Tuesday, January 22, 2019


It's embarrassing but we'll admit it - we totally fell for the video allegedly showing a Covington Catholic student mocking a Native American protester.  The smirk, the MAGA hat, and smug self-assuredness all led us to conclude that another white Republican frat boy was showing off his sense of entitlement and privilege, ironically to a person whose ancestors were on this land long, long before his had arrived.

You all know the story by now and that subsequent video of the larger chain of events showed a very different narrative.  This whole case is an excellent example of how schema works, how we create a backstory and a explanation for what we see based on our own history and experiences.  We all too often mistake our little fictions for the actual truth, clinging to our little narratives while both attacking other versions and defending our own.  

We've written a lot here in the past about schema and mental models (Sanskrit: samskara) and this isn't another post about all that.  What we're wondering is why no one is asking what seems to be the obvious questions - why were Catholic school students bussed to Washington and provided with MAGA hats to participate in an anti-choice protest?

We thought Catholic schools were church-based, and their tax-free status meant that they didn't participate, at least overtly, in politics.  We get it that the Catholic Church disapproves of abortion, and that many individual Catholics might want to participate in an anti-choice march, but this appeared to be an official outing of a tax-free parochial school.  Further, where did all those MAGA hats come from?  Did all the boys just so happen to have one, or were they provided by the tax-free school?  If the latter, how is that not political activism and why should they be allowed to maintain their exemption?

That's the part we still don't understand, but we have one follow-up question.  Reportedly, this whole incident started because some group calling themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites were insulting the Catholic-schools kids, hurling bizarre epithets at them like "children of incest."  Our follow-up question is what did the Covington kids door were believed to have done that brought that scorn and contempt down upon them?   

Monday, January 21, 2019


We really, truly hate to complain, but . . . .
  1. We are absolutely slammed at work.  Several different projects with competing deadlines all need more time that we have to give, and there's precious little support available.  This is not all that unusual for us, we've been here many, many times before, except that in addition to this stressor, we also have to deal with . . . 

  2. Getting things completed for the UCV.  As we said the other day, it appears we're over the hump and have a tenant lined up, but there's still a lot more work yet to be done, including but not limited to finding a contractor who knows how to install louvre doors for the laundry, not to mention getting the contractor into the unit and getting the actual work done.  We also have to get the condo painted.  Also, complete all the paperwork and everything else that needs to be done to get the new tenant into his new home, but our time for all that is limited not just because of work but also because. . . 

  3. Eliot the cat, who suffered fleas back in June 2017, has somehow managed to pick them back up again. So now we've got to find time not otherwise engaged in Tasks 1 and 2 above to get him to the vet and get him the good flea medicine (the over-the-counter stuff doesn't work).  Find time, that is, when we're not dealing with . . . 

  4. New rear brakes for the car.  It's making that horrid squealing sound when we stop, so we need to find time not being spent on Tasks 1, 2, or 3 above to get the car to the shop and have the brakes repaired, which normally could be done on the weekend, except . . . .

  5. Our cable service stopped working for some reason, and after a painful 60 minutes on the telephone tonight with tech support from India, it was determined that a technician needs to come over here to look at it  So now we have to make an appointment to wait around home for the cable guy sometime when we're not otherwise tied up with Tasks 1, 2, 3, or 4 above.

  6. We'd say that we just need to roll up our sleeves and jump into it all starting first thing tomorrow, but tomorrow morning we have a dentist appointment (more follow-on work to our adventures last year in self dentistry) and won't be able to make it to the office for Task 1 above, or do anything on Tasks 2, 3, 4, and 5 above, until after lunch (the only time the dentist had available for us was between 10:30 and 11:30).
So yeah, we're feeling a little stressed out and overwhelmed.  Somehow, all this will work itself out and in the meantime, we should just relax and let what happens come when it comes.  Perhaps we should just kick back tonight and unwind with a movie on cable and, oh right, Task 5 . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2019


The New England Patriots play the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC Championship later today, and the Sports Desk insists that we not post anything here during the game, and instead focus all our attention on the game and the Sports Desk's Tumblr page.

Ordered new tile flooring today to replace the worn-out linoleum in the kitchen of the UCV.  Also bought a new toilet tank cover on line to replace the broken lid in the unit.  When we were at Home Depot today, they told us they don't carry lids in store and only sell them on line, so we won't know if we bought the right size or not until it arrives. Also, we bought it from Amazon, because what's up with Home Depot not stocking their shelves?

The Music Desk has opined here in the past that with the indie-rock renaissance now over, rock music's peak years were 2005-2015, and the current scene is but a faded remnant of the glory of past years. But 2019 apparently takes exception to those remarks, and new albums released this January include great new LPs by the Atlanta-based Deerhunter, and by James Blake, Toro y Moi, and Juliana Hatfield.  And Sharon Van Etten's triumphant Remind Me Tomorrow may well turn out to be the AOTY.  Maybe intelligent rock music isn't dead after all.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Breakthrough?


Not to count chickens before they hatch, but we think we've got a new tenant in the UCV.

The new carpet installed this week made the place look a whole lot better and although still far from perfect, the place was finally ready to be shown - at least to a highly motivated renter with a little imagination and some patience.  Fortunately, we found just such a person - a young man who manages the restaurant just up the road (walking distance).  He understands that some repairs and upgrades (kitchen linoleum, the laundry room doors, etc.) won't be completed until after he moves in and that he'll have to be the one to let the contractors into the unit, but he's willing and ready to sign a lease (and more importantly, pay the first month's rent and security deposit).

I may look back on these words with rueful irony, but I think this might work out.   

Friday, January 18, 2019

Dreaming of the Masters


Reedman extraordinaire and all-round artist Joseph Jarman passed away on January 9, 2019, at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey.  His passing was announced by the New York chapter of the AACM on their website. He was 81.

Jarman was a founding member of the AACM and of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, but was also involved in Zen Buddhism and the practice of aikido. He began his study of aikido in the early 1970s and began studying Zen in 1990.  He visited various monasteries in Eastern Asia and a few years later opened Jikishinkan ("Direct Mind Training Hall"), his own dojo/zendo, in Brooklyn. He later became a Shinshu priest and held a fifth degree black belt in aikido.

We only saw Jarman perform once, a late 1970s Art Ensemble gig at Jonathan Swift's in Harvard Square, normally a folk-music club.  Highlights of the set included the members of the band wandering the stage, picking up random instruments from the small arsenal they had up there with them, play only a few notes on each and then put it back down to pick up another.  But experienced improvisors that they were, there were no gaps, no "dead air," between their random sounds.  At another point, they were all playing in unison, but one note, over and over, in 4/4 time, for something like five minutes.  Just a groove they somehow spontaneously fell into.  Wild.  

We saw his Art Ensemble bandmate, Roscoe Mitchell, last year at Big Ears, a 12:00 noon performance that blew the clouds off of a rainy day.  

Did Joseph Jarman have an influence on us?  Consider this:  Jarman composed the song Dreaming of the Master, from which we take the name of this regular Friday feature. 







Thursday, January 17, 2019

Iowa


Remember the time we had to go to Iowa to do some early-autumn field work?  That project is still continuing and soil samples are required at 27 locations (over and above the 14 we obtained last year).  The good news (at least for us) is that we didn't actually have to go.  The work progressed this week in the conditions pictured above but I got to send a colleague in my place to do the work under my remote supervision.  I'll do Iowa in September and let others take care of it in January.

The carpet got installed in the UCV today.  I haven't seen it yet - I worked all day on the opposite side of the city and traffic was so bad tonight driving home that I gave up on the idea of over-shooting my home to drive the additional five miles on congested side streets to go see the UCV.  That's what weekends are for . . .

Somehow, Izzy the cat got it into his head that he can't go into the bedroom.  When I'm in there, sleeping, reading on the bed, whatever, he sits patiently outside the door while Eliot, my other cat, snuggles up to me. Izzy's stoic about his ostracism, but I can feel the waves of his resentment right through the walls.  But the barricade is totally in his head, and I have no idea how it got in there.    

I'm at Level 49 now in Fallout 76 but the game is starting to wear on me.  I've been all over the open-world terrain and there are few surprises left any more, only the constant, unrelenting search for food, ammo, and duct tape.  I've set a goal to reach Level 50, after which it's time to start a new game.  I wanted a game that would last me through the long Thanksgiving weekend and into the New Year and 76 did that, but it's starting to feel like it's time to move on.  I probably won't ever get to the point where I can access the nuclear launch codes and frankly don't really care (why nuke an already devastated wasteland, other than it's something that's possible to do in the game?), and once a game's endplay no longer holds an appeal, then what's the point? 

That's it for this week.  Dreaming of the Masters tomorrow, and then whatever weekend blogging comes up Saturday and Sunday.  Take care of yourselves, and we'll talk later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019



I'm no secret agent, but the one thing I do know - mostly from watching movies and television - is that both the CIA and the KGB use blackmail to turn a citizen into an informant or even a mole. Once either side has the "goods" on a person - an incriminating videotape, evidence of accepting a bribe, a clandestine affair, what have you - they can then get that person to do their bidding for them by holding the threat to release the information they have to the police, a spouse, the media, or whatever befits the situation.

The Giant Orange Pumpernickel (GOP) met one-on-one several times with former KGB operative and now President of Russia Vladimir Putin.  The GOP refuses to release transcripts of what was discussed, and reportedly even had the transcripts of the conversations destroyed.  Whatever was said, we may not ever know. And the GOP certainly doesn't want us to find out.

But here's the thing - there were two interpreters in the room - one English and working for the U.S., and the other one Russian.  There are two sets of transcripts - one in English and another in Russian.  The GOP had the English one destroyed but there's no reason to believe that the Russian one doesn't still exist.

That's all the KGB should need.  They can use the threat of the transcript somehow getting released to the media to get the GOP to do their bidding.  Classic espionage blackmail.  The GOP may not completely fold over just the transcript, but who knows - there's no telling what's on them. When you add the transcripts to the loans and nefarious financial dealings the GOP has with Russian banks and oligarchs (he still won't release his tax returns, and calls any investigation into his financial affairs a "red line" that shall not be crossed), you start to sense the leverage Russia probably has over the American President.  Not to mention the pee tape . . . .

Time and again, the GOP has sided with Putin and with Russia on issue after issue, discounting the advise and counsel of his own intelligence agencies and advisors.  We wants to lift sanctions. He denies Russian interference in the 2016 election.  He's even speculated the unthinkable - a U.S. withdrawal from NATO.  

Why is he so interested in not only protecting but advancing Russian interests?  What have they got on him and what is he trying to hide?

Since he is tainted by, at the very least, the appearance of being compromised, and since the American public cannot tell if his foreign policy decisions are based on interest in protecting the U.S. or due to fear of being exposed, the honorable thing for him to do, the only thing really, would be to step down.  He's no longer able to defend the country and the constitution.  Dereliction of duty.  He must resign.

I know that's not gonna happen though . . .     

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Persona


Part of the problem with the previous tenants was a matter of identity - to me, they were just tenants, two-dimensional, largely unseen characters whose sole purpose in life, as far as I was concerned, was to send me monthly rent checks.  To them, I was just as two-dimensional and just as unseen - I was that demanding landlord whose sole fixation was to get the rent payments as quickly as possible,  

It's no wonder, then, that they felt it was acceptable to leave the place in the state that it was in.  They had little conception that on top of being their landlord, I was also a workaholic full-time career man, a stressed-out urbanite, and a burned-out, exhausted introvert.  In their view of who I was, why wouldn't I have time to haul away all their trash and clean up their filth?  What else was there to my life other than managing their rental unit?

I realize that I also have a myopic vision of who they were and what they thought.

But all this ties into a larger concept I've been thinking about lately.  We're all actually many, many different people to the many others in our life.  We might be a parent as far as children are concerned, or a loving (or not) spouse to our loving (or not) partner.  To the person in the car behind us in traffic, we're the doofus who won't move his car after the light has changed.  To the cashier at the supermarket, we're part of that horde of daily customers, and to our coworkers, we could be any of a limitless number of things.

The truth of it is that they're all right - we're all those things and more.  We don't have a single identity, and we're certainly more than the star of that self-narrated personal history that we tell ourselves.  That narrative is only one more person's opinion, our own, but it's just as unreliable as any of the other identities.  

We are not one single person. In the relativistic sense, we're an infinite number of possible persons, depending on who is asking and where we might happen to fit into that other person's narrative.

So it was with great interest that I read the quote below by philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan (my old job).  In an article about her in The New Yorker, Professor Anderson told the reporter,
"At church, I'm one thing.  At work, I'm something else.  I'm something else at home, or with my friends.  The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one's identities in other domains?  That is what it is to be free."       
The brilliance of that quote isn't that it recognizes and acknowledges our multiple identities, but it proposes that instead of insisting we are who we think we are, liberation is found in accepting these multiple identities and freely moving from persona to persona.  

Monday, January 14, 2019

More Winter Housework


As previously mentioned, today we had a professional cleaning company (the word now underlined instead of in quotations) come over and clean the Unsellable Condo in Vinings.  They did a great job, but the problem with a good cleaning is that now one can see the additional damage done by the former tenants.
  • There's a level of baked on/burned on grease on the stove top that's almost impossible to scrub off.  I don't know if they ever cleaned it.  We'll have to order a replacement.

  • The top to the tank on the toilet bowl is broken - at least three pieces -  and it appears that when it fell/was knocked off, it broke the toilet paper holder off the wall as it descended.  More replacement parts.

  • There's a mantle over the fireplace, and it looks like not only did they let candle wax drip all over it, but some things (I can't even guess what) appear to have melted up there and left weird plastic residues.  We're hoping paint could just cover it up.

  • Kitchen linoleum floor is shot.  Need to replace (tile?).

  • Looks like they somehow managed to break the handle on the dishwasher (new unit I had to buy for them after the old one somehow died).  I didn't have the heart to even try it to see if it still works or not - one can only take so much disappointment in a single day.
I already have a prospective tenant lined up (he hasn't seen the place yet) and may be able to foist off some of the damages without a repair, but despite all the effort I put into the unit before the last tenants moved in (remodeled bathroom, new hardwood floors), the UCV is probably now less ready for the market (should it come to that) than before.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


The Great Orange Pumpernickel (GOP) has shut down the government as extortion for funding for a solution that won’t work to a problem that doesn’t exist.

It’s all an obvious distraction tactic to divert our attention from his plummeting approval ratings (outside of his base, which will never waver) and imminent sanctions or possible impeachment due to his collusion with Russia and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The real victims here aren’t the infinitesimally small number of Americans victimized by illegal migrants, but the hundreds of thousands American citizens working for the U.S. government. But the GOP doesn’t care about other people. To him, it’s all about himself.

America needs to wake up and rid itself of this pestilence on our leadership like a junkyard dog shakes off its fleas.



Saturday, January 12, 2019

Housework


I've spent 3 to 5 hours each day of the past two weekends cleaning out all the garbage left behind at the Unsellable Condo in Vinings.  I actually called one professional - I probably should put that in quotations - one "professional" cleaning company to finish the job, but after showing up they declared the condo a "biohazard" and refused to work there.  I'll grant you there's a shocking amount of dog hair of the floors, but I think "biohazard" is more than a little bit of an exaggeration.

To put it another way, the cleaning company wouldn't clean because the unit wasn't clean enough.

To add injury to insult, they left the bathroom exhaust fans running and I got a call from the downstairs resident two days later complaining about the noise, and had to drive out there last Friday night to turn off the fans.  Inside, I saw that the "professional" cleaning company left the paper bag, cups, and other trash from their Chick-Fil-A breakfast on the floor of the condo.  I won't say that there wasn't other trash left by the former residents already on the floor, but you'd think the cleaners would be more conscientious than leaving the unit dirtier than when they arrived.   

I finally got everything, or nearly everything, out and into the trash today.  I've got a different cleaning company coming over on Monday to (hopefully) finish the job, and new carpet will be installed the following Monday.  I've ordered a new thermostat from Amazon to replace the busted one left behind and if I can't install it, I'll have to call a contractor to come in and do it.  I still haven't found a painter yet or a handyman/carpenter to repair the wood the former tenant's dogs dug out near the windows.     

The Unsellable Condo In Vinings - the bane of my existence since the year 2000.