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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Puppy School

Biscuit and I are on our second go-round with Puppy School. Our first attempt was in West L.A. on Saturday mornings. The trainer taught with a large hat and sunglasses on. I have NO IDEA what she looked like. Puppy school seems to fall into one of several broad approaches:

Pet store puppy school. It costs a little more and is marked by a inevitable certificate.

People based puppy school. My friend Naomi did this one. Mostly they listened to lectures about dogs and dog behavior.

Obedience based puppy school. These are taught by AKC obedience clubs and are geared toward both good dog behavior and toward getting the smarter, more able purebreds into competition.

Both of my puppy school attempts with Biscuit have been of the obedience school variety. Big hat teacher was ok for a while. Then she had us "groom" our dogs. Since Biscuit thinks having her ears cleaned is tantamount to canicide, I went to get some toilet paper and proceeded to try and clean her ears. She began, as usual to go berserk. (Honey describes the ear cleaning process as like watching me "wrestle a wild mustang.") After several exhausting minutes wherein Big Hat went around and praised people for having calm dogs, she finally made her way over to me and said, "get her under control." I asked how to do so. And she said, "just get her on the ground." I had a couple of more classes coming and even tried to go on thanksgiving Saturday (when no one was there).

Since I live in the Valley, I thought I'd give it another shot with the Valley club. They seemed more flexible and were a lot closer. One of the notable things about the valley version is that one of the trainers was featured on Showdog Moms and Dads on Bravo last year. Sometimes I see her practicing with her dogs. They're impeccably trained Australian shepherds who walk next to her, off leash, within inches of her leg and stare at her face the whole time.

Biscuit, thanks to these twelve+ weeks of training can sit and lie down. Sometimes she heels. Usually that's because I have a piece of cheese between her face and mine. Mostly she pulls.

I asked the trainer last week what to do after our appointed six visits were up. Take the class again, he said. And he tried to up the ante on me by having Biscuit sit more. My cheese bills are bound to go up.

As for how well this translates into good home behavior, she's started eating anything she can dog out of the litter box. She's actually a clever dog. She grabbed and started shredding a napkin last night. Once I extracted it from her, she shot across the room and licked the pop tart I had been eating. It seemed very calculated, truth be told.

She's a sweet dog, but I sometimes worry if the puppy school affect (negligible) is at all similar to the affect of my efforts in IHE. At least I never wore a big hat while teaching.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Today is the first day of the spring semester at the IHE at which I administrate. (IHE for those of you not in the know is an acronym for institution of higher education). For many years I looked forward to the beginning of the semester (or quarter while I was at UCLA) with great enthusiasm. When I was a student I was always anticipating that maybe, just maybe, The South Since Reconstruction would be the best course ever. Once I became a T.A. in graduate school, I was excited about the sort of faux authority I "wielded" by sitting or standing in the front of the lecture hall making oh-so-erudite comments that the UCLA football players in the big G.E. for which I was a T.A. would be impressed.

Once I was a faculty member, the excitement was on the new students and new ideas and completely lame-ass hope that my version of the anthropology of religion would actually be a good course this semester.

Now, I administer things. I've been sending out e-mails about adding students to classes. I watch the world pass by my window. I ordered a new mechanical pencil from our supplier to celebrate spring semester. It's a nice one. And I got extra leads and erasers. I read the OfficeMax guide to leads before I chose the "2b" type. Supposedly it's bold, easy to read, and surprisingly smooth. Who is it supposed to surprise? Maybe I'll forget how smooth it's supposed to be between now and when it arrives on Wednesday.

Happy first days to all who have them. Today I just have another today. Of course, there's nothing wrong with today, it just doesn't hold the kind of false promise I used to crave.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I am not a birder. My friend AB used to be married to a birder. Lovely guy, but you'd go over to their house and he'd put on warbler CDs and then quiz you. He has a life list.

I don't have a life list. I do have bird CDs, courtesy of Bry and Slangred, which I like. I use them for reference for birds that visit my backyard. I think they'd approve of this use, as they're both reference librarians. I also have bird books. I like them, looking at all the pictures and trying to match the picture up to what I see outside my window or on a walk through the woods. It verges on birding, but I think falls just short.

One reason I got into the bird thing pretty hard was WBU. WBU is Wild Birds Unlimited. They're a national chain, but the "local" one (15 miles away, but freeway close!) was run by the fantastic couple. One liked birds, the other people. They had a standard poodle and a very warm shop. They loved it when I brought Red in. In September, I went wandering in with Biscuit and Jenny and I had a great talk about new dogs. Biscuit thought Jenny was beyond great. Then Jenny mentioned leaving and that she and Chris were moving to the Midwest and here was the new owner. My heart sank.

L.A. is such a non-place. I can slip through my days and never connect to anyone but those I already know. Box (house) to box (car) to box (office) and back. I do like that the baristas at my Starbucks know and are nice to me. I wish the arrogant crew at Jamba with their fakey "Hi!" greetings would be as nice as the sbucks crowd. But WBU was different. It was like the places I went with my Dad growing up. He liked knowing his pharmacist, his mechanic, his cleaner counter folks. He's moved too often since to maintain that, but they still know him at the butcher store. At WBU, Jenny always remembered what birds I fed, what kinds of feeders I had. She always asked after Red and Honey. She recommended the ordinary--the "Eliminator" to prevent squirrels and the extraordinary--a sock stuffed with rotting bananas to attract more vibrant birds.

Since she and Chris sold the shop, I haven't been back, even though I have "banked" seed.

Yesterday, I filled all the feeders for the first time in a long time. A flock of goldfinches came around almost immediately. Goldfinches are the best birds I get in my yard. Little yellow jewels hanging upside down all over my feeders (they like the hang upside down when they eat). I root for the underdog birds too. Lots of doves pecking around.

We went to see Sandra, Joel and JMPR last night. Ever since they bought their house, I have had an intense jealousy of their built-in outdoor aviary. They have tried, with some lack of success, to maintain a zebra finch population out there. Their last one died a while ago and with a new baby the finch issue isn't foremost in their hearts. On the way out, I stopped at Petco and bought them two Society finches, a brown and white one and a white one. Joel almost made me cry when he said the white one looked like a dove. I hope they have a vibrant and very inbred colony of society finches soon. If they don't, those two I bought should have some happy times in the aviary. It's got to be better than the San Dimas Petco.

I don't know if its the return of the goldfinches, but I think I may be ready to go pick up some banked seed at WBU soon. It won't be the same without Jenny, but I want to keep getting goldfinches around the yard.

I'm not always sure how to separate the people and the birds. When I go back east, every robin I see turns my head. My grandmother and I looked for acorn tops to have "tea parties" with the robins. When I find a kind place like WBU, I want to hold on tight. But my arms are weak and I'm not in charge of the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Honey just walked up behind me and said, "that's not your blog." It's true, I was laptopping in the living room, but I'm still obsessing about my bike, so I was looking at stems. (Don't ask). There's an implicit promise in a blog. You're supposed to post. I didn't yesterday and I was surfing rather than posting just now. Honey wants to read my blog. She's probably looking for deep insight, but I think I need to effort it more to provide insight. The blog is a contract.

Speaking of which, there's a guy in our house right now. He's a nice fellow and is from a local drywall contractor. I'm not skilled at the whole homeowner thing. Honey does the taxes and the mortgage. We've had work done before, the roof was replaced, the yard's been worked on.

The guy is redoing our ceiling in the office. I found the contractor on a web site called Angie's List. My Dad is VERY enthusiastic about Angie's List. It's a place for people to report their experience with contractors. The contractors can do nothing about it. They can't get themselves listed and they can't change their rating. It's a little like I agree with Dad about Angie's list, but confess to a deep loathing of ratemyprofessors. I'm not on Angie's List, I am on ratemyprofessors.

I am not thrilled with this contractor. The work his guy has done is good. But his communication has been weak otherwise. Twice someone was supposed to show up and hasn't. There have been 6:15am phone calls that are very passive aggressive. I'll be honest on Angie's List. I'm not interested in playing games and this company is.

Ratemyprofessors is a small step from the neocon bozo at UCLA who has a hit list of "radical" professors. He's withdrawn the offer, but was at one point offering $100 for audiotapes of leftist political lectures. One of my favorite folks at UCLA is on his list. She's one of the great minds in her field and a lovely person besides. His description of her is inflammatory but fairly accurate. He's taken out a contract on her.

So, to summarize:

Contracts I like: ones I sign and agree to that provide me a service. No 6:15am phone calls.

Contracts I don't like: derivatives of the contract with/on America

Websites I like: ones where I comment on others
ones where I comment on myself

Websites I don't like: ones where others comment on me and I can't comment back.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pimping my Ride

I had a cold for about a month. I'm still not breathing well, though dedicated readers will note that I'm blaming my current lack of lung capacity on the (dum dum dum) Santa Ana winds. I've been a bad girl and haven't exercised in more than a month. I can't sleep and usually can't wake up in a timely way.

This week I put my big toe back into the exercise water by bringing my mountain bike to campus to ride it to meetings and lunches. I know I'm off fundamentally when the ride from the bottom of campus to the top takes all the wind I have.

Honey claims I shop too much. I may (studies pending) have gotten this from my mother. Where I have trouble (and my mother doesn't) is the internet strikes me as a terrific place to shop and there it is, in front of me for much of the day.

I love the MTV show Pimp My Ride. I toy with pimping my Saturn Vue, and have done a few pimpy things like upgraded the sound system, added carbon fiber accents, gotten rubber floor mats, etc. It's not pimp. But it's pimpier than stock.

My real pimp my ride desire shows in my bikes. I look at them (and at Honey's godhead carbon fiber dream machine set up for her riding pleasure on the trainer in the living room) and imagine what I could do. No flames or custom paint, but upgrades galore.

The Cannondale mountain bike deserves better wheels, disc brakes, and better handlebars. But it's my used Trek road bike that really wants for pimping. I bought it in South Carolina on a whim. I like it a lot, but we're uneasy with one another, the bike and I. I trust it to haul me around, but have doubts. And since I bought it used, I have no guarantee from Trek, just faith.

Honey says it rides fine, should last me a long time, and that I should just relax.

My shopper/pimp voice says I need things for the bike. Today I found new brifters for the bike for a great price. They're black, sleek, and cool. Brifters, for those of you who haven't ridden a road bike in a while, are the brakes, but they also have a mechanism to shift the bike built in. Whoo, I thought, those are really cool. I love a deal. And they were HALF PRICE! And...I had a COUPON! Then I thought, well if I buy the brifters, maybe I should get new handlebars, too. I have an aluminum bike, which is good, given my size. Aluminum is not the most forgiving metal. I've toyed with the idea of carbon handlebars, which should dampen road vibration. Now, if I buy the brifters, I'll need to have them installed. Why not have handlebars installed at the same time, since brifters get clamped onto the handlebars? Good plan! More shopping/pimping. I start reading reviews, looking on sites.

Honey's eyes will roll up in her head. The brifters are coming. As for he handlebars...not yet, but I'm still looking. I'm thinking Kestrel bars. Carbon=pimpy.

So, I haven't gotten on my road bike in over a month, and can't ride half a mile without getting winded right now, but I'm ready for good shifting and (perhaps) a smoother ride from the handlebars.

I've got to pimp my ride!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Biscuit and Halo

I've always maintained that I'm a dog person. Cats never did much for me, but my family had this way of ruining them. I am said to have "killed" the best cat ever, Googe. My mother hired a woman to help care for me after I was born and she believed (as many folks do) that cats suck the life out of babies. This woman insisted that Googe be let outside and Googe was promptly hit and killed by a car. This, without irony, is presented as my fault in family lore.

We had a few cats that flicker through my memory: Blackie, a big tom who I think we just fed. Socks, who disappeared on Halloween. Then, my folks decided to get my brother a cat. My dad went driving around one Christmas Eve and found a cat at a south Atlanta pet store. Miss Pig (who was named Victoria initially), was tough. She'd disembowel things, could catch a butterfly in mid-air, and loved nothing better than wounding a chipmunk for an afternoon of torture.

When it came to people, she drooled and bit (hard on the chin). Now, I will admit that the family dogs weren't much more appealing. My parents finally got it sort of right with Reddo, the sweet Welsh Springer Spaniel who I was lucky enough to have as my dog the last three years of his life.

Honey is a cat person. She laughs when she sees them. It's very sweet. She came with a cat named Tuna, who didn't like me. She has a soul-cat named Calif, who is sweet and needy. Calif is honey's cat. I love her, but the bond is between them.

Honey and I got a cat that I loved with all my heart. Squeak was everything I wanted in a pet. Funny, cute, soft, easy to deal with. She died of cancer at age three.

I don't know if Red's death or Squeak's affected me more. But, in both cases, I wanted a new presence right away. I picked out Halo and I picked out Biscuit. Halo is five pounds of calico hilarity, Biscuit is 35 pounds of soft puppy mess. They don't like each other. I want Halo to use her claws when Biscuit corners her. I want Biscuit to stop cornering her. I can't figure out how to make either thing happen.

Animals can provide such joy in life. I miss Halo. Biscuit is so focused on me that she is often within an arms' length. I forgot (because Red was old) what it's like to have a young dog around. I know what it's like to have Halo around, but she doesn't come to me as much as she used to.

I know I smell like Biscuit to her, but her absence leaves a small empty place in my center. I never thought a cat could do that to me.

Honey and I have a contest for our cats called "Loaf of the Day." Cats like to lie with all of their paws tucked underneath them and usually the tail is tucked under as well. Halo is a very good loafist, she wins most days.

I hope she knows (in her little Calico head) that I love her and that I'm glad she wins loaf of the day, and that I'm glad I picked her out of the East Valley shelter. I mostly hope she doesn't blame me for Biscuit.

I am to blame for Biscuit, of course, but I hope Halo doesn't know it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


My friend Tom died today. It wasn't a great shock when my mom called, but it made me sad in a deep way that I could not expect. It seemed sudden, even though I knew it was coming.

He had bad juju in the abdomen cancer and had fought it for a long time.

I didn't see him after he got sick, except in pictures. He lived in Louisiana and I don't live nearby. I couldn't figure out how to go see him without it seeming maudlin. Now I wish I had anyway. I was supposed to be the first guest in their Louisiana house, but a missed plane meant that my last encounter with Tom was our mutual disappointment on the phone.

Tom and Patti were my church's youth group leaders when I was a teenager. But I like to think my friendship with them was and is more than that.

I grabbed everything they had to offer. Tom's weird musical tastes, his great talent on the trombone. He resistance to "belonging" to groups.

In the middle of Tom's sickness, the Snyder's life went on, I know. Anna and Jane kept going. Patti, bless her, is a minister at a church in Baton Rouge and knocked herself out helping Katrina victims.

They were in Houston getting Tom treatment and Patti got him home before he died. I'm glad for that. Home is a better place to be than Houston or a hospital. Or a hospital in Houston.

He was as gentle a man as I've ever known. He hugged better then anyone on the planet. Warm, loving hugs that made me feel safe and loved. I appreciate his warmth, his iconoclasm, his thoughtfulness. I know he was a great husband and father. He certainly was an amazing friend.

I'm not sure how you assess the full measure of a life, but if it has anything to do with the how he affected the people left behind, Tom's life was full. I will miss him terribly.

"We'll meet again on some bright highway
Songs to sing and tales to tell...

Because I expect to touch his hand, boys
Put a word in for you if I can."

Steve Earle "Pilgrim"


I like wood. It satisfies my senses in a way that few other natural products do. Leather is up there, but nice wood is pretty nice. I don't think about wood a lot, but sometimes it occurs to me that I should know more than I do about flora and what it produces.

We've been using our fireplace for the first time since we moved into the house. I keep buying boxes of "Hot Wood" at the hardware store. It's not all the same kind of wood, but when I peer at it, I can only say that some of it is reddish, the barks differ, etc. It's not like I'm any better at fauna--I know some birds and I can tell the difference between a coyote and a dog. The big fan plants that wave outside my window every day? I just think of them as the big fan plants.

The staff in my office wanted to rearrange and get new furniture last year. They agreed on faux mahogany with black accents. Not the direction I would have gone. I prefer lighter woods, and if what you really have is woodgrain, not wood, why bother? So the Assistant Director wants a new desk and she thinks I should get one too. She keeps showing me pictures in the catalog.

I try not to be petulant about things, but I'm not coming into my office everyday to woodgrain mahogany. I'm just not. The woodgrain oak I have is just a tap less hateful. I'd prefer maple. Or just office faux tops--you know the kind of marble-like stuff, like my office table. I like knotty pine and real cherry. And cedar. I could spend all day with my face in the little cedar box my mom bought me when I was little.

I don't know why I'm so uptight about this stuff. I love fake. Las Vegas is one of my favorite places.

I even like birds that you're not supposed to like: jays, starlings, house finches.

But when it comes to wood, I want real. I have a little wooden box shaped like an acorn. I admire it every day. Just a little. It reminds me of the past, of my grandmother and I searching for acorns under the oak in her yard, of the deep piney woods of the South, of the giant trees in Sequoia Park. It even evokes the fan plants. It does not remind me, even a little bit, of woodgrain mahogany with black accents.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Family and baseball

My family likes baseball. We've flirted with football a little, basketball a little. I like soccer ok and cycling. But baseball is the main sport. This is an odd thing, actually, since none of us played it much. My brother played a year or two of little league. I played intramurals in college and go through batting cage phases. Hard hit balls=people's heads in my weaker moments.

I like going to the ballgame with my mother. At some point she will observe (always with the same sage nod), "home team bats last."

I grew up in Atlanta, home of a really bad baseball team for a number of years. There was one good year in the Dale Murphy/Bob Horner era. But mostly, it was Chief Knockahoma and Princess Winnalotta in the outfield. If I recall correctly Princess Winnalotta was arrested for drunk driving at some point, bringing an end to THAT particular racist mascot. Knockahoma persisted longer.

As the Braves got better, our family collective fandom of them increased. I loved Mark Lemke and Terry Pendleton and the rest of the early 90s Braves. I've never done the chop and never will. It's bad, really bad. I wish they'd stop. Ok? Ok.

By adulthood, I had moved to a broader conception of baseball. I liked going to old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore where really old women with whiskey and cigarette voices talked about Billy Ripken had more heart that Cal Jr. The O's were ok in my eyes, though the whole Ripken thing never did a lot for me. I've only been to Camden Yards once. It was nice, but I missed the thrill I always got when returning to my car at Memorial Stadium and discovering it was still there.

To say that my brother and I are not close would be something of an understatement. I regret that we aren't, I try occasionally to rectify things, and usually fail.

We can talk about baseball. He likes it a lot. We both carried it away from Atlanta.

When I moved to L.A. I couldn't root for the Dodgers. They were in the same league (and for many years, geographically counter-intuitively, the same division as the Braves). When I met my honey, I found a new baseball home. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the O.C., place of her birth, had a team all its own. An American League team. One with a compelling and tragic history like the BoSox but without the operatic hand-wringing that the older cursed teams had. Ok, so Disney owned them for a while and Jackie Autry isn't exactly my kind of person, but the 2002 World Series was one of the great periods in my life. Honey and I even named our 2002 new cat Halo. Sometimes I wonder if I take things from my honey by liking them too. But, that's a topic for another time.

I also developed a baseball aesthetic. I wanted to root for good guys, men of honor and character and intelligence. I read the sports pages and magazines carefully. I became something of a Blue Jays fan because of my admiration of Carlos Delgado. As the Salon sportswriter King Kaufman notes, there a complex calculus to being a fan. If you care, here's my hierarchy in baseball:

Blue Jays Orioles

Then there's the Yankees, but I'll save them for another time. Hate isn't pretty, but it is real.

So, I got an e-mail from my brother today asking if I'd like to be in the his fantasy baseball league. I was feeling really warm toward him (and said so in my return e-mail). Then I found this phrase in the e-mail: "All of you are close friends (or family members)." Nice to be in the parenthetical dichotomy, don't you think? I told him I'd do it. But, now I gotta find some National League players who aren't Braves, Nats, Mets, or Cubs (his league's admitted emphasis) to buy and root for. It's hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm for drafting Pirates, or Reds, or Rockies. I'm going to try. I guess I like the Padres ok, maybe some of them are worthwhile. And then, my brother can lose all his money to his parenthetical sister. Go team!


So I was sick with a cold for almost a month and found it all very annoying. Without missing a beat, my body has recovered from the cold and had a little allergy spasm from the Santa Ana winds. How do I know I switched from cold to allergies? I actually slept last night. When I have a cold, I can't sleep.

Still and all I hate these winds. Southern California is a wonderful place a lot of the time. Sandals almost 365, bicycles almost 365, lovely cool nights, even in the hottest summer months. I am even fond of that weather-hyped period known as "June gloom."

I miss seasons, real seasons. I was lucky to have lived in part of the East that had distinct, but not terrible seasons. While Washington and Atlanta summers were, shall we say, a bit "wet," the springs and falls helped to compensate. And neither place had winters that hurt, the way Chicago winters hurt.

One of my eyes has a sty and when the wind kicks up, it produces, um, stuff. I think the sty prevents good eye flushing. My sty is one of those things that makes me grimace when I look at myself in the mirror. That and what my honey calls my "baja bump" which is a red spot on my forehead (same side as the sty! Yea!) that I get from sleeping face down on my pillow. Freaky McFreak is me.

I heard a piece on the radio this morning about the leper colony on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. There are worse things, I suppose than being sent (as people were) to a paradise island to die and then not dying.

Why I cam to Los Angeles is more complicated than why they sent people to Molokai. What I like about it is that I can be relatively successful even with the sty/forehead freakiness. What I don't like is the damn winds.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I'm not one that looks as if she's in a panic state much of the time. I move slowly and while I talk too much, it isn't in a breathless panic-kind-of way. I know I'm perceived as slow and deliberate because recently a colleague saw me riding my bicycle just off campus. I like riding my bicycle around campus, it keeps me from walking slowly from meeting to meeting. This colleague cannot stop talking about how "fast" I was going on the bike. The campus I work on is essentially on a slope that slopes gradually north. I was moving south when she saw me. It is very easy, as even those of you who haven't ridden a bike in while should remember, to move quickly downhill. Still her rather odd focus on my "speed" on the bike strikes me as indicative of how slowly she expects my movements to be. (Bike geek moment: It's a Cannondale F400 bike with semi slick Continental Town and Country Tires on it. I had the lock-out turned on the headshock. I was probably going 10-12mph at most).

As my partner can attest, I do panic. I've been in panic mode this morning. My lingering cold has made sleep difficult and I was clearly having sleep apnea episodes last night. I also felt panicky yesterday at the Getty where we went to see two photography exhibits. The Getty used to take parking reservations and there were fewer people up there. Now they let you park as long as there is parking. We had waited until the last weekend to see the Juilius Shulman (architecture photographer) and Weegee (crime photographer) exhibits. The latter was really crowded, the former moderately so. I worked hard at not panicking all day. Inasmuch as I succeeded, I enjoyed myself, inasmuch as I didn't, I had little fantasies about yanking people's hair really hard.

Today we're off to see another exhibit on its last day. If this one is crowded, I might wander off elsewhere. Today, already pre-panicked, I may not be able to handle crowds. We'll see.

A Battlestar Galactica note (spoiler if you haven't watched Friday's episode): Since Rosalyn is alive, does that undermine the prophecy about her? I will say that in my weaker moments yesterday that I consoled myself with her recovery from cancer. How pitiful is that? A t.v. character survives a disease and I take consolation.

I guess it makes as much sense as my jerking the hair of the young European man who badly needed a haircut away from each picture at the Getty. His general approach was to put his hand on the wall on either side of each photograph and lean in closely, thereby cutting it completely off from others' view. So all I could see was the back of his head while he looked at the pictures. And I became a little obsessed with the thought that he badly he needed a haircut. When did twenty-something (and younger men) start wearing the same haircut Kate Jackson wore in 1976?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Losing Music

I have spent the last half-an-hour trying to find three albums with no luck. I whined about it enough that my honey got up and looked too. She's sweet that way, though it made me feel guilty. She was laptopping in the living room. Dunno what she was looking at, though at one point she did comment that there were a lot of "Jesus blogs" out there. I should think so. I asked if it was a plurality or majority. The kind of question I ask and want the answer to, but no one else is going to answer for me.

Two of the three CDs I was looking for are almost 15 years old. (I betray my generational proclivities by mixing "album" and "cd" as if the same word) There were moments in my life when I felt "cool" in music terms. I had a morning show on WVAU when I was in college. The problem with WVAU was that it couldn't use the radio tower on campus. That was reserved for the "real" radio station run by professionals. Instead, it was beamed directly to the student cafeteria and could be gotten (with some fiddling) in the dorms. I liked to think of myself as eclectic then. "Grits in the Morning" was Allen's and my gift to the world. And I was "Grits."

When I met my honey, my musical cool self confidence dissappeared. She had been a record buyer for an real record store. She knew "reps" and "catalog." Now I hang out too much with honey and Bry to have ANY cool going. Between honey and Bry, there is no music they don't know. I did get a little thrill when Bry told me that the Chapin lyrics I posted a couple of days ago were good.

Honey used to make fun of my mix-tapes for have "showtuney" songs on them unexpectedly. What's wrong with a little Cole Porter?

Now I hear that the two great indy record stores in L.A., Rhino and Aron's, are closing. I couldn't find any of the CDs I was looking for. They're probably at my office. Or lost in the fifteen years of absence.

Here's the deal though. Honey thinks it's really funny when I listed to my ipod mix with Gwen Stefani and Dionne Warwick side by each. But I say if I can go from "Hollaback Girl" to "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" without hurting yourself, I've got flexibility. if not cool.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Workshops for all!

I know, I know it's not like I'm the only one who's ever had to do this. Professional development is the bomb, no? Today I had an all day workshop on academic leadership. Now the idea that I'm an academic leader is specious (spurious?!) at best. I don't even have a tenure-track job for goodness sake. And there I am one seat over from the provost and at a table with two deans, both of whom have coordinated their outfits--one had a purse/shoe thing going on and the other had a glasses chain/necklace thing going on. When I sit down the chair of the Secondary Education department gets up to move tables. I shame her into staying and then feel as if I have to entertain her. I was actually thinking about whether I could make a swan out the mapkin in front of me (no) when, fortunately, the charming and handsome chair of Elementary Education sits next to me and I can sink back into a fog between them as they have a heated discussion about whether or not they really have to come up with acronyms for all the schools they work with for some data collection thing the College of Education is doing.

For a leadership workshop, it isn't bad. We do some role-playing games and listen to a guy from the University of San Francisco talk. He's engaging and has lots of overheads. He reads the overheads more than he should.

Everyone decides I'm brilliant during the afternoon session while we're role playing a conflict management scenario when I notice that our group needs the juice of some theoretical oranges and the other group needs the rinds of the same theoretical oranges. People actually pat me on the shoulder. Bring that spork girl around, she can solve all your theoretical orange problems. Now get me to figure out how to manage the English department and their bright white hatred of me for suggesting that future teachers don't need a course on the history of English grammar and you'll have something. Oranges, sure. 50 irate English professors, nope.

My Dean told me that she's posting my currently interim type job in May, with interviews in June. I tried not to hyperventilate. She wants me to get the job, so does the provost. But I get to spend the next few months in a fog of not knowing and not talking.

Someone actually referred to me as a risk-taker in one of the simulations today. We were supposed to pull stickers off a board. Green dots underneath were good. Brown were bad. We need a net total of 25 green dots to win. We managed to get 26 green and 1 brown. I was a risk taker because I was more willing than most to follow my instinct and memory.

Rosa Parks, she took risks. I solved the oranges and the blue stickers. Watch out folks, the next great academic leader has arrived!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Houses and homes

I spent part of today at home while a guy patched the ceiling in our home office. It collapsed about a year ago. We got the roof fixed, but never got around to getting the ceiling fixed. A year with a hole in your house is probably enough. I love my house, though I sometimes feel oppressed by it. We don't have a lawn, we need a new toilet, we have white carpet and pets.

My mom called. She often is very sad on the phone. She's a Presbyterian minister. I'm not sure those last two thoughts are related. They may be.

She asked if I wanted to transfer my letter from her old Atlanta church to her new one. For those of you out of the presby-world, a transfer of letter means that you are a member of a church (once you've joined in the first place). When he was young, my dad went and asked at his church for his letter. He didn't want them to have it. There is no actual piece of paper, so they couldn't give it to him. I told my mother that she could transfer my letter to her new church. She made it a habit to transfer my letter around. When I was in college, she left the church I actually joined and transferred my letter to her new one. I remember being irritated about it at the time. I didn't even know that she had transferred my letter to her third church. She didn't transfer my letter to the giant church she served in Chicago for 18 months. Just as well. No one in our family thought much of the Chicago sojourn except my honey, who liked visiting it better than Atlanta. (I do see her point). I guess I have a new church home. In absentia. Seems about right.

My Dad was out last weekend. He was fantastic, funny, relaxed. He told me that the big oak that had dominated the back yard of the house I grew up in had fallen during one of the hurricanes. The death of that tree makes me sad. I think of us running up and down the back yard under that tree. We do have two big elms here and a tangerine that produces more fruit than we know what to do with.

I guess I'll end under a tree with my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter song. Here's what she says:

"And I can tell by the way you’re searching,
for something you can’t even name
That you haven’t been able to come to the table,
simply glad that you came
When you feel like this try to imagine that we’re all like frail boats on the sea
Just scanning the night for that great guiding light announcing the jubilee

And I can tell by the way you’re standing with your eyes filling with tears
That it’s habit alone that keeps you turning for home, even though your home is right here
Where the people who love you are gathered, under the wise wishing tree
May we all be considered then straight on delivered down to the jubilee

Because to people who love you are waiting,
and they’ll wait just as long as need be
When we look back and say those were halcyon days
We’re talking about jubilee."

I do hope they'll wait for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


It seems to me that reading my blog is probably worth the effort I put into reading others' blogs. That is to say, I scan them, decide if I think the person is funny, provacative, or worthwhile in some other way. But, make no mistake, it's all about the scan (or the skim if you prefer). No deep reading for me. I had a friend once, a rabid comic fan, who claimed that he judged a comic book by how quickly he could read it. Thousands of dollars a year the man spent, and he judged the things by how little time he could spend with them. Whatever.

I guess I decided that I was tired of being a "guest" in the great chat room that is the internet. So, here's what I've got to say for now.

First, I wish my cold would go away. People look at you differently when you have a cold.

Second, I wish I owned a hybird car that was comfortable and plush, but still made me feel good.

Third, I can't tell whether I should be mad at my new dog (I've had her for five months, so she's not that new) for her behavior this morning. She slammed one of our cats into a pillow, put the other cat's head in her mouth, and then jumped up and licked my bagel. After which, she settled down to chew her rawhide. I want to act like that sometimes. Just do random, slightly wacky, slightly hostile things, but then be nice right afterwards.

I could be ever-so literary and cite Melville's bit about Ismael wanting to knock people's hats off their heads and therefore knowing he needed to go to sea. But, then look at how that turned out for him. Sure, he survived, but no-one else did. And wouldn't Starbuck be surprised what happened to his love of coffee.

Fourth, speaking of Starbuck, I am absolutely convinced that the current iteration of Battlestar Galactica is the best television show I have ever seen. I want Laura Roslyn to be president, here and now. I will be disconsolate if/when she dies. And, if I ever meet Mary McDonnell I will break the Southern California code of play-it-cool when there's a celebrity around. I will tell her how wonderful she is and ask her to be my friend.

Fifth, I'm going to stop now. It's dark here. Hope you will stop by again. Think scan or skim.