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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.

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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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