I’m restless, twitchy, dissatisfied. My attention span is shot, and blue skies aren’t doing it for me. Any second now, someone is going to come along and be just the wee-est bit presumptuously clueless, and I’m going to lay them out on the ground with scars that will last. I won’t even enjoy it.

What’s the problem?

Nothing in particular. Existential ennui.

I’m not writing.

That’s the real problem. My time has been so broken up lately that I’ve been filling in with instant-gratification writing substitutes: revisions, submissions, outlining, research, blogging, correspondence. But I haven’t sat down and let my fingers really dance to the music in my head in a couple of months. I haven’t challenged myself the way that only writing challenges me. I haven’t proven to myself that music still exists in the world. I haven’t added anything to that music.

It’s time to fix that. Now, before someone, maybe even me, ends up with new scars.

“Dad? Have you sent that letter to Mom yet?”

(to be continued)


Okay, Now It’s Summer

There are farmers at the Farmers Market.

Well, there have been farmers there for the last month, alongside the bakers and tamale makers and stands selling bananas (ahem): beekeepers and people selling potted plants raised in greenhouses. But for me, the market doesn’t really start until the fresh produce shows up, specifically the new potatoes. There are radishes, young lettuce and onions too, but I picked up potatoes and dill.

Tonight, on the way home, I’ll buy some sour cream. I have everything else I need–a little mustard and a teeny bit of sweet onion–to make my favorite potato salad. The potatoes are mostly bite-sized, so I’ll barely have to do more than scrub them and drop them in a pot to boil. The hardest part will be waiting for them to cool before I put the salad together. Even in cold water, it can’t happen quickly enough.

But when it does, oh, then it will be summer.

Okay, Now It’s Summer

Things I Didn’t Say…

…walking around downtown Minneapolis today. No matter how much I wanted to.

To the people standing outside smoking in an uncomfortable little row: “Number three, please step forward.”

To the person having their picture taken with the Mary Tyler Moore statue: “You do know that absolutely everyone raises their hand just like that for these pictures, right? Don’t believe me? Ask Flickr. No, really. Well, except for this guy.”

To the kid with the attitude: “Of course you’re tough, dear. We can all see that. All I’m saying is that shoving your jaw out and sticking it up in the air is much more effective if you do it before you see me looking.”

To the guy running to the Dome with his kids: “Dude, I don’t cross against the light when your kids can see me. Why are you making them do it now?”

To the guy who couldn’t quite stop his Suburban before the crosswalk: “Really? I mean, I already knew you were overcompensating with your car. Are you really that desperate for those few extra inches?”

Things I Didn’t Say…

Al Franken, Comic

I was on another blog this morning where someone was disparaging Al Franken as “this comic.” I’m crossposting my response here, because…

I’m getting tired of this “just a comic” trope. Being a successful comic, which Franken is, requires a number of talents useful to a politician. It requires you to be able to communicate to a broad range of people. It requires you to look through things that are “supposed to” be to see what is. It requires an ability keep your audience on your side while making them uncomfortable.

Now, sure, a comedian can take all that and never apply it beyond battle-of-the-sexes jokes. Maybe I don’t want that comedian to be a politician. But that isn’t what Franken has done. Have you read Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them or his other political books? Franken used his talents to dissect the conservative policy machine when almost no one else was doing it. He could have just taken potshots at personalities, but instead, he combined the potshots with substantial information on why those policies are based on bunk and actively hurtful.

So when someone dismisses Franken as a comic, I have to wonder. Have they paid no attention to Franken, or are they shilling for the other team and expecting that I’m too dumb to notice they don’t have any better arguments?

Al Franken, Comic


I’ve been remiss. My friend Kelly‘s third book came out last month, and I haven’t used my enormous blog power to tell people to go get it. CodeSpell is book three in what is shaping up to be a five-book series if Kelly and his publisher agree (the first two are WebMage and Cybermancy). They combine computers (of a sort), the Greek pantheon, and a smart-assed hacker who’s suddenly found himself with just enough power to get into big trouble and more of a sense of responsibility than he’s willing to admit.

The fun part of these books for me is that I’ve had a role in shaping them. Don’t get me wrong. They’re Kelly’s books from beginning to end. But Kelly has this thing about theme. His books all end up with one, but he (almost?) never knows what it is. So I get to read them and tell him what his theme is. Then I get to point to those parts of the book where he came really, really close to reinforcing his theme and if he just tweaks that…there, it’ll even look like he planned it that way.

CodeSpell is special in this respect. I haven’t read the revised ending yet, so I’m dying to know whether the change I suggested and he made is as effective as I thought it would be. Of course, I can’t read it fresh, so if you pick it up, you’ll have to let me know what you think.


I’m Tired of Insomnia

No, really. It’s not funny.

I was sleepy when I went to bed. I was comfortable. My brain wasn’t working at anything in particular. It wasn’t revved up, but it wouldn’t rev down. Sleep? Oh no, not me.

Forget that I’ve been sleepy most of the weekend. Forget that I hauled myself out of bed at a decent hour this morning instead of sleeping in (oh, sleeping in). Forget that it’s been almost 72 hours since I’ve touched caffeine. Forget that I compliantly put off starting the project I knew would be interesting enough to keep me awake. Forget that I have things to do tomorrow that would benefit from a fresh outlook.

Because all of those things are only going to keep me up longer. So I have to forget, and I have to go crawl back into bed as though it were the first time tonight, as though it doesn’t matter whether I ever fall asleep. Otherwise, I won’t.

I’m Tired of Insomnia


Greg Laden reposted this blog post last night. I thought at the time that he was seeing someone haul out Dr. Watson’s tired old brand of racism in reaction to the presidential campaign, but that may not be the case. I went to the Seed Media Group website after reading the post and discovered that Dr. Watson is still an adviser to the Seed board. That’s just…I don’t have enough words to say how stupid a decision that is.

Or maybe I do. Below is the text of the letter I will be sending to each member of Seed’s board. If you’d like to express your feelings on the subject, here is the address. Alternatively, if you agree with me, feel free to e-mail Seed Media at [email protected] with link to this post to let them know.

Let’s see what it takes to get them to understand that this is a problem that won’t go away by being ignored for a few months.

It has recently come to my attention that James D. Watson is still listed by Seed Media Group as an adviser to the Board of Directors. This decision by Seed Media surprises, dismays and, frankly, angers me.

Dr. Watson’s remarks–not just last October, but previously as well–represent an egregious misrepresentation of scientific consensus on a number of questions directly related to his field. Seed Media claims to be “committed to strengthening public interest in science and improving public understanding of science.” I fail to see how embracing a scientist who has made such statements is in keeping with the mission you purport to embrace. The bloggers you employ as the public face of Seed Media and Dr. Watson’s former employer have already clearly stated by word and action that Dr. Watson’s remarks are incompatible with the pursuit of scientific understanding.

I am baffled that you, as a director of Seed Media, continue to sully your reputation and the reputation of the company you steward by keeping someone like Dr. Watson as your adviser. If I or anyone else is to take Seed’s mission seriously, you must take immediate steps to make your relationship to Dr. Watson clear. If you will not terminate his position as board adviser immediately, make a public statement explaining how you reconcile taking Dr. Watson’s advice with the pursuit of your mission.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Update: The problem seems to be fixed now. Watson is no longer listed as board adviser. I thank Seed Media very kindly for saving me the postage of mailing the letters and for being responsive to their customers.


Happy Meal

We had one of those dinners last night that could have been a disaster. We were meeting the best man from our wedding (Ben’s old roommate and friend from high school) and his partner at a restaurant we’ve never been to before. I’ve seen Best Man about half a dozen times and neither of us has seen him in years. And we’ve never met Partner. It had the potential to be one of those stiff occasions full of reminiscing because no one has anything in common anymore. And I didn’t know whether the food was going to be any good.

Oh, the food. If you get the chance, try Kafe 421 in Dinkytown. Small but diverse menu, and everything is good. We think it’s run by the same woman our old roommate insisted on using for catering events–with good reason. Mmm, strawberry crisp.

There wasn’t much reminiscing, just a couple of stories about the people we knew in common so Partner had some context while we were bringing Best Man up to date. We compared experiences buying rental property and having to hire an exterminator and renovate an entire room immediately on closing. We also talked about politics, religion, conspiracy theories, grad school and quantum physics–all those things you don’t bring up in polite conversation.

But who wants polite? Polite isn’t how you make friends. Dinners like last night? Now that’s how you make friends.

Happy Meal

You May Already Have Lost

I was walking to work the other morning through the skyway. I passed a business with a TV running one of the 24-hour news channels, and there was Ed McMahon. The banner said something about him needing cash to avoid a foreclosure. I couldn’t help myself. I laughed hard enough to draw stares.

I’d like to be more sympathetic. I really would. But then I start wondering just how much money he got pushing sweepstakes. You know, the kind that had my grandmother subscribing to magazines she didn’t want and wouldn’t read because she might “already have won.” It took my mother at least a couple of years to persuade this formerly sharp lady–who’d had a couple of ministrokes by then and was on medication for other things that left her a bit bewildered–that blowing a stamp on these things was fine but to leave the magazines alone.

What cut of my grandparents’ retirement did McMahon get? If he wants to answer that, and tell me what good cause he spent it on, then maybe I’ll consider generating a little sympathy for his [sniff] desperate plight.

You May Already Have Lost