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Monday, October 29, 2007

A few Denver thoughts

I find myself in Denver, a city to which I have never ventured before. Seems nice enough and the weather is good, I gather, for October in Colorado.

Some preliminary thoughts:

1) People smoke here more than they do in L.A. Seems ill-advised given the thin air. They'll need their lungs.

2) The Mint should have a nicer gift shop, especially since they didn't have any space left on their tour today. They make a profit on those state quarters. Cycle it back such that the gift shop doesn't seem like a trailer time forgot. There are just the two Mints, really. They could try harder. Does anyone know if they try harder in Philadelphia mint-wise?

3) If I wanted Rockies World Series gear, my timing could not be better. It's all 50% off. Now that I know the Rockies actively recruit born-again Christian players, I don't so much want Rockies gear.

4) I'm in the hotel the BoSox stayed in last night. To hear tell, we're lucky to get rooms, as the celebrated rather, um, vigorously and didn't leave when they were supposed to.

5) I also hear tell that the Packers are staying here tonight. For fantasy football reasons, I'm hoping they have no real reason to celebrate. Brett Favre especially. Plus he doesn't pronounce his name right. Ok, he does, given that he's from the South, where Ponce De Leon is pronounced "Ponse Dee Leeeon" and Cairo, GA is pronounced "Kay-roh." Still.

6) The Rockies (mountains, this time) are really pretty.

7) Ok, I'm off to dinner with my boss. I'm going to try not to say anything stupid.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Costing more

So Honey mentioned to me yesterday that our faithful laptop was conking out a few times a day. I named the laptop "pretty" when I got it. Shall we take a brief tour of my computers? Sure. Why not? It's my blog after all.

My first computer was a PC. Not a real IBM one, but an Epson with a Hercules paperwhite monitor. It served me fairly well. I upgraded it at some point and it functioned like DOS based PCs did. Well. Then Windows cam along and I lost faith.

In graduate school, I had a class that introduced me to the wonders of that magical place called Cupertino. Hypercard prefigured and guessed at the beginnings of the web. I used the internet then--e-mail and netnews--but hadn't yet seen a graphical interface. Hypercard changed that. I promptly got myself a Mac. A laptop.

Color and everything! It weighed a ton, but I was delighted to have a system that worked.

Taking a page from my Honey... to keep you going. There are baby animals here!

Anyway, we entered into the bright phase when Apple did. An original bondi iMac was complemented by the famous (from Sex and the City) iBook. We called the iBook "clam."

Swivelhead came next. I sent him packing this summer when his disc drive went out. That and he wouldn't play Sims2.

Need another baby animal picture? Honey uses them to help deal with tough stuff. I'm compensating for boring stuff. Not the same thing, really.

Pretty and Swivelhead lived together. Pretty has served us well. Even when Biscuit broke her powercord input, she bravely went to the Apple store and got fixed.

She welcomed Flathead when he came home this summer to replace Swivelhead. She chirped merrily along, all the while communicating with the spaceship (our Airport wireless router).

When Honey told me about Pretty's problems, I was worried. Pretty was nearing the end of her life, it seemed. Was it her screen? Was it her motherboard? Either way, she isn't worth fixing. She's a G4 Mac in an Intel CoreDuo world.

Honey and I discussed, looked online, and talked some about it. She's very careful, my Honey. I am a rushing-in kind of fool. Here's one thing we agreed on, though. Apple needed to stop introducing white computers and then making the non-white ones cost more. Flathead was purchased JUST before the new silver and black iMacs came out. Flathead costs $200 less than his silver and black brethern do now. $200. Remember that number.

The new MacBooks are available in white and black.

Here's the thing, though... The white ones are cheaper.

$200 cheaper.

Oh, sure the black one gets you a better hard drive. But it's so little better that it's not worth talking about.

At one point, Honey said exactly what I was feeling, "I don't want to spend $1000 on something that LOOKS exactly like what we already have." Look again, gentle reader. See the resemblance? The current MacBook and Pretty are so closely related in looks that they shouldn't be allowed to marry. They'd produce warped little white plastic babies. What? Oh, ok, fine. More baby animals...

The dolphin isn't white or deformed or anything. Happy?

Apple knows us. We both REALLY wanted the black one. It was matte black, it was smaller than Pretty. It was faster than Pretty or Flathead. I have a big presentation next week for a major nonprofit in a faraway city. Ok, it's Denver, so it's not that far away, but it is a major nonprofit. Dating back to the 19th century major.

Both of our iPods are black. It costs more. We really liked it better. It had a bigger hard drive. It costs more. $200 more. Apple knows us. $300 more? We'd have a white one. $200, we stand in the Apple Store and discuss.

It was hard to justify. We did it, though. We made it work in our brains and now own "Jelly."

Call us shallow. Go ahead. Here's the thing about Apple. They're gotten 100% on the Human Rights Campaign survey of good places for GLBT folks to work for six years. $200. 6 years of good GLBT relations. Black. $200. White.

They know us.

Jelly is a fine looking machine.

And thus endeth the story. Can I get an amen?


Friday, October 19, 2007


So I was in my vehicle yesterday waiting to turn left. I glanced over at the cars turning right onto the street I was on. It's a normal Valley street. Big intersections, plenty of room. There are advantages to living in the quintessential post-War environment. 1950s car were big and so our streets are wide.

This 1953 Studebaker, for example, was 20 feet long. And it's a coupe. My FJ, just for comparison, is about 15 feet long. A Prius is about 14 feet. Big cars of the 50s meant big streets. Frank Lloyd Wright said we needed it, you know.

Anyway, I was watching these folks turn right and I noticed they were all leaning over as the turned. How odd, I thought. Then I turned left and realized that I, too, had leaned. Not as much as the people I was watching, but I still leaned.

Now, while I'm sure we all like to keep our equilibrium, it got me to important is it to stay upright at all times? It's not like you're going to fall over in the car. And, really, if you are going to fall over in the car, you have a lot more to worry about the simple uprightness.

So, here's the question--are you a car leaner? If so, why? Be honest and share out in comments.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Yesterday, Honey and I were done with our lunch. We had stopped at a restaurant in Ventura on the way back from a nice weekend away up the Central Coast. I had bidness at the branch of the system of which my university is a part at which I most covet a job. Did you follow that?  I would like to work where we went.

One of my students asked me last week, in reference to the midterm, whether I would "write the question in really hard professor language." Another said, rather quickly, "don't give her any ideas!"

Anyway, nice weekend to be ended with lunch in Ventura.

We had good sandwiches but were both struck by how loud the place we had chosen was. They had four teevees going. Two with football and two with bull-riding. They were also playing music rather loudly. Our waiter was taking a bit getting us the check and I heard Honey singing "Help Me Rhonda" along with the music. I should note, quickly and vigorously, that Honey isn't a big Beach Boys fan. She can articulate this better than I. Indeed, she did so as we drove back to the freeway, explaining that, while she liked some Brian Wilson songs, the popular one were ubiquitous and not appealing to her. That's a paraphrase, but I think I got the gist.

I have other reasons for not liking that particular song. The good news is that I see my therapist tonight and "Help Me Rhonda" could well come up. Once I've processed, I may share out.

Honey and I agreed, and, indeed, have discussed and agreed on this before, that music in restaurants, well, sucks. It's loud. It interrupts both conversation and contemplative silence. It panders to the worst in music. It's either noise (pablum pop stripped of lyrics) or intrusive (Beach Boys). Either way, I'd like modern America a wee bit quieter. Ok, a lot quieter.

I know that there are undoubtedly studies that show that people are happier when they have music while they eat.  It fills lulls in conversations and give those (theoretically) poor souls eating alone something to think about.  But I think focus groups of this type have caused more harm than good.  I like the sound of people talking and of dishes being moved around.  I like these sounds whether alone or with people.     I also like to be able to hear my dinner companion(s).  And to read when alone.

I'm sure there are people who want to be the bringee in a world that is far too loud.  Count me as not among that group.

Somebody turn down the damn music.  I'm never, ever, going to help Brian Wilson or Rhonda, so no need to implore me to do so.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Every year Honey and I travel north 80 miles or so to Carpinteria. Carpinteria is a nice beach town north of Ventura and south of Santa Barbara. In other words, it exists in a zone far enough away from Los Angeles to feel different. Away.

I like going places that feel away. Oh, don't get me wrong, I like our house and our space. I like them despite the asshole neighbors who had a couch dumped in front of their house and, rather than calling the city, moved it in front of our house. Like we wouldn't notice that it had been across the street until last night and now, had, by some miracle, just up and WALKED itself in front of our fence. Sometimes, therefore, I need to get away.

My favorite getaways are fundamental but not hard to achieve. It may be why I like Catalina Island so much. Drive to San Pedro, get on a boat, and you are SO away. But they still have a Vons and my cell phone still works. Hell, you haven't even left Los Angeles County on Catalina.

Anyway, we go to Carpinteria every year. Early October. Why? Well, why else? The Avocado festival!

I'm sure that some of you now have visions of something grand, indeed. Festival! Avocados! They go every year! There must be magic there.

Eh. It's pretty much the same every year.

Here's an overview:

There's a giant inflatable avocado with sunglasses.



It's right outside the official California Avocado tent. Inside, there are illustrations of avocado type...


Signs for your own avocado orchards to deter thieves...


My favorite part of the tent is the avocado costume contest. The kids at the Carpinteria Elementary school make quite the effort.



That's Carmen Miravo and a Golfer Avo, if you couldn't tell. Both prize winners, I should note.

Outside the tent, there are a couple of blocks of fair. Get a henna tattoo, buy some silver jewelry or those weird psychedelic spinning things.


There are two stages, one with "guac n' roll" and the other more eclectic. I noted with some (ok, a lot) of dismay that the first band yesterday on the guac n' roll stage was signing Christian rock. As is befitting a festival based on food, there are lots of avocado choices, many of them tasty. We usually go for tacos with guacamole, though this year I did contemplate a guacamole and tri-tip sandwich. We also get some guacamole and chips, though have yet to try the guacamole made by the high school cheerleaders in the kiddie pool. I've yet to try to avocado ice cream.


We wander the fair and look at the t-shirts. One year we bought a poster and one year an avocado themed napkin-holder.

Once we've had lunch and picked out a Reed avocado to make guacamole with later in the week, we're done. (This year we got a Nabal instead. Such rebels!)

Is it fun? Sure. The fun, though, is found in the familiar. We do the same thing, we eat the same food. We wander past the same booths (for the most part). Things change a little. Last year we bought a rug shaped like a surfboard. This year I bought a bracelet made out of old forks.

On the way home this year, we stopped at the outlet mall. Last year, we took the train. So there is a little variety. Just a little. I guess that's the way I want it.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Narrating life

I have for some time suspected that the folks who have always had mobile phones interact with the world differently than I do.

When I suggested last semester, for example, that it was possible to live without a cell phone, one of my students became incensed. I mean red faced, angry, and very loud. The idea of living that way was such an anathema to him that the very idea made him enraged.

I was in line at Starbucks last week, fairly early in the morning and the young woman ahead of me said (into her phone): "I just got up. I'm at Starbucks and am going to have a frappucino."

While there's nothing wrong with that per se, it struck me as odd. Why not go to Starbucks and have the frappucino and JUST NOT TELL ANYONE?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "In silence we must wrap much of our life, because it is too fine for speech, because also we cannot explain it to others, and because somewhat we cannot yet understand." The woman in Starbucks and many of her generation believe just the opposite. Don't wrap up lives in silence. Narrate them. Tell everyone you know everything you're doing every moment of every day.

This afternoon, I passed a young woman on campus who said into her phone, "I'm really thirsty. Should I get something to drink?" I wanted to stop her, hold her by both shoulders and say, "Yes you should get something to drink if you're thirsty. The more important thing, though, is to be able to make that decision on you own without your phone."

Here's the thing. My academic field has taught me to believe that the stories we tell have great meaning about who we are as individuals and who we are as a culture. To borrow from another academic field, I also think, in this context, about phonemes. Those are the smallest discreet sound changes that indicate shifts in meaning. Change the c in cat to an h and you have the new sound and a new meaning. Folklorists have a similar idea. One way to look at stories, is to look for something called motifs. Motifs are the plot or character elements in a story that are unique. The glass slippers in Cinderella are a motif.

These non-stories aren't really stories at all, then. They're non-motifs strung together to fill the silence. Is there meaning? I can't say.

So here's my advice to the cell phone over-users. Go forth and live. No need to narrate while doing so.