Friday, February 29, 2008

John Martyn

Happy Leap Day!

I know John Martyn for his version of Glory Box, which I first heard as a Portishead song. He's Scottish and lived hard in the past couple of decades. I like this clip because it's a departure from the usual singer/songwriter thing. At minute five there's a super far out guitar sequence.

Don't spank your kids!

I guess another reason we don't want to spank our kids, besides the fact that it is cruel and humiliating. A study reported yesterday "found that spanking and other corporal punishment is associated with an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex." Link

I think that it's all pretty obvious. If you're going to have self-respect for yourself and others it's important to develop body integrity early. Spanking can violate that sense of one's body and its integration with the self. Researchers talk about how a few smacks now and then can lead to a much greater frequency of using physical means to rein your kids in, and the more it's done the more problems people have later on. To my mind, it's important to remember that kids will always confound you regardless of what you do. Discipline is a constant, ongoing process.

Last night, in fact, BB broke down over something silly. We'd watched an episode of "Between the Lions," and just as it was about to end it occurred to him that he had wanted to watch something different. When I said no, he kicked a couch cushion toward me. Instead of blowing up as well, I patiently told him to take a time out. He only needed a minute in his room before he was able to turn that emotion around, and he was cheery and chatty the rest of the evening. It works.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Fixed the kitchen drains this morning. I kind of stretched the whole thing out putting in the garbage disposal, trying to get another half inch of breathing room from a drain connection that was already at its limit. The problem is that the standard right angle run is 7" long and I needed more than that to get it all fitting comfortably. I found some 16" runs at Lowes and cut them down. In fact, I had to buy these as part of a kit so I replaced almost all of the pieces under the sink. It's not going anywhere now.

Yucky fact of the day that I didn't know about: Some collagen comes from the skin of human cadavers. (It's apparently the business of one South Dakota republican congressman.) I'll be thinking about this the next time I kiss the succulent lips of someone who's had some "work."


Brian Jonestown Massacre, "Anenome." Best line: "I think I know how I feel."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rough house

Last night I ran around trying to clean and organize things. I was still sweaty at nine. Well, the kitchen drain apparatus went out tonight. My planned dinner was called off. We ordered takeout Chinese. And I just hung out with my boys. They love to jump on me. It's kind of remarkable. Jump, crash on to daddy, giggle, giggle. There's nothing better in the world. I'll deal with the kitchen tomorrow. In the meantime, there's absolutely nothing better than making little men laugh.

The Paniks

Psychobilly from Spain. Panic can be fun! I approve, actually. "Panik" was something of a nom de plume in the mid-nineties and if I'd had the foresight to create a domain it would have been Indeed, an old girlfriend copyrighted some work as "panik" when we were together then. Cool animation too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Handy house dad

The garbage disposal went out over the weekend, so I bought a new one this morning after dropping off the kids. It took me about an hour to install, mostly because I replaced the old flange at the bottom of the sink. You have to roll some plumber's putty in there. The box stores are charging over a $100 to install these things, so I'm glad I was confident enough to do it on my own. In truth, I couldn't have done something like this before the age of Google. I looked over some DIY instructions before tackling it. When BB came home I had to show him my handiwork. This, I'm thinking, is what a house dad is supposed to do.

The Rapture

I'm back. Now, I've got to get myself into it . . .

Monday, February 25, 2008

A video clip for BB

Wheezing diaphragms

Turns out my roommate not only snored, but had some sort of obesity-induced sleep apnea. He snorted, wheezed, whined, and whistled past a stretched diaphragm all night, then had moments of silence with himself followed by crying out and talking, and then he'd settle back into trying to pull air around his large organs. He's a very big man. A rough sleeper.

But a really nice guy and patient with my late night, lights-out chit chat. Over all, I had some incredibly intimidating moments of clarity, some long stretches of impatience, and I spoke with a few of the other presenters, but I didn't feel completely in sympathy with the major analytical trends taking place in many of the papers. I'm out of sync with much of it. I'm ready to be back home.

Who can guess this local landmark, located in a wilderness area about 10 miles east from where my family sleeps at this very moment? I join them tomorrow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Didn't come up at my conference

The Onion

Pornography-Desensitized Populace Demands New Orifice To Look At
WASHINGTON— Jaded by the sight of what it deemed "run-of-the-mill" orifices, the nation's pornography-saturated populace released a statement Monday demanding a new bodily opening to leer at. "If at all possible, we'd prefer some sort of self-moistening orifice that grips tightly enough to constrain fingers and foreign objects, but also gapes wide enough to fit a human head." According to pornographic historians, there hasn't been a public outcry like this since 1989, when the nation's mainstream pornographic-film industry pacified its audience by unveiling the first penetrable asshole.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The smell of space

ISS Science Officer Don Pettit says:

"Then I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools. It was more pronounced on fabrics than on metal or plastic surfaces. It is hard to describe this smell; it is definitely not the olfactory equivalent to describing the palette sensations of some new food as "tastes like chicken." The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday robot blogging

Spare room

I'm sitting in a spare room out West, waiting to drive over to the conference. Group dinner tonight and then lots of paper presentations all day long tomorrow. Come to think of it, I think there's even a panel tonight. Right now, the window is cracked open because it's warmer here. I can hear a dog freaking out and someone yelling at it. Some kind of remodeling is going on nearby, and I could hear the sounds of two boards knocking into each other while I was cleaning up this morning. And there is lots more traffic. Cars going by nearly every minute. Where I live, maybe a car every half hour comes down our small side street.

What I'm not looking forward to. I'll be sharing a hotel room with someone from the conference and at this point I don't know who that will be. It could be someone I've met before, or a complete stranger. I also have to warn whomever it is that I've been caught snoring recently. I shared a room with someone last fall, and they pulled out their ear plugs for the second night. Good thinking, that. Bringing your ear plugs. In any case, I usually spend a lot of time chilling out in my room at conferences. This time I'm not sure what I'll do.

Yesterday I discovered how to fly on the old MD-80s. Sit near the front. When I went to the back commodes, I realized why I usually hate flying them. They roar near the back, at deafening volumes. We usually sit near the back with the kids, just cause that's where most kids seem to sit. But never again, if we can help it, in these old machines. Now there's ice and snow all over the northeast. I'm glad I didn't have to fly today.

Can't get enough

Just one more clip of Darker My Love, I promise.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Star Trek doses

Star Trek revealed. The real theme of this mid-sixties show made vivid in a so-called "crackvid" with a soundtrack from Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. Frankly, I think that the Star Trek scenes are hipper than the tired sounds of White Rabbit, especially Spock's eternally surprised, penciled-in eyebrows.

Seen on boing boing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Weather too bad

The weather in the Pacific is too bad to shoot down a satellite. Lots of seasick sailors? Like a romance, when you're playing Dr. Strangelove you want everything to be perfect.

I'll post when I can

I'm off to warmer climes for the long weekend, with a paper to give. This is a very small conference, with about 6 panels total. Lots of discussion should ensue.

I'm leaving the kids and spouse behind like a rat. What can I say? They wouldn't want to leave the snow? We're scheduled to fly (the whole family) to Europe in July, so I'll enjoy a little loneliness this time out. Carry on, sleep, ear buds. I'll try to make the best of it.

I do get to fly both legs, back and forth, in ancient MD-80s. They are like flying in the former Soviet Union.

Darker My Love

More shoegaze today, my brothers and sisters. This stuff is a little less Brontesque - did you see the last sequence of "A Certain Ratio" yesterday where the guy is sitting on a stoop looking like he's on a bad trip and the camera moves back to reveal this big, old manse alone on a hill? Darker My Love is little more about the meat and potatoes. Wikipedia compares them to Can and My Bloody Valentine, both of whom I've been listening to lately. I guess I'd say they are more like post-psych, as in psychedelic. Or maybe post, post-psych. Whatever. They remind me of Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Professor Darkness

If I sign up on an electronic bulletin board or establish an account somewhere, my new moniker will be "Professor Darkness." BB found a series of toys over the weekend at Target that create characters for the planets "(Mercury Man") and other features of our universe ("get all of them, kids"). The best is the character for black holes called Professor Darkness. It's a hilarious name, connoting both mystery and science in one swoop. It will also give the kiddies strange foreboding feelings when they find themselves in the lecture room years from now. Now, if I could only replace my head with a sphere . . .

A Certain Ratio

Post-punk funk from 1981. You can definitely hear the influence of something like Funkadelic's Maggot Brain.

More interesting, in my opinion, than other products of Factory Records.

Monday, February 18, 2008

White enough?

Talking Points Memo (TPM) is reporting on Clinton's new strategy to counter Obama: questioning his authenticity. As TPM points out, this authenticity argument has been used with great success by the Republicans in the last few election cycles. This was the whole argument against Kerry. Of course, Clinton has been questioning whether Obama stands for real democrats, which is a class argument (used by Republicans as well). But behind this is Obama's race, which being hard to pin down naturally makes him seem unnatural in many (or most) parts of the world. I think that this aspect of race, which was raised by the press repeatedly before Obama began winning the black vote everywhere, will be a big part of the Republican strategy if Obama is the nominee. It's a ludicrous argument, of course. As blogger Too Sense points out: "Not once during the entire 2008 election cycle has any writer or commentator asked whether John Edwards is 'white enough.' Mike Huckabee has not been placed under the "authenticity" microscope to see if he is 'really' white, or...something else." But I'll admit that Obama's ability to negotiate his multiple identities and still seem authentic is part of my own fascination with him. It's a 21st century thing. In any case, I'm hoping it will prove to be a weak attack.

More later: Clinton has attacked Obama for being a rhetorician (the basis of politics, for christ's sake). Obama responded that words do matter. "I have a dream," he said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Yep, I've heard these phrases before.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Working Class Hero

By Noir Désir

This is a great version, in my opinion. A little less pathos and more anger and defiance. As a song, it's filled with ambivalence of course. "As soon as you're born they make you feel small . . . they hurt you at home and hit you school , they hate you if you're clever and despise the fool" gives way to: "You think you're so clever and classless and free, but you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see." It's interesting who has covered this song, at least as posted on YouTube. Other popular versions are by Marianne Faithful, Cyndi Lauper, and Green Day. It seems like it would be hard to be a poseur and perform this song.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Melancholy in a cowboy hat

Marshall Tucker Band, mid '70s.

(Happy Birthday, Da!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Break out the tights and capes

This commentary on Hillary Clinton's gambit for super delegates is a bit overstated, but I have to say her tactics have made me feel like the corruption lurking in the veins of the Clintons has become a little too explicit.

"What's most interesting to me about this whole affair, however, is that the Clintonistas would even suggest the use of super delegates to subvert the will of the Democratic Party electorate. It betrays a lack of confidence in their candidate's electoral viability, even with a calendar that will become far more favorable to her in March, while seemingly confirming every right-wing charge that the Clintons place winning above all else, including principle.

"That they would even suggest a tactic that would sunder the Democratic Party, kicking off a vicious and destructive civil war, tells me that like Bill in the 90s, when our majorities in Congress and all around the country were decimated and the party's base left to wither and die, Hillary will put her own interests above those of their party. And to me, there's no greater sin in Democratic politics than that.

"So the Clinton campaign has graduated from saying that certain states don't matter, to saying certain voters don't matter, to now saying that the Democratic Party electorate doesn't matter." --Kos

Friday robot blogging

Inspiration for today's image: Idiolector

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Happy Valentine's Day!

Hacked it

I finally did it, by hitting the right executable to start everything up. With Leopard, Apple's latest OS, my ibook 800 mhz was the only ibook G4 orphaned by the minimum specs, which just doesn't make much sense. When I tried to run the installer it would refuse. I know there have been problems with the same generation of iMacs, but the ibook has a different video card than them. Once I got past the built-in limitations in the installer, the ibook is running great with Leopard. There are absolutely no problems or errors on it, so my intuition was right. This was my first real Unix coding hack, but of course I got everything off of the interwebs like a script kiddy. Not really so fair. But it took installing developer tools and for a day or so the ibook was intert. So I'm proud. Now, what can I do to break and fix another computer? Perhaps I should pull out an old G3 and install some Linux on it.

It's still winter

A view from the yard.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hive mind

Kevin Kelly with some cautionary remarks on the embrace of pure "adhocracy" and hive/swarm technology:

"It is important to remember how dumb the bottom is in essence. In biological natural selection, the prime architect is death. Death powers evolutionary selection. Death is one binary bit. Either off or on. What's dumber than that? So the hive-mind of evolution is powered by one-bit intelligence. That's why it takes millions of years to do much.

"We are too much in a hurry to wait around for a pure hive mind. Our best technological systems are marked by the fact that we have introduced intelligent design into them. This is the top-down control we insert to speed and direct a system toward our goals. Every successful technological system, including Wikipedia, has design wired into it.

"What's new is only this: never before have we been able to make systems with as much "hive" in it as we have recently made with the web. Until this era, technology was primarily all control, all design. Now it can contain both design and no-design, or hive-ness. In fact, this Web 2.0 business is chiefly the first step in exploring all the ways in which we can combine design and the hive in innumerable permutations."



I have to say that I'm surprised that Obama is doing so well. Is it because after Super Tuesday people began to realize that he is a viable candidate? I don't know. But clearly, the Clinton polling data must be showing them falling behind, because she's pulling a Giuliani and focusing her attention on just two delegate-rich states, Texas and Ohio, which hold their primaries in early March. I could vote for either of them in the general election, but I'm glad Clinton hasn't turned out to be the "inevitable" candidate. The risk is a convention fight if neither of them have a decisive number of delegates. And McCain, of all people, making a comeback. Geez. At least he's more interesting to watch than (former) candidates like Romney, although I hope his Bush suck up these last few years will make him untouchable in the general election.


With all of my copious spare time (!) I've been trying to hack the latest version of Apple's OS X so that it will install on my ibook. My laptop falls just below the minimum specs for processor speed, but I figure it should be able to run 10.5 alright. There are some sketchy directions on various bulletin boards for modifying the instructions in one particular unix file, which I've done. It also involves unpackaging and repackaging the installation files using command line instructions in Terminal. I've been able to do all this. Modifying program files is kind of fun, with a kind of low-level terror involved. But I haven't had any success getting it to work. The modified installer hangs at the start page. I'll just have to give up.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's so cold

It's cold, cold. 13 degrees out right now, with wind chills as low as -20. It's been like this all day Sunday. Very windy and very cold. At this point in the winter no one, absolutely no one, wants to be outside. If it were December and snowing, we'd be out frolicking in our snowsuits and boots, but at this point all anyone can think about is getting past the cold. Of course, this means that for a weekend day we were holed up in the house. Freak out! in a multitude of ways. The basement became littered with styrofoam and cardboard. The little legos (the little ones meant for school age kids) were repeatedly pored over heads like water. Chairs were fallen off of, tables were banged into with limbs and noses, and heavy toys were sent airborne, spinning past little heads. Finally, it was birthday party time (at a local children's museum) this afternoon, and everyone had a relatively good time. Meanwhile, Daddy cleaned the house, mom cleared her head a little bit, and BB felt a little love from old friends. Now the laundry is done, sheets are clean, and the bathtub doesn't sport dirty paw prints anymore. It will be Monday morning soon. We can't wait until spring.


A very sweaty version by Sharon Jones (Dap Kings) and Charles Walker. YouTube videos are like looking through a pinhole, but for live songs like this it's worth it. This would have been amazing. Make sure you watch to the end.

YouTube may have a lot blurry video and sick audio, but I especially like it because you see European tours that are often better than their American versions. Although, I have no idea where this clip was taken.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Take you up to Glendale

Faux soul from Beck. No, really, falsetto screams while lying on the stage. My favorite line: "step into my Hyundai."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hurdy Gurdy Man

I've got a thing for oddball or interesting covers these days. Here is the Butthole Surfers covering The Beatles Donovan.

Friday robot blogging

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shopping with my boy

Yesterday was a Teacher day for the school district, so BB was home with me. I didn't quite know what we were going to do for the day, but it ended up being a father/son shopping day. We started at Target, where we bought a modest science kit (containing such things as baking soda, citric acid, corn starch, and dye tablets). Much fun was had for about an hour making fizzing, colorful eruptions. Then we hit a greasy diner, where BB had a cheeseburger and I had fish tacos. We sat by each other poring over his cut-away book on Rome. Then it was to the mall, where we found some new Adidas sneakers for him on clearance. We also went in search of some new briefs. Most of his underwear is 4T, so it was time to invest in something new. We ended up at Gymboree, where they have a continual loop of Bob the Builder and Caillou on a television - it's smart, actually; you're bound to buy more if your kids are occupied. He chose plain briefs over decorated ones. We've also had to throw out all his pirate-themed briefs. He's become anti-pirate for some reason after a violent nightmare about pirates. Maybe in his dream he was forced to walk the plank. We wandered around the mall some more. We visited the pet store, where the puppies and hamsters are cute. He got to hold some kind of horned lizard. It's a popular place for kids. The teenagers were starting to take over the mall as we left. Finally, we went grocery shopping for dinner. I hurried home to get dinner into the oven. I let him have a (health-food) chocolate pudding for snack. BB took it all in stride. New shoes, new underwear, chocolate for snack - what's next, he said?

The result of our experiments:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On belief (Zizek)

A little philosophy for Wednesday. Best funny line: Niels Bohr was heard to say, "People say [the superstitious object of some kind] works even if you don't believe."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Obama or Clinton?

I've gone back and forth over who I would vote for. I think that Clinton's gender advantage is cancelled out by Obama's racial status, meaning I wouldn't vote for either of them based on whether I want an African-American or a women in the White House. Another way to assess a vote would be to consider who would be best for beating McCain, who seems to be becoming the Republican's great hope for retaining the White House. I really haven't been able to answer this question. Neither Obama or Clinton are likely to run best with the crowd most likely to support McCain, white men. So it really seems like a toss up to me on this score.

I guess it comes down to who might get the most done, say, with a recalcitrant congress and a politically divided country. Rhetorically, I'll admit that I like Obama better. I think he's crafted a charismatic, uplifting message that tends to attract lots of crowds. A year ago I thought that he sounded a lot like Robert Kennedy (who I only know through tape), and many others have made the same connection. He also seems fairly intellectual, with a remarkably balanced sense of what it means to be interracial and American. Some liberal blogs I read complain that Obama's rhetoric seems vaporous, but politics is partly about rhetoric and I think his allows him to neutralize typical modes of political warfare. Besides, the actual details of their platforms are remarkably similar.

Honestly, I never really wanted Clinton to run in the first place; I simply don't like the idea of these two political dynasties and there's just too much talk of the "Clinton machine" and "Clinton loyalty." But she is pretty remarkable. Who would have thought a former President's wife would ever run for President. She's smart, politically savvy (perhaps too much, given her vote to support the war), and combative. She would no doubt give McCain a real race. She must have learned a lot of political lessons over time, especially after the debacle of her health care plan early in Bill's first term. She's the practical candidate, but I keep wondering how far her practicality can take her? She's right that it was Lyndon Johnson who really got things done, but is she an equal kind of operator?

For me, though, I think it really comes down to the war. Obama was not only principled about his initial votes on the war, he understood like so many of us what a folly it was. It's become even more disastrous than I thought possible. But it wasn't easy being against the war in 2002, and Obama didn't try to "triangulate" (the famous Clinton strategy) at the time. This to me is political courage. If I knew who could beat McCain, I'd vote for them in a second. For now, I'll trust that Obama can do it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


The past couple of weekends we've mostly been stuck in the house. BB enjoys it, for the most part. He's been so busy setting up larger and larger scenes throughout the house. But I've been going crazy every weekend. I work at home most of the time, and filling up the house with kids bouncing off the walls makes me want to hit the road. Finally, today, it was a little warmer and we ventured out.

We ended up at one of the state parks. We hiked for a couple of miles through a thick hardwood forest and limestone formations. Today was a transitional day weather wise. We were hit some by the last storm with snow and ice (mostly ice), but today it was melting under a clear, sunny day. Only the biggest creeks were flowing, but the ice on the trail was slushy and offered some traction. I carried LB on my back, and some icy downhill spots were kind of tricky. As I maneuvered down some of the slickest slopes, LB would get very quiet and start breathing hard; he was concentrating on my footsteps. BB completely dug it, however, if you can imagine seeing your six year old jump on to a big, ice-covered piece of limestone with his hands in his pockets.

In honor of our day out in squirrel hunting land, here's a ripping, classic rock clip. It's a cover of MIssissippi Queen by Gov't Mule, who I don't know much about, except they have roots in the Allman Bros. of the late eighties. It's southern rock by guys with long hair who like to smoke weed.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday robot blogging

The quirky series Flight of the Conchords on HBO used a robot theme in a series of their spoof videos to garner fans for their digi-folk music. The videos were supposed to make them seem hip and future-oriented - like Daft Punk, I suppose. Robots after all can seem like men and women of mystery and potential. We come from "the distant future – the year 2000" they sing, getting even the future wrong. They simply exude silly humanity while trying to be very earnest robots. Of course, they also look like every cheap special effect hatched up on some back lot since the dawn of cinema.