4 April 2009 


I got this paragraph from Environmental & Occupational Medicine, edited by William N. Rom via an article I read on The Tyee:
Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built in the last fifty years, and most of it is depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading -- the jive-plastic commuter tract home wastelands, the Potemkin village shopping plazas with their vast parking lagoons, the Lego-block hotel complexes, the 'gourmet mansardic' junk-food joints, the Orwellian office 'parks' featuring buildings sheathed in the same reflective glass as the sunglasses worn by chain gang security guards, the particle-board garden apartments rising up in every city with their clusters of discount merchandise marts, the whole destructive, wasteful, toxic, agoraphobia-inducing spectacle that politicians proudly call growth.
That pretty much sums up exactly what I want to get way the hell away from.

11 December 2007 

Good Morning Coffee

It's been a while, and this one ain't even mine. Weak, I know, but the coffee's strong and I loved this monologue by Greg Brown. The lyrics are great, too, but this bit struck me and I thought I'd share it with you. When I figure out how to add music I will attach the song!

You know, it’s morningtime baby; I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s one of those grey, misty, chilly mornings… Hard to tell the sun is even up, but it is! Morning is here, morning has broken! Like the first morning. It’s time to wake up and face another day in our troubled and confusing world.

I know that’s hard for you, my love. I know you have a hard time waking up in the morning. I myself, I wake up like a small boy every day: cheerful, happy, smiling, singing. Then by noon I feel fairly mature, by evening I’m in deep despair, wake up the next day I’m okay again. I know it’s kinda the opposite of that for you, my love, which is probably why we get along as well as we do. Especially on about early afternoon.

But you know what I did this morning, baby? Even though it’s cold out, I ran into the kitchen, I made you some coffee… Even though I’m kinda an Earl Grey type of guy myself, I like that tea – coffee seems a little bitter to me. But you love coffee and that’s what love is all about: learning to love what your lover loves. Getting as close as you can, anyway.

And in spite of the way this song sounds, I didn’t make it in a percolator. You know I wouldn’t do that to you. I know you’re a coffee aficionado. You people don’t even want to hear about percolators, no. I used a number 6 filter in a pour-through cone, I used those good, dark French Roast beans, I ground ‘em up with the little grinder thing. I timed it when I was grinding ‘em, just for you, my love. It’s some good stuff. I got my finger down in there by that blade; watch out, it’s sharp! I got a good fleck of that black gold out, I got it all into the cone, put in a little half-and-half; I know you like that. It’s some good stuff.

If you could just sit up now, and just try and open your left eye. Just work on your left eye, it’s all downhill from there. Get your olfactory passes open, get a whiff of this stuff. Everything’s gonna be all right, baby, really it is. Sun is up; it’s gonna be a beautiful day.

-Greg Brown; Good Morning Coffee

20 June 2007 

You should live

I just went on facebook and looked at the little pictures and names of the people in my high school graduating class. I haven't thought about a lot of those people for years and years, to be honest. It was really weird, because it made me feel like we're all so adult. Where does the time go? I'm not getting glum about it; I've certainly made the most of my adult life thus far. It's just crazy to think about where we've all gone, where we are, where we will end up...

I gave a tour of the Forest Sciences Centre today to a man who graduated from the Faculty of Forestry here at UBC in 1953. He's gone on to do many things in this province; we even have an undergraduate lounge named in his honour. But to see him standing there looking at his grad portrait, naming off the friends who've died, a little blurb on what each man had done with himself... It put things in perspective.

Live, would you?

17 March 2007 

Cheese it, it's the fuzz!

So, the cops finally got me this morning. They've come around a couple of times before, but I am either not there or I pretend I'm not there. I knew I was being watched pretty closely, but it seemed like I was coming out ahead. This time, though, an RCMP officer from the UBC Endowment Lands detachment nailed me as I was pulling into a parking spot at the Village at 1 am. Nowhere to run; nowhere to hide.

He pulled me over because of the apparently innumerable complaints that they have had from people in the neighbourhood, despite the fact that no one can even see the truck from their house. What's more, I've never been anything but the quiet, litter-collecting neighbour that most people would love to have living nearby. In fact, I've even considered having passerby in for tea. Har-har.

Thing is, it makes people uncomfortable to have a vehicle-dweller nearby. I could be crazy! I could be dangerous! I could snap and eat their cats! I mean, why the hell would anyone in their right mind live in a camper?

Because I don't need a place. Because I like the freedom. Because I can't afford to pay $500 a month to live on a living room floor. Because I don't want to take out a huge loan and then use 2/3 of it on shelter that I'll never own. Because I am aware of the fact that stuff I pay for with student loans is subject to interest. Because it is fun during the good times and builds character during the hard times. Because living in one place all the time is boring. Because I can have a million-dollar view when I need one. And on and on and on...

Anyway, they finally got me. The bastards are winning. This cop was pretty nasty to me; really unpleasant. He blinds me with his Maglight and chops out, "Show me your hands! Keep 'em on the steering wheel where I can see 'em!", while he gets my plate number. Yeah, I know: it's the hair. I look like a terrorist. Squints at my licence; "How long have you been in Canada?", he spits. Jesus, the tone he took... Even I am pretty convinced that I am a pox on society at this point. "So, how much have you had to drink tonight?", flashlight darting to the newly-vacuumed floorboards. Well, it was 1 am when he pulled me over, and I had had two beer around 4:00 pm and one at 9:30 pm... I think I was in the clear.

He told me that loads of people have been complaining, and it looks like the gig is up. He mentioned that he himself lives in the Endowment Lands and has been seeing my rig around there since September (which is not even true, but hey, I'm a monster). Apparently he sympathizes with my situation, as he was a student once too, but it is his job to treat me like crap and run me out of his jurisdiction so that some Vancouver cop can deal with me.

After running my licence he came back with the scathing verdict. "Right, here's what's gonna happen. I'm gonna let you off this time. You're gonna leave this thing here because you're drinking. You're not going to move it tonight, and if I see you move it tonight or if I ever catch you drinking and driving again I'm gonna tow you and hit you with every fine and ticket I've got: overlength vehicle, camping overnight, endangering traffic on a highway, clearance light violations..." This is incredible, considering I'm not doing anything, I'm not drinking and my BAC is negligible, if not zero.

The worst part, aside from the way he talked to me, was that he wouldn't tell me anything about where I might be able to park. All he wanted to do was scare me out of the Endowment Lands so that he doesn't have to deal with complaints anymore.

I don't know what to do, where to go. I really don't have the money to do another trial-and-error in the camper-unfriendly neighbourhoods of Kits. I guess I'll go beg the UBC Farm caretakers to take me in.

3 January 2007 

Clean Air Act? Anyone? Anyone?

Stephen Harper had something to say about the Minister of Environment in a clip about the upcoming cabinet shuffle played on CBC last night:

Minister Ambrose has had what turned out to be the most difficult portfolio; it's very challenging.1

What he is talking about here is the difficulty Minister of Environment Rona Ambrose has encountered in selling the Clean Air Act to Parliament and Canadians in general. He's apparently planning to replace her with someone who can convince us all that the Clean Air Act is great. Shouldn't be so hard, really. The Clean Air Act is an 'intensity-based' initiative that will reduce pollution (ahem, per unit) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (shh, per unit).

Units? What units? So, what happens with an increase in these 'units'?

*silence; uncomfortable glances*

Isn't this sort of a solid, official loophole to make sure that no one will be forced to innovate, scale back operations or change their habits? Waaait... Are you doing this for businesses?!

*clearing of throats; rolling of little balls of paper*

Doesn't this whole thing sound like a load of crap? What is the goal here? Didn't we just back away from our Kyoto commitments? Weren't we sort of the chair for that Kyoto shindig back in May?

*shuffling feet; humming*

Where did all that funding for this stuff go? Why is the 'Environment' section of the budget down from 25 pages to a paragraph? Hey! What ever happened to the One Tonne Challenge?!?

The Government of Canada Climate Change site is currently unavailable. / Le site Web sur les changements climatiques du gouvernement du Canada est actuellement non disponsible.

This rant has, as usual, gone on longer than intended. I'll conclude.

With Canadians placing environment and pollution issues second in importance only to health care2, you'd think something called the Clean Air Act would gather more support, eh? Why exactly is it so hard to promote?

Harper, it seems, blames the Minister of Environment.

I think he should blame Canadians in general. We're clearly not stupid enough.

2 January 2007 

Prolific Noter

To those of you on facebook: Don't be alarmed! I did not just write 25 new notes. I figured out how to syndicate my blog on facebook! OK, that means that I have to start updating more than once a half-year. I'm actually a touch embarrassed by my lack of posts; after all, I am back in a developed country with readily available high-speed internet access.

Moreover, my mother recently sent out a Christmas letter (oh dear) and included the address to this blog. If you are a recipient of that letter, well, hello! Send me an email sometime!

Ties in with my New Year's resolution (reassertion?): I need to stay in better touch with my friends and family. All of them, all over the globe. Letters, emails, blogging, MSN, calls, Skype... Maybe even facebook! I think about all you / those folks often, but rarely follow through with any sort of contact. Stupid!

I hereby resolve and reassert that I, Tristan Banwell, shall increase the incidence of contact between myself and those I love, wherever they may be.

9 October 2006 

Terry Tate: Office Linebacker

The Pain Train is comin'!

14 August 2006 

The good, the bad and the visually pleasing

Despite my increasing disillusionment with their service, I have uploaded another slew of pictures to Ringo. You can go have a look at them, if you are mind-numbingly bored or something.

I am thinking of transferring to another image host to avoid the virulent marketing attempts and unamusing advertisement antics pushed down my throat by Ringo, but maybe I will scale down the operation. Digital allows you to take a lot of photos, some of them rather nice, but it is easy to go overboard. The sheer number of photos up there has even alienated me.

I take this as a bad sign.

13 August 2006 

A simple plea

Today, while removing a trojan from Iria's computer, I discovered a pastime previously known only to computer geeks: registry editing.

i. Navigate to and delete the following subkeys if they exist:

Code Store Database
\Distribution Units\
Code Store Database
\Distribution Units\
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Component Categories
\Browser Helper Objects\
\Internet Settings\ZoneMap\Domains\contentmatch.net
Holy hell. Note that this was step 'i'.

I would just like to remind everyone to be careful out there on the internet. Spare yourself the pain of decoding techspeak and making 'registry edits'...

Remember: Use protection.

18 June 2006 

64,000 more words

64,000. Yep. That's a lot of words, but not so very many pictures. If you are wondering what I am doing but you don't like to read, just click here instead. I'm in the Philippines, so try that album first. Don't let my current location hold you back, though. Go wild. There are hundreds of thousands of words worth up there somewhere.

17 June 2006 

The Creature from the Deep!

I can breathe underwater! Today we went out to Panglao, a beach on the other side of our island. Iria and I started our PADI Open Water certification. After a bit of lecture and a few drills, I kicked off my underwater life with a 30-minute dive down to about 12 metres! What a feeling. We dove off a coral-covered wall, and though the fishes and corals were nothing new, seeing them on their own terms certainly was! We'll go back and continue the course next weekend. Our instructor is going to let us join a full-day dive trip to some outer islands as the last day of our course; a good guy, eh? I am really looking forward to that. More to come.

16 June 2006 

San Isidro

Iria and I spent the past week in San Isidro, a municipality in the centre of Bohol Island. It is a rural area with no internet access, but it is still generally well-developed compared to some places I've seen. Iria is interviewing farmers in the region for her thesis. I went to the field with her one day, but I spent most of the time working on a paper for my last course in Sweden. It is about soil erosion and conservation in the Philippines, so I have been citing personal experiences, perhaps more than I should.

Anyway, while we were out in San Isidro I managed to make time to learn to ride a motorcycle! It is a Honda 125, typical kind of dirtbike affair, I guess. It was a bit tricky to get it started at first, but other than that I didn't have too much trouble. It was a trial by fire, really, as the second day we headed to the field. Most of the roads are actually really rough singletracks, so I quickly adapted my mountain biking experience and started givin'r. The real skills test came after it rained, as the trails became a slippery clay mess. The adreneline was kicking a couple of times, but I made it out in one piece. So did the chicken that I hit on the first day, luckily. My conclusion: motorcycles are good fun, and besides, it is the only way to get around out there.

Maybe I'll have more crazy motorcycling stories next weekend. Now for some cold beer and chatting with friends!

11 June 2006 


Today we went to a town fiesta. Yes, they call it a fiesta; the Spanish were here for around 400 years. The excuse is that each town has a patron saint; the result is a damn good time. It was sorta like a big block party mixed with a 'food crawl', if you will (that would be tournée des bars with food instead of booze). We went to a friend's girlfriend's family's home (that's how the Philippines are) and stuffed our faces with food, which means meat, meat, rice, meat, rice, rice, meat, rice and meat down here (and coconuts, but not today). Whew, well-cooked Filipino fare is delicious! The fiesta also featured plenty of beer and rum. A mickey (flask) of rum costs, get this, P30, which is CND$0.63, USD$0.57, €0.45. No lie. A mickey! Beer runs around CND$1.05, USD$0.94, €0.75. Uh, for a litre and a half (a forty-ounce). Why drink water?

8 June 2006 

Right into it

I spent all day today trekking up and down the steep hills here, judging farms for a 'Contour Contest'. The farmers with the best contour line soil conservation will win money and everyone gets fruit tree seedlings. It seems like I am going to be pretty busy; we've really gotten right into it. We ate lunch with some farmers: coconuts, coconuts, rice and corned beef, a fish, coconuts, coconuts and coconut 'milk' with cow milk and then some coconut wine called tuba to finish it off... A versatile seed indeed!

After lunch we had to quit working, as the monsoon is beginning here now. Amazing. I thought that it rained hard in Caribbean Guatemala, but this was something to see. Some crops can't be grown here because the rain just tears them to pieces. It starts so abruptly that even the chickens are shocked, running for cover under vegetation. All the locals just go inside or under sort of tin-roofed patios (everyone has one) and go to sleep. Really.

7 June 2006 

Introduction to the Philippines

You think that I'm above plagiarizing my own emails to friends and family and then backdating the results in order to post a quick blog entry or two? Watch me.

I arrived to Tagbilaran, Philippines this afternoon after three long, boring flights and a ferry ride. Did I mention that they started by flying me wrong way and then waiting in Heathrow for a few hours? I mean, imagine: I left Stockholm for London at 6 am yesterday and it wasn't until 4 pm that we flew back over southern Sweden on the way to Hong Kong. Bleh.

Generalizations: Russia is cloudy (we flew NORTH of St. Petersburg!) and China has at least one very big river. The flight to the Philippines was not as bad as the other two. It was nice to see all the different islands and land uses from the air.

When I got off the ferry all I was thinking about was Iria. I scanned the crowd, brushed off a few taxi drivers and then nearly stepped on her as she ambushed me from the right. Reunited and it feels so good! Other first impressions: It is warm here, but not unbearable. The humidity makes it worse, but it is really not as bad as I was expecting.

We are living in the upstairs area of the World Agroforestry Centre office in Totolan, which is sort of a region of Dauis, which is just across a bridge from Tagbilaran. Some of the neighbours are working for other NGOs and everyone I've met so far has been really nice. I think that I am going to have a great time here.

31 May 2006 

Hey, Syncrude! Take the one-tonne challenge!

I don't have time to write about it now, but you should read this article:

Canada pays for U.S. oil thirst

Each barrel of oil requires two to five barrels of water, carves up four tons of earth, uses enough natural gas to heat a home for one to five days, and adds to the greenhouse gases slowly cooking the planet, according to the industry's own calculations.
Our government ran a program last year that suggested every Canadian should decrease their personal CO2 emissions by one tonne per year, but they remain silent in the face of this ongoing rape. Sure, I'll walk everywhere and pay close attention to everything that I buy. These corporations, on the other hand, should go ahead and make the investors filthy rich by razing the carbon-sequestering boreal forest and pissing away natural gas supplies, environmental quality and human health. They admit that they are moving too fast and failing to properly address the myriad problems. Seventeen years ahead of schedule? That means that the exploitation is seventeen years ahead of the sustainable land use and waste management solutions, as I take it. I find that appalling. Next time you read about Alberta's 'red-hot' economy, think about the 'poison-black' tailings pools that no one knows how to address.

Well, I didn't mean to write anything, but I couldn't help it. Anyway, I have a friend who has visited the tar sands and taken a lot of great pictures (well, great pictures of something awful). I'll get in touch with her and post a few soon.

27 May 2006 

Springtime in Uppsala; Hello test

This is a funny picture. It somehow typifies our springtime experience here in Uppsala. The cake was delicious; Martins from Latvia baked it. This photo also prominently features a cool silicone baking dish. These are not the real reasons I've posted it. I am really just testing the BloggerBot feature on Hello, a photosharing program from Google's Picasa. Enjoy it anyway.

26 May 2006 

Who's not from Barcelona?

Yesterday I met up with some friends, two of them from Barcelona, and took the bus into Stockholm to see a concert. The band: 'I'm From Barcelona'. They're a many-membered pop outfit that has just released an album entitled 'We're From Barcelona'. They're not from Barcelona; they are from Sweden. I can't say 100% for sure, but I think that this sort of thing only happens in Sweden.

Anyway, as I was saying, we grabbed a Barça Futbol Club scarf, a Catalan estelada nationalist flag and a poster reading "Catalunya is NOT Spain!" and headed into Stockholm. A long walk and long queue later we were looking up at a gyrating clump of 26 all-dancing, all-singing, all-clapping, all-hopping Swedish freaks. It was great. Their songs are from the catchy pop sing-along camp and their energy is great; I mean, not many bands can effectively cheer themselves. They were really having a lot of fun on stage: picking one another up, rolling around, leaving stage, coming back with beer, playing kazoos and toy ukuleles and tambourines.

We, on the other hand, we were really having a lot of fun off the stage: waving our flags and banners and shouting the lyrics to the single. I am not sure how many of the band members recognized the Catalan flag and FCB paraphernalia, but we got a few nods. After the set we managed to beckon the lead singer, Emanuel, who climbed down a lighting scaffold to talk with us for a while. He is a space-case, enough said. Later we met Johan and Anna, who were both nice and more 'normal' (i.e. capable of conversation). All three signed the flag (with, uh, paint...), then Johan ran backstage and came back with armfuls of swag! I scored a CD, nice!

Unfortunately, I think that their international tour circuit will be limited by the fact that the band has 29 members. They are going to Barcelona on June 1st, though, for Primavera Sound. I wonder how the real Barcelonins will receive them... Though they might not make it across the pond, you can see one of their videos here. Try the official website for everything else.

23 May 2006 

These times we call our own

Last night I had an interesting conversation with Silvia, Bryn, Joel and Dani from Catalonia, British Columbia, Wisconsin and Catalonia respectively (listed in chat drop-out order). We covered a wide range of topics, from intra-Europe flights to NASA, from community leadership in Spain to global politics and from childhood violence to the Iraq War, among many others. Some of these topics left us all feeling helpless. Many hours of complex conversation left me with a simple conclusion:

It is a difficult time to be an individual.

There too much to disagree with. There is too much hatred and war and strife and killing. So much going on throughout the world right now is absolutely appalling. Our governments lie to us and mislead us, our businesses lie to us and take advantage of us. The global community turns the other cheek on massive tragedies, genocides and human rights violations that are documented, proven and ongoing. The media reports on all of the atrocities and lies but then forgets them seconds later. The average person cannot be expected to go beyond what the media tells them, instead they remain uninformed and inactive. Citizens rally around the spread of democracy but fail to participate in their own.

It is easy to feel powerless. It is very easy to become completely disillusioned. However, if our governments and businesses refuse to progress toward what we believe is a just, equitable and sustainable global society, that leaves the responsibility in the hands of the individuals. Please. If the politicians and businessmen who are supposed to represent you, those who are supposed to act on your behalf, those who you trust to act for the greater good, if they refuse to progress: sometimes all you can do is try to progress yourself. It does make a difference.

21 May 2006 

Hockey and Religion

OK, yeah. Maybe the national religion of Canada is hockey, oop, Hockey, but that isn't what this post is about. They are two topics, in this case.

First, hockey. Because hockey, erm, Hockey, is more important to me. As you hopefully know, I am in Sweden. You might not know about the big game last night. Tre Kronor, the Swedish national hockey team, played Team Canada in the semi-finals of the world championship last night. Riga, Latvia is not so far from here, but I didn't manage to get over there for the games. Instead I got a bit boozed, grabbed some Québécois, French, English and American supporters and headed to the table I had reserved at a local pub.

Drinking strategy: Hot dogs and several beers at pre-party, bike ride to pub (speeds absorption). One damn expensive pint of Norrlands Guld each (cheapest beer there, piss on tap, CAD$7.20, USD$6.40, 5€!), save glasses. These glasses stayed magically full for hours on end thanks to a backpack of more affordable half-litre cans of Norrlands Guld (piss in a can, CAD$1.70, USD$1.50, 1.18€). A few pulls off Jean-Lionel's pounder o' Polish vodka between periods helped us along as well.

It was a good game, in my opinion, exciting and fast-paced, and the hosers made a commendable comeback, but we lost 4 - 5. That is a shame, as hockey has not treated me well this year. I needed that victory.

Un-highlights: Early in the first period defenceman Brad Stuart more or less passed the puck to Swedish forward Jorgen Jonsson, who slapped in a clean goal from the slot. Halfway through the period Stuart recorded another great play: Swedish forward Tony Martensson flicked one at goalie Marc Denis, who deflected it away, only to have Stuart's skate knock it right back in for the goal. That didn't feel so good. Moving on.

Here is a tidbit from Martin O'Malley's latest column that I found entertaining :

Duck! Here comes The Da Vinci Code

Author Dan Brown's novel − and it is a novel, a work of fiction − has sold more than 40 million copies and has been translated into 44 languages. The movie, directed by Ron Howard, may turn out to be the most popular movie in the history of movies.

I found the book to be an entertaining read, a page-turner almost as good as Brown's previous novel, Angels and Demons. I was discussing this the other night with a friend who happens to be a devout, even pious, Roman Catholic.

"You really think it's a good book?" he asked.

"Yes, I do," I replied.

He said the The Da Vinci Code is anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, full of lies, deceptions, misrepresentations and, no, he hadn't read it himself, but that didn't deter him.

"How can you believe such rubbish?" he wanted to know.

I did not bite my tongue. I asked: "Are you saying I should instead believe that 2,000 years ago a woman gave birth to a son and remained a virgin, and that the son grew up to walk on water and, abracadabra, change water into wine?"


I think that it's funny. Really. I don't understand how the devoutly religious can be so easily rattled. Religion, an institution based on a faith in the unprovable, is bound to be constantly questioned. Why a work of fiction claiming a history different than that accepted by 'the Church' bothers anyone at all is beyond me. Stay tuned for World War Three: Christians vs. Muslims vs. People Who Liked The Da Vinci Code.*

*Side-note Swedish lesson: The Da Vinci Code = Da Vinci Koden

6 May 2006 

When I'm 64

You know what I realized today? The music that David Byrne listens to doesn't suck. I think that's cool, but I am not surprised at all.

Soon I am going to post all my entries from Tanzania, but you'll never see them because I'm going to backdate them. Actually, it seems that there is no 'you'. Just me, but that's fine by me.

I'll read it when I'm old.

17 April 2006 

Time travel, uh... Just around the corner?

Little do you know, spinning lasers and coffee are going to help us humans travel back in time!
Professor Predicts Human Time Travel This Century

With a brilliant idea and equations based on Einstein’s relativity theories, Ronald Mallett from the University of Connecticut has devised an experiment to observe a time traveling neutron in a circulating light beam. While his team still needs funding for the project, Mallett calculates that the possibility of time travel using this method could be verified within a decade.

OK, human time travel this century! Or could it be, maybe, that Dr. Mallett could do more than build a spinning laser with the kind of funding he wants?

A Mallett quote from the article:

"How soon humans will be able to time travel depends largely on the success of these experiments, which will take the better part of a decade. And depending on breakthroughs, technology, and funding, I believe that human time travel could happen this century."

Presumably he expects the experiments will be successful, otherwise who would fund them? And breakthroughs come through experimentation, right? It sounds like the technology is there, as he demonstrates with the 'coffee analogy' in the article.

OK, so here's the deal: if we fund his desktop laser spinner properly then we could be murdering our grandfathers within the century.

I think it is a load of bullshit, but it stirs the imagination.

29 March 2006 

My Blogger debut

So this is it, my first real entry on Blogger. It is a fantastically verbose debut, as I have transferred all my other entries from myspace. Goodbye, lack of flexibility! Good riddance, shitty coding!

My project work for Tropical Ecology was flying quite well for a bit, but now it has stalled and plummeted. I don't know why it is sometimes so difficult for me to fulfill my responsibilities. Does anyone see the connection between my massive blog transfer and my lack of productive contribution to my academic career?

Anyway, I think I'm going to go home. I've run out of unnecessary tasks to fuel my procrastination.

27 March 2006 

Financial hold and the ensuing rant

I have incredible news: 7.4% of my blog viewers comment and they leave an impressive 0.58 kudos per comment! I know, I know: wow! Read on. I have been tracking these statistics a bit, and I am happy to report that these numbers are both down since November. In fact, back then over 10% of viewers commented and each left an average of 0.6 kudos. In light of the fantastic statistics my blog has built up, I solemnly vow to post more often. Luckily, that will not be too difficult. My average is one post every 19 days.

Anyway, I hope you are all doing well. You in the northern hemisphere should be sailing into better weather. That is, unless you are in Eureka, Nunavut. In that case, you can look forward to an April average of around -28°C (or an unlucky April low of -49°C). The weather here in Uppsala is coming around, finally. Spring has been a bit elusive, but I know that it is just around the corner. Daylight Savings Time hit this weekend (hopefully most of you folks noticed) and the extra hour of sunlight in the evening is very nice.

You know, being an exchange student is pretty damn nice. We lead lives of leisure and careless abandon, doing as we please and enjoying it. Good food and good conversation are on the daily menu. We indulge in plenty of partying and travel; some have even deemed us 'exchange tourists'. This is an accurate moniker if you ask me.

I am not sure whether classes here are really easier, but the student life is definitely less stressful. Group work and projects abound. We usually take exams in small groups and we can retake them if necessary. Professors slate more-than-ample time for coffee breaks. Textbooks are cheap and usually not mandatory. Now you are likely wondering why I am writing this blog. "Tristan only writes blogs when he is flustered, grumpy, upset or drunk." Well, you missed one. I also write blogs when I am supposed to be writing papers. Which I am. Besides, I am upset too, and who says I'm not drunk? I am an exchange student, remember?

The issue that has me irked at the moment has to do with my finances, which is probably no surprise. Here's the gist: I am supposed to register a new fleet of courses for the autumn, so I signed onto my university homepage. Much to my chagrin, I found that I owe UBC over CND$1000 in overdue tuition. This tuition should have been automatically deducted from my loan cheque, but these things never seem to turn out right for me.

The consequences? As usual, I am on goddamned financial hold. This means I cannot register for classes. Bad news, because I just transferred all of my money from Canada to Sweden. Also bad news, because 'all of my money' is barely enough to live through the term. Barely enough to live through the term if I don't pay rent, that is: I am living in the uninsulated attic of the international students' house. The temperature up there is higher than Nunavut's April average, but not by much.

This is just the latest in my long list of school finance disasters. My whole exchange has been punctuated by these bureaucratic fuck-ups, including a number mix-up that left me nearly penniless the entire first term. This is all made much more frustrating and difficult by a general lack of interest in my problems that seems to be common to all UBC staff. I emailed the Director of Student Services at the end of November and again in mid-December; I received a cheery response on January 13th. I emailed her back on the 18th asking for a follow-up and she never replied. When I returned from Tanzania, I emailed my exchange co-ordinator about the same issue; it has been nearly two weeks and she has not replied either. Keep in mind that these employees are both in the Faculty of Forestry; they are responsible for assisting all of around 400 undergraduates.

You know, in spite of it all, things aren't so bad. I think that in writing this I have gotten a bit of angst out of my system. I am going to write a bit more of this paper, but not too much. I've got partying to do.

21 March 2006 

This is worth 84,000 words

Until I get Blogger and the associated photo gear working, you can have a look at some pictures from Sweden and Tanzania on Photobucket.

Happy Equinox! It means a lot here in Sweden, after having survived the Solstice of Death.

6 February 2006 


A visit to the Administrative Secretary of the Kondoa District signalled our official arrival to the Kondoa Eroded Area that we all knew so much about. He gave us general information: 179 villages, 400,000 residents, 13,220 km2, electricity for five years, etc. After this formality we headed over to the office of the infamous Hifadhi Ardhi Dodoma (HADO) for an educational presentation on their work in the Kondoa Eroded Area (KEA). They explained what had led to the problems in the KEA, what HADO had done to ameliorate the situation and how successful they had been. We hit a bump in the Q & A when one student asked about corruption; an uncomfortable laugh and pass was all we got.

After the presentation we had a walk around the area. We saw nurseries run by a local women’s group and another run by a man. Seedlings cost around 150 shillings each and the species grown include Cupressus lusitanica, Gravellia spp., guava (Psidium spp.), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) and papaya (Carica papaya). After the nurseries we visited a major source of water for the area, an impressive covered spring. The turquoise water welling up from a deep rift ten metres across is diverted into concrete canals and used to irrigate crops.
We got back into the cars and drove out into the countryside to visit an old farmer. The shade of a baobab offered respite from the heat as Linda peppered the farmer with questions. We were able to ask about his agricultural techniques through a translator from HADO. He told us about crop rotation, land preparation, irrigation, harvesting and storage, animal husbandry and more.

We finished our day with a trip to Jerry’s survey plots to look at vegetation recovery. The whole area has been subject to intense erosion, as evidenced but the roots of older trees. One large baobab stands out in my memory: the huge roots are around a metre above the present soil surface. While the forestry group ran transects and counted species, my group measured soil temperature. We had no tools so we only managed to measure the first few centimetres. When we finished we went on a short walk with Jan to look at some birds. On the walk back I stopped to climb up a baobab tree. The climb seemed a bit too easy and I made it up quite a ways before Christian pointed out that there was a man-made beehive in the tree, no wait, two… Uh, another, and two more over there… I have never climbed down a tree so fast.

Why so much science? What is this?

5 February 2006 

Babati – Kondoa

I woke up feeling better, but not perfect. We stopped at Lake Babati and talked about montmorillonite, birds, hippos and the changing water level. Our presence was very amusing to the dozens of local kids who gathered around us. Somewhere along the road we stopped to look at miombo woodland, which is a Brachystegia - Brachylaena forest type indigenous to this area. Characteristic species we observed included Brachystegia microphylla and Brachystegia spiciformis. Other taxa we were able to identify were Calodendrum capenses, Combretum molle, Julbernardia globiflora, Camelia sp., Osyris sp. and Rhus sp.

Later on we joined an under-informed guide and hiked up to see some of the famous Kolo rock paintings. Most were quite clear despite many years of weathering and we could make out giraffes, elephants, gazelles and both male and female human figures engaged in a variety of activities. Unfortunately, I am still unclear on exactly how old this art is; it seems that sources conflict and I am unaware of a clear consensus. An internet search returned estimates ranging from a few thousand to 30,000 years old.

After a bit of hotel hopping we settle into our rooms and endured an incredible wait for dinner, which, in the end, turned out to be an insufficient amount of bad food. When we finally got to bed I had a really strange experience: intense visual hallucinations. Perhaps a side effect of the mefloquine (Lariam®), these visions were vivid and disturbing, regardless of whether I opened or closed my eyes. They only abated when I finally fell asleep.

Why so much science? What is this?

4 February 2006 

Mto wa Mbu – Babati; Lake Babati

I kicked off the day at the local doctor’s office with a few of my classmates, half-delusional and looking an absolute mess. Honestly, locals were calling out pole sana, very sorry in Swahili, as we walked by. The doctor ‘prioritized’ me, another clue that I was looking rough. He asked me to list all of my symptoms, which was a task in itself in my state. He prescribed me an injection of who-knows-what that would supposedly stop the vomiting, after which I would fall asleep and wake feeling better. Yeah, a bit scary, and the looks on my mate’s faces did not inspire confidence. I focused all of my energy into making sure I got a sterile needle and took the shot. This was not enough, I guess, as I was then handed about fifteen pills in about seven different colours to swallow immediately. I threw these up as soon as I got back to my room, but that was no problem because I had a whole envelope of coloured pills to take throughout the coming days. I am not sure what happened after this. I know that I slept all the way to Babati and I suppose the class visited the lake, but I was exhausted and I must have gone directly to bed.

Why so much science? What is this?

3 February 2006 

Karatu – Mto wa Mbu; Lake Manyara

I had counted myself among the healthy until a bite of bread at breakfast brought on a wave of nausea. The morning seemed freezing cold despite the sun and balmy weather; I sat on the ground in the sun waiting for the cars to depart, wearing my fleece but shivering uncontrollably. My mind went back to the roach-infested food case… The backtrack to Mto wa Mbu was like a delusional swim and it tore away my last bit of health. The course abandoned me at our hotel, presumably moving on to Lake Manyara National Park. I spent the day alternately freezing and broiling under my mosquito net and rushing to the squat toilet every fifteen minutes. The diarrhoea was punctuated by an hourly vomit and the night brought no relief.

Why so much science? What is this?

2 February 2006 

Ngorongoro Crater

We shuffled into the cars bleary-eyed at dawn, yawning but excited. It was the day of our big safari and not even Tanzanian super-germs could stop us. The day got off to a quick start when a troop of baboons (Papio anubis) stole Berit’s breakfast at the park gate. We stopped on the crater rim to hunt big game with our spotting scopes. Hardly necessary, as a few minutes later we were nearly running over plains zebras (Equus quagga). “Hey, look! A zebra!” All the cameras came flying out. “Look, look, another!” Fumbling with cases and on-buttons, clickity-click-click-click. “Two more over there!” Click-click-click. After five minutes no one even noticed the zebras; there were hundreds upon hundreds. The number of species and the sheer population density was absolutely unreal.

The most numerous species were the grazers, including African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), gnu (Connochaetes taurinus), and Grant’s gazelles (Gazella granti). I saw a fair number of African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana), warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus), hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius), and vevert monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops). Fewer in number were the antelopes: I spotted a few waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), eland (Taurotragus oryx) and an impala (Aepyceros melampus). Birds I noticed (though I am sure the bird group identified many more) included ostriches (Struthio camelus), helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris), lesser flamingos, (Phoenicopterus minor), a secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), grey crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum), and the horrific Marabou storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus). I also saw a few golden jackals (Canis aureus) and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) here and there and a 2-metre Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus) hunting birds. Distant but exciting were the pride of lions (Panthera leo) and one of the two remaining black rhinoceroses (Dicerorhinus bicornis) in the conservation area.

Unfortunately, some of the course participants were quite ill during the safari; some even vomited. Most of the people in our car looked like zombies by the end and it was good to get back to Karatu. After dinner, which was attended by around half of the course, the hotel managers had arranged a local group to sing and dance for us. They were amazingly fit, completing leaps, flips and other tricks with ease. The music was powerful and moving, deep rhythms being pounded out of homemade drums and scrap metal. I went to sleep with African rhythms echoing in my head.

Why so much science? What is this?

1 February 2006 

Moshi – Arusha – Karatu

I woke up early in hopes of catching another glimpse of Kilimanjaro before the clouds (a result of the daily cycle of convection, I suppose) built up. I was in luck, and the mountain seemed to fill the whole sky for about fifteen minutes before it disappeared behind the clouds again. There was time for a quick dip in the pool and we were back on the road. It was a driving day and the scenery was becoming familiar: agricultural lowlands, shifting cultivation on the hillsides and lucky but likely doomed forest remnants on the hilltops.

We stopped in Arusha for lunch, and a hectic stop it was. Hustlers, touts, beggars, swindlers and all manner of papaasi, Swahili for ticks, latched onto us at every opportunity. Iria and I took respite at the UN tribunal on war crimes committed during the genocide in Rwanda. We failed to see a trial, but Iria did manage to wedge herself in the door of the elevator, which cause a bit of ruckus while bloated paper-pushers relearned how to use stairs. We were pressed for time on return; I had time to send my mother an ‘I’m alive’ email and grab a few greasy at-least-day-old spring rolls from a cockroach-infested display case. Oh, uh, Order Blattodea.

After a long drive the edge of the Great Rift Valley came into view ahead, but our attention was directed toward the giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) browsing trees beside a agricultural field. A pause on the escarpment edge gave us a preview of what we would see the next day: a high density and rich diversity of large mammals. The agriculture in this volcanic area appeared much more productive, indications including larger farms and mechanization. I was quite relieved when the cars pulled into our hilltop hotel in Karatu, even though I had been sleeping for several hours in the car. Unfortunately, we all hustled out of the cars too quickly and Jerry lost most of his bargaining power, leaving us paying Zanzibar rates. This was about the time when, oh, say one-third of the course participants fell ill. Not a good development, as the course was moving at a fast clip. We all turned in for the night in anticipation of an early morning, though some slept more than others.

Why so much science? What is this?

31 January 2006 

Lushoto – Moshi; Kwalei, Soni

We began our day with a visit an extension office of the African Highlands Initiative (AHI) in Kwalei. This organization conducts participatory research projects in conjunction with interested farmers. Their trials in six villages include projects on fodder bushes, agroforestry, crop varieties, soil and water conservation, composting and manure fertilization, and promotion of specific species such as Mucuna pruriens and indigenous allelopathic grasses (e.g. mingingu). Some representatives from the organization accompanied us on a brief tour of the area, during which they extolled the successes of farmers who had participated in their extension work. Take-home message: If you grow more tomatoes than your neighbour does, you can buy a truck and monopolize market access, which will give you the income you need in order to build a two-storey house.

We took Sarah, our guide from AHI, back to Soni, a town near Lushoto, and had a look around the bustling market. We had no need for the fresh fruits and bread that the kanga-clad women offered us, though, as we had plenty of… Tuna and sardines! Anyway, no rest for the weary, we were soon on the road to Moshi. Villages became fewer and further between in proportion to the heat and lack of water and soon there were only Maasai huts here and there. We stopped in what must have been the hottest and most hostile ecosystem we encountered on the trip. The soil was so dry I’d swear you could light it on fire. There were few signs of life, though there were desiccated, gnarled, defoliated but supposedly living shrubs everywhere. Everything there had spines, thorns or prickles. We saw evidence of a symbiosis between ants and a myrmecophilic Acacia sp.; the ants live in, you guessed it, the thorns! Oddly enough, we also found the shells of several snails (Order Pulmonata). How they are able to survive there I am not sure, but it must involve some type of dormancy. We gratefully moved on.

Whatever the heat took out of us, though, our second view of Kilimanjaro put right back. The summit loomed like an apparition above the clouds, leading us toward the expectedly drab YMCA in Moshi. We dumped our bags and devoured a sticky but delicious jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) before enjoying dinner in town. We hurried back to the hostel, as the doors were to be locked at 23.00, but we would have done just as well to stay out; it was too hot and muggy to sleep anyway.

Why so much science? What is this?

30 January 2006 

Mazumbai – Lushoto

On our way out of MFR we stopped to see the buttresses of an E. excelsior that were rumoured to be extraordinarily long. They exceeded all expectations, reasonable and unreasonable alike. Not even our machete-sage knew why they were so long. We said goodbye to our friendly host and guide and struck out for Lushoto. The deforestation in the lowlands that Mr. Kiparu had mentioned and we knew to expect was more extensive than I imagined. All the land was either under cultivation or in fallow. We were able to identify some crops, including coffee (Coffea arabica), sugar cane (Saccharum sp.), banana (Musa spp.), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and cassava (Manihot esculenta). Most of the area between Mazumbai and Soni was under agricultural production.

At our next stop we observed a symbiosis between an Albicia sp. and a hemi-parasitic mistletoe from the family Loranthaceae. From our vantage point we could also identify Lantana camara, Solanum sp. and C. arabica, as well as plantations of Gravellia sp. and Eucalyptus sp. on the hillsides. Our hotel in Lushoto was beautifully landscaped and my room was spacious and breezy, which made it easier to handle our first experience with water shortage. I ended my day with a sundowner in a little pub decorated with foreign currency (including CND$18.00!).

Why so much science? What is this?

29 January 2006 

Mazumbai 2

Good morning, and welcome to Teamwork Day! My group, which included Therese, Josefine and Magnus, focused on freshwater ecosystems, coral reef ecosystems and climate. We bid the agriculture group adieu and headed back up the mountain. The first stop was a creek, where the other groups assisted us with sampling. We netted, trapped, palmed and otherwise accosted numerous creepy-crawlies, otherwise known as an assortment of benthic macroinvertebrates and fluvial vertebrates. Details can be found in the report ‘Fresh Water Ecosystems’ by Muñoz et al.

After measuring some water characteristics and completing a routine climate recording we headed uphill for lunch: more tuna and sardines! After lunch we helped the forestry group count O. usambarensis seedlings along transects. We did not find very many at all (OK, I didn’t find any), but the foresters seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway. I can attest to the fact that climbing huge vines and swinging like Tarzan helped group morale immensely.

Iria, Marco and I decided to take an ‘alternate path’ for the hike to the research facility rather than backtrack. We hiked toward the summit and traversed around some rock cliffs, trying to avoid the huge mounds of rock hyrax (perhaps Heterohyrax bruceii) feces. Our rock-climbing dead-ended at a sheer cliff of several hundred metres and the view over the canopy was one of the most breathtaking of the trip. The decision to bushwhack down the mountain left us with numerous cuts and abrasions, but a memory that will last a lifetime. At the station we found the others lounging on the grass and chilling beer in the creek. The day in a word: sublime.

Why so much science? What is this?

28 January 2006 

Mazumbai 1

The sun rose earlier than any human plucked from the depths of a Swedish winter could imagine. We were able to take a better look at the beautiful grounds, which were donated by an affluent Swiss farmer. We ate a humble breakfast to the calls of myriad birds and assembled for a briefing from Mr. Saidi Kiparu, manager of Mazumbai Forest Reserve (MFR). He presented details about the history, topography and geography of the reserve. The forest, which is managed by the University of Dar es Salaam, is bordered by government forest, community forest, tea (Camellia sinensis) and quinine (Chinchona sp.) plantations and farmland. According to Mr. Kiparu, the reserve is host to more than 250 plant species, 169 of which are endemic to the Usambara Mountains. The reserve is important because it harbours biodiversity and is the watershed for the surrounding arable lands, besides being ‘the most pristine of Tanzania’s forests’ (again, according to Mr. Kiparu).

Common tree species in MFR:

  • Ocotea usambarensis
  • Entandophragma excelsior
  • Newtonia buchananii
  • Parinari excelsum
  • Syzygium guineense
  • Eucalyptus spp.
  • Allanblackia stuhlmanni
  • Podocarpus spp.
  • Erythrina abyssinica

After the informative presentation we had a walk around the reserve. We began in the tea plantation, where we observed a single N. buchananii stem being parasitized by Allophyllus abyssinica, Cadaba adenothricia, Dembollia barbonica and Ficas laprinum. Agriculture in the valley below prompted some conversation, but the forest interested us most. As we ascended away from the realm of intense human influence we began to see why Mazumbai is such a special place. Huge buttresses arc into the smooth, straight boles of E. excelsior and N. buchananii, tree ferns (Order Cyatheales) stretch toward the light and the stately Ocotea stands guard over it all. We saw a ‘Tanzanian train’ (Class Diplopoda) and a chameleon (Family Chamaeleonidae) on the way to the peak. Mr. Kiparu translated the sage-like knowledge of our machete-wielding guide as we walked. After a slow trudge up an unforgiving slope the sunny summit came into view. We made ourselves comfortable and put a dent in our formidable stockpile of tuna (Thunnus sp.) and sardines (Sardina sp., or, more likely, Clupea sp.). Again, foreshadowing.

The ecosystemic quality of MFR was especially apparent when we came to the border it shares with government forestland. The understorey on the government side is thick and tangled, recent disturbances are evident and no large trees are apparent, including the mature O. usambarensis that is relatively abundant in MFR. MFR is bounded by a row of Eucalyptus sp., as its shade intolerant seeds will have difficulty regenerating in local conditions.

The downhill jaunt was rather pleasant; we were free to amble along and gawk at the splendour around us. The exclamation points were our exciting encounters with a colony of black and white colobus monkey (Colobus angolensis) and a colourful group of local youth. Both groups ran away from us fairly quickly, but at least the kids seemed amused with us. Back at the research station, we prepared dinner and crashed headlong into our bunks for some well-deserved shuteye.

Why so much science? What is this?

27 January 2006 

Dar es Salaam – Mazumbai; Chalinze

Dawn broke over northern Africa. The searing expanses of the southern Sahara sprawled in every direction; nary a swath of green in sight. The chaotic Darfur region of south Sudan stretched to the port horizon, looking featureless and hostile. After a few empty hours, we were brought back to life by the sight of the majestic Kilimanjaro, a lone peak rising up from the plains below as if to greet us. At its feet was the legendary Lake Victoria, larger than some African countries. For the first time I was struck by the fact that I was going to Africa, the real Africa, the place of the storybooks of my childhood.

The storybook Africa was jolted out of my head when the plane door opened (foreshadowing resolved). It could just as well have been the blast door of a furnace, if the furnace had roughly the humidity of an old gym locker room. The temperature difference between our origin and destination was more than 40°C. As I swam through thick air toward the entrance to Dar es Salaam arrivals, I recalled the sensation I had experienced while walking toward the entrance to Arlanda departures: bitter and near-painful cold. It had, I recalled, hurt to breathe too deeply. I can assure you: I preferred the cold.

We cleared customs without dying, but just barely. Our drivers were waiting for us out front with four rugged Toyota Landcruisers. They drove us around the city on errands as we tried to get accustomed to the heat, dust and bumpy roads. I saw the Tanzanian version of a refrigerated truck: a pick-up with a tarpaulined bed full of block ice. I accumulated a thick wad of colourful cash and a stockpile of provisions and we left Dar as abruptly as we had arrived.
Several points of interest caught Jerry’s eye along the way. Our first stop was beside a shady kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). The cotton-like seeds of this broad tree were used in the past to fill pillows and mattresses. We also saw a mango tree (Mangifera sp.) at this stop. We made a brief stop in Chalinze, a bus-hub town that failed to impress. A while later we paused beside an expansive plantation of sisal (Agave sisalana), the fibrous leaves of which are an important export product. Along the way we also saw other trees of interest, including neem (Melia azadirachta), baobab (Adansonia digitata), cashew (Anacardium occidentale), cacao (Theobroma cacao) and naboom (Euphorbia candelabrum).

The sights, sounds and smells we encountered along the road to Mazumbai were familiar and unfamiliar simultaneously. Previous travel in developing countries and several courses I have taken prepared me for the experience, but the images were nonetheless striking: A woman carrying the day’s fuelwood on her head, children playing soccer with a chunk of tire rubber, crouched figures beneath a rusting tin roof, Maasai boys herding famished goats across a dry watercourse, a elderly man lying beside a crumbling mud hut. And everyone stopping to watch us pass.

After dark we came to a rutted and potholed dirt road and went careening around harrowing cliff-edge curves, our convoy enveloped in headlight-stopping dust. What a relief it was when we came skidding to a halt on the manicured lawns of the Mazumbai Rainforest Management Training Facility. We were greeted by a smiling Mr. Kiparu and a million twinkling stars.

Why so much science? What is this?

26 January 2006 

Stockholm – London, onward

My journey to Africa began with a first-class car ride to Arlanda, Stockholm. Emanuele played chauffeur with Christian’s car and I had two of the infamous tres españolas in tow. We arrived at the airport on time, a miraculous feat considering the Spanish - Canadian ratio was 2:1. The air was buzzing with anticipation as we tossed our bags on the scale. Some packed light, others remembered the kitchen sink, but in the end, we sneaked under the weight limit in spite of the tower of boxes that Jan jockeyed to the terminal. Needless to say, it was quite cold when we left Arlanda (read: foreshadowing). Take-off was annoyingly delayed by misplaced passengers and de-icing, but eventually we got on our way.

The airplane to London Heathrow was more an airbus. A few coursemates had taken an earlier flight and we expected to meet them for a bit of shopping and general dilly-dallying. No such luck, though, as we spent nearly an hour in the security queue. After a trans-airport bus ride and a near-sprint to the gate, we joined the others and boarded. Lina, Linda and I occupied the three seats of the middle row, to our delight but much to the chagrin of nearby passengers. I have only travelled by air a handful of times, so all of the little luxuries still seem rather novel to me. Headphones, check. Blanket and pillow, check. Socks?! I was also impressed by the entertainment offerings, which included films, shorts and a good variety of music (and supposedly more in first class, but I was satisfied). I was quite disappointed with The Brothers Grimm, but The Constant Gardener captivated me, especially on the verge of my first visit to Africa. I was moved to close to tears by the vivid images of poverty and the stoic but tragically helpless Kenyans the film portrayed (and, ahem, the wine). Sleep was elusive, but I managed.

Why so much science? What is this?


Tanzania Series: Background

The following posts are an account of my experiences during a three-week field course in Tanzania. This course was the second component of ‘Tropical Ecology, Environmental Conservation and Management’ through Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet in Uppsala, Sweden. Our international consortium of students included seven Swedes, three Spaniards, three Germans and me. We were led by two Swedish professors, Jerry Skoglund and Jan Lagerlöf, as well as several local authorities.

I am writing this for not only myself and my family and friends, but also as an assignment for the course. Some readers thus might find it too detailed and scientific to some at times, whereas my professors might find it too subjective and expressive. I hope that everyone finds at least a bit of it interesting.

11 January 2006 

The cheeses I tried yesterday

Fromages de la France

  • Lou Pérac (lait de Brebis)
  • Camenbert
  • Saint Marcellia
  • Tome de Savoie
  • Chaource
  • Saint Agur (beaucoup de moissisures)
  • Beaufort
Quesos de España

  • Manchego (seco y curado)
  • Manchego (semi-seco)

Update, March 28, 2006: Two more fromages de la France

  • Cantal
  • Fourme d'Ambert (bleu)

Update, August 6, 2006: Un Queso de España Más

  • Queso de Tetilla

5 December 2005 

Not about Sweden

I am reading though a lot of old emails. It's more fun than you think, and plus when I am reading old emails I have no time to do my homework! Perfect. I thought you might like to read the email that Nick sent me right before I left for Central America in 2004.
Well, it's Thursday. You are almost off to a third-world country thousands of miles from anywhere you have ever been. Nervous? You are about to try to make it across half of a continent, through the world's largest city and into the heartland of the Zapatistas without speaking the language. Just kidding, it will be great.
It strikes a chord these days, as I am getting ready for my latest foray in the developing world: my first trip to Africa. I feel much more prepared and knowledeable this time around. Well, actually, I felt plenty ready and knowledgeable last time too, I just didn't realize how dumb I was until it was too late. At least two things are certain: I am not going to take a 90-litre pack this time, and I will have more than one t-shirt in my possession.

Why am I going to Africa? To learn something new, broaden my horizons, gain a new perspective, maybe do some research. Actually, mostly because it is important to keep new material coming for the almost-ready website Nick and I are launching. I'd recommend preparing your pocketbooks and quivering in anticipation.

Oh, and I leave you with this excerpt from 'Schmuck and Sack's Famous Last Words':

Anyway, when you get to San Cris at 9:30, I will be there.
P.S. Always use the 24-hour clock when important meetings are afoot.

29 September 2005 

Hey, everyone! Publish your crackpot ideas on the internet!

Because the state of agroforestry systems exists on a gradient, their levels of sustainability exist on a gradient as well. The sustainability gradient for a given agroforestry system can be visualised in three-dimensional space. The concept of total sustainability is a perfect cube, 100% sustainable. Each factor affecting the economic or ecological sustainability of the system is a polygon within the space. The position, size, and slope of these polygons are a function of the interactions between various system components. The total erosion would be one polygon, for example. Gross household income would be another.

Each polygon can be in one of two situations. If that factor lessens the total sustainability of the system then it will cut through the polyhedron. If it has no detrimental effect on the sustainability of the system then it will lie outside the boundaries of the polyhedron. The connectivity between the planes should be imagined to be as complicated as that between the actual sociology, economy, and ecology of the system. If there isn't enough groundstorey soil cover, for example, the erosion plane will be passing through the polyhedron and removing a fair bit of it. If the fine roots of the tree component are creating good soil structure, however, that will factor in and bring the erosion polygon out of the polyhedron a bit. This in turn will bring up the economic sustainability with a positive effect on gross income, as yearly yield will be higher.

© Fake Copyright 2005.
® All pretend rights reserved.

1 September 2005 

How to get to Sweden

I flew out of San Francisco International Airport on 30 September at 13:00 Pacific Standard Time (I'll put all times in PST to keep my trip in perspective). I landed in Calgary, Alberta around 15:00 and was greeted by a Korean woman in a gaudy white and red cowboy outfit, "Howrdy yowl, wewlcome to Cawrgorwe!" Much to my chagrin, Air Canada has no baggage transfer services in Calgary. I was in a hurry, my old roommate Erich Magdzik was to meet me for a birthday beer when I touched down. I had to wait around for ages at the baggage claim, thinking about Nick's smug assertion that my 'beer with Erich' plan was a pipe dream.

My pack popped out of the hole and I went charging about the airport, trying to find Erich. No dice, I had to give up. By this time I was flustered. My flight was to leave in about five minutes, but I really wanted a Canadian flag patch to replace the little pin I had on my pack. I rushed from store to store at a faster and faster pace, until I found what I was looking for. The card couldn't have cleared fast enough, no I didn't want a bag and I was off like a racehorse. A jog up to the second floor and my terminal was in sight, but here's the kicker:

So was a Tim Horton's.

Everything went into slow motion. I dashed up to the counter, feet heavy, head pounding, hearing muted. A glance down the hallway pegged the time at 16:54, but to me it looked like a count-down timer that read T-0:47... T-0:46... T-0:45... I took a deep breath. "A double-double and a honey cruller, please." The words hung in the air, she blinked slowly and turned to get my order. As she handed me the coffee, she mouthed, "I put the cream in, the sugar is on the counter," but all I could do was read her lips. The flight was boarding and I still had to make it all the way down the hall. As she handed me my cruller (O happy day!) I slapped my VISA card onto the counter. Her words were delivered as if from the mouth of an ogre: slow, deep, and ugly. "Oh... We only take Canadian dollars."

Reality snapped back into fast-motion. "What do I do? Where do I go? All I have are Euro and kronor! AhhAhhAhh!" I ran a few quick, tight circles around a spot on the floor, just to show I was serious. "Oh, you can pay with Euro at the duty-free, they'll give you Canadian change," she calmly informed, obviously unaware of the scope of this situation. I was halfway to the duty-free before the last word of her ponderous sentence was delivered.

They were just about to close the door, but I slid through like a well-trained dickhead. After the fastest round of the store ever made I settled on a Canadian flag pin and sprinted to the till. I handed the clerk ten Euro, said "Loonies and toonies, please," and thought 'gogogogo' until some large coins and a blue bill, complete with hockey and poem, were in my sweating palm. As I turned to run she snatched my bag and called after me. "You can pick it up at the gate..."

I arrived at old Timmy H's out of breath and lightheaded, flicked a toonie onto the counter and snatched my goodies. The clock down the hall read T+3:34 as I raced under it and toward the gate. As I cleared an automatic sliding door the terminal came into view. I couldn't get to it, though, as my progress was hindered by the hundreds of people crammed into the hallway, all waiting for Air Canada Flight 844 to Frankfurt, Germany. I can tell you, I had time to finish my cruller, my coffee, and six chapters of Motherless Brooklyn before they boarded my section.

The flight to Germany was long and mostly uneventful. They played bad movies and fed me decent food (portions could have been bigger, though). A key moment of the flight was the after-dinner alcohol cart visit. I asked for a gin and tonic, and the woman in front of the cart gladly obliged with a can of Schweppes and a little bottle of Tanqueray. As the cart passed me by the man pushing slyly slipped me another bottle of Tanqueray behind his back, and if I could I'd send him a thank-you card. We flew over Iceland; I know this because they had a map with our location up on the screen a few times. Much better entertainment than the movies, I'd say. Somewhere east of Iceland and north of Great Britain I saw a bunch of power-generation windmills in the sea, poking up like rows of tombstones. Very neat (at least after sitting on me sore arse for nine hours). Actually, the fact that I just told you about power-generation windmills must mean that airplanes are really boring.

At about 2:30, still PST, mind you, we dropped into Frankfurt. It was rather hot and muggy and I seem to have an uncanny ability to ask help of those who don't speak English and don't appreciate my sorry attempt at the local tongue. I wasn't in the greatest mood either, for I had not slept more than an hour on the whole flight. Anyway, I managed to find a the bus stop I needed just in time to see my bus roar off.

I waited about an hour for the next bus, which turned out to be a problem. When I got to the tiny little airport it was coming up on 5:45; my flight was to leave at 6:30. This was all fine and dandy, except that Ryan Air stops taking checked baggage an hour or so before the boarding call. I was informed that is was too late by six minutes to check my pack. This was a mild bummer, but didn't bother me that much. Remember my trip to Latin America? Nick is nodding his head. I am amazed my lap-flesh didn't grow up around my backpack on some of the more cramped collectivos, and then there were the times when I had to fit a 90-litre pack into a 30-litre overhead. "Ah, it's been worse," I mused and headed to the x-ray dealie (hey, if anyone has a better name for this area of the airport, let me know, eh?). After my small pack was searched and my iPod battery pack was deemed 'not a weapon' they put my big pack through and deemed my hockey skates 'ja, a weapon'.

The implications of this decision by the airport security personnel were grave. I had to disassemble my pack, which was something like opening a jack-in-the-box. Then I had to take out the skates, which were a major structural component of my complicated pack-job. Next I had to unpack the skates (yes, I packed things in the skates); think five pairs of thick woolen socks and a few shirts strewn about the security zone. I was told to run back and forth through the airport a few times, maybe to find out what I was to do, but I think just to embarrass me so I'd never go back to Germany. I found that the people at the information desk were privy to very little information at all. I did a few more laps for good measure and went back to the security checkpoint.

"Are you sure I can't take them on the plane?"
"I can't give them to the stewardess?"
"Or put them in the cockpit?"
"Nein. Go get on ze plane."

So now Anita, a large German women somewhere in Northern Deutschland, has my hockey skates at her house. I am supposed to send her 50 euro and she will supposedly send me my skates. Hmm, this worries me more than a little bit... Oh, and the funny part is that we boarded the plane and then just sat there for about 30 minutes. Then the pilot came on the intercom and informed us that the electronics were malfunctioning. After another 15 minutes things were working again and we taxied out. We picked up speed to take off, then slowed down and taxied back to the terminal. The electronics were fixed, said the pilot, but they had broken again. All in all we waited on the ground for about an hour; you'd think someone could have stuck my damn skates in with the baggage.

The computers remained mercifully functional all the way to Sweden. I disembarked at 8:10, walked across the tarmac, walked into the terminal, walked through the door that said 'Nothing to Declare', and walked out of the airport. I got onto a bus to Göteborg, paid the driver, and sat down. As my thoughts settled I began to have a nagging feeling that something must have been wrong in the terminal. No one had asked me any questions, no one had looked at my passport, no one had scrutinized my baggage. As a matter of fact, no one had even said hello to me. I hopped off the bus and went back into the airport. Walking against the current through the customs-looking line-up I eventually found some sort of security officer. He assured me that my experience was normal and that I did not need to be checked, given the once-over, stamped, patted down, questioned or looked at funny. Way better than Mexico, where you have to bribe a son-of-a-bitch who stole your passport in order to leave the country. This was my first experience with the Swedish, and I'd say that the initial impression was pretty much bang-on as a representation of Swedish culture.

Back on the bus north I was able to revel in the pastoral beauty of the Swedish countryside. Brick-red barns (I wanted to say barn-red, but...) sprinkled over the recently mowed fields, rolls of hay wrapped in tight white plastic, verdant hills spilling trees into the valleys like waves, little Saab hatchbacks and Volvo station wagons zipping around the roads. I was actually just describing a postcard from Sweden I once saw, but I was excited when I found that the whole country actually does look just like that. All you have to do is walk outside, take a picture, and print it on card stock and you are in business as a postcard wholesaler. The only reason everyone hasn't jumped on this business idea is the high taxation.

I spent a few confusing hours in the train station, but eventually sorted myself out for a long but comfortable train ride. After a brief and very disoriented stumble through Stockholm Centralstationen and one more length of track I was in Uppsala at 3:00 PST. Of course, it was midnight here in Sweden, but that didn't stop my 'exchange buddy' and four of her friends from meeting me at the station with bags of groceries and a ride back to my place. I think I stood staring for a whole minute when I opened the door to my apartment; I thought the Swedes had played a joke on me. I was pretty sure that they had dropped me off at IKEA and given me a key to the 'Perfekt Sovrum' showroom. I wasn't tired, of course, so I unpacked my stuff. I wasn't really tired until my class began at 8:00, which would be 23:00 PST.

29 August 2005 

Good things happen to those who tell dumb jokes

Nick is back, but I am off. Off, away, absconding with an iPod cooler than his own! Oh, he'll be coming for it; I know he will. I'll be prepared, though. I'm planning on putting a couple drywall screws through that bitch so that when he grabs it his hand gets shanked. Anyway, my gross monetary worth is way up and I once again see hope for the human race. Actually, no; I take that back. I just think Nick is a fucking awesome guy.

9 August 2005 

Terribly Tardy Tactless Tijuana Tripe

Alright, alright. I have a story to tell about a mini-adventure to Mexico. It has been one month since this actually happened, I just haven't finished this entry up until now. Deal with it; I am a slacker. I have also always wanted to fuck with the date and time on this thing. That sort of freedom and implied trust really draws me in.

I am a tad worried, because although I consider myself a good story-teller, this tale happens to feature an almost indescribable human being. Maybe Chris has the right idea, exclaiming "I want to crush this guy's head!" Perhaps Brittany put it best: "That guy was such a douche."

Let me give it a shot... I figure that you could imagine that feeling you get when a mosquito is flying around your damn ear, then multiply that feeling by 20. Then add the feeling of having your eyeball pushed into the socket (go ahead and try; gently now) far enough that it just barely doesn't pop. Imagine a guy who can make you feel like that for hours on end. This guy is gay, but trying really hard to cover it up for no reason. Visualize him having an ugly face; maybe a bit like a gay-male-Mexican Cher who has been clocked in the face with a tire iron. Twice. If you are more aural, he sounds a lot like a stuffy Ben Stein trying to imitate a gay guy. He will henceforth be referred to as 'tool', or some variation thereof. God, I hope he somehow reads this.

With this important description out of the way, let me start in on the evening and its players. Brittany, Chris, Erik, Nick and I headed down to the border, and Erik drove the car back up to San Diego. The rest of us went into TJ and found a place to get a drink. Against my better judgement we ordered without asking the prices, and we ended up with drinks more expensive than one could find in Vancouver. A guy came and started pouring tequila into my rum and coke, even though I was informing him in fairly good Spanish that I hate tequila, won't pay him, and don't find him amusing in the least. After demanding payment and then lowering the price since it was a rum and coke he realised that his effort was in vain and took his watered-down tequila elsewhere.

We headed to another club that had cheaper drinks and had another round. We were waiting to meet up with some of Brittany's friends from work. They finally showed up in a Mitsubishi Eclipse or some such car. This little ride already had three people inside, namely some girl, some nice guy, and that fucking tool I described earlier. The rest of us squeezed in (read: seven people in car). We took off, destined for a club on the other side of town, rounded a corner, and promptly got pulled over by La Policia.

This was no big deal, as they just wanted bribe money and both of the guys we met up with spoke Spanish fluently, so I wanted to get out of there. I voted we leave the guys behind and take a taxi, and after a tad of delay that is exactly what we did. They arrived at the 'Baby Rock' club just after us, which was good news because Nick and I were out of cash. The cover was steep, but drinks were free. Actually, it was pretty cheap because someone else paid for me and I left the next morning. Ah well, what goes around comes around.

This club was actually pretty fantastic and we all got sloshed (especially Chris, but we were all right up there with him). I decided to spend most of the night talking to this girl we had met up with, for some reason. If I had paid my cover I might have been more interested in dancing up on the platforms with the nearly-naked chicas.

Our conversation was wide-ranging and even moderately interesting at times, although she wasn't the most worldly or deep woman I've met. The funny thing is that the fucking tool-ass Cher impersonator kept trying to 'cockblock' me, so to speak. We all knew he was gay, but he was trying to cut in anyway. Let me assure you, his behaviour was unacceptable regardless of his sexual preference. A classic quote from the girl I was flirting with was, "I thought he was gay, I wouldn't have invited him if I knew he would do this." Once again, god I hope he reads this. Anyway, the time eventually came to head home and we stumbled out of the club.

As I mentioned before, Nick and I were dead out of cash. Everyone but Nick, the girl and I were loaded into the car, and the tool fucker was trying to get the girl to get in. As she was going to pay the cab fare to la frontera, I convinced her to ditch the sleazy shithead. On the way to the cab and throughout the cab ride she managed to completely ruin any interest I had in her by repeatedly asserting her lack of cultural understanding and general empathy for others, but that's another story. It was all about the money at this point; I wanted to get back to the U.S. without sleeping in a Mexican ditch. She paid up and we got out at the border. Whoever said I'm a nice guy who has never taken advantage of anyone was dead wrong. I hope no one who is romantically interested in me reads this blog.

This is the best part. If you were skimming, stop and read the next few paragraphs. We were waiting around at the border for a few minutes before the other crew showed up. Now, what should have happened it that Brittany and Chris would get out of the car and then it would drive off with the two guys inside. Erik was going to meet us back Stateside. Instead what happened is that Brittany, Chris, and the biggest tool I've met since 1998 got out. The car drove off. I was quick to let toolass know that he didn't have a ride home, but he followed us on our walk across the border. He began to lay the game on the girl again, distastefully. It was obvious that she was not enjoying his advances, and it became a matter of pride for me to keep him subdued.

Good news is, I shared this job with the TJ Policia, who soon made a second appearance. They saw a Mexican guy (this tool grew up in Tijuana) grabbing a white girl, who was in turn clutching a white guy. Too bad for the tool joker, because the the TJ Policia don't appreciate American college students being accosted by derelict locals, and this is what our situation looked like.

Five cops ran up. One politely asked me to put my hands on the wall, one stood back and watched, and the other three laid into that deserving tool with a vengeance. I calmly explained in Spanish to my understanding officer that I had no weapons and I was just trying to get back to the States: I offered to show him my ID, which was in my shoe. He was not interested in touching it, but he told me I could be on my way. I grabbed the girl and took off, leaving my officer-amigo to join the fray. When I glanced back the tool was on the ground.

Now, I am not sure what he told the cops, but he caught up to the rest of us earlier than expected (I had hoped he would wake up in a sewage runoff ditch with blood on his clothes). He started in again, full force. Had the humiliations he had endured thus far not been enough? Apparently not, because he was soon telling this girl how much better looking than I he was, quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard said by any human besides George W. Bush. I was already pissed at him, and this didn't help.

As we waited for Erik he kept trying to convince the girl that we had no ride and she should join him in a taxi. Erik arrived just about that time, and we made to leave (and made to leave this tool behind). He was begging, pleading with us to let him come. I told him there was no room in the car so he jumped past me into the car and began to lay a whiny assault on poor Erik, who we just woken up to get us. That was the end of my rope and I grabbed him by the scrawny neck and dragged his ass out of the car. I haven't been that close to beating the shit out of some chump since grade 8, and it was lucky for me that Nick convinced me to keep my cool.

I decided to be a gentleman in spite of everything and let this tool ride home in the trunk of the car. This is not a large trunk, and apparently the kindness I was showing in not kicking his ass and instead allowing him a ride was lost on him. He began to issue demands, which I am fairly sure he was in no position to do. He wanted the seat cracked open so he could breathe, but there were three people in the back seat. I've seen movies, I knew he wouldn't suffocate. Plus I didn't care if he did suffocate, so I shoved him in the trunk and slammed it shut.

We were cruising down the freeway when he started to make a ruckus. He was crying out, screaming like a baby, and demanding the seat be cracked open. Since Chris is also far too nice in this type of situation, the request was obliged. The tool showed his gratitude by fondling Chris' arm for the rest of the ride. About halfway back to San Diego our trunk-bound tool suddenly decided he wanted out, and once again we obliged, this time happily. We dropped him on some random off ramp that we later found was two miles from his intended destination. Must have been the most humiliating night of his life.

The rest of us ended up safely at home after dropping off the confused girl. After making fun of Chris for being so drunk I began to make some Kraft Dinner for Nick and myself. I made a large batch, but by the time it was finished Nick was unconscious, and I'm not sure he would have eaten it anyway. I devoured it all myself, drank a litre of water, and enjoyed a satisfying sleep; the kind of sleep that only comes after completely humiliating someone who really deserves it.

29 July 2005 


I've decided that the world is a lot like bread. Each city or town I live in is a loaf of bread; I open new loaves all the time. Sometimes the loaf is hearty and good for me, sometimes it is airy and worthless.

Every house or store or group of people there is a slice; a part of the loaf, but independent and distinct as well. All the slices make up the loaf, but the loaf can do without some of the slices and still be the same loaf.

People are crumbs; they are usually part of a slice and a loaf, but sometimes they sorta break off and drift around. Without the crumbs there are no slices or loaves.

The take-home message is that all of it goes stale a little while after I open it.

26 July 2005 

Variety is...

...the spice of life.

Today I woke up and had a cup of coffee. I spent some time on the phone with Butte College, light heckling. I assisted in demonstrating a pool spinal rescue. I administered first aid to a moderately abraded 10 year-old. I cleaned up a big pile of human feces in a shower stall. I went to the bank. I ate a sandwich. I chatted with an 83 year-old neighbour. I called some photographers. I went to the library. I waited on hold with the Canadian government at a pay phone in front of K-Mart for an hour. I shuffled some crates in our garage around. I priced 2,000 tonne hoist hooks. I showed up for the wrong shift at work. I removed a fuel pump from a truck.

And it is still only 6:35! Who knows what zany things I could still squeeze into this stellar day?! Back to work.

Update: After 6:35 I managed to be late for work. I administered first aid again, this time to a four year-old. I made fun of a 10 year-old. I flirted a bit. I went to the gym. I mocked a rival pool. I am pretty knackered now, good night.

24 July 2005 

Boring, skip to final paragraph

I just got a friend request from a fucking 27 year-old white supremacist from Florida. I regret the fact that I had to view his page before denying him. He is advocating online communities for what he calls 'white nationalists' and has a blog displaying a news article about a homeless black man with mental problems killing a white woman. Disgusting bigot; may he come to see the beauty in diversity and to believe in the equality of all people.

Right before I was subjected to that bit of online hatred I saw 'The Wedding Crashers'. My analysis: pretty damn funny. I was expecting it to be as stupid as, say, 'Zoolander'. Instead it made me laugh my ass of for a good hour and a half. I'd say go see it if you aren't expecting anything except some giggling, several hearty chuckles, a bit of painful awkwardness, a guffaw, and a few boobies. Great one-liners, great deliveries from the leads, and the woman opposite Wilson is gorgeous!

I got back yesterday from a trip out to Humboldt County, Arcata more specifically. My sister will be attending Humboldt State in the fall, so I took her out to her orientation. I lived out there in my camper last summer, so I got to visit some friends as well as spend some time with my sister and hear about her programme. The fact that Arcata is, on average, 20°C cooler out there than here in Paradise (is that sacrilege? should it be the Town of paradise?) didn't hurt either.

So, you might have some stereotypes in your head about ol' Humboldt County. I can assure that not all of these stereotypes are reality. However, most of them are, so I had a great time out there. Many additions to the 'good times' list. I learned to juggle, swam in the ocean, spent a night on the beach, went to a Humboldt Circus house party, watched the Marching Lumberjacks, divvied up some crackheads' belongings, took a random road-tripper to College Cove, and played a bungload of frisbee.

In other news, I'll be back in Marin on the 1st. If you or your parents have any work for me, let me know. I am thinking mostly minor construction, landscaping, maintenance and whatnot, but I'd do anything for some money right now. Think smack addicts, except instead of the dragon I ride trains, buses and planes. Yeah, I'd suck dick for airfare.

Speaking of airfare, I can't figure out the best way to get a cheap flight to Sweden. Hell, I could actually fly into anywhere in Europe and just make my way to Stockholm. My dates are super flexible too. Anyone with suggestions should definitely let me know.

17 July 2005 

My hobbies, interests, and accomplishments

I never did find a job in my field this summer. I also failed to find a high paying job, or even a full-time job. I work part-time at a public pool for a modest wage. There must be something odd going on, since I have strong interpersonal skills, a fantastic academic record, solid work history, travel experience, and striking good looks. I decided that the 'Hobbies and Interests' section of my résumé must be weak. I completely rewrote it and also jotted down some of my more impressive accomplishments. I think I might have to pare it down some, depending on the job, but this is a good starting point. Forgive me if I come off as tooting my horn. Keep in mind that this is a résumé. The idea is to sell yourself to a potential employer; it has to be a bit over-the-top.

I am a/an: backpacker, traveler, musician, avid reader, poet extraordinaire, hobby asshole, model train enthusiast, big tobacco lobbyist, dual citizen, cat lover, obsessive compulsive hand-washer, liar, best friend, headbanger, prizefighter, walker, stand-up guy, yodeler, shithead, steadfast believer, arborist, prophet, Orthodox Quaker, Jack-Mormon, life member of the gang called N.W.A., weaned human, flower arranger, incumbent, Inquisitor, son of a son of a son of a sailor, lifelong learner, lumpy slob, follower, thief, cunning linguist, hero, stellar speller, black widower, aqua aerobics watcher, seal hunter, fan club member, big star, seer, volunteer, shopper, unknown protester, heartbreaker, smarty-pants, fence-sitter, hick, explorer, weenie, hard worker, whopper, mule, duotang user, midwife, climber, legislator, slow and steady racer, know-it-all, veterinary scientist, felon wannabe, centurion, irate voter, youngun, olympian, registrar, washed-up hippie, student, nature lover, master of disaster, body builder, driver, sneaky bastard, shaver, announcer, chess player, jaywalker, miser, loyal subscriber, situation analyst, giver, and goalie.

My interests include, but are not limited to: fingernails on chalkboards, naked interviews, drive-by mooning, vegetable shopping, biting my nails, frolicking amongst trees, accounting, pornography, watching people from afar, neighbour-snooping, Canada, naked rain-dancing, your mom, online shooter games, ballet, sex, sex, sex, sex, prank calling, hitting people, torts, Twister, eating wildlife, Croatian-bashing, highlighters, Swedish boobies, other boobies, mammatus, lazing about, failing courses, crack cocaine, skiing, Sonny Bono, natural disasters, the War of 1812, germs, the Bush Administration, reading Republican autobiographies, Herbert Hoover, epic tales of sadness, Pennsylvania, recycling, going on exchange to find girlfriends, Wicca, your mom, tart apples, concrete, trout farms, Pinus contorta, the Dutch, life, trying things twice, ribbon dancing, sherpas, buttons, belated birthday cards, trying not to sneeze, underwater haircuts, chilly afternoons, anglesized names, lukewarm jello, the Wu Tang Clan, duck duck goose, spandex unitards, acronyms, MathCounts competitions, diddies and jingles, limbo, Sean Penn's wife, faith-based initiatives, unfortunate coincidences, bangers and mash, galvanized pipe, leaning, spankings, popular sayings, regions, darts, film noir, wearing socks, Lent, success, muffins, inelastic markets, bottled water, the taiga, LAN parties, dousing people with ginger ale, urinal pucks, winning, snifters, generalizations, tinder collecting, sarcastic puns, renting microphones, cheer camp, wispy hair, understated value, licking frozen poles, lipids, LandSAT image analysis software, contacting others, chic satchels, avoiding phobics, Sacramento, eggs, giving it my all, the history of Teflon, playing recorder, timely anecdotes, quintiles, and Funky Cold Medina.

Some of my other accomplishments: I started the Piedmont High Michael Jackson Fan Club / Support Group. I was president of the world in 1992 and most of 1993. I was in the Future Farmers of America for three weeks, level: Greenthumb. I figured out how to turn off overtype. I can count to 6 or 7 in binary. I walk with scissors, always. I know all the words to every Eurhythmics song. I am one of the ones who wants to get used by you. I can say the Greek alphabet backward when I'm drunk. I have touched the Panama Canal. I speak Farsi fluently. I have been inside Boulder Dam. I learned an important life lesson from the 'Saved By the Bell' episode in which Jessie becomes a caffeine pill addict. I liked 'Human Highway'. I tentatively forgive you. I know my social insurance number by heart. I try not to end sentences in prepositions. I know where it's at. I can easily identify Kern County by its distinctive shape. I know the difference between a doohickey and a thingamabob. I can spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I have never seen 'Spongebob Squarepants'. I am a good test taker. I know how to tie a square knot. I can walk really far. My mom goes to college. I've seen movies featuring Tom Cruise. Time is on my side. I know why the sky is blue. I know the truth about things. I remember the capital of Nebraska. I am punctual. I have been dressing myself for over 15 years. I've been to Utah. I can fuckin' give'r. I am unique. I have heard of Lyle Lovett. I know some factoids. I can use a dictionary. I don't have ADHD. I'm a liar, I'm a liar; my pants are on fire. I have been a proud owner of shoes for almost 20 years. I discovered a new place and mapped it. I have peed in ten countries. I am a good listener. My child was born at home. I have been a valued customer since 2002. I already know the rules. I can talk my way out of a ticket. I will make you rich and famous. I take what I can get. I saw the sign. I hope to one day own a Members Only jacket. I am a rock; I am an island. I use the word 'obdurate' in normal conversation. I think, therefore I am. I understand what you are saying. I planned several successful weddings. I overheard her saying it wasn't going to go smoothly. I am the mastermind behind the upcoming Harry Potter reality show. I can recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I have always considered myself pretty fly, for a white guy.

Let me know what you think!