Thursday, December 27, 2007

two new entries in the list of non-entries

It's been quite a while since I added to the list of people not allowed in the house.

Regina Spektor could be really sweet, I suppose. I dunno. Her performance at the Bridge School concert was cute and friendly, but her lyrics suggest something deep inside that works in a strange and terrible way. Not exactly deranged, but decidedly, um, unkempt.

Bill Hicks. It's never a good idea to judge a stand-up comic on his stage persona, and I think in Hicks' case that's especially so, because there's no way any human being could truly be that rude. However, there's no way any sane human being could have written his stuff about "goat boy." It has been pointed out to me that Bill Hicks is dead, and that therefore his banishment, like Jeff Buckley's, may not be necessary. Again I reply that their being dead is no reason to allow them into the house.

Monday, December 24, 2007


These are a few of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

46. Christmas Eves. I just love 'em. The last three anyway, which I've spent in observance of the Byerly family tradition of having a turkey dinner with accoutrements and a cast that only slightly varies from year to year. I'm on turkey and potato duty again this year, which I adore, because I make a humdinger of a roast turkey and fabtastic mashed potatoes. So there.

45. Christmas gifts. I just love 'em. This year my loveliest gave me a pair of hot-pink high top sneakers from No Sweat Apparel, a sweat-shop-free, all-union-made clothing manufacturer and marketer. They are not only stylish and pink as the day is long, but I can be proud of how they were made as well as what they look like. Maybe there's something a little weird about a consumer choice representing anti-establishment values, since after all it's still consuming, but you gotta consume stuff anyway, and for me, one thing I now hafta consume is high-tops, so what the hell. Did I mention they're pink? They're pink.

I gave my loveliest a how-to-knit book, since she's been talking for a while about wanting to learn. She's made me a long rainbow-colored scarf, and she's even at this moment putting extremely long tassels onto a scarf she made for herself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

fcc changes rules on media ownership, again

A corporation can now own a newspaper and TV station in the same media market, thanks to a change in FCC ownership regulations. Democrats did a fair job of staging opposition and outrage, but really, it's a token gesture by both the Dems and the FCC. The real regulatory changes came in the 80s, when, under the guidance of such luminaries as Mark Fowler (who called TV "a toaster with pictures"), the FCC opened media ownership across markets and eliminated the requirement that broadcast media provide public affairs information on a regular basis. Corporate media are, at this stage, fundamentally incapable of legitimate news reporting of anything beyond fires and sports scores - and I'm not really willing to stand behind that.

The Democrats' outrage was focused on the alleged clandestine nature of the Commission's vote on the regulation. Whether or not the vote happened late at night, the fact is that the proposed regulation has been floating around for around 6 months.

Republican Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate described the process as "transparent and thorough." She said the changes proposed are narrow, and hinted she was in favor of a greater liberalization of the media ownership rules.

Debbie Tate is right!

But you can still do rotten things transparently. It's ironic as hell: media have, per the FCC, no responsibility to the public whatsoever. The transparency of any FCC regulation shift depends, in our society, on its being made public through the media the FCC increasingly avoid regulating.

Eh. That's why we only watch ice hockey, the occasional flick, and Comedy Central.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Busy. Nutty busy. Two classes' grades down, two to go. Yip.

But it's not just the grade-a-thon-a-rama. It's...

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

47. Christmas cookies. I just love 'em.

My family always made Christmas cookies in tremendous variety and quantity. One year I believe we made something like 15 dozen cookies: sugar cookies, molasses cookies, press cookies, cherry-coconut bars, lemon bars, waffle cookies, macaroons. It was nuts. We had Christmas cookies until Easter.

We've made the sugar and molasses cookies each year we've been together. The molasses are my favorites, because they're unique and because it's the kind of cookie dough that leads to storytelling, chiefly because it's hard to make the dough without breaking a spoon. I've literally broken spoons stirring in the flour, because the dough needs to be that stiff.

This year I broke all tradition by mixing buckwheat flour into the dough. The taste is different in that nutty, woody buckwheat way, and it makes the molasses taste just a bit darker. We've been icing and decorating them, but no pictures are available, because these things must be kept secreted in undisclosed locations for the sake of national security.

No one knows why.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Another in the blockbuster series that TIME magazine has called nothing at all.

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

48. Last days of semesters. I just love 'em.

Today is, in fact, the last teaching day of the semester. I've taken over the last couple years to trying to make the last day an optional-attendance working-on-final-papers session. It's nice to relax, and additionally, by then, there's not much more anyone can reasonably do that will make a world of pedagogical difference. The informal, sometimes very informal tone is nice too. Some of the barriers between students and faculty break down a bit, so students feel comfortable discussing what they got out of the course, what made it work for them, how they managed the work, and so on. And they ask the questions that are really on their minds, like, "Are you going to grade the final paper as strictly as you did the midterm?"

Good times.

In other news, it may be about time to get back in the recording studio.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

year in review on the cheap

My loveliest caught a meme. She's okay; she's not even coughing much. In any case, I caught it from her. It's...

Doc Nagel's Ye Olde Yeare in Reviewe, uh, "e"

The rules of the game are pointlessly simple: You post a post in which you collect the first lines of all your posts from every month of your posts in your blog, which you posted. Those posts you post as a post posting your year in review post. And then you win!

January: home at last. Lauren and I left Turlock on Friday the 22nd for L.A.
February: back in the saddle. Despite tear gas, stomped vegetables, and general discombobulation, we're settling back into home.
March: been busy; strike vote next week. A couple weeks go by, and it's like a couple weeks go by!
April: tentative agreement. CFA announced today that it reached a tentative agreement with CSU on a new contract.
May: happy landings. I'm less neurotic than other people I know.
June: since finishing grading. "Vacation" is one of the sample labels Blogger offers bloggers for their blogs.
July: hot. It was 106 yesterday.
August: thingy. You don't think we should tax . . . ?
September: lesson learned. One night, if you can't sleep, and you get out of bed to shuffle off to the next room to read a bit and try to get sleepy again, don't pick up Theodor Adorno.
October: ach! zings! (think: bad german accent) Ach!
November: election day?? Today is the day that Americans solemnify the basic democratic right to vote.
December: and another thing, and another thing. Recent additions to Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

As you can see, I spent the year planning to strike, voting to strike, not striking, being hot, voting, and writing about things.

how to go to concerts, apparently

I've been to two holiday music concerts this weekend: the Modesto Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Holiday Pops concert, guest-conducted by Steven Reineke, and the CSU Stanislaus Carolfest. The Carolfest was, as always, excellent. Reineke's pops stuff was sorta fruitcakey. But in both concerts I sat near people who sang along. I know this is sometimes the thing to do in pop/rock/etc. music, but the etiquette with orchestral music, so far as I know, is that you don't sing along with the trained singers, you sit in quiet enjoyment, or at least quietly so others can enjoy. Today we heard two people singing along, off-key with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. It doesn't go like that, dummies!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

and another thing, and another thing

Recent additions to

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

50. Model trains. I just love 'em. I had a Lionel O-27 gauge train as a kid. My grampa gave the starter set to me for Christmas one year, and I eventually ended up with a lot of track, switches, great cars, and so on. I never developed it into a set layout, partly because it's big enough that there wasn't a place to keep it permanently set up, and also because I was never handy with models. The train was a toy, mainly, and a big part of the fun was setting up different layouts whenever I brought it out.

We went to the Turlock toy train show at the fairgrounds last Sunday, and before we knew what we were doing, we bought a transformer, a locomotive, some curved track, and a couple cars, and now we're in the railroad business.

Iconic toy train picture: circular track around a Christmas tree rosemary bush. Close enough.

49. Pork roasts and Robert sauces. I think it's now beyond question that my favorite French sauce is sauce Robert, that diabolical brew. You make it by sautéeing shallots in butter, adding dry white wine to that, reducing that stuff until you've got a couple tablespoons, then adding a teaspoon of mustard (whole prepared), some confectioners' sugar, and a couple tablespoons of demi-glace. Holy mother of moose, but that's a sauce. It's tart, sweet, spicy, complex, and is absolutely spot-on perfect with roast pork.

And boy howdy can I roast pork loin. I mean, like nobody's damn business. I did this one rubbed with mustard, nutmeg, garlic, pepper, salt, a leeetle bit of olive oil to hold it together, all roasted high temperature about 45 minutes, absolutely perfect.

As I've mentioned, I am the philosopher-chef. This apparently means that I roast knowledge, as well as that I am saucier than thou. No pictures of that. We ate the whole thing.

Friday, November 30, 2007

weakened weekend

Saturday we plan to stare at a patch on the wall.

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

52. Weekends (more or less) off. I just love 'em. This is the first in a while. I don't plan to drive anywhere, write something, do a ton of grading, or anything else like that. Of course, I do have to prep for Monday, but I'm trying to regard that as somehow just a fun weekend activity.

Teaching in college is not a cushy job, but it has the enormous perk of summers off. I think we pay for that with the tough hours we put in during the academic year. I rarely get a weekend like this coming one, and man, do I need it.

51. Quasi-scientific explanations. I just love 'em. Faux-science charms me, as satire and as silliness. One of the best fake science purveyors is Duck's Breath Mystery Theater's Ask Dr. Science, which airs on NPR. They tend not to rely on one of my favorite fake-science tropes, the inflated "sciency" terminology. If you can slap "quotient," "factor," or "-itis" in there somewhere, you've got instant comedy.

end of the month

Goodbye, November.

Good riddance. Egad, what a month. I now have 5 more days of class sessions, then final papers, and this semester is over. More on that another time. What's critical here is that tomorrow begins December, and will be spent doing very little. We might go to the toy train show at the fairgrounds. Might.

Last night I came downstairs after working on stuff (after the jazz combo concert on campus) to discover that my loveliest had assembled a model locomotive, entirely out of used aluminum products - a soda can serving as the body, two cat food cans as large wheels, four tealight tins as small wheels and another as the smokestack, and some used foil shaped into the engine room. I love toy trains, so it was a very sweet surprise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

relations, jury duty

It takes only a short holiday trip to reconfirm what we have all known for generations upon generations: Everyone's relatives are crazy. We know this is true because they drive us crazy, too.

Exactly how it is that we have been able to remain sane, when all of our relatives are out of their minds, is unclear. It is also unknown precisely how it is that their insanity produces our own, or how it spreads to us. Studies have identified correlative factors, but have never reduced these down to a core cause. Of these, the greatest controversy surrounds whether Outrageous Prejudice and Political Views or Dysfunction and Dysfunction-Blindness is the most significant factor. Others argue that Substance Abuse is the key, since it lowers inhibitions about expressing or acting upon the other two. Finally, a small but committed minority of researchers say the entire process is driven by a poorly-understood but apparently very powerful element that they call the Day-amn, These People Are Crazy Quotient.

Recovery times vary, apparently depending on three key variables: Visit-Duration, Relative-Density, and Vegetation-Opportunity. These factors do not mitigate the insanity-producing or -spreading effect of holidays with the folks, but they do predict rates of regaining good senses, within 3%.

We got back from LA early Saturday evening. This is my first post. Lauren's folk don't, for me, have a very high DTPAC Quotient (closeness of relation is probably another factor), but I'm still in the awkward adolescence of newfound sanity, if that makes any sense, and I doubt it. The Visit-Duration was short, Relative-Density less than usual, but what really screwed me this trip was the lack of Vegetation-Opportunity.

I had jury duty Monday. Man oh man oh man oh man do I loathe jury duty. It's not my civic duty that I detest. It's being in the courthouse, in courtrooms, being around bailiffs and judges, and hearing dozens of my fellow citizens plod through oral voir-dire answering 11 frigging questions that should take 30 seconds to respond to. Obviously I can't divulge. But I will say it's amazing to me that none of these people use illegal drugs. Truly, truly amazing. In fact, unbelievable, especially about that one guy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the problem of self-worth

The last therapist I had was really good. I found her through the employee assistance program I have access to, and I was lucky to get her. My problems were depression and anxiety, and although I had some serious depression and anxiety, I must have been strawberry shortcake compared to her main focus of specialization: most of her clients were sex offenders.

In any case, when I got the referral, I called to interview her. I asked about her orientation and methodology. She was amused. I'm pretty sure she thought I was the biggest smart-ass in the world. But I know a little about psychology, have seen a handful of mainly very bad therapists, and I wanted to know. She didn't say.

One of the tasks she kept presenting me was to understand my troubles in terms of how I interpreted and told myself what my experiences meant. (So, if you're keeping score at home, she was probably operating out of some version of rational-emotive or cognitive therapy.) She would ask me why I was focused on the negative judgments of me made by people I didn't respect - which I was, honestly. To me, doofus that I am, this was a revelation.

She also asked me very difficult questions about self-worth that I still struggle with. I'm not sure, even now, what self-worth means, or how it would function in my life. In her view, it meant something like valuing myself, simply and solely because I am me. This is very hard for me to do, to the point that when she would ask me about my self-worth, I would start to rattle off the things I had done or the qualities I had that seemed to be worthy. "I'm intelligent," I'd say, pointing out what seemed obviously to be a worthy characteristic. But she'd say that intelligence isn't something I'd really earned, and isn't something intrinsically worthy, anyway.

It was a trick, of course. Any particular characteristic one has isn't the real source of self-worth. Under this model of therapy, self-worth arises from a rational and emotional notion of one's centrality to one's own life. Let me rephrase that: under this model, self-worth is you telling yourself that you're worth consideration. There is no magic, no psychohistory or psychodrama at the root of the problem of having a poor self-concept.

That it still comes up, while my life in general is demonstrably, objectively, in every way better than it was when I was dealing with depression, is stunning and puzzling to me. But it's true: a bad class session, poor reception of a paper I've written, listening to superior guitarists, an offhand comment, can all shake my self-confidence and undermine my feeling of self-worth.

But this remains an open question for me. As much as I would like to feel good about myself, and not have that sense of my own worthiness threatened on a daily basis, I remain suspicious of the idea of intrinsic self-worth. Do we not need to deserve it? Do we not need to deserve ourselves, or deserve the good, the happiness, the pleasure, that we continuously demand for ourselves?


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

53. Pies. I just love 'em. My mom always baked the most wonderful pies. They have set the standard for pies in my life. No store-bought or restaurant pie has ever come close to my mom's apple, peach, or pumpkin - especially pumpkin.

Unfortunately, true to family form, my mom isn't good at transmitting recipes. I called her the other day to get the recipe for apple and to check on the pumpkin recipe, and as she read me them, she kept saying cryptic things like "I add more" or "I add less." That means the recipe isn't what actually goes on, which is to say that it isn't a recipe.

I don't mind that. The good Moose knows, I don't have recipes for most things I cook. But this business of having and disseminating recipes which are not in fact the recipe one uses promulgates an oppressive ideology is very confusing.

I call upon all bakers and cooks to be honest with those with whom they share their knowledge, and to be honest with themselves, and admit when their so-called recipes are mere guidelines, hints, or admonitions. Not all moral prescriptions are absolute and inviolate, and likewise not all culinary prescriptions can be legislated for all times and for all persons.

So there. The philosopher-chef has spoken.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Tonight, I'm making one of my favorites:

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

54. Meatloafs. Meatloaves? Whatever. I just love 'em.

We've all had meatloaf. Most of us, anyway. And most of the meatloaf we've had isn't terribly exciting stuff. Soda crackers, an egg, some milk, ketchup, plopped together. I never thought anything of it, despite my sister's love of the stuff (especially in the rather bizarre form of a meatloaf and peanut butter sandwich). My mom made this meatloaf. Your mom probably did too. Our moms love us, but their meatloaves don't prove it.

I first discovered meatloaf in the full sense from a joint in Mo-town called DeVa. They make a Mediterranean style meatloaf sandwich with tomato sauce and melted cheese. The meatloaf is a revelation: savory, spicy, even juicy. I've devoted myself to finding a way to create gourmet meatloaf ever since.

My current recipe involves ground beef, lamb, and pork, gobs of mustard, either salsa or tomato sauce, and the key ingredients: generous supplies of cumin and garlic. It's in the oven now, baking away.

And for crying out loud, use beef with some damn fat in it, people! You'll get baked cardboard if'n you don't. And add more garlic! More! MORE!

I've made tomato sauce today as well, so I can make us meatloaf sandwiches the DeVa way later this week.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Chicago is one example.

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

55. Big cities. I just love 'em. I've been to San Francisco and Washington DC more than other big cities (and some would say these aren't, and in the case of DC they'd be more right than wrong, but anyway), but I've also been to New York a couple times and Chicago a small handful. I love Chicago.

Red-eyed out to Chi for SPEP, Wednesday night to Thursday morning. After getting some breakfast and waiting out our hotel reservation we got in, rested up a bit, then hit the town. We hiked 4 miles from the River North Westin, around the Magnificent Mile and over to the Navy Pier, then back, that afternoon. Friday we did the conference morning sessions and then headed back out, this time south, around Grant Park, all the way over to Shedd Aquarium so I could show Lauren the view of Lake Michigan from there. Along the way you get views like this:

Once you're right at the aquarium, turning toward the lake, the skyline is to your left, and nothing but lake in front of you. The wind at that point is wonderful.

One of the coolest things about Chicago is of course architecture. The skyscraper was born there, and there are fine examples all over the freaking place. Better yet, there are skyscrapers of every era, from the teens to now. This gives you incredible juxtapositions: a 19th century Louis Sullivan monumental hunk of rock next to a postmodern glass frolic, behind a high-modern steel tower and a concrete obelisk.

We didn't close Berghoff's, like I did with a gaggle of Duquesne philosophy grad students years ago (after untold pitchers of German beer and untold platters of German food). We didn't get a hotdog from a street vendor, because there weren't any in evidence. We did get a Chicago pizza, which I love, but Lauren wasn't thrilled by. Best of all, was the walking. Chicago is a fantastic place to walk. Hazardous, but delightful.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

election day??

Today is the day that Americans solemnify the basic democratic right to vote. Er, well, today is the day that many a few Americans solemnify desecrate go vote.

We're going.

It's very exciting this year. No, it's not. I'm sorry. I lied.

Turlock school board. Nnyeh. I will never have a child in a Turlock school, or any other school, for that matter. But of course I care. I want to do anything I can to elect godless communists to the school board.

Irrigation district. Bleh. I don't irrigate, personally. Our tiny little rental yard is irrigated. They're also the people from whom we get electricity, which would make sense if they generated electricity from hydroelectric dams, but of course they don't in any great capacity. Voting for one or another of these guys will make no real difference in the policy of generating power with the cheapest investment for the greatest profit. (I looked into running for the irrigation board, because of my disgust that we only get 1% of our power from solar and less from wind. It was basically impossible for me to run.)

I think there's a proposition or two. These are rarely good ideas.

Frankly, I think I just like to fill in the little balloty thingies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I felt the earth move. . .

Really, I did. My loveliest and I were in the kitchen, debating (I am not making this up) whether airline personnel should be more forthcoming with information about delays, so that passengers will be calmer and feel more in control, when the floor started to roll and shimmy and the wine glasses in the rack started to clink together. It's hard to describe, but if you imagine a big truck driving in front of your place, but then extend and deepen that vibration, make it more side-to-side than up-and-down, and add a bit of sea waves, it's something like that.

[Or better yet, get a big bath, made of ebony...]

In other news, the Penguins won a very satisfying game against the defense-oriented Minnesota Wild. I am still somewhat sick, but more or less ready for class today.

Down south, yet another argument against human reproduction admitted setting one of the wildfires. Over on Hey there, skippy I sort of got into a sort of debate (sort of) about the effect of climate change on the fires. A commentator claimed that saying there was any global warming at play was bogus, and presented as his evidence (sort of) that the fires were set. Indeed, at least one was for sure. My point was that the place was riper than it would have been, the fires more intense, because everything was drier than [insert absurd/obscene comparative term here]. Unless I miss my own point.

Meanwhile, Iran is trying to be helpful by pointing out that we'd be fools to invade Iran. Someone hasn't been paying attention!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Yeah, I'm sick. I feel guilty, because most proximate to being sick today, I was having a lot of fun on the weekend. But the chances are that no matter what I did this weekend, I'd be sick today. So I should relax. In fact, I can't do a whole lot else.

The only reason I'm able to write this at all is due to the next of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

56. Hot peppers. I just love 'em. My favorite form of hot peppers is habanero sauce, specifically Melinda's XXXX Hot and their Red Savina. They're exceptionally hot, though not the hottest I've tried, but more to the point extremely flavorful. For me, hot sauce is not a macho thing. I love the burn, and I definitely love the so-called endorphin rush, but I really love the taste of hot pepper sauces. Melinda's always goes in black beans and rice, tacos, often in chili, sometimes on hot dogs or on stir-fried dishes.

Last night my loveliest made some soup to help me recuperate, and we added some Asian hot chili sauce. This afternoon we finished it off, and the hot sauce has really helped reduce the pain and discomfort I've been having. And, it turns out, there's medical studies going on about the pain-relieving properties of capsaicin.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

exhausting thing

a very brief item from

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

57. Concerts. I just love 'em. I don't go to many, really, but they're a blast.

Friday night we saw the university Concert Chorale, which was cool, especially the Mozart and the "Canciones por las Americas" written by a Canadian composer.

Saturday night we went to the annual benefit show for The Bridge School, a school for developmentally disabled children. The show started at 5 pm, beginning with a couple numbers by Neil Young, who is one of the main organizers of the event, then: Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, My Morning Jacket, John Mayer, Tom Waits backed up by the Kronos Quarter, Jerry Lee Lewis, a set by Neil, and finally Metallica. We left Shoreline Amphitheater after midnight.

The Waits/Kronos collaboration was intriguing as hell. One might not think it would work, at face value, but it was perfectly sensible, as understood in the Waits/Kronos context. Lots of Tom Waits fans there, which was nice because people lying on the grass near us didn't understand him, and mistook his voice characterization for not being able to sing. Never mind that they couldn't possibly perform that voice and sing at the same time, they didn't listen to the damned songs. They talked over "The Day After Tomorrow," but it was such a strong and touching performance. So my being upset by those morons was tempered by the people who definitely appreciated him, including the guy next to us who stood and rolled up his sleeping bag right after the set and said, "Well, I can die happy now."

There were a lot of breaks between sets, as you might imagine. But still, 60 songs, 7 1/2 hours of concert, it was terrific.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

trends of the day

Apparently, the thing to do is take this trivia test:

How smart are you? - Intelligence Test

Around here, the other thing to do is to be sick. I didn't teach yesterday, and if I had classes today I don't think I'd go in today, either. On the mend, though.

I blame student papers. They are notoriously virulent.

Monday, October 15, 2007


It's been a while since I gloated about my cooking and home-brewing exploits in this space. Sunday night I made mahi-mahi for dinner, steamed in foil in the oven, with garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, coriander, white pepper, and hot chili. As sides, I made jasmine rice cooked with coriander (to marry flavors, you see - and incidentally, if anyone ever asks you if it's a good idea to cook jasmine rice with a handful of whole coriander in the water, you say "yes"), and stir-fried green beans, julienned carrots, and mushrooms, with spicy black bean sauce.

As I was finishing cooking I realized this meal deserved a classy presentation, and the square black plates I found to be part of the celebration of my loveliest's birthday in September came to mind. Beautiful, no?

After dinner we bottled the new porter, brewed with molasses (which is a key element of the appropriately-named English beer, Old Peculier [sic]). It''ll take 4-5 weeks to develop its finish, but already it was smooth. Should be a damned good 'un.

Here are the bottles waiting to be filled. Sigfried and Roy (the Bettas) look on in rapt anticipation.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

oooh, things

I realized I misnumbered my last entry in this series, but I don't care. That should show how much I care. Who cares?


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

60. Hardcore, ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners, damn-the-torpedoes, there-but-for-the-grace-of-Moose writing sessions. I just love 'em. Today I nailed the rough draft of the paper I'll present to the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences this November (yes, after breakfast). I was in Arrgh-Me-Hearties, Eat-Yer-Hearts-Out, Leave-It-All-On-The-Stage, Hyphenate-Effusively Mode for about four hours, knocking the heck out of this paper on intersubjectivity, online community, and so on. Hoo, boy howdy. That felt goooood.

I tend to write in bursts, or rather binges, fueled by adrenalin or whatever else I've got, and the feel of those sessions is one of the main motivations I have for writing. I do some of my best work this way, I think. Back at UNCC, we used to write late at night, essentially breaking into the writing lab on campus and using the Macs long after hours, crashing through papers and keeping the energy flowing by writing side gags about anything that came to mind.

In grad school, I wrote like this all the time. Lancelot became my cat, and I became his boy, during my comprehensive exams, when I spent 6-12 hours every day for a week writing essays to respond to the exam questions, with music, coffee, sandwiches, and the cat my constant companions. I never felt more alive as a writer than the third day of comps, during the 9th hour and the 13th loop of James Brown's Greatest Hits, with Lance in my lap, my left leg bouncing out the beat, juking through Heidegger.

It's the only way to travel.

59. Stand-up comics. I just love 'em.

Well, some of them. I am on the whole fairly forgiving of stand-ups, whom I regard as intellectual cousins, rightly or wrongly. My favorites tend to work in absurdity, non-sequitir, and satire: Lenny Bruce, Eddie Izzard, Lewis Black, and of course George Carlin.

But lately I've had Ross Noble stuck in my head. This is dangerous, and more than a little frightening. I'm not sure that Ross Noble should be allowed in the house. Why should I be hanging around with the image in my head of someone having won the Lick the Dalai Lama contest and proceeding to do so, proclaiming (as Ross Noble does in his show): "BWWWUUHUHUHUHUHHUHHHHH!! SALTY!!"

It's weird. It's captivating. I can't explain that. Please don't ask.

58. People I recognize but can't tell from where. I just love 'em.

Do you know these people? You encounter them in some innocuous, ordinary setting, but they're definitely someone you've seen before. Where? You have no idea. You can't find the memory, no matter how you rack your brain. But you know them.

Clerk at a store? Dunno.
Dental hygienist's friend? Nah.
Once collided shopping carts at Safeway? Possibly. This is a common experience, after all.
Spent an afternoon in court together, waiting for your respective attorneys? Who hasn't done that? And what wonderful and interesting people we meet in courtrooms!
At a Midas, waiting for them to screw up your exhaust system for 80 bucks? It could be!

So many people play walk-on parts in our lives that eventually someone is going to play more than one role. It's meaningless, but it's still disconcerting. Didn't he catch a cab in Boston in Act II? What's he doing in San Francisco in Act IV? Aren't they from Michigan? Weren't they at the lake? Why are they cutting us off in traffic? Hey, weren't you...? No? Then, what the - ? Whatever happened to your schnauzer?

Friday, October 12, 2007

we're #2!

According to a report in the Modesto Bee, Merced County surpassed Stanislaus County in mortgage foreclosures in September. The last three months, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and now Merced have taken turns leading the nation in this critical economic activity. The Bee cited something called "real estate experts" who supposedly claimed that the foreclosure rates around here, generally eight times higher than national averages (during a nationwide foreclosure boom), are due to house prices dropping right when adjustable-rate mortgages become too expensive for owners. They can't sell for as much as they owe.

The article does not explore whether there could be some connection between foreclosure rates and the fact that housing is basically unaffordable for most people who live and work here.

In any case, the stats are mind-boggling:

RealtyTrac said lenders repossessed 921 homes last month in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. In September 2006, by comparison, 14 homes were taken back by lenders.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

all work and no things makes Doc lose it, but luckily that's not gonna happen
what a boring title


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

61. Loaves of home-made bread. I just love 'em. I am by self-acclamation the Philosopher-Chef, not the Philosopher-Baker, but I do bake bread. Most often I bake a rustic white bread, the kind that you cover in flour so as to prevent it getting terribly dark crust. It's a solid, chewy bread, with substance, depth of character, a square jaw, buns of steel, and so on. I baked two loaves Tuesday morning, before Academic Senate, when other, less brave souls would have been feverishly at work on the paper to be presented in Chicago in early November.

Not I. I've got everything under control, except for my left wrist and hand, apparently. And time and space. And the cat. Well, you get the idea.

In fact, I would claim that I am better off having baked bread than if I had spent that morning trying to write. For one thing, I believe I write better philosophy papers if I'm also doing something creative on the side (writing plays was always my standby in college; in grad school I wrote satires of department and academic affairs - in all senses of that term; later I wrote reviews of ads, political satires, more academic satires; until the recent calamity with my fretting hand, it's been writing songs).

For another thing, I believe I write with more facility than I would otherwise if I am assured that good food is imminent. For a still further thing, I believe I write with more facility than 97.3 of any given 100 people, and more than 98.72 of any given 100 academics. So I don't worry. I relax, have a slice of bread, grab a homebrew, pick up a guitar, think to myself how utterly nuts the whole business is, and it just flows.

62. Classes with zip. I just love 'em. I've always got one section of Professional Ethics that takes the heck off, every semester. It's alchemy, but when if comes together - the right combination of personalities, talents, attitudes, provocations, context, material, stuff in the news - it's beautiful. I feel myself unable to avoid smiling about how good the conversation feels, how much is being revealed or delved into, how insights pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, and how students' faces express their Eureka moments. Damnation, that's fun.

If I could somehow get bread, guitars, homebrew, and writing involved (satire is a given), I'd have Category 5 fun. My classes would leave behind epic devastation. What could be better than that, I ask you?

Don't answer that.

Monday, October 08, 2007

strange note from a previous incarnation of myself

For the next three days, my main task is to get together the paper I'm presenting at the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences next month. This always happens. I send an abstract to a conference, then turn out to have to write something. You'd think I'd learn.

Anyway, the subject is the ambiguous form of community that takes place online, understood from a phenomenological position. This evening I've spent some time digging out some previous work I'd done on similar subjects, and reading it, aloud, in as stentorian a voice as I could muster, here alone while my sweetest sings in Motown. What I read tonight was a paper from the 2003 Canadian Smarties Confab (their annual congress of learned organizations, in which hundreds of academics descend upon a suspecting burg/campus and engage in the most disturbing and learned orgy imaginable for a week). In the paper, I argued that online communities were communities only in a strange, equivocal, indeed virtual sense, in which there could be no real others.

I was someone else then. Oddly, the notion of being in a community with previous versions of oneself is an example in the paper. My words feel alien.

That doesn't matter. I'm writing something new about online community, wondering if there's something between the community rooted in intersubjective empathy that phenomenologists go on about, and the postmodern notion of community as a performance or imaginary. My guess is there is, that the performance of community by online communities is not merely performance, but not independent of empathic community... in a sense which will be named later... I hope..., by, say, Thursday.

OH, OH OH OH! Right! The reason I've got three days mid-week to work on this is that Cow State Santa Claus observes something called "Columbus Day" on Wednesday, which, given my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, gives me a week with only two class days. That Wednesday is neither Columbus Day, nor that California actually observes Columbus Day, nor that Columbus Day is traditionally October 12, seems to have made any difference in the arrangement of the academic year calendar.

I suppose this makes sense on some level.

needlessly lengthy update

So I laid off the guitar for 4 days. It was unpleasant. Every evening I sat with a guitar, just holding it, which is admittedly pathetic. I felt out of sorts.

We've run through various possible diagnoses and underlying causes. Almost none of them make sense of the onset of symptoms except two: (1) that I suddenly started playing more heavily, and more complicated stuff, leading up to several marathon sessions over a period of about a week, i.e., fatigue and muscle strain, or (2) cutting off circulation for extended periods of time to my left arm, when sleeping, but additionally when walking to and from school, with my bookbag slung over my left shoulder, across my chest and back.

My form, while imperfect, isn't dreadful. I do some weird things with fretting positions, but I've always done that; you can't play minor 7ths with 6ths and 13ths any other way. My habits are awful, but I'll change those ("warming up" doesn't mean playing hot numbers). My posture isn't great either. But none of these really made sense of the pain, because I've always played this way.

My wrist went from stinging with occasional twinges of sharp pain, to feeling mainly tensed with stabs every time I rotated it (at which point I gave up opening doors and turning keys with my left hand, rendering me nearly incapable of either), to feeling more relaxed but weak and sore every time I lifted anything heavier than a fork, to finally feeling basically normal.

Yesterday afternoon I played a few songs on my old Takamine classical. I started with "Norwegian Wood," and then Lauren's song, which I badly missed playing.

This morning my wrist feels ever so slightly tired. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

repetitive stress injury?

I have not played a guitar for just over 24 hours.

About a week ago, I began to feel pain in my wrist and fingers. This has come and gone for a while now, and I have regarded it as a kind of withdrawal, which has led me to play more. But in the last week, it has become noticeable a lot of the time.

I think it's partly due to the fact that, in the last weeks of summer and the early weeks of the semester, I've gone from playing on average an hour a day to playing more like 90 minutes average daily, but distributed unevenly. This, in turn, is partly due to my uneven class schedule and to my loveliest returning to choir rehearsals on Monday nights. On non-class days and on rehearsal evenings, I've started to play more like 3 hours, often with little or no break.

That doesn't strike me as a lot, especially since I don't play lead and don't tend to play arpeggios. I'm basically a rhythm guitarist. On the other hand, almost none of what I play lacks some kind of extremely weird fingering, and I've been hitting some fingerpicked 12-string stuff and the goofy song I've written with (literally, no exaggeration) 26 chords in it rather hard lately.

So I'm grounded until my left hand stops twinging.

This evening I was reduced to sitting on the love seat, rocking back and forth while holding Kate, my Breedlove 12, and strumming the strings a couple times, without fretting.

Madness shall, without doubt, ensue rapidly, forestalled only by the brief snippets of happiness I'll get watching the Penguins, streamed over the Net, in one-quarter of my laptop screen. Tiny, tiny Penguins scoring tiny, tiny goals.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

two things

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

64. Deeply weird movies. I just love 'em. One of my all-time favorite films is Delicatessen, which is a French movie that (this isn't much of a spoiler) turns out very quickly to involve both laughable revolutionaries and cannibalism. Yummy and yummy, I say. I'm also inordinately fond of Brazil, Being John Malkovich, The Magic Christian, and Harold and Maude, all of which are really bizarre. My ultimate favorite movie is Dr. Strangelove, which I have on good authority is a weird flick, though it doesn't always strike me that way.

Possibly weirder than the movies I like is that I dislike going to movies. I have almost never initiated a plan to go see a movie, and almost always go only because someone else wants to badly enough that I'd feel bad not to go. I used to have no patience with movies, either, with these few exceptions, but I've had a change of heart. Or maybe of scene?

63. First games of hockey seasons. I just love 'em. I got to see most of two of them today, both with favorable outcomes for me since both the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars lost. Phooey on Anaheim and Dallas. The first game of hockey season is like the first day of a semester. There's the excitement of the return of this thing I love. There's the excitement of anticipation finally coming to fruition. There's the excitement of the unknown future of the season or semester yet to unfold. Everything's new, everyone's score is zero, everything is ready to transpire.

I've made the private prediction that my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins will struggle this year after their glorious turn-around season last year. I'm also fairly certain, having seen them in games already, that Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings and Paul Stastny of Colorado Avalanche are going to raise serious hell on offense this season (tonight: Zetterberg, 1 goal, 1 assist; Stastny, 3 goals - first career hat trick).

The Penguins play Carolina on Friday and Anaheim on Saturday to start their season. So what I'm saying in essence is that all of y'all out there are dead to me until late May at the earliest.

Monday, October 01, 2007

ach! zings! (think: bad german accent)


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

65. Comedy-juggling/magic acts. I just love 'em. Sunday my loveliest and I hit the Northern California Renaissance Faire ("Faire," you see) with our great good friends Christina and Guerin. We're still recovering, which strikes me as weird.

In any case, we had the opportunity to see both Moonie and Broon in their individual acts, juggling, eating fire (in Broon's case), and in general making an anarchic mess of things.

There's something inherently funny about juggling, magic, and hypnosis, so acts that combine these with comedy are, to my way of thinking, pure gold entertainment er... entertainment no, dammit, I've done that one already... something. Pure something. Anyway, that's #65.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

of things


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

66. Academic Senate meetings. I just love 'em. Academic Senate is the forum in which faculty authority is most basically exercised, and in which faculty voices on any issue on campus are most publicly heard. Some folks serve in academic senate because they've been drafted by their departments, and some of them loathe it. Some of them bring homework to grade. Some of them fall asleep.

I was first drafted by my department some years ago, in order for me to find a more integral role in the university. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the rationale, at the time, made sense. In any case, I took to it immediately (which is unsurprising given my past history of speaking on behalf of the graduate students in the philosophy program at Duquesne - and eventually convincing the faculty to have two grad student reps at department meetings -, and my general level of political involvement, smart-assery, etc.).

I like debate. I like airing issues. I like political theater. I thrive on being informed. I thrive on taking an active role in big decisions.

What's kinda weird to me is the basic divide between faculty who are committed academic senators and those who aren't. It seems like some folks just "get it," and some just don't. Why would that be?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

and then, there were things

In fact, there were

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

68. Portabella mushrooms. I just love 'em. For the totally uninitiated, portabellas are the honking big mushrooms with the flat to slightly concave caps. I don't actually remember what made me decide to start eating them (I've never been mushroom-averse, so it wasn't a leap of some kind, unlike a few friends), but hot damn, do I love these suckers.

I tend to prefer them stuffed, with their stems, chopped and sautéed, with various herbs and spices, some grated parmigiano reggiano, bread crumbs, and so forth, and then roasted in this state. Holy jumpin'! But then again, they are tremendous marinated and grilled or broiled, and here my tendency is to soak them down in some kinda booze, garlic, pepper, herbs-a-go-go, and olive oil, and let nature take its inevitable course toward pleasing my palate. (A little-known and still-less-appreciated fact is that nature exists primarily and for the most part to please my palate. Basically, the universe is here so I can eat. It.)

I'd offer a recipe at this point, but I don't really have one. Almost anything a practiced cook would marinate meat in will do wonderful things for portabellas. Stuffing I regard as more complex, but on the whole, not at all unlike stuffing meat fillets.

... Which raises the question: Why not just do the same thing with a steak? For one thing, some of us don't want to eat animal flesh every day. For another, although portabellas are sold as steak substitutes (because, for the life of me, they are awfully steaky in this context), sometimes nonmeat entrées are preferable. So there.

Portabellas cooked this way are the way to convert non-mushroom-eaters. There is nothing quite like a well-cooked shroom, and enough people haven't had this experience that just one is all it takes.

67. Home-brewed beers. I just love 'em. I am at this moment fomenting (not to say fermenting) a home-brewed porter. Porter is a dark, usually somewhat sweet, medium-to-heavy-bodied beer, with sweet accents despite a good bitterness. The beer I'm making should be interesting, because I've added molasses to the brew, and tried to reach my usual porter balance of body, sweetness, bitterness, and color. We'll see, in about 8 weeks.

One may notice a distinct culinary bent in this list of top 100 things. This is certainly not an accident, but some may wonder whether the list is particularly targeted towards the pleasures of the maw. This is not my intent. I suggest that the aesthetic sensibility represented by the numbers of entries related to food correctly represent the importance of taste in my daily life. It figures. I am the philosopher-chef, after all, and I am saucier than thou.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tom Jones is not allowed in the house

It's official.

Tom Jones is not allowed in the house. On the way home from our local Borders this evening, Mr. Jones came on the oldies station, singing his hit "Delilah." That did it.

This may have gone without saying for the rest of time, but while I'm at it I may as well announce that Alan Greenspan is not allowed in the house, unless gagged and locked in an iron cage while being beaten continuously with an invisible hand. And let that be a lesson to the rest of you: I'm prepared, in defense of home and hearth, to pun mercilessly, and at times in extremely questionable taste.

Carry on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

and another thing

A further entry in

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

69. Silly holidays. I just love 'em. Today, for instance, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me hearties. As holidays go, this must rank among the silliest. My birthday, August 15th, in addition to being the Catholic holiday of the Assumption of Mary, is also the birthday of Julia Child, and of course Relaxation Day, shiver me timbers. My loveliest's birthday, September 22nd, is Elephant Appreciation Day, Hobbit Day, and Fish Amnesty Day (we'll have shrimp for dinner). There's a handy online list of holidays and observances to consult.


I also like making them up. Tomorrow, for instance, is hereby declared Unofficial Turlock Handkerchief Day. Please enjoy your handkerchief in accordance with your own chosen creed, scurvy dogs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

hah! new song!

This started as a demo, the guitar and vocal track recorded on live mics late at night. I'd written the song during the evening, and Lauren was away, I forget where. A couple nights ago I picked it to play lead against, and decided this was a damned cool track.

The song is about having rotten memories about exes. And it's called I Found A Letter.

hah! things!

A brace more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

71. Freshly-vacuumed carpets. I just love 'em. There's nothing like the well-groomed, fluffed, brushed look of a carpet just after vacuuming. It gives the whole place a clean look, even if it's otherwise not exactly neat and tidy (the room I'm in isn't).

I enjoy most household chores to some extent. Taking out the trash has never been a favorite, and of course cleaning the deep-fryer is admittedly rather disgusting, but other than that, most are satisfying to perform and to have completed. But none of them tops vacuuming. I even like to refer to it as Hoovering, when I'm feeling jaunty and anglophile.

70. Running gags. I just love 'em. In fact, running gags should be much higher on this list, if it's meant to be in some kind of order, which it only sort of is. I don't know if "running gag" is official terminology in the comedy biz, but it's the term my friends and I have used at least since college. I define a running gag as a joke or bit of business whose comic impact is based at least as much on its being repeated as on its intrinsic humorousness.

The grand champion of running gags in our college days was definitely my friend-I-never-hear-from and erstwhile roommate Doug Dyer. Doug would repeat a gag so long, so consistently, and with such tenacity, grit, and endurance, that the gag would be crippled, killed, beaten, buried, dug up and burnt to ashes, and then resurrected, exponentially funnier than it had been in its first life. Then he would begin the long slow torture of crippling it all over again. One of the best and weirdest running gags we had was knocking on the inside of our dorm room door before exiting. Usually, this was reserved for times when someone else was in the room, to respond saying, "Go out." But I suspect Doug would perform this ritual even when he was alone. I know I did.

At present my loveliest and my pal Jim ("The Most Optimistic Man In America, And That's Saying Something") Williams have a running gag going, and I have to confess I'm slightly jealous. When he calls, and she answers the phone, they spend at least 2 minutes swapping long "halllllloooooo!"s. I only ever hear half of this schtick, so from my side it sounds like this:

Lauren: Hello?


Lauren [singsong]: Oh, helloo!


Lauren [still more singsong]: Oh, halllooo!


Lauren [reaching a higher pitch, louder, more singsong yet]: Haaalllloooooo!


Lauren [still louder]: Haaahhll-looooooooh!


Classic running gag. It's not actually particularly funny to say "hello" like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (at least, I don't think so), but two people swapping this greeting for several minutes over long-distance becomes funny.

Lauren and I have also picked up a running gag that Jim and I started during one of his many visits. I had picked him up at SFO, and driving back took a turn to avoid Tracy ("Tracy: We Think You Can Get That Stain Out With White Vinegar Or Something, Or At Least Make It Light Enough That Nobody Can Really See It Unless They're, Like, Standing Way Too Close") down I-580. The sign indicates that this is the route to Fresno. So, Jim, sounding a little frightened and surprised at the prospect: "Fresno?!" And me, sounding slightly diabolical and sinister, but also sneaky and furtive, in a low tone: "Heh heh heh heh." We ran that sucker probably 6 times that visit, several more the next, and now, because Lauren and I drive up and down to LA so often, we get to run it many times every month. It may be worth noting that making this joke while actually driving through Fresno seems to make the drive through Fresno more pleasant.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

a thing


Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

73. Quick, uneventful drives to LA. I just love 'em. They don't happen often. The last couple of times down we hit intensely ugly, rotten, evil traffic.

Of course, LA is renowned for bad traffic, but this is actually a bit erroneous. Yes, the traffic is bad, but the key is that traffic in LA is different than in other places. It reaches a critical mass and begins a fusion reaction that not only causes temperature spikes (once you come to a dead stop in, say, the San Fernando Valley, right where I-210 splits off for Pasadena, it's suddenly 10 degrees hotter than it was a moment ago), but also melts roads, so that optional routes actually disappear!

Today, however, we left at 8 am, and arrived at Lauren's family's place at a quarter to 1. 326 miles, 4 3/4 hours. We only came to a dead halt once, because a CHP car was zigzagging across the lanes to halt traffic in order to pick up debris. Thanks! And the motorcyclist and his teeny tiny itty bitty girlfriend clinging to his back, weaving around cars in and out of the carpool lane, didn't get run over by lumbering SUVs.

72. Bagels with cream cheese. I just love 'em. We had bagels for breakfast before hitting the road.

My favorite bagel ever came from a closet-sized coffee shop in Dupont Circle in Washington. I was there for the American Philosophical Association meeting at the Washington Hilton (outside of which Reagan was shot), but I was staying with my friend Doug in Alexandria. They left for work earlier than God, so I was dumped at the metro station and took what must have been the first train of the day into the city. I was exhausted from the long journey to DC the previous day, in a diesel VW Rabbit (top speed: 52.2 mph), and I was hungry, cold, and in pain (cheap wingtips). I stepped in, and bought a 12 ounce coffee and a bagel with cream cheese from the possibly Syrian proprietor. The bagel came lightly toasted, the two halves pressed together sandwich-like around 3/4 inch of cream cheese, and cut in two, wrapped in waxed paper. Fantabulous. Perfect. Exactly what the situation called for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

a brief report from the paranoia-incompetence frontier

I don't often mention religious affairs in this space, for a variety of reasons. This morning the feed from the New York Times included a story about federal prisons purging religious books, that says a lot about the Bush Administration's approach to just about everything, and of these days.

It seems that since September, 2001 (which in the Bush Administration's timeline is yesterday, always), the Bureau of Prisons has been eliminating select religious tracts, allegedly on the basis of their being inflammatory of the kind of religious fervor that would lead someone to become a terrorist. How do you decide something like that?

[Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci (with an i)] Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”

. . . which turns out to mean throwing out anything published by 9 publishing companies. (There's no word in the story about whether these companies somehow failed to donate to Bush's election campaign.)

How do you become a "reliable subject expert" on religion? And what counts as "reliable teachings"? And, as one interviewee in the story puts it, since when does the government have a role in determining this?

I'd love to say this is some kind of faith-based initiative, but I don't have the heart.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look out! Things!

A quick dip into

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

74. Names for inanimate objects. I just love 'em. I have named most of my guitars, cars, and computers. I give ceremonial names to things, which I often don't remember, but that's okay because the names are meant for the ceremony anyway.

We spend Sunday morning from 11 until noon listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR, but before that comes on, we sometimes hear the end of Car Talk. Last week the Car Talk guys were making fun of people naming their cars. Although I don't believe naming a car is the performance of some kind of voodoo (or Christian Science), I do like to name cars. They seem to call for it, perhaps as vessels, but frankly because mass manufactured products often have more distinct personalities than we give them credit for (largely because of unique defects - cf. Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects).

In any case, my first car, a 1978 Honda Accord hatchback with all the paint sandblasted off when it was driven for a year in Egypt by a colleague of my dad's, I immediately christened the William F. Buckley Jr. I had been obsessed with Buckley, the conservative columnist known best for his fantastic facility with specious argument and deliberately obscure vocabulary, since I started reading his column when I was 9. (Why I was reading Buckley at age 9, and why I enjoyed it, and why I understood it, are all probably best left unexamined.) So that was that.

The next car I owned was a crappy 1985 Dodge Daytona that I initially gave the name of an NPR classical music presented, Karl Hass, who started every broadcast by saying, "Hello everyone." The first thing that came on the radio of the Daytona, the first time I turned on the radio, was Karl Hass saying "Hello everyone." But before long the incredible rottenness of this alleged vehicle began to sink in, and I started to refer to it as the Detonate.

At present I drive a 2006 VW Jetta that we call Eddie Jetta, after a Weird Al Yankovic song called "My Baby's In Love With Eddie Vedder."

I've owned computers I've called Pornomatic and Crapola, and I've just named my nasty old Dell laptop, which we keep strictly to play PC games on, Deathtrap.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

things upon things

Yet more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

76. Macs. I just love 'em. For years I was a Mac user, but I was more or less forced to convert to Windows about 10 years ago when nothing Windows could work on Macs. If I'm not mistaken, both sides of this stupid divide were for a time specifically making it impossible to move from PC to Mac and back. Because of the dominance of Windows and other Microsoft products [*cough!* racketeering *cough!*], especially of Microsoft Word, in the academic business, I was stuck with Windows. It was painful.

Since then, of course, Microsoft Word has become available for Macs (usually months after the updated versions are available for Windows), and in general Microsoft products work better in their Mac versions anyway, so I finally switched back not quite two years ago.

I have two favorite snarks about Microsoft. One is "It's not a bug, it's a feature." The other is that they're built broken.

75. Satires. I just love 'em. Tired from the last two days' campus-event-and-class-attending, I've spent some time this afternoon paging idly through some old Paul Krassner stuff, including reportage of his trip to a humor conference and his explanation of unintended effects of sending surplus TVs to remote islands of preliterate societies (namely, that monkeys will get ahold of them and proceed to plot against Jimmy Hoffa).

In the past I've written some satirical stuff about politics, pop culture, and academia. It's been a while.

Monday, September 03, 2007

lesson learned

One night, if you can't sleep, and you get out of bed to shuffle off to the next room to read a bit and try to get sleepy again, don't pick up Theodor Adorno. Most especially, don't pick up Minima Moralia, not unless you really like having nightmares. Goddamn Adorno.

Of course #1: That's why I call him Theodor "Don't Call Me Sweetie" Adorno.

Of course #2: Obviously, I should have known better. But I was annoyed by not being able to get to sleep, and Adorno seemed to fit the mood.

Note to self: Always have copy of Harpo Speaks! nearby.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


There are 10 cell phone stores/kiosks in the Vintage Faire mall in Modesto. That's not counting either Radio Shack or Circuit City, which of course both also sell cell phones.

Douglas Adams loved physics, but in the radio series of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy he also explained an economic phenomenon called the Shoe Event Horizon. The Shoe Event Horizon is the tipping point in a civilization's economic development when shoe shops overtake all other production, so that it becomes unviable to build anything but shoe shops. As a result, the economy and civilization collapse and everyone who survives evolves into birds.

Obviously he was right, he just had the wrong product at the center of the theory. But to be fair, cell phones didn't exist when he wrote Hitchhiker's Guide. At the current rate, by 2011 every shop in the mall will be a cell phone store, and all anyone will do is work selling cell phones to one another.

I am not a fan. I don't desire an iPhone, or a camera phone, or a Blackberry. We have a pre-paid cell phone we only use while driving to LA, to report on our progress or the smog level in Bakersfield (on a scale from Totally Obscured By Brown Air to Instant Death). But even I felt like I should have a more up-to-date and snazzier phone, passing all those damn stores - all of them busy, by the way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

hunh? huh? go 'way, I'm tired

Yesterday my loveliest and I got up at 7 and drove to Yosemite, with the express purpose of hiking up to the top of Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail. This is my favorite hike. In the spring the trail is soaked by the water bouncing off the rocks below the falls, but in late summer in a dry year, it looks like this:

Check out that waterfall rainbow.

To get to the falls you hike from the floor of Yosemite Valley up around 1000 feet. At times, this is a steep climb, as for instance on the steps:

A closer look reveals that the tiny dots below us are in fact other hikers. There are 550 steps.

Then, after a long day's driving and hiking, we ate pasta and stayed up until 3 to see the eclipse of the moon, and I took these riveting and lousy pictures.

Earth eating the moon.

Moon eaten. (By the way, this is the best shot I got of the red, shadowed moon, partly due to my inability to stay completely still, but I think also due to the poor quality of our digital camera, a Pixblecch 3000.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

adding to the list

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

78. Lists. I just love 'em. Why, look right here: a list! I have often said there are two kinds of people in the world: people who list and deranged sickospeople who don't. Like the standup comic Rick Reynolds, I put things on my to-do list that I've already done, just to scratch them off. I sometimes also put things on my list that I wouldn't need to remind myself to do, or to give myself credit for being productive because my list looks like this:

- write to do list
- finish Pro Ethics syllabus
- eat lunch
- pick up campus mail
- write blog entry
- play guitar
- play other guitar

See? I'm more than halfway finished with my tasks for the afternoon!

77. Joke mottoes for towns. I just love 'em. Around here, the reference point is usually the visually and olfactorily appalling Tracy, which one could drive through on the way to and from the Bay Area. Once through Tracy, heading east, you hit Manteca, which prompted the Manteca motto: "It's no Tracy." Modesto became "Modesto: At Least It Ain't Stockton" (alternately, "No Me Modesto"). Yesterday we went to Lodi to go to a wedding, prompting the (obvious, I suppose) "Lodi: Oh Lord" (honorable mention to "Lodi: I'm Stuck!"). Then of course there's Sacramento, "The Town So Nice, They Named It Sac."

For years, I've called Turlock "Land of a Thousand Smells," but lately I've realized the city hobnobbers wouldn't go for this, so I'm thinking of proposing "Turlock: Nicer Than Tracy." Which is true, but is also sort of like saying "more enjoyable than having holes drilled in your face."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

dem things, dem dry things

And now a couple more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

80. Gin and tonics. I just love 'em. Back in the wild days of my misspent youth, we would gather together for meetings of what we called the PhDC - the Philosophers' Drinking Club - at UNC Charlotte. At some point, for reasons that the ages have made obscure, etched though they are in the firmament, we decided that the official drink of the PhDC was the gin and tonic. This makes sense on a number of levels, not least of which is that, as PhDC co-founder Jim "The Most Optimistic Man In America, And That Includes John McCain" Williams has said, it is the alcoholic salt of the earth.

But don't listen to us. Listen to Douglas Adams, who noted in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe that "85 percent of all known worlds in the Galaxy" have some homophonic drink, whether it be "jynnan tonnyx" or "jinond-o-nicks," or my personal favorite, "gee-N-N-T'N-ix."

Gin and tonics are terrific accompaniments to Macanudo Ascots, and are best served outdoors, in warm weather, with good company.

79. First days of semesters. I just love 'em. I'm also petrified of 'em. There's just under 2 weeks left before the first day of fall classes. Am I ready? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

But that's not the reason I'm petrified. I can do more academic prep work in an afternoon than most people can do in a month. I am the Philosopher-Chef, and I sauté knowledge.

No, I'm petrified in the way you were petrified before the start of 4th grade, when you were aware enough of the whole school politics scene that you knew somehow it mattered if the other kids didn't like you. To this day, having taught now for (holy freakin' Gordie Howe) 15 years in one capacity or another, I still face the first day with that nervous feeling. And it matters so much less for me if my students don't like me, really. We'll be rid of each other in 14 weeks.

But it's fun, too. The jitters are sorta yummy. Everything is fresh, too. I'm trying new things, they haven't heard any of my jokes, I've got new jokes prepped. At Cow State Santa Claus there is an annual start-of-fall General Faculty Meeting, which I'm sure dates back to the days when the university held classes at the county fairgrounds and everybody ate dinner together once a month at somebody's house. New faculty (full-time faculty, that is) are introduced to all the assembled academics, college by college and department by department. It's as corny as Hee-Haw, but I love it. I'm a sucker for pomp, circumstance, and the idea that universities could actually be communities, even at this late date in the irreversible, irrevocable, ineluctable bureaucratization of the social world. Velvet cage, indeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2 reports from the "what could possibly go wrong?" department

Say you're a large toy "manufacturer," like Hasbro. You find that one of your main costs is labor, and that subcontracting the actual manufacture of your products to another country, say China, reduces your labor cost. By like 90%. You might find this a really attractive option, and hey, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, they might do things a little differently in China, use lead-based paint for instance. And it might turn out that labor conditions are extremely bad, and someone might eventually point this out, to your possible embarrassment.

Better yet, say you're a bank. You find that as housing prices escalated throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and as income stagnated or dropped in real terms (as it has overall since the early 1970s), fewer and fewer people can afford to buy houses. This is inconvenient, since mortgages are such a solid profit-maker. So you might decide to offer mortgages with unique features to attract customers, like a $400,000 loan with payments starting at $1200 a month. Then, when you've got a deal made, you raise the interest and payments to about $3500 a month. What could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand, if all the other banks do it too, and if nobody's really backing these loans with actual money, you might create a gigantic international mortgage and banking crisis. And you might have to close your own mortgage branch. Oops!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

more things

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

82. Macanudo Ascots. I just love 'em. Yes, from time to time Doc Nagel smokes cigars. This isn't a recommendation. But it's just a nice sensation. I especially like the maduro variety of the little ascots. I associate smoking cigars with being outdoors in good weather, mainly because I have never wanted smoking in my home. This is because I am a non-smoker. I am a non-smoker who smokes. Everybody has contradictions.

81. Pictures of the sky. I just love 'em. Approximately 66% of photographs I take are of the sky. We get a lot of sky hereabouts, too. I took these:

dusk looking like the sky's on fire

a little later, now looking smoky and smoldering

pink and orange clouds!

birfday present!

Wednesday is my birthday, but the gifts are already piling up! Look, here's a pen and pencil set that my sister turned for me:

My sister is cooler than your sister (unless you're Zach).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

things, but so much more than things

(Not that anyone pays much attention to it)

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

84. Letters of appointment. I just love 'em. Yesterday I got mine in the mail: three years, full time, lecturer range B. I get a three year contract because of a strong provision in the CSU-CFA collective bargaining agreement, that awards three-year deals to "temporary" faculty who have 6 years' continuous service in one department, and another three years to follow that, provided the lecturer in question hasn't strangled anybody and actually does the job reasonably well. Ah, collective bargaining.

83. Good blogs about stuff I'm interested in. For instance, The Comics Curmudgeon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

brief public service announcement

Look out! It's the masked flasher!

I don't know why, but I'm charmed by this idea. I'd never actually do it, but I'm glad he is. Plus I enjoyed the way the story was written.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

them things

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

86. Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls trails. I just love 'em. Yosemite is my favorite place on earth, and my favorite hikes in Yosemite have been up these two continuous trails. In fact, my very favorite hike ever was up to Vernal Falls, leaving at 4:30 in the morning and hiking across the Yosemite Valley floor before making the climb. The round trip of that hike was around 7 miles, I think. It was beautiful. We were just in Yosemite yesterday, up at Glacier Point, looking down on my beloved trails. There's a telescope up at Glacier Point's geology exhibit you can use to spy on hikers at the top of the falls, dipping their tootsies in the pool of water the Merced River makes just prior to dropping off the cliff.

85. Pizza joints that sell by the slice. I just love 'em. This, like most all the items on my list so far, is a timely selection, as we've just returned from such a joint righ-cheer in our very own burg of Turlock (motto: Land of a Thousand Smells). I never really became a habitue of the local slice shop in Pittsburgh (where the term is "cut," not "slice"; they'll correct you and regard you with suspicion of being from out of town), but I always enjoyed the hangout feel and the way people would try to look and sound like tough New Yorkers.

Friday, August 03, 2007

this looks like the set-up for a joke, but I'm not the man to tell it

Just checking my RSS feeds, I saw a headline from the San Francisco Chronic-Ill about an armless man being sentenced for various driving and drug offenses. The start of the first sentence of the story is "A man with no arms and one leg who wouldn't stop driving..." and I immediately thought of those awful "What do you call a man with no arms and legs" jokes.

But read the story. This guy is someone to be reckoned with. Not only did he teach himself to drive with one leg and no arms, but apparently he managed to kick a cop, at least, he's charged with doing so.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


You don't think we should tax . . . ?

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

88. Writing/falling into new tunes. I just love 'em. If I were making a seriously concerted effort to make this list a ranking, this would probably be higher. Instead, it comes in #88 because, no sooner than we finished putting together another disc of our own stuff, but I've started writing or completed a half-dozen or so more tunes. A couple of them have been percolating a while, but two have come into being just in the last couple weeks, both of which are really promising.

I don't think of names or themes first, usually (one notable exception being "Mt. Diablo Windy Day Rag"), so I assign fairly random names to the tunes while I'm piecing them together. This time my working titles may stick, because at least in two cases they bespeak the mood of the tune: "Small Apartments In Large Cities" has a feeling that I associate with same, and is also more or less insanely complicated (there are - lessee - 26 chords in it, as of this writing); and "Working Title: Oasis" has a very satisfying habit of resolving the melody, so it feels like it could be about reaching an oasis.

I'm very nearly entirely untrained as a guitarist. I play what it occurs to me to play. I think that's what folk, rock, and blues music, and every other people's music, is really about, so I feel in good company. I had exactly 3 lessons when I was 17. Otherwise, I've learned things watching other guitarists or, in fact mainly, by spraining my wrist on the fretboard. In truth, I am able to make anything at all happen on a guitar because of three people and one animal: my loveliest, who inspired me to pick the thing up again after 13 years; my friend Jim "The Most Optimistic Man In America" "Talks Trash To Pete Townshend" Williams, from whom I learned how to find a finger-picking pattern and how to play "The Needle And The Damage Done"; my brother Mike, who was the first to show me that it's cool to play; and the cat, Morgan, who inspired an early song and who would always come to hear me play.

87. Mornings. I just love 'em.

I am not a morning person. I regard morning persons with suspicion, if not scorn. Nevertheless, I adore the morning. I love waking up. I love getting out of bed. I love morning light streaming through morning windows as I stumble down morning stairs into the morning kitchen to make ridiculously strong and badly needed coffee. I love every single thing about the morning, up to and including the ritual claw assaults and murder-by-tripping attempts of my beloved cat, Lancelot.

I even like mornings that are sickeningly early, waking to get on the road at 4 am for instance. And at that hour, or really at most any hour, I greet mornings in ill humor, but still, I love 'em.

I almost always get up before Lauren, which I also love, because one of the very finest aspects of mornings is the feeling of being the only one up in the household. Man oh man oh man, is that a great feeling. And it's one, I feel certain, you either get or you don't.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

top 100 things

Yet more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

90. Going for walks. I just love 'em. Walking is, hands down, my favorite form of exercise. No, wait, let me retract that. Walking is, feet down, my favorite form of exercise. I don't walk on my hands, though if you like that kind of thing, I'll bet you have callouses I don't have.

I walk to work, as I've noted, whenever possible, which is most of the time. It's only 3.5 miles round trip, but that's more walking than a lot of people do. And I walk this much on what are quite probably unofficially the 3rd worst feet in Turlock.

We walked a couple miles today, before it got hot. It was hot enough anyway.

89. Going for day trips. I just love 'em. Yesterday we went on a day trip, driving to Turlock Lake, with the intention of swimming, not realizing that it's a bracing temperature. Today we stayed home, went for a walk (see above), and tucked into some work.

I started on a book review I'm doing for an environmental philosophy journal. I'm reviewing an anthology of papers on Merleau-Ponty and environmental philosophy, and my friend Bob has a paper in it. In fact, I knew this paper, and almost all the others, because they were mainly drawn from the Merleau-Ponty Circle conference held in St. Louis a few years ago. At that conference I made someone laugh so uncontrollably she had to leave the room to avoid completely disrupting the conference.

The speaker was someone renowned for a spiritual approach to environmentalism, including that we needed to get back to listening to the sounds and songs of the Earth, and all the rest of it. Bob regards such an approach with what I can safely say would be polite to call skepticism, so before the talk we were joking about starting to make bird noises while this guy was speaking. I offered my now years' distant friend Sally $20 if she'd do it. We laughed and laughed, and then the talk started. About halfway through, the speaker started to say we should listen to the sounds of the earth. I pulled out a $20 bill and put it on the table in front of Sally. She stifled a laugh, as did my friend Dave "Dave" Koukal. Bob retained poise. Sally and Dave recovered theirs, and then the speaker said something about birds (possibly even chickens), and I pulled out another $20 bill and put it on the table in front of Sally. She left. Dave snorted loudly, and I think Bob did too. I smiled very broadly.

Lauren is working on a special project, doing some research.

Tomorrow, we may go on another day trip, destination undecided.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Still more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

94. Tom's of Maine toothpastes. I just love 'em. Lauren and I switched to them long ago. They're less sweet, have better flavors, and most of them still have flouride. My favorite of all is definitely Wintermint.

93. Wearing bright colors. I just love 'em. Over the last couple of years I've developed a serious fixation on matching the color of my shirt to my socks. This morning I'm wearing one of five green t-shirts I own, and I have three pairs of green socks to choose from. Bright colors please me. They feel joyful somehow. Plus they elicit some interesting comments. One day in a 9 am Intro to Philosophy class I overheard a student whisper to his friend "God made me come to class this morning so I could see that shirt," referring to a particularly colorful display. Whatever motivates.

92. Global knives. I just love 'em. I started buying them when I started to get serious about cooking. My knife work is decent for someone unschooled, I suppose. Because of the way we buy meat, I tend to have to break it down a bit, into reasonable quantities for us to eat, so I've become pretty good with a boning knife and a cleaver, as well.

91. Clouds. I just love 'em. I know, you do too. I never said this list would be profound.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

more things? yep, more things

Onward! More of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

96. Goalie masks. I just love 'em. When I was a kid playing goal, I wore glasses, so I couldn't have one of the fiberglass masks that gave goalies of the day that canvas for artistic, team-spirited, or humorous expression. I had to use a helmet and cage, which was what a few NHL goalies were starting to do. In the 80s that became the vogue, until sometime in the late 80s the current breed of hybrid masks-with-wire cages became the standard. They combine the best of each: the protection of the wire cage, the close fit of the mask, and thankfully, above all, the space for painting.

95. Farmers' markets. I just love 'em. We went to the Modesto certified farmers' market this morning, and found the usual suspects there. The potato lady had Yukon golds, 5 pounds for 5 bucks, so we picked them suckers up (which means it's gratin de pommes de terre à la dauphin night!). There were Mariposa plums, all kindsa peaches, and so forth. The MoFaMa (or rather the MoFoMa) isn't big, but the variety of stuff has gradually improved. Buying local doesn't assure you're buying sustainably or organically grown stuff (except that there are a couple certified organic growers at MoFoMa), but of the triumvirate of local, sustainable, and organic, my tendency lately has been to regard local as a trump card. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to buy organically grown apples from Peru. And if your beans have travelled 1500 miles to come to dinner, as the average US-eaten vegetable has, I don't see how sustainable that practice really is. Hence, local.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

more things

. . . part of the ongoing series

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

98. Blue pencils and green pens. I just love 'em. I made a deliberate choice a few years ago not to use red ink to mark or write comments on student papers. My sense was that red ink suggests a great deal of negativity, not to say bleeding from a newly-forged orifice, whereas blue pencil (the traditional mark of copy editors) suggests revisability and green ink hints of spring and growth.

97. New sets of John Pearse light guage phosphor bronze guitar strings (for a 12-string). I just love 'em. My friend Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer plays D'Addario phosphor bronze extra-lights, and I certainly see the reason why one would play them. I ordered the John Pearses as an experiment, and found the trebles smoother and the overall playability just a smidgen lighter, even in the slightly heavier weight string.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

top 100 thingies

Having read Joe. My. God.'s post about the Time magazine top 100 albums list, I of course followed his link to the list, to be confused/bemused/disgusted/entertained. (I didn't put that link in this post, because I'd far rather direct random readers' attention to Joe. My. God. than to freaking Time magazine.)

Because it's Time's list, it's obviously suspect. There are albums on the list that really have to be there (Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Moondance, Kind of Blue, Joshua Tree, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road), and definitely artists who have to be there (Talking Heads, R.E.M., Neil Young), but as often as not they seem to be picking the obvious, rather than the best or even the most influential. I refuse, however, to fall into the trap of arguing with their list, because that would grant them the power to canonize that such lists aim for. Besides, I've never thought it made any sense whatsoever to argue about what should or shouldn't be in the canon. I once put together a list of 10 jazz records everybody should hear, put 12 on the list, and wrote about why you should hear them. But I did it mainly to tell someone something, and secondly for the sake of the exercise for myself. Sometimes it's fun to write about music (or indeed to dance about architecture).

It gives me an idea for a list of my own, a more comprehensive list than Time's:

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

I don't know if I'll be able to sustain this list, but I'll make it an occasional series (like the list of people not allowed in the house). Today, let's start with #100 and #99.

100. Binder clips. I just love 'em. Terribly useful gadgets, low tech, can hold together paper, chips bags, flour sacks. Can be used in place of clamps of various sorts in (if you'll pardon the pun) a pinch.

99. Jelly beans. I just love 'em. I especially like purple and red jelly Brachs jelly beans, but the oranges are good too. I've never been overly fond of Jelly Bellies, not least of all because of their connection to Ronald Reagan, but also because they're just not what I'm looking for in a jelly bean. Except the tangerines and the coconuts, which are sublime.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

life continues . . . aaup summer institute . . .

Despite my recent demise in the new Harry Potter book, ordinary life resumed today after I got home from the AAUP Summer Institute last night. I'm normalizing as well as possible. My brain is cloudy.

The Institute was a mixed bag. There were a few minor but significant details that seemed to have been left unattended, or for reasons unknown impossible to achieve. University of Nevada at Reno has a wifi network on campus, but not in the dorms, where attendees mainly stayed. Instead, the AAUP's information said the dorms had ethernet connections, which was true, but for most people the connections weren't working (although mine was, by some fluke). The wifi connection on campus required a password-protected account, which we weren't provided. Apparently there was wireless connection in the basement of one dorm building. Other similar technical problems perfused, but the programs themselves seemed to go off without too many hitches.

I did the contract bargaining workshop, and I left with mixed feelings about that too. The presenters/facilitators took rather a long time talking about bargaining techniques, and I would rather have had time devoted to practice and to reflection on that practice. Instead, after 4 hours of lecturing to us about how to bargain, we broke into 3 pairs (management vs. labor) to negotiate on the basis of a scenario they cooked up for us, putting a lot of pressure on us with a scoring rubric to complete agreements, but not giving us much time to think about the process itself - which would seem to me to be the chief benefit of the role-play.

Of the three pairs, only ours completed the agreements on 6 out of 6 areas, and so we won the high score. I get the feeling that the others ended up stuck in a very competitive mode, and ended up not reaching compromises. Our two sides, although we bargained hard, tried to make the other side accept a deal, rather than stick to our guns. I think that was partly because both sides got something they wanted, and partly because both sides wanted badly to convince the other to agree. (In the lecture portion, the presenters told us about traditional vs. "interest-based" bargaining. Traditional bargaining is starting with positions, and compromising to reach middle ground. Interest-based is starting with expressing what each sides interests are and trying to problem-solve to help both sides achieve as much of their interests as they could. Our approach strikes me as neither of these. Our aim was to persuade the other side to take the deal, so it was sort of motivation-based. The whole time I was contemplating the labor side's psychological state of mind and set of priorities, trying to read their minds and push them and pull them to agree.)

It reminded me a little of what a professor of mine at UNC-Charlotte once called a "refrigerator" class. You get out of class, get home, open the fridge, pull out a beer - and then realize what the hell that class was all about. I can't yet quite put down in words what I have learned, but the above is close. The point is to find ways to press toward agreement, however you have to do that. (At one point our side decided to act as though we believed our budgets were about to be cut. I think that pushed the labor side to agree to a smaller raise, and as it turns out, their secret information was that our budgets were going to be cut. They may have been motivated by that information, or they may have been motivated by our posture that we knew the same thing. In my view, it doesn't matter which worked. I think that's my point.)

So anyway, Lauren got up late on Saturday, bussed over to Border's for her copy of the last HP book, and read is yesterday. We've started reading it aloud today. Five chapters later, here I am, not yet killed off in the book, and so, having blogged, ready to play guitars and then cook beef properly to get the memory of bad prime rib on the Lake Tahoe dinner cruise out of my head. (In all seriousness, this is getting to be sort of annoying: I'm routinely disappointed in any beef cooked by anyone else but me. You can't even get rare meat anywhere anymore!)