American Tourists

American tourist satire
This picture is a mannequin from a church in India, telling you that you’re not allowed to take pictures of anything in this area. I found it so funny that I took a picture of the mannequin anyways, and then got yelled at for taking pictures in the place where you’re not supposed to take any pictures. Oh well, I think it was worth it.
But this brings me to thoughts about American tourists around the world. I’ve been abroad without my family twice: once to India on a study abroad summer program, and once to Europe with my roommate from William and Mary, Kenny. And I would like to think that we did not behave like typical American tourists.
It comes down to being respectful. In India, its fairly obvious who is a citizen of India and who is a tourist; the color of your skin is usually a pretty good indicator(although not always). But as long as you are willing to try and learn local customs, like when you need to take off your shoes, what hand you’re supposed to eat with, etc., have an open mind about the things you are doing, and don’t make yourself the most important thing, you’re going to be fine. While we were in Mumbai, we walked through a market and then through a poorer neighborhood. However, we looked like we knew what we were doing, didn’t panic, but more importantly, weren’t taking pictures, making loud comments, etc. And we got through just fine, even though it probably wasn’t our smartest decision. The American professor and his wife who came with us had a much harder time getting out of their typical mindsets. They were expecting more of the conveniences of American life to be present.
In Europe, I think that its easier to be the “typical American tourist” because the culture is more similar to American culture. And when people don’t find what they expect, they get irate. My way of approaching it is to expect things a lot of things to be different but some to be the same and just roll with the punches. As long as you’re willing to adapt quickly and don’t insist on things being the way they are at home, you’re going to be fine. The whole point of going abroad is to enjoy the ways the things are different from the way they are in your country.

Atomic tea

“Hey Eliot, do you want to go get some coffee?”
“Sure, let me grab my moleskin, a black button down shirt, and ennui.”
“Come on man, you want to go?”
“Which place are we going to? You know I hate coffee.”
TW and Eliot walk out of their apartment, down the stairs, and out to Eliot’s blue Toyota. They drive, through the University’s hospital complex, past the basketball arena, and down the hill.
“Hey TW, have you ever been to a basketball game there?”
“Yeah, I brought a book. It got boring at parts.”
“What book did you bring?”
“Long Day’s Journey into Night.”
The car speeds along, trees a dark blur beside them. It bursts through occasional puddles of orange light and then submerges yet again.
“Can I get a white peony, please?” Eliot asks the woman behind the counter.
“Sure. I’ll bring it over to your table,” she says with a smile. “What can I get you tonight?”
“Blackest coffee that you have,” TW says with a smirk.
“Going to be up late tonight with school work?” she says as she works the coffee machine.
“Oh, of course not. I’m going to be up late writing, thinking about truth, art, and beauty.”
“Is he serious?” she asks Eliot with a bemused look.
“One can never tell.”
“Do you think she likes me?” TW says, sipping his coffee.
“Who? The lady behind the counter? Um, I have no idea. And I doubt she does either.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Eliot watches the last grains of sand fall to the bottom of the time and pulls the basket of tea leaves out of the water. He lets the last drips of water fall down into the tea pot, careful not to waste any.
“These last few drops, in my mind, are the most powerful. If you let them drip onto the tray, you’re losing the best part.”
“Is that so?”
“I have no idea. But I like to think it.” Eliot takes a sip. “Tea is always where globalization comes home for me. I can look down into my cup and see leaves that were plucked by a Chinese man, thousands of miles away, a couple months ago. I could be drinking a few of his atoms in my tea.”
“You’re breathing in lots of peoples’ atoms right now.”
“That’s not the point. These specific atoms made it right here, to me.”
“I wonder if there’s a way that you can send him some of yours…”
Eliot takes another sip. With a start, he runs outside and starts exhaling loudly, almost wheezing.
“Sending him some atoms?” TW says, breath floating around his face.
“I wonder how long it will take them to get there.”
“I’ll help.”
Their drinks sit, slightly steaming.

Quonset huts

Quonset huts
“Hey man, what are we doing out here?”
“You can’t go home again…”
“I said ‘You can’t go home again.’”
“I thought you hated that guy.”
“Thomas Wolfe. The guy you’re named after. Remember?”
“I do hate him. His prose is overly descriptive and stilted. And it doesn’t help that I was forced to read all of his books in my teenage years.”
“Then why’d you just quote him?”
“Say what now?”
“You just quoted Thomas Wolfe. You just said ‘You can’t go home again.’ Thats a Thomas Wolfe book.”
“I… shit.”
“You’ve been acting really weird tonight, TW. So why are we out here, at the quonset huts?”
“Whats a quonset hut?”
“They’re.. these thingers” Eliot points at the prefabricated steel buildings just on the other side of the fence. “They built a lot of them during World War II. They were cheap and easy to put up. Now they’re good for cheap and easy storage spaces.”
“Oh. Right. I like them. And I like what happens here at night.”
“There’s something that happens here at night?”
“Just watch.”
As Eliot and TW watch, a man walks up to the hut. His blue jumpsuit is stained, perhaps with oil. He unlocks the door and walks in. A few minutes later, he returns, locks the door, and leaves.
“What did he do in there?”
“I have no idea. But he does it ever night. Every night between 11:31 and 11:37pm.”
“How many times have you watched him, TW?”
“For the last two weeks.”
“I like to imagine what he’s doing in there, what brings him here every night.”
“What do you think he does in there?”
“Oh, I don’t try to think of what he’s actually doing. I make wild imaginings of things he could in no way be possibly doing.”
“Come on, TW. Lets go back to the apartment.”


Franklin Street
People climbing up the support wires to get on top of the crosswalk lights. This was the scene Monday night at the intersection of Franklin Street and Columbia Street in Chapel Hill, NC. The UNC men’s basketball team had just won the NCAA tournament, and around 40,000 people took to the streets to celebrate. After going to William and Mary for four years, this was a completely different atmosphere. People were lighting bonfires in the middle of the street, climbing up light poles, tearing street signs off and then crowdsufing on top them of them through the crowd. I saw someone who brought a plastic Santa through it on the fire as well. The student newspaper ran a story about burn victims from the 2005 celebration, and the comments were mostly “jumping over the bonfires is tradition!” Its fun to be a part of a community that cares this much about something. And while it is “just basketball,” it has really brought the campus and the town together.

An old photo that I love

Back Bay, Mumbai
This is an old picture that I love, from when I went to India for 6 weeks for a study abroad over the summer of 2007. It was a great experience, and I would love to go back to India. We took a weekend trip to Mumbai, and this is a picture from the Chowpatty beach over the Back Bay. We actually stayed near the Taj Mahal hotel that was attacked earlier this year. This is also the first picture that I’ve properly set up to be hosted on flickr. I’ve done this for multiple reasons: firstly, because hosting these pictures on my own home webserver would clobber my bandwith if I ever get to even like 5 readers a day. Having flickr take the bandwith hit for all of the images will let me get up to like 10 hits a day before my server dies. I’ve also decided to get into something that a lot of archivists have been into recently. And honestly, I think its a way better photo hosting solution than facebook, especially the flickr pro (which I’m probably going to sign up for something soon.). In flickr, you get to keep copyright control over your images; I’ve decided to make them available under the same license that my written work on this website is under, the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. This means that you can take the image or my words and use them for whatever you want as long as you don’t make money off of it and as long as you give me credit for having created it. It also has, and this is what makes me more interested from an archival perspective, the folksonomy part. People from all over the world can help you develop your metadata for these objects. If you don’t know where the photo is from, you can put it up and hopefully someone will find it and add information about it. Now, that might not happen much, but whenever it does that makes it worthwhile. The flickr pro account also allows you to have access to the original image size, which makes it a possiblity for the primary interaction patrons have with the object. If you upload a digital image to a flickr pro account, people can look at the same image that the creator took.

Back at William & Mary

Wren Building
The Wren Building at the College of William and Mary. The most famous building on campus and the building where I had a lot of my classes. All of my Religious Studies ones in fact. And I was going to write something about religion, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to metablog, because I realized recently that one of my problems with blogging is that I always try to write something that touches on too grand of ideas. I’m always trying to write something that will be Important instead of just talking about regular stuff. Trying always to write something Important just makes me give up trying to write altogether, since I never can think of anything important enough to write about. But then the other side makes me feel like I’m just putting trite banalities up there for my own benefit. And I guess it always is for your own benefit, but it seems like an especially vain exercise to me when I do it. Thats part of the reason behind my photo musings is so that I can try and get past that.
One of the fairly unknown things about the Wren Building (at least something I didn’t know for a long time) is that there are circles in the ceilings of a lot of the rooms; those circles would pop down in case of a fire and reveal that they are actually the sprinkler system. They had to hide it because they don’t look “colonial” enough.


Sometimes, globalization fractures my tiny mind.  When drinking my daily cup(s) of tea today, as well as other days, it really comes home to me.  Looking into my tin of tea, I realize that a couple of months ago a person in India or China (depending on which tea I’m drinking), who probably makes like a dollar a day, picked this tea by hand.  Then the owner of the farm sold it to a broker, who got it imported over here, and then sold to the place where I bought it.  I’m touching something thats been touched by some of the poorest people in the world and then served up to me.  I know that this also happens with my clothes, gadgets, and many of the things that I own.  But for some reason, the organic nature of tea and the fact that tea is the most drunk beverage in the world plays into this as well.  The person who picked the tea leaves probably drinks tea as well.  A similar experience, shared by people across the world.’,’Sometimes, globalization fractures my tiny mind.  When drinking my daily cup(s) of tea today, as well as other days, it really comes home to me.  Looking into my tin of tea, I realize that a couple of months ago a person in India or China (depending on which tea I’m drinking), who probably makes like a dollar a day, picked this tea by hand.  Then the owner of the farm sold it to a broker, who got it imported over here, and then sold to the place where I bought it.  I’m touching something thats been touched by some of the poorest people in the world and then served up to me.

How-to: Basic informtaion to get a GoDaddy site working on a Ubuntu server

Here’s what I needed to do to get my custom domain name from GoDaddy working with this WordPress instance on an Ubuntu 9.04 server. After installing and setting up WordPress, which was mostly easy, I needed to get this custom domain name working as well. The first thing that I needed to do was to edit my /etc/hosts file. When I installed Ubuntu, I just okey’d the default networking settings, which set my domain name as So I had to change that to, to match this website. I also changed the IP address in the hosts file from, a loopback address, to its real local address, To finish the /etc/hosts file part, I ran these two commands: echo > /etc/hostname and /etc/init.d/ start. Then I needed to change the settings of my Apache webserver. The first thing that I changed was the document root, so that it was actually serving up my WordPress site instead of placeholder “It works!” that is in the default installation of any Apache webserver. After I changed the document root to “/usr/share/wordpress”, I had to add the ServerName and ServerAlias fields so that it would actually run as “” and “”. So I added: ServerName ServerAlias into the top of the VirtualHost area. This actually doesn’t work, so far as I can tell, with WordPress. I want to figure out how to get it so does actually redirect to, but I haven’t figured it out yet (and borked my server trying). To make my site accessible to the world, I only needed to change a few more things, all in my GoDaddy DNS settings. In the “Total DNS Control and MX Records” page, I changed the Host to the IP address of my server, and changed the “www” alias to “”. And then that was that!
This will prove useful for me if/when I ever install a new server, and I hope it can be useful to anyone else installing a server. I couldn’t find a really simple explanation of how to get a custom domain name working on a personal server.

Lenoir in the Rain

This is the first in what is hopefully a series of writings about photographs that I take. They may be non-fiction or *gasp* I may even try to venture into the land of fiction. I’ve always been interested by short stories, so maaaaybe some of those will shope up. We shall see. Even if they do show up, I’m sure they won’t be very good. I really like the rain. Pouring rain, light rain, really any kind. I love sitting out on my porch during a thunderstorm, even though that doesnt work quite as well here. My favorite type of rain, at least for now, is a cold steady drizzle. Temperature in the 40s, no leaves on the trees, just grey and gross all over. It always reminds me of this Emerson quote, which Ive felt as well:

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.

But right now, thats not what we have. Spring rain in North Carolina is cool but humid. It provides a strange combination: you’re cool walking through the rain or when the window is open, but when you walk through it you always end up hot and sweaty. Its strange, but I like it. Perhaps I’ll end up like that character from Douglas Adams’ So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, Rob McKenna, who catalogs all the different kinds of rain he encounters because he is, unknowingly, a minor rain god. Or perhaps not.

Mill Mountain Coffee

Christi and I went to Mill Mountain Coffee yesterday, which is a local chain of coffee shops in the Roanoke/New River Valley area.  The tea experience that I had at the one in Blacksburg was interesting.  They had a wide selection of tea, including white tea.  However, when I asked what kind of white tea they had, the lady behind the counter said “oh, its just the regular kind.”…  There isn’t a “regular” kind of white tea; they’re all named based on the province and the quality of the tea.  The term “white tea” just a term that describes how a tea was processed. Then when I got my tea, it was served with the leaves floating loose in the pot itself.  This is a great way to brew tea leaves, but they didn’t give me a way to stop the tea leaves from steeping once their time was up. (They also didn’t tell me how long to steep them for, but since I ordered white tea maybe they figured I would know.)  So I had to go get a fork and pluck out as many of the leaves as I could.  The second time I steeped my leaves, I got another tea pot so I could just pour the steeped tea into the empty teapot, leaving the leaves in the first one.  Thats what you’re supposed to do, but I only thought of it the second time around.  All and all it was a fairly good experience, but still a little offputting the way they dealt with the tea.