Saturday, April 30, 2005

First post from my new digs

I'm moving this weekend. Broadband in new place: check.

I'm so happy it's working...

More soon.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


If I could be a scientist . . .

Well I could be. In many ways, I am. I'd be studying fundamental, higher order truth of some kind. The kinds of truths measurable in numbers. Like physics or macroeconomics or evolutionary biology. Chemical engineering is cool. "Starting with methane as your only source of carbon, make 2,4 dichlorotoluene".

If I could be a musician . . .

I'd like to play something portable and fun. If you play the piano, you have to hope there's one where you're going to be if you wish to play for folks. The violin seems pretty versatile. Celtic, Classical, Baroque and Bluegrass.

If I could be a doctor . . .

I wouldn't. I had a chance, but deep down knew it wasn't for me. Modern medicine has denied the moral agency of the physician. If the family says unplug her, you must unplug. If they say leave her plugged in, you must. The doctor's ideas about what's right or wrong don't enter in.

I would have been a surgeon.

If I could be a Painter . . .

I almost omitted this one. I'd probably do Georgia O'Keefe color harmonies with Van Gough brush strokes (I love how his paintings seem to wriggle and writhe). I'd probably be just surreal enough to be interesting, like the way iconography is just cubist enough to make you look a long time.

If I could be an Innkeeper . . .

I wouldn't. Just what I need: a job with ungodly hours and frequent contact with the unwashed, entitled masses, and I'm in a "service" role. It would quickly lead to violence. Bad idea.

And now I get to victimize some people. Irish, you're on. As ought to be Caloovy, if he ever shows up. And I think I'll reach out to Bookend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

This isn't a surprise

Your Brain is 53.33% Female, 46.67% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female

You are both sensitive and savvy

Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed

But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Well, I do like beer...

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous! Gregarious, yet a soul full of tragedy.

Not afraid of a little rain and a little damp, you drink everyone under the table. Your beer is brown.

Stolen from Will

I guess it does help to be white

Don't get me wrong: I still think it's socio-economic status and not race that is the source of most of the disadvantage people are "born into". It's why I'm not a fan of race-based affirmative action: It helps black kids from prep schools, but does little for Cambodian refugees.

But I digress.

Yesterday I found myself in the predicament of having to convince a paranoid and skeptical potential land lady with a property management company to let me lease her apartment. On Sunday she called and subjected me to hostile interrogation about my income, since I'm currently a self-employed consultant, and she had only my faxed application to work with.

I've been doing this independent consulting thing for just a little while now, but haven't moved without an "employer" before. I knew proving I could make the rent would be a challenge anywhere, but I'd been doing my best to show up and comport myself as "nice young man" when looking at properties. I know that, when dressed right, and presenting one's self right, people tend not to worry about the paperwork. Many of the property managers I saw said "I'm not worried about you, I can tell." Granted, they ought not to worry. I've got flawless credit.

And that's why it was so humiliating and infuriating to be treated so contemptibly by this lady over the phone on Sunday. But I really wanted this apartment: It was the best I'd seen for the price. So I resolved to get a face to face meeting on Monday, during which I could be my persuasive, clean cut young professional self.

After barraging her with a small mountain of documentation establishing that I could, in fact, afford the place, she started to warm up to me. "Excellent" I thought, "My strategy has worked."

She went on to discuss her real estate business with me, and talked about how the two malls in the area are different. She mentioned that the mall in the less affluent (i.e. middle class) area was going to have its roof taken off to make it an outdoor mall like the one in the more affluent area. She went on to tell me that outdoor malls attract more attractive clientele, and pointed out in a hushed voice with a tone of disgust that at the indoor mall, one hears "so many other languages you think you're in a foreign country". Right. Wouldn't want to shop around all those brown people.

But I didn't say anything. I wanted the apartment and had just won her favor. I didn't think trying to change this 70 year old's ossified ideas on tolerance was going to help my cause. I suppose I'd have been tight lipped if she had said anything else political with which I disagreed.

But it doesn't change how I feel about my silence, which implies assent. While I'd like to think that if I presented myself in the same way with the same words and the same clothes, but happened to look like Cuba Gooding Jr., I'd have done just as well. But the fact is that being a blue-eyed white boy helped me yesterday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I have named Britney's baby


"At least they only killed the women"

I was struck yesterday by an idea buried in a post about the 50 hostages in Iraq that were killed and then dumped in the river.

There was a point made about how one side had said they had killed women and children, and that later on that proved not to be true, and that the dead were all men.

Being one of progressive gender perspective, I have to ask why it's worse to kill women than to kill men, or, to flip the perspective, why it's more ok to kill innocent men than to kill innocent women? No one would like the idea that it's more okay to kill women than men, or that it's more ok to kill blacks than whites. Can you imagine someone saying "At first, we thought there were many races among the victims. But it turns out that there were no white people, and that all the dead were black." What a relief! Yet it doesn't bother us when it's implied that we should be relieved that there were no women among the victims.

To continue on my "expendability of human life" theme, it seems there's an underlying assumption that men are more expendable than women, or that men subjected to violence is somehow less bad than women subjected to violence. I think this idea helps us to be more comfortable with War. I think people would feel differently about War if as many young women as young men were coming back in boxes, missing limbs, or suffering PTSD.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Statcounter shoutout

I love statcounter. It lets me know, in moderately precise terms, how many folks actually read my blog.

It's inspires me to keep posting.

Some of my traffic, I can identify. Like my fans from Santa Rosa, or Calgary,

But others, I really don't know.

But I want to give a shoutout to my fan in Pompano Beach, FL. I dunno who you are (and maybe I ought to?), but I know you're a regular, and I appreciate that.

And to my fan at Lucasfilm: I was only kidding about killing GL if Episode III sucks.

Whoever at UCSD likes me: Thanks! I hope you're having as much fun as someone in SD ought to!

And there are folks from Alaska, and eastern Canada. And Michigan. And IL. Who are part of my "semi-mysterious" regulars.

I hope this doesn't freak anyone out. "OH my God, he's WATCHING FOR ME". It just tells me ISP and general geographic info for the folks who come by.

But I like seeing who all my visitors are. I get hits from all over the planet. And most of them, if they speak English, stick around and read something. Which is really cool.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Unpatriotic Infidel"

So I seem to have struck a nerve, given the insults and actual threats of physical violence my little post provoked.

And all this came my way for merely pointing out (admittedly, with a whopping dose of sarcasm) a few things, which I'll state here as plainly as possible:

1) It's terribly sad that a family has lost its husband/ father. Each human being is irreplaceable, special, and valuable.

2) No award can be adequate recompense for any human life. If the exchange were reversible, I'd bet most folks would gladly turn in the awards to get back their loved one.

These two ideas can be reduced to a single overarching principle: Human life is not expendable.

These little notions really got folks riled up, largely because, in my humble opinion, they strike at some of the fundamentals of the brainwashing required to get people to kill other people. Militarization of morality requires the acceptance of the idea that human life is expendable. The lives of "the enemy" and even the lives of "the troops" must be viewed as expendable, in order to accept that people they don't know, people they do know, and they themselves may die as a result of their activities. To remain in touch with the preciousness of human life would result in the those actively engaged in the destruction of life remaining in touch with the horror and tragedy of what they're doing. And this would likely make it harder for these folks to do "their jobs". So the militarization process involves much desensitization to emotion, to violence, and to the value of life. But if you're got a militarized concept of "good", it's disturbing to be shown how something militarized culture indoctrinates as "good" is actually not so good. This kind of dissonance is uncomfortable, and those who've been indoctrinated to accept and glorify violence and disrespect for life can only be expected to respond with violence and disrespect towards the source of this discomfort.

Let's examine how this militarized idea that human life is expendable works across human cultures.

If one accepts that human life -- one's own and that of others -- is expendable in the name of one's cause, and that "giving up one's life" in an "act of heroism" in which one kills many of "the enemy" who are actively engaged in "propagating evil" will not only be "good", but may lead to some kind of posthumous reward and glorification, one would be psychologically prepared to man a high caliber machine gun and help slaughter 50 people before being shot and dying scared and alone, far from one's family. You'd also be psychologically prepared to fly an airplane into the pentagon. Or to blow one's self up on a crowded bus. Or to suffer the burden of having some more children.

Some criticisms I'd expect:

"But the WTC and the planes were full of innocent civilians": How many innocent civilian deaths in Iraq? Once one comes to view human lives as expendable, deaths of innocents become "unfortunate" but necessary, not tragic and immoral.

"You don't think there are causes worth dying for?": You mean aren't there causes worth killing for? I think there are causes worth dedicating one's life to. I don't think deaths are ever necessary for progress. People get killed (MLK) for just causes, just not voluntarily, and even when they "choose to die", it's because they have no choice: Give up the cause, or be killed (Insert favorite martyr here, e.g. Joan of Arc). I expect all of these folks would prefer to have kept the cause and not to have died. Further, these circumstances are merely a reversal of perspective: Any time someone is dying for a cause, someone else is killing for a cause. All "killing for a cause" involves subordinating the value of life.

"You're a wussy fag liberal unpatriotic pinko from San Francisco. I want to beat you up. And you're dumb." This really doesn't refute any of the ideas I've put forward. I'm happy to discuss ideas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Why summer is good

It's odd... one tends to forget exactly how wonderful they taste.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pulling the ripcord on being Catholic

I had 13 years of Catholic school, K through 12. We were one of those church on Sunday and all holy days of obligation, parents are eucharistic ministers & lectors, sons are altar boys families.

About 8th grade, I started to notice little difference between books about Santa and books about God.

I got critical of theism, organized religion, and all that jazz. But I got confirmed anyway.

And on Christmas, I go to church, more for tradition and to be with family than anything else. Even though I really don't buy 90% of what's being said, I've conformed to please others and uphold tradition.

But I'm now officially done. Ratzinger has made it clear that he seeks ideological purity within the church, and that he's happy to purge the church of dissenting voices. He's a white guy who came of age in Hitler's Germany.

So I'm out. I had hoped for a brown pope. I had hoped for progress. I had hoped the church wouldn't choose a path towards isolation and irrelevance. But they've elected a guy who thinks the ideology of the dark ages is perfectly appropriate for our modern times.

I will hence forth only enter Catholic churches for weddings, funerals and baptisms. I will no longer, with my silent presence, imply support for an institution with ideals I find immoral and un-Christian. Ratzinger has backed people who claim that voting for certain candidates can be a sin. I refuse to back an institution headed by a man who would seek to have his religion interfere in the affairs of my state.

I am so done with Catholicism.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Casts sure have changed since I was in grade school. Back then, they were plaster, and easy to write on. Kids complained about how itchy they were.

Now it's space-age Fiberglas: It's got a mesh to it, so it's breath-able, which cuts down on the itch.

Cardio-vascular exercise is my religion. My principal forms of athletic mediation are rowing and mountain biking. It was a biking accident that destroyed my wrist and, with that, my spring rowing season and my ability to put both hands on the handlebars.

So I've taken up running, which as luck would have it, was something I had been building back up to before my accident. From the rowing and biking, my leg muscles and cardio-vascular system have always been up to running, but the knees haven't liked the impact. So I'd been building up to running longer and longer distances, allowing the joints to adjust. Since the wrist break, I'm up to 45 min. runs. And the cast stabilizes my wrist so the running doesn't hurt it. So I get to keep my fitness, and build my fantasies about triathalons in my future.

The problem: I sweat.

And sweating isn't usually a problem. One showers, one becomes clean, one goes on with life. Except the cast can't go in the shower. It can, I just stuff my right arm in a bread bag and seal it off with the blue rubber bands from a bunch of asparagus. So the cast never gets clean. It just gets dry.

Two weeks worth of dried running sweat is now in my cast. And while you wouldn't notice the aroma when you walked in the room, since the cast is attached to me, I've begun to perceive its subtle funk.

I fear the oflactory consequences, as I won't be out of the cast till May at the earliest, but I aim to keep running.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Julie comes by my blog every day, and always leaves a note on what she thinks or how my post makes her feel.

I am blessed to have a person who enjoys the things I create.

It makes me feel like my little blog matters, and it keeps me creating. She is a positive influence. It makes me feel appreciated and even understood.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Not so hopeful

I Don't quite see why this is an uplifting image or cause for hope.

W: Sorry my war killed your Dad/ Husband. Here's a medal.

Son: This medal can teach me to throw a curve ball!
Wife: Ah, a medal! Just what I was looking forward to growing old with!
Daughter: I'm so glad this medal will be there to walk me down the aisle!

Forgive me for transforming my comment there into a post here if I've broken some protocol of blog culture.

Friday, April 15, 2005


We are the Daisies

Your technological and biological distinctiveness will be added to our own.

Resistance is futile.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My new favorite thing

Having a hankering for what West coast folk know as "kettle corn" I set out to make my own.

It's frigging easy.

Air pop 1/2c unpopped pop corn kernels.

In small sauce pan melt 2-3 TBSP butter.
Add to the melted butter 1/4-1/2 c brown sugar, stir till smoothly incorporated over low to medium heat.

In very large sealable container, pour contents of pan over popped corn, salt to taste with kosher salt, and shake/ stir liberally to mix.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Reflections on "Sideways"

Being sufficiently Californicated to distinguish between a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Grigio, having done wine country often (it's only like 30 min to Napa and 50 min to Sonoma), and being the type who appreciates a cerebral film, "Sideways" had come highly recommended.

I'll say that I think the movie is truly brilliant, and powerful in what it's captured and how it's written. Symbol, metaphor, plot arcs all accessibly well woven, so it doesn't take a Ph.D in film history and a minor in French literature to notice them. I found the film superlative in all respects, except that I didn't think it was funny.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not saying this is bad. I'm not even saying I'm disappointed.

But that movie is about addiction. It offers us an unflinching glimpse at the lives of two addicts: One addicted to alcohol, one to sex. Each has turned to his addiction consistently through his life to avoid dealing with the reality of his circumstance. Each diverts time and energy into his addiction that would yield more meaningful returns of real happiness if allocated elsewhere. One steals $700 from his mother, yet keeps a wine cellar with many $200 bottles. The other is so hungry for his fix that he sexualizes everything: conversations, waitresses, and even the handiwipes for his barbecue ribs. He constantly uses his thoughts to derive a sexual thrill from the circumstances around him. The sex junky is in crisis because of his concern about his future, and what it will mean for him to surrender his sense of self as an actor to join the family business. But he buries his feelings and tries to numb them with sex. The alcoholic drowns his feelings of regret, rejection and inadequacy in wine. They're addicts, being addicts, investing in their addiction seeking emotional returns that will never come. This is why they cannot move forwards in their lives: They invest in nothing that can bring them real progress and growth as human beings. They go not forwards, but Sideways.

And this is why the movie was so sad for me. I spotted the two as active addicts early on. So their plight was then no more amusing to me than watching a frantic housefly desperately continue to crash into a window. Every time he moves in the wrong direction with the earnestness and conviction of one who doesn't truly understand the nature of the problem he aims to solve, your heart aches for the impending disappointment and dejection.

So I guess I don't find addicts trapped in addiction very funny. But I did think it was a great film.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

On oil price shocks

I was prompted by Julie's post to throw out a little macroeconomic assessment of our new pain at the pump.

If we think of our economy having a certain fixed capacity to pay for things, then as the prices of things go up, we'll buy fewer things. Given everyone's current income right now, if Big Macs suddenly cost $10 and Gas is $3/ gallon, people will drive less and eat out less. They'll spend the same, but consume fewer goods and services.

So an unexpected rise in prices leads to less consumption of goods and services, which means the economy slows down. When firms find they are selling less, they cut their production levels, which means they cut their headcount. So unemployment goes up. When unemployment goes up, increased competition for jobs means new hires make less, which means firms have lower costs. When firms have lower costs, they can lower their prices, and people can consume more. So things will right themselves in the long run, but it requires a recession to fix it.

But recessions suck. The hoi polloi has this nasty tendency to vote out incumbents when the economy goes through a down cycle. So with an economically inhibiting event, like a price spike, the government might hope to counter with an economically stimulating move, like lowering interest rates or increasing government spending.

The good news about these moves is that they may avoid a recession. When the government spends more, the dollars the government spend get passed on as the folks who received those extra dollars first turn around and spend them on other stuff that they wouldn't have spent before. This increases the total demand for stuff in the economy, which is good, except that it hasn't changed the economy's ability to meet the demand. So when demand outstrips supply, prices go up. Which is exactly the problem we're trying to fight. And this is the bad news. So the economy may grow, but prices might rise as fast or faster than the growth in the economy, and we get "stagflation": Rising prices, but stagnant output. So in this case, wages might go up, but with the inflation, real wages might not change at all.

Or, the Fed could be nice with Interest rates. But easy money stimulates borrowing and investment and jobs and spending, which also lead to more demand. And again, we'll get rising prices, as the greater liquidity permits the same volume of transactions to be conducted but at higher price points. So here, salaries rise to "compensate" for the price increases, but since all the prices rise, it may not really balance out the change.

So a price shock does suck. But it only sucks as much as people let it impact their spending habits. And it takes a long time for wages to catch up with price changes. And an employer is going to demand higher productivity for those wage increases...

The best solution is for everyone to go buy a hybrid. We'll be more productive while consuming less gas, but keeping spending constant.

Monday, April 11, 2005

My kingdom for a tweedlebug!

Shall we take the family car?

Yep yep yep yep... uh-huh.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

On the virtues of blankness

There was a time in my life in which I could be delighted and entertained by being given free reign with the cheap pen and complimentary memo pad in my parents' hotel room.

At home, if we wanted to draw, we had to use "drawing paper", which dad brought home from work. It was old skool green and white banded dot matrix print-out paper -- pages were all linked together, perforations between the sheets and along the edges so sheets could be separated from each other and from their spoke-catching feeder tapes. The back of the print-outs was blank, and all one color. But the front, which became our "back," always had writing. Weird numbers and letters.

Sometimes, especially at grandma's house, we'd receive a crisp, unblemished sheet of typing paper to draw on. I'd envision grand spectacles of dragons and castles for my special canvas. When my rendering inevitably fell short of my vision, I was always sad that the paper was now saddled with the burden of being a lousy drawing. I had such higher hopes.

I still get a little thrill when I tear open a package of 8 1/2 x 11 paper to re-stock a printer or copier. All those clean sheets in a neat stack, so full of potential. They may become persuasive presentations, driving directions, technical layouts, legal contracts, government secrets, love letters or paper airplanes.

I wonder if the paper appreciates how splendidly indeterminate it is. Once there's a pie chart burned to your backside, there's no hope of becoming a supreme court decision. In that moment before irrevocability, no dream is impossible.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Upside down flowers

Anyone remember the tweedle bugs?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Can you see SF off in between the hills?

Follow the yellow brick road

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I'm a comments whore

Well perhaps not a whore. But I check my blog a lot. A lot. Too much. To see if anyone, anyone, anyone has stopped by and left me a reaction of some kind.

I think it demonstrates desperate longing for connection and approval. Same thing causes overachieving and perfectionism. I need validation from the outside world.

I really have no idea what it would be like to have internal validation.

I can never imagine being happy with a B, or third place. Yes, I do enjoy setting personal bests, or hitting a goal. But I always think about the grand scheme of things, and recognize that I could still be better, or could still have gone harder, worked more, been better.

And I can't help but think that there seem to be so many people out there making so much of themselves. How could I possibly be content to not push the boundaries of my own abilities?

I just don't understand people who are happy with their imperfect selves and non-optimal lives.

It's also clear I need to understand this. Somehow, I need to understand that people can and will like me if I'm not superlative in all respects. But this I don't understand. I know that I do love people who aren't perfect, and my love for them has nothing to do with their abilities, but with their personalities, how they think and feel and react.

But somehow, I can't seem to apply that same thinking to myself. I think people like me because I'm good at stuff. Or maybe it's that I think if I weren't good at stuff, there'd be little reason to like me.

I just wish I weren't so hung up on external validation.

I think about turning off comments, and cutting myself off from all external reinforcement. But I'd still have statcounter, and the fact is, I like the comments, and I think the folks who comment like being able to comment. So I won't do that.

My wrist hurts now, so I'll stop.

But what's it like not to rely on external validation? I really don't know what that would feel like.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Top of the food chain?

Me: (chews PB&J)

Rhizopus: Hee hee

Me: (swallows)

Rhizopus: Heh

Me: Hey... that bite had the distinct flavor of... basement.... Was there mold on my bread?!?!

Rhizopus: (smiles) Maybe

Me: And I swallowed it!

Rhizopus: You don't have the guts to make yourself puke.

Me: I'll leave that up to my body, thanks.

Rhizopus: I assume you're not gonna finish the sandwich now?

Me: Fucker.

Rhizopus: Need I remind you who was eating it first?

Me: Fair point.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Interview for Zaron3rd

1) If you could select one recording artist to ban from creating any more music, whom would you ban, and why?

2) Can secular pluralism and religious fundamentalism peacefully co-exist? Why/ Why not?

3) If you could send a one sentence long note from the present to yourself at any point in the past, what would you say and what time in your life would you send it to?

4) What will your life be like at age 50?

5) What is your "comfort food"? Why?

Please remember to post "the Rules" with your answers...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Purple & Green

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Why I want a 3rd world pope

John Paul did some good stuff. He also perpetuated some doctrines that I find harmful.

If the next pope comes from Latin America or Africa, he'll viscerally understand 3rd world poverty issues. And he just may see how important population control is to economic well being and social justice. (If your population growth rate exceeds your GDP growth rate, GDP per person falls, and everyone has less.) So we just may get some birth control doctrine revised. And this would be good.

So I'm rooting for a brown pope of some sort.

Friday, April 01, 2005

American idolatry

Not that I indulge in or care about pop culture that much, but I've had the TV on today.

Something is seriously wrong with our culture when we think it's fine to kick a contestant off the show because she posed *gasp* topless, since breasts are, in fact, the root of all evil in society, but we think it's okay to keep a guy on the show who got arrested for being violent with his fiance and the mother of his son.

Showing boobs: Scandalous.
Beating women: We'll let it slide.

Before & After



I am so grateful to be able to wiggle the tip of my thumb.