The Trick With Presents

B pointed out several years ago that the trick with presents is to get people things that they actually want, not things you want them to want. It's the kind of idea that seems pretty intuitive but is deceptively difficult to stick to. Example:
  • Things B actually wants: nice, classic clothes.
  • Things I want her to want: cute indie girl clothes.
We've now been married for...let's see...one billion years, so we've got it about sorted finally. For xmas, she got me gin, a record (we are totally setting up a stereo in the new place with a functioning turntable again), and a rad vintage cowboy shirt. I got her a necklace and a badass restaurant-quality mandolin.* Other family gifts were equally successful - lots of weapons and liquor, mostly.** My eight year-old niece even busted out a bunch of crafty hand-sewing and gave everyone cute stuff; I got a brown fleece cap that makes me look kind of like I'm going to go pillaging across the open steppes.

Only a week or so until I start teaching. I have vowed never to be in this particular position again, come hell or high water; once I start teaching, I'm going to push hard to get the lid back on the sanity kettle.***

* A mandolin is a kitchen appliance used to produce uniformly-sized slices, not a renaissance-fair instrument for playing ballads.
** Seriously. Gin and sharp things for kitchens were well-represented under the tree.
*** As in, I will not be doing class prep on top of super-hard IT crap at the same time ever again, for fear of heart attacks, homicide, and insufferable complaining.


Make Some Lager, Bitches

...more on the stress, overworked, kind of terrified front going on in the background here, but let's go ahead and bracket all of that and talk about something else instead:


Lager is a nice kind of beer. A good lager is very smooth and easy to drink and gives you a wonderful feeling of beer-satisfied. Unlike stouts and porters and IPAs and ales (all of which I like), the taste of a good lager doesn't kind of add up until it's unpleasant, nor are lagers likely to make you more tired than their sheer alcohol content would suggest (I find that other beers do that sometimes.)

Two example really good lagers: Kingfisher (Indian) and Carlsberg (Danish...I think.)

Now, the thing is, almost no microbreweries make good lagers, if they bother and make 'em at all. Lager is too declasse, too quotidian, too obvious and boring and vulgar and mundane, so they concentrate on crazy hoppy stuff and beers that sometimes take as much work to drink as, say, a sandwich would. To drink.

I don't blame them for this; the glory of microbrews is that people who really love good beer tend to run them, and there is no question that the microbrewery phenomenon of the last twenty years has dramatically altered the face of American beer selection for the better. I just think it's time that they realize that crafting a smooth, delicious lager is a worthy goal, one they could certainly address with their extensive command of beer mastery.

Thus: I call on the microbrewers of the western US to rally and offer delicious golden lagers to accompany their already-excellent selections of other kinds of beer. By the power vested in me by absolutely nothing, make it so.


What Can I Say?

Besides talking about being tired, there's nothing quite as tedious as using a blog to talk about how one blogs infrequently...so I won't.

I will say, though, that the KFR show has been pretty schizophrenic, or at least bifurcated. Observe:
  • Every single time we hang out with friends, which is generally 3 - 4 times a week, we have a lot of fun. Last night, for example, we had our compadres B + C over for a massive Indian feast from Bombay Cricket Club, our favorite restaurant in Portland.
  • I am really stressed out, you guys.
  • The stuff I do at work is easily the hardest, most complex IT stuff I've ever done. I'm setting up a whole security infrastructure right now to link our Cisco networking gear and our Linux servers to the same kerberos environment. It is not that easy to figure it all out.
  • My classes start in, like, two weeks. I have some lectures ready(-ish) but I have the sinking feeling that I'm going to be standing up there and run out of material, like always happens to me.
And then there's:
  • Plan C has been changing up sleeping patterns and getting all erratic on us.
  • Oh, and apparently, it's Christmas now? What?


Right On, Sister

Sometimes her own vast privilege makes her hard to read, but in general I totally agree with Tenured Radical. I ESPECIALLY agree with:




I Represent

I got my Oregon license, plates, and insurance all sorted out yesterday. I missed one question out of thirty on the knowledge test: what causes the most accidents involving motorcycles? I bet you did not know, but it is the scourge of abrupt left turns.

The agenda has been more nuts than usual of late. B's been minding Plan C and finishing the unpacking / organizing / logistics while I bang my head against code at work and trying to write lectures as fast as humanly possible. We had dinner with friends twice in the last three days, with a massive birthday celebration planned for this evening following a Xmas-tree outing and a visitation with B's brother at the puppet factory.*

Here are some of the things that have been just amazing and help counterbalance the stress and sleep-dep lately:
  • Pad Khee Mow (mao?)
  • More coffee than usual, if such a thing is possible
  • Friends of taste and learning
  • Oregon plates
  • This apartment
  • I like the bus
  • Kind of crappy fantasy novels set in D+D worlds
  • Copying and pasting other people's code and changing it slightly
* Seriously, he works at a puppet factory.


Happy Belated Thanksgiving, You Guys

Above: a peaceful moment from Thanksgiving at my brother and sister in-laws' place in Oregon City.

Whew but dang...that was quite a week of holiday visitations and merry-making. One thing we didn't realize on moving back to Oregon is that living close to most of both sides of our respective families, while great, also means that holiday visits happen at double the quantity they used to. In this case, it was tricky coordinating everything less than a week after we'd moved into the new pad. That said, it all worked out and we had fun and ate a lot of stuffing, so go team.

We haven't seen our friends very much for a little bit, though, so we plan to change this in a big way soon. Perhaps when the Vonage thing shows up we will start calling people...on the LAND LINE!

Stay tuned for more breaking news of earth-shattering consequence.


Further Observations

  1. It's quite tough to find the time to do stupid things like register your car and take the written test when you have a "job"!
  2. That said, here's to the personable fellow at the emissions testing joint today. That whole process was painless. One (more) thing I love about Portland is the fact that average joes like him are often witty and urbane (this is to say, wittier and urbane...er than their analogs in California.)
  3. I wrote a successful program the other day in C-sharp. Then I had to do more complicated stuff and I turned into one of the monkeys from the start of 2001, jumping up and down and throwing rocks at an obelisk.
  4. I have a special "programmer's cramp"! When I can't figure something out, my left shoulder bunches into a painful, burning knot. Fun!
  5. DARN but it has been cold in Portland over the last few days! Today we braved it anyway and went to the store with Plan C in her stroller. She was all bundled up and looked adorable, as ever.
  6. Waitin' for the thing to arrive from Vonage in the mail. When it does, we will have a LAND LINE again. We are old school like Vision Street Wear and gettin' film developed!
  7. My homie Ransom is helping us fix our car, because he is a fine human being and a good friend.
  8. Today I wrote a lecture about the late bronze age. I bet you didn't know I knew a lot about that! Neither did I.


Observations For Your Day

  1. Learning to program is hard, not easy.
  2. Say what you will about Comcast, their repair/support guys are totally nice and helpful.
  3. B and I have abused our recycling privileges at the new place - we had a lot of boxes, and we yet have more to go. DEAL WITH IT.
  4. Dominos pizza really is quite good now; I'm not sure if it actually changed, but the whole crew was super into it the other day.
  5. You know what I still love to do? Play Dungeons and Dragons.
  6. You know how many lectures I've had time to write for next term so far? None.
  7. Pesto is loving the new place. She has a big carpeted room to run around in and things to hide behind. Total bunny heaven.
  8. So...tired...


Swedish Modern

Yesterday evening, B and I, aided by our invaluable friend, the inimitable K, hit up Ikea. We dropped what the Italians refer to as un sacco di soldi on new furniture: a loveseat, a new bookshelf, a desk setup for me, some other crap.

You see, tomorrow we move again, this time back to our beloved Southeast Portland, some thirty blocks to the east of B's and my first apartment from seven years ago. It's a few blocks from Laurelhurst park, next to all kinds of neat stores, and at the foot of Mt. Tabor, Portland's scenic walking bump (i.e. it's a big bump you can walk on/up.) The apartment itself looks different depending on your background and point of view:
  1. If you are used to nice things, it looks like a slightly worn-out, funky two-bedroom apartment in a red brick building in need of a little sprucing up.
  2. If you are used to living in Santa Cruz, California, it looks like the Taj F'ing Mahal, dude. It's huge. It costs precisely 50% of the equivalent in Santa Cruz. It has storage. It has enough counter space in the kitchen. And, OMFG, it has a dishwasher. I am ALL A-TITTER about this place.
Tomorrow, the gang shows up around 11am, just as I return to the house with the Uhaul. I figure it won't take too long to load up our stuff (which is mostly still in boxes) and drag it on over. Then I call in the pizza, return the truck, and celebrate the arrival of quality living.


So, Do You Have Five Minutes?

Because...the thing is, the following is probably the funniest thing I've read in six months or so. Maybe longer. Ahem:

The Different Kinds of People That There Are.

It's from Portland's local alterna-rag, The Mercury, which I have always loved.

If you choose to read the article, stick with it. It gets funnier as it goes on, until you are left all happy and hurty by the end.


It's a Happy Panic

I always knew that things were screwed up in my life in Santa Cruz because of how I felt during the default moments; when I wasn't directly engaged with something interesting (academic, computer-related, friends, whatever), I was pissed. My life was a constant series of distracting activities meant to keep me from remembering where I was.

Things in P-town are better in precisely this capacity - I'm still a seething little ball of anxiety, but I'm happy during the default moments. Right now, for instance, I have a lot on my plate:
  1. Prepare two classes for next term, most of which will involve new lectures from scratch.
  2. While I'm doing that, continue to work semi-full time on the most complicated IT stuff I've ever dealt with while trying to teach myself SQL, Javascript, and C-sharp (p.s., no, I have never coded before, besides bonehead HTML and CSS stuff.)
  3. We're moving into our new place in a week. This part isn't actually a source of stress, it's a source of rad. But it still involves effort, just in terms of finding the time to set things up. Also: there is need for Ikea.
  4. I should add that my car broke last week; 350 dollars later, we have a whole new spark plug setup. The (cool, kind of rockabilly) greaseballs who did the work also identified problems with the gasket head and serpentine belt, which would be another 200+ bucks to fix.*
The difference is, though, every time I look up, I'm in Portland. This really keeps things in a happy place.

* Can you believe there's a part of a car called a "serpentine belt"?! I thought Axl Rose made that F'ing word up for 'Welcome to the Jungle'!



To celebrate my current state of semi-employment, and because the rest of my shoes are a. trashed and b. made out of canvas, I got a new pair of Adidas. They're made out of leather and they have the rubber clam-shell toes, which I have on good authority make them highly resistant to the wet.

I don't know what you think, but I think they're rad. The best part is, when I wear something like this, you're never quite sure if I'm going to start break dancing.


Job Shit Is Crazy, Dudes

Look. I just don't have the energy for a big thing on this, but observe:
  1. I have an interview next week for two(!) possible community college teaching jobs in winter term. A combination of connections and extraordinary luck brought this about; let's hope I don't totally screw the pooch on this.
  2. I turned down a possible tech job this morning. Because it pretty much sucked: too much work for not enough money.
  3. I have been having a great time at the software company I'm temping/contracting/consulting/your-mom-ing at. The big guys there would like me to learn how to code in C-sharp, ASAP. I am actually going to try to do that. (Ha, ha...ha. No, Seriously. I really am.)


Unsolicited Baby Update

...in case anyone was wondering.

We just had Plan C's six-month checkup and immunizations. Here's the status:
  • She's 14 pounds, 10 ounces. That puts her in the 25th percentile for weight.
  • She's 27 inches long. That puts her in the NINETY-FRICKIN'-FIFTH percentile for height.
  • She's now immunized against various bad baby diseases. Side note: people who don't get their babies immunized are morons.
  • She rolls around, grabs toys without having to look directly at them anymore, shakes rattles, and carries on extensive conversations in baby-squawk language.
  • She sits up as long as someone or something is supporting her back.
  • She starts on solid foods tomorrow - brown rice baby cereal stuff, later followed by sweet potatoes, pears, and avocados.
  • She is a gorgeous, sweet, extremely "good" kid in public. She loves people and loves looking at stuff.
  • She gets extremely bored with us when we're just hanging out at home. B and I have to keep improvising to keep her entertained. We take lots of walks and do a lot of sweet dance moves to disco beats to keep her entertained.
  • She's still a good, albeit not great, sleeper. Sometimes she likes to wake up for an hour or so in the middle of the night. Sometimes she likes to not nap all day. But, mostly, she's good about it.
In sum, all's well in the tiny weird world of the Baby Croc.


An Eventful Couple of Days

I was looking for the most prosaic post title, and I think I found it.


First, left-coasters be aware: the rain is coming. Portland in the rain is my favorite thing in the world.

Second, I now (kind of, sort of) have a lucrative IT job. The company my homie T works for hired me to come in and do the kind of mundane stuff they haven't had time for (workstation builds, cabling, setting up VLANs, getting their phones to transfer calls successfully, etc.) It's hugely intimidating, because it's a small software company staffed with ridiculously smart and tech-savvy guys, but I'm going to go in guns blazing and try to figure it all out as fast as I can.

On the same day, which remains yesterday, I received notice that I made it to the last round of interviews for a different tech job, this a real salaried / benefited (is that a word in that context?) one. I'm still skeptical about my prospects of actually getting it, but it's nice feeling like my whole would-be transformation back into a tech is at least plausible to the people doing the hiring.

Third, I forgot to post about this last week, but we gots an apartment. We're moving in sometime around the second or third week in November. It's a two-bedroom on SE Stark, about twenty blocks up (i.e. east) from where B and I lived when we first moved in together one million years ago. I have really enjoyed living in St. Johns, but SE is where the heart is and I'm stoked to be closer to most of my friends (my homie K is our neighbor. In fact, she will be on the other side of the wall from us, which is rad.)


Joe: RIP

I found out that my old friend Joe, who was the drummer in the Varicoasters for just about the entire time I played with them in the mid-late 90s, died suddenly of a heart attack while on a cross-country race yesterday. He was 47.

The thing I remember best about Joe was how cool he was in putting up with his teenage bandmates; he was in his 30s when the band started and most of us were about 16 or 17 (we also had a couple of guys in their 20s.) For me (and I realize that this sounds cheeseball, but it's true), he was kind of an icon of what it might mean to be a man. He was funny, tough, smart, and he never seemed to get shaken by anything. He was also incredibly nice; he just never acted like it was a big deal that he'd seen it all before and we really hadn't.

The other thing I remember about him was that he and his (later ex-) girlfriend were the first parents I knew as friends; they had a little girl and they stayed the same people they had been, playing music and writing and hanging out with everyone while being great, supportive parents at the same time.

I hadn't seen Joe in years, but I was really saddened to hear about his passing. 47 is way too young to go.


On the Other Side of Academia

...just be persistent! That's what people have told me, right after they tell me that there are no teaching jobs in the entire greater Portland area, population just under one million (counting the suburbs.) People who work at the community colleges tell me that, sure, they would be willing to say something to the department heads, but it wouldn't really make a difference. Other people hear that I'm looking and just laugh (albeit in a very sympathetic manner.)

Meanwhile, I have an interview on Friday for a tech job and several friends in tech companies all around the city. More to the point, I've noticed this...let's call it an "absence of desperation" in most of my friends here. I always liked the craziness of academia, the gallows humor, the kind of camaraderie you get out of a bunch of people feeling equally screwed, but on the outside, it looks a little nuts, frankly.

We got an apartment yesterday. The lady at the property management company was really cool; she took our sob story at face value ("we are nice people with degrees and savings but no income to speak of") and signed off on the bunny to boot. I can easily imagine myself going to a normal job, grumbling about the early wake-up and the routine stress, but never having to speak mangled French to anyone or give two shits about "the state of the literature" again.

So we'll see (dramatic closing statement!)



I mentioned a few posts back about semi-destroying my trusty iBook. Two days after that happened, I ordered a new cheapo laptop from Dell to replace it, which showed up the next week.* Since then, it's been a veritable nonstop cavalcade of compu-debacle, ending (perhaps?!) yesterday. Here's how it all went down:
  1. I pour cereal and rice milk on my iBook. It doth protest.
  2. I semi-revive it after tearing it open. The keyboard, touchpad, and half of the RAM are fried.
  3. I bring my PC up from the basement and discover that it's dead, too. I order a new motherboard.
  4. The motherboard shows up. I install it. The thing is still borked.
  5. I order the replacement laptop for less than 500 bucks.
  6. It arrives. I resize the Windows 7 partition and install Debian Linux on half of the hard drive.
  7. I cannot for the life of me get wireless to work in Linux. I futz about with updates, a new kernel compile, and all kinds of nonsense.
  8. It completely dies - neither OS will boot. I start over.
  9. Windows installs but wireless ceases working. I switch to Kubuntu over stock Debian, which works...except for wireless.
  10. I get wireless to work in Kubuntu, because I am an amazing computer hacking stud.
  11. Days pass as I try everything known to man or beast to get wireless to work in Windows. Right before I give in and think about another reinstall, some random combination of steps fixes it.
B has been very patient with this crap. Now I actually have to get some work done instead of wrenching on a laptop all day...

* BTW, Dell is no better or worse than any other big PC manufacturer. Seriously.


The Job Hunt So Far

I'll keep this brief.

There aren't any teaching jobs. Friends in grad school: beware. It's terrible out there. Position yourselves as best you can, primarily by looking for teaching jobs while you're still in the program, because when you get out, you'll find that even the old lecturer / adjunct gigs that used to be the "fallback" jobs for people who couldn't get tenure-track positions are all but nonexistent.

There are some IT jobs. I had a phone interview this morning (I give myself low chances on this one, just because it was a kind of weird position involving running reports and crunching data, not things I have much of a background in.) In fact, because of my many beautiful friends in Portland, it looks increasingly likely that I will end up being an IT guy again. I mean, the jury's still out and everything, but I can't overemphasize how impossible it looks to just get a job teaching at a community college...

In other ideas, I might be even better at being unemployed if I got a pair of funny Gadhafi-style sunglasses and a scarf. What do you think?


Got 8 Minutes and 43 Seconds?

David Cross's latest thing that wasn't picked up by Adult Swim slew me:


Rednecks and Their Signs

It's easy to get disheartened about the state of the American political landscape driving up I-5. Every farmer between San Diego and Seattle seems to have a bunch of bombastic right-wing nonsense up on big signs, taking advantage of the fact that they're the only people with a reason to own property adjoining an interstate. "Get the US out of the UN," "Produce the Birth Certificate" (i.e. the horseshit about Obama not being a citizen), all manner of evangelical Christian crap, etc.

Living in St. Johns, we're right across the St. Johns Bridge from one of Portland's industrial areas off of Highway 30. Portland itself is a very blue-state, center-left city, but its industrial zones are a clear exception. The same kind of demagogic rhetoric is all over the place over there - the one I noticed today was a state congressional candidate whose sign promised "less government" - always a vacuous, disingenuous, and pernicious claim catering to the room-temperature IQ crowd.

But then, it occurred to me: the thing about the right is that being angry, confrontational, hyperbolic, and mendacious is a central aspect of its political identity. The point of left politics (dumbass anarchists with spraypaint cans aside) is REASON, thinking about things carefully and considering how one's own outlook is conditioned by perspective. It's predicated on a fundamental sense of fairness, of justice, of how the world could be if people renounced their own selfishness in the name of a higher ethical calling. Thus, for the most part, we don't put up big angry billboards; that's not who we are.

The trick is knowing that we're out there, that just because the right has the sound and the fury, we're the quiet, smart, thoughtful people who occasionally carry elections.



I know every parent thinks that their kid is the cutest, but check this OUT:

Unreal, right?

I've told a couple of people this already, but it's a damned good thing Plan C is so adorable. B and I are the kind of honest that would have totally admitted it if she was ugly. Dodged a bullet on that one!

Note: picture taken by my darling wife, who is a much, much better photographer than I am. She has recently promised to start blogging again. Also, if you are on her list of flickr buddies, you can see tons of her awesome pics here.

Compu-Update and Damn! It's Hot!

Compu-update: my iBook miraculously booted this morning, on the last, spur-of-the-moment check before I reached for a big flat-head screwdriver to finish prying it open and extracting the hard drive. The keyboard is dead, so I've got it hooked up to my PC peripherals. I'm still going to have to get a replacement, since the whole thing could easily go tits-up at any moment, but it was a relief to be able to get everything off of it first.

Damn! It's hot! We just went for a walk down to our favorite neighborhood spot: Cathedral Park. But it's F'ing 80 degrees out! And it feels a lot warmer in direct sunlight, BELIEVE YOU ME!


Utter, Total, Computional Disaster

When I woke up this morning, I thought I had two functioning computers: my trusty iBook G4, trucking along after over four years of loyal service, and the PC I built about three years back, living happily in a box waiting for us to get our own place.

Then I spilled cereal and milk on the laptop. It didn't work anymore.

Then I unpacked the PC because I need a computer to work on stuff and apply for jobs. It didn't work anymore.

So now I'm typing away on B's laptop, sans computer of my own. I ordered a replacement motherboard for the PC off of ebay, which (hopefully!) will fix the it. The iBook is dead as fried chicken, so we're trying to figure out what to do about it (a new 1000 dollar Apple laptop or a 450 dollar PC laptop with linux are the front-runners.) I have never done anything quite as straight-up idiotic as destroy a cherished computer out of pure clumsiness. The PC thing is just insult to injury. This is payback for all the times I have gotten a lucky break in the last year or so; the law of averages is a cold, harsh mistress.

P.S. Apple made it ridiculously difficult to get the hard drive out of its laptops. I plan to get it tomorrow, whether or not I have to use a blowtorch, and then use a USB adapter to be able to get at its contents. What a pain in the ass...


Notes from the Leisure Class

A former housemate from years ago always referred to his unemployed male friends as "gentlemen of leisure." My homie Ransom and I got laid off from the same stupid dot-bomb at the same time, so for a while 2/4 of the people who lived in that house were gentlemen of leisure.*

I'm now in a very peculiar kind of leisurely situation.

B and I don't have fantastic savings, but they are a heck of a lot more viable in PDX than they ever could have been in (stupid, ridiculously expensive) California. We're living with B's brother, who has been kind enough to welcome us in to his awesome little pad in St. Johns. We're buying health insurance from Kaiser for about 340 bucks a month, which isn't cheap, but is a lot better than it could be. Long story short, while I know they're out there somewhere, the wolves aren't really at the door. I'm an unemployed academic / former IT guy, and while some part of me knows I ought to be worried, I just can't get the worry train moving (for once.)

In the meantime, along with the daily job hunt and my ongoing random textbook gig (which is another reason I'm not that worried...supposedly I'm going to get paid New York money for working from home), B and I weed-whack the lawn, we go grocery shopping, we see old friends, we go on walks with Plan C. We discovered that St. Johns definitely has its sketchy side on a walk this evening, but as is usual with Portland sketchiness, a block from the sketchy is perfectly nice.

So, um, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

* Of course, the same guy who liked that phrase was probably the most leisurely of gentlemen I have ever known. His mom owned the house, so he didn't have to worry about rent, and he would make enough from one carpentry gig to live without working for months at a go and spend his time playing his vintage synthesizers in the basement. When I got a replacement 9-5, I was very, very jealous of him.


In Greater Detail

So here's how it went and how it's been:
  1. I rented a 22' Penske truck to do the move, which would have been more than large enough for our crap and the crap of my brother in-law / new landlord, but the peoples at the rental joint only had a 26' one available for me.
  2. A gang of the strappingest of tough kids in Santa Cruz showed up and helped us move everything into the truck. There was Tecate and Dominos - the leftover pizza was donated by our friends E+N+N to the skate punks in the park.
  3. I only hit one curb driving that monster.
  4. I screwed up at the first truck stop and tried to buy gas in the commercial truck section. My friend K, serving as driving buddy, bailed me out with the nice redneck lady inside and we got our diesel. We had Popeye's for lunch en route.
  5. It was a 12 hour drive to Portland. We arrived punch-drunk tired but intact.
  6. We unloaded the next day with a mix of family and friends and friends of friends helping out.
  7. We've had five days since, unpacking, settling, seeing people, and starting to check out our new home turf, the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland. It's amazing here. We have a clear view of the bridge from the house, we're a five-minute walk from the local farmers market, maybe a 15 minute drive from downtown PDX, etc. And it's been raining. I don't really want an academic job anymore; I just want a teaching job here.



PDX backyard BBQ weather! As in, it's RAININ'!

I have way too much to post about (for once), and I think I'll devote a subsequent post to describing what it's like driving a 26 foot diesel truck 750 miles, and interstate moving with a tiny baby, and the sudden shock of waking up in a beautiful, welcoming, affordable city after living in one lacking those qualities for four years.

I'll keep it to this, then: we are in Portland, we are almost done unpacking and organizing, and I feel like I can breathe here, breathe like I haven't been able to in a long, long time. It's nice to be home.


So Long, Santa Cruz

I'm 32 today. We've been packing for four days solid now; B did the entire kitchen over the course of about 11 hours yesterday. I have a few minutes right now before I run downstairs to the one shared washer/dryer for the 23 apartments in this building to swap loads. Tonight I scoop up B's brother A and my old friend K from SJC, they help us clean tomorrow, then a pack of rabid rabbits comes over Saturday AM to help us pack the huge 22' Penske truck. Sometime around 1pm Saturday, I head north, and that's the end of the KFR Santa Cruz experience.

My contempt for this town has colored this move in a weird way; I've been so excited to leave and to return to Portland after six years in the academic wilderness that I've only realized in the last few days how much I'm going to miss my friends here. Let it be repeated: Santa Cruz is a dump, but a dump that has a lot of really wonderful, smart people (most of whom are affiliated with the university.) The crazy hobos and ridiculous cost of living do not cancel out the redwoods or the walk along West Cliff or the brilliant people at UCSC.

Likewise, B and I have done very, very well living here. Her job was amazing, as is her resume now, we had a kid in a wonderful, supportive medical system, I completed a PhD and emerged owing zero dollars to anyone or anything. So we don't have jobs to move to; neither do we have any debt or (much) regret about anything. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have worked harder here and there, to not only finish the degree as quickly as I did, but to flesh it out more so that I felt more proud of my final results. That said, I didn't do bad work and I think I have a reasonable shot at being a teacher. So that's fine.

Anyway, thanks to all of my friends here. You guys are amazing and I will miss you.

People of PDX: see you soon.


Back-Breaking Bullshit

Criminy, I mean, yes, I already knew that moving sucks, but moving sucks, man! Our apartment is now officially in mid-packing bomb-went-off mode, and we haven't even gotten to the "kitchen" yet.*

Anyway. I don't have the mental horsepower to post about this topic, and I'm on beer number two for the PM, but neither do I have anything else to post about, so here goes a short summary: apparently, the only way capitalist economics works is by inflating bubbles, riding them on the way up, then rich people jumping ship as they burst and everyone else getting screwed. You can't read the whole thing unless you're on a college campus, but this New Left Review article does a brilliant job of summing up the current situation with global economics. It scared the crap out of me (again, more) because the point is basically that there's been nothing but bubbles, no "real economy" to speak of, for thirty years now. Should we all be hoping that another bubble comes along that temporarily lifts the situation?

To sum up: there still is neither hope nor justice in the universe. But we knew that.

* Our "kitchen": a teeny hallway with a miniature Italian fridge. I am not making this up.


Looking Back

It's a pretty standard caveat to start a blog post with "sorry I haven't been posting to my blog very much," especially lately. My once mighty cadre of fellow bloggers has shrunk to an elite task force of semi-regular updaters (ongoing big ups to my homie K for his always-enlightening posts.)

The thing is, for me, it's like: baby. I have this baby, and that's about it. I could complain about the lack of jobs, the worries about the future, etc., or I could talk about how elated I am at the prospect of returning to Portland. But most of the time, I'm just making ridiculous noises at Plan C to get her to giggle and/or bouncing her around to get her to go to sleep.

BUT: what I did want to post about was something B and I were talking about the other day, namely, the fact that we can't remember the first two months of Plan C's life in anything except hazy nightmarish images and dreamscapes of insanity. That's the thing about really serious sleep dep, of course: your memory gets shot to shit. It's also a kind of very softcore version of post-traumatic stress; it's just so bloody hard to deal with a newborn, the constant screaming, the fact that they have absolutely no sense of their surroundings, the simple fact that to be awake is to be unhappy for them, etc.

Happily, that changes. Having heard the horror stories from friends with kids, I think we're pretty bloody lucky. The little croc has her self-soothing techniques (she sticks her whole fist in her mouth, mostly), she giggles when we dance around, she plays with stuff, she naps, she sleeps at night (mostly), she does all kinds of rad shit like that and is generally hilarious. As far as I can tell, she's only four months old and she's already a lot easier than most of her baby peers.

Once the move is over, I hope to have new and interesting things to post about (no promises, though. I am pretty boring.) In the meantime, I'm just happy to have this funny little kid and to be moving back to my favorite city on earth.


Chunklet: Indie Cred Test

I contributed some stuff to a new book managed by indie / punk / garage uber-savant Henry of Chunklet fame a while back. The book is being self-published, so check out the fundraising video (which is F'ing hilarious, BTW.) 15 bucks = a copy of said book. Either way, watch it.


That Too Did Pass

...and so ends the weirdest class I've ever taught.

Normally, when you teach college kids, the whole trick is to get them engaged. You're usually staring out at a room full of glazed eyes, with the students texting or updating stuff on Facebook while you're talking, the one kid in the back taking a nap, and your three good students sitting up front nodding diligently, reminding you that they should really get A's.

This session, however, was the weirdest pedagogical clusterfuck I've ever had to deal with. I had one complete big-mouth dickweed who interrupted my lectures every sentence or so with either an irrelevant tangential comment (a.) or an obscure question (b.) I didn't have the impression that he was being a jerk deliberately; it was more like he was compulsively driven to be a jerk because of deep-seated mental problems. Besides him, I had about ten other students who interrupted and made tangential comments as well, albeit at a whole level of magnitude lower in intensity and frequency that Captain Blowhard. Collectively, the class was way too engaged, making it almost impossible to keep the narrative thread of my lectures together. I felt really bad for the dumb kids, who invariably lost track of what I was talking about as I had to fend off question after question and try to keep the anachronistic comparisons to a minimum.

I told B the other night that each lecture was like trying to land a plane with all of the engines out, desperately trying to keep the lecture on course as you plummet.

Anyway, I finished grading the finals and essays I had to do this morning and handed off the rest of the stack to my homie M (who is my TA), so that's done and done.

And the worst of it? Captain Blowhard totally got an A. As much as I wanted to report him to Homeland Security with some made-up threat and get him waterboarded, the fact is he wrote a really good essay and did a fine job on the exam. Crap.


Hating the Heat

The elements of enjoying hot weather might include the following:
  • A/C.
  • A porch with chairs or a couch.
  • Cold beers.
  • Screen doors.
  • Water? For people who like that kind of thing?
We have none of these things.

The elements of why I hate hot weather do include the following:
  • Third-floor apartment (note: heat rises.)
  • Tattoos make being in sun inconvenient.
  • I am always about five degrees warmer than everyone else.
  • I can barely swim.
  • I try not to leave the apartment in Santa Cruz.
That all said, I guess I can't complain too much - it's been about 67 degrees here all summer. The good times couldn't go on forever.


Untapped Ironic Affectation

In the spirit of our imminent move to Portland, I wanted to offer a sartorial suggestion to that oft-maligned class of citizen, the "hipster."* One of Portland's defining quirks is the massive population of hipsters, which frankly I always kind of liked because it meant a great music scene and lots of people who were fun to look at. In turn, one of the defining characteristics of hipsters is the ironic fashion; consider the following trends from just the last ten years or so:
  • Big nerdy glasses (like Elvis Costello.)
  • White belts.
  • Mesh trucker hats.
  • Mustaches.
  • Huge mountain-man style beards.
(Side note: One good way to keep track of the east-coast version of hipster fashion is to watch Ace of Cakes on Food Network. That one cake decorator started dressing all 80s as a kind of fashion thing, but now she has an actual perm and wears actual mom dresses, apparently having forgotten that it was supposed to be ironic.)

Anyway, may I humbly proffer an item of enormous ironic potential, as yet untapped: THE COMBOVER.


The way I see it, hipster dudes who are actually bald / balding (like, uh, me) could sport the real deal. Hipster dudes who aren't could have their heads shaved and configured to achieve artificially-induced combovers! All the hip, swingin' guys in town would look like my AP Biology teacher from high school! Triumph!

Think about it, hipsters of Portland (and other cities.) We can make this happen if we try.

* There is an enormous internet literature on the "hipster." It's one of those appellations that almost no one admits to being, but clearly exists in huge quantities. Personally, I think hipster is fine as long as the hipster isn't a dickhead.


The Worst-Case Scenarios

Editor's Note: This blog post will use the F-word a lot. On behalf of all of us at kungfuramone.blogspot.com, I would like to apologize about this fact to my mom, who doesn't like it when I swear too much in my blog.

The apartment building next to ours is just awful. It's run-down, ugly, and inhabited, mostly, by very sketchy people. We actually looked at an apartment there on the first day of our hellish hunt for housing in SC four years ago, but B wisely called bullshit on the ambience. Through weird coincidence, we ended up in the adjacent building instead.

At some point in the last six months, a gang of idiots I like to call the "Word-Case Scenarios" moved in to one of the upstairs apartments there. These guys play really, really loud hip-hop and stand out on their porch shouting about getting in fights and "the primest jack I ever saw."* They invite over every hostile idiot in town and have parties about four days a week. I cannot imagine what it must be like living in one of the adjoining apartments. Thankfully, our apartment doesn't face theirs, so even when they're blasting their music at 110 decibels and doing their best to emulate the Insane Clown Posse in both appearance and behavior, we don't really have to deal with it.

That said, there was a brilliant moment two days ago when I went to take out the recycling. The recycling bins for my building are under the WCS' apartment. Here are the lyrics to the song they were playing this time, as best as I could make out:

"Fucka-fucka fuck fuck fuck FUCKA! Fuck fuck FUCKA fuck fuck! FUCK FUCK fuck fuck FUCK!"

It was like...their theme song.

Here's hoping wherever we end up in Portland has a much lower per-capita moron count. Portland as a city has about 15% of the morons of SC, so I'd say the odds are on our side.

* As in, "the most entertaining robbery I have ever witnessed."


Don't Bother With the Psychologist

"Yeah, uh, go ahead and don't call again."

Editor's note: We all know that talking about your dreams is stupid and tedious. To help deal with the phenomenon, I established a rule many years ago for talking about dreams: you get two sentences to describe a dream in all of its intricacies.

In my dream last night, I was confronted by a faculty member at UC to the SC, who informed me that I had not, in fact, finished my PhD. I broke down in a kind of whiny semi-freak-out, telling her that I...I...I just had to get out of SC.

You could assign this dream to high school students studying Freud and get pretty accurate readings, I think.

P.S. B, completely earnest, just now: "We need more disco beats!"

(this after a successful Goodwill-gathering mission in the kitchen set to the Scissor Sisters.)


Rocking My 30s


Not really. I don't have the energy for it. The baby croc's latest trick is to vacillate between getting the 5am shift person up before 5am (a.) and being totally dead asleep at 5am, thereby necessitating this whole song-and-dance to get her awake and eating (b.) Also, a few hours ago, she screamed at me like I was plotting her murder (not true!), then a minute later was openly baby-laughing with delight as I danced around the room with her going "doo-pa-doo-pa-doo!" (true!)

Anyway. I do have a few things I've been thinking about.

First, I realized that real estate developers are Satan incarnate. The reason California is broken, permanently, terribly broken, is that real estate speculation over the last twenty-something years pushed home prices completely beyond the level that anyone earning actual wages or a salary could afford them. Home prices rose so much faster than did wages that there is now an insuperable divide between means and ends in housing. That same pattern happened and continues to happen all over America, of course, but it's so bad here. The only people who benefited from this bullshit were the real estate developers themselves. IMHO, they should be hung on hooks like pigs in a slaughterhouse (feeling feisty today!)

Second, Santa Cruz, California. I'm always interested to hear from other people about their opinions and observations about this little dump. Two people I know (one a friend, one a neighbor) noted recently that they've watched things go to shit in this town. My homie H told us about her eight years here, watching the town getting dirtier and more dangerous and generally sketchier in every way, and neighbor A just said it's gotten so expensive she's thinking about moving up north just like we are. It's nice to know I'm not alone in noticing these things.

Money. Money money money. I just want an income, one that I can feel reasonably certain will keep our very, very modest standard of living going indefinitely. This summer is the perfect hodge-podge of random jobs bringing in scraps and I have no idea if/how things will change when we get to Portland.

Getting older...I really noticed that in pictures lately. Looking at pictures from years past is always shocking, that amazed "I look like a fucking KID in that picture!" reaction. Unfortunately, I'm now at the point of looking at recent pictures of myself thinking "I look like a SKINNY OLD GUY in that picture!" Part of that is probably the stress and sleep dep, but part of it is just that I am, in fact, older than I used to be.


Probably the Greatest Picture Ever Taken

Our homie C got us this Motorhead onesie when she was in England recently. B took this picture of Plan C in it a few days ago...I'm pretty certain this makes Ansel Adams look like a rank amateur.

P.S. I should add that the awesome blanket was created by our homie K.


Ride a Cock Horse

"Ride the Horse:

If you're like most parents, you'll soon become your baby's "horsie" and will be for quite a long time. These games help your baby bond with you and improve his ability to create and maintain social relationships. It also helps develop his muscle coordination and balance.

While singing the song "Ride a Cock Horse," cross one knee over the other and place baby on your free foot. Holding his hands firmly, gently swing your foot up and down, bouncing him while singing:

Ride a cock horse to Millbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon her white horse.
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall hear music wherever she goes.

When baby laughs, laugh back at him! He'll love the interaction."

-Glade B. Curtis, M.D., M.P.H. and Judith Schuler, M.S., Your Baby's First Year, Week by Week (Da Capo Lifelong, 2005), page 200.



Road Warriors

And, 1500 miles later, we are back in SC...

This is the view from the front porch of my brother in-law's new house in St. Johns. We're going to stay there for a while when we arrive in PDX next month. STOKED.

This is the friendly fellow who just got married!

And lo, the happy couple! They are brilliant and beautiful and fun.

Our baby is amazing. She put up with two 11 - 12 hour drives and bitched about it less than we did. She's also getting huge; she's over 25 inches long / tall and weighs about 12 1/2 pounds.

We've got a lot to do in the next month. SC friends: get in touch. We're almost out of here.


Apprehensive, Much?

I stole this shot off of B's flickr site. There are lots of other cute pics there, too.

In a few days, an old, dear friend is getting married in PDX. Tomorrow morning I'm getting the rental car, we pile in the junk, and then we're off.* We've got about 600 miles to do tomorrow, from here to Eugene, then we're on to Portland the next day.

Crap like this drives me into a fit of seething anxiety. I worry about all the little things that could go wrong, like me being too inept to figure out how to transfer our baby seat to the rental in a timely fashion. We're also, predictably, concerned with how Plan C takes the drive. She likes being in the car, but that's a lot of being in the car. Add in rest-stop breast-feedings and you've got yourself a DAY OF ADVENTURE.

That all said, I am very excited to see lots of my P-town friends in just a few days.

* We're doing the rental to avoid putting more miles on the trusty Geo (A.) and because we need reliable A/C for the drive (B.)


A Kid Who Tells On Another Kid's A Dead Kid...

I just ratted out a hobo trying to steal shopping carts at Trader Joe's. That was the most satisfying thing I've done in about a month.



I finished teaching my first class of the summer this week. K was my "reader," which is the same thing as a TA who gets paid less (thanks to the Nazis who run the UC to the SC summer session). She and I went back and forth on grades over the last 48 hours and, afterward, I realized that I should write down how I generally do it:

A: I love you very much.
B: You did a pretty good job for a dumb college student!
C: You showed up to the party, but you didn't bring much anyone wanted.
D: You suck. But you wrote something down, anyway.
F: You are either a complete idiot or you didn't turn anything in.

That really sums it up. That's how I've rolled for six years now.

P.S. Please, oh please, someone give me a job in Portland...


Grow Up, Idiot

We have a new neighbor, who fits right in on the list.

We call him "Douchebag." He lives in the apartment right next to ours, the one vacated at the end of the school year by the relatively quiet lesbians. Douchebag is about 40 and, like every other male in SC who isn't part of the university, he is a mostly-unemployed contractor.* He is also the loudest talker I've heard in years, one of those guys who can only shout. He stands out on the porch and shouts on his cell phone while he smokes, he has friends over (remember, he's 40) to play Playstation and he shouts, he shouts while he tries to get people to hire him (they don't.)

The thing about Douchebag is that he's a perfect model of male arrested development, totally comparable to Hooker, the female version who lives across the hall. Douchebag never grew up. He still plays hip hop really loud, he punctuates every sentence with the word 'dude', he hocks up phlegm as loudly as he can during his morning smoke. He's what happens when the kind of people who set off fireworks at 2:30am get a little older: they stay the same. All the evidence indicates that it just never occurred to him to try to get his shit together.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Douchey McDouche! If we weren't already planning on moving out in a little over a month, we would be.

* This could be a whole separate blog topic: how every guy in California is a contractor. This is related to the whole "black hole economy, state breaking off into the ocean" phenomenon.


Transportational Facts!

Here are some things to do with transportation that have a direct impact on my life.
  1. It's almost exactly 700 miles from SC to PDX.
  2. Looks like the route involves 17 over to the south bay, over to 680, north for a while, 80 east to 505 (the ring road around Sacramento), then I-5 all the way up. With a three-month old baby in the back.
  3. It costs about 300 bucks to rent a basic 4-door sedan for a week.
  4. It costs about 1000 bucks to rent a 22' truck for a few days.
  5. There are 14 rest stops on I-5N, one of which is closed. Plan C tends to demand changes and food every 3 hours or so.
  6. This is going to be some of the craziest driving shit I have ever tried to pull off.


Less Than or Equal to One Kid

While I was fixing the laptop of a particularly irritating libertarian corporate stooge years ago, the small talk turned to marriage and kids (for some forgotten reason.) I told him "yeah, we might have one at some point." Without hesitation, he forcefully opined "No. Children need siblings. Have at least two."

I've heard this opinion before and since, of course, most recently on a plane when a couple with a little daughter were told, again forcefully, that they had better have another when they told some guy nearby they were just having one. People who would not, presumably, tell you who to marry or what career to pursue or what color shoes to wear think they have the right, even the duty, to tell you that you are a bad, bad person for just having one child.

I was thus very excited to see the new Time Magazine cover story dispelling the one-child myth, i.e., the idea that only children are selfish, maladjusted, lonely, etc. As it turns out, that whole notion was cooked up by some late nineteenth-century "psychologist" (before they had anything like a scientific methodology) and instantly became received wisdom, passed down through the generations. It cross-pollinated with the fact that families used to need lots of kids for work in the fields and/or the fact that 50% of them died young, as well as the whole biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply.

In short, a mish-mash of complete bullshit resulted in the utterly incorrect and baseless belief that only children are inherently disadvantaged. As numerous studies have since shown, only children are smarter, happier, and more "successful," as an aggregate, than kids from larger families.

This issue strikes pretty close to home for me. I have always, always known that if I was going to have a kid, it was going to be just that: one kid. Happily, B had reached the same conclusion without us ever having to talk about it. We want to keep our lives. We want to be able to go through life sharing things with Plan C, not being worried sick that we have nothing to share because we're stretched too thin (emotionally, mentally, temporally, financially) by multiple kids.

The most interesting part of the Time article to me was the fact that almost all parents who have more than one child do so because they think they're supposed to, not because they really "want" to in so many words. It's a classic case of basing important decisions on received wisdom rather than actual independent thought.

Finally, I'll add that the one thing the article doesn't address is the fact that most pregnancies are, of course, still unplanned. The whole issue is kind of moot for most people with multiple kids, because they didn't intend to do anything. Not to get any further up on my high horse here, but that shit still drives me crazy. Birth control. It's simple. It's straightforward. PEOPLE SHOULD USE IT.



B: I noticed that we have some fun stuff coming on our Netflix queue! We've got Anchorman, Youth in Revolt, and The Hangover coming up.
KFR: That reminds me that I was watching clips of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job and there was one with Zach Gala-Fanana-Banana-Kiss where he was a dancer and it was hilarious.
B: Who is that, again?
KFR: He was in The Hangover. He was the fat bearded guy.
B: The guy in Funny People, too?
KFR: No, no, you're thinking of that other fat guy.
B: But wasn't he the same guy? He was in The Hangover.
KFR: No, no, you're getting him confused with that one fat guy. That guy doesn't have a beard.
B: Hmm...
KFR: He was in The Hangover. He played the kind of retarded step-brother guy who gets them all roofied.
B: Oh! Right.
KFR: That other fat guy was in Funny People, not Zach Gala-Fanana-Banana-Kiss.

This has been an attempt to illustrate through an example of what our conversations are like these days. We make sleep deprivation fun!

(for us)

The awesome video in question:


"This Is a Fun Game"

That's a quote from one of our baby books.

You know when you have a (computer) mouse and something's screwed up with it? You move it like you normally would, but the cursor on the screen just jumps around and refuses to obey your will? You have to kind of tap the mouse down and scootch it with more force to get it to work? That's what it's like to be 10 weeks of baby-induced sleep dep. My (iron) will issues commands and my brain and/or body promptly gets them wrong and runs into things.

Other quote: "we can't have nice things." Where did that COME from originally? I know Lisa uses it in the Simpsons, but I wonder what its origins are. I envision a crowd of monkeys around an obelisk, with the Rite of Spring playing, and then one of the monkeys breaks his bone club and says "we can't have nice things."

I bring this up because we can't have nice things. We will never have any money and I will perpetually be semi-employed. We do get to spend a lot more time sitting around giggling than working people do, though. This is a fun game.


Annual Reminder: I Hate the Fourth of July

A cold fog settled over SC all day yesterday, reducing the number of people who came over from San Jose with their cars packed with explosives. Word in the local rag is that the cops had a relatively sane time of things for once.

Regardless, the usual mouth-breathing asshats went to work at 2:30am. For about 45 minutes every minute or so was punctuated with another huge explosion (the so-called "mortar" style fireworks), waking up Plan C with every blast. I can see them in my mind's eye, looking like former members of Limp Bizkit, chortling to themselves as they hit the street in the middle of the night, acting like screaming two year-olds looking for attention.

I hate that people who would fail the food handler's permit test get to buy explosives with impunity. I hate the Fourth of July.


Things Verily Shall I Miss About Santa Cruz

I've seldom failed to complain about SC over the last few years, but now that the end is nigh I find myself making a few spaces of anticipated nostalgia for this dirty little dump. Here are things I like about it and will presumably miss once we're back in PDX:
  1. The otters. It's amazing to be able to walk ten minutes and see real otters doing their otterish things.
  2. The surfers. They're remarkably good at not hitting each other, somehow, and they're fun to watch.
  3. The weather in summertime. Because of the marine layer (that would be the morning fog), it rarely gets much above 75 all summer. Ironically, it's often ridiculously hot and uncomfortable in PDX, in contrast.
  4. UCSC campus. The ewok village of academic radicalism.
  5. The smart and nice locals. They're outnumbered by the menacing dumbasses, but I still appreciate their efforts.
  6. The bus. It's been a while for me (with Plan C here, we drive more), but the SC Metro is really quite a solid bus system.
  7. My homies. Needless to say, I'm going to miss the history kids. Ever since that one guy finished his MA and moved on two years ago, literally none of the history grads are jerks, and I'll miss hanging out with them.


11 Minutes Will Definitively Make You Smarter

I'm dead serious. Watch this presentation / animation by the Marxist economist and geographer David Harvey - which is very entertaining and very interesting, and you will be a lot smarter and better off for it. Seriously. You can spare 11 minutes.


There's No Accounting for Taste

I think I've arrived at a perfect dichotomous example of what it's like to live inside my brain. Please witness the two songs that I'm really into right now, based on recent discoveries of new music:

I think these tunes equal in every way.

P.S. The new Devo album? It's really good! The lyrics are pretty cheeseball, but the music is great. I think I'll devote a separate post to it sometime soon.


Media Frenzy

A few notes on sights and sounds today.

First, read this interview with Gerry Casale from Devo. For me, it's a great reminder of why Devo is and ever has been my favorite band. I haven't listened to the new album yet, but notes on that when I do.

Also, as you may know, I watch too much television. That will have to stop as Plan C gets older (fact: TV makes kids dumb), but just as B and I can still swear all the time right now, so we can watch stupid shows. Here are some ideas for new shows for the networks I watch, based on their existing repertoires:

DISCOVERY CHANNEL: "Rednecks at Work and Play!"
DISCOVERY CHANNEL: "Survival People Eating Gross Things in Nature!"

TRAVEL CHANNEL: "Eating Bugs With This Fat Guy!"
TRAVEL CHANNEL: "You Will Have a Fucking Heart Attack Eating this Awful Food!"
TRAVEL CHANNEL: "Things You Can Never Afford - So Fuck You!"

FOOD NETWORK: "A Show with a Creepy Republican Cooking Badly!"
FOOD NETWORK: "Bobby Flay: Serial Murderer!"
FOOD NETWORK: "Tyler Florence Wants to Beat You and Hear You Scream "Daddy!""
FOOD NETWORK: "Smarmy Horseshit with Butter!"

KQED (The PBS channel from San Francisco): "Only Antiques Roadshow Doesn't Suck!"


Ninja Assassin: Best Movie...EVER?!

Silent, deadly, and homoerotic. Just the way I like 'em.

Once in a great while a film comes along that earns both critical acclaim and massive box office receipts. As far as I know, Ninja Assassin did neither. BUT IT TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE, you guys! In the interest of my lifelong love of ninjas, I'm going to note the things that my nine year-old self LOVES about this movie, as well as his critical remarks. Please see below.

Nine year-old KFR loves the following about Ninja Assassin:
  1. The ninjas are silent but deadly!
  2. They have a mountain fortress of training and discipline!
  3. They wield the kusari-gama, the wakazashi, and the shuriken with consummate skill!
  4. Through sheer force of will, they can melt into the shadows, teleport, and heal themselves!
  5. Training sequences!
  6. Classic ninja attire; none of this colors-other-than-black bull-honkey.
  7. Mere special forces guys find themselves hard-pressed to do anything but die!
Nine year-old KFR isn't crazy about the following about Ninja Assassin:
  1. The main character rarely wears his ninja gear, instead favoring no shirt, scars, and floppy hair.
  2. The ninjas are the bad guys, so most of the time the main character is busy betraying / killing his fellow ninjas.
  3. (Spoiler alert!) In the end, the special forces guys, along with the main character, pretty much gun down all the ninjas.
Despite those shortcomings, though, we at kungfuramone.blogspot.com heartily recommend Ninja Assassin, especially if you've been drinkin' all day.



I am back to teaching, repeating the same two classes I taught last summer. I have a batch of very sharp, likable kids in my first class. I've always found that lecturing is an out-of-body experience, and this time, compounded with the parental sleep deprivation, it's even more so; it really feels like I'm standing there listening to myself talk about the enlightenment and the romantic movement and Hegel and so on.

Speaking of Hegel, I completely lost track of what I was talking about in trying to explain the master / slave dialectic in class last night. I feel bad about that.

Plan C (new nickname: The Architect of Chaos) is two months old as of yesterday. She keeps getting bigger and, possibly, cuter. She also still sucks at falling asleep during the day. Most nights go okay, but last night she had B up from 2:00am - 5:00am, when my shift started and (of course), she finally fell asleep for an hour or so after I fed her. B's back at work, so I've got baby-minding four days a week; right now C is lightly snoozing on the bed next to her sleep sheep.*

I am still dithering around with applying to the lecturer pools of Portland-area community colleges, mostly because my transcript won't reflect the doctorate for another four weeks; I'm basically promising on my applications that I really really DID finish a PhD, I SWEAR.

Post-op recovery is fine, although I still don't get to exercise for another week. This is the longest I've gone without doing a push-up since I was 14.

That's it. That's all I got. I'm tapped out.

* It's a sheep that plays soothing noises. The waves noise actually works; we always joke about doing the whale songs one.


Meet the Neighbors!

Here are some of our neighbors:
  1. Hooker. Hooker lives across the hall. We think she is a drug dealer. She leaves her door open a lot and screams at her two kids, both of whom behave as if they were about seven while actually being closer to ten. She has a gigantic plasma TV bolted to her wall, which we have both seen because of before-mentioned door-leaving-opening. Hooker is trashy. Our long-suffering apartment manager regrets letting her live here.
  2. The Gypsy Vampire. The Gypsy Vampire lives in the apartment below us. For the first year or so she lived here, there was an incessant thumping sound coming from her apartment that drove me absolutely crazy. It would happen literally all night, almost every night. I confronted her about it on a couple of occasions but she pled ignorance. It eventually stopped, so now the only thing we deal with from her is the weird, moldly stench wafting up from below.
  3. Ugly Harry Potter. Ugly Harry Potter is the Gypsy Vampire's son. He's about 13 or 14 now. The two of them share the small one-bedroom place, which must be even more difficult and awkard now that he's gone through puberty. He grew a foot in the last two years or so. B saw him at the library downtown designing a mystic sword on one of the computers.
  4. Crazy Lady. Crazy Lady lives in the adjacent apartment building. She smokes a lot of weed and talks to her dog a lot. She used to be a lot noisier and more stoned, but seems to have settled down a bit. We actually really like Crazy Lady; she was especially excited to see us walking around once Plan C was born because her daughter was one month behind us, pregnant with a little boy.
  5. Fucky. Fucky is the latest addition to the gang. She also lives in the adjacent apartment building. She is a very, very loud lovemaking machine. Starting at 7:00am and going until as late as the 10:00pm hour, Fucky and whoever her boyfriend is might be heard going at it, with Fucky providing verbal evidence at about 95 decibels. What was briefly awkward to overhear is now just plain hilarious. I'm convinced Fucky is an auditory exhibitionist; she must know how easy it is to hear everything when you live in this kind of tight proximity. Occasionally, other neighbors can be overheard making fun of Fucky, which is also funny.
  6. D. D is one of our favorite neighbors. He is an African-American gentleman of imposing stature. A veteran of the Army Rangers, D lives downstairs and operates as something of the building's protector. We often bump into him in the parking lot, where he washes his vintage Benz at least once a week.
  7. A. A lives across the hall from D. She's just a nice middle-aged lady who's lived here for a long time. She's good friends with Crazy Lady; they can be heard laughing and getting baked on a pretty regular basis. As far as we can determine, A, D, and us may be the tenants who have lived in this building the longest.


Man Up

I was not sure if I was going to post anything about this, because it's a lot more personal than most things I put on this blog, but I feel like I'm performing something of a public service, so here I go:

Dudes: get a vasectomy.

B and I have always been 100% sure that we were going to have less than or equal to one kid, and with Plan C seven weeks old, happy and healthy, we have succeeded in that goal. B was on the pill for a long, long time and it contributed to unhappy feelings in a very unequivocal way. Then she had to have a cesarean. So having a vasectomy is, really, the least I could do in the context of my marriage and life in general.

I'll spare you the details, but the whole thing took less than 20 minutes. Recovery takes a few days. That's the whole deal.

It pisses me off that so many men are so defensive about this and similar issues. Women have to submit to uncomfortable and, let's face it, kind of humiliating examinations every single YEAR. They're often expected to be the ones worrying about birth control, they (obviously) have to deal with the lion's share of pregnancy issues, and comparable sterilization surgery (i.e. tubes tied) is far more intrusive than the male equivalent. From my perspective, this is a no-brainer; if you and your partner know that you don't want to have any kids or any more kids, the dude should go and get it done.

For me, this is an aspect of sadly-neglected masculinity: being responsible and being willing to make uncomfortable decisions when they're the logical ones to make. The whole idea of "manning up" seems to mean being able to, say, survive a season crab fishing in Alaska, rather than, say, being a responsible father and husband. That, my young friends, is horseshit.


Doctor of Philosophy

My adviser and me at the UCSC grad commencement on Friday.

Just to make it official, I have completed my PhD in history. This last term has been pretty bizarre. I was furiously editing and (more to the point) formatting my dissertation up until a few days before the little croc was born and I've been firing off e-mails and paperwork since then to insure that the degree actually showed up on time. Commencement was stressful, wrangling logistics for visiting family and worrying that Plan C was going to go ballistic (she didn't - she slept almost the whole time), but it ended up being very nice and we had delicious pizza afterward.

Now I'm in a funny position. I have three reasonably well-known scholars advocating on my behalf and a couple of publication pseudo-opportunities. That said, once I'm done teaching this summer, I have precisely nothing waiting for me - no teaching jobs, no postdocs, nothin'. Over the next 12 months, I will either land something and remain an academic, or I won't and I won't.

Either way, I am happy and relieved to finish the degree. I know a lot about modern European intellectual history now.


Great Personal Anticlimaxes

  1. Moving to Eugene, Oregon. I was a kid. I spent the preceding weeks sick as a dog with something my family called "Christopher Disease" (bear in my mind that my dad was a doctor.) I woke up one day and we lived in Eugene instead of the little logging town in which I had grown up.
  2. Playing a concert at the WOW Hall in Eugene. As a high school freshman, I had thought that if I could just be in a band that played the WOW (that would be "Woodworkers of the World," a former union hall converted into a concert venue) Hall, my 14 year-old punk rock fantasies would be fulfilled. Thirty minute sets go quickly, though, and it wasn't quite the underground rock n' roll fantasy I'd dreamed of.
  3. Freshman year in college. For some reason I thought there would be more cool people at the giant idiotic sports school I went to. In the end, all of my friends were through the music scene; some were also college students, but that was just a coincidence.
  4. My year in England. It turns the two-tone ska and street punk stuff I loved was a generation out of date by 1999.
  5. Quitting all of my jobs in Portland. I hated those fucking jobs, but every time it was just "have lunch, receive a pat on the back, leave."
  6. Finishing my PhD. Plan C overshadows the doctorate, to begin with, and getting a doctorate is such a cumulative process anyway that by the time you end, you've been almost done for a long time already. Also, having precisely no academic prospects puts a bit of a damper on earning a highly specialized degree that only lends itself to academic prospects.
Happily for me, getting married and having a kid were both wonderful, climactic things. It's weird to think that my major accomplishments fit so neatly into the standard script, but there you have it.


Ow. I Am a Redneck.

One of the advantages of having a lot of tattoos is that it keeps you out of the sun, thereby dramatically reducing the risk of skin cancer and keeping your complexion youthful and vigorous.

When you're as white as I am, however, all it takes is a few minutes. The above happened, and all of a sudden I started thinking of voting for republicans.


Babies and Jobs

This is a two'fer...
  1. Plan C sucks at sleeping. You hear this a lot from parents, because pretty much any time a baby isn't asleep, he or she is probably crying or about to start crying. In our case, she sleeps at night reasonably well (praise be to Allah), but she spends many long hours every day letting us know that she's very tired but failing to make the cause-and-effect connection between that and actually going to sleep. We get one, maybe two decent naps out of her per day, and by decent I mean "about an hour." She is a cutie and I love her, but damn.
  2. So, just to make it official: it is almost certain that we're moving back to PDX, almost certainly in early September. I've officially started applying for jobs at the various community colleges in the area; it's tricky right now since my PhD isn't official until the end of the month, but I'm doing it anyway (officially). I don't have much to say about this right now, except that I expect the job hunt to officially suck and that I don't really care because I'm so excited at the prospect of being back in the best city on the planet, in which officially 60% of my favorite people live (I've had six official years to meet the other 40%.)
(One side note on the job part: I have such a weird resume. I have the IT background, random teaching jobs [SAT prep courses, anyone?], and the full-on academic thing, all mixed up in a frothy brew of dubious employment prospects. If it works out, I'll either be teaching history as a temp adjunct or land some random corporate gig. I don't really give two shits right now; I just want a steady income at some point by the end of 2010.)


Sith Lord Throws the Horns

I am very proud of my one month year-old daughter.


Obligatory End-of-Lost Blog Post

So long, Ben.

It's been a long haul. B and I have watched all six seasons of Lost since its inception. We started a little way into the first season and stuck with it all the way through, including the stupid and awful third season. Sunday was the finale, during which they finally killed the stupid smoke monster, various people got off the island, and everything ended on a reassuringly confusing note. I guess...the alternate time-stream thing was actually the pan-denominational afterlife?* But they really had been on a magic island together, maybe up until the nuclear blast at the end of last season? I dunno.

The thing that kind of pissed me off was that, of the various questions they did answer (the whispers were dead people!!!), they did not, in fact, explain what the fucking island was. One of the earliest theories floating around the internet was that it was a kind of purgatory, that everyone died in the initial plane crash and they were all working through their respective sins. That theory seemed to be debunked, but there was clearly some kind of already-dead shenanigans going down.

Anyway. It's a relief. I find watching shows like Lost to be pretty stressful. Interesting and fun, hopefully, but tiring. One of the reasons I love True Blood so much is that it's just 100% pure uncomplicated good times, while most other "really good" shows (i.e. Mad Men) make me very nervous while I'm watching them.

I am very happy to never have to watch Sawyer and Jack argue ever again.

Ben and Desmond were the best characters.

* The cheeseball "all religions are the same" stained glass window thing at the very end: groan.

P.S. Here's a decent attempt at a big explain-it-all write-up.


Babies as Fashion Accessories

She wants to rock.

The baby croc has been throwing us a few curveballs lately; where she had been sleeping all night, waking up for feedings then happily returning to bed, she has now decided that sometimes she'd rather scream for three hours in the middle of the night. These things happen.

That noted, I wanted to talk about a different baby-related phenomenon than banal old sleep deprivation. On my return from France back in January of 2009, I called attention to the fact that the French are wonderful about ignoring each other in public, a skill Americans really need to work on. American men invariably stare each other down as they walk / drive / bike past, a stupid and pointless behavior pattern that is a leading cause of kungfuramones hating Santa Cruz.

BUT, with a BABY, this doesn't happen to me any more!

It turns out that if you have a baby in public, you vanish! I mean, middle-aged women walk up and coo and ask questions, but dudes just glance and then get kind of confused and embarrassed and promptly ignore you. I think it's because no man with a baby can possibly be looking to engage in a manly contest with other men; he is clearly preoccupied with transportating a tiny, harmless and helpless creature and has no time for fisticuffs, drinking tequila, or world's strongest man competitions. For dudes like me who have no time for so-called mad-dogging, this is awesome.


Creedence and Rite Aid

These guys all work at Rite Aid now.

On my lengthy list of things I hate about SC, the ridiculous cost of living ranks near the top (I may have mentioned this a few hundred times already.) It was with great joy that I discovered, after an embarrassingly long time living here, that Rite Aid is the only place in town that sells drug store stuff at a reasonable price (as opposed to the execrable CVS.) I was so happy with this discovery that I didn't even fuss about getting another stupid in-store card to further clog up my wallet.

What I love about Rite Aid isn't limited to the prices, however. I love its cavernous ceilings, its crappy, never-been-refurbished ambiance, its weird old employees. It reminds me of my favorite bizarre hardware store in Oregon, Bi-Mart, and of the generalized run-down funkiness of the Oregon Coast. It's like an oasis from the development-driven horseshit that has proven to be the ruin of California, an improbable pocket of sanity in a completely crazy town.

And then there's Creedence. Everyone likes Creedence. Everyone. If you hear "Run Through the Jungle" or "Fortunate Son," you love it. I have this mp3 mix I listen to while I'm out running errands, which is mostly stoner rock and punk and what not (Clutch, Black Label Society, The Briefs, etc.), but I put a few Creedence songs on there just to spice things up. So far, three times in a row, the stars have aligned as I pull into the Rite Aid parking lot and a Creedence song happens to come up on the shuffle. It's one of those lovely moments of serendipity, freedom rock at a run-down drug store, that temporarily mutes my misanthropy.



  1. Item! I'm pretty puzzled about my future. I have the support of a well-placed academic with connections to some publishing situations. He would like to see some of my stuff on Gorz get published. The thing is, in one month I will no longer be an academic; I'll be an unemployed guy with a PhD looking for part-time teaching jobs. I won't have the kind of institutional support necessary for researching and writing (i.e. libraries, time.) It's a weird position to be in.
  2. Item! I'm casting a wide net, gathering anecdotal information about how to feed babies. So far, all but one of my friends with small kids had to either supplement breast milk with formula or formula feed exclusively (for various reasons.) There is this stark divide between the whole lactation consultant / baby book axis and the actual lived experience of real people.
  3. Item! Along those lines, we can't find specific information anywhere about how to properly supplement with formula when you're ALSO breastfeeding. There is a ton of data out there about one or the other, but not the combination. At the same time, there is also a ton of evidence (online) that thousands of people do this, not just us. So: WTF.
  4. Item! B is healing from her surgery really fast and we get to go on walks. Plan C likes to snooze in her baby carrier thing I wear. It's fun.
  5. Item! I'm actually pretty excited to teach this summer. Having a year off from teaching helps.


Further Adventures in Gender Parity

It's been pretty straightforward in the 10+ years B and I have been together (including the almost 8 we've been married.)* We split things 50/50 and try to be fair. She does half the working, I do half the cooking and cleaning. We have some exceptions - I do 100% of the dishes (well, actually, maybe 90%) and she does stuff I can't be bothered with like dusting. I clean the bathroom. She cleans the kitchen. Etc. I've spent six years gainfully semi-employed as a graduate student, teaching and bringing in grants as I can, while she's been gainfully half-employed as a university staff member, spending the other half of her time working on her beasties. We've been broke as a couple of jokes but rich in those ineffable things like time, sleep, and cheap alcohol.**

With Plan C (latest nickname: Squirmbot 2000) in the house, it's been interesting. We're still splitting things 50/50 as much as we can: B has the boobs, I run the supplemental formula feedings, she ends up on soothing duty a little more, I go on all the grocery runs, we split diaper duty. The thing is, I can't believe anyone can do this if they had, you know, REAL JOBS. If I had to "go back to work" it would be a complete bloody disaster. You really can't do anything else when you're baby-minding; even if you're not actually feeding them at that exact moment, you have to be really vigilant. Furthermore, Squirmbot is already at the point that she knows when people aren't paying attention to her. I have her on my arm right now, trying to write this blog post, and every time I spend more than about four seconds looking at the monitor, she starts complaining. Vocally.

My point? Ultimately, it reminds me again of the historicity of the nuclear family. You could only pull off the "mom, dad, baby, dad works, mom baby-minds" thing if you had hired help. It makes a huge amount of sense to me that family units were extended for almost all of history; you need those other people, the traditionally female core (and, I suppose, corps) of "reproductive labor" like aunts, mothers, mothers-in-law, etc., to make this process viable without the mother diving off the nearest cliff after two weeks.

I have never been more happy to be able to be home than I am right now; we need a 50/50 split of domestic labor right now. This isn't our ongoing feminist trip, this is just survival.

* Not to shamelessly brag or anything. Not to toot my own marital horn.
** Cheap alcohol IS SO "ineffable." Back off.