Pseudophedrine Update

I have a cold. I was worried that it was strep, but a day after the sore throat the snot kicked in and verified that it was just a routine case of the sniffles. This is day three of the maximum recommended dose of pseudophedrine, the day at which cognitive functions start shutting down and nothing sounds like very much fun. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the first meeting of the latest radical leftism seminar is this afternoon, keeping me on campus until after 6:30pm.

I suppose this would be a natural segue into a comment on the current occupation of the grad commons by a pack of disaffected students (and, supposedly, staff / faculty, although I haven't heard anything to verify that.) They sent out a manifesto this morning that was reasonably well written, the occasional lapse into hyperbole and potty-mouthed nonsense notwithstanding. I actually find myself sympathizing with them a bit more; their means are confused, their goals ambiguous, but the point of the manifesto was that you got to start somewhere, and they're right that the situation, particularly in California, is untenable. Their biggest problem is that they're so used to steaming in the same teapot, hanging out with other fidgety radicals, that they have no way to reach out to the mainstream of the student / grad student / everyone else community. They forget that they're extremists, and they suck at building real dialogue.

Besides all that, I'm still busy staving off a complete emotional freak-out while I try to apply for jobs and figure out the next 1 - 45 years of my life. The house-sitting is still fun, although I would like to go on the record to the effect that I hate watering plants.

Next time on KFR: it turns out that there are still ska bands that A. exist and B. are great.


This Is Why We're Fat

The "Texas Benedict," courtesy of This Is Why You're Fat dot com. Hilarious.

Like most people who get their news from the interwebs, I read this Time article about exercise and obesity a few weeks ago. The article notes that obesity rates have climbed in the US at the same rate as exercise, and goes on to make the claim that the problem is that most people end up ingesting more calories after exercising than they burned while doing it. You work out for 30 minutes, then you reward yourself with a great big muffin. Or the equivalent.

I'm less impressed with that argument and more taken with the subsidiary one: if you take in more than you burn, you gain weight. It's one of those "no shit, Sherlock" points that the rest of us weren't clever enough to figure out in so many words. All of the obsessing over carbs and fats and trans fats and complex this and simple that, all of it is of tertiary importance compared to the simple number of calories balanced against actual energy needs.

I remain a pretty slender fellow. Like everyone else, though, I still wish I looked like I did when I was, say, 19 (the abs of yesteryear...) The calorie revelation led me to look up what I eat and drink and come to the irritating conclusion that 3 beers = 480 calories is indeed a good reason not to drink so much beer.

Just another reason we can't have nice things, you guys.


Buy Local, 'cuz You Have to

In two short days, my dear friend K is off for her 10-week research trip in London. I remember all too well the stress and anxiety associated with living abroad and I've done my best to convince her that it will all work out.*

K's major concerns are financial. For all of us who study Europe, the cost of jumping through the great hoop of research abroad is probably the single biggest obstacle, after mastering languages. As I've noted before, for decades the strength of the dollar and the flaccidity of most European economies were such that Americans could easily and comfortably spend as much time over there as they needed to in their studies. Now, it's a rushed death march through the libraries and archives before one's finances run out, going toe-to-toe with the Euro or, even worse, the Pound.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Mr. Rich a while ago about music. Above and beyond the collapse of the music industry (no big loss), gas prices threaten the whole phenomenon of bands touring outside of their home regions. He pointed out that this could lead to local scenes getting stronger, but having fewer live connections with bands from other places since everyone would have to more-or-less stay put.

The idea is that with the contraction of the global economy and the only-going-to-get-higher price of energy, we're all obliged to limit ourselves to the local. The socialist version of this goes back to Proudhon, the idea of local communities producing most of what they need and exchanging what they had to exchange between themselves. Gorz's updated version was tied to his ecological concerns and his sneaking suspicion that capitalism was approaching a new crisis. Both are completely antithetical to the way the global economy operates.

I think my point is that another symptom of the fact that my parents' generation was and will be the last one to experience an increase in real wealth is that we all are forced to limit our scope and figure out ways of doing things within truncated horizons. That's depressing, of course, but so's everything when you look at it hard enough.

* I feel confident in this prediction largely because they speak English, albeit a weird version, in England.


Do These Jobs Instead

So there is and has been a Heat Advisory for the bay area for today and tomorrow. As of yesterday, it was supposed to soar into the 90s today, shooting closer to 100 tomorrow. Instead, it was, like, warmish. Maybe 80 at its peak. Forecasters are better here than they were in Oregon, but that is saying practically nothing at all about their abilities.

This gets me to thinking. What are jobs I wish I had done or could do in another life? Jobs that do indeed require training and dedication and esoteric skills, but which are also just really hilariously easy or involve an almost total lack of accountability, at least from an outsider's perspective? These jobs include:
  1. Meteorologist. Yes, they know a lot about weather. They also never really need to be right to keep their jobs, apparently.
  2. Marriage counselor. You can know, deep down, that 60% of your clients are going to split up anyway, but you tell them to stop being jerks and collect checks in the meantime.
  3. Any job that involves the word "consultant." These ass-clowns used to get paid 100/hour at the companies I worked at (for 30K a year) to sit in an office and think deep thoughts about how the company might be able to make more money.
  4. Big scary mega-church pastor. Wouldn't it be funny if they were all just kidding? If they were actually Jon Stewart fans who voted for Obama, but wanted to make easy money off of idiot hick rubes? Hilarious.
  5. Construction guy who holds the slow/stop sign. Self-explanatory.
  6. Evil ponzi scheme free-market investor who rips off other rich guys. As far as I can tell from the news, the trick is to never return to US soil once you get busted, and live in one of those "countries" (AKA "island nations") that doesn't enforce extradition treaties.
  7. Anyone who hosts reality television.
  8. Builder of big stupid motorcycles or muscle cars for celebrities.
Instead I am aspiring to be a professional historian. Ha. Ha. Ha.


Just Sayin'

  1. This evening, I was covered in chicken juice. It's a long story. I'm not making this up.
  2. The new LP (only sold on vinyl! How punk is that?!) by The Spits is just over 15 minutes of awesome.
  3. I'm going camping tomorrow. Everyone who wimped out from the history cohort: weak sauce, guys, weak sauce.
  4. After a while, the stress and terror just feel normal. Hopefully I get to apply for academic jobs again, year after year, because I am having so much fun.


How to Scare Your Bunny

So we're house-sitting now, up in Bonny Doon, California. My adviser lives about 3.5 miles up a windy mountain road from the coast, in a rambling wood house at the end of a very steep driveway, set in its own grove of redwoods. There are no curtains on most of the windows because there are no human beings who could possibly see in. The water is from an aquifer under the hill across the street, with PVC pipes draining into two tanks and then getting pumped into the house through a filter. There is cable and internet, but besides that it certainly feels like a kind of Henry Miller-esque Big Sur experience. It's quiet, man. For the first time in three years, I'm somewhere quiet.

That said, it's also a pain in the ass getting there and back. Yesterday was day two of hauling our stuff up from town, this time including the bunny. I felt like a very, very bad bunny dad cruising up and around the curves with poor terrified little Pesto in the back seat, hyperventilating and obviously quite sure we were taking her somewhere to be fed to coyotes. She still hasn't gotten up the courage to explore the rest of the kitchen she's staying in, instead running back and forth from her cage to a cardboard box we gave her to hide in. In short, I gave her post-traumatic bunny syndrome.

In other news, the academic job application experience is even scarier and more awful than I anticipated, which is definitely saying something. I'll save my extended thoughts on it for a near-future post.



Our homies SJ + D, immediately after successfully getting married on Saturday.
  1. We spent the weekend up in Santa Rosa, putting our weight behind the wedding of above-pictured peeps. It was great fun, featuring the (Star Wars) Imperial March, thoughtful and eloquent toasts, enchiladas, and me in a dope outfit. Unfortunately, it also produced the worst hangover I've had in three years; yesterday was lost. The whole day is just a big painful blot in my memory. Anyway, the important thing is that the wedding was really nice. Congrats, SJ + D!
  2. Today I'm driving my adviser and his wife to SFO, then carting stuff up to their place in Bonny Doon (the one that didn't get burned down in the recent fire.) For the next five weeks, I'm Dr. KFR, home-sitter! The logistics are going to be inconvenient, with a twenty-minute drive to town, but I'm extremely stoked about the peace, quiet, and ability to have two people in the same room without literally running into each other.


Two Post-Birthday Notes

Thanks to everyone who came out last night. I had a lot of fun. Two things I realized yesterday:
  1. Urban Outfitters is Hot Topic for grownups.*
  2. The reason America's Next Top Model is fun is that it is precisely equivalent to watching crazy people in a giant cage.
* I got a new dapper cap and B got me two new awesome shirts.


09/09/09: 31

Ten years ago I turned 21. A good-sized crew of Oregonian ne'er-do-wells gathered at the Vet's Club on Willamette and we all proceeded to drink all of their alcohol. If memory serves, I had something like three beers, twelve cocktails, and at least two Mind Erasers. I woke up the next morning completely un-hungover, having actually drank past the point at which my body had anything to say about it.

Last year I turned 30. An elite cadre of graduate students gathered in my tiny Parisian apartment on the Ile St. Louis and polished off a few bottles of wine. It was heartening to have a bunch of people to hang out with while I was missing B and swimming around in culture shock every day.

Today, I'm 31. Another elite cadre* is gathering at the Poet + Patriot for a few beers. It's a trite thing to say, but I'm stoked to be here, to have good friends, to be where I'm at, even though I'm still broke and maladjusted.

For next year, I'd like to request a rock n' roll birthday clown:

* Elite cadre = everyone's out of town or busy, so it'll be a strike team rather than a birthday army.



Yesterday was action-packed. I got a surprise "help us move" e-mail from my homie J, so I swooped in and lent my rippling physique to the task of carting furniture and boxes up a set of stairs. I fed my homie E's cat and finished a draft of the last chapter of the diss. I got supplies, then attacked my bathroom with white vinegar and baking soda (notes on that below.) I made burritos for dinner and watched some Netflix'd Mad Men with B. I was a special kind of robot designed for maximum productivity.

But I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. After helping J + J move, one of their friends stopped by and mentioned a big UC networking / job-hunt conference in about a week in Oakland that fellowship recipients are, apparently, eligible for. He also mentioned that it was a formal, suit-wearing kind of thing. Now, I have suits. But these suits look like this:

In other words, they're the kind of suits designed for martinis and Sammy Davis Jr., not academic networking.

I found something about the fact that I don't own a proper suit profoundly depressing; for some reason it's this iconic reminder for me of how intimidating I find the job hunt and the prospect of passing myself off as a real scholar. The suit is a symbol of that, of not being able to hide behind the "work in progress" status of a graduate student and of having to be ready to scrap to defend my arguments against real-deal interlocutors. I'm not looking forward to it.

Regarding baking soda and vinegar: in our ongoing attempt to use fewer toxic chemicals around the apartment, B and I have been using green cleaning products for a while. The ones we've tried don't do a very good job in bathroom cleanup, so I gave baking soda and vinegar (which is antiseptic) a go. The baking soda kicked the dirty tub's ass - a paste of 3 parts soda to 1 part water left for five minutes scrubs off to reveal extreme cleanliness in its wake. The vinegar I'm not quite as sure about, although I might just have been using it improperly. One note on the latter: one must not use vinegar without being ready to wipe it up, lest one's apartment stink of the stuff for days to come. Now I know that.


Summer Ought-Nine: Looking Back

It was a tricky one. We had a handful of hot snaps in SC, each one promising exacerbated insomnia and general misery, we had a big fire right outside of town, we had the usual ugly sunburned idiots on mountain bikes with plastic bags full of cans. The state's budget was dragged out behind the toolshed and shot, just about everyone lost their jobs, and we couldn't afford to move in to a two-bedroom apartment.

I really, really struggled to juggle teaching and working on my diss this summer. Now that it's over, I can look back and feel good about what I accomplished, but I feel like I lost access to my usual academic superpower.* I procrastinated a lot more than usual and suffered the predictable grad guilt as a consequence. I hate that getting things done is never enough; it's the knowledge that you could have gotten so much more done if you'd only kept it together somehow.

Anyway, just like that, it's job-hunt season in the wide world of academia. I've started bookmarking listings for ones I'd be remotely qualified for and I'm in the process of pinning down the people who will be writing me letters of recommendation. After the morning's toil of diss-writing and conference paper-citing I'm trying each day to get cover letters completed, my CV polished, and everything else I need to send out in a few weeks done. It's hugely intimidating. I will have spent six years doing this as the end of the coming school year, and I'm now facing the prospect of leaving the familiar confines of bad facilities and TA assignments and trying to be a real-deal historian. Dang.

* Writing fast and producing work of widely varying quality.


32! 31!

This weekend was B's 32nd birthday celebratory celebration series. We spent a few days in Novato w/ her folks, then hit the Academy of Arts and Sciences in San Francisco on the day itself. We spent the evening in the company of our homies S + T, who hosted some fierce backyard mini-pool and a delicious dinner. We got home way past our shared bedtime and we're both a bit ragged today as a result, but it was fun.

My birthday follows shortly. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do for it, as opposed to having a grad student party in Paris, so if you live in SC, stay tuned for an e-mail.

I'll leave you with this, a shot of B about to sink one, guided by the lucky Indonesian penis of bottle opening and good fortune: