Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cola dreams

It has now been several weeks since I kicked the Diet Coke habit. Last night, for the first time, I had a dream in which a drank one. The good news is that I did not actually relapse.

Monday, August 27, 2007


The other day, I received an e-mail on from a former high school classmate. This reminded me of how, when I had first arrived in the U.S. in the 9th grade, a number of rotten psychopaths would "borrow" pencils from me and neglect to return them. Therefore, I instituted a practice that students who wanted to borrow pens or pencils would have to pay a deposit. When I first instituted this policy, one student asked if he would get the deposit back when he returned the pencil. With my most cynical and doubtful voice, I said "If you're lucky." The student got somehow worried, but we agreed that he actually get the deposit back, not just if he "[were] lucky." On another occasion, both I and another student who had given his paycheck in deposit forgot about the loan, so I ended up keeping his paycheck over the week-end. $68 and change were a lot of money back then.

Just in case you are wondering, Audy--who reminded me about this practice--so far as I remember always returned my pens. One time, I was a bit disappointed since he had put up a $50 bill in deposit.

Dreaming about a brief

Last night, I dreamed that I had somehow gotten myself into having to write a brief in support of upholding Row v. Wade on very short notice. Since I am not trained as an attorney, this was not for filing in a court. Exactly what the brief was to be used for was not clear. The brief was apparently due at 9:00 p.m. EST, and it was close to 6:00 p.m. PST, so I was getting rather worried. Robert Bork was writing the brief for the other side.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hard drive ache today

As I have mentioned before, a broken hard drive can be almost as painful as a broken heart.

Fortunately, it appears that the hard drive on my notebook is not actually broken, but the computer still refuses to boot. Hopefully, the nice folks at ITS will be able to fix it. It really would be nice if I could have it back "before the night is through."

Somewhere in Britain

A news story on NPR this morning reports that a British court has issued an injunction against a woman, prohibiting her from playing "country music classics" between 11:00 p.m.-7:00 a.m. One day, this woman had apparently played the same songs, including Tammy Wynette's "D*I*V*O*R*C*E" twenty times. The commentator suggested that it could have been worse (for the neighbors) since, at least, she did not play "All My Exes Live in Texas." I disagree. George Strait's song is actually much better. The former song is also very unnerving. I would also have preferred Tammy's other song, "Stand By Your Man" over the marital dissolution one (even though she was reportedly divorced three times as of some twenty years ago--I'm not sure what happened since). Or what about "Texas When I Die," in which Tanya Tucker suggests that, due to her uncertainty of whether the gatekeepers let cowboys into Heaven, the is not sure if she will go there. "If don't," she suggests, "just let me go to Texas/'Cause Texas is as close as I've been."

Now, I wonder how the neighbors are going to feel at 7:00 a.m. on Sundays when this poor, frustrated woman can finally get relief from the injunction and tries to make up for lost time. Perhaps they can take up a collection to buy the woman an iPod.

Those of y'all interested in further discussion of country music (probably a very small group) might want to check out my "unholiday letter" at .

Is this news?

A headline at NPR's web site features the title "U.S. Losing War on Terror, Experts Say in Survey." The article goes on to say that "Foreign-policy experts deem U.S. national-security strategy in disrepair, the war in Iraq alarmingly off course, and the world increasingly more dangerous for Americans." Is this news?

A mega-nightmare

Shortly before awakening this morning, I dreamed that I was taking a summer course in literature at UCLA. When driving to UCLA for the midterm, the 405 apparently only had two lanes, and I do not remember thinking of this as odd or knowing that it ever had more. Suddenly, the freeway was blocked by a large group of dour looking people in uniforms. I could not tell what the uniforms said, but it appeared to be a group of white supremacists, including one whose uniform had a badge with a Norwegian flag. There was a detour of the kind where, during freeway construction, the other side of the freeway is used for both directions, with each direction getting one lane. When I got to the other side, however, the freeway was still blocked. Apparently, I was still able to turn around and go back. I did not know which public transportation sources might get me there as the time of the exam (1:30 p.m.) was getting closer. It seems it never occurred to me that I was probably not the only one having trouble getting there and that the exam might have been postponed or that the campus as a whole might have been shut down.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Selective Southern accent

Today, I have been visiting my family to celebrate my sister's birthday, and my mother and I went shopping. As we were pulling into the Costco parking lot, a call came in from a Beaumont reporter concerning the extent to which the eight percent savings associated with a three day sales tax "holiday" could motive increased purchases. In the course of this discussion, I made reference several times to a similar "back to school" sales tax break in Maryland. After completing the conversation, my mother remarked that I seemed to slip into a Southern accent each time I started referring to the Maryland deal. I hadn't noticed this. Maryland is technically in the South, and you do not have to get too far away from D.C. into the Maryland countryside before an accent starts to appear, but in College Park where I lived, that really did not happen. Still, maybe there is some unconscious association. Although I only hung out in rural Virginia once while waiting for my car to be repaired, the Southern accent does seem to "kick in" rather quickly as you move south.

By the way, if I really did slip into a Southern accent, it's a bit of a shame that I never took the opportunity to refer to "y'all." Having lived the first third of my life in a country whose language distinguishes between the second person in the singular and plural, using the uniform reference in Northern English tends to feel a bit ambiguous.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Year of the Cat

If my calculations are right, the next Year of the Cat--based on Vietnamese astrology--will not occur until 2011, but that seems a bit long to wait to make these comments on the identically named song.

Although I have heard and thought about the song over many years, I was never really able to understand much more than the title and the admonition "Don't bother asking for explanations." It was only recently that I got to look up the lyrics. At first the lyrics seemed quite revolting to me. Now I am at a point where I can't even say if I am really sickened. I simply do not understand the supposed logic (if one is even intended) of the song. How do the facts and events revealed lead to the outcomes described? Do the lyrics at many any more sense to you?

According to great source of information about the background behind many songs--the song was inspired by the film Casablanca. Although I know that this film is supposed to be a classic and one that should be experienced by a "sophisticated" individual, I was never able to sit through it. Maybe enduring the film once and for all might help me understand the song better.

By the way, SongFacts also reports that the studio asked Al Stewart to make another song similar to "The Year of the Cat." The result was the song "Time Passages" which Al Stewart has since admitted to not liking. SongFacts quotes Stewart: "I didn't realize truly how bad a song it was until one day I was in an elevator and I was listening to what I thought was Muzak. About 30 seconds went by, and I finally began to recognize it and said to myself, 'This sounds pretty horrible.' Then, horror of horrors, I heard my voice come on, it actually was the record. So I'm thinking, 'Oh my God what have I done, this is terrible!' Hopefully in the last 25 years I've redeemed myself with other things, but "Time Passages" has just never thrilled me." I, on the other hand, actually like the lyrics to this song. They seem rather elegant to me. Are the words " Well, I'm not the kind to live in the past/ The years run too short and the days too fast/ The things you lean on/ Are the things that don't last" really entirely without artistic and philosophical merit? It looks like I was fooled. Again, I do agree that these words and the remaining lyrics do not appear to support a conclusion of a desire to have someone "buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight," but not all aspects of songs with merit necessarily develop the logic behind each conclusion.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An endowed waiting room

Today, I noticed that the waiting room of the Internal Medicine Department of a medical center was named after two people, presumably a couple. If that raises funds for the medical center, I am all in favor of the idea!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lifestyle change

For the time being, I have tentatively kicked the Diet Coke habit.

What a difference a year makes

My nephew Thomas just turned four. Technically, his birthday isn't until Tuesday, but for logistical reasons, we had his main birthday celebration today. Thomas is going to have another one on Monday with his nanny and then another one on Tuesday, too, so it might be more accurate to say that is celebrating his birthdays in the plural.

Last year, he really wasn't all that interested in gifts, he disliked sweets, and he would rather avoid most people, so there wasn't much interest in a b-day party.

This year, he had been looking forward with some impatience to the birthday cake he would receive, he actually enjoyed the celebration, and his greed had increased dramatically.

You can't grow corn on a sow's ear

Although strictly speaking true, this probably isn't a proverb; at least I have never heard it spoken. If it were, it wouldn't make much sense. Still, it could probably cause some people to think for hours of what it could really mean.