Tuesday, March 24, 2009

legal nooz

Also from the Chronic, renowned Roseville scholar Jeanne Caldwell and her husband Larry's lawsuit against UC Berkeley for hosting a web page (that's a page) noting that evolution could be compatible with religious beliefs was turned down without comment by the US Supremes.

The Caldwells are very disappointed. No word yet on whether they'll reconcile with reality at some point.

things that are unhealthy

A 4:30 am coughing fit left me unable to teach classes Monday morning. Luckily I had previously put together a group discussion that would run itself, so I set those classes to it. I came back to campus and taught my Contemporary Moral Issues class in mime. I had a brief text-to-speech discussion with my honors class, then came home, utterly exhausted.

This illness has a very strange rhythm. The mornings are terrible. I have a massive headache, I've been up since 6:30 (vast improvement over 4:30) drinking tea to keep the coughing down. By 5 pm I'll feel just about fine, but then by 10 pm I'll be back in hell. It's frustrating.

Anyway, I found an item of note this morning.

The San Francisco Chronic published a story from the Washington Post about the EPA sending a scientific finding to the Obama administration showing that global climate change does actually pose danger. The story is cast mainly in terms of the reversal of the Bush administration's environmental policy, which can be summed up briefly as: "just say no." (It's about time that slogan made a difference somewhere!)

But that wasn't the funny part. The funny part was this:

But business groups decried the move as an economic disaster.

"By moving forward with the endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, EPA is putting in motion a set of decisions that may have far-reaching unintended consequences," said Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Specifically, once the finding is made, no matter how limited, some environmental groups will sue to make sure it is applied to all aspects of the Clean Air Act.

"This will mean that all infrastructure projects, including those under the president's stimulus initiative, will be subject to environmental review for greenhouse gases. Since not one of the projects has been subjected to that review, it is possible that the projects under the stimulus initiative will cease. This will be devastating to the economy."

Hi-Larious. That Ernie Kovacs!

Huh? Whazzat? Bill Kovacs? Never heard of him.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

update; strange harmony

The hallucinations have stopped. The coughing fits have begun. I was forced from my cozy bed this morning by them, down the stairway and into two big mugs of tea. More of that to follow. I have things to get done this weekend, dammit.

Today is the birthday of both J.S. Bach and Modest Mussorgsky (or however one wants to spell it). That's pretty weird. I don't really know classical music, but I do love Bach, especially the Brandenburg Concertos, which I realize is overdone to death, but I just don't care. I still love them. I also love Pictures at an Exhibition - in particular, the 1950s Sofia concert performance by Sviatislav Richter, which crackles and zaps and gets silly and profound. Bach is 324, Mussorgsky is 170. Maybe we'll bake them a cake!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

you give me fever...

... and, apparently, I hallucinate.

Tuesday night I really came down with teh Sick, and spent the better part of Lauren's annual St. Patrick's Day feast reclining, with a cool rag on my face, barely following conversation or events around me. Eventually, I had to leave altogether, and went upstairs to lie down in bed.

That night I didn't so much sleep as lose consciousness between bouts of delirium. The hallucinations went on for several hours, and as weird as it may sound, they felt absolutely real, as though I had made fundamental realizations about the nature of the world.

What happened was I lost entirely any sense of my personality or of having an ego or will. At first I struggled against this, and it was nauseating to feel - because it was a feeling, not an abstract idea.*

Instead, I was forced to recognize that I was a moving part, a necessary part that had to do its job, in a machine that makes illness. A machine part clearly has no ego or will, and although I had a bizarre memory of having once been rational and autonomous, I eventually became convinced this was a mistake, that I had always been a part in this machine, that this machine always was an illness-machine, and that I had somehow been wired up wrongly before. This convincing wasn't dialogical or logical, it was the convincing that happens as a result of a machine repeating the same mechanical motions over and over again.

Accepting that was strangely calming, and by around 2 or 3 in the morning (I guess), I was able to sleep.

By around noon, I started to feel human again. Last night I slept, not particularly well, and dreamed, rather than hallucinated. Much better.

* From what I've been able to gather, I'm a rare dreamer who dreams not only in color, but with all senses - particularly smell and taste. I also dream in abstract ideas, and once dreamt Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the sick, and more banishments

My loveliest has been battling Teh Sick for a couple weeks now. I've been trying to help out, but frankly, also doing a fair amount of gleefully-not-being-sick. Last night, after a loooong day, I was coughing a bit, and chalked it up to having talked all day. I was fooling myself. I woke up this morning feeling basically crappy.

And that's about it for now: basically crappy. That is my typical mode of illness going back many a year. I get all the annoying pain, exhaustion, and muddle-headedness of being properly sick, without any of the diverting sneezing, hacking, wheezing and drippiness. Few things are more frustrating to me than being useless, but there it is: basically crappy.

On another subject altogether, Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymous Bosch, and James Ensor (not to say especially James Ensor) are not allowed in the house.

Friday, March 13, 2009

pink, but no slip

I hope I see some people on campus wearing pink today in solidarity with public school teachers across the state. Today is Pink Friday, when 26,000 layoff notices are expected to be sent to teachers, due mainly to budget cuts.

Again and again the argument is made that everyone is hurting in this depression, so public employees shouldn't be immune. My response is that cuts to state budgets still represent political choices, and the choice being made is to cut education spending.

Granted, in some districts there are compound problems - Modesto's schools have lost enrollment because families with children are being forced out of town by the house price collapse and bad mortgage crisis, for instance. But overall, the state is basically reneging on agreements to fund education at a certain level, and with certain student-to-faculty ratios. It's not as though education stops being important when the economy tanks. Some might argue that it's most important precisely when the economy tanks.

So, I'm wearing pink high-tops and a pink vest today - more to express my sympathy than as an act of protest. However, I refuse to wear a slip.

Friday, March 06, 2009


The story in the Modesto Bee was headlined Brutal.

Stanislaus County unemployment reached 16% in January. Merced County had 18.9%.

The kicker: Unemployment rates don't count seasonal work, for instance, farm labor. So how many people are actually unemployed right now in the Central Valley?

The second kicker: Unemployment rates don't count those who have used up all their eligibility, those who for whatever reason don't apply, or those who are under-employed rather than unemployed.

The third kicker: It doesn't count students, including those who are students because they lost their jobs.

In sum: Lots of people getting kicked.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

is Bleak House Norm Coleman's favorite book?

The saga continues. Norm Coleman, who narrowly lost the Minnesota senate race to former comedian Al Franken, has proposed yet another bizarre legal challenge to Franken's election. After challenging absentee ballots (which resulted in an increase in Franken's margin), and after challenging the state's standard for legality of votes (double-cast ballots, ballots cast because someone miscast a first ballot, etc., etc., ad nauseam), Coleman now wants the court to throw the whole election out and start over.

In some circles, this would draw comparisons to George W. Bush's having been declared President by the Supreme Court in 2000. But I see something far more creative going on. Coleman obviously plans to continue challenge after challenge, effectively preventing Franken from being certified by Minnesota and taking his seat in the US Senate. He'll file any kind of lawsuit he can dream up, then challenge Franken's residency, then his citizenship, then his sanity (ironically enough), then his non-feloniousness - and then he'll take the gloves off. He'll just keep that up, for 6 years, and then run in 2014 on the platform that Franken never showed up for work in the Senate. It's totally insane, but it's also genius!

Monday, March 02, 2009

it's the economy, stupid

On my short drive home from campus today (I almost never drive, but it was raining and I'm exhausted), I heard a report on American Public Radio's show Marketplace about saving money and bartering will slow economic recovery because, as it was explained, if you have your friend cut your hair instead of going to a salon, and if you cook dinner for your friend in exchange, instead of your friend going out to a restaurant, you reduce economic activity, because you reduce the demand for goods and services.

Wrongo! Bartering is economic activity! The Missourian they discussed on the program had a demand for a service, and produced a good in exchange. In fact, I had a friend cut my hair in exchange for a dinner once in graduate school, and we constantly bartered to one another our goods and services - growing food, brewing beer, moving, pet care, child care, even construction, plumbing, electrical work, mechanics. None of us had any cash, because we were impoverished grad students. We had no lack of demand for goods and services, and we engaged in a great deal of economic, productive activity to meet our own and one another's needs. I spent several summers during grad school "unemployed," but without collecting unemployment or welfare. I didn't try to set a dollar value on the amount of my productivity and how much I "earned" in that way, but I do know I rarely needed to buy vegetables, for instance.

What they mean to say, properly put, is that the more we produce for ourselves rather than consume from another source, and the more we exchange with one another rather than purchase, the less monetary activity there is. Money is not equal to economy.

Amazing how easily these ideological words and ideas about economy are rolled out in our culture, and how easily we forget, or neglect that the basis for economy is production and exchange, not just money or share prices.