Friday, August 29, 2008

love song

We've recorded some new stuff. Here's "Empty Midnight."


Purpose of trip: (1) To attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. (2) To catch up with my friend Nancy from North Carolina, whom I hadn't seen in around 6 years, and who hadn't met Lauren. (3) To see the Redwoods and the California and Oregon coasts.

Duration of trip: 4 days, as follows:
Day 1: Drive 360 miles from Turlock to Ashland, through the Central Valley and the Mt. Shasta region.
Day 2: Morning in Blue Moon Bed and Breakfast; wandering cute-cum-touristy downtown Ashland; A Midsummer Night's Dream at 1:30; move to Super 8 near freeway; return to downtown Ashland; Othello at 8; return to Super 8 for much needed cooling-off period.
Day 3: Drive 180 miles to Bullard Beach State Park, near Bandon, Oregon; meet up with Nancy; walk on beach; lunch in Bandon; wander cute-cum-fishy downtown Bandon; drive 130 miles down Oregon coast, with stops for gawking and road construction, to Crescent City, CA Travelodge.
Day 4: Drive 460 miles, down US 101 through Redwoods, dodging road construction until reaching Calpella, then on CA 20 past Clear Lake and over the pass into the Central Valley at Williams (pausing for road construction), then on I 5, suddenly realizing that Sacramento traffic would be in high dudgeon upon arrival and choosing a side-trip to Sacramento's Ikea store (stopping, then crawling, then stopping, then crawling, from 4:49 until 5:45, over a distance of 6 miles, due to an accident that occurred shortly after 4 pm, before reaching the appropriate exit), then on down I 5 to Stockton, then CA 99 (the Crankster Freeway), pausing for road construction, to Turlock, arriving home at 9 pm.

Assessment and evaluation:
(1) Drive to Ashland.

Mt. Shasta

(2a) Ashland.

View from Ashland

Pretty. Cute. Food. Blue Moon B&B was pin-neat, which worked. We suffered the Great August Kitten Access Scare. The next morning, after breakfast, the Great August Kitten Access Scare was resolved, just before we entered a cd shop.
(2b) A Midsummer Night's Dream. Pretty. Hilarious. They did the faeries as 80s "club kids," you know, fairies - which was completely goofy but somehow managed to be sexy. Actually, the entire production was archly ridiculous but also tremendously oversexed, which some of us like, a lot. They had musical numbers, there was a guitar solo by Bottom in the closing, just nutsy stuff left and right - the players were done as hippies, and they came out in a VW microbus.
(2c) Moving, dinner. Eh. We went to a pub that looked like just the thing (Guinness on tap, pub fare), but the food was unimpressive or odd. After running back and forth to the parked car twice in mishaps, Othello. It wasn't pretty. They played in totally straight, with costumes that could have been 19th century or 16th, weirdly. Iago was sometimes hard to hear, in the very back row of the bottom bowl of the theater. They played Iago as driven by irrational but uncontrollable envy and pride - a real seven-deadlies approach, which was good. I don't like the idea of a psychotic Iago or a jealous Iago very much, and although there is plenty of racism in the play, I don't like the idea of racist Iago either. We left at 11:15, got back to the fabulous Super 8 by 11:30, and by then, what with the Great August Kitten Access Scare, all that Shakespeare, and having finished our day with Othello, coming home with few wits intact, we needed serious downtime.
(3a) Driving to Bullard. Pretty. Oregon road signs are sometimes hard to read, very small, or misdirecting. Plus the directions I'd obtained from Google didn't direct us to the right place. But we managed. I was tired and a bit snippy.
(3b) Meeting Nancy, walking on the beach, eating lunch in Bandon. Nancy is the kind of person that is immediately comfortable to be around. She'd had a lot of trouble getting out of Charlotte for her vacation, but made it at last. It was wonderful to see her again. The beach was nice too. We probably walked a couple miles, and Lauren got to dip her toes in the ocean, which is vital to her well-being. We had lunch at a bait-and-tackle shop that sold fresh fried fish in various formats, and the ubiquitous clam chowder.
(3c) Oregon coast.

Oregon coast

Pretty. Rocks, water, fantastic views. We hit Crescent City by 6, got into the motel room, walked to the Safeway to buy non-fried, non-meat, non-restaurant, non-pub foodstuffs, which was perfect for dinner. Long period of decompression.
(4) Redwoods.


Pretty. I made the mistake of not taking an immediate side-trip to get into the woods, but as it turned out, that's for the best, since unbeknownst to us at 9 am when we left, we'd be in for a 12-hour day of driving. So instead of pretty hiking, we had pretty driving. And it was, very very. By the time we got to Laytonville (a tiny rural burg we suspect of being owned by Willie Nelson, since we saw half a dozen guys there who looked like Willie Nelson, and they had a biodiesel fueling station and what was probably a head shop), it was 98 degrees. The rest of the drive was very hot, over 100 all the way around Clear Lake

Clear Lake

and down into the Central Valley.

(1) We're going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival again.
(2) We're going to tour the Redwoods in more depth some time.
(3) We need to get to the coast oftener.

Friday, August 22, 2008

interface u

With the new academic year fast approaching (all too fast approaching, but that's another story), I've been working on getting classes together, with the usual combined feeling of hope and anxiety, punctuated by bursts of rage when Blackboard does something stupid. Among the times of the year, this is one of them.

Blackboard, for those who don't have the pleasure, is a proprietary web-based course software package. Schools and colleges pay the Blackboard people (and a few others who offer similar packages) thousands and thousands of dollars for the licenses to run these, and spend thousands more on servers to run them. There are some extremely avid users of Blackboard among faculty I know - and by some, I mean, let's see... 2.

I use Blackboard, but I don't like it. I use it mainly to avoid having students pay a publishing company $100 or more apiece for a textbook that doesn't work well for my course.

Some people use Blackboard to "deliver" entire courses. I loathe this expression, and I don't even know what it's supposed to mean, unless a course is a ready-made package of material, and in that case, I don't think I know what "teaching" means, other than to be a delivery-system for information.

(What really surprises me is that some faculty seem to feel just fine about that model of teaching, and don't seem to recognize the implication of it that is glaringly obvious to me: ultimately, there's no way I can compete with digital media as a delivery-system for information. I create way more noise, am far less efficient, and I demand a higher wage.)

This year, I've decided to use Blackboard to "deliver" quizzes to my Professional Ethics students, as a way for them to gauge that they've understood a couple key points in the reading, and also as a bit of a prod to keep them up to date on the reading. I thought it was a good idea. Sometimes that kind of prodding is just what a student needs to keep from procrastinating too much. There are a lot of students like that.

But this requires that I use Blackboard's test creator function, which is the computer interface equivalent of tooth extraction via renal catheter. So when I think of my colleagues who enthuse about Blackboard, and who use it to "deliver" courses, which presumably these faculty have designed through Blackboard's various routines, I gotta wonder.

And is it just as wondrous an experience for students? Do major insurers cover this procedure?

Anyway, today I took a break from all that, and we walked around at Knight's Ferry instead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

California, here we come!

I found out about a year ago that California's corporate law has some interesting features, for instance, that if a California non-profit corporation does something amiss, like failing to file taxes for several years, the State can suspend, or even revoke, that corporation's Articles of Incorporation. This effectively forces the corporation to re-charter itself under a new name, and if the State, which has no resources to dedicate to the task, somehow discovers the ruse, why, that corporation is subject to the ultimate penalty - you guessed it, not being permitted to contract.

So I wasn't that surprised when I read that two unaccredited colleges are moving to California from Idaho, to open doors along with possibly dozens more, since California now has no regulatory agency to oversee businesses operating as colleges.

[You know what's coming, don't you?]

So, we're pleased to announce that, as of August 20, Doc Nagel, Inc. U. has re-opened in California. And unlike Breyer State University and Canyon College, Doc Nagel, Inc. U. is accredited, just not by the usual agency. Plus, Doc Nagel, Inc. U. is the only entirely on-line college that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields from A to Z, with no coursework, no exams, no needless paperwork, and all for no tuition or fees!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

birthday dinner

So, we threw the big birthday dinner party yesterday, starting around 3, and ending around midnightish. Ten courses is a lot.

My favorite item was the shrimp with saffron mousseline.
Shrimp with saffron mousseline

Outrageous. The mousseline is a sort of hollandaise, with whipped cream added. I added saffron to the lemon juice reduction that is central to hollandaise, also to the egg yolks, also to the butter, and also to the cream. I added a little sugar, because saffron suggests this. Completely, completely insane preparation. Utterly ludicrous dish. Ridiculously flamboyant. I was giddy about it, giggling the whole time I was whipping butter into the sauce. I mean, who makes saffron mousseline? Who would have ever eaten it? See? amuse gueule! Tee-hee-hee-hee!

The other amuse was melon, mozzarella, and prosciutto en brochette.

Melon, mozzarella and prosciutto en brochette

I made a sauce for these from balsamic vinegar reduced to 1/4 volume, with a bit of sugar, Kirschwasser, and a plum in it (then strained out). Madness. It was tart and sweet and tasty and loved the holy heck out of the melon, mozzarella and prosciutto.

The last dish we took a picture of was the first entrée, tilapia with a basil-spinach-lemon-butter sauce.

Tilapia with basil-spinach sauce

Hah! I read a recipe for fish cooked "chartreuse," which means braised in tomato, carrot, onion, and spinach (for the color, hence the name), and made something really entirely unlike that, thinking "Hey, green sauce on fish. Cool." It was, in fact: the fish was served cold, along with all the first several courses, since it was 100 degrees at 3 pm. So, complete menu:

shrimp with saffron mousseline
melon, prosciutto, and mozzarella skewers

toasts with Provençal tapenade

Portuguese consommé (cold, slightly spicy, tomato-infused consommé)

tilapia with chef’s chartreuse sauce


ratatouille (cooked by roasting rather than stewing)

basil and rosemary sorbet

herb-encrusted rack of lamb, with vegetables

fruits and cheeses

Everybody seemed to have different favorites. Everyone marveled at the sorbet, which was in fact pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. The ratatouille was perfect. The lamb was gorgeous. But nothing beats the satisfaction of the saffron mousseline.

Friday, August 15, 2008

happy birthday...

... to Napoleon Bonaparte, 239 years old today!

, and to Julia Child, who woulda been 94

, and to India, independent in 1947

, and to the Congo, independent in 1960

, and many many more! Turns out it's also Oscar Peterson's, Sir Walter Scott's and Thomas de Quincey's birthday (I didn't know that until this morning), Rose Marie's as well, and also the anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. Also: Debra Messing (who was also born in 1968, but I don't think she's 26 like I am), Ben Affleck (meh), Flyers goalie Marty Biron. It's also the day Catholics observe the Assumption of Mary.

Us, we're going to Modesto. Ah, Modesto. Nothing more to be said, really.

Except this: Among these people whose birthday I share, Napoleon and Ben Affleck are not allowed in the house. Neither, also, are India or the Congo, or the Panama Canal. It's not that big an apartment. The Assumption takes up far more room than you'd probably expect.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

tax tip!

Looking to save on your income taxes this year - and next year, and next, and next?

Incorporate! Two-thirds of large corporations in the US avoid high corporate income taxes (among the highest among affluent societies) by simply not paying them! Think of the savings!

Why, if a couple earning $65,000 in joint wages were instead to file as a major corporation, their federal tax burden could be reduced from $8800 to $0 - almost 100% savings!

coming soon: birthday dinner

I don't want to tip my hand much about the plans for my birthday bash on Saturday. (My birthday is actually on Friday, but the orgy bacchanal dinner bacchanal will be on Saturday.) I want most things to surprise my eaters...

however, I can say the following.

Ten courses.
2 amuses gueules, one involving shrimp.
hors-d'ouevre to be named later
soup course: consommé à la portugaise (which means it's gots tomatoez innit)
a cold entrée
a salad festooned with flowers
a warm entrée
a sorbet
fancy main course with fancies
fruit and cheese

The precise nature of the dishes I intend to keep as secret as I can. One of the amuses will be quite amusing indeed, if I can pull off the preparation. And I can, because I am the philosopher-chef! I am saucier than thou!