Losing the Thread

I am kind of out of ideas for this blog.  As I've said several times in the past, blogging only works when the blogger is hooked in to a community of some kind; my high point of blogging was in grad school, when I had lots of folks scattered around who actively wrote and read, and before Facebook swallowed up what passes for interaction on the interwebs.  The problem is that I have a few basic interests and activities, but it would make more sense to focus on one of them and devote a blog to it rather than sort of half-assedly post lists trying to address them all.  I refer to:
  1. Kid-having
  2. Band-playing-in
  3. College-history-teaching
I'm going to ponder a bit and try to figure out if I should ditch this blog and start a different one devoted to a specific topic, ditch the whole enterprise entirely, or what.

To the steadfast, in the meantime, thanks for reading.


Three Forward, Two Back

  1. Potty training comes with this little thing called "regression" wherein the kid who knew what he or she was doing pretends not to know and gets decidedly upset with the implication that she does, in fact, know how to plant her ass on the thing and use it.  This phenomenon has some kind of correlation with the whiskey consumption patterns of associated parents...I am still gathering data on that.
  2. Google Reader is dead.  Sigh.  Those few holdouts like me that still occasionally updated their blogs are left in a lurch.
  3. What do you do when the activist in your class gets into it with some of the vets in your class?  You do damage control!
  4. The Nervous digital EP thing is well on its way to completeness...our able producer, Jesse B Negative of The Bloodtypes, has been toiling away on mixing.  I am excited to post that shit.
  5. I can't remember if I mentioned already that we have a dog now.  Egon the mixed-small-dog (long story...he's definitely part dachshund, possibly Italian greyhound, maybe chihuahua, who knows what else...) is doing great.  We have our first full-immersion puppy discipline class on Saturday, and he had his first dog play-date with R+R's pup Ada the other night (which, after the shock and growling was over, went well.)


Happy July 5!

Another whole year until we need to put up with that shit again!  I love the Fifth of July!


One Down, Hopefully About 30 to Go

I wrapped up my first year as a full-time college history instructor yesterday.  A few observations about the job, in no particular order:

  • My nemeses are the mean versions of the nerdy know-it-all archetype.  I had a "can't we all just get along" attitude at the start of the year, but now I know better.
  • Conversely, I get along famously with just about all of the veterans and jocks (none of whom, to date, are nerdy know-it-alls.)  Who knew?
  • An hour and fifty minutes a class is a lot of time to fill when you're a shameless chalk-and-talk / sage-on-the-stage lecturer like I am.
  • I 80% love the shuttle to and from campus.  I love it because it's free and I can read or grade while I'm en route, but I don't love it a little because I get sick a couple of times a term and because I have to be on their schedule.
  • I wish my campus looked less like it was designed to sustain direct artillery barrages from the Wehrmacht.
  • Likewise, I wish it was part of an actual neighborhood that featured things like cafes and food carts.
  • I like my colleagues a lot.
  • My student evaluations are positive.  Some students are still taken aback by the fact that I insist they use proper grammar in their papers, however.
  • I dress the part.


A Terror of Butterflies: Notes on Child Psychology

Freud introduced the idea that neuroses in adulthood have their roots in childhood trauma, and despite the fact that Freud's theories are now much more important to philosophy and literature departments in universities than psychology itself, we still basically think he's right about that connection - go through something traumatic as a kid, grow up, have what we now call issues.

It's been fun for me as someone who knows whole half-dozens of things about Freud to watch Plan C growing up.  The man couldn't have been more wrong about the whole idea that the infant is perfectly happy until it is forced to confront its separation from its mother (a stage usually associated with the development of language); that one is complete bullshit, as anyone who's been around a screaming infant vs. a relatively content toddler could tell you.  But, the trauma thing is more surprising to me.  From what I've seen, trauma or fear or even a peculiar kind of low-grade phobia seems built in, even without an actual event to trigger it.

Example: butterflies.

Plan C is terrified of butterflies.  She frequently reassures B or me as we put her to bed that we shouldn't worry, the butterflies won't get her, or, she tells us when she wakes up that there were butterflies in her room.  When she plays with her little people they have whole conversations about how the butterflies are going to get them.  This is a big part of her mental life.

Now, I am here to tell you that she was never attacked, molested, or harrassed by a single butterfly.  Not ONE.  She has other things she's afraid of for no reason as well, most immediately other kinds of bugs (albeit none as panic-inducing as butterflies.)  The point here is that it's almost like fear just welled up in her sometime after she turned 2 and found something to purchase on; the butterflies aren't the important things, it's just that it was butterflies where her innate terror focused. 

It's friggin' interesting.

(Watch, she'll grow up to be an entomologist who only eats nectar.)


Life and Times

Here's the latest:
  1. The Nervous will be recording a 7" record / digital EP thing at some point in the nearish future, hopefully around the end of June.  I'm very excited about this; it's been about 10 years since I did any recording, and I'm stoked to send the MP3 of our song Publish or Perish to all of my grad school homies.
  2. Remember that whole "brutal insomnia since I was about 13 thing"?  Latex mattress = sleeping like a rock.  IMHO, the expensive bed has already paid for itself.
  3. (Not that you asked, but...) week 3 of potty training.  Plan C very much gets it at this point, but we still have to run interference sometimes to prevent accidents.  She's graduating to undies this coming week.  Now if the poor kid's digestive tract would just produce poops that weren't the size and consistency of car batteries, she'd be in good shape...
  4. Gorgeous rainy how-it's-supposed-to-be spring weather in the last week has done much to revive my spirits.  We had our first rainy-day BBQ on Friday, which was great fun but did involve too much mud getting tracked into the house.  I'm thinking about making people hose themselves off from the waist down before they are admitted in the future.
  5. Three weeks of classes to go, then finals, then summertime!  Hot damn!


Middle-Aged Moshpit; Portlandia Morning

Part I:

Last night, homies Ransom, P and I ventured far into the night to see NoMeansNo at the Hawthorne Theater.  I've been a huge fan of NMN since I was 14 and I got their seminal "Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy?" on vinyl; I spent years trying to play bass like their stalwart leader Rob Wright, which is sort of like trying to play trumpet like Miles Davis.  Despite the heat and humidity in the stanky venue wreaking havoc with their equipment, the band itself was top-notch, delivering about 1.5 hours of blistering, dirgy (i.e. "like a dirge", not a misspelling of "dirty") punk.  Two notes on the show:
  1. Those guys have looked old since I first heard them.  They looked old on the album photo of their first album, put out in the early 80s.  They looked old the three times I saw them in the 1990s.  They still look old now, in 2013, but not really any older than they ever did.  It was WEIRD, you guys!
  2. More to the point, the show was 21 and over, and I expected it to just be a lot of old rockers like myself rocking.  That was indeed the case.  What I did not expect, however, was the presence of a full-on geriatric moshpit the whole time!  Big, sweaty dudes who happened to be in their 40s slamming into each other!  Minivan-age fellows crowd-surfing!  It was grampa punk at its purest!
Part II:

After getting home really late and getting a few hours of sleep, it was up for the big day-before-Plan C's 3rd birthday outing B and I had been planning.  We did the following things:
  1. Bought a bed frame from West Elm (high-end mall-pop blaring on the speakers included) to go with our new fancy latex mattress we bought last week.
  2. Got fancy donuts from the new fancy donuts joint Blue Star Donuts a few blocks away (I got a maple bacon one.)
  3. Did photobooth pictures in the lobby of the trendy-ass fancy Ace Hotel a few blocks away.
  4. Went to Powell's (which is just great, as always, not really "fancy", where I bought two more dragon-slaying paperbacks (a few blocks away.)
It was, in short, the most Portland yuppie/hipster morning conceivable.  We regret nothing. 


Dust Settling...Now What?

This has been a tough (school) year for me, but only as tough as one would expect: I am a first-year full-time instructor at a community college, and that entails a whole lot of work in preparing and teaching four classes per term.  I had to create two completely new-to-me courses from the ground up, including lectures, powerpoints, readings, and assignments.  I had to try to figure out how to pace myself delivering up to three 1 hour, 50 minute lectures a day (still working on the pacing thing.)  I'm also very carefully testing the waters of the inevitable office politics, although I'm incredibly lucky in that my colleagues are all great, smart, sympathetic people and there's no question I have less political bullshit to put up with than 90%+ of other teachers out there.

The thing is, though, I appear to be over the hump with the insanity; I have all four of my courses in reasonably good shape and I'm more-or-less on top of the material.  So...now what.  The weird and (possibly) interesting thing about teaching a specific set of classes is that you can fine-tune and modify as much as you want, but the time per lecture is always the same.  What I mean is that modification for the sake of modification would be pointless, and there is a high baby-out-with-bathwater chance if you were to just ditch a lecture topic in favor of a new one.  Likewise, since the students are new each term, novelty for the instructor ("Hey!  I am lecturing about Spain more than I used to!") just means a different narrative for the students, and one that isn't necessarily "better" than the old one.

Point is: I am still figuring this shit out.  Word.



Let me explain myself here:

Everyone who knows me even casually (e.g. the shuttle driver to campus, angry hobos I avoid, the friendly chap who built our fence, porch, and kitchen) knows that I love the rain.  My friends get annoyed with my references to it, and OMFG...poor B.  I've gone off about how it hasn't rained enough lately so many times in her presence that when I start in, she delivers a seriously-shut-up glare that could make Rush Limbaugh turn off his microphone.* 

I am feeling kind of nostalgic and emotional-in-a-good-way and it's raining right now and I want to say why I love it so much.  It's because rain for me is equivalent to life itself.  There's the obvious part - it makes everything grow, it provides for our species to keep on being a species for the time being, and so on.  There's also my subjective position and, I serpose, philosophical position, that I love Oregon because it's green here, because the rivers are huge, because most of the year you're stomping around in a sweater and a jacket (which makes everyone look cooler than they would in California crap), and ultimately because Oregon seethes with something like good "energy" in the hippie sense.  This place is defined by the rain, and I get worked-up when it doesn't rain enough because (A.) it makes me think about mortality**, and (B.) I fear more than anything Oregon losing its identity, losing its core.  There's no evidence that that's going to happen, it's just that this place is so precious to me that the idea of a de-Oregonized Oregon terrifies me.

So keep raining, sky.  Despite what everyone else says.

* This is a good idea, and I will start trying to come up with a way that B can deliver this glare to that particular pile of reheated shit.
** Honestly...lack of rain makes me think about being dead.  Welcome to my psyche.


Punk Rock and Skinny Jeans

  • Things with the band are going well...we suck less and less with every practice, I'm back on a churning-out-new-tunes kick, and we've got a show coming up in April that we're looking forward to.  
  • That noted, it's kind of lame to think that Portland's punk scene itself is not what it used to be; I assumed that punk was the subculture zombie that would never die, but it appears to be a little battered in the P-Town area (this information was brought to me by my homie C, who actually knows what's happening in the music scene, unlike me.)  
  • That said, I don't really care.  The whole point of The Nervous was three spectacularly smooth operators who were spectacularly out of give-a-shits about "succeeding" in any way beyond getting to play some shows and recording something, eventually.
  • It turns out my whole life, I was wearing the wrong kind of pants.  Now that I know I look good in skinny pants, I buy them.  Today was, it turns out, Urban Outfitter's last day of the big early-spring pants sale, and I scored some appropriate legwear for both the classroom and the urban rock n' roll venue.


Complaining About Anthony Bourdain

B got me the last season of No Reservations on DVD for my birthday.  Last night, as a post-dinner-with-friends winding-down, we watched the Ozarks episode, which consists largely of Tony tooling around in the backwoods of Missouri with different gaggles of rednecks, killing (or at least trying to kill) animals.  As usual, his own humor and gravitas are such that the hillbillies he's hanging out with, whether in the duck blind or the tavern with the arm-wrestling tournament, seem to warm up to him pretty quickly, and he goes to great pains to relate to them, to join them, and not to stick his nose in the air just because he happens to be visiting a fly-over state.

The episode is highly reminiscent of one he did several seasons ago where he zipped across the southwest, ending up at Ted Dickhead Nugent's survivalist mansion/compound, where Tony cheerfully joined Uncle Ted in shooting machine guns and listening to foaming-at-the-mouth libertarianism given free reign.

I like Tony Bourdain, I like his show a lot, but I hate these episodes.  It strikes me that he suffers from a bizarre kind of liberal guilt in which he feels guilty for BEING liberal; it's not so much that he questions his own politics, but instead that he feels ethically obligated to demonstrate with great force that his open-mindedness extends to people on the other side of the aisle.  He also makes a big show of his dislike for mealy-mouthed political correctness; his whole San Francisco episode consisted of him trying to find something he hated, gloomily concluding that San Francisco is really cool and fun, much to his own irritation.

I have two problems with this:
  1. The other side doesn't launch liberal-outreach programs.  Ann Coulter does not visit Berkeley or Austin or Portland and ask around to try to understand us better; she instead compares us to satanic Stalinists and hopes that we get what we got comin'.  I do not think Bourdain does "his" side any service by putting on a one-man dog and pony show to conspicuously reach out to them.
  2. Liberalism has always needed more balls.  Obama in his second term, whatever else can be said about him, is at least coming out swinging.  He wasted so much time and political capital in his first term being a good liberal conciliator, and it's nice to see that he's finally acknowledged that Republicans are not reasonable people capable of compromise.  For his part, Bourdain has plenty of balls, and I hate to see him wasting his ballsiness trying to hate on liberal stereotypes (another tired vegetarian joke, anyone?) rather than sticking it to the idiots who, like Nugent, think every man is an island, and that island should be surrounded by guard towers and stocked with wild game to kill.


Razor Wire

I was having a good, solid man-to-man existential hashing-of-it-out with my homie T a couple of months ago (it goes without saying this was over beers), discussing elements of his life he finds dissatisfying, and when we switched over to me, I rapidly concluded that what I want out of life is to have the things I already have, just protected by an elite cadre of highly-trained security personnel, razor wire, and some kind of robot that can anticipate and neutralize threats before they happen.  Every time we plant a new thing in the back yard (dogwood tree!), every time Plan C gets a little older and funnier (changing up lyrics!), every time nothing disastrous happens at work (no dickhead students this term!  Solid enrollments for next term!), my natural inclination to cringe as I wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop kicks in, big time.

[Note: that paragraph consists of two sentences, but they are not run-ons.]

Thus, my intention lately is to just assume that the things I have, against all odds, will still be here in the foreseeable future.  I am still working on the threat-neutralization robot (I call it "playing video games"), but I'm trying to stay calmer in the meantime.

Unrelated: yesterday I dug up the clothes line anchor in our back yard.  I do not use the term "anchor" lightly.  This bastard is the same size and shape as an actual ship's anchor: about 8 feet of steel piping embedded in a two-foot cylinder of solid concrete, which was buried three feet down.  It weighs about 200 pounds (guesstimate.)  It took me over an hour of cursing and digging to get at it, then a lot of leverage was involved in getting it out of the ground.  We're not sure how we're actually going to get rid of it, but we'll figure something out...


Chicken Cookies

I am on record as hating lessons, e.g., you go over to smell a pretty flower whilst hearing a pleasant buzzing noise, then hornets sting you in the neck and you die.  While dead, you think "ok, ok....I get it.  Don't mess with buzzing noises near flowers."  The lesson is overkill; you already got it.

CASE.  IN.  POINT:  We roasted some chickens for B's family, gathered and visiting, and the disposable pan had a leak.  Chicken fat ensued all over the bottom of our oven.  We had had some whiskey, so it didn't occur to us that cookies in this oven might be a bad idea right now.  I tried to put in the cookie pan, a plume of deadly smoke ensued, and I retreated.  In the meantime, however, two cookies had fallen off and proceeded to kind of leak through to the bottom of the oven.  Please reference the above picture to see the results: pure chicken-fat cooked cookies.

We did not eat them.

The next day involved a whole lot of me scrubbing before I ran the oven self-clean cycle, which immolated the remaining nastiness and replaced it with a fine layer of ash.


A Car Built After 1996

(side note: I have been so god-DAMNED sick lately.  It has to stop.  I am turning in this winter and getting a new one.)

Anyway!  We bought the car finally!  It is rad!

It's one of these: A 2013 Honda Fit.

It is the following things:
  • Cheap ($16000 and change, brand new)
  • Comfy
  • Responsive and easy to drive
  • Speedy
  • Intuitively and thoughtfully laid out
  • Zippy
Thus far, the *only* drawback is that its "happy speed" on the highway seems to be about 60 MPH; at 70 it's working pretty hard (this is a tres minor issue, it's just the only "issue" we've found, period.)

Also, here's how to buy a car:
  1. Decide what car you want ahead of time.  Test drive a friend's or something.
  2. Get pre-approved on a loan from a credit union.  You will get some sick, in the teenage-skater sense, APR (ours is...1.7%?  Something like that.)
  3. Buy the car over the internet.  All dealerships have an internet sales manager guy who handles this stuff.  You just call or e-mail and tell him what you want, he finds one, you agree to buy it, and it's easy.
  4. The guy will have one of his fellows drop it off at your house.
  5. Go get milkshakes from Burgerville.


Now I Remember: Rock N Roll Is Fun

So we played with White Murder and the Blood Types last night in a very-big-walk-in-closet-sized venue in an early show, all ages context.  It was really, really fun.  Back when Ransom and I were in Mondale, I always suspected that there was a kind of novelty factor thing going on with us, that people "liked us" mostly because of the nerd rock schtick rather than actually enjoying the music (with the exception of our steadfast buddy Cody, of course.)  With The Nervous, however, I think people actually like us because we don't entirely suck.  We are pledged to suck even less as time goes on. 

My favorite moment of the show last night, besides witnessing how completely fucking badass White Murder are, was when the crowd insisted that Ransom turn up, and lo, the band sounded better.  Told ya so, man.

The band is my one, count 'em, one, extracurricular activity.  It's a big deal for B to let me out to practice and play shows...Plan C is many more than one handfuls, and we do not abandon one another to her tender mercies without due consideration.  I am hugely grateful for this one outlet, and I suspect it ultimately pans out since it is fast becoming a pretty much unmitigated force of fun in my life and makes me a generally happier person as a result.  Anyway, thanks, baby, for letting me do it.

So: onward to write new songs and get more gigs.

P.S. Never, ever pour two pints of hoppy IPA into an empty stomach, especially if that stomach is in your body.


Dude. Brutal.

So... Let's see.

Potty trading is rough. The kid knows the score, but she is very hesitant about it. We could be in for a long haul.

Also, with a show scheduled for Saturday and a job that revolves around lecturing for almost four hours a day, I appear to have contracted laryngitis. Or something. Damn. It.

On the up side, we are signing papers and taking possession of a spamming new Honda Fit in a few days! Neat, dude!


Ah, Adulthood

The last link I have to the good old days of scruffy (relative) irresponsibility is the band.  My homie S posted pictures of his recently-reformed band, Gordon Taylor, on his flickr site (this is a great picture of them, minus S himself who is taking said picture), and it reminded me of how I used to spend just about all of my spare time back in the day: equipped with cheap beer and loud music and good friends.  I sure love me my domestication now, but it's very easy to be nostalgic about back then, too.

The latest adult move was starting the process of moving our moneys from the shitty evil corporate bank to a nice local credit union, which we did this morning.  In the process, we got pre-approved for the auto loan, so we're finally going to buy one of these.  We're going to use one of those snazzy online "concierge" services that gets the car from a dealer and delivers it, in the process obviating the need to actually get within four miles of some smarmy coked-out nutball on a car lot (no doubt surrounded by balloons.)

Also, we voted yes on all of the library + school bonds in Portland, and that is great, but now our mortgage is up $100 a month.  Money-where-mouth-is/was.

Like I said: adulthood.


Go Read This

David Brooks, centrist/conservative columnist for the NY Times, offering a brilliantly succinct summary of why the Republican Party in its current form is dead in the water:

Second GOP

This dude is awesome.  He's the kind of rational, insightful, and undogmatic conservative that has just about disappeared from American political discourse.


Blog Post

Yes, right, blog.

First, I am over the inverse relationship between 'things that are good for your kid's brain' and 'things that are easy and relaxing to do.' DVD of kids' show: bad for. Massive arty project featuring messes: good for. Over it.

Also: it's fun to have homeowner crap in the basement. E.g., a rad drill.

Furthermore, I have 120 students this term! Papers and midterms are comin' in! You'll find me in my cubical, sobbing quietly.

Life is great. I'm just very, very tired.


Needle on the Groove

  • Got Burgerville for lunch.
  • Got Trader Joe's chow mein and orange chicken for dinner.
  • Have some fancy bourbon.
  • Got the new Batman on Netflix.
This is a party at Chez KFR for the three principle players.

And the annual coast trip is coming up in a week! P.S. Needless to say, principle player 3 is only involved in items one and two. :-)


Long Term

I have always categorically rejected the notion that "it'll all work out in the end," basically because that idea has, historically, been highly inaccurate for most people.  That said, I'm coming to wonder if it's just a kind of mental conceit, a psychological trick like a mnemonic device, to keep from freaking out all the time.  Lately I've been running into some impasses with my (in-)ability to guard every word that comes out of my mouth, to stay on top of the pile of tasks I have for work, and to be a good, solid, responsible, fun husband and father.  There is a big tangle of Does Not Compute when these things all pile up.  Furthermore, given the circumstances of being a starting-out full-time college teacher with a vast stack of writing and revision ahead of me AND owning a new-to-us old house that will need modifications for years to come, it becomes imperative to adopt a long-term view.  That kind of view does not come naturally to me (it doesn't seem to come naturally to very many people, so I take comfort that I am in good neurotic company.) 

Life is some tricky shit.