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.