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Once again, I'm reminded of how important having a family that supports you and loves you truly is.  I consider myself very lucky to have such a great sister and father — not to mention a pretty wonderful extended family as well (including step-mom, various aunts and uncles, plenty of cousins, and the best brother-in-law on the planet).  I'm not always able to express these sentiments in person, but I feel them each and every day.  With all that is bad in the world constantly being thrust upon us by the news media and other sources, it's comforting to me that I have such a familial bond.  Doubly so because they chose me (I was adopted).  Thanks!



I sort of promised myself to leave most family details out of my blogs, as well as most of the emotions associated.  However, some things do happen which are important enough that I need to at least mention them here and deal with them off-line.  Thus, this post may seem rather cold and unemotional (which aren't my true feelings at all) but I think my family will appreciate that since I'm really trying to project positivity rather than negativity.

My father's older brother, Edward, passed away early this morning after a lengthy bout with cancer.  Dad had visited him in California just two weeks ago and said that he seemed to be in very good spirits.  I'm happy that I sent him a card shortly before Father's Day as well.

The last time I saw Eddie was at my mom's funeral.  About five years before that, I stayed at his and my aunt Shirley's home for about 10 days when I attended a convention in San Francisco.  That was a wonderful visit and those memories remain with me as being a very happy time.  Each morning (after a fabulous breakfast — most items came from their awesome backyard garden), Eddie would drive me to the nearby BART station from where I would take the subway across the Bay into the city.  About midway into my visit, my sister and brother-in-law arrived on a separate vacation adding to the fun.  On one of our "nights on the town," Eddie and Shirley treated us to a performance of that stalwart of Frisco theatre, "Beach Blanket Bingo."

For as long as I can remember, Eddie had the same house with the same fabulous backyard including a large swimming pool and a garden that could rival Kew in London.  Visiting his home was always a definite highlight of family summer vacations to the West Coast while I was growing up.  I can remember my little sister always being "required" to wear a big styrofoam bubble on her back whenever she used the pool; it was revealed on my last visit there that that had been the grownup's idea of a joke.

Eddie owned a dental laboratory; one of the things they did was put chrome plating on dental instruments.  As a child, I was fascinated by this and as a gift one year he sent me a large chrome-plated nail (more of a spike, really, it's about 10 inches long).  I still have this nail sitting atop my desk.

Eddie and Shirley also loved to travel.  They always sent me a postcard from whichever far-flung destination they were enjoying.  (My favorite is the one from Lima, Peru, with the Incan sculpture of a vulture feasting on the eyesocket of a poor individual tied up to a tree.  Eddie's written comment was, "It doesn't get any worse than this," something that tends to cheer me up when I get down knowing I'm not tied to a tree with a vulture feasting on me!)  Receiving those postcards helped ignite my interest for travel and when I was finally able to journey to my own far-flung destinations I made certain to send them postcards from the road.

Eddie also had a love for sailing.  I believe his sailboat was the first I ever became seasick on, during a rather choppy trip across San Francisco Bay in the late 1970's.  I'm sure his sailing activities ignited that interest in my father, who later had a succession of sailboats of his own.  Eddie's wish that his ashes be scattered from a boat in Monterey Bay echo his lifelong love of the sea.

I've often said that Eddie was my favorite uncle.  That's certainly true.  But I come from a family where everyone is so kind, supportive, and interesting that they have ALL been my favorite at one time or another (and often all simultaneously).  It hurts me deeply whenever anything bad befalls anyone in my family, and Eddie's passing — while not unexpected — saddens me a great deal.

But I can find solace in having such fond memories of Eddie in life and in knowing that his suffering is over, that he's gone to a much better place.

I'll miss you Eddie, rest in Peace.



After having been a HUGE Marillion fan for twenty years, I finally got to see them perform live last September in Boulder.  It was their first American tour since 1997.  Now, just a mere seven-and-a-half months later, they are back on this side of the Atlantic — albeit in a very stripped-down form — to perfom a week-and-a-half of shows.

Billed as Los Trios Marillos, the two Steves and Pete, arrived Friday (June 10) and did an in-store signing and acoustic session at New York's Greenwich Village Tower Records.  The first actual concert of the tour was Monday night at the Bowery Ballroom (where the live photos in this blog entry were taken).

Tuesday night saw a superb show at Boston's historic Paradise Club (another fan's review is below), followed Wednesday by another in-store appearance at the Harvard Square Tower Records.  Obviously, these are very intimate gigs (the Bowery holds 575, the Paradise just 405) — a far cry from the days they headlined festivals in Europe, but I rather like them this way.

Tonight's only the third show of the tour — at Toronto's 554-capacity Mod Club.  The remaining North American appearances and shows are:

June 17 — Montréal, Québec: HMV Megastore (signing session - 18:00)
June 17 — Montréal, Québec: La Tulipe (700 standing)
June 19 — Chicago, IL: Clark Street Tower Records (in-store acoustic set - 14:00)
June 19 — Chicago, IL: Double Door (600 standing)
June 21 — Philadelphia, PA: Broad Street Tower Records (in-store acoustic set - 13:00)
June 21 — Philadelphia, PA: World Cafe (600 standing)
June 22 — Washington, DC: Pennsylvania Avenue Tower Records (in-store acoustic set - 15:00)
June 22 — Alexandria, VA: Birchmere Music Hall (500 seated)
After that, it's back to a sold-out Aylesbury Civic Centre (full-band) show on June 30 as a warm-up for a couple of festival dates (July 2 at the Bospop Festival in Weert, Holland, and July 17 at the Guilfest in Guilford, England.  And talk about planning ahead:  they are already selling tickets for the first seven shows of their Christmas tour — the one at London's Forum two days after my 40th birthday looks pretty good to me!

Well, enough of my rambling on about Los Marillos, let's hear from Frank Sullivan about Tuesday's show in Boston (because I really suck at writing concert reviews):
I'm just starting to recover from Monday evening's show at the Paradise in Boston.  A truly amazing performance!  By the end of the first song, "Hollow Man" sung by h, alone at the piano, I had already been rewarded for my $25 ticket price and the three hour wait out on the sidewalk on one of the hottest June days that Boston has ever seen.  The club put chairs out on the main floor, which made for a much more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere than the jam packed sardine can that the Paradise was last Nov. during Marillion's show.  (Not to mention that we were free to get a drink or two and use the bathroom without losing our spot close to the stage.  All three players sat on stools during the entire show - h at the piano (with various percussion instruments and a laptop for the occasional drum sample loop and help with lyrics!), Pete switching between 6 string acoustic and an acoustic bass guitar and Rothery playing 12 string acoustic, a Strat with one amp and minimum effects and Pete's acoustic bass guitar.Highlights were a chilling version of "Runaway" (brought me to tears) featuring a blistering IMPROVISED solo by Rothers (always a treat!); a stunning rendition of
"Dry Land" (tears on that one as well!) featuring another killer solo by Rothers; "Sugar Mice" (should have brought tissues); an amazing treatment of "Easter" featuring the first verse and chorus done by h alone with piano accompaniment (nice jazzy chords) and no guitar solo; a beatiful version of "Don't Hurt Yourself" with Rothers on bass, Pete on acoustic guitar and "percussion" provided by the audience hand claps under h's direction; and the first part of "Ocean Cloud" with a nice extended solo guitar intro by Rothery (very nice!) seguing into "Enlightened".  Also: "3 Minute Boy" "1000 Faces" "Cover My Eyes" (solo h on piano - georgeous!) "Answering Machine" "You're Gone" and more.

The feel of the night was very intimate, almost like having Marillion playing in your living room for you and some friends.  I couldn't help but feel that this tour and these shows were more a gift to the fans than anything else.  The stripped down arrangements and relaxed atmosphere made the power of both the compositions and the performers all the more apparent.  It was like looking at a drawing by Rembrandt, where through a few loose, quickly drawn marks you can still feel the presence of the hand of the greatest artist who ever lived.  Seeing Steve Hogarth sing while sitting on a stool and hearing Rothers play blistering solos without his usual wall of signal processors, in some ways made the spirit of the music even more apparent than at a full band show.  A very special evening indeed.

I also caught the appearance at Tower Records the next day.  A nice set up, featuring a big sign (old Mark Wilkinson logo!) and big in-store display featuring Marbles on the Road DVD and quite few CDs.  The band played 5 songs to a surprisingly small, yet very enthusiastic, crowd and then signed autographs.  I brought my four year old daughter, who enjoyed it immensely (I wasn't the only one who brought kids.), especially since they played her favorite song, "Don't Hurt Yourself".

All in all, a great opportunity to see the greatest band on earth in an
uncharacteristically informal setting, without losing one bit of the magic that is Marillion. Nice job!

We'll see you farther on down the road...

5000 HITS?

It may not seem like much of an achievement to certain webmasters out there, but I was amazed just now to see that the homepage of my personal site had reached 5000 hits.  I'd only added the counter just over a year ago on the first full day that I began working on this new site (June 7, 2004).

In contrast, my old site at Angelfire has registered just over 1930 hits since going "live" sometime in 1999 (I kept the same Andale counter when I redesigned "Jochim Web" from the older "Jochimbook" site).

Of course, a fair number of hits come when I refresh the pages to check if everything looks the way it should when adding a new section or page (something I haven't had a chance to do in a month-and-a-half now) — the counter isn't supposed to increase because of multiple page refreshes from the same IP address, but I'm sure it does occasionally.

Other than that, most visitors come because of the music content, I believe — I'm fairly active in the Rainmakers community at times (another branch of my life currently "on-hold") with fans coming to check out the band's archives section (promoted on occasion during live performances by singer Bob Walkenhorst or seeking information on our Remasters Project, linked through the Yahoo Group or Live Music Archive.

I also receive a fair number of Marillion and Bruce Springsteen fans, although those sections are sorely lacking and will require A LOT of work before I get them to the point I'd like.  Other music-related hits come through people I meet in various other Yahoo Groups and message boards where I'm (somewhat) active.  Most of these sites have a field to enter your homepage when you register; I would have thought more people would click on the link in my signatures directing them to my music trading list than on the main site (I don't always include THAT link in my signatures, however).

Apparently, one person stumbled across one of the audio tutorials by accident as I received an e-mail today asking for some advice concerning lossless audio and iPods (I think I'm the last person on earth who doesn't have a portable mp3 player, nor do I have any desire to obtain one).

And, this was just going to be a "friends and family"-only site!  (Which has always been the intention of my blog as well).  I've very rarely even actively promoted the site (other than the homepage listing in forums I belong to; I believe I only once posted a "come visit the Rainmakers Archives" message back in 1999, which I only recently found and updated with the proper URL).

All I wanted to do was compile all the various things I was interested in and put them in one easy-to-locate place.  I felt by scanning much of my extensive collection of music memorabilia and ephemera, I could discard (or sell) the originals and remove some of the clutter in my life.  Well, I haven't done ANY of that.

There's a great deal I want to do with the site and I'm tired of the unfinished state that so much of it is in.  True, there are pieces that SEEM complete — trust me, they are a LONG WAY from that.

While this is a very busy time for me in other (mostly non-computer) endeavors, I plan to compile a plan to complete some of the sections I've already begun and begin work on others.

One section I want to completely redo is the Audio Tutorials & FAQ.  Recently, I participated in a discussion on a very active audio/video collectors' list where it was discussed that there isn't a single really good COMPLETE reference compiling all of the information both "newbies" and longtime collectors need to know about collecting rare & live audio and video.  Some sites have really good tutorials compiling SOME of the information and one of the USENET groups had a fairly good FAQ that is sadly out-of-date.  A couple of us took up the challenge to put together a "one-stop" reference that includes everything in an easy-to-understand format (the FAQ outline format as set out by the HTML Writers Guild).

I've already completed a very rough draft of just the AUDIO part of the FAQ which prints out to a whopping 80 pages!  Obviously, a lot of editing and rewriting needs to be done before we begin work on the VIDEO sections.

In essence, this massive FAQ will take the place of most of the individual pages in my Audio Tutorials & FAQ section of the website — yes, I do intend to host it when it's completed, although there will probably be a couple of mirrors as well.

With the addition of more "public"-intended material rather than targeted towards a few select friends, a redesign/revamping of the entire site will probably be in order as well (the overall feel right now is very disjointed to me).

After all, I need to make it look "pretty" to feel like I deserve another 5000 hits.

Stay tuned...



I've never been a big fan of Nabisco's Oreo cookies (although I will admit that they're okay if dunked in milk).

But as a devoted fan of peanut butter, I was intrigued when Oreo announced a new cookie with peanut butter filling.  I just had to give them a second chance.  I patiently waited for the price to come down to a reasonable level (I won't pay more than $3.00 for any type of mass-produced snack, no matter how tasty it might be).

While at Wal-Mart early this morning buying more printer ink (best price in town on the type I use and the only retailer open at 3:00AM), I was pleased to see they were selling the Oreo peanut butter cookies for $2.00 a package.  I bought one; upon arriving home, trying this new cookie took precedence over installing the ink cartridge in my printer.

I was very disappointed!  It tastes exactly like the regular vanilla creme Oreo with absolutely no peanut butter flavor.  I tried the cookie whole and then I tried another by removing the outer cookie and just sampling the filling.  Not peanut buttery at all!  My guess is they just added brown food coloring to their existing formula and hyped the marketing to sell more product.  Distasteful, but isn't that what American consumerism is all about?

By the way, I had a difficult time searching for a decent image of an Oreo to use in this post.  Even eBay couldn't help me out (although I found lots of pictures of Dale Earnhardt Jr. die-cast cars with the Oreo logo emblazoned upon them — don't you just love corporate sponsorship?).  I even found a few sites dedicated to the history of the cookie (first introduced in 1912, the year the Titanic sank) and even a site where people were trying to figure out how much goo was used in a typical package of Oreos.

In the end, I just got out my own camera and shot a photo of the package I bought, minus the two cookies I ate.  Now, I wonder how long a package of Oreo "peanut butter" cookies will last in the landfill until they biodegrade?



I've been recently scanning in some of my receipts, ticket stubs, etc. from my 2003 "SARS Tour" of Asia with an eye towards completing the travel diary on my personal site.  Blogging about those early days in Beijing have served to refresh my memory on certain events and I'll flesh those out on the main site as well — eventually.

To bring us "up-to-date," that Saturday morning I got a very early start and began walking south towards Tiantan (Temple of Heaven), an enormous park and altar to heaven built by the Ming Emperor Yongle in 1406-20.  Each winter solstice, the emperor would lead a procession out of the Imperial Palace to Tiantin where he would perform rites and make sacrifices to the cosmos on behalf of China.  The main building there, Qinian Dian (the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests) is featured on China's coat of arms and coinage to this day.

It didn't look like such a long walk on the maps!  It was actually about three miles — which doesn't sound like a whole lot until you consider the heat and humidity of that early June day, the terrible disrepair of the sidewalks (when they existed at all), the chaos of the Saturday bicycle and automobile traffic, or the thick air pollution.  I wasn't exactly walking along the main tourist route, either!

By the time I arrived at the park, I was in for a great shock:  crowds of people everywhere!  It turns out this was the first day that the residents of Beijing had been allowed to gather in public spaces since the beginning of the SARS scare.  Many restaurants reopened, the theatres were showing films, and the parks were available for full-scale recreation.  The local residents were definitely out in force!

It turned out to be the most interesting day.  Once again, I was the only Westerner in sight (for most of the time — I ran into an American student at the echo wall who was singing Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" at the top of his lungs to the great amusement of those nearby).  But all around me were Chinese enjoying the outdoors for the first time in many months.  Many were doing their morning exercises which incorporate a healthy dose of tai chi in all it's forms.  There were crowds practicing ballroom dancing, very popular throughout much of China.  Others were flying kites and playing hacky-sack! (The last time I'd seen anybody kicking these little bean bags around was back in my K-State days while waiting on the runway at the Wamego Airport to skydive...)

That Saturday was a real people-watching experience.  As I walked along the Long Corridor towards Qinian Dian, there were crowds of people dancing, singing, playing traditional instruments, and just watching.  Often, they would put on a little "show" for me to film.  Needless to say, that film footage seems to be the most popular for my friends and family to watch (I still get requests to show it during visits).

The altars and temples throughout the large park became secondary to the human experience; it truly was my favorite day in Beijing since I wasn't doing the things that most tourists end up doing.  However, I did pay 1 yuan (12 cents) to ring the bell in the tower at Zhai Gong (Hall of Abstinence) which once signaled an emperor in residence.  I also called my name at the Echo Wall so that anyone standing on the opposite side could hear it clearly — the only other place in the world with acoustics as perfect as this site is at the top of St. Peter's Dome in London (which Bryan and I had climbed to a mere two weeks prior).

I'll write more on the history and meaning behind the various altars in my travel diary at a later time.  (I purchased a DVD and a guidebook that day — I have yet to peruse either).

My original plan had been to take a taxi to the Emperor's Summer Palace, on the western edge of Beijing, but the sky clouded up and a stiff breeze swept through with the smell of rain.  It really cooled things off so I decided I would just take the taxi back to Wangfujing.  On the way to the park's exit, I came across the Chinese National Rose Garden which was just being planted for the summer.  I took a few snapshots but many of the flowers looked damaged already by the pollution.  (Most of China still relies on the burning of coal for it's electricity and the air is thick of it in Beijing.)

By the time I got back to my "neighborhood," the sun had returned and any thought of rain had vanished.  Again, it would be an early day back at my guesthouse which was just as well as I was due to depart the following day for Shanghai.  I spent much of that afternoon packing and repacking — I'd accumulated a lot of stuff (insert George Carlin routine here) and had to make sure certain items didn't get buried in my pack (such as my traveling clothes, cameras, and documents).

That Sunday morning — June 8 — saw me once again grab an early breakfast at the little dining room across my courtyard, another Western plate.  Checkout time was 12 noon and I wanted to (finally) get to Jingshan Park to the north of the Forbidden City. Again, I walked (I only took the taxi four times during this entire Beijing stay — from the airport to the guesthouse, from Tianmen to Juyongguan, from Temple of Heaven to Wangfujing, and from the guesthouse to the train station).

The huge hill that dominates Jingshan Gongyuan is called Meishan, or Coal Hill.  It was created from all the dirt and rocks excavated when they dug the moat for the Imperial Palace in 1420.  According to feng shui, the hill would protect the palace from evil spirits coming in from the north (the direction of Mongolia).  However, it was here that the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen, hanged himself from a tree just before the Manchu conquerors could arrive (from the north, of course).

It's a very pretty park with lots of trees.  There were also great crowds of locals once again practicing tai chi, ballroom dancing, and making the steep climb from Qiwang Lou (Beautiful View Tower) to Wan Chun Ting (Pavilion of Everlasting Spring) at the hill's summit.  Another hard climb, but one I seemed in better shape for (in sharp contrast to the Great Wall a few days before).

The view from the top was definitely worth the effort — the Forbidden City stretched out to the south, somewhat hidden by the thick haze, and the huge White Pagoda surrounded by a large lake in 800-year-old Beihai Park to the northwest (I was to later find out that this was the single best park in all of Beijing to visit).  To the north was mostly trees with a couple of the old city gates visible among them.  Somewhere far below was a monastery; the chanting of the monks was clearly heard from so far above.  It was enjoyable watching the locals also checking out the view; one small child practiced a bit of English with me, coached by his father.

Before returning to Haoyuan to check-out, I made a brief detour back to the sidewalk stalls along Wangfujing in order to buy some really inexpensive DVD's (most around $2 U.S.).  Once again, a few Chinese art students approached wanting me to check out their master's workshop (and buy some paintings).  I'd already purchased enough art to cover my walls back home so I politely declined.  One girl was extremely persistant, however, stating she was from Mongolia and I probably hadn't seen their art before.  I was interested, but time was running short.

I hurried back to the guesthouse (have I mentioned that Tony Blair stays there when he's visiting Beijing?) to check-out on time.  I'd prepaid the room and board and they issued me a receipt at that time; the total for four days in the rather extravagent/traditional room with private sitting room and courtyard, including meals (I only ate breakfast there), came to 1872 yuan — just over $225.00 U.S.  A bargain!

They then called me a taxi to take me over to the main Beijing Railway Station (the ride cost just over $1.10 U.S.).  The taxi actually let me off across the street and I struggled with my bags until a couple of men came to my aid and helped me carry my luggage into the station's entrance (for a hefty tip, of course).

I had purchased a "soft ticket" on the overnight train to Shanghai for 499 yuan ($60), meaning I had my own sleeper compartment.  Normally, you aren't supposed to be able to purchase such railway tickets from outside of the country but I'd had an agent purchase it for me (who then delivered it to my room on my first day in Beijing).

At the station's entrance, I showed my passport and then had to fill out the first of many forms over the next few days stating my full travel itinerary of the previous two weeks.  Two different nurses took my temperature and I was frisked by a PLA soldier.  My luggage was then sent through an ancient metal detector that looked more like something out of one of those 1960's nuclear disaster movies such as "Dr. Strangelove".

I was then escorted to a special lounge just for Western travelers where I was to stay (watched-over) for the next five hours until my train finally departed.  It was dusty, the benches were hard, and the soda and candy machines were empty.  I wasn't allowed to wander into the other sections of the massive station (indeed, I was the only person sitting in the huge lounge except for the various soldiers looking after me).  I desperately wanted to take some photos of the trains I could see just outside but knew doing so would break a few laws.

Finally, the time came for me to go upstairs and down several long corridors before descending once again to my designated track.  A female attendant in a PLA uniform took my ticket and directed me to the sleeper car — the last person I would see for the entire trip who wasn't wearing a face mask.  While Beijing had been very lax with SARS prevention, Shanghai took the pandemic EXTREMELY seriously which is why they only had three cases in that city during this entire period and why I was constantly having my temperature taken there and having to account for everyplace I visited each day.

Another female attendant took my ticket inside the sleeper car and clipped it inside a notebook, saying it would be returned upon arrival in Shanghai.  I was then taken to my compartment which normally would sleep four people.  While I began to make myself comfortable, another attendant came in and removed the sheets from three of the beds, thus answering my question as to whether I'd be sharing the compartment with anyone.  Another bargain — $60 for a 14-hour train ride in your own private room with a comfortable bed, free dinner and breakfast (which I didn't partake of), and all the green tea you can drink (which I did take advantage of).  Two more attendants would enter within the next couple of hours, one to take my temperature and the other to have me fill out yet another travel itinerary form.

Finally left to relax, I opened the curtains, turned on the radio (a choice between three or four stations of Hong Kong Canto-pop or "Benny Hill" without the video), and stretched out to watch the countryside pass by the window.  I've always had a certain fondness for trains and can watch unfamiliar scenery sweep by for hours on end while listening to the clack of the wheels upon the track.  Since much of China's rolling stock is rather old, there were endless opportunities to see ancient trains as we went through the many stations along the route.  But since this was an "express", the only stop we made was around 3:00AM at some unknown outpost where I observed A LOT of soldiers walking along the tracks.  We also seemed to keep at a fairly slow pace, only speeding up significantly as we passed a huge nuclear power plant and on the final few miles between Suzhou and Shanghai.

By 8:30 Monday morning, I had arrived in China's most modern and economically-vibrant mainland city.  More on that on another day...


Stay tuned....


With a full family visit just two months away now, I am searching for a few "new" restaurants to treat my guests to.  For years, my standard modus operandi was to take out-of-towners to Old Town's La Placita Dining Rooms, housed in a 285-year-old hacienda.  However, this tourist trap isn't a good representation of true New Mexican cuisine, drowning much of their food under too many spices for one thing.

Many of the truly good local eateries are tiny hole-in-the-wall places that I don't think my family would feel comfortable at.  It is a bit frustrating when they visit since we tend to keep to the "safe" (read, touristy) places rather than sightseeing the "authentic" Southwestern sites.  We keep to Old Town for the shopping and the food because that's where the tourists traditionally flock.  With the downtown revitalization and unique spots to see throughout the North and South Valleys, that's not really a valid argument anymore.  Even the Aquarium has a unique eatery (the Shark Reef Cafe) from where you can watch the sharks and other marine life swimming about while you eat.

So, I have been perusing restaurant reviews from throughout the city.  If I can find a couple of really good — non-Old Town — eateries, it may be enough to steer our sightseeing away from there as well.  One restaurant I've been dying to try out is the Pueblo Harvest Cafe at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center; their mutton stew is legendary — I was just reminded of that through a review at Duke City Fix.

I've also just stumbled across Gil's Thrilling Web Site, which has his reviews of eateries in Albuquerque, most of New Mexico, and elsewhere.  It's very well-organized by food category and his short reviews are as entertaining as they are hunger-inducing.

Gil's site includes a very nice "Introduction to Duke City Dining", which I reprint below:

Duke City Dining
As New Mexico's largest city, Albuquerque also provides its most plentiful and diverse dining opportunities. Lying in the Chihuahuan Desert near the geographical center of New Mexico, the "Duke City" is situated on a plain along the banks of the Rio Grande and at the base of the Sandia Mountains to the east. Historically a tricultural city representing a synergy of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures, both modern and traditional cultures coexist in a relatively easy harmony. As a result, Albuquerque is very accepting to diversity in dining.

Less than 20 years ago "diversity" was not a term you could ascribe to the Albuquerque dining scene. Aside from a preponderance of New Mexican and American restaurants, the only other ethnic restaurants represented in appreciable numbers were Chinese and Italian. Burgeoning growth over the past three decades resulted in a population, which in 2002, surpassed half a million. It also meant the introduction into our dining scene, of restaurants crossing many ethnic groups and demographics.

Bigger is not always better and with an increase in population, Albuquerque also has seen the onslaught of many nation-wide franchise restaurants, most of which dot the frontage roads visible from the city's freeways. Some of these interlopers have essentially driven long-established "mom and pop" restaurants out of business. During the 18 month period starting at about January, 2003, the number of chain restaurants in the Duke City doubled, adding over 5,000 seats to an already glutted market. At the same time, the number of new seats for restaurants not in the "chain gang" increased by just over 200.

Some innovative Duke City restaurateurs have begun to fight back, forming the "Albuquerque Originals", one of sixteen chapters nationwide dedicated to promoting the independent restaurant. Many of the city's best restaurants belong to the Originals: Artichoke Cafe, Ambrozia, Graze, Great American Land & Cattle Company, Indigo Crow, McGrath's, Rancher's Club, The Range Cafe, Scarpa's, Seasons, Yanni's and others among them. It baffles me as to why the local populace would prefer to eat at a copycat chain when they could dine at a wonderful original. For a lengthier diatribe on my opinion of corporate restaurants, please read my ratings page.

Albuquerque's mantra should be "pansa llena, corazon contento," a Spanish "dicho" or saying which means, "full stomach, happy heart." That's because Duke City residents have over 1200 restaurants from which to choose--and choose they do--to the tune of about $1400 per diner in 1994. In fact, New Mew Mexicans in general like to dine out. In fiscal 2003, New Mexicans spent $1.6 billion in eating and dining establishments (considering the disgraceful amount of alcohol consumed by New Mexico residents, I'd love to see the true break-down between alcohol and food).

Other cities may have more restaurants and restaurants with much more acclaim, but Albuquerque holds its own and often surpasses the culinary culture at larger cities.
I think I'm going to choose a few of these restaurants and begin sampling them each weekend to find the "perfect" place for my family visit.


Inspired to learn more about the crisis in Tibet recently by watching the excellent movie Tibet: Cry Of The Snow Lion, I signed up to receive Snow Lion Publications' weekly quotes by the Dalai Lama.

The first arrived a couple of days ago and I wanted to share it here:

When we practice, initially, as a basis we control ourselves, stopping the bad actions which hurt others as much as we can. This is defensive. After that, when we develop certain qualifications, then as an active goal we should help others. In the first stage, sometimes we need isolation while pursuing our own inner development; however, after you have some confidence, some strength, you must remain with, contact, and serve society in any field -- health, education, politics, or whatever.

There are people who call themselves religious-minded, trying to show this by dressing in a peculiar manner, maintaining a peculiar way of life, and isolating themselves from the rest of society. That is wrong. A scripture of mind-purification (mind-training) says, "Transform your inner viewpoint, but leave your external appearance as it is." This is important. Because the very purpose of practicing the Great Vehicle is service for others, you should not isolate yourselves from society. In order to serve, in order to help, you must remain in society.

-- by His Holiness the Dalai Lama from The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness, published by Snow Lion Publications
The book this quote was taken from is available from Snow Lion for a special Internet price of $8.76, plus shipping (which is $5 for orders under $20, although they do have a $10 minimum order).  The full table of contents, plus the first chapter (which reprints the Dalai Lama's Nobel Prize speech), can be read online here.



I don't feel like writing a whole lot this morning, so I thought I would just post some random photos from around Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley.  Enjoy!

Mid-April snow at the church of San Felipe de Neri in Old Town.

Get your authentic Caribbean cuisine in the heart of the Southwest — Jamaican Jerk Roadrunner, anyone?

You never know who you'll run into at the supermarket (Isotopes' mascot "Orbit").

Albuquerque's new Transportation Center is modeled after the original Alvarado Hotel, destroyed by fire in the early 1970's.  Too bad they can't clean the dust off the Amtrak sign.

Historic Kimo Theatre on Old Route 66 (Central Avenue).



June 6, 2003, was my second full day in Beijing at the beginning of my "SARS Tour of Asia".  I'd spent the previous day discovering my limitations.  A hike up the Great Wall at Juyongguan Pass left me breathless in more ways than one — not only was the scenery absolutely spectacular but the combination of flying halfway around the world, lack of sleep, and being somewhat out-of-shape took their toll on me.

I returned to my guest house rather early in the afternoon and spent the evening laying on the bed channel surfing Chinese television until I dozed off.

Early the morning of the 6th, I awoke and had my first "real" meal since arriving in China (a hamburger at a McDonald's the previous day doesn't count since all I had to do was point to the picture and I knew what I would be receiving).  At the guest house's small dining room, I had two choices:  Chinese breakfast or Western breakfast.  Being the adventurer I am, I chose the latter.  The plate came with several slices of burnt toast covered in butter, some very good bacon, a few slices of apple, two hard-boiled eggs, a cup with a large ball of cheese, and the best cup of coffee I've ever had.

Fortified, I set out on foot for my goal of the day:  The Forbidden City, AKA Imperial Palace, AKA Palace Museum.  Although it was still very early in the morning — just after 8:30 — the city was already pulsating with activity.  My guest house was located in the center of a hutong (ancient alley) and I was always surprised at the amount of traffic (autos, bicycles, pedestrians) whenever I emerged onto Dongdan Beidajie.  The sounds are really what I remember the most — particularly the screeching of bad breaks and the constant ringing of hundreds of bicycle bells.  Luckily, I preserved a number of those sounds through my camcorders microphone.  Too bad I couldn't record the smells as they were numerous and varied (not always pleasant).

It took me about 40 minutes to walk down to the main thoroughfare (Jianguomennai Dajie) where I turned right and walked another 20 minutes or so to the famous Gate Of Heavenly Peace.  This national symbol was built in the 15th century; it was from here that Chairman Mao declared the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.  To the left of his massive portrait is the slogan, "Long Live the People's Republic of China," and to the right, "Long Live the Unity of the Peoples of the World."  In front of the gate are seven bridges spanning a stream — each was restricted in use and only the emperor could use the central bridge and doorway into the gate.

Entering the gate, I then began walking up the long corridor towards the Meridian Gate and the actual entrance to the Forbidden City.  As I had been at the Great Wall the day before, I was the only tourist and I walked past the numerous empty ticket booths.  About halfway through this corridor, I came across a squadron of People's Liberation Army soldiers doing their morning drills — directly opposite a very ancient cannon.

Just outside of the main ticket booth, I came across my first touts of the trip.  One persistent young man managed to sell me several packets of postcards but I later regretted I hadn't also purchased his proferred "Little Red Book" (it wasn't until after I returned to the States that I finally found another suitably authentic copy).  And after much encouragement, I finally handed over my camera to this person so he could take a couple of photographs of me standing in front of Wumen (Meridian Gate) — he took these while crouching on the ground and the result was the two single worst photos I believe I've ever been in, this coming from a person who notoriously hates having his photo taken in the first place!

I paid my 60 yuan entrance fee (which was double what the guidebook said it would be but still a bargain at just over $7 U.S.) and for this I received another gigantic ticket stub, plus a large laminated pass I had to wear around my neck during the visit.  I declined to take the audio tour — narrated by actor Roger Moore — because doing so would have entailed leaving either my passport or a 300 yuan deposit (considering how large the palace complex truly is, I never would have been able to backtrack all that way anyway).

Meridian Gate was built in 1420 and was the location where emperors reviewed their armies.  The left entrance was for court officials and the right for the Imperial family.  Just inside the gate is a wide courtyard with five marble bridges spanning the Golden River.

The next gate is Tai He Dian, or the Gate of Great Harmony, which leads to the first large ceremonial hall — the Hall of the Imperial Throne.  This is where the emperor marked the new year, important birthdays, and other grand occasions.

To be perfectly honest, most of my wanderings through the vastness of the Forbidden City — gate after courtyard after hall — all began to take on a surrealness at this point.

The day was heating up, already the humidity was causing me to sweat between my shirt and my green daypack.  I was virtually alone — I did see a few Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tourists and the occasional pair of PLA soldiers marching through the empty courtyards.  At any rate, the entire place was extremely empty — I was used to seeing photos with vast crowds.

I was indeed thankful for the solitude most of the time.  It would have been nice, however, to share the experience with someone.  But I insisted on not letting the SARS pandemic change my plans for this trip.  My friends certainly weren't that adventurous!

At any rate, my trek through the Imperial Palace felt like I was in a daze much of the time — the various halls, etc. all began to look exactly the same and I often wondered how much farther to the northern gates.

Somewhere in the center of the palace, a woman approached me and asked if I was Canadian.  She was very impressed when I told her I was from America — she hadn't seen any American visitors in many months.  She was an art teacher and soon invited me to view an exhibition in one of the halls.  I ended up purchasing several nice paintings.

By this time, I began seeing glimpses of Meishan (Coal Hill), a tall promontory in Jingshan Park just to the north of Forbidden City created from the excavations of the Imperial moat in 1420.  I knew that the exit from the Palace was getting closer.

But distances in China are often deceiving and it turned out I had a great ways to go still.  It's interesting watching the digital film footage I shot — I filmed each new hall that had a descriptive sign on the outside, horribly mispronoucing the Pinyin characters.

Finally, I emerged from the Palace of Earthly Tranquility into the Imperial Gardens, the northernmost section of the Forbidden City.  In contrast with the rest of the day, there were all sorts of trees and plants and shady places to rest.  I even found a kiosk where I bought a bottle of soda.  It would have been quite peaceful were it not for an overhead loudspeaker blaring Communist propaganda.

As I walked out Shenwu Gate, I immediately heard the symphony of screeching brakes from the busses travelling along Jingshangian Jie.  It had literally been hours since I'd heard such city sounds.

My original plan had been to walk across the street and explore Jingshan Park.  But upon emerging from the Forbidden City I was accosted by several touts as I identified myself as a tourist by having my camcorder out trying to film the moat.  One man repeatedly tried to sell me several soapstone carvings of the Buddha while another walked in front of us painting my portrait on a small bowl.

It's very amusing to listen watch my video shots of the northern gate of the Palace with the tout in the background trying to bargain with me as I repeatedly tell him — in Chinese as well as English — "no thanks".  In the end, I did buy six tiny Buddhas, two Imperial lions, and one really cool looking dragon from this man but at a greatly reduced price.  I also bought the portrait the man painted of me while walking ahead of my "entourage" (it's one of my favorite souvenirs, he even signed and dated it).  The third person gathered around me at this time was a pedicab driver who ended up "rescuing" me as I alighted into his cab and he drove me through a maze of hutongs back to the Wangfujing shopping street.  (Another highlight of my videography is one moment you hear me saying "no" to the touts and the next moment the camera is filming the alleyways of old Beijing from the pedicab.  Footage worthy of some kind of non-National Geographic documentary!)

It was still fairly early in the day at this point so I spent some time wandering around the pedestrian mall of Wangfujing, filming some of the street scenes such as the model race cars being driven around a courtyard in front of a statue of Mao.  I browsed among the stalls of DVD's and decided to enter the Foreign Language Bookstore.  At the entrance, I had to go through a large machine that took my temperature — the first evidence of SARS prevention I'd seen since arriving in Beijing.  The guard (I'm not certain if he was PLA or local police) examined my passport and I had to fill out a form saying which cities I'd visited in the previous seven days and where I had been that day.  At the time, I was a bit taken aback but filling out such forms would soon become routine — particularly during my overnight train and subsequent stay in Shanghai.

In the Foreign Language Bookstore, I purchased two CD's of traditional Chinese folk music — for the equivalent of around $1.50 U.S. each.  They turned out to be good buys since I still listen to both of them from time to time when I just want to relax.

I again had a hamburger at the McDonald's on my walk back to Haoyuan; when I finally arrived in the hutong where the guesthouse was located, I walked a bit further along and bought some soda and snacks at a mom & pop stand.  This was to be my backpack "nourishment" for much of the following day.

My evening was again spent watching Chinese television, as well as transferring photos from my digital camera into my laptop and charging batteries of all of my electronics.  This would be the beginning of the end to my nightly computer ritual as I managed to "zap" my laptop battery by plugging in the wrong power adapter.  It was just as well as it was taking up too much of my time in the evenings when I could have been out enjoying the twilight. ONE YEAR ON

It was just one year ago today — June 6, 2004 — that I registered the domain and began building my new website.  Although I'd had a minor Web presence on my old Angelfire site, I set out to have this one reflect something of all of my varied interests.  The problem is that I have too many things I'm interested in.

None of my personal sites were ever intended to have much of an outside audience, being designed primarily for my family and a few close friends to keep tabs on my activities.  A secondary purpose was to archive material I'd collected over the years before it was destroyed or lost forever (one example:  my extensive collection of newspaper clippings and gig flyers for several Kansas City-based local music groups — I still have an awful lot of scanning and uploading to do!).  It still seems inconceivable to me that the homepage has received almost 4900 hits (it doesn't count mine unless I restart my computer between visits) in the 364 days since I added the counter!  (And that's not counting those who enter other sections of the site without ever comeing to the homepage.)

Working on the website — and this blog — was always in addition to my offline life.  At times, however, both have seemed like full-time jobs.

Unfortunately, due to changes in my life in these most recent months, many of my online projects — including completing existing sections and adding new ones to the site — have had to (temporarily) fall by the wayside.  I do plan to return to them as time permits, but at this point I simply do not know when that will be.  Yes, the various sections of my personal site are woefully incomplete and on-hold, just as my activities on numerous message boards and mailing lists have slowed to a standstill recently.

I have accomplished a great deal in the past year of at least in terms of providing an online "outline" of some of what I eventually want to include.  Looking around at the site, it has a certain haphazard feel to me — often I would work on a particular section as the mood struck me and often I wouldn't feel like working on certain sections my friends most wanted me to complete.  Someday....

In many ways, it seems like this blog has supplanted the parent site.  When the mood strikes me, I'm able to write about whatever I want to write about without trying to fit those writings into some easily-defined category.  I like to think that I can use some of these blog entries as templates for future additions to the website.  We'll see...

As far as my other current online activities, they have slowed down considerably.  Other than checking my e-mail several times daily (when AT&T has their act together), I spend a little time checking for new BitTorrent downloads and posting "thank you" notices for those seeds.  I spend a little more time searching for books, etc. on or eBay (but don't currently have any auctions of my own in progress).  Other computer activities such as audio & video editing have been non-existent recently, although I burn CD's and DVD's for various trading vines as those arrive in the mail.

I also have a special "pet project" I've been working on from time to time, suggested by members of a couple of Yahoo groups that I belong too.  But more on that in another post — once I'm farther along on that undertaking.

At lot has happened in one year — and I'm proud of most of what I've accomplished.  It will be interesting to see if I can complete much of what I began in the next year.  Somehow it seems appropriate that the site began on the anniversary of D-Day in that I often feel a similar uphill battle to accomplish all I've set out to do with it.  Somewhat like the invasion of Normandy, it will take some considerable planning (and no small amount of inspiration) to move forward once again.

As soon as I can, I will.


One of the most shameful episodes in American history was the forced relocation in 1863 of Navajos and Mescalero Apaches from their homes near Canyon de Chelly in Arizona to Bosque Redondo, near Fort Sumner in New Mexico.

Hundreds died on the march and hundreds more died of starvation and disease at the desolate encampment — the Federal government's solution to the problems of raiding Indians who were inconvenient to westward expansion.  In 1868 the Navajo Reservation was created and the Bosque Redondo survivors made The Long Walk home; Mescaleros had escaped to their home in the nearby Sacramento Mountains by then.

Most Americans have long since forgotten this dark spot on our history.  But Navajos never forgot, calling the reservation hweeldi, "place of suffering," and considering it a slaughterhouse and a graveyard too painful to visit.

However, today hundreds of Navajos and Mescaleros — many of them walking — joined non-Indian history buffs and a number of politicians (including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Peter Domenici) in order to officially open the $2.5 million Bosque Redondo Memorial, which includes a 6300-square-foot visitor center.

The memorial was actually conceived back in 1967 but didn't get off the ground until some action in the State Legislature in 1992/93.  In 2002, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs signed an agreement with the Navajo and Mescalero tribes to authorize construction of the Bosque Redondo Memorial.  It was designed by Navajo artist David N. Sloan and is located on the south bank of the Pecos River, within Fort Sumner State Monument.  In order to get there, drive three miles east of the Village of Fort Sumner on Highway 60/84, then south three-and-a-half miles on Billy The Kid Road.

I think Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. had the most interesting comments.  He said the memorial was a fitting tribute to what he called genocide and holocaust, adding that — despite the ribbon cutting and barbeque lunch — the memorial was no cause for celebration:  "This place can never be celebrated.  Hatred was born here."

I believe one way to counteract hatred is to promote understanding.  Such memorials should stand as reminders to our past mistakes, reminding us of painful episodes that can be too convenient to forget.

There's plenty of information about the Long Walk if you do a bit of digging.  Smithsonian Magazine had a very good article about it in their December 1997 issue, which is excerpted online here.  Also highly recommended is Dr. Neal W. Ackerley's excellent dissertation, A Navajo Diaspora:  The Long Walk To Hweeldi.



The painters today finally touched up the areas of my bathrooms, living room, and master bedroom where drywall had been replaced.

It took them less than a half hour (no work had been done since last Friday) and they wrote "Done" on the work order that had been attached to my door since mid-May, allowing me to replace my personal items back into the bathrooms and re-hang my paintings on the walls.  I'd been removing my mats and shower curtain/liner in my office bathroom each morning in anticipation of the work; I hadn't been using the master bathroom at all but I'm happy I can finally redecorate in there.

I'll also be able to move the bed in that bedroom back against the wall; it had been pushed into the middle of the room — and only partially covered during the drywall work so half of it has a coating of plaster dust.  In fact, the master bedroom is a real mess since they didn't bother to put a plastic sheet anywhere except over 3/4 of the bed — I'm particularly unhappy about about all the plaster dust on the book shelves (it would have been very easy to tape one large plastic sheet stretching across the front of the large bookcases).  I'll have to individually dust each of the 800 or so books affected — I'm certain the dust has crept between pages and dust covers.  Hopefully, this won't permanently destroy the value of the signed first editions and other collectible volumes.  I'm planning to consult with a professional restoration expert in Santa Fe this weekend on how best to clean these books.

I actually spent much of my Memorial Day this past week putting the living room and dining room back in order — removing hundreds of CD's and DVD's off of shelves so I could scrub away the plaster dust.  Still, the dust crept in certain fabric-based things such as my black sofa, carpeting (mingling with the paint spots), and some speaker covers.  I've managed to scrub most of those things to a point where I'm comfortable.  But the carpet is going to need some serious steam cleaning — the workers added to some previous damage.

I think I'll do some painting of my own in the next couple of weeks so the walls will match once again.  The back of my front door also needs some serious touching-up (the constant opening and closing by numerous workers with dirty hands certainly didn't do much for the white door!).  I'll also call maintenance and see if they can repaint the outside of that door — it's supposed to be a forest green, but got rather dirty during this repiping in addition to the usual New Mexico dust blowing (and sticking) against it.

With a family visit coming in just over two months, I really want to do a lot of work here so I'm not embarrassed by little things nobody else will probably notice but which seem glaringly obvious to me.



The night of June 3-4, 1989, saw the People's Liberation Army move in on the students and other civilians demonstrating in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, killings thousands of innocent people.  As recently as two years ago, you could still see the bullet holes in the Monument to the People's Heroes just north of Mao's mausoleum.

Although there have been brief glimpses of the Communist government relaxing their controls on their citizens (i.e., providing important medical information during the SARS pandemic of 2003), overall the Chinese people are severely repressed and the government continues violating basic human rights of it's citizens.  This goes on not just in Tibet — but throughout mainland China.

I've never been a very political person, but I've come to care deeply about the Chinese people.  As I continue to learn more about the nation, it's government, and it's people the more I want to participate in spreading awareness of the situation there.

In commemoration of the 16th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen, numerous rallies and other events are planned all over the world on June 4th.  Tonight, June 3, at 8:00pm (your own local time) everyone is encouraged to place a light in their window.  The idea is to "create a rolling light of hope around the world, expressing our solidarity for the oppressed people in China".

More information on this global vigil is available at  This is one step in bringing awareness of China's human rights violations prior to the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing.

Predictably, there's no mention at all of the anniversary in People's Daily, the Communist government's "official" newspaper.


I'm a big fan of Bit Torrent as a means of sharing rare & live audio & video.  I use a variety of torrent trackers including The Official BitTorrent Home Page DIME, The Traders' Den, and Boot City which cover a variety of musical artists, as well as performer-specific sites like U2Torrents, Dylantree, and Via Chicago (for Wilco and related bands).

Most of these trackers have search functions with varying degrees of functionability.  Most of the time, I just browse on the various sites associated with the different trackers — I come across many "must have" shows that way.  But there are times when I just need to find a particular show (such as the other day while putting together a huge Rolling Stones compilation I found that I have NO live recordings from their 1978 tour!).  What I thought would be useful would be a single search engine that could browse among ALL the trackers to find that one particular item.

Well, thanks to my weekly After Dawn newsletter (HIGHLY recommended for all sorts of audio/video-related tech news), I have just found out that the creator of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen, has developed just such a tool:

New search tool for BitTorrent
Published: May 24, 2005, 4:02 PM PDT
By John Borland
Staff Writer, CNET

Peer-to-peer developer Bram Cohen earned himself a place in Internet history with the creation of the BitTorrent file-swapping program.

But his open-source software, now one of the most widely used means of legally and illegally downloading files such as movies or software, has barely helped him earn a living.

Now the programmer is aiming to turn his donation-supported work into a steadier business, with a San Francisco-area start-up devoted to BitTorrent products. The first product, to be released in the next few days, will be an advertising-supported search engine that scours the Web for links to BitTorrent files.

"We're trying to make it a less haphazard revenue stream," said Cohen, who is moving back to the San Francisco area for the project.

The search tool, which will be based on Web crawling technology owned by Cohen's company, could be a boon to downloaders who previously have had little in the way of navigation for BitTorrent files.

Unlike peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, eDonkey or the original Napster, no central search technology exists for BitTorrent.  Instead, links to specific files are posted on Web sites.  Sites that specialize in copyrighted files such as movies or music are often taken offline by legal action.

A few tools have existed to get around this process.  Exeem, an application distributed by the former operators of SuprNova, a big BitTorrent Web site, integrates Cohen's downloading technology with a more traditional searchable file-swapping network.

An older Web search tool called Bitoogle also has provided some search capabilities.  Cohen said his BitTorrent search will be more powerful than Bitoogle, however.

Cohen said his tool won't aim to screen out the myriad copyrighted files likely to come up in a Web search.  But like other search engines, he will comply with federal copyright law and remove any links that copyright holders point to as leading to infringing material.

Plans for the new search tool were first reported by Wired News.

Cohen said his new company, eponymously named BitTorrent, will also host file downloads in torrent form and consult with companies wanting to use the technology to distribute their own products.
Good news, indeed.