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I managed to come down with a bad cold upon arriving home (due to the change from temperatures in the 50's and 60's to the 90's) and haven't felt much like writing the past couple of days.  I still don't, but I need to get the events of last week down before I forget them.  At least I took notes during much of the trip.

Sept. 13:  Albuquerque to Portland
I left for the Albuquerque International Sunport fairly early in the morning, about two hours before my flight was scheduled to take off, to avoid heavy traffic.  That strategy didn't work as it was bumper-to-bumper at 6:30 already, particularly near the Fairgrounds.  It was also poor timing as when the airport road veered West towards the terminal and long-term parking, the Sun was level with my eyes making it difficult to see.  I actually missed the turn-off to the parking lot and had to take a long detour to try again.  Luckily, I had no problems with Security (I almost always get picked for one of the "random" searches at least once on every trip; it didn't happen at all during this journey).

Once on the plane, we taxied out to the edge of the east runway and then ended up sitting on the ground for almost 45 minutes due to congested traffic over Phoenix!  I never had that happen to me before at the Albuquerque airport as it's rarely very busy.  Finally airborne, we made up some time and then had to stay in a holding pattern for another 30 minutes or so.  The pilot said there was no extra charge for the "scenic tour" of Phoenix.  My two-hour connection had become one of just 20 minutes by the time we pulled up to the gate.  A run through the terminal of the Sky Harbor and I was at my departure gate just in time for them to begin loading.  At least I'd checked-in and printed my boarding pass early that morning so my "A" pass allowed me to board fairly early (always a concern as I have a carry-on bag just barely under the size limit and it can be difficult to wedge into an overhead compartment if there are already bags up there).

I settled into a window-seat just behind the wing on the left-hand side of the 737-500 and a very nice elderly couple took up the two other seats.  The lady told me they were returning from Arkansas where they had attended the funeral of her sister.  She was very chatty, which made the time go much quicker (it was just under a three-hour flight to Portland); everytime I board a plane, I always wish for someone nice to sit next to me — this was the first time that I've had that pleasure.  A young woman with a toddler sat in the row in front of us; the child provided some additional in-flight entertainment by playing peek-a-boo with us.  The bad part was (just as I drifted off to sleep later in the flight) when the mother changed the youngster's diaper right there in the seat causing creating a terrible smell (woke me right up).  In all of my flights, I have never known anyone to not use the bathroom for such a task.

Landing in Portland, I was immediately impressed with the amount of trees surrounding the airport.  Deplaning, I got slightly disoriented while looking for the MAX Light-Rail station (near the baggage claim).  The trip into the city was very enjoyable on the train.  I transferred to a bus near the minor league baseball stadium and then had a short walk to my hotel (which was nestled in the hills on the west side of Portland, very near Washington Park).

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was surprised to see the lobby was closed.  However, there was a sign in the window saying the lobby was only open from 6am to 2pm (I'd arrived at 2:15), and that their sister property across the street would handle check-ins.  I did that and received the key-card for my second story room which was very large (including a HUGE bathroom) and even had a refrigerator.  I was VERY impressed with the hotel which was in a very pleasant and quiet neighborhood full of historic houses (most of which were now bed & breakfast establishments) and giant trees.  Not too bad for $39 per night!

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I walked down the hill approximately five minutes to the offices of World Endeavors where I talked to several former volunteers as well as my own volunteer coordinator.  I was given the news that the State Department is now discouraging Americans to avoid going to Nepal because of the current unrest with the Maoist terrorists.  However, the Maoists aren't targeting tourists or relief workers at all so they aren't very concerned.  It does mean that a Nepal-based NGO needs to handle my assignment; in my case, that means the Rural Community Development Program of Kathmandu will be my employer.  In the time-frame that I was anticipating (mid-December), they had several administrative positions in the capitol available as well as orphanage work near Pokhara.  My current thinking is that it might be best to wait several months (or perhaps as long as a year) to give me more time to prepare; it seems like I have a ton of TESL manuals to wade through, not to mention I'd like to do more study on Nepali language, history, and culture before departing.  When I go, I do plan to go for three months and I'd like to be in better shape as well (all the hill-climbing I did in Seattle brought that point home to me).  I need to make a definite decision by the end of next week.

Sept. 13: MARILLION In-Store, Portland
It was now about 4:00 so I walked a few short blocks up 23rd Street to Music Millennium, the site of that evening's in-store acoustic set & autograph session by Marillion.  Along the way, I was very impressed by the number of interesting shops and eateries with sidewalk dining.  It definitely had a European feel about it.  I found the record store easily because of the large marquee overhanging the entrance (which I snapped a few photos of).

Music Millennium was the only in-store on this brief tour not held at a Tower Records; in fact, it reminded me of some of the independent record stores I used to haunt while living in Kansas City —places like Capers Corners where I used to buy concert tickets twenty years ago and which was where I first read the review in Kerrang magazine that led me to discover Marillion in the first place.

The (rather large) stage was set against the wall in the back of the store, with two sofas and two large chairs (all covered in kind of a purple crushed velvet) immediately in front.  I was only the second person to arrive and I took the left chair (very comfortable).  Colin and Roderick were checking the sound levels and I chatted with the fan sitting in the chair to my right.  By showtime, the crowd had expanded nicely; I fielded a lot of comments about my shirt (I was wearing one of the tour shirts I'd had printed, the one with the dates on the back) and people seemed impressed I'd come up from New Mexico for the show.

Shortly after six, a female employee of the store came up and announced Marillion and the trio walked up onstage.  As this was the first time I'd used my new camera, I managed to take a few blurry photos until I got the settings right.  The first song was "Don't Hurt Yourself" from 2004's Marbles, during which bassist Pete Trewavas plays acoustic guitar.  Someone in the audience called out, "I thought you played bass" and Pete responded, "I got demoted!"  "80 Days" and "The Answering Machine" followed.

Singer Steve Hogarth ("h") was in a playful mood throughout; following "Answering Machine", he decided the sofas looked mighty comfortable so he laid down on one — stretched out across the legs of a girl and her boyfriend — with the intention of singing the next song from that position!  However, the microphone cable wasn't quite long enough so he retreated to the stage where he sat on the edge to sing a beautiful version of "Easter" (featuring one of my favorite Steve Rothery guitar solos).  Following that fourth song, the band said they would be back out in a few minutes to sign autographs.

As I was putting away my camera & video gear, I didn't notice how long the signing line had become (there were around 50 people there for the set).  I managed to get in towards the end of the line.  Steve, Pete, and h came out and sat behind the counter to the right of the cash register and took the time to talk to each fan.  When it was my turn, h said, "Ah, you were at Boulder -- I want to apologize for that show, mate.  I was in a bad mood that night."  (I don't want to go into details, I've written extensively about what had happened on the official forum and various mailing lists, but let's just say it was the shortest show of the entire Marbles tour, songs were dropped from the setlist, and the band felt very bad afterwards and have been working to make up for it.)  I told him that was okay, I'd heard the reasons through the grapevine, and what they did play was great.  I also said the only song I'd really missed was "Estonia" and was looking forward to hearing it live someday.  h said it would be a hard one to do in the trio format.

I also told h how the London show that's ending the tour is on my 40th birthday and he said if I came out for that he'd put me on the guest list.  At that, Pete, sitting next to h, said that a trip to London for the show would be the perfect birthday present (as well as making up for Boulder).  Just like that, it was all arranged!  I was in such a daze then that I didn't talk much to Rothers at all (I talked to both Pete and him more than anybody else in Colorado).  I'd gotten my preorder deluxe edition of Marbles signed, as well as one of the postcards I'd made, so I chatted with a couple of people I'd met at the store and then walked back to the hotel.

I called my sister in Kansas and friends in Kansas and Montana to quickly tell them about the events of the day before laying on the bed watching television the rest of the evening.  I was exhausted, having had very little sleep the night before, and planned to sleep in a bit the following morning before beginning the long day of sightseeing.

Sept. 14: Portland Sightseeing
Wednesday was a day of taking public transportation, wandering the pleasant streets of Portland, and of taking photos.  I slept in a bit that morning before riding down Salmon Street to the University District (my hotel was near 23rd Street and I began my walking on 2nd).  After checking out some of the interesting buildings in that area, I took a bus over to the Aladdin Theatre where Marillion would be performing that evening so I could check out the lay-of-the-land.  That area seemed a bit desolate (very few nearby restaurants, for example) so I snapped a picture of the theatre's marquee and took another bus back across the river to the Bus Mall downtown.  This is a nice tree-lined lane which is reserved exclusively for city buses (southbound on 5th, northbound on 6th); this is part of the extensive "Fareless Square" where all public transportation is free.

However, Portland has very short city blocks (half-blocks, really — rumored to have originally been plotted this way because developers could sell corner lots for more money) with plenty of shady trees and interesting shops so it was well-suited for walking.  I had no real goal in mind, other than a visit to the famous Powell's City Of Books (the world's largest bookstore — covering an entire square block on multiple levels), so I just wandered around looking for interesting subject to photograph.

At lunchtime, I went into the depths of Pioneer Square looking for Powell's dedicated Travel Store and instead found a large food court.  Having not had anything to eat since the bag of peanuts on the flight the day before, I decided to have a meal at California Crisp.  I ate an excellent turkey sandwich (with cranberry sauce) and the best potato salad I'd had in years (only Mom's tops it).  After eating, and people-watching at Pioneer Courthouse Square, I took photos of several interesting old churches and made my way up to Burnside and Powell's.  I got lost inside this massive bookstore after turning the first corner but soon found an information desk where I picked up one of the color-coded maps.  I spent much of my time looking for a good Nepali phrasebook (alas, couldn't find one that came with tapes or CD's) and a detailed map of Nepal.  I also purchased a guidebook to the "hidden" Portland.  It's a great bookstore overall, but I still think Albuquerque's Page One has a better selection of magazines.

After some more wanderings downtown (almost making it to Chinatown), I decided to take the light rail up to Washington Park.  The station there is the deepest train station in the United States; I thought by going there, I could take the Zoo Train across to the Japanese Garden where the views down to Portland are said to be spectacular.  However, once there I found out that I would have had to pay the admission price to the zoo plus the train fare (my Metro pass didn't cover the Zoo Train).  As it was getting on in the afternoon by this time, I decided to just walk up to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and take a few photos there before heading back to the hotel.

From the nearest train station back to my hotel was only four blocks or so, but it was up what is probably the steepest hill in the city.  I arrived in time to take a quick shower before heading back out to the Aladdin Theatre (I wanted to get there by six o'clock; the doors for the evening's concert were due to open at seven and I wanted to be able to get a good place in line for the general admission show).

Sept. 14: MARILLION - Aladdin Theatre, Portland
When I arrived at the theatre, there was only one other person in line; he recognized me from the signing session the evening before.  As always, it was nice to talk to a fellow fan about this band we love so much — how they are so appreciative of the fans and how everyone in the Marillion organization bend over backwards to make sure the devoted are rewarded at each and every opportunity.  By the time the doors opened an hour later, the line stretched out behind me all the way to the interersection (the Alladin sits about a third down the block) and around the corner.

We were pleased to find regular threatre-style seating (this venue was a former vaudeville house) rather than an open floor like many other places they had been playing.  I secured a seat in the front row, dead center.  With nobody in front of me, I was looking forward to just sitting and enjoying the music.

Prior to this gig, the only thing I new about opening act Jason Hart is that he's the keyboard player in Rufus Wainwright's band (Steve Hogarth is a HUGE fan).  For this tour, he played keyboards and sang with no other accompaniment.  He only played four songs (same setlist at each show), but two of the songs were EXTREMELY long (the first must have been close to the 15-minute mark).  The songs were in a progressive-rock style with complicated time signatures and oodles of notes.  I liked what I heard and definitely could envision different instruments in different sections when he gets around to recording the songs.  He was selling his debut CD in the lobby after the show (released just a month before he had already moved away from the singer-songwriter pop style evident on most of those songs), which I did buy and have him autograph.

Jason's setlist was:

Round And Round
And I Awaken
(featuring what he called his "Mark Kelly Tribute")
Different Strings/Crucify (the latter being covers of the Rush and Tori Amos songs, respecively)
After the briefest of pauses between the two acts, Steve Hogarth soon appeared onstage by himself, sporting a rather mischievious grin.  He sat down at his keyboard and launched into a superb solo version of "The Hollow Man" from 1994's masterpiece Brave (my favorite Marillion album).  h was clearly enjoying himself and had a silly smile throughout the show.  He followed the opening number with a solo "Cover My Eyes" (the middle portion of which featured several lines from Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting") before saying, "Please welcome to the stage the extraordinary and peculiar Pete Trewavas.

As Pete got himself situated at his bass guitar position, h gave the first real indication that it would be a highly unusual evening.  He hasn't really been known as a great "talker" during Marillion concerts but on those rare occasions when he does talk to the audience you do know it's directly from the heart — that he feels the emotions he's expressing and genuinely wants to share them.  He definitely does not have a set script of introductions that he repeats night after night like some performers (former Marillion vocalist Fish and Paul McCartney spring immediately to mind).  Anyway, he gave a very lengthy and detailed description of the story behind the next song, the old B-side "The Bell In The Sea."  However, he did give a disclaimer that he may have gotten some of the facts wrong because, as he put it, he was "cabbage."

Following that third song, my all-time favorite guitarist, Steve Rothery came onstage and the trio (aided with some samples from h's laptop) launched into "Genie" from last year's Marbles album after which came "Dry Land" in a brand-new arrangement.  Someone yelled out "thanks for playing an older song", to which Hogarth responded, "You think that's old?  Well, this is ancient history then" before Rothers began the guitar intro to "Sugar Mice" from 1987's Clutching At Straws.  After two more songs from Marbles, h told a very long story about how they recorded the Brave album in a castle/chateau in the south of France, stringing microphones everywhere (including from the arrow slits from one tower to those of another).  The superb "Runaway" was then played.

The show got looser and looser as time went on.  At one point, h called for the audience to heckle him; the usual response is that the crowd call out for songs from the earliest days of the band or demand the return of Fish.  However, in Portland there were a few calls for relatively recent songs (I remember hearing both "Angelina" and "Born To Run") so Steve berated us, "That's not how to heckle.  You need to yell 'Fish', you need to yell 'Grendel'."  When the audience took him up on his instructions, he then amazed us all by singing a couple of lines from "Grendel" itself!  This was the 19-minute B-side to the band's very first single in 1982 and a song which they have all refused any association with since early 1984.  h told us, "It's scary that I know that one, actually".  An understatement, to say the least!

Following the next full song ("Go!"), Rothery changed to bass while Pete picked up an acoustic guitar.  Rothers took a bit longer than usual to get in tune but when he did, the trio broke into a nice bit of jazzy jamming which went on a couple of minutes.  In the silence that followed, I yelled out from my position right below h's keyboards (in my best Cockney accent), "Was that a bit of 'Circular Ride, then?" using the name of one of the previously-unheard new songs that the band is currently working on in the studio.  Hogarth got a very funny look on his face and then leaned over to whisper to Pete and then directed Rothery on what key he should be in.  After a few seconds, they broke into a very interesting-sounding riff and jammed a bit on that for about a minute.  I was told by one of the crew later that, yes, we had been treated to the world premier of a bit of what could be the title track of the new album (or series of EP's as plans seem to be shaping up for).

In my notebook at this point (I was jotting down comments between taking photos and just watching), it says "kill their cats" which was a line from another funny story h told at this point.  For the life of me, I can't remember anything else about this particular intro, other than it led into "Marbles" and "Don't Hurt Yourself."  After "Afraid Of Sunlight", h managed to break a piece of his inner-ear monitor (which he also did last year in Boulder but was in a much better mood about it this time around), commenting on how much these pieces of equipment cost while Colin helped fix it.  Prior to playing a completely different arrangement of 1989's "Easter" (different even to the version they played the night before at Music Millennium), Steve told a long story about how when he first joined the band they all stayed out at a mushroom farm in the middle of rural Buckinghamshire getting to know each other.  He was talking about the music they were making and said they "made everything but love," receiving the funniest look I've ever seen from Rothery.

Just before starting "The Answering Machine," Hogarth called attention to a couple who were walking up the aisle to sit in a row further from the stage.  It was very funny as he was asking "We weren't that smelly, were we?" and asking if the view was better from their new seats.  He ended the song with a longer-than-usual ad lib on the "bugs don't bite" line, singing "the band don't bite, we don't smell."

My favorite part of the show was when Rothery came out for the encore by himself and played the intro. to the excellent "Ocean Cloud" (everyone's favorite song from Marbles, the full 20-minute song has only been performed in it's entirety three times).  Following several minutes of outstanding electric guitar work, h snuck back onstage, motioning to the audience to keep quiet.  He and Pete took their positions, and the first third of "Ocean Cloud" was played and sung before sequeing seemlessly into "Enlightened."  I can't wait for an official release of this medley (even better if they filmed it one night and release a DVD!).

 The last song of the evening was the tour debut of 1995's "Beautiful", dedicated to a local fan who'd requested it earlier.

The full performed setlist (minus the stories and ad libs) was:
The Hollow Man
Cover My Eyes/Cloudbusting
The Bell In The Sea
Dry Land
Sugar Mice
Fantastic Place
You're Gone
The Space...
Marbles I
Don't Hurt Yourself
Afraid Of Sunlight
This Is The 21st Century
The Answering Machine
Ocean Cloud/Enlightened
When the house lights came back up, I went to talk to Roderick at the mixing board (who'd also recorded the show, as he does everynight).  I told him that was too loose of a show to ever release and he said that it certainly would show them in a different light rather than the reputation that they are always proper and serious.  He did tell me that the decision would be entirely left up to the band for a Front Row Club release of several of the Los Trios shows but that they would almost definitely release a Racket Records CD using two or three songs from each gig.

While waiting for the band to come out to talk to their fans (as they almost always do), I went to the lobby to talk to Jason Hart and tell him how much I enjoyed his set.  We talked about the band Kansas and of Tori Amos (he's a big fan of both and was interested to hear of my connections with them) and I had him sign a copy of his CD for me.

By this time, Marillion had returned to the stage in the theatre, Pete and Rothery talking to fans at stage right and Hogarth holding court on the left side.  As I had always more to the other two in Boulder, I decided to hang out with h this time.  As soon as he saw me, he told me that he'd put me into his calendar on the computer earlier that day so not to worry — my London birthday celebration is all systems go!  I then told him that I was amazed they performed "The Space" that night because while I'd been waiting for a bus to bring me to the theatre, I'd seen one of the fancy Portland trams almost run into a car that went through a red light (the song was originally written after Steve had seen a tram run into a car in Amsterdam and just keep on going).

The crowd, the crew, and the other two-thirds of the band on this tour dispersed gradually and I found myself the only one left in the theatre with h — an odd feeling, to say the least.  To have been a huge fan of Marillion since 1984, but only (finally) being able to see them perform live for the first time less than a year before was remarkable enough.  But to be able to just sit there casually talking to a genuine musical hero of mine late into the night was simply amazing to me.  That's the kind of band Marillion is, however.  All of it's members (and the crew, office staff, etc.) are just so kind and giving of their time.  They genuinely make you feel like a part of the family; they are dedicated to us which makes us devoted to them.  It's a two-way street and they definitely do not take that for granted.  We probably could have stayed there talking until the sun came up if it weren't for the fact that I had to catch the last bus back to my hotel (much too far to walk, and you need to call & reserve taxi cabs in Portland).

Thus, Portland's Marillion concert was a very satisfying experience for me — just as much for what happened off-stage as the performance itself.  I knew I was too wound-up to get any sleep that night (and I faced a very early check-out so I could catch my train up to Seattle).  It was only Wednesday (well, early Thursday) and I still had the tour-ending show to look forward to (Marillion is famous for making real "events" out of the last gigs of any given tour).

To be continued....



I spent the better part of this morning uploading the digital photos from my Pacific Northwest trip and writing a few captions (my least favorite part of the process).  I've already got some very nice feedback from several Marillion fans, as well as Jason Hart who opened for them.  Jason was very pleased to see the photos of him and Steve Hogarth ("h") — they sang a duet on "Lavender" during the final set of encores in Seattle — and even e-mailed me saying he had sent several photos to Mr. h himself.

The photos can be seen in my Webshots albums.  Feel free to leave positive comments, either using the link on the individual photo pages or the album guestbooks on the homepage (I do delete spam and instigators, however).



I arrived home safely about an hour ago.  Having spent last night (from 9:35pm to 6:15am this morning) wandering around Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport looking for a quiet comfortable spot to sleep (impossible — construction workers hammered & welded away all that time), I'm now extremely exhausted.

I think I'll spend today taking a LONG nap and just doing some other relaxing things like unpacking.  I already waded through the 400 or so e-mails, tossing out the junk and keeping the stuff I want to read (leaving just over 50); I'll write any necessary responses tonight or tomorrow.

Then, I plan to begin uploading photos from the trip.  I completely filled a 1GB Memory Card Pro — a total of 354 photos (the majority are at 7.2 megapixels, with a few fives here and there plus about 2 minutes of video with sound).   I'll do the various Marillion events first, since there are MANY fans waiting to see these.   (For example, I gave out my card to a number of people I met at the shows; I think several decided not to take photos since I was in a good position and had a decent camera — my pics will be posted at Webshots.)  The tourist-oriented photos will follow.

I anticipate the photo uploads to take quite some time.  Only after I finish those will I begin blogging with the trip accounts, later this week.  Again, I will write about the Marillion-related experiences (and there are many) first and the non-music activities second.

At any rate, I had a wonderful trip — full of interesting and unexpected adventures.  My only regret is that I had to return home already!



I hadn't checked out Jon Knudsen's wonderful blog in a couple of months (I have no excuse, I hang my head in shame), so I just spent an enjoyable half-hour or so reading through the latest entries.  I think he's the reason why I don't blog too much about this city anymore — he just does it so well everything pales in comparison.

I especially enjoy his entries about some of Albuquerque's interesting historic sites and detailing daily life in the Nob Hill/Downtown/Old Town corridor.  In one recent post, he manages to combine three of my lifelong passions:  home-made rootbeer, old postcards, and Route 66 motels.

So, check out Albloggerque sometime when you want to be entertained.  Bookmark it, and keep checking back...often!


I grew up in a very education-oriented household.  Because of my surroundings, I had amble opportunities to become curious about the world outside of our house and was encouraged to pursue any interests that I happened upon.

From a very early age, I learned about geography by collecting worldwide stamps.  (My mom and a couple of uncles all collected stamps when they were young so I "inherited" their childhood albums; I no longer actively pursue this hobby, but I still have boxes full of stamps and covers, and plenty of rare philatelic literature).  Not only did I learn about all sorts of countries (many of which no longer exist) but also about their cultures, historic citizens, and languages.  That little hobby led to so many other interests...

Anyway, I'm a strong advocate for geography being taught in the classroom.  I'm often dismayed at how many people seem unable to pinpoint even the HUGE countries on a map (like China, for instance).  So, I was interested to read the following review (from Powell's Books of Portland which, in turn, was reprinted from the Christian Science Monitor):

Why Geography Matters
by Harm J. De Blij

How can we fix the world if we can't read a map?
A Review by David J. Smith

Compromise is what maps and mapmakers are all about.  When I teach geography, this is the first principle I teach.

To demonstrate this, I use "the grapefruit lesson."  Take a grapefruit.  Think of it as the Earth.  Identify the North and South poles.  Then, with a marker, draw a line around the Earth between the poles (the Equator).

Draw a few lines of longitude.  Then draw a few shapes on the surface to suggest the continents.  Finally, using a knife, remove the skin of the grapefruit so that it can be both a flat and readable map of the world.

When students do this, of course, they discover that the final step is impossible.  It can only by done by tearing the skin to shreds, or subdividing it into impossibly small segments.  This leads to conversations about map projections and their inherent compromises of shape or size.  Understanding this is the first step toward understanding what geography is really about.

Noted geographer Harm de Blij does something similar -- and a good deal more -- in his remarkable new book
Why Geography Matters.

This is not an academic tome or a technical book about geography.  It is a friendly and accessible reader for those who have a basic grasp of some of the concepts of geography and who want to understand where the world is headed.

It is also an urgent call to educators across the United States to restore the study of geography to the nation's schools.  Climate change, terrorism, and massive population shifts cannot be fully grasped without a grounding in geography that US students are not currently getting, he contends.

"Geographic knowledge by itself cannot solve these problems," writes de Blij, who is a geography professor and editor at the National Geographic Society.  "But they will not be effectively approached without it. "

As one example to support his argument that geography matters, he takes a close look at the American-led invasion of Iraq and the consequences incurred there by gaps in geographic knowledge on the part of US officials and decisionmakers.

He writes, "The invasion of Iraq changed the political and cultural geography of terrorism... [generating] a counterinsurgency that attracted thousands of foreign fighters and provided them a training ground Osama Bin Laden could only have dreamed of ... [and revealing] disqualifying miscalculations on the part of planners who should have known their political and cultural geography better."

De Blij begins his book with two chapters on the generalized importance of geography and on the basics of maps and cartography.

He then moves on to what he calls "Three Challenges Facing America" -- climate change, the rise of China, and global terrorism.

He devotes three or four chapters to each of these topics and is encyclopedic yet comprehensible as he covers the historical perspective, the present, and possible future directions.

The historical perspective on climate change is huge:  He begins 4.6 million years ago.  And yet he brings everything up to the latest present-day research.

At one point he discusses the cycles of climate change through history and notes that the future promises abrupt climate changes, likely to be triggered even sooner and more powerfully because of the impact of human activity on the global atmosphere.

He does not leave out the critical issue of population densities:

"When it comes to depicting the current world population on a map, it is well to remember that no single map can adequately represent the complexities involved."

This leads to subsections on "Population and Politics" and "Population and Environment" and, finally, "The Penalty of Poverty," asking how it is that "the poorest of the world's countries tend to have the highest rates of population growth."

The chapters on China begin with a historic view of civilizations, of geopolitics and boundaries, and lead to a section titled "Global Civilizations -- Mesh or Clash."

He considers China's changing geography as it continued to evolve over centuries, and he looks at the "Modern Map of the Chinese Empire" saying, "Make no mistake: China remains a modern-day empire."

The last section, on global terrorism, includes a sweeping look at the changing face of Islam, and the potential threats to the United States and to the rest of the world.

De Blij finishes not with terrorism but with a look at three other growing and changing realms:  the European Union, Russia, and Africa.  His epilogue is a reasoned and thoughtful analysis of the global effect of the US as the world's largest (or only) superpower, doing good and bringing hope in countless ways but also alienating much of the world "through unilateral and overbearing actions in pursuit of goals with which many of its cohorts do not agree."

A powerful and deeply personal writer, de Blij discusses his own background in detail and fills the book with anecdotes from his experience.  This makes for an entertaining and enlightening trek through the compromises required in a complex, challenging, and dangerous world.
Sounds interesting, at any rate.

Published in August 2005 with 288 pages, Powell's has the hardcover book priced at $21.00 ($9.00 off of the cover price).


I'm rarely able to get a decent night's sleep right before an impending trip — no matter if the trip is rather routine or mundane (which my trips rarely are).  I thought I was ahead of the game this time:  I've been packed for days now (I only need to add my razor and comb after I finish my shower in the morning), I hustled today doing last-minute cleaning and other errands, I spent this evening updating various databases so I wouldn't have any unfinished paperwork (computerwork) when I return, and I finished burning some DVD's for a few friends.

And, I was ready to go to sleep at a decent time tonight.  My eyes even felt tired at 11:00 so I figured there would be no problem drifting off into a peaceful slumber; I actually thought I'd be able to get more than enough sleep before my alarm goes off at 5:20 in the morning.

Well, here it is — a quarter to two — and I'm wide awake.  I actually gave up about an hour ago.  I tried reading a bit, digging in my duffel bag for my "trip novel" — Michael McGarrity's Slow Kill — and reading a chapter.  I then did a bit of Internet browsing (finding an interesting book review that I'll post here in a few minutes) before deciding to write a blog entry.

Oh, I did take the opportunity to finish off the last bit of food in my house:  a couple of slices of frozen Texas toast with melted cheese (yum!) and a can of soda.  I may take the trash bag out to the dumpster if I get motivated enough to put shoes and a shirt on.  And I actually remembered that I could go ahead and check-in for both of my flights tomorrow (and print out the boarding passes) so I did that.  I figure I'll try to rest my eyes a bit if they get tired enough (but I doubt my brain will shut off enough for any real sleep) and then I can relax more on the second flight (the long one).

I'll go back and read some more of my book in a few minutes — it's been a month or more since I've last read any sort of fiction; it's nice to read something light(er) for a change as recently I've been immersed in overseas volunteers guides and books about Nepali history and culture.

Apart from the book review I'm going to reprint in a moment (not about the one I'm reading but about one I think I'll buy based on the review), this will probably be my last entry for a week.  (Mike will have his laptop in Seattle, but I don't plan on using it other than to dump my camera's memory card if it fills up.)




Today's the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on America.  It doesn't really seem that long ago.  I don't spend a lot of time talking about it (or blogging about it) because I know so many other bloggers and media will do it justice much better than I can.  For me, that entire period is unavoidably linked with my own mother's death — she passed away just a few days before — and thus I am even more saddened at remembering that time.   The wounds are still raw, but since then I've become stronger and moved further forward much more than I ever thought possible.


Year after year, it seems like the start of the New Mexico State Fair also signals the return of heavy rains over Albuquerque.   It poured rain here yesterday beginning in the late afternoon/early evening and continued throughout the night.  Luckily, it was dry today for the huge parade.  I avoided attending mainly because I knew the main parking lot — located on the infield of the horse racing track — would be a muddy mess (and also to steer clear of the traditionally-huge first Saturday crowds).  Scattered storms are in the forecast for tomorrow, but I'll probably go out either then or on Monday (which will be my last chance until I return from Seattle on the 19th — might be something nice to do on my drive home from the airport).



The New Mexico State Fair begins tomorrow morning here in Albuquerque at 8:00am.  Admission prices are $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12, and parking is $7 (there's also a Park-and-Ride for $1 each way, doesn't include admission — I used that one year but would rather have the freedom of having my own car there).  I'll definitely be attending sometime this weekend (perhaps tomorrow if I feel like it — I've been ill the last day or so).  I'm not really interested in any of the scheduled evening concerts (an example of the variety:  one night, LeAnn Rimes performs, the next night we've got Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick), so I probably won't attend any of the shows.  I just want to walk around, sampling the wide variety of foods, and looking for interesting photo opportunities.  The Fair runs through September 25th.


For the first time since moving down here in 1994, I attended the famous burning of Zozobra in Santa Fe tonight.  Held annually, this event officially marks the beginning of the Santa Fe Fiesta with the 55-foot-tall portrayal of "Old Man Gloom" being burned in effigy, taking everyone's troubles away.  It was a lot of fun — plenty to eat and drink, and the ceremony itself was preceded by fire dancers and plenty of other fireworks as well.

Add this to the list of unique things to see and do in New Mexico during this time of year.  If I'm still down here next year, I will definitely return to see Zozobra go up in flames once again.



The Seattle in-store acoustic session by Marillion will be broadcast live over the Internet next Thursday night (September 15) on The Dividing Line, beginning at 4:30pm Pacific time.  Frans Keylard, host of the very popular "Rogue's Gallery" program, will also interview the band prior to the set and interview several fans afterwards.  If I'm not too tired or shy on the evening, I may mutter something about my personal fandom on-air.  Unfortunately, the show probably won't be archived (Frans wrote me that it depends on if the band is happy with their performance that evening or what unpredictible things may happen).  But I have a friend in Norway who's going to attempt to record the webcast so I'll have my souvenir of the event.


So many evacuees from the Gulf Coast hurricane have taken refuge here in New Mexico that President Bush today declared a Federal emergency.  The state's resources have been severely stretched (we're one of the poorest states in the nation), although Governor Richardson has vowed to help the victims of Katrina whatever the cost.

The declaration of an emergency means that the Federal government will reimburse New Mexico 100% of the costs of assisting hurricane refugees.  Everywhere you go in Albuquerque, it seems as if there are food and clothing drives — the local governments and relief agencies are urging that these be shut down as many people are using those bins as an excuse to discard their unwanted garbage.  Cash is desperately needed to replace the donated trash with items the victims can actually use.  My complex is one of many who are giving free apartments to the evacuees as the space at the Convention Center and area hotels are rapidly filling to overflowing capacity.

And already you are seeing protests on the news by local homeless or unemployed people saying that the hurricane refugees are taking over their shelters and job prospects, that the city is pushing aside their own to help "outsiders."  What you see on a day-to-day basis are alternating examples of the goodness and the nastiness that exists in humankind.  You applaud at someone's genorisity one moment and are appalled at someone else's lack of compassion the next.

It seems like it will only get worse before it gets better.

I'm glad I'm going to be traveling next week so I can escape from the depressing news for a short time at least.



Since moving down here some eleven years ago, I've felt that the Fall is the best time if you enjoy getting out-and-about.  Not only is the weather grand (following the heat and monsoonal rains of the summer) but there are a host of annual events to cater to every taste.

It seems like the Fall events season unofficially kicks off with the Bernalillo Wine Festival every Labor Day Weekend.  I have yet to attend but it does look like a lot of fun (I'd planned to drive up there yesterday but ended up sleeping most of the day after a night of uploading photos and some other computer work).

The New Mexico State Fair kicks off this Friday.  I haven't been in a few years but I did attend for the first several that I lived here (I even worked there one year, co-managing the Mac's booth).  It's a great place to go if you enjoy eating as there are all sorts of regional and traditional food stands as well as full-scale restaurants.  I usually try to swing by the building run by the New Mexico Agricultural Board as there are all sorts of free samples of locally-grown food there (another place for great free samples is in the Manuel Lujan Exhibition Hall where organizations demonstrate all sorts of food processors, choppers, etc.).  But by far my favorite is to spend time in the Indian Village, sampling the wares of the Native American food stands while watching the traditional dances.  I always enjoy a nice Indian taco and bowl of mutton stew with an ice cold Coca Cola, perhaps with a desert of fry bread with powdered sugar and honey.  Yum!

I'll be out-of-town for most of the Fair this year, so I need to make sure I attend this coming weekend.  When I do, I plan to seek out a good hot dog stand.  I used to love making hot dogs but I got burned-out on them a few years ago and haven't had one since; apart from cooking my own or eating them at picnics, I can only remember having them at the occasional baseball game.  But I now have a craving to try some of the "unusual" styles of weiners I saw last night on a PBS documentary profiling hot dog stands throughout the U.S., and the unique regional toppings found at many of them.  Cole slaw on a dog?  Sounds good!

Of course, the major Albuquerque event of the fall season is the Balloon Fiesta.  It's the largest ballooning gathering in the world due to the uniqueness of our geography creating perfect flying conditions in what's known as the "Albuquerque Box".  Hundreds of balloons fill the sky over the Rio Grande Valley for those ten days; the best place to be is actually on the field (one of the few that allow spectators to wander amongst the inflating, ascending, and landing aircraft).  This year, the organizers promise some spectacular surprises in conjuction with our Tricentennial celebrations.  And the very expensive International Ballooning Museum is (finally) due to have it's grand opening.

I'll miss the opening mass ascension and other events the first weekend (I'll be in Kansas for Bryan and Melissa's wedding), but I'll probably go several times later in the week.  Each year, I usually try to make at least one of the early morning liftoffs (you need to get out there around 5 in the morning and it can be bitterly cold — but that's what green chile breakfast burritos and piñon nut coffee are good for) and at least one of the evening balloon glows.  There were a couple of years where I was out there virtually every morning and would return in the late afternoons.  I even worked on a chase crew one year.  Perhaps this year, I'll break down and buy one of the really nice special jackets they have (I need a nice down jacket for the Himalayan trip).

Sprinkled among these major events are various other ones such as a large arts & crafts fair spread over two weekends (the last one coinciding with the opening of the Balloon Fiesta so the out-of-town tourists have even more things to spend money on).  Plus, most of the area's Indian pueblos have various feast days for the Fall harvest — another great opportunity to enjoy great Native American food, just don't take your camera as photography of these events is strictly forbidden.

This is also the best time of the year for shopping at the numerous antique shops along old Route 66 east of the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque, or at the huge flea market each weekend at the State Fairgrounds (well, not during the fair in September).  Another recommended flea market is the one held by Tesuque Pueblo right next to the Santa Fe Opera; vendors at this one aren't just local people selling junk but Native American sellers and others from throughout Central and South America, India, South Africa, Japan, etc.  It's a great place to pick up some very interesting folk art from around the world.  (And you can stop at the Jackalope in Santa Fe or Bernalillo on the way home for even more cool stuff; the weather is great for browsing at these types of outdoor markets.)

Speaking of markets, the chile harvest comes in very soon.  You will begin seeing stands crop up in city parking lots and alongside rural roadways throughout New Mexico where you can buy huge burlap bags of the chile pods.  The air fills with the smell of chile pods roasting (the vendors will roast them for you, then you freeze the pods and use them in recipes for the entire year).  You also begin to see an increase in the red chile ristras hanging from patios, portals, doorways, etc. at almost every house or business.

With the increased moisture we saw last Winter and earlier this year (not to mention last month), we may just have a decent apple harvest as well.  The drought has been so bad that a number of apple orchards went bankrupt over the past several years.  Apples are almost as big a business in New Mexico as chile with many communities having festivals celebrating the harvest; let's hope there's actually something to celebrate this year.

Yes, Autumn is definitely my favorite time to live in New Mexico.  And an ideal time for visitors (for future reference — if I'm actually still living in the state next year...).


I spent much of the long weekend uploading my digital photos, making better-than-expected progress.  I'm working in reverse chronological order (so the most recent photos will always be in the first album of the index page) and have already completed 2005 and 2004.  Of course, since I spent much of 2003 traveling (and it was also the first year I had my digital camera) there are considerably more photos from that year than any other.

My current modus operandi is to upload virtually every photo I've taken into individual albums by date taken.  I have been weeding out a few of the bad shots and duplicates, but I don't plan on drastically editing these until all are uploaded.  Only then will I delete certain pictures and move others around to better tell a story.  And nobody wants to look at twenty different photos from within Beijing's Forbidden City which, while being of different pavilions, all begin to look the same after you've seen one or two.  I've also been adding captions here and there, but the bulk of that work will also been done when I've finished uploading all of these photos.

If I get really motivated, I may even finish the main work by the end of this week (I only have to go to early April 2003 — my first photos with the new camera were taken at the open house for the newly-built Isotopes Stadium).

Future plans include digitizing my earlier print photos and continuing with the bulk of my travel souvenirs and various other memorabilia.  I still need to check to see if I can hotlink to the photos in the account, which will be useful for putting more photos on my main site (I still have plans to complete various trip journals, etc. but that's far in the future I fear).

The link to these photo albums has been sent out to a few friends and family members as an early work-in-progress preview.  I'm interested in hearing/reading your comments (and the site has a function where you can leave comments about individual photos if you'd like).  I believe I'm entering into a new phase of my photography, one where I'm more interested in artistic composition rather than merely taking snapshots (some of the photos of San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos last month are a good example of this).  I want to perfect my photographer's eye before I journey to Nepal in a few months (and I'm now thinking of adding a brief visit to Tibet following my volunteer work).  Your comments on individual photos — what you like and what you don't — could prove useful to me and result in some very interesting pictures in the future.



With Marillion's West Coast tour (billed as La Vuelta de Los Trios) starting tomorrow (at the Belly Up just north of San Diego), and my own small part of said tour rapidly approaching in another week, I've begun pre-packing my gear.

Much of my luggage on this trip will contain the various t-shirts we made (it's a tradition that groups of touring Marillion fans — the "Anoraks" — create their own designs; it became even more important on this tour since the band couldn't afford to bring any merchandise because of the new tax laws).  In addition to the two for myself, I also have the ones that Mike ordered, a few extras for the band and others, plus a XXL hooded sweatshirt that I intend to get autographed for a gift.  I'll also be carting around various promotional materials — postcards, buttons, and flyers — to help increase walk-up ticket sales.  Neither Portland or Seattle have an official "street team", so I'll be doing the work myself.

And, of course, I need to fit in my regular clothes, camera and video gear, toiletries, etc.  All with a goal of having one bag total (when I travel, I keep room at the top of the duffel so I can store my day-pack which I then use around town).

I had planned to do a test-run on this trip of my newest piece of luggage:  a High Sierra jumbo-sized (36-inch) drop-duffel (with a zippered lower compartment in addition to the main section up top) with wheels and telescoping handle, plus straps to wear as a backpack.  I'd purchased this monster to take to Nepal; the idea was that it would hold all of my essentials for the month or so I'll be in-country.

I packed everything into the jumbo duffel early this morning (minus a few minor items) to check for fit.  The shirts and promo items, plus my personal clothing items, all went into the bottom compartment leaving the top free for my camera bag, ditty bag, a couple of paperback books, and lots of empty space.  I thought, "Wow!  This is great" . . . until I tried to lift the thing!  It weighed a ton!  Plus, when I stood it up on end to test the rolling capability, it was so top-heavy that nothing would keep it standing up without leaning it against something.  Another strike against this thing is the fact that it's way too big to use as a carry-on (I hate checking baggage unless I'm going to be on the same flight for 15 or 20 hours).

Back to the drawing board...

I do have a lot of other luggage to choose from (whenever I get close to a major trip, it seems like what I own isn't sufficient for my needs).  It seems like none have all the features in one bag (I'm still looking for that perfect bag with the proper zippered compartments that hold my gear just right).

I took another wheeled duffel off the closet shelf — a cheapo one I'd bought at Wal-Mart for $10 or so a couple of years ago.  This one has a nice squared shape but is half as long as the High Sierra (about 18 inches) with a nice deep center compartment.  But that's it; there are no zippered compartments at either end, just a long skinny pocket across the front (useful for airline tickets but little else.

Still, I like it because it will fit in most overhead compartments on planes and you can put A LOT of stuff in it.  I've come to prefer duffels over pilot cases or hard-sided luggage because of the increased capacity.

Amazingly enough, EVERYTHING that I'd had in the 36-inch expensive drop-duffel case fit into the much cheaper and smaller Wal-Mart special.  Plus, it weighed a lot less (I could actually pick this one up without any sort of struggle) and it didn't fall over when standing on it's wheels.  We have a winner!

I may just leave the duffel packed until I leave next Tuesday morning.  Which is a major accomplishment for me as I usually spend all night before a trip trying to pack and repack.

I'm just worried about what I'll do on the Nepal trip now.  There's no way I'm going to take that jumbo duffel to lug through the streets of Kathmandu or to try and fit it onto a ramshackle bus when I go to my assignment.  (I wouldn't feel right hiring a porter to carry it for me, although they do that on the treks.)  I may just pack lightly (if I can find one the same dimensions as this Wal-Mart version but with more internal compartments, that would be ideal) and purchase things along the way.

At least with all of this packing and other preparation out of the way, I can spend much of this week just relaxing and taking life easy.  And trying to decide if I really want to buy a new camera this week, or wait until some other time (my old 2.0 megapixel digital doesn't seem adequate anymore, and with the prices of 5.0 and 7.0 mp's coming down there's no reason not to upgrade); I at least want to have a better camera for taking photos of the Himalaya.


What began as a trickle is turning into a full-blown flood (pardon the pun) as victims from Hurricane Katrina are taking refuge in Albuquerque.  A few began arriving early in the week, but now Governor Richardson and Mayor Chavez have authorized at least six flights per day to shelter as much of the overflow as the city can bear.  Most are being housed at the convention center downtown (as many as six thousand) and families here are being asked to provide spare rooms.

I'm certain many other cities are taking refugees as well, but you certainly wouldn't know it from watching the media coverage here.  They interviewed several families last night who were actually moved from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston before deciding to come here because of friendlier people and better organization.

I donated a bag of groceries at Smith's food drive a few days ago.  It seems like so little to do, particularly as I continue to watch the news coverage of the anarchy in the hardest hit areas.  It seems that the situation becomes worse with each and every passing day.  It's really frustrating that the relief effort has been plagued by slowed or delayed response and poor organization in the field.  Although the December 26 tsunami was a much larger disaster, Katrina has definitely overshadowed it from my perspective.  I almost feel ashamed to be American (not the first time I've felt that way) — let's hope that the governments and organizations involved in rescue & recovery will do much in the coming weeks and months to turn around the negativity that has plagued the operation thus far.



On rare occasions when I'm bored, I click over to check out some of my blog's tracking statistics (actually, I'm bored quite often, but I rarely check the statistics is what I meant).  Every once in a while, I discover an interesting blog or website by following the links to referral sites (but that hasn't happened in a very long time).

But the statistic I do find consistently interesting — perhaps because I enjoy traveling — is the list of countries where visitors to my blog are located.  Since I installed the tracker nearly six months ago, I've had unique visitors from 32 different countries (plus one "Unknown" which I think was either from an airplane or a secret government computer) on six of the seven continents (all but Antarctica).

Here's the complete list, for those who are also bored this morning:

United States (874)
Norway (32)
Canada (22)
United Kingdom (15)
Italy (5)
Fance (5)
Philippines (5)
Malaysia (4)
Mexico (4)
Australia (4)
Singapore (4)
Germany (3)
Spain (3)
Belgium (3)
Bahrain (2)
Israel (2)
Sweden (2)
Argentina (2)
Slovakia (2)
Chile (2)
Mauritius (1)
Unknown (1)
Venezuela (1)
Hong Kong (1)
Bulgaria (1)
Japan (1)
Ireland (1)
Iran (1)
Netherlands (1)
South Africa (1)
New Zealand (1)
Nigeria (1)
Brazil (1)
What?  No Iraq?


Perhaps I'm just getting loopy from wading through the mountain of pre-volunteer research I've been reading about Nepal recently.  Among this material is a large packet I received from the CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center in Khatmandu which covers the recommended immunizations and includes a lengthy paper about traveler's diarrhea.  I found the following passage increasingly hilarious:

There is no absolute definition of what constitutes diarrhea, but various definitions are utilized for the purpose of research, such as "3 or more unformed stools within 24 hours."  Funk and Wagnell's dictionary defines diarrhea as "morbidly frequent and fluid evacuation of the bowel," which has a more poetic ring to it.  The word diarrhea is derived from the Greek and means "to flow through."
Upon reading this, I happened to glance over to my coffee table where a travelogue entitled Himalayan Passage happened to be sitting.  I laughed so hard that I thought I was about to have a "morbid evacuation" right then and there!  Guess you had to be there...



I watch an awful lot of documentary films, many cover different aspects of culture or wildlife in western Asia.  But I don't think any have moved me quite the way Born Into Brothels has.

I first saw this film on a DVD rental almost two weeks ago and I've just watched it a second time.  It's about a professional photographer living in Calcutta, India, who had ventured into the Red Light District in order to take photographs.  Once there, she was amazed at the number of children and began teaching them about cameras.  She initially felt this was a good way to break the barriers and be able to photograph those who preferred to remain anonymous.

She got quite a bit more than she bargained for as the photographs of the kids revealed an entirely different level of life within the dens of prostitution.  The kids live — and their mothers work — amidst overwhelming poverty and tremendous obstacles preventing them from escaping their lives.  The American photographer becomes determined to help the children break free and her efforts to provide an education — a future — for them is at times thrilling, frustrating, and heartwarming.

As I watched this film, I found myself laughing at times, crying or angry at other times.  It's one of those pieces that you watch while wondering what you can do to help.

The photographer has set up a non-profit organization, Kids With Cameras, through which you can offer assistance either through cash donations or purchasing several items.  The DVD isn't yet commercially available (I received mine through Netflix), but should be released later in the Fall (buy it from KWC rather than a retailer like Amazon so they receive 100% of the proceeds).  The film's soundtrack (featuring some really cool original music) is available for preorder, and the companion book has recently been published, featuring some of the great photographs taken by the children in the film as well as behind-the-scenes stills.  Also available are high-quality Gicleé prints (running $250 to $500 each) or, for the person with a large wallet (and heart), a signed limited-edition portfolio for $10,000.

All of the proceeds from these donations go towards teaching photography to margianilized children around the world and the organization has a mission of furthering their education through setting up scholarships or even building their own schools.

Believe me, after watching Born Into Brothels, seeing the faces of the children both in good times and bad, you will want to do something to help.


I've been watching many of the news broadcasts and special reports being aired recently detailing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I've been amazed and saddened by the sheer enormity of the death and destruction all along the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans and Biloxi.

Although I've always wanted to visit, I've never been to either city (although I did fly over both a couple of Christmases ago for a family holiday in Pensacola, Florida; the condos we stayed in then have also since been destroyed by a hurricane).  A journey to the "Big Easy" for Mardi Gras has long been on my travelling to-do list; I'm more interested in the city's musical heritage and early history than in the drinking and other debauchery along Bourbon Street, however.

Other than listening to some of New Orleans' great music (I've long been a fan of artists like Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Louis Armstrong, among others), I only have one tenuous link to the area: a high school friend of my sister's lived there at one point (I have no idea if she still does).  Also, I just found out that Ian Mosley — the drummer for Marillion — has a daughter who lives in New Orleans; she left during the pre-storm evacuations.

Yes, the devastation is tremendous and the aftermath — particularly the images of all those people stranded on the highway overpasses dying under the hot sun — has been tugging at my heartstrings.  You can hear the desperation in their voices as they describe the futility of their situation.  You want to go help but you know it's best remain where you are so not to get in the way and add to the problems.  My thoughts and prayers do go out to all of the victims — both direct and indirect (the entire country will be feeling the effects of this disaster for quite some time).  I do plan to donate some rice and canned goods, perhaps a bit of cash as well.

In the midst of all of the heart-rending footage, I was very impressed with ABC's Nightline program tonight.  Rather than adding to the footage of flooded cities, flattened houses, and rooftop rescues they interviewed four well-known citizens of New Orleans about what the city means to them.  The show ended with Wynton Marsalis telling about the traditional jazz funerals while showing footage of a typical procession.

The point — and images — I was left with was how death should be a celebration and not mourned as an ending.  And I decided that, if at all possible, that's the type of funeral I would want for myself:  no sadness, just lots of happy people playing music and dancing in the streets.  I think it's a great ending to a life which would leave little or no room for any remaining sense of loss after the funeral is over.  A nice sentiment, anyway.