Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back at Work

The best drug is the sound of my own voice. Unfortunately, my hearing is still somewhat affected, so Lord knows what I agreed to when it was whispered (so I perceived) from the back of the room. The class neither wept nor fled, and I take comfort from that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Fantasy Baseball League is Gearing Up for Its 25th Season

Actually, I'm commissioner, but as often as I've won my pride is Satanic.

The Tests are Back

It's not pneumonia. It's not bacterial. It's a virus. It's back to work on Wednesday. Actually, it's back to work right now. Paper follows you home like a lost dog.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Return of the King

We spent another happy four hours at Kaiser today working on my malady. Last night I was the Ella Fitzgerald of respiratory distress, one long scat of coughs and wheezes. E., who is proactive and will keep me alive longer than my cheap veneer of macho entitles, called the Kaiser advice nurse at 1 a.m.. Various actions were performed, including leaning over the stove, breathing the steam from boiling salt water and sipping -- 15 minutes; don't hurry -- honey and hot water.

This got me through the night. At 6:15, when Kaiser starts scheduling Sunday appointments, E. called another advice nurse (I think) and bullied her (so it seemed to me) into giving me an appointment today. Oakland was full up, so we drove into SF, to the Kaiser cluster not that far from USF.

I had the nicest little doctor who apologized for reading my medical history from her computer while standing up, for (she said) she was just too short for the stool. She did a variety of things -- including by implication and in the nicest way possible disagreeing with the doctor I saw Wednesday.

So, today: Some tests (results tomorrow), some new medicine, the suggestion I stay home for a couple more days -- unless it turns out that I do have pneumonia in which case Katy, bar the door (and hang a black wreath on it).

But she does not think I have pneumonia. What I have is a textbook case of getting old. I probably have some variety of the flu. It hits you harder when you are older and your immune system weakens.

She was cheerful. She said I was the fifth teacher who had come in today, and her day was only half over. It was like I filled out a epidemiological flush for her. She'd had a preschool teacher, a three public school teachers (grammar and high) and now college level.

She was pleased. After she retires, she thinks she'll volunteer and go to Africa and help the poor, though (she said) there are plenty of people to help here, so maybe she won't have to go that far.

Friday, February 22, 2008

If It's Good Enough for Romanesko to Lead With, It's Good Enough for Me

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Monday's Star Tribune's sports section was 100% sponsored by erectile dysfunction potions. "And not just any ED elixirs -- no, these are the special kinds, so mysterious in the ways of the herb that the Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate them," writes David Brauer. "It's probably logical that as legitimate advertisers drift away, bottom feeders will increasingly share the page with professional journalism."
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Well, This is Fun

Tonight I have a slight temperature and am feeling wan. If I miss time next week, the semester will go to hell, it really will. As a teacher, I'm a bit of a dervish, a magician who locks himself in the water tank and swallows the key. Nothing I say makes sense until it all comes together at the last minute. (I'm an artist.)

Fever. Fever.

My mood is sour. Watched about 20 minutes of the Sarah Silverman movie and decided a little bit of her effrontery goes a long way. Perhaps, at this moment I just don't need any reminders that we are all hypocrites, that irony and cool and disdain have run so thoroughly amuck that the frontiers of outrage are way way out there where the stars grow cold and the leaves of the judgment book unfold.

We are in real time now. Where did that last line come from? I Google and discover a poem that, as a teenager, I tried to memorize so I could recite it to you, MP, but never did. Which (I think) was just as well.

I will now recite it to my wife.

From the desert I come to thee
On a stallion shod with fire,
And the winds are left behind
In the speed of my desire.
Under thy window I stand
And the midnight hears my cry,
I love thee, I love but thee,
With a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the judgement Book unfold.

Look from thy window and see
My passion and my pain.
I lie on the sands below
And I faint in thy disdain,
Let the night winds touch thy brow
With the heat of my burning sigh
And melt thee to hear the vow
Of a love that shall not die
Of a love that shall not die
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars grow old,
And the leaves of the judgement Book unfold.

My steps are nightly driven
By the fever in my breast
To hear from thy lattice breathed
The word that shall give me rest.
Open the door of thy heart
And open thy chamber door
And my kisses shall teach thy lips
The love that shall fade no more
Till the sun grows cold,
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the judgement Book unfold.

The Walls of Jericho

E. and I have watched a few movies during our lying in -- which I know once referred to pregnancy but I believe in repurposing vocab.

We do not go to many movies, partly because E. works long hours and then spends an hour or more on the phone talking her sister (the caregiver) and her mother (the care-eater) through the end of their day.

Also, she hates violent movies, and her notion of violence is broad. She screams at spring snakes out of cans.

But sick in bed we have watched a few movies on cable. We saw "Dreamgirls": That was thoroughly enjoyable, although I'm not sure the music was actually good, only that it reminded you of good music. We saw "Night at the Museum," which strived for sophomoric but fell back in freshmanic: no real genius in the slapstick, no real cleverness in the jokes.

Last night we watched "It Happened One Night" on Turner Classic Movies, a classic that neither of us had seen, though we had seen the famous excepts -- the hitchhiking, the absent t-shirt. What a fascinating bit of U.S. history, as Clark Gable bullied and intimidated rich and spoiled Claudette Colbert into her right role as dependent woman and democratic citizen.

It reminded us of our dads' idea of how a man should be treated, though my dad did a better job of accepting that other model from comedies of the time, that man ruled outside the home but woman ruled inside and any husbandly assertion of power in that context was just bluster, and comic.

Where did I read -- maybe in the Sunday NY Times? -- that the new slacker sex comedies are built around men in the 30s who behave like teenagers but who get the love anyhow, the moment the women (who are far more driven, more competent) understand hat an ineffectual sweet-tempered slug is all you can hope for in America in the 21st Century.

We don't know if that characterization of modern chick comedy is true. We don't go to many movies.

I was startled at how wideset Colbert's eyes are. I think I once read that black and white loved broad flat faces that hold the light. All I know is that another centimeter and Colbert would have looked like a flounder.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Gots My Drug

Sawbones said, "You bleeding idiot. Hacking for a week is a virus. Hacking for three weeks -- with wheezing! with wakeful nights! -- is a bacteria bacterium. Take these."

Then, he threw some pills at me, some of which lodged in the various folds and crevices of my flowing garb.

And he said: "Man, why you doing this? Why you pushing on toward the dream when you should be curled up by the fire. If the revolution needs a point guard, let it bring someone off the bench."

And then he caught himself and thought.

"I know you," he said. "Oh, I know you. It's about the children, isn't it?"

And I said yeah and blushed. It's always about the children, man. Got to be.

And then he took his tongs and prodded me out the door.

Mein Kampf

Brother Greg Pabst sent me a link to a book review in which this sentence appeared:

The strain to affect some semblance of scholarly detachment seems to have cramped his gleefully polemical style.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh Shucks

Three more hours at Kaiser with E. today. A new antibiotic has her feeling somewhat better, but now *I'm* feeling lousier -- after being very determined to feel better -- so I guess I'll go in to K. tomorrow.

All my life I've heard about this "walking pneumonia" that people discover they have after wandering around for days like a zombie -- but not a go-getter, who's-up-for-some-brains? zombie but more like an underachieving teenage dropout slacker zombie who just wants to be left alone.


Just off the phone. Back to Kaiser tomorrow but this time the appointment will be for me. Walking pneumonia? I think *not*, but it's good to be sure.

Monday, February 18, 2008

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them. If a Little Child is Unavailable, How About the Don Rickles of El Cerrito?

Brother Bob Wieder explains how to solve a nomination deadlock at the Democratic convention. I kept looking for the irony but I couldn't find any.

Full Disclosure

I misspoke. Eydie's temp continues above 100 F. Miss Baby is *ill.* However, once it dropped to just a little above 100 F, she dragged herself out of bed and started pushing paper.

I am in awe. In bed. Lying down. In awe.

"You sure you don't have a temperature?" she asks occasionally, the 'then why are you still lying down?' left unsaid. It's hard to be just a little sick around a fallen hero, a stalwart, one of the indefatigables. So I got up and went out and got her some orange juice, fresh-squeezed, the Thing Itself.

She just passed by, shufflin' but truckin'. Think a Roadrunner who goes, "Beep beep. (Cough cough.)"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There Will Be No Film at Eleven

Miss Baby just got up and cut off her Kaiser ER id bracelet from yesterday morning. She came home from K. and went to bed in the clothes she was wearing – she just took those off, too.

When I came to bed last night, I asked her if she wanted to take that nice little brown pant suit off, she said no, that it was stretchy. But today she is better though she sounds like she’s gargling with gravel. Temp is gone, too.

And here's something completely different. This is an example of what I want the feature writing kids to do for their restaurant review. My thinking is that they need to do multimedia and then start worrying about doing good multimedia.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Three Hours at the Emergency Room at Kaiser This Morning

Very irritated with Kaiser for fouling up Eydie's same-day appointment and shunting her off to the ER. But once there, they did take her in at once and check her out -- Xrays and such -- and send her home with various medicines. Her temp hit 103 and she was coughing up bloody phlegm -- if you've read this far you are necessarily a Friend of the Blog and thus of all who sail in her and *want* the details in case there's anything you can do, not to mention passing on info to those at the back of the crowd.

At the moment, no, we don't need anything, but keep your operators standing by. I'm sick, but she's SICK. Thus, we burn off a three-day weekend, in bed but not in a nice way.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Granny Powah

Former student Katie Crozier's Republican grandmother loves her some Obama!

This is promising.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Wife Just Said, "Why Didn't You Take Notes?"

Valentine's Day din-din at Mezze on Lakeshore in Oakland. One of their special deals with a so-called "wine flight," which is three 3-ounce pops with the three main courses -- but not with dessert because (I suppose) there's a prejudice against ports et al.

What a fine meal: five out of six with our only doubt the duck breast, which was just a little undercooked. Our waitperson -- personable; full-figured -- was running as fast as she could but the wines did not arrive at positively the time of maximum efficiency in relation to the the courses themselves.

I could, as the young people so imprecisely say, have cared less.

There was hand-holding and such, and at one point I said that Old Long Love is like living in a time warp. It's all there at once and forever, the good and the bad, and if there's more good than bad the math works and joy ensues.

Anyway, we had a nice long good time, though after four cups of coffee when we were offered the check, we said "What about the dessert?"

Actually, after asking for dessert, I said, "We are in love but not that much in love." My wife said a dozen funnier things, but this is all I can remember.

Cue "Dover Beach":

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night.

P.S. I tipped 20 percent-plus, as happiness will. Matthew Arnold would have tipped so.

So Much Irony in What I Write. Where's the Beef? At Least, Where Are the Nutritious Vegetables?

Brother Daugherty and I were talking about irony and how it consumes itself.

Yes, I live on -- make that, I make a living on -- irony. Every once in awhile I’ll write a column irony free, I enjoy those the most. Irony wears out, does not make a full meal. It’s like most blogging; irony is commenting on something else, on someone else’s thoughts. Gets predictable after awhile.


It gets stale, Pat, but it's easy. If anyone doesn't get it, you laugh at their lack of intellectual sophistication, their lack of a refined sense of humor, their lack of an appreciation for your graceful postmodern despair. As I told the kids in feature writing about food reviews -- in fact, about any kind or review -- it is easy to make fun. It is hard to explain why something is good. It opens you up for everyone to see. Sometimes approval is an exercise in pretension but just as often disapproval is a fine public display of your comprehensive ignorance.

Ah, but when you scoff, and scoff at everything: It's a world view. It's gritty. Thank God you have the stones to see things are they really are. (Which does not make you sad, of course, not you; it makes you laugh.)

An attitude of habitual contempt is really quite sentimental. It's like rhyme in poetry. It's so easy to go where it leads you. It's too easy.

Something Else about Those Older Faculty: They Were Stupid about Money. (Not to Mention the Randy Old Bastards Who've Started Second Families)

Heard in passing:

Universities should "stress greater education for younger faculty to invest earlier and plan better so that they will want to retire at an earlier age."

From Romanesko without Comment | Boston Phoenix | Horse's Mouth
"The fact that I was conveying other people's words is no excuse for my lapse in judgment. It won't happen again," promises Mark Halperin. || Earlier: "Does Time really want its staffers using the word 'pussy' in their guest appearances?" asks Adam Reilly. || Greg Sargent: MSNBC's David Shuster won't be fired for his "pimped out" remark.
Posted at 3:42:15 PM
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Oh okay, I'll comment. I sympathesize. We do live in an age of brash and vulgar talk, and it may be that as opportunities for "true macho" diminish-- the trail-blazing, bear-wrestling, fisticuffs, anything above and beyond crossing against the light -- men feel the need to strut their street talk, as a weightlifter might puff his synthetic muscles, throwing the shadow of virility against the wall in the absence of the virility itself.

This episode reminds me that I need to shut up myself more often than not, particularly in class when I work to remind the kids that I was not always as they see me now, not always a juiceless college professor, not always a poor wretch chained to the wall in the deepest dungeon of the ivory tower, not always a...a...,

Well, not to put too fine a point on it but from a certain point of view: I was not always a pussy.

Now I've embarrassed myself all over again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Kids Ate their Oreos Like Barbarians, in Great Smacking Bites, No Disassembly

Today in feature writing we prepped for the restaurant review by bringing in food to sniff, caress, taste and then practice upon, finding verbal equivalents for our sensory experiences. Kids brought sushi, raspberries, jelly beans, sour sticks(?), cheese, Oreos, chocolate kisses, donut holes and (bless Matt's heart) homemade salsa.

We don't cook, one kid said. We don't have kitchens.

My lady wife contributed a champagne cake, which was somewhat slumped to the side and prone to collapse because it was a first effort and -- contrary to her good judgment -- she followed the recipe exactly, the insane proportions of which doomed the presentation if not the taste.

Explicit aim was to loosen the youth up, to encourage wordplay and to show off my own lightning wit. (As it turned out, the sky of my mind was cloudless. So it goes.)

Kids did good. Kids made me smile a lot. The witticism that I decided to steal present to a wider audience was the comment -- okay, John Usher said it -- that the tastiness of Jarlsberg cheese, falling as it does just short of bland, made it a "gateway cheese."

One second you're munching like a mouse, next second someone is saying, "Do the blue, man, do the blue."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Exercise for Basic Reporting

Here's the background: I decided to video a short speech to create a class writing exercise on the theory that students like variety (I'd done a phony press conference in the flesh already this semester) and that they like net video and would respond to the fact I am at least marginally net literate.

I found some blog comments by former SPJ president Christine Tatum that I thought made a good faux speech not only because of the content -- oh that Eff word -- but also because the more important stuff comes toward the end rather than the beginning, and one of my goals in basic reporting is that you do not let chronology dictate how you present information.

If I had been asked to write about what Tatum wrote about, I would probably have had a different emphasis, more "yes but" about the students' rights in this matter and how we should revere Free Speech. I was not thoroughly brought around to her point of view when I read her comments. But when I heard myself -- clumsily, stumblingly -- say what she wrote, I was persuaded, at least moved toward her emphasis.

Is this a lesson about the power of the voice to persuade, of facial expression to urge, of the magnetism of the flesh. Or is it just self-love, just affection for that crazy hairstyle?

Editor's Note: Yes, some of my older readers will be reminded of the Big Giant Head from that underrated sitcom, Third Rock from the Sun.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mad Dog (That Froth! Those Lips!)

I have to admit that I rather enjoy lecturing when I am enfeebled by a cold but simultaneously rekindled by much coffee, many aspirin, those funny little Chinese pills my wife swears by and the body's natural pushback when your head is melting down through your nasal passages.

One is somehow elevated in mood, almost giddy, filled with little jokes, some sotto voce, many incomprehensible. It is at those moments that one wishes one actually were a campus icon and a living treasure, and thus the little weirdnesses would be -- distilled by time and blended with nostalgia -- something for the youth to savor later on, when they look back on college days as an escape from the gray world of the life as a salaryperson.

"The old boy was fun -- in his way," they might say. Or write. Today one of the things I talked about was the various ways in their writing to pause for emphasis.

"I disliked him," she said. "That's why I shot him."

The placement of the attribution is proper because it quickly identifies the speaker. It also is a kind of dramatic pause setting up the kicker at the end as an actor would punch a line. A dash can do the same I told them. And, indeed, sometimes one might even write:

"I disliked him." She paused. "That's why I shot him."

But did she really pause, I mean, more than a period's worth? Everything about feature writing is temptation. That's why I loved it so because I was vain about my honesty and strong in my love of La Fact Juste.

Of course, that's why I was merely a very good feature writer rather than a great one.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

coff coff

Heavy cold today, which is a lousy ailment for a college teacher. When you only teach two days a week, how in good conscience can you take a day off unless you are immobile and/or rife with infection? Short answer is you can't. You wheeze a little, get light headed as the illness interacts with the adrenaline that naturally arises as you lecture and let the class out 15 minutes early.

Meanwhile, I'm working on McCain nicknames. I think Gimli works. He's also rather Puckish.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Those with Long Memories Recall the Last Leaf Contest

Guess when the last leaf falls and win a prize! But who could have guessed that the last leaf was a mutant and would hang on for weeks after its last comrade had given up? Finally, though, by chance or nature's changing course undone, it sank a toe into Lethe's stream and thought and stepped and....

The winner, the one who came closest to picking the day of surrender? Jennifer in Dubai. I don't know Jennifer. (Don't *know* Dubai, not to put too fine a point on it.) But here's something for her, something of the kind I might like if I were in Dubai and far from home, even with my winnings heavy in my pocket.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Global Bleeding

HC and BO make nice for the next few months, deftly underlining their slight but actual differences in tactics, strategies and principles. They split the remaining delegates, but they sort it out at the convention with good judgment and good sportsmanship, and one of them runs with Bill Richardson, and that's that.

But if they hack and hew at one another and finish the campaign with the delegates still split but oh so much blood spilt viz. Jake LaMotta and Randy (Tex) Cobb, then the crowd will turn away, draw a curtain over the carnage, and we end up with:

Al Gore.

My mantra is: play nice. It's not about you.

The Betting Fool

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Refreshingly Honest (A Beaujolais Moment)

I told my wife I would vote for Hillary yesterday out of respect for and deference to my wife, and my wife said that was ridiculous and unacceptable, though she was going to vote for Hillary, in part because she sees very little substantive difference between the policy ideas of H. and Obama but also because of the enormous empathy she feels with a middle-aged woman who has received at least some of the criticism she has received just because she is a middle-aged woman.

(Saying I'd vote for H. and voting for O. No.)

Thus, I voted for Obama not because I felt he is superior on policy or more likely to achieve the implementation of his policies but because I felt down in my gut that he was riding a wave and was going to get the nomination, and the quicker somebody clinches, the better for the Dems.

But my gut was wrong. Now, my gut tells me that Obama has crested, and at the end of the day Hillary will have more delegates, though with all those Super Delegates out there, who knows what that will mean?

I suppose the analogy is that, like the groundhog, my gut should go underground for the next six weeks, and let nature take its course, for all my Malcolm Gladwell "blinks" so far have been consistently wrong.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Rough Cut: How We Got to Super Bowl

A Super Bowl Sunday Establishing Shot

You click. You see. This is where we watched.

Binge Drinking: From

Chet has known Dave since they were in elementary school together, but lately their friendship has been strained. Dave's drinking on weekends has turned him into a completely different person. Dave used to get good grades and play sports, but since he started drinking he hasn't been finishing assignments and he has quit the soccer team.

When Chet saw Dave pound five beers in 30 minutes at two different parties, he realized how serious Dave's problem was. He knows what Dave is doing: binge drinking.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking used to mean drinking heavily over several days. Now, however, the term refers to the heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time (just as binge eating means a specific period of uncontrolled overeating).

Today the generally accepted definition of binge drinking in the United States is the consumption of five or more drinks in a row by men — or four or more drinks in a row by women — at least once in the previous 2 weeks. Heavy binge drinking includes three or more such episodes in 2 weeks.

Why Do People Binge Drink?

Liquor stores, bars, and alcoholic beverage companies make drinking seem attractive and fun. It's easy for a high school student to get caught up in a social scene with lots of peer pressure. Inevitably, one of the biggest areas of peer pressure is drinking.

Other reasons why people drink include:

  • They're curious — they want to know what it's like to drink alcohol.
  • They believe that it will make them feel good, not realizing it could just as easily make them sick and hung-over.
  • They may look at alcohol as a way to reduce stress, even though it can end up creating more stress.
  • They want to feel older.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl Drinking Report

Five beers in five hours, none after the middle of the second quarter. I was sober to the point of dull and drove my comrades safely home with style and mastery,

The 'Rogue Columnist' Sums Up Why the Newspaper Went South for the Winter and Never Came Back

Just so well said.

He begins:

Mary McCarthy said famously of Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

It’s tempting to say the same about the many diagnoses of what ails the newspaper world. We hear endlessly that the troubles are a result of the Internet, new technology, “people don’t read anymore,” and, my favorite, “people don’t have as much time as they used to.” As if there was once a 36-hour day, or people who once worked 12-hour shifts while raising large families had this abundance of time.

Why We Don't Go to the Flora Restaurant in Berkeley Oakland

Brother Peter Moore wrote at his blog that he came home from the Flora Restaurant in Berkeley Oakland without eating and I asked why:

Took BART down to try the place. Sit at the bar, have a drink, have a bite.
So it was pretty crowded and the hostess says "Well, I don't have anything and it's an hour and a half wait for a table but the bar is first come, first served." I say, "OK, I'll wait for a seat at the bar."
I'm waiting like ten, fifteen minutes.
A guy, seems like a regular or even an owner/investor comes up to the hostess and says, "That guy who stopped at my table owns half of downtown Oakland. He and his wife really need a table. You should do what you have to to seat them." They had come in after me.
Another ten minutes.
Another couple comes in and is greeted effusively by a waitress who introduces them to the hostess. "These are my really good friends."
Another five minutes.
I see a couple at the bar getting their check. I stand behind them. As they leave the guy tells me to be sure to order the appetizer special. I sit down. The waitress runs over,
"You can't sit here."
"I was told it was open seating at the bar."
She goes to get the hostess.
"I'm really sorry, I should have been clearer. I seat this part of the bar because it faces the kitchen."
At which point the bartender comes up and hands me a menu and says, "What would you like?"
The hostess insists that I can't sit there. A little back and forth but it's clear they're not going to let me sit there.
I stand and leave the restaurant.
I take BART home.
I call the restaurant.
"Hello, I don't mean to be a dick but I'm the guy who you just chased out of the restaurant. And I don't think you handled that very well. I know that you had the guy who owns 'half of downtown Oakland' and his wife and the other waitresses good friends, but I think you could have done that better"
"I'm sorry I didn't make it clear but I do seat that part of the bar."
"You've already insulted me, don't insult my intelligence. The bartender didn't seem to think I couldn't sit there"
Deep breath, "You're right sir. I could have done that better. I'm really sorry. You know the pressure I was under."
"Yes, but you could have handled it better."
"You're right, I could have. I am very sorry sir."
"That's OK. Just wanted to hear you say it.

I will never go to Flora restaurant again. Ever.

Squeezing the Twinkle

Just showing off a phrase that came to me in an exchange of emails with Brother Goodwin about the temptation to overwrite, to tart up stale content with just so much goddamn cleverness, all twee and arch and fey and rogueish and knowing and contempo so on.

So what I wrote was that I needed to start "squeezing the twinkle" out of what I write, an effort that will apparently begin tomorrow.

Not the Way I Remembered It

from Emily Dickinson

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Can a Designated Driver Have Anything to Drink?

I ask the question because I may be the DD for our Super Bowl jaunt to Pt. Molate tomorrow. The answer would seem to be yes, at least in terms of having a legal blood alcohol level -- if one is honest about how much one is drinking and owns a functioning watch.

Here's a link to a calculator that should give an approximate blood alcohol level.

But if a cop stops you I'm told you're asked if you have had anything to drink, and that having had a drink hours before may in some way prejudice what happens next. I've never been stopped. How would I know? It may be that the comrades will insist on a DD who commits to drinking nothing.

I take that bullet for you, comrades.

P.S. A friend writes at once:

I ran your calculator: male, 230 pounds, 5 beers in one hour. Comes up .07 something. Which is legal. And unbelievable. That would put me over, even in my prime.

This is a police state trap!

We Continue to Mourn the Loss of our Google Link to the Word 'Protractor'

Today the name reverts to its original.

Friday, February 01, 2008

So Maybe Blogging is a Kind of Loud and Gaudy Cowardice?

Brother Andrew Goodwin over at the Professor of Pop leads me to Sarah Boxer's essay on blogging in the New York Review of Books. I thank him and honor it because it is a smart essay and it reinforces things I already think -- though perhaps presenting better them than I -- and it suggests to me things I had not thought.

Also, people, it is in the New York Review of Books, which gives it cachet, and I can now use my having read it as a blunt instrument of conversation in certain situations among certain people from whom I want either admiration or envy though I will settle for hate, if that is all that is left on the table.

She concludes:

Blog writing is id writing—grandiose, dreamy, private, free-associative, infantile, sexy, petty, dirty. Whether bloggers tell the truth or really are who they claim to be is another matter, but WTF. They are what they write. And you can't fake that. ;-)

And why do I fall somewhat short in those areas? Boxer is right that it's the scabrous and the indignant that draw attention, particularly for those bloggers who really don't know all that much. She implies (don't think she actually spells it out) that many of these blogs-as- fulmination-and-aerial-circus are anonymous. ( Let me tell you, Mitt Romney: That really does let the dogs out.)

When I began this blog, I said who I was and what I was: a man with a name, a teacher at a Jesuit university towards which I feel some responsiblity and a surprising amount of respect.

Is it clear enough that I draw back from embarrassing my employers? Or that I try to draw back?

(I rather think in some ways I am an embarrassment, but only in the most benign and boyish way, and that I expect the university to endure.)

In some ways, I am rather pleased that I am little read. If that were not so, I would have to write down the recipes and stay open six days a week and keep regular hours if you know what I mean, though as a blogger (as Boxer points out) I don't give a damn if you don't.

Oooops. Forgive me, Father, for I have blogged.

Here's a Coincidence. Closes Down.

Here's the part I love, near the end of the announcement. Look at the members of this panel.

If you're interested in keeping up with us, you can do so in a few ways. First, we'll be attending ROFLCon at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, on April 25-27, 2008. We'll be speakers on the "Lolpanel" along with the creators of I Can Has Cheezburger, LolTrek, LolBible, and other LOLers... for more information, including how to attend, please visit

Here's the first part of their farewell. It's brave to walk away when the run is done. It's a proud thing to do.

We all knew this day would come eventually, but even still, it's bittersweet to write this post today. After a lot of thinking and talking and intense brainstorming over enchiladas and hemming and hawing... we've decided to draw this chapter of's life to a close. Part of us would love to continue making and receiving secretz forEVAR, to see what new hilarity we can fashion out of inscrutable kittycat memes, and to see how you, our wonderful readerz, can exceed the boundaries of our own imaginations and make us laugh over and over again.

But mostly we want to preserve the spirit out of which lolsecretz was originally born - one of doubled-over laughter and playful manipulation of themes generated on these crazy Intrenetz; a feeling that we were creating something fresh, unique, and extraordinarily (and inexplicably) funny; a witty jab at things that we love but feel deserved to be parodied. Fact is, we've become just as repetitive as PostSecret at this point, and that means it's time to go. We honestly never, ever expected lolsecretz to become the hit that it did; at the peak of the site's popularity, it was seeing thousands upon thousands of hits per day; we got attention from numerous media websites that we read (!); and there's even been talk of a book deal...So we had our 15 minz, and now we feel it's time to move on.

For the Last Six Weeks, Anyone Who Was Linked to One of My Old Posts by Google as They Searched for 'Protractor' Saw This

You see, I simply changed the old post.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Man Who Invented the Protractor is Running for President

Here is his hot new video, "The Last Leaf: Director's Cut."

And here is his latest commercial, "A Dog Called Hope."

Here is his first campaign commercial.

After a Long and Hectic Day, the Restful Night and the Morning After

It's quiet here at the blog this morning. I think there's an Emily Dickinson poem with a great line about "the stillness after," but I can't find it with a quick Google.

Fact is that there won't be so many visitors to the blog now. For several months anyone who Googled "protractor" would see three images of a protractor, and one of those images linked to this blog for no good reason. I only changed the name of the blog because of the links, so don't misunderstand the pattern of cause and effect.

But today, after a month in which for the first time I had more than 4,000 visits, the third of those three protractor images does not link here.

So now another phrase comes to mind: first the forgetting, then the letting go. That sounds like Dickinson. But I can't find it.

Anyway, all is quiet on the Western Front.

P.S. I'll just borrow this from Wikipedia, with all the hesitation and and uncertainty that implies:

The 1929 English translation by Arthur Wesley Wheen gives the title as All Quiet on the Western Front. The literal translation is "Nothing New in the West" (Im Westen nichts Neues), with "West" being the war front; this was a routine dispatch used by the German Army.