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.