April 15th 2009. Maybe I feel a bit of relief that I only had to pay 3 zero's this year. So we went out to celebrate and had some sushi at Kona Grill. The Gator Roll was awesome, roasted peppers, cilantro, jalapeno and some fried gator - real tasty and original flavor.

Birthday is coming soon - still trying to figure out how to shake it down right. Jazz Fest weekend will bring it around pretty nicely.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Help yourself! at the Abita Brewery

I just found my new after-work activity, too bad its over an hour away. If I lived in the town of Abita, I know exactly what I would be doing every Tuesday and Thursday night after work and Saturday afternoons - I would tour the Abita factory. I guess the tour is not really all that important, and they might figure me out at some point when I just stopped going on the tours at all and just hung out by the taps. Have you ever heard of this? A "Help-Yourself" bar at a brewery? You just walk right behind the bar and start pouring your own beer for as long as you want. There is no limit. You can try a little bit of the Amber, you can pour a full glass of the Turbodog, decide you don't want something so strong, pour it out and fill up with the Select. You can pour yourself three cups of three different beers and do your own taste testing. I did all of this and more, good thing the lunch cafe's were only around the corner or it would have been a roller coaster of a ride back to Baton Rouge. The tour was cool, but it lasted a whole 12 minutes, meanwhile we spent over an hour just drinking behind the bar for free. Very awesome, highly recommended, 4 Stars!

Check out a few pictures here

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bear Sterns, The Fed, and Viagra

We all know that market correction mechanisms are necessary for a well-functioning economic system. (well maybe I just think that) So I am reasonably sure that the actions that the Federal Reserve took to keep Bear Sterns from filing bankruptcy last week were relevant and necessary. Not only did they make a sound decision in keeping the world's 5th largest investment bank from collapsing in on itself, but I think both the Federal government and Chase will make out like bandits when all the dust has settled. Bear had a net income of over $2 billion in 2006, which is more than what Chase is going to pay for half the company. The Fed is basically acting in their traditional role of "lender of last resort", although this situation is unique because they opened the coffers to work with an investment bank for the first time instead of a traditional bank. Times are changing, and the financial markets evolve. Its hard to keep up with the new derivatives and complex securities that these banks are coming up with to mitigate risk and swap debt products. All of the financial creativity that goes on behind the scenes has allowed companies like Bear and Goldman and Merril to become these behemoth players in the financial system, and the complexity of these products has even more closely tied everyone's success to each other. I am not defending the banks here, if anyone despises the movement away from real economic activity into this imaginary world of fabricated value its me, I am defending the Fed's injunction into the matter. Once the dominoes start to fall, it only gets more difficult to stop the train.

Someone should hand out an extra dose of Viagra and a hooker at the next Fed meeting for doing such a good job.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

House in the Bywater

I have been looking at buying a house for the last couple of months, and I think I have one that I am serious about. Its in the Bywater area of New Orleans, which is an old historic district. This area only got about 18 inches of water, which is not bad considering all the houses are about 2.5 - 3 feet off the ground. The house I found is around 100 years old and definitely needs some work, not 100 years worth, but one side is pretty dumpy. Its a double-shotgun, which is a style of house real common in New Orleans. A shotgun house is designed straight through from front to back, no twists or turns. Usually, the streetside property is at a premium, so they designed the houses to go back and use the lot long-ways. Each side has 5 rooms, any of which could be a bedroom or a living room, with one bathroom on each side in the back. I still haven't entered negotiations, so things are far from sealed up. I will let you know how things progress. As for now I will post a slideshow that you can view online to see some pictures, keep in mind I took a lot of pics of things that I thought looked wrong rather than all of the things I thought looked right as I want to make sure I have ammo when I go to the table. Check it out.....

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March Madness

I love March Madness. Have you ever had hives before? Maybe. Have you ever had hives and had a really great memory of the time you had it? I did, during spring break one year in college, I spent the entire week just watching college basketball with a loathsome case of the hives, and I loved every second of it. Carolina was not even in the tournament that year, but all of the games were just full of good basketball. I think this was 2002, so maybe it was the year Duke or Maryland won it all (I could google it, but I refuse to take the extra step tonight), and I really enjoyed the tournament. It was the first time I really spent some serious time watching college basketball that was not related to Carolina, and I only got into college basketball when I began attending Carolina in 2000. The tournament brings back so many great memories in my few short years of watching, UNC-W hitting a three at the buzzer to beat up Maryland, Felton hitting five threes in the championship game to win it all, and Iowa losing in the first round as 2 seed to god knows who. Of course I feel happier when Carolina is playing and playing well, but college basketball is akin to soccer in my heart as The Beautiful Game. The team play, the organization, the passion for the game, far exceed any other sport, professional or amateur. Only the Olympics comes close to approaching the gamesmanship of March Madness.

Keep on rocking college bball, keep the game real.

Day in the Bywater

I checked out the house I am looking at a little more intently today. This is the third time I looked at it, but this time I took some pictures (which I will post shortly). Re-examining the pictures is a little daunting, especially when you try to take pictures of everything you think is wrong with your subject. When I go back through all of the photos it really makes my idea of what I should offer drop dramatically. I am no Bob Villa when it comes to home improvement, but I feel a little concerned with the cost it will take to really get this place up to snuff. I really need to find out the exact square footage of the place as I have gotten two entirely different numbers from the agent. The agent is a little funny, its not that I don't trust him, its just that he is not the most reliable or "detail-oriented" person around, so I kind of need to really go my own way. I am going to find a lawyer next week to help me write up the offer contract and put a serious number in writing. We shall see...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lets get it Started

Its time to get a little serious with this whole internet thing.