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.