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!