Monday, January 30, 2012


I spent the weekend in San Francisco: all day Friday in meetings at Berrett-Koehler Publishers about the imminent 3rd edition of Repacking Your Bags; daytime Saturday bopping round the Mission District, drinking coffee and admiring humanity and its varied forms; Saturday night carousing with friends and their families; and Sunday morning doing yoga and riding the BART train to the airport.

As usual when I visit the City (by the Bay), I experienced, along with shin plints from walking a lot more than normal and on much harder surfaces than usual, a serious case of hipster overdose; I saw, among other things, a thirty-something guy with the requisite ironic facial hair, arm sleeve tattoos, and multiple lip piercings, carrying his newborn on his chest in the Baby Bjorn. Shades of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover; he even looked like he was still wasted from the night before as he waited in line at the grooviest of the groovy coffee places for his morning latte.

I also got to admire numerous bicycles, which seem more and more numerous each time I visit. I saw lots and lots of brakeless fixies, including spying more than one helmetless rider talking on his cellphone, thereby scoring the trifecta on my Darwin Awards observation bingo card.

But there was also an increasing number of city bikes, I guess you’d call them: some new, some vintage frames with wider tires, fenders, upright handlebars, geared or single-speed, lots with Brooks saddles, many with front baskets, bikes that people ride in everyday clothes, to get around.

Two things struck me about the local customs, though. First, I saw a much smaller percentage of riders than here in Seattle wearing helmets. Maybe it’s fashion, maybe it’s the kind of riding people do, but brain buckets are less common.

And stranger still: I saw lots of people carrying their U-locks draped over their handlebars. The rattling alone would drive me nuts, but maybe helmetless I wouldn’t care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Maybe it’s all the Edith Wharton and Henry James I’ve been reading (even though they’re both Americans), or perhaps it’s the latent influence of last year’s trip to India (now a year ago!) but, of late, I’ve been enjoying a cup of tea in the afternoon—at teatime, more or less, if truth be told (and why shouldn’t it; this is hardly a thing about which to dissemble.)

Not to worry: I haven’t given up coffee (and, indeed, the idea of starting my day with boiling watre poured over leaves instead of grounds makes me shiver just to consider it) but I am willing to admit that I’ve come to appreciate the charm of a nice cuppa, especially if it’s accompanied by a book and a nap on the couch.

And fear not: I’m not at all inclined to start making pots of tea, or using loose leaves, or, heaven forfend, to start drinking Japanese green tea from ceramic bowls while wearing a kimono.

Nope, it’s Earl Grey in a bag, left to steep for no particular specified amount of time, and then augmented with Half and Half (or milk) and plenty of sugar. Basically, I’m drinking a hot, fatty Red Bull made from plants instead of plastic or petroleum or whatever it is that stuff is fabricated from.

I suppose this could be construed as another one of those changes coming with age; historically, if I wanted a little early evening lift, I’d have just brewed another pot of coffee, but the couple times I’ve done that of late, I’ve found myself lying abed at two or three in the morning over-planning the upcoming day.

So, here I am, having my afternoon tea, enjoying it even in the absence of sweet little cakes and cucumber sandwiches with their crusts cut off.

But maybe that’s what comes next. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself branching out to Chai, or Darjeeling or English Breakfast, or even Lapsang Souchong.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Barring a freak storm (like the Flipper Boy and the Bearded Woman falling from the sky) the world starts again tomorrow and although it’s going to cut into my afternoon nap time, I’m ready to be back in the classroom opening impressionable as opposed to climbing the walls of my living room popping the tops off wine bottles.

It’s not like the unexpected week off wasn’t a treat, but it did make me realize that in order to really relish one’s freedom, a person has got to be prepared for it. Too much liberty, especially when it’s unplanned ends up making a fellow feel more unemployed than unencumbered and contributes to something more like anomie than enjoyment.

But maybe this is more a matter of being bored than it is being conscientious; it’s not exactly like weather and road conditions have lent themselves to a serious of thrilling outdoor adventures over the last five days. I have, of course, gotten into a good dose of family time and Edith Wharton’s The Reef has carried me through a number of relatively down hours, but even if the new day means I’ve got to rise before down in order to get a full primary series practice in, I’ll take it.

Now, no doubt I’d feel differently had the Steelers still been in the Superbowl hunt; I’m sure I could have designed the last fortnight around this morning’s AFC Championship game. As it was, however, watching was merely an intellectual exercise as opposed to a full-on emotional roller coaster.

I’m glad I’m not a Baltimore Ravens fan, in any case; had I been when their kicker, Billy Cundiff, muffed an easy cheap-shot that would have sent the contest into overtime, I’d had to have starting drinking so heavily and with such reckless abandon in order to drown my sorrows that I’m sure I would have needed another couple of snow days--if not another whole snow week--to recover.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The weather people have been falling all over themselves for the past few days trying to predict how much snow is going to fall in the 24 hours or so after they make their predictions.

Pretty much all of those prophecies have turned out to be more or less mistaken and most of the plans that have been made based on those forecasts have under or overestimated the impact of the weather on events, adding to a kind of mini-hysteria that could probably have been avoided by simply making decisions by looking out the window or taking a walk around the block.

Now, I realize that predicting winter weather, especially in this part of the Pacific Northwest, is remarkably tricky and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I regularly check the National Weather Service website and celebrity meteorologist Cliff Mass’ blog.

But seriously, to rely too heavily on claims about the future based on analyzing the present is, as 18th century British Empiricist, David Hume, reminds us, to use fallacious and even circular reasoning. We conclude that the future will behave as the past has because the future has always behaved like the past, but if we establish uniformity of nature by relying on the uniformity of nature, that’s cheating.

So, even if the weather data suggests that what’s going to happen is predictable, just because it has been predictable is no reason to conclude that it will be predictable again.

That said, I can’t complain overly that the Seattle Public Schools have again cancelled classes for tomorrow; this means that the evening around the homestead can unfold more slowly and gently than it would otherwise. Or, at least that’s how it’s worked in the past.

The forecasters tell us that the winter storm will be over by tomorrow afternoon, but then again, that’s what they said yesterday. This time, though, school closures don’t depend on what they’re saying, so I guess I’ll believe it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


If a sure sign of being an old fogey is hoping that you don’t get another snow day (and, no doubt, it is) then I guess I qualify.

Even though I’ve enjoyed this extended Martin Luther King Day holiday, I’m feeling like I’d like to get back in the classroom at some point this week, even it’s a somewhat treacherous journey out to Bothell tomorrow.

But, we shall see.

I had a pleasant ride around the neighborhood this afternoon; on the side streets, where everything is all packed down, pedaling is no problem. Turning through intersections, where snow is piled up and chunky is a bit of an adventure, but with my two and a half-inch wide fatty tires with the air let out to about 25psi, I can stay upright through pretty much all of it.

Once I made it out of my alleyway, it was all pretty smooth sailing. Or cycling, that is.

We just got a phone message that Seattle Public Schools are closed tomorrow; these kids today are lucky they don’t have to get up early and press their ears to the radio in hopes of hearing that classes are cancelled, like we did back in the day. I remember having to sit through Barbara Streisand singing “People” at like 7:30AM in order to hear the good news.

Also, like plenty of other old fogies, I can easily go off on how low the bar is set these days for closing things down. Back when I was a wee lad, and had to tromp five miles through the drifts, uphill both ways, in sub-zero temperatures, we’d only get the day off if snow blocked the second-story windows of Kerr School.

So, I suppose it’s no great wonder that I’m more or less hoping I’m required back at Cascadia tomorrow; there’s philosophy to do, folks, and as long as our brains aren’t completely frozen, we ought to take the opportunity to do so now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


What with today’s scary-forecast induced snow day, I got an extra Sunday this week, albeit one without any football games to linger over.

So I availed myself of the opportunity to perform my usual beginning-of-the-week shopping expedition, including enjoying a couple cups of coffee and a dill scone at the coffeeshop, although instead of reading the New York Times as is my typical wont, I finished up Carson McCullers’ lovely The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and am now inspired to read or re-read everything else she ever wrote.

I’ve tried to see this relatively free day as a special gift and really appreciate the privilege it’s afforded me to do an extra-long yoga practice, linger over my morning coffee, sit on the couch and read fiction, noodle with my entry for this year’s Filmed by Bike Festival, spend some time perusing my latest book on Indian Philosophy, ride my bike downtown to the Army-Navy store for a new pair of gloves, pay a few bills, and best of all, not have to get up at 4:30 in the morning for my 8:45 AM class.

I could get used to this four-day weekend thing and if the predictions for Snowpocalypse come true, it’s likely it may morph into five days before the roads in Bothell are clear enough for students to arrive on campus in sufficient numbers to hold classes.

We shall see.

Jen and I were talking the other day about the epistemological status of future claims. Suppose, for instance, I say, “I know that school will be cancelled tomorrow.” Strictly speaking, that can’t, at this point, be a true statement; it will only become so if indeed campus is shut down.

And yet, it seems reasonable to say that if it becomes true, then it was true at the moment I uttered it.

Frankly, it’s a puzzle, and at this point, I’ll see it as one that’s a privilege to be able to puzzle over.

Friday, January 13, 2012


The season’s been shuffled around this year, with winter coming late (and so far, hardly at all), so it’s no surprise, really, that February appeared in January—as evidenced last night by the full flowering (or, make that “flouring”) of the annual .83 Waffle Ride some four weeks before it usually rears its square-patterned head.

But that’s mere testament to the turn-on-a-dime flexibility of the drunken bike gang, able, in just a moment’s (well, two days’) notice turn a proposed Christmas tree conflagration event into one where the fires (such as they were) occurred on griddles rather than sand, and the objects of carbon release happened to be something edible as opposed to adornable.

In short, it was all about fire in the sky morphing into fire in the belly, and I for one, endorse such transformations even if they run counter to tradition, untraditional as it may be.

Hard-core miscreants may scoff at the idea of shit-canning an activity whose legal standing is already questionable just because John Law says “don’t do it,” but if it means that there can be two hall-pass worthy events in back-to-back weeks, I’m all for it.

Besides, think of how what another week of drying will do for the combustability of all those evergreen bombs currently stashed in people’s back yards and alleys.

tehJobies once again worked his electrical magic, breaking the park’s circuit only once in powering up half a dozen waffle irons, including the beloved Hello Kitty model, and Wreyford Senior got his week’s upper-body workout battering the batter into submission, the result of which was enough griddle cakes for all with plenty left over for flinging and burning as usual.

And, of course, Derrick managed to so effectively antique the trail home that riding behind (at least until the I-90 bridge) was like pedaling through a snowstorm, so, all in all, another successful evening of bike-fueled shenanigans, and to boot, now an open spot on Feburary’s calendar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Three days later, I’m no longer mourning the Steelers’ stunning overtime loss to the Denver Broncos at the hands of the despicably holier-than-thou Tim Tebow in Sunday’s NFL Wild Card game.

In fact, looking back on it now, I scoff at why anyone would care at all about the outcome of a mass-produced “sporting event” featuring overpaid specimens of testosterone-poisoned human beings running around in spandex for a couple hours chasing an inflated pigskin up and down a field made of plastic.

With some distance on the thing, I sure don’t.

But damn, right afterwards, it sure felt like a punch in the gut.

Of course, it was all my fault.

Although I did pick up all the dog-poo in the backyard, I never took out the vacuum cleaner, preferring instead to tidy up the rugs and hardwood using my brand-new carpet cleaner. Lacking the use of electricity, it apparently doesn’t produce the same salubrious effect upon the gridiron play of the Black n’ Gold; now I know.

And even though I did lay out my dearly-departed mom and dad’s rings atop their watches on the Terrible Towel (in the second half, mind you, thereby precipitating Pittsburgh’s furious comeback from two touchdowns behind), I made a critical error at the start of overtime, when I stepped away momentarily from the game to grab one final wee dram of rye whiskey to calm the shattered nerves. Returning to the television screen, I was just in time to see Demaryius Thomas streaking for the end zone, much to my disbelief and horror.

Now, Cousin Seth tells me that championship teams will overcome missteps like mine and I wish I could fully buy that. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the feeling that if only I had waited to turn my attention away from the game that the outcome would have been different—or at least not so stunningly quick and agonizingly terrible.

Not that I care about it or anything, anyway.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


I recall one summer morning in Pittsburgh, circa 1972; I had a dentist appointment at 10:30AM and so had to be up and out several hours earlier than I usually rose at that time of year. It seemed weird to me that the world was still carrying on every day in my absence. What were all these people doing up and about? Did this really happen every day? And if so, why?

I’m having a similar sort of experience this quarter as I show up at the bus stop around 7:15 in order to get to my 8:45 class; it’s still pitch dark at that time but these streets are full of fully-dressed human beings hurrying about on their ways to somewhere. I find it hard to believe that this has been happening on a daily basis all these many months or that it continues when I’m not around, sleeping peacefully, or more typically, lying in savasana at the end of my yoga practice.

I realize that this is a kind of solipicism, but, as a solipcist, why should I be bothered? After all, if that’s the case, anything I might be bothered by is just a product of my own mind, so I might as well ignore it.

On the other hand, suppose that the external world really does exist; that would do a better job of explaining why all those people from Tacoma get off the train just at the moment my bus arrives and clamor aboard, taking up all the good seats.

It’s not that I mind the early morning; as my daughter Mimi pointed out to me, a quarter to nine isn’t really all the early for your average school kid; she’s in class every day at 8:00 after all.

Still, I remain unconvinced that all the activity I observe during those AM hours is actually real; it seems equally possible that it’s some sort of dumbshow those stops when I’m asleep.

Monday, January 02, 2012


Probably the best New Year’s resolution is to resolve to make no resolutions. That way, you paint yourself into a paradoxical corner from which escape is only possible by sitting in a corner reading Wittgenstein in the original German.

But since, as we know, the world is all that is the case, and because that case, in my case, is a basket case, I can’t help myself from considering at least a few things I might do this year to improve upon my performance in 2011, at the very least in hopes of earning the kind of bonus that my friends in the one percent are used to receiving at year’s end.

So, for starters, I hereby resolve to eat healthier in the next twelve months. What this will entail is not entirely clear, but I do think it precludes indulging in my penchant for sprinkling my breakfast cereal with botulism and ebola, oh well.

In a similar spirit, I guess I’ll also resolve to drink less coffee; I pair this, of course, with a resolution to sleep more and smoke more crack. Or not.

I also resolve to exercise at least three times a week; the one starting the third Sunday in June should work fine.

I hereby resolve to be kinder and more compassionate to my fellow human beings—fucking assholes though they be.

I’m going to ride my bike more this year than I did last; I guess that’s more of a prediction than a resolution, though.

I also resolve to lose five pounds—at the current exchange rate, that comes out to about seven dollars and seventy-five cents. Hopefully, it’s not cheating to lose it at playing craps.

I resolve not to care so much when the Steelers; it should be no problem as long as they win the Superbowl.

Finally, I resolve above all, to be a much better person; so, for Halloween this year, I’m going to go as Mother Teresa.