Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I have no idea what this means, but it fills me with a mixture of horror and grim satisfaction that words can not describe. Apparently, Jeb Bush has announced that he has no future, which (of course) immediately brings to mind the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen." More irony after we spend a moment contemplating the lyric.

God save the queen her fascist regime
It made you a moron a potential h bomb !

God save the queen she aint no human being
There is no future in englands dreaming

Dont be told what you want dont be told what you need
Theres no future no future no future for you

God save the queen we mean it man (God save window leen)
We love our queen God saves (God save... human beings)

God save the queen cos tourists are money
And our figurehead is not what she seems
Oh God save history God save your mad parade
Oh lord God have mercy all crimes are paid

When theres no future how can there be sin
Were the flowers in the dustbin
Were the poison in your human machine
Were the future your future

God save the queen we mean it man
There is no future in englands dreaming

No future for you no future for me
No future no future for you

Ahhh. So, the story from Reuters says that Jeb Bush told a Spanish-speaking audience that he has no future in politics, basically because brother Dubya screwed the pooch. The Bush clan's power-grab over the last 30 years (going way back to when Bush père was head of the CIA) has culminated in one of the most corrupt and vapid Administrations in US history. And the victim: Jeb. (Jeb was the heir apparent, years ago, but somehow that simian creep from Texas took over the family business. Imagine Christmas with the Bushes this year! Whoof!)

Jeb Rotten lives!

Feh. To hell with these people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

meme: 10 weird things about me

For as long as I've been online, doing the web thing, the email thing, the chat thing, and now the blog thing, I haven't done much of the community thing. One of the community things I haven't done much of is follow a meme. But I've been tapped to follow a meme by my sweetest one, so herewith is my attempt to follow through and provide...

10 Weird Things About Me.

The rules are deceptively simple: "Each player of this game starts off with ten weird things or habits or little known facts about yourself. People who get tagged must write in a blog of their own ten weird things or habits or little known facts as well as state this rule clearly. At the end you must choose six people to be tagged and list their names. No tagbacks!"

Caveat #1: As I begin, I'm not sure there even are 10 weird things about me, despite my loveliest's assurance that there are.

Caveat #2: These are not in order of weirdness. Not all of them seem weird to me.

1. I have to eat. I absolutely must eat three meals a day, just about exactly according to the ol' food pyramid (though consuming far less animal protein), or else I feel like complete and total crap.

2. I have lived for 8 or more years in 4 states (Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and California).

3. I played ice hockey for a couple years (sadly only a couple) in Ohio when I was a kid. I played goalie. And I was a holy goddamn terror, though I played for the worst team imaginable (we won 1 game, the first game). I usually saw 30+ shots a game, and usually allowed 4 or 5 goals a game, which gave me the highest goals-against and the highest save percentage in that league. I slashed more ankles than God can count.

4. I own several vintage manual typewriters dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. I love 'em. I wrote a few hundred pages of notes on my dissertation on two of them (and my dissertation was under 200 pages).

5. I floss. You should too, but you don't.

6. From what I've gathered, I was the youngest person ever to complete the requirements for a Ph.D. degree at Duquesne University. I get this second hand. My grad school pal Paul Swift told me that when he filed to complete his Ph.D., the folks in the graduate school told him he was the youngest ever to complete the degree. He finished his the same spring I finished mine, but he was older than me. Q.E.D. Being the youngest, and having a buck and a quarter in your pocket, would get you a bus ride in Pittsburgh.

7. I dream in color, in stereo, lucidly, with taste and smell, and in pure abstract concepts. That last one is what really throws people, perhaps because I can't explain what it's like. Once, when I was reading a hell of a lot of (German philosopher G.W.F.) Hegel for a period of a few days, I dreamed what seemed to be my understanding of the way Hegel makes concepts fit, work, and fight together. It was amazing. I woke up, tried to get some of it down, went back to bed, and in the morning, my notes made (you're expecting this) absolutely no sense whatsoever.

8. I'm terrified of thunder and lightning. More than anything else except vicious homicidal gangsters and my ex-wife, I am stone-cold afraid of thunderstorms. The only thing to do is curl in the fetal position, preferably under the bed, while covered with blankets and cuddling our stuffed bunny or the cat. My fear of thunder and lightning is, as far as I can tell, my only true phobia.

9. My oldest friend, Bob, has been my friend for 32 years. We spent lots of our childhood together in Maumee, Ohio, making ridiculous tape recordings of TV and radio parodies under the auspices of radio station WDUM. Bob was the host of "This Stupid Program," which was (he would say, as the only content to the show) 32 and one-half seconds, even though in fact it only lasted about 12. I wrote ads for products from a conglomerate called Krazy Kooks Inkorporated, which sold flavored puke, manuals on such topics as how to read, and basically anything else that came to mind.

10. Unsightly stains!

The rule is, I have to tag 6 people. There's no rule that they have to participate, but I think if they don't, that means I lose. I'm not sure. Back in the day, memes didn't have rules, you were just in the grocery store and somebody said "where's the beef?!" Newfangled contraptions!

Bobo, the Wandering Pallbearer
This Girl I Used To Know
You Gotta Be Kidding You
Bob, whose blog really puts this in perspective
Lascivious Polyphony, aka KOM, because KOM seems to need the boost.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

two more new tunes!

Whew. I don't get much chance to record stuff. But here are two more new tunes:

Christina Sorting Records and Raechel's Song.

I'll be getting a round bajillion papers over the next couple days, so we took the opportunity to put down some tracks. A whole freakin' set to come. Cazart!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

dumb ads; brain mush

We got TV for hockey season. We watch all the games we can (which aren't many), and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Hockey games are mainly brought to us by Dodge and by the US Postal Service (or as we call it for reasons too complex to go into at the moment, Ground Chicken). Their ads share in common that they're incredibly stupid.

For the Postal Service, this is no doubt due to the fact that, as a large bureaucratic organization run by the federal government, its decision-making processes are broken. Things are bound to go wrong. In fact, you should consider yourself lucky if your mail arrives at all (although, considering the quality of mail we mainly get, maybe unlucky is the more appropriate feeling). The ads depict inanimate objects speaking in accented voices to one another. In one, the water cooler talks to boxed pairs of high-tops about how the Postal Service will handle sending them. The shoes say it's no problem, as a young female in a postal uniform enters with a clipboard, because "the lady drives a big truck." That there are only four boxes, and that she has to leave her clipboard behind, shows us just how practical and thought-out the whole process actually is. Why in blithering hell does she need a big truck to carry four boxes of high-tops? (I bought a pair of high-tops recently, and there's also no way my high-tops would have fit into one of those boxes. Are they being sent one shoe to a box?)

In the case of Dodge, the stupidity of their ads is definintely central to their sales strategy. The only car advertised during hockey on Versus is the Dodge Nitro. The whole range of dumb Nitro ads is displayed. I hate the one where the guy in the parking lot needing a jumpstart has his car blown sky high by the Nitro giving him the jump. I hate it so much I can barely refrain from screaming at the TV when it comes on. Then there's the one where the Nitro is dropped accidentally from a crane that was lofting it for no reason, and falls through the earth's crust, through a cartoon hell with a cartoon devil and a cartoon monster, arriving unscathed in (of course) China, all to what sounds like a Tom Jones loungesong. I do scream at the TV when that's on, because I am sure that if I don't, the pressure will damage my brain. Here's how clever Dodge really is: these ads are a surefire way to capture the attention of people who would think these were funny situations. That's a particular demographic group: dumb guys. Indeed, the protagonists are all men, the situations are generally manly, and as previously stated, scintillatingly inane. Dodge is cornering the dumb guy market! And marketing execs at Ford and GM are sleepless these days.

These are not the main reasons my brain is mush. I was compelled to comment on them because I am watching the Sabres/Devils game on Versus, because my brain is mush. My brain is mush because I spent 4 hours in committee meetings today. They're important committees, and I'm committed (or committeed) to them, but they mush my brain.

But now, I have to pack a Dodge Nitro in a box, so Ground Chicken can come in a big truck and pick it up.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

new tunes!

I recorded a couple tracks today. At least one of these will have a lyric soon, but both of them could be recorded again. I just had a compelling desire to post these.

"It's Usually Tomorrow There" gets its title from something Lauren said to Raechel on the phone, about Australia. The tune had already been written, and I'd been playing it a while, but this seemed like the time to append an arbitrary name on it.

"Looking Down On J St. From The 18th Floor" is not an arbitrary name, because this bit came to mind while I was, in fact, looking down on J St. from the 18th floor.

These aren't the best recordings. I'm working on that, as best I can. I'm not a recording engineer, I'm the philosopher-chef! I roast wisdom! I'm saucier than thou!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

what could go wrong?

Recently, CSU Stanislaus received a large donation in exchange for naming the new science building after the donor. During Academic Senate, the question was raised, with no hidden agenda, where the family got their money. No one knew for sure off hand. The questioner then noted that at an institution she'd previously been affiliated with, there was some sort of issue related to the way the family had gotten its wealth, that made the donation a little less than savory.

I wanted desperately to say aloud (but instead muttered sotto voce) "Well, that could never happen here, could it?" Because, near the end of the tenure of our previous president, the university accepted a donation in exchange for naming the gym after a company called DreamLife, which was supposedly a mortgage firm. Well, yesterday the president of DreamLife pleaded guilty to 122 felony counts of fraud. Good times. We sure miss Marvalene around here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

the end is near

The Semester That Wouldn't Die is about to.

At some point, I may write about some of the Internal Turmoil™ and other Serious Stuff™ that made this semester such a treat for my inner masochist. But last night, the more important agenda, after class, was to slough off a massive amount of stress.

Let it be said throughout the land: It's especially difficult to teach Foucault on 2 hours' sleep, because he's dead.

I had to miss yet another meeting yesterday of the University Instituional Review Board, because the board decided to meet on Mondays this semester, when I couldn't come. Today's calendar includes a rollicking Academic Senate meeting, where I'll be called upon to say something intelligent, or at least audible, about the meeting of the ad hoc Committee on Constitutional Amendments. (The CoCA Committee - sing it to the tune of "Copacabana" - met Friday, when I couldn't come, but due to the miracle of Letting Students Run Their Own Group Discussion™ I went anyway.)

It looks like the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (proposed motto: "It beats flipping burgers") may make cultural studies a focus for development, which might mean the formation of a Cultural Studies Committee, which might mean another opportunity for me to be on a committee!

But seriously, no.

In other news, Lauren abides concussive, her main symptoms last night being giddiness, occasional pain and physical disorientation, with a side of unfocused perception. I had a couple concussions as a kid, but I don't remember them well enough to say whether she's on schedule or what. She's reportedly enjoying the experience (at least, the giddy part). Hey, you know what? She should get on a committee!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Michel Foucault: magnificent bastard

Different philosophers' writings strike me very differently. I want to say there's a certain feel to their work, and I want to say that that particular feel is the feeling of their thought. At the same time, I have grave reservations about saying that. If it's folly to declare what some philosopher is really saying, then it's even sillier to say how some philosopher thinks. My ascription of these feelings to the philosophers' works and thoughts might mainly be a description of my experience of reading and thinking about what they wrote. I could make the weaker claim that I'm only describing my experience, but nah, that doesn't sound right. There really appears, somewhere in the relation between the words, my brain, and the brain of the author, something like that philosopher's thinking. We really do get glimpses of that, and it's pretty thrilling when we do. (And some philosophers thrill us more than others for that reason. For me, it's G.W.F. Hegel, Aristotle, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Michel Foucault. As much as I love Jürgen "Mad Dog" Habermas and Edmund "Fast Eddie" Husserl, I don't get that thrill from reading them.)

I'm reading Foucault this afternoon, prepping for Monday night's Theory of Knowledge class. I selected a couple chapters in the first section of Archaeology of Knowledge to read, because I love that book, because most people don't pay as much attention to it, and because I haven't read it in a while. I may be alone in this assessment, but I've always thought it was Foucault's most Foucauldian book. At some points he literally out-Foucaults himself (oooh, but couldn't that be a multi-layered pun), for instance, when he criticizes his own earlier work for being somewhat naive. He gets there by doing the thing that makes me so excited about Foucault, a feeling I describe sometimes as walking a tightrope, and sometimes as perversion. And if that says more about me than about Foucault, I'm fairly sure he'd think that was highly amusing, and so would I.

The tightrope: Foucault uses the phrase "neither... nor" a bajillion times in this book, tracing out the narrow path he's following. His attempt to account for discourses of knowledge requires him to deny himself ground, foundation, or, really, justification. He lays bare how discourses follow immanent rules in forming objects, but the complex relations that lead to those objects' formation are not to be confused with the objects themselves. So he's not performing a kind of Marxist de-fetishizing of objects. He also denies himself the phenomenological option of returning to the things. He also denies himself the option of linguistic analysis. It's not clear he has a method, or could have a method, for doing this. In the book, he is attempting to say what that method is, but it's more of a denial of method than a theory.

Perversion: If you apply that non-method to his own work, it becomes evident that either it's impossible for Foucault to explain how he does it, or it's impossible for him to actually be doing it, or both. And he leaves you there. This is rather alarmingly like certain kinds of SM play, and it thrills me immensely. It does feel to me very playful, about as playful as a philosopher can get, and not only perfectly in keeping with the content of this book, but also with what I ascribe to Foucault as his way of approaching his work and his life. That self-consistency, and the way that self-consistency impels him to be self-inconsistent in this book, is nothing short of kinky. (It's well-documented that Foucault was a pervert. I'm not referring to his homosexuality, but to his very bizarre sexual practices, which, sadly, almost certainly led to his early death. And yes, I adore the fact that Foucault was a pervert, and adore him for having been a pervert. That means I like perverts, I suppose - at least, those who don't deliberately harm anyone.)

One of the oddest things about Foucault's work, and one that led me to pick Archaeology of Knowledge instead of the more likely suspect The History of Sexuality is that The History of Sexuality is less kinky. In fact, it's hardly kinky at all, in the way Archaeology of Knowledge is. I think by then he'd formulated a more theoretically grounded method, and although it's also a great book and fun to read, to me it's just a little less of a thrill.

Foucault would reject all this, of course. To analyze his discourse as though it were his would make very little sense to the author of Archaeology of Knowledge. To him, discourse isn't a phenomenon of expression but of discursive relations that issue subject positions in the context of various institutional sites. As an occupant of such positions, there may be a "Foucault," but that's not to be confused with the French pervert who died in 1984. So you see, Foucault - the Foucault that Foucault would want me to say I'm describing - really is a bastard. Woo-hoo! Cheezy Petes, I love this stuff!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Stockton Thunder 3, Long Beach Ice Dogs 1

Long Beach looked flat in the first period, and were outshot through the game nearly 3 to 1, something like 38 to 13. Stockton skated faster, played a very good puck-control, aggressive game, and never really let up. Their best player, Mike Lalonde, scored a goal and assisted on another, on his birthday.

We went to a couple Thunder games last year, and I was impressed with how disorganized their play was. This year is completely different, perhaps because most of the team was overhauled (in third-tier pro hockey, there's a pretty high level of turnover in personnel, as you might expect). A couple of their defensemen were notably good, one for being solid, big, in position, and good at making opposing players sit down suddenly (Tim O'Connell), the other for being very smart and moving the puck well but not being big enough to make all of his ideas become realities (Jeff Lang). But Lauren and I were most impressed tonight with Liam Reddox, all 5-10 180 pounds of him, because he has attributes we both adore in hockey players - speed, aggression, and (Lauren's particular proclivity) diminutiveness.

Fun stuff. We were three rows behind the team benches, at exactly center ice (my seat straddled where the red line would be). $16 seats - nearly the most expensive. Yep, I go all out, spare no expense. When we go again, we're going to try for seats one or two rows behind where we were, to get a slightly higher perspective on play.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

all a-twitter

I've been busy again.

But two of this morning's headlines have re-affirmed my hope for humanity, so I thought I'd share.

First of all, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack announced that he would be a footnote to the 2008 Presidential race, by declaring his candidacy. It's so cute. But, ahem,... Hillary Rodham Clinton! Barack Obama!

Meanwhile, it turns out that the only sane course of action is to colonize another planet. See, because if we can't find somewhere else to befoul, we'll have failed to live up to our evolutionary destiny. Thanks, Stevie.

It may not be immediately clear why these two nooz items in particular re-affirm my hope for humanity. It's because it's impossible to take humanity at all seriously in light of them. The best thing about the human race is silliness.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

video from the CFA protest at the CSU Board of Trustees

Apparently, someone involved in the protest action organized by CFA at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting captured some video of the event. What you'd be seeing if you'd click the links, are the protestors making a hell of a racket, and then the more direct civil disobedience action, where some of my colleagues put a pledge* in front of each member of the Board, sat down, and the Board eventually left, leaving my CFA colleagues behind, to hold a shadow meeting.

I think the reactions of the members of the board and the chancellor (he's the - pardon me for saying - largish bald guy who keeps pretending there's nothing going on) speak for themselves.

CFA intended to prevent the Board from conducting business as usual. The video clips show us the Board calling the roll, and then abandoning the room when the protestors' chants keep them from doing anything. In other words, the protest worked perfectly. Whether this will help us is anybody's guess; in mediation, the CSU has already reneged on tentative agreements made this summer. CFA didn't fail to expect this, but in collective bargaining settings, taking back what you'd already tentatively agreed to is deeply weird.

*The text of the pledge is as follows:

“Pledge for the Future of the CSU.”

Our nation’s largest four-year system of public higher education — the California State University
— faces extraordinary challenges that threaten to undermine broad access for students to a
quality public higher education.

Every year 400,000 California students look to the CSU as their hope for a college education. The
CSU provides opportunity to vast numbers of students who might otherwise not be able to pursue
higher education.

The CSU fuels not only California’s economy, but also our quality of life and our democratic
institutions. This understanding was enshrined in 1960 in California’s Master Plan for Higher
Education, a document that set out the creation of our state’s public higher education in a new
way not before attempted by other states.

That goal means, among many other things, keeping the CSU affordable even for those with the
least means, and guaranteeing a strong, stable teaching force with effective student services in
an environment conducive to learning.

We pledge to preserve this vision of public higher education by adopting policies and acting in
ways that best serve this primary mission of the CSU – the instruction of our students.

We refresh our commitment by joining in this pledge to rectify the system’s inequities; we seek a
new direction that will preserve the basic concept of public higher education in the 21st Century.

We begin by committing to:

1. End immediately excessive perquisites for executives present and past;
return the money to the CSU

2. Roll-back student fees to 2002/03 levels

3. Negotiate a fair contract with the CSU faculty and all CSU employees

To accomplish these ends,

We will advocate persistently and devotedly for the necessary resources to fully fund the CSU.

We will seek to reach a fair and equitable contract with the teachers, librarians, coaches,
advisors, counselors, and all of the staff who make the university work every day.

We will adopt policies that protect California’s taxpayers from abuse, fraud or waste of the
precious dollars devoted to the CSU.

We will work hard to restore the trust placed in us by the students, faculty, staff, alumni and
people of California to ensure a well-managed university system able to guarantee a vibrant,
successful future for the CSU.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

the difference between normal people and the CSU Board of Trustees

According to police estimates, 1200 people - mainly faculty, but also staff, students, alumni, and other supporters of public higher education - spent several hours outside the CSU Chancellor's office in Long Beach yesterday. Meanwhile, inside, the CSU Board of Trustees was meeting, and moreover, meanwhile, the CSU and California Faculty Association are in bargaining impasse. CFA's position is the CSU refuses to bargain a fair contract, and has defrauded the public by misappropriating funds, in part to pay exorbitant raises and benefits to exectuives (including salaries drawn after leaving employment). So 1200 people yelled, chanted, sang, waved signs, and in general raised hell directly outside the building, and a smaller group of faculty inside the meeting raised a banner and chanted to disrupt the meeting.

Now I'd have thought that ordinary, normal people would find it disconcerting to have 1200 angry people yelling at them while they tried to hold a business meeting. Ordinary normal people would be curious why they were being yelled at, and might consider whether they were doing something to enrage all those people outside.

If, when you went to work, you saw hundreds of people carrying signs, marching around, and in fact telling you that you were making them furious, I think you'd take note of this. Really I do.

"Hmmm," you might, for instance, say to yourself. "That's actually a large number of people who are angry at me. I wonder why." You might contemplate your life, at least to the extent of comparing what's happening to you this moment - to wit, a crowd of hundreds of mad people making lots of noise right outside where you're having a meeting - to other times in your life, when things were going somewhat better, at least on the being-yelled-at-score. Perhaps you'd consider whether your policies were affecting them in this way, or something you'd said. You'd be motivated, if you were an ordinary, normal person, to create a situation in which 1200 people were not shouting at you for hours straight.

There is little indication that most of the members of the Board of Trustees has this kind of curiosity or takes this sort of interest in their surroundings.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

can't talk

Ah, to be alive and awake at quarter til 5 on a Wednesday morning in Turlock ("Land of a Thousand Smells")!

But we gotta go. More later, I am fairly sure.

By the way, happy birthday to Bobo this week. I never get birthdays quite right. I'm working on an I Don't Care package for him. More on that later too, I am fairly sure, though somewhat less sure, not because I have anything against Bobo (he's my pal, after all), but just because I'm not sure how much more I'll have to say about it, especially since it's supposed to be a surprise (like spring snakes out of a peanut can, or like flowers).

Key-rist it's early!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


My student, Joshua, asked a couple months ago about home-brewing beer. We brewed a batch of porter (my choice; sometimes you gotta make the big decisions) two weeks ago, and today he came over and we bottled it. Bucking years of tradition, I named the beer before tasting it, based on its fermentation location in the Harry Potter Memorial Cupboard Under the Stairs: Harry Porter. As we were rinsing the last of the bottles, I noticed a bit of Lancelot fluff on one of the bottle necks, so the name is now doubly à propos: Hairy Porter.

And indeed, it looks to be a fairly puts-hair-on-your-chest kind of beer. I love me a porter, I do. In its raw, unfinished, uncarbonated state, it had a good balance of malt and hop; the aroma hops we used (again, my selection), Fuggles, were a tad on the flowery side, but this will moderate. I think it's going to be exemplary.

We also played guitars a bit, and Lauren and I performed a couple songs of ours. After Joshua left, Lauren and I dashed hither and yon through the rainy afternoon, doing the odd bit of shopping (jeans for her, cloth to cover a wall and to make a tablecloth and placemats, fruitless bass shopping and a quick peek at the acoustics at Guitar Center for me, etc.), but mostly looking at the gorgeous clouds and pointing them out to one another. Then the Penguins lost to Carolina, rather miserably it seemed, taking penalty after penalty in the third period. But I'm roasting a chicken we may well call Fröderich, and I'm going to mash potatoes and cook green beans, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do to stop me, because this is America, where we roast chickens with impugnity. Okay, that's getting a little off topic, if not off kilter.

Last night, I gave up and tuned my Takamine 12 to open G major (DGDGBD), and started to write a (so far simple, but not likely to remain so) tune that I now officially have dubbed "Homebrew." If everyone's very very good, I'll post a recording of it soon.

And tomorrow is still only Sunday. Four day weekends are a wonderful idea.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

how to vote

Not everyone understands the steps involved in voting, so I thought I'd put together a handy-dandy guide on how to vote.

1. Be, or become, a US citizen.*
2. Avoid conviction for a felony.**
3. Register to vote.***
4. Go to the polls.****
5. Using whatever machine or other voting device is in place, vote for the ballot initiatives and candidates of your choice.*****

* Also, be sure to look like an American. And remember, although it's not a crime to vote if you're a naturalized citizen who immigrated from another country, you are subject to intimidation by people who would rather people immigrated from a different country than you did, or would rather no one immigrated at all.
** Also, be sure your name isn't like the name of someone who has been convicted of a felony. In many states, voters are purged from the rolls based on roughly accurate lists of convicted felons, and occasionally, mistakes are made. I recommend carefully reviewing all felony convictions in your state several weeks prior to Election Day, so that you have time to legally change your name and re-register to vote to assure eligibility.
*** See above. It may be necessary to register repeatedly. For instance, in some counties I could name in California (where there's a "Motor-Voter" act that gives people the option of changing their voting registration when they change their addresses with the DMV), voter registration can only be guaranteed by registering more than once. But this could also make your vote ineligible, depending on (a) whether you vote, (b) how you vote, and (c) whether elections officials want you to vote.
Also, remember that in many states, it becomes more difficult to register to vote depending on how you intend to register and how much like an American you look. In some cases, choosing a different party or plastic surgery may be necessary.
**** Generally, these will be conveniently close to your home residence. Some people have received notice that their polling places have been moved, when in fact they have not. Some people have been told their polling places are closed, or that they will open late, or that they have run out of ballots or machines. In some polling places, there are very long lines as a result. During the 2004 elections, voters in several precincts in Ohio and elsewhere were unable to vote because of such factors. But you have to expect some inconvenience in a democracy.
***** Some touch-screen voting machines are known to create inaccurate records of votes. This is only a problem when you want to cast your vote for a particular candidate, and the machine changes it to a vote for another particular candidate. In many places, the machines also produce a paper record of your vote that you can check against your intended vote, which lets you know right away whether your vote was counted as you intended it. Other voting machines can apparently be broken open or hacked into in a couple minutes and altered to change all sorts of votes. No technology is foolproof. And there is no evidence to support the rumor that some Diebold machines are armed with touch-screen tasers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

relief - for me at least

I finished the mid-term papers, finally, and returned the last class worth of them today. Wow, do I feel better.

Increasingly over the last couple years I've been disenchanted with the whole business of grading papers. I don't think it's due solely to the numbers and time (100 papers takes a loooong time to grade). It's also not boredom, although despite writing new assignments for each class each semester, the papers tend not to be terribly novel (this is largely because I mainly teach general education classes to people who don't at all necessarily want to take them).

Nah. It's because it's painful. And I am starting to think it's painful because, at the level of these classes, there's something deeply artificial about the whole process. I doubt that many of my students take up the spirit of the assignments when I pitch them as entering serious and live debates. Students also don't have the interest or experience to be self-starters in the field. This isn't thought through, but I wonder if it's something to do with the feeling of insularity I get from the papers, as though philosophical discussion belongs only in philosophy class, and is otherwise not very important, not part of the world. I resist this all the damn time, by showing the worldliness and everydayness of the concerns we discuss, but it is hard to translate that into paper assignments.

I had a couple nifty responses from Contemporary Moral Issues. An option for the essay was to take an online ecological footprint quiz, then discuss their results and the moral issues raised by their results in the context of our class discussions and course materials on environmental ethics. But in that case, it might have been a self-selecting thing: those with a particular interest in thinking about their environmental impact opted to do so, and because they were already interested, they wrote more self-directed papers. Some students probably chose the essay they could do with least trouble, and I don't see a way around that at the moment. I just know I want to get around that.

Anyway, at least I'm not Richard Pombo. Pombo is the US House rep from the district including Tracy and bits of San Joaquin and Alameda counties. He's a right-wing Republican, detested by environmentalists, and his seat was regarded as perfectly safe a few months ago. But he's having to spend a bunch of money this year, and he's even needing the help of Laura Bush, who came in to pinch-hit in one of the very few Congressional districts in the country where the Bush Administration is still popularly supported.

Oh! And we're having tilapia and black bean & jicama salad for dinner. Cazart!


Thursday, November 02, 2006

coupla items after long absence

If you imagine there's a direct inverse correlation between frequency of my posts and how busy my life is (as measured, say, by the number of student papers to grade, grievance meetings, union meetings, etc. I've had lately), then DING! DING! DING! DING! You win the prize!

And the prize is a pair of news items from the San Francisco Chronic-ill ("America's Sickest Paper").

The British government says failing to pony up around 1% of GDP to fight carbon emissions is likely to cost us a major economic depression.

Meanwhile, the international Slow Food movement has been having a confab in Italy. It strikes me as slightly ironic that people are flying from all over the place to go to a rather globally-pitched event as part of an anti-globalization movement. But the article also informs us that plans are in the works for a Slow Food dingus in San Francisco.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

confessions of a committee whore

It was a good weekend, if a busy and exhausting one, in Sacramento, where we went to attend the CFA Assembly (Lauren always comes with me, because, as she describes herself in introductions, she's the "union groupie"). Before we left, I agreed to be nominated for an ad-hoc committee on the faculty constitution at Stanislaus. I've been on Academic Senate for 5 years now, and I want to be part of this committee in order to continue to push for broader governance rights for lecturers.

We took off early on Friday so I could get to the CFA Elections Committee meeting at 3-5 pm (I only met my class about half an hour and then had them break into groups to work on coming up with social justice arrangements à la John Rawls). The next morning I had to be up for the 7:30 am Faculty Governance and Lecturer Recognition Subcommittee, that I co-chair and that I instigated about 18 months ago. At that meeting we came up with the proposal to start another subcommittee, on lecturer employment status, permanency, conversion to tenure-track, etc. At the Lecturers' Council meeting I moved to start that committee, and that was approved.

The Assembly did a lot of business, most of which I'm not yet at liberty to discuss. This morning I had to get to the Assembly promptly at 8:30, because of the elections. We nearly beat to death with amendments a resolution, but I jumped onto the speakers' list for discussion and moved to close debate and call the question. I never received an ovation for a parliamentary maneuver before. On the way back to my seat from the microphone, I pumped my clenched hands over my head victoriously to the cheers; one delegate leaned back and told me I was her hero. The Vice President and the Treasurer of the union both shook my hand in thanks.

The Assembly completed work just before noon, and we got home about 1:30 or so. Since then, I've already written and sent out a draft of the charge for the new subcommittee and nominated myself to be the initiating chair. Lauren chuckled at this. I complain, a lot, often, about having too much going on - some days I can't even tell what day it is. I promised not to chair any other committees at the same time, and she chuckled at that, too. But she does it in a loving and supportive, if also slightly ironic, manner.

Monday, October 16, 2006


I had a decent time in Philly. The conference went well, I survived both the red-eye and general lack of sleep, and aside from some minor hallucinations due to exhaustion, I've come out of the whole trip in one piece. I also managed to get in a walk around the Independence Hall and Society Hill areas.

I don't normally take good pictures, I don't really know why. But this turned out well. The building in the foreground is the Independence Living History Center, a National Parks joint. The brick tower thingy (my pal Dennis described it as "quasi-Bauhaus") and the reflecting glass wall are utterly out of step with the surrounding Colonial and early American architecture, for instance the revivalist First Bank of the US that it reflects in the picture. Weird. And in the background is the Art Deco 1935 US Customs House.

More of that part of Philly seems to be 19th century rowhouses...

... like this one.
Where these have been torn down, to a satisfyingly great extent they've been replaced by buildings that fit the scale, and many,...

... like these, that mimic the spatial configuration. This is part of a long block of rowhouses, built as one big building without variation in roofs or fronts, except for the colors of the front doors. But it felt right, across the street from the old rowhouses.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Yes, the City of Thirteen.

I leave tonight for Philly, to attend the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences. I'm taking a red-eye, which I booked because it was about $100 cheaper, and because it will shave a night's stay off the $150 hotel room.

I'm presenting a paper on phenomenology, pedagogy, and technology. I think the idea of the panel was to present papers offering phenomenological descriptions of teaching with technological devices, but I'm not doing that, at least, not in the expected way. I'm presenting a paper interrogating phenomenological approaches to pedagogy (that is, I'm working up a critique of phenomenology itself) and interrogating myself as a working piece of teaching technology. That, and I'm looking at the paradoxical relation of teacher to students when someone attempts to break down the usual institutionally-sanctioned way that relation is supposed to run.

Well, we shall see how it goes. I get to present the paper on however much sleep I can manage on a plane between Sacramento and Atlanta (since, in addition to a red-eye, I'm also changing planes in Atlanta to get to Philly. Say what you will about air travel in the US; it sucks).

And I've been sick for a few days now, in the usual manner for me: I feel rotten, but other than that, I have no identifiable symptoms. And Lauren won't be with me.

And I don't even like Philly. And I hate the Flyers. Maybe I'll bring my vintage Penguins Jaromir Jagr jersey to wear, just to cheese them off.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


We've got television.

The Charter cable guy came to set us up yesterday afternoon while I was in class. He didn't do a particularly good job negotiating the web of cords that connect the DVD and VCR to the TV and the stereo, so I had to reinstall a bunch of it.

We got it for hockey season, you see. We want to watch Pittsburgh Penguins games.

The options for ice hockey fans in the middle of California are few. You could drive to Fresno or Stockton to watch ECHL games there (we'll go to a few Stockton Thunder games this year, of course), or out to San Jose to watch the Sharks (we've got tickets to the Sharks-Penguins game in November), but for being an everyday fan, you need some television coverage.

Luckily, there is a full-season pay-TV NHL package you can get for $150 or so a season. That's what I wanted: to see the entire Penguins season. Which meant: cable or satellite.

Our townhouse complex requires a $200 deposit and $100,000 worth of insurance coverage for a satellite dish. They also prohibit the installation of the dish on the roof, walls, or any other permanent exterior structure of the unit, and permit installation only indoors (again not attached to the permanent structure) or in the backyard or patio. We'd have to have the dish sitting on the patio, with cable running under the back door, along the wall or ceiling, into the living room.

That meant cable was the only option. So I called Charter. Charter doesn't carry the hockey package in this region. (This makes no sense. It can't cost them anything in terms of bandwidth or fees that they couldn't easily recoup from subscriptions.) But, I thought, at least they'll have the regional Fox Sports network (Bay Area), and on that we can at least watch Sharks games. They'll probably be good this year.

Apparently, Charter doesn't carry Fox Sports Bay Area. They do, however, for reasons surpassing imagination, carry Fox Sports Atlanta, Fox Sports West (which includes Texas and Arizona) and Fox Sports Pacific (which seems to be 24 hour USC Trojans football highlights).

Ah well, they have OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, known for its fishing programs, and, yes, NHL hockey as of last season, since ESPN decided that celebrity poker tournaments were more sporting than hockey. (This is of course because hockey is a minor sport in the US - where the vast majority of pro hockey teams in North America are located. And it's a minor sport in the US because it's too good for Americans.)

So maybe we'll get to see a game a week.

And we've got TV.

Already, the fact of TV is bugging me. It's mere presence, even when it isn't on (and the cable box must remain on, or else it takes it 10 minutes to recognize and right itself when switched on) disturbs my sense of place. It's like an overloud guest who never takes the hint that it's getting late, you have to get up in the morning, and that his jokes aren't all that funny anyway, especially not the one he keeps repeating and laughing at himself.

Inappropriate, I guess, for me to be comparing TV to a person. But the place feels like it's been occupied. And think of it in those terms, just a minute. If TV were a person, would you ever invite it in?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

the walrus was not Osama

My first take on the "Osama's Dead" story was, sadly enough, to suspect a conspiracy.

I don't mean it's sad that I was drawn into conspiracy theory. I'm not prone to that, so I wouldn't be too worried by an isolated case. No, what would be sad is if the conspiracy I imagined was behind the stories.

To wit: a really lame attempt to get bin Laden to emerge from hiding, so whoever is allegedly trying to find him - say the CIA -could spring out from behind a rock and nab him. "Hah! Gotcha! You goof, you fell for the oldest one in the book!" To which bin Laden would have to reply, "No way! Do over!" To which the CIA people would say, of course, "Nope! You had your do-over already!" Then, after several time-outs, during which both Osama and the CIA ops would alternately declare and reject various locations to be "safe," and bicker over what the current rules are, and whether to return to the original rules, somebody's mom would yell "this is the last time I'm calling you!" and that would be that.

But now I've got another take. If bin Laden plays this right, he'd resist the impulse to reveal himself in any way, at least, not right away. The sheer publicity that accompanies celebrity death rumors would just have to play well for him. His latest recordings haven't made the big splash that his earlier stuff did, after all. Meanwhile, even Bob Dylan has had a #1 album. After a few weeks, he could have his people release old recordings, preferably in multi-disc box set retrospectives, with one or two "previously unreleased rarities" and outtakes to interest collectors. The album cover could feature enigmatic photographs that seem symbolic and heat up speculation in all the tabloids. This could be the biggest boost to his career in years.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

not everyone's coup of tea, apparently

According to a news story in the San Francisco Chronic, coups are going out of style. From the 60s through the 90s, the coup was the fashionable way to remove governments.

The article actually quotes an expert on coups, who said that coups are in decline because political regimes have done more to give the appearance of democracy or of responding to the will of the people. Maybe.

Or maybe it's because people don't wear enough berets. You know? You hardly ever see people in berets - real berets, mind, not the flattened skullcap things the Army are wearing now, but poofy, Che-worthy, Patty-Hearst-lookin'-sharp-n-sexy-with-a-gun, honest-to-Pierre berets. In general, it seems obvious, hats play a critical role in the development of ideological consciousness and revolutionary fervor. I think berets must work especially well, and more significantly, they give a person a jaunty, or rather junta-y (which is an anagram of jaunty, after all) look.

Somewhat relatedly, it turns out you can't really walk into yer average neighborhood Target store and buy a pair of form-fitting Levi's these days.

The Revolution Will Not Wear Ball Caps and Wranglers.

impasse on the way

CSU and CFA bargaining talks broke down for good last week. CSU went to the Public Employee Relations Board to request a declaration of impasse, then sent out email saying that CFA walked away from a generous 24% increase in salaries over 4 years, then a press release saying the same thing. Now CFA has issued a press release saying CSU is attempting to distract attention from the facts that they gave CSU executives a 13% raise in one year last year, and that the raises that faculty could really count on were more like 12% over 4 years (or less than the rate of inflation).

Of course, I believe the CFA side. But I'm a CFA activist, so that's to be expected.

I mention it because I believe it's going to get extremely nasty this time. Four years ago it was bad. CFA people followed Chancellor Charles Reed ("Chancellor Chuckles" to me) around with a Charlie puppet and picket signs. There were work actions, slow-downs, non-compliance kinds of things. I think it's going to be worse by an order of magnitude. This time I can see the CFA voting for a walkout, and faculty picketing campuses.

It looks like things are getting ugly on our own individual campus as well, but more on that later.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I mean to write a real post here sometime, maybe today, though I've got a mound of Aristotle to read in preparation for class Monday night, and some rabble-rousing to get to. It doesn't take much to put blogging on the back burner, largely because it's an almost entirely profitless exercise.

But, a question: Did the Pope make a mistake? How does that square with the whole "infallibility" bit? I recognize Ratzinger claimed he was just an interim Pope when he was elected, but does that give him a constantly ready excuse for such un-Popey acts as (nearly) apologizing for making (nearly bigoted) remarks about other religions? What next? A Papal Five-Seconds Rule that applies to dropped eucharistic wafers?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

obligatory post, covering a few topics

It's been a hell of a first week. Classes started last Wednesday, and last weekend we were in Sac for the Lecturers' Council meeting. Today I spent an extra hour on campus visiting lecturers, asking them to join the union if they hadn't yet, and informing them of what's going on in bargaining and on campus.

Yesterday, we spent the day getting Lauren's teeth drilled, then running back out for Vicodin because they were hurting inappropriately, before settling in for a little work, guitar playing, and so on.

The big news of the day is that I bought us tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins play the San Jose Sharks in November! Yippee!

I'm having my students in Contemporary Moral Issues write consuming diaries this week. Friday we'll see what we've consumed. Right now, I'm consuming one of the very last Bass ales I will ever drink.

The reasons for this are idiosyncratic, and purely subjective, and maybe entirely misguided. I have always liked Bass. It's a good hoppy medium-bodied pale ale, and on tap, is sublime. A few years ago, Heineken bought Bass, so the owners of the oldest trademark in Great Britain had sold their souls. I was concerned, to be sure, but I didn't stop drinking Bass. I drank a lot less of it, but I would still buy it from time to time.

I bought a couple six-packs last week sometime, and we've slowly gone through them. But this evening, having this Bass, I looked carefully at the carton the six came in. It says: "In the tradition of William Bass and Co., England." Uh-oh. You see, what I'm drinking is a Heineken. Not the Heineken beer, of course, but a Heineken product. And I think it's been tampered with. This isn't the Bass I grew up with, I swear it. Perhaps I'm just reacting to the corporate change. But this is it. No more Bass.

Friday, September 08, 2006

off to Sacramento

This afternoon we're heading to Sac... The Town So Nice, They Named It Sac. (This has more or less replaced my other Sacramento insult, which was "Sacramentos - The Not-So-Fresh Maker." I don't actually dislike Sacramento. It has some nice qualities. It strikes me as the kind of town that, if you lived there a year or two, you could find three cool places to go.)

But people call it Sac. Yick.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

traditional start of the term

Ah, fall semester.

I spent the day dealing with a lot of bureaucrapic details, which causes a kind of brain seizure that only being very silly helps to alleviate. Hence, I started calling in bureaucrap. Enjoy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

new treads

I don't often buy shoes. It's almost always a failed assignment, because not only am I picky about what I want (still hunting for two-tone gray/black saddle oxfords and black-and-white wing-tips), but I also wear size 13 B shoes. I'd been looking for replacements for my soon-to-blow-out hikers, and finally scored a pair yesterday.

I also picked up a pair of black high-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars. I have no nostalgic connection to these, unlike Bobo's recently acquired shoes; I never wore high-tops in my misspent youth. I wore boots, like I do now. I was hot for the green ones, but the largest size of those we've seen has been 11. With increasing contentment, then with ever-burgeoning joy, I chose instead the black, because, as Lauren pointed out, the white laces could be replaced with green or other colors, to create, for instance:

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamchucks!

Of course, I own rainbow-striped socks, as well. Yee-hee-hee-hee!

Friday, September 01, 2006


From the "Please, Somebody, Stop Them! For The Love Of Pete!" Department: Mitt Romney has briefly looked out from under his rock, and the view is scary: "Orwellian" stem cells! Gadzooks! And, it turns out, if you start bringing egg and sperm together in the lab, "In laboratories you could have trays of new embryos being created." Yikes!

From the "Let's Not Jump To Hasty Conclusions" Department: the Pentagon says there could possibly be a civil war in Iraq. Geez, I dunno guys. How could that be? Has something happened to disrupt Iraq that thoroughly?

From the "Drunken Gringo Tourist" Department: Dangerous John spins toward Baja. I don't think too much one way or another about the legal and moral issues of prostitution and the purchase of sexual favor for money, but when the customers get violent, that's horrible.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

goats, anyone?

I was looking up cities, whimsically, on Wikipedia, and found this fun fact about Modesto:

Modesto's official slogan is "Water Wealth Contentment Health," which is emblazoned on a large arch uptown that has been immortalized in many photographs. A contest was run in 1911 to determine the slogan. The original winning slogan was: "Nobody's got Modesto's goat". The second place entry was the final winner.

That would about sum it up, except that the article also notes the Modesto is basically a crime-ridden commuter town. That, I think, does sum it up.


Today is the birthday of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher best known for a system of dialectic (in which a thesis encounters its antithesis and the two transform progressively into a new synthesis according to a universal and absolute law) that he never espoused or even discussed. This is typical of Hegel's reception among most people, many of whom never bother to read him. And those who do don't get him. Vocally.

For quite a while, I was very heavily into Hegel. Reading him is like reading an extremely complicated mystery novel, full of suspense and dramatic tension, surprise plot twists, stunning conclusions. He has the reputation of being boring, overly abstract, hopelessly arcane, blinkered in his assumption of the ascendancy of this thing called the Absolute no one can quite identify, and in all, useless. I've always thought this was because no one realized how simple the story he's telling really is - or no, not simple, down-to-earth. Then again, anything I say or write about philosophers should be regarded as suspect, because my interpretations are usually outside the mainstream (especially with Hegel, now that I think of it).

Anyway, here's to old Stinky Buckets Hegel on his 236th birrthday! Coffee all around!

In other news, whew. The new place is more or less in place, and we're doing finishing touches: Lauren has sewn curtains for the Music Room and is working on pillows for the Nook in the bedroom; two guitars are hanging next to the Picasso "Violin and Guitar" poster in the Music Room. This is the first weekend we've had to relax and do very very little since moving, and I'm finding it difficult. I'm frustrated by the lack of normal rhythm. The Music Room faces west, so by the time I've become used to playing, around 4 or 5 pm, it's too warm. It's also a strangely shaped room that doesn't ventilate well. It's just gonna take some time to work out how to use the space. I've also got the Canker Sore From Hell right where my gum meets my lip.

It's Sunday. We've got watermelon. Tonight we're making a pizza. With any luck, I'll find a bridge to the song I'm working on.

Monday, August 21, 2006

hopeful pessimism

In "The Myth of Sisyphus," Albert Camus argues that living in hope is what makes life not worth living - that is, hope leads to suicide. His reasoning goes something like this: if you hope for something, and this hope is the central meaning of your life, then you're not living to live, and the worth of life is subordinate to something unreal, something that doesn't literally exist. Only life without hope is lived for the sake of life.

I used to buy this, or at least, used to believe I bought it. But the other morning I woke up thinking Camus had a view of hope I couldn't accept, or that needed more nuance.

I am a hopeful person. This is not to say I'm an optimistic person, because I'm not. Hope, I think, isn't an expectation that everything will turn out right, nor is it the perception of the good or bright side of everything. Hope is active and transformative, leads to a commitment to change something, or to be part of a group committed to try to change something. For instance, my hopes for the future of the CSU drive me to be a faculty union activist. I don't see much reason to be optimistic about the future of the CSU, or of faculty, but I have hope that working with these people will be worth it, no matter what happens in the long run (in fact, I suspect the long run will be awful).

That same morning, I woke up from a very strange dream. I was participating in a direct action campaign (a protest, but also a meeting with the campus president) at CSU-East Bay. Mark Karplus, the CFA lecturer rep at e-Bay, and Steve Wilson, the rep from Sonoma State, were there as well. Eventually we ended up suspended on a clock tower on the campus (I don't think e-Bay even has a clock tower). As the police and CSU officials started to climb up to drag us down, Steve and I saw a kitten on the top of the tower, and we grabbed it, to turn the whole event into a weird melodramatic spectacle and photo op. Lecturers save kittens!

I think that would be a great slogan. We could make t-shirts with a two-panel cartoon. The first panel would depict CSU chancellor Charles B. Reed with a bag of kittens, right on the shore in Long Beach, about to drown the poor dears. The second would show CFA activists seizing Reed's arm and wresting the kittens from it, presumably to bring to a vet for shots, eventually to be spayed or neutered and brought into loving homes. (Perhaps a third panel, on the other side of the shirt, could show this.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

one down, one to go

We got back from Vancouver about 12:30 this morning, after a long afternoon of air travel, most of which was, as usual, spent not actually flying. This was uneventful, except of course that six or seven planes exploded when several individuals, defying not only Homeland Security but also common sense, had the temerity to brush their teeth on the plane. After clearing security on the Canadian side (which is roughly 138% easier and less melodramatic than in US airports, especially SFO, of which more, perhaps, if you're good, later), we found food from a so-called "Asian cuisine" joint, where they pitched our food into styrofoam, poured us a cup of water - which, in compliance with new safety regulations, had no lid - and then handed Lauren a potentially lethal weapon: chop sticks.

Much will be written about the inanity of the new "safety" regulations. Lauren thinks the next thing to be forbidden will be teeth, since she was able to cut a strip off a band-aid to affix a breaking bit of fingernail to the remaining part. I believe the next thing will be identification.


TSA drone #1: Sir, is that your photo ID?

Passenger: Yes.

TSA drone #1: No ID, sir.

Passenger: What? Don't we need photo ID to get past security?

TSA drone#2: (shouting so that his voice echoes unintelligibly in the tinny security area) No PASSports, no DRIver's licenses, no photo ID!

Passenger: (to TSA drone #1, who has ignored the previous) Excuse me? Sir?

TSA drone #1: Yes?

Passenger: I have to throw away my ID?

TSA drone #1: Is it a photo ID?

Passenger: Yes.

TSA drone #1: (with increasing condescension) An ID, with a photo on it?

Passenger: Yes.

TSA drone #2: No DRIver's licenses, no PASSports. No one gets on the PLANE with photo ID!

TSA drone #1: Is it a photo of you?

Passenger: Yes, it's a photo ID card, so the picture is of me.

TSA drone #1: Does that sound like it would be a kind of photo ID to you?

Passenger: Yes, but my question is, do I have to throw it away?

TSA drone#1: Is it a photo ID?

Passenger: Look, what I mean is, if I need photo ID to get through security, but I have to throw my ID away, how do I get through security? And what if I need my ID again? Like, to drive?

TSA drone #1: Can't have it at the gate or on the plane.

Passenger: Yes, you said that, but my question -

TSA drone #2: (still shouting, but right at Passenger) No PHOto ID, no PASSports, no DRIver's licenses!

Passenger: Oh, forget it. (Tosses ID into trash.)

TSA drone #3: Can I see your ID and boarding pass, please?

Passenger: They told me to get rid of my ID, I just threw it away!

TSA drone #3: I'm sorry, sir, you can't pass to the gate without ID.


The other scenario would be that no boarding passes are permitted.


TSA drone #1: Boarding pass.

Passenger: Yep, here.

TSA drone #1: You're under arrest.


By the way, SFO sucks. New security, old security, no security, SFO sucks. No one there seems to understand why planes keep landing there and people keep showing up to get on planes there.

More on the Vancouver trip and the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (tee-hee! Funny Canadian spelling!) later. I'm brain dead, and I have to get my teeth cleaned, and I hope trade back in this awful rented Malibu for the repaired Eddie Jetta. I'd also list my complaints and grievances about the Malibu, but they're too many to list.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

o, Canada

Tomorrow at this time we'll be touching down in Vancouver.

I like Canada. The clichés about Canada and about Canadians are more or less accurate. Canada is cleaner than the US, and Canadians are friendlier. They're quite patriotic, probably more patriotic than most Americans, but not jingoistic the way so many Americans seem to be. There's something about Canadian cities that feels comfortable and just slightly not quite American, even though most things are culturally familiar. I decided this morning that it's a certain neatness to them, by which I don't mean cleanliness, but a sort of having-been-straightened quality.

I hope I like the COCAL conference. I'm pretty sure I will. We're going to be meeting Jonathan from San Jose at the airport and share a cab into town, so we've already got a sort of built-in Vancouver social life. That's so like Canada, isn't it? Setting things up for us like that?

Anyway, we'll be back soon. Don't worry; Christina is looking in on Lancelot. If you're very very good, we might bring you something as a souvenir.

Monday, August 07, 2006

a recommended way to spend a day in Modesto

As previously noted, we took Eddie Jetta up to the GEICO approved body shop in High Upper Freaking Northern Impassable Modesto, which is okay because it's the only shop in the area with GEICO's guarantee. They also work with the Enterprise rental joint around the corner, where we'd be renting a car to get us through the week without our ride. GEICO made us a reservation, Enterprise picked us up promptly, we got to their shop, and I knew when we walked in the door that we were in trouble.

How many rental car places have you been where there's a row of 20 chairs along the window? In how many of them were the chairs half-full or more? At 10:30 am?

You see, we had a reservation, but Enterprise didn't have any cars. There were about 8 people ahead of us, who had been waiting long enough that they had stopped complaining, and had begun to settle down and grow moss. They were getting cars from their downtown Modesto shop, and from Manteca, which is 30 miles away. They were shuttling people out to these places. After about 45 minutes' wait, we were approached by a poker-faced rental agent and office sub-manager named Rich, who offered us a cargo van for the time being, you know the type - the unmarked white windowless vans favored by child abductors.

So here's what you should do to while away a day in Modesto: set up an easy car rental reservation, and instead wind up with a pedophiliomobile to drive around on your errands, making jokes about who in the store would be a good option ("Hey, that mom isn't paying the slightest attention to her mewling brat, let's grab it!"). Then, having done all the errand-running Modesto can really accommodate (this is roughly three hours' worth, if you stretch it), run the sucker down the Crankster Freeway to Turlock, trade it in for a proper car down there, abandoning the van. Only 6 hours later, we're home from picking up a rental car. Voila! Day gone!

perhaps not the best approach to these matters

I ordered a poster of Picasso's Guitar and Violin to hang in the Music Room (yeah, we've got a Music Room - though it's also the sewing room). It was shipped via some strange arrangement called DHL Smart Mail, whereby DHL ships the package, delivers it to the post office, and the post office delivers it to your address. I was concerned, first, because this seems like a cockameme arrangement, secondly, because not only does DHL suck (of which more below), but our local post office has proven to be pretty bad as well. (Some of that depends on carriers; we used to joke about the carrier at Speedbumpville, who took about four hours to fill the boxes for the complex, that it took him so long not because he was slow, but because of the increasingly long martini breaks. But it seems like Turlock just isn't put together right, postally that is.)

But the main reason I was concerned is that although the company I bought the poster from had the right address, complete with apartment number, the DHL shipping address listed on their pop-up search window didn't have an apartment number. Plus, as regular readers of this feature will recall, DHL was who botched my order of grassfed meat in June, delivering it to the wrong apartment, claiming someone signed for it, when in fact the apartment was vacant, and after one weird evasion after another, eventually claiming they could retrieve the meat a week later and return it to the sender. So I sent a note to the poster people. I tried to be subtle, which is dicey because some folks won't take the bait.

I'm concerned about my order getting to me. DHL (who
are terrible, absolutely the worst shippers in the
world) does not list my apartment number in the
address. Can you verify that the address label on the
shipment of my poster included the apartment address?
(I know that sometimes people have scanned and saved
copies of shipping labels that they keep as records,
since shippers like DHL are always losing packages.
Did I mention that DHL sucks? DHL sucks.) When I check
order status on your page, it does show the apartment
number, but DHL's pop-up window doesn't include it.
I've had a lot of trouble with shipments not arriving
from DHL, because, as I believe I've mentioned, they

They responded this morning. They didn't take the bait.

Anyway, this morning we're off to take Eddie Jetta to have $1400 of damage repaired from someone keying him. The shop will have the car for a week, and we'll be in a rental, or else in Vancouver.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

pizza with crazy gorgonzola sauce

We rarely order pizza. When we do, it's almost always the veggie pizza with white sauce from Round Table (this is not a paid endorsement). That got me thinking, once, that I could make a white sauce. I make a mean béchamel as it is, and, I thought, I could augment said béchamel with cheese. Gorgonzola came to mind, I don't remember why. But the result is just about perfect. I've made this concoction tonight, because Raechel is coming up from Arizona to gather her things from storage, and is staying with us. So we're making her a pizza with this high-test sauce.

The sauce is easy. Melt two tablespoons of butter (has to be butter) in a saucepan. Add two tablespoons of flour, and whisk this together over low heat, whisking now and again to avoid it burning to the bottom of the pan. This is a roux. Cook the roux until it smells a little nutty rather than like raw flour. Then add a cup or so of milk, preferably warmed, but I tend to use it straight out of the fridge. Whisk this until smooth, and simmer as the sauce thickens. Add white pepper, a little salt, a little garlic powder, and the key ingredient to the whole thing, nutmeg. I grate about one-eighth of a whole nutmeg into the sauce. You may like less, or you may like more. Then crumble about a quarter-pound of gorgonzola into the sauce, and let the sucker thicken. You need it plenty thick for pizza, as you'd probably guess. Then add whatever you'd add to pizza. Ours is usually sliced tomatoes, black olives, green onions, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. You might want broccoli and red onion. Or you might want ground beef and pickles. Or you might want diced duck liver, sprigs of fresh thistle, and strychnine, although I'd think you were a little weird if you did.

Off to pizzaland. And I promise, I'll post more songs to our soundclick page soon. We've been busy moving. Give us a damn break! Geez, you people! Can't you entertain yourselves for one lousy minute?!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

4 flicks

Raechel sent Lauren some kind of survey, one of the questions of which asked you to list four movies you would watch over and over again. I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, if anything. The wording seems key to this, because one may have a favorite flick, which nevertheless one would not watch over and over (for me, Dog Day Afternoon would be such a movie).

Perhaps this is a trial for a new MMPI item. Certain conclusions could be drawn from such lists. If the four films are The Bad Lieutenant, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Mary Poppins, and The Exorcist, this is at least highly suggestive.

Anyway, for whatever it's worth, four movies I would watch over and over: Dr. Strangelove, Ocean's 11 (the contemporary version - sorry Frank), The Kids Are Alright, and The Maltese Falcon.

Monday, July 31, 2006


Mostly, the move is over. All the stuff is out of the Apartment of Earthly Delights, and in the new, as-yet-unnamed place. As of this writing, the only contender for the name of the new place is The House About Town, which is of course an allusion to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. As a handle, that's not bad, but it's also not in keeping with the Harry Potter theme of the other place names already installed: the study is the Room of Requirement, the half-bath where Lancelot's catbox will be is called the Chamber of Secrets, and there's even a cupboard under the stairs, which is the Harry Potter Memorial Cupboard. Then there's the unnamed Music Room, and so forth. I took the usual pictures of the usual wreckage and general tumult of moving, but I don't see any reason to post them, because it you want pictures of the usual wreckage and general tumult of moving, you can find them elsewhere, I'm sure. All such pictures look more or less the same.

I've moved, let's see... (not counting dorms) 11 times. I kept recalling past moves while carrying boxes of books around, and also remembering the good times we all had in grad school helping each other move. This was the shortest and just about the easiest move, despite the facts that we hauled almost all our stuff in a Jetta, and the first two days it was well over 100 degrees by midafternoon.

That's not to say we're not exhausted. Cuz we are.

Today we surrender the keys to the old joint. A week from Thursday we're off to Canada.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

this is no time to blog

We're moving tomorrow!

I woke at 3 am, because the phone rang, and couldn't get back to bed. I recently unearthed a receipt from June of 2004, from a trip to Target to buy basic stuff for this apartment. It's made me think a great deal about how I ended up moving here, and I had to write it all down, especially all that I didn't say at the time. I haven't decided to post it, obviously, or you'd be reading it instead of my unedifying account of what I wrote.

But as long as we're here:

We went to the mall yesterday, then to the Pirates of the Caribbean flick, basically in order to escape the oppressive heat. (It's only going to be 107 today, so that's not too bad comparatively.) The flick was okay; I didn't think it was nearly as fun as the first one, but not as dreadful as critics seem to think. It was what it was. However, I came away with the powerful reminder that movies suck. They're just terrible, all of them. Everything that Big Movies touches turns to dreck; it's all advertising for what sort of spectacular crapola the movies can generate. The mall was a mild success. I bought much-desired cotton handkerchiefs, at Penney's, which seems to be the only place in the region that sells handkerchiefs other than seasonally.

We're leaving in about two minutes to go sign the lease on the new digs. Huzzah!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

book order

I just ordered a textbook for my fall Contemporary Moral Issues course. I feel a little guilty about it.

For one thing, using a textbook feels like a cop-out. The text is an anthology, with one section devoted to moral theories, and another dealing with different issues. It does include a decent number of different issues, but, like practically every introductory ethics textbook I've come across, it mainly repackages the same handful of standbys. For instance, the environmental ethics stuff always includes Garrett Hardin and the animal ethics stuff always includes Peter Singer - both authors whose positions are, as I understand the current debates, at least a little behind the times. I'll feel less than genuine using some of it, because I'll know when something is outdated or half-thoughtful.

Standarization of textbooks also implies that there is a determined set of things that should be thought about the issues at hand. To a very limited, in fact superficial degree, I suppose I accept the notion that a class covering contemporary moral issues does suggest a certain range of topics, and that within those topics there are certain ideas that one should probably consider. I mean, if we're going to talk about environmental ethical issues, one idea that seems like something you'd want to think about is whether we're using up the planet's resources. But when every anthology covers largely the same topics with largely the same articles, it conveys a false impression that these are the only ideas to consider on these topics. I was expressing this aloud the other day, after spending hours hunting for a book for another class, and Lauren said it suggests teaching philosophy is like teaching math.

Even that doesn't go far enough, because there can be different ways of teaching mathematical concepts. Standardization presents a false view of learning, and maybe a dangerous one. Learning isn't the absorption of pre-digested bits of information. Textbooks have broken things down too much. Textbooks are full of spit.

For another thing, although this is one of the cheaper textbooks I could find, it's still 75 bucks. That's disgusting to me. I don't relish putting my students' money into the publishing companies' bank accounts, because as I believe (and as I think almost everyone in academia tacitly recognizes), textbook publishers are greedheads. They churn out edition after edition, making minor or even merely cosmetic changes, increasing their prices, and in effect bilking students. I used a very good anthology from a Canadian company in previousl Contemp Moral Issues courses, one I liked, one that had some different stuff in it, but this year they've taken it off the market. The book was $60, and when I used it I apologized to the class for the price, only to be told it was, for most of them, the cheapest book they bought for the term. But now the company has divided that one book into three, which contain the same content, with one or two more essays in each volume, each volume costing about $30.

I guess the challenge will be to find ways to give my students more to digest, or somehow induce indigestion in them, something like that.

Monday, July 17, 2006

interesting indymedia news item

I started to read alternative news media like Indymedia because I'm an alternative-media, don't-be-caught-in-the-mainstream kinda guy. But I've developed a crush. The way this joint works is, just plain ordinary people write their own items and post them, complete with photos with captions. It looks like a regular news feed, but it's utterly grassroots, with all the good and ill that implies. Even when it's terrible, it's a hoot to read. People doing their own thing, journalistically speaking.

Anyway, this evening the RSS feed popped up news of Jewish protests of Israeli military actions.

hide the salami

I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, a book about how we eat, by Michael Pollan. The first chunk of it details what I mainly already knew about American industrial production of corn and beef, which is a harrowing and disgusting tale. Basically, in order to deal with the overproduction of second-grade corn, a practice of agriculture virtually demanded by government policy and industry profiteering, every single commercially produced piece of beef you buy anywhere in the United States is the result of cows being trained to eat a diet that would, without massive ingestion of drugs, kill them. (I remember vividly, not to say viscerally, reading The Jungle. This isn't quite that sort of thing, but it's awful in an entirely more realistic way. It's journalism, after all.)

Some people would, I suppose, simply dismiss what Pollan says about the industry, but he's not making this up. In fact, his information comes from the industry. For instance, the FDA tells the beef industry that they can't use antibiotics on animals that aren't sick (just to increase growth, for instance). Beef in feedlots, however, are practically by definition sick, because eating corn will make their rumens acidic, and this will lead to infection. The reasons they're fed corn are that we grow an enormous surplus of corn every year in the United States, which makes corn the cheapest commmodity to feed steers, and we can control corn feeding on a factory model to increase "efficiency" of the production of meat - i.e., in order to increase growth. One of the most astounding ironies of it all is that the meat produced is less healthy and less nutritious.

By engaging in this charming practice, we also expose ourselves to the risk of E. coli infection (since the feedlot cattle literally live on enormous piles of feces, and are generally contaminated at slaughter), and the development of new strains of antibiotic-resistance bacteria. This is a simple evolutionary process: by constant use of antibiotics, we act in ways that select for resistant strains, since they're more likely to reproduce. And voila! Cheap beef makes us sicker, and will continue to make us sicker. But damn, it's profitable.

I especially dig a remark Pollan makes at the end of the section: "Eating industrial meat takes an almost heroic act of not knowing or, now, forgetting." This isn't literally true, of course: most of us have no idea how meat is produced, since meat, for almost all of us, simply comes from the grocery store or the butcher. You can't, you are simply prevented, from choosing the source of meat you buy commercially from these kinds of outlets. That choice is made by an industrial capitalist machine seeking to maximize profit, regardless of health, environmental, or other costs to third parties.

For myself, personally (and this is the limit of my argument: I'm not about to proselytize), this amounts to an overwhelmingly convincing argument that I would be much wiser to avoid industrial meat. In any case, this is a book people who eat should read.

Friday, July 14, 2006

one reason I don't write fiction

I'm a fairly imaginative and creative person, especially in classrooms, kitchens, and with a guitar in my hand. But I don't write fiction. For, no matter how imaginative and creative I may be, sometimes reality impresses upon me sillier things than I could concoct.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

13 more days... and a couple news items

We're moving in under two weeks. It's a little stressful, but on the whole, a very good feeling. It became an especially good feeling yesterday.

After a walk a couple days ago, heading back to the Apartment of Earthly Delights, I noted that it's been good to live here. In general, it's well run, and we've enjoyed the heck out of our place. But the change will be good too. Then, yesterday, my sentimentality was struck down completely when we found the Jetta vandalized. It wasn't just ours, either: our neighbors, who park next to us, and who also have a Jetta (though older), also had their car vandalized - keyed, basically. (And "had their car vandalized" sure sounds weird, like they hired it done. But that's how we articulate that in English. "Hey, Earl, what the hell happened to yer face?" "Ahhh, I had my nose broken." "Really? Do you think it's a better look for you?")

This morning, we had an appointment to get an estimate on the damage: 1400 bucks. I'll pay the $100 deductible.

So the excitement over moving has escalated, since in the new place we'll have a garage for Eddie Jetta, which will make it harder for random passersby to damage it. Over lunch we were looking at the astoundingly inaccurate floorplan in the brochure, trying to remember what the townhouse really looks like, and figuring where to stick our stuff. We've already named the new study "The Room of Requirement," and the downstairs half-bath, where Lance's catbox will be, "The Chamber of Secrets." We do these things, you see, because we're silly people.

Meanwhile, our county is on fire. I noticed a strange haze on Tuesday morning, checked the weather on the Modesto Bee site, and found that the forecast was for "smoke." That seems more like a prediction of armageddon than a weather forecast - you know, "partly brimstone Thursday, with a 50% chance of hellfire by afternoon" - but it turned out to be accurate. On Wednesday the smoke was so thick that the sunlight was, at best, a dim melon-orange glow. Today it's clearer, but that's really only because the wind isn't blowing the smoke our way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

more music

We're trying to get together some good versions of our recent songs (some old songs with new lyrics, some new songs), and in the midst of this, I found Soundclick, where I posted a few of our things. It's a nifty site; people are posting their stuff, for good or ill, and so am I.

I want to be able to put together about 45 minutes of stuff before we move, in two weeks. I don't know why. It just seems like a good idea. In any event, there are things of ours on the site now. Lauren came up with a band name for us: Paper Cats. I like it.

And we've uploaded 6 songs so far. The latest include Uncle John's Blues, which isn't done yet, and Gilroy Was Here, which is fun as heck to play. Of course, we have some of Lauren singing, including our current chart topper, Late Afternoon Lullaby.

It's good fun. We haven't had feedback on our stuff yet, but the site is a blast to look through. So many people out there are playing their own music, itching to be heard, if that's the expression. Check it out.

So I suppose we're now Paper Cats!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

it just doesn't sit well, somehow

I don't know much about art. But there's something, indeed several somethings, disturbing about this article about building a Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi (lifted from a New York Times article that you need to register to see here).

For one thing, the article emhasizes the economic and tourism boost a musuem will provide - not the art. (In the SF Chronic version, the art isn't mentioned; in the NYT piece, it gets 2 paragraphs.) The purpose seems to be to extend a sort of Guggenheim empire into the Middle East. Are they sure that if they build it, anyone will come?

Which brings up the second disturbing thing. Like I said, I don't know much about art. I had assumed, for instance, that art museums were primarily cultural institutions dedicated to preserving masterworks and presenting them in a context for aesthetic enjoyment, study, understanding, juxtaposition, and so forth. But what the Guggenheim folks seem intent upon is having "an outpost" in the Middle East. What is this, a foreign embassy for modern art?

But the most deeply disturbing thing took me a while to recognize, and in fact it wouldn't have become entirely clear without Lauren's help. The other non-New York Guggenheim museum is in Bilbao (where it has been a boon to the local economy, the article explains). Guggenheim-Bilbao will now be joined by Guggenheim-Abu Dhabi. "Guggenheim" isn't silly-sounding enough for these people? "Guggenheim-Bilbao" didn't satiate? They had to start building "Guggenheim-Abu Dhabi"? Why not "Guggenheim-Winnemucca"? "Guggenheim-Cucamonga"? "Guggenheim-Wagga Wagga"? (Cuz we can't leave out our Antipodean friends.)

Friday, July 07, 2006


Wednesday was the two-year anniversary of Lauren moving in.

I had had a meeting on campus in the morning, but came home with flowers before we set out for a romantic excursion to Pet Extreme for stinky cat food, and to the Target of Death to find a pair of walking shorts for Lauren and a phone with caller ID (since, at our new digs, we're getting caller ID service). Maybe that's not your idea of romance, but I think even a trip to Target can be romantic, and pet stores, don't get me started!

We came home and, while Lauren baked mint-chocolate froggies (a cookie spiked with creme de menthe and green food coloring, cut out with a frog cookie cutter), I read aloud to her. We've been reading together for almost the whole two years, mainly light fun things - at present, it's Harry Potter, so that's what I read to her. Maybe that's not your idea of romance either, but whatever one reads, reading aloud together is a very cozy way to spend time.

Later, she read to me while I cooked a romantic anniversary dinner, which consisted of broiled marinated portabella mushrooms, salad, and fresh corn on the cob. Maybe that's not your idea of romance either.

I don't know what most people's ideas of romance are, or if they even have ideas of romance. We're not living in a romantic age, it seems, and like everything else, romance has been transmogrified into a commodity. Romantic love and passion are ways of being, rather than particular acts or sentiments. It has everything to do with imagination and enjoying one another.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

when the going gets hot, the hot go swimming

And indeed, it's been hot. Over the past week, the high temperature has been at least 97 every day. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is not, in itself, something to complain about, I realize. For one thing, as they say, it's a dry heat. Once the temperature gets above 95 in the Central Valley, the humidity tends to have dropped to below 20%, which is a little less hot and a little less humid than your average charcoal barbecue grill. It's nothing like 90 degrees in North Carolina in the pit of summer (I know whereof I speak, therefore I take the liberty to call it "the pit of summer"), when the humidity reaches at least 1,638%. It's nothing like 115 degrees in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun, where the inversion layer and general crud in the air make every step outside an air-conditioned interior a glimpse of eternal damnation.

Still, by all reasonable measures, it's freaking hot. So we've taken advantage of the pool in Speedbumpville (the complex which houses the Apartment of Earthly Delights) several times this past week. I haven't been swimming in four years, and haven't been swimming this much since I was a kid in Ohio, and my parents practically had to drag me out of the pool at 10 at night.

I mention this chiefly because we're moving in a month, to a townhouse complex where there is no pool. I feel like such a doofus for not taking full advantage of the pool here heretofore, but I'm making up for lost time. We're also working on destroying as much skin as we can. We're red as beets, especially Lauren.

What else has been happening? Well, I've been reading the Culture of Food anthology that I'm co-editing with one of my Finnish pals, and working up notes on the intro to the book. I've begun preparations for my Theory of Knowledge class for the fall. I'm still working out a couple songs (tonight I think I may have finally cracked Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," and made some demos of tunes of my own, which may eventually be posted). Lauren and I are reading a heck of a lot together. But mainly, it's been hot.

What're ya gonna do, quit burning carbon? Sheesh!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

the most expensive cookies
or, the sad, sad state of our household appliances

Lauren's mom is taking the train up tomorrow, to pick up a spare car and drive it down to LA. Tonight, Lauren decided to bake a double batch of one of our favorite cookies, an almond/lemon cookie that uses a cup of pulverised almonds. This job requires a good blender. Sadly, there appears to be no such animal in existence.

We haven't had a blender since our last (a $40 Black & Decker, with a glass jar, looking like Serious Kitchen Equipment if anything ever did) was savaged by an attempt to make artichoke soup a few weeks ago. Previously, I had bought us a decent-looking Kitchenaid, that lost its ultimate battle against ice it was meant to crush. But once the B&D bit it, I announced I would never buy another blender, let the Gourmet or Bon Appetit bastards do their worst!

So, we were left to grind almonds into almond flour with a second-hand Braun coffee grinder that has been serving as my works for the past year, since I went whole-bean. The grinder succumbed, the blade unscrewing itself and leaving no threads behind.

This was at 9:30, with barely a half-hour to get to the Target of Death and acquire something with which to grind almonds, and (in my mind more importantly) coffee.

Target sells a narrow range of blenders, and most of them had obvious flaws (for instance, being those previously proven unfit for the task). We settled on one, for 20 bucks, when Lauren spotted another, for 14. "If it's gonna break anyway..." her argument began. Despite myself, I recognized the truth of her words. If you're an American, and if you live in a place like Turlock, and if you want to grind almonds, you're going to have to buy a blender that is going to break in a year or two, because that's all that you have available. And we bought the damn thing, the 14 dollar blender, and it pulverized the almonds.

Oh, and we bought a $20 coffee grinder. Now, just think of that: the coffee grinder was 30% more expensive. All it will do, allegedly, is grind coffee.

Ah, me. My parents owned an Osterizer as old or older than I am, as long as I can remember. They may still own the damn thing. Whatever one may say about the New World Order, its blenders are unspeakable.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

yes, thanks, it is hot enough for me

This post is fortified with a genuine Somewhat Interesting Passing Thought [TM]. Wait for it...

It's only 102. And like they say, it's a dry heat - sorta like grilling.

Yesterday we escaped the 99 degree heat by driving out to Muir Woods, which is 115 miles away, walked around there a couple hours, then took off to Muir Beach, where we spent about 45 minutes freezing our keisters off. But one can't drive 230 miles round-trip every day it's 100 degrees.

(Handy ancillary travel tip: don't drive through San Francisco from the East these days. They've taken all the roads out for some reason.)

Today we made a pilgrimmage to the mall in Modesto (aka Motown, known to us also as Funkytown and No Me Modesto), of all places. We walked around the mall, like retired folks do, just for the exercise. What the heck. Lauren tried on a blouse. I looked at shoes I'll never buy. I contemplated the mall.

And now... a Somewhat Interesting Passing Thought [TM]:

There's canned music all over: doctor's offices, supermarkets, airports, restaurants, and especially malls, which have numerous types of canned music in different stores. Some have different canned music in different regions of the store. Today we were in one that even had deejayed canned music, complete with smarmy introductions to the songs. And it got me to thinking, what if all the canned music were replaced with live musicians? Just a couple people with instruments, tapping into the store's PA system, playing live. They may not get much attention, but there's so many musicians out there no one hears anyway, they'd get more than they do now. They wouldn't have to be very good, because no one would care much. On the other hand stores might compete to get good musicians in, to attract customers they're aiming for. And most of the stores wouldn't have to pay them anything, either. Nobody should expect to get paid playing at Hot Topic or Rave, for instance.

Imagine, all the places of commerce you hear canned music - imagine all that being live. Or hell, just people singing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

the politics of ice cream?
alternate title: when life gives you apricots...

We live in the Central Valley of California, which grows a terrifying quantity of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There's also a great deal of fresh produce. HA HA HA HA!

I'm sorry.

We live in the Central Valley of California, home to an incredible array of far-right wackos, many of whom extract profit from the land in the commodity form of fresh produce. We take advantate of this fact as much as we can, by which I mean that Lauren and I eat a nearly absurd amount of fresh food. Our breakfasts typically consist of 2-3 tree fruits and/or 8 ounces of melon, along with some kind of bread product. We frequent farmer's markets and fruit stands, often three times a week.

Last time we visited our regular fruit stand (or "dealer" or "pusher"), Cipponeri's, they had a flat of apricots for sale for $4. The flat was a box approximatey 18 inches by 24 inches by 4 inches deep. We figure it weighed around 15 pounds. Lauren wanted them, indeed insisted on them, since she had decided to put away fresh tree fruits this summer by "the dozenth apple last fall." (Nothing against apples, just that we don't grow autumn apples fresh here. The longer the winter wore on, the more difficult it was to face another morning of Fujis or Braeburns. Plus, the commercial apple business, like all industrial food business, does some weird things to those objects you find at the Safeway, covered in wax, in mid-February.)

So after she canned 8 or 9 quarts, we still had a bunch of apricots. I decided to take independent action of my own, and tonight made apricot ice cream.

It's a political act. It says, in it subtle and tasty way, that I can make my own (@#$%^*%* ice cream, you Dreyer's/Edy's/Häagen-Dazs bastards! And of course, Lauren's canning says, in an equally subtle and tasty way, that she's in charge of her own &$$*())($ breakfast, you Sara Lee/Dole/Del Monte mofos!

Normally, we're not inclined to such outbursts. We might be high on fruit.