adrian is rad



Filed under: — adrian @ 8:36 am

It’s the first day of lent and this year I’m giving up what may be very difficult: carbonated beverages. On an average day I may have soda, flavored seltzer water and beer. Those are all out for 40 days.

Last year, I gave up meat (Catholic meat ie seafood was allowed), which I thought was going to be really tough, but turned out to be fine. Other things I’ve given up in previous years: caffiene and buying stupid stuff online, among other things.


and today

Filed under: — adrian @ 2:36 am

I’m less embarrassed to be a Catholic. Scratch that, I’m less embarrassed of the Catholic Church; I’m rarely embarrassed to be Catholic.


more world cup

Filed under: — adrian @ 2:17 am

A bit of a continuation of the last World Cup post.

I don’t think I have to reiterate this, but I will: the entire existence of this country is the World Cup right now.

In last Sunday’s church bulletin was a special World Cup prayer. I was a bit surprised that there was one. It was for the country, sportsmanship and fairness–things like that.

The most visible church between the city center and the stadium is a Catholic chapel that has been undergoing upgrades to the foundation. After being closed a year or more, it’s reopening this Sunday, June 13, the first Sunday during the World Cup. I’m sure this is not a coincidence.

vuvuzela day

Wednesday was Vuvuzela Day. People were to blow their vuvuzelas at noon. I managed to go up onto the road-to-nowhere with the giant vuvuzela there. At noon they sounded it using compressed air, I think. It was pretty amazing. Between that and all the vuvuzelas on the streets below, it was a fantastic cacophony.

There are tourists everywhere now. Everywhere.

The bad part is that whenever I open my mouth now people think I’m a tourist. Before people wouldn’t assume that but now that the World Cup is on, I’m a tourist again.

coke man

A giant coke man was erected in Johannesburg. I was pretty jealous until I found that they’re making one at the Waterfront in Cape Town too (see above!).

For the occasion I put together a a post on/ mix of great South African music. Go check it out. I’m happy with how it turned out.

They’re showing some games in 3D. I think I’ll need to go to one of those.

The Big Picture has a nice selection of photos of World Cup preparations.

Look no further. This is the best World Cup calendar.

moments after Tshabalala’s rocket

I walked into town yesterday to watch the game with some friends at a bar that, for whatever reason, the French Consulate was throwing a party at. On the way there people were cheering and yelling out of car and minibus taxi windows. I was greeted and smiled at randomly on the street, which is a rarity here.

The bar was a good atmosphere: lots of people cheering on their adopted country. There wasn’t much action in the first half other than South Africa’s goalkeeper making some great stops. When Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup to put Bafana Bafana up 1-0 on Mexico. The room, already loud and raucous, became absolutely buoyant. It was not to be, however, as Mexico tied up after not too long.

Near the end of the match, there was devastation like earth opening up underneath us when Mphela‘s breakaway ended in a shot off the post.

There’s always Wednesday, Bafana. There’s always Uruguay.


the small stuff

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:30 am

Here are little snippets of what’s going on:

I’ve been biking around some in the last few weeks. I mostly go to the pool or shopping or to other things that aren’t far but are far enough that I wouldn’t walk. My knee and rest of my body is mostly okay with it so far.

I make it a habit of not talking about work here, but lecturing/ coaching is going just fine. There are some interesting possibilities for other work as well.

I’ve had weird sleeping habits lately, going to bed later than I intend and waking up at my relatively early alarm and turning it off.

I’ve played ultimate frisbee at UCT a few times; there’s a pick up game on Fridays. It’s good times. I’m still alright at it. Given that I haven’t really played regularly since 2002 or thereabouts (though I did play a few times in 2006), I’m surprised how confident I am. I realized it’s one of the few things when I perform better under pressure than otherwise.

cape town stadium

I took a tour of Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday. It was pretty cool. It’s a well-designed stadium. I think going to games in it will be a pleasure.

I’ll see next weekend as I’m going to see an Under 20 soccer tournament with Brazil vs Ghana and South Africa vs Nigeria with a few people. I’m looking forward to it.

This is the first year in a number that I didn’t either give up something for Lent or avoid eating meat on Fridays during the forty days (or both). I guess with so much instability currently, I didn’t really feel it. I’ll get ’em next year.

It’s a four day weekend here. It doesn’t mean the same thing when I wasn’t going to work (in the traditional sense) on Friday or Monday anyway.

I’ve started working on a memoir of my time at Boston Tech[1]. Progress has been slow. Very slow on some days, but others I’m inspired and write a fair amount. I’ve also thought of a book of stories from my travels, which would be fun.

My new flat isn’t without its hiccups, but it’s generally working out well. We had a house warming a few weeks ago that went well; a good time was had by all.

My favorite poster designer has a book out. I think I’ll get it. Jason’s stuff is great.

I’m tempted to get this old school US jersey for when I go see the US in the World Cup in just over three months time.

stormers scrub

And finally. I went to a Stormers match last weekend. They’re a Super 14 team representing the Western Cape. They were playing against another SA club, the Cheetahs—the team my aunt roots for, as it turns out. Stormers won, so that was good and it was a fun experience overall.

[1] I really want to make a shirt that says Boston Tech in the MIT font. Who’s with me?


two views of the South: Jean Ritchie’s Singing Family of the Cumberlands and Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories

Filed under: — adrian @ 7:00 am

A couple months ago I read two books in a row with different views of the American South and I’ve been meaning to review them together.

The first was Singing Family of the Cumberlands by Jean Ritchie. It was a recommended book for a class I took in the fall of 2002 and I’m glad I finally decided to read it.

Jean Ritchie was the youngest of thirteen children, growing up in Viper, Kentucky, in the Appalachian Mountains. Her family was well known–and well documented–for singing ballads, in the Anglo-American folk tradition. That is to say, they sang ballads that came over with English, Scottish and Irish settlers and could still be found on both sides of the Atlantic. The best documented of these were the Child Ballads, but that could take up a whole lot more space if I decided to talk about those.

Written in 1955, the book is a memoir of her childhood. As fascinating as her descriptions of growing up in the early part of the 20th century in an isolated part of the Appalachians are–and they are–what really makes this book special is the songs. Interspersed in the book are transcriptions of the ballads. Say there’s a vignette about learning a particular song around a fireplace on Christmas. Well, the song is there in the book, both music and words, if you want to sing along.

The writing is wonderful and evocative, too. She immediately sets quite conversational tone and it feels like she’s telling you her family stories from the armchair next to you. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of Cash by Johnny Cash. The stories of her childhood, drenched in music, of course, cover the gambit: the rough times, the hard work, and the good times. Overall there is a bit of rose-colored glasses for the simple old times, but she also doesn’t the reader from hearing about the hard times.

If you have any interest in Appalachian music or culture, I’d recommend this book. You can pick it up at amazon.

After having some of my favorite songwriters refer to Flannery O’Connor–particularly Sufjan Stevens and David Bazan–I decided I’d read some of her works.

If you’re unfamiliar with her writing, she was a classic Southern Gothic writer, writing stories of the South with dark, twisted characters and plots. The stories are written in a dense prose and some take quite a bit of effort to wade through, but the best among them are quite amazing stories. She really sucked me in to the lives and worlds of her characters and even when I saw a hint of the outcome, I still enjoyed reading it.

She’s also known as a Catholic writer, but more often than not, if religion enters the story at all, it’s much more ambiguous or complex than one might expect from someone so well known to be writing from a religious point of view.

She died quite young and the complete short stories covers a lot of her output. Besides the stories, she only wrote two novels. And with anything complete you get not only the greatest hits, but the stuff in between and the warm-up in the beginning. If I had to do it over, I might start with a selection of her short stories, but if you’re a completest, this is for you.

You can also pick this one up from amazon.


oh yeah, it’s a holiday there.

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:22 am

A friend’s mentioning his overtime for working today reminded me that it’s a holiday in the States. I’d totally forgotten. Enjoy your day off. My next holiday is Sept 24, Heritage Day.

I’ve made some friends here, or acquaintances at least. There’s a group of young people working at NGOs, the hospital, schools and churches. They’re mostly from South Africa but there are some Germans and things in there too. These are some of the same people I played soccer with on Thursday. On Friday I went to a residence on the hospital grounds to play a board game and hang out with some of them. That’s what passes for night life here in Ingwavuma but it was a fun time.

On Saturday I took public transportation alone for the first time here. Public transit here (which is quite similar to Cape Town’s public transport) are ‘taxis’. These are minibuses, SUVs and the like, which people flag down to get in and then get off where they need to, paying a set fee for the distance to the driver. It’s sort of like a hybrid between a taxi and a bus in American terms. Fare from here to town is R7, a little less than $1.

I’d taken them with some people from Ziseze before, but Saturday’s trip into town was my first alone. Great victory! Except I got there at 1:10pm and the shops close at 1pm. What kind of town has shops that close at 1pm? But I walked around for a while and got a coke at a take-away place that was still open.

goat in the road, Ingwavuma
a sheep in the road in ‘town’ in Ingwavuma

The “town” of Ingwavuma consists of a small shopping plaza with less than a dozen establishments, only a few of those are bigger than the couple hole in the wall take-away places. There is a supermarket, a building supply place, a gas station, a furniture store, an electronics store and a barber shop. Across the street are maybe a dozen stalls where people sell (probably home-grown) vegetables and things. Goats may be wandering in the street; cattle aren’t far away.

water spigot at okhayeni
the water spigot at Okhayeni Primary School–the school doesn’t have running water

One of the places I’d got to via taxi was one of the schools the radio project works in, Okhayeni Primary School. The radio project group has called themselves what translates to the Okhayeni Strong Recorders. I think this is a pretty rad name.

Sunday I went to a local church which is mostly made up of Zulus. The preacher spoke in English but a member of the congregation translated on the spot–I was really impressed with this guy, incidentally. The service itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy besides it lasting 3 hours, but as I sat waiting for the service to start, some of the gathered, mostly women, sang some hymns in Zulu rather spontaneously. One started a hymn without any prompting or communication with others but many others soon joined in, filling out the harmonies. Some of them were particularly gorgeous and gave me chills.

zulu homestead
a somewhat typical homestead around here with some older mud-and-stick buildings and some more modern buildings

In the afternoon I went for a long walk down the hill along the main road, turning back only when I was hot and sweaty and miles away. The road was surprisingly quiet and besides the occasional homestead, it was mostly just grass and trees and hills and valleys around me.

Homestead does tend to be a more appropriate term than home here: most places people live have multiple smaller buildings bunched together. Often they’re separated out by function–one may be the kitchen; one may be the sleeping quarters.

One Zulu exchange that I’ve enjoyed particularly is as follows, and it definitely loses something in writing, in the rhythm and cadence:
One: Sanibona (hello, to a group)
Group, in unison: Yebo! (yes, or general acknowledgment)
One: Ninjani (how are you, to a group)
Group, in unison: Siyaphila (we are fine)


last day of…

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:43 pm

This is my last day without caffeine.

It’s been interesting. I had some caffeine on Sundays–usually one per–but otherwise I survived. I had two non-caffeinated sodas on other days. Some days I didn’t miss it at all and some days when I was a pile of yawns, I thought hard about having something to get me out of it.

Longer term, I’m hoping to keep it to a more reasonable level.

For the curious, in lieu of soda, my consumption of the following increased: water, juice, rooibos and beer.


what do vegetarian catholics do?

Filed under: — adrian @ 7:25 pm

So, what do vegetarian Catholics do? Vegetarian Protestants don’t have this trouble because they don’t believe in transubstantiation.

Catholic Good Friday services have communion rather than eucharist, so I think they get around this issue for the majority of people.


40 days and 40 nights: caffeine

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:59 am

I’m giving up caffeine for lent. This should be interesting.

I should note: the 40 days and 40 nights of lent are not sequential–I’ll have Sundays off, though I probably won’t have caffeine the first Sunday, just to help break myself of the habit.

Update: The first day was pretty drowsy. This may be difficult.


St. Ignatius

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:15 pm


On Fulton and Parker. Oh, those Jesuits!


books: Summerland, What Jesus Meant, Brainiac

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:13 pm

I’ve been on a bit of a reading bent recently. Here are a few of the books I’ve finished recently. Here are my okay reviews of them.

Summerland by Michael Chabon
Andy recommended this to me after I read Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I finally got around to reading it. It’s the sort of book I don’t think I’d normally read; it’s about baseball–which I would read–but it’s also a fantasy story with multiple worlds and many non-human characters.

But it is an engaging story. Once I got a chunk into the book I couldn’t read it fast enough. One thing is that it falls into science fiction trap that has been joked about a little too much.

What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills
Some people will dismiss this just because of the title. That’s fine. While I think this book could have some non-religious audience, it’s written from a religious point of view. Wills is a Catholic and Greek scholar and historian. Part of what he’s doing is quite literal: all the new testament passages in this book are of his own translation, so he’s saying what Jesus literally said. But there’s also some interpretation and contextualization.

The main thrusts of the book are that Jesus was apolitical at every turn (so people talking of Jesus’ politics are wrong) and that in Jesus coming all the old Law was changed or destroyed. There’s a lot more to it that just that. I found it quite interesting and insightful.

Brainiac by Ken Jennings
I’m not even a closet trivia nerd. I just like it. I watch Jeopardy and I was pretty excited during Ken Jennings’ historic run on the show. That I knew he was a good writer via his blog was only added incentive to get the book.

It’s about his run on Jeopardy along with the history, characters and development of trivia as a pastime. It’s a lot nerdy, but it’s pretty well-written and interesting.


recent readings and thoughts, political and otherwise

Filed under: — adrian @ 6:13 pm

Here’s some stuff I found interesting in the last while or thoughts I’ve had, largely without comment.

NY Times spends 36 hours in my neighborhood (photos)–here’s the article. Not entirely unrepresentative.

I think there’s some reasons to be hopeful about what’s going on in Zimbabwe, but like pretty much everyone, I’m going to see what actually comes of it.

Here’s another NY Times piece about Palin as a stepping point to different ideas of the American West (NYtimes login required; bugmenot helps).

I’ve stopped buying Cavendish bananas, for now at least. There are other cultivars available around here.

NY Times Magazine had a piece on Bush’s last stretch and his sometimes contentious relationship with McCain.

There’s an project to find the first black African cyclists that will compete in the Tour de France.

I watched a video of two suited guys longboarding down Berkeley Hills. It’s about twice as long as it needs to be, but it’s pretty spectacular. Make sure you see the turn around 3:26-3:30.

Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont HD from adam kimmel on Vimeo.

72% of Americans apparently feel that it is important for the president to have strong religious beliefs.

Biden and other Catholic politicians have been refused communion (or its been strongly suggested they don’t present themselves for communion) regarding their abortion stance. Have their been similar suggestions or outcries for Biden (or other politicians) because of their disagreement with Catholic Church’s stance death penalty? I haven’t heard any. Maybe it’s just that evangelicals make up a louder voting block and there’s no unified position there on the death penalty.

I find adultery appalling–once I very nearly threw up when I saw a friend kiss a girl that wasn’t his girlfriend–but it’s legal and don’t think it should be illegal. I’d never thought of it (and moreso its implications) that way before.

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