Bacon Fries and Tech Support

Yes, while here in E-town, I had a chance to hit up Rennie's and enjoy a SEVEN DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS PITCHER and a big plate of their famous bacon cheesy fries. Which are served with ranch. Fear the wrath! The lovely and talented E was kind enough to accompany me, as was my brother. I'm sad that I'm leaving today, but I'm looking forward to checking in with an elite cadre of the PDX kids.

A note about my week here in the Emerald City: I am the tech-supportinist of sons. Here's what I did:
  1. Hooked up the wireless to my mom's/stepdad's new cable connection using a handy hack I found online.
  2. Hooked up all of the A/V stuff for their big-ass new tv. Cable + Tivo + DVD + VHS...total remotes: five (including the one that came with the TV itself.)
  3. My stepdad's laptop spontaneously died, hard, so I had to reinstall the whole thing from scratch, after trying the nonsense detailed in this Microsoft support article. That kept me busy yesterday morning.
Happily, I'm staying in P-town at the headquarters of the rackm0unter, and that guy knows how to do his own tech support like Bon Jovi knows how to hair-spray, so I expect to have a few days off from computering.

Anyway, happy new year's everyone. Stay out of trouble.


On We Go

For a good time combine:
  1. A chilly, rainy town.
  2. Lots of red wine.
  3. Pizzas and other tasty stuff.
  4. Good-lookin' kids.
The last 24 hours have been great. I had lunch with some of the extended family, hooked up yet more electronics for my mom and stepdad, then had dinner and vino and games with an elite cadre of fun kids. This morning my mom and I went for one of our patented long walks and I was again reminded of how lucky I was to grow up in a town full of trees and paths and moss instead of strip malls and parking lots.


I Hates Me Some Flying

Planes: they are illogical. They're huge and made of metal, and they have these engines that are very small compared to the mass of the thing they're supposed to lift. Whenever I do the mental math, I come up with a twisted pile of burning wreckage to-be and an image of me plummeting to earth screaming "I told you sooooooooooooo!!!"

Anyway, despite my skepticism, my flight went off like clockwork yesterday. I want to give a shout out to my homies* at Horizon Air** for sucking so very much less than, say, United. Because man, United sucks. And Horizon provides complimentary microbrew and wine; this is an in-flight service that I appreciate.

So, I'm now back at the homestead in Eugene. My mom got me a rad argyle sweater for Xmas and my brother got me a rad Amazon gift card and a rad funny mug with a D+D parody on it. It's snowing and cold here and, naturally, we're planning on going out for a walk in a bit. I've already attended to my son duties and hooked up the wireless router to my mom's/stepdad's new cable modem, so I feel like I'm pulling my weight so far.

* "A shout out to my homies" is the most early-90s hip-hop phrase I could come up with.
** Alaska owns and operates Horizon. I'm not sure why they bother to maintain the separate name, considering they don't even have a distinct website for Horizon. But, uh, who the hell cares, now that I think of it.


Holiday Reasons

I like Xmas and the related hoo-ha. I like it because it means I have a week off with my family and/or B's family, and I like hanging around with both. I like breakfast drinks followed by lazy day-long couch-sittings followed by evening drinks. I like the present exchange for the sake of the whole ritual of it and the wee surprises that no one anticipates that are nice to get. I think all of the (logically valid) reasons people don't like Xmas (i.e. the rampant commercialism, family tension, built-up expectations) don't phase me because they don't apply to me. I'm an atheist, so the "true meaning" of Xmas doesn't matter to me, I'm lucky enough to have families I get along with, and my expectations involve drinking and eating, which are achievable.

So: happy Xmas, everyone. Drink up.


So Much For Capitalism / Let's Talk About the Weather

One of the books on my QE list is The Golden Age of Capitalism, a kind of economic history retrospective of Europe's trente glorieuses from 1945-1975. Along the same lines, Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes, a history of the European twentieth century, starts with a discussion of the unprecedented changes that happened in the same period, which he sees as being ultimately more consequential than the world wars. The point in both cases is that about 1970 was the best time to be an average schmuck in a first-world Atlantic nation. And it's gone downhill for average schumucks ever since (on the other hand, it's a totally kickass time to be a CEO or a Chinese industrial magnate.) My generation is the first in America in the twentieth century that will not do as well as its parents did.

What horrifies me the most is that, as this this smart guy often points out, the American economy has been running on credit for the last twenty-something years. As long as housing prices kept going up, people could sort of sustain borrowing against their houses and not go under. Between that and the nigh-universal phenomenon of credit card debt, Americans were able to sustain lifestyles they couldn't actually "afford" in the traditional sense. And now, with the collapse of the sleazy, despicable sub-prime mortgage practices, the whole house of cards is teetering.

There's no right answer for this shit (except that it started with Reagan.) And the more I read, the more I'm reminded of some good advice I got from this one girl recently, that to a certain extent all you can do is take care of yourself and try to keep your head above water.*

Then there's the weather. I'm not going to harp on about the rain again, just note something I noticed recently. Part of America's European cultural inheritance is its love of sunlight and heat. "Our" ancestors (apologies to non-European descendants) starved and froze when the winters were too long. Sunlight meant the crops would grow, while too much rain meant that they'd rot in the fields. Likewise, until the massive demographic shift after WWII from the rust belt to the sun belt (think: family from Detroit moves to Phoenix), most Americans lived in areas of the country that more-or-less corresponded to northern European climatic conditions.

I guess part of my sourness every time I hear people talking about how it's a "nice" day when it's day 200 of a drought or it's 80 degrees in October is that the conditions that our cultural perception of weather were based on are gone. In other words: I am objectively right to love rain and cold, because it's both necessary for life and endangered. (Insert tongue-sticking out emoticon.)

To sum up: lucky us, we get to live through the decline of American prosperity and the acceleration of climate change. And as usual, I'm pretty sure Dick Cheney is behind it all.

* A position made more difficult when you're ostensibly a socially-engaged would-be academic, not that being one makes much of a difference.


Bunnies at Xmas

B discovered the SC Rabbit Haven shortly after we moved here. They take care of abused/abandoned bunnies and get them adopted. Despite the ongoing financial predicaments of a grad student/part-time state university employee household in one of the most expensive towns in the US, we donated 30 bucks to them as our official holiday charity. The bunny picture is of one of their new ones who was abused so badly her teeth were knocked out. She looks almost exactly like Pesto. People who hurt animals make me wish I was wrong about hell not existing.

Our pro-bunny agenda has to do with the following:
  • Litter-box trained!
  • Never get sick!
  • Cost next to nothing to own!
  • So fuzzy you can barely handle it!
  • They like to watch movies on the couch!
  • Bunny sprints around the apartment are friggin' adorable!
In non-bunny news, I went out yesterday after a fun-filled lunch with the M clan, featuring a girl her mom calls "Doodle", and bought a bunch of booze. Last night I made my first few lemon drops, which were quite successful. * For Saturday morning, we're having bellinis, but with mango instead of peach: chilled Prosecco and mango juice, much tastier than a mimosa.

These supplies will be essential once B's brother A arrives tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I have two more books to try to get through, and in doing so I must try to resist the siren call of a certain addictive video game.

* Naturally, I would never drink a drink so girly as a lemon drop. I just had to have one as an experiment. In the name of science.



It finally rained something substantial. This is the second real rain since last year.

It's neat looking out off of our little porch/veranda thing over the rooftops. You can just barely see the hills off in the distance.

Phrase of the day, said outloud to myself a little while ago: "let's get some motherfucking pasta going up in this bitch." I guess I could argue I was saying that to Pesto, but who would I fool?

I have a sty in my eye. It's creepy that those things are caused by staph. Staph is one of those bacteria that might suddenly get together and form a super-bacteria 200 feet high that would go on to crush San Jose. No big loss, right, but what if it goes on to crush cool cities?! Anyway, apparently there's nothing for it but doing a "hot compress," which isn't as exciting as it sounds, and I'm bad about remembering to do it anyway.

I've been reading. Honestly, I have. But I've also been doing a fair bit of not-reading. I figure if I get through about a book a day, I'm doing a relatively good job staying on top of things.

B's brother A shows up on Friday evening, and we get a whole day hanging out with him Saturday before driving up to Novato for Xmas. If I know those two, we're going to be eating some seriously delicious food and drinking some seriously strong drinks, stat!


Yuletide Desire to Lie on the Floor

Before I spend more time complaining to the internet, I must alert you to this extraordinary list of terrible band names compiled by the Onion AV Club. There were a good half-dozen band names that made me laugh out loud, really hard. Foremost among them was "Count Dracula's Weed Smuggling Jam Engine." That is the best name ever ("Those Fucking Unicorns" is probably a close second.)

On to complaining. I just don't wanna:
  • Read any more books.
  • Study Italian grammar for my second language exam.
  • Read any more books.
  • Worry about the UC Paris program and its nonexistent grad TA application, worry about my QEs, worry about my shaky dissertation topic idea(s).
  • Read anything not written in crayon on a piece of construction paper by a five year-old. Let alone more books.
On the plus side, TJ's is still selling delicious Full Sail seasonal ale (Wassail - it's highly recommended by such booze experts as me). And B is in the other room making adorable bunnies, which is cute.

It's just...I've hit that point at which it's physically painful to pick up a book. Even if it's a relatively straightforward 200-300 pager with a discernible argument that I could skim and take notes on in an hour or two, it kills me to do it. I basically want to sit on the couch and play Yoshi's Island and pet Pesto. Is that so wrong?!

On an unrelated note, I was talking with K last night about the whole Picasa vs. Flickr thing that's happened recently (i.e. having to choose one), and I discovered that Google has already created a picasa album for me containing every picture I've ever posted to my blog. I especially like the inclusion of the ripped abs shot right in the middle.

(P.S. I'm sticking with flickr; I like the interface more. But I also like the existence of a bunch of weird pictures in juxtaposition that exist because Google says they do.)


So Much For That

In a welcome anti-climax, the case for which I was to be screened as a potential juror was dismissed before my group (5029, AKA, "your sexier potential jurors") even showed up. California law states that a juror can only be summoned for a specific case, so we all got to leave after dropping off our affidavits.

The absence of jury duty has allowed me to finish up grading finals this morning. I'll process the grades shortly and send them off to my prof. Then I should probably take a shower since it's, well, 1:00pm.

Speaking of a certain professor, one of our students collected his various funny quotes from this term and wrote them up in a document. Here are a few of my favorites:

On the first day of class:
Prof: “It is a history class”
Girl Outside: “OH MY GOD!!!!”
Prof: “Yes! It IS a history class.”

On Machiavelli’s Italy:
“Politics was cut throat. Italy was a place where people used knives and… cut… other people’s… throats.”

On the tarantella:
“I apologize, if I had my music and tambourine today, I would dance it for you and you would be amazed a what an erotic dance it was.”

On a fly:
Prof: “Damn that bug! Are other people being bothered by that creature?”
Student: “I think he just likes you.”
Prof: “Well. That’s entirely understandable.”

On some people talking outside:
“I thought I was going to have to go out there and knock some heads together. Which is my first impulse when people cross me.”

On George Bataille:
“It’s difficult to keep having orgiastic experiences. They become boring after a while. At least take my word for it. Don’t try it.”

Getting distracted:
Prof: “What a wonderful cupcake! Where were we?”
KFR: “Fabric of lies.”
Prof: “What?"
KFR: "We were on Nietzsche's fabric of lies."


Deux Choses...

First, The Golden Compass is good. Yes, it's frantically-paced, yes, they had to cram a lot of exposition into a short space, and yes, the ending is kind of abrupt and cuts off before the climactic moment that the actual novel ends at. That said, it's visually successful, the girl who plays Lyra is good, and they managed to translate all of the important plot elements from the book. I was especially glad to see the atheistic message survive despite the howling and protests of church groups.

Second, a personal/professional note: I'm now planning on taking my qualifying exams in May. Since I was originally going to take them in September, this is a pretty ambitious undertaking and I'm kind of woozy with terror. For the non-academics in the audience, once you take your qualifying exams (or comprehensive exams, or defense, or you literally jump through a big hoop, depending on the university), you're "all but dissertation." You can teach classes and, in some cases, you can get even get hired full-time so long as you finish your dissertation in a reasonable amount of time. Your turnaround from QE to PHD just depends on how fast you can do your research and write your dissertation. Since my abiding superpower is neither insight, nor language skills, nor thoroughness, but speed, I'm hoping to be done with this whole damn thing within two years.

Like Louis XIV liked to say, we'll see....


Trees and Compasses

We're back from the in-laws' place in record time this morning. The trick is leaving before 9:00am on a Sunday, which appears to be the only time that the highway system of the greater SF-bay area isn't choked with traffic. We were up for a lightning weekend raid for purposes of procuring a Xmas tree, carting it home in B's dad's truck, and decorating it. A chemistry lesson learned: Xmas decorating as an activity is a lot more fun if you do it while drinking coffee with Bailey's.

We're going to a late afternoon matinée of The Golden Compass with L and K today. Film critics have mostly been panning it, but film critics are a slimy breed who should be put in the stocks and pilloried, so I'm not worried about it. I'll have my infinitely better-written and better-informed review than those available elsewhere ready tomorrow.

I have jury duty this week. I called in Friday night and was relieved to get word that I don't need to report on Monday. However, I still have to call in Monday evening for the possibility of being called in Tuesday. This is me hoping that the SC justice system decides to take a few weeks off for the holidays.


Accoutrements In General

Related to my last post, about hats, I would like to note a few things about accoutrements. When it comes down to it, everything beyond a very basic pants/shirt combination is affectation. Before-mentioned fine line between stylin' and ridiculous is always located in the murky regions of identity and status, and the trick seems to be pushing the envelope of what you can get away with without stumbling off the precipice of looking like a complete jackass. To that end, I think I can pull off:

  • The messenger bag.
  • (Obviously) the hat.
  • The scruffy semi-George Michael facial hair.
  • The suit jacket.
  • The sweater vest.
  • Reading books in French on the bus.

However! There is no way on earth I can pull of the following....yet:

  • Fake fashion glasses.
  • A pipe.
  • Patches on the elbows of the suit jacket.
  • A cane.
  • A monocle (which would interfere with the fake fashion glasses anyway.)
  • A pet white tiger on a golden chain.
  • A solid gold rocket car.
  • An iPhone.
  • A theme song (which would probably be "back in black" by AC/DC.)

The two things off of the above list I wish I could do are the fashion glasses and the pipe. But I just can't take myself that seriously.

How about you guys? What, if anything, do you wish you were cool enough to do/wear/carry around with you?



B got a new hat yesterday while we were out touring downtown SC. I am excited. I think it's a crushing shame that hats are at an all-time low on the scale of clothing necessities, unlike in earlier centuries when they were requirements. As late as the 1960s in certain places in Europe, hats were semi-official banners for (social) class membership: the kind of hats I wear demarkated working class Brits from the middle class. I'm not sure I'm in favor of a revival of class-bannerism, but I'm definitely all for a general hat renaissance. And not just because I have to wear the bloody things to keep from burning my scalp.

Anyway, B looks adorable in her new hat.

It's week 10 of the term. I have essays coming in to grade today, then next week I have jury duty during finals week. I really hope the good people at the court find me deeply unappealing; if I get called, I'll have to coordinate with my prof to pick up the finals and grade them, perhaps during opening arguments, and what I'd really like to do is hide out and read books for a week instead. B was called up maybe a month ago and managed to convince them that she was too sympathetic, so the prosecutor dismissed her. Maybe I can show up "accidentally" having forgotten to wear pants.

To return to the question of hats: as I get older, it becomes trickier to navigate clothes. The problem is that any attempt to stave off appearing old and boring runs the risk of looking outright ridiculous as you pass the 28 mark - I'm thinking of 40-somethings dressing like college students. My strategy thus far has been the adoption of the "dapper old man" look, which I started working on at about 24. My hope is that by the time I'm a genuine dapper old man, the transition will have occurred fairly seamlessly. And, predictably, my silver bullet in this regard is the proper combination of hats and sweaters.

In conclusion: it's a fine line between stylin' and ridiculous-looking. And I choose to walk that line.


A and J Got Married!

Yesterday our homies A and J got married in a chapel in a strip mall in San Jose. The chapel was hilarious. We went out to a top-notch Italian joint for dinner afterward and ate delicious food, then rolled back to A+J's and hung out for a bit before heading back over the 17. The whole thing was great; it's wonderful to be there to celebrate the nuptials of such brilliant and beautiful people and I was honored to be included.

Today their whole familial gang is coming over the hill to check out Santa Cruz for a bit. The lovely and talented E is here for the celebrations and she and us and them are all heading out in a bit.

Anyway, a longer post later today or tomorrow. I put some pictures on flickr in the meantime.