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!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

harry potter spoiler alert! harry potter spoiler alert!

The buzz about the next and allegedly last Harry Potter book is reaching a pitch that is usually reserved for Second Comings, but I'll leave that unexplored for the moment in order to announce this startling bit of news:

I die in the new Harry Potter book!

I know! I know! This was as shocking to me as it no doubt is to you! But according to reputable sources online, including iamdeadnowpleasestopspammingme.com and the Great International Chinese Communist Harry Potter Conspiracy (dot com), that miserable bitch J. K. Rowling kills me the heck off in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Well, first of all, BITCH!

Secondly, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, because (1) my death contributes nothing whatsoever to the plot; (2) I'm such a minor character that no one has ever heard of me, let alone become attached emotionally; (3) not only did my character not become more friendly with Hermione, but in fact couldn't even get friendlier with Hagrid, before this ignominious demise; (4) she didn't even have the decency to have Voldemort or Snape, or even a prominent Death Eater off me, but I had to die by misfired wand; and (5) I'm not getting paid for this!



Well, I suppose, Mizz Rowling, if that is your real name, you'll be hearing from my attorneys! (That's "solicitors" in your weirdo language, you miserable media whore!)

Wow, am I cheesed off about this. Plus I'm dead, so there's a limited amount I can do about it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

another new song posted

I posted another new one to our Soundclick page, a nicely askew song called "Falling Rocks." I enjoyed writing it. The guitar part is slightly discordant and doesn't resolve the proper way, which I love. I wanted to write a lyric that matched, and ended up writing an absurd bit of stuff while driving through heavy traffic in the Livermore Valley (the only way to travel, at least there). It fit the feeling of the song (which, if it had a working title, I don't remember it), so we put the two together. Lauren wanted an off-kilter sort of reading for her vocal, and achieved that too. This one also has an electric guitar part that you can't hear all that well, and aren't supposed to really, but it adds a dimension.

The song is not inspired by one of my favorite traffic signs. What I like about this sign is that although it's obviously supposed to mean rocks fall in this spot, I like to think of it as saying "Please park your car here so we can throw rocks on it. Thank you."

Monday, July 16, 2007

the summer so far. . . .

I had given myself a short list of things to do this summer. So far, I have done one of the big ones and two of the small ones.

The large item I have struck through on my list is the completion of another album-length CD of our music. We finished this just last week, and it has about 10 original songs, including three or four (depending on whether you're counting joke numbers) for which Lauren wrote both words and music, one for which I wrote both words and music, one on which Lauren and I co-wrote the lyrics and I wrote the tune, one on which I wrote the tune and Lauren wrote the lyrics (the afore-posted "5th of July," [top song on the page] which rocks), and a couple instrumental guitar tracks. I'm trying to get more sophisticated with recording, trying to add bass and lead tracks as appropriate, and that made this a bit more complicated and difficult to pull off. I'm happy with it. We're both happy with it. I think we're getting into a good songwriting mindset, and I think we're improving as writers.

Meanwhile, for whatever weird and at this date unexplored reason, over the last two days I've started writing 3 songs. One already has a bridge and chorus, and a lead part.

One of the small things is that we've made it to a couple art museums already, and out to the coast at least once: I wanted to be sure to get in some small day trips, to help our sanity.

The other small thing is that we've been down to LA twice already. I wanted to get down there a handful of times, and go someplace. In fact we're scheduled to take more such outings.

I haven't yet written a paper on Schutz or on Merleau-Ponty (that one will take as looong as it needs; it's still really in the roasting phase, and we're barely thinking about how to grind and percolate it). I have a book review to write. I haven't yet finalized classes for fall, but will soon because I've got some good and some delightfully silly ideas for Theory of Knowledge. We haven't yet watched Blazing Saddles despite threatening too. We watched Head tonight after driving up from LA. That makes much more sense than might otherwise initially seem to be the case.

And that's about it. My mom's birthday is next weekend, and I'm going to the AAUP Summer Institute (aka Red Camp for academics).

Monday, July 09, 2007


I think it was in late spring of 2003 that I started telling foreigners that the US was under siege. It may have begun in Helsinki, where Dave "Dave" Koukal, his better half Sharon Vlahovich, and I were accosted by Finns while walking on the street. As I recall it, several times whlie we were in Finland, we were yelled at, generally in Finnish, presumably for being US citizens. As US citizens, we took some blame for Bush Administration foreign policy, which was then still shocking to others. I told Finns I knew that the US was under a coup, and I asked if they wouldn't mind invading. I did the same thing in Canada a couple weeks later, and in correspondence and conversation since then.

The scale of it is fascinating, in its way. A July Harper's piece described the strategy, which is called "lawfare" by the Federalist Society (a neo-con lawyers' association, with close friends in the Administration). The idea of lawfare is that law should be used as a strategic means of attack. So rather than respect the rule of law, or acknowledge that its actions are legitimately limited by law, the Administration uses it as a tool to achieve extra-, non-, or illegal ends. The examples are legion, really legion. In addition to "signing statements" exempting the Administration from complying with laws even while the President was signing them, there's the business of Dick Cheney not being subject to any legal restrictions because the Vice President's office is considered part of whatever branch of government is most convenient to the goal of evading oversight and checks and balances, and of course the bit about firing federal prosecutors for not towing the party line. A news item this morning puts it more succinctly, however: "The White House told Congress on Monday it would not comply further with demands for documents and testimony in the probe of fired prosecutors, setting up a constitutional battle with the Democratic-led Congress." The rationale? Because it would limit presidential "prerogatives."

The counter-argument here may be that every winner does everything possible to turn the political system to their own advantage. I don't disagree. The difference here is the enormous scale of it and the tremendous depth of it. The quantitative difference is large enough to make a qualitative difference: the constant exertion of exceptional status for the Administration, at every possible turn, undermines checks and balances utterly.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the now Democratically-controlled Congress responds, in effect, by saying, "Oh, you're above the law? Oh, sorry, didn't know. Sorry. We'll just carry on with, uh, well, I suppose we'll have a hearing or press conference saying what a shame it is. Let us know if you need more money."

Saturday, July 07, 2007


We bought our meat for the next few months yesterday at Marin Sun Farms. They do range-fed, grass-fed beef, lamb, and pork, along with chicken and eggs. We buy beef from them whenever we run out. The last cache lasted us about 8 months, and yesterday we trucked home a larger supply:

2 New York strips, bone removed but tied on - a 5.5 pound slab and a 7 pound slab, that I trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch thick steaks for us.
1 filet mignon, a half pound, for us to share on some special evening.
1 3 pound chuck roast for general purpose.
1 2 pound London broil.
6 gorgeous lamb chops, with the rib left long, but Frenched, which will be cute to play with presentations for.

We actually plan to increase our beef consumption rate, since towards the end of the last supply, it wasn't quite as nice. After getting all the meat put away, by around 9:30 we sat down to eat bits cut off the strip steaks with a little pan sauce, with farfalle and tomato sauce as a side. They were fantastic. There's really nothing quite beef produced that way.

thanks for shopping with us

The local Safeway is convenient, right off the Crankster Freeway, close to the place where we get cat food and to the Target of Death. The only reason we ever go to the Safeway is because it is convenient, and we think to ourselves, this thing we need is something not even Safeway can screw up or make unpleasant.

That has changed with their new bag policy, which is out of step with the general direction things are going in the grocery business in California. Trader Joe's and Raley's both sell bags for a buck, and give you a 5 or 7 cent discount when you re-use the bag. They offer to sell people bags who aren't using them, gladly give the discount, and are quite aware of the whole bag business.

Safeway's new bag policy, as stated, is "ORDERS WILL BE BAGGED IN PLASTIC (unless otherwise requested)." In other words, they aren't going to bother to ask you if you want a paper or plastic bag, or if you brought your own. We brought our own in today, and even though Lauren and I had started bagging our own groceries in our own bags, the checking drone started opening a plastic bag to put stuff in it. I had to startle her our of her daze by raising my voice to sputter "PLEASE don't put anything in plastic bags." "Alright," she mumbled. Then she finished checking things, and then realized she needed to give us the bag credit, of 3 cents. The policy might as well read, "ORDERS WILL BE BAGGED IN PLASTIC. Violators will be prosecuted."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

fantastic new song

Today we recorded a new song and posted it to our Soundclick page. If I do say so myself (and I do), it's pretty damned terrific. It tells the tale of our coming together, three years ago today, the 5th of July (it's the first song listed). Play it, send people to it, listen to it obsessively, because it's that good.


It was 106 yesterday. As usual, this was 4 degrees hotter than the predicted high. Today the National Weather Service predicts it will be 102, so I'm prepared for 108 to 112. It was 84 at 7:53 am.

There's no other news at the moment, because it's too hot for anything to happen.

It's the anniversary of Lauren and I cohabitating, which is the anniversary we most celebrate. We'll spend the day hiding from the heat.