Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

daily existence away from chicago

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Last weekend, my sister and brother-in-law went to Seymour Smith Park for New Belgium Brewery's Tour de Fat: a bike tour cum summer concert cum punk bike rodeo. CYCLECIDE were the guys the put on the bike rodeo. In addition to all the very bizarre bikes like the two story bike, the bike with a reel mower as the front tire, and the bike with a handlebars that inverted your steering (that is, you turned left, they turned the wheel right) addition to all these, they built a bicycle midway which was just cool as h. Bicycle powered merry go rounds, a two-person ferris wheel and a contraption that worked just like those big swings at places like King's Island--all powered by pedalling.

Auntie and Uncle

Auntie and Uncle

Tara and Bryan visited last weekend, and I'm finally getting around to posting a picture. We did lots of stuff. Went out to dinner. We went biking. We cooked. We listened to crying babies.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Baby in the Rye

So now Holden has his own website as well. Baby in the Rye Still, I refuse to yeild control of "life in omaha" over to an infant. As an English professor, I must have standards, and while Ciela's first few short stories showed promise, they are, at best, derivitive of the younger James Joyce and the elder Vladimir Nabokov. Worse, perhaps, is that she insists on formalist experimentation for its own sake. And that I just cannot tolerate. When she can produce work that shows originality, daring, and most importantly, a sensitivity to the human condition that takes the artistic process beyond mere mindless, self-indulgent, aesthtic noodlings, then she may be granted posting privileges. Until then, you are stuck with me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Professor Dyke

Professor Dyke

Hey! I'm a actually referenced in someone else's Blog. I suppose now I should really start to write interesting material instead of just posting photos of Ciela.



My but those requests can be insistent.

Judy and Ciela at the Botanical Gardens

Judy and Ciela at the Botanical Gardens

My goodness but it has been a while, has it not? We’ve been busy with visitors which can preclude random postings on the blog. Yet that does not mean we have been absent. Rather, one can expect an explosion of thoughts when I recover enough time to textualize my thoughts.

There have been requests, never mind by or from whom, but there have been requests. Requests for more pictures. Judy and I spent a day at the Omaha Botanical Gardens taking photos and drafting passerbys to take photos. Here’s Judy and Ciela by a small waterfall that required unwarranted risk by dragging the infant across slippery limestone for a mere picturesque moment

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

WORDCOUNT / Tracking the Way We Use Language /

From a link from Scott Rettberg's site, a count of the popularity of words. "the" ranks number 1. And for fun's sake, "economic" just barely beats out "love" at 383 and 384 respectively.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

ASLE Conference

2005 ASLE Conference: Call for Papers

All you ecocritics. It ain't to soon to start planning. And any other academic should start scraping the bottoms of their files to find a suitable topic. I will attest that this conference beats--hands down--any other conference. The panels can be just as boring (and I'm as much to blame as anyone else, although the 2001 panel really rocked!), but the extraneous events are like no other. If your college or university gives you travel funds, there's no better way to spend it than this.

Shopping in NE

If there is one truth beyond doubt about Life in Omaha, it's that the best time to go shopping is during a Husker football game. I purchased a nice pair of Florsheims this afternoon with almost no one in the store, light traffic getting there, and a distracted salesman whom I think inadvertently gave me a 10% discount.

Since Wednesday, we've done very little beyond survive. We finally bought a desk (see "Pier 1" below), the $90 model at which I am now sitting. Not terribly cheap looking, not too wide, and just dark enough so that it doesn't clash with the darker woods. An additional benefit is that we moved the portable bar (with a kid, one needs constant, immediate access to one's liquor) to where the glint of the multi-colored glass bottles stands out agains the deep yellow of the wall. What is drinking if not aesthetic?

We thought we might go hear the symphony play an outdoor gig this evening. Just as we thought we might go see "Grease" shown outdoors downtown. Just as we thought we might take a short nap this afternoon. I should begin writing a blog about what we might have done. The reality is a rather repetitive cycle that all parents know.

And still I have the temerity to try and read. I've been working my way through Russell Banks's novel "The Darling" that comes out in October. I will be reviewing it for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Actually, this is the first Banks novel I've read, but I have come across a few of his short stories. "The Darling" is about a former Weatherman terrorist who goes underground in Liberia. A number of well-known figures appear. Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor in Liberia, and of all things, John Kerry is mentioned as a friend of the family. I'm not sure if Banks finished the novel before Kerry secured the nomination. Another odd coincidence is the name of the narrator's farm: Shadowbrook. This is the name of the organic farm where Judy and I buy a lot of our vegatables. So no final evaluation of the book just yet, but I'll post the link when the paper publishes the review.

The other book I'm reading is Lolita for my Contemporary Fiction class. The discussion has been great so far (as one might read should they pop over to the class's site). I have some moderate concerns about teaching the work, especially at a school like Dana, but the students have been great about finding the literary value of the book amidst the sensational aspects of it. Still, the ever-present irony of being a literature teacher is that one rarely has the luxury of savoring a book at a leisurely pace. The need to challenge the students eclipses the pleasure of the read. I sympathize with my students who just want to be entertained by literature. But as I've explained to them, they may find the literature that we read entertaining, but only as a secondary effect to the intellectual confrontation. Some of them do find entertainment in the challenge (all of the Cont Lit class, I believe). I hope the students that take the other literature courses as general education grow to enjoy the intellectual activity more than the passive reception of literature as t.v.

(sounding a bit pompous, but that's generally the case when I start an entry without knowing where its going. I should really plan these out a bit more in advance.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Spanning the generations

Spanning the generations

Ciela with her grandparents, two people who are remarkably generous, exceptionally well-read, brave, fearless, good dancers, proficient loqutionists, excellent organizers of small-to-medium sized coolers, and deserving of far better and more respectful progeny (distaff version excepted) than with what they have been saddled.


In a rather grim coincidence, this blog reached 1000 individual visits the same day the American death toll in Iraq reached the same number. I shudder to think how long it will take to reach the number of total dead--American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, resistance fighters, and civillians.

Pier 1

I lied to the Pier One guy tonight.

I've been looking for a small desk or table for our great room. We want to bring the computer upstairs because Judy rarely makes it down to the basement--and who really wants to work underground besides moles, earthworms and radical activists. We don't need a large desk with drawers for files, supplies, reference books, and the other various hard and weighty items that accompany even domestic bureaucracy. For the time being--until Ciela is in college, lets say--we would mostly use the computer to check email, surf the web, and maybe type out a quick letter. Judy won't be doing any extensive work for a while, and I have my college office and, should I desire to write at home, can easily take my laptop downstairs.

So a small writing desk is called for. We shopped around Nebraska Furniture Mart and Office Depot. The Mart had a couple of nice pieces for the price, but they didn't really fit the decor. Office Depot had one of the same desks for $10 more. Target had almost what we were looking for, but in a blonde wood that really would clash. But for $60, it's hard to overlook.

Tonight, running out to the grocery store, I stopped at Pier One on the chance that they would have something. I wandered around the story, finding expensive desks and tables but nothing that would work. As a last chance, I flipped through the laminated catalog of all Pier One furniture, when finally the salesman approached. His attire perfected the approachable, casual demeanour of the P1 lifestyle. Khakis, pastel striped shirt, open at the collar (one button more than those stiffs over at Pottery Barn), tailored five-o'clock shadow, and immaculately tousled hair.

Jeremy--could he be named anything else?--steered me to the front display. The Sausalito Mail Center Dark Walnut Wood. Petite, but dignified. Roomy closet on the bottom half. Midway up, a door folds down to create a slight, flat surface, just large enough for a sheaf of stationary or a ...laptop.

Ah, there's the rub.

We need the piece for, not the slim, nubile laptop, but the stocky, full-figured, round, firm and fully-packed eMac. But when Jeremy questioned if I might be looking for something for a laptop, I didn't hesitate.

"Exactly. A laptop. This might be just the thing."


Perhaps I did it because of my inherent need to be cool. Cool people don't own eMacs. The eMac line is the Kmart of Macintosh. The computer that mimics and apes the more affluent and trendy iMac and Powerbook, but can only hoover around the fringes of the party.

I didn't want to admit that I was that person.

And I wanted the life the Sausalito was designed for. I wanted to have the posh condominium downtown, where space was sacrificed for the exposed brick of the former warehouse. Where the mail center fit snugly between the subzero wine cellar and the rolling butcher block island.

And the pigeon-holes. I love pigeon holes. The top third of the Sausalito has multiple small shelves, dark holes tantalizingly awaiting blank envelopes, expensive pens, fresh stamps, loose change, rare postcards, colored paperclips, bottles of ink, slight, black leather journals that my students carried throughout London, writing their memories as they rode the tube. One becomes a writer with such a piece of furniture. The chair slides under, the pen is chosen, the thoughts are gracefully pulled out of the honeycomb recesses of the mind just as the 40# linen paper slides from the middle third aperture.

The ordering principle of my life has been order. I marvel at the amount of processing time I spend mentally organizing my life, deciding where things best fit, where the oddly shaped space can be married to the negative imprint of the exposed object. I love boats for their ingenious ability to exploit the three dimensions of space. As a child, I was fascinated by the accounts of engineering Skylab. Without the ordering principle of gravity, the slide ruler set had to envision a life where down meant the same as up. Left could easily be top, right, bottom. There was no reason why shelves could not be installed on the ceiling. Floors could contain coat hooks. What a remarkable way to while away the workday, deciphering just how many sides a cube really could contain.

I suspect my scholarly work unconsciously carves out pigeon holes. The first chapter of my book meanders around classifications, categorizations and delimitations of texts. Other essays have arrogantly berated respected scholars for overlooking important anomalies in their classifications. And hasn't most of life after the M.A. degree been about finding a niche. I spend far too much time reorganizing my vita. I plan out career projects five years in advance. My recent article on Richard Powers's _Prisoner's Dilemma_ had a 15 page outline for a planned 18 page essay. I found nearly as many compartments as chapters, any one of which might have made for a decent essay in its own right (more the ingenious shipbuilding of Powers than my acumen).

There's no end to the positioning and repositioning of life. Living only makes sense in the ordering of it. To borrow from Powers, who cribbed from biblical authors, "We live our lives like a tale told." It is in the ordering that existence makes sense. A desk like the Sausalito creates its own filing system for the identities I have yet to articulate. It would be storage space for my new selves. And when Jeremy asked, I already had reached up and pulled out a new one.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Grandfather and Ciela

Grandfather and Ciela

Grandmommy and Ciela

Grandmommy and Ciela

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