A Heck of a Thing

Knowing that I am unlikely to produce a blog post in the next two days, allow me to the opportunity to say, now, that 2012, was, for me, a heck of a thing.  Highlights included:
  • First full year as a home-owning home-living-in-er.  See also: new fence, new porch, new frickin' kitchen, and as of two days ago, big tree in back yard cut down.
  • The year that Plan C transformed from post-baby to late-toddler, now featuring complete sentences and a razor wit!
  • The band went from basically nothing to show-ready.
  • Super-intense IT / project management.
  • Simultaneously, super-intense academic job-getting process.
  • Academic job secured!
  • A whole damn month off.
  • Learned to drink whiskey.
  • Term one of the rest of my life.
  • Another almost whole damn month off.
It's very hard to stop and appreciate things.  This is a banal comment, and I know it's applicable to just about everyone thanks to what psychologists call "hedonic adaptation" (read: grass-always-greener), but it's still true.   As the dust settles and we get used to living in the house, and as we have fewer urgent house-related jobs to line up, B and I are both hoping there's a little less insanity and a little more of us noticing and appreciating in 2013.


Merry Xmas at 5:30am!

...'cuz that's when the kid has been waking up lately!

I'll be over here nursing my holiday cordial.



Holiday Traditions: Insomnia and Illness

Yes, it's the most magical time of the year once again, and as ever I choose to celebrate by not sleeping and getting a cold.  My colds always start with a nice piercing agony that shoots through my tonsils for about 36 hours then morphs into a mucous surplus that lasts about a week.  Some people bust out the eggnog, others sing carols (I think this still happens in retirement villages, anyway), and I lie sleepless, twitching convulsively and annoying poor B, who has to sleep with me until I give up and go curl up on the couch in the basement.

The added bonus to these traditions is that this year I managed to give myself some kind of weird, low-grade seasonal affective thing by spending too much time working in my (cold, dark) basement on the latest textbook editing gig.  Now that my in-laws are here to visit through Xmas, and the editing is done, I will spend less time down here and more time in the relatively warm-and-bright upstairs.

I just recalculated budgets for 2013 and...damn.  Try running a family of 3 on a starting CC instructor's salary.  You will probably find it kind of daunting.  Thankfully, I've been scraping together a little extra work (again: textbooks) and I'm signed up to teach in the summer, which is just bonus money on top of the annual salary.  Either way, the whole "we need to buy a new car thing" is still out there, and it looks like we'll be just barely breaking even every month with the added cost of car payments.  C'est la usual shit, I suppose.

Anyway, everyone have a nice Mayan end of the world tomorrow.



Of the various responses to the shooting in Connecticut, I think The Onion's about sums it up: fuck everything.

It's been a rough week.  The shooting here, the one just outside of Portland, was already a lot to bear, then the one yesterday just made everything seem pretty absurd.  I've never actually been a big gun-control guy, given my general left-of-Lenin political outlook, but I SURE FUCKING AM NOW.

Anyway, there's nothing I can say that could possibly matter about this, so some notes on things infinitely more trivial:
  • I'm kind of sick of Facebook.  I know everyone says that.  In my case, I made a "this is ridiculous, outlaw guns, etc." comment and, sure enough, two people needed to pipe up with "guns don't kill people, etc."  It's kind of iconic as to why FB sucks: your real friends don't need it, and the people you know from middle school don't have any business weighing in on your opinions, when it comes down to it.  I'm just going to tune out (not that I was particularly tuned-in in the first place.)
  • What happens when you get a nail through your tire?  You end up buying four new ones!  This is why I pick up textbook editing gigs, still.
  • There is an inverse relationship between how much whiskey we've had to drink and how late we've stayed up and the hour at which Plan C decides to wake up in the morning.  E.g., a fair bit + 11pm = 6:00am.
  • The term's over, anyway, so that's a relief.
  • The self-clean function of modern ovens is kind of scary.


Re: Guns: Hey, Guess What?

...the US should have sane gun control laws!  Like, guns that are designed to kill many people quickly should be illegal!  What a fucking concept!


Life Imitating Art Imitating Oregon

Here's a textual snapshot of some of yesterday on my end:

  • B went to the gigantic indie craft show.
  • I installed Linux on the old laptop I inherited from my stepdad.
  • I did another chapter of the textbook editing gig.
  • We ran errands in the rain.
  • We drank bourbon and watched Portlandia.
Somehow, watching Portlandia almost seemed too self-referential for once.

In other news, 2.75 is a hell of an age.  Plan C has been systematically assaulting our sanity of late.

Also: next week is finals week!  My first term as a full-time guy just about completed.  Then, it's on to three weeks off.  Dope.


New Kitchen

Not that anybody asked, but here it is:

  • The countertops are cesarstone, which is a sealed quartz composite.  Basically indestructible and we think it works a lot better in our 1910 house than granite would have.
  •  The cabinets are Ikea.  They're really nice, solid wood...think "high-end Ikea" rather than "falls apart particleboard Ikea."
  • The sink is a Kohler farmhouse-style sink.  This was a big deal for B.
  • The faucet is a fairly cheap (about $250, which is cheap, apparently) random one we got when we got the sink.
  • The dishwasher is a Bosch, about $600 from Sears.
  • We're stoked.


Cold November Rain

November is my favorite month.  I like Thanksgiving.  This is a known fact about me.  I also like that it rains a lot in November.  Oregon in November has this gorgeous palate; it's 50 shades of gray in the sky, then shocking green on the ground.

This November has been all the better for the fact that I'm working at The CC, and thereby have a sense of timing as the term draws to a close (rather than just another 35 years of working with computers until I get to retire, which is where I was at this time last year.)  As I may have mentioned, B and I have also been enjoying the wide world of brown liquor quite a bit.  It's somehow way more satisfying to sip on little tiny glasses of bourbon than to drink beers (which is what we were doing this time last year), and it's both less expensive and involves fewer empty watered-down calories.

Things are going well with The Nervous.  My +4 sword (that would be the bass) is still having some issues, but I feel confident that "me and" Ransom will be able to figure it out.  I'm trying a new thing with songs, namely, paying attention to how I'm singing them, rather than just spitting out a bunch of lyrics at the same tempo and following the exact same notes I'm playing on my bass.  New tune I'm working on: "(I'm gonna kick your ass with my) Bionic Arm".

Godspeed, internet.


Start Your Engines

Some notes on culture and other things:
  • Ru Paul's Drag Race is on Netflix streaming.  It's about 80% as awesome as it could be, which means it is pretty awesome.  I always find the catty fighting on reality shows to be irritating and cumbersome, and we're talking about a pack of drag queens here, so there's a lot of that.  BUT!  The actual competitions they do are hilarious.
  • Finally watched Avengers.  Yep!  It's pretty darn good!  The pacing was relentless, but they had an awful lot of main characters to cram in there, so I can't really blame them.
  • Speaking of Thor, Snow White and the Huntsman has a fun part with fairies in the middle, and also normal-sized actors playing dwarves.  I get excited every time the dude who played Al Schewerengen in Deadwood shows up in anything, so it gets a pass just for that.
  • In the interest of listening to more Portland-based punk and punk-related genres, I picked up the album by my old roommate's latest band, The Blood Types (it's good!) and the best-of of The Punk Group (it's hilarious!)
  • I'm going to put pictures of our new kitchen on my blog soon.  That's how we 34-year-olds do things, you see.


I'm Not Feelin' It

...which is, in my case, a good thing.  Today is a Saturday.  So far, we've done errands and house stuff, I worked out, I played my bass, and I'm looking forward to seeing some good friends at dinner tonight.  It's the first day I can remember where I don't feel overly tired with the attendant minor grumpiness and general desire to curl up in a ball and mutter quietly to myself in a dark corner.  That would be what I would describe as my "default state."  Today, instead, I found myself able to cheerfully keep up with Plan C, crack wise with B, and operate with a reasonable degree of faith that the Other Shoe was not necessarily about to Drop.

Possible causes:
  • A genuine 8 hours of sleep.  As in, one more than seven, SOLID.
  • No heavy-duty sleep drugs to induce said sleep.
  • Fun but low-key and easy activities last night.
  • Kind of getting the hang of teaching four classes at once, and mostly prepared for next term.
  • Feeling really good about my clothes these days.
  • Doing tons of crunches.
  • I like bourbon!
  • Obama won, and every NY Times article is about how the republicans have no idea what to do.
  • I like my band.
  • The idiotic digger machine has finally been towed away from in front of our neighbor's house.
  • It's almost Thanksgiving, which is the Best Holiday.
I'm going to keep up the science to try to figure this out.


Dear Red States: Run Along.

Feel free to secede anytime you want to.  The rest of us won't miss you.


Ain't Got No Sink

  1. We're having stuff done to our kitchen.  Actually, we're almost done with having stuff done.  To quote B: "it really is astonishing how difficult it is to be without a sink."  But man...that kitchen is going to look tastefully appointed when it's all said and done!
  2. My reconfigured +4 sword sounds great!  We're actively making plans for the initial Nervous performance, to be held in the basement where we normally practice for a group of our immediate friends.  That's about our speed, right now.
  3. I am going to play some movies in some of my classes.  I have never done this before, ever.  What finally broke me is a combination of things: the kids are getting lecture fatigue, and The CC has one-hour-and-fifty-minute-long classes, so I am getting lecture fatigue, too.  As soon as I asked for suggestions for a "good video on Rome" from my colleagues, I got a flood of responses.  I am not alone in doing this, evidently.
  4. You really should check out the awesome pictures that our homies B + C put up on flickr from the latest iteration of their annual Halloween bash.
  5. Canker sores, man.  They are my own personal plague.  They last for fuckin' weeks.  I'm convinced I have weird mouth-chemistry.
  6. On the plus side, I found out at the doctor's last week that my blood pressure is normal!  Hot damn!  It turns out having a better job is better for you!  Also, I'm convinced the switch from beer to liquor helped.*
  7. That kid of mine sure is cute.
* Hunter S. Thompson sincerely believed that bourbon was good for heart ailments.  In a letter to a friend before he got famous, he suggested killing a bottle of Wild Turkey as a kind of cardiological cure-all.


Reconfigured +4 Sword, Also, Winded

Last weekend the girls were in California.  I spent Sunday in some intense Nervous think-tanking...we rocked, we recorded, we started the process of carving up (I wouldn't say "butchering" in so many words) a Bad Religion cover, and all was well. 

After actual music-playing was completed, Ransom and I got cart food and proceeded to dive in and tackle the great bass pickups replacement drive of ought-twelve.  This consisted of Ransom doing 98% of the work while I looked on and bullshitted with R (his partner), who was also doing something actually-useful at the time (assembling a coat rack.)  A few technical glitches remained by the time I had to jet, but I received a text shortly thereafter indicating that maximum rocktitude had been ACHIEVED.

In short: my bass has new pickups, and the likelihood of the Nervous implementing Plan Technocrat in the Pacific Standard timezone has thereby been increased ONE-HUNDRED FOLD.

Also, man, it is a lot of grading when you're teaching four classes at once.  Tomorrow I plan to really get the proverbial nose to the proverbial grindstone and crank out some midterm grades.


Coming Up Milhouse

This brilliant picture was on some "funny dumb pictures" site I look at occasionally.  I just wish I had thought of it (the tattoo, not the site) first.

The rain has returned!  I walked over to the Plaid Pantry after getting home from campus to buy a six pack, sans umbrella, just to soak up the Oregonian goodness.  I've got the basement window open a bit so that I can listen to as I'm tapping away on the keys here...

Speaking of hearing, I have a weird ear thing going on.  I'm going in to the doc, but not for two weeks...teaching obligations and meetings are keeping me away from Kaiser until then.  It's kind of worrisome; slight tinnitus, very weird tissue movement / behavior.  Normally I am cool with getting older, but this kind of thing is six gallons of bullshit in a three gallon bucket.

Since we can't do band practice tomorrow, 2/3 of the Nervous are going out for beers instead.  Rock n' Roll has to happen one way or the other, you see.

Note on teaching (and in defiance of my "I can't really talk about work online" thing from before): it turns out that I am part of a much smaller department than I realized.  My position there matters a lot more than I'd anticipated; I'm a reasonably large percentage of the total history crew, even counting all of the campuses, district-wide, all by my lonesome.  
No pressure.


Downs and Up

  1. Apparently Obama didn't come at Romney hard enough the other night, especially considering all Romney did was lie through his teeth.  My mom reminded me to keep my chin up; I have a feeling the Barack-ness Monster is going to bring the punishment in the subsequent debates.
  2. Oregon is experiencing the start of a drought; it's the driest July - September on record (i.e. ever.)  This kind of thing happens in El Nino years for us, and sadly, it's one of those.  I guess I should hope that the rest of the country gets some relief from its drought.  I just miss my precious rain.
  3. I wish my friends didn't have to work, and hence we could all hang out more often.  
But it's all okay, because...
  1. My job is so awesome.  I teach and write lectures and teach some more.  That's my job.  I don't have to research, ever again,  which is great because I basically sucked at it (basically.)
  2. Swathed in tweed, I feel that I am comporting myself with grace and dignity.
  3. I have succeeded, with a little help from my friends, in developing a taste for bourbon, a long-time goal of mine.  It just took good bourbon to do it.  Reclining with a rocks glass in hand, I feel that I am comporting myself with grace and dignity.



Last week was the first week of the rest of my life.  It went pretty darn well; I soaked up some serious cube time working on lectures, I dropped plenty of historical logic in the classroom, and I got to meet a whole heapin' mess of my new colleagues.  I am, however, faced with a quandary:

You see, it would be pretty easy for someone who actually cared (this would be a mythical beast like a basilisk or an efreet, but bear with me here) to figure out who I am based on this blog.  I refer to the city I live in about once ever other sentence, I write about starting up my new job teaching full-time at a prominent local CC, there are about a million references to the subjects I studied and now teach, etc. etc. etc.  Again, there is no discernible reason why anyone would care, and I don't think this thing is google-able (e.g. google me.  This blog doesn't show up.)  That said, the thing that teachers get in trouble with is indiscretion; talking shit, being overly candid, otherwise opening their great gaping pedagogical mouths in an unprofessional way.

Thusly, I'm kind of left in the position of not being able to openly talk about my experiences teaching, especially since I'm three years of good reviews out from having tenure.  This, too, is kind of a great flaming heap of who-could-possibly-give-a-shit, but on the other hand, I've always maintained that the point of blogging is keeping a running tally of the lives of people who we don't get to talk to or see very often, which for me includes a lot of good-looking peoples I know from grad school who are now scattered all over the place.

Conclusion?  Bummer.  My devoted readership of literal half-dozens will have to continue to make do with vague allusions to my professional life combined with pithy lists of whatever I'm thinking about that particular second in front of the computer.


Elbow Patches and Cell Phones

It's in-service (read: staff and faculty, no students yet) week at The College.  Some good talks and presentations, some less good ones, some nice tours and facilities presentations, etc.  Tomorrow is the big district-wide history meeting, at which I plan to introduce myself to everyone in as succinct, concise, and laconic a manner possible.

More to the point:
  1. I bought a new jacket at H+M today.  It is pretty amazing.  It's nouveau-tweed, with pockets and frickin' elbow patches.  I kept resisting elbow patches over the years, despite their obvious applicability to my personal aesthetic, because I didn't feel worthy of them.  I said "when I get my masters," then "when I'm ABD," then "when I finish the doctorate," then "when I'm an adjunct."  Well, now I'm full-time.  That's good enough for elbow patches.
  2. I did that as a kind of shopping therapy thing after the idiots at the T-Mobile store destroyed my phone.  Replacement: 9 days out.  Hopefully no one needs to call me to tell me anything important.


It's-A Me, New Faculty Guy!

Monday - Wednesday of this week was the new faculty orientation, waaaaaaay out at the western-most outpost of the educational empire that is The Community College I Work At.  My fellow incoming faculty members were equally giddy about the whole thing.  There was lots of sharing war stories about the hiring process, of past years working as adjuncts, of various policies I'd never heard of, etc.

Tomorrow, on the way home from a quick visit to see my mom (who has been doing a bang-up job recovering from surgery), I'll stop by campus and set up...wait for it...


This is huge.  I will have my own CUBE.  My own phone w/ PHONE NUMBER.  My own COMPUTER.  Sorry to e-shout, but I am very excited about this.  The whole thing that murdered us as grad students, and continued to suck once I was a part-time faculty member, were the logistical hurdles associated with not having any facilities worth a damn.  The Bunker at UCSC was, you know, funny, but it wasn't actually a great place to work (i.e. a cold concrete room underground with no natural light and computers built in the early modern period, c. 1450 - 1750 CE.)  I shared a cube with several other people while I was part time at The CC I Work At in 2011, which was better than nothing, but I still didn't have anywhere to put anything.

Now I have a cubicle.  It's like winning the lottery.  Phrases I look forward to using in the future include:
  • "Come to my office hours IN MY CUBICLE."
  • "Let me go get that FROM MY CUBICLE."
  • "I'll be IN MY CUBICLE if you need me."
  • "What do you think of how I've decorated MY CUBICLE?" 
This is a big deal, you guys.


Power Dome Birthday

I am completely 34.  Last night, my homie J and I went and saw Devo at a ridiculous amphitheater in Vantucky.*  It's the Devo/Blondie tour.  Highlights included:
  • Devo was amazing.  I need not say more on the subject.
  • J and me playing "who is here to see Devo, who is here to see Blondie."
  • The dude with a huge mane of platinum blond hair, big shades at night indoors, and a massive beer gut. (Blondie)
  • The woman in the tight silver stretch pants, black bikini top, and her 7-year-old son in tow. (Blondie)
  • The 45-ish couple, her in homemade Alice in Chains jacket thing, him in a Styx t-shirt from, say, '87.  (Blondie)
  • The bizarre gang of skinheads (?), punks, and 80s stripper girls with enormous 80s stripper hair, all dancin' up a storm.  (Devo!)
  • The fact that Blondie sucked so bad, we took off after one song.  But again, Devo was amazing, and J got the tickets for free from one of his employees at the body piercing empire he co-owns, so the night was a raging success.
Anyhoo, here is a pic taken on our way out when we bought t-shirts.  The old stoner merch guy let us wear a gen-you-ine Power Dome for the pics (they were $40 a pop, which was a little steep.)



Pirates, Birthdays

  1. One of the fun things we did during the four years in Santa Cruz was get together with our homies K and L and go see movies.  They taught us the art of smuggling vodka in to the theater and mixing it with soda from the concession stand.  We'd normally have dinner and drinks beforehand as well.  This practice led, in some cases, to highly inaccurate appraisals of movies.  For example, L and I were particularly intent on reducing the world's alcohol content one evening and concluded that the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie was "really good."  In fact, it is one enormous hallucination that was somehow funded by Disney.
  2. That leads me to the discovery of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the almost-straight-to-video one that Johnny Depp made in between laughing himself to the bank.  I got it off of Netflix out of morbid curiosity and it is almost as weird as the third one.  Weirder than the content, though, is definitely that Disney continued to throw money at the project; it's like the Republican party funding some weird naked art experiment because they didn't have anyone on staff look into what the project was before they wrote the check.  There are big-name actors, good special effects, and pretty lavish sets given the context of an already-concluded plot; it's the most unnecessary franchise reboot ever, which is definitely saying something.  I only regret that K + L are not here to watch it with us over about seventy-five bottles of red wine.
  3. Speaking of birthdays (huh?), yesterday was B's!  She continues to get better-looking, which I would have said was impossible.


Academic Again, and Mix Tapes

To my academic homies: I am one of you once again.  I've written almost twenty single-spaced pages of lecture(s) in the last two days.  I'm back to churnin'-it-out mode, the mode that got me through a terminal MA and a PhD in six years, the mode that produced the most corner-cuttin' dissertation all of time, the mode that was the envy of my peers and the bane of my half-assed hopes for a tenure-track job at a research university.  This mode, whatever else can be said of it, is useful for lecture writing.

I've been happy to find that writing this much about the Holocaust (note: I am teaching an 11-week course on the Holocaust starting in September) is doable.  I'm not mired in the misery of the subject, although I think I'm treating the gravity of it appropriately.  The task of explaining the history ends up being the same...it's analysis and narrative, even if the subject is infinitely more daunting than, say, the Iron Age.  The teaching part is going to be very difficult, balancing the appropriate attitude and emotional resonance against the necessity of not falling into the Nietzschean abyss (i.e. giving in to the tendency to be so empathetic that you lose sight of the intellectual task of understanding the history and the arguments historians have advanced to "make sense" of something that cannot be made sense of in any normal, quotidian way.)

The other classes are already done, but I hope to be able to swing back around once I finish the Holocaust lectures and do some revision.  I've never been happy with all of the lectures for my modern Europe class.  Examples: so...Spain existed, right?  Also...England?

Unrelated: I've been making mix "tapes" (also known as "mp3s on a CD.")  Right now I'm into making best-of collections of bands I like.  The Scissor Sisters have four albums, and about 50% of their songs are pure gay disco GOLD.  Why not put those songs on one CD?  Devo hits way higher than 50% (albeit not gay disco), but I still had fun trying to boil down their greatness to one CD for my homie (and drummer in the Nervous) T.  And so on.

It's friend S's last day visiting us from San Francisco.  It's been fun.  I look forward to being able to convert the basement into a more full-featured guest quarters type setup, but right now the air mattress will have to do.


Trek In the Park, etc.

Trek in the Park is a very Portland thing.  A bunch of amateur actors, sponsored by some comic book shops but mostly funding out of their own pockets, put on reenactments of classic Star Trek episodes in a Portland public park.  They have the outfits, they have props, and they have a band doing the soundtrack (including a chick whose job is just to sing the really high "ooo oo o o oo oo oooo!" theme song at the start and end of the episode.)

We finally got to go on Sunday w/ homies K + T + little T.  Showing up 45 minutes early was still too late to get prime seating, but we managed to score a second-tier spot with shade, so we had little cause to complain.  The performance was awesome; it was one of those things in which a totally sincere homage to a silly, cheesy thing like the original Star Trek manages to exceed the fun factor of the original.  Also, the wine helped.

It's been a batshit month.  My "month off" has translated into a month on with a ton of family visits, house stuff, socializing, and the originally-intended purpose of working on my classes before Fall term starts.

During all of that, we have managed to check out a few new-to-us P-town spots:
  1. The Old Gold is a nice bar our old homie T works at.  It's about 1.5 blocks away from our house.
  2. Salt and Straw is a fancy ice cream joint on Alberta.  May I recommend the Strawberry Balsamic?
  3. We finally got to go to Pine State biscuits.  They know how to make a bloody mary, my friends.
Our homie S is up from San Francisco for a few days starting tomorrow.  This is very exciting; she's one of those ideal guests who makes everything easier and more fun somehow through sheer force of charisma.  Tonight, we're going to the Overlook neighborhood picnic thing, held at the Lucky Lab (located 1 block from our house.)

We're tired, but it's all in the name of fun.


100 Degrees in the Shade

Frickin' summertime.

  1. It turns out the Oregon Art Museum is really nice.  It turns out I like the California Impressionists quite a bit!  It additionally turns out that there was some totally sweet ink painting on silk done by Japanese artists in the early 1800s...of TIGERS.  Also, they have A/C at the museum.
  2. My brother graduated from his radiography program!  The graduation ceremony was well done.
  3. I got the info on the new faculty orientation hootenanny in September.  I love stuff like this because it assuages my fear that this whole "full-time academic job" thing has been a hallucination.
  4. Three of my relatives from my dad's side of the family are out visiting from back east.  It is really nice to see them.  
  5. We got some decent recordings of The Nervous's last practice.  We are about 70% there...we just need to turn the suck down a little more and I need to finish writing lyrics.  Also: memorize them.
  6. My father in-law is installing a stained glass window in our front door today.  He made it.  
  7. For your summertime taking-a-load-off needs, may I recommend the combination of "gin" and "tonic"?


Manzanita: Destroyer

Oncoming wave!  Two-year-old!  Father of said child scoops her up, giggles ensue, camera falls into the deep blue sea (albeit only for a second and not achieving full immersion), and that is F'ing that for said camera.

My camera led a full life.  B bought it in about 2006, then gave it to me as a hand-me-down when she upgraded (i.e. bought herself a new one) for her crafty beastie business in 2008.  Despite my blithering ineptitude as a photographer, it had provided literal half-dozens of decent pictures over the years.  Now I must wish it well on its final voyage to the online photo archive in the sky, while also apologizing for the fact that I am the kind of confused idiot who drops cameras in the ocean.

Besides all that, it's been a really fun trip.  Plan C is loving our undivided attention and we're loving being forcibly separated from the responsibilities of real life back in P-town.  It's only three days, but we'll take it.

P.S. I plan to replace the dead camera by becoming skilled at doing really high-speed caricatures in colored pencil.


And So It Begins

It's day two of the month off.  My last day at work was Friday, four days ago, and I've got until early September.  Arguably, the financially clever move would have been to keep plugging away on them networks until some point in mid or late August, but the academically and mental-healthily clever move was definitely to take the whole thing off instead.

I have to write lectures, you see, for I am teaching a class I've never taught before and it's going to be a lot to read up on and a lot to write about.  We also have house stuff coming up - kitchen disruption and reconstruction, various much more minor decorative enterprises - and, in something of a non-sequitur, we're buying a new car (no better time to buy a car than just after quitting one's full-time job, after all.)

Mostly, though, we're going to do a big reconstruct-the-sanity month.  We're going on a three-day vacation to the coast, officially constituting the first official vacation we've officially been on since...2008?  I have no idea.  We're seeing family from back east, my brother graduates from his radiography program, and we plan to spend a lot of time hanging around w/ our homies in Portland.  Above all else, we're getting to spend time together as a three-person elite cadre.  This is a revelatory thing, to get to spend that much family time together, and I have been seriously looking forward to it.


Making a Lot of Money

We've been interviewing for my replacement over the last two weeks.  The short version of the results: it looks unlikely that we'll hire anyone.  Instead, the company will probably back-fill from some of the senior developers here, dealing them in on the operations team and shuffling things around on the software projects they work on.  It's not a great solution, since the company's revenue depends on programmers writing code, not on programmers running internal systems, but there just hasn't been anyone that fits the job floating around out there (there are various caveats about this, the biggest of which is the fact that the company can only afford to hire a part-time IT guy, and would-be IT guys need full-time jobs.)

Which brings me to my point: one of the many perverse elements of contemporary first-world capitalism is the division between the highly sought-after 10 - 20% of the working population, the techs and project managers and other highly skilled white-collar types who staff the so-called information economy, and the other 80-something % who drift from temp job to customer service gig to retail to unemployment and back.  One of the weirdest things you encounter trying to hire from the former class of people is that it's desperately hard to find someone.  This is because they all pretty much already have jobs.  Thus, you're confronted with the fact that even though thousands of people in, say, Portland, are unemployed and actively looking for work, we still can't find the right person.

Rather than ramble endlessly about how utterly fucked-up the situation is, though, I want to just put in a plug for a surefire get-rich scheme: become a vendor-certified network engineer.  As a young person, let's say college-age, pick a major vendor of network equipment (Cisco and Juniper are the two big ones) and, by hook or crook, learn not only everything there is to know about TCP/IP and the other essential networking protocols, but all of the vendor-specific special sauce that implements those protocols.  Then, spend a few years working in IT shops.  By the time you're, say, 25, you'll be able to charge about $50/hour to do networks.  By the time you're, say, 30, you'll be able to charge about $70/hour (and these are Portland rates; I'm sure it's higher in California, New York, etc.) 

Yes, you have to be fairly smart and have some kind of natural intuitive feel for this stuff, but neither do you need to be the proverbial rocket scientist.  This is much less complex than doing medicine, for example, and you'll end up with a less difficult job (than being a doctor) that pays almost as well and doesn't involve you going into massive debt to get the degree.  You don't even need a degree, just some technical certifications (e.g. one guy we interviewed has two Cisco certs [CCNA and CCNP] and he's my example of the $70/hour rate.)

I have no idea why I'm writing about this, I think I'm just kind of slapping my forehead about how absurd post-postmodern life is.  Duty Now For the Future.



I've mentioned here and there that B and I are only having one kid.  We have the same attitude toward our friends who are having more than one (or already have) that most of our child-free friends have toward us: you are crazy, dude.*  Plan C is the toughest customer we've ever dealt with; nothing has ever been as hard as just keeping up with her while trying to keep normal life more or less truckin' along.  Tasks that should be simple become complicated, and tasks that are complicated become nigh-impossible (and nigh-invulnerable.)

That said, the great, brilliant moments of parental Stockholm Syndrome make it worth it, when your little captor pays you back in kindness and/or hilarity in such a pure, shocking burst it makes quotidian emotion seem shallow.  For me, it's when Plan C laughs her ass off while I'm being silly with her; her eyes get huge, she adopts this manic toothy grin, and she loses it while I'm chasing her around with tickles or whatever.  This morning, B was out with our homie E and I had a good 15-minute "party dance" (translated: dance party) with Plan C to Scissor Sisters.  There is this guileless, utterly innocent adoration and devotion to her parents that is all the better for being totally selfish on her part.

This is banal and obvious to say, but it's all worth it.

* I want to be clear that this is in a friendly, supportive, just don't personally understand it way.


The Job (complete)

This'll be a longer one...

I taught my last class in Fall term of 2011.  I'd been offered a full-time job in June doing IT, QA, and project management at the software company, after working there part time and at the community college part-time, and I made good on my threat to throw my lot in with whichever job / career / identity offered me full-time work first.  I told the department head that I wouldn't be teaching further classes as an adjunct and geared up to teach one last iteration of history 103 (the last in the western civ series, covering the history of Europe from Napoleon to the present.)  In the meantime, I bought a house and started earnestly trying to wrap my head around what "business analysis" consisted of.

Then, in late November, a few weeks before I was going to be done with teaching for the indefinite future, the CC posted a full-time position teaching western civ and advanced topics in European history.  It was like getting punched.  I'd finally made my peace with being a computer guy for good, and now the dream job fluttered down from the heavens to make me feel like a jerk.  I almost chose not to apply, but I realized it would be insane not to.  I had spent six years earning my doctorate.  I love teaching.  Despite the miniscule odds of success, I had to throw my hat in the ring.

According to a discussion thread on one of the big academic job forums, there are about 300 applicants per faculty position at community colleges.  Of those, it's safe to assume most have PhDs and at least a few years of teaching experience.  With the academic job market being even worse than the regular job market, you're going to have people from top schools applying for any full-time job, regardless of how far away and how obscure.

In my case, insult was added to injury in that I had withdrawn my application for a one-year teaching post at the CC after getting the software job; the people who would be on the hiring committee already knew me, or knew about me, and knew that I hadn't gone for it.  I applied with very, very little hope of success.

What followed was a roughly four-month process involving four distinct phases, with the successful candidates moving on to the next phase and the unsuccessful ones (most of 'em) kicked to the curb:

  1. A general application
  2. A series of tough essay questions having to do with teaching and professional service.
  3. A twenty-minute teaching demo followed by an hour and a half panel interview with the half-dozen-or-so members of the hiring committee.
  4. An open forum with any and all faculty members from the entire division who wanted to come (in my case, about 15 of them showed), an interview with the dean of instruction, and a culminating interview with the campus president.

I pretty much expected a navy SEAL obstacle course, a sherpa-less climb to the top of K2, and a chess game against Death to follow.

Again, this whole process took months, and the whole time I was working full-time at the software company, doing really difficult IT / ops work and serving as a kind of project management henchman on one of the company's big contracts.  Stress levels around the kungfuramone household reached a peak in about mid-March.  I knew that I had made it down to the final 3, and while it had been easy enough to make light of it when I was one of 300, it was acutely painful to imagine not getting it having made it that far.

I got the call right at the start of April.  I hid down the hall and around a corner from my office so that my co-workers wouldn't overhear.  The head of the committee credited me with some nice attributes that had worked in my favor, and she put particular emphasis on how glowing my recommendations had been.  That part didn't surprise me; if I did one thing well at UCSC, it was cultivating my relationships with the old guard of Europe.

After getting the offer, I was still faced with the prospect of working full-time at the software company for months, and I was quickly reminded by B, friends, and family that giving notice too early was potentially financially suicidal.  So, instead, I slogged along for three solid months, being oncall, overseeing complex network changes, suffering through long, painful meetings at the headquarters of our biggest client, all while biting my tongue about the fact that I was a short-timer.  This period ended up being almost as stressful as the final stages of the interview processes.

Finally, I got to give four weeks of notice right at the start of July.  I'm taking August off to do insane stuff like go on a three-day vacation with B and Plan C (first vacation since...2008?) and, of course, work on lectures.

I can't overstate how momentous an event this was.  I honestly never believed for a second that I'd get a full-time academic job.  The odds were too horrendous and the gallows humor we all cultivated in grad school turned out to be, if anything, inadequately pessimistic about the real state of affairs.  I have never for a minute thought I'd get to do something professionally that I actually loved; being a historian means I'm too well aware of the fact that almost every human being for almost all of history has toiled at things they at best tolerated, and usually actively hated, to make ends meet.  I saw no reason (and still don't, really) that I should be an exception to that rule.  There are some material sacrifices involved - a much longer commute, a 20%-ish pay cut - but I could not care less if I tried.

Portland, the return to Portland, as demonstrated by what we've been able to do since we moved back, is the best place and, people excepted, the best thing on Earth to and for us.  B and I have made no better decision in our adult lives than to move back here.


The Two-Year-Old Thing Is No Joke

We've been hosting B's folks for the last week; they just took off this morning to move the party to B's oldest brother's place in Oregon City.  Their stay coincided with the second truly volcanic event of Plan C's latest thing she's into: being two. 

The concept of the terrible twos is something I hoped was just a phony bit of received wisdom.  It is not.  This shit is serious.  She goes from zero to ballistic in three seconds, she won't take no for an answer, regardless of how much no has to be the answer (e.g. "no you may not have daddy's machete"), and she's basically out to murder us.  She punctuates the insanity with moments of brilliance and cuteness, just enough to keep us from joining her in the screaming and crying the rest of the time.

Oh, and in other news (post on this forthcoming), I officially put in notice at my job.  I'm done being an IT guy at the end of the month.  As of September, I'm a FULL-F'ING TIME HISTORY INSTRUCTOR at the local community college.  Everyone who reads this thing probably already knew that, but just in case not, yeah.  Again, I'll try to capture how monumental this is for me (and, really, for humankind) in a post to be written in the near future.


Some Really Shitty Band Names

  • Nifty Discus
  • Laundry Day
  • The Fancy Dancers
Happy Tuesday everybody!  I hate fireworks!


Further Notes and Observations

  1. A while ago, I posted about Chinese restaurant names.  One of the constituent elements is the word "garden" (e.g. "Yang's Happy Wok Garden.")  I saw a place the other day called "Norm's Garden"...that violates the principle of only Chinese-sounding monosyllabic names, but it does have garden.  I'm on the fence about this one.
  2. Best probably-exists-somewhere Chinese restaurant name: Wang's Yummy Golden Wok Temple.
  3. Sample lyrics from one of the three new Nervous songs I wrote recently: "I'm in service to the Iron Lord, and I wield the +4 sword."
  4. My favorite subjects of documentaries are the following: people climbing Mt. Everest, high fashion, and prison gangs.  All three hit the same vicarious / schadenfreude sweet spot, best enjoyed on the couch with a beer (sample thoughts: "man, the death zone has very little oxygen!"; "whoa!  Pelican Bay state pen is rough!"; "I wonder if she'll find a buyer for this season's collection!")
  5. One other really good documentary available on streaming Netflix is called The Examined Life...it's a series of 10-minute interviews with prominent contemporary philosophers about pretty much whatever the fuck they feel like talking about.  Coolest philosopher: Cornell West.  Based on his interview, I definitely need to read his stuff.
  6. My girls get back from California tomorrow!


Number Nine

It's my ninth wedding anniversary!  It's also B's, because she was totally involved in it!  On the docket: sushi.

As I say just about every year, it's edifying and satisfying that so many of the people who were there nine years ago are still our homies now.  For the peoples we didn't know yet, you'd all be invited now if we did it again (there would still be Thai food, a keg, and croquet.)

Domesticity gets a bad rap because of Disney Republican Horseshit; I'm proud and happy with our version.


I Am Over Tonsils (and Other Weighty Considerations)

Whenever I miss a night of sleep, there's a good chance that I'm a-gonna get sick soon afterward.  If I miss a night of sleep and then my daughter starts waking up between 5:15am - 6am almost every morning, it becomes a sure thing.  When I get sick, my tonsils swell up and sting like bitches, then after a day or two a veritable mucous tsunami hits my respiratory system.  FUN.

I know that they now think it bad and unhealthy to remove tonsils from kids unless absolutely necessary, but they can go in and carve mine out with a ice cream scoop whenever the hell they feel like it.

Also: how about that male escape fantasy to move to a cabin in the woods and, say, write the great American novel (or read a giant stack of books about mythology, or become the most epic bow hunter since the ice ages, or whatever...)?  One of my three bosses showed me this http://cabinspiration.tumblr.com/">funny tumblr site (I think that's the right one...) that sort of summed up "cabin porn," meaning, pictures of cabins meant to inspire men to wish they could actually do that.

I totally don't want to run away from my two year-old for, like, ever, but sometimes I do wish I could do so for a few hours.  A shallow ditch beside a highway would work just as well as a cabin for that.


Nerd Rock

How does a nerd rock band practice go?  Well, we've narrowed it down to three things:
  1. You play your songs; maybe you work on new ones (e.g. "I've got the +4 sword.")
  2. You repair or set things up of a technical nature (e.g. Ransom soldered almost literally all of the wires in my bass back together, I installed the firmware and software for the USB recorder-m'bob in Linux on his laptop after much hackery.)
  3. This one may surprise you:  you lift heavy objects and move them (e.g. we hauled his and R's old dryer up from the basement for the Craigslist people, then we hauled the kegerator back down to the basement from the garage.)


Remembering How to Play Bass

By the time I quit playing in bands when I was 24, I was a pretty good bass player.  I prided myself in being a bass player's bass player: I didn't screw around with a bunch of silly Primus-inspired riffs or try to pretend I was playing lead guitar; I played bass lines.  My playing consisted of the root of the chords, with little lead-in notes and the occasional flourish.  The way I distinguished myself (or so I told myself, anyway) was by nailing every chord change and laying down a solid rhythm.  I thought of myself as being the guy who kept the rest of the band on track.

I didn't play again until we moved back to Portland...considering I had quit a year before we moved and we didn't start The Nervous until the spring after we moved back, that means I wasn't really playing for almost eight years.  When Ransom and I had practices with just the two of us, working on songs, trying to figure out how to do vocals again, etc., we'd sometimes just do the proverbial forehead slap and wonder out loud how the hell we had been so much better back when we played in Mondale over ten years ago.

The answer, of course, is that we had almost all the time in the bloody world to spend practicing.  We practiced twice a week or more and we played shows a lot.  Now, a good month is one in which we get together twice, and we can just about hold it together for two solid hours of actually playing the instruments.

That all said, I feel like I've kind of started figuring it out / remembering it again.  I have high hopes to suck a whole lot less and rock a whole lot more in the immediate future.


I Like To See That

  1. Gentlemen who make a decided effort to look like Vladimir Lenin.
  2. Nicely put-together thrift store ensembles on kids on the train.
  3. B's new glasses.  Hot.  
  4. Food cart pods.
  5. Huge ships at dock visible from the train bridge.
  6. Single-gear bikes.
  7. Houses where there are so many plants that the house is almost invisible from the street.  I imagine hobbits living there.
  8. The overlook part of Overlook, where you can look over Swan Island and the river, over there, look.
  9. Big cool headphones.


Nostalgic All Up In Here

I woke up early today.  No one's in the office, yet.  I'm creating new shared resources on our exchange server and, in a few minutes, I will go and update all of the Linux servers with the latest batch of security patches.  I have been getting early-warning signs of carpal tunnel in my right wrist/hand, so I switched to a trackball at work; the only thing that really sucks about that is if I have to shell out another 50 bucks for one at home...


I am feeling kind of nostalgic for some reason, possibly the fact that things have been going well lately and B and I have been trying to be better about appreciating it rather than anticipating future events.  A few specific times come to mind:
  • The summer after junior year in high school, cruising around in the CRX listening to Devo, soaking up having a serious girlfriend for the first time in my young life, playing in a ska band.
  • The good parts of the drunken insanity that was my year in England in college.
  • Playing in Mondale, nerd rock deities of Eugene, Oregon circa 2000.  In general, my senior year in college was superlative...B and I started dating, the Blitzhaus was in full effect, and I was close friends with a whole scrappy crew of nerd-punks.
  • The good parts of the drunken insanity that was the two years working at The Worst Company in the World, loving living in Portland for the first time, getting married, hanging out with similarly awesome nerdy punky kids.
  • The history crew when I went to grad school at the U of O.
  • The parts of Santa Cruz that I liked, especially the first year when the history kids there were super tight.
  • When we moved back to Portland four years later, especially those first two months before I had a job and all we did was go on walks and hang out with our friends (side note: two unemployed people is about right for being able to care for a baby and maintain a modicum of sanity.)
  • Now.
The proverbial icing on the cake is the fact that it is Friday...and that means Pad Khee Mao for lunch.


How to Rock N Roll Like The Nervous

  1. Arrive a few minutes early with salad bowls and utensils to return.
  2. Caffeinate.*
  3. Clean and re-organize practice space.  Help set up new dryer, remove old crappy furniture and move to curb.
  4. Vacuum and sweep.
  5. Go to the store and get some new extension cords for use with new speakers and mixer.
  6. Discuss need to figure out the whole vocals situation.
  7. Tune, play around with speaker placement and volume.
  8. Actually practice for 30-something minutes.
The Nervous: efficiency, punctuality, cleanliness.   We're the kind of band that will show up and do the fuck out of your dishes.

* Spell check in Ubuntu has decaffeinate but  not caffeinate.  What are those commie bastards up to?


We Cut the Mullet

Update on the kid:

We cut the mullet.  Plan C has been late on a few things in her young life, most notably walking and hair growth.  She's got a nice little top of soft blond hair, now, that starts straight and ends with cute little curls, but it was a long time getting here. 

Like all sane human beings, I had long hated toddler and kid mullets, representing as they do either a malicious but technically legal form of child abuse, total and blithering cluelessness, or sheer stupidity, but it turns out there's a phantom fourth reason for letting your kid's mullet grow like the mighty oak: the inability to figure out what to do with it. 

In our case, hair took so long in arriving and multiplying that we were hesitant to prune it.  We kind of figured that if we ignored it, the mullet might just go away.  Instead, we accidentally gave Plan C the most fun evening of her life by propping her up in her seat and giving her a bunch of raspberries and cake, then letting her watch an entire episode of Sesame St. while B snipped away.  The end result: adorable.  It feels like a huge iron mullet was lifted from my back.  Pics forthcoming.

In other news, new social strategies are afoot, involving regular BBQs, other dinners, and a new Pathfinder (read: basically the same thing as D+D) game I'm going to run.  Also, I keep hoping the Nervous will get to practice more often.


How Did We Used to Do Music?

Walking home from the Max today, a Reverend Horton Heat song came on my ipod...something from one of his really good albums, I think Liquor in the Front.  That album was important to us when I was about 18 - 19; it was this revelatory thing that revealed to us the existence of rockabilly.  I remember thinking at the time that there was a kind of kinship between rockabilly, surf, and ska as genres, and sure enough, just about everyone I was friends with back then liked all three (people tend to forget that there was a pretty intense underground surf rock thing that happened in the late 90s...Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet, The Phantom Surfers, etc., to say nothing of Man or Astroman.)

The larger issue, though, was what it was like back then to have albums.  This is something The Kids These Days won't really experience - what it's like to have an album you listen to obsessively, and all the way through, because you can only afford a little bit of new music every once in a while.  It was totally a Thing for us to go to Face the Music on 13th Ave. in Eugene and dig through the used CD bin, and when you found a really great new CD (or picked up a copy of one you already knew to be great), it spent a lot of time in the stereo and/or the car for the next several months.  You immersed yourself in that album, and for me, there are albums like those of the good Reverend that are palpable reminders of a certain point in my life.

Re: vinyl: the above, only more so.  And not in the car, except that in the era I'm talking about, you'd tape the record and play the tape.

Some albums that fit the above-described bill for me, in off-the-cuff, non-chronological order:
  1. No Means No, Wrong: played this record constantly starting when I was 14.  I used to do situps to "Oh No!  Bruno!" until I had terrible, searing cramps.  This is no doubt a big part in why I had a six-pack when I was an adolescent.
  2. Dead Kennedies, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death and Minor Threat Out of Step: oh....so this is the punk rock?  I will listen to these tapes nonstop on my walkman now from late freshman year through sophomore year.
  3. Slackers, Better Late Than Never, the best neo-traditional 3rd wave ska album of the height of the it-was-still-cool phase of 3rd wave ska.  I played this one all the time and every time I did my radio show in college, at least one song from this album was on there.
  4. Devo, Oh No It's Devo, still my favorite Devo album (and remember, this is me we're talking about.  I know what I'm on about, here.)  I had a really, really nice summer after junior year in high school, driving around in the CRX, listening to this on repeat.
  5. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs, sort of B's and my official album(s).  When we started dating, we'd have beer + pizza nights set to this.
  6. Murder City Devils, Empty Bottles and Broken Hearts, ditto.
  7. Teddybears, Soft Machine, this reminds me of the good stuff that I liked about Santa Cruz.
  8. Red Fang, Red Fang, already well over a year ago when we moved back to Portland, an essential addition to the playlist.
Finding new music is really hard now, both because I'm old and out of touch and because the very proliferation of digital music has made the whole thing weirdly diffuse and hard to grasp.  Since I never get tired of the old stuff, though, I'm doing fine.


You've Got Your Sofa Issue Handled

"Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled." (from Fight Club.)

Living in this house, I am feeling like the sofa issue is pretty handled.  I have a strong sense of consolidation, of embeddedness, of  hovering over the exact center-point of the American centrifuge.  I plug in the monthly mortgage payment and tack on the "13th month" extra to help whittle down the principle.  I pay the insurance premium and then submit it to the company HRA for reimbursement.  I am the very picture of what thinkers in the Western Marxist tradition referred to as the process of embourgeoisement (although, it could be pointed out, they were talking about industrial workers, not skinny former grad student IT guys.)

I'm reminded of one of the big reasons that I quit tech in the first place: the feeling that I was gaining nothing from year to year, just getting older.  This time around, there are tangible benefits (thanks largely to the fact that I work for some guys who believe in paying good money for good employees, a phenomenon tied, in turn, to the fact that they aren't beholden to investors / venture capital.)  I am dead serious about that maybe-a-Honda-Fit thing I mentioned before.  Likewise, while I can conceive of the whole ennui-of-middle-class-existence easily enough, I never really thought I'd be able to have one (a middle class existence), thanks to the historical economic shifts of the last thirty years, and I have a hard time imagining that the shock and novelty of being able to afford it is going to wear off anytime soon.

Also, the thing about having the sofa issue handled is that if your aspirations are limited to more and better sofas, then yeah, you are not going to have a whole lot of fun.  Being able to cover housing and some more-or-less "basic" first-world consumer society creature comforts and be genuinely content with it, however, does open up the possibility of looking well beyond sofas.  In other words, what I think B and I are really enjoying right now is exactly the same shit we enjoyed living in that stupid one-bedroom apartment in Santa Cruz: friends, family, funny cultural detritus, and thinking deep thoughts, it's just that we're less worried about the material context in which those things are happening.

My point is just that if Tyler Durden showed up and asked if I wanted to join him at the next meeting in the cellar of the dive bar, I would be like "dude...no."


On the Incredible Difficulty of Being a Bon Vivant After 30

Just a few notes on this, an evening when Plan C chased B and I around for hours while cackling maniacally until it was finally time for her to go to bed:

It's hard to keep a grip on the sardonic swashbuckling style that defined us all when we were, say, 24, when we're all, say, 34-ish, now.  Then, even having to hold down steady jobs didn't deter us from music and new tattoos and frequent outings to the city's more distinguished dive bars.  Now, the same steady jobs (or, different ones that are equally steady) seem to have plundered what remained of our anima, leaving us to sink into the mire of routine, only too infrequently to rally and watch a funny movie over many bottles of cheap vino.

But I say: I will steadfastly attempt to resist this trend to the best of my abilities!  When possible!  This is a part of the New Thing I'm Trying These Days!

In that spirit, you really, honestly need to watch this.  It's Obama slow-jamming the news on late night TV.  I'm not making this up.


Today We Gather In Praise of Basements

When we started looking for a house last summer, we had relatively few requirements.  We needed a place that didn't have major metal fatigue in the load-bearing members, we had to have a place adequate to our power needs, and we needed a place that wasn't in a neighborhood like a demilitarized zone.*  Besides that, B wanted a yard and a setting not on a major street.  And me? 

A basement.

(wait, let's do it again in haiku):

North Portland real estate
Husband is easy to please
Basements are the shit

So here I sit in the basement of the KFR compound.  We friggin' love this place.  We had ruthlessly rejected the concept of a "starter home" from the outset; this was going to be the place we stayed in indefinitely.  Thus, my basement examinations were thorough and painstaking (i.e. "can I put a computer here?  Is there asbestos within accidentally-stumbling-into-it-distance?"  Correct answers: yes, hopefully not.)  I want to be clear: this is not about the gag-me-with-a-spoon man cave concept...we are now setup with a family-friendly movie viewing spot immediately adjacent to my little office setup.  Instead, the basement was fundamentally about having a place to store unsightly objects (storage bins, mostly, as well as me when I'm just not feeling it), a place to hide in and pretend the world outside is just a horrible fever dream, and most importantly, a place to go when it's hot outside.

Now, it just started with real spring weather in Oregon.  There is reason to believe it will eventually be summer pretty soonish.  When that first gnarly heat wave hits, because, my friends, it does indeed get really hot here sometimes, I am not leaving the damned basement for all the silkworms in China.  I am going to park my heat-sensitive skinny ass down on the couch and watch Muppet Show episodes, any of the three Oceans 11 movies, and/or the extended edition Lord of the Rings making-of documentaries repeatedly.  B and Plan C will be there, too, of course, and we will make it a family-hides-from-the-heat-wave good time. 

* Egon made coming up with these criteria easy, obviously.


Sick Sick Sick

In my adult life, only one other period is comparable to my current state of an immune system laying down on the job (the term "malingering" is entirely apropos here): the first year that I worked at That One Awful Company, which was a big call center, and I went around working on the computers that were drooled and sneezed on by the customer service reps all the time.  Back then, I was pretty nonchalant about things like hand sanitizer, but after the eighth awful cold in about eight months, I got wise.

Anyway, now is almost that bad.  I get sick about once a month with a nasty tonsils-swollen sore-throat attack followed rapidly by a generic snot-surplus explosivo-style cold.  Since you can't get good drugs in Oregon without a subscription, I have to suffer through the whole thing armed only with caffeine and benadryl (which is still better than nothing.)

So what the crap is going on?  I think it must boil down to some pretty mundane and tedious factors:
  1. I still suck at falling / staying asleep.
  2. I am super stressed-out at my job.
  3. Plan C is equal parts adorable and totally relentless, meaning I get almost no chance to calm down when I'm at home.
  4. I drink too much boozeahol.
Since there's not much I can do about the first three factors, B and I decided to lay off on the sauce for a bit and see if that helps.  The plan is to take a week off of everything, then ease back in with festive cocktails at designated times rather than an ongoing flow of beer or wine (which is kind of how it's been for the last while.)

I'll also, albeit reluctantly, admit that I am happy to see the sun, which has just made an appearance for the first time in a couple of months.


Regarding Being a Yuppie

We went for a walk this morning from our house to Overlook Park so that the kid could get her fix of "Playgraw!  Playgraw!" that she's been yammering on about ever since she discovered that swings and slides are fun.  Along the way we passed groups of nicely put-together 30-somethings tidying up parks and schools for Earth Day, arriving in their Priuses and Mazda 5s and Honda Fits to spend the day with their kids, learning the value of shoveling. 

At the playground, across the street from the Kaiser compound at which she got a clean bill of health for her two-year wellness check just yesterday, she scampered about amidst the other well-scrubbed youngsters (note: the kid in the red shirt with the elementary school mullet was kind of obnoxious.  B, justly, blamed an inadequately involved father who was standing by but not contributing) and having a lot of fun.

On our return we built yet more Ikea furniture, did a lot of yard work, put the kid down for her nap, and contributed to the local economy.*  Now B's off for her hair cut and tonight we're off to dinner at Pause with the Pants in a while.

We're seriously considering buying a Honda Fit at some point soonish.

This process took a while, but here we are: young urban professionals with a doted-on child dressed to the nines in H+M toddler gear.  I think it's still safe to say that we're not total dickheads, but I want this post to reflect that I'm aware of what's happened.

* I sorely wish that "contributed to the local economy" was some kind of euphemism, but it just means that I spent 50 bucks at Fred Meyer.



Big changes are afoot.  Because of circumstances, I can't go into them in detail on the interwebs, at least in a forum in which interested parties who haven't already been informed might come across it.  Suffice it to say that things are very excellent in the medium and long-term future, and that this fact has nothing whatsoever to do with the lottery. 

I'm also considering doing something different with this blog.  I adopted the kungfuramone moniker when I was about 22 or 23, right in the thick of Portland V. 1.0 for me, when I was busy playing in hostile rock bands, getting as many tattoos as I could as quickly as I could, and generally having a blast.  I'm 33 now, I'm thoroughly domesticated, and I'd kind of like to adopt a different approach to blogging, especially because nobody except for very old and curmudgeonly people like me bother with blogs anymore, anyway (although I've noticed that for all the fuss, Tumblr is basically just blogging with a shorter attention span and more stealing of other peoples' good ideas.)  To be clear: I am still having a blast, I am just considering slightly modified ways to express it to the indifferent internet.

So anyways: announcements and changes are on the way.  In the meantime, I remain your cardigan-wearing, pre-hypertension-having, public-transporation-taking, kid-raising, red-wine-only-please-drinking, sleep-rejecting Portlandia caricature but essentially nice person with incredibly fast typing skills.  Cheers.


Axe Kick, Round Kick, Straight Kick

Oregon has some great place names:
  1. Talent
  2. Idiotville
  3. Needy
  4. Not just the famous town of Boring, but the Boring Lava Fields nearby
Last night B and I had our first date-sans-the-kid since she was born almost two years ago.  We saw Magnetic Fields on their current tour playing at the Roseland.  The opener was some folky flappy dorkus, but the Magnetic Fields were wunderbar.  I have been a big-time fan since high school, so I was very dialed-in with the whole set list.  Revelations for B and I included the really, really impressive musicianship of the band members, the band's ability to play the crap out of the slow, sad, pretty songs in a live setting, and the fact that Stephen Merritt played a pump organ the whole time (in past tours he's generally played ukelele.)

It's been a pretty exhausting couple of weeks.  Life stuff going on (notes on that at a later date), insane weather (very cold, full-on snow action yesterday / last night), intense work stress.  Plan to up the chicken sacrifices in order to bring about positive change.


Regarding Chinese Restaurant Names

While we were back east, my brother and I discussed our shared appreciation for funny Chinese restaurant names, most of which don't seem to have been updated since the 1950s.  We reached the conclusion that a good Chinese restaurant name combines any of the following terms:
  1. Yummy
  2. Golden
  3. Temple
  4. Wok
  5. Lounge
  6. A monosyllabic Chinese-sounding name, e.g., Chang, Wing, Tong
(e.g., Yummy Golden Wok, Shin's Golden Wok Temple, Yummy Lounge Garden.)

In addition, the restaurant must advertise "Chinese and American Food" as its culinary focus and it must be totally unclear how it stays in business.

While driving back from the tax lady yesterday, I passed a joint on Woodstock called "Wong's Garden" - that was a marvelously concise example of a really great Chinese restaurant name.

P.S. B and I took Plan C to the playground at Overlook Park today and experienced a classic Oregonian moment: playing with our kid in the freezing drizzle.

P.P.S. Comparable classic Oregonian moment: hosting a potluck last weekend in which 3/4 of the couples/food-providers showed up with some variation on lentil or chickpea soup.


Definitely Need Drugs...

...if I'm ever going to get on a plane again.  So I'm going to talk to the doctor about that on Thursday.

See, I just got back from a four-day trip to see my inlaws in Cali.  The visit was great - they have always been very sensible about what people ought to do on vacation: almost nothing.  Both of them are wonderful with Plan C as well, so B and I had a chance to sleep in until 7am (yes, I said that), relax on couches, sit on the deck and drink high-octane beer, and do other things we rarely get to do anymore.  Except for the beer.

I had to go back to work, so I flew back last night while the girls stay on for a few more days.  I have three days to do both the kind of work that pays money and the kind that decidedly doesn't: clean up the basement, hang a mirror, etc.  I've also got a date with my home girl K to go eat food and watch her play Skyrim.

Speaking of, man do I wish I got to play complicated contemporary games like Skyrim.  I don't, though, because my computer can't and because neither can my life.

Uh...that's all I got.  Go look at my pics on flickr - if you can't see them, that's because all the ones of the kid are set to only-contacts-on-flickr-can-see-them.  In that case, enjoy the other two.



Before the kid, I didn't get much done in a given day.  I did get good at certain video games, though.

After the kid, this is what B and I can do in about three hours with our niece watching Plan C:
  1. Relocate plants, including planting a Japanese maple.
  2. Clean up the entire back yard.
  3. Clean up mold in basement.
  4. Hang a new dowel in my closet.
  5. Eat lunch.
It makes you...efficient.



I am just saying:
  1. If you take your bike on the train, you're not actually riding your bike.  You're taking the train and using up a bunch of space the rest of us could use to stand on the train...you dick.
  2. I wish I could drink cheaper beer, but I'm a sophisticated gentleman now.  
  3. My company has enough juice* that we have a real-deal water cooler now, not just the crappy weird hippy filter that one of my three bosses bought off of the part-time senior developer.
  4. Water towers are synonymous with neighborhood the way we do it in NoPo.
  5. Another note on public transportation: the way you do it is serious headphones and a book.  Then just get all secluded in a corner and you're good to go until you arrive at your stop.
  6. You know what they don't tell you about having a kid?  It's the fact that they become completely hilarious by the time they're about 19 months old.  Like, far funnier than any funny person you've ever known.
  7. That said, Steve Martin is still pretty fucking funny.  He was on Austin City Limits playing the banjo like a champ and cracking wise.
  8. I got Yen in a suitcase from the Yakuza.
* In the gangster-as-of-the-late-90s sense.



We're having the annual false spring in Oregon.  It's in the mid-50s during the day, sunny and blue, with confused plants and elated confused people everywhere.  It was rainy enough in January that I'm tolerating it so far, but the precip better return within a week or so or I'm going to start...uh...well, silently grumbling.  So I guess there isn't much at stake, really.

Anyway, we took advantage of said false spring to go on our first real successful walk in the neighborhood since we moved here in November.  Plan C was highly resistant to her stroller for a while there, but she seems to have grown out of that phase (happily.)  We live in the Overlook neighborhood.  We found a really neat park about a mile south of the south overlooking Swan Island, which is the industrial park / train yards of north Portland, as well as the Willamette.  Here are four pics of the occasion:
I have a thing for water towers.  There are a lot of really neat ones around here.

Plan C.  This is how she rolls (i.e. with a bunny hat.)

Swan Island, St. Johns Bridge in the distance.

A bunch of locks hung on the chain link screen deal on the Concord Ave. pedestrian bridge.


Right, Then

I think I've mentioned this before, but the way it works is that I have about an hour a day, some days, during which I could theoretically record the day's events and/or thoughts in this blog.  What I like to do instead is sit in the basement and play video games.  My brain gets its one chance per day to relax the otherwise-required laser focus.  Then the Slammer* and I go to bed.

I'm at my mom's.  We're down for the weekend so that she and my stepdad can soak up the toddler time and so that I can install the wireless router I got them for Xmas to replace the steam-operated, cast iron wireless router they've been using for the last five years or so.  Despite the stupid, just-long-enough-to-suck drive between Portland and Eugene, it's very nice to be here.

The best thing: Plan C has been in a really, really good mood for the last week or so.  She's gotten over a developmental hurdle with language...there's still lots of undecipherable babbling, but every day there's more decipherable babbling along with real actual words.  It's fall-off-your-chair-and-hurt-yourself adorable learning what's actually going on in her head.  Statements like "two berries!" and "bear goes here!" and "more O's!" - that kind of thing.  I'm finding that the whole Stockholm Syndrome adoration of one's child gets a huge charge from actual communication.

We had our annual coast trip w/ the gang two weeks ago, which was great as usual, but it also brought home to me in no uncertain terms that babysitters are in C's future.

Here's a summary of the rest:

  • Work: SAN with dedicated stacked catalyst 3750s, IPsec tunnel to the offsite facility, wireframes and project management.
  • Band: Ransom and I realized that we were way better 11 years ago.  But then, 11 years ago we had time to practice once a week.  Still fun and sounding better as time goes on.
  • Game: 4th level rogue, 2nd level fighter, bitches!  All of the essential archery feats along with two-weapon fighting.
  • House: so comfy, so awesome.  Dinner parties coming up.  Trying to find good big storage racks for the basement so that we can start cleaning it up.
  • Friends: as attractive and debonair as ever.

* This is B's new nickname.  I'm encouraging everyone to use it as much as possible.  Say it with me: "The SLAMMER."


Sartorial in the New Year

There are an awful lot of things that have gone down Chez Moi of late.  I survived the flights and got to see family back east before during and after my grandmother's funeral.  Plan C's babbling is rapidly turning into Plan C's actual talking.  I have an elaborate plan to be less stressed out in ought-12 as opposed to ought-11.  I keep getting sick - I'm on my third cold in about a month (could have something to do with the mold in the basement, I guess...gonna go after that shit with some serious bleach in the near future.)

But!  None of this matters to you, dear half-dozen readers.  You want to know what I'm wearing these days!  The answer: classy...stuff, dude:

Yep!  A fancy new pea coat that even came with a fancy scarf!  And yes, that's totally me in the picture.

Yes indeed!  New Dr. Martens wingtips!  They cost as much as my mortgage (roughly), but damn are they slick.  And comfy.  And slick.

In other words, I'm trying to start 2012 off in a dapper kind of manner.  I'm doing my part.  Ask yourself: are you doing yours?