demark!

Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

Correction- Azimuth Check

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Where I’m at and what I’m doing: sur mon balcon, au crepescule (on my balcony at dusk…poetic in either language)

Why I’m posting: deleting previous post and reposting

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For those that subscribe to my blog or happened to check it last night or this morning, this post may seem less or more confusing. It’s only about 20 of you, but hey, even Ariana Huffington started slow (incidentally, I don’t even read The Huffington Post anymore). I will consider this post “Post 51,” which will replace the soon-to-be-infamous “Post 50,” which I can only imagine will be the subject of considerable debate, legend, and lore on the blogosphere.

“Post 50” was, in a sense, a rant about how I was getting older (my 28th birthday was last week) and how I don’t care about anything anymore. Actually, since I was able to sum that up in one sentence, it makes me wonder why that was a whole blog and not just a Tweet. Of course, I don’t have Twitter (or Facebook), so I suppose by “Tweet,” I mean yelling off my balcony.

Less than a day later, though, I’ve found a bit more perspective. What seemed yesterday like a dire loss of dedication was really just a less dire loss of direction. Conveniently, we had a briefing on how and why to periodically do an “Azimuth Check.” That is to say, re-orient ourselves along the line between where we started and where we want to be. This is something I used to do on a nearly daily basis. Heck, my first real poem ever was entitled “The Road to Where I Want to Be.” But all of this transitioning had recently caused me to lose my sense of direction a little as new information, experiences, and people hit me from all sides.

So bearing in mind that this blog has a few very important readers – and by “few” I mean all of you are very important…there’s just not all that many of you yet – I decided to re-post and focus not so much on bitterness, but a rambling sense of hope. In fact, if you read every 10th letter, this post actually reads “Learning to hope again. Stay strong, friends.” Probably.

(NOTE: I just checked. Through the intro, it actually spells: AOBEMTCAIEVNG. And if you’re into anagrams, which I’m not, you can rearrange that to be “I bet on me C ago.” C could be roman numeral C, for 100 yrs, which in Latin, was the time period used colloquially to signify “forever” or “ages.” So the letters actually could be read as “I bet on me ages ago.” Which actually is very hopeful. Wow…that’s actually kind of strange. And I promise that I randomly selected 10 letters and didn’t plan that at all.)

Okay, Aziumuth, checked. Post 50, deleted. Joke about Alexander the Great from previous post, lost forever. C’est la vie.

Best,

demark!

Link-ing up with my brother (also a pun)

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Where I’m at: back in Arlington,VA, unfortunately maybe for a month more than expected (until Feb 2011?)

What I’m doing: considering whether my self-imposed haircut moratorium ought to be broken…for the sake of humanity (and their need not to see me with this 80’s-ish “slick wave” hairstyle)

Why I’m posting: some pics from my recent golf/road trip with my bro, Philip

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Last week, my brother, Philip, was kind of enough to take some time away from work and Ohio to fly out to DC so that he and I could take a road trip back to Ohio. This is one of those “the journey is the destination” things. In this case, the journey included fulfilling a long-held dream of mine. Two things I love: hanging out with my brother and golfing. And often while road tripping around the country and passing innumerable (unless you know how to count) golf courses, I’ve daydreamed of stopping at each and golfing. I always thought it would be a fun road trip to take with my brother, and fortunately, we were able to do it.

The trip was high on highlights and low on lowlights (poor scores and rain mostly) and was overall a great diversion, great success, and was great fun. I’ll certainly treasure the memories and would absolutely recommend such a trip (though one could substitute bookstores for golf courses, sister for brother, etc. as one might wish) to one and all. Though we strayed a bit at times from the stated objective of not looking at a map either to find a road or a golf course, generally nous avons vagabondés (I love that that is a French word for “to wander”). And though my brother and I are very much alike in many respects, we differ in some specifics which enhanced the trip. For instance, while I generally leave a conversation with strangers to a few lines and only when the circumstances seemingly call for conversation, my brother is so congenial that he strikes up conversations with everybody. That trait played well as we traveled through rural Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Ohio and we learned some cool things because of it. Also key was that he has AT&T and I have Verizon, and amazingly they were perfectly overlapping (when one had no service, the other did). Anyway, it serves to remind me that (a) I love my brother, (b) I shouldn’t expect to shoot 79 on the course all the time (I think one course we played, I may have shot that on the front 9), and (c) differences make for interesting conversation.

Also, I can out drive (off the tee) my muscle-bound brother. So ha! Of course, it’s often necessary to measure back towards the fairway from the trees I inevitably just hit into.

Below, then, are some pictures of the trip. Conspicuously missing are pictures of the scorecards – saved for posterity but otherwise hidden for face-saving. We took a picture at the entrance of every course. We couldn’t play one because of rain and another because we were too late to pay with credit (which is which should be evident from the pictures). Otherwise, the pics are of some of the beautiful landscapes and wildlife that I’m too inept to capture perfectly even with a great camera. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy them!

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Who said it: Bobby Jones, one of the greatest golfers ever

Why it’s relevant: Road trips, golf trips, and the like teach and remind us all about the bigger picture

The quote: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”

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Il y a longtemps… (A long time ago)

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Where I’m at: back in DC after Mitch and Kara’s South Bend wedding (NOTHING else was scheduled for that weekend…definitely not a football game)

What I’m doing: reveling and reflecting (as opposed to usual, when I’m maxing and/or relaxing…80s style)

Why I’m posting: a milestone and a moment for pause

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First off, I feel compelled to note that I’ve been thinking a lot about our upcoming life in Congo-Brazzaville. After hearing lots of overtures of “We’ll come visit!” (some of which I hope will be true), I have to wonder what living – as opposed to visiting – will feel like. Colleen and I talked the other day about how we will “handle” poverty there. When we’ve traveled to developing countries before, there was always a certain ease in addressing that issue. We were only there for a certain time, we were pretty poor ourselves (of course, by American standards), and there was only so much we could do. We could give the clothes off our backs and the money in our pockets, then tell others about what we had seen, and basically, that was the extent of it. It was too easy to just move on with our own lives. Well, I’ll spare you the rest of our conversation and what we think we might do, but I thought it might be an interesting thought exercise for others not moving to Congo to think about.

That said, on to the meat of the post (sorry Joe and Rachel…hey look! a shout-out!). Today will almost certainly be an historic milestone for Cincinnatians. A longtime ago, the Cincinnati Reds baseball organization was good. Unfortunately, that truly was a longtime ago. But finally, after 15 years, they will clinch the division title for the first time since and head to the playoffs. As anyone that knows me likely is aware, I love the Reds more than any other sports team and would put my love of the team up there against almost any fanatic’s love of his/her team. Heck, every time at school that they said “God, Country, Notre Dame” as a priority list, I was thinking, “Family, Reds, Country, Reds.” Seriously, I think if the Reds seceded from the Union, I’d quit my diplomat gig and join the revolution. No, I’m not joking. I’m not even going to write “jk.”

Anyway, 15 years is a long time (as I’ve mentioned), and a lot of things have happened since then. These are some of them, both personal and global:

– I graduated grade school, high school, college, and law school; I met my wife, courted her, and married her; I met all of the significant friends still in my life; I lost several people close to me, including my father; I’ve lived in Ohio, Indiana, California, Illinois, and Virginia; I’ve traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, Italy, the Vatican, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica; I had a dream and a plan and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see it generally played out

– Two major financial recessions; an increased focused on global communities; the most devastating tsunami, hurricane, and earthquake in history; at least 2 major genocides; the bloodiest world war in history; the creation, rise, and fall of American Idol; the moon landing; Pluto was the 8th planet, then the 9th, then wasn’t a planet at all (please google “Ron Artest, pluto”); the election of the first African-American U.S. president; and a potato chip that looked like Mary Todd Lincoln.

Truly some amazing stuff has happened to us all. Actually, please post a reply if you can think of anything I missed!

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Who said it: LCD Soundsystem. Sweeeet band! You should at least check out the song “Daft Punk is playing at my house,” quoted here

Why it’s relevant: The singer, too, has waited a long time for something he really wanted

The quote: “Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house….I’ve waited 7 years and 15 days”

An effective diplomat: then and now

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Where I’m at: Arlington, VA, thinking about Ohio’s hills and caves, dreaming about Africa’s wild forests

What I’m doing (besides the above): putting a frustrating week of French behind me

Why I’m posting: because I received a contemplative email to match my contemplative mood

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I couldn’t resist posting this email from a diplomat friend. He’s been working in Jerusalem for a bit now on his first tour and understandably is swamped. Always well read (as well as well-built), my colleague had this to say and to recall regarding what it is that we do (it’s impossible for a diplomat to not compare him/herself to even the comical points on this list):

“Anyways, the weight of what these peace talks may mean has put me in a somewhat philosophical mood, and, as such, I decided to go back to the memoirs of a veteran British diplomat, Harold Nicolson, who took part in the Treaty of Versailles, establishing the peace after WWI.  As we all now know, that peace proved to be tenuous and the horrors of WWII came to revisit the errors that were made by those diplomats in 1919. But I came across something that I think is worth sharing with all of us as we begin our careers in this chosen profession.  Below is Nicolson’s list of qualities that a truly effective diplomat must possess, ranging from the wise (“truthfulness”) to the outdated (“being able to affix carbon papers”) to the humorous (“a capacity for enduring long dinner parties”):

“They should possess the following qualities: health, rapidity of understanding, patience, comparative sanity, great physical endurance, charm, no class prejudice either up or down, immense curiosity, a neat
manner with maps and papers, industry, accuracy, the power to ask inconvenient questions at the wrong moment, no very outstanding physical disadvantages, intimacy with the private secretaries of their own plenipotentiaries, the good taste to disguise that intimacy, some acquaintance with the more obscure press correspondents, the habit of looking upwards and not downwards when they don’t know the answer,
courtesy, being able to type and affix carbon papers, a slight but not obtrusive acquaintance with economics, cleanliness, sobriety on all fitting occasions, cheerfulness, statistics derived from sources even more recondite and anonymous than those possessed by their foreign colleagues, some proficiency in the literature or architecture of at least one very oppressed nationality, a capacity for enduring long
dinner parties, honesty, a faculty of speaking rapidly and well such languages as their foreign colleagues do not speak rapidly or well, no consummate belief in the immediate wisdom of the People or the Press,
a good memory, truthfulness, and above all, a complete sterilization of all human vanity.”

So much happens…so often wordlessly

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2010 at 3:10 am

Where I’m at: Wash DC, back from a couple weekends at the Jersey and Delaware shores

What I’m doing: watching my A-100 classmate, John McCary, in the movie Operation Homecoming (Netflix it)

Why I’m posting: to prove that I have something to say about all the things that have been happening to me

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Well, I haven’t posted in awhile and it’s not because I don’t care. In fact, as more happens and happens more quickly in my life, I find that I care more and want to write less. This isn’t because I’m overwhelmed either, but rather because – despite being the lover of words that I am – I find words disappointingly inadequate sometimes. Such observation fits well with the words of the soldiers defining their war experiences on the movie screen in front of me (and with the quote at the end of this post).

20 "Homicide Wings" in a record 5 min, 13 sec!

But here I go trying anyway. So, besides going to Avalon, Rehoboth Beach (where I set the all-time “Homicide Wings Challenge” record at Wings-to-go (see pic), and watching Operation Homecoming, I’ve continued to be busy with French, I had dinner with a great observer in her own right and her very pleasant husband (blog shout-out!), my buddy Eric tied the knot, and Colleen and I each hurt our respective feet. Nothing too amazing when received just so. But as we move more into our life of stationlessness, it’s a slow removal from life as we knew it and a slow transition into permanent transition. It’s an odd emotional journey, the type we’re apt to undergo from time to time in life. As with all journeys, perspective is priceless. If learning to be a diplomat is my job for this country, gaining perspective remains my job for this life. And so when time passes – wordlessly from this end – it’s not for lack of activity, but perhaps because there is so much.

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Who said it: Ernest Hemingway

Why it’s relevant: a man who knew something about war, knew something about needing to escape from time to time to find the right words, and a man in whose garden home in Key West my best friends spent Eric’s wedding reception creating new memories for a memorable place.

The quote: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”

“Touch the ground and go”

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 2:54 am

Where I’m at: DC until the weekend

What I’m doing: getting back from a dinner with some wise young’uns

Why I’m posting: deep thoughts

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Colleen and I were taken out to a fantastic dinner tonight at Ray’s The Steaks, a DC (or Arlington, VA) landmark. The kind folks that made our evening were none other than my uncle Mike, aunt Stephanie, and cousins Taylor, Holly, and John (dedicated readers—shout out to them!). I love my family very much regardless, but there’s so much to love about them. These Lake Woebegone kids are all A-students, great athletes, well-mannered, funny, and adorable (or pretty, as they get older). So much to love!

But the point of this post is not to boast. I bring up my cousins to relay a bit of unexpected wisdom. Over dinner, for some reason, my cousin John (age 8) kept suggesting that if he were to visit us in Congo-Brazzaville (a 20-hr drive into South America, apparently), that he wouldn’t stay- he’d just “touch the ground.” That is to say, John noted that in order to actually visit a country, one need only actually touch the ground, not live there or stay long. It didn’t seem to make much sense at the time, but when his parting remarks to us echoed these, they struck me as deep indeed: “Remember, just touch the ground and go.”

I suppose that’s what being a diplomat (or lost soul…whichever it is that I am) is all about. We’re not supposed to become so immersed in our host countries that we lose touch with America or even want to. We make these places our “homes” only for the length of time needed to advance the interests of America between the wayward soul who precedes us and the one that follows.

So I suppose John was right – whether we’d want him to be or not. We just touch the ground and go.

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Who said it: Ben Franklin

Why it’s relevant: America’s first diplomat touched many grounds and left a mark on all

The quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”

An inspiring decade?

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

Where I’m at: Back in DC, last weekend on the road for awhile!
What I’m doing: winding down from an eXtreme weekend biking and beaching! (www.teamxba.org)
Why I’m posting: feeling poetic again
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While driving to and from Philadelphia this weekend, I got to use the rental car’s XM radio and pretty much exclusively listened to a 90s grunge rock station called Lithium.

Lithium – taking its name appropriately from the atomic element frequently used to treat depression (at least during the 90s) – appropriate for the type of depression-derived songwriting characterized by the 90s. It’s also an appropriate name because the station should probably have been called “Nirvana (who had a hit song called “Lithium”)/Smashing Pumpkins XM, with a sprinkling of other artists highlighting the decade.” Okay, “Lithium” rolls off the tongue better.

It’s important to note here that I’m now an adult with all the maturity and piece-of-mind which accompanies (quiet scoffs are warranted here). While the angst-ridden music of the 1990s perfectly captured both the mood of the day and my mood of everyday, I feel like I’ve grown to the point where I now listen to more “mature” music like indie and folk rock. Instead of immature lyrics like “A friend in need is a friend indeed; a friend with weed is better” (Placebo’s “Pure Morning”), I now listen to grown-up lyrics like “I’m Mr. November; I won’t f-ck us over” (The National’s “Mr. November). Please note the subtle irony.

Still, I can’t help but feel less inspired – at least poetically – by the music I listen to now than by the music streaming 24/7 on stations like Lithium and the one playing in my mind. Perhaps this is more indicative of my own stasis rather than a commentary on the music itself, but there is something very Wagner-esque to grunge rock (think of the primeval scene in “The Matrix” with all the people in the “real city” dancing underground). Layer some wicked licks (Mike McCready of Pearl Jam wins here), groovy base (Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, anyone?) and some poetic introspection (Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins: “I fear that I am ordinary, just like everyone”) and you’ve got yourself some soul-stirring lyrics.

Okay, so I know the 90s were a bit ridiculous in many ways, but so were the 60s and 70s. I think (or at least I hope) that we will look back at the decade’s music and realize how often certain bands, songs, and people captured the accompanying emotional roller coaster of such ridiculousness. Anytime I’m feeling lost in the adult world, I listen to Blink 182’s “Dammit” and think, yes, “I guess this is growing up.”

So ultimately, I am unapologetically putting the 1990s forward as the decade whose music has most inspired me. Just as bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers grew up (from “Suck My Kiss”-like songs filling albums between good songs to full albums – and full attire – like “Californication”), so did I. Just as bands like Everclear lived through depression and tough times (from “Heroine Girl” to “Wonderful”), so did I. And just as bands lost innocence, often through losing members (like Nirvana, most notably), we all lost a lot of innocence, and so did I.

What 90s music tag best describes the decade then? A “jagged little pill” (Alanis Morrissette)? That we “found out what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes” (Everlast)? That “heaven felt like it (was) so far away” (Silverchair)? I vote for the slightly cryptic affirmation/disbelieving sigh of The Crash Test Dummies: mmmmm mmmmm mmmmm. Mmm indeed.

(censored)

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 4:23 am

Where I’m at: DC (stuck in my Falls Church apartment- Thanks HR Dept for not sticking up for me)
What I’m doing: finishing off a ribeye at midnight (why not?!)
Why I’m posting: because I need to speak out!
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I had another softball game tonight. Our team is awesome! Three games, three run-rules, 3-0. More importantly, it’s a great team because I love my teammates. Great people, all of them.

However, they may not feel the same about me. Now, they’re not ones to make generalizations, but at least 2 of them commented on their dislike for diplomats tonight after the game. Though these weren’t directed towards me, the general comments are in fact shared by many around the world. The comments roughly boil down to “Diplomats are pretentious.”

Now, as a bleeding heart of all types, a lawyer, and perhaps someday an elected official, I’m accustomed to being prematurely labeled for the foibles of others identified of the same persuasions. And that’s fine. But…

…Well, the “but” here is that usually I’m able to speak out in other ways to (a) defend myself, (b) improve the criticized system, and (c) maintain my sanity. But I’m embarking upon a new career where that’s not really that possible. Even here, on my own blog, I need to be concerned about fully airing my views and opinions because of my readership.

So what am I going to do? For now, yell out loud. But my neighbors insist that I come up with something…better.
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Who said it: Homer and Marge Simpson
Why it’s relevant: who wouldn’t lose it in such a case?

The quote: [in a room filled with thousands of “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy” scrawled on the walls]
Homer (wielding an ax): No TV and No Beer Make Homer…something something.
Marge: Go Crazy?
Homer: Don’t mind if I do!

Je suis avocat. J’etudie francais.

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Today is May 17, which I’m reminded is the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. I was reminded of that by Erwin Chemerinsky, the titan of constitutional law, who happened to be the commencement speaker at my law school graduation ceremonies yesterday (he started his teaching career at DePaul). Mr. Chemerinsky also told the story of how he heard in the late weeks of October 1982 how he had cancer, then had successful surgery, then found out his wife was pregnant with their first child, just about on the day I was born.

So what was I thinking of as I stepped on stage to receive my “diploma” yesterday (I actually graduated last year and already have my diploma and Illinois license)? I was thinking how happy I was that at that exact moment the Cincinnati Reds had just won and moved back into first place in the NL Central.

Now, I realize that that may seem shallow, but there’s really more depth here than you might immediately appreciate. The last time the Reds were in first place this late in the season was July 2006. At that point in my life, I hadn’t entered law school, I loved my job, I wasn’t married or even engaged yet, I hadn’t even taken the Foreign Service exam, and my dad was still alive.

I’ve always had plans and visions of what my life would hold for me in the future, but I would have never guessed that it’d look like this. My family looks so different, both for the worse and the better. I’m a full-time French student as I prepare to move – with my wife – to Republic of Congo. My friends are getting married. A black man is President, narrowly edging out a woman. I’m a lawyer; I’m a diplomat; I’m a son; I’m a brother; I’m a husband.

There’s not much of a point to this post other than to recall where things were and to perhaps give a landmark to look back once things go to where they’ll be. As Professor Chemerinsky said yesterday, perhaps my own experiences will be useful for you in examining your own life. But always remember….

…the Reds are in first place, baby!

A funny punk-out and who I am

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 at 1:34 am

Passionate. Dedicated. Fun. Intelligent. Driven. One who succeeds at what he undertakes. Caring. Attentive.

During our training for the Foreign Service, more than one presenter suggested that we make a list of attributes we want people to believe about us and then write that list down to keep with us to remind us how to act. I usually don’t go for that kind of thing, but some conversations with Colleen have made me realize that self-assurance isn’t always the right road to hoe.

So here’s me vulnerable and here’s my list. I see myself as those above attributes. Do you see me that way?

***********

And now something lighter!

Here’s a funny story. Very funny (to my friends and I), in fact:
This weekend, we were in Cincinnati for our friend Eric’s bachelor party. On our way out of the hotel after the Reds-Cubs game, our friend Bryan (a Reds fan like me) spotted infamous Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who had just given up 6 runs and a grand slam in relief.

Needless to say, Zambrano would not have been in a good mood. He’s a big guy and notorious for punching people and things. Nevertheless, Bryan approached Zambrano as he stepped onto the escalator. “Z- good game, man,” said the non-Reds-adorned Bryan as he extended his hand. As Zambrano went to grab and shake it, Bryan allowed his hand to go limp (the famous “dead fish” handshake, a Bryan favorite). As he pulled his hand away from the limp handshake, Bryan stuck the hand in Z’s face and yelled, “Fished ya!” A very confused and upset Zambrano responded with “What the F-!” and turned as if trying to decide whether to (justifiably) punch Bryan in the face, but a security guard intervened.

It took us all about 10 seconds to appreciate the magnificence of the punk that had just occurred, but then we went wild. Bryan…what a beautiful jerk. I love it!

And THAT was the wildest thing that happened at the bachelor party. I promise. Sort of.