Toad in the Hole September 2006 Archives

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September 30, 2006

Friday Night Cat Blogging

Another nursery cat:

Greenjeans cat.JPG

This one works at GreenJeans Garden Supply in Mill Valley.

Posted at 05:08 AM | Comments (2)

September 26, 2006

Editorial Schmittox

This cute little headline showed up in my Google Alerts for Harrisburg, PA today:

House prepares for forum on anti-crime legislation

Right. "From now on, crime will be illegal! We're officially agin' it!! But first, we'll organize a discussion group!"


Posted at 04:51 AM | Comments (4)

Glorious Finale

The Apotheosis of Mr. Hanky:


Posted at 04:02 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2006

September Song


8-spot, bitten1

one gets to feeling autumnal, and finds oneself sitting still in the precious sunshine, and remembering the green that has disappeared into gold... Well, people call it gold, but it feels like dun on some days, and like something halfway between ripening and desiccating most of the time. But what's left is that, and blue unknown, what we name "infinity" mostly because we can't see to the other side of it.

And one contemplates what's missing, the part of the wing that something one can barely name has bitten away. Flying is still possible, but it gets too strenuous too fast. The losses, the holes in the landscape and the web of friendships and the sustaining world are small to observers, but crippling in the oddest ways. Vulnerabilities get more dangerous.

Best to sit still.

Posted at 06:02 AM | Comments (3)

Outrage of the Day, Overseas Edition

A post on Pharyngula made my gorge rise, and that ain't easy for a used nurse.

I comfort myself with the thought that this particular dictatorial jackass most likely has a personal physician, who, assuming he or she isn't too corrupt to use the advantage, has close access to the dictatorial circulatory system.

No. I can't be that simplistic. There really is a sort of tension in that oath, an argument with one's conscience that "the greatest good for the greatest number" -- or just revulsion -- doesn't automatically win. And while my first thought was, "Are there still medical workers in that country? Why?" I do know who would actually be harmed by a nationwide medical strike.

Conscience doth make cowards of us all. Except for the murderers, and the conscienceless -- not a completely overlapping set.

(ED. -- Link fixed. Thanks, John!)

Posted at 05:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2006

Pie: ARRRRRRRR Squared!

My pirate name is:
Bloody Anne Flint
Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network
Posted at 02:03 AM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2006


It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

An' did ye ken that pirates invented Workers' Compensation? 'Tis a fact, and I'll keelhaul the scurvy dog who denies it!

Come to think of it, I've always wanted to keelhaul a scurvy dog. I lack only a keel and a dog... Wait, do dogs even get scurvy?

Well, there are always those anarchist pirate utopiae on Madagascar. Maybe I'll find one there.

(H/T to Sara.)

Posted at 09:43 PM | Comments (3)

Hometown Parade

I uploaded a huge batch of photos, completely unedited, by way of testing Flickr's huge-batch uploader. Works like a charm, though like too many other niftificators it works only on Joe's laptop with OSX.

So here are piles of shots from the annual How Berkeley Can You Be? Parade. Yeah it's silly and self-indulgent. We don't care.

To see the parade in order (such as it is), start with the ice-cream man here and work backwards through the Flickr pages. Click on the image for a better view of, say, the Pink Man (I Heart the Pink Man) dancing with some guy in a suit of dried magnolia leaves, or the flamingo jockey kid (my favorite costume there) or the fine print on the art cars.


Posted at 05:21 AM | Comments (6)

September 18, 2006

Semitopical Plant

I'd sure like to hear what Ann Richards would have to say about Ann Althouse this week.

Posted at 02:46 AM | Comments (8)

September 14, 2006

Tumbling, After

Reading teju cole, who muses on the memory of place:

I'm thinking about how many layers of "sub-mundus" lie literally as, well as historically, in space as well as in time, under the surface of a city like New York, like San Francisco -- where builders have obliterated not only land and human history but the fertile edges of the Bay itself -- and under the house I'm sitting in in Berkeley. Troy seemed a fable until Schliemann, digging under the soil there, found buried walls, then streets, then the rest of what we use to infer a civilization we can barely understand.

I drove past the intersection of Shellmound Avenue and Ohlone Way (Sorry, Malcolm!) yesterday, where the gung-ho city of Emeryville has permitted a brace of shopping malls to be built over the eponymous shellmound, and experienced that odd combination of snarl and shiver one has when confronting such a blithe obscenity as those street names. At one side, there's a hump of soil planted with grass, some kind of fake waterfall, something else I couldn't pay attention to because I was driving. I'm very much afraid it was supposed to be commemorative.

A shellmound is a strange sort of memorial, to some of us, and not well understood at least officially. It's just that, a mound of shells, sometimes hundreds of feet deep; there are several around the Bay and some are supposed to be 5,000 years old. They get called "middens," but that has a garbage-heap connotation that misses the mark. Humans have been found buried in shellmounds, evidently with ceremony, and so have the bones of other species that probably weren't dinner leftovers: dolphins, coyotes. Artifacts, too. The people who lived here could justly be said to have been rich; there was lots of food easily obtained (as witness the size of the shellmound, just to account for oysters and mussels!) and an easy climate. They didn't raise brick walls or stone towers, though. In a place prone to earthquakes, that would have been patently insane.

Is patently insane.

Most of the things they made or used have returned decently to the soil, to feed the lives after. Their shelters were simple, made of bark and withes and vegetable weavings, and their other artifacts -- weapons, jewelry, household goods -- were on the biodegradable side too. What hard stuff they contained, the stone and shells and beads made of both, were held together by leather and plant matter, and lots of the rest was feathers. Feathers are miraculous for retaining color for centuries, but they must first be preserved from natural recycling forces like moisture and insects. We have very little of theur material culture left to see now, and almost none to hear.

So that shellmound, the one now supporting the shopping mall, is a museum of sorts, though its exhibits aren't visible, and a monument, and a marker more precise than the crossed streetsigns over it. We lack the ability to read it, but it's a marker all the same. We can still muse (though it's hard with all the traffic noise) upon what we can see of it. Those of us who can see it at all.

Mostly, that means those who know and remember or learn that the mound is there, under the mall.

The mall's very near the current edge of the Bay, so it's on the sort of ground, aside from the shellmound, that goes to jelly when a serious earthquake strikes. So someday, sooner or later, those walls will be rubble too, like Troy's, and they'll lie atop the shellmound they have already hidden, and maybe something else will be built on top of them. As on the walls of Troy. If our remnant descendants have more sense than we do, maybe it will be farmland or pasture, or saltmarsh growing more shellfish, actually productive of something more real than abstract electronic economics. Maybe the mall walls will be as dimly remembered as Troy's. I wonder if the shellmound will be remembered too. I hope so. It would mean that there's a civilization here again.

I wonder how to name the difference between the putative descendants of the Trojans -- building, farming, living, on the soil that covers those ruins -- and us, our civilization, so different from that of the peoples' before us and mostly imposed by invaders and the descendants of invaders. There is a difference, but I suspect there's a lot of noise that will have to die down before the name or dimensions of it can be heard. If you try to tell me what it is, I'll listen and reserve both judgment and belief.

There's a sense in which a genius loci is as evanescent, as breathlike, as any other spirit. It's a living thing, and we living things have the hope of continuing life only in the sense that we bequest it to other living things. It's not in our grasp, though it is our grasp; like the air that's been around the planet a few million years and has passed through every other living being, it's something we get to use only a little while, and we can't hang on to it without dying faster.

It's in our nature to live by consuming the past. The very soil that feeds us, the surface we live on (and live on), comprises, along with the pulverized remains of mountains and the lithified remains of shellfish, the decayed and decaying bodies of our ancestors and our brethren. The decay is what makes it fertile. Some of what went before us we can thread together with that perilously organic and mortal cord, memory. What else can we do but hope we're worthy inheritors of our own lives?

Posted at 04:32 AM | Comments (6)

September 11, 2006


We strolled the Solano Stroll today -- it's a street fair along Solano Avenue, a shopping and restaurant strip that runs through a part of Berkeley and a part of Albany, the town next door. We got to see performances by the Emeryville Taiko Dojo, the Royal Hawaiian Ukulele Band, and assorted others -- blues, bellydance, Cajun, brass band, Brazilianish, Japanese strings, Celtic, rock, I forget.

But the high point for me was at the National Center for Science Education booth, where I got to shake Eugenie Scott's hand. Way cool.

Posted at 05:20 AM | Comments (2)

September 10, 2006

Saturday Cat Blogging

Because we were out all day Friday.

I run around to local nurseries for column material, and most nurseries have cats in residence. This one came over to greet us, and then turned his/her attention to the lurking threat of the garden hose.

Ace Nursery cat subdues hose

Posted at 03:42 AM | Comments (9)

September 08, 2006

Two Jokes

Two jokes that my sister Ellen sent, here constituting some reflections (not blanket recommendations) about feminism and tactics, though not necessarily strategy.

A sexy woman went up to the bar in a quiet rural pub. She gestured alluringly to the bartender who approached her immediately. She seductively signaled that he should bring his face closer to hers. As he did, she gently caressed his full beard.

"Are you the manager?" she asked, softly stroking his face with both hands.

"Actually, no," he replied. "Can you get him for me? I need to speak to him," she said, running her hands beyond his beard and into his hair.

"I'm afraid I can't," breathed the bartender. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes. I need for you to give him a message," she continued, running her forefinger across the bartender's lips and slyly popping a couple ofher fingers into his mouth and allowing him to suck them gently.

"What should I tell him?" the bartender managed to say.

"Tell him," she whispered, "there's no toilet paper, hand soap, or paper towels in the ladies room."


Eleven people were hanging on a rope under a helicopter, ten men and one woman. The rope was not strong enough to carry them all, so they decided that one had to leave, because otherwise they were all going to fall.

They weren't able tochoose that person, until the woman gave a very touching speech. She said that she would voluntarily let go of the rope, because, as a woman, she was used to giving up everything for her husband and kids or for men in general, and was used to always making sacrifices with little in return.

As soon as she finished her speech, all the men started clapping.

Posted at 04:04 PM | Comments (4)

September 07, 2006

Just Braggin'

I am nerdier than 87% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Posted at 04:11 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2006

Labor Day Late

PSoTD asked me along with a host of others to post something about what Labor Day means to me. Here, late, as I was working on Labor Day.

Of course, it's ironic that I was working on Labor Day, as I regard that as a venial sin under most circumstances. Time was, most people here didn't. Medical workers, sure; utility and transit and such vital services' staffers too, and they got holiday pay. Farmers, because cows need milking no matter what day it is. I was working because I'm a freelancer with a really bad tendency to procrastinate.

Practically, Labor Day has become the weekend to stay home and off the roads. We hunker. This year we slept in, did a little yardwork, visited a nursery (which is what I was writing about), that sort of thing. I have an atavistic urge to buy clothing around this time of year, doubtless left over from school days. It's somewhat off-step here; the seasons change at a different pace and time than they did in Pennsylvania. (And this year I'm so not ready to give up the long days and warmth.)

The scary thing is that Labor Day is becoming a matter for nostalgia. See my second graf above; see various bits of prose from people talking about parades and unions and decent wages. See the recent history of manufacturing jobs moving overseas. See the corporatization of farming, for that matter -- and look at the labels in the food markets, see how much of what we eat is imported, if you want a real scare. Seems as though we're growing mostly corn syrup and GE soybeans and exporting... What do we export, anyway? More of the same, plus jobs, plus things that blow up.

When a city needs revenue, what does it look to? Another goddamn shopping mall. When the wonderful new information economy actually operates, what does it do? Sells sales information -- "contacts," peoples' phone numbers and email addresses and maybe what they're in the market for. More of us are selling things; ever fewer are growing them or making them. It's like a kula ring that's taken over the whole economy; it would be like the Eternal Garage Sale, except that the stuff being sold is likely to be too flimsy to survive long enough to be sold again. So where's it going?

Look to the nearest "landfill." That term itself is an obscenity. I have never in my life seen empty land. Neither have you, unless it's recently been occupied by a shopping mall. There is something just as flimsy, abstract in a way, not concrete, about an economy that rests on them.

Those retail jobs, except for the ones that are still unionized (grocery stores, e.g.) tend to pay little and require an insalubrious combination of indifference and ass-kissing. Oh, and the stores, like a lot of other places, tend to be understaffed. This is not good for morale, not good for the workers, not good for service, not good for the customers. How long was the last line in which you had to wait?

Now notice that the same dynamic is happening in hospitals, medical labs, clinics (such as survive), and such vital places. If they're tax-supported like firehouses or some ambulance companies, it gets even worse in cities as the tax base erodes -- you know, all those manufacturers that aren't there any more, and all their former workers who don't have those incomes any more. Add the recent tax relief to those poor overburdened folks in the higher income brackets... You see where this is going.

There's a process, a death of a thousand cuts, a gradual passive impoverishment that happens partly because human lives are relatively short and human memories are shorter. I spent part of this year wondering whether I was actually seeing and hearing fewer birds on my block than last year or ten years ago, or was it just my imagination. We keep only half-assed yard lists, but after a while trends do show up. This week I was wondering where the heck the bushtits had gone; they always form up a gang and patrol the yard at least twice a day, eating bugs, and they're audible even when they're in concealment. I could put a houseplant with bugs out on the porch railing for a few days to let the bushtits have a go at them. And I haven't noticed them at all lately, and I just noticed that I hadn't noticed. We both sit here working in the hours when they should be coming through, and not once this summer have we raised our heads and said, "Hey, there go the bushtits." They're nomadic, OK, but we've always been able to rely on them before.

The scrub jays, where have they been? Hard to miss that bunch. They're susceptible to West Nile virus; not seeing (hearing!) them is scary. No mockingbird in earshot this year or last. A black phoebe just showed up, part of the post-breeding dispersal, but for a few years we had a family of them raising kids somewhere close. We did have a robin -- but I think only one nest on the block -- and the hummingbirds, and... and... there must have been house sparrows somewhere; there always are. Mourning doves? No. The Nutall's woodpeckers have been sparse. Where's the possum, come to think of it? Didn't we used to have salamanders? Et cetera.

But most people don't notice this stuff. And of those that do, most don't remember that it was ever any other way.

Most people don't know that their immediate environment used to be much richer.

Similarly, most working-class (by which I mean people who work for a living, not as a hobby, and the people they list as their legal dependents) people don't know that their immediate class used to be much richer. Or if they know, they blame themselves, and don't notice that what happened to them -- to their incomes, their pride, their independence, their power -- has happened to millions like them. It's not just a generational matter, that young people can't afford houses like what their parents had at their age. Their parents, if they didn't buy early enough or work in the right jobs or just have the right luck, are looking at scary futures too.

The divide-and-conquer tactics worked well, didn't they. How many people do you know who call themselves "working class"? Never mind whether or how long and hard they work. Everyone's supposed to be middle-class (and to hate being middle-class) and hey, look at the interesting word that's dropped out there, the one that means something other than relative position.

And who remembers -- let alone thinks it's the way things ought to be -- that once, in living memory, the "working" class made things it could afford to buy, and could rely on a pension, and could bargain with real power to effect the outcome over things like pay and time off and working conditions. That a strike wasn't branded as traitorous -- or, if it was, the accusation got scorned away. That every job wasn't a thin and threatened lifeline, that things like medical insurance were to be expected (and expected to serve the people who were paying for it), that things were going to keep getting better?

Who remembers not being scared all the time?

Posted at 04:42 AM | Comments (4)

September 05, 2006

Labor Day Special #1

Mr. Hanky's day job

This fine eating establishment has been around much longer than South Park, so I figure we're looking at the early showbiz history of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo.

The sausages are actually pretty good. No, really.

Honest, PSoTD, I intend to write the Labor Day essay. I have some paid writing I have to do first.

Posted at 02:35 AM | Comments (3)

September 01, 2006

Cheatin' Tonight: Checklist Meme

Because I'm still stressed out about the computer (which is working a bit better and we're networked again, but it ain't healed) and my teeth hurt like the dickens a day and a half after getting the braces tweaked and I have to write a tree column tonight:

The Checklist

As stolen from Stu.

Just bold the things you have accomplished (sic - Ed.) in your life.

1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
2. Swum with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
8. Said "I love you" and meant it
9. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was wasted
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River - or was it the Colorado River?
82. Been on television news programs as an expert
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Eaten fugu (pufferfish)
89. Had a one-night stand
90. Gone to Thailand
91. Bought a house
92. Been in a combat zone
93. Buried one/both of your parents
94. Been on a cruise ship
95. Spoken more than one language fluently
96. Performed in Rocky Horror Picture Show
97. Raised children
98. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one important author who you missed in school, and read something they wrote
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life

Posted at 04:12 AM | Comments (11)