Friday, November 09, 2007

I Love the Smell of Espionage in the Morning.

If you're an espionage fiend like me, you'll be licking your chops in anticipation of this man's memoirs getting published. Here's a snippet of his life to whet the appetite:

...he was the person who obtained the advance text of Khrushchev’s Secret
Speech, the one delivered in February, 1956, the one that laid out the crimes of
Stalin for the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party. That text was a turning
point in the Cold War. Grayevsky gave it to the Israeli Embassy, where it was
copied and sent to Israel. The Shin Bet intelligence service delivered it by
courier to James Jesus Angleton, the head of CIA counterintelligence (and the
CIA’s liaison with the Israelis), who gave it to CIA chief Allen Dulles, who
gave it to President Eisenhower.

In keeping with the general rule that the
most important information about the Soviet Union invariably came from
“walk-ins,” and not from “agents” recruited by CIA, Grayevsky performed his
world-changing act solely out of personal conviction.

It was only after his move to Israel shortly thereafter that Victor Grayevsky become involved in the world of espionage. The KGB recruited him, and for decades thereafter he pretended to be their man in Tel Aviv, while actually working as an Israeli double agent. He did his work so effectively that the Soviets awarded him the Lenin Medal.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's the Proper Etiquette?

What do you do when you get a Thank You note for a gift you never sent? Do you send the gift to fulfill your social obligation and subsequently expose their insincerity? Or do you not give the gift and let them save face?

I'm opting for number two, mostly because I'm lazy, but also because they're happy with what they didn't get.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Those Santa Ana Winds

Southern California is burning with a lot of help from the Santa Ana winds. The first line in Raymond Chandler's story "Red Wind" gets the quality of them perfectly:

Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Two Gallants - Steady Rollin'

Just sharing the magic...

For Shaun - It was magic!

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Chinatown

After watching some monkish madness in Chinatown, this adorable man couldn't contain his excitement and since we were the only ones around shared his enthusiasm for this particular display of Shaulin martial arts with us. It was also my first attempt at videoing surreptitiously.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chinatown Part Three

The above picture is my first attempt at using photoshop. When I asked Steve what he thought of my final result he said, “Are you happy with it?” Which means, “It looks like crap and I really hope you’re not done.” I know this because he's normally very encouraging of my creative endeavors. But I’m fine with crap in this instance because the photo highlights one of my favorite places: grocery stores-especially ethnic ones. I love wandering up and down grocery aisles looking for that perfect something I didn’t know I wanted. In ethnic grocery stores I love the foreign packaging and the exotic tastes and smells of unfamiliar food. It’s like going on a mini cross-cultural adventure. And yes, that is a whole fried pig hanging there.

Chinatown Part Two

Saturday, 9:00am
Overheard in Wonder Bakery between two 60’ish Chinese women:
“Size Matters! I don’t care what anyone else says, size does matter!”
That’s all I heard initially so you can guess what I thought they were talking about. After a little more eavesdropping, I found out they were talking about the size of kids. Which is equally strange.

Chinatown Part One

Last Saturday I went to Chinatown to check out the Super Home Mart. Aisles of cookware, rice cookers, bamboo steamers, pots and pans for exotic Chinese dishes that I don't know how to make. I kept checking the labels to see if something from Bangladesh or Turkey slipped by the goods inspector. But no, every item was made in China. At least they're consistent. After walking up and down every single aisle, I left without purchasing anything to the dismay of the middleaged Chinese man who trailed me through the store. Next time I do want to buy a plastic bento box. I've been wanting to buy one ever since I saw a Taiwanese girl eating a piece of cheese and a boiled egg from one on the steps of the British Museum.
My goal was to take photos of all the Chinese men sitting in front of Wonder Bakery. Being the little chicken I am, I didn't get any pictures of the jabbering, gap toothed, and gold crowned old men. But I did get a "You're a beautiful woman. God bless you." from a kind elderly black gentleman with a deep soulful voice.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


You know when two things link themselves in your head, but there's no discernible reason why? For me, there's a visceral connection between The Kills and Jean-Luc Goddard's movie My Life to Live. One of my favorite scenes is when Nana is dancing by herself to juke box tunes. She twirls and circles the room without self-consciousness creating a moment of nostalgic innocence and honesty. I highly recommend both the band and the movie. Tell me if you see the connection.

The Kills - Fried My Little Brains

I rarely get super excited about bands, but The Kills are the exception. Their guitar sound makes me want to dance all crazy like...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jury Duty

This serendipitous moment brought to you by the Los Angeles Superior Court Jury Duty system. I'm a fan of jury duty. Here in LA the motto is One Day-One Trial. Either you're called in to wait to be picked for a jury pool (One Day of waiting max), or your picked for a pool and thus assigned to One Trial. I, unfortunately, never get picked for a jury pool. But I don't waste my time crying because I've just been given seven hours of free time that I'm required by law to take. The key is to come prepared. That means water, snacks, reading and writing material. I camp out in the hallway right outside the Jury Assembly Room. Inside the JAR is too crowded. I need to narrow my focus so I don't get overwhelmed by the people watching possibilities. Most people think they have to stay within the room, which makes the hallway the perfect funnel for trickling people out to take cell phone calls or to use the facilities. Once in the hallway I can observe them from every angle as they pace back and forth. So many characters and so little time to capture them all! Under intensive scrutiny even the most lacklustre individual becomes a person of interest.
  • The generic young Asian guy: Classic asian guy hairstyle. Shaved sides, left long on top to slick back, but still poofs up. Wearing black t-shirt that says We Fly High!; light denim jeans of a generic brand; white nikes. blood shot eyes and minor acne. He came with a cell phone and pen and draws tiny patterns on the jury hand out. He sat across from me in the hallway. When lunch was called he didn't move. When I came back from our hour and a half lunch, he was laying in the exact same spot. He's the kind of guy you'd expect to come alive among his own ethnic group guy friends especially on the basketball court or playing video games. You're surprised he would remember to call in each day let alone actually show up for jury duty. If he's still in college, he would attend UCLA or some other UC school for business. If he's not in college, he helps attend the family business, but he's not happy about it.
  • The guy wearing a Vietnam Vet baseball cap; Lee blue jeans, white tennis shoes, and a blue sweat shirt. He's reading a Louis L'Amour novel and appears to be half way through it. Asks me when I think we'll be getting out of there. He's agitated waiting for his name to be called and then agitated when it doesn't get called. Tells me he's too biased to serve on a jury 'cause he could never send anyone to jail or to prison. He has too many friends and family in the prison system. He doesn't believe in it. He keeps talking to me like I'm the one who can give him a jury duty reprieve. I keep telling him only the judge can let him off if he doesn't have any other excuse not to serve. He has bad breath-the sickly sweet kind. I stop talking to him so he'll stop breathing on me.
  • The young Italian /Spanish guy with a pageboy of glossy black curls. wearing black jeans, black Italian leather loafers, and a black silk polo shirt he nervously plucks away from his stomach like he's self-conscious of his soft body. He carries a beetle green cell phone as if his whole clothing ensemble is merely a backdrop for his irridescent phone.
I was tempted to cut out without answering to my name so I'd be put back into the system before another year was up. I really, really like jury duty.

Women did not linger in the hallway leaving me little time to observe them. Only two women (me and a middleaged professional) hung out in the hallway and the rest were men. I wonder why men disproportionately favored the hallway to the JAR.


ser·en·dip·i·ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

I'm sitting in the front seat on the top half of a double decker Oxford Tube coach on my way to London. Across from me is a young woman who appears to be an Oxford Student. One foot in black /white converse low tops is scratching the heel on her other foot. As she scratches, the black chinese characters embroidered on her sock slide up and down. She's engrossed in her book. Her engrossion (a danica neologism) piques my interest as to what she's reading. But she's a coy reader keeping her head down and her book lowered. I'm very annoyed. Then I see the head loll. And yep, she's nodded off. Now's my chance to FIND OUT.

Extremes along the Silk Road. Oooooooo sounds exotic! The phrase Silk Road conjures up visions of opium dens, intrigue, gunslingers oriental style, grand vistas and grand adventures. I note the title in my moleskin, skipping ahead to a date when I'll be stateside to remind myself to check LAPL for a copy.

Two weeks later the book is in my possession. And it's good.

A stranger on a bus changed my life. Granted it's in a very small way, but the fact remains. I would not be reading this book if it hadn't been for the woman who just couldn't put it down and made me so curious I had to read it for myself.


Coming from Virginia I never met a Korean. My University in SoCal was probably 40% Korean, yet I don't remember ever thinking of them as being culturally distinct. Then I spent a semester abroad in Sheffield, England. One of the first people I met was another exchange student from U.C. Berkeley-Hyok Cho Chong. Hyok was the first Korean I experienced as different, but not because he was particularly Korean or because he held particularly Korean ideas. He wasn't and he didn't. But he had the foreign sounding name that sounded like I was hocking up a loogie when I tried to pronounce it. According to him, he understood Korean but could only speak with an elementary vocabulary. His parents on the other hand couldn't speak English with proficiency. Their mutual lack of language fluency created a barrier to the development of their relationship. In high school, Hyok had gone to a church in the Bay area with a friend of mine from college. Hyok hadn't like him.

Three years later, I'm teaching English with the YBM Language Institute in Taegu, Korea. I arrived on a Wednesday, having missed the week long orientation due to visa trouble, and started teaching at 6:30am that next Monday. All my students learned quite quickly to raise their hands to ask me to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and to "repeat please". I learned to slow down and to repeat. Somehow I made it through my time there, but I never got comfortable teaching. I was too disorganized, yet too perfectionistic to make it work for me. But I left with a love for Korean food and a love for the Korean people.

Back in LA I find the best hair stylist I've ever had and she's Korean. I'm talking to her in a Beverly Hills adjacent salon and find out that she went to a high school church youth group with a friend of mine from college who grew up in Hacienda Heights. I'm looking for the restaurant that cooks cabbage/chicken/rice logs in a huge round pan at your table. It's the one craving I've yet to satiate since my return from Korea.

I mention to a Korean woman at church that I watch Korean shows on Channel LA18 even when they don't have subtitles. She introduces me to a delightful drama/comedy called My Lovely Sam Soon. I watch the show in a weekend and thanks to websites like I'm hooked on Korean dramas (and Japanese and Chinese).

It's now fourteen years after my first introduction to Koreans and I'm hooked on Korean dramas and Korean food and Korean culture. I'll be taking Korean language classes at the LA Korean Cultural Center so I can order food and understand the dramas and because I love the intonation and inflection of the language that is so different than English.

For the last few days I've been reading through my journals starting with the year 1992. I noticed that certain ideas and experiences keep recurring like the Korean one. The Korea thread surprised me that it went back as far as it did. But most disheartening is the thread that tells me I'm still wrestling the same demons that appeared in childhood. However, that's for a different post.

What threads run through your life?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Being Loved

These words of Touchstone Magazine's Anthony Esolen are worth pondering as is the rest of his blog post "Fear of Death".
It may be that the knowledge that you are loved sets the heart radically at ease: you can breathe freely, you can see the blessings of age, you can relieve your fear of death with a hope for the abundant life not only beyond death but also here in seed, maybe a mustard seed. You can be free not to be important. You can play -- without turning play into the military "exercise". You can form a community of persons, not bricks. You can laugh at what you do poorly, and do it anyway. You can bid the jihad farewell. You can look at the stars.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Can I have a do over?

Today is a mess and it’s only 11:02 in the morning.

I reprimanded one of my employees for leaving early on Friday when her teammate was swamped with work. The employee became a blubbering wreck, sobbed for over an hour, started to feel dizzy and to see stars, had her blood pressure checked and found it was sky high. I spent 30 minutes calming her down, tryingto make the tears stop. Her crying ceased, but her blood pressure didn’t return to normal so she left early to go to the emergency room.

And now her teammate has to pick up the slack.

Can I have a do over?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Have you ever cried because of a smell? Has a scent with no associated memory made you nostaligic?

I rub L'Occitaine Lavendar lotion into my hands and as the perfume fades I feel nostaligic and want to cry.

Monday, August 13, 2007


If you take voyeuristic pleasure in reading other people's journals (as I do, just ask my sister) or scribble, collage, and draw to create snapshots of your soul in your own journal, check out the 1000 and 1001 Journals project.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How I Feel

I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.
... John Newton (1725-1807)

Friday, June 15, 2007


Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things

The last two weeks have been stressful, tedious, and discouraging. So, instead of mulling over and rehashing past troubles, I decided to focus on a few things that make me happy. These are in no particular order:

1.Trees: Woods: Forests: I love trees in all their sizes, textures, and sounds. Virginia has magnificent trees that rustle musically in the summer. But California has trees that look as if they fell from a Crayon box: Pink Floss, Purple Jacaranda, Red Bottle Brush, Yellow Ones, and Orange Ones.

2."Taking the Piss" with my colleagues: I fortunately work with other managers /bosses who can laugh at themselves. We're all good at giving it out as well as taking it. I think our comraderie and good humor is rather rare for middle managment.

3.A full tank of gas: Gives me the feeling of freedom that if I wanted to I could sail by my work exit and keep driving and driving and driving until work was forgotten.

4.Tea, Scones, and Good Friends talking about great books is simply a taste of heaven.

5.Sleeping under a down comforter: The heft and cocoonability conspire to keep me abed all day.

6.Gulden Draak: A sweet Belgian beer that is good for digestion (or so the Belgium/French waiter assured us).

7.The color combination of Chartreuse and Red.

8.My Best Pal and Husband with whom I just celebrated seven years of marriage.

9. Damian Lewis: If you liked him in Band of Brothers (and we did, oh yes we did along with everyone else; though we were disappointed Simon Peg had such a minor role), you'll love him in The Forsyte Saga playing Soames Forsyte. He's in a new NBC drama "Life" on Wednesdays at 10pm. He plays a detective wrongly accused and imprisoned who's returning to the streets of LA.

10.Hollyhocks and Peonies: They're the "Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean" of the flower kingdom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No, Really

I just received an email from my boss telling all the managers to congratulate "Roy" (a bearded 6'2" Eyeore kind of guy) on winning second place in the national competition for "small figurine painting." Are we in a Christopher Guest movie?

Haven't you always wanted to know.....

...the trial verdicts that caused riots?

Friday, April 27, 2007

On Sweden

You must read Anthony Esolen's elegiac hymn to Sweden. Really, you must. Do. it. now. But whatever you do, don't read the article he links to. Not if you want to remain in a happy bubble.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"The Unstilled World Still Whirled"

At our salon this past Sunday, my friend read part of Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot. The beginning haunted me:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

After hearing that stanza, I knew I must read the rest. These two stanzas that appear in Part V particularly arrested me:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

I generally read like someone in great need of water-huge guzzling gulps with no breaks. But with poetry and this poem in particular I'm forced to read like a proper Victorian Lady-little sips with pauses in between to breathe. To my surprise, I enjoy the slow pace of reflecting between stanzas, between phrases on the imagery and possible meaning. Such activity will keep me from senility and it's far more enjoyable than bridge!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Makes Me Laugh

"Is that a little beard," the woman asked, pointing to the narrow fringe of hair under Steve's lower lip. "I don't like little beards."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The Supreme Court delivered a blow to the pecuniary puerile perfidy of the penile hegemony in its decision to outlaw infanticide and violence against women.

Good Work Supremes!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Life as a Boss

Got a call from a woman I fired a month ago. After I fired her, she said "I've been waiting for this. Thank You." Today she said, "You were a great boss. I really liked working with you." Either she needs therapy or I'm damn good at my job. I prefer the latter.

Words for ME to live by

"A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."--Anthony Trollope

Monday, April 16, 2007

Here we go again...

My company has now acquired another competitor making it the third in three years. My life will cease to be my own as I get swept up into the tornado of meetings, conference calls, and planning sessions necessary to bring order out of the chaos. Corporate Management will urge all of us middle managers to be proactive in developing solutions to the emerging challenges. But we all know that we're just getting ready for another ring of hell where there will be much crying and gnashing of teeth. Oh How I Can't Wait.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Nephew Dexter

Isnt' he the most squeezable, edible, adorable, cuddable, huggable, delectable tot you ever did see?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Poetry

I don't like poetry. I'm a prose gal. Words in prose are less slippery, less opaque. I like that. I recognize that my apathy toward poetry is a personal failing and something to be rectified. I'm open to developing the capacity to have a capacity to appreciate poetry (to use a J.P. Morelandism).

Fred Sanders (one of my favorite professors from the Apologetics program at Biola) illuminates the point of poetry and in doing so sparks a desire within me to explore this foreign language. Here are some excerpts:

"Think of the world as divided between things easily labelled and things just barely describable. Civilians work with the easily labelled things, but when something just barely describable confronts us, we call in the language marines: poets."


"What if something awful is rolling toward your generation and nobody knows what to call it? What if part of our desperate situation is our inability to name ourselves and our situation? What if we can’t appropriate the goodness available to us unless we can recognize it as what it is and tell ourselves and each other about it? What if the source of our life is a mystery that can’t be definitively spoken but must be acknowledged, praised, confessed? What if the region of the ineffable isn’t out at the boundaries of our lives but right at the center?"

The question now is, where to begin? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weird Science

I can't remember how long this bowl of strawberry puree has been in the fridge. But long enough to get a carpet of mold. Some little person would thrill to have such a perfect piece of felt for their miniature house! What did I do with it you ask? I stuck it back in the fridge for further development.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

O God in heaven, have mercy on us! Lord Jesus Christ,
intercede for your people, deliver us at the opportune time,
preserve in us the true genuine Christian faith, collect your
scattered sheep with your voice, your divine Word as Holy Writ
calls it. Help us to recognize your voice, help us not to be
allured by the madness of the world, so that we may never fall
away from you, O Lord Jesus Christ.
... Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I'm St. Melito of Sardis!

"You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the
traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it
was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you
do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins."

Well how about that-this does sound like me. Check out which church father you are (if you're not shocked! shocked! at the patriarchical favoritism of it all.) As for me, I'm going to take it again until I recognize a name.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I AM...

...a pre-modern stuck in a post-modern world.


...pulchritude is the ugliest word for beauty.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I FEEL... wallpaper. Expected to be there, but often overlooked and largely unnoticed.

Friday, January 05, 2007



Squatter communities are everywhere. People live on the train tracks, the grassy road medians, any place where they can put together cardboard, rice sacks, tarps or anything they can find to make four walls and a roof. These are the kids that grow up in them. The kids are so adorable it makes me ache to see their wretched living conditions.


I have to go all the way to the Philippines to find my name popular. Out of these 100 kids two were named Danica. I don't know why considering it's a Danish name not Spanish. Odd.


I have no stomach for balut a delicacy of boiled duck embryo. Fortunately Steve had the iron girded esophagus that could keep this baby down. He described it as slimy similar to eating oyesters. He didn't chew it just swallowed it whole with a dash of salt.

Sights and Smells

To and Fro