Exploring Peru and Machu Picchu with #under30experiences

A month ago I embarked on this trip to Peru with Under30Experiences.  A trip like that inspires one to write (and not having done so for quite a while, I realize I’ve seriously missed it).  A little delayed, but here’s my summarized personal travel journal (thanks to Dan, Lauren and Nicole for the inspiration and the peer pressure!)

July 1, 2014 – Two specific events in the first day uncannily foreshadowed what the trip was going to be about for me.

While walking at Larcomar with Matt, Cesar, Analee and Micah, a stranger on the street asked our group how long we’ve known each other, and we all answered almost simultaneously “we had just met this morning.” We had a good laugh about it because it was true.  But it was the start of the impression that U30X really curated this group so well that it’s not entirely inconceivable for folks to be fast friends.

Fellow trivia buffs, word nerds, computer geeks, social media mavens,personal finance aficionados, jokesters, dancers, yoga instructors, seasoned athletes, hikers, world travelers, city dwellers, card sharks. Name a label, however eclectic, we probably have one or few in the group that would fit the bill. Which makes this group very interesting and very enjoyable company.  I’ve come to the realization that folks in this group have aspects of their lives and personalities that I find either find mirrored in myself or would like to emulate, often a good combination of both.

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It’s May 22, 2011…

May 21, 2011.  The day came and went.

For the past few weeks, there have been people claiming that it was going to be the end of the world, i.e. some cosmic event is going to change the course of history, as calculated from Bible verses and some sort of numerological proofs, etc.  Check out this link and this link.

The sad part is that there are individuals and organizations who seem to be keen on capitalizing on people’s fears.  The organization that spearheads this information campaign is worth $72M, funded from donations.  And there’s a whole slew of businesses attempt to make a buck by taking advantage and marketing to these fears.

And there were many people who actually believed that the world will end at a specific date, enough to actually quit their jobs, sell all their belongings, etc.  And now we have the serious case of the “oopsies” for these folks, who must actually deal with the effects of being pranked or duped.

There were even instances wherein people take it to the extreme, and ended their world by ending their lives.

When will people learn?

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Brookdale Park and getting back to running

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There was a Ziggy comic strip that I remember, where he says something like “The best way to put a spring into your step is to step into spring.”  I can’t remember the exact quote, but that’s my takeaway.

It’s been a while since I last ran/jogged.  I blame it on the winter slump, when the days are too short, and the weather conditions are cold, wet, snowy, windy, or down right miserable.  Also, I’ve never really got into the idea of running in a gym or on a treadmill.  I think nothing beats the outdoors.

Plus there’s the busy tax season, that barely just ended.  Exhausting days and late nights don’t make it conducive to exercise.

But last weekend, I attempted to reboot my running, with a 7.67 mile run on Saturday, and a 5.68 mile jog/walk on Sunday.  Now, I’m achy all over, and I have my first blisters of the season.

But man, just look at those paths. They’re just begging to be jogged on.  I’ve loved running in Brookdale Park.  I think it’s been instrumental in my attempts at trying to lose weight and be healthier.  Although sometimes, struggling to catch my breath up the hilly sections remind me of how unathletic I am.

The great thing about the park is that there are lots of paths to run on, and it has a lot of features – a rubberized running track, soccer fields, baseball pits, tennis courts, playgrounds, a dog park and an archery range(!)  And there are trees all over.

Anyhow, cheers to warmer weather.   I really hope I can keep this up.

Mornings

This photo of sunlight streaming through the east window of Grand Central Station was taken from my phone, with a filter from the Instagram app.

While taking the picture, it struck me. I really like mornings.  And I love mornings in the City, especially in transportation hubs like Grand Central, Penn Station and Port Authority, during the weekday rush.  I’m surrounded by people who are eager to get somewhere.  From these trains and buses are people who will fill the buildings, perform their tasks, collect their paychecks, pay their taxes (hopefully!), and change the world.

Sometimes, there are hiccups in the transportation system (it’s bound to happen with so many moving parts), like delays and stoppages.  One thing I’ve noticed is that since everyone in the bus/train/station is subject to the same conditions, there forms some sort of strange affinity (like when everyone’s running late, but at least you’re not alone).  As soon as people get to the office, they usually open all conversations with “Guess what happened at the subway today”, or “Traffic was terrible at the tunnel”, or “My train got delayed.  We were stuck in the same spot for 45 minutes!”.  We grab our coffee, and we go about our day.  Those morning hiccups and delays will have been forgotten in a few days (unfortunately because they’re usually replaced with new ones).

This type of morning commute has become a way of life for so many people.  And this controlled chaos makes me feel alive.  Look, I know I’m weird for being fascinated with these things, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  Here’s a cool illustration of NYC’s population – day vs. night:

image credit: Buzzfeed

Sometimes I do struggle to get out of bed, especially after a late night at work.  I do have those days.  But after I win my heroic minute and take my shower, I’m usually ready to go about my day.

Maybe someday, I’ll grow tired of this frenetic pace.  But not today.  And maybe not anytime soon.  I’m enjoying this too much.

(Note: this post is probably too random for taste, but I needed to blog something for February 2011, just so I don’t skip a month)

Lost my voice! (only getting it back)

I started my year having lost my voice due to a cough. It was a terrible feeling. For a good week or so, I could barely speak without going into bouts of coughing. I would whisper to people I attempt conversation with. For the first time in years, my sleep got interrupted multiple times due to coughing in the middle of the night (people who know me know that I sleep like a log).  I’ve tried all the home remedies and various expectorants and mucolytics. And I’m glad that I’m convalescing and getting my voice back.

During the past week, I realize that I gradually began to lose patience with small talk. I began to screen my conversations, and really attempt to speak when really necessary.   I would mime some (Charades!), or would carry my notebook so I can write something down that I could not get across. (Took a lot of notes, wrote lots of emails, sent a lot of text messages).

I realize I listened a bit more, and all the more appreciate how great a gift it is to be able to communicate orally. It’s a good realization to have, and I do appreciate the insight. I probably needed it.

I got to thinking about that phrase “Talk is cheap”.

What if it’s not?

What if we human beings only have a limited number of words to speak in our lifetimes? What would we say? Who would we say it to? Will we attempt something profound? Humorous? Will we shoot for impact or legacy? Will we be more careful of what we say and how we say it?

It’s so easy to take things for granted.  Coming into 2011, may we appreciate the gifts we have.

Here’s a cool video I came across in 2009, featuring Nick Vujicic:

My wish is for everyone to find their inspiration.  2011 is going to be great!  Cheers!

Note:  Today,  1/10/11 is  palindromic date!  And tomorrow, too! (1/11/11 )  Something about these kinds of dates make me geek out.

Finished Reading: The Way of Kings

Credit: Image from Tor.com.

I think I will run out of positive superlatives when I write about the experience of reading a Brandon Sanderson book.  Most recently I just finished The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) and I’m still reeling.

What a book!  This is the kind of manuscript wherein the reader faces two strong conflicting forces – the careful discipline to read slowly to savor every bit of the story as it unfolds, and the compulsive urge to read faster to find out what happens next.  And there’s that all too familiar dread that the book is running out of pages, and just when the story gets really, really good.  The book is massive 1,007 pages, and yet it feels too short.

Brandon is extremely skilled in creating fully realized magic systems, with a complete set of rules (not yet fully revealed in this first book) that despite its fantasy origins, somehow seem logical in their application.  I believe that’s his strength as a fantasy writer, and what sets him apart from other writers in the genre.  In this book,  he just outdid himself.  I particularly loved the currencies being charged by Stormlight and Soulcasting and the idea behind Fabrials (where technology meets magic).  Of course, there’s Lashing (a bit reminiscent of Allomancy in Mistborn) and the Shardblades and Shardplates.

But it goes beyond that.  In TWOK, his character development is definitely above par, and he explores pretty universal themes such as brotherhood and family, achievement and talent, religion and culture, race and class systems, language and the role of stories, courage and cleverness, hunger for power, struggles for survival and overcoming overwhelming odds.  Despite the fantasy setting, the stories delve into emotions and machinations, relationships and situations, virtues and vices that very human, and therefore very relatable.

And of course, there’s the artwork, which is plainly superb.  I was fortunate to receive an ARC through a Goodreads raffle (it did not have the same amount of artwork).  I realize it does enrich the worldbuilding and the storytelling, as it provides the reader with a much-appreciated visual element, and Brandon discusses this in a recent podcast on Writing Excuses.

My only very minor quibble would be some of the interludes.  Only because sometimes they feel like interruptions to the main story lines (Kaladin and his bridge crew, Dalinar and Adolin, Shallan and Jasnah, and Szeth).  It does show, however, the expansive world imagined by the author.  And from my experience with Brandon’s previous work, I have to trust that these will come to play in future chapters and in future books.  When I read the annotations to Mistborn and Warbreaker on Brandon’s site, I do realize that much thought and effort is devoted in the placement of these chapters and interludes.  No words are wasted.

I cannot wait to read the next book of the Stormlight Archive, though I hear it might not come for another year or two.  From what I read in reviews and forums, I’m not alone in this.  I do believe that this first book barely scratched the surface of the stories that can come out of Roshar.  The last few pages (Epilogue, Ars Arcanum), as well as the symbols and maps on the inside covers indicate that there’s more in store for us eager readers.

Mr Sanderson, may you live long to write more books and tell more stories and reveal more worlds.  I’ll probably be one of the first to click “Pre-Order”.

To anyone who hasn’t read any of Brandon’s books, do yourself a favor and pick up the Mistborn Trilogy.  The best thing about that series is that it’s finished (no waiting!).   Elantris is also a good pick because it’s a stand-alone book.

My guess is that soon enough you’ll be a fan too.

Cheers!

<a disclaimer: this mini-review is by an unabashedly avid fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work – The Mistborn Trilogy, Elantris, Warbreaker, Alcatraz, and his continuing contribution to the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.  A bit of bias might be expected.>

Reading: Taking an Unplanned Vacation

On Twitter, I found this post that really hit home:

I realize, I have not allowed myself to take any “unplanned vacations” recently.

It jogged a memory.  January 2007.  In a site visit that I did for one of my audit clients in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania,  I started work at 7, and finished my tasks at about 4PM.  My hotel was in Gettysburg, so I figured I had some time to spare before sunset, and I felt I should explore.

Being new to the place, I decided to just drive around Gettysburg – the town and the battlefield.

By myself.

With my HP IPaq 6515 phone with built-in but very faulty GPS navigation, which I just pointed back to the hotel as I drove further.  Funny and annoying how it was constantly saying “recalculating”, “make a U-Turn” or “Proceed to the nearest road”.  Unfortunately,  I couldn’t turn it off for fear of losing the GPS signal.

I really knew nothing of the place.  I’ve only heard of Gettysburg in the famous Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, which we were made to memorize in High School.

Driving around the battlefield, it was so quiet.  There were not a lot of people because of the chilly Pennsylvania air (I did mention it was January).  The museums were already closed.

I explored the monuments and memorials.  I climbed the Observation Tower and got a good view of the field and the sunset.  I did manage to take some pictures until it got dark.

See a few photos that I was able to salvage from my backups (the hard drive where I originally stored these crashed):

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Anyhow, this “trip” happened in the course of a couple of hours (definitely a much smaller scale compared to the article referenced above).

But it was unplanned.  And I very much enjoyed it.  While it was technically a work day, I had a mini-vacation.

Got me to thinking – I should force myself do this more often.  I should aim to cover more of my the map I blogged in the past.  Not get lost in the busyness of work and the humdrum of daily routines.

Then in my head, I start planning trip logistics.

Old habits die hard. (sigh!)

More info on visiting Gettysburg – http://www.nps.gov/getc/index.htm