Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Transgressions of the Babe

I heard some smarmy dude on NPR last night comparing Barry Bonds use of steroids (not illegal at time) to Babe Ruth's use of alcohol (illegal during Prohibition). He maintained that Babe Ruth was not stigmatized for breaking the law, and what was really going on was racism, just like when Hank Aaron took Ruth's record back in the 70s.

Which is a crock. I could give a rats ass about Babe Ruth, that pickle-eating jerk. And drinking liquor was breaking the law, but it wasn't cheating, and it didn't make him better or do him any good. He died at 53 of throat cancer from another vice, cigar-smoking.

Bonds, on the other hand, was cheating, using performance-enhancing substances to get better at his profession. Mark McGwire, a white boy, has gotten no free ride himself. The real problem with Bonds is not that he took drugs, but that he's a droid. He looks like a cartoon character.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Flavors of Anxiety

The first hot weekend of the year, we pulled off a trifecta, three straight days at the fountain by the Woodrow Wilson School. Water. Shade. Social life. Free. A good thing.

And Graham decided to go in the deepest part, maybe 18 inches, which is OK deep for him. And he wasn't 100% used to the water pushing his little legs around, and at some point in time I could see he was a little unstable. But he wandered out into the middle of the pool, and I stayed by the side talking to Ivy and Julie, watching him. Sure enought, he gets unstable and starts falling down, face in the water. So I go bounding out and get him, crying and scared.

And here's the thing. I knew he might fall over. I watched him. And when he did, though it was potentially life-threatening if I hadn't been paying attention, I stayed calm and went over and got him. I remember the same calm coming over me when Natalie was 2 and slipped in the pool and got her head wet. I just grabbed her and took care of her.

But the thought of not adding an attachment on an email to a new or prospectice client, or a typo, that fills me with dread and makes my skin crawl.

What's up with that? Why do relative non-issues get me all worked up, when I handle what should be stressful situations easily?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

Big day. Parade. Daniel and Caroline. Playground. The fountain at Woody Woo. Lemonade. Go-carts and a red 911 with Brandon.



Friday, May 26, 2006


The opening shot of the Nicolas Cage vehicle Lord of War, which tracks the lifecycle of a bullet from factory to battelfield from the point of view of the bullet, is echoed in the opening of Shopgirl, which pans close range over myriad cosmetic displays before panning out to show a number of plasticky LA women. Clearly, there's a heavy dumanization groove going on. And then there's Claire Danes, who's "real," from Vermont.

And clearly we're back in the realm of Jane Austen and Eugene Onegin, the authentic woman set off against the artificial. And she in turn has two suitors, the rich guy with manners but no heart, and the goofball with heart. And Steve Martin who wrote the novel, spells out the rebus for us at the end, that our heroine chooses the doofus because he's for real.

With a certain slimming of the heavy historiosophical trappings of the Russian Novel of the 1840s-1850s, this is right out of my dissertation. The high tone of the film is no surprise for a guy who was, after all, a philosophy major back in the day.

It's fairly wooden, but in the end, it's surprising that Steve Martin got this movie made. The camera, and the plot, move so slowly. The characters aren't quite real, but they are sincere. There is a certain magic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Continental from San Antonio to Newark

Up at 4:30 for a 6:40 flight. Joy of joys.

On board, happy to see that gender-coding in the bathroom made sense. On the diaper-changing table, a picture of a woman changing a diaper. However, the "don't throw trash in the toilet" picture was of a guy.

The girl sitting behind me, all 20 years of her, wore a maroon spaghetti string tank top with gold (as in shiny) trim. In her notebook, I saw that she was writing some sort of hortatory text, perhaps a poem: "Don't give up, you're only as big as your dreams...." It's good to see our young people wax literary.

Despite my fuzziness, I struggled through The Economist Survey of International Banking. I now understand Basel II. Sort of. Feel richer.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Outside San Antonio

Yesterday evening I headed away from I-10 from the back of our Hampton Inn in the 95 degree heat of dusk. Saw a mid-eighties Black Firebird, pretty well preserved, like the Knight Rider car. A boarded up ranch house next to police station across from cosmetic surgery facility, along a trash-strewn road. Chocolate milk bottle. Who drinks chocolate milk in this heat?

Gated communities, an oddity back east. The first one I saw was nice, made sense in the context. The next one out was not. I walked off the road along a power line behind cheap gated community. All the houses' shades were drawn. There were fences between the $200-250k houses, and the backyards were pathetically. All the dogs were aggressive. What are these people afraid of? The Chinese Baptist Church out back?

Still, it's pretty intense and beautiful trees, with huisache and persimmon trees. Or something like that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My day job

Recall, if you will, the Riddle of the Sphinx: "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?"

And the answer: man (crawl, walk, cane).

According to this logic, I'm in the middle of the day now.

And so my job must be my day job, which is why after six years it still feels like a day job, complete with substantial day dreaming. And the question would be, when will the day end, and should I be excited about that, or should I view it with foreboding, as another step towards the grave. Or, to put it another way, will I ever be able to extricate myself into something where I won't be so disengaged.

I remember how Kafka and Max Brod struggled so to find a job where they could work in the morning and then snap up their bowlers and go home and write in the afternoon. Did OK by Kafka, least till he died so young of TB.

Monday, May 22, 2006


The soda machine at the office out here in San Antonio costs 60c for a 12oz-er. Not bad. Today as change I got back an Arkansas quarter, which I believe is one of the ones that Natalie and I did not find when we went through all the quarters in the house a couple of weekends ago. I put in in a napkin in the front pocket of my knapsack.

Somebody remind me about that when I get back to New Jersey. I gotta give it to Natalie.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The pronunciation of the Milne's eternally gloomy pinnee of the tail would appear to be something of bellwether here at 29 Linden.

Natalie said "Ore" in her formative days.
Graham his "Ee-ore," in two distinct movements.

I realize that only family members might care about this kind of thing, and then to some limited extent. But this blog is my archive, too. If only blogger/google would get off its butt and let me download the whole thing to Excel or .csv or suchlike, then I'd really be in good shape. So those of you who don't like this kid stuff can go read Wonkette.

Snow White

Haven't been writing about the kids much lately. Now I'm sitting between them with Snow White on. The yodelling song is on, and Graham is bouncing off walls.

Apparently, when I came in the door, Graham said: "Daddy's home. I like him. He's a nice guy." Damn, it's good to hear that somebody thinks that.

It's pretty cool that the kids are into the classics like this. Of course, we don't let them watch much else, so go figure.

Now they're eating pear. Smacking and slurping.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Today is not Thursday

Turns out, it's Wednesday.

But I went through the day thinking it was Thursday. In the morning I talked to Bob and Simon about a meeting we've got planned for Friday. I referred to it as "tomorrow." In the afternoon I drank the Coke that I allow myself on Thursdays. It was good.

Then Webb tells me that we've got 2 freakin JADD sessions over at the dusty client. I have to actually work tomorrow.

Gradually, I've adjusted to the new reality of Wednesday. At least I've aged more slowly than I thought I had.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hustle and Flow

From its description, I didn't think I was going to like this movie. My pimping days have long since past, and I really don't need a lot of reminders about how hos be actin up.

But this turns out to be the ghetto Breakfast Club, a feel-good movie in which we all see a little bit of ourselves. We all understand how Djay yearns to fulfill his dream of being a rapper, and how that skinny white bitch needed to be paying for that mike "in kind", as it were. As the director reminded us during the special features interview, this was a movie about "women getting behind their men," which means giving it up if necessary, to be sure.

But seriously, it's a damned fine movie. I cried. The production values were spot on. And djay had the killer. It was surprising to find out the director was some white dude.

Piracy my foot

The Times today had an article about some French kid gettin all high and mighty about file-sharing: the record companies make too much money, says he, we get robbed. We'll get the artists paid by having some pricing system that'll reward the most popular.

What he neglects is that pop music and stardom are in fact all about getting robbed. People delight to throw their money away on people with big hair, elevator boots, leopard skin and turgid prostheses. Even the Fugazis and Sleater-Kinneys -- the white t-shirt crowd -- of the world need big labels to define themselves against.

If there's rational, transparent pricing, who will pay for the marketing and the excess that sets attraction and repulsion in motion. Could their be a David Lee Roth or a Britney Spears in such a world? We may yet see.

Friday, May 12, 2006

"When you were younger"

Downtown to meet Reardon for lunch today, walking around the old West Village nabe checking things out. Happy to see that Patisserie Claude was still there, and, in it, Claude. After making my purchases, I engaged the fair Frenchman in conversation. "Ahh yes," he said, his voice smooth with french butter, "I remember you, you used to come in here when you were younger." Hmmmmm. Never heard exactly that phrase tossed my way, but indeed it was true, I was 28 when I first came in there, early in our relationship when I'd get two pastries before heading out to the dog run because, in my mind, croissants were'nt really food, they were more like condiments in bread form. Just like bacon was a condiment in meat form.

This, sadly, or felicitously, depending on your point of view, was at the beginning of my education at the hands of Professor Berridge. It is not an interesting story.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Deep in the woods

Today in other offices of the firm discussed yesterday. Wood Hall. Just off of cafeteria. Again, as if in a time warp or even a parallel universe. Styles, hair and otherwise, strikingly retrograde. Geeks in the woods, discussing assessment. In 4 hours of powerpoint and worse, scarcely a sound was uttered about cost. And yet, nobody'd living large, the money's just pouring out. As a consultant, you'd have to love it, were it not so spooky. As a taxpayer, you feel otherwise.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Into the Netherworld

Seemed like a good idea for a change of pace, head out and do a little work for another client. But this was downright creepy, this E-T-S, world famous administrator of standardized tests.

At the door, serious security, lest their fabled IP, their test questions, be compromised: "All hats and scarves must be removed."

Up on the floor, a zombie-like condition obtained. Drowsy programmers performed slow half turns of their heads, before reverting to their screens. Worn carpet and cubes of early 90s vintage. Coming round a bend, I half-expected to trip over a basset hound scratching fleas off himself with his hind legs. But I saw him beforehand, and didn't trip.

In the project manager's office, we met to prepare for the next day's meeting. Coders appeared at the door asking for sign-off on bug fixes so they could be released to production.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

F*ck&ng Word

40 minutes of grinding away, trying to hit a deadline, reduced to nothing by the demons of Redmond. Actually, not just them. Them in tandem with the pond scum of IBM's Notes division, as Notes for some reason refused to open Word docs like it normally does, and then they popped open and froze Word just as I was spell-checking. For some reason the autosave failed. And it looks like autosave is set up right.

Luckily what I was working on wasn't really all that important, but still. Vexing. On top of a bad night of sleep and a horrendous knot in my back. Delight.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A grey day indeed

After a springie weekend, the second in a row, a grim, cool, grey day. Which is fine, had it only not been corroborated by depressing meetings and news of depressing meetings I wasn't invited to. At least I haven't gotten any big bills I wasn't expecting. Yet.

Took Graham to see the emu farm on Aunt Molly Road. He wasn't entirely sure about them. I can't imagine why.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Trouble writing

Having trouble thinking of topics to write about after a friend up in Boston was just telling me about a couple getting caught having sex in the storage room at work. They're both married, to other people, got to work on a project together and bingo, bunny time!

Who actually does that shit? I thought that was what the USA Network was for, to work that kind of thing out.

In other news, will venture onto the basketball court today for the first time in years.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another modest proposal

Cemex revolutionized the concrete business by sending out trucks along the ring road around Mexico City each day and having dispatchers rout them to construction sites when site managers called. They found that, without planning for specific jobs, they could deliver concrete to sites in an average of 45 minutes.

Here's my plan: do the same thing with consultants, or lawyers. Have them head out to airports and along major highways in the morning, cellphones and powerpoint at the ready. Dispatchers can send them out as needed to work sites.

It'll save so much time on sales and marketing and whatnot.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Power hungry

"Next time you have a change of address affix the sticker on the rear of your license so we can see the change, alright."
"You need to turn off your phone."

Ahh, empowering the powerless, in this case at New Jersey DMV, where low-paid state drones got to massage their egos by getting stern with guys like me. And why not? I say. Better that than having them beat their spouses, you gotta figure. Give em a common enemy to light into over TV dinners, the guys in the Volvos and BMWs. At least their pensions plans are rock solid. Not.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One for the road

As Jim and I were standing on the sidewalk talking and watching his son Zeke make frowny faces, our neighbors' minivan pulled out of driveway, with the generously-proportioned matron -- whom we shall call Salma -- in the passenger seat. I could not help but notice that she was eating corn on the cob, which is not on most people's lists of car food. Mmmmm.