Ups and Downs on the Mountain

Warm and slushy on the slopes today-- Ian didn't last very long because he slipped and fell on some ice and bruised his knee on the edge of the cast iron firepit-- ouch!-- but Alex and I took an extra trip to the top of the mountain (despite my recent bout of flu) and we went down a steep lift line trail under the Okemo Bubble Quad . . . this is the first time Alex bombed down a real Vermont black diamond run, with no slowing up and no wipeouts: so a banner day for him that I want to commemorate here (and I am sore and feel like an old man . . . my banner is sagging pretty low, but a few delicious local beers should pump some air into it).

Spring Break in a Barn (Loft)!

According to this new episode of Invisibilia, the patterns of your past don't predict your future-- or at least they can't program a computer to accurately predict how well students will do depending on past events (although a white upper-middle-class upbringing seems to give you somewhat of a shock absorber) and I'm definitely feeling the breaking of patterns and randomness today, because we've been playing board games and gin rummy in a converted barn-loft apartment in Vermont, and not only do the outcomes of the games seem unpatterned and random, but so does the setting (lots of kitsch from around the word inside the rambling apartment space, snowy property, a stream, and a hot tub down below in the actual barn . . . perhaps I'll describe more details later but for now, I'm going to enter Spring Break mode and try to put an end to my prolixity for a couple of days).

Mulvaney and Trump Screw Over the Forgotten Men and Women

If you want to get politically indignant about something more substantial than stupid Trump tweets, listen to the newest episode of Planet Money: Mulvaney vs the CFPB . . . it's the story of how Trump completely forgot about the "forgotten men and women" and gutted the agency that could do a great deal to protect them: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Trump chose Republican Mick Mulvaney-- who sponsored a bill to get rid of the CFPB-- to head the CFPB and Mulvaney did exactly what was expected . . . it would be akin to putting me in charge of Disneyworld, I would utterly wreck that joint-- I would let kids buy beer while waiting on line for Space Mountain, I'd let people get out of their seats and take any one item from the Carousel of Progress,  I'd put a bounty of the head of a different costumed character each day, I'd add several "shithole countries" to Epcot, etc. etc. . . anway, this is that kind of story and it features some crack investigative reporting, showcases a government that could care less about shady predatory lenders charging interest rates above 900%, and there's an odd ending that adds another layer of pathos . . . this is Ron Swanson writ large, but not as cute because instead of defunding a local Parks and Rec Department, it's declawing an agency that could help vulnerable people being financially destroyed that no recourse, because the government agency that's supposed to enforce the rules and bring suit against these folks in a court of law is dropping cases like mad . . . and for you Trumpists in regards to regulations, there is a case to be made, but there's also the inverse: no regulations are another type of regulation, and Mulvaney took money from the payday loan lobby, possibly to create this environment.

Flu Day . . .

My fever is down . . . the Tamiflu seems to be working, but more importantly, I did some valuable things on my flu day:

1) watched the Netflix documentary Take Your Pills . . . makes me wonder how the hell I get so many things done without taking any pills . . .

2) finished the comic book series Saga . . . I highly recommend it: a whacked out fantastical space opera that tackles adult themes and uses utterly bizarre imagery-- BattleStar Galactica meets Star Wars with a bit of The Fifth Element thrown in for good measure;

3) watched the first few episodes of Better Call Saul . . . I didn't want to tarnish my memories of Breaking Bad with a schlocky spin-off, but Saul seems to be more along the lines of Frasier than Joanie Loves Chachi.

There's No Shooting This Elephant (Without Giving Yourself a Lobotomy)

If you read Simler and Hanson's book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, you're going to have to get introspective (because you can't go around calling out other people's hidden signalling . . . you don't know exactly what they are thinking and you'll be labeled an asshole . . . except for this one instance with Rick Santorum, where he is so obviously and stupidly signalling to his base that he should have avoided the idea entirely and just chanted "Guns!Guns! Guns!") and you're going to have to recognize-- as Marvin Minsky pointed out in his classic Society of the Mind-- that your brain is a committee and you don't know what all the different sub-groups are plotting and planning (nor do you want to) and whether you are dividing your head into Freud's "id, ego, and superego" or Michael Kendrick's "Night Watchman, Compulsive Hypochondriac, Team Player, Go-getter, Swinging Single, Good Spouse and Nurturing Parent" or the five emotions in Inside Out, you are simplifying and slicing up a complex system of various higher and lower level modules and so it's very hard to decode what's going on because of the interplay between consciously chosen words and actions, unconscious body language, and reactions to social cues . . . Joe Navarro, FBI interrogator, says that "presidents often go to Camp David to accomplish  in polo shirts what they can't seem to accomplish in business suits forty miles away in the White House . . . by revealing themselves ventrally (with the removal of coats) they are saying:

I am open to you;

one of my favorite ways that we think we're immune to "persuasive mass media" and it's rather cheesy "hidden" signalling is the "third person effect": while we believe the media doesn't influence us, we do believe it influences other people . . . and this is how lifestyle advertising works . . . I'm never going to buy Corona beer for myself-- it's well-marketed cheap swill-- but if I'm going to a certain kind of summertime backyard bbq, I might bring Corona and some limes because I know those silly other people associate Corona  and limes with the image of that kind of party and I want to make them happy;

it seems we spend to much on medical care as well, especially in end of life scenarios and situations where people are very sick and their time can only be extended slightly . . . but again, the signalling is important, not the quality of care (we still can't get the majority of doctors to wash their hands) and that's the signal we want to give . . . if you are in dire straits, people, family friends, the government, your job, etcetera will take care of you;

the end of the book concentrates on politics, and this is where you'll be the most frustrated and need to be the most introspective; people tend to signal that they belong to a certain political group-- and this makes sense from a community and friendship and family and religious point of view-- it's much easier to adopt the same politics as the people around you . . . if you live in a small conservative religious town then you're going to get married young, not use birth control, look to your husband as the breadwinner, and not seek abortions . . .  not necessarily because you believe strongly in this suite of behaviors, but if you were to break the norms-- use birth control, stay focused on your career, avoid marriage and pregnancy, then you're an outlier and a cheater and a bad example to the others . . . the converse is true if you grow up in a liberal urban area, but either way, you're going to associate yourself with a bunch of other policies that you may or may not feel strongly about (environmental regulations, gun control, transgender rights, racism, welfare, disability, slavery, tariffs, public land etc.) and that's how political coalitions work-- you tend to choose a side and then work backwards and adopt the policies of that side and rationalize your allegiance to them, which makes sense from a signalling and social sense, but is a total logical mess, despite the fact that these norms have shifted some over time . . . and it's quite scary when people are asked some basic questions about what is happening policy wise in our country . . . but this does make perfect sense: why waste your time learning all these facts and figures when all you really want to do is signal to your tribe that you are on the same team( and I'm going to do an obvious humblebrag here . . . I wrote this while running a fever-- I just tested positive for strain B of the flu).

The Eternal Bronchial Return

The search bar on this blog allows me to look back on my life and see if The History of Dave is repeating itself . . . and in regards to two topics, I certainly am on a loop: plantar fasciitis and bronchitis . . . but I am getting a little smarter each year (at least in regards to the bronchitis) because now that I know the symptoms, I'm getting to the doctor before I actually get a full blown case and getting some meds (and avoiding scenarios like this one) but I'm not that smart . . . I still went out and coached our travel game yesterday, though my assistant coach did all the talking-- it was weird, watching the game, unable to speak above a croak-- just letting the kids do their thing; we played a team that was better organized than us and could knock it around fairly well and we were missing our starting goalie, so we settled back on defense and gave them nothing, played a 4-4-2 for the counter, and ran a number of give-and goes through to breakaways and won handily, 4 - 0 . . . if I wasn't shivering so hard, it would have been delightful to watch them figure it all out on their own.

Bring Back the Boom Box!

I am making my way through Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson's book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life . . . the thesis is that not only is our rational mind a "slave to the passions" but that it is beneficial to not recognize this . . . we have a purposeful evolutionary blind spot in our brain that makes us not only hide our true motivations from others but also hide them from ourselves; Simler and Hanson claim that at the root of many of our seemingly altruistic and pure motives are much more self-serving ends, often to show our fitness to the opposite sex and society at large . . . you gave to charity to help the children, of course, but also to show that you have excess funds and are willing to use them to help the community at large . . . but admitting the latter is in poor taste; while you know that a consistent bedtime is great for your children's health, it also really nice to get the little buggers out of you and your wife's hair at the end of the day; you enjoy playing an instrument and don't mind the tedious practicing, but your skill and confidence is also signalling that you have extra time and energy and cognitive ability and manual dexterity to pursue something aesthetic in your spare time; you recently decided that gun control is a good thing and attended the march in Washington, but you also want to signal to your team just how much you despise Trump and the Republicans . . . the book is a light read (with no solutions to this hole in our cognition) but it will get you thinking about what people are possibly signalling with their actions; here are two things that came to my mind:

1) I've been really broken up about the loss of our dog-- I've been listless and cranky and out of sort since we put him down-- and we had off on Thursday for a "slush day" and I went for a run in the snow in Donaldson Park and this made me sad, because Sirius would always accompany me around the park when it snowed . . . and I recognized that part of this sadness was missing the companionship of my trusty pet and part of it is missing the signalling; when you walk or run or bike with a well-trained athletic dog, you are showing the world that you like animals, that you have a purpose, that you have spent much quality time with this happy creature-- and Sirius was especially well-behaved and friendly . . . in a very real sense, he would attract people (sometimes even good looking people of the opposite sex) because a friendly well-trained dog signals something very particular to the world that we often don't think about, especially if there's a routine about it . . . so I miss that signalling as much as I miss my dog, the hefty responsibility of having a dog is actually part of the attraction: you are saying, on top of my wife and kids and job and all that, I can also take care of an animal and train it properly and exercise with it and take it on adventures . . . and now if I take a walk in the park, I'm just a lonely middle-aged man out for a stroll;

2) I've had a number of people tell me they've essentially stopped listening to music-- they've moved to podcasts and audiobooks-- and I'm wondering if this is a result of cell-phones and headphones and air-conditioning and the ubiquity and accessibility of all content; there's much less communal listening because of digital technology; everybody has everything right inside their phone so you don't need to hang out with your friend who bought the newest CD and sit and listen with them . . . when you are listening communally, music is a real signal-- whether it be on a boom box or a car with all the windows open-- then you need to blast stuff for your tribe: hip hop or alternative or jazz or whatever-- and if people of your tribe are listening, then the signals can get really precise: alt-country is very different than hot country, the type of hip-hop indicates whether you are a wannabe gangsta or a cerebral proponent of multiculturalism  but there's much less of this now, people are ensconced in their own private sonic worlds, so they can listen to whatever music they want and no one will know but they can still signal to the outside world with their audio consumption, it's just more about the residue . . . I certainly like to listen to podcasts, but I also like the after-effect: I know some new stuff that might contribute to the next conversation I participate in . . . and an audiobook is similar, not as much fun to listen to in the moment, but the aftereffect is significant, you've read a book and can discuss this and review it and show off your cognitive ability and your allegiance to particular ideas and people . . . music is a much more powerful signal in the moment, when there's a number of people listening and I think it's sad that we've moved away from this, so the only solution is to buy some giant C batteries and bring back the boom box.

The Test 107: Cunningham Has the Best Words

Thie week on The Test, the very highly educated Cunningham has the best words, the most beautiful words . . . and you'll have to figure out the rest (as a bonus, Dave and Stacey do tasteless impressions).

Dave Becomes Even More Insufferable (Thanks Charles C. Mann!)

I just finished the new Charles C. Mann book The Wizard and the Prophet (including both appendices) and now I'm chock full of facts and leaking whole lot of half-assed opinions; the Wizard is represented by the so-called father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, and the Prophet is symbolized by conservationist and ecologist William Vogt . . . Prophets prophesy doom unless we "cut back! cut back!" and Prophets preach conserving wetlands and open spaces, reducing consumption, utilizing bottom up energy solutions, and basically halting constant economic growth and development, which comes at the cost of the earth's resources; Wizards are the "techno-optimists" and they are sure that we will think our way through all these problems, often with large scale projects-- whether they be to harness wind, sun, and tide, desalinate the oceans, or curb global warming by putting sulfur-dioxide in the air; there's also a lot about wheat in the book, Norman Borlaug painstakingly bred super-wheat in order to feed the starving masses (a fun fact, wheat is incredibly diverse genetically and thus there are infinite variations to breed, while humans are incredibly similar genetically-- chew on that, racists!-- and two humans who look nothing alike are more similar genetically than two chimpanzees from the same troop) and Mann describes this wheat breeding in great detail . . . I definitely skimmed this portion of the book-- it's more intense than the corn section of The Omnivore's Dilemma-- but I'm certain that if you select for extra rubisco, throw in a little Haber-Bosch, then you're feeding the billions . . . but a planet with ten billion humans will not resemble our current conception of earth (although we are rapidly approaching this future as far as biodiversity is concerned, see various posts on The Sixth Extinction) and the Prophets worry that super-wheat will simply exacerbate the population bomb . . . and there's a chance that both the Wizards and the Prophets are wrong and Lynn Margulis is right; Margulis, one of the most prominent researchers in the field of microorganisms, believes our planet is a Petri dish, and like most other species, we will breed and exceed-- we will use up all our resources until calamity strikes . . . there are a few indications that she could be wrong-- but nothing to write home about-- violence is at an all time low, in an exponential sense, and there have been some bottom-up successes in Burkina Faso that indicate that we could reforest the desert, creating a giant carbon sink, reinvigorated soil, and a more humid landscape . . . anyway, the conflict in the book, between the Wizard's desire to create technology "to soar beyond natural constraints" and the Prophets hope that we can learn to live in a "steady state" negotiation with our planet, is going to come to a head in our lifetime and Charles C. Mann does a fantastic job with an even-handed look on how things might change (I also highly recommend his two other noted books, 1491 and 1493, which describe the Americas before and after the Columbian exchange).

Several Surefire Strategies

My wife is in the home stretch of a "Biggest Loser" style weight loss gambling ring with a bunch of other women in town, and she's got a shot to win the cash but final weigh-in is this Friday . . . I've cooked up a couple of strategies for her to bring home the bacon-- check them out:

1) she could do some serious sweating: either put on layers and layers of clothing, turn the heat up, and do some Zumba or she could head over to Island Spa . . . the Korean super-spa down the road (I went for the first time today; it's weird and relaxing and a lot of fun; warning: there's certainly a lot of same-sex nudity in the hot-tub room and you wear odd cultish brown uniforms, but the massage was great--if painful-- and they've got all these little themed sweat lodges with temperatures ranging from 122 F to 160 F, perfect for sweating off a bunch of pounds) but

2) if she really wants it, there's one certain path to victory: earlier in the week, Alex had a killer stomach virus which gave him the shits for four days-- he couldn't eat a thing-- so if she licks his toothbrush, she's golden.

Tigger Dad (Tigger is Scottish, Right?)

If you want some ideas on how to get your son to excel in academics, read the first couple chapters of John Stuart Mill's Autobiography.

One More Sad Tale

Yesterday when my wife got home from the grocery store, she saw Ian in the kitchen and asked him where I was and he said, "Dad is out walking the dog" and when she came back in with the next load of groceries, Ian was bawling because for a moment he had forgotten that the dog was dead and gone and then reality hit him like a ton of bricks.

Falling to Pieces (Central Jersey Style)

I feel like I'm living in some tri-state, upper-middle class version of a country song: yesterday we put the dog down; while I was digging his grave in the backyard, I ran into some drainage pipes and an old slate patio-- making the excavation far more difficult than I imagined; my oldest son has had the shits for three days, my youngest son can barely walk (due to a Sunday afternoon soccer collision) and while I was rushing home from work today to check on my sick son and then drive him to the orthodontist (despite his stomach ailment) I got a text from a colleague that read: "Did you leave? We have a meeting and you are presenting."

March Badness

R.I.P. Sirius Black . . . a good boy until the end.

And Thus the Whirligig of Time Brings in His Revenges (Upon Dave and Many Many Others)

I got my just desserts for stripping the joy from NCAA gambling bracketology-- a couple of days ago, I decided filling out brackets for a NCAA tournament pool is akin to a very very slow lottery drawing-- but that's not entirely true, because if you had Virginia to win it all (as I did in one of my brackets . . . thanks Rob) then the tournament just became a very very fast lottery drawing  . . . and, as expected, you lost (did anyone pick UMBC?)

My Wife is No Mantis Shrimp (or is she?)

The mantis shrimp has the most sophisticated visual system in the animal kingdom-- they have from 12 to 16 different kinds of rods and cones (dogs have two kinds of photoreceptors and we have a measly three) but paradoxically, they are absolutely awful at differentiating between colors . . . I'm not even going to attempt to explain why, other than to point out that it might have something to do with communication between mantis shrimp . . . very specific colors might mean things to them but the shades in between certainly do not . . . you can read this or listen to the new Radiolab to get the some of the details (scientific investigation is still underway on the root cause of this contradiction) but I will offer an analogy: while my wife is much better than me at seeing, perceiving, and visually assessing nearly everything in the real and/or aesthetic universe, she did think the shirt I was wearing this morning was green (when it was clearly blue) so I sent her a picture to clear things up.

A March Metaphor

The lottery has been often labeled a "tax on dumb people" and while picking brackets for the NCAA tournament is akin to this kind of gambling, the very important difference is that it's a very very slow lottery drawing . . . it's as if they did one of those old-fashioned ping-pong ball style drawings over the course of two weeks instead of two minutes, so that you have to time to develop all kinds of emotions and feelings about the balls drawn and the numbers on them, your mental state experiencing ups and downs, highs and lows, before you are (almost inevitably) eliminated along with everyone else.

What About Dad?

When I catch kids using cell-phones in class, why are they always texting their mother?

March Sadness

My dog-- ailing from Lymes-- still likes to walk, but he no longer wants to kill cats.

Talking to Women is Damn Near Impossible (for Dave)

Last night during dinner preparation, I noticed something out of the ordinary: my wife was listening to some decent music (Andrew Bird) and she had consciously selected this music, so I wanted to compliment her on her choice, but apparently when you compliment someone, not only is the sentiment itself important but you also have to watch your tone . . . she decided there was some sarcasm in my amazement at her great leap forward in musical taste, but when I vociferously insisted that this was not the case, she still thought the compliment was backhanded-- she inverted the statement and considered it a general condemnation of all the other music she listens to (and while she may have been right in this assumption, I readily admit I'm not crafty enough to couch my true intentions with lies and deception) and so then I tried to ameliorate the situation by discussing this nifty chart correlating SAT scores and musical predilection . . . on Google Play Music, if you play Andrew Bird, then the #1 suggestion is Sufjan Stevens, who is associated with high SAT scores . . . I think this tangential internet foray may have blunted the impact of my failed compliment, but the moral here is when you're talking to women about music, you have to watch your step.

Why? Why Why Why Why Why?

Insert Daylight Saving Time rant here (and also, I really hate these people, who obviously don't have a clue about the most important and-- in modern times-- the most neglected element on Maslow's hierarchy: sleep).

Once You Get In, You Never Get Out

Canceling a gym membership is like trying to retire from the mafia.

Sometimes You Eat the Toe, and Sometimes the Toe Eats You

While The Big Leboswki is hands down my favorite movie, I still don't pretend to understand the plot . . . like Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, the joy of the story is within the strands . . . the ins, the outs, the complicated what-have-you's and the new shit that eventually comes to light . . . but one thing I thought I knew was that Bunny Lebowski had all ten of her toes . . . until I watched the movie with my kids on Wednesday night; when Bunny drives by in her red convertible and you realize she has definitely not been abducted by nihilists, the camera pans across her feet and I always assumed it was to show all ten of her toes-- and that's because you later learn that the nihilist played by musician Aimee Mann has given her toe to abet the ransom scheme-- but Ian noticed that in the red convertible scene, Bunny's little toe on her right foot appears to be missing-- and if you review the clip, it's really hard to tell, it's a very ambiguous little toe-- and while there is a Reddit strand on this topic, it provides no definite answers . . . so it's time to draw a line in the sand and unravel the truth: is Bunny missing a toe?

Preparing For St. Patrick's Day (and the End of the Anthropocene)

Long after the human race has wound down and gone extinct-- the last of the fossil fuels extracted and burnt; the last of the plastics catalyzed and extruded; the rivers and wetlands polluted and poisoned; the oceans barren and static; the soil-- dry and spent-- blowing in the hot wind; roaches, crows, pigeons, rats, and raccoons the only creatures left to roam the depleted biosphere-- long after this, when some other civilization arises (or visits, from the far reaches of the galaxy) and they examine our digital detritus, they will recognize exactly when the humans stepped off the precipice and plunged into the abyss of frivolity and utter disaster and this moment is when Terry, Cunningham and Liz were in the English Office, looking at someone's phone, and vocalizing superlatives about an Inflatable Irish Pub . . .  for a moment I got sucked into the fun, but then I thought twice-- a difficult action in the time of tweets and and snaps-- and I took a look inside the inflatable pub and I recognized the pub for what it was . . . a waste of plastic, a fruitless endeavor, a giant scam, and a vivid and rubbery air-filled symbol that portends the inevitable fall of man . . . here's why:

1) there is no inflatable floor, so it's not even a bouncy inflatable Irish pub . . . if it were bouncy, you could get some exercise, mosh to The Pogues, perhaps "inadvertently" bounce into that special lass or lad you've had your eye on . . . but nope, this is just a shed made of polymers, similar to the one in my backyard, which I never try to foist off as an Irish pub;

2) there's an inflatable fireplace inside, which is patently stupid because

a) it obviously can't hold a real fire;

b) no one wants to look at a fake fireplace while they're sweating their ass off in an unventilated polyethylene kiln;

3) every Irish pub should have a dart board and this pub does not-- I recognize why it does not have a dart board, as pointed objects would endanger the inflatable nature of the pub . . . but that's the moment when the inflatable Irish pub designers should have stepped back and recognized the idiocy of their project;

4) there are no inflatable leprechauns inside this pub, and while I don't expect leprechauns in a real Irish pub (I am 48 years old) there's absolutely no reason not to have a few blow-up leprechauns in this inflatable abortion, leprechauns you could toss around, punt into the rafters, pretend to hump . . . whatever, in order to differentiate this product from a big plastic lawn tent, which is all it is . . . and so I've decided NOT to attend any parties that host one of these contraptions, in a quixotic (and probably misguided) attempt to take a stand for something, anything, in this absurd economy of ours, and I hope you will do the same.

The Machine Is Not Green

Green activist Paul Kingsnorth has given up, and he explains why in his rather grim, beautifully written, and occasionally cabalistic collection Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays . . . this is a heavy read, bordering on a manifesto, and Kingsnorth does not see a traditionally Green future for our planet; he has no regard for the techno-optimists, who very well might solve the major human environmental problems in our future-- climate change and floods and famines and disasters and feeding the burgeoning population-- but he sees very little hope for the things that used to matter to traditional conservationists: biodiversity and wild places and an appreciation for ecology . . . he doesn't even think education is the answer; many people know the facts and most of those people would still rather escape into sleek digitized worlds of their own creation . . . he does have a few lists of what you can do, if you don't want to jump on the techno-optimism bandwagon, if you feel like you are living inside a giant machine, a machine built to drain your data and your bank account; a machine built to convince you to consume more than you need; a machine that persuades you to spend time in front of screens for more and more hours of the day; a machine that throws off your circadian rhythms, creates endless desires and constant jealousies, makes you care about things that you wouldn't ordinarily care about and makes you lose sight of what is important in life, a machine that keeps you from getting outdoors and enjoying what is left of the natural world . . . here are some things you can do:

1) withdraw . . . withdraw as a moral position and refuse to help the machine advance, withdraw "to examine your worldview"

2) preserve non-human life, in any local way shape or method you can 

3) get your hands dirty and do some physical work 

4) insist that nature has value beyond utility, beyond aiding and assisting the economic growth of mankind . . . and tell everyone this

5) build refuges from the oncoming storm;

and then at the end of the book he has eight principles of "uncivilisation" . . . here is a summary:

1) face the oncoming ecological unravelling with honesty and learn how to live within it

2) reject the paradigm of "problems" and solutions

3) change the modern story of progress we have been telling ourselves, because that has separated us from nature

4) make storytelling more than entertainment

5) recognize that humans are not the point of the planet

6) celebrate art and writing that is grounded in place and time, and not symbolic of the "cosmopolitan citadel"

7) no theories and ideologies, write with dirt under your fingernails

8) "the end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop"

p.s. moments after I finished this post, the snowstorm disconnected our house from the machine and we spent an hour in darkness, contemplating "uncivilisation," which means my writing possesses miraculous powers (while I'm probably not the God, I'm certainly a god).

Twelve Fourteen Split

Alex turned 14 last week, while his younger brother is still 12 (they are 14 months apart) and we saw the age gap in action this weekend: Alex went to an afternoon party at a girl's house-- and before he left he fixed the back of his hair so it wasn't all messy, on the advice of his friend's girlfriend; meanwhile, Ian went to his friend's house to play "Nerf" with some guys, a game of warfare, ever-changing rules, and the shooting of enemy combatants with Nerf bullets (and Ian was annoyed that Alex did not attend and instead chose to spend his time at a party with girls).

Is This Normal Small Town Stuff?

Does every town have a crazy white-haired lady with two little white dogs that yells "SLOW DOWN!" when you're driving 27 miles-per-hour in a 25 miles-per-hour zone and-- God forbid-- if you make a rolling stop at a stop sign (because you're creeping up so you can see around the parked cars) then this lady might walk into the middle of the road, creating a barricade because she is flanked by her two little white dogs, and then she might slowly, menacingly stomp toward your car, screaming vehicular epithets and instructions, while your son (who is the front seat) laughs at her?

A Couple of Books That the Unabomber Would Enjoy

Jonathan Moore's The Night Market is a sci-fi crime thriller that blends the byzantine plotting and tone of Raymond Chandler with some William Gibson/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind type near future technology, and there's also plenty of Philip K. Dick-style paranoia (which is fully deserved) but the real impact of this post-noir San Francisco crime drama is that it is all too real-- the city is a burned out husk, as are most of the people who walk through it, because rampant consumption and a sinister form of advertisement has invaded the consciousness of the city and its inhabitants . . . the conspiracy is far-reaching and just and shallow and greedy as it should be . . . this is a book about giving up and giving in: the apocalypse is here and we are living in it-- and the fact that there is not much difference between the San Francisco in the novel and the world right now is beyond frightening . . . I was already primed for this novel because I've been reading Paul Kingsnorth's new collection of essays, Collections of a Recovering Environmentalist, in which he announces the death of the conservation movement and the promulgation of a new form of neo-liberal economic environmentalism, concerned with carbon sinks, global warming, eco-tourism, and market-based technological solutions for ecological problems, which is in contrast to the old school Green movement, which found intrinsic and sacred value in the beauty of biodiversity and wild landscapes, and celebrated the primal human attachment for natural spaces and places free of human subjugation . . . Moore's The Night Market is the end result of this shift towards data-driven market-based solutions, there is complete consumerism, complete consumption, and a world completely dictated by brands, corporations, markets, and the desire to replace the things that are important with things.

Poetry Birthday Week!

Yesterday, we went to happy hour at the Golden Lion in Milltown to celebrate my birthday and the gang from work gave me some lovely presents, including a laminated original poem in my honor which contains all my favorite allusions . . .  I have hyperlinked them for your perusal:

All who know you, know you've got grit,
you always try your best to stay fit;
you teach your students with cunning and wit,
even Brady admits that your podcast is lit;
and even though you're hairy as shit
some might say you look like a homeless Brad Pitt--

so when you're old and grumbling about the difference between lie and lay
just comfort yourself with the butter you spray!

and they also presented me with my very own bottle of spray butter and a framed photo of faceswap Dave and Stacey where we look like Brad Pitt . . . the best gift was going to the Golden Lion in Milltown for the first time-- it's quite the dive, and has darts, two full sized shuffleboard tables, a nice back room pool table, and fantastic wings . . . I also learned an interesting piece of information: I knew the wings at the Golden Lion were fantastic because years ago, a regular used to bring them to the Park Pub all the time and we would feast on them-- I said as much to the bartender at the Golden Lion and she said, "Yeah, he was stealing those wings . . . that's why he got fired" and then she gave me a high five because I had eaten so many of those stolen wings; anyway, I'd like to thank all that attended, I had a great time and obviously left with my wife at the right moment: I was happily lubricated but not sloshed, and so Alex, Cat and I watched Fargo and went to bed early . . . meanwhile, the ladies closed the place (and we got there at 3 PM) but I guess once you turn 48, if you haven't learned something about alcohol consumption, then you're in serious trouble (the other thing I learned is the worst place to keep a valuable jewel is on a drunk woman's finger . . . why is that a thing?)

Dave and Dr. Seuss Pontificate on the Meaning of Shared Birthdays (in a Universe That May be Experiencing the Nietzschean Eternal Return)

Me and the Seuss,
we share the same date:
coincidence . . .
or an act of fate?
I tend to lean
towards the stochastic
but perhaps our world
is finitely elastic,
so we run the same path
after every big bang
and the Doctor and I
share our groove thang.

Sirius Gives Alex a Birthday Gift

Rollercoaster week for the dog: Monday we had "the talk" with the kids, as Sirius's health appeared to be headed downhill-- he had a couple urination incidents in the house (which never happened before . . . what a dog!) and he was totally lethargic and miserable; after we discussed the reality of his situation, Ian curled into a ball and cried, then he went upstairs to take a nap, I cried when I tried to console him, Catherine cried and hugged me and told me that we'd never have another dog like him (she's had a lot of dogs) and I had a couple of sleepless nights trying to figure out when to put him down (I was hoping he would make it through the week, because today is Alex's birthday and tomorrow is my birthday . . . that's no present) but Sirius must have heard us planning to shuffle him off his mortal coil and decided he'd rather be than not be, because yesterday he started wagging his tail, he greeted me like normal when I got home from work, and he actually ate some dog food, today he properly pooped and actually jumped up when I was getting ready to walk him-- his usual behavior-- and then he wouldn't let me bring him home-- he just wanted to keep walking around the park . . . the vet said that some of these medicines might take a while to work, so we are now cautiously optimistic that something good is happening inside his body and perhaps the kidney infection is abating . . . but at the very least he's not going to head into that undiscovered country on my son's birthday (or mine, I hope).
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.