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This is a shopping update to let all the ladies out there who enjoyed "The One Hundred" in on a bargain. Item number 96, the Hunter Wellington boot, which retails for $115-150 is now available in limited colors at for $49.95. With all the recent rains, they're looking more appealing than ever!

Major Breakthrough


So last night on MUNI, I ran into a girl I went to St. John's with. It was great, we did the catching up thing and the asking about people we knew thing, we even did the reliving the glory of Great Books by dead white men thing. All in all, a successful escapade all on its own. But we also went to a bar, Fishbowl, that turns out to be the secret lair of all the popular boys from high school. I sat and gawked for some time, marveling at the remarkably low-quality competition (in my opinion, we could take them any day of the week). Something is clearly amiss and may require futher investigation, but none of this was so compelling as the post-libation discussion with my compatriot (yes, St. John's is its own country). A gentleman had been expressing great interest in my friend, and she summed up his qualities as follows " sure, he's beautiful, and clearly fairly smart, even kind of sweet, but I find I can never get really into anyone who hasn't read the classics."

I am not alone. I haven't dated anyone since college, and have never dated anyone who can't read Attic Greek, but it has nothing to do with latent tendencies, I'm just over-educated. We talked for a bit about ways would-be suitors could waive the classics requirement and agreed that an avid predilection for mastery in one's chosen field is perfectly acceptable, so long as it is coupled with an openness to our obsession with dead poets, and a whole-hearted acknowledgement that one knows nothing of great literature. She recounted a dismal affair in which a boy tried to read her Shakespearean sonnets, but couldn't do it with the right meter, and she was permanently turned off. She thinks she's an elitist, but I say you can't help who lights your fire. Some people go for dark eyebrows on blondes (no matter what their age) and some of us just groove on dactylic hexameter. What can you do?



My new favorite sophomore boy quote: when coming up with a list of descriptive words to use instead of color names one boy asked if he could put "a natural resource for white."

Yesterday was a very stressful day because I was being observed in the morning by the department chair. But the kids were good and the lesson went fine. Afterwards she said she had talked to some people about splitting a job Math/English, but didn't think it would work. I told her I hadn't pursued it because I was considering going back for a reading specialist credential. She said that the school has an opening for a reading teacher (does the universe never stop smiling on me?).

It would be nice to both stay at the school I started at and become a reading specialist. It wouldn't pay as much as being a private reading specialist, and it wouldn't be with little kids--it would be high schoolers, so it would be more stressful and possibly less rewarding, but it would be stable income and I would get to feel like I didn't bail on people who need me. If I didn't like it, I could always leave the following year.

Later in the day, I gave out the books. I ended up sending the girl who had gotten in my face to the VP's office for refusing to work, distracting other kids, and then arguing with me about why she should have to work. She has a behavior disorder, so I'm sure that she's not making the connection between her D and not working in class. Then I sent a letter to her caseworker.

At night, I talked to Maggie about how rude my kids are to each other (and me). I have consequences for not working, for fighting, for being off-task, but none for just saying inappropriate things. Maggie suggested just telling them that that sort of thing isn't acceptable here. "Maybe no one's ever told them," she said. I suppose that's possible--that no one has explicitly said "we don't make personal comments to those we work with." We'll try it next time and see how it goes.



Today was relatively unaffected by the slacker holiday, with the exception of one kid making the vocab sentence, "I blithely smoked a blunt."

Though drugs were not a problem, violence was. In a gang shooting this weekend, a former student's father was killed. The surviving mother and family cannot afford the funeral, so leadership students came around at fourth period to collect donations. None of the kids offered anything.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual cacophony of whining and complaints, but the kids did what they were supposed to (interview their fellow students for lit circles) and some of them were even reading! They were reading the book before they were even supposed to! This may be my most brilliant scheme to make them literate yet. We'll see.

I spent the remaining afternoon and most of my evening going to the seven Border's and Barnes and Noble bookstores between work and home collecting as many of the books they chose (but that we don't actually have) as possible. Those I couldn't find will have to be overnighted from Amazon.

Coincidentally, a HUGE thank you goes to Dan. When he became a monk, he said to sell all his possessions and donate the money to charity. So that's what I did. I took as money books as I could, traded them for cash, and used that money to buy the books today. Happy birthday, Dan, and thank you for making it possible for my students to choose a book about their lives.

So I'm not really a big fan of this whole "blog qua journal" thing, but I feel like after two months of civil service immersion, it may be time to invite some self-reflection back into my life. And who's more necessary to the process of self-reflection than the teeming masses of the internet? So here I go.

Today, one of my black students called the German exchange student "Hitler" while asking him for a pencil. I think he meant it to be funny. Following the sharp intake of air from the rest of the class, I told him he couldn't do that, to apologize to the German kid, and then go to the Vice Principal. Now the problem with this is that the VP is leaving at the end of this year and has become remarkably lax. So I let the kid stay after apologizing. I think tomorrow, when he's not expecting it, I'll ask him how he would feel if one of the kids called him a "filthy nigger" and see if I can't impress upon him the need for some cultural cache, even if it is only refraining from calling others homicidal megalomaniacs.

Today a student came into my room screaming at me during brunch that she had worked really hard on her essay and done really well on it, and should at least have a B, though she currently has a D. When I tried to explain to the student that her grade was an indication of the fact that she had turned in none of the assignments this semester that would demonstrate she had been doing any of the required reading, she stormed out and asked me to just give her the F. Most of my students are getting F's because they neither did the reading, nor any homework, nor the essay.

Today I also discovered that the list I was given of books we have to choose from is faulty. This comes, unfortunately, after having already let the students choose what to read from the list. We happen not to have the two most popular books. I asked the librarian if she could check with the other libraries in the district, since I know one of the other schools has a set of at least one of the books, and fellow teachers tell me this is done not infrequently. The librarian looked as though I had just asked her to move the rock of Gibralter and said 'she'd try.' I suppose I will copy chapters for them until I can track down enough of the books, but the prospects don't look good. I expect to have to buy them.

After I finish typing this, I will plan tomorrow, create a new seating chart, create a list of vocabulary definitions and examples, grade vocab quizzes, create a calendar for the next month of days they will have book discussions, and go buy at least one copy of the book, sixty of which have mysteriously disappeared from the library.

Really, today would indicate that I have a job that is not only thankless, but involves taking verbal abuse, requires every spare moment of my time, is stressful, and unrewarding. You may wait to see what tomorrow will indicate. But I, I am going to call my friend about getting a different job.

Pirate Ethics


Today, one of my classes descended into total chaos, then mutiny, for the first time. They are the noisy ones and there were these people who were supposed to come administer a survey to the whole class, but they didn't come, so we started class. Then they came, right in the middle of some kids' presentations, and asked for the kids with permission slips. There were only three, so I tried to make room for them in the back of the room, but one of my "problem" kids decided that this was his chance to assert his hellionness. He moved into the place we were trying to clear for the survey and refused to move. When he first refused, I should just have called the security guard and trumped the whole power struggle right from the beginning, but then I would have had to send him to the VP. He finally moved, but with the survey muttering in the background and kids doing relatively poor presentations, no one felt they had to listen. What's more the survey guy had a survey for me to do, too. As I strove to grade the presentation, force the others to listen to it, keep the smartass in line, and fill out a survey about how high a priority tobacco-use-prevention lessons are to me, I found myself remarkably unperplexed. I kept thinking, "It's only because of the survey, but no matter what, it can only go to 2:20."

What do they deserve to do tomorrow?

Crisco: Not just for baking anymore!


So. tomorrow ends week two of my life as a public school teacher. I have nothing interesting to say about it, which clearly means I'm taking it too seriously. Tomorrow we will compare 2pac Shakur to Shakespeare. Perhaps by way of explanation I will treat you to my favorite kid anecdote thus far.

I wrote a letter to all my students about my experience with reading and writing and asked them to write back. One wrote (errors maintained):

I took 9th grade ENGLISH in 8th grade. We read a huge book which was a classic. I'm not sure I you know the book "Count of Monte Crisco." I don't like reading and this was the largest book I read.


I just had the most bizarre experience.

As part of the new year cleansing, I logged into my AOL accounts to sift through the spam for email from long lost friends, and to my bewilderment, there was only legitimate email there. Could AOL have finally instituted spam controls? Could they have done it so effectively as to have required no configuration on my part? There can be only one explanation. I have slipped into a parallel universe-- accounting for my remarkable good fortune with the job, the car, the all-good Christmas presents, and the seemingly infinite life of the vegetables in the crisper drawer. Either that, or it's a sign of the coming end.

My Perfect Life


Some of you may be wondering what has become of me lately. Those who only read my intermittent, topical posts can hardly be said to have noticed my absence, what with the unrelenting hubbub of the holiday season and all. But those of you who live in our little commune may indeed be wondering. A great many things have occurred recently that have moved me ever closer to the modern American dream.

  1. I got a job, and not just any job, the perfect job.
  2. My old car finally passed on to a better place, affording me the chance to buy a new car, and not just any car, the perfect car.
  3. The Chrismas orgy of commerce brought me only the things I wanted, and not just any things, the perfect things, like C.K. shirts and D.K.N.Y shoes.

There is also Christmas cash that can help me acquire the remaining necessaries for my perfect life. I may buy furniture. I could tell myself: this is the last sofa I'll ever need. No matter what else happens, I've got the sofa issue handled. Then, the right set of dishes. The right dinette.

Do I need to be delivered?

Who knows? Maybe I do feel trapped and desperate. Maybe I am trying to impress the world by buying too many things. A significant portion of my furniture is Swedish--I have a Eurotrash bookshelf. I even consider myself better than others for buying a New Beetle instead of a Honda Civic. I grow more upwardly mobile by the minute.

Yet tomorrow I head to LA to mourn the passing of my uncle, my favorite aunt's life companion, and by all her accounts, the best of men. They were married thirty-five years and for months he had been dying of pancreatic cancer. When I face her at his grave, we will see how much of my soul is left.

Culinary Expedition, Part 4

Today I returned to Safeway, for the first time in a month because I desperately needed Claritin. I suppose Walgreens might have had it, but I didn't think of that. After explaining to the picketers that I was only buying medication, I grabbed my item and headed for the express lane. Surprise of all surprises! but who should be scanning items? Why, my favorite checker, Neal. He seemed a little low on energy, understandable at six o'clock on a Sunday evening, and he didn't seem to recognize me. I decided to move on from our movie-themed conversations.

"What do you think about all this strike business?"

"I think it's sad," he said. "Those people have been on strike for three months. They have families to support and some can't pay rent."

"How come Northern California Safeway workers aren't striking too?"

"Our contracts are offset by a year. This year it'll be us."

I have been paying pretty close attention to the Safeway handouts and had no idea that the same issue would hit home so soon.

When I got back to an internet connection, I decided to do some poking around (as I apparently do more than I ever realized before starting this blog) and found the following:

Safeway has been trying to convince customers that it is asking a reasonable $5 or $15 copay for health benefits. Two public policy economists from UCLA and UCSD took a closer look at the offer being negotiated and found that it substantially eliminated affordable healthcare for employees (see SF Chron article).

California Congressman Tom Lantos took a closer look too and came to the same conclusion (see letter to Safeway CEO).

Safeway claims that it needs to ask workers to shoulder a larger part of sky-rocketing health costs, but health costs may not be the economic trigger for the new policy. Competition from Wal-Mart is a more likely factor. Wal-mart intends to build forty superstores throughout California in the next three years, all of which will contain bargain-rate supermarkets, the same stores that have made Wal-Mart the number one grocer in the country(SF Gate article).

Wal-Mart offers groceries for 14-39% less than large chain grocery stores, and Safeway must start to copy its business model if it wants to compete. How does Wal-Mart do it? There are several answers to that question (see LA times article).

  1. Wal-Mart pays its workers less than half what Safeway pays them.

  2. Wal-Mart is avidly anti-union, making it impossible for workers to organize demands for affordable healthcare or a living wage.

  3. Wal-Mart does not accept slotting fees (essentially legal bribes to place certain products at eye-level and on end-caps) or the higher wholesale costs that accompany them, though all other major chain stores do (source here).

  4. Wal-Mart exports all production to the cheapest producer in the world market.

So what do you and I do to make sure Neal still has a job next year? Support the Safeway workers strike by shopping elsewhere and calling 1-877-SAFEWAY with our Customer Card numbers to tell them that we won't shop there until they support workers' health benefits, and that we won't shop Wal-Mart if they come.

    Alternatives to Safeway
  • The Costco Cartel--Every Thursday I will go to Costco and purchase goods for my friends at the price+10% (tax and service) rounded to the nearest dollar. I will then park in front of Noe and you can retrieve your goods when assembling for or returning from pub night.
  • Seven-Eleven at 18th and Noe
  • The closest to you of the hundreds of tiny, privately owned markets
  • Trader Joe's on 9th street between Brannan and Bryant
  • Whole Foods at 399 4th St. between Fulsom and 80
  • Rainbow Grocery at 1745 Folsom St and 13th (under the Duboce offramp)
  • Add your favorite grocery store in the comments section
  • I haven't yet figured out how to square the competing interests in this globalization beast, but if you have, the people to write to can be found here: know your legislators.

Culinary Expedition, Part 3

So today I returned to the Safeway, after a month of avoiding it, shopping at Albertson's in Lafayette when I went to take care of my parents' house, eating at The Castle etc. But today I needed laundry detergent and it couldn't wait. My eating habits have struck a hesitant medium between cheese nips and canapes, so when I walked up to the checkout aisle with pasta sauce, bagels, tide, lactose-free milk, apple cinnamon cheerios, and Christmas animal cookies, I decided to check for my favorite checker. Sure enough, he was there. He seems to like lane 11. He was peering down at the scanner, saying nothing to anyone but the obligatory "Have a nice day, Mr. shmmmffffzz." I expected nothing to come of this experiment of mine. Certainly he wouldn't remember me from three months ago, nor change his demeanor for my laundry-day self, decked out in overalls and a thermal from junior high. The man in front of me stepped forward to pay and another bagger came to relieve the first. Looking virtually nothing like Laurence Fishburne, excepting in color, he said, "We missed you, Neal." This brought a chuckle from our friend. Maybe it wouldn't come to nothing after all. It was my turn now, and I presented my Safeway card. He scanned it, then continued to stare at the scanner as he began passing my items over it. As he grasped my Vodka Sauce emblazoned with a sketch of Paul Newman in a babushka, he said, "Paul Newman, what's become of you?"
I apologized quickly, "It's the only vodka sauce you carry. There's nothing to be done."
"Well then, there's nothing to be done. He's sold his soul to the sauce," he conceded.
"I think all the proceeds go to charity," I said.
"Really! What's become of you, Paul Newman!" he said admiringly.
"Who's Paul Newman?" the bagger interjected.
"Oh! Break my heart! Cool Hand Luke?" I burst out.
"You don't know who Paul Newman is?" from my checker friend.
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Oh, wait! Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!"
"Do you know the movies she's talking about?"
Still a blank stare from the bagger.
"Who's the other actor in that?" Neal asked.
"Oh...Rrrroo..." mentally, to myself, I'm thinking, don't remember so you can talk to him just a minute longer.
"Oh, this is going to drive me crazy. I'm gonna wake up at two o'clock in the morning, sit bolt upright and remember... Ahhhh..."
I just made it the ATM before he called "Robert Redford."
I smiled, or beamed more likely.
I muttered to happily to myself the whole way home.

Culinary Expedition, Part 2


I keep delaying this grocery store series because I don't really have a crush on my local grocer, I just find him so endearing. What follows is the original text from October.

When I finally made my way to the checkout counter with what seemed much more than I could carry, I pulled into Lane 11, Neal�s lane. Neal will henceforth be my favorite checkout person. He said �hello,� I replied with the same and then politely stared at my groceries while he passed them over the scanner. After a brief moment he said, �So, did you do anything fun today?� I was a little surprised, never having had a cashier begin a conversation before, but replied,
�Why, I went to the grocery store.� I could tell from his response that going to the grocery store was not quite what he would consider fun... but then, neither would I really. So I added, �I got to read the Odyssey all morning; that was fun.�
I�m getting ahead of myself now. Let me put this in context. Neal looks like he is about nineteen with short brown hair, standard blue eyes, pale, tall, and thin. In short he was young, a living definition of the word 'callow.' He replied to my Odyssey offer, bless his heart, �from the TV show or the original?�

I caught myself just before laughing out loud and grinned, �No, the original.� From there I shifted the conversation to the upcoming movie portrayal of the Iliad with Brad Pitt as Achilles, and mentioned that I needed to apply for a Safeway Customer card since I had just moved here.

He looked me in the eye and replied, �Don�t worry, I�ll get you one.� We talked for a while about Chicago, bands there, and more movies until he finished scanning my selections and went to retrieve a card for me. He asked if I had an ID since I was buying beer.

�Oh yeah, I always forget that� I replied, shaking my head.

�Sure you do,� he said in a mocking tone. His final comment before I wheeled my cart away was to recommend that I see �Identity� with John Cusack. I�m not entirely sure what prompted this recommendation, other than the possible Chicago connection (Cusack is from there). Nonetheless, it was a novel experience, having my grocer make viewing recommendations. I think I should watch it as fodder for future conversations... just to see what unfolds.

Culinary Expedition

This is the first of two posts that I wrote nearly three months ago, but didn't post because I didn't have enough material for the story to really go anywhere, until today, when I crossed the picket lines for laundry detergent. Now I'm hooked.

Today I acquainted myself with my new neighborhood grocery store. In Chicago, I had the luxury of living adjacent to the 24-hour Jewell, allowing me access day or night to virtually anything my gourmand little heart could desire. This led to a steady diet of Cheese Nips and Dreyer�s Grand (there called �Edy�s�) which lost me about 10 pounds combined with the breakneck pace of my grad program. I had been sizing up our Safeway ever since we began looking for apartments and today was to be the fateful day of our first meeting. I could tell simply from the late-nineties, yellow-tan stucco job that this was no down-the-street-from-the-projects, fake-watch-out-front-peddling, meat-and-potato-dispensing Midwestern Jewell. Clearly the full red letters proclaimed this an establishment for those who enjoyed culinary skill and a finer dining experience. This was not the sort of place you walk into at 12:30 am to buy easy-bake brownies at the self-check-out aisle; this was the sort of place that aging hippies and amateur chefs came to gather the ingredients for their latest forays into gourmet cooking. So I had prepared myself, purchasing the September issue of �Real Simple� while at the Container Store a few short days ago, and chosen recipes from their feature article on end-of-summer tomatoes. Armed with a list that would allow me to fake culinary street creds, I set aside the afternoon to learn the layout of my new agora.

The actual shopping was fairly simple, going up and down the rows, checking each sign to learn how items were grouped, checking the list over and over. The only real obstacles arose when I found they only had cocktail tomatoes, and not plum, which would suffice, but at additional cost. Also, since Jewell was owned by a competing conglomerate of grocery stores, all the brands were different. I had to translate all of my products into a new language. Instead of buying Kraft or Wisconsin cheddar, I got Tillamook with the California cheese sticker. Instead of Green Giant frozen spinach, I got Safeway. Instead of Jade or President�s Choice Thai peanut sauce I got San J. While these are not significant differences in fact, the packaging is entirely different. It took me two hours to locate the 25 or so items on my list because I had to verify that they in fact did not carry Jade or President�s Choice before I could go about finding the most suitable replacement product, checking both ingredients and price. Finicky ? Perhaps. But it's all part of the game. Once you let your guard down, the grocery store can get you--force you back to Cheese Nips and Rocky Road when you take your eye off the organic tofu. Extra Firm. That's how it's got to be.

Last night I attended my English teacher preparation class, where we were given the second of two relatively major assignments. Amongst the requirements for the paper was the criterion that we cite six scholarly sources, at least half of them from peer-refereed journals in the last year or two. The outcry was tremendous. �Why such an emphasis on theory in a practical course?� �How are we supposed to have time to teach and go to the library?� �How will that help me teach my class tomorrow?� I was stunned. If teaching is indeed a profession, like medicine or law, one of its hallmarks should be the need to keep abreast of current developments by reading professional journals. They should be reading them anyway, or at least regretting that they're not. I don�t know what to say to these teachers or how to face the public and claim teachers deserve to be treated as professionals after such a show. I am merely heartbroken.

Why does it matter?

I imagine that most of you, in that I am as well, are tired of all this Peltier business. After all, it has nothing to do with our current lives. There are a million other situations far more worthy of such deliberation. I have indeed been asking myself 'why the apparent obsession?'

What I have come to is this: there are certain jobs that involve an outstanding moral obligation, amongst them are the legal profession, the military, and education. Though a credential to teach certifies to everyone else that I have met certain standards, I have no guarantee that the system I would become part of has met equal standards, other than those enforced by law. Leonard Peltier symbolizes the most flagrant violation in current memory by "the system" of the laws designed to insure basic moral standards, at least, according to some. It is amongst the first places one might look to find evidence of, or attempt to understand a crystallized instance of systemic injustice. So, in a sense, I have been looking to see if becoming part of the bureaucracy is a fatally naive error. Bizarre as the approach sounds, I think it's a more reasonable choice when considered in light of the incredible regularity with which public education perpetuates social injustice and class structure. It's not such a far cry to see the law doing the same thing, especially to a poor minority, fighting for its rights.

Alas, my Peltier search turned up nothing, and it's taken me this long to figure out what I'm really after. As it turns out, the most hotly debated new piece of education policy is a mandate that all students regardless of ethnicity and social class have equal access to a good education. Teachers are leaving the field in droves, not because they disagree with the sentiment, but because they feel that the methods the policy employs to accomplish that end will undermine everything essential to teaching. So, for the next little while, I will turn my research efforts toward "No Child Left Behind."


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Gene and I just took the five boxes of culled books to a used book store to sell, and though they only took two boxes, I got what I was hoping to sell all of them for, so I am happy. Better yet, the book buyer said, as if surprised, "You've got some pretty neat stuff here." The street creds from that alone are worth the selling.

  • Contract mercenaries to transport AEP (All Earthly Possessions) from Base 2 to target site�land incursion to take place at 08:00 Friday, September 5th
  • Transfer power
  • Position vehicular forces in Far East and use BART for covert reconnaissance
  • Change DMV registration to address of target site location
  • Redirect all incoming communications to target site
  • Call in special forces to operationalize target site
  • Notify remaining troops in occupied territories of equipment relocation
  • Register target site location with allied forces
  • Activate new communications devices
  • Obtain command of Vehicular forces from Enemy General
  • Set up rendez-vous at no-fire zone to obtain papers confirming command of vehicular forces and location of target site
  • Receive wireless communications device at 860.14.5.94114.1015
  • Check internet connectivity, possibly order cable modem service
  • Appeal to superiors for permission to permanently locate vehicular forces at target site
  • At Base 1:
    • acquire signatures for transfer of command of vehicular forces
    • retrieve communique of agreement for contracted forces



    We have the keys! I now have a new home in SF! This will bring an end to the relatively long, directionless "Moving" series of posts and any attending existential conflicts. I have retrieved and emptied all of the book boxes. There are at least 4 slated for reselling to Moe's. All poetry will henceforth be set aside for Cody. I have a whole lot of young adult sci-fi/fantasy that I have set aside for those with such proclivities. I also have an entire box of children's literature that it would be nice to loan to someone (or multiple someones) on a long-term basis. Do we know anyone who teaches elementary school? Still, I don't think I'm going to make it to 584.

    Move-in day is Friday!

    Moving: Part 4


    How good are you at word problems?

    I went to the storage space today to get more books. I had already taken out four boxes, and today I retrieved an additional eleven. There appear to be at least eight left inside. We left Chicago with approximately seventeen.

    I can only conclude that they are breeding in the night.

    What is a reasonable number of books to have? Please comment.

    Moving: Part 3


    The Book Depository

    Throughout our trip the question lurked in the back of my mind �What will I do with all the books when I get to San Francisco?� Gene had suggested donating them all to the San Francisco Public Library and then visiting them via Muni. I wondered if there was any recompense for a donation so large, perhaps a chair of my own to sit and read in? Alas, my hopes were dashed when I learned that libraries usually sell donations to raise funds, and that they often remove from the shelves the items that don�t circulate. Much as I value The Understanding By Design Workbook, I doubt that it would see enough action to stay on the shelf. I considered donating them to a university library, but the same limitations apply. It was Sean who first raised the possibility of selling them to Moe�s and then buying them back if I ever needed them. This idea had several advantages: 1) Immediate recompense in the form of cold, hard, cash. 2) Regular trips to my favorite bookstore to replenish my supply. 3) The inverse likelihood that the rarer they are, the more likely they are to stay on the shelves. And so it is with this in mind that I am designing my new collection. What shall define the quality of the works that stay? We already have the seven mark system for fiction, but what about reference? What about books I have not read but intend to? What about books that are not useful now but may be later? Simply surveying the shelves at my parents� house I can discern two obvious categories: 1) anything on Encyclopedia Brittanica�s Great Books of the Western World list�keep; 2) books bought for courses in college that I have not needed in the last two years (or for that matter, since the class)�sell. This last category of course leads to its obverse, books bought for courses in college that I have needed in the last two years. Those should be kept for an additional extension of two years. A harder to discern category is �English classics I have never read that I have poor editions of (i.e. pocketbook paperbacks of Tess of the D�Ubervilles).� While these are good and important books that I may someday want to read, they are easily replaced from used book stores and if I ever read them seriously, I will most likely want a better edition. As I contemplate doing away with all the books I read for courses in college, it occurs to me that they serve an additional function. There are a number of fields in which I am not specialized enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. The books on the shelf form a visual reading list that will be lost when they are gone. I will have to keep a list of them all. In fact, keeping a list of all the books I once had, and a record of whether I kept them or sold them may help maintain my sanity when six months from now I find myself muttering and pawing through the shelves to find the Tess of the D�Ubervilles I could swear I had. Such a list would best be kept as a searchable database. What program to keep such a list in? Time to call Gene. I began to cull the collection remaining at my parents� house while waiting for a friend to return my call. I thought I was doing quite well, only saving about a third of the books, but one particular shelf is giving me trouble. What about science textbooks? I know very little and have them so that I can learn more. They are hard to find often and expensive. However, they go out of date very quickly. I feel very strongly that that section should be allowed to remain intact, but with it comes the film section. The film section is only really about five books. Why do I feel so strongly about them? They somehow represent a field I value and would like to think I am informed in. I suppose they act as a badge of initiation. Whenever I feel inferior in film knowledge, I can recall them and feel that I too know the basics, but I don�t actually care much for the content of those particular books so it�s never very comforting. Away they go. They are classics; they can be gotten at the library, or at least, at a university library. What will become of the film books in the other boxes though? What about opera scores? There are only two, �Don Giovanni� and �The Magic Flute.� I have tickets to the opera and will likely go see them, but will probably not study them in depth. I suppose they can go then. What about nearly great books? Books that are indeed classics and well worth studying, far more worthwhile than most contemporary fiction, but that do not make the Great Books list? Lest you be fooled, this is a large category, perhaps the bulkiest of them all. It�s filled with giant names: Mark Twain, Boccaccio, John Keats, Thomas Marlowe, Tennessee Williams, Ben Jonson, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway. If I have had them for as many years as I have, and have never read them, then I probably should get them at the library�unless it�s a really nice edition (like my Decameron). So I guess they all go. But that begs another question. What about the Great Books that don�t have any writing in them, that I probably won�t reread? Do I keep them as trophies of the intellect? Or do I humble myself and admit that Aristotle�s Physics means very little to me. As much as some people love Plotinus, I find it facile, the universe is too easily systematized. I think it may be time to go with Flaubert, and admit that knowing only six books, but knowing them well would be an education that far surpasses a cursory knowledge of many. Away then with the extra Aristotle. Perhaps I should only be saving my favorite books and those I am dying to read? Such a prospect is too frightening to consider yet. I went to the storage unit and retrieved four boxes of books. They are already posing more questions. What do I do with the teacher books? I keep hoping that when I get a job there will be a bookshelf and I can just take them all there. Until then, I suppose they should get set aside and put together into boxes. There are also cookbooks, but there aren�t so many of them and they serve a purpose. Here too are the first wave of Children�s Books. Those will be hardest. What about poetry? I can hardly think of a reason it should stay since I seldom read it and am not particularly attached to any of it. Yet I like the idea of it�preparing to sit down on a rainy afternoon with a cup of tea and walking up to the poetry shelf for a single-serving sized piece of literature... Though such delusions also include a pipe and quilted silk dressing gown, neither of which I have, so why keep the poetry? Away it goes. The piles on the desk of keepers are staying fairly steady, but there are growing piles on the floor of books I know not what to do with. Souvenir books (yearbooks, journals, jr. high address books) can all stay at my parents� house. I suppose I should separate out the young adult fiction to offer to friends, but it can go. I will borrow them back if I ever want to read them. The real question is about children�s books. I had thought of putting my name in all of them and loaning them on a long-term basis to a middle school Language Arts teacher. I may need them back if I teach Language Arts. Okay, so all children�s books except those that I still want to read can go in another box. And what of foreign language? They are hard to come by and expensive, but I can�t read them without other people to read with. I think some of them will have to go. Those that remain can stay at my parents' house, which we may now refer to as "the archives." I suppose most of the science and textbooks can remain there as well. This all feels like a section out of Brave New World, where the Director invokes the sacred quote of Ford, �History is bunk:� He waved his hand and it was as though, with an invisible feather whisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk�and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk�and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom�all were gone. Whisk�the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk� (p. 34 in the battered Harper Perennial paperback I will soon not have). The only ancient tragedy that strikes true fear into my heart is the burning of the library at Alexandria. The sudden fiery deaths of all the inhabitants at Pompeii, or the thousands upon thousands who died in vain at Troy, or even the course of history lost to Alcibiades' treachery is mere dust in the wind compared to the loss of such a library. What will I do when it happens again?

    Moving: Part 2

    Habits to Feed

    The following day included many ordeals, the details of which I don't expect you particularly want to hear. Gene accomplished a feat of majestic proportions, compacting all my earthly possessions into three linear feet of a Mack truck (which I hope he will describe at concrete skyline). In sum, we disassembled the furniture, disposed of all the garbage, rented and returned a U-Haul truck, had a farewell dinner with my best friend, and I cleaned all night while Gene slept so he could drive us away in the morning. My opinion remains unchanged regarding the everyday details of people's ordinary lives, but if you disagree, you may write to the following address and register your complaints:

    What I find more interesting is the repercussion of watching my best friend hoist seventeen loads of books, weighing the equivalent of one home blacksmithing kit each, 12 feet into the air. While he never complained, he did point out that there could hardly be a need for so much media in hard copy. I had had a sneaking suspicion when my collection grew beyond the floor-to-ceiling seven-foot shelving system that perhaps I had a problem. When it grew beyond the three-foot shelf extension I added, I knew that I had formed a habit, an obsessive compulsion to acquire books. While I reflected with some chagrin on the floor to ceiling shelves still filled at my parents? house, I still felt every one of them necessary, or at least, not expendable. Who could ever give up a book?

    Still, long ago I gave up collecting other unnecessary items. I had purged bags of clothes from my closets, paper from files, even sentimental gewgaws, why not books? Horrifying as the analogy seemed, the possibility had stuck itself somewhere in my subconscious, glued in place by the guilt of having used my best friend so ill. It would haunt me throughout our journey.

    The first day we drove straight through Illinois and Iowa to stop in Sioux City--just window-gazing, no need for books. The following day we carried on through Nebraska to the badlands. Along the way we passed historical Indian monuments, such as Wounded Knee and the Great Sioux Reservation. As I tried desperately to recall the names of all the most prominent chiefs, their tribes, and the conflicts they fought in, I found myself craving references, signs, pamphlets—text of any sort. A thought welled slowly up inside of me until it pressed on my heart and made my breathing shallow: I needed Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I took a deep breath and pushed the thought back down somewhere below my stomach.

    When we reached the campsite, we went for a walk down the riverbed and I collected leaves, rocks, roots, and other things to identify--if only I had had a field guide! We began talking about camping necessities and the possibility of living in such a desolate environment. I found my thoughts turning to my US Army Survival Guide. I was jonesing for a fix and didn't know how I was going to get it. "Maybe we can stop by the visitor's center next" I suggested weakly, but it was already 7:00 and I knew they were closed.

    Upon arriving for dinner at the famous Wall Drug in Wall, SD, a cursory review of the map revealed a Western books section just off the main dining area. My heart leapt three feet out of my chest and my pupils dilated just thinking of all the beautiful information, neatly packed into the consummables I truly feed on. I turned to Gene with big pouty eyes and promised I would be strong, “I won’t buy anything, I promise. I just want to look.” Somehow it didn’t even feel like a lie.

    Gene had helped me devise a system earlier that day for determining those books I could buy, and those I needed get from a library. If there were seven places I wanted to mark in the book, that justified having my own copy; otherwise, I was to take notes. As I hurried off to the book store, my hands trembled. I was fiending to take a book in my hand, rifle through its pages, and bore holes through the page with my eyes. I went in search of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and first lighted upon The Audubon Society's Guide to Birds of the Western Region. Now, as a serious researcher, I knew the only authoritative birding guide to be Sibley's or Pearson's, so the temptation to snatch it up and purchase it was mitigated by a knowledge of its inferior quality. Instead I used it to identify the large black and white jay-like birds we had been seeing around camp: black-billed magpies (pica pica). Though I was tempted again by the plant and butterfly guides (which I had dearly wished for on our walk) I resisted. How could I go back to Gene with three new books, no matter how useful?

    So I asked the lady who worked in the shop if they had Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and she found it for me. I analyzed the table of contents and turned straight to the passage on Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. I began reading, hoping against hope for a quotable sentence, an important fact, a perspective-shifting interpretation… but alas, it was just good history (on that page at least). It was not a seven-mark book. I would have to get it from the library instead. The balloon of desire that had filled my chest deflated and I resigned myself to the sad reality of withdrawal. Empty-handed but dignity- intact I returned to Gene. Despair would have been the appropriate term were it not for relief of not having lost face before him.

    Later that day I found out that there are public libraries within Yellowstone. Gene is suspicious of such endeavors, wondering how they can insure that books are returned, but I see it as sanctuary. The gods are looking out for me and have created a Phaiakia of my very own.

    On arriving in Yellowstone, we went first thing in the morning to the visitor's center and bookstore, where the kind lady who tried to get me to donate thirty dollars to the Yellowstone Association confirmed Gene's pessimistic predictions: there were no lending libraries. I decided not to ask how large a donation they would require to establish such an institution. I would have to buy the books I wanted, seven marks or no. Gene, of course saw no problem with this, but to me it was earth-shattering. I had made so much progress, had turned over a new leaf, had begun to change my way of thinking about maintaining access to information, and now he was letting me fall off the wagon. He may as well have just handed me a rubber hose, a bent spoon, and a rusty needle. I attempted to contain myself, to behave rationally. I accepted the field guide the kind lady pointed out (though I knew it would not likely contain all the species we would see), which Gene thought would be very useful, and then attempted to keep from drooling on the floor. There were so many, and they were ALL pertinent to our trip in Yellowstone. Geology, rocks, history, the Nez Perce, trail guides--It was like finding your dealer's stash right before a circuit party. I instantly narrowed my gaze to those addressing my two favorite topics: geology and the Nez Perce. Since I already know more about the Nez Perce than most of the books you would find in a visitor's bookstore, I decided to cut my losses and opt for the $1.95 pamphlet "Chief Joseph's People and Their War" put out by the Yellowstone Association. Surely a twenty-page pamphlet couldn't seriously count as a book.

    I was already purchasing two items and had not even begun to sate the urge. Geology still loomed large in the center of the display. She asked how much I wanted to know, "Everything," I said. The tone in my voice must have surprised her since she took a step back, wrinkled her forehead, and said, "Oh, are you a geologist?" A red tinge crept up my face as I acknowledged that indeed, I had no right to be so voraciously interested in the information. She showed me two books, one with more pictures and short enough to finish between sights and one hardback, longer volume that would take weeks to read cover to cover. At last I accepted the cheaper and more readable looking of the two, hoping to reaffirm my good standing in the world of tourists.

    With my well-rationed stash we left the bookstore and headed out to see the geysers. The trip from then out would be okay. There was a bag of fiction behind Gene’s seat in the car and I now had most of the informational bases covered. I could survive the trip, but what of the seventeen boxes now heading steadily for Oakland? What would I do when it came time to unload? Where would I store them all when I found a tiny San Francisco apartment?

    The answers to these questions and more in “Moving: Part 3!” Coming Soon!

    Moving, Part 1

    For those of you who are wondering what became of me, or how the Incredible Journey went, I apologize for not posting sooner. I would love to say that it was a harrowing adventure equal only to the greatest feats of humankind, but alas, on review the details seem fairly paltry and, at best, absurd in their finitude. Perhaps, however, this is the nature of Blogs. Let's find out, shall we?

    Odyssey: 2003

    Moving Log

    August 10, 2003

    Today is my last day in Chicago. I am packing, a skill I have refined through long practice over the course of several years of transience. I can pack things tightly, purge my closet of "fat clothes," and clean out under the bed with the best of them. Still, there is one aspect I have not mastered: deshabillement. English doesn't really have a word for it, so I have borrowed the French for "moving," which literally translates as "un-living." The French mean "living" in the sense of "where do you live?" but all the same, the more dour connotations seem apt as well. Taking apart your home, dismantling the environment that supports you, and taking off into the great wide open is more than a simple reorganization of space. It requires the ability to accept the transience of one's existence, the arbitrary nature of one's connections, and that the very nature of the universe, including the things you regard as central, is inherently liminal. To move is, on at least one level, to face your own mortality.

    11:12am Have searched in vain for boxes. Despite the mound in the living room, it is clear there are not enough to contain even the books.
    11:13am Move all completely packed items to living room and take out trash.
    11:21am Sort through remaining papers.
    11:45am It is becoming rapidly clearer and clearer that I need another file box. Keeping that much paper, however, is unacceptable. I may have to clean out the older files. Either that or use the magazine basket to store things to be filed. Yes, that's it! the magazine basket.
    12:05pm It is uncertain how much the magazine basket can truly hold. A box may have to be commissioned.

    *For those of you who are wondering, the goal is to have everything but books and the kitchen packed by the time Gene gets here at 10:00. While this seems entirely possible, especially since weeks ago I cleaned out the bathroom, under the bed, and all my files, I can't really make out whether or not I'm gaining any headway. So far I have been leaving the furniture assembled.

    The greatest difficulty about packing and moving may be that you have to make all the decisions you've been putting off until now. Should I ship back the videos for my China course, even though I haven't watched them yet? They?re boring, but I paid good money and haven't taken the final yet.

    Worst of all, what things should I take with me for the next two weeks? Who knows what I'll need? Somehow choosing the things that will be a part of my transition to the next life feels like a commitment to the end of this one, or worse, acknowledging that none of it really matters. The arbitrariness of the things I pack highlights the complete lack of necessity in the design of my life. If I truly don't need anything more than socks, undies, and a toothbrush for the next week, what good is such a week? What am I accomplishing?

    *I have just decided to pack all the bedding and blankets in the suitcases instead of trying to fit them into a box.

    1:43pm Took nap. Had snack. Talked to Gene--all is on schedule. Packed remaining bedroom miscellanies. Am considering taking down posters, but then it will be truly final. Instead, I will start laundry.

    2:04pm Shoes now fill the empty laundry basket. I am hanging up the few remaining items. The box shortage is becoming pressing. Once I have finished hanging/washing/ transferring laundry I will see if Kinko's has any boxes. If not, I will have to venture into the sun to go buy some from public storage. When I check Kinko's I must remember to look in Walgreen's for cd sleeves.

    2:52pm All clothes now in wash. The inevitable last dirty sock surfaced moments after my return. All the posters are down and stored in a tube. From where I sit, I can see a box of things in the closet that I have not used for two years, yet they have been spared at every purge. Will they survive Gene? I suppose the next thing is to pack the stereo.

    3:04pm Stereo on its way. Just counted book boxes. There are twelve from when I moved last time. Since then I have acquired pretty much my entire children's literature and teaching collections. I estimate needing at least six more. The barbells are also puzzling. What does one put 36 pounds of solid metal into?

    It has just occurred to me: the portable mp3 player does not plug into the car cigarette lighter. Instead of trying to purchase a charger, I will just take the 12 rechargeable AA batteries.

    3:39pm Most clothes now in dryer. 10 minutes and rest should go in. I will definitely need two more medium boxes, so I think I will just go to public storage.

    4:51pm Public Storage is only open from 10-2 on Sunday. Obtained two lovely boxes from Walgreen's, and they will likely have more later.

    Aha! I have not been thinking clearly. There are almost always boxes in Hyde Park, either at the Co-Op, Barnes and Noble, or Border's. I didn't want to go all the way there just for boxes, but it's practically on the way to pick up Gene and maybe I can give Zarah the futon pad too! I am a genius, an evil genius.
    Almost all clothes now dry.

    4:54pm Excellent. Zarah says she will be home at 8:30 pm to accept the futon pad. Boxes will be acquired. I am feeling sweaty and gross.

    5:07pm U-Haul Reservation confirmed.
    1200 W Fullerton Racine

    5:08pm I'm tired again. What's next? The bathroom I think. We can use some of the small odd-sized boxes for things like the shower curtain, and then I'll have to deal with packing toiletries—a good way to start packing for the next week and pretend I don't actually have to look into the abyss.

    7:31pm Good long nap.

    1:07pm One mattress disposed of. Gene acquired. Closet and bathroom finished. Boxes aplenty. Solid dinner. Mostly just books and kitchen stuff left. Gene is making strong progress on books. I will go start the kitchen.

    After Gene came, it became apparent how much more there was to do, mostly because I had been accumulating piles of things to throw out or give away and they remained, but also because I had anticipated our returning at 10:00, not 11:30. Gene did his best with the books, and we estimate there being about 17 boxes of them at the end. When we finally went to sleep it was 3:00 am and all the furniture was still assembled.

    .… the continuing saga of our Incredible Journey and more harrowing adventures to come in “Moving: Part 2.”

    Attack of the Computer Gnomes

    As �Zembla Day at Katabasis� draws to an official close (here in Chicago, anyway), I was pleased to find another installment from my favorite blogger and yours, but was dismayed to hear how rotten his week has been (see Zembla). Perhaps you would expect some sympathy for a dear friend and blog idol enduring such travails, but you�ll find none here, nor from any such pirate as I. For I too have been enduring many travails (�on the wide back of the roiling, wine-dark sea�). For the last week, my world has been under attack.

    7/30 Computer Gnomes Protest the Proliferation of Information
    Early this morning in the city of Chicago, a roving band of malicious computer gnomes protested the printing of a final draft Thesis paper. The Gnomes are said to have interrupted communications with the printer, ordering the operator to uninstall and reinstall the printer drivers. During the attempted un-installation, they froze the computer leaving broken and incomplete files littered over the hard drive. One witness agreed to speak with our reporters, "I was just sitting there, minding my own business. I pressed 'print' like always and all of a sudden these bizarre things started happening, and the computer was talking to me in ways it never had before. It can only be explained with magic--magical creatures." Victims throughout Chicagoland are spending 20-25 dollars to print documents at their local copy stores in order to meet deadlines. The Gnomes are suspected to be plotting a hostage takeover--back up your files while you still can.

    7/31 Gnomes Under Investigation for Access Outage
    Today authorities have released a report linking yesterday�s protest by a roving band of computer gnomes to a terrorist attack that knocked out internet access for a week two weeks ago. The group is now under investigation for this summer�s earlier email blockage as well. They are said to have taken hostage without ransom all outgoing email attachments. Local computer users have been forced to create �blogs� to �post� their attachments in order for others to gain access (hence the recent bizarre, yet informative, influx of Yangtze River Dam posts). All of this seems to have begun with a decision to upgrade from Netscape 4.7 to 7.1.

    8/4 ILF Takes Incoming Files Hostage
    As of this morning, 8 important incoming emails have been missing for 96 hours. Some wonder if this could be the latest work of the group of computer gnomes calling themselves �The Information Liberation Front.� The group has allegedly been wreaking havoc with any and all processes related to graduation and certification. The emails contained units on teaching children's literature that were to be posted to the internet. There is little hope of their being recovered.

    8/6 Gnomes Retreat Without Precedent
    At approximately 11:00 pm CST, the battle was rejoined when the computer (which had been shut down at 8:00) was started. However, there were no gnomes to be seen. The computer's first act was to print a "Windows XP Printer Test Page." Though demand for said printjob had been made of the gnomes 12 hours prior, this seeming white flag was quickly accepted by Allied forces. They promptly raised demands and the gnomes agreed to print "whatever is asked." Though they may go back on their word at a later date, this event seems to mark the beginning of a ceasefire and peace negotiations between the two warring parties. All email files seem to have been reaching their destinations and there is talk of even giving Outlook access to mail servers. Perhaps it's too early to go buying Kinko's stock after all.

    8/9 ILF Strikes Fatal Blow
    Today at the Chicago office of the State Board of Education, it was discovered that the electronic notification of entitlement for a Northwestern MS Education student had gone missing without explanation. The lack of that document precludes the student from applying for certification in the state of Illinois or California. It is all too clear now who is responsible for such atrocities. Simple technical malfunction fails to comprehend the awesome trauma caused by the vicious "Information Liberation Front." It appears their earlier surrender was only a pretext for gaining the time they needed to strike their most fatal blow. Allied Forces have appealed to friendly nations for aid and are expecting a contingent of special forces on Sunday. If the electronic notification is returned by Monday, the gnomes may be spared the death penalty. Otherwise, there will be no mercy.

    I too have been having a bad week, but have been feeling it much less, what with Chicago being so much closer to Australia.

    Pirating Zembla

    I have noticed, as perhaps some of you have also, that my favorite blog has received little attention of late. Apparently some authors are too busy relocating all their earthly possessions to drop us a line here or there. I, on the other hand, have remained intensely devoted to my vast readership. I spent virtually all of today, a valuable day as one of my last living in Chicago, learning graphic design programs, color theory, CSS, XHTML� simply for your pleasure. And what have I to show for it, you may ask? I have learned the golden secrets of Web Design, and now have the power to steal for my own use the stylesheets of all those I envy. So, seeing as Sean cannot keep up with his adoring fans, and since I am more than man enough to meet the task, I am officially offering �Zembla Day at Katabasis,� replete with snappy one-liners and sophisticated syntax. All are welcome.
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