Thursday, August 31, 2006

Harbingers of recession

Is it just me, or is there more local affiliate advertising making it through to the viewer on cable? I think they're having trouble selling time and are going to the B list, just like in the last recession. Similarly, our local grocer Wild Oats seems to be putting out fewer samples, also a sign of tight marketing dollars. This bodes ill for the economy in 2007, but well for interest rates.

Natalie's front tooth

Natalie came in at 6:15 this morning all excited cuz she had lost one of her front teeth. We had known it was coming, as they had been wiggly for some time. Both of them. This may be an "all I want for Christmas" Christmas chez nous. She plans to give it to the tooth fairy tomorrow night, for some reason. That will give me more time to get my money together.

Blasts from the Past

Back in Chapel Hill, found myself tuning in to the old college radio stations. WXYC, WXDU. Hadn't realized how starved I was for good eclectic radio. On XDU as I drove to Bullock's to get pig, the DJ was an accordion freak, so I heard a bunch of folk music from places like Latvia, Bulgaria, Ecuador, what have you, with accordions and whatnot. Fabulous. The day before the guy was playing cool Mexican folk music on XYC before launching into sophomoric drivel about how hispanics get treated in the new South. Gotta take the good with the bad. But NJ college radio largely sucks. WFMU is good, but they're too dedicated to being cooler than thou and so quickly degenerate into being the on-air version of the sour, self-righteous grey-hairs who man the indie record stores these days.

On Saturday, went into a bar and saw my old girlfriend K, who informed me that she was back in Chapel Hill briefly after a few years out West, to put some money together to go to Idaho or Acadia or somewhere else. 35 years old. I resisted the desire to shake her by the shoulders and say "Wake the fuck up, your life is slipping by," but she had to go back to her scruffy date Michael.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

This title was entirely deceptive. Thanks God. Sounds nasty.

The book started off slow. Our narrator, one J. Maarten Troost, starts off sounding likes he's gonna be a straight up whiner. Graduate student can't tie shoes straight can't hold down good job, lots of credit card debt lives at home with mom yatta yatta. Girlfriend gets job on desolate atoll in the Pacific, known as Kiribati. They move there.

It's a shithole, literally. That is, a bunch of sand out in the Pacific doesn't have much room for septic systems, so people go to the edge of the reef and take dumps into the water. Also throw trash there. There are lots of nasty skinny dogs running around. All there is to eat is fish, rice, and random half-rotten Australian canned goods. There's no place to go. It's too hot. And so on and so on.

And yet, without ever having one of those big transcendent Ahas, Troost turns it around and begins to show a lot of love for the place. He's happy to leave when he does, but then....

Long and short of it: it's a good book, though there's no sex or cannibals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This Week in the News: Agassi meets Katrina

As some of you may have heard, Andre Agassi will be playing in his last tournament this year at the US Open in New York, one year after hurricane Katrina razed Louisianna's Gold Coast and exposed fault lines of race and class that we had all fought so hard to repress, even as we marvelled in Agassi's mercurial ability to reach deep inside himself and show us little pieces of ourselves that we did want to see. New Orleans has had a hard time fighting its way back from the monumental destruction brought on by wind, rain, and neglect, but perhaps it, like all of us, can draw some inspiration from Agassi's herculean drive to dig himself out from a shamefully low ranking. Maybe the former Big Easy can also transition from style to substance, from bad hair to no hair, from playboy to crunchmeister.

Next week, surely, we'll hear about Federer and 9/11.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from the wedding

So my mom got married again. Like most people's moms, she decided it would be appropriate, after exchanging vows, to launch into a high-toned, high-pitched choral solo version of the Lord's Prayer, while standing up there holding David's hands looking him in the eye. No joke. It was pretty moving, and David had clearly not been clued in to this upcoming feature.

The preacher had all the family members stand and announce that the family's were now merged, which is pretty heavy. Luckily, we know lots of them from high school, and they mostly pull for Carolina. As with most mergers, time will tell whether it will add or destroy shareholder value.

At the lake, as is traditional, there was pig and swimming.

On the flight back, coincided with a cousin (1st once removed) who had come down for the wedding and stayed with a 1st cousin on campus in Chapel Hill, and discussed whether she had been in my sister's wedding back in 1990. We weren't sure, but I was certain I had ushered at her parents's wedding circa 1978. That's when it starts to get heavy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Demo land

There's nothing quite like a WebEx software demo to get you worked up and raring to go. Today Greg told us all about his web-based Disaster Recovery app and all the exciting customizable features and reporting it offers. You could hardly restrain me, I must say.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wedding preparations

Got my shoes shined today.
Mary ironed some shorts for Graham, and modified her own dress a touch.
We have to get up a 6AM (could be traumatic for kids) to make Philly airport Friday so Natalie can be at junior bridesmaids' luncheon on time.

You guessed it, my mom's getting married. It will be a significant extravaganza, with multiple events, guests into three digits, and barbeque, which tells you it's for real.

After a cavalcade of suitors over the course of the post-Dad era, one has stuck, a fine one at that, and my mom will once again have a new name, and we will be notionally Brady Bunched up with people we know from high school, though we won't share bedrooms.

It will be a beautiful day, and I will give away the bride.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Joy of joys

Looked in the compost drum this evening at my fresh batch. Tons of squirming creepy crawlies doing what they do best. Fabulous.

The Breakfast Club

Each day they bring us the New York Times. When I'm lucky, or when I sneak downstairs and pull it all together before the kids get there, I get to read some. And each day the newspaper allays some of the anxiety of being in a career which just sort of snuck up on me and leaves me wondering how I ended up looking like this, even if I like my hair and my outfit on a given day.

Because each day the paper of record shows a bit of myself, like the John Hughes movies of yore. Today, new studies of people driven to seek fame to offset feelings of abandonment by a parent (I ID with the cause if not the effect), of middle-aged men taking Viagra to recover the libido of their youth but thereby piss off their wives, who are cool with the course of nature (I haven't thought about the drug but I can see the marital dynamic), and so on. It's as if the paper offers an extension of onesself, starting the day off with a thought or two before it all degenerates into the recitation of professional scripts.

So that's some fine paper. If only the slack motherfuckers had delivered it last Sunday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

More on the mower

  • Put it back in the Subaru
  • Took it to Lowe's
  • Guy looks at me, is like, "is all the gas out of it? The town of West Windsor says it's a fire hazard and won't let us have any gas in the building."
  • Nice guy, though. Good hire.
  • Put mower back in car and take home.
  • Tomorrow: siphon out gas. Try again.

More on my relationship to objects

I have written before about how I hate things in the physical world. Here are a few bullet points about how they return my affections.

  • Destroyed my old lawnmower going over a big root. Should not have been going over that root, but I had to get the grass behind it and hate the weedwacker passionately, though I bought it at a yard sale for 5 bucks. 7 with the extension cord.
  • Bought new lawnmower (same as old) at Lowe's, just in time for Georgian cookout.
  • Mowed before cookout. Grass was wet.
  • Went on vacation.
  • Came back, need to mow yard. Lawnmower will not start.
  • Took to neighbors who race go-karts. They promise to fix ("it will be fun!"). Mow with theirs.
  • They do not fix it. In fact, they take it apart no more than I had. Advise taking back to Lowe's.
  • I take lawnmower back to my yard.
  • Weatherman promises rain.
  • Put lawnmower in Subaru to take to Lowe's.
  • Drive to work. Minor fumes.
  • Go to take colleague to Audi dealer. By now fumes are major.
  • Get headache while driving.
  • Dump lawnmower back in yard.
  • Deliver colleague to dealer.
  • Return to work. Minor fumes still there.
  • Brain recovers somewhat.
  • Write blog

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Although it's marred by some lamentable Indie-film cliches (the older station wagon covering major swaths of purple mountain majesty on 2-lane roads encountering various combinations of redneckery and authenticity), the emotional core of Transamerica is solid. You care about the characters and their relationship to one another, and they grow. That's so much more than can be said for most movies. Even the secondary characters have some pathos.

Felicity Huffman is great, all of John Steward's "muffman" jokes aside.

And it's funny too.

All told, it's the best synthesis of chick flick/buddy road movie since Thelma and Louise, or Priscilla.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Paradise Now

This is worth watching. A buddy movie about two happy-go-lucky Palestinian guys who are committed suicide bombers who've vowed to go out with one another. When the movement calls and says they've got their chance, the classic hijinks ensue. Dark night of the soul. Last kiss from a martyr's daughter. Vacillation. Debates on the efficacy of terror. Testimony to the horror of a life lived entirely under occupation.

Some of it gets a little wooden, but all in all it's very well done. I normally don't get excited about watching movies about terrorism and martyrdom, for some reason. Paradise Now is balanced and well-thought out, and has feeling. And it's purty.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Beginning of an era

Graham hit Natalie in the face with a little football last night. At point blank range. He did not apologize. Would not. I made the tactical error of giving him an ultimatum: "Say you're sorry or you won't get any drink." He would not, could not, say I'm sorry.

So I put him in his crib, him kicking and screaming. And I went downstairs. And then I heard the telltale pitter pat of his feet. He had climbed out.

This was a first, bespelling our doom. From here on out, he's only staying in the crib when he wants to. Mary was, shall we say, underpleased. As was I.

Text production

I have produced great reams of corporate text today, be it in the oral (conference call with CIO out in LA talking BCP for his BPO call centers, recap to boss) or the written (notes on this meeting, entry in sales pipeline db). At lunch I discussed fine points of corporate-speak to some bedazzled recent hires, who had never imagined that the English language could be so kniptioned.

But wait.... just thought of something better to write about.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sharp security

NPR this morning reports that all the swiss army knives and nail clippers confiscated at airports get shipped to a warehouse in Harrisburg, PA and auctioned off in bulk. Total proceeds thus far for govt coffers? $300,000. I'm sure that's gross, not net.

How much better would it be to take the little plastic trays of sharp items and offer them to those deplaning just across the way? No shipping, storage, administration, or other costs. Get rid of the things. The laws of large numbers would average things out. It would be like the penny cup by the register.

OK. Giving out sharp things for free is not a typical govt service. But still, times have changed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Masala on Chambers St., Princeton NJ

In keeping with the theme of restaurant reviews, I'll just say that I suppose I should be happy that Masala makes a concerted effort to be the healthier choice in Indian lunch buffets. They serve brown rice. They take the skin off the chicken Tandoori. There is no lamb saag. Truth be told, I am not grateful. Even if it makes it easier to not have seconds and gorge onesself. The naan is OK, if itself a little thin.

That are other questionable touches about the place. The banquette where I sat just plain smelled. One of those musty restaurant neglect smells, like a small tub of industrial grease was back in the corner somewhere. Paper towels in the bathroom were not in their dispensor but, upon inspection, on the window ledge, as if they were making a break for freedom but didn't quite get there.

I've never had a particularly good meal either there or as take-out. One may hope that this precious restaurant space will free up for something tastier soon.

Cafe Moxie, Vineyard Haven

Was called to task below for failure to provide review of restaurant, so here we go. The restaurant referenced above is fine indeed. My bass dish was mighty good. Mary's duck gnocchi appetizer rocked. Scallops also appealed to all of us, and the deserts were tasty too.

The place was cute. The lock on the bathroom door was not idiot-proof, however, as I demonstrated. Thankfully, I was standing facing away from the door when the nice lady opened it, elsewise it could have proved embarassing for both of us.

Best of all, there were celebrities, or, rather, one of them. This dude walked in and I was, like, "hey, that dude's in pictures." And, despite Mary's protestation that I always think people are somebody, it was in fact Luke Wilson, brother of Owen, wacko in his own right, who stopped in for a repast. Everyone was suitably impressed, though as erstwhile New Yorkers Mary and I pretended to let it roll off of us.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Home again

Back from vacation, a full weekend day spent at home. The kids are atypically happy and excited about playing with their own toys. The house is moderately clean. After fighting it for an hour, Graham naps for the first time in weeks.

At dusk, races in the back yard. Even Mary. Back and forth, back and forth. At certain moments I have thought Mary was crazy in her attachment to and insistence upon the yard, but when we have have backyard races, I see her point.

Graham loves the racing. Sometimes, when he sets out running, he extends his left arm and makes a circular motion which is the exact opposite of the natural running motion. Don't know where that comes from.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Retour a l'etat du jardin

That's back in Jersey, is what it is. After a week in Massachusetts, NJ feels like the wild west.

Coming up on four centuries after the days of Miles Standish and his fellow Puritan stiffies, Massachusetts remains and unrelentingly moralizing place. One nature preserve we went to had a sign saying "no swimming, picnicking, beach chairs, beach sports, or anything of the sort" (italics added). The paper ("we have no ethyl on the Island", said the cash register guy, whatever that means) bag from the grocery store says "supporting your healthy lifestyle." How does the bag know I didn't purchase all junk food? On the walls of the same grocery store are pictures of happy local farmers, and messages about the virtues of locally grown produce.

Meanwhile, the streets are prowled by Volvos and Subarus (we had them too) driven by hawk-nosed women in batik dresses and birkenstocks. Liberal piety reigned supreme. I was surprised that restaurants were allowed to serve both fried food and ice cream.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


MA (Begin Magic Tree House books on tape for Natalie) -->
RI (McDonald's, where Graham spurns the dairy-free crispy chicken) -->
CT (end 4th and final book on tape, hop to Merritt from 95 for girls room Natalie can navigate alone) -->
NY (torrential downpours, flooding, and hellacious backup on West Side Highway) -->
NJ (air out house).

Monday, August 07, 2006

North Road to Menemsha

An up-island hippie farm. Sheep. Goats. Endangered ducks. Eggs. Pigs. Herbs. Wood-powered hot water. The beardedest lady you ever saw.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Vineyard viewing

Met Abe today at Seth's Pond in West Tisbury. 75-ish year old guy with a black granddaughter, Ava, 5. A good swimmer.

He kept asking if we were renters. "Yup." I said. Then he asked how much we were paying. I told him. That's too much, he tells me, "I've got cheaper houses." So he takes me to them and show them to me. On the ride there I find out that he lives in Chelsea and tought English at CUNY. When I asked about his specialization, it turns out that he ran a high school English dept and adjuncted at CUNY at night. Clue #1.

A 2BR for about a grand, a 3BR for about 1300. Modest. No style. With cigarettes and dog. On 3 acres, as he said, but of scrubby forest. The birds back in there sang prettily, it's true.

The moral: good salesmanship can get you far, but you need product, or you can't make a sale.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Scarlet fetter

In all the talk of today's fundamentalism, one forgets that the original Puritans settled in Massachusetts. But, in the nation's most liberal state, their hard-assed spirit is visible in many places. Take our rental house for example, when we asked if it had AC, the British owner said no, but that we could back our Hummer up to it and pump cold air in if we saw fit. But there's a ceiling fan in the living room, which I couldn't figure out how to turn on. I asked the "caretaker" about it, and she said, "Oh, that doesn't work. But there's another fan in there so you should be fine." We met the caretaker today, and she turned out to be the owner's daughter, and we discussed the current heat wave. She allowed that, last year, she decided she couldn't live without AC and spent her last $150 on a window unit. Which she proceeded to drop out of the window from two stories up.

More about Massachusetts high-handed didacticism later.