West Bath
Siem Riep
Sri Lanka
Czech Republic
Bora Bora
Porto Alegre
Sao Paulo
San Nicolas
Hong Kong


Rancho Santa Fe Review: ‘Dust Tea’ a memoir of more than 4 million miles around the globe


Thanks to the Rancho Santa Fe Review for running this story on Dust Tea and Q&A with yours truly!
Check out the story on their website:

By Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz11:51 a.m.March 30, 2015

Imagine logging over 4 million miles during a decade of turning an idea into a multibillion-dollar company. And along the way, imagine eating everything from camel hooves to silkworms and signing a form labeling you an infidel — all in order to do business in foreign lands.

Jet lag, boardrooms, and high-pressure deals are what international business usually brings to mind, but for San Diego author R.F. Hemphill, it all meant so much more.

And he has catalogued much of it in his sometimes poignant, often funny book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive.”

Travel the world with Hemphill — without ever leaving San Diego — at 11 a.m. April 11 at Barnes & Noble Encinitas, or at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Grossmont, and at 2 p.m. April 12 at Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa.

• You worked in the energy business for two decades before you began writing the pieces that eventually became your book. What prompted you to write them? What was the catalyst?

We started our fledgling business in the U.S. but soon decided to become “international,” and I drew the black dot to lead the charge. Subsequently, I went to many odd places, and it all seemed so interesting and strange to me that I wanted to capture the experience and share it with my family, especially my father.

• When you began writing the letters to your dad, did you think of them as a potential book, or were they just letters?

I thought they were worth saving, because I enjoyed writing them, but I knew little about books or publishing. It was more about just collecting the experiences.

• What did you particularly wish to convey in those letters?

Several things: first, how the business parts worked, since my dad and my whole family were not business people. In fact, my dad would have much preferred me to be an Air Force officer, as he was. So, I wanted to educate him about what I was doing. Second, the exotic nature of the places and the characters charmed me, and I wanted to pass that on as well. Few in my family traveled, so this was my attempt to let them do so vicariously.


• How would you categorize your book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive”? For whom is it written?

It’s a mix of memoir, travel book, business book, but it’s not a “how to make a million dollars” book. Most of all it’s interesting and humorous. I haven’t seen many funny business books — at least not intentionally funny — so there’s not a good model. Maybe David Sedaris if he had gone to the Harvard Business School.

• You have been enormously successful in the energy business. At what point did you realize that success would, in part, depend on your ability to immerse yourself in various cultures?

Oh, goodness, from the first day on the job! We were a small startup, undercapitalized, with no experience in the industry, and no one had ever heard of us. So we had to convince people in large organizations to deal with us. And that meant understanding their culture and their processes and values and goals so we could tailor what we were doing to their needs. Every business must do this to some extent. That requirement all doubles or triples when you add in the variable of doing all this in a country that is not your own, in a language that has to be translated for you.

• What was most disappointing about your travels?

Despite all the fun I was having and the interesting things I was experiencing, I missed the ability to simultaneously share it with my wife — to share it in real time and in person.

• The funniest?

The food was always a challenge in the places where we were. Even English food is pretty awful, and unfortunately we weren’t doing business in Italy. And far more than in the U.S., the business people in the other countries had a much stronger tradition of socializing with their business partners. In Japan it meant going to drinking clubs where “hostesses” came to serve you. Understanding that these hostesses were completely asexual and untouchable was a neat trick. The Japanese were perfectly comfortable with this. The Americans found it hard to get their minds around. Eating silkworms in China was funny, especially if you had had enough to drink.

• What was the most surprising commonality?

At the end of the day, you had to have a business case that made sense for everyone, you had to meet a need of a customer, or the whole thing was a long airplane ride and a lot of strange food for nothing.

• What do you enjoy most about travel? Least?

It was fun to go to places I had not only never been to, but had never heard of and couldn’t even spell — Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan and Bhubaneshwar in India. And then I had to master all the elementary stuff — where to stay, how to call a cab, what was the money worth, and so forth. It was modern exploring. The least fun was the long plane rides, inevitably in a middle seat in tourist class. But I got a lot of reading done.

• At this point, do you think of yourself more as a businessman or a writer?

I hope that I am more of a writer, but I have a large amount of “businessman’s thinking” that’s useful, and that applies to the business of writing and publishing.

• What, to you, is the most difficult part of being a writer? The easiest?

The writing itself is really the easiest. If writing doesn’t come naturally for you, then you might not want to be in the writing business. Personally, I’d like to be point guard for the Celtics, but they don’t really need a short, slow guy who can’t shoot to fill that position.

The hardest part is getting your message out, trying to get what you have written into wider distribution and acknowledged by others. Just about everyone who has read this book, including people who are not my relatives, has liked it a lot. And I am still waiting for the New York Times book review editor to call.

• What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

The best advice I have ever seen came from Nora Roberts, although it is also attributed to others: “ass in the chair.” If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

• What do you hope readers take away from “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons”?

I hope that they laugh out loud at least once in every chapter, and then show their companion what they’re reading, and then have a fight about who gets to read the book first.

• What are you working on now?

A definitive biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, set to hip-hop music. No, just kidding, it’s set to ecclesiastical music.

Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both Strategies Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (

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Apple Watch: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It (Featured in HuffPost Tech)

Apple blew the design of the Apple Watch, but here’s how to fix it.

(The edited version of this article featured in HuffPost Tech this Monday is available here:

RH // 27 February

unnamedApple is said to have ordered six million watches to be manufactured for the next quarter, and is likely to make the official release on 9 March. So, what’s the deal? Here are the things you can do with an Apple watch, assuming that you have $350, or more, or much more if you want a solid gold one.

And assuming you can understand how to make the various functions work, which will really be challenging since the screen is so small and there are only two buttons on the side. Of course you can visit the Genius Bar at your local Apple store but the curse of grade inflation is found even here. The last two times I tried this, with a simple request for Apple cell phone and Outlook synching, either I caught them on a bad day or the availability of geniuses has declined dramatically. The Apple geniuses were modestly incompetent but nice persons wearing red Apple t-shirts.

The watch has seventeen very small circles on it, arranged in a repeating three/four pattern on its rectangular face. One of them appears to be an actual watch face but it is really tiny so maybe you have to carry a magnifying glass to tell the time. I have a magnifier app on my phone, so I could use that. Or I could just look at my phone which tells me the time in a readable font.

What any of the rest of these circles do isn’t clear; they have different colors and even smaller even images inside of them: concentric circles, a running stick figure, a music note, an envelope, a triangle, a gear and so forth. Maybe some of these are obvious, like the running figure, but if you aren’t already in the Apple fraternity, if you don’t know the secret handshake, then you won’t know that the colored circles within circles is the photo album.

The available descriptive material is scanty. It is said that you can:

–tell what time it is, altho you will have to precisely tap the little clock face to expand it.

–talk to the assistant Siri and have her do things. What things no one yet knows. I have this on my Apple 4s iPhone, and it’s pretty close to worthless. But perhaps squeezing her down into a watch will make her more compliant and helpful. I don’t know which circle she is, one with an Aladdin’s lamp would be nice but it’s not there.

–Monitor your fitness metrics. The watch will record and display for you information about whether you are sitting, standing or walking. Most people do not need to look at a watch to determine this. There is also a way to monitor your heart beat — why? To determine that you are currently alive? The capabilities do not include listing your weight, which is the metric most people need monitored. I don’t think you can stand on the watch without damage, and I don’t see a “scale” sort of symbol among the little circles. It is not likely to monitor your blood sugar, which all diabetics need, since no one has yet cracked the code on doing this without either physical contact with your blood, or use of a very strong light source. Doing this useful thing, we are told, would have required FDA approval of the Apple Watch as a medical device, so they didn’t bother.

–Use Apple Pay, which is to be a substitute for using credit cards. You will hold the watch up to a machine and something will happen between watch and payment terminal. If this works, it would be useful, I am really tired of carrying around a bunch of credit cards. You can also do this with your iPhone.

–The watch can distinguish between a “tap” and a “press” on the little screen icons. What this does we are not told. And it will tap you on the wrist when you have a message. Initially this will startle the bejesus out of you. It will be the first function disabled, since how will you sleep if your watch is forever poking you any time you have an email from Go Daddy?

The watch integrates with iPhone models 5 and above, but not with 4 and below, so my only two year old iPhone is crap out of luck.

That’s it. There is nothing on the apple web site which spells out what all the 17 icons are for. Nor in the 12 page spread in the current Vogue.

But that’s really not the problem. The problem is that you cannot make, with today’s best technology, a useful appliance the size of a watch, with a battery that fits inside the thing the size of a watch, which does lots of things worth doing. What are those things?

Telling time is a start. At least the watch does that, bragging that it keeps time down to plus or minus 50 milliseconds. I cannot count the number of instances when I have needed to know that it was now one-thirty seven and 30 seconds and 268 milliseconds.

It looks like you can make a phone call using your watch, but only so long as it is hooked up to your iPhone. But if you have your iPhone you can already make a phone call without pushing a watch button and speaking into your wrist.

Listening to music? Only via your IPhone.

Doing email? Screen’s way too small. Note that on the I-6 phones the screen has gone bigger, not smaller. Could there be a message here? One that’s big enough to read?

There is much chatter about the two buttons on the side of the phone. The big round one does one thing, and that is magnify the screen images, like the plus/minus buttons on Google maps. Which is necessary since everything is otherwise too small to read. The flat button does one thing, which is call up pictures of your friends, we assume from your contacts, but it’s not clear. Then you touch one and it calls that person—using your phone. And these two mechanical buttons are not innovations but instead steps backward. And they account for another surprising thing—the version called Sport Watch is not waterproof. Really. The new Pebble watch at least claims to be water resistant.

The constraints of screen size and battery size and thus life are truly significant. And the cool things, like the Apple pay system, can certainly be done just as easily on a cell phone. That’s already where we put our airline boarding passes and our coupons for 10% off from Home Depot. Thus much of the watch’s “functions” are things that the watch can facilitate, but only if you have the correct app and only if your synched phone is with you to do the heavy lifting. It’s a watch with a changeable face, several things that are phone extensions, and the ability to poke you. A cute and expensive toy.

The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke famously remarked, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And that’s what we have gotten from Apple in the past.

If the Apple Watch really were magic, there are several things it should do:

–translate all languages perfectly and instantaneously. We already have Google translate which is pretty good, and I would settle for French, Chinese, Spanish, and German. Further iterations could add other languages—Arabic if you plan to be captured by terrorists, although they’d probably take your watch so what good would that do you?

–let you fly like Superman. You’d put your hands up and give a little jump and away you would go. No more long commutes! When you were close to running out of battery power you’d get tapped on the wrist so you could land safely. And you should be careful not to fly over large bodies of water without being clear on range limitations. The FAA would no doubt wish to regulate this.

–Be invisible, at least for a brief period of time. We already have stealth jets that are invisible to radar, so how hard can this be? You would have to build in some record of your location while you were invisible, to be made available to the police under the right circumstances. Every cheating spouse and lots of teenagers with curiosity about the girls dressing rooms would buy this immediately.

–Have X-ray vision, altho depth of focus will be a problem. We never could solve the classic Superman problem of how do you ever see anything if you have x-ray vision. Doesn’t it have to stop somewhere so you can then see the things beyond the x-rayed portion?

–Lose 15 pounds in two weeks. Don’t tell me how many steps to take or calories to avoid, just do it. I’d buy the watch tomorrow, and so would everyone else in America.



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Investor’s Business Daily: Globetrotting Pros Do Business With Travel Savvy

unnamedInternationally relocating for a business assignment can be tough, but with the right attitude, can be the adventure of a lifetime! Check out these business relocation tips from yours truly in Investor’s Business Daily last week:

02/20/2015 01:21 PM ET

Hopping continents to do business requires finesse. Tips from pros who are at home in foreign lands:

  • Live and learn. “No reptiles or insects please.” That’s what R.F. Hemphill learned to say in Mandarin to avoid some Chinese delicacies.

He spent decades on the road for AES (NYSE:AES), a global electric power corporation, and as CEO of solar company Silver Ridge Power.

Nuances matter.

In Australia, he found “mate” an icebreaker, but only if pronounced correctly as “might.”

Hemphill’s book of letters, “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” details his global business adventures.

  • Stick around. A stopover won’t leave a lasting impression with locals. “Building relationships is essential to successful business in every country, and you just don’t do that by flying in and out,” Hemphill told IBD.

Staffing those outposts shows commitment. “Finding people willing to move to some of these places was not easy, but once we saw how important it was, we made sure that when people came back from Chengdu or Yaounde, they got good jobs and promotions,” he said.

  • Maintain standards. Accepting cultural differences doesn’t mean overlooking business blunders.

“Don’t be satisfied with answers that make no sense, with practices that are counter to what you know to be world class, or with schedules and staffing levels that are not as good as what you would find in a similar location or business unit in the U.S.,” Hemphill said.

Pressing for better helped him maintain high safety standards at power plants everywhere from Cameroon to Bulgaria.

  • Take leaps. Frenchman Bertrand Quesada became a New York City transplant two years ago to expand, the video advertising platform he co-founded.

“We felt to have a chance to succeed, one of us has to go there,” said CEO Quesada. “It’s too much of a big opportunity to not be there.”

The firm now has offices spread to South Korea, with 400 employees worldwide. His advice: “Find a regional director to drive the business locally. That’s really the key to attracting the right people.”

  • Feel the shift. International relocation was once reserved for big-money executives.

That’s changed, according to Brian Loud, senior vice president with Suddath, which helps firms with relocation and the workplace.

“The younger generation tends to be a lot more mobile,” he said.

  • Invest effort.A big move requires more than boxing up personal belongings.

“People underestimate the amount of involvement they need in the move process,” Loud said.

A first step: “Read the material your relocation counselor sends you to prepare,” he said.

Lacking that service, look online for information about expatriates living in your destination country.

  • Mind details. “As soon as you find out you’re moving, invest the time,” Loud said.

It can take three to four weeks to tie up loose ends.

Loud has seen hasty movers take shortcuts in such areas as valuing and insuring their property.

“You end up shortchanging yourself,” he said.

  • Pace yourself. Don’t overschedule the days before departure. Friends and loved ones, understandably, want to get together.

“It creates a bit of a frenzy,” Loud said. “Try to spread those out over a period of time.”

  • Embrace it. Once you arrive, be open-minded.

“Get out and about and experience your new home,” Loud said. “Allow nine months to a year in some cases to feel like you’re adapting.”
Read More At Investor’s Business Daily:
Follow IBD: @IBDinvestors on Twitter, InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

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The Huffington Post: 6 Mistakes to Avoid During an International Business Trip

unnamedCheck out my article posted yesterday in The Huffington Post – 6 Mistakes to Avoid During an International Business Trip!
You can also find my previous article posted last September, titled Seven Hidden Gems for International Travelers.


As an author and former CEO of a 2.5 billion international solar energy company with plants in over 30 countries, I have lived overseas for long periods of time and put more than 4 million miles on United while traveling for business and pleasure.

During that time I experienced plenty of travel blunders, both self-imposed and those courtesy of Mother Nature, and learned plenty of tricks and tips. Here are six of them:

  1. Don’t travel light. Yes, I know, this is completely counter to what all the travel books tell you, but those books are written mostly for tourists seeing the sights, or kids backpacking through Transylvania. If you’re on a business trip, it’s not for pleasure. So bring along whatever you know you’ll need, and a fair helping of what you might need. Your job is to get the sale or the deal, or establish the relationship or find a partner or any one of the many things that people travel abroad for. None of these things require having a light suitcase. You don’t want to stop and have to find a drugstore for tissue packs or tampax, or a department store for fresh socks. And don’t worry, you’ll always be able to find people to help you if you’ve got too much to carry. In our business we used to say, “If you can carry your luggage, you haven’t packed enough.”
  2. Don’t come home with a bag of dirty laundry. Boy, is it ever expensive to send out your shirts and shorts to get laundered during the day. This is true even at hotels in countries that are otherwise not at all expensive. Do it anyway. Business is unpredictable, and what if you, Mr. Economy, are wearing your last shirt, and have a critical final meeting the next day, to which you plan on wearing said shirt, but with your other tie. And that evening red wine gets spilled all over you. Nope, can’t wash it in the sink and have it dry overnight. Hard to be credible wearing the Knicks sweatshirt that you sleep in to the meeting. Losing the deal because you haven’t spent ten bucks to have a backup clean shirt and underwear is the definition of “false economy.”
  3. Don’t load up on the local currency. Credit cards have been invented for some time now, and anywhere that you want to do business, they will be accepted. In fact, if you go to a place where the hotels and the restaurants don’t accept credit cards, it’s probably not a good place to do business. This is an easy test.
  4. Don’t forget to tip reasonably. But wait, I don’t have any currency. Ah, part of not traveling light means carrying a lot of ones and fives, good old American greenbacks. Have you ever stood in a dark hotel hallway after getting into town on a late flight, fumbling for the right number of zlotskys to tip the bellman? Darn, what was the exchange rate — 10,000 zlotskys per dollar or 100,000? And what’s the denomination of this damn bill they gave me, am I about to give this guy ten cents or a hundred dollars? Solution — you know what to give him in dollars, so give him what you’d give anyone for performing the same service. I have done this all over the world, and you know what — NO ONE has ever demanded zlotskys instead of dollars. No one.
  5. Don’t fly in comfortable clothes. What? Today the entire first class section of the plane seems to be filled with executives wearing jeans and running shoes and the suit coat to their suits. It’s an odd outfit. It’s meant to let one travel light by not having to pack the suit coat or the running shoes. But it’s stupid. You’ve checked your luggage — see point one above — and there is a measurable chance it will be lost or delayed at some point. So, then you go to your first meeting in jeans and running shoes? No, you wear grey slacks, loafers, a button down shirt, a blue blazer, and carry a tie in your hand luggage — along with a day’s worth of any necessary medicines. And the equivalent if you’re a woman. You can show up in that outfit at any business function short of a funeral for the Queen, and she seems unlikely to die any time soon. Yes, it would have been nice to shower and shave, but you’re still respectable.
  6. Don’t eat or drink things that could make you sick. You don’t have to. You’re not auditioning for replacing Anthony Bourdain, you’re trying to establish business relationships or carry out business. You probably can’t demand a hamburger but you can very politely push what they serve you around your plate and say something about how lovely the sheep’s eyeballs look set so naturally in the nest of fried worms. And you can probably find something to eat, like rice or potatoes. If you get sick, your business effectiveness vanishes and besides then you’re sick in a country where you’d probably prefer not to go to the hospital. And this includes at times not drinking the water, or the ice, unless you take the former from a plastic sealed bottle. And for gods’ sake don’t overdue the alcohol, no matter how drunk your hosts get, or how much they encourage you to drink. You wouldn’t do this at home, and it’s an even worse idea overseas.

In general, you need to tread that fine line between cultural respect and sensitivity vs. naïve, eager to please stupidity. Your hosts want to pursue business with a professional, not recruit a best friend. Make it easy for them.

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Santa Barbara County News: Solar plant developer discusses the future of American energy

unnamedNeat article in the Local Santa Barbara County News on my talk this Monday regarding American energy and my book, Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons. Thanks for the great turnout!

Solar plant developer discusses the future of American energy
By Paul Gonzalez News-Press Correspondent

Author Robert Hemphill, co-founder of energy company AES Corporation, speaks about his new book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” during a lunch and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.
February 3, 2015 6:02 AM

Former CEO and solar plant developer Robert Hemphill discussed the future of American energy at a luncheon and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.

Mr. Hemphill was a co-founder of AES Corporation, a Fortune 150 energy company that creates power plants and solar farms all over the world. He initially served as the Executive Vice President of AES and eventually took the lead of the company’s solar power program, AES Solar Power.

He opened his lecture by discussing the economic benefits of dropping oil prices. According to Mr. Hemphill, low gas prices act the “same as a tax cut” for low income and middle class families. The prices also benefit several areas of the American economy including manufacturing and shipping services such as Amazon.

He argues that while low gas prices may cause oil companies to lay off some of their employees, the economic benefits far outweigh the costs and says that the oil industry makes up “less than three percent of employment” in the United States.

“I’m deeply sorry for Exxon” quipped Mr. Hemphill, who maintains that the oil industry will be able to sustain itself through a period of reduced profits.

Domestic oil production was lauded by Mr. Hemphill for exceeding the level of production during the 1970s. The United States has “managed to turn its oil (production) game completely around” in the last ten years notes Mr. Hemphill, who asserts that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would not dramatically benefit oil production.

Despite his positive outlook on domestic oil, Mr. Hemphill was far more critical of nuclear power efforts both domestically and abroad.

According to Mr. Hemphill, coal-powered plants produce steam that is roughly “four times as good” as nuclear-produced steam in terms of temperature and pressure.

Additionally, he says that nuclear energy is significantly more expensive to produce than methods using coal or renewable energy sources, due to the amount of resources and engineering required to construct and maintain a nuclear plant. Mr. Hemphill went so far as to claim that the United States will “never (build) a new nuclear power plant … in the next 100 years.”

Mr. Hemphill expressed excitement about the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar technology. He says renewables are finally maturing to the point where they can be relied upon to sustain power grids, with the assistance of traditional energy sources during peak electricity usage hours.

At the conclusion of the lecture, Mr. Hemphill took an opportunity promote his newly released book “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” a collection of letters to his father written during his travels abroad while building AES into a multibillion dollar company.

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Encinitas Advocate: Leucadia man’s globe-trekking letters become down-to-earth book

unnamedThanks to the Advocate for running this article on my book, Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons.

Leucadia man’s globe-trekking letters become book
By Samantha Tatro 12:14 P.M. JAN. 22, 2015
Bob Hemphill’s book, ‘Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,’ began as letters home to his dad about his adventures abroad.

For one Leucadia author, the path to writing a book began years ago with a conscious decision.
When former businessman Bob Hemphill moved abroad, he began to write letters to his father. The letters were a means for his father to understand his life abroad.
“He would have strongly preferred if I would have been a junior pilot just as he started out,” Hemphill said. “But I didn’t do that, and the things that I did do were so novel that I thought he would be amused and entertained by the things I was doing.”
Hemphill was one of three who founded AES, a global electric power-generating and distribution company, and spent most of his career working to grow it from a small startup to a $17 billion company.
Throughout his time abroad, he continued to write letters to his father, telling him about his life. Eventually, they became the book “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce From a Globe-Trekking Executive,” published under the name R.F. Hemphill.
“I was having such an interesting time, and I just thought, you know, other people will be interested in this as well,” Hemphill said. “It’s not a didactic book, it’s not a ‘how to make a million dollars in business,’ it’s much more a humorous book about business, of which I would argue there are very few.
“Business isn’t always all that serious, so this is another take on it.”
He started writing the first letters in 1990 and continued for the next 11 years, gathering the letters as he wrote them.
“It didn’t occur to me at first that these could turn into a book, but subsequently I began to think it was a possibility, and I began to save them all,” Hemphill said.
He started compiling the letters last year once he left the company and moved to Encinitas.
“I thought, you know, perhaps it’s time to do something else. Sometimes you just sort of know. You see changes in your friends, you see people come and go, and you decide nobody’s got an infinite amount of time allocated to them and you think about what you want to get done in the rest of the time that is still yours,” Hemphill said.
“I really decided that it was time to get serious about writing books, and I couldn’t do that if I was still working full time.”
The entire process took nine months once he decided he wanted to compile the letters. That process included spending time sorting the letters, editing them, giving them titles and arranging them for the book.
“You have to sit down, and every day you have to do it,” Hemphill said of his process. “There’s no magic; it doesn’t do itself. I would sit down at my desk, I would put them in order, I would edit them, clean them up, add titles, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you have to do. It’s just work, but it does take a while.”
Once the process was completed, however, Hemphill said holding the finished product in his hands felt satisfying — a wonderful end to his months of hard work.
“Finally, you have something you thought you’d like and you’ve worked on for a long time — to actually see it in concrete … to be a real thing and to look to all the world like a real book, was really a great feeling,” Hemphill said. “And then to have other people read it, people who are not related to me, and have them say it was pretty funny and they liked it a lot — that was wonderfully pleasant. All of us do our professional work, certainly to earn money, but to also earn the respect and appreciation of other people.”
Hemphill’s father passed away four years ago, and though he never got the opportunity to read the finished book, Hemphill said his dad read the letters and liked them.
“He was not a barrel of effusion and emotion, however, but I think he thought it was nice,” Hemphill said. “I was doing something productive, and he was pleased with that.”
Now that he has conquered his first book, Hemphill plans to compile a second book of letters to his father, or possibly write a mystery series.
You can buy “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce From a Globe-Trekking Executive”

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Christmas Meditations, Part One–Christmas Music

unnamedSleigh bells ring, are you listening?  Yes, I am listening, I am listening carefully, but I don’t hear any sleigh bells.  I hear fire engine sirens and police car sirens, although I don’t know which is which.  I hear big airplanes taking off out of LaGuardia after having made all their passengers wait in the boarding area for an extra hour and then wait on the plane on the tarmac for another hour just to put them in the Christmas spirit.  I hear people sloshing in the gutters because the streets are so crowded, and I hear advertisements for a Charlie Brown Christmas and the Grinch who stole Christmas but unfortunately gave it back.  I hear over and over a description of the clever trick of making your wife faint, crash, right on the floor without even trying to catch her, because you bought two sports cars with the family MasterCard.  I hear the vacuum every evening at the office, set on loud, I think they only vacuum when I am trying to work late.  And I hear a certain amount of drunken conversation at the Xmas office party. No that’s not right, I can’t hear anything at the office Christmas party because the music is too damn loud.  I don’t seem to hear any sleigh bells.

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Seven Hidden Gems for International Travelers

unnamedSeven Hidden Gems for International Travelers

The idea that there are “hidden gems” that no one knows about, but that you can visit easily as a general tourist, is a bit of a contradiction in terms.  But never mind that, here is my list of remarkable locations that are less well known, but rewarding to visit in the extreme. They are not entirely off the beaten track, but they’re not on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, either.

 1. Borobudur – This is a large and imposing Buddhist monument located on the central plains of Indonesia’s Java island, about 42 KM north west of the city of Yogyakarta, which means a local air flight from Jakarta, probably on Air Garuda. Both the monument and the trip are exciting–pray for a safe landing. And then you need a car and driver and guide to take you there as it’s really not close to anything much except rice fields.  Four levels of a square pyramid like structure, each level festooned with repeated and essentially identical statues of the Buddha, as well as bas reliefs telling the story of the Ramayana.  For the non-scholars, there is a very good orientation movie in the small visitors center which goes over this legend in simplified form.  Walking around all the levels, and ultimately reaching the top, is a memorable experience, and cannot help but make you wonder how they built such a massive edifice and how many artisans worked on the 400 plus statues of Buddha, and the other carvings.  It’s out of the way and hard to pronounce, but a fabulous site.  There are good tourist hotels in Yogyakarta, and the added bonus of a nearby Hindu temple site called Prambanan, the largest in Indonesia, that can be visited on the way to or from Borobudur.

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Quick Meals for the Weeknight Supper: How to turn lovely ingredients into a big freaking smoky burned mess in 15 minutes or less


Day one: Listen to PBS interview of famous cook about his new book called “how to cook everything quick” and wonder if he meant quickly.  Recipe for chicken parmesan sounds interesting but am driving car so cannot write down.  Also he calls it “Chicken Parm” which is either charming or useless cuteness, cannot tell.  Saving time on title of recipe?


Day two: Go on internet, find famous cook and his YouTube pitch for said recipe.  But it is a little vague.  However, am not interested in buying $25 cook book for one small recipe.  Besides it looks easy.  Take vague notes.

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“Cleanse” is the new “diet” but kale is no substitute for caffeine

kale-438964_640We have some friends who we really like, and we thought they liked us.  We were having dim sum with them on a recent Sunday when they told us about this new miracle ‘cleanse’ that they had both just completed.  They urged us to try it.  I didn’t think that we looked that dissolute but who knows.  The “cleanse is called the BuzzFeed Food’s Clean Eating Challenge.  It lasts a couple of years – no, really, only two weeks, it just seems longer.  It has a several page grocery list (collard greens?  Really?) detailed recipes for three meals a day and two snacks a day for fourteen days. There is a lot, really a lot, of cooking, for almost every meal.  You can’t work and do this, you have to be there over the stove cooking all these damn vegetables.  And we chose to enhance the experience by embarking on the cleanse on the hottest two weeks of the summer, thereby assuring that we would be hunched over the stove with the nearby oven on full time in one hundred degree weather.  Fun.

From a scientific standpoint, the program is gluten free, it is largely dairy free, it is certainly carbohydrate free with no pasta, no rice, no potatoes, no corn, no crackers, no sembei. Did I mention no potatoes or potato chips or Doritos or corn chips, in short none of the things that make life worth living.  No coffee. Not even decaf.  This has a tendency to bring out the homicidal in “cleanse” participants—there should be a warning label.  No alcohol, which reinforces the aforementioned.  You can drink green tea and water.  No juices, no Gatorade, no coke, no Pepsi, no gin and tonics, well you get the picture.  Wait, no beef, no pork, no corn dogs, no barbecue.  No butter, no oils except small amounts of olive oil titrated over the numerous salads.  No doughnuts.  Do I seem bitter?  It’s the old story, I should have read the documents.

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