Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

daily existence away from chicago

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Where it's at

Where it's at
Originally uploaded by shermans.

So this is the new digs from the bird's eye. Look closely and notice that we overlook a golf course; one that I've played a couple of times. We have two pools. The high school is just across the street. And lots of dirt.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Word Cloud

Word Cloud
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The New Home

The New Home
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Offer accepted this morning. We await all the crazy bureacratic wallowing, but we should be living here in April.

the back

the back
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The living room

The living room
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen
Originally uploaded by shermans.

The Patio

The Patio
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

iMeme for iTunes

Thanks Scriv For giving me a reason not to work.

Total number of tracks in iTunes
1725 songs (4.9 days' worth of music)

Sort by song title
First song: "....6" by The 88
Last song: "ZYX" by They Might be Giants.

Sort by time
Shortest song: 0:08 "Intro" by Bumpus is the shortest actual song. However, a bit of dialogue from the soundtrack to "Bend it Like Beckham" squeaks in at the shortest track, "It's Beckham's Corner."
Longest song: Discounting the digital copy of part one of my interview with Rick Powers, clocking in at 46 minutes, the longest song is "Years and Tears" by Steve Ferguson and the Midwest Creolo Ensemble 15:20. (Ferguson was one of the founding members of NRBQ, but split early on. Thanks to my dad for the CD.)

Sory by artist
First: 3 Mustaphus 3
Last: Zykos

Sort by album
First: ...To the Last Dead Cowboy by The Waco Brothers
Last: Zap Mama by Zap Mama.

10 most played songs
"We All Fall Down," Danny Michel - In Radio 7
"Shy," Ani DiFranco - Living in Clip
"Here with Me," Dido - Dare
"Snow is Gone," Josh Ritter - In Radio 3.1
"Freedom Park," Marah - In Radio 9
"Sacrifice," Rachel Sage - In Radio 11
"Goodbye Caroline," Aimee Mann - In Radio 3.4
"Clean Up for Christmas," Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm
"Allowed Loud," Desoto Reds - In Radio 9

So you can see how much I depend upon my subscription to In Radio to feed my musical desires. Actually, this is very skewed because most of the whole library was transferred over to a new computer and that wiped out all the play history. Still, I can't figure out how Dido made it up there. That might be because of Judy.

First five songs that come up on Party Shuffle
"True Dreams of Wichita," Soul Coughing
"Red, Red Robin" Rosie Flores
"Get it Jumpin" Devin Chenault (the demo tape from one of my former students)
"Skin Is, My" Andrew Bird
"Mound" Phish

Number of search returns for:
sex: 5
love: 61
you: 153
death: 3
hate: 8
wish: 15

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The world Ciela has to change

From Mother Jones, here are some statistics that suggest packing a penis can really help you get ahead in the world. We've put one on Ciela's wishlist.

Women make 80¢ on the male dollar, even accounting for time off to raise kids. If that factor is not accounted for, women make 56¢.

Over her career, the average working woman loses $1.2 million to wage inequity.

Since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, the wage gap has closed by less than half a cent per year.

In 1963, RFK withdrew his nomination to a club that had spurned a black official and formed a club that didn’t admit women.

86% of guests on Sunday-morning political talk shows are men. So are 80% of the guests on The Daily Show.

Since orchestras started requiring musicians to audition behind screens, the number of women hired has increased 20%.

Men only earn 3/4 as many B.A.s as women. Some colleges now admit to practicing affirmative action for male applicants.

Only 1/3 of female Ph.D.s who get on the tenure track before having a baby ever do so.

31.5% of Iraq's parliament are women. Only 15% of the U.S. Congress are women.

15 African nations have a higher percentage of female legislators than does the U.S.

See the full list at Mother Jones

Monday, January 23, 2006

More Angst

We've embarked upon the second most existential quest of our lives. The first, naming a child, left me humbled and hollow. Taking on the authority to name a person, conferring an identity upon a being felt like the emperor disrobed. What power did I think I possessed to call this person into existence? This, I suspect, is the frightening abyss at the edge of parenthood. It still troubles me on days when Ciela (not a bad name from the existentially fraught hero of our story) looks up at me as if to say, "I cannot possibly be expected to define myself as your daughter for the rest of my existence."

Now, Judy and I have to face the equally fraught aspect of determining the very foundation of our future in Arizona.

We are going to buy real estate.

This monumental decision will ultimately determine our daily lives, our adjacent community, our sense of life, our very being.

I wish I were exaggerating, but the machinery in which we act our lives greatly determines what that life will be.

Winston Churchill said "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us," and he's correct. Look at the misery wrought by the modernist hell holes called public housing. Say it loud and say it proud "Pruitt-Igoe!" They designed warehouses for people, and the dehumanizing architecture did everything to push the inhabitents toward less-than-human.

Our cities are designed for cars, making of us exclusively drivers.

The default housing is the single-family detached home: an isolated factory for producing the american family. The moniker of "domestic engineer" rings true in that each home is manned (personned) by a small staff devoting most of their lives to keeping the house in working order. Housework, yardwork, repair, home projects, the job jar. This is the vocabular of the skewed domestic life, one in which we are laborers instead of humans.

Or consider the soul-killing box I've lived in for the past few months. Our apartment complex is certainly average. Probably better than a lot, but by no means luxurious (at least by western, urban standards). We have three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, small patio and two bathrooms. Spacious for most apartments. Our complex has four pools, one spa, a small fitness center, and nice grounds that are partially lawn and partially desert landscaping. We sit in a somewhat exclusive neighborhood of one of the wealthier cities in the valley.

And for all that, the apartment sucks.

And it sucks for completely avoidable reasons. Yet the design takes into account only the most superficial acknowledgements that people with ideas, desires and spirits will live here.

For starters, why in heaven's name would anyone build a structure on an east-west orientation in the flippin' desert? ALL of our windows face west meaning that June, July, August and September see our apartment morph into a solar oven.

The courtyards are quite nice, and the lucky few who have patios and balconies facing the courtyard are blessed (except for those open to the west, of course). Yet half of the apartments have their outdoor space overlooking parking lots. I can place my nightly bourbon and water on my neighbor's hood ornament. My view is of one palm tree and five Honda's, three Fords, two Saturns, and too many pickups for me to care. Meanwhile, all of the doors to the apartments open into the interior courtyards. Nice except that the doors are completely solid, so when closed, no view of the courtyard exists. Furthermore, putting the doors on the interior means that we are that much further from our cars. I think of this each time I carry groceries into the apartment. Now I'm far from being the type of person that dreams of inviting my car into my home via a heated, tiled garage with cable tv and stereo speakers. But if I'm going to park my car eight feet away from my bedroom window, why in the name of Frank Lloyd Wright can't I just have a door off the parking lot. It's not as if the door to the courtyard is making my life that much richer for the connection to grass and the view of the pool and hedges. I can't even see the fire extinguisher that welcomes people into my apartment.

Of course, all of this is understood by economics. The building plan was not drawn to connect people with their homes or the land on which they sit. If it were, all the apartments would have windows on at least two sides and views of the courtyard. No, the plans were drawn to maximize the number of units and the number of parking spaces within easy access of the major streets that access the community. In fact, the plan was drawn in absolute ignorance of the land, the climate, and the way people interact with these and with the architecture.

The apartment building is a way station. A limbo for people on their way up to better housing, or on their way out. The saddest aspect of this dreary place are those balconies and patios of the long-term residents. Those for whom this is home. Overcrowded with plants, candles, hanging knick-knacks. Packed with too much furniture for guests that never come. They are desparate pictures of failure to find a liveable life in this building.

So I do not overstate the importance of buying a house. The very essence of life is at stake.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NPR : Group Offers Money for Reports on Left-Wing Faculty

A UCLA alumni group is paying money to students who tape lectures from a group of professors that they have branded as radical and using the classroom improperly. Perhaps these alumni are an indication that a UCLA degree is worth less than one might have presumed. However, the mandatory core course for all freshmen, Witch Hunt 101, should boost their standings in US News and World Report's annual report.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Edge of Memory

The Edge of Memory
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Einstein on the Beach

Einstein on the Beach
Originally uploaded by shermans.

A couple of pictures from our trip to Florida to see my sister and her family and my parents. These are on the Disappearing Islands at Ponce Inlet, just south of Daytona Beach.

He knows that sea like the back of his hand

He knows that sea like the back of his hand
Originally uploaded by shermans.

And one of Ciela proper so people won't complain that I don't show enough cute baby photos.


It has been a while without any decent postings. I'm basically blogging in my head these days; gorgeous, epic-length diatribes on various aspects of culture that cross my path. Then I forget them by the time the day winds to a close and I can write.

School started yesterday--although this semester will be odd because the class (yes, still just one class--I can't recommend enough the one-one course load) I will be teaching is a hybrid course: one day in class and one day online. The day online is actually misnamed. We don't meet online but through asynchronus postings and such through Blackboard. I've always been a big fan of Blackboard, but used as a supplement to the classroom experience, not as a substitute. I think long-distance learning, especially in English courses, and most especially in writing courses, deprives students and teachers of critical face-to-face time that allows for immediate improvisation. If I'm a good teacher--let the debate begin--it is because of a dynamic presence in front of a classroom. What I've always seen as my strength is an ability to "work" the room so that I can lead students step by step as they work their way through understanding a text or discovering their own ideas.

This seems much more difficult online. Perhaps impossible. I simply cannot type fast enough nor can expect a rapid exchange of dialogue as an idea ferments.

But man is it much more convenient for me. No bus ride to campus. I can work the class in various stolen moments during the day and while pursuing other projects. So I prostituted myself: selling my scruples for more time.

So far, the whoring has been fun. The discussion board forum for introductions quickly degenerated into a flame war over the "war on Christmas" and the separation of church and state ("so-called" according to one of my students). To be fair, I started it, but mine was a very innocuous statement that was inspired by setting up modules over the holidays.

Tomorrow will be the first time I get to put a face to the words and ideas I've already seen from these people. I somehow doubt that the right wing ideologue will be dressed in khakis and oxford nor will the radical secularist show up in a pink mowhawk. But for the next 12 hours, that's how they look in my head.


In a life where I'm more popular, Scrivener would have tagged me for this meme.

Four Jobs You've Had
1. Paid entertainer for two pre-teen boys (glorified babysitter, but I was expected to create games, engage in art work, be the ideal big brother)
2. Development Director for a non-profit radio station (which resulted in such spectacular failure that I was let go after one year).
3. Lighting designer for various small theaters in Chicago.
4. Secret Agent for Her Majesty the Queen (oops, I probably wasn't supposed to mention that).

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
1. Breaking Away
2. It's A Wonderful Life (which i do watch every year)
3. Angels in America
4. Apocalypse Now

Four Places You've Lived
(at the risk of repeating the title of this blog)
1. Cincinnati, OH
2. Champaign-Urbana, IL
3. Evanston, IL
4. Louisville, KY

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
1. Six Feet Under
2. Scrubs
3. Arrested Development
4. The Office (BBC version)

Four Places You've Been on Vacation
1. Positano, Italy
2. Quebec City, Canada
3. Orcas Island, Washington
4. Fossil Rim, Texas

Four Blogs You Visit Daily
Scrivener, Writing as Jo(e), Michael Berube and, well, that's about it. There's always my very small blogroll that one can refer to. I don't read many blogs.

Four of Your Favorite Foods
1. Sweet potato quesadillas
2. tiramisu gelato
3. tofu burrito
4. Beer

Four Places You'd Rather Be
1. Oak Park, IL
2. Rome
3. Sails up somewhere in the carribean
4. not in the USA

Four Albums You Can't Live Without, Lately
1. Aimee Mann, The Forgotten Arm
2. Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs
3. The Drovers, World of Monsters
4. In Radio #6

Four Vehicles You've Owned
1. 1978 Honda Prelude: first and still the best car I've ever owned.
2. Hyundai Excel: the first car I bought with my own money.
3. Chevrolet Cavellier; god what a lousy car.
4. 1999 Silver Honda Civic.
4a. 1999 Silver Honda Civic. (At one time, we owned two cars almost exactly the same type. We called them our fleet.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Latest Work

The Latest Work
Originally uploaded by shermans.

This is how I spent my winter vacation. My parents have always liked a painting I did for Judy back when I was just out of college. I tried once before, but that one never went over. So this time, I tried to duplicate the mood and aesthetic of the first painting while not repeating myself. They say they like it, but then again, they said that about the first one, and that one is hanging in their closet. It's the adult version of hoping my parents will put my drawing on the refridgerator door.


Originally uploaded by shermans.

This is a detail of the above work. I may not be able to draw a dog--something that got me thrown out of a group project back in 7th grade--but I do have a bit of style. They amuse me and they make for cheap gifts. Well, not really all that cheap when one adds up the new paints and brushes, the canvas and shipping. Oh god, the shipping.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Some funny rants about troubled times

Ok, these are a little blue as they say, but they are pretty funny.

*%&$ Christmas
%&*# the South

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