2009 - it was the best of times, it was the blurst of times...

Seems everyone is doing their year-end wrap up right now; the really ambitious are writing up their last decade, but my memory is too shot to attempt anything that grand. If all goes well, I may be able to accurately sum up the last 12 months without forgetting anything major, but if I do and you catch it, you probably know me and my life well enough to realize I'm lucky to remember what little I do. So, without further ado, 2009:

  • According to my google calender, I certified for the last time with unemployment on the 30th of December, 2008. I had been unemployed for almost five months.
  • 1/6 I started working as a graduate assistant at The HistoryMakers three days a week; that was enough to get me off the dole.
  • Hit up tourneys in Detroit and Las Vegas.




  • Tournament outside of Toronto.



  • At some point became full time at The HistoryMakers, and gained the title Assistant Archivist.


  • Bleh


  • Inlaws took us on an awesome vacation on which we hit up Norway by boat, and then drove around Germany.


  • Bought a home in Bridgeport and moved in. Still in the process of making it ours, but it's a labor of love.
  • Got to sail on a sailboat from Waukegan to Chicago overnight, something I'd always wanted to do.


  • Got a call out of the blue from a place I had applied for a job at back when I was still unemployed. This eventually turned into a job offer, which I gladly accepted.
  • Went on a trip with Claudia to Vietnam and Cambodia.


  • Started working at the Union League Club of Chicago as the head of the library, with the potential to also take over the archives when time and funds permit.
  • Went from hourly grunt to salaried master of my own domain.


  • Finally got to ride the CTA Holiday Train.
  • Settled in for my long winter's nap.


Vietnam and Cambodia - abbreviation of an abbreviated trip

Before the year is over, I'd like to make good on my promise a couple posts ago to put up some photos from the trip I took to Vietnam and Cambodia in Oct/Nov. Though we were only gone a mere eleven days, we packed so much in to our time that it felt double that (in a good way). I know for certain that I would love to return some day to give these two beautiful countries the attention they deserve, but for now I'll have to remember the little taste test that we had.

Saigon/HCM City, Vietnam

Amazing little bread critters in a shop we ducked in to to avoid the rain. I really wish we had bought some, but we only stopped for a couple seconds.

Some of the Party artwork

How just about every family gets around town - all on one scooter. There are helmet laws, but interestingly enough, they didn't seem to apply to children.

Claudia gets groomed.

Golden Temple Villa and Street Shots - Siem Reap, Cambodia

We did manage to get some relaxing in

There were loads of venues for that

"Welcome Drink"

My market friend. This kid could locate just about everything.

In control.

Temple Complexes Around Siem Reap

Day 1 - Bike Ride to Angkor Wat

Just like the cathedrals in Europe, these holy sites are still in use by the local religious folk. Each of the sites we went to still had many active Buddhist shrines.

The friezes were amazing - there are many non-close-up shots in the album, linked above.

It was wonderful to see that Angkor Wat was very much in use by the local people, and not one of those world heritage sites that have imposed high entrance fees that are prohibitive to the average non-tourist. We had to buy a three-day pass, but from what I saw, they only checked the obvious foreigners for these.

Some boys who insisted on giving us a tour of the local cemetery. I believe they were associated with the Children's hospital nearby.

Day 2 - Bike Ride to Angkor Thom

The ladies

The other ladies - they were all over the place.

I turned the corner and was taking a picture of the doorway when he walked into the frame. I literally gasped.

One of the many massive faces overlooking the site.

Active Buddhist shrine within Angkor Thom.

Pretty red stranger

I can't even do justice to the sounds and smells that surrounded us on our ride. I can come close to what it sounded like - every silly, exaggerated jungle soundtrack from a Tarzan movie. Seriously, it's pretty dead on. As for the smells, nothing can really capture that. Think of a mixture of burning aromatic wood and leaves; jasmine and other musky flowers; cinnamon; incense; damp earth; and heat.

Day 3 - TukTuk to Ta Prohm

In real life

These trees just oozed over the carved stones, like melted candle sticks.

The lichens all over the place were vibrant with color

None of these pictures really show the scale of these trees and buildings. I could fit comfortably between these roots, with a couple friends.

This old dude came up to me and started talking to me in very broken English, and for the life of me I couldn't get what he was saying. I could have sworn he was asking me if I wanted to see the dinosaur. Finally I just told Claudia to come with me while I saw what he was all eager to show us, and he pointed to this.

Well what do you know? A dinosaur. Can't even begin to figure what else it could be. So random. The old man was also covered with scores of tiny prison-like tattoos, the meanings of which I can only guess at, considering Cambodia's dark past. I don't doubt he saw some violent days in his lifetime.

It almost looks like the scaffolding is holding up this bad boy.

Walking out looked like something out of an Indiana Jones film.

Night in Siem Reap and the Water Festival

When the TukTuk got us back to Siem Reap, we decided to walk around because it was our last night, and we wanted to see more of the town. We hit the market one more time.

and then went on to the Water Festival, which was getting all revved up by the river.

There were loads of street vendors, noisy Cambodian pop music, and illuminated boats in the water.

People gathered around to watch the canoe races. I took loads of pics of the boats, but they mostly turned out crummy.

all of them were crewed by rowdy local youth and looked like a load of fun.

The night ended with a massive fireworks display

and the children placing offerings in the river of candy, candles, and flowers on rafts.

I wish I were a better low light photographer, but at least I managed to take some!

Halong Bay Cruise

Books and beers - librarian on vacation

why yes, those are carrots and peppers masterfully carved into flowers

and a tomato phoenix

Floating venders

And essentially the only shot I got of Hanoi

I wish I had had time to take more, but we were really only in the city proper for a handful of hours.