Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wright City: Cedar Lake Cellars

Carol and I saw the sign for a winery, so we followed Stringtown Road off of M to Cedar Lake Cellars.

Photo credit: Stephanie Flakne

Who'd have thought such a beautiful winery operation hides out behind Wright City, that nondescript notch along Interstate 70?

(Well, it does have the Elvis-cum-Jesus sign that is kind of eye-catching.)

Cedar Lake Cellars has a lush expanse of bright green lawn; a pleasing lake, plus sprightly red Adirondack chairs sprinkled throughout. Red barns. A very pretty stone-and-wood wine-tasting facility. Ali and Jaye provided live music.

 Carol liked when they sang this song:

A pleasant way to spend an afternoon! Drinking wine and listening to music by green grass and cool water.

Before we hit the winery, we had sought out free wine and cheese at a display house in Innsbruck, also outside of Wright City. We agreed the house has an overly-ambitious price, but the pretty scenery off the deck is hard to beat:

Dogwoods in Innsbruck, MO

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ethiopia: Traditional Dance - Gurage

It's Friday! Time to enjoy some dance! 

Here are examples of traditional dance from the Gurage, an ethnic group in Ethiopia. I love it: 

A professional music video version:

A "home movie" version:

And an animated, hiphop version:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Warrenton: Belle Starr Theatre

Tonight, at the Belle Starr Theatre, the Red Hill Band played. This is an old-timey bluegrass band, with acoustic and electric guitars and a mandolin.

They played covers for great old songs. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Syria: On My Short List of Places to Visit

Credit: Merriam Webster
Everyone I know who has gone to Syria loves it. It is on the short list of places I want to go. After its current troubles subside.

Why do people love it? The friendliness and graciousness of the people, the history, the scenery ...

As for friendliness, here's what Wandering Earl had to say in his post The Most Important Word in the World, "Finally, I had found a town in Syria that was not as ridiculously super-friendly as all the rest. I had been expecting it to happen at some point, because, after all, it would be impossible for every single city, town and village in this country to maintain such a high standard of hospitality. ..."

... and then tells the tale of going to the camel races with a new-found friend.

Here's an odd but compelling travel video for Syria. A CCR song for background, of all things.  

For some reason, Wandering Earl's post reminds of the unfriendly response an American United Airlines employee gave to a distressed German passenger in Chicago's O'Hare Airport. A German woman came up to the gate counter, in a panic about getting to the right gate on time, trying to get information about the correct gate from the counter employee. The United Airlines employee, after brushing the German woman off curtly, called after the woman as she ran away to another gate, "English! English!"


This was a shame, as that poor tourist left with a poor impression of Chicaogans, when in fact, what I remember most about my visit to Chicago a year ago was how friendly the people were!

[I learned from a customer service study that it takes 10 positive encounters to offset every one negative encounter, and this holds true in business and personal relationships.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Missouri: Hunting for Morels

Photo credit: Missourimorels.blogspot

Morel mushrooms. In April, a lot of Missourians are mushroom hunting.

Today, Carol and I went out to do the same, thinking to fix up a mess of them for dinner tonight.

Photo credit: Missourimorels.blogspot

Well, we didn't find any. But I did bag these photos in the process:

In addition to the avid hunter at Missouri Morels (watch the spore-spoutin' videos!), a beautiful mushroom site at the blog of another Missourian --> the Mycologista.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning for the Rootless: Tidying Up the Laptop

Re-organizing. Deleting. Archiving. Not much different from cleaning out a closet.

Am I ever going to need this again? No? Delete. Maybe some day? Archive.

Can I combine any folders? Yes.

I reconfigured the Windows 7 "libraries" system so it reflects what I need rather than the default arrangement. My libraries are now a tidy set of four: Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures. I removed default folders I never use, such as Webcams, Videos, and Fax. Ditto for folders called Public Music and Public Pictures.

And what's in Music and Pictures are actually just shortcuts from their "parent" folders nestled in the arms of my cloud-based, automatic back-up, data storage folder, itself ensconced within Documents.

[It should go without saying that I long ago deleted or uninstalled the pre-loaded, never-used and unwanted applications from my laptop, especially from my internet browser. But I know that so many PC users never take that stuff out, including all of the internet cafes in Ethiopia. As a result, they needlessly suffer visual and navigational clutter, not to mention, over time, slower work speeds.]

Sheesh! My photos were a mess ever since I migrated from the desktop to the laptop! Some were on my hard drive, some only on the Picasa website, and I realized I found Picasa difficult to manipulate, confounding my efforts to get my photos in order.

But now I've got it all straightened out and all is now orderly, easy to find, and visually serene.

Here's one person who has tips for tidying up one's computer files:  How to Organize Your Computer Files

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Stuff Released

Door to jewelry stall outside Monument Valley
This weekend, I'm releasing these photos I shot and framed, to sister2:

Outside my door at Adobe Wall Motel, Taos, NM. All rights reserved.

Plus this painting, which I love, bought from Ken Nelson (pictured), owner of the now-defunct Pink Schoolhouse Gallery outside of Taos, NM, in Tres Piedras.

To Carol, I released these photos I shot and framed, taken in the Museo de la Memoria in Tlaxcala, Mexico:

All rights reserved

All rights reserved

Plus some beautiful bird prints to sister2.

This past week, I also released several Tony Hillerman books to the wild.

With the exception of some camping gear and cold-weather clothing, I do believe I'll get all of my earthly goods into the space of two pieces of luggage and a backpack. Not quite there yet, but very close.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Special Kind of Rootless: Caritas Habimana, Part 2

Over a year ago, Carie realized she was so busy in her volunteer service to refugees in Columbia, Missouri, it interfered with her job. So she quit her job.

In a sense, Carie untied the tether that held her balloon to the ground, and began to float free. 

Carie knew she would be OK. And she has been. Money to pay the bills and put food on the table somehow comes to her when she needs it.

Ditto for the means and methods to serve the refugees in Columbia, Missouri. The people who have come into Carie's orbit, who are heavenly bodies themselves, accomplish the most creative feats:

Sew You Know, a place hosted by Community United Methodist Church, where refugees learn how to sew, speak English, build relationships, and sell their product to another out-of-the-box-thinking supporter --> the Columbia Housing Authority.

Safi Sana, a house cleaning and painting business started by Jen Wheeler, employing refugees who do not speak English yet, and who need work to support themselves and their families.

Agape Fellowship Church, through the leadership of refugee and pastor, Aaron Vurugwa, and the support of four mid-Missouri Presbyterian churches. Carie, a founding member of this church, translates the Kinyarwanda-language services into English or any of the other seven languages she speaks, when non-Kinyarwanda speakers join the congregation's services.

Carie called a local employer one day and asked if he would be willing to hire refugees who desperately needed work to be self-sufficient. He runs a laundry business. Carie told him, "They don't speak English yet." He asked, "No English?" She said, "None." And he took the risk and hired them. As with any other employee, sometimes an individual doesn't work out, and s(he) gets fired. And then Carie mentors the refugee on improving his or her workplace skills.

There are many stories about Carie and the people around her, and how they make cool things happen.

Here's another really cool thing. Carie and I got together shortly before I left for Ethiopia. She told me that a friend of hers, a trauma counselor also working with refugees, had the opportunity to go to Rwanda in July 2011. The friend asked Carie if she could go, too. Carie said yes. No money to do so, mind you. Just the faith that it would happen somehow. And I totally believed her because that's just how it is with Carie. 

So I get back from Ethiopia, and we meet for a catch-up. Rwanda in July? Yes. It's the most amazing story: Recently, Carie met a young woman with whom she'd do some refugee work. Carie told the woman about her intent to go to Rwanda, including that she didn't know how she'd pay for it, but knew it would happen anyway.

That night, the young woman told her parents about Carie. The next day, she called Carie. Her parents, without having ever met Carie, but so inspired by their daughter's story, decided to buy Carie's plane tickets!

When Carie goes to Rwanda this July, it will be the first time she's returned since she fled 17 years ago.

Carie is a special kind of rootless.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Special Kind of Rootless: Caritas Habimana, Part 1

Caritas Habimana - Carie - is not rooted to the earth.

Nope, her head is in the clouds. She lives each day in complete faith that things will turn out the way they should.

Carie, a Tutsi from the Congo and Rwanda, is a survivor of the Rwanda genocide. Her story, from start to finish, from how she escaped murder by about 15 minutes, and then over and over again, until she found her way to a refugee camp months after her saga began, is a story of serial miracles. Her survival is also a story of people helping people - at terrible risk to themselves.

She could be a bitter person for the things that happened during the genocide, and for things that have happened since.

But she is not. Carie spends all day, every day helping others. It gives her joy.

Don't know if you recall this, but the genocide was a result of Hutu Rwandans killing upwards of 800,00 Tutsi Rwandans (and those who stood in the killers' way, including other Hutus). 

Carie doesn't care if the people she helps are Tutsi or Hutu. 

Carie's embrace of Tutsi and Hutu together causes distress to people she loves.

But Carie perseveres. The refugees need her, and she needs them. 

"There's a big plan out there," Carie told me the other day. "Bigger than people know. .... And I dream big, too."

Continued here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Beauty of Redundancy

Yesterday, my second camera arrived from the ebay seller. If you'll recall, I thus have two used Canon SD600s, my response to getting my camera stolen in Ethiopia.

On one hand, it felt very satisfying yesterday to have two identical cameras. It's relatively inexpensive (about $55 each), I enjoy the economic benefit (monetary, space savings, and convenience) of using interchangeable accessories, and I have an almost-immediate replacement in case one camera gets stolen again, or one breaks, or gets dropped in a latrine.

Also, there is beauty in redundancy. Didn't Monet paint eight million haystacks?

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
 Or how about Warhol's Marilyns?

On the other hand, I felt a little obsessive-compulsive. Did I really need to have a back-up camera? How likely was it for my camera to be stolen again? Wasn't portable, rootless me having two cameras a little like having millions of people take off their shoes at airports the world over, because one guy hid something in his shoes, once?

Ah, but then I saw this today: Amazon Gets Black Eye From Cloud Outage. Zowie! Just another example of the theory that all systems will fail - our goal is to ensure we fail smartly. I love what Rachel Dines said in her zdnet, Forrester Research, article, How Resilient Is Your Cloud Service Provider, about the Amazon web hosting cloudburst:

"When you use a cloud service, whether you are consuming an application (backup, CRM, email, etc), or just using raw compute or storage, how is that data being protected? A lot of companies assume that the provider is doing regular backups, storing data in geographically redundant locations or even have a hot site somewhere with a copy of your data. Here’s a hint: ASSUME NOTHING. Your cloud provider isn’t in charge of your disaster recovery plan, YOU ARE!" [Emphasis mine.]

I had really been impressed with Amazon S3 cloud data storage. [Note: The Amazon S3 data storage is a separate enterprise from Amazon EC2 web hosting enterprise.] What I said: "If I were a little more tech-savvy and if I knew I'd stay put in the U.S., I would have gone with Amazon S3 in an instant. I liked it for what appears to be an above-and-beyond security level, and that Amazon has a lot to lose if it were to compromise its customers' confidence in its service." I wasn't alone in that assessment, based, at the end of the day, on the quality of the Amazon brand and not on any subject matter expertise.  

I'd already had the experience of being too smart for my own good.  And being reminded that a fallback only works if the fallback is accessible.
So I'm good with having the two cameras.

.... On the other hand, evidently the immediate cause of the Amazon EC2 problem was, per Mashable article, What We Can Learn From Amazon's Cloud Collapse, too much redundancy! "The trouble was apparently due to excessive re-mirroring of its Elastic Block Storage (EBS) volumes — this essentially created countless new backups of the EBS volumes that took up Amazon’s storage capacity and triggered a cascading effect that caused downtime on hundreds (or more likely thousands) of websites for almost 24 hours." ....

I do need to get on to my overdue task item to work out my unsatisfactory flash drive back up system.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ethiopia Round-Up: What Did My Trip Cost?

Looks like the total cost = $3413 for two months, including air fare.

It also includes costs at the airports coming and going, such as beverages, a book, and internet access.

Air fare was about $1300, leaving $2113 for travel, or about $1000 each month.

Not included:

  • Travel insurance @ $197 from World Nomads (cost of which depends on destination, duration of stay, one's age, and one's country of origin - U.S. residents pay more)
  • Replacement of stolen camera
  • Items purchased in advance of trip, such as clothing items, inflatable pillow, and the like

Budget calculator resources:

1.     Independent Traveler's Travel Budget Calculator
2.     Budget Your Trip

3.    How To Plan an Itinerary and Budget, from Seat 61

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ethiopia Round-up: My New, New-Old Camera

Back here, I described the camera I bought to replace the camera stolen from me in Ethiopia.

Alas, there was a problem with the used Canon SD800 I bought, and I had to return it.

From Amazon: Canon SD600
Today, I received my new, new-old camera - a Canon SD600, which is the same model stolen from me! It was a damn good camera, and since I already had a second battery and the battery charger, why not? The new-old camera came with another battery, another battery charger, and a nice case.

So, in case you lost count between one and .... two, I now have: one camera, one memory card, two batteries, two camera cases, and two battery chargers. For redundance simplicity, I'll buy a second Canon SD600 and a second memory card.

The replacement Canon SD600 cost me $62.50 on ebay, including shipping. If all goes well, I'll buy the second SD600 for $52.00, including shipping.**

Having my camera stolen was a sad experience, and I regret the beautiful photos I never got to take. With economical redundancy, and very little extra "mass," I feel better prepared for the next trip.

**Update: Done.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rootless Rule #2: Be Prepared for Cold

I looked at the weather forecast before I left for one of my Jefferson City pieds-a-terre. In the 50s on Saturday, but in the 60s for Friday and Sunday.

How was it possible I forgot how cold it can feel in the 50s, especially when it's cloudy?

And what had I packed? A pair of sandals I can't wear socks with. And for body warmth, only a thin sweater or overshirt. Consequences: I didn't take an outdoor walk with Tim that he wanted to go on.

So Rootless Rule #2: Always have (in my bag or car) a cool-weather jacket or pullover, and a pair of shoes and socks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Being Location Independent

In my view, working "location independent" will only get more popular as technology and imagination gloriously expand, freeing people to live where they want. Location independence could rejuvenate small towns foresighted enough to invest in distance technology for their current and potential residents.

From asimov wikia
Puts me in mind of an Isaac Asimov series with robot Daneel Olivaw and robot-phobic and agoraphobic police investigator Elijah Baley. The Spacers can live and work on huge estates, in physical isolation, but in virtual proximity to anyone, anywhere.

A comprehensive site on location independence:

Location Independent: Connecting You With All the Resources You Need to Live and Work Anywhere You Choose

One example of Location Independent's resources is house-sitting, a concept I thought went the way of schemes such as "vacation for free while delivering a car across the country!" or "see the world as an airline courier!" But apparently house-sitting is alive and kicking. On further reflection, this makes sense - I'm guessing pet care is a common expectation for house sitters.

Agencies the site recommends, among others:

House Sitters America

Mind My House

House Carers

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jefferson City: Another Day at The Mission

The Mission lounge

Jenny at The Mission

Rebecca has a new job!

Helping her celebrate at The Mission were Harry, Nora, Chuck, Al, Kate, Pam, Charlene, Lawrence, Mary, Peter, and me.

Jenny is the bartendress.

Gins and tonic @ $2 per for happy hour. 

Rebecca is looking for a good home for a cat. I said, "No can do. I'm rootless."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Pencils

Volunteer teaching at the English Alive Academy in Nazret, Ethiopia, was very satisfying. Really, it's hard to have a bad day when greeted by dozens of smiling children shaking your hand and exclaiming, "Good morning!" Or being the recipient of serial kisses, hugs, and "I love you's!"


When it came to the actual teaching, though, I could not believe how much time was lost because one or two children did not have a usable pencil. Not because they didn't have one at all, but because the pencil quality was so poor, it took many futile attempts at sharpening (often with a big knife) to reveal the lead trapped within. Scrambling for one or two decent pencils held up the entire class' progress.

Evidently, there are either no good pencils to be found in Ethiopia or they are prohibitively expensive.
From Amazon

I've since learned that the decent-pencil problem exists in the U.S., too, even at private schools.

Maybe these Ticonderoga pencils would do the trick, seeing as they're "the world's best pencil."

I wonder if Ticonderoga ever donates pencils ....

At $13 USD per box of 96, yikes, that's a lot of money in Ethiopia.

If someone should be so moved to donate pencils to the English Alive Academy, (a registered charity in the UK) they may be shipped to:

Dawit Hailu
PO Box 170222
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Alerting the school in advance at stephanddawit at yahoo dot co dot uk would give them a heads-up to look for the package.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The IRS Doesn't Care if I'm Rootless

I still gotta file my tax return.

Which I did. And I owed $$$. Which I paid.

Hopefully, later this year, I'll be among the Taxpayers Living Abroad. I'll need Publication 54, the Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Living Abroad

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Security: Changing Passwords

I changed many passwords last week.

Two reasons:
  1. It was on my google calendar to do so, as my last set of changes occurred three months previously; and 
  2. Just got back from an extensive trip outside my home country, where I'd relied on internet cafes. 

It took some time to change my passwords. This is because: .

  • I have a lot of accounts that require passwords, and I don't use the same password for all of my email, banking, purchasing, and other accounts. 
  • Changing the passwords on some email accounts meant reconfiguring another email's info so it could properly fetch the mail from those accounts.
  • I needed to update the encrypted tool I use to manage passwords.

But about calendaring my password-change prompt - Here is a counter-intuitive article by Bruce Schneier, along with interesting discussion about the need to change passwords at all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Teach English in the Middle East?

I'm a woman, and I want to look behind the veil, so to speak.

Here in the U.S. (don't know about other Western countries), I think there's a pretty black-and-white stereotype about women's rights and lives in the "middle east" - or let's just say, for this conversation, women's rights and lives in countries that are predominantly Muslim. The assumption that women's lives generally suck in some countries, every day and all day.

Not too long ago, the NYT wrote an intriguing article about Afghan girls playing the roles of sons in some families, at least for awhile: Afghan Boys are Prized, So Girls Live the Part.

Photo credit: Azita Rafaat
One of the most interesting statements in this article comes from Azita Rafaat, a member of the Afghan Parliament, who played the role of a boy when she was young, and who has a daughter who does the same today:

As a woman and as a politician, she said it worried her that despite great efforts and investments from the outside world to help Afghan women, she has seen very little change, and an unwillingness to focus on what matters.

“They think it’s all about the burqa,” she said. “I’m ready to wear two burqas if my government can provide security and a rule of law. That’s O.K. with me. If that’s the only freedom I have to give up, I’m ready.” 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What is the Middle East, Anyway?

Here's one view:

Credit: map-zone

And another:

Credit: Bryn Mawr Library

Or this:

Credit: University of Notre Dame

The folks at mideastinfo include 21 countries in the middle east:
  1. Algeria
  2. Bahrain
  3. Egypt
  4. Iran
  5. Iraq
  6. Israel
  7. Jordan
  8. Kuwait
  9. Lebanon
  10. Libya
  11. Morocco
  12. Oman
  13. Palestine
  14. Qatar
  15. Saudi Arabia
  16. Sudan
  17. Syria
  18. Tunisia
  19. Turkey
  20. United Arab Emirates
  21. Yemen
But the so-called "traditional" Middle East differs (excluding northern Africa), as does the "greater" Middle East (which includes Afghanistan, Cyprus, and others), as per wikipedia.

Does one define the so-called "middle east" by:

  • Location on a map? 
  • Predominant religion? 
  • Language?
  • Oil?
  • Political alliances?
  • History?
  • Desert?
  • Populations' phenotype?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking to Teach English in the Middle East ... or Thereabouts

When I returned to Missouri, it was time to commence my next adventure --> I began shooting out apps for EFL jobs in the Middle East.

Thus far, I've sent apps for positions in:

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Mission in Jefferson City

Pam, Kate, Cat, Peter, and I went to Native Stone Winery for dinner outside.

Then we dropped off Peter and went to listen to Rumblestrip at The Mission

I went to the bathroom there.

We saw Rebecca there! She was with a strange dog.

And then my new-old camera broke.

A bittersweet evening.

The music, however, kicked ass.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Popping the Cork in Jefferson City

Pam, Kate, and I visit new place in town, Capitol City Cork.

We have the cheese platter with our wine.

And chat with personable owner, Jami Wade. 

We will be back.