All done

November 29, 2008

“Sheep Days” is officially done.  Check out the new blog I am working on with my wife, Alex, at

On hiatus

November 7, 2007

Until I’m done with comprehensive exams and dissertation prospectus, “Sheep Days” is on hiatus.  Hopefully I will complete both these tasks by the end of summer 2008.

A Growing Basset

October 27, 2007

Becky, our basset hound, is almost 4 months old and has more than doubled her weight since we got her at 8 weeks old. She continues to be a good companion for us and is learning some of the ways of the world. Here are some photos:


The next one displays her noble Basset profile. Her muzzle is shorter and more arching than that of her beagle cousins, and obviously her feet are an important part of her whole person:

basset profile

In mid-bark. I wish dogs didn’t bark:


But this is how she gets away with all that noise making. What can you say to these eyes?:

puppy eyes

Just wondering.

Unwound Tape

October 18, 2007

On the way to a funeral today I saw something I hadn’t seen in a long while: an unraveled cassette tape. The convolutions of tape were wadded in a pile on the median, and a long loop stretched out across the road. In the wind, the tape twirled and glinted like a one-dimensional version of the surface of a pond.

The sight of this brought up a vivid memory. When I was a kid, and cassette tapes were it, these piles of unwound tapes were common litter, at least in the crappy trailer park in Denver, Colorado, where we lived. Twenty-five years ago, trailer parks in Denver, and probably anywhere in the West, were dry and dusty collections of transplanted mid-westerners with unbridled children and suspicious teens. Western cities back then had large tracts of undeveloped land between housing lots, and our trailer park sat next to a block of desert that was becoming a landfill. On the edge of this expanse, there was a sidewalk limned by prickly pear cacti and unkempt yucca plants. For the handful of years we lived in that place, one of these yuccas had an entire cassette tape wrapped up in its spines; I guess no one had the gumption to reach in there to retrieve the tape, and so it stayed that way for years. On windy days, like today, this yucca glinted just like the tape I saw across the road on the way to the funeral.


Five Little Pumpkins

October 15, 2007

Tom’s preschool class is learning a bunch of Halloween songs. They will be singing and wearing their costumes in a parade. Here you can see Superman’s alter-ego, Thomas, singing “Five Little Pumpkins.”

Armand Hammer

October 13, 2007

I spent my last two teenage years at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, or the UWC for short. This school is one of about a dozen spread across the continents that collect young people from around the world to live, study, and serve the community together. In the American version, my alma mater, there are 200 students from approximately 75 countries all tucked onto a beautiful campus in northeastern New Mexico. In the old days when I went there, the founding gift from our namesake, the complicated capitalist Armand Hammer, loomed large over us. Nowadays, there has been much funding from other sources, and the Armand Hammer name has been sidelined to a large extent in favor of the generic moniker UWC-USA.

At the time of my admission to this school, there was murmuring among my relatives that Armand Hammer was a communist, and that I, by association, would become a communist if I went to this school. While I certainly graduated from the place a lot redder than when I entered, Armand Hammer’s association with the Bolsheviks had nothing to do with this. As far as I can tell, Hammer never let a friendship with a communist get in the way of his immense commitment to capital.

By way of Tinman, I recently came across the following Soviet poster:

Armand Hammer poster

I knew Hammer sold pencils to the Soviets, though I did not realize how worthy of propaganda this was. Hammer apparently had fewer scruples about doing business with the Russians than did his less market-driven peers back in the United States; in fact, I think he was roundly criticized for collusion. It has always interested me how our severe American brand of patriotism so often trumps capitalism in this strange country. The mythology, of course, is that all those soldiers fought and died for our freedom to sell pencils to whomever we damn well please, and myths are always more compelling than the facts. Of course, we have never been free “to sell anything to anyone at anytime,” but that doesn’t matter because we believe that we can. I guess I should be grateful for the little things: at least we’re not as capitalist as we profess. At least an idea can get in the way of the capitalist economy, even if it is a jingoistic and oftentimes racist idea. Maybe this means there’s room for a better, truer idea to get in the way of capitalism as well. (I will never be a good Marxist because I have always thought that so-called epiphenomena–like ideas and religion–are on at least an equal footing with the sorry old means-of-production.)

In any case, it makes me feel gleeful to think that pencils sold to Soviets subsidized my formation as a young man. Comrade Hammer, I salute you!

Four Things Meme

October 11, 2007

I was tagged by my wife and a friend both to do this meme, so here goes.

Four Jobs I’ve Held
security guard at Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house at U. Texas
library desk clerk at Barnard College
18-wheeler trailer floor maker, Cloud Industries
tour guide at Maker’s Mark distillery

Four Films I Could Watch Over & Over
Babette’s Feast
Pump Up the Volume

Four T.V. Shows I Watch
America’s Test Kitchen
Law and Order
Good Eats

Four Places I’ve Lived
Pyatt, Arkansas
Buenos Aires, Argentina
New York, New York
Montezuma, New Mexico

Four Favorite Foods
barbecued pig and cow
French toast
brick oven pizza

Four Websites I Visit Daily
Arizona State University
Google Reader

Four Favorite Colors
I’ll just say it seems unnatural to have more than one favorite color. Mine is green.

Four Places I Would Love To Be Right Now
cabin in Rocky Mountains
the dining room of any fine restaurant
NLCS game–Go Diamondbacks!!
at a movie with my sweetie, no kids

Four Names You Love, But Could/Would Not Use For Your Children

I’m tagging:
Barack Obama
Hilary Clinton
John Edwards
Dennis Kucinich

On Hearing and Ear Hair

October 10, 2007

My wife enjoys my new gray whiskers, and is fascinated with my new ear hair; she leans in to examine these signs of age as if she were taking close-ups of insects–both delighted and repelled by biological fact. I didn’t expect this, I mean, ear hair once was not my most beguiling feature.

My little boy’s ears are smooth and hair-free for now. I listen to him march and count his steps: “Hup, two, quore, cap! Hup, two, quore, cap!” He chants just what he has heard; context provides him with no cues, no corrections. What do I hear in his little man-voice? What tumbles through the ear hair and the other growths and accretions?

I hear other voices sometimes, despite my ears’ conspiracy to keep the noise out. Just today I heard the fall wind, a boy marching, and–believe it or not–I actually heard my wife’s gaze, peering as deep into my ear as the hairs allow.

Maybe it’s true that Marvin Gaye heard it through the grapevine, but I hear it through my ear hair and all the other sounds that have taught me to hear.


If you would like to hear this, click play on the audio player.

Catching Up

September 30, 2007

I haven’t posted in a spell, though I have thought about posting a few times. But, alas, blogging isn’t like sinning or gift giving, and so the thought doesn’t count. Here are three proto-posts that never got off the ground and will likely stall here in short form:

  1. The community college where I work has a mass email list that goes out to all staff and faculty. One office that uses this list more frequently than I would like is the department of student records. Every week or two they send out a message with no body, only a subject line and an attached file. The attachment is always entitled the same way:  “deceasedstudent.doc.” When you download the file, it opens to be the name of a newly dead student. The phrase afterwards is always: “Adjust your records accordingly.”
  2. We went out for brunch last Friday at a local apple-picking farm and cafe. The waitress learned that we recently moved here from out of state and decided to give us some touristy tips for the fall. She said we should drive up the Great River Road, which hugs the Mississippi. Apparently the fall foliage and sights of the river are lovely along this road. Then she said something that was like a square peg in a round hole, at least for me: “You would never think that the Mississippi would be beautiful.”
  3. Did you know that Robert Redford’s film The Legend of Bagger Vance is based on the Bhagavad Gita? The main character is a golf phenom named Rannulph Junuh (R. Junuh aka Arjuna) who was ruined by World War I. He returned from the European battlefields to Savannah, Georgia, a shell of his former self, took up the bottle, and seemed to have forgotten his “one true swing.” A mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance (aka Bhagavan aka Krishna) comes to his aid and restores his dharma as the born-to-golf man he is. Hare hare, Nicklaus Nicklaus, hare hare. Tiger, Tiger, hare hare.