Saturday, March 31, 2012

De li non aliud

It's astonishing how different my attitude is towards blogging, into which I pour what I actually think about just about anything, and which I do freely, and professional writing, where I comment on a much narrower range of matters and restrain myself to a pretty much technocratic point of view, which totally gives me the willies and  makes me feel like my skin is on fire.  Part of it is the fear of being called out for making mistakes in a professional context, which I feel like I'm at risk of doing fairly frequently, since I'm writing about areas in which I'm often something of a novice compared to people who might read my work. Part of it is simply the fact that they pay money for it, which gives me higher degree of accountability.  You would think I would feel more exposed and at risk in the text into which I have invest more of myself, but in fact I am more exposed where there is more that is not me. And, I guess that kind of makes sense. I'm happier to be myself that to be something other than myself.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lot size, wildness, and noise

Just read Wade Graham's "Jesus is My Gardener", a Kindle Single.  Good stuff. One of the things he notes in there is that, in LA, wherever you are, you can always here some sort of landscaping equipment.  I often noted the same living in NJ, probably even blogged about it years ago. It is one of the prices we pay for imposing order on nature.

When we moved to NC a few years ago, I wrote how Mary was put off by the wildness of the landscape, and even by the size of the lots, accustomed as she was to the greater density and higher degree of maintenance that one sees in the Northeast. You can see what she's talking about.

But, there is a benefit. Bigger lot sizes, quicker growing rates, and a lower desire (or ability or commitment) to tame nature (the embodiment of contingency or, in Nietschean terms, the Dionysian) means that working at home during the day can be less of an exercise in noise suppression.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The boys across the street play a lot of hoops in the driveway.  It's good to see, because so often kids aren't outside working on their game and just goofing off.

Around 6:30, as the light was getting soft, I was sitting at my desk banging through an edit of a draft when the elder boy from across the street ran out from his garage, jumped up to touch the rim, then kept running out through the driveway (I was trying to figure out what he was up to), balanced on the railroad tie the edges the driveway, and finally came out to the street to wheel the garbage can back in.  It was a perfect little childhood moment.

Just then, an 70ish guy in a tank top and shorts came past him, running down the hill making his way round the circuit of the lake, like everybody does.

And there it was, childhood, old age, and me up here chained to my desk, raking a few ducats. Three major life phases at dusk.  All we needed was an adolescent with a boom box and we would have had it all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back to the sandwich line

I wrote earlier about this sandwich maker. Over time I've come to believe that he probably does have some sort of "different ability", in the most PC parlance, and have developed much greater patience with him. I am, in fact, happy to see a guy like that be able to hold down steady employment. Lord knows I'm a fucking mess in my own way.

My kids like to go to the public library almost every Sunday, and it's located at the mall now while its permanent home undergoes a renovation. I had seen the sandwich guy waiting for the public bus near the mall, and now I have started to see him there at the library on most Sundays, usually attired in business casual Sunday best. My guess is that he doesn't have a family, maybe even doesn't have an internet connection, who knows?  The library seems to be part of his Sunday routine. We recognize each other and say hello.

I must say I like it, it makes me feel kind of warm inside to live in a place that provides a good public place where a guy without much money can go and dress up and feel dignified. A church would work much the same.  Maybe he goes to church first. All good.

People looking at our house

People go past our house all the time as they circumnavigate the lake, and they turn and look at our house.  Or are they looking over it, getting that last glimpse of the lake.

Many people congratulate us on it, say how great it looks.  As I think I have said before, I don't really identify with the house and how it looks, I don't feel like it reflects me in the same way as say, the blog does. But I do wonder if they really like the house, or are just saying so or, as is so often the case with me these days, are they just happy to see people putting money into their houses or even into commercial construction just because it indicates and is in fact identical to economic activity.  And yes, it reflects on the value of their own houses, however tangentially.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Central coherence deficit, midlife crisis, and the fragment

Was talking to Leslie about the concept of central coherence deficit ("CCD") and its relationship to autism spectrum disorders and the anxiety that is their fellow traveler. Basically, CCD theory says that those on the spectrum capture details super-effectively but have a difficult seeing the big picture. Since we're looking at these issues in our family now even as I struggle through what seems like an endless midlife crisis accompanied by serious anxiety, it all seems very apropos.

Going back to Stephen Covey's "7 Habits," which I've kind of characteristically stalled out in the middle of, one of the things he enjoins readers to do is to kick back and think about what we'd like to have people say at their funeral service, really dig into what their core purpose in life is, what they'd like to be remembered for. That's a hard fucking thing to do. There are so many swirling priorities, life is so many faceted. In the end, in my case, it's much easier to say what I don't want to be remembered for than what I do want to be remembered for.

Certainly life is much easier for those who see the world in very black and white terms, and in many ways that's what central coherence would seem to correlate to.  Boiling it all down to "make more money" or "save the planet" or "help poor people" or "protect my children" or just "pay the bills" makes it very easy to live. If you can or must accept any one of these you can roll forward easily.

Temple Grandin et al. trumpet forth the idea that if everybody was neurotypical, the world wouldn't move forward a whit. Somebody needs to focus down on details and see stuff that the big picture obscures.  Certainly the part of the Western tradition that has appealed to me has been the part that opens discourse.  In philosophy, the fragmenters rather than the systematizers, Heraclitus, Plato, Pascal, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Wittgenstein rather than Aristotle, Augustine, Kant and so many others whose spines I could scarcely crack. To say nothing of scripture. In prose, always Dostoevsky and Balzac before Tolstoi (and I do think Bakhtin is right that the miracle of Dostoevsky is the way the various voices coexist within the novels).

In the end, the great thing about the world is its breadth and texture, even though we all breathe, love and shit much the same.  Or rather, we all aspire to do so.  The great paradox of modernity, capitalism and material progress is that it tends to flatten out the breadth of human experience even as it makes it easier for more people to perform some of the basics (and yes, paradoxically once again, even as global capitalism and crappy tax policy has in the last couple of decades created insane wealth dispersion, it has also pulled more people in developing markets out of abject poverty). And, to be sure, it's destroying the planet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Years of data

I must admit that I do occasionally go back and look at the traffic statistics for this blog, that I've been keeping track of over at Statcounter for over 7 years now.  So I can and just did easily run my numbers from today back to March 2005.  One thing I can tell ya, it ain't pretty.  My blog used to get more traffic because.... I used to write more, and better. But it's pretty cool to have all that data, and for free, and it means absolutely nothing to anyone but me, whom it variously flatters, chastens, and insults, depending on the time period.

The Snowball

I've been reading this long, sanctioned biography of Warren Buffett, The Snowball, which purports to pass along the oracle's sage wisdom about life. So far, lots of great anecdotes about his genius and eccentricity and, indeed, his well-wrought sense of honor, but not so much sageness. Mostly, it convinces me that I'm right not to try to invest like Buffett because I'm not like him.  I was not the polymath son of a broker and was not obsessed with stocks and making money from a very young age.

The author, a former Morgan Stanley managing director, is a little obsessed with the glamor of the man, and gets completely bogged down in the gorey details of the collapse of Salomon Brothers under Johns Gutfreund and Meriwether.  I don't understand why she'd want to hover over territory Michael Lewis and other more talented writers have already beaten to death.  OK, Buffett did have a good role at the end, but still.  I skipped a bunch of that and felt good about having the backbone to do so.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cousins in town, scenes from a clearly gendered weekend

Caroline and Natalie decided to make a "Hummingbird Cake," which had a bunch of fruit in it and lemon icing. They found the texture of the batter and the icing so appealing that they decided to do all of the mixing by hand. The kitchen was an utter wreck, with flour down in the silverware tray and batter down on the drawers at ankle height. But they enjoyed it and the cake was good, so it all turned out well.

Later, Carolina was on TV playing against Creighton in the second round of March Madness.  I've been trying to get Graham to watch games so that he'll have more to talk about with the more neurotypical boys, so it was definitely excellent to have his cousin Daniel there to explain things like 3-pointers to him while I hustled hither and thither grilling pork, cabbage (yes, grilling cabbage), scallions, and whatnot.

All good.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Big River Man

When I saw that Mary had picked out a documentary about some fat Slovenian guy swimming down the length of the Amazon, after having already conquered the Mississippi, the Yangtze, and the Danube, I was like, oh great.  But, in fact, I can and must recommend this movie, it's intense and infectious.  Crazy...

That was the first half.  By the end of the second half, it gets a little darker and seriouser.  Still, a pretty good movie.

It was good just to see the footage of Ljubljana.  I fine little burg.  Crazy to think it was nigh unto 20 years ago when I was there.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


At the bar mitzvah of Josh and Anna's boy Sam, a great plethora of Baruchs, blessings. Really a beautiful service in many ways, with Sam truly rocking the Hebrew and a lovely woman leading the singing on guitar, until they got to the part about Israel and I was like, oh yeah, that.  Not that I'm Mr. PLO or something, it's just that the whole thing fairly reeks of geopolitical conflict in support of one specific scripture. It ain't about all that.

And then overeating at Solas on Glenwood, and, as penance, a 5-odd mile run with some walking and chatting with Woody and his kids and then NickNack and Isabel and, as a closer, the first swim in the lake of the season.  Yes it was chilly, but tolerable.  And then, rinse off in the outdoor shower, looking down at the lake. All good.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Good day with Natalie

Today I went in Natalie's room and hung out for a full hour without being kicked out. We talked about favorite books, and then I started going through the dad/daughter activities book she had gotten me at some point in time which had ended up in her room. We invented a killer secret handshake.

Later, we went to Flyleaf Books where she used some gift certificates she had been hoarding since her birthday 8 months ago and I bought a few books myself, mostly to assuage my guilt for buying from Amazon. Then we had coffee at Foster's next door, where I wondered at the many fine things on their menu that I hadn't known about.

All told, a good day.

Friday, March 02, 2012


Going through a bag of crap I got at trade shows last year I came upon a cheap little notebook I got from IBM with something about Jeopardy and Watson on it.  So I gave it to Natalie. When she realized what it was about her face warmed up and she gave a little smile and said "cool."

Sometimes it's hard to get to the tweens, but when you can, it's nice to do so.