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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am Proud of My Alma Mater.

University of Wisconsin has produced what will surely be considered among the most important scientific findings of the 21st century. The BBC reports Wisconsin researchers prove Guinness really is good for you! The secret of eternal life has been revealed. Ignore at your own risk.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Winding Down to the Year’s End

The remainder of the year for me includes a mini-vacation with Brother and Grown-up nephew this weekend, in-laws visiting over Christmas, and a wrap-up with New Years Eve fireworks with the neighbors.

We have decided to incorporate the Guatemalan tradition of burning the devil inot our New Years Celebration. Guatemalans burn their devil on December 7, at the festival mundanely called La Quema Del Diablo. I wonder if anyone in the imperial Japanese naval command had a side interest in Latin American culture. Coincidence or conspiracy, I leave that question to the readers. Our Guatemalan friends are sophisticated urbanites and think these Mayan influenced stunts are a hoot. Most importantly, I am sure Maximon will be pleased.

Yikes! Another New Year Coming

Holiday parties and food aside, I am being drawn into the vortex of the dreaded New Years appraisal of what the heck is going on in my life. Having left the chimera of security of State employment in November, and having no solid plans for the future beyond part-time math tutoring, several weekly workouts and yoga classes, music stuff, and hanging around. Hey, outside of the 8 to 4 timeframe, I may be busing my time better than a lot of sheeple out there. I am glad I left the State job, since that environment’s pervasive level of professional integrity took a lot out of me. I needed to get that gig behind me. While employed by the State, I felt like I was being useless but on a payroll and interacting with a bunch of other state employees all the time. I miss the payroll. Enough said.

Getting over that, I really haven’t glommed on to anything that’s big news. I plan to continue professional memberships and the required continuing education. This will all cost about $3,000 this year, plus about 50 hours of my time. I do not feel ready to completely jump off that ship. Yet.

It’s nearly 10:00, time to get go work out with weights before yoga class. My yoga class is mostly women who are enjoying early retirement from teaching and other public sector work. I haven’t completely connected with the women in the group. They seem bothered by the fact that I am not at work during the day. I have become occasional work-out buddies with a recently retired doctor, although neither his wife nor I can drag him into yoga class. He went to yoga a few times, and left mumbling something about stress positions and the Geneva Convention. He worked with the doctor who whippled me back in 2003. He chuckles when I do sit ups and curse my surgeon for saving my life. Yikes, what a life!

I’ll get back around noon, have lunch and a shower, play some music for about an hour, then read here or go to the library for a couple of hours. I will be busy tutoring from 4:30 to 8:30. That’s what my weekdays look like. In some measures, my weekdays might be more productive than when I worked for the State and my major focus was proactive resistance. Did you ever notice State is Satan spelled sideways, sort-of?

Sometimes I look to the fine arts to understand these dilemmas:

"When there's no future how can there be sin
we're the flowers in the dustbin
we're the poison in your human machine
we're the future your future

No future for you No future for me
No future no future for you"

- Sex Pistols

"Gone but not forgotten, this is the story of Johnny Rotten" - Niel Young

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff is a simple but compelling video presentation of basic economic environmental principals. The 20 minute presentation presents the basic ecological / environmental story by following the movement, processing, marketing and ultimate disposal of materials (generically called Stuff) as they work their way through the global economy. I thought this video was well worth the 20 minute viewing time.

Although I think the video is excellent, it presents nothing new. The video’s value lies in its plain and easily comprehensible presentation. It is simple, clear and entertaining.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Creative Financing: It’s not Just for McMansionites Anymore

I am sick and tired of all the media hand-wringing about the evils that creative mortgage financing have wrought upon we unsuspecting good citizens.

We tend to overlook the beneficial economic impacts of the cash that our recent easier-than-Paris-Hilton credit market has bestowed upon We The People. You need look no further than Elk Grove, CA, a horrid overgrown suburb south of Sacramento. Thanks to easy finance for home mortgages, Elk Grove’s economy has benefited from an economic boom in the home grown (f’real, dude) marijuana industry. Honestly, I am not making this up. Elk Grove has seen several raids similar to this one reported by the Sacramento Bee.

At first, this seemed insane to me. I thought there must be a cheaper way to grow weed than buying a costly suburban house and filling it with dirt and grow lights. Then I remembered how mortgage financing worked in Sacramento. It all fits together.

For most for the last four years, mortgages for up to 110% of a house’s purchases price were available to Elk Grove homeowners. Further, homeowners could arrange for monthly payments less than the accrued interest on a loan. This led ingenious marijuana entrepreneurs to do something like this example.

1. Purchase a $400,000 house.
2. Take out a mortgage for $440,000 to fund the purchase and start-up costs. This would require monthly payments during the teaser period of around $2,500, including taxes. The grower walks away from the closing with the title and $40,000 cash-in-hand.
3. Set aside about $10,000 for the first four months of mortgage payments. Use the remaining $30,000 to fund start-up costs. I imagine that by 4 months there’d be product to sell.
4. It gets even better! Before the clich├ęd bubble burst, after 6 months the house’s value (as determined by the lenders) would have increased, allowing the entrepreneur to take a home equity loan for an additional $50,000 or so to buy a boat, or expand into meth.

So, next time you light up, don’t forget to thank your nearest bankrupt mortgage loan company, and thank God for capitalism!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Umberto Eco and 17th Century Recorder Music

Those wacky Dutchmen from Utrecht are at it again. The Official Jacob van Eyck website reports a recent (okay, recent relative to 1652) significant Jacob Van Eyck sighting.

For the uninitiated (i. e., normal) among the readers, Jacob Van Eyck was a carillon and recorder player in Utrecht who around 1651 published a large book of hundreds of variations of religious and popular tunes of the time for solo recorder. The book , which I purchased from Courtly Music (I recommend you purchase from them, too), is very cool and fun to play over 350 years later. The title is Der Fluyten Lust Hopf. By the way, Courtly Music delivered the books about three days after I ordered them. That’s pretty quick after waiting several centuries.

The "Daphne" mentioned below is a song from this book which proved very popular in its time. Van Eyck's "Daphne" was featured in Black Robe, a 1991 movie about a French priest among the Indians in Quebec. In a flashback scene, the young man realises the futility of his Parisian bourgeous existance while listening to his sister play "Daphne" in his mother's parlor.

This article is reprinted from The official Jacob van Eyck Website

Jacob van Eyck in literature: The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

The first novel featuring Jacob van Eyck has yet to be written, but there is one literary work in which the Utrecht Orpheus appears, even though he is not named specifically. It is the book L'isola del giorno prima or The Island of the Day Before (1994) by Umberto Eco, known primarily for his previous best-selling novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. The author, Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna, is also a keen amateur recorder player. {YES, YES! Another member of the “unshaven recorder players’ fraternity}

The Island of the Day Before is an adventure story set in 1643. The main character, the young Italian nobleman Roberto, is shipwrecked aboard the Amarilli (in the English version translated as Amaryllis). He winds up on a Dutch vessel then known as a 'fluyt'in Dutch, the same word for 'recorder'. The ship is called the Daphne. And in his imagination there is another ship called the Tweede Daphne, "that is to say, Daphne the Second, a sign that somewhere there must be a Daphne the First, which showed how those Protestants lacked not only faith but also imagination." (transl. W. Weaver, p. 403)

It was early morning, and Roberto again was dreaming. He dreamed of Holland. It was while the Cardinal's men were conducting him to Amsterdam to put him on the Amaryllis. During the journey they stopped at a city, and he entered the cathedral. He was impressed by the cleanliness of the naves, so different from those of Italian and French churches. Bare of decorations, only a few standards hanging from the naked columns, the glass windows plain and without images: the sun created there a milky atmosphere dotted only by the few black forms of the worshippers below. In that peace a single sound was heard, a sad melody that seemed to wander through the ivory air, born from the capitals or the keystones. Then he noticed in one chapel, in the ambulatory of the choir, a man in black, alone in one corner playing a little recorder, his eyes staring into the void.

When the musician finished, Roberto went over to him, wondering if he should give him something; not looking into Roberto's face, the man thanked him for his praise, and Roberto realized he was blind. He was the master of the bells (der Musicyn en Directeur van de Klokwerken, le carillonneur, der Glockenspieler, he tried to explain), but it was also part of his job to delight with the sound of his flute the faithful who lingered at evening in the yard and the cemetery beside the church. He knew many melodies, and on each he developed two, three, sometimes even five variations of increasing complexity, nor was it necessary for him to read notes: born blind, he could move in that handsome luminous space (yes, he said luminous) of his church, seeing, as he said, the sun with his skin. He explained how his instrument was so much a living thing, that it reacted to the seasons, and to the temperature of morning and sunset, but in the church there was always a sort of diffuse warmth that guaranteed the wood a steady perfection-and Roberto reflected on the notion of diffuse warmth a man of the north might have, for he himself was growing cold in this clarity.

The musician played for him the first melody twice more, and said it was entitled "Doen Daphne d'over schoone Maeght." He refused any offering, touched Roberto's face and said, or at least Roberto understood him to say, that "Daphne" was something sweet, which would accompany Roberto all of his life.
Now, on the Daphne, Roberto opened his eyes and, without doubt, heard coming from below,through the fissures in the wood, the notes of "Daphne," as if it were being played by a more metallic instrument which, not hazarding variations, repeated at regular intervals the first phrase of the tune, like a stubborn ritornello.
He told himself at once that it was a most ingenious emblem: to be on a fluyt named Daphne and to hear music for flute entitled "Daphne." It was pointless to persist in the illusion that this was a dream. It was a new message from the Intruder.
Father Caspar had taught him how to set in motion: he heard always and only 'Daphne,' because he had not learned how to change the cylinder; but he was not sorry to listen hour after hour to the same tune."

Well well well, fellow early music freaks, with the Semiotics core group on our side, how can we lose?

That's my story and i'm sticking to it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

In Santa’s Face

The AP reports the following militant act of a Christmas Resistor in Montana.

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A college student accused of shoving a pumpkin pie into the face of a shopping-mall Santa Claus has been charged with misdemeanor assault.
Clint Westwood, 22, said he "lightly smooshed" the pie into the man's face Friday and shouted, "What do you think of that, Santa?"
Westwood, a drama student at the University of Montana, said he videotaped the encounter and plans to include the clip in an upcoming film.
He said that after the pie ruckus on Wednesday, he expected to approach Santa for a signature on a film-release form, but police arrived first.
"It's a good thing he didn't wait around, because I think Santa would have laid him out," said Sgt. Travis Welsh of the Missoula Police Department.
Westwood said he and companions had waited for a girl about 15 years old to finish sitting on Santa's lap before the pie hit his face, "but then we just decided it would be funnier if she was still sitting there."

Although the college student appears to be an annoying person I probably wouldn’t want to know, I somehow get a chuckle from his blatant attack against Santa Claus. I imagine there’s a lump of coal in his future!

It is also interesting that he expected the Santa to sign a release form. I guess he thought the brilliance of his artistic statement would be obvious. Oh, the struggles thatt he true artists among us must deal with!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why I Blog

"Rat", a character in "Pearls Before Swine" must be reading my mind. Here’s the real dope.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Susato Thanksgiving

We had the traditional Thanksgiving at my uncle’s place in Santa Rosa . They had 25 people this year.

I brought the cranberry relish, one batch of the Stamberg variety (see the next blog entry), and one batch of plain old whole berry sauce. Otherwise we just ate and had a good time.

The highlight of the evening for me was that my cousin-the-professional-bass-player and I played a set of Tielman Susato songs from the 16th century. As the galliards and pavanes were flying, the electricity went out, so we finished our playing by candlelight! In my life, that’s about as cool as it gets.

We saw the usual suspects from Los Angeles and northern CA.

We took the mountain road route on Thursday morning, since the interstate was a mess. Lots of scenic and winding two-lane roads. We enjoyed the scenery, but DMIL forgot to mention that she gets carsick on mountain roads. So, most of us enjoyed the scenic drive.

We stayed over Thursday night at the Sandman Motel in Santa Rosa. We’ve stayed there every thanksgiving. The breakfast area is always full of protestant missionaries and their families. Strange.

Cranberry Relish – Try This Recipe Sometime

Susan Stamberg has pushed her cranberry relish recipe for years. I finally made it this year, and it kicks ass. I have been thinking about making this for at least 10 years, I wish I had tried it sooner.

The relatively small amount of sugar and the horseradish make this relish more savory than sweet. The color is truly shocking. Stamberg compares it to pepto bismal, it reminded me of whipped up strawberry jello and dream whip. All credit for the recipe goes to Susan Stamberg.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white") I used the white horseradish, and it was fine.

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.")
Add everything else and mix.
Put in a plastic container and freeze.
Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")
The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It's also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.")
Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When Financial Industrial Complex and the American Dream Collide

I watched a football game last Sunday. I noticed a repeated theme in the commercials from the Financial Industrial Complex, formerly known as the insurance and brokerage industries. What I heard seemed striking when compared to the insurance industry that employed me in the 1980s.

The Financial Industrial Complex of late identifies itself as a resource for “wealth management”.

In an article about U. S. wealth and income statistics , I found this interesting story:

“If you're not parked near the top of the ramp, you're of little or no interest to financial services firms and financial advisers. There's no money to be made at these levels. Last year, a handful of Wall Street firms told their brokers they would no longer receive commissions on accounts holding less than $50,000. This effectively tells people with nano-Numbers to get lost. But for the Wall Street firms, there's gold on the floors above. The greater the household assets, the more fees and transaction costs can be extracted from an account. The result is a flood of advertising that captures a lifestyle so gloriously affluent it's enough to make everybody feel poor.”

This is a major change in these industries from their founding values (at least those values presented through their Public Image machinery) which pretty much stayed in place from the late 19th through late in the 20th centuries.

Financial services are promoted by telling a “corporate story”, rather than playing up specific benefits of the contracts and services available. This indirect approach is driven by State and Federal laws which restrict the ability to promote investment or insurance contracts on radio or television. The advertisements present a very broad story, limited to (1) customer identification, (2) identifying the sponsoring Financial Services Firm, and (3) an extremely vague notion of the benefits the customer can anticipate by giving money to the Firm.

The 20th century story was (1) the customer is the American family. The narratives often followed a “journey through life” story, following a WASP family from cash strapped starter house life with babies through comfortable retirement surrounded by adoring grandchildren; (2) the advertisement usually characterized the sponsor as the friend and protector of the young family whose hands are firmly placed in the bootstraps by which they will pull themselves up; and (3) if the young couple behaves like good WASPs, and associates with the firm, they will be rewarded with a satisfying and abundant life.

Well, as we moved into the 21st century, the story has changed. (1) the customer is already sitting on a pile of money, which we politely call wealth; (2) the Financial Services Firm is a very powerful and impersonal corporate edifice, large and powerful beyond description; and (3) if you bring the Financial Services Firm into your life, the pile will get bigger and bigger.

Just another way of saying, “if you are not already rich, we don’t need you”. Besides, the middle class is totally so tiresome.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Very Stupid Day

I can only describe yesterday as a very stupid day. Thanks to Google and the proliferation of stupid blogs, I am assured that I am not the only person who has the occasional Very Stupid Day.

The day started with discovering that the ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights in the kitchen aren’t working. I recalled having an electrician in to install the fixture, but I couldn’t find any records. I dragged Kathleen into the search. After about an hour, I recalled that the installation I remembered was in our house in Milwaukee, where we haven’t lived for about seven years. So goes the first Very Stupid Hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 1 – Replace all four tubes in the fixture. Drive to the local hardware store, find the right tubes, drive home, remove old tubes (fluorescent lights rarely can be fixed by replacing some rather than all of the tubes). Testing fluorescent lights can be tricky, because the mountings for the tubes (appropriately called tombstones) are pretty touchy. So I inserted and reinserted the tubes’ contacts several times. No luck still just getting a flicker. So went the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 2 – Having determined the problem was more than blown tubes, I went back the internet to find instructions for the next steps. I looked at several sets of instructions which for the most part contradicted each other, so I had to figure out a “consensus approach from about three DIY websites. So went the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 3 – Examined the wiring for visible bad connections. I removed the new tubes, and opened up the protective plate covering the ballasts and wiring. I am sure the protective covering is designed in some part top keep people like me away from the inner workings. HAH, I showed them! I looked at the wiring for about 10 minutes, gently pulling to test wires for faulty connections. All the connections looked OK to me. I wrote down the model numbers etc. on the ballasts, since after this test, it appears that the ballasts (really power transformers) are probably the problem. So goes the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 4 – Went to the home improvement big-box stores to figure out what to do next. Went to Home Depot, where I learned that (1) if I replace the entire fixture, I will need to special – order to get a fixture the same size as the current fixture. This means that replacing the fixture with a more reasonably priced fixture will require repainting the kitchen ceiling, or promising myself to never look up in the kitchen, and (2) ballasts vary in cost, from about $45 to $120 in total for the two ballasts I probably need to replace. Replacing the ballasts could cost more than replacing the entire lighting unit. Given that I don’t have the tools or the “know-how” to be sure of where the problem is located (power source versus ballasts versus tombstones), the next step will involve attempting to install a bunch of expensive components that I am not sure of how to select the right component, or how to install it correctly, without electrocution. I also visited Lowe’s to reinforce this conclusion. I realized that it was after 1:00 PM, so I stopped at a local taqueria for a burrito. I ate too much, but with little real consequence. So goes the next two hours of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 5 – I called Oleg the housepainter, who is our link into the world of reputible local Russian immigrant contractors (probably another Ivan or Vlad). He will call back today with a referral for an electrician. It was a very stupid day, because I could have just called Oleg at the beginning of all this, after the new tubes didn’t work.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Beginning of the End

As is the case in much of Sacramento, our neighborhood has a lot of rats. Sometimes we can see them running on the telephone lines, like people in more wholesome environments see squirrels and chipmunks. I have learned to tolerate the rates, since we only seem to get a rat in the house once or twice every five years. When we get rats, they quickly succumb to traps baited with peanut butter.

However, a new twist has been added to the rat drama. FLEAS! Our neighborhood has been full of fleas this summer. I nearly contemplated giving up sandals. I have had to use Advantage on our indoor-only cat. The vet said fleas can jump onto the cat through screens when the cat sits in the window. The advantage is working great, I flea-combed the cat and she looks clean. Before using the medicine, the flea comb brought up lots of flea dirt and on live flea. We’ll re-apply the Advantage next month, and hopefully denying the inside-the-house fleas their nutrition for 2 months should take care of the problem.

So, it’s rats and fleas. Somehow, this doesn’t sound very good. Isn’t this how you get a bubonic plague outbreak? Just remember this, so that your last words gasped from your bubo–swollen lips will be, “I read about it first in Hangininsac.” That’s all I ask of you.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Like A Hole In The Head I Need This, Oy!

Dana Milbank, a columnist for the Washington Post had a somewhat tongue-in-cheek column about the American Enterprise institute (AEI) forum discussing claims of superior Jewish intelligence.

At first I thought this was some kind of joke, perhaps the Washington Post had a Halloween tradition like April Fools Day in other regions. Not so, Mr Smarty Pants Big Shot! The American Enterprise Institute, those wonderful people who brought us neoconservatism has published a book explaining claims of superior Jewish intelligence. Abraham’s Children discusses the link between observed above average IQ scores in Jews and some theory that this proves that Jews are truly a race apart and possibly the Chosen People after all. Jonboy appears to spend a lot of time and energy attempting to reinvent the concept of pure race, whose only imaginable use is a pseudo-scientific justification for racism. THE AEI website promises us this book is based on “breakthroughs in genetic genealogy” (sic). GENETIC GENEAOLOGY, WTF? No doubt they also used historical creationism, statistical numerology, and astrological astronomy in their study.

I did a little research to see what background Jon needed to manage “breakthroughs in genetic genealogy” (sic). Turns out all those PHD Students devoting their lives to academic studies of genetics and Mormons studying genealogy are wasting their time. Our boy Jonjon, according to his own website has no education outside of journalism and philosophy. His work experience appears to center around television production and writing books justifying old-time racism (e. g., Jews are smart weaklings, blacks are well suited to athletics, but not intellectual pursuits (see his previous book “Taboo”)).

The fact that these books, beyond being taken seriously, are usually best-sellers provides a very good example of the true cost of weak science education in our schools. However, the AEI’s publications and other odorous outbursts seem to get taken pretty seriously. After all, when you have John “Yosemite Sam” Bolton as your fellow fellow at the AEI, how could you be wrong?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Fat and Ugly" Rumors from the Blogosphere

Bad news for Disneyland fans. The It’s A Small World ride will be closed for about a year for retooling. From what I heard this afternoon on NPR, it appears now that Disney is admitting what the blogosphere has been saying for days - The boats are sinking under the heft of our fellow citizens.

Apparently, the boats were designed for couples weighing a total of 300 pounds or under. The engineers figured on 125 lbs for the woman and 175 for the man. In addition to larger couples, I guess they didn't anticipate Disneyland's gay-friendly atmosphere either (think about two 180 lb athletic guys in a boat).

The NPR report claimed the ride has been plagued with delays when the ride stops for a boat bottomed out on the flume. Heh, heh, bottomed out.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

PRESS RELEASE - From Hangininsac Tower, 1 Cyberpunk Plaza, Cyberspace

Hangininsac's senior management has completed its planning retreat.

We have unananimously decided this blog will envision clear objectives and develop and implement plans as carefully as I do in my own life. Why demand excellence when mediocraty will do?

However, in recognition of "National Writers' Month" in November, as well as scarcity of suitable paid employment, I will attempt to produce several blog entries each week. OK, so it's really "National Novel Writer's Month". Like heck I'll write a 175 page novel. I figure I will keep working on the blog, and write my masterpieces once this blog has established me as a cult hero master of cyberspace. Hell, if Wesley Friggin’ Crusher can pull it off, what the heck.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Coming to Wisconsin

For regional flights
O'Hare red hot reflux in crop
Plump and blond nasal cell phone intonation patterns
Still a couple of past due bleach blonds, Californeeya uber allis, it is said
Nothing new after all these years
Wisconsin preview
in O'Hare

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hanging Loose and Lying Low

I am sitting in what is hopefully the ending days of a nasty cold. I feel a little distanced from the world, even though I stopped taking cold medicine today.

I really have to push myself to do anything. In my process of transitioning to slacker mode, I start to get worried that I’m acting like a depressed person, and then I remind myself about the cold. Hip Hip Hooray, I’m just under the weather, rather than nuts.

As I write this, I am listening to Frank Zappa. There’s a line from “200 Motels” I just love, “You go work for Zappa, and he makes you act like a creep. After that, no one will take you seriously. In this business, you gotta play the blues, or sing in a high voice.” Something about this reminds me of some of my work experiences.

Warning – whiney complaint follows:

This entry may get posted late, and there will be no hyperlinks, since we are having recurring phone line problems in the neighborhood. A couple of guys just showed up to look at the lines into the house. They look like complete idiots, given that several houses have problems, and they are in my back yard looking at the line to my house. One of the guys has a knit Raiders stocking cap pulled down low. He reminds me of Dumb Donald from the old Bill Cosby cartoons. The good news is that when I called the phone company to complain about the phones not working for nearly a week, they credited two months worth of free service to our account. Something similar happened in the area about 5 years ago. We lost phone service every time it rained for about a month. What a pain.

End of whiney complaint (unless I find something else to go on about)

I finished reading pretty good East Indian novel, “A Delicate Balance” by Mistry. I chose this books since the parents are reading it for their book club discussion next Monday, which I can attend. Also, I enjoy East Indian family dramas. This book is quite a bit darker than Vikram Seth’s stories. Just about every character comes to an unhappy ending. However, I found the drama to be gripping, in a mawkish way as I found myself turning the page to see what new misfortune was coming next.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Department of the Dead

Zombies! Slow-minded, innumerate zombies!

As I’ve stepped away from my Government job, I feel like I somehow escaped before the authoritarian-pension-worshipping zombies ate my brain. There’s a story here. I see a struggle of punks versus civil service zombies. This has probably has been done already.

Speaking of zombies, check out this. Even though I didn’t see any reports of zombies infiltrating civil service through adherence to an anti-innumeracy cult, this website is pretty strange. It is somewhat comforting that I am not the only person seemingly obsessed with zombies. I looked through several pages that were prosaic at best, but the concept is a winner.

I can’t find anything about innumeracy half as interesting as Zombie World News. Everything I see treats innumeracy as an accident. What if innumeracy is actually the desire and result of a religious fundamentalist cult, like the biological science illiteracy that forms the basis of creationism? After all, numerate mathematics relies on several unproven facts called axioms. Being unproven, these axioms are no more fact than the theory of evolution. If God wanted His people to hold these axioms as true, they’d be revealed in the Holy Bible, rather than from the mouths of a bunch of bed sheet-wrapped pedophiles of the ancient world.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Prefer Not To

I Said “I prefer not to”, just like Melville's scrivener, Bartleby.

I finally left my job last Friday, after months of silently fighting the urge to gnaw off my leg and escape. I won't bore or scandalize everyone with the sordid details, however I am glad to say I left them wanting more of me, and should it be appropriate, I can probably return. At this point, I struggle to find a rational reason to do that, but you never know what the future holds.

I pop music terms, I think Bob Dylan
said it all.

“Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don't wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don't wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles”

I am glad to have this behind me for now. I am taking this week off from my own self-defined obligations. Next week I’ll start contacting people to attempt to work on a future for me. I spent Monday and Tuesday catching up on things around the house that I have been putting off, like record keeping and minor fence repairs. Today I took a long bike ride and goofed off the rest of the day. Tomorrow I will make bread and stock the freezer with beans and rice, and talk to some people about tutoring. I would like to start tutoring a few evenings pretty soon. I like earning some walking-around money while I get my act together.

The bike ride was great. I rode downtown and briefly visited some folks from the former work. I ended up having to go into the office, which was a mistake. One of the people I wanted to see was stuck in a “Drill” and couldn’t get away (for a change). It’s amazing when people are stuck on all sorts of immediate and urgent business, but they will stop and gab for twenty minutes. Next time it will be lunch or break at a safe distance. I felt like a freak, and some people who simply don’t get it begged me to come back in November or December. That was embarrassing. Aside from the office visit, the bike ride was great.

I am visiting the relatives in the old country later this month. That’s a great thing to do because none of us are getting younger these days. After that, my future starts.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Am Tired

I have been feeling pretty tired lately, not sleeping very well lately. I didn’t do much this weekend, beyond the normal stuff; laundry and grilling meet for the week at the DMIL’s house. I need to up the activity level or else it is tough to find bloggable experiences.

We saw Escanaba in da Moonlight on DVD! It kicked ass! After all those years in Wisconsin, I finally understand what deer hunting is all about. I recommend this movie to any current or former Northern Midwesterner who wants a big yuck. There is no subpopulation better to showcase the surreal nature of life up north than the “yooppers” (that’s Michigan’s Upper Peninsula residents for you coastal types). One of the main characters is crazy Jim McGonahy from Menominee! Menominee is where my Mother started her childhood, until Grandma and Grandpa decided to become urbanites and moved to Wausau Wisconsin’s sprawling metropolis. I have always suspected the move to Wausau was motivated by its proximity to Chippewa Falls, site of the Leinenkugel’s Brewery. In another odd twist of fate, I was born in Wausau, although I never lived there. As you drive north, Wausau is at the point where the landscape changes from fields to woods.

Dis is da year for da Packers (OK, probably their year to disappoint even more than usual)! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Revolution is not Being Televised

But, don't worry, Barbara Ehrenreich has the full story here!

Mass civil disobediance by protesters who refuse to "behave" by not making their mortgage payments. Between Sacramento and Stockton's leading roles in the protest, I proudly feel close to the center of the revolution.

POWER TO THE (soon to be homeless) People!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Modern Life What We’ve Become

Two household events this we’re dealing with this week leave me wondering, “what is going on in our country?”

First, on the lighter side, I received the music books I ordered last week via Express mail. Express mail is apparently the normal way to send anything through the US Mail. Regular mail is obviously too time-consuming. We are surely in a no-holds-barred hurry to get whatever we ordered.

The book I ordered, Der Fluyten Lust-Hof, is a reproduction of a second edition released in 1651, about 356 years ago. I can’t help but ask myself how strange it is to make the assumption that after 356 years, I need the book on Saturday rather than the following Thursday. If I look at his from just a few steps back, it is absurd. However, I was very happy to get the book yesterday, and I jumped right into it. I guess that makes me complicit in our shared twisted values.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Kathleen and I started the morning with a short walk in a nature preserve by the American River. We saw the normal assortment of unidentifiable birds, mule deer, jackrabbits, rattlers (since moving here I have put behind me the urge to pick up every snake I see), frogs and turkeys (avian and mammal variety). We enjoyed the crisp and cool weather this morning.

History buffs may recognize the American River as the sight of John Sutter’s gold discovery that changed the course of history by bringing over 30,000 lightly armed Americans to Alta California in 1849. Although Sutter’s Mill is near Coloma, several miles uphill from Sacramento, some of the same rocks rolled down to the Sacramento Valley over the millennia.

What, might you ask, does this 19th century history review have to do with a walk in the riparian wilderness?

When walking near the river, I occasionally break a fist – sized quartz rock, to see what’s inside. Proving that even a stopped clock is right once in a while, I immediately saw yellow reflections of sunlight when I smashed a rock today. Very small glints of mineral sunshine scattered through the fracture . . . this . . . means . . . GOLD!

I carefully slipped the fractured rock into my pocket, mildly reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. However, I stayed on dry land. After all these years here, I finally feel connected with California’s cultural history of get-rich-quick schemes. Maybe next time I’ll find a floodplain real estate development. Who can tell, in this land of golden opportunity?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blowin’ in the Wind

What do I like to do to relax and enjoy some downtime, and feel good about life, the universe and everything?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in my winds, the answer is blowing in my winds.

I picked up the clarinet from the music store yesterday, where it was staying for repairs. The entire overhaul was $50 (sweeeet!). They replaced a few pads under the keys so I won’t spray myself and others when I play C - sharps or use my trill keys. I can always play more in tune right after my once-every-5-years overhaul. For some reason, as things on the clarinet lose their alignment and fit less well, I creep sharp over time. I don’t know why.

While at the music store, I picked up a couple books of recorder music. I nabbed one small book of Bach Duets and an early music collection. The early collection has a complete solo score of one of my favorite piece, “Under the Linden Tree” (Onter der quack blah quack in Dutch) from Der Fluyten Lust-Hof by Jacob Van Eyck, everybody’s favorite 17th century blind Dutch composer. What’s actually pretty cool is that Der Fluyten Lust Hof means the Flute-Player’s Garden of Delights. Hey, click the “play sample" button on the website. I know you are dying to.

I will have to play this through a few dozen times to get everything consistently right. K likes this song, but I fear she may not like it so much by next week.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry & Me

I should've written a blog entry last weekend, but "Harry Potter and the whatever" came on Saturday afternoon. I am up to page 360 or so, still enjoying it.

Contrary to all the blathermeisters out there, I really don't care what happens in the end, who gets offed, or any of that. I have read enough YA (young adult) fiction to recognize that the endings aren't the strong point in the genre. Kind of like real life, in that way.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

All about Me, Me, Me

I stumbled on an interesting website at work. The Doe Report provides resources attorneys use to educate juries. Their materials appear to be used by plaintiffs’ and defense attorneys. They have a great diagram for the Kocher maneuver. This is part of the surgery technique for removing an insulinoma. It’s followed by prodding a sonogram wand all around, and then what ever slicing and dicing is necessary. Seeing this diagram somehow helps me feel more comfortable having stomach aches all the time. It somehow helps me feel justified to be a bit of a wreck sometimes.

I guess it would be a little corny to describe my reaction as visceral.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Stupid Link of the Day – Kirk Versus Picard

Kirk versus Picard. The controversy lives on. Wil Wheaton, of Wesley Crusher and “Just a Geek” fame has been captured Channeling Kirk and Picard. This is moderately amusing, in a geeky way.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

An Extra Day for Laziness

There is little else in life as pleasant as a day taken off from work with no plans in mind. Today is that day for us. Since I was up late playing for the fireworks show last night, we decided to take a vacation day. Slept late, went to the library in the morning, had lunch wit the MIL, and now we’re spending the afternoon at home since it’s too hot to do much outside. I thought about seeing a matinee showing of Sicko, but I decided that would be too much like going to work. Instead I have been lolling in my reclining chair and watching ”The Two Towers”. The reclining chair is one of my favorite remnants from my “very sick days”.

A day of like this makes apparent what a drag it is going to work every day. I don’t seem to have any trouble filling a day with activities that are pleasant and at worst no more destructive than a day at work. All this even without banal self-improving activities like exercise, and other puritanically approved hogwash.

Last night’s pre-fireworks concert was a success, although it was really hot before the sun sank below a line of trees. I managed to drink 42 ounces of water over about two hours, without a single trip to the john. It must be summer in Sacramento again. We fell a little behind schedule, so the fire works started a few seconds after we began our encore of Stars and Stripes Forever. This was made a pretty cool effect. Being a pop concert, we played an arrangement of Glenn Miller tunes. I could not help but notice that the fireworks crowd simply didn’t “get it”. The crowd was mostly young adults with kids and teenagers, the adults in the crowd may have had an average birth year around 1970 if not later. From that younger viewpoint, Glenn Miller isn’t a lot more relevant than anything else from the first half of the 20th Century, however it works well for a symphonic band. Good thing most band concerts are well-attended by the over age 70 crowd. In any event, I don’t see changing the pops repertoire to include arrangements of punk rock or hip hop tunes any time soon. That would really suck.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day at Point Reyes, A Break From My Everyday Exciting Life

A Day at Point Reyes, A Break From My Everyday Exciting Life

We drove out to Point Reyes National Seashore for a hike yesterday. The weather was beautiful, although a little warm for the coast, with no fog, sunshine and a high temperature around 70 except within a few hundred feet of the shore.

We decided to hike the Bear Valley Trail , since this trail is wide and levelly paved. I needed a non-rocky trail since I managed to break a toe Thursday night. This link has great pictures from the trail. The path alternates between warm grassy meadows and cool fern-lined gullies. This made a very pleasant hike just under nine miles. The walk begins about 4 miles from the ocean, going through a series of hills, ending at a promontory overlooking the ocean, which makes a perfect place for a windy lunch and watching pelicans fly about 100 feet below. The gullies had several large annual plants that can only be described as resembling illustrations for Dr Seuss books.

The drive both ways was uneventful, which is a relief because we were traveling under the threat of traffic from a NASCAR race at Infineon Speedway . Apparently, we missed the before and after race traffic. You can no longer call this an elitist blog, since I’ve added two links to NASCAR. Just don’t ask me to spell out the NASCAR acronym.

I broke my toe in the classic way. Got up at about 11:00 PM with a stomach ache, got up and read in the living room for a while, then turned out the light and walked back to bed. I suffered the immediate pain silently, in order to spare Kathleen and the cat from the toe-clutching-middle-of-the night howling in the hallway that haunted my childhood.

That’s all my excitement for this weekend, until I go to the DMIL’s house to watch this evening with dinner. We have dinner and watch Sherlock Holmes and Midsomer Murders
Mystery shows “Tivoed” from the Biography Channel. I don’t know why among the Biography Channel’s most popular shows are mysteries. I also don’t know why the rural Midsomer area hasn’t run out of population to murder yet. The high prevalence of adultery might somehow contribute to providing future murder victims.

Next weeks major excitement involves band. I am in a group that will wind up practice on Monday and Wednesday to play a Sunday night concert at Carmichael park. And we’ll play at a local fireworks show. Fireworks shows are a unique experience. We play before sundown, while five or about five thousand people are in the park setting up chairs and laying out blankets, trying to keep track of their kids, and wondering how they ever let their kids talk them into this in the first place.

We are playing the typical fireworks show pieces, including the 1812 overture (really just the last third of this ponderous piece and, of course, ending with Stars & Stripes forever. We are having a vocalist sing “Old Man River” and another Patriotic song (maybe the Battle Hymn, but I can’t remember).

That’s my story an I’m sticking to it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I Communed With Saints (of the Latter Day variety)!

OK, OK, Calm Down! I spent last Sunday morning with a few hundred Latter Day Saints. Of course, I politely refused communion. The communion consisted of white bread and water served by teenage boys wearing dark slacks, white shirts, and dark ties. Why are these details not a surprise? I used the official Catholic – approved gesture for refusing communion, which involves silently crossing your arms, and gently tapping each shoulder simultaneously with the opposite hand. I think this confused the boy priests, I hope they didn’t think it might be an obscene gesture. From listening to the service, I think that Mormons do not believe in Transubstantiation.

My ensemble played for the Sunday service, since one of our members is a member of that church. The service was not terribly exciting. The talks, given by the congregation’s men (all priests, of course) were pretty dull. Fortunately they didn’t harp on too much weird stuff, however, several verses were quoted from what I believe were Jesus’ sermons to the Incas, straight from the book of Mormon (I think). We also heard a lot about how hard work will make a man great, that we must never lose hope, and other surprisingly standard Protestant themes. It was somewhat comforting to observe that Mormon teenagers are equally bored in church as any other kids. Whatever.

The overriding feel of extreme patriarchy surrounding and throughout the whole environment was beyond belief. I cannot clearly describe any of the myriad of small patriarchy – reinforcing words and actions, but the cumulative effect was beyond anything I could have conceived. Ok, everything I could have conceived excepting plural wives. I was a little freaked out.

I talked with several church members, and everyone was nice. They were perfect hosts. No one asked me “if I was interested in learning more about their church”. Most important, no one offered me any me green kool-aid.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Disappearing Act

I have been lazy about making blog entries. My sole lane excuse is that work has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks, and it isn’t blog-worthy. It’s a combination of boring and public policy issues. I don’t want to talk about it, and nobody wants to hear about it.

I have also been busy on the weekends, although I have no reports of peaks climbed or a thrilling social life that I can boast. I have spent most of my time obsessing about work and doing a lot of Recorder society stuff, mainly mundane board of directors business. Getting the new board of on the right foot and dealing with work has made me tool dull to blog.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Some of My Best Friends are Vegetables

Saturday in our neighborhood is Farmers Market day. The local California Farmers Markets differ from the Madison, Wisconsin Farmers Market of my youth and young adulthood. California Farmers markets are more about serious grocery shopping and the occasional mariachi band, and less of a celebration of the short and intense pleasure of the glorious summer like Madison’s Farmers Market.

I bought a giant head of romaine lettuce, green beans, red and gold beets, and several pounds of peaches, apricots and Pluots. Pluots are a plumb-apricot hybrid that resembles a plumb in feel and appearance, but combines the tart lemon-like plumb flavor with the apricot’s flavor and fragrance. I have rarely seen pluots except at farmers markets.

I boiled the beets, steamed the beans, and washed and tore the lettuce as soon as I got home. I try to keep pre-cooked vegetables in the refrigerator for grab-and-go eating all week. I love getting my hands into the vegetables this way. Life is somehow merrier with a fridge full of fresh food ready to enjoy.

The farmers markets are the only place in my life where I can experience the benefits of a real free market economy. I can buy peaches from my choice among about ten vendors, all within about 100 feet of each other. Amazing how this arrangement assures quality and price. I can’t say the same for Safeway.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.

-Kurt Vonnegut

I have to agree with the crusty old Hoosier on this one, although I like a parade as much as the next guy. Let’s have more well-oiled brass and woodwinds (at least well-oiled musicians), and fewer guns. I cannot help but muse upon the shameful expropriation of peoples’ lives and labor that is what passes for war in today’s double-speak. It is sobering to think about what other services might be provided with the resources spent in the seemingly endless fiasco in Iraq. Medi-Cal can provide healthcare for around seven million Californians for a cost of about $12 Billion per year. Compare that to over $100 Billion to continue the fighting in Iraq though early autumn. That doesn’t even begin to account for the devastating cost of loss of life limb and civil rights.

I usually visit our local cemeteries on Memorial Day. It’s our family tradition. The Spanish – American war veteran’s cemetery in Sacramento has a monument made from relics from the USS Maine, as well as my wife’s grandfather’s grave. The Spanish – American War Veterans Association in Sacramento became a massively powerful civic organization from the 1920s through the 1950s. From reading scrapbooks of clippings, it seems they were like a combination of the Kiwanis, Elks, and Rotary, with a little of the Klan mentality thrown in for a spice. I am glad all those veterans were long gone by the time excavators determined that the Maine’s explosion was not due to sabotage. But we get to keep Puerto Rico anyway. A war predicated by deceit? By George, I can’t believe it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Home Improvement

We had our carpet taken out and the floors refinished last week. The only thing left to do is move the heavy furniture back from the garage and put all the books back on the shelves. We are expecting reinforcements for the furniture moving at 7:00 tomorrow morning. The house looks and feels good, however we need to let the finish cure for a week before putting out area rugs. I have a bokhara rug that’s been waiting for this moment, rolled up in a closet for years. We finally have the house in shape, hopefully no more projects for the next several years.

The house has a different resonant sound quality without the carpet, hopefully bringing the upholstered furniture back in will dampen things a little. We have a slight echo indoors.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Card-Carrying Bureaucrat

It’s been over a week without an entry. Work and other things have kept me busy, responding to the Administration’s budget request. We also have had a Band concert last week. We sucked, but I say since admission is free, who cares?

P .S. the six-pack referred two in the previous entry is delicious Verners Ginger Ale. However, beer in cans would have fitted just as well. It’s typical of the corporate mentality to design drawers that do not fit micro-brewery bottles.

Speaking of band concerts, we will be playing at this year’s July 4th fireworks in Carmicheal. This is fun, we can play lots of marches that everyone already knows, and a parking space close to the exit, since as stage manager, I’ll be among the first to arrive. I did this a few years ago and enjoyed it. The only drawback is that temperatures tend to be hot while setting up in the early evening.

The only upcoming event on the Sine Nomine radar is playing at a LDS service in June and a UCC service in July. I want to find a big button that says, “kiss me, I’m a gentile” for the Mormon service. I am hoping the Mormon service will be memorable. I have never been to one. We have played at the UCC church in the past, they have the typical liberal protestant service, with nothing out of the ordinary (Catholics – no pun intended).

Now, the lead story. My Union Card came in the mail! It’s even laminated! I feel like going out and smashing some fascists bosses (are there any other type?)

Here’s what’s written on the back of the card; “Members of SEIU Local 1000, CSEA are united – in our workplaces and our communities - to protect and enhance public services. Together, we will build a better future for ourselves, our families, and all working people.”

It could go on to state; “We will protect the brain-dead and incompetant at all levels of State employment. We work diligently to preserve the right of any worker to a two hour nap at the time of the worker’s choosing. We universally reject the so-called right of employers to demand any noticable effort from employees; after all, this is the State, dammit!”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Zero Tolerance Policy

Height to close
Over a sixpack.
Not a centimeter extra!
Conspiracy or
Yearning of

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hooked on Sweet Things

Sweet thing No.1

Alright, readers, it’s time to come clean. On and off over the past couple of years, I have been reading the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. The stories take place in Botswana, and are so shamefully sweet I am sickened that I both play recorders and have read these novels. Sometimes I fear there is an old lady inside me, struggling to get out. Hey, just a minute, did I steal that from Alfred Hitchcock (Norrrrmannnnnn)? These books are so sickening sweet and moralizing that even my m-m-m-mother doesn’t like them.

The series follows the life and work of Botswana’s first female private detective, Precious Ramotswe, who is “traditionally built” and prizes old-fashioned Botswana values. Her idea of traditional Botswana values is suspiciously like all that blather the British Torries spewed about Victorian values during the dark days of Margaret Thatcher. Precious’s life is intertwined with that of the conspicuously honest auto mechanic and garage owner, Mr. JLB Matekoni.

In each of the six books, Precious solves small problems in people’s life while slowly chipping away at the major mystery. As each mystery is resolved, both the major and minor puzzles, precious works out her own resolution to the problems she uncovers.

There is something amazing about these books, possibly in the writing style. I cannot come up with a good reason why I like the books, but I do. They are the ultimate feel-good escapist experience, although there are crimes involved.

Sweet thing No. 2

A couple of mourning dives have set up a nest in a poodle-trimmed bonsai tree in my neighbor’s side yard. The bonsai tree gives us a great view of the nest, we’ve watched them build the nest, sit on the eggs and deal with the baby birds, who are nearly two weeks old. The nest is about 10 feet from the neighbor’s living room window, so we can watch the action with binoculars from her house. Even a “trash bird” becomes attractive in this view. I suspect the bird has somehow arrived at the command of Maximon.

Our neighbor will remove the nest once the dovelets leave the nest, probably next week. Doves can have broods 6 or 7 time per year. That’s too many doves and too much guano.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Naked Brunch

He sat by the computer, realized his life is so pathetic there’s nothing worth writing about. Time to write about nothing.

It just appeared, right in a downtown parking ramp, the camper van. A big camper, with urban styling – tagged on the back. Why is this my camper? Where am I going? How can I fit this locomotive-sized thing through the parking ramp exit? Squeeze to get out, must be a weekend day – no one there to collect a parking fee. Driving on the road, going nowhere, why does this look like Parking Lot 60 in Madison, WI? Where am I now? What am I doing here, by Cabella’s in their campground? I don’t even go hunting or fishing. Damn it, fell into another wormhole of the mind. Who would think a wormhole could connect you to western Nebraska. The store closes at 9:00, frantic rush to buy ammo, sandhill cranes flying over soon, begging to be shot. Ancient Japanese scribes wrote that killing a Crane leads to 30 years bad luck. Damn, the secret to immortality! Haven’t killed one in 28 years, time to get to work. Oh no, here comes Jesus, wants to know where he can get his nails done. The end of times is near, careful with that flaming sword, josh. Are you trying to burnt he place down? Who wants to start eternity with a torn cuticle, he asks while sucking the tip of his pinky.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vernal Pools!

We walked among vernal pools today!

We toured vernal pools this afternoon. Vernal pools are small seasonal marshes that form each winter in the little that’s left of native prairie in California’s Central Valley. The pools lie in poorly drained areas, so the pools are ponds in the winter, and slowly dry out in the spring. As the pools dry out, some beautiful plants seen nowhere else pop up.

The tour was led by the California native plants Society. Our docent was a youngish graduate student who is specializing in studies of invasive vegetation in vernal pools. He appears to be very focused in his advanced studies. I had to prompt him when he couldn’t remember the latin name for the California poppie, eschultsia sespitosa. Who could forget an official State flower whose name brings to mind imaged of the underside of an outhouse? He certainly knows his vernal pool biota, however.

When we first stepped out into the grassland, we could see the vernal pool culverts in the distance. They can be recognized by the blue downingia or the beautiful yellow flowers.

Those who demand facts from respectable sources can get the official story about vernal pools here.

The local vernal pool society publishes photographs of plants in the pools we visited. Latin and common names are included for the botanical minded.

Today’s weather was sunny and very windy. The blustering wind provided clear views in all directions. I could see the Sierra summit to the east, and Mount Diablo to the southwest. We don’t often get such fine views.

We went with three of our neighbors, so we had tea and tea sandwicheds after the trip. One of our neighbors (the very same neighbor who lives with maximon, the Guatemalan God-idol) just loves cut-out and fussy British tea sandwiches, so we acquiesced and made some. A good time was had by all.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Through The Looking Glass

Through The looking Glass

Two short quotes

“If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

I find myself looking to this classic lately. You can find quotations from wonderland here. The older I get, the more I take away from this book. Lewis Carroll must have had some experience with corporate or other bureaucracies.

I am aware of stories, some possibly true, about the disturbing nature of Carroll’s relationship with Alice Liddel. Shame on him. A lot of losers have written very good books, and he is dead so he can’t hurt anyone now. So there.

I am done traveling for a while. I had a one day very short examination of an auditor’s work papers in Los Angeles. A relatively painless same-day trip.

We are hoping to have our newly radioactive cat back home soon, however she won’t be able to sleep in our bed for a couple of weeks, to protect our health. By now she probably hates us anyway. The animal hospital says she is dong fine, and approaching a safe level. Radioactive cats; welcome to wonderland.

Tuesday morning had the longest security line I have ever seen. I am amazed I made my early morning flight. Fortunately, a couple of cheerful and humorous young women were directly in front of me for the forty minutes we had together in line. Passengers moved very fast through security. I was surprised to make the flight. Otherwise it was uneventful travel. I just found out my hotel was over the State’s limit for Orange County. We had to pursue a Division Chief to get the necessary forms signed. Travel reimbursement takes over a month, and about two hours of my time per trip. However the meals per diem allowance is reasonable. What a hemorrhoid this all is.

Speaking of hemorrhoids, I had my physical Monday. My only issue with my female doctor is that she needs to cut her fingernails shorter (at least one of them). I tested out OK for everything, and my Rx is extended for another year. I was surprised when she suggested politely that I might benefit from a “checkup from the neck up” but she’s probably right. Maybe I should see a therapist type person. However, I know several, and it concerns me that they are mostly loonier than me. I have a new doctor because my previous doc, an active younger guy, now works for Doctors Without Borders in Guatemala. He has already met a French doc there and they’ve married. Guatemalans probably needed him more than I do, so I guess its OK.

I need to think or do something more exciting next week to provide more interesting reading.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Travel, Travel, Travel

Next week will be my third week in a row with travel for work. Yuk.

I have somehow ended up involved in an onsite audit project that never seems to end. This is the first time in my life I have done onsite audit work, so it was interesting the first visit, the week before last. Last week I was away Thursday and Friday, and I’ll be onsite at a different location Tuesday this week. The strain of travel is dragging me down. One of my motivations in taking this job was the supposed little need for travel. It’s been decided I am the person needed to add professionalism to the audit function. Good for the taxpayers and beneficiaries, not so great for me. I always seem to get these things wrong. I should’ve acted less competent from day one.

The only reward has been the site and hotel are within a half hour drive of a southern California beach, and the audit team is pleasant, and the per diem meal reimbursement is reasonable, especially if you have a picnic on the beach at dinner. I need make sure this doesn’t become a lifestyle. I am left a little tired burnt out on the weekends. I feel like I am running out of energy. Phooey.

The general roles I have fallen into at work, in an archetypal sense, seem to resemble “Socrates” and “the hero’s helper”. Note, both characters consistently end up dead before the day is saved. I’ll say it again, I always seem to get these things wrong. I had better start buying lottery tickets. (Lola – you’ll know that I’d make a lousy noonaught)

I had a harmless eye hemorrhage last week, so the white of my left eye looks red and gross. I hope it intimidates the folks we are auditing, and I got to meet an ophthalmologist with a quirky sense of humor. He gave me a vision exam as well as looking at my eye, and I don’t need new glasses!

Our cat had her radiation treatment yesterday, hopefully we’ll be able to take her home next week. We’ll have to practice special safety precautions with the litter box for a week or two, until she eliminates the radioactivity.

We are having perfect weather, highs in the 70s and sunny. Kathleen is practicing for all her choir’s Holy Week music – they have 5 or so big masses the building up to Easter. They always do a great job, I’m sure they’ll nail it (heh, heh).

I volunteered to be elected Vice President of the Sacramento Recorder Society , however, I let myself get talked in to sharing the President position. The other co-president and I are already agreeing to ways we can make this as easy as possible next year, since we were both railroaded into this. We’ve already delegated doing the monthly newsletter, and we have an experienced treasurer, so hopefully, there will be little that we need to do beyond contracting teachers for our monthly playing events and planning one or two more major events. Plus board meetings that I already attend and putting up with everyone in the group. Robert (co prez) and I have discussed outrageous proposals we might put forward before the election, with the hope of generating opposition to steal the election. My idea was to require all event attendees wear their underwear on the outside memorize three Madonna songs on their choice of recorder. In reality, since there have been no contested elections for over a decade, we have no way out.

On the fun side, I’ll be grilling chicken tomorrow for an April fool’s day party with some of our neighbors. They beg for my grilled chicken, they love it. My secret is dong nothing to the chicken beyond sprinkling with a salt & pepper & garlic powder rub. Twenty minutes per side in a Weber kettle does the rest. Sometimes simplest is the best.

OK – after all this bragging, I admit I messed up grilled chicken once. I forgot to open the vents before closing the kettle. However, the pizza I ordered was yummy.

Yep, although life is full of work with its travel and nasty politics, yes, Virginia, there is still the occasional grilled chicken on a sunny afternoon.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Back Again, Hopefully to Stay This Time

Back Again, Hopefully to Stay This Time

It’s been nearly 6 months of state employment for me.

I have come to realize that my employment provides less than nothing in the way of creative outlets. I have also discovered I need a creative outlet not related to work, where the manifold sources job-related sturm und drang und angst cannot be safely discussed here. (Believe me, they are not that interesting, anyway) I wonder why the words for these feelings mostly come from German. May be a topic for another day.

So there, ladies and gentlemen, it’s back to the blog. I will attempt to post at least once a week.

Catching Up

My most recent previous entry is from early December 2006. I have been working since then, and trying to have a real life.

Last week and the next few months will feature some work-related travel, doing onsite work around the State. I am traveling with an enjoyable team, and the per diem reimbursement for meals is workable. Traveling really drags me down, I felt exhausted all day Saturday. I awoke Thursday in Southern CA with half the white are of my right eye bright red. Went to the doctor Friday AM and had some blood tests. I suspect the eye issue may be related to three pints of beer I had Wednesday night. In any event, it doesn’t hurt, isn’t completely abnormal, it just looks terrible. Traveling exposes my remaining physical issues. Just working and playing in my music groups, without travel stresses, wears me out sometimes. I will have to deal with that. I do not have the energy resources that most other folks have. Every day, returning to slackdom seems a better and better idea.

One more harp about working, in double Fibanacci form:

Here now
Flowers bloom
Sunshine, wear T-shirts
Open windows, breeze, fresh indoors
Make working feel like
Of joy

This is a pretty honest expressing of my feelings.

Ok, let’s get over work.

I have gotten more involved in the Board of the Sacramento Recorder Society. As of late, I have been getting less involved, since they are looking to replace the president. We had a successful workshop, which means we had enough paying attendees to clear costs. You can read about the details in my previous entry, or hopefully in a future issue of the American Recorder Society’s Magazine, which apparently isn’t available on the internet. I wrote a short article about the experience, including a totally irrelevant discussion of contemporary modifications to baroque trumpets.

We have had our bathroom totally and radically redone, it looks like a pricey hotel, brown style that looks like stone and all that comes with it. Once we figured out the shower area was leaking behind a wall, it became a priority. Next come the wooden floors.

Veterinary Woes

A more significant bummer is that Evita, our cat, has developed thyroid problems that pills can’t cure. It has been a bit of a sad drama, with the cat taking to spending almost all her time in the linen closet. We are taking her to a specialty vet for a radiation injection treatment next week. She’ll have to stay there for around a week, and she should be back to normal after that (this works for the vast majority of cases. Even after the treatment, I imagine we’ll have her for four or five more years.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

About Me

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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