Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Random thoughts on such an odd day:

It started off early this morning when I ran into a girl I went to high school with at my local gas station. She had locked her keys and her young child in the car. Her husband wasn’t answering his cell so I stayed while she called the police, but when they got there I left as I was late for my internship. The kid was fine, just looking at us from the car seat, too strapped in to come to his own rescue.

I run into people I know everywhere in this city. This social part of my identity seems very real and tangible to me, but apparently I also hold opposing values. Last night at House of India I was told that I have a hermit streak a mile wide. This is not the first time I’ve been told that. Years and years ago I remember being surprised by a friend’s assertion that I was by nature a hermit. I guess I go to extremes in both my social and asocial behavior.

I haven’t been at my internship for a few days since I have almost all the hours I need so I want to space contact out and get some other things done. Several of my students sincerely told me that they had missed me. I have a great bunch of kids and I am really looking forward to next semester when I can really focus on teaching them. I am just around in the class right now as a helper, next semester it’s all me.

I spent an hour today helping a kid revise her article for the school newspaper, that’s something I do a lot, and she has a real gift for writing. You should all quit your jobs now and become teachers. In the affective dimension there is just no beating the teaching profession – both for highs and lows. No, with all you teaching then I still would be out of work, scratch that and keep on doing what you were doing.

I learned a new word today, which doesn’t happen that often.

Conation, some web definitions:

“A behavioral intention with respect to an attitude in a particular context.”

“One of the three aspects of the mind, in particular dealing with "willing and desiring", the others being cognition (awareness) and affection (feeling or emotion).”

“They may work as a whole, but any one may dominate any mental process. Along with cognition and affect, conation is one of three aspects of mind. It refers to the ability to act on what is known. From the Latin verb "conan" which means to attempt or to strive.”


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blah, I just took the mini-bus from south to north campus and back again. I am car sick from reading on the bus. My ten question grammar take home final took me all of last night and most of the morning. I just handed it in and I am killing time waiting for my ride to a campus tour of a HS that is interested in hiring me for next fall. I have several papers that I am behind schedule on but the instructor arranged the tour so I don’t think she’ll mind if I get them in later. I also think that at this point in the semester apathy is a-creeping in on me. I am debating between dining out for life with friends tonight and getting back to work on the endless papers. Meal or work, you make the choice.

It is frigid in St. Louis today, so much so that I broke out my silly coat. My silly coat came to me from my father after he decided it was too silly for him. He got it from my sister V who makes odd purchases from time to time. It’s an oilskin duster from Australia. I have the perfect image for you of what I look like in this coat. If you know Japanese animation, it makes me look like Vampire Hunter D (except it is brown).

If that reference is lost on you, but you are well versed in the filmography of Tom Selleck, then the coat makes me look like Quigley down under. It even has those leg straps for horse back riding in the rain on a beach with banditos after you….they want your papers – bad banditos – if I can just reach the cliff and jump like Butch and Sundance…. Or am I a bandito chasing the federals with my papers… I dreamt my nose was a faucet… where is Faye Dunaway? Sorry, I slipped through Butch and Sundance into Little Big Man. I have just come to a great and powerful conclusion about my life: I need better drugs.


Monday, November 28, 2005

I’ve got an odd overlap of schedules. My UMSL classes are winding down with only two weeks left, while the Online University I teach for just started their winter quarter today. I’m teaching a philosophy class for the first time so I am excited about that. I’ve spent most of the day swimming in the online pond getting policies set and getting those first assignments clarified. I am getting ready to start on a take home final for grammar that should take me about four hours. Then I have two papers due in my night class tomorrow and a facility tour tomorrow afternoon.

I just had Jack in the Box for my evening meal. Wow, was that a bad idea. I am trying to live under the financial radar so my evening meal cost roughly two dollars up front, of course there’s no telling what I’ll pay on the backend in healthcare costs.

I am starting to say goodbye to my neighborhood already now that the move is official, so on my way home from Jack-n-the-crack I stopped off at the old Laundromat for a 50 cent RC cola. Over the years I have caught a lot of Judge Judy and Mash in that coin operated oasis. I am perpetually awash in nostalgia. Why is that? The Futurist Manifesto has yet to take root in my psyche. Ah well, it’s a pot of coffee and then grammar galore for me.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Vicki – and perhaps others – were looking for a longer account of our travels. We had a nice time. The snow was beautiful and the family time was much needed. Unfortunately I am a little cooked after a ten hour ride there and a nine hour ride back. I’ve also had a weekend filled with speeding tickets, traffic jams, fifteen degrees below zero wind chills (the day we arrived), negative bank balances (the day we got back), a fight with my roommate (the day before we left), renegotiating living situations (I am moving further into the city prior to January 1st because of said fight), emergency room visits (a friend’s child got tangled up with another friend’s dog to the tune of a few stitches tonight) and other sundries (current tornado watch and hail storm). I haven’t struck out yet, but the curve balls and perpetual sliders have me off my game and I’ve forgotten what a home run looks like.

In my attempt to improve my life I am currently fighting an uphill battle and feel like I am taking ten steps back for every two steps forward. I am trying to stay positive, but I am also angry and a little impatient. I can see my better life on the horizon, but I am going to have to eat a lot of shit before it gets here. That’s life.


I am home from Wisconsin. Where did my sidebar go? Ah, my chatroom is the problem. Ok, that's taken care of.


How do you set your email to away? I’ll figure it out. Jes and I are off to cheese land to swim in the high seas of my family. The first real snow of the season is expected up there on our travel day, so my hater-of-the-cold girlfriend should get good use out of the long underwear she just bought. I guess we won’t get any golf in. I have 45 papers to grade before we can go, so I best get to work.

Have I told you the story of my parents and the computer? My brother set them up with an old IBM XT and they had a rural dial up service that worked ok. For about two years they were online, they got email, my father was putting his sermons on the hard drive. Then they decided to take a computer class. On the first evening of the class the instructor told them about viruses and identity theft. They dropped out of the class, went home and cancelled everything. The class made them give up on computers entirely. So you won’t be getting any blogs from cheese land.

Ok, back to work….

Have a good Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A quote stolen from Vick over at Outside In

"Sex and love and grief and death -(these are) the things that make us and undo us, create and destroy, how we breed and disappear and the emotional context that surrounds these events.

The good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love."

Thomas Lynch


Monday, November 21, 2005

I am in one of those “what’s this blogging thing all about” moods again. I like the habit/hobby of posting and checking in on friends, but I am wary of the impact blogs can have on your professional life. I am not entirely certain why I’ve picked up this habit. I guess I could just blame Jen. She got me started for reasons I don’t recall. That first month or two I had illusions about the anonymity of blogging and wrote a great deal of personal material about a family loss, I soon went back and deleted most of those posts because of the traffic I was getting. Still, it was a helpful release.

My girlfriend Jes is a blogger who never blogs. She was blogging and mudding years before I knew what either of those terms meant, so maybe she’s just over it. We’re both insanely busy, but I still seem to make time for rambling here. Actually, I often use blogging as prewriting to get warmed up for an assignment and to cleanse the intellectual palette. That’s what I am doing right now. Now that I am a student again, working on a Master’s in education, I average between five and ten pages of academic prose a day; sometimes quite a bit more. Blogging can be like cleaning your desk off before you sit to work.

Perhaps the genre, as it is expressed in my blog and in the blogs I read, is closest to letter writing, with a shift from a specific to a general audience. I have almost no interest in the political / cultural pundit blogs and the free range journalism they represent, so most of the opining on blogs in the media doesn't really apply to what I do.

I imagine that when I take a teaching position I will scrap the blog as a simple matter of professional necessity. I wonder what form of writing will take its place.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Smart body, it knows when we have time to get sick. Maybe I’ve just now had the time to notice that I’ve been sick. In either case I am only slightly sick and I’ve been trying the sleeping cure. Friday I slept for more than four hours in the afternoon and into evening. I’ve done it again today. My napping skills are coming along quite nicely.

I attend an enlightened university where we have the entire Thanksgiving week off. I still have my internship Monday, and a ton of other work to do, but I can ease off the throttle a little bit over the next few days and I don’t have classes again until next Tuesday.


Philosophical Noir:

He thought of his mind as a constantly running garbage disposal with no water running into it. It was a hungry, poorly lubricated mechanism that he was always afraid of getting his own hand caught in.

This character needs a name... names please...


Thursday, November 17, 2005

I’ve wanted something for a couple of years now, I’ve wanted it badly. I’ve wanted to be better than I am – in every way that matters. A woman I don’t know well, a very smart women and an accomplished literary critic told me late one night that I lacked the courage of my convictions. She was right. Another friend, sitting with me at my favorite bar, stopped a casual conversation to ask me when I had become so cynical, he said, “You never used to be this dark.” I went into the dark. My Masters thesis on Burroughs, Plato, and Kristeva on the transgressive nature of education could be subtitled “How to be smart without upsetting people.” It’s not scholarship as much as it is theological apologetics.

I used to go into classes that I taught as the champion idealist. I had a student who told me that he liked my teaching style best when I testified. He could sense the oration lessons I received from endless Sundays listening to my father hold a pause in his fire and brimstone sermons. Dad preached the gospel, and I can preach the gospel too, the gospel according to Descartes, Pascal, Cicero, Thomas Kuhn, Plato, Aristotle, Borges, Sartre, Pynchon, and hundreds of others.

How do you preach when you lose your faith? In a world of consumers with no sense of or interest in history I came to think that since my modern gospels of critical thinking didn’t seem to matter to anyone but me, that I didn’t matter. That’s the length and breadth of my long dark night of the soul. Before people in my life started dying on me, I was dying, and that doubt of validity was my cancer.

Well, I’ve gone into that closet and had a good sulk for a few years now. To borrow from my father’s parables, I put my light under a bushel and collected a pay check for a living, which isn’t living. I told myself for three years in a dead end job that the cost and benefit analysis of going another thirty thousand in the hole to make what I was already making didn’t work out in the crib sheet of life. I was wrong. Now that I’ve done it and am more than halfway through a great educational program I realize I’ve found the pearl of great price: I am better than I was.

Sometimes I give out evaluations to my students when I teach, so students can tell me how I am doing. I have a bright student who wrote on last week’s evaluation, “Mr. K has taught me that it’s ok to be smart.” That about sums it up doesn’t it.



It was eleven degrees with the wind-chill when I left the house this morning, but my Green Bay Packers gloves are warm. My starter is going out in the van so I got to sit there in the cold for awhile until it decided to start. I broke out my winter hat today, but I don’t think I’ll grow the beard back this year, I was doing a bit of hiding from life when I had the beard and I’m no longer in that mode. Good things are happening with my career as a teacher. Several instructors have offered to write me letters and I am being head hunted by a district. I have a tour scheduled for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving break to encourage me to apply. With a double undergrad and two Master’s degrees my salary and employment options look pretty good.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Offers… my middle sister lives in St. Louis. I don’t write about her much because I don’t see her much. Oddly, she is one of the reasons I moved here back in 2001 when I was trying to decide between here and Chicago. She was very pregnant with her first child and I thought it would be nice to be a real uncle for a change. I have lots of nieces and nephews, but I’ve been a holiday uncle for all of them, as my family is spread out across the whole country. To make a short story long, Sandy moved south of St. Louis at the same time I was moving here and while I am Abigail’s godfather, I hardly ever see her. She and her husband have five acres in Imperial, which is south of Arnold, which is south of south St. Louis.

Now that you have your bearings, Sandy and Steve have decided to move. They live across the street from a rowdy bar, a bar that advertises a shooting range in its basement. Before the kids were born, she has two now, Steve put up a large privacy fence to shield them from the bar traffic. It’s been spray painted a few times, but nothing serious has ever happened. Last week, at 7:30 in the evening, a drunk from the bar ripped one of the planks off the fence and hurled it at one of their windows in an attempt to smash the glass. My one year-old nephew was learning to walk on the other side of the target window. Sandy and Steve don’t know anyone in the area. They have lived there for years but haven’t had fights with anyone. The attack has arisen from a general, rather than specific sense of hostility.

Nothing serious ultimately happened. The screen tore but the window held. The drunk, hostile, probable methamphetamine addict wandered off. They filed a police report and Steve put the board back up (with a handgun in a holster at his side). So, last night they rented a house in Kirkwood and the Imperial property will soon go on the market. It’s a nice piece of land with a barn and several out buildings. Sandy has offered me two months free rent to move in while they try and sell. I could park my school bus in the barn.

On the one hand, shit happens no matter where you live. A few years ago I had a drunk total my Ford LTD at 3 a.m. and it was simply parked in front of my current apartment. The following year a different drunk hit my neighbor’s jeep so hard that not only were both vehicles totaled, but they took out the fire hydrant as well. I woke up to two smashed cars and a fountain in my front yard. The block was without water for three days. Sebastian, my dog, has probably foiled more than one attempted break in. There is no burglar alarm quite like one with teeth.

On the other hand, with regard to a prospective move, I don’t consider Imperial to be part of St. Louis. It’s true that you can be downtown in twenty minutes from her front door. But because of the highway system, you would have to go downtown if you wanted to get anywhere in the St. Louis region. That is not a recipe for fast transit. I lived in a rural college town, where everything is five minutes from everything else, for too long to tolerate much of a commute. Avoiding a commute is a core quality of life issue for me. I still might consider moving there if it weren’t for the bar. I like a good bar. Not as a neighbor, and not where guns are ubiquitous.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ho hum. Here I sit on a Sunday night, ignoring grading and paper writing. I had a knock around day. I slept in until almost 11:30. The dog was frantic to go outside and used all his doggy powers to get me up. I might have slept until one otherwise. Jes and I are helping out a friend who is on the lam from her life, so I went by her place and fed her cat. The cat needed loving, so I lounged around and watched The Italian Job until Jes showed up. Jes often spends her Sunday mornings blowing glass down at the studio and is now working extra to get ready for holiday sales.

After the movie we took her motorcycle downtown to Jay”s International Supermarket; I hadn’t been there in a few years. We did some other shopping and then she motored off to a gingerbread house party with some theologically inclined friends, leaving me to get caught up on work. I wasn’t in the mood for born again breading (that’s bad isn’t it). I proceeded to spend the next several hours cleaning my fish tanks, listening to This American Life on NPR and watching elephants predict earthquakes on PBS. I guess I am getting caught up on downtime.

I did walk up the street to check out a friend of mine’s new business and she gave me the grand tour. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, if you’ve dug around in the archives, or if you just know me then you’ll know that I spent three years, as I like to call it, living in the land of the new age. I could write a book about it. Maybe someday I will. I did Kundalini yoga, argued with Buddhist nuns when they tried to repossess our sacred PVC pipe pyramid with the Christ Consciousness dodecahedron on top, and I followed Tibetan monks in baseball caps around, head bowed, while they threw minute rice into the corners of the business for a blessing. I have many other tales of woe from the fringes of semi sane salary men.

The link to today is that just as spider plants throw off shoots, new age or holistic businesses tend to get into quasi theological arguments and send runners off from the main plant to grow in slightly different soil. Some of them take and some of them crash and burn. I was actually hired back in 2001 to replace a group of people who had stormed off to start their own business. Theirs failed and ours almost did too. It would have if it weren’t for Ann and myself; two people with no business training turned a business that was 100,000 in debt into a business that was highly profitable in under two years. It’s odd that what I can do for other people, I can’t do for myself.

The owner of that business can’t tell his ass from his elbow and was two steps away from the clink when we came on board. He thinks that his karma saved him. Maybe it was his karma to hire us. Dumb luck may also have factored in. It was a fun ride for a time, but I was selling myself short being there. When he started to use high pressure sales techniques I lost what respect I had for the business. My former employer’s life goal is now to be the next Wayne Dwyer. Look for his self published book at swap meets near you. I hear he has a few thousand copies under the staircase. His fortune will be well spent on the always lucrative narcissism industry.

Some time after I left my administrative post, there was something of a melt down. Near as I have been able to determine, my former employers wanted the faculty to sign a sort of non competition contract that would legally bar them from taking any secret school techniques off premise. I have buckets of the stuff if anyone is interested in it and have never signed anything regarding its proper disposal, which is all it is really good for.

I think the main document of concern was an instructional binder that is filled with all sorts of syncretism. On the surface this binder seems like an ordinary instruction manual in massage technique, but if you ever have to edit it for grammar and spelling mistakes, as I did, you will find all sorts of conflicting references to Jesus Christ, archangels, and other new age foot holds. It is truly a bizarre bit assemblage – a buffet approach to both massage and spirituality. A key irony in the desire to keep the binder proprietary is that it is itself a stunning piece of sampling in violation of about a hundred instances of copyright law for which not a dime of royalties have ever been paid to anyone. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. If anyone ever calls them on it they will be offered some kind of a deal, that is the way these things work. It simply doesn’t make sense to shut a business down when you can claim a piece of future earnings. I have seen that principle in action many times.

On the intellectual front, there is great episode of the West Wing where Donna’s character is sent to investigate a new age speaker who is potentially influencing a political opponent’s campaign. In two shakes of a stick our intellectual hero identifies the self help pap as watered down Immanuel Kant. That was my life for three years: helping the philosophically challenged find their way to the delusion of the month. There were good things about it. It was a job, like anything. I got about four free hour long massages a week. Anyway, back to the narrative of division.

When faced with rather insulting prospect of signing away the right to do something that they had no intention of doing, several faculty members decided to do exactly what the contract was designed to prevent, thus blowing up in the faces of the people who proposed the contract and creating the very situation that they had hoped to legally prevent. We haven’t come far from the playground have we? Everyone took their toys and went home.

So, L has opened a new school just up the block from me and now, as ever, she has no idea what to make of me. She gave me a royal welcome. I could give her a very profitable side business in new age retail, which I know backwards and forwards, which she knows, so it’ll be interesting if she makes me an offer. I had the impression that she might. But I am done with that. Maybe for a massage or two I could give her some advice, but my advice to myself is keep on keeping on in the direction I am headed.


Friday, November 11, 2005

I have four advisors in my program. I have an English advisor, an education advisor, a certification advisor and a graduate advisor. Mostly I deal with a secretary who they all filter their directives through. She is a huge Harry Potter fan. Her desk is covered with figures and there are posters on the wall. Her emails come with quotes from Dumbledore at the bottom (if you think a guy with a phoenix for a familiar is really dead then you are a twit). Anyway, when I was in to get an extra timecard I mentioned that the movie was out soon and she told me that she had her tickets already. The eighteenth is only seven days away. I mention it because the other Harry Potter dorks that I know, Beth & Jen, who normally put counters on their blogs for this sort of thing have made no mention of it whatsoever. How will the franchise survive, I ask you, if you falter in your blind enthusiasm?


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Once again it is Thor’s Day! Soon Freya will have her day (who said those Norse raiders were weak (week) we got all kinds of grammar from them). I am not burnt out for a change. I’ve gotten used to the pace of things. I got up this morning at six, wrote a six page paper that was due at nine, and have spent the last hour and a half diagramming sentences for transformational grammar and I have twenty five papers that must be graded by me this afternoon.

I only have one week left in my grammar class as the instructor is taking the rest of the term off for the delivery of her third child. I am proud of my recent round of squiggles. One homework assignment usually takes a week or two to get through. As you rethink them they get messy, especially when you work in pen.

I still have to write a major paper on a set of dialect transformations. Since I am probably going home to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving I will be transforming recordings of my mother and father saying, “Oh Yeah? And So! Aye!” into linguist’s scribbling for a grade. I guess I’ll be using a lot of imperative insertions using the IO transformation for the non present speaker or hearer. Yeah, that’s not going to make sense to you. [Open the door!] is [Hearer open the door] for the purposes of transformational grammar.

If language were math… of late we’ve been doing these things that are akin to geometric proofs where we need to decode the underlying meaning of spoken sentences and then show how they got to their spoken form from the rules of transformation that govern sentence subordination, making sure to replace all pronouns so that the meaning is absolutely clear.

This is made complicated by the simple fact the adverbial phases can move pretty much wherever they want to in a sentence and still be grammatically correct. (Example: [Eagerly1] the child-[eagerly2] [eagerly3]-opened the present [eagerly4]). That’s an easy example because eagerly is a single word. Start to work with adverbial phrases in which things can move internally while the whole phrase moves and you start to scratch your head.

So when you get rolling: “The woman is a famous singer to whom Lance in engaged.” Becomes “The woman is a famous singer [Lance is engaged to the woman]”. That’s not so bad. But try “Jan scolded the orator who aroused the crowd that began the riot to which the police responded.” I came up with Jan scolded the orator [the orator aroused the crowd [the crowd began the riot [the police responded to the riot]]] (note that police moved within the phrase because of the WH fronting transformation). Then you diagram it with lots of circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us (sorry that slipped into Alice’s Restaurant). The sad thing is that I think this stuff is really fun.

Anyway, I can see the light at the end of the term’s tunnel. I also go in for my blood work today, which means four months left on the meds. I must get to class, the then the train, and then the drive, and then the clinic, and the grading, and then the three papers that are do tomorrow by five p.m.

The writing in this program is really just endless... several papers a week. Oh well.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Be here now. I would like this term to end because I’d like to be less insanely busy, but I am enjoying myself and it’s something of a gift to get to go to school. I got up early today and drove the van in before the library opened. I sat in the passenger seat listening to NPR and drinking coffee while I watched the lights come on and the doors of the institution open. For my money, academy really is the best game in town.
I talked to my brother Andy the other night. He wants my help in getting his startup company off the ground; more on that later. He’d make a good teacher, but once you get into the big money game it is hard to get out. He’s got a stay at home wife, the twins and now one year old Michael, so the golden handcuffs of corporate America have him strongly tethered to his responsibilities.

I guess I am going back to bartending. The Red Sea had offered me a job at the start of the term, but my class schedule didn’t match with the open shifts. Now it looks like I will be bartending for two different art galleries. This is very good news as I need the money, but I don’t want to write more about it until it is finalized. I need to get out my old bartenders bible and study up. Jason was making Scooby Snacks for the Halloween party and it occurred to me that my mental rolodex of shots had gone blank.

What else do I need to remember? What is popular now? I assume cosmopolitans are still all the rage & mexipolitans for tequila fans. The top twenty drinks all have what they are in the name: rum & coke, gin & tonic, seven and seven, vodka seven, whiskey sour. Some of the old drinks like Harvey Wall Bangers and Stingers are coming back, but most art gallery bars aren’t going to have Galliano. Manhattan’s are popular but Brandy is also in short supply in the short stocked bar. Shots are still going to be what: Kamikaze, dead Nazi, sex on the beach, tequila, whatever? People aren’t going to be doing shots at gallery openings.

Here’s a question for the readership. What is your favorite drink, and if it’s even a little obscure, what’s in it?


I don’t live in St. Louis proper. I live just outside it in University City. Did you know that St. Louis has a city tax such that were I to move into the city I would have to pay one percent of my income in a tax. That’s a tough call. Your car insurance and taxes double to live in an area with less services and higher crime. I like the lofts downtown, but many of the new ones aren’t technically lofts and downtown is not pet friendly.
I’d actually like to buy a house, but not in this market. Anything I could afford would be a disaster area. With the current condition of my credit I’d get the shaft on rates anyway. Ah well, that’s enough idle speculation for one morning, time to hit the books.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Karl plays at music review:

People often have this column on the right side of their blog telling people what they are listening to and what they are reading. I’ve been thinking about adding that. Actually I am thinking about a total redesign and a shift in location away from blogspot. That aside, I want to tell you about what I have been listening to. And Michelle, we do have a plan in the works for T-shirts of a slightly different kind than expected (more on that later).

About ten years ago I lost interest in most of popular music and I gave in to my love for cool Jazz. I’d grown up on big band, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc. Brubeck was my gateway drug into Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sunny Rollins, etc. Maybe two years ago I started getting into Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy has taken me to Cuba and to the Buena Vista Social Club. So right now I am obsessively listening to Cachaito Lopez. This disc, simply labeled Cachaito, is a masterpiece of post cool Cuban jazz. It’s the most complete new Jazz recording that I’ve heard in the past five years.

Track five, Cachaito In Laboratory, uses sampling and playback in a way that evokes early Run DMC while at the same time maintaining the Afro Cuban Jazz essence of the entire CD. Cachaito is a Jazz bassist, and it is his rhythm that ties all the departures together, whether they be surprise vocals on Wahira or the reggae organ that occasionally appears like a Caiman surfacing to catch his breath. When you have a group of seasoned musicians who are willing to take risks you can produce inspiring music that bends genre and advances the form. It’s already established that the Buena Vista Social Club was the safety deposit box for and the school of the most talented jazz musicians of a generation; it’s clear from this recording that new growth has come from that cradle and both vine and root are strong.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

On Michelle’s page she offered me the following advice:

“Should I give this advice to the Fulcrum Monkey or would it piss him off (again)?

1. Set up your website more like Dooce.com....you get a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot of readers
2. Sell Autographed Fulcrum Monkey T-Shirts
3. Sell Autographed Fulcrum Monkey Zines
4. People pay a ton of money for baby-sitters with high vocabularies during the holiday season, and going to bars seems to make you depressed anyway, you morose bastard.”

Did it piss me off the first time? If so, I apologize. I love well intentioned advice.

Is the implication of suggestion number one that I will get more readers? Right now I am averaging around seventy readers on weekdays. People surf blogs when they are bored at work, so my weekend numbers are low. It’s been a lot higher than my average, but people lost interest when I started to get my act together. I was benefiting from my confessional style and human nature as it relates to rubbernecking at accident scenes.

Right now I have about thirty regulars that I could probably list off the top of my head, and they are primarily immediate friends and family. That’s not really a huge base when you figure that it’s all the same people. I really should link to everyone that I read as that seems like the thing to do. There’s also this domain name thing that I have but haven’t done anything with. It may have expired. I’ll have to check on that.

I could sell Fulcrum-Monkey merchandise, but then I would have to buy the shirts in the first place and then store them in my basement under the stairs, like all self publishers do. I also haven’t really adopted a pose or a persona in line with a fulcrum monkey eidos – something that is young, hip and smart instead of the vaguely dark and occasionally whiny thing I’ve got going on.

I suppose I could do that and thereby brand my ranting in line with a certain milieu of bloggers. That persona would be something along the lines of “not all who wander are lost, but some of us brachiaters do tend to lose momentum from time to time”. I could also be more overtly political if I was really going for typecasting.

It’s pretty much politics or diapers if you want to go trendy. All the career advice in my current field strongly suggests that blogs get people fired, so I could make lots of references to the risks I am taking and heighten the fictive drama of my posts. I guess that is the essence of Dooce – she got done and is riding on the coat tails of her own self fulfilling prophecy (and she’s a good writer). I let my prose wander and graze while she rides hers hard and isn’t afraid to use the stirrups.

I like the Zine idea. I did a zine once in grade school about a character I invented named Herman the Demon. He was half angel and half devil with wings and a halo over demon horns and a genie’s body. He had no mouth and always wore a t-shirt that said I heart teeth. He had a small dog named Flippy the Blurp and another friend named Wubby who looked a lot like a McDonald’s Fry Guy. I made copies at my dad’s church and sold them for 10 cents each. I think I made a buck ten, but my copy costs were subsidized by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Originals of the strip are now worth $2.50 on Ebay ($3.75 if the dust jacket is in good condition).

Finally on the issue of bars… going to them makes me happy, but leaving and paying the bill make me sad. Or I am always sad for my lost youth, except I am still sort of young, except more than a quarter of the earth’s population is under twenty, but they are all invested in killing each other for uncertain ideals and the benefit of older people so there’s some relative reasoning on age in-play in the culture, except there’s not much point in going to bars as my cohort has aged out of the drunken wander. We’ve even aged out of the drunken stay-put.

As I round out the halfway point on my medical leave from social lubricants I have to say that sobriety is fine. I still think that there is a certain kind of truth and warmth of conviviality in the shared spirit that is one of the best things in life, but drinking lots of gin to forget about your murdered relative, hit & run killed ex-girlfriend, directionless life, and shitty new-age job may not be the way to go.

Sometimes prohibitionists and well-intentioned reformers tell me, “Look how much your life has changed since you quit drinking.” I don’t know about the cause and effect chain there. I think the change in my life preceded the alteration of my habits. I was already back in school, flirting with my now girlfriend and working on other core changes before this medical hiccup came along. That I didn’t really have any trouble changing lots of my habits, the daily drink included, is indicative to me of a deeper maturation or sea change in how I relate with the world. Beth told me I’ve grown up a lot in the past year. I like that appraisal so I’m going to run with it.

Babysitting is a possibility. That’s actually the sort of work I need. Just a little boost would go a long way. I’ve decided that I don’t get to eat at restaurants anymore and I don’t drink near beer either. These are two expenses that lack a reasonable foundation in that I can’t rationalize the cost/benefit. My dad, as a retired minister, still takes communion to what are called shut-ins. These are people who can’t come to church because of age or infirmity. I am sorry dear friends, but until the monetary manna rains down from heaven I am a shut-in who can’t afford to do X with you (where x is anything). This includes buying merchandise for resale, which I do admit would be fun.

I need to get my motorcycle down from Wisconsin sooner rather than later. The gas costs are really stunning. I can spend fifty bucks to fill up the van or four to fill up the bike and travel the same distance. Also, if I always have helmet head then I won’t need to buy hair jell! If I keep the visor up I can cut food costs on the protein I swallow. I’ll just drive around with my mouth open catching bugs from the air like a whale skimming plankton with his baleen.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Once upon a Halloween in KC…with lots of food
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Jello shots and a Jello brain (thanks Michelle)
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I got turned into an approximation of the cowardly lion while BJ was disco Tin Man
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Jason went as a lawyer
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Beth was Dorothy
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Triton was everyone’s Pumpkin
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And Paul and Caroline bought a new house
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

My financial biography:

Have we established that I am a deadbeat who is no good with money? I wish the opposite were true, but I have never really been able to get any kind of financial traction.

We are taught not to talk about money. I’d like to break that taboo. I do not come from money. I am the youngest of six kids. My mother was a homemaker and so my father’s income supported eight people. As a pastor and then a professor, he never made much. My parents help when they can, keeping me in used cars and the occasional gas money, but I have essentially always been on my own financially. I have never owned a new car. I have never paid more than two thousand dollars for a car.

I was a kid at seventeen with three grand saved up from waiting tables for my move to California. I got my first credit card in case of car trouble. After months of looking for work in that California recession of 1991, which later spread to the rest of the country, I came back to St. Louis nearly broke and had to charge a car repair in Tahoe. I got new glow plugs for my 1980 diesel Rabbit: the first of many charges.

The whole California plan was designed to get me a cheap college education in the UC system. Unfortunately lots of other people had that same plan that year, the year the state’s seven major employers moved to Mexico or Nevada to avoid environmental legislation and they fired all the humanity professors in order to extend welfare benefits. So I came home to Missouri and enrolled in Northeast Missouri State University.

Because I took a year off I was not eligible for Missouri scholarships through a program called Bright Flight. So, five years of undergrad later I was in the hole in student loans for all of my tuition, despite my four point GPA. That was somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars. With capitalized interest it is now around forty two thousand. I have been financially able to pay on the debt for only one year of my working life.

For the first couple years of school my odd jobs didn’t rack up to much of a taxable income. I always worked part time while I was in school and much of the money was under the table in tips, so it’s hard for me to really say what I lived on. I did get in the habit of doubling my official income from one year to the next. I made two thousand, the next year was four, the year after I made eight thousand, then I made sixteen as a graduate student and bartender, also my tuition was waved since I was teaching. How do you live like that for ten years? Credit cards. I broke my arm without health insurance; that put a few thousand on the cards. My financial aid didn’t come through one semester so the whole semester went on the cards.

Then the university hired me full time and I double my income again to the low thirties. I moved to St. Louis and transitioned to my administrative job, where again I was in the low thirties. Unfortunately the move and the interim unemployment between jobs was all on plastic. This is when I quit teaching. I was hired on at Meramec and worked there for a semester, but I couldn’t pay my bills on what they were paying adjuncts. My credit card debt at that point was matched to my income, right around 30,000 dollars. People ask why I stayed at that last job for three years and the answer is simple: soul sucking paycheck. My 42,000 in student loans was on hold and I paid down a substantial portion of that ugly 30Kcredit card debt. I hated that job. It was killing me.

Now I am back in school, back on the adjunct dole that covers gas money and little else, and I am into Uncle Sam for an additional 16 K in student loans. It’s possible that when I graduate I will get hired for something in the low forties. I’ll boost that by continuing to adjunct and teach summer school. My credit card payments and student loan payments will reduce my living wage by more than half for at least the next ten years. Missouri also has a teacher’s union that has percentage dues that you really wouldn’t believe. I will be paying several hundred dollars a paycheck in retirement. I suppose that is a good thing because my brand new 401k retirement account through my adjunct job has eleven dollars in it right now.

I suppose we all struggle. I’ve been willing to sell out for years now, but no one is buying what I have to sell.


Money: advice please!!!!!!!!!!!!


St. Louis Art Museum:
Friday, November 18, 2005

Gilgamesh: Retelling the Oldest Epic in the World

7:00 pm

Best-selling translator and author Stephen Mitchell speaks on his acclaimed retelling of the ancient epic. Gilgamesh is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature and dates from as early as 1700 BC. Lost for almost two millennia, the eleven clay tables on which the epic was inscribed were discovered in 1853 in the ruins of Nineveh (present-day Iraq). This lecture is followed by a book signing. Books are available for purchase in the Museum Shop.


I should be grading right now. I scheduled this time for grading. I should have graded last night as well, but I didn’t do it then either. I made salmon and wild rice and helped celebrate the success of Jes’ volunteer meeting (which I couldn’t be at because I was in class). Sometimes simple recipes are best, I baked the salmon after seasoning it with crushed black pepper, sea salt, butter and fresh thyme.

Jes had sixty people show up to volunteer for the glass conference next year and only sixteen or so were ringers (friends and family). She also has a new co-chair from Mad Art. Many hands make light work. I’m excited for her.

My plan today was to get to school by eight and grade until my nine thirty class, but it is nine now and I just got here, so what’s the point. I’ll grade from 11- 12:30 and then from two until the grading is done. That’s the new plan.

Download: after grading I need to write my journals for Donna’s class, and then there are the three papers on school policy transcribing the interviews that I have recorded on the micro-cassette, the unit two rough draft design on writers of the revolutionary war (which I’ve already taught so it’s reverse design inserting formal objectives to guide what I’ve already done), the personal culture essay revision (which needs serious restructuring), the first third of the Ausperger’s book with summary to the teacher (Sunday-all day), the disability interview (Jen, I need to interview you again). That’s not everything, it’s just everything I can think of right now that’s either due next week or past due already.

I have 63 hours in on my internship (out of 100 due by Dec 6th). I am doing another seven tomorrow and then driving over to the Teaching and Technology Conference to get professional development hours in. I’ll be done at 5:30 and then the rumor is that Tyler is having a bonfire.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I guess it was Halloween yesterday, wasn’t it. Jen asked how we spent ours. I taught all day yesterday, actually I taught a little and observed a lot. I took a break from school mid afternoon and watched the end of The Kingdom of Heaven – which was just ok. Beth and I watched the first half on our trip to KC until the battery died on her laptop. After the movie I drove to my adjunct job, I have two hours of open office hours every Monday night. The twenty minute ride to campus took forty five minutes in the rain.

People in St. Louis forget how to drive when you add weather. Rain is a major crisis for them and when it snows, even flurries, they lose any ability to operate heavy machinery. I joke to my Wisconsin friends that St. Louis drivers actually try to dodge individual snowflakes. All the schools in St. Louis let out when flurries are suggested as a possibility. To a kid who grew up where you have school unless there is four feet of snow on the rural roads, the local hysteria is comic, while at the same time unnecessarily dangerous.

I had two students drop by at work last night and I got my teaching schedule for next term. I’m picking up an ethics class in the spring so it will be fun to break out my philosophy training. It’s always good to add an additional prep to the college teaching resume. One of my students is doing a research paper on the Million Man March, so we talked about Cornell West and Henry Louise Gates Jr. as possible sources for him. I enjoyed that immensely. It’s great to turn students on to important and potentially transformative thinkers.

After work, Jes and I went shopping for chicken to smash. We flattened it with a meat tenderizer. She covered it in spices and cornmeal, and rolled peppers and cheese up in it like a Mexican Cordon Bleu. We also made two apple pies out of a bag of apples from my family’s small orchard. I haven’t made a pie in years, so that was fun and took us into the wee hours of the time change. We watched the two hour season premiere of The West Wing’s fourth season. I am a West Wing addict.

We had no trick or treat visitors due to the rain and the busy street we live on. The only thing I had for them was the smarty sweet tarts that Michelle sent with her Jello Brain a few weeks back. We ended up eating them in place of a vegetable with our chicken. That was Halloween 2005.


My little out of the way homework hiding spot has just gotten a boost. I do most of my on campus work in either the south campus library or the north campus math lab. I use the math lab because no one is ever in the math lab. I’ve heard that many people hate math and experience phobias at the mere mention of terms like balance and checkbook. I don’t mind math and am well familiar with the practical applications of both zero and negative numbers. Jes thinks that we should be wealthy so that we can afford better cheese, so independent wealth is a long term goal.

In the short term I am going to have to do creative math to survive until my next loan checks arrive in January. I will finally be embarking on an Ebay adventure (I know you’ve been waiting for that Michelle). Jes sold stuff on Ebay for Creve Coeur Camera for a year and has given me some cool pointers on how to sell well in the on-line marketplace. I’ll let you know when stuff is up, because there is nothing quite as rewarding as pawning your crap off on friends at inflated web auction prices.

Anyway, my math lab just had a grand reopening last Friday, unfortunately every UMSL student got an email about it and there were door prizes, snacks and celebrity endorsements. It’s now the Monday after the fanfare. I missed the fanfare. The lab proctors have these new space age silver desks that make them look… like students sitting behind perforated sheet metal (which is what they are). Now my secret is out and the good days of open work space and three free high speed laser printers are over.

There is still no one here. That’s not true. There are thirteen students, three lab assistants, and a custodian. That might seem like a lot of people but when you consider that there are 111 computer stations, even if the custodian were to stop and check his email that would still leave ninety four open computers. Each computer has a flag attached to it and if you need help you just raise the flag. The flags look like they belong on the back of bicycles or in the cups at a miniature golf course. I tell you for no reason other then a desire on my part to shoot some misenscene out into the void. I want to raise a flag, but I don’t ever have any math homework so I shall remain without the experience.

It was good to get out of town and see the new homes of Jason/Tiffany and Caroline/Paul. Beth will post pictures soon of both digs. It was also Erica’s birthday this past weekend and she and Justin got engaged. The tale of the engagement requires alcohol so I won’t be posting about it any time soon (I’m never sure when you are drinking dear reader). This past weekend turned out to be my breather weekend as I still have ten thousand small tasks to complete before the end of the term.

Speaking of which, I should get to work reviewing for the coming class. I have to do a ratiocination today on a paper I wrote last week. Look that word up if you are in the market for revision time wasters. I had to get colored pencils to do this color coded edit. I KNOW, I KNOW – KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE ABOUT ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE (especially things that you think are bullshit)!

Anyway, thanks for dropping by. Hope you’re well.