Friday, July 31, 2009

Went to a Nice Funeral Today

Image via Wikipedia








The son of the deceased gave a beautiful heartfelt eulogy. I recall my dad's funeral, where my comments were the turd in the punchbowl. I wasn't planning on saying anything, but my father's church friends -- in that quintessential Fundy god-loves-a-rich-man mode -- insisted on boasting about my father's business acumen.

My sister and I had just started going through dad's records. We knew the house was mortgaged at 18 percent to its last nickel of worth and that he'd been saved from bankruptcy the year before when my mother inherited money from her sister, and that he'd blown most of that money paying off old debts and making new investments, all of which were now debits instead of credits.

But we for the first time looked at his income tax returns *on which we discovered he had claimed real estate profits he had never made* and thus turned refunds into payments. He had been cooking his own books so that he seemed to be making a profit. Not to fool anyone. Not a set of books to lure in new investors. Simply a record of phony profits to fool himself.

So after this endless torrent of lies, finally I got up and said this is the great lesson of my father's life that I want to point out to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. In spite of all his failures, he persevered. (I did not add that the lesson that hatches from this particular iteration of the common virtue is: But if what you are doing is stupid, please stop.)

{{<span class=Did I mention Jesus? Not by name or nickname. After my contribution, the 300-pound preacher (not that there's anything wrong with that, but damn! he's going to be a four-winged angel, kind of like a dragonfly) up he jumped and talked about my father's godless offspring who broke his heart. And everyone stared at satan's emissary in the second row.

In its way, it was a very entertaining funeral, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Those Optimistic Reports That Newspaper Cost-Cutting is Boosting Earnings are UP?

Front page of the New York Times on Armistice ...Image via Wikipedia

Don't believe the future is bright, says Alan Mutter at Newsosaur.

As Ken Doctor noted in this excellent analysis at his Content Bridges blog, perhaps 828,000 stories per year are not being produced by American’s down-sized newspaper industry.

Newspaper readers, who by definition are among the most thoughtful members of society, are perceptive enough to know they are paying more today for newspapers that deliver far less news and advertising than ever before. They are doing so, to the extent they are doing so, in the hopes they can help the industry survive.

But their patience will not be infinite. If newspapers can’t find a way to do better by their readers, they are in danger of slashing themselves to oblivion.
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As They Said at the End of 'Bridge over the River Kwai': Madness. Madness.

From Intrade.

Will Obama be forced to resign?

The Barack Obama birth certificate controversy refuses to go away. Despite having provided a short form birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii his status as a natural born citizen is being challenged by members of the press, such as Lou Dobbs of CNN, and the growing 'birther movement'. The requirement of all future presidential candidates to prove their citizenship is also being debated in Congress.

If it is proven that Obama is not a US citizen, and therefore not qualified to be president, he will of course be forced to resign or be impeached. Will this happen? We have opened a new market on the possibility of Obama departing office before the end of 2009, 2010 and 2011. These contracts can be traded here.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All You PR Practitioners Out There: Speak to Me

A student writes:


Greetings Professor!

Judging from facebook, looks like you're having quite the summer!

My internship has asked me to look into how ideas are pitched to the

media (tv, newspaper, radio, magazines), to find out how exactly

pitches work for these different media outlets. Do press packets come

across an editors desk? Or is that something used more for television?

Or maybe it doesn't work this way and I'm on the wrong track. If a

business wanted to get into a newspaper, what would be the best way to

approach it? If they do use press packets or something similar, would

it be possible to get a sample somewhere?


And I write back:


Hmmm. Back in the day we got a bucketful of mail from PR folk, etc. every morning. Editors would get the same volume times twenty, since so many PR folk compiled big lists and then hit everyone on the list, some of whom had been dead for years. It's my understanding that today it's done primarily by email -- and, of course, personal contact. Also, ace USF grad Doug Madey -- the Will Farrell character in Stepbrothers was based on him -- tells me that Twitter has an increasingly important role in all this, as reporters follow PR guys and PR guys follow reporters, thereby enabling PR guys to pitch piecemeal, to target more effectively. But I'm just pulling this out of ... the air. I'll copy this to several of the top brains of my acquaintance and see what they say.

One last thing. If you were a powerful enough press type, the smart PR folk went to the trouble of working out a specific pitch, a story just for you. You figured out pretty quickly how to identify a letter to you that was not mass produced. Today with email .... I have no idea how reporters and editors screen, given the fact email makes mindless "shotgunning" so much easier to do. I'm guessing personal relationships have become even more important.

robertson




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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Horror, the Horror. How Reporters Love the Horror

From a Huffpost interview with retiring AP reporter Richard Pyle:

HUFFPOST: And then it didn't happen. You have to admit, Richard, that reporters kind of want bad news to happen so they can get a great story, right?

PYLE: No! I didn't wish for bad things to happen. It's more that if something bad does happen, I want to be the witness to it.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Nigerian Newspaper Scam

LAGOS, NIGERIA.

ATTENTION: PUBLISHER SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

DEAR SIR,

CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL

HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY BOB WOODWARD AND CARL BERNSTEIN AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY THROUGH THE GOOGLE EARTH, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) WORTH OF CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING INTO YOUR NEWSPAPER. THE ABOVE SUM RESULTED FROM AN OVER-INVOICED CONTRACT, EXECUTED COMMISSIONED AND PAID FOR ABOUT TWO YEARS (2) AGO BY A FOREIGN PERSON SELLING A USED CAMPING STOVE, A FUTON IN THE ORIGINAL PACKAGINGS AND 47,500,000 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND) GRATEFUL DEAD T-SHIRTS, IN THE XXL. THIS ACTION WAS, HOWEVER, INTENTIONAL AND SINCE THEN THE CLASSIFIED ADS HAVE BEEN IN A SUSPENSE ACCOUNT AT THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA APEX BANK.

WE ARE NOW READY TO TRANSFER THE CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING OVERSEAS AND THAT IS WHERE YOU COME IN. IT IS IMPORTANT TO INFORM YOU THAT BECAUSE OF THE WALL BETWEEN AD SALES AND EDITORIAL, WE ARE FORBIDDEN TO MOVE THE CLASSIFIED ADS INTO OUR NEWSPAPER; (WE HAVE CHECKED THE GRATEFUL DEAD T-SHIRTS ARE STILL AVAILABLE. BUT NOT THE CAMPING STOVE OR THE FUTON IN ORIGINAL PACKAGINGS.) THAT IS WHY WE REQUIRE YOUR ASSISTANCE. THE TOTAL SUM WILL BE SHARED AS FOLLOWS: 70% CLASSIFIED ADS FOR SAN FRANCICO CHRONICLE, 25% FOR LOU DOBBS SUBSCRIPTION NEWSLETTER TO KEEP THIS QUIET, 5 % FOR LONELY GIRL LAGOS ON YOUTUBE BECAUSE SHE MAKES US SO SAD. ALSO, NEED TO KEEP OUT SIX OR SEVEN T-SHIRTS TO SPREAD AROUND TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

THE TRANSFER IS RISK FREE ON BOTH SIDES. I AM AN AD SALESMAN WITH THE NIGERIAN DAILY BEAST. IF YOU FIND THIS PROPOSAL ACCEPTABLE, WE SHALL REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS:

(A) YOUR BANKER'S NAME, TELEPHONE, ACCOUNT AND FAX NUMBERS. ALSO, SAME INFORMATION FOR YOUR PARENTS IF YOU HAVE HAD TO MOVE BACK IN WITH THEM IN MID CAREER WHILE YOU RETRAIN WHICH IS NOBODY’S FAULT NOT YOURS NOT THEIRS. THEY WANTED YOU TO GO INTO LAW SCHOOL BUT YOU SHOULD NOT TELL THEM TO SHUT UP THEY ARE YOUR PARENTS.

(B) YOUR PRIVATE TELEPHONE AND FAX NUMBERS. IF YOU HAVE I-PHONE WE WOULD LIKE TO BORROW THAT. WE HEAR THAT NEW BEST WAY NOW OF GETTING THE BREAKING NEWS.

(C) YOUR BUYOUT DATE. IF IT’S TOO NEAR IN FUTURE, WE DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO START THIS PROCESS ALL OVER WITH SOMEONE ELSE. YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE HOW OFTEN THAT HAPPENS.

PLEASE REPLY URGENTLY. THERE HAS BEEN A MAN FROM CRAIGSLIST COMING AROUND.

BEST REGARDS.

AARON EWADAFE

AD SALES MANAGER

DAILY BEAST

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Friday, July 24, 2009

The President and the Cop and the Locker Room


When President Obama called the Cambridge policeman whom he had criticized a day or two ago for his role in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., it reminded me of something written years ago by former newspaper colleague Lowell Cohn.

Cohn was a San Francisco Chronicle columnist during my tenure at the paper in the Eighties. We had an odd bond. We both had PhDs in English literature, mine from Duke and his from Stanford. We both had the good sense to disguise our provenance -- and not to use words like provenance.

I don't know if Lowell's degree explained it, but his columns usually came at the games he covered from a slightly different angle than his fellow columnists, if playful, then playful in different ways, if exploring the psychology of the game, coming at that psychology from a different angle. It's hard to remember specifics, and I'm not accusing him of being literary. He had a different quality of mind, not necessarily better than the other columnists, just different. Sometimes he would explain what every sportswriter knew and never thought to share with readers. He understood that the obvious sometimes wasn't.

The column I particularly recall -- and the one the Obama phone call brought to mind -- followed an earlier column in which he had in some way criticized Giants outfielder Jeffrey Leonard, who I think had the nickname "Penitentiary Face." Leonard was a tough-looking guy, with the capacity to intimidate fans, teammates and, naturally, sportswriters.

Lowell explained how the baseball "code" demanded that after a sportswriter was perceived to have criticized an athlete, the manly act was to march into the locker room as soon as possible, seek out the athlete and allow the athlete to berate him publicly. That's what Lowell did after criticizing Leonard, and then .... I don't remember what happened. I don't remember the column in that much detail.
I *think* Lowell said that Leonard appreciate his offering himself up and that afterwards they had a pretty good relationship.

The point of the phone call is that Obama knows the code of manhood. Did the he fumble the moment by suggesting the Cambridge officer was stupid -- well, behaved stupidly; I concede there is a valuable distinction between adverb and adjective, an "existential" distinction.

However, you parse it, the President manned up. He called the guy to clear the air, and I admire him for it, though it's certainly true that when it comes to clearing the air, as President, he had the wind at his back.
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A New Yorker Cat Cartoon in Video Form

See, the cat is the boss now. Hah-ha. It's about meritocracy and loyalty to inferiors, the true disinterested man or, in this case, a cat.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. After the O.J. Verdict

Brother Greg Pabst sent the link:

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1995/10/23/1995_10_23_056_TNY_CARDS_000372419

It's a wonderful essay, discursive and filled with style and insight. GP had already pulled out the money quote:

“Blacks—in particular, black men—swap their experiences of police
encounters like war stories, and there are few who don’t have more
than one story to tell.”

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Make My Wife Laugh, a Beautiful Sound

"I've got a new category for you," I said. "Cougar Platinum for those times when Cougar just isn't enough."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Fine Armful of a Woman

Stick figure with eyes and smileImage via Wikipedia

It would seem that the nominee for Surgeon General is a fine armful of a woman, and this bothers some people.

What? Were no stick figures from the walls of French caves available?
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Laugh Track

A student who sometimes reads my blog suggests that, as the biking video suggests, I seem to regard my life as having a sitcom quality, as being a source of amusement (if only to myself), that my good-natured shortcomings are to some degree an appropriate subject for laughter.

This posture does little for my dignity, he suggests, although it does make me approachable, and there may be pedagogical value in that. In short, I do not take myself too seriously, as least as I choose to present myself publicly. This attitude may be constitutional rather than affected. Perhaps, I should keep an eye on this quality, he suggests.
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My Cholesterol, My Statins, Myself

Lovastatin, a :en:statin drug drawn in bkchem ...Image via Wikipedia

I started a statin -- a nice cheap Kaiser generic -- more than a year ago and finally got around to check and see if it's working. Good news, there. My total cholesterol has dropped from 245 to 147, with all the diminution in the "bad" LDL.

On the other hand, there's now some evidence of diminished thyroid function, which explains .... I don't know what it explains. Give me a day or two, and I'll find something I don't like in my life it explains.
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"Penal Colony with a nice coastline"

The Famous Alcatraz PrisonImage by Amin Tabrizi via Flickr

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones bemoaning the lass of educational opportunity in California.

And if I had the choice of keeping Cal State universities accessible to everyone vs. shoveling another 10,000 petty crooks into prison, I know which I'd choose. Over the past 30 years my fellow California residents have decided they'd rather become a penal colony with a nice coastline than a land of opportunity. It's not a change for the better.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Charging for Online Content

A puzzle undone, which forms a cubeImage via Wikipedia

I find the notion of a sliding pay scale strangely exciting.

Journalism Online's offering is more flexible and compelling than it may have sounded at first. Far from a one-size-fits-all approach, the company allows news outlets to customize their pay schemes with 15 different variables. Publishers will be able to do everything from selling monthly subscriptions to charging micropayments for individual articles with a sliding pricing scale based on the timeliness of the news. "What we're giving them is a set of dials they can constantly turn," says Brill. "In no case is is simply charging or not charging. It's not simply a pay wall goes up around everything."
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My Wife's Cut of Yesterday's Bike Video

It's not her cut exactly. She said that at ten minutes the video was unwatchable and that I should cut it to 50 seconds. (That's what she said. No hyperbole.)

Of course, she's right. But it's *work* to edit. (Originally, I had "edit down," though not all editing is cutting, just the most useful kind for most creators.)

Anyway, here's The Directors Cut of Dr. Peloton and Spiro Go to Richmond.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hamlet 2: It Likes Me Well

Hamlet 2Image via Wikipedia

E. and I watched Hamlet 2 with Steve Coogan Friday night and enjoyed it. It's quite a shaggy tale in that Coogan, as a failed actor turned execrable HS drama teacher, is obtuse to the point of madness. But it's a comedy, though some the pain in his personal and professional life is actually felt, which makes one just uneasy enough to wonder how far the story will go before bending back toward a happy ending.

Maybe it won't. They call it "art" (quotes intended ironically, as all one-word quotations should be intended).

Irony aside, It's knowing the happy ending is coming that makes so much narrative art pedestrian, though no less comforting. Of course, this one had a happy happy ending, with the crazy play within the "play" -- a literally deathless Hamlet; Jesus in a time machine being serenaded with the song "Rock me, sexy Jesus" -- enraging the rubes and touching the sophisticates and thus ending up on Broadway in the best Mickey/Judy "let's give a show" spirit.

What surprised me was the payoff derived to my surprise from the narrative thrust provided by the Coogan character's desire to deal through art with a brutal childhood in which he was apparently sexual abused -- "raped in the face"?; oh no; that cracks the glass.

But see here: In the climax of the inner Hamlet 2, Hamlet forgives his father and Jesus forgives *his* father. And I was touched. No, I didn't see that coming.

One of the pleasures of the Internet age is being able to repair to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critical consensus was last year when the movie was in a theater near you. Among the "top critics," it was pretty much a 50-50 split. And it's true the tale was really shaggy, with a flaw for every two virtues. It's kind of a parody of flamboyant teachers inspiring "ethnic" students, and the parody of the Tucson Hispanic community is cringeworthy.

But, as they say, it worked for me, sweetly surreal, and Coogan *is* a remarkable comedian. I recommend it to you, if only for the blasphemy.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Haight Street That Great Street (I Just Want to Say)

Ulisses i les sirenes, British MuseumImage by SebastiĆ  Giralt via Flickr

Lunch today with the Drunk Boyz, those USF patricians, something I used to do far more often when purse was full and liver was limber, able to bench press a quart of the pure Hippocrene and beg for more.

Yes, it's all slowed down, the socializing after work that gives sparkle to the workplace. What changes? Workplace friendship or merely tax law?

This was actually socializing before work in the sense that most of us aren't teaching or working otherwise to advance USF this summer season. That is, it is not something we are on payroll doing, though actually we can't NOT work on USF's behalf at play or rest. We learn and we plan. This joke is now officially at an end: We really do spend a lot of time getting ready for our fall classes, mistrusting repetition. Regurgitating old notes suggests a lack of attention, a surrender to ease. I worry myself with wanting to do better.


Anyway, today was a traditional lunch. We went back to Martin Macks, which burned down a year or two ago and which we had kind of abandoned because the illegal waitresses -- oh sweet Irish lasses about whose county origins we could always joke -- did not quite always get our kidding. But now the refurbished MM, though noisy as the inside of a bell, did have quite a pleasant new waitress/bartender, both curvy and willowy and *a patter*. Old gentlemen like old dogs like to be patted, at which point they growl in their sleep. Her white hands fluttered like birds, distributing attention among the ancients.

At some point a 3rd/4th/5th round of drinks was ordered, and this sweet miss said, "I've got that covered." Ah, that's what keeps us coming back, that courtesy in or cups that assumes we will live to drink another day.

Old friends, old stories and always something new. Did you know goats were grazing at USF this summer, tending the lawn?

BW was in attendance. We hadn't seen him in years -- literal years -- and it was good to see him, the gray in his sideburns and the halt in his step notwithstanding.


Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

That would be your "Ulysses" by Tennyson. What comes first, the drink or the poetry.
Sometimes I get confused.




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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kwame Oboglo's Christmas List


KO wants to drop a little hint to his bride about what he'd like to find under his missile shield, make that Christmas tree, in December. What it is is a cupholder for your sniper's rifle.

That's my own holiday wish: May all our snipers be drunk.

(Credit where credit is due: lovingly stolen from Wired.)



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Sonia Sotomayor and the 'Anti-Deposition'

Lawyers in Love album coverImage via Wikipedia

I was deposed in a lawsuit some years ago, a lawsuit of our own choosing with a high-priced lawyer of our own choosing. I was prepped all day the day before the deposition. The basic message was: Listen to the question and answer the question but no more than the question. Make the lawyers questioning you work, and they'll get tired and back off, leaving unsaid some things we might not want said because the question was never quite exactly and precisely asked.

You pick your moments to elaborate if the questioner has set up some point you want to make. You aren't always terse and on point, just *most* of the time.

I'd have to say Judge Sotomayor (as she should) is doing the opposite during her confirmation hearing. Explain, explain and explain some more. Use "context" a lot. Understand that many of the senators are reading from remarks prepared by staff, and that their follow up questions are also prepared. If your answers don't always seem to address the questions, neither will their follow ups if your answers are voluminous and nuanced enough.

Mostly stay calm. When these old crackers see a woman display any kind of emotion, they think:

rag fit

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Escaping the Ambush

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - JUNE 22: A cat sits in a ca...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Today at the neighborhood farmers' market we stumbled upon a couple cages set up by Oakland Animal Shelter volunteers -- two cages, four kittens, a handsome Bengal pair and a less handsome grey kitten lumped over an even less handsome black kitten.

It was the latter pair I warmed toward, of course, always on the side of the undercat and remembering our two black cats: Lawrence, who died young of feline leukemia; Oliver, who died in bed next to me last December, almost 17.

They were loving kitties, quite insistent on worming in and huddling up. Also, I've read many places that black cats have a harder time getting adopted and are often cruelly tormented, such cruel fools so many people are. So I think I now must always have a black cat, just to put a grain of kindness on the scale.

But no kitties today, not until E. retires, which I am beginning to think she never will do. I want her to be home with kittens, enjoying them and bonding. This next batch could be our last batch, actuarially speaking. Even if we survive this next lot, I'd not get kittens again but some fine old homeboy or homegirl, ten minutes from execution.

That will be then. This is now. So: kittens! But not today. We mutually tore one another away from those beautiful kittens in the cage, all fuzz and fun and big neonatal mugs.

Tonight I find in Daily Kos a bit of a tearjerker about euthanizing a beloved cat. Mine were certainly jerked. I don't understand people who don't like cats. I prefer cats, but I like dogs. Maybe these people saw their parents having sex ... with dogs?? Bowwow Oedipus, I guess. Got to be some explanation other than a withering of the soul.
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What My New Bike Looks Like


Almost too pretty to ride, though it rides like a dream.

Mr. Abbott and Mrs. Costello

Pillsbury pancake mix from Israel that is non-...Image via Wikipedia

E. is reading her NY Times and says, "My ex-boss from Alameda County and you look like the Pillsbury Doughboy."

I said, "What?" a couple times, and she said the same thing. This was hurtful, and I finally said so because we all have a quiver of zingers -- mostly sly and indirect, which makes me wonder if you keep boomerangs in a quiver -- but comparing me to the Pillsbury Doughboy is definitely not in my wife's repertoire because I am not totally unlike said yeasty fellow.

Oh that's not kind, I said.

What? Oh. Hah! she said. No. Yoo not you. John Yoo, the Bush enabler who brought shame to a regime that already had its full share.

Big old plump John Yoo. We laughed and laughed, and I sucked in my stomach.
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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Howard Dean on Health Care Reform:

Biking: Return of the Kings

Bay Area Bike To Work Day buttonImage by richardmasoner via Flickr

Pat and I biked today, but the little camcorder needed fresh batteries,and so only an account is available, not the eyeballed version.

Beautiful day on the Bay trail! My new bike is quite nifty, lighter than the ones I borrowed from Peter and Chris and suited to my frame. (Peter is several inches shorter than I am,and Chris is several inches taller.) The simple fact of 'yours-ness' also counts for something. I am *one* with the *machine*. Or, to put it another way, I didn't fall off, not once.

We'll do this once a week. My heart will soften at the beauty of bayside, and my buttocks will harden. (They darn well better.)
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Bike. The Man. The Adventure.

Today I bought a Trek 7.3 Grand Something-Or-Other bike. Last year Big Pat and I were riding weekly on the Bay Trail between the Berkeley Marina and Richmond Marina -- I believe there's a video back there somewhere. But I was riding borrowed wheels, and last year the owner of the last set asked for them back.

I tried to buy a bike on College Avenue, but the bike they were going to bring over from the Orinda store never arrived. I called a couple times, and then a few weeks later someone called and asked if I still wanted them to bring that bike I was interested in over from the Orinda store. But by that time I had lost faith.

The clerks at a Piedmont Avenue bike shop ignored me. The baby-faced girl clerk at the Berkeley bike shop was so damn grudging and uninterested in my antique quests that I slunk away in shame.

Today Big Pat took me to his favorite little bike shop opposite the Claremont Hotel -- which I *think* is in Berkeley, but the boundary ebbs and flows in that area. A nice lady in her 30s calmly walked me through my price range, and to my surprise one of the bikes on the floor fit me fine. I wobbled around the Claremont parking lot just to satisfy the nice lady and Big Pat -- as if a wobbly 50 yards could tell me anything. Well, they told me this is a pretty nimble bike, and I can get on and off it without doing any damage to latent dreams of fatherhood.

Video to come.

Monday, July 06, 2009

On the Runway with Today's San Francisco Chronicle

Runway Fashion ModelImage by BiggerPictureImages.com via Flickr

It rolled off the non-union presses for the first time today, color photos bright and appealing. It was very pretty and very thin, like a supermodel.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hiking the Alaska Trail

Just two words: Sean Connery

Michael Jackson: Vied with Sean Connery for the Title of Most Macho Heterosexual

An article in Today newspaper on 18 March 2006...Image via Wikipedia

You see, as I noted so long ago and so long never wrote about in scholarly journals (as if!), one of the most useful tools of the columnist (and what is the average blogger but a columnist, marginally informed but totally involved) is contrarianism, which stance cuts through the haze of uniformity.

As Kevin Drum noted in a post today about the receding number of links in the posts of many bloggers:

I write as much as I ever have, but in my posts I link more to news sources and less to other bloggers than I used to. I'm not sure why. Part of it might be related to another evolution I've noticed: the political blogosphere increasingly seems to latch on to four or five outrages of the day that suck up most of its attention. It seems like every blog I read posts about the same few political nano-scandals every day, and since I mostly find this stuff kind of boring I don't link to it very much.

Same take on the same subject: One size fits all, and where's the fun in that? So there's a tip. But how to make that contrarian position thoughtful and useful even when insincere? (A headline, more's the pity, doesn't make a post.)

I believe our 50 minutes is up.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Life is Not Smooth. It is Filled with Kinks, Which Makes It a Marvelous Spectator Sport

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Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight political numbers guru, who some of us were previously acquainted with because of his esoteric work with baseball statistics, explains today that he became interested in politics only a couple of years ago. Turns out he was supplementing his baseball numbers-crunching biz by playing poker online for money.

This online gaming came to the attention of Congressional bluenoses. They concocted a bill to stop it, which they velcroed to the bottom off an unrelated bill.

(F)ollowing the debate over the (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 ) was one of the primary motivators that got me into politics. It took a "dirty trick" -- attaching it to an unrelated conference report that couldn't possibly be voted down -- to get (it) to become law, although then again, this was undertaken partly in response to another "dirty trick", which was the process of anonymous holds that was preventing the bill from coming to a floor vote in the Senate (where it would probably have passed on its own merits). I found the whole process of watching the sausage getting made alarming -- but also utterly fascinating. Without poker -- and without that bill -- there probably wouldn't have been any FiveThirtyEight.

What did Hamlet say? By indirections we find directions out? If I hadn't taken an education class my junior year of college that involved observing an eighth grade classroom once a week and if I hadn't been afraid of eighth graders as a result, I would never have applied to grad school, which I did not to pursue a career but to avoid having to begin one for as long as I could.

And if E. hadn't missed supper that same year and asked me to drive to the Outpost Cafe to pick up a little something for her to eat -- and thus tipped the balance between hesitation and yearning with which I regarded her -- I might never have *claimed my reward* for fetching that meal (the reward being a date to go to the movies).

I'm not saying everything in life is contingent, just more than we think. I don't believe in destiny, you see, that soporific compounded of vanity and excuse.

I don't believe in luck either, but I know it when I see it.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Isn't It Pretty to Think So? Nah. It's *Beautiful*

SEATTLE - MARCH 16:  Copies of the last ever p...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

From Jack Shafer in Slate:

Let me say it another way: The barriers of entry into the journalism business have been battered down, making it easier than ever to enter the profession. That will read as small consolation to the journalists who have had their publications shot out from under them—the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Ann Arbor News (come July 23), and magazines too numerous to tally. But please notice that I'm not saying there has never been a more lucrative or prestigious time to become a journalist. The cash and status associated with the profession are fairly recent. Until the early 1970s or thereabouts, the average journalist made an average salary (if that), and his societal standing was modest.

If the downside of the battered-down barriers to entry is less pay and lower status, the potential upside is that a flood of new entrants into the field could portend a journalistic renaissance. No, I'm not saying that every junior blogger and pint-size videographer will immediately stand as tall as Barton Gellman and Errol Morris and that the Washington Post and NBC News should be flushed. But journalism has generally benefited by increases in the number of competitors, the entry of new and once-marginalized players, and the creation of new approaches to cracking stories. Just because the journalism business is going to hell and it may no longer make economic sense to maintain mega-news bureaus at the center of war zones doesn't mean that journalism isn't thriving.


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