The chronicles of Gertrude and Charles, Vol. I

April 5, 2009 by

Attention: Do not be surprised or put off by literary or imaginary characters that may appear in these pages. Regards.

Dear Sir Noted Stop Will be on the lookout Stop Hope to see you soon Stop Affectionately yours Gertrude Stop


A “friend” is delivering this. Received your latest. Am concerned for your safety in Lisbon. Do not delay there and make plans for Paris with haste.
Send money.

Yours always,

Dear Charles,

Timothy delivered your note. So glad you’re not lying in a ditch and have repented of your wild ways. Don’t worry about me, am having gorgeous time with the pygmies and haven’t any time for Paris, but enclosed find a check. It should be enough for passage home.

Ever your own,

P.S. Do give Daisy my love and buy her an ice cream when you think of it.

Dearest Gertrude,

I can not thank you enough for your assistance. It arrived just in time for me to purchase a ticket on a steamer leaving Tangiers for Majorca. As you may have heard, I had a bit of difficulty with the roulette there, the cheats! I am at the Hotel Dalt Murada. It is a fine place, but perhaps beyond my means because I was taken in by a Sicilian canasta sharpie on the passage. I am the victim of my own innocence, others always taking advantage. Perhaps dear, you could provide some assistance? Oh, come to think of it, doesn’t your good friend Betsy vacation here this time of year? Surely she would not be inconvenienced by me.

I can not believe that you are forsaking Paris for your blessed pygmies. How will I ever understand you? Still, your heart for science and exploration is charming. All in all, I am relieved you are not in Lisbon!

Surely I will give your love to Daisy when I ever make it home.

Yours always,

Charles, my dear,

No, no no! Homeward you must go. You mustn’t leave poor Daisy waiting, and wearing her sad beanie, and longing for you. It’s simply not respectable, and mother will be worried sick besides. I’ve rung Betsy and she’d love to have you but do stay away from her poodle this time, the poor thing hasn’t recovered yet, you naughty boy. I’ve wired passage home to Betsy and you must promise me you’ll leave just as soon as you can bear the high seas again.

Your very own,

P.S. I Quite agree about the Sicilians, but after that fiasco in Monaco, I thought you would know better!

My one and only Gertrude,

How could I deny you anything? But of course I will return home to sweet Daisy at the earliest opportunity. Do not think me heartless. You, mother and Daisy are constantly in my thoughts.

Thank you so much dear for the arrangements with Betsy. I assure you, that I had nothing to do with her poodle. It was solely Jeremy’s doing. I will leave here shortly, please contact me at Betsy’s. Hopefully the barmaid will not figure out where I have gone. I promise, no problems with the militia this time. Oh, do you have any friends at the Consulate?

My fondest,

P.S. Since Monaco I have been a martyr to my own innocence. What is your poor Charles to do?

Charles! Not another barmaid! I am greatly distressed and know not what to do with myself. Also I am laughing so hard I can hardly speak. Love, Gertrude

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

April 5, 2009 by

(Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand)

These are some of the things I can’t forget from the last three months of travel.   For the sake of unity, I’ve chosen only images from New Zealand.

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand. I swam in these waters, brisk and blissful.

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand • I went swimming in these waters

Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

Casey coaxing Abel into the penguin hole, Oamaru, New Zealand

Casey coaxing Abel into the penguin hole, Oamaru, New Zealand

Tea at Janet Frame's kitchen table, Oamaru, New Zealand

Tea at Janet Frame's kitchen table, Oamaru, New Zealand


Milford Track, Fiordland, New Zealand

Cloud fall over Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

Cloud fall over Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand. I took this through a window, and you can see the reflection of our Cesna wing.

Lake Te Anau by Cesna

Lake Te Anau by Cesna, Fiordland, New Zealand

Leaving Milford Sound by Cesna, Fiordland, New Zealand

Leaving Milford Sound by Cesna, Fiordland, New Zealand

Caitlins Coast, New Zealand

Caitlins Coast, New Zealand

Off the Caitlins coast, New Zeland

Evidence of the strong winds off the Caitlins coast, New Zeland

160-million-year-old petrified forest, Caitlins, New Zealand

160-million-year-old petrified forest, Caitlins, New Zealand

The road from Kenepuru Saddle, Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, New Zealand

The Queen Charlotte Track is 71 km long if you don't take any divesions, and runs along mountains surrounding Queen Charlotte Sound on the northern tip of New Zealand's Southern Island. This was the road from Kenepuru Saddle on the track.

Maximum load one person • Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Maximum load 1 person • One lane bridge on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Torea Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Torea Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

On the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

On the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, New Zealand

Honeydew on Birch on the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, New Zealand

Honeydew on birch off the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, New Zealand

Hammock strings over a brook at Lochmara, Marlborough, New Zealand

Hammock strings over a brook at Lochmara Lodge, Marlborough, New Zealand. I spent a lot of time in that hammock on the last day of the 85-km trek.

In memory of Bing Lucas, New Zealand architect, Queen Charlotte Sound overlook, New Zealand

Fastened to a bench at an overlook. In memory of Bing Lucas, 1925-2000, Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Hello world!

April 3, 2009 by

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

So a funny thing happened on the way to the UN…

April 3, 2009 by

This month was supposed to include three UN appearances (two of them here and here), and trips to India, Geneva, and Turkey.  Instead, I fell in a pothole on my way to give the speech in New York, sprained my ankle and messed up the opposite knee, ended up in the ER, and canceled the trip to India (crutches + open wound while tramping through refugee camps = not a wise trip).  Now the orthopedist thinks I actually broke my ankle.  But it can’t be that serious, since I’m walking around, sort of.  He’s waiting for the results of an MRI.

You can read the written statement I sent in from the ER here (is Blackberry a curse or a blessing?).

If you’re in Geneva later this month, you should come and hear my panel at the Geneva Summit:

19 April 2009

Combating racism and repression toward a culture of human rights
Centre International de Conférences Genève, adjacent to the Palais des Nations UN compound

16:30 – 18:00
Session IV: Freedom of Expression and “Defamation of Religion”

  • UDHR Art. 18: Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • UDHR Art. 19: Right to freedom of opinion and expression
Moderator: [Ms. Glasses], International Law Director, the Becket Fund

Speaking on UN Durban Review panel this Thursday

March 23, 2009 by

I was invited as a member of the governing Bureau of the UN’s NGO committee on religious freedom issues.  Durban has been the subject of some controversy, with Canada and Israel boycotting, the US threatening to boycott, and the EU stuck in the middle.  Click here for the flier.

This program will be held at the United Nations in Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism

26 MARCH 2009
2:00 – 5:00 PM

Sponsored by the Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism of the NGO Committee
on Human Rrights in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


H.E. Ambassador Morten Wetland
Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations

Ms. Fiyola Hoosen, Counsellor
representing H.E. Ambassador Baso Sangqu
Permanent Representative of South Africa to
the United Nations

Ms. Ejim Dike
Human Rights Project, Urban Justice Center

Ms. —
International Law Director, The Becket Fund

Mr. Roberto Mucaro Borrero
Museum of Natural History,
and the NGO Committee on the UN International
Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Persons without UN ID need to call or email Corann Okorodudu with your name, organizational affiliation, and contact information EMAIL: okorodudu AT rowan DOT edu Phone: 856/848-4961

This capsule speaker is incredible

March 18, 2009 by

This tiny capsule speaker by Lifetron, a 2008 Red Dot Design Award winner, is incredible.

It has good quality, low-distortion volume (up to 2.4W), and clear mid-highs, which can be surprisingly hard to get right even with a much larger unit.

Compatible with loads of digital players, including iPod, through a standard 3.5 mm audio jack.  5-hour battery life rechargeable by USB (I stick it into my iPod USB power adaptor and plug it into the wall, too).

Dimensions are 52mm x 52mm x 64.5mm when open (it plays closed, too, but at a lower volume).

Picked it up at duty free for $35 USD in Asia on my way home.  Despite not having read any product reviews, the price, quick test in the airport, and Swiss make made the purchase a no-brainer.  It’s also available online at 3charger for $70 (It’s beyond me why this isn’t a better-known product, but it seems aside from 3charger, it’s only available duty-free in airports and on board.)

And it only weighs 52 grams!!

It’s going to become quickly indispensable in my travels.


My latest opinion piece up at The Jurist: Negusie

March 17, 2009 by

The decision can be considered a victory for Negusie, who now has another chance at asylum. However, the Court’s decision leaves to immigration authorities the ultimate question of “whether an alien who was compelled to assist in persecution can be eligible for asylum or withholding of removal” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Court’s decision hinged on principles of statutory interpretation more than the equity of Negusie’s situation.

Continue reading Negusie asylum case shows danger of broad application of persecutor bar The Jurist.

Related: Supreme Court to hear Eritrean asylum case (June 2008)

On a more personal note, I’ll be posting some photos of where I’ve been the last few months soon.

Coup d’oeil: stories edition

December 31, 2008 by

The narrative of past is important for the future, and I prefer to spend most December 31s looking quietly backwards instead of excitedly forwards.

So some stories to inspire you. Happy New Year to you and yours.

1. Librivox: free public domain audio books.

I adore being read to, and will be downloading these to enjoy on my multi-month, 4-continent sabbatical starting in January. Try Ernest H. Shepard’s The Wind in the Willows,” interpreted by archaeologist Adrian Praetzellis, with different voices for Mole, Rat, and the other river-bankers. Bliss.


2. Book-A-Minute: Humorous lampooning of popular books via ultra-condensation.They aren’t always accurate, but there are a few gems. These are my favourites so far:

  • Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler: “You think you’re reading a condensation of If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, but you’re not.
  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans: “Once there was a girl named Madeline who had her appendix out, and everybody visited her in the hospital.”
  • Pride and Prejudice: “Mr. Darcy – Nothing is good enough for me. Ms. Elizabeth Bennet – I could never marry that proud man. (They change their minds.)

3. A fine line between hipster and Christian is a good read but should lead to even better music.

welcometothewelcomewagonThe article at this journalists’ blog examines a piece that begins thusly:

“Who are Vito and Monique Aiuto? Simple church folk suddenly clamoring for hipster cred? A Sufjan Stevens project masquerading under a new moniker? Are they simple-minded reactionaries? Or simply a Presbyterian minister and his wife, taking a break from tending their flock to play some heartfelt religious tunes?”

4. As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God | Matthew Parris – Times Online

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland…. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I wonder what Parris would have to say about Christianity in contrast to the broader culture in America or Europe.

5. Piper on His 40th Wedding Anniversary

John and Noel getting married.I waited forty years to write a book on marriage—This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence…. Maybe I should have waited a bit longer. I am still learning how to love. But once you’ve had cancer, you don’t put things off the same.”

Piper’s poem to his wife, based on a bible verse his father, who married them, read at their wedding:

Although the fig tree blossom not,
And all the vines of our small plot
Be barren, and the olive fail,
The sheep grow weak and heifers frail,
We will rejoice in God, my love,
And take our pleasures from above:
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life.

Bah, Humbug

December 25, 2008 by

I think I get the angriest letter award among the several the Times is running December 25 on Wendell Jamieson’s skewering of Bedford Falls. I don’t know how I managed to sound bitter while critiquing cynicism.  But I did.

Merry Christmas to you all and blessings in 2009.  May 2009 be full of at what is good.

New York Times


To the Editor:

I wasn’t much of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” fan until I read Wendell Jamieson’s “Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life.”

Mr. Jamieson’s attempt at iconoclasm says so much about what’s wrong with the world. It misses the point of what doing the right thing on a daily basis, instead of the exciting thing in one heroic moment, adds up to in George Bailey’s life, or would add up to in anyone’s life.

A “cooler” nightlife cannot replace the many difficult, selfless choices so many unsung people make on a regular basis. Such a worldview, which allows no room for the redemption that comes with living a good life in a broken world, is not just cynical. It’s morally bankrupt. It does not reflect the reality of the world we live in and what it needs.

Washington, Dec.20, 2008

Love Came Down at Christmas (Jars of Clay)

December 24, 2008 by