Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Africa Itinerary

Africa Trip Map
So for those of you who will be interested, here is a loose map and itinerary for our upcoming African Adventure.

June 5- leave Columbia and travel from Columbia to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Amsterdam, then from Amsterdam onward to Dar es Salaam.
June 6- 10:00pm Arrive in Dar es Salaam

June 7–11th Spend time in and around Dar. We may travel to the town of Bagamoyo for an evening to see the beach and visit some historical sites. We may also take in Zanzibar.

June 12- 13 Travel by Bus to Dodoma, the technical capital of Tanzania (though most all maps still list Dar as such). Stay in Dodoma at the Msalato theological college as the guests of Dr. Dickson Chilongani (This bio is a little out of date, as he has received his Doctorate and is now Dean of the school.)

June 14 – 15th Travel by train to Dodoma for Mwanza.

June 15 – 22 Stay at the home of Dennis and Mary Mashiku, the parents of Dainess Maganda. Fabian Maganda will be with us until the 17th. Hopefully we can hang out and do some work at an orphanage or school while we are here.

June 22 Travel to Arusha, spend one evening. We’ll try to attend a session at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where they are trying individuals for crimes during the 1994 genocide pogrom.

June 23 - 26 Cross the border (via bus) into Kenya and visit Nairobi, where we will depart on the evening of the 26th.

This is a LOOSE itinerary. We will undoubtedly shift some of these plans around. The ONLY things set in stone are our arrival, the train, and departure. In fact, as of three days ago, the Dodoma visit wasn’t even on our itinerary, and now I think it will be one of the highlights of the trip. So there you go. Five days until departure: The countdo

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ok, So Here's Some Silliness...

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgable, you are the perfect sidekick.
You're always willing to lend a helping hand.
In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.
"15 seconds to showtime!"

I'm quite OK with that one...

You Are 32% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

Your Scholastic Strength Is Deep Thinking

You aren't afraid to delve head first into a difficult subject, with mastery as your goal.
You are talented at adapting, motivating others, managing resources, and analyzing risk.

You should major in:

Foreign language

You Are 53% American

Most times you are proud to be an American.
Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe
Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home.
You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!

More Books...


So I have continued on my Alexander McCall Smith kick and read The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first in the author’s Isabel Dalhousie series. This series follows Ms. Dalhousie, the editor of a philosophy magazine, as she grapples with all the moral dilemmas encountered as she investigates the death of a young man. Without given too much away, one of the things I liked about this book was that all the many storylines introduced were very realistically resolved- what I mean by this is that it didn’t com together into one tidy conclusion. Everything was resolved but not at all in the way I anticipated. Some stories that seemed central to the plot ended up with very simple conclusions, unrelated too much of the action, and I liked this about the story. Life is messy, and even our brilliant heroine couldn’t quite make heads or tails of the situations presented to her.

Having now read books in three of McCall Smith’s series, I can say that this series is the one where he lets his scholarly background run free. In The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, his heroine makes observations about life and what it is to be human, delving into the joys and sorrows of everyday life. In 44 Scotland Street, the author is writing about Edinburgh, his home city, and the quirkiness of those who live in it. The Philosophy Club series is full of discussions about philosophers and complex ethical issues, and the author spends a lot of time on tangents on concepts of this type. At first I felt that this was too be my least favorite of his characters so far (as Isabel is a independently wealthy woman who sits around pondering highly intellectual mysteries); however, I very much enjoyed this book and really did like all the characters introduced. I find it interesting that McCall Smith writes books with strong women lead characters. Stay tuned for more, as I have just started the sequel…


So I did (temporarily) break my trend of reading McCall Smith books, and picked up Grendel, a bizarre little novel which landed on our bookshelf via a bag of used books that circulated amongst our social circle (and was obviously a book used in one a class, as there were highlights and notes throughout the book- thanks, Paula!) The book is quite famous, but for those who do not know, it is the story of the years leading up to the arrival of Beowulf told through the eyes of the monster Grendel. It was more difficult too read than I anticipated, but once you get into it the story moves along at a good clip. This is an intriguing premise for someone with a sociological back-ground to read, because, though Grendel IS a monster, who he is really was dictated by the environment in which he grew up (loneliness, rejection, hostility from others). I found myself thinking of inner city kids who “go bad” because it’s a survival mode for a harsh environment. And while I was reading I kept thinking of another book where the story is told from a similar perspective- nihilistic and antagonistic toward others- and I realized it was the narrator character from Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky. This was a good read. Pick it up if you’re in the mood.

On a related note, a Google-search led me to this.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Chris Reid, Sportsman

Originally uploaded by baldman76.
So when most folks think of me, I’m sure one word comes to mind: SPORTS. Whether it’s my ultra-competitive nature or my toned, athletic physique, I am the epitome of a sportsman.

OK, but seriously, I have never played a sport, I have never followed sports, I have never liked sports. I don’t know teams. Or players. Or rules. The closest thing I have ever done is take Taekwondo (where I did get a black-belt, unbelievably) but I didn’t even like that very much. It can be problematic in a social setting, as most small-talk tends to revolve around sports and most people tend to not trust someone who doesn’t like the things they themselves find very interesting. So I have been ruminating on why this is: why do I have such an aversion to sports? Before I elaborate on my theories, a brief sidenote…

So I found myself bowling and playing golf this last week. Bowling I have done. And as per usual I sucked at it, but it was fun. Katie’s FASTWORKs program went bowling as their end-of-year party and I played with a few of the families and kids. There was a gentleman there who kept adamantly giving me tips on how to improve my bowling skills, and it actually did help a bit, I must say. However, since I bowl MAYBE twice a year, it’s almost not worth the effort to really try to get better.

As for the golfing, I’d never been golfing before. Last, Thursday, Matt and Mike invited me to join them at a driving range to play a 9-hole “par 3” course. I wasn’t what I would call good, but I wasn’t TERRIBLE per se. It was pretty fun, actually: the day was very pretty and sunny, and of course the company was quite enjoyable. Actually, I didn’t finish the course, though my last shot was my best. After flubbing quite a few shots, I evidently responded to Mike’s command to “spank the ball.” I replied “Consider it spanked,” and according to Mike and Matt, I got in position and swung my club perfectly. The only problem was I was halfway up the (short) fairway, so when I hit it, it soared beautifully- well over the green, across the little creek and halfway up another fairway. I stopped while I was ahead and called it a day. So what if the aim was terrible? The shot was perfect. Was it fun? Yep. Will I become a regular golfer? Nope.

SO back to my question: why do I have such an aversion to sports? My reasoning:
1) Physically, I suck. I’m fragile. I’m skinny. I have asthma. My breast-bone pops out of joint when I exert myself.
2) I have an uncanny ability to hurt myself in everyday life and I don’t like pain. I don’t need to exacerbate the situation by having people forcefully throw things at me expecting me to catch it.
3) I can’t catch things well, I have poor balance, and I have a STRONG knee-jerk reaction too dodge anything thrown at me (yet I like dodgeball, though perhaps this is because it allows me the chance to hone my dodging skills…)
4) I don’t like to practice things. This has always been the case. Taekwondo moves? Nope. My trumpet? Hated practicing. I hate just doing rote, mechanical exercises. Which might be why I’m not that good at anything.
5) I am not that competitive. I don’t care to be the best, nor do I care if other people try to be the best, especially at something I find to be trivial (like who can throw a ball the farthest)
6) As a kid, I really disliked a lot of the “sporty” kids, as I thought they were obnoxious. Therefore, I never wanted to join any team and be associated with them. (Imagine little old me, in first grade, passing judgement on a majority of my classmates. Yep, it’s easy to imagine, isn’t it? I’ve always kinda been a bastard. A sweet, friendly bastard, but a bastard nonetheless).

So there you have it. Some sports are more interesting too me than others (like Jeremy’s bike racing, or soccer), and occasionally I get sucked into watching a game and somewhat enjoying it (ie, the Superbowl). But I don’t foresee I’ll ever be a “sports guy.” With that said, I’ll probably have sports-crazy kids and end up coaching.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Originally uploaded by baldman76.
Thanks to Fuzzy, here's a shot of me shaking President Sorenson's hand at my graduation ceremony. Notice how he's not even LOOKING at me. Jerk. I was ONLY the 611th person he had to shake hands with! It's not like he had another 600 to go...oh wait, he did.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Roof of Mystery

Ladies Always Free
Originally uploaded by baldman76.
Don't really know what's in this little building, but whatever it is, it pays to be a lady.

Weddings, weddings!

Melissa and Daniel
Originally uploaded by baldman76.
On May 14th, Katie and I took a fast and furious road trip up to Wilmington, NC for the wedding of Daniel Haase and Melissa Caponi, a former teammate of mine when I was in AmeriCorps*NCCC in 2001. Melissa was one of only individual that I was with for all 5 projects, as we both ended up on the same “Shuffle team” for Round Three. LD was the other. (Some background- for the third round, each unit shuffled around the corps members to create new teams for a few weeks. I was initially opposed to this, as it takes awhile for a team to operate smoothly, and I felt this was disrupting the flow of our regular team and creating possible friction because of the new environments. However, I LOVED our shuffle team, so there were no worries.)

So the trip was fun, albeit brief. Not only did I get to see some of my old school “Johnny Water Peeps / Precious Cargo “ crew (Melissa, Angie Rohacek, and Casey “Beulah Sheffield” Cross) but some other AmeriCorps peeps as well, most notably Vegan Steve, who officiated the wedding. The ceremony was brief, but incredibly sweet (and no shame- I cried). We hung out at the reception for a while, then headed home that evening about 8:30. (Click the picture above to see a few more shots.)

This was actually the second wedding of a very busy weekend. Wedding #1 was at 9:30 am here in the Columbia area. A USC classmate of mine, Rachael Russell, was marrying her long-time sweetheart Nicholas, and it was also a very short but sweet ceremony. The service was held at the Mitchell House in Lexington, which is set up for this type of deal, so when the service ended, we just went next door for the reception. Good spread of food, and several of my USC friends were there: Matt, Chrissy, the Stekdog, Jenny and Daniel.

That afternoon we bailed on the post-wedding party because of the intense sociality of the weekend. That evening, it was dinner with Fabian and Dianess Maganda, followed by drinks at the Public House with Tricia, Adam, and Michelle.

Friday, May 19, 2006

One Resume = One Job

Divine Intervention. Or perhaps just unbelievably good luck. That’s what it is. I sent out one single resume post-graduation and got a job. Crazy. Last Thursday, I dropped off my resume. Friday I get a call for an interview. Tuesday I interviewed for an hour. Friday I got the offer. Effective July 3rd (post-Africa trip) I will be the Richland County Public Library Cooper Branch (on Trenholm Road) Library Assistant. I am thrilled. Not the big bucks, but a job I will (hopefully) love.

I have always been stunned by my incredible good luck when it comes to finding employment. With the exception of a few real stinkers, I have liked all my jobs and had a pretty easy time getting them. For example:

Job #1: Blockbuster Music. Walked into a music store, heard a cover of a Jethro Tull song on the store speakers, asked who was covering a song since it was obviously not Ian Anderson singing. They offered me a job that day.

Job#2: Bebop Record Shop. Best friend was a manager. “It’s not WHAT you know but…”

Job #3: Madison County Cultural Center in MS. While I was at Hinds Community College in Raymond, MS, I organized a panel discussion concerning censorship and the government’s role in art. One of the guest panelists was the president of a local arts “umbrella group.” Once I graduated (and after not getting hired for a designer position by another organization), I called the guy up to see if he had any leads. He in fact was hiring for a Program’s Coordinator position and viola! Within a week or two I was hired. Ironically, the other job that didn’t hire me called me back RIGHT after I accepted the other job and offered me the designer position. I stayed at the arts center. Great decision.

Job #4: AmeriCorps NCCC. Got accepted immediately, no waiting list.

Job #5: In New York, I had two brief jobs before I fled the city. I worked for 2 weeks at a Barnes and Nobles (and I got the job in my first week in the city) and I worked as a fundraiser for a Greenpeace campaign. I got that job the same day as my interview. However, that job sucked so bad I cannot put it into words. (However, I CAN put it into pictures, so if I ever finish it, my next comic is loosely based on how much that job sucked. It really did. Has anyone ever screamed in YOUR face and called you a terrorist? Didn’t think so. Someone actually told me they hoped I died.)

Job #6: Book Shoppe in Cape May. I’d been in town for about four days and thought “I’ll go check out the local book store.” Asked if they were hiring, yes they were, I was hired that day.

Job #7: AmeriCorps VISTA at Communities In Schools of the Midlands. Found out about the job on a Tuesday, called on Wednesday, drove to South Carolina on a Thursday, interviewed Friday morning, offered the job that afternoon.

Job #7: USC Sociology Lab. Made an A in a professor’s class, he found me the next semester and offered me a job. SHAZAM.

That brings us up to now. I have had other jobs I didn’t mention, but these are the substantial ones. So am I just blessed? Yes, in some ways I believe I am. I am also willing to work for peanuts if I feel the experience and or the work is worthwhile and beneficial to a greater cause, so that has helped a bit. Anyway, it’s a major relief to know I have a job waiting for me when I return from Africa.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Libraries and Books...

This afternoon I had an interview for the position of Library Assistant for the Cooper Branch of the Richland County Public Library. It lasted about an hour and went really well. I was interviewed by three women and though I was nervous (and sweating profusely), I feel I made a solid case for my qualifications. And rightly so, because I have some experience performing every task required of this position. They didn’t even balk when I mentioned that I would be gone for most of June.

In fact, they seemed really interested in our trip. AND they talked about how they were trying to figure out how to better engage the area’s Bantu families in their English tutorial programs. I just laughed and said ‘I’m your man.” And maybe it was a sign, but when I walked out, there was Aden, the student I tutor, standing at the counter. I grabbed him and pulled him back into the office to drive home the point that I really DO work well with kids (especially Bantu kids. Ha.) So maybe I’ll get the job. Maybe I won’t. But if this one doesn’t work out, I feel I at least have my foot in the door for a future position. So in celebration of this occasion, I thought I’d recommend a few books, both by Alexander McCall Smith:

Blue Shoes and Happiness

Blues Shoes and Happiness is the 7th book in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, the series of which I have previously professed my love. This book was really enjoyable and has a feel more akin to the first three books in the series, when the stories had more to do with cases than with the personal goings on of the characters. A solid return to form, not that the last two were bad at all. The 5th book was the weakest, but the 6th was really strong. I wasn’t sure if this one would meet my expectations, but I certainly did. From Alexander McCall Smith’s website:

“… there is considerable excitement at The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. A cobra has been found in Precious Ramotswe’s office. Then a nurse from a local medical clinic reveals that faulty blood–pressure readings are being recorded there. And Botswana has a new advice columnist, Aunty Emang, whose advice is rather curt for Mma Ramotswe’s taste…”

44 Scotland Street

I thought 44 Scotland Street was a stand-alone book and not part of a series, but it is evidently the first of many, as I have just seen the title of the sequel in the inside cover of Blues Shoes and Happiness. And I am happy, because there were many delightful characters introduced (my favorites being Bertie the genius 5-year-old who resents his mother and Cyril, the beer-drinking dog with a gold-tooth and a penchant for winking at the ladies. Really.) There were several plot lines left unresolved, which I didn’t really notice at first, as the book is broken into about 120 mini-chapters (it was originally published in serial form), so the book hops around a lot. It involves a potentially valuable painting, the difficulties of love, and anthropologists, all taking place around the lives of the residents of 44 Scotland Street. As with his other books, McCall Smith manages to really drive home what it is too be a person- to live a life, to be alive, to be filled with joy or doubt- all from delving into the minutiae of everyday lives. Love it.

Monday, May 15, 2006


OK, so I have finally delved into YouTube, where I found 20 pages of Tom Waits videos and clips. Good thing I don't have a job...

Anyway, rather that post one of those (and I will, don't you worry), I thought I'd be even more predictable and post the link to a video by oliver Mtukudzi, from Zimbabwe. I have a good bit of his music and I really enjoy it a lot. Click HERE for a brief bio and discography.

Homeskillet Visit

Hello, Dear Readers. Boy, what a busy few weeks. As usual, I’ll start my latest post with an apology for not posting more as of late, but I really just haven’t either had the time or even thought about it. So here is the first of many updates:

A few weeks ago, my boy Jeremy “Homeskillet AKA Cap’n Hardqore” Mucha’ was on the East Coast for the U.S. Crits racing series, the mother of all bike races in the USA. Homeskillet arrived on April 26th, stayed the night and hung out the next day before heading off to Atlanta that Friday. He showed up again the following Tuesday after the first leg of the races were done, and stayed at our place until EARLY Friday morning.

Bike racers fall into categories: in the Crits, Category 2’s, Cat 1’s and the Pros come out to compete for cash and prestige. The Cap’n is currently a Cat 2, and this is his second time to compete in these races. I don’t know much about bike racing, but the little bit that I have gleaned from the few races I’ve been to is very interesting. It is an exact science. You plow forward strong and steady, and if you tap your brake for just a second at the wrong time, the race could be over for you. Once you lose just a modicum of momentum at a critical moment, you could find yourself struggling too keep up when just one lap before you were in the top third. (I’ve also learned that bike racing is evidently a lot like a Shoney’s buffet full of paperclips and rubberbands, but I digress…)

Cap'n Hardcore

This year it worked out that I could attend two races in the series, one in Waltersboro and one in Greenwood. I enjoyed pallin’ around with Jeremy and his mom, who was his bike-race groupie and made it too all four of the Crit races. And Jeremy did much better this year than last year. Definite improvement. He actually won some money at a time-trial “race” and plowed through a good chunk of the last two races. The above photo is from the time trial, and is swiped from the Cap’n’s website, and I assume it was taken by his mom, Jean Brudevold. Jeremy is on the right- WINNING it, btw.) And these races are tough: The Greenwood race is 70 laps, which translates into about 2 hours of solid racing at approximately 30 miles an hour. Many folks, pros and amateurs alike, don’t make it to the end. So Big-Ups to Jeremy for his most excellent performance.

As a side note, this fall I will have known Jeremy for 22 years (or is it 23?!!). First day of Second Grade, y’all! Yowza.