Friday, March 14, 2008

The Clock, Places I Have Lived, and St. Patrick's Day

The main picture on my blog is the astronomical clock on the Old Town City Hall of Prague. I had chosen the clock as the main image because it represents time. Time is never constant; it’s ever changing at all moment. As Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek Generations stated so elegantly about time: “I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived.” And the Rolling Stones' Time Waits for No One song offers the following suggestion about time: “Drink in your summer, gather your corn; the dreams of the night time will vanish by dawn.” For me, the crack of dawn is rapidly approaching; there are still countless things I would like to take on. I will leave it at that before I get too philosophical.

There are two people I used to work with who will make fun of me because I quoted a Star Trek character. They have often joked that I am, should be, or look like a trekkie or a sci-fi fanatic. This is so far from the truth because I have very little interest in sci-fi.

For those who are interested, the Old Town Prague Clock is essentially displaying the current state of the universe. The astronomical dial has a background that represents the Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiac ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon. See the figure below explaining the different features of the clock. (If you have a laptop-sized monitor like I do, you may have to right click on the image, save the image, then zoom in to your saved image to be able to read the details.)

James (a nephew who came for a visit during his Thanksgiving break of 2007 from Holy Cross) and I came across this clock tower in the Old Town Square for the first time after a long train ride from Wiesbaden to Prague. We arrived late in the afternoon, checked in to our hotel, and immediately went out to start exploring Prague. The first sight we came across was Old Town Square. I did some research about Prague prior to the trip, but I was not going to open the map and guides until the following morning since it was already night time. We did not know where we were. We just wandered around the city center and made sure we took notes of landmarks so that we will be able to make it back to our hotel. Old Town Square was magical, as were many other sights of Prague. The following is a short video of our first Prague "encounter":

video

I have added a new list on this blog --- "Places I Have Lived." I can't believe how many times I have moved. Luckily, I am a very portable person and my needs are basic. My biggest move so far was the move back to Seattle from Portland in 1999. By that time I had acquired a sofa set, bookcases, dining table, and chairs, in addition to the bed and dressers. My move from Seattle to Southern California, in late March 1988, was handled by a mover, although I did not have that much things to move. I had a bed, low and tall dressers, all my clothes, books, miscellaneous items, and 10 bags of 20-lbs. rice. Somehow, Inna (my mother) insisted that I bring 10 bags of rice so I will not be going hungry in California. I could not turn her down. It brought comfort to her, in her own ways, that she was providing me with essentials as I leave her and move out from the family home. It also brought a lot of comfort to me that my mother worried so much about my well being as I move to a new place, further away. It took me more than two years to go through that supply of rice.

Jun and Jojie (nephews who are just a bit younger than I am) drove down with me to Southern California, nonstop, on my red Toyota Celica. We started our trip in Seattle late in the afternoon, after a late lunch at Sea Garden. Except for rest area bathroom breaks, our first stop was San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf early in the morning. During the drive the night before, we made sure that Jun did not have the wheel. The time we let him drive at night, Jojie and I were afraid to sleep in the car because Jun might also fall sleep. He crossed many lane divider markings and "turtle" dividers. I would wake up from light sleep as the car made noises rumbling through the tiny, white-domed lane dividers or through the road edge warning zone.

We went from San Francisco to Lancaster, in the high desert of Southern Cal, home of their paternal grandfather, Tang Berto. We stayed there for a couple of days before moving on to Pomona. But before we left Tang Berto's place, he had me pick five chickens to slaughter to take with us. Tang Berto had a chicken farm adjacent to his house. I could not turn him down. (Something about Filipino customs on offerings, elders, and being impolite or ungrateful in turning them down; that's how I got stuck with 10 bags of rice.) Picking the five chickens headed for their demise was a daunting task. Anyway, once I picked the 5 chickens, Tang Berto individually tied both chicken legs together, then hung them upside down. He then slit the throat of each chicken. The chicken blood was not collected, as sometimes is the case. So I am watching the whole operation --- chickens squawking and making all that noise prior to the neck slit, then the violent shaking and drops of blood flying all over after the slit, then finally just the swinging motion in unison of five chickens hanging upside down all bled out. (Sorry for being so graphic.) They are then scalded in boiling water for ease of feather removal. The operation is completed by removal and collection of the organs (liver and gizzards). So I was supposed to bring all this with me to a new apartment that I have yet to find. The whole experience to me was bizarre; I was used to going to a grocery store and picking already packed and packaged chicken. I was not able to eat chicken for about a month after this harrowing experience. I know, I know --- how did I get from talking about moving to slaughter of chickens? I will have to finish the story because it gets better. I kept the chicken meat in a Styrofoam cooler with plenty of ice. Although I was not going to eat these chickens that I personally selected to be slaughtered, I was not about to throw them away either. The solution: I offer them to my new co-workers. The chicken event happens Saturday morning. I start my new job on Monday. Imagine my first or second day at work asking total strangers if they wanted fresh chickens. They were probably wondering who this new hire wierdo was. I actually had a taker. At the end of the work day, we went to my car and gave him the Styrofoam cooler containing all five chickens, freshly butchered. He was happy as sh*t. After this exchange, I believe that my new co-worker and future friend thought that he was forever indebted to me for offering him fresh chicken meat. How funny is that? Maybe it was some cultural or custom thing; maybe not. I was invited by him and his wife many times for dinner at their place. I state on my previous posting how odd it is sometimes where friendships develop. In this case, it is how friendships develop that is strange. No, I do not recommend offering unwanted meat, ever, to your work mates. When I think back about this moment, I ask myself what was I thinking. Oh, well. Chalk it down as a weird moment from the past. Somehow, I have many of these moments from my past.

My new work office was located in Pomona; I will be working for the Naval Weapons Station. Not being familiar with the area, we stopped at a fairly new, gated apartment complex in the heart of Pomona. The place was very nice; the apartment we looked at was clean and roomy. An enclosed garage was included. It also offered reasonable rent. The apartment was no more than 4 miles from my workplace. Everything seemed to be fine. I ended up signing the rental agreement that first day. We (my two nephews and myself) were more anxious to check out the tourist sights of Southern California that finding an apartment. They only had a couple days left before they fly back to Seattle and I had a couple of days before I start my new job. That is how I ended up living in the middle of high gang activity area for almost 6 months. And this is the story of how I ended up in Pomona --- one of the several places I have lived at.

With St. Patrick's Day only a few days away, I will share a photo and video from last year's celebration at the Irish Bar in Eagle Base, Bosnia. The Irish military contingent in Bosnia had special visitors straight from Dublin: Two Irish military bagpipe players. It was truly a special day. They had a nice spread of hors doeuvres. They were offering Irish coffee, at 11AM, and once your glass was near empty, they would collect it in exchange for a full glass of the Irish concoction. I don’t think I ever had alcohol that early before. The bagpipe players performed wonderfully. They also performed the night before at the bar.


video

I noticed that whenever the bagpipes were played, the Irish all seem to all stand up to listen to the music. It was almost like someone hearing their national anthem and standing up at attention. The Irish revere their music highly, not just bagpipe music but all their music. During the Irish band performances at the bar, when they played traditional Irish music, they would all stop talking or their activities. And if a song called for a sing-along, they would all join in. You can sense their pride in their music, as they pour their heart out in a song. They have a lot of sing-alongs and all seemed to know the lyrics to each and every song.

I will close this posting with a few more family and travel pics.

Neil seems to be making a long birthday wish before blowing out the candles on the cake. This picture was taken Nov 2004.


Jen and Joseph - I am wondering what their big smiles are all about; taken January 2005.

Kyle looks bored. He is, as all the other kids are, eargerly awaiting the start of Christmas gift opening. Notice the large, black garbage bags around him. The bags will be used to separate and store their presents after they are opened.


The picture below is of Venice, taken July 2002. The gondola boats rhythmically bob up and down the water as if each one restlessly awaits to transport the next group of tourists along Venice's grand canals.


My table at the Ludwig Museum coffee shop, in Köln, had three white roses in a simple, small glass used as a vase. I thought that against the backdrop of the subdued, yet distinct colors of the table top and the wall, the elements would combine to create a nice, balanced picture. They did. The photo was taken Jan 2008.

The next picture was taken in June 2002 at a courtyard in Bruges, Belgium. In the picture are Mek, CJ, Donna, Kris, Jim, and Ron. This was the group that I backpacked Europe with for three weeks. They were a great company to travel with. We had a blast exploring the sights of Europe.

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