Thursday, December 10, 2009

wind power

So I'm a big fan of the Pickens Plan, without feeling a need to be a fan of Boone Pickens--which I think he'd understand. I think it's a fantasy to think that we can go it alone as a nation. Indeed, I think it's a travesty in our interconnected times to think in terms of nations, instead of thinking in terms of neighborhoods and the world. But it's lunacy as long as things are still set up along national lines to send billions to countries with which one is often at odds, and think that is okay because it's buying oil, whereas it's not okay to send a couple hundred million to countries who are on one's side, because that would be foreign aid, which is BAD somehow.

So it is with tiny joy that I note that my College is building a windfarm on top of its downtown Dallas buildings, which may end up providing as much as 30 percent of the electricity use of the College. Happy smiles.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Well, mostly reading term papers and finals essays.

But also reading Anglo-Saxon history, Nietzsche's "Human, All-Too Human," and the Bhagavad-Gita in Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's "Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy." Hope to read "The Historian" and finish "The Three Musketeers" over Christmas. While writing my academic paper for presentation in March...

Finished Borges's "Personal Anthology," creepy and amazing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


So I got like a million books and much love and silly things and mostly pleasant, slightly embarrassing reminiscences for my 50th. It makes it very hard to get my grump on. Jonathan and Beth coming for Christmas, expressed appreciation, upper-level administrative support at work, a wife who likes me, assistance with Diane from various and sundry lovely people, the upcoming Oxford trip--it all makes griping about home repairs and finances much less rewarding.

Now reading term papers and giving final exams. But the afterglow of a bash at Naseem and Ruben's, a dozen Facebook well-wishes, and an evening at Bengal Coast with Dawn lingers...I even got to watch a little football and squeeze in a little bathroom reading in my new history of the AngloSaxons. A brief foray into paradise's entry hall, this...:)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Me and Borges

I am reading Jorge Luis Borges for the first time, his collection called Personal Anthology. It's pretty amazing. He has a piece not unlike C. S. Lewis's story about what it was like to be inside the Trojan Horse, about what it was like to be Homer going blind, and deciding to write--well, chant--a poem about the life he had lived and seen. The longest piece is 20 pages, an attempt to mix Berkeley and the Buddhist text called The Questions of King Menander (Milinda), which is as literary and erudite and yet readable as anything I've ever read. It's like a nonchristian bathroom meditations book. Amazing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Dawn and I got to check out a b & b called the Old Rock House in Hico, Texas, southwest of Ft. Worth, this week. It's at B & b's can definitely be too sweet, too cutesy, too country kitsch. This wasn't. It was great: stone walls, amazing woodwork, old plank wood floors, acreage and trees, privacy--plus the Super S Foodstore only a few minutes' walk away (an advantage pointed out by locals).

Getaways to me are, among other things, one way to keep from getting to the point where you just want to tell the other people in your life to get away from you. I don't know why change of venue leads to change of heart, of attitude, of atmosphere, but it often does. Not that it's a panacea, of course: moving to a new city still involves bringing yourself with you, the same self that struggled with XYZ in the previous city. If you can't do it here, you usually will have trouble doing it there, too. But sometimes just the facticity of geography, the bare brute fact of a move, can be life-changing. And so while getaways don't typically solve problems underlying relationships (and what relationship, marital or otherwise, doesn't acquire problems over time?), they really can be a fresh start, a breather anyway.

We had fun.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I often use marriage as an example of a widespread (philosophical) truth, namely, that just because two people use the same word doesn't mean that they mean the same thing by it. ("Hey, baby, yes, I'm totally committed to, tonight...")

(Parenthetically: Ceylon tea in the, back to my post:)

Standing at the bus stop this morning, I had a itsy bitsy witsy realization along the marriage lines.

If extramarital sex is for you, or your cultural niche, no big deal, just fine, etc., then surely premarital sex is not going to be a big deal.

But if you're already having sex with someone, and living together, what kind of commitment are you asking of each other when you ask to get married? Although this may not be your intention, it might be that, in terms of your own and / or the other person's frame of reference, you're actually to be understood as asking for a commitment to a wedding. No wonder people, resistant to this, often think of it as "only a ceremony."

Of course there are many reasons people engage in (extramarital) sex, and many attitudes to it. And more reasons yet for why people who are married do not engage in (marital, anyway) sex. So I'm not suggesting this covers all or even most cases, only many cases at least in the US (maybe Europe and the British dominions too).

Still, I do think that this one particular dynamic might be even more the case if
1. you're not opposed to, but just have never seen a long-term, til-death-do-us-part relationship, or at least never seen one you thought as relevant to you at all, and / or if
2. having a baby is not associated by you with being married, and / or if
3. you view decisions as choices, and choices as (arbitrary) choices among options, and thus view "continuing to have options" as necessary to "continuing to be a person who is a decision-maker," i.e., a(n arbitrarily) free adult--i.e., if you think of yourself basically as a consumer.

Again, there are a thousand thousand nuances here in particular cases, and far more than one cultural development going on in America simultaneously. One of the problems with talking seriously about issues like this is that with 300+ million people, just about any generalization you might want to make is going to be true, at least among some subset of Americans, and way false of large groups of others. I certainly don't mean to reduce the existential depth of anybody's particular working through issues like this; quite the contrary, my bus stop light bulb came from reflecting on students' attitudes and questions.

Of course I've thought for a long time that the deep misunderstanding of symbols in American culture makes all of this unnecessarily hard for people to get. On the one hand, from the side of 'Does my behavior make me thoughtful about anything?', if sex isn't a meaningful act, because "we all just know" that actions aren't meaningful, then of course you're not going to think there is a connection between it and anything meaningful in one's life. If you do ask about meaning, one common worldly answer might be some fuzzy thing about emotions or a hard one about evolutionary priorities.

On the other hand, from the 'does sex have any meaning and if it does, what?', if vaginal intercourse isn't the symbol of complete commitment, what is? Manual? Oral? Anal? Group? It's a pretty universal view of cultures and religions that whatever else one thinks about sex, whatever else it is and however else one views other sexual behaviors, vaginal intercourse in marriage is somehow the sign or seal of that marriage--not, normally, that intercourse makes you married, but that marriage appropriately calls for intercourse to express its reality in physical form: that it is marriage enacted in a symbol, encapsulating it the way that sharing the dishes and the bills and the vacuuming and so forth are marriage in routine action.

A symbol is a meaning "thrown together--sym-bol" with a word, object, or action. Since we humans are ourselves symbols--meaning-filled bodies--symbolism is at the core of who we are and what we do. I think that's among the best ways to think about sex, and sex ethics.


So it's coming up on three years that we've had Mom.

And among many other realizations I realized: only once in all that time have I given Mom's meds to the dog. And I'm not sure but I don't think I've given Dixie's meds (in peanut butter!) to Diane even once.


You just know that there are memory-enhanced dogs and cats all over America from people, especially memory-impaired people medicating themselves, switching the meds.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I am pretty concerned about the latest report of a 10% decline in newspaper subscriptions. I do not believe bloggers, let alone twitterers, can effectively substitute for professional journalists, although they can add a mass of testimony and (usually nonexpert) commentary.

I have long thought that freedom of the press must ultimately entail no ownership of media by nonmedia companies--GE should not own NBC, for instance. Not because I think media companies somehow inherently good--Fox is owned by NewsCorp, an odious entity owned by an odious person, but a media-only and newspaper-focuses guy nonetheless. It's more on the principle that the army shouldn't own companies, because the army isn't that sort of thing, or that companies shouldn't run or own armies--armies aren't the sorts of things companies should own or run. (The fact that we use mercenaries widely I find to be one of the many, many candidates for most disheartening facts-cum-legacies of the Bush era.)

The problem is, I can't think of a business model that will really work. Of course, individual rich people or rich families can do it. The Binghams in Louisville had a media-only empire like Rupert Murdoch's, but they couldn't figure out how to keep it intact across generations, sold it (for a billion, give or take), and now all those media outlets have deteriorated. Both advertising and subscriptions have problems as funding mechanisms as well, and in any case, on the internet, no one will pay to subscribe, and advertisers are greed-motivated to violate privacy and much else.

If you go, like the Guardian Weekly and Economist, to subscriptions only, that's a high standard, but because it is, there will be few such outlets and many people won't pay for or thus see them. But there should be mass media--penny papers--and I suspect that the internet, ironically, is not a very reliable place for that.

So: how to save the journalists while a new business model is found?