Wednesday, November 29th 2006

Part II: The Revenge
posted @ 8:51 pm in [ ]

Part II is wicked done! All the case studies (I’m actually calling them “pattern studies” because I’m interested in the patterns and not so much in doing really in-depth case studies of particular countries), their overall intro and conclusion: it’s all in the bag. Yee-haw! It’s been a frickin’ year and a half, with the vast majority of it over the last few months. Fortunately, the process isn’t linear either and has been picking up speed…

I would like to take a moment to talk about how much my committee chair rocks. He has specific, sensible, reasonable suggestions for improvement with the document; he has a good practical sense of everything that needs to happen and when; he has strategic ideas for getting me through the rest of the process; and he has encouraging and supportive things to say. He also gives me quick turnarounds with anything I send him. It’s all very novel and refreshing in the context of my larger, post-coursework experience. What a guy!

So I’ve spent the last week giving the pattern study chapters a first editing pass, implementing specific suggestions, and writing the Part II intro and conclusion. There were some nice surprises. I thought, for example, that Peru was kinda loose and rambling and redundant and repetitve and sucky, but no, it was okay. On the other hand, Gujarat was a little rougher than I remember. Eh. Somehow, though, although I was actually editing this stuff, it grew to a full 603 pages. Recall here that I can’t exceed 700, including all the fussy crap. Neh.

So now it’s on to Part III and the wacky math I’ve been working toward for lo, these many years.

Monday, November 27th 2006

posted @ 1:07 am in [ ]

Okay, so you know how I feel about James Bond. (You don’t? This should bring you up to speed. And maybe this, if you’re up for it.) You’ll be relieved to know that I saw the new Bond flick, and that I have opinions about it. You should also know that I will probably like any Bond flick that’s better than, say, License to Kill or Moonraker, which is probably like saying I like all ice cream that doesn’t taste like brake fluid or have pineapple on it.

First of all, I don’t know what all the hoo-ha about the new Bond being blond is about. Pierce Brosnan was too pretty and prancy to be a proper Bond, although he was coming along, and at least no longer resembled a show pony. Roger Moore, by the end, there, was more fossilized than your average trilobite. Nobody said boo about any of that. What’s the big deal about Daniel Craig being blond? He’s not that blond, and I thought he looked like a buff Steve McQueen. Plus, his face got cut up a lot, so he wasn’t in that same too-pretty range with his predecessor.

Overall, good flick: lots of explosions! Good cars, good fight scenes, good exotic locales, good suspenseful card playing, and since we finally have a Bond one might actually like to see naked, we get a taste of that too. Okay, it’s a torture scene and he’s tied to a chair, bleeding some and getting his unmentionables martinized, but even the villian notices he’s nicely put together (although it might have been funnier if he prefaced it with, “I’m not gay, but…”). Also, I think it’s official: Judi Densch is the best M ever!, and the new Felix Leiter may very well be my favorite thus far.

I think there were several things, though, that were a bit lacking. There was no Moneypenny, which, eh, I didn’t really miss. Bond was pretty monogamous and even got sappy there for a bit, which was weird, but tolerable, given that this situation was supposed to explain why he became 00-Slamhound. There was no Q (or John Cleese’s delightfully cranky R), though, and I did miss that. A lot. I mean, the introduction of the gadgets is a huge deal! I’m sorry to report that this absence led to a much more glaring omission: the dearth of good gadgets. I was horrified: No Q, and then Bond opens the glovebox of his groovy MI6-mobile, and you know what’s in there? A gun (duh), and, I kid you not, a portable defibrillator. In a day and age when most of us have defibrillators down the hall in our places of business, how is that anywhere near exciting enough for Bond?! What’s next? Is he going to have a Mr. Coffee in there in case he needs an emergency cup o’ joe? Maybe he’s a little sleepy one morning and needs to shake it off? Heyyy, maybe it comes with a cigarette lighter plug for a little joe on the go! Or perhaps he flings some piping hot coffee on the villain in the absence of something useful like rockets, or bullets, or even some nasty-looking push pins. Take THAT! C’mon, people. Where are the frickin’ gadgets?! Not cool! Now, Bond does wax a bad guy with a nail gun to the eyeball, and that’s not without its charm, but opportunistic weaponry is not the same as gadgetry. A good Bond flick should have both. Instead, a good hunk of the plot was driven by cell phones. Cell phones! Feh!

The only other thing that bothered me was, I think, something that only bothers me. It didn’t bother any of my companions, and by their responses to my continuing to harp on it, I’m apparently insane for being annoyed about this, but here it is: Bond ran a lot. He chased cars like a crazed Weimeraner. It was very Forrest Gump (”…aftah that, everywheah Ah went, Ah was running!”). Bond is supposed to be smooth, you know? The only track and field event he should be participating in is the 100-meter martini guzzle, or perhaps Extreme Baccarat (with the half-pipe). He should swipe a Segway and go after the bad guy on that before actually running after him like a doofus. It was the first time in a Bond movie where I swear I almost heard banjo music.

So no Q, no cool gadgets, and Bond runs like a broken toilet. Beyond that, though, great! I would see it again on the big screen, maybe even tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 21st 2006

Tombstone’s epitaph
posted @ 7:11 pm in [ ]

Tombstone has finally made it to boot hill. I submitted it this afternoon. Here are the stats:

Tombstone: 61 pages, 16,302 words Diss: 572 pages, 168,266 words

I reckon I’m going to have to do some reformatting here pretty soon to help smoosh down that page count. I can’t go over 700 pages, including front matter and other crap.

Anyway, I did find out some interesting stuff about Tombstone, the historical case among my pattern studies. First, the Earps were not the law-and-order rubes history makes them out to be. They were political sharpies, and pretty much everything they did, up until Wyatt just went around picking off every cowboy he could find, was politically motivated, and shrewdly thought out. I also learned that Tombstone stopped being a violent society around the turn of the 20th century for a few reasons: the mine went bust and a lot of the “undesirable element” leaked off to the next boom town, folks who stayed behind were probably more invested in law and order and safety of their persons and possessions, Arizona became a state in 1912 and government structures solidified, Wyatt Earp stopped shooting people and went to Colorado… but most of all, Tombstone got a railroad station. They pulled it together as a community to get that railroad station, and it was a lifeline to the outside world. A generation or two later, it would facilitate Tombstone’s historical industry sector, but until then, it also kept the joint from becoming a ghost town.

Next, polishing off Part II: Intro, conclusion, first editing pass at the pattern studies, beefing up South Africa a bit so it makes my Committee Chair happy (we want that). Then, on to the wacky math!

Monday, November 20th 2006

Joanne Pratt Day
posted @ 9:58 pm in [ ]

It’s that time of year once again, and I spent all day working my brains out. Joanne would not be pleased about that. She had a real gift for luring me away from work and toward hours-absconding fun and silliness. If she were here, she would have called me around 3:00 today and told me to stop working and come have a drink. It would seem like the kind of thing I could do for a few hours and then get back to work, but invariably I’d wake up three days later, married, tattooed and in the army, in a motel outside Flagstaff.

Joanne would have been 36 tomorrow, had she not died of cancer a little over four years ago. I am no less pissed off about that than I was when heard the news. If she were here, Joanne would tell me to let go and stop being mad about it, that I couldn’t fix it, and it was a waste of energy to keep being pissed off. Then she’d take another languid drag on her cigarette, and in the same smoky breath validate my feelings and tease me for being, you know, me. She had the resting pulse of a marathon runner, ate like a 400-pound Frenchman, drank like Kitty Dukakis (although far more openly and far less pathetically), and generally refused to be hurt by life. She was a true companion, a terrific poet and one of the best friends I ever had.

Oddly enough, I had a dream the other night where Joanne made an appearance. She could always see in my dreams — and her own, as well, I found out — although she was already blind before her first birthday. In the dream, she was listening thoughtfully to me rant about something I was upset about, laughing at the funny parts and helping to arbitrate the points of conflict. It bothers me that she doesn’t do that anymore. It bothers me that she’ll never meet my kids, if I get around to having them, or any of my students. She braved parenthood long before I did, and was great at it. It really bothers me that her little boy has to grow up without her.

Long about now, Joanne would try to get me to knock off the sad crap. It would annoy her that, after all the good years we had together, I would be dwelling on the one sad part. She’d probably sigh, and swear through an upturned grin, and go get me another drink, or bowl of ice cream, or big Swede, and demand that I lighten the eff up already. So I will. One of Joanne’s most mystifying talents (to me, anyway) was that she could always pour the perfect drink. I don’t know if she did it by sound or what, but every drink was consistently and perfectly mixed, regardless of how much of her own handiwork she had sampled. In honor of that, I raise a glass to Joanne tonight. Join me, already, will ya?

Saturday, November 18th 2006

Sad farewells
posted @ 12:40 am in [ ]

Did you know that the plastic pink flamingo factory stopped production a couple of weeks ago? It’s true. And wicked, wicked sad. The plastic pink flamingo was one of Leominster, Massachusetts’ big claims to fame (the other being Johnny Appleseed’s place of origin — assuming Johnny Appleseed was a real guy). Apparently, kitsch wears out. Who knew? Plus, now Leominster is left with having the one claim to fame of possibly having originated a semi-fictional applegerm-flingin’ dude. Maaaan!

The other thing I heard recently is that the fine, fine, superfine U.S. of A. is not going to mint pennies anymore. What the hell is going to happen to the concept of odd-even pricing without pennies for the luvva Mike? It’s the whole basis of the American economy that things are $99.99 and not $100! Are things being $99.95 going to be the same?! I think not! It’s frickin’ un-American, I tell you!

Both things are going away for the same reason: it now costs more to make plastic pink flamingoes in a 50-year-old factory in Leominster, Massachusetts than is profitable, and it now costs more than a penny to make a penny. How flippin’ sad is that? Sure, we’ve all got piles and piles of pennies crammed into our dwellings’ every orifice, under every couch, stuck to every table, melted onto the filters of our dryers and making the spin cycles of our washers clang like large metallic maracas, but won’t we miss those little copper buggers? Plus, “take a nickel, leave a nickel” trays just won’t be the same. Plus, our coins will get all uniform in color. And sure, we haven’t felt the need to buy a plastic pink flamingo in at least a decade and a half, but jeez, someone must need them to brighten up an otherwise sad, listing, all-too-serious lawn.

It’s the end of an era. Sigh

Friday, November 17th 2006

Marital advice
posted @ 1:01 pm in [ ]

I had an anniversary a few weeks ago, and since then, I have had a number of requests for marital advice. While I’m flattered that some people feel that my being married for 11 years makes me somehow an authority on being married, I’m not sure I have much useful advice. If I did, though, these would be the sweet, powdery pellets of wisdom from my marital Pez dispenser, in no particular order:

Choose your battles. Some stuff is not worth fighting about. Some stuff is. Decide which the thing you feel like fighting about is, and deal with it accordingly.

Don’t marry a jerk. It seems obvious, but look around. I’m sure you have at least a few friends who are married to jerks. How does that happen? I suspect it’s because those people either forget Dave Barry’s Rule of Personal Character (someone who is nice to you, but not to the waiter, is not a nice person) and therefore don’t realize they’re marrying jerks until it’s too late; the jerks in question became jerks after marriage (very rare); or people married the jerks in question thinking they could change them. That never works.

Have a long engagement if you have the option. Man, do you find out a LOT about what you’re in for! With the stress of planning a long-range wedding, you get a terrific preview of the dynamics that will characterize your lives together. You see how well you both handle general pressure, pressure from your respective families, what those families get bent out of shape about and how they behave when they do, what everybody thinks about religion, kids, politics, control… It’s a good transitional adjustment period, and it’s also a very useful microcosm of the dynamics of the marriage to come. You’ll get a really good sense of what problems might come up and whether or not you can weather them for the rest of your lives. It’s like an audition for the Swiss Family Stresspuppy. This is also a great time to perfect your battle-choosing techniques that will serve you well forever.

Promising to be in love forever is bizarre. Seriously, how is it not like promising to be angry forever, or sad forever? The real trick is being able to fall in love with the same person again and again. It’s good to pick someone you can do that with.

Don’t marry someone who couldn’t be your best friend. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, shouldn’t he or she be someone you would actually like to hang out with? This is a newish expectation, only a couple of generations old, but I think it’s a keeper. When I look at what folks of my grandmother’s generation have to say about their spouses, it seems to me that men and women were rarely friends, didn’t know each other so well, and that there were whole chunks of spouses’ psyches that the other person didn’t even know about. Still, I think it’s an important innovation. You deserve to spend your life with someone who really gets you.

Make up your own traditions. I think it’s really good to have things you do together for certain events on a regular basis. As your life together changes, you have these consistent markers throughout. I think it’s a nice thing, and makes you feel closer in some ways. I dunno, it’s hard to explain. Try it and see what you think.

Sex and laughter make perfectly good bases for a happy marriage. Some people have really lofty ideas about what relationships should have as their bases: common goals, common experiences, similar taste in furniture, values, etc. I think, though, that if your attitudes toward sex and toward what is funny and why are pretty much the same, or at least complementary, you’ve got something pretty good — that other stuff sorts itself out. In some ways, I think that other stuff is an artificial way of achieving the things that happen organically when your relationship is based on great sex and laughter. Furthermore, that stuff we’re always hearing about how sex stops when you’ve been married for a while is pretty much crap, and it’s simple to avoid: don’t marry someone who doesn’t like sex, unless you don’t like it either.

Threats and ultimata are crappy ways to deal with conflict. Don’t threaten anything you’re not really prepared to do, because doing what you say you’re going to do should be a major plank of all your relationships.

People are not cafeterias. You don’t get to pick and choose what you want your partner to be like. He is what he is, and you’ll both be happier if you go on the assumption that you can’t possibly fix or alter him in any way. Decide whether that’s a dealbreaker or not and get on with your lives.

Pick your wedding date as an anniversary date. You’ll only get one wedding in this marriage, but with any luck, you’ll have lots and lots of anniversaries. What’s your favorite time of year, and what kinds of things do you want to do every year to celebrate? Better to pick a bunch of great anniversaries than one okay date.

Monday, November 13th 2006

The difference: top 10
posted @ 10:47 am in [ ]

Has anyone seen these commercials? I think they’re for lotion. The part that gets my attention is where they say, “The difference between looking into his eyes and falling into his arms is…” I haven’t managed to notice what they claim that difference is, because I’m too busy thinking about what it might be. Please feel free to join in.

“The difference between looking into his eyes and falling into his arms is…”

  1. one poorly-placed banana peel.
  2. about a quart of vodka.
  3. at least a carat.
  4. one is looking. The other is falling.
  5. a breath mint apart.
  6. unfortunately for him, contingent upon what kind of car he drives.
  7. a moot point, because he smells like the monkey house.
  8. harder to zero in on with that glass eye.
  9. whether his I.Q. is more like a college or a pro basketball score.
  10. a tough choice, given the peg leg and the eye patch, arrrrrgh!

Thursday, November 9th 2006

It’s a beautiful day in America!
posted @ 9:57 am in [ ]

Okay, yesterday was even MORE beautiful, even though I was totally sleep deprived. It was better than all the fantasies I had had about November 8th. We pushed the corrupt regime into a minority in the House; in the Senate, too; that insufferable, hateful wankmonkey George Allen will have to go away and not run for president (whew — that was close!); the jokes about gay prostitutes and meth amphetamine in the world of that brand of offensive Christianity that threatens to throttle us all have not yet abated (anybody see Jon Stewart’s GloryholeCam on The Daily Show election night?); Shrub finally figured out that we don’t actually like what he’s doing and he’s actually going to get stuck doing what the majority of America wants; AND Rummy got fired. If somebody had asked me what the perfect day after election day would be like, I don’t think I even would have expected that last one, and I still would have thought I was reaching. I would have asked for ice cream instead. But this is even better!

I really, really love it when My Fellow Americans choose to overthrow a corrupt government in a nice way that doesn’t get any of us killed (although that one dude in Pennsylvania got arrested). We turned out in droves for mass jerk ejections on a national scale. Sure, not every single jerk got ejected (and, no doubt, some new jerks were elected — we’ll deal with them later), but could the popular message of outrage and disgust be any clearer? I actually got a little bit misty-eyed when I looked at the maps of races being resolved and not a single district or state picked up a new Republican seat. Not one, out of 435 reps and 30 some-odd senate offices. That’s just stunning to me — I have never seen anything like it. This “thumpin’” was no statistical anomaly. It was incredibly gratifying to be part of a larger voice saying, “Knock it OFF already!” It makes me feel all patriotic & stuff.

Do you know what I love most, though? Yeah, poetic justice. Some of the worst offenders of the American public, the ones who acted like it was people’s own fault if they were poor, and left most of us behind so they could line their own and their buddies’ pockets, are out of work. How do you like what you did to entitlements NOW? I would even buy a Big Mac just to watch Rummy flippin’ it.

It’s a beautiful day in America.

Wednesday, November 8th 2006

Wee election hours
posted @ 1:20 am in [ ]

It’s after 1:00 in the morning in Colorado (3:00 on the east coast), and I’m up listening to NPR. I can’t get network news coverage, so it’s just radio for me. I’m waiting to hear about Virginia and Montana, and I’m dumbstruck by the incredible force with which jerkwads are being unseated in this country.

George Allen was a guest in the distance learning class, and he was an unmitigated ass. He engaged in what I would consider to be hate speech against homosexuals, and was generally fearful and ignorant. I am SO hoping Webb beats him, and secretly, I’d like Webb to also hold him down and make him eat a handful of dirt. The wormier the better.

The best part about tonight, though, is that it’s making me feel better about America. I’ve been worried lately about the dark times we’ve been having. I’m also kind of disappointed about a few of the election outcomes: I really wanted Ken Gordon to win Secretary of State in Colorado, and I really wanted Referendum I (domestic partnership) to pass. I even sent the organization sponsoring it money. Better yet, I sent money on the occasion of a delightful lesbian wedding (”delightful” referring both to the lesbians and the wedding) I attended over the summer, because the invitation asked that we all make charitable contributions in lieu of gifts. Naturally, I gave money to an organization working toward making marriage between same-sex couples legal in my state of residence. It seemed like the right thing to do.

I am so impressed, though, with the way Americans have risen to the occasion tonight. As a group, we’ve been disgusted with our leadership, and tonight we came together in droves to voice our displeasure and choose, as a nation, to do something else. Good on ya, America, and thanks.

Tuesday, November 7th 2006

posted @ 8:34 am in [ ]

Go vote today, okay? I don’t care if you think I’m full of crap 99% of the time and you just read my blog for the occasional 1%, so your vote will pretty much negate mine. Vote! Do it nooooowwww!

I woke up this morning to someone talking on the TV in the other room about how America is heading in the right direction and blah, blah, blah. We all know that’s pretty much crap, so I was curious to see who was saying it. It turned out to be Dick Cheney. I guess if you say, “F*ck You” on the floor of the Senate and shoot your pals in the face, it does seem like America is headed in the right direction. For the rest of us, though, who confine our swearing at the Senate to our blogs and letters, and who have yet to lodge a pellet in any companion, it looks pretty bleak and we crave a political course correction.

It’s an exciting day! Go breathe it in! To help get us all in the spirit, my friend Michael sent out some delightful political satire this morning. Enjoy!

Here is White’s main site.

NEW TV AD: Vote GOP! Or Hysterical Liberal Feminist Nancy Pelosi Will CASTRATE America!

PUSH POLLING IN ACTION: See Karl Rove’s Informative Surveys for 2006 Senate Battleground Races

HOCKING LUGIES IN SOLDIERS’ FACES: Decoding John Kerry’s America-Hating Liberal Doublespeak

Mrs. Bush’s Birthday: Read the President’s Heartfelt Birthday Poem to America’s Greatest-Ever First Lady

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