Divide and dissolve

So here I was in Bellingham for one of my week-end visits, made more frequent of late by the combination of a long-distance relationship and cheap airfare. The week-end had passed well and it was Monday, my day of departure. Getting back to the airport was going to be a bit iffy, though, as Michele was back down in Seattle working away and my mom was doing same here in the 'ham. But don't worry - I'd got things all figured out. My sister and Woodley also happened to be up for the week-end; they had driven up the coast, and so would be able to drop me off at the Food Co-Op, whence my plan was to meet Brian Russell at The Home and visit a bit before being driven to the airport. Simple enough.

I departed as planned from Liz and Woodley at the Food Co-Op. I began walking up the street towards The Home, but was arrested in that purpose next to the WECU by one Monica Simmons, a friend from back in high school whom I haven't seen in simply ages. We fell to chit-chat, and before I knew it a passing postal worker was calling my name. It just so happened that I had paused in the very route of BJ, a pal from my post-college Bible study. After a brief exchange of hails he was back to work, but a moment or two later, yes, a tap on the shoulder, and the one and only Evan Day, a family friend and fellow Flying Colorist, was standing before me. That makes five - Liz, Woodley, Monica, BJ, and Evan - in as many minutes. Adding in the fact that after a bit more chit-chat I would return from this serendipitous street corner to my original plan of meeting Brian Russell, I figure that I've set a new P.R. for happening across friends from all the different walks and times of my life.

I feel that, over time, this blog is becoming a trifle Bellingham-heavy, and I have a vague feeling that this trend should be avoided. It's not truly representative of my life these days -- I certainly don't spend hours each day pining away for the motherland -- nor is it all that interesting subject matter, for who really wants to hear me lament my elsewhereness? Nevertheless, the High Street Coincidence has somewhat renewed my desire to find a way home again, since where else than Bellingham do things like that occur?

Where else indeed. As soon as I landed I was given a ride back from the Oakland Airport by Jeff Widman.

Music of the moment:

Waterdeep's recent album, Pink And Blue, manages a thing that few albums can in that it is both a bit of a disappointment and it is one of my most listened-to albums week after week. How do these two facts coexist? Well, the truth (by which I mean my opinion) is that Waterdeep write excellent songs, even when the complex arrangements and virtuosic fretcraft of yore are replaced with a misguided candy-coating of DIY production tricks. What I'm trying to say is: buy this album, but buy Sink or Swim and To Chase Away The Birds first.

In other news, I've been listening to Tower Of Power's older stuff quite a bit recently. Urban Renewal and Back to Oakland are both smokin' soul-funk. If you've never heard them before, these albums are highly recommended. Cue the Pandora.


Sing "Other People"

I have a habit. It is sometimes a good and sometimes a bad but most frequently lies pretty well on the fairway of the habitspace: it is to tell other people's stories.

I'm not sure when or why I realized that other people's lives are more interesting than my own, but it is certainly true that, when I do make a go at small talk, I tend to commence the majority of my sentences with the lead-in of "I know someone who..." Query me regarding my interests and I will dredge up a couple, ask me about my work and I will tell you that it is going just about as well as it ever does, inquire regarding my family and you will get the basic facts, but if the conversation is to bend towards anything more delightful and instructive that bend will almost certainly take an angle away from self. You may hear Mickey's thoughts on feeling fat, for example, or an exaggeration on the subject of Adam's clumsy squirrel, a treatise full of Timothy's philosophy or a guidebook to Brian's more recent escapades. Those scars on my tummy, though? You'll have to ask someone else for the tale.

I was reminded of this tendency today as a coworker recounted the conversation he had with a friend at one of our partner companies.

He called her up, them not having chatted in a while, and asked her how her day was going. She said not very well as her dog had just died. He replied that he was sorry to hear that and continued on that vein for a few minutes, asking how old was the poor thing, speaking about how these things hit everyone pretty hard because you get so attached, telling about how he remembered that one time he had a dog that he liked very much... at this point she asked him what he was talking about dogs for, she said that her dad had died.

It will be a long time before my coworker rings his friend up again. Looking on the bright side, though, the awkwardness of his position has added another arrow to my second-hand repertoire.

Music of the moment:

Did I already tell you about Skip James? Yes? Well, then - nothing new to report. Perhaps another trip to the library is in order.


Life to false metal

Yesterday I...

Woke up and wasn't too groggy.
Went for a run and was faster than before.
Drove up 280 and thought about the wonders of God.
Worked all day and never got bored.
Drove down 280 and listened to a Power Rangers episode on the radio.
Picked up Eric from 307 and brought him to The Bungalow.
Made pasta for dinner and put some cheese on top.
Hung out with the Graceland fellows and basked in their wisdom.
Went to bed and had a nice rest.

And today was pretty much the same.

[Editor's note: Yes, a Power Rangers episode, in addition to which on my drive home I heard an amazing gong-show version of people failing to sing the alphabet song in different musical genres, as well as multiple exhortations from the Pirate DJ to donate to KFJC. Bay area college radio cannot be beat.]

Music of the moment:

I've been playing a lot of guitar recently and have been listening to some early blues players, who are great fun to play along with. On a recent trip to the library I picked up a compilation of early recordings by Skip James, and they are absolutely stellar. Also noteworthily excellent library finds have been Ry Cooder's early albums. Wonderful stuff.


My car makes me sin

Unlike the celebrated Marley, PontiAnn was not dead to begin with. There was no question. It was last week, maybe Tuesday, [editor's note: it was actually much longer ago. I have a bad habit of starting these posts and leaving them unfinished] and I was driving my 33 1/3-mile commute, weaving into and out of the cloudy hills surrounding our national interstate system's two hundred and eightieth highway, and the only hint of coming menace that I noticed was that the fuel gauge was running on the low side.

This was not unusual, nor was it a problem -- I might not have had enough petrol to get back home, but there is a no-name gas station two blocks from the office in Daly City, which, though the numbers on the sign out front rarely match those on the actual pump, provides plentiful petrol at the people's price. What struck me as unusual at this pit stop, the fillip of the fill-up, as it were, was the manner in which, upon re-entering my car, jotting down the miles traveled, the gallons purchased, the legal tender extracted, and cetera, I turned the key to the "start" position and the car failed entirely to perform that simple task. It was as if, instead of "start", I had turned the key to "do nothing for a while, then make sickly whirring noises."

I debated asking for a jump from a passer-by. I had cables, but then, I also had AAA, and supposed as well that the battery dying abruptly in this way may signal deeper automotive distress than a mere loss of charge. When the Big Yellow Truck arrived, therefore, I voiced these concerns and was dully told not to worry about it too much, given a jump, and instructed to drive around for a bit, which I did before heading the two blocks to work.

My office is conveniently situated directly adjacent to a seven-story parking structure which was fairly full by the time I pulled into the gate. I parked as close to the ground as possible, which turned out to be the fourth story, and shut the car off. Just to see what would happen, I turned the starter again. Rrihw. Rrihw. Ah well, I'd just get a jump from a coworker at lunch and take the car to a shop.

Or so I thought. I found a nearby ignition shop online all right but the attempted jump that was to have gotten me there failed, as did a tap at the end of the day from my boss' pickup from which we had hoped to get a more wallopful kick-start. Oh well. I informed the parking lot security that they had not lost a parking slot they had gained a Bonneville and headed mass-transitward.

Arriving the next day on the Early Train, I put another call in to AAA, who assured me that another truck was on its way. Promptly after hanging up I put yet another call in to AAA, who assured me that the fact that I had just locked my keys in my car would prove but a minor inconvenience. And in fact it did.

What proved a much greater inconvenience, however, was the fact that, though I had mentioned the height requirements of the parking structure, the truck that arrived was two inches too, too large for the job. We decided that the best way to overcome this new challenge would be to push the car down. So, with the aid of the tow truck driver and a couple of very helpful chaps from building security, I spiraled my way, sans power breaks or steering, down between the rows and rows of sports cars and hybrid SUVs, most of which are worth, in my cursory estimation, more than my life.

Once we got to the ground floor the jump proved a trifle and I was on my way to the ignition shop, where I dropped off l'auto and made the two mile hike back to work. All set. The end of the workday saw me making the return journey to pick up the beast, which, apparently, had just needed a new battery all along. Unfortunately, new batteries cost money, and it was only after I had arrived at the shop that I learned of their policy of not extending credit to shady characters holding little plastic cards. I had left my checkbook at home that morning, so I was about to start the sad trek to the nearest train station when the kindly shop attendant told me that I could take the car and bring a check in the morning. I thanked him and was on my way.

When I arrived at home, I was meticulous in ensuring the working-orderness of everything. I tried the locks a couple times, tried turning off and turning on the car, made sure that the lights were working -- I wanted to make sure that, when I came back to the car in the morning, I wouldn't have any difficulties.

When I came back to the car in the morning, I had difficulties. Apparently, in my zeal of checking-over-ness, I had departed from my standard routine enough to have accidentally left the spare set of keys in the "on" position (though with the car turned off,) which had kept enough electricity flowing to completely drain the new battery.

This was at about seven o'clock in the morning, so I phoned up Mickey, who I know to be a truly good friend, the kind who would only laugh at me for about ten minutes before giving me a jump.

Allotting about 10 minutes for him to arrive, therefore, I was faced with a new problem. The jumper cables that I had fortuitously purchased before driving the car down to California had been sitting in the trunk ever since, and the manual lock on my trunk has been broken since I got the car. This is normally fine -- I can use the button to pop it open, but my car was made in an era when mechanically trivial things that could be made vastly more complicated and less reliable via the miracles of electricity were made vastly more complicated and less reliable via the miracles of electricity, and as we all know dead batteries are more or less electricity's Achilles' Heel.

Fortunately, the folks at Pontiac had the foresight to install a second access to the trunk, via the rear seats. This is not the kind of useful now-we-can-fit-all-sorts-of-things-in-this-boat fold-down-the-whole-seat access, however. Instead, those clever product designers seem to have been anticipating my very situation, for the aperture has approximately the cross sectional area of a man's shoulder.

After blindly fishing around for several minutes, I struck against something plastic and snaky, and soon I had extracted the goods. This was about when Mickey arrived, and, after a false start and a ten-minute let's-just-see-if-it-works charge from Mickey's 626, I was finally on my way to the Daly City again.

And have had no problems with it since.

Music of the moment:

I have recently been re-discovering a few outstanding albums.

Howe Gelb's 'Sno Angel Like You is a standout, a beautiful blend of slacker desert folk with (what else?) gospel choir harmonies. The great thing about this piece is the wholly unique feeling that one gets at all of its moments, a feeling that this strange music is simultaneously a meticulously crafted labor and a lazy shambles that will fall to pieces as soon as one of the tenuous guitar chords holding it together snaps.

Rich Mullins's The Jesus Demos is probably more familiar to you. These are a handful of demos that were recorded shortly before his death (R.M.'s, not... well, you know) and thematically centered on an exploration of Christ from divers perspectives. I generally steer clear of the genre that is variously called CCM or Christian Pop or just That Commercial Dreck, but this album is one that I have found myself singing the songs of again and again throughout the years in spite of myself.

Finally and most famously, The Talking Heads's Remain In Light recently catchyed its way into constant play on my office computer for about a week and a half, and I am someone who never listens to anything on repeat. The thing that I find entrancing about this album is its incredible texture -- each of the songs, the dance numbers at least, are a bubbling mess of energy that is somehow coherent, a spin of endless repetition that is somehow complex enough to hold the attention indefinitely. Add to that lyrics that have found a permanent place in the coveted land of my IM status quotes -- a tough arena to crack -- and you have yourself a classic. Which, in fact, it is.


(All of us in a room)

I held off a long time before making a blog for myself. I had my reasons. I had, rather, my reason: I was afraid of blogs, and, in a broader sense, afraid of a culture that suggests that an admirable form of expression is one that allows someone like me, someone who needs twelve heaping wallops of humility and more than a dash of selfless thought, to start the first four sentences of his admirable expression with a personal pronoun, then to line up his Is next to a pile of music he likes, comics he likes, people he likes, web sites he likes... So I was afraid of it, and still am, just like I'm afraid of Facebook and Last.fm and all the rest, because I already start all my prayers, like my blog posts, with I, and that's more than far enough down that road.

I have a whole rant about that, a rant that makes me feel superior to other people and therefore which I guiltily like to give with little or no provocation, but I won't give it here because a) Well, I won't list the reasons; the irony hangs heavy as it is. I won't rant about that because that is not the point of this post, it is merely the initiator.

So, skipping back to the end of the first sentence (see paragraph 1,) let's just insert the following and forget that little transpiration that, you know, transpired. Er, hem.

When I started this ig/noble experiment, what had tipped me over the edge from nay to yay was reading other people's blogs that were genuinely beneficial. Okay, I admit - it was only one blog, but it was enough. Being therefore convinced that if one stuck to content sure to delight and amuse, or possibly instruct, that one could at least avoid the soul-diffusing perils of punting his ego into a wallless internet, I embarked with the intention of keeping my segoul as contained as contained as possible. I would tell stories, share my thoughts, but only so far as other people might reasonably be expected to be interested in, and I would always be more eager to share about someone else than about myself.

Likely. Why do I write in this ridiculous prose?

So I've done better and I've done worse, and frequently, especially over the last couple of years, I've done even better by not doing at all, but I would like to get back a bit of my original intention if possible, and also to capture a bit of something that I've found alternately distasteful and essential in the blogs of others: the ability to keep in touch with someone without actually keeping in touch with him. As meaning to that end, therefore, I present to you: the life of Rob. Part IV. Chapter 3. On Bungalows.

When Tim Butler visited I heard that this was to no longer have been The Bungalow. That would have been a shame. Not that I have any particular affiliation with the name - in fact, the plan as it was stated was to retire the jersey and find another as soon as Jeremy, my esteemed predecessor, departed - but it does have its claims, which cannot be disposed of lightly. And so the name has stuck.

Now in The Bungalow we are three: myself, with whom I suspect you are familiar, and two others, with whom I intend to acquaint you.

I met Mike first, only a quarter into my freshman year. I don't remember what he was doing at the time, though I have my suspicions that it had something to do with schooling. He was one of the seven or so regular attenders to a little group called Reformed University Fellowship, which some guy in Testimony named David Scudder had gotten me to go to (this was after he took me to a bowling alley, where I met someone named Mickey and we had our first dance, but that's another story entirely.) Mike was quite a friendly guy, and so I talked to him a bit at RUF, which, if you are familiar with my peculiar shyness you may know, is not something I always do around people whom I have met only once or twice or thirty times. That, then, is how I got to know Mike.

Mike has been a resident of The Bungalow for a year now, maybe two. His hallmarks in the house are the motorcycle out back, exciting (read: violent) movies, and delicious, delicious meals from Trader Joe's, which I suspect are delicious by argument of the scents that waft therefrom. One of the wonderful things about The Bungalow is how well each of us its residents fit together with the others, and Mike is the one of us three who is best at being at home here, that is to say, at using the house like a home. His predecessor was the aforementioned Tim, who was here at the time with Jason, who is still here, thereby completing the circle.

I met Jason later and in more hazy circumstances than Mike's. I do believe that the first time we met it was at a party for some holiday during which I felt exceptionally uncomfortable, as I tend to at parties for some holidays. At the time I had a beautiful moment when I departed from my social torpor long enough to realize that the gentleman next to me was attempting to discuss bodhràn playing technique. A good moment, as I remember it.

Jason and I have plenty of good moments still. Aside from being a drummer, he is a model housewife and gently keeps those of us in check who may otherwise be wont to shirk our domestic duties. He initiates movements to the tune of "let's paint the living room," "today we should run speaker wire under the house," and "I think that we should leave that wall clear, for lo, I have a projector, and lo, there shall be a projection." He also subscribes to The Economist, the only putable news source in the house, and thereby plays a bit part in shaping my mind to the world.

Jason, then, is good at making the home, Mike is good at using it, and me, well, I suppose I'm best at sharing it - advertently or not (the drum set I think takes care of the inadvertent sharing.) My domestic duties in this respect, such as have shaken out, mostly consist of inviting people over, piping weird music, and usually speaking reason to the dishes afterwards.

That, then, completes The Bungalow. Such as it stands today, in any case. God knows, but I am blessed to be here.

Bonus post (woo) -- I drafted the below and saved it a while ago, but for some reason never got around to posting it. Watch your mirrors.

I was talking with Michele (on the in-ter-net!) and the subject of Ten Easy Steps To Doing Well In All Areas Of Life came up (as it so frequently does.) I thought hers pretty solid, but not having a witty blog to put them up on I thought I'd post them here as a warning to others who might consider making lists of things for me:

1. know michele
2. eat well
3. visit kacie and michele
4. have a witty blog
5. learn to make hummus
6. get hours of sleep each night
7. get rid of your facebook account
8. keep a journal
9. get vitamin D
10. read the classics.
11. Figure out the on/off functionality of your cell phone

So there you have the prescription. Get your hours of sleep and call me in the morning.

[Editor's note: I have since hung up on her and probably a couple of other people while trying to retrieve call-waiting calls. I am not doing so hot on #11, which I think might have been the initiator of this list. Can't quite remember.]

Music of the moment:

Hoo boy, lots to report! First off, I finally acquired both of the recent Waterdeep / Chaffer Family albums, and both are quite good. I'm not good at thoughtful reviewing, but suffice it to say that, given their history of excellence, there was a lot of room for disappointment; yet no disappointment ensued. [Editor's note: Okay, maybe a little. To Chase Away The Birds is a spectacularly good album.]

I've also been listening a good deal to David Bowie's album "Heroes". It's been noted already that this is a great album, and, originally interested in its instrumental, soundscapey tracks and not much impressed with the likes of Beauty and the Beast, I've been surprised by how long the album as a whole can hold my attention as I keep putting it back in week after week.

Finally, have you heard of Amy X Neuburg? No?? I hadn't either, until a few weeks ago I was listening to KFJC on my way to church and this insane, layered vocal piece came on and started talking to itself. It was so unique and intriguing that I just sat in the church parking lot listening to it through to the end, and that doesn't happen too often with me and the radio, so I figured it must be something particularly worth checking out. Turns out that I was right! Give one of her albums a spin if you can get your mitts on one; the most recent is also the most interesting to listen to, though (because?) it is somewhat less accessible than the others.


The swamps of home

It has been almost a year since I last visited here. Some have pondered these things in their hearts, no doubt, and I myself find same a bit unsettled by this long silence. What might it mean? Much of significance has undoubtedly happened in my life in the intervening months, and yet, however interventionist the months have become, I fail to view the ever-shifting commonplace as I once did. I no longer see life, for example, as even resembling a series of diverting vinaigrettes suitable for public display and amusement.

In place of that ideal, I'm coming into a newly distressing interpretation for the foregone queries of What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up. The problem is that I always paid more attention to the "want to be" part of this question, but the effect of the progression of life to my thoughts thereon suggest that a far more important thing to ponder may be "when you grow up?" An awfully crabby way to pose the question, but still, more pertinent.

Or perhaps it is not a matter of which is the more pertinent question. Perhaps these two are merely at increasing odds with one another. In a sense, what I want to be may be precisely to not be when I grow up. At least, not the way that I think of growing up.

I have a job now, did I mention? A good steady one, involving all the important aspects: smart people, nodding, meetings, com-put-ahs, pieces of various pies, the whole nine tails. Unfortunately, like most jobs it involves me being in not-Bellingham. And if there is any place that is good for growing but not up, for maturing dependently, for becoming more like the person that I would like to be, it is Bellingham.

I think there is something real about that town. Or maybe it is just home. Or maybe it was just a mistake to read Howards End. I'm not sure which, but as I was flying in after having been away for such a long time I was looking out the plane's windows at islands that have hung on my walls for years I know that I felt the most profound sense of joy that I can remember feeling. There is something substantial about that place, no doubt about it. A messy business.

This past summer-into-fall I learned a lot and thought a good deal more than I am used to. I don't have as much fun now, despite having many good friends about, for which I am ever thankful; I don't think about life as much or at least in the right way; in fact, in terms of personal anything, I'm stagnant. My mom calls the present my two+ years of military service, which I understand even though it is probably an overstatement. I'm sure I will love... business, and in fact I do like my job a lot. But even so, being in the land of not-Bellingham, it happens to not involve any of the most important elements of life-in-Bellingham-over-the-past-half-year.

Starting to see where I'm going with this? That's too bad, because in reality this whole thing has been one awfully chewy lead-up to another edition of... Things I Like An Awful Lot About The Past. And here they are, a stream of consciousness arriving right on time and in no particular order, that will mean very little to most people, but which I will look back on in the future and smile:

- "Hey, you! You with the face!"
- "Ya pay your money, ya take your chances!"
- Having long and real conversations with and constantly learning from a man who is far wiser than I will ever be.
- Living in the same town as Emily for the first time in who knows how long (I do! Four years!)
- Getting to know Megan, Erek, Tara, and loads of other important, wise, accepting, amazing people much better.
- Spaghetti sauce.
- Helicopter.
- Seeing Mrs. Short on Sundays.
- The taped sermon/talk about the woman at the well by, I forget his name, that Int'l House of Prayer guy.
- Once, I was but a learner...
- Playing chess with Jared.
- Drives to Birch Bay.
- Nathaniel's work schedule -- it turns out I am a morning person after all.
- Songs throughout the day... including but not limited to:
"Don't you know, we are cows!"
"I neeeeeed a nap!"
"We are lovely and slooooow; don-t-cha-know we are cows."
"Into the woods! Into the woods!"
"You are my masking machine, somethingsomething oooonly sev-en-teen."
"Raindrops keep falling on my head..."
"Get Evan to do it, dear Ro-ob, dear Ro-ob; get Evan to do it, his musc-les are big!"
- The wind storm blowing waves out of Birch Bay. That was such a great day.
- Walking past the automatic garbage can that said bwaah.
- Thursday
- Listening to the audiophile system at that one place in Fairhaven with Brian and Jeff W.
- Lafeen's
- Playing drums, getting better, and people putting up with it.
- Michele's surprise visit.
- Working with Brian, who once again showed without exaggeration or pride that he is better than me in everything.
- "What does this have to do with my mother?" "Ev-ery-thing!"
- Fantasy football
- Fantasy child-rearing
- The Amazing Race
- Apple pastries
- Judging the clarity of the day by whether or not we could see the Olympics.
- Being introduced to various songs by The Smothers Brothers, Victor Borge, etc.
- Trying to sell the Death Star that came with it.
- "... cookie?"
- Looks askance from all the more, um, normal contractors.
- The fact that all of my stories now start with "So this one time Nathaniel and I were talking..."

[Editors' note: We believe that the omission of "I don't like it when Rob talks to me!" from this list is a grievous error, a word which we have just learned is spelt with only a single 'i', and we will not let it happen again.]

There are, of course, the bright spots of my current situation as well. They are fewer, but still:

- Pancakes
- The Bungalow
- Building the aforementioned Death Star... while watching The Star Wars Holiday Special... and The Muppet Show Featuring Mark Hamill.
- Frinners
- The incredible Edwin, against whom there is no comparison.
- Card games
- Running, and the fact that it doesn't kill me.
- Popcorn!
- Living near the to-be-Woodleys.
- 280
- Mickey, Kristen, Beth, and everyone else who has ended up here in not-home.

...And the list continues to grow. Anywhere but up.

Music of the moment:

Following hard on the heels of a Nick Cave binge, I recently found myself listening to Damien Jurado's Where Shall You Take Me? non-stop, enough to make me go out and buy more of his stuff. Since then I have been completely entranced with Rehearsals for Departure. His voice is incredible -- the way i described it to a friend is that it sounds like something that comes from a point outside of his head, then has to filter its way back in before it can come out at the right spot. This is especially true high in his range, and can be fleeting as his voice changes a ton depending on dynamics and pitch and instrumentation. Another name for my list of "If I could sound like anyone, I would choose..."

Speaking of which, I also have a couple new Favorite Songs Ever. If you'll kindly take my word that they stop my in my tracks and entice me to turn up the volume every time I listen to them, I won't go into any further explanations. They are "Hail, Mary" by Shearwater and "The Wishing Tree" by The King's Singers. Gorgeous.



Have you ever come to a sudden realization of how you behave, of how you have been behaving for a really long time without even thinking about it, but, now that it comes to mind, it really is a little bizarre? Things like noticing for the first time that, when you walk through the arcades of the quad, you take unnaturally long steps in order to take one step per grid space? Or that when you open an outward-swinging door you habitually give a too-weak push with your hand and a helpful shove/kick with your foot in order to get the door fully open?

I have.

I was reading through the Daily recently when my eye happened upon a small errata box that they had thrown in due to some fallacious quotage in a past issue. Now, I was not particularly interested in anything in the Daily that day, just as I had not been particularly interested in anything in the Daily for the past several, which span surely encompassed the article therein corrected. But when I glanced upon the correction, I was riveted. I read it carefully, trying to reconstruct in my mind the original article in full detail in order to make sense of the apology. As I was doing this, I came to a realization of the aforementioned type: a) I always do this when I see corrections in papers, even if I would have had absolutely no interest in the original article, and b) I have no idea why.

The consistency with which I pursue newspaper corrections is especially baffling to me considering that, usually if not always, articles of this type are embarrassments, either to the paper or to the article's subject. For example, in the particular correction I was reading, the tale was told of how some student or other, instead of heroically helping out in a tense situation, had in fact, according to many readers of the original article who had phoned, e-mailed, sky-written, etc. the paper, drunkenly gotten in the way of authorities who were actually trying to resolve the continuingly-vague hullabaloo. To sum up, the correction pretty much made everyone connected with the article unhappy. The paper was embarrassed. The student was embarrassed. I was embarrassed for them. The score was negative everybody, all because I felt an urge to read this correction.

And this always happens. There is no case that I can come up with in which reading a correction about an article in which I have no objective interest is a good thing. Now, I do believe that such corrections are good and necessary to preserve truth and honesty and accountability in media and lots of other things that everyone agrees are good things; it's in the act of random, disinterested people like me reading them that their value shifts to the socially questionable. And yet I read on.


Music of the moment:
I was invited to cover for another DJ on KZSU recently and Ben Savage joined me for the aural fête. While setting up the rough playlist for the show, I was checking out Hush records and I stumbled upon Super Xx Man, a music therapist at the Oregon State Hospital's maximum security wing who also puts out folksy albums every now and again.

Other cool discoveries were Neko Case, who apparently is a pretty popular country/indie songwriter, though I had never heard of her, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, who play a wonderfully unique fusion of modern classical and progressive rock, with elements of jazz and percussion-centric jams thrown in, and, speaking of percussion-centric jams, Rusted Root, who play Grateful Dead-like ditties but with more of a world-percussion emphasis. Great stuff, minus the slightly annoying modern rock vox.


Root for the home team

This past Winter Break, like its cousins before it, was yet another rousing success. Some day, when I am old and miserly and have a desk job in some big city, my only joy in life the habitual throwing of wreaths at carolers unwise enough to happen upon my doorstep, I will likely be haunted one night by the Ghost of Winter Break Past, who will reform me by reminding me of the poignant joys of childhood and young-adulthood in the absolute magnificence of Bellingham. Bellingham, in short, is a great town, and it's really too bad that I don't get to spend more time there.

One of the main reasons that Bellingham is so excellent is the fact that, every time I'm home for any length of time, I get from one to five calls from friends wishing to do something a little out of left field. Which doesn't mean all that much, since for me left field extends essentially from the front doorstep outwards, inclusive of all possible events therein, but some are out to the warning track at least. A few years ago, for example, Peter called me up wanting to know if I was free for the evening and wanted to go kayaking. I said sure, and I'd be over at such and such a time. When I got there, the plan was fleshed out in a bit more detail: we would be kayaking out to an island in Chuckanut Bay, so named because it is a body of water enclosed by a roughly arch-shaped mass of land that encroaches into the gap on both sides, and building ourselves a pile of flammables, which we would subsequently set to burning and roast some good old raw meat over like the manly men that we were.

Needless to say, we were hampered in this pursuit by a few minor details. First, some idiot (me) decided that I would be a good pick for the back of the two-man kayak, which, as you know, is responsible for steering the vessel around tricky obstacles like the shore. This delayed our arrival on the island by a number of minutes, which span was quickly eclipsed by the delay caused by, yes, the flint flying from our lighter (the only a-firing apparatus we had had the forethought to bring along) and onto the shell-sandy beach, from which the hope of recovery was nil. Ultimately, we gave up trying to build a fire from the dampened kindling through application of our Boy Scout knowledge and headed homeward, utilizing a significantly more direct route, where we fired the meat up in a very manly oven and told all of our travels.

This year, on the other hand, Peter had planned for s-u-c-c-e-s-s (that's the way you spell success! Evergreen, anyone? Anyone? Okay, never mind.) I got the call - "Hey Rob, we're going to try for another Manliness Outing. Coming?". Oh yes. This time we were heading out in the bleak mid-Winter, so the plan was to traipsepass down to a fire-pit located on the shores of the same Chuckanut Bay, a secluded spot nestled up against a cliff and requiring a spot of downhill hiking through someone or other's no doubt private property, causing some little speculation amongst the troops as to how Peter had stumbled across the place, but I suppose that he has his completely legal methods that wouldn't come under censure of any form if Mrs. Day happened to peruse this blog, so just move along there.

This was all divulged, of course, when we convened at the Day household, where, after receiving our marching orders, we displayed our divers wares and preparations for the journey, like a troupe of Oregon Trail parties hobnobbing at Chimney Rock. I had been told to bring "something to eat", so I had with me a bag stuffed with rosettes that "didn't taste quite right", according to my mother their creator, who had given me permission to dispose of them however I saw fit. Others had their own useful tidbits: some potatoes with garlic, a few onions, not a few slabs of the requisite raw meat just dripping with Pure Manliness, a couple guitars, a wagon tongue, and, by request of some of the less Puritanical members of the expedition, tiny cigars and a honking gallon-or-so flagon of what I'm told was very good winter ale. Thusly burdened, we set off into the darkness.

When we arrived at the head of the downward trail, we broke into two groups, the drivers of our two vehicles parking the cars down the road a ways with the intent to catch up with the four of us passengers as we wended our way to the coast.

Soon after embarking on said wending, we came across our first minor hitch. It seemed that, of our three flashlights, two were with the drivers and one was left to guide the hikers along their way. This was all right so far as it went, though it did result in slightly inhibited progress as we stumbled along. I myself was in the back of the pack, more feeling than seeing my way through a particularly narrow bit of pathing, when I heard before me a thump, followed by a "yeah, I'm okay" from Miles, who had been helped to his feet.

Soon thereafter, however, it became clear that something was amiss. There was a funny scent in the air, and Miles requested that the light be shined in his direction, because he "felt something funny." The light turned, revealing a downpour of precipitate ale raining down from the crushed flagon hidden carefully beforehand in the nether regions of Miles' pack by some well-meaning prankster.

Now, here is an interesting social experiment: take a group of sensible, mature, reasonable young men, present them with a backpack from which is emitting a steady shower of very good winter ale, and see how they react. If they immediately empty their water bottles, retrieve some cups, open the pack, and begin to scoop out all the beer they can reasonably save, regardless of contamination from such minor elements as a dirty jacket or assorted camping-type tools, while making reassuring comments like "It's all right -- I'll just strain out the glass shards with my teeth," then they are a pretty good approximation of my circle.

After all the salvaging we thought productive, we had recovered approximately a liter and a half of the stuff, and had come up with a number of very plausible explanations for Miles and David to give to their parents when asked why their respective jeans and jacket/backpack smelled like they had been drowning their sorrows together via a seedy downtown pub.

The rest of the night went comparatively smoothly, with opportunities for much manliness all around, enhanced by the fact that we had no plates upon which to rest our roasted raw meat or flatware therewith to skewer and raise into ourselves. The moral of the story: you really don't know how excellent beef can be until you have overcooked it illegally over a fire on someone else's property, added it with potatoes and roasted onions to a cup with a sordid history in ale-recovery, doused the whole in hickory barbecue sauce, and eaten it in highly unsanitary handfuls of pure joy.

It's enough to make one wish that the Ghost of Winter Break Yet To Come had a little more material to work with.

Music news:
Over break, I was limited to CDs in my physical possession (aww...), and further, to music that my mom would not find terribly inclement. Being thusly restricted to legitimately good music, I re-realized what an absolutely excellent band Waterdeep is. Seriously - amazing stuff. My current favorite album of theirs is "To Chase Away The Birds", but all albums are good. The cheapest Waterdeep album around, "Everyone's Beautiful", is available from ChristianBook.com's surplus bin for $0.99.

If you'd prefer your music free, there is a SUPERIOR album up for free download from Earthsuit, makers of the excellent album "Kaleidoscope Superior", who disappeared from the world shortly thereafter but have recently resurfaced with a different lineup under the thin guise of MuteMath. Anyway, this album is a fan club release of which around a thousand prints were made initially and which has now been made available for legal public download. It is very good, though a bit gritty in parts. In short, highly recommended.

Penultimately, there are some great tracks up for free grabs from Denison Witmer, who shares last names with Greg, so you should check him out (Denison. His music. Check it out.)

Finally, Miles Mattix, of Beer Flagon Crushing fame, now has a Purevolume page. Here's hoping he keeps on writing, recording, and posting.


The fashion focus

I went to a dance the other day.

I don't have internet at the flat these days, so to get my fix I must needs withdraw to the more conditioned air of Stanford's Green, which, I may add, is all right by me as the temperatures continue to flirt shamelessly with a century. I was, therefore, sitting at my terminal casting about the seas of the IM buddy list for some sage advice regarding what literary works I should pursue next, having just come off a rather protracted Wodehouse binge and feeling the need for some meat and potatoes, or perhaps even nails and glass shards like back in high school, when Tina sprung the suggestion of my heading over to Roble for a spot of spectatorial Swing Time, Dance Libre, and the rest of the mainline troupes as a part of the Waltz Week, or whatever that seven day choreographical orgy was clept, festivities.

I may state without blush before my intimate public that I was perhaps a trifle hesitant. A proximity to dancing for me combines seamlessly the rather distinct offenses of giving in to peer pressure (peer pressure is for me what the German army is to Indiana Jones or what Stormtroopers are to Luke Skywalker - an adversary with a strongly inverted proportion of apparent force to actual effectiveness) with treading on holy ground. I have mentioned the Dancing Set before in these pages, and the peculiar effect of their singular wonderfulness still lingers.

But maybe it was that residual wonder, combined with my recent philosophic shift more towards the by golly why not school of thought, combined with the fact that it would possibly be Tina's last public Dance Libric exhibition, combined with the fact that I didn't have anything better to do that convinced me to go. Maybe.

I had promised my mom that I would call later that night, so I had to slip out at the half, but what I did see was quite interesting. There were some dances, yes. I think that Tina might have even been in a couple of them. It was rather difficult to make out the specifics, for it was mostly Richard Powers' most excellent vest that I found myself eyeing for the duration of the hour. Lands, what a wonderful outfit! Slightly baggy white shirt, slacks of unknown pedigree, and a beautiful grey vest to top it off - natty forty ways from the jack.

It was not soon after I had made the inevitable decision to purchase up the region's thrift stores' entire supply of natty vests for my own personal use that I went over to the Jeff / Eric / Gavan residence for a spot of Catan and general hobnobbery. Eric, I suppose, had never seen my pocket watch before, and he commented that the combination of pocket watch with paper clip chain (the original done broke a time ago and I figured that this, if ever there was one, was not a time for duct tape, though I may have been mistaken) was perfectly suited to me, combining, as it did, "classy" with "ghetto".

And I thought to myself, h'm, I don't know if I've ever thought of myself particularly in the twin classy/ghetto light before. I suppose I would be the last person to apply either adjective to myself. This thought was followed soon after with who am I kidding - it was not two days hence I decided I was born to discover and purchase three to five dollar vests at Value Village for the purpose of berobing myself in their ghetto classiness whenever possible.

In conclusion, if you are perusing your local thrift rack and you just happen to spot a tweedy vest-like specimen peeking out from between the short-armed jackets and asymmetric sports coats just you be thinking of me.

CGR - 9.0; working and not being at school is doing good things for my mental outlook, if not my physical being.

Music o' the moment - The Appleseed Cast's Peregrine album. Very good rock music, not quite out there but not quite mainstream either. I don't know quite what to say about this album that might make you want to rush out and buy it - it's quite soundy, it's creative, yet it's completely listenable, even ambient if need be and to someone who is not opposed to just a bit of noise leaking through the outer senses.


Write to me when you're in Siberia

I'm not going to lie. This hasn't been the best of years. Sometimes it's seemed that every half-full glass has been a dribble to boot.

As an inherently lazy person, it's hard to conceive of the idea that life just consists of more work every year from here on out, harder to imagine that I won't ever have another Summer break. Call me pathetic but that doesn't sound like fun at all. In light of this prevailing frumpiness, I figured it would be good show to switch to cheeriness brights and to put up a few of my favorite moments and just favorite things in general of this year for reflection. Please do let me know if there are any that I missed.

- Watching Eraserhead with plenty of stuffed animals.

- My third game of ultimate banana.

- Golf ball sized < He's not got pants on < Let's run it through the B.D.S.

- Jumping in puddles when it was rainy and I was in the mood.

- Tina, Peter, and Rachel making me think in their collective way.

- Wandering around downtown Bellingham with Miles, Peter, and Zach.

- Ninja Turtles at Adam's arcade night.

- Walking to class with Allie.

- Every single time Mickey retold the "you don't feel fat" incident.

- Tina calling me an excellent drummer regardless of veracity.

- Listening to Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps for the first time and catching the reference in each song.

- Getting an A+ in a, well, not real, but EE class. Go team Air Drum.

- Co-founding (technically, reviving) Bachelors Till Rapture.

- The OvalPress regulars.

- Rolling a desk loaded with free office supplies across campus with Ben.

- Learning the Hannah and Co. started a rival drawgroup quote blog.

- 112 hour weeks in Alaska last summer.

- Getting the letter from Michele and getting the letter from Emily.

- Seeing that my mom chose the poppy picture for May.

- Mia joining OvalPress.

- Not being able to keep myself from smiling while reading Patrick's blog.

- Sandals.

- Hanging out with friends on April 4th.

- Adam asking me to drum at his wedding.

- Finishing Mickey's sentences and vice versa.

- The 103 candy bowl.

Music of the moment: Woven Hand. Really pretty goth/blues/roots/americana from David Eugene Edwards, former frontman of 16 Horsepower. It's worth looking up a free song download or two from either 16HP or Woven Hand (find them at Paste or Sounds Familyre) to see if the Denver scene is your bag. I personally find it to be quite delightful.