Here Kitty kitty…

•March 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

How I Became a Cat Lover <3

It all started a couple of weeks ago. My mother’s black kitty cat was brutally murdered by a duo of ravenous dogs. To that point in my life I had never been keen on cats. Sure… kittens are cute and all, but aside from that only claws remain. 

FLASH BACK (screen play format)

(Joseph) arrives home from a long day of work and exits his car with signs of weariness strewn across his face: Aww… my little kitty cats. Are you hungry?… Did you guys just lie around all day?

(Cats) after carelessly lying around jump to attention and compete for Joseph’s attention and approval: Meow meow purr meow….

(Joseph) steps over the cats and his weary look has turned into a small smile as he enters the front door: You silly cats.

END of FLASH BACK 

 As you can see a better script cannot be written about this adorable cat. The cutie pie black kitten, whom my sister’s had named Purdy, started to grow on me. So you can imagine my disbelief upon arriving home on day to find her… well.. you know Dead :(

It was pretty sad indeed, but Purdy does have a brother named Tiger whom I have also taken a liking to. It was interesting really…Someone had lent me a copy of “The Little Prince,” and I was enamored with the part in the story where the little prince and the fox have a conversation on friendship or making a connection with an individual… you know the part if you have read it… if not go and read it. Well, Tiger and I are cool like that now and I like to think Purdy and I were too.

 And that is how I came to be a cat lover.

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3 Fantastic Free Android apps <3

•January 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I want to apologize to anyone using an old school dinosaur phone ahead of time. I can sympathize with you. I made a promise to myself that after living in a developing country for 2 ½ years, I would treat myself to a smart phone – I have been thoroughly impressed…

Transdroid – This is an amazing app if you can actually set it up. It basically lets you download torrent files from your phone, and save them to your home computer (remote access if you will.) In theory it should work like this: I am strolling through the store and I have a sudden urge to watch the “Donny Darko” film. I access Transdroid on my phone, search for the torrent, and then wait for it to download on my home computer, presto! I spend a lot of my free time trying to explain this app to my friends, who usually look at me with a puzzled look and then ask what a torrent file is anyway. This is not your average beginner’s app, you may need to ask one of your tech savvy friends t help you set it up, unless you know the ins and outs of port forwarding – I spent a whole evening setting up this app with random help sites and YouTube tutorials. Don’t let the installation process scare you away; this is your mobile ticket to a vast world of information.  

World Tour – I downloaded this app mainly because I was feeling nostalgic about leaving Ukraine and wanted a screen saver of the St. Basil’s Cathedral on my phone.

This app lets you choose from a number of live images from around the world, captured via webcam. The image is then placed as the background for your phone, and the picture updates itself with a fresh view every 30 minutes on its own. At first I thought I was just going to delete this app because it is pretty basic, and I didn’t want it to take up space, but then I found a cozy little camera in the Caribbean. The image I have on my phone is of a resort beach located in paradise. I have come to know the spot intimately. I feel like an anthropologist watching the world through a digital lens. For example: I know the workers come and clean the beach shore every morning before the tourists come out, the average rainfall in paradise is minimal; in a month I have seen it rain once, although recently I have seen more dark clouds. Also, I observed that the tourists are all Caucasian. The main activities are sunbathing, followed by sailing and kayaking. Now, I know what you guys are thinking: I could probably just say that about any beach resort and have a valid description; but I really have a special place in my heart for that little spot, and I suggest you find yourself a new part of the world to explore and observe.

Robotic Guitarist – If you want to learn to play the guitar this is your app! Yes, I was inspired by Cal Newport’s blog post, on whether to be the “owner of a bar,” or the “musician at the bar.” Cal deduces that you get more satisfaction from the latter, and I have to agree. Now, a friend of mine, Miss Jackie from Australia, says the best way to learn to play the guitar is by learning chords, and that is what exactly what you do with Robotic Guitarist. The app is also beautifully interactive; the screen on your phone doubles as a guitar fret board – killer solo excluded :p Rock Star lifestyle optional…  

Google Listen – This app made honorable mention because of its practicality. This app is the source for streaming all of your favorite podcasts. I subscribe to a couple of different podcasts, having the eclectic nature I am endowed with, I go anywhere from philosophy, religion, audio books, to Spanish lessons… all free of course, like all of the other apps I have mentioned.

Note: Some of the apps listed can only be downloaded from an Android Device, and in the particular cases… I provide a link reviewing  the app :p

Wednesday Links

•January 15, 2010 • 3 Comments

Caught in the Web

Shelfari.com – I stumbled upon this site while reading through another blog. I thought it was a fantastic idea, being the book lover that I am,  if for no other reason, than to keep a record of all the books I’ve read.

Blog Catalog.com – Great site for building an online blogging community, especially for beginners… like me :p

Scott H. Young.com – One of my favorite bloggers. I look to his site for inspiration and ideas….  His blog is about getting the most out of life. I did ask Mr. Young once to check out my site, and tell me what he thought about it… to no avail :(

Myp2p.eu – Fantastic site if you are living abroad and really want to watch American Football. You can stream almost any live sport here for free, and all you have to do is download a program. Last year I hosted a Super Bowl party, at 2 in the morning when it started, with a Danish broadcast…. My buddies and I will never forget the very moving Danish commercials :p

Learn Out Loud.com – The site I go to when I am looking for a good podcast. I usually go to the “Free Stuff” tab and peruse the full spectrum of its contents.

Writing on the Wall….

•January 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have started reading  a thought-provoking new book: “One Year to a Writing Life, Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft,” by Susan M. Tiberghien. Now, when I first picked this book up it was for different reasons; part of me wanted to become a better writer and yet another part wanted inspiration.  What I have found, with the wisdom only an old woman devoted to a single craft can offer, is that writing can be a deep source of knowledge about yourself. And like the old eastern saying goes: Know the one thing that will allow you to know all other things…  yourself.  

Getting down to the nuts and bolts…once you get past the images that come provided with a book written by a woman in her mid to late 60’s, you can then appreciate the simplicity and creativity that she puts forth in her writing. If you have some time, try out one her  exercises :p

 The First Exercise

  • Write a journal (roughly translated in French: “a day’s journey”)  entry for 10 minutes

Pretty simple huh, I will give the gist of my entry as an example: The story I created for my journal entry revolves around the sun, whom I have infused with human qualities. The sun goes around waking people up by invading dark rooms and filling them with light. The sun is portrayed in a negative light, no pun intended,  for intruding on certain people who prefer the calming light of the moon to the visceral rays of the sun.  The entry goes surprisingly deeper to explore what significance the sun and moon have in my journal to begin with, and I draw parallels to light and dark images while I  search a universal dichotomy that leaves me wanting to explore further. 

Yeah, that entry was an unexpected adventure.    

  • Now , that you have the journal entry take an image you just wrote about that resonates with you, and what you were feeling when you were writing.  “FREE WRITE  (just write and don’t think too much)” about the image for 10 minutes.   

 Here is another example of what I produced: My image was of shimmering illuminating stones. I write that the stones are a true source of light, and by light I mean truth.  The sun and the moon are mere figments of imagination, classified as either reality or non-reality, maybe even somewhere in between that, depending on the perception of the individual. The stones, however, glow and shimmer because they have what light and darkness can never have,  an orignal idea. The stones that I speak of are in fact just that, ideas, thousands lying together smooth on a distant yet familiar shore.

When I finished writing about the image, I was really glad that I didn’t skip the exercise to go on reading. 

What was your image?

101 in 2010 <3

•January 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Work in progress…

Below is a list I am composing of things I want to accomplish in 2010. I am giving myself a little time, 1 week as of this post, to finish this list. Since my New Year resolutions are almost bust already, I have decided to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models and come up with a list of small goals to achieve for the New Year. I hope to inspire an “outside of the box” mentality in approaching our usual traditions, and without further adieu, here is my list:

Update:

I’ve decided to cut my list short since I started grasping for ideas, instead of focusing on how I want to develop in the new year. I have also been influenced by a blogger that I follow Cal Newport, and his idea: work hard, but commit to less. More than likely I will try to accomplish everything on my list, which should make for some interesting stories. 

101 in 2010 <3

1. Learn to play “banana pancakes” by Jack Johnson on guitar.

2. Learn Spanish, and achieve an advanced level on a proficiency exam.

3. Read “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov – in Russian.

4. Find a badminton club, and start playing.

5. Perfect a one-handed backhand ground stroke in tennis.

6. Write at least 100 blog posts.

7. Travel to Mexico.

8. Find a job.

9.  Take at least 24 hours in online courses.

10. Take an online computer programming course.

11. Take an online writing class.

12. Practice 100 yoga lessons.

13. Go on a blind date.

14. Learn to bake fish deliciously.

15. Buy my own domain name.

16. Become a better horticulturist… not sure if this is a word.

17. Take an unexpected road trip.

18. Become more knowledgeable with PhotoShop.

19. Eat at Red Lobster.

20. Learn to cook hot and sour soup.

21. Learn to bake a cheesecake :p Yum…

22. Enroll in a kung fu class.

23. Improve my credit rating.

24. Organize my photo collection.

25. Create an awesome photo exhibit of my time in Ukraine.

26. Develop an online readership of 100 readers.

27. Get paid for being a writer.

28. Keep my aloe vera plant alive and flourishing.

29. Go to a Drum & Bass concert/party.

30. Wear only 1 pair of sandals for the whole year… already wearing the sandals :p

31. Try to make an Android phone application.

32. Grow my rubber plant into a glorious specimen.

33. Go sailing.

34. Go deep sea fishing.

35. Develop the “youth initiative” with the organiztion I intern for.

36. Become an amateur astronomer.

37. View 2 Dale Chihuly  art installations outside of Texas.

38. Chronicle my Soviet biking experience through the Donbass.

39. Learn to read music.

40. Climb a mountain.

41. Not care what anyone thinks about me :)

42. Write an epic poem for my grandmother.

43. Start writing my book on…well I know what it’s about :p

44. Read the other Anne Rice collection… take a peek here if you don’t know what I am talking about.

A Closer Walk

•December 30, 2009 • 2 Comments

Archive: Spring 2009

Over the past couple of months I have come to appreciate the little known town of Krasnodon, where I live. Partly, because I have to leave back home soon, but more importantly because I have started exploring more of my new home/the Motherland. I remember days talking with my friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Gillian, whom has already left back home, while she was taking her daily walks. I would always ask her -“Why would you want to walk around such a depressing place?” Like me she also lived in Eastern Ukraine… and I forget how she would answer, but now that the end of my service is in sight, I also find myself strolling about town more often. I guess Gillian was just soaking up as much of her little town as possible before she had to leave, as I am now doing.

A typical Ukrainian town is pretty quaint, albeit a little depressing to the point of insanity. In the east or industrial part of the country towns are just a little more dusty and dirty, but underneath that rusted Soviet facade lies the charm. Towns usually have the same infrastructure as they did when Stalin and Lenin were walking arm in arm with their fellow comrades. Tall gray drab apartment buildings nestle amongst the natural landscape, and succeed to this day in their goal: bringing together the masses for a more communal way of living. Every city that I have traveled to in Ukraine has at least a couple of similarities: ugly buildings, extremely beautiful women, and nostalgic Soviet monuments; some places more, some less.

In my town, Krasnodon, I stumble upon many types of buildings; I try to find designs that exclude the normal gray motif, and every now and again I do find a building that is interesting because it is different and not gray. Now that I have been taking my daily walks I found a couple of items of interest. Today took me through the city park, where I came across a small stone building. The stone looked to be of limestone, and the design pre-dated the concrete architecture that dominates the rest of the town. Green leafy plants rested in its window sills, and majestic trees with thick foliage dotted the yard; I could not believe the picturesque image placed on front of me!

I get my entertainment and inspiration in creative ways here in Ukraine, and that small stone building made me think of what this part of the world would have looked like if it was not destroyed in World War II. The monotonous gray style of today is the reality however, and I think I would not be pushing the envelope to say that: Eastern Ukraine prior to its devastating past would have looked like the garden of Eden, compared to what it looks like now. The luster of old world Krasnodon can be found in the local museum, and is similar to the rest of Western Europe in some regards. Western Ukraine for example has many older beautiful buildings, and this adds a lot to the aesthetics of her cities. In just a few walks I have unearthed a rich and diverse past in the land of the glorious “Young Guard.” I guess I will just keep walking and exploring, along the way finding answers….. hopefully :p

Krasnodon - Downtown Krasnodon

Once Upon a Time in Crimea…

•December 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A bus drops us off in a quaint tourist town over looking the Black Sea. It’s a gorgeous late June day, and Masha and I are finishing off our day trip that covered half of southwestern Crimea. We walk the narrow tree-lined streets brimming with fresh fruit and dried fish in search of a present to take home to our friends. A bottle of imported goodness hailing from Czech Republic called “Becherovka,” it’s the last thing left on our list before we find a ride back home.  The small town we were calling home at the time carried cheap wine, delicious beer, and nothing more.

We just landed in probably the 4th or 5th city/town that day, and even though the day had been long, this town had a special charm and very relaxing ambiance – the kind that accompanies a close relationship with the sea. Masha and I had hitched the whole trip so far, with the exception of a couple of buses, so it was nice just having a leisurely walk. In all reality we were lost, somewhere in the beautiful landscape that lie between Yalta and Sevastopol, and I’m very glad to have been traveling with Masha at the time, who was in no way perturbed by our current loss of direction. Masha is an old friend from Oster, a small town just outside of Kyiv where I once lived, and I always liked her because she was “very” patient with my language skills, which means she put up with my horrible Russian grammar, and we conversed to no ends. On this particular day there was much to reminisce:

  • We hitched a ride with Russian “Speed Racer,” and zoomed along the coast of the picturesque Black Sea for 2 hours.
  • Took a tour of this amazing sea-side palace, the name of which alludes me now.
  • Caught a ferry to Sparrow’s Nest Palace.
  • Stopped in Yalta for Russian Cuisine, and high culture along the famed boardwalk.
  • Missed our stop to Sparrows Nest Palace, and instead went to the “skylift” the next town over via V.I.P. ferry.
  • Found an old Islamic Palace along the way with a beautiful water lillie garden – lotus included!!!
  • Took the “skylift” up a huge mountain, along the way watching wine vineyards and a vast assortment of trees brush by, and at one point got engulfed wholly in thick billowy clouds for 5 whole minutes!
  • Took pictures in Russian Army attire while atop vintage car – on the mountaintop!
  • Caught a bus somewhere for about an hour.
  • Found myself in the aforementioned town at the beginning of the story :p

So, yeah… back to the town. I find my drink of choice “Becherovka” in a little shop, and we are off  in a taxi. We berate the driver with questions who finally leads us to a spot where he says we can find another ride to our final destination – and again we wait. This time we wait on the side of a road that curves straight through the mountain range itself. In retrospect the mountains really dominated the whole landscape, it’s just that I was down along the coast most of the day and didn’t realize the dominance they now cast upon us.

We found a ride in less than 30 minutes, which is fantastic for hitching, and it never hurts that Masha is a cutie pie when looking for rides. A silver Volkswagen stops and for the next two hours we jam to intense drum and bass music and smoke cigarettes with our new friend, who is so ecstatic to find out I am from Texas that he gives us our 2 hour ride for free. The coastline blurs by and the sunset has made the sky into a palette of warm colors. I look over to Masha who is sitting close enough to me that I can feel the warmth of her body, and I intuitively relax and reflect on my experience so far in Crimea, sublime indeed.