‘Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ Author Robert M. Pirsig Dies At 88

From NPR:

Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his “novelistic autobigraphy,” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.


Here’s the book:

College might be when many people first read this book. I met a few people who read it as part of a course. In my case, I stumbled on that book when I was 19. The title was intriguing, so I bought it. No one prepared me for it. Wow, what a mind-blowing book. “Changed my life” is a cliche, but in this case, it’s true. It’s fair to say that after reading this book, I was inspired to go think about things differently, try different things, go different places, think different thoughts. That book really did change my life.

The book didn’t inspire me to take a cross-country motorcycle trip, but I was inspired to go on another kind of journey. The concepts in philosophy that this book introduced me to inspired me to take a philosophy class the next year. Another milestone in my life.

The comedian Steve Martin had a throwaway line in his stand-up routine from the 1970s. It went something like: “in philosophy class, you learn just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life.”

He was right, minus the hyperbole. My small taste of philosophy didn’t screw me up, but it did expose me to some ways of looking at the world that now, more than 30 years later, still resonate with me.

And I have Persig’s book to thank for that.

Rest in peace, Mr. Persig. Your book taught me to look for, and to value, Quality in the world. Thanks for sharing your inquiry into values. My world is bigger because of the ideas that you exposed me to.

Minor milestone, less behind

My 2017 kilometer challenge is still underway. The deficit is still there from when I was in Vietnam for the two-week language immersion, but it’s gradually being shaved away. Last week I hit a personal record of 55 kilometers, running for 15 kilometers on two days. The running total shows another milestone: I hit the 600-kilometer mark today.

My goal was to eliminate the deficit by the end of April. At this rate, I’d have to run 10 kilometers every day for the rest of the month in order to hit that. I think I could achieve that, but I will have guests come this weekend, and I won’t be able to run while they are here. So I will start May still in the red, but I will be able to get back in the black by the end of first week of the month.

I hope.


There was a terrific view of the moon from my apartment this morning. By adjusting the ISO of my camera, I was able to capture details of the face. 

This is a case for digital cameras. I don’t think that it’s possible to acquire this level of detail with a phone’s camera. 

Adjusted the white balance.

Eight weeks left, starting to panic

I’ve been in language training for 30 weeks so far. Eight weeks from now, I will take the “End Of Training” test. That test will give me my official language proficiency score.

Several colleagues who started at the same time as me have already tested. They had to finish language earlier than I do, because their scheduled arrival time at post is different from mine. I get two more months of language training than they got, which is a nice advantage for me. The good news is that they all tested at the required level. And since I have more time in training, I have the chance to attain an even higher level than is required. That would mean some extra money in the form of “language incentive pay.”

The incentive pay is especially attractive to my family, because my as of now, my wife can’t work at the Consulate. The federal hiring freeze affects everyone who wants to work for the federal government, even people who want to work in an embassy or consulate overseas. This development has disrupted our plans. We were counting on my wife being able to work. Not only for the paycheck, but to prevent boredom and stress. We are hoping that the freeze will end soon, but we are also preparing for the worst.

All this means that there’s pressure on me to attain the highest language score possible. I think it’s possible to reach the required score, but I’m not there yet. Luckily, my teachers are great, they know my goals, and are working with me to help me get to my target level. But the onus is on me to put in the time, and do the work. All the linguistic theory, teaching methodology, and language acquisition tricks are useless unless the student puts it to work.

So why am I still writing this blog?! Back to work!