Monday, June 30, 2014

Herons getting territorial

Yesterday, while out swimming around dusk, I saw herons chilling on the shore.  This is nothing new, though lovely, and I will say that I don't remember them there back in the 80s. 

 However, for the first time, I saw one swoop in on another and drive it away from the shore. That was something, swimming along, watching one prehistoric looking thing chasing after another with its great loping flight.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the lifeguards down at the lake said that he has observed the herons taking target practice at the floating docks with their mighty heron poop.  That was news.  I had thought that was all goose guano.

This week's Facebook kerfuffle

Everyone is up in arm's about Facebook messing with their emotional lives this week.  As those of you who know me will not be shocked, I am of two minds about this, but really not all that much.

On the one hand, yes, it is not nice of Facebook to deliberately play around with people's emotions.  I get that.  Had someone gone and killed themselves or somebody else while being subject to their feed manipulation, there would have been some kinda lawsuits landing on Zuckie's doorstep.

On the other hand, I suspect that the real issue here is people realizing the extent to which they leave themselves open to emotional influence by Facebook, or by the people we see on Facebook, which is the mirror of ourselves we have constructed there.  Some people look at it a lot, others not so much.  Some people have lots of friends on there, and therefore almost by definition (see Dunbar's Number) , are connected to people they don't know well at all.  Facebook has gained an unprecedented power in people's lives.  Which can be both very very good and very very bad.

There was a great piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning on the "Distraction-Industrial Complex."  In short, the author talks about how not having a broadband connection at home is the greatest boon to his productivity at work and his life at home because he's not being drawn back to his computer screen all the time to do some task he could've gotten done at work or, alternately, to see how the rest of the world is reacting to his most recent wisecrack, or how his high school girlfriend or nemesis is spending vacation.

I think there's a lot of truth to this.  I have to really try to limit my time on Facebook.  I try not to pay too much attention to my blog traffic, though I totally know what it is.

I recently read about a mutual fund manager who models himself on Buffett who has built a no-distraction room at his office.  No phone, internet, what have you, where he can go in and read and think.  We all need and crave that.  Everybody who exercises cites as a benefit to be unconnected from all the hullabaloo to be calm and think about stuff.

But it's hard to get there, because connection and attention are like crack.

In the end, re Facebook, I gotta quote Gogol:  don't blame the mirror if your mug is crooked.

But now, back to the coalmine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hard travelin

 Apologies for the radio silence, I've been working hard.  Just spent 4 days camped out at the Westin by the Atlanta airport, doing a review course for my upcoming CFP exam in July.  Friday thru Monday, in class from 8 to 6 or so, getting lectured by an old dude who, truth be told, did a pretty amazing job bringing dry material to life.

At the hotel, there was an anime convention.  Lots of kids roaming the halls with pink, green, grey, blue hair, in costumes.  One time I came out of a toilet stall and did a double take.  There was a person in a little blue dress at the sink, and a 4-year old girl right there too.  And I thought, "am I in the wrong bathroom?"  I needn't have worried, just a little innocent cross-dressing/role-playing.

It was kind of nice, all these kids who must have been pretty much wierdos at their own high schools, but here very much in with peers.  And excited they were.  I have never been in a louder hotel.  Until 2 in the morning on Saturday night, a bunch of misfits roaming the halls making noise.  Which is kind of nice indeed, except when you're trying to sleep.  I had the misfortune of being near the elevator, quite near to the atrium, which was like bedlam.  When I went back to my room around 10 or so, a bunch of them were sitting in a little semi-circle over in the area near the soda machines.  I kid you not.

And so last night, when it was all done, I got in my car and drove the hell on back to Chapel Hill.  Almost 400 miles it was.  Starting at 4:45.  Towards the tail end of it I was pretty freaking tired, and the only thing to do was to have a little singalong.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of live albums mixed through the sound board.  And Neko Case's "Live from Austin" is very much that.  You can barely hear the drums, the base is pretty  distant.  It's pretty much a little strumming, electric guitar, and her voice.  But since her voice is something I am coming to regard as a national treasure, that ain't bad.  I made it home.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I-85 to Atlanta

Awaits me.  Oh, the thrill of it.  Hopefully interesting details will emerge.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gone surfin...

Sorry to have been so slow to post of late.  Have been deep in the bowels of studying for an upcoming milestone, getting ready for CFP Board exam in mid-July.

As for this weekend... we'll see.  Headed to the beach.  First time in 5 years.  Must protect my fair-skinned family.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Phillips graduation

Natalie had her "promotion" ceremony at Phillips today, and while it was lovely, and she got a nice little honor, I must say that my overall reaction was thumbs down to the whole concept of such a ceremony.  There is high school to come yet, plenty of time for anxiety and strutting and competition and the like.

Mostly it called up all kinds of insane competitive instincts in me.  So much so that when one of the people I was sitting next to found out I went to Phillips and CHHS, she asked me:  "do you know Jimmy Smith (not his real name)?" and I said "yes, in fact, he's the last person I got into an actual fight with, here at Phillips.  I whacked him in the head for no good reason at all when we were in 7th grade just because he was skinnier than me and I knew he couldn't beat me up."

Now, all of that is 100% true, and it is something that I have discussed with "Jimmy" subsequently, when I was apologizing to him about it many years later.  But why is that the first thing that comes out of my mouth?  I could have said, "yeah, Jimmy, he's a great guy."  Which is just as true.

I was just in that zone again.  Middle school. The zone of puberty, deep insecurity, acne, and letting the burdens of the elementary school years of unmediated geekdom rise out of me by sometimes violent means.

Gotta go.  Sitting in this chair too much.  My butt hurts.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Loving the character

After lunch yesterday at Foster's I passed by the window at Flyleaf Books and saw a big blown up cover of Claire Messud's most recent book, which I have reviewed already. And it took me back to that book and, indeed, The Emperor's Children.  While each of them is a tour de force in its own way, somehow they seem hollower to me then the first of Claire's two novellas in her earlier book, The Hunters.  "A Simple Tale" tells the story of a Maria, a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada who works her ass off and has a son whom she loves, only to be gravely disappointed when he turns into a lout and marries a nitwit.

What's the difference between them, in my recollection?  The fact that I sensed that she actively loved Maria, whereas the characters in her more recent books are more technical achievements.  She may identify with them, and seek to make the reader do the same (and do a good job of it), but I didn't feel like she cared about the character in the same way.  For someone who spent years of his life studying literary criticism and theory, it's funny to me to find myself falling back on this way of assessing things, but that's where I'm at.  Almost certainly I need to go back and reread the earlier book, but then there are so many other good ones clamoring for my attention.

This, combined with the fact that I had to turn off Tarantino's Django Unchained the other night because I was just repulsed by the gratuitous violence, is yet another indication that I am either aging or maturing, depending on your point of view.  The worst thing about sticking that movie back in its little envelope was having to admit that Mary had been right all along and we probably shouldn't have started watching it at all, but one of the difficult things about being married is having to admit that your spouse is right, all too often.  Sigh.

On the subject of aging and its impact on apprehension, I remember Edward Said, already sick with cancer, lecturing on the concept of "lateness" in art and drawing in Beethoven's later work as an example.  I remember him doing it, but I have zero recollection of what he said. I recently checked some of Beethoven's late piano sonatas out of the library and I must admit, they are quite distinct from his earlier ones. Proto-modern, moving away from lush melodiousness towards analytical coldness.  Moving in the opposite direction to where I'm going as I age, as I progressively reject the dissonance and abstraction of modernism and move towards stuff that makes me feel good and/or laugh.

For example, Talladega Nights.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Dreaming of cars

The other night, just before waking, I had an anxiety dream that I had gone and made an impulse purchase of a sporty compact, maybe a VW or something like a Honda Civic tricked out for performance, but I hadn't told Mary.  And then, being impatient with the slow delivery of my order, I went into some other store (and in the universe of this dream, I could basically snap up a car on my credit card) and was buying another, wondering if I was going to end up with two of them.

And, in the back of my mind, I knew that I didn't really need a new car at all, because the Volvo was still fine, although there is a small issue with the fabric on the underside of the sunroof hanging down and looking crappy.  I really need to get to Ace or Lowe's to get a fabric adhesive to help with that.

So yeah, I was nervous that I was blowing $ on car(s) I didn't need, without telling Mary, which is exactly the kind of crap my dad pulled all the time.  He'd just show up with a 240Z or a custom Toyota convertible or an Alpha Romeo Spider and say to my mom: "Check this out."

And then, yesterday, towards the end of my run yesterday, I saw this little British racing green sports car being sold by the owner for $5500.  I though it was a mid-60s Triumph of some sort, but really it was a Datsun 510.  It was pretty badassed.  I kept running.