Category Archives: General

Everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

A Modest Accomplishment

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Amazingly, those items on my to-do lists keep getting crossed off. It takes me longer to get things done than I think it ought to, and I tend to get impatient with myself. In times like these, two things come in very handy. One is keeping those completed lists on my desk for a few extra days, so I can remind myself of how much I have actually accomplished. The other is to remember what it was like working for other people.

When I did administrative work, it was nearly impossible to complete any major task because there were constant distractions, both from my employers and from other employees. The same to-do list that I nearly completed this week in my own office would have taken me twice or three times as long to get through, if I were still working for someone else.

Still, the writing suffers. Every task that I can possibly think of comes before I sit down to write. I know that eventually I will just have to knuckle under and do it, but meanwhile I did manage to do one writing-related task. I found all the blog posts I have written here about Reclaiming, and created a page which lists them all.

I have amassed quite a collection of Reclaiming posts, as it turns out, and it was kind of fun to sort them all out and add commentary to each one. The beauty of writing, of course, is being able to control the narrative of any given event. In this task I was also able to dictate the meta-narrative, which is even more thrilling.

So while this isn’t an earth-shattering post by any means, at least it will serve to alert friends and foes of Reclaiming that there is now, over on the sidebar just below the blogroll, a helpful index of all my supportive, and not-so-supportive, comments from the past few years. That should be worth at least an afternoon of procrastination for anyone working in an office or, Goddess forbid, on writing projects of your own.

I hate to say this, but…

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…this may be the year when people aside from my kids get really tired of me saying “I told you so” all the time. Case in point: this blog post detailing how Toyota is worried about being perceived as an old people’s car. They have replaced Sly and the Family Stone in their ads with a band I’ve never heard of, which must mean they’ll attract that youthful demographic, right? You know, the youth who have no student loan debt, pristine credit, and jobs which pay them enough to afford a new car. Right.

I am also reading with interest the nervous reports from the Left about Barack Obama flip-flopping on the FISA bill, public election financing, and other issues. This is being written about ad nauseum in blogs the world over, so I won’t waste too much time on it. Just to be clear, I’ve got no problem with Obama being a centrist Democrat. I just had a problem with the people who insisted (and still insist) that he’s not. Now that he has been revealed as a mere mortal with an affinity for power, I hope people vote for him anyway.

That’s it for me this week. I wish I had something more interesting to post, but I guess I’m on bereavement leave for a while. I am wrung out, and not only from the extreme heat and terrible air quality around here. Hopefully I can get back to my weekly blogging schedule before too long.

On a positive note, even amidst the surreality of my father’s death I have come up with a couple potentially amusing future blog topics. Yesterday, for instance, I met a friend at the excellent Green Apple Books in SF. As I browsed through the voluminous used book bins out front, I realized that there is a whole list of rules to be generated on how to quickly weed out promising bargain books from immediate rejects. The first rule on the list: anything with “idiom” in the title is automatically thrown out. Even though it’s probably the cheapest book in there. (92¢!)

Anne is Very Happy Now

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It is amazing, the human capacity to make do and get by, when really we would prefer an entirely different set of circumstances. Perhaps this adaptive trait is what has made us such a successful species—but I didn’t start this post to talk about evolutionary biology. Heavens no!

No, I am excited to spread the word about a major new development in the increasingly adrift world of media outlets. Newspapers across the nation are tanking, newsrooms at every major network are having their budgets slashed, and even the internet has not been able to pick up the slack in terms of investigative journalism—with notable exceptions, of course.

Yesterday, however, I found out via Jeff Jarvis that a new, independent, investigative journalism enterprise has started up, ProPublica. From their “Who We Are” blurb:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that will produce investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work will focus exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We will do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them…

We have created an independent newsroom, located in Manhattan and led by some of the nation’s most distinguished editors, and staffed at levels unprecedented for a non-profit organization. Indeed, we believe, this is the largest, best-led and best-funded investigative journalism operation in the United States.

Yay! This just makes me incredibly happy. They have created six categories for the stories they produce: Business & Money; Justice & Law; Energy & Environment; Government & Politics; Media & Technology; and National Security. You can subscribe to RSS feeds for any or all of these categories, or just browse their main page to see the stories posted since they started, in late April.

I could go on about how blog-based software (which is what they’re using) is revolutionizing both collaborative publishing and website development in general, but that would bore even me. And I will leave it to others to say hopeful things about how this will hasten the return of the democratic process to our suffering nation. Instead, I’m going to head over there right now and start reading.

Wait for it……wait for it……

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Longtime readers of this blog will know that I periodically lust over things, especially techno-gadgets. I have been pretty good lately in making do with the gadgets I already have: I’ve never owned an iPod, use a bare-bones cell phone, and keep typing away on my old PowerBook, even though the warranty has run out and it is slowly falling apart.

My sole technology purchase last year was a new car stereo for my 1992 Honda. The new one plays CDs, a quantum leap from the broken cassette player in the old one. That upgrade alone has made my driving hours much more enjoyable and productive.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t been following closely the evolution of the gadget I most want to own: the iPhone. Or, as some have snarkily called it, the God Phone. When it came out last year, I sat on my hands and reminded myself that 1) I didn’t absolutely need it; 2) I couldn’t afford it; and 3) it would be cheaper if I waited a few months before buying it. That is the logic of an eventual customer, however, not a die-hard skeptic.

Since the iPhone’s release I have been staying the course, noting in my travels any occasion where an iPhone might have come in handy. Like the time when I drove to a meeting but couldn’t absolutely remember the way there. If I’d had an iPhone I could have had a map in hand within minutes. Or the time when I was waiting for an important email but had no computer access. Or when my plans suddenly changed and I had time to catch a movie before my next appointment, if I only knew what was playing and where. (And that’s not to mention the many handy uses I could make of an iPod.)

None of these were case-closed reasons to take the plunge, however. They didn’t warrant an extra $20 on my monthly cell phone bill, for one thing. Besides, for me the iPhone was still hampered by one major deficit: the inability to create new documents. I am forever getting writing ideas while away from my desk, and therefore any mobile gadget had to have the basic ability to open a new text file and start typing.

Now there are well-founded rumors and speculation that an even better second-generation iPhone may be announced in June. Not only that, but my dream of an iPhone that is also a decent hand-held computer also seems to be within range. (Gamers are also getting excited.)

Simply put, my resolve is slipping. I can feel the Lure of the Gadget slowly reeling me in, like some giant consumerist tractor-beam against which my paltry logic is no defense. I would probably be standing in line with the rest of the geeks and hold-outs when the announcement comes next month, except for one last shred of reasoning: the Fall discount.

Early adopters of the iPhone were irate last Fall when Apple announced a $200 price cut just in time for holiday buying. No matter how amazing the 2nd generation iPhone is, odds are excellent that it too will be discounted after the summer rush tapers off. So, that is the extent of my remaining resistance. I will be assimilated, but with any luck it will not be until October, at which point I can find some comfort in the fact that I waited as long as is humanly possible before succumbing. Meanwhile, I foresee lots of deep breathing and hand-sitting in my near future.

Post-WWDC update:

As predicted, the new iPhone is super-cool. However, I will not be getting one, even when they get cheaper before the holidays. The reason? AT&T has exceeded my price-point for the monthly data plans connected to this phone: $30/month for unlimited whatever on their new 3G network, as opposed to $20 for the current iPhone.

I pay Comcast a ridiculous amount per month for basic cable and internet service. I pay almost that much each month to my local ISP for email, domain hosting, and a number of other web-based business needs. But at least these two companies have very good customer service.

There really are not enough disdainful words in the dictionary to describe what I think about AT&T, their abyssmal customer service, and the outrageous amounts they charge for just about everything. Still, I have a business phone and fax, a home phone, and cell phone service for my daughter and myself, all through AT&T.

Maybe this is a stupid place to draw a line in the sand, but literally when I heard that the were increasing the data plan charge for the new iPhone I lost all interest. They just pissed me off for the last time. Without some industry-wide regulation and consumer-oriented reform of pricing practices, I simply won’t indulge in a new iPhone. I wonder how many more people feel the same way.

Prius is the New Buick

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It’s funny how the generations relate to each other. Having been born at the tail end of the baby boom, I have had a love-hate relationship with my fellow boomers since I was young enough to know what was cool. The 60′s were cool, damn it, and I had been born 10 years too late to really say I had been there.

Cutting high school to hear Daniel Ellsberg speak in Sproul Plaza in 1978 seemed just, well, derivative. Seeing Crosby Stills & Nash or Emerson Lake & Palmer around the same time was to see not a heyday but a sad, substance-laden dénouement, the dregs of a really good party a decade earlier.

Like a perpetual younger sibling, I lived in envy of the generation that had come just a little before me. And they knew it, too—walking down the street as though being the generation to march in Selma and organize a Be-In gave them some sort of lifetime coolness credential.

Over the last ten years or so that has started to shift. Gradually, for instance, it has dawned on me that I am still in my prime while they are looking kind of old. By extension, many of the things held sacred by elder boomers are getting close to being the opposite of cool—of being places where cool goes to die.

Take cars, for instance. As my car gets close to the 250,000 mile marker, I have started looking around at the new hybrids on the road—Northern California roadways are chock full of them—and many are being driven by baby boomers. By far the ride of choice for conscientious boomers is the Toyota Prius, with the almost iconic rear window that dips down below the trunk hood.

I thought they were pretty cool for the first few years, but I have noticed a disturbing trend of late. Increasingly, Prius owners are turning into the elderly drivers we usually see in Oldsmobiles and Buick sedans. They drive slowly, even in the fast lane. They brake for a stoplight a good 500 yards before it arrives. They see no need to signal before turning, as though a half-mile of crawling along the roadway were enough to alert the cars behind them of their intentions. They will become a Prius marketing problem, if this West Coast trend spreads to other regions.

I have an uneven record of prognostication. Don’t expect me to choose the shortest line at the checkout counter. I can’t predict an election to save my life. But now and again I do have a moment of clarity, where the pathway from the present to the future unfurls effortlessly and I can see the signposts as clear as day. This feels like one of those moments.

If you are looking for a great car that will also have a cachet of cool for the next decade, you might want to look beyond the Prius. It is absolutely a great car, but I believe its days as a style trendsetter are numbered.

Was this important enough to warrant a blog post? Probably not. I am even chagrined that a perfectly fine moment of clarity was somehow duped into predicting car fashion trends. But sometimes it’s this type of thing that grabs hold of my mind and demands to be written.

As long as my car holds out, I plan to keep scanning the lanes to see what new cars are likely to capture the twin crowns of greatness and coolness and hold them for a while. Because here in California, we might say we don’t care about cool, but that’s only when we’re too cool to care.

Good News, Bad News

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A friend of mine lives right down by Ocean Beach in San Francisco. From the picture windows in her third floor apartment you get a panoramic view of the wild surf that animates the City’s miles-long beachfront promenade. The place is simply stunning. To sit there for an afternoon meeting and have as a backdrop the crashing waves and rip currents, sailboarders and sandcastles, while the sun makes the metal-gray water glisten like ivory, is just a sublime experience.

Every time I go there I remember and then forget to bring my camera. But this weekend I remembered and then put my camera into my bag before I forgot again. I wasn’t after a picture of the surf, because really that is too vast an expanse to translate well onto film, least of all my point-and-shoot camera. No, it was to capture this sight which greets the stray visitor who happens to tear her eyes away from the ocean and look east up the gently sloping hills of the City.

Does a sign like this fill you full of confidence, or make you feel vaguelyTsunami evacuation route nervous about where you are standing? For me, it evokes all the dreams I have had where I am at the ocean and suddenly there’s a huge wave coming and I barely have time to grab the children and make it to safety before it hits.

I spent years working on these dreams, until I finally was able to recognize while sleeping that the more fearful I felt, the worse the wave would be. Now I have ocean dreams where nothing bad happens. But to be confronted by the spectre of this dynamic in waking life, in broad daylight, when I still have so much to live for? Frankly, I find it ever so slightly unnerving.

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I live near the ocean, but separated from the surf by a peninsula which would bear the brunt of any freak wave that happened to hit. Choosing this location was not entirely a matter of chance, either. I suppose living right on the ocean would sharpen one’s instincts to the point that if the event were to occur you would somehow be out of town for the day. Intuition and premonition are marvelous things, not to be underestimated. Still, I am glad I don’t have to worry every day about sharpening that particular instinct.

I guess the fact that San Francisco has had the forethought to create tsunami evacuation routes is very good news. Hopefully this little sign signifies a whole shelf full of emergency response plans and procedures that have been taught to all the staff of all the relevant agencies. That alone could set the mind at ease. On the other hand, the bad news? San Francisco has a tsunami evacuation route.

A Rage for All Seasons

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Well there I was, cordoned off from polite society for a week, chained to my desk in order to meet a ridiculous self-imposed writing deadline. In such circumstances, the mind is incredibly adept at finding amusements to pass the time in lieu of working on one’s appointed task. Mine certainly rose to the occasion, as I kept thinking about the saying my friends and I had come up with for a Pantheacon ribbon for next year.

Baby RageEventually I found myself soaring on the euphoric streams of wireless internet over to a site called zazzle.com, where you can create swag—t-shirts, aprons, calendars, that sort of thing—with a wide range of styles, colors, and fonts to play with. Here is the t-shirt design I came up with. Is that, or is that not, the cutest baby suit you have ever seen?

Lady RageAnd the fun didn’t stop there. Zazzle has a pretty good selection of t-shirt styles and models to choose from, so I was able to try out my new logo on a couple different faceless torsos. Here is my original design, in the trendy pink-on-brown color combo.

When we were yukking it up on Saturday night at the con, we bumped into Dominic Elemirion and told him about our brainstorm. He responded, “but I’m a gay male!” I’m not sure whether he was trying to protect himself from a possible oncoming feminist ragestorm, or claiming that this disqualified from feeling such a thing and therefore he would never wear our ribbon.

Gentleman RageMindful of this massive delusion, I have helpfully enlisted this handsome model to show just how needless Dominic’s defensiveness was. You see? Doesn’t that just work on all sorts of levels?

I did eventually get back to my writing project—after sending out email announcements to friends, listing my t-shirt in the “Inspirational/Truth” category on their site, and other fun diversions. So be the first one on your block, etc, etc. I plan to order one just as soon as I complete a couple more unpleasant tasks on my to-do list. I can’t imagine a finer “job well done” present for myself!

All Roads Lead to the Con

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That’s PantheaCon, for those of you jaded enough to think something else. Yes, the much-ballyhooed annual Pagan gathering is commencing this Friday, held in the splendor of a downtown San Jose hotel, and will run all through the long President’s Day weekend.

My crew and I will be at the Serpentine Music booth just inside the front entrance to the vendor’Lyra at the booth 07s room, playing all kinds of Pagan music, and selling CDs, songbooks, and DVDs. This year I have teamed up with the excellent Jason Pitzl-Waters from over at the Wild Hunt Blog and A Darker Shade of Pagan radio. Jason suggested some great new music to carry, and I managed to get his very favorite in stock. (If you come to the booth and give the secret blog-reader handshake, you can see his whole top ten list.)

Lyra’s art-ifactsAlong with all the music at our booth, my daughter Lyra will be selling some of her original Pagan art-ifacts, I will be offering my dreamwork services and selling articles & books I have written, and we will be visiting with old and new friends as they breeze through the con.

The booth is only half of the story, however. I will also be part of a panel on Pagan theology with Macha NightMare, Gus DiZerega, and Michael York, titled “When We Call, Who Comes?” That will be held on Friday afternoon at 1:30, in some room or another. Both Michael and Gus have written notable books on Pagan theology and Macha is no slouch herself, having written several books on Paganism as well.

I have been joking to friends that I feel like the character in Galaxy Quest who plays the “extra crewman” and is convinced he’s going to get killed in every scene. I have had my share of theology discussions over the years, and certainly have lots of stories about Pagan theology gone awry, but I have some last-minute reading to do if I hope to keep up with Gus and Michael here. So on this panel, maybe I’m comic relief guy?

Then on Monday morning at 9:00 I will be leading a dream workshop called “Dreaming and Waking”, where we will explore some dreams and talk about all sorts of phenomena that occur between dreaming and waking. I am always curious about dreams that people have at the con—or any big gathering, for that matter—because dreams so often express the collective shadow. Add to that the fact that many people utilize the con as a vision quest of sorts, and you have the opportunity for some very potent dreams to emerge.

Those are all the official things I will be doing this weekend—that I know of. There is always the chance of getting roped into a ritual or performance role of some sort, which is what makes it so blasted difficult to pack for this weekend! And there are parties, socials, meeting friends for drinks or dinner, not to mention attending other people’s workshops.

Last year several people blogged about pcon, and I expect there will be even more this year. I will most likely do a post-game wrap-up myself, but not until I am well and fully rested from the ordeal. If you go to the con, do stop by and say hello. Otherwise, I will be back in the blogosphere in about a week. And by Grabthar’s hammer, we live to tell the tale.

A Welcome Reprieve

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Saturday Morning ReprieveWe have had a break in the constant rainy weather of the past few weeks, but this was the first clear day that dawned with no wind. My dog was in desperate need of a bath and I was in desperate need of a walk in the sun, so off we went to walk on the beach.

There was a light haze in the air, it was upwards of 60º out, and still too early for most people to figure out that the beach was the place to be. I wore jeans and a light t-shirt, and vacillated between being speechless with pleasure as my skin soaked up the sun and being in shock that I was walking around in February without a jacket, scarf and hat.

We watched set after set of translucent sea-green breakers curl perfectly into foaming surf. Up the beach a group of wetsuited surfers emerged from their cars and one by one paddled out to meet the morning waves. I gave over some mementos of my dead friend to the ocean, which accepted them wordlessly in a single surge.

We left, and headed for the backyard where Vince got a thorough bathing and an even more thorough brushing. I may be able to go more than a day without sweeping dog hair off the floor now.

Everything feels changed, and yet it is all still the same. Such are the cracks we slip through on our way from one season to the next, one phase of life to another. This year feels full of hope to me. Last year was hard, and this one may be too, but there is a lighter quality to it already, a buoyancy that I never felt last year.

May it be so, may the churning waters of time carry us lightly through the year to come. All praises to the sea, the sky, the sun, and those who dwell within, above, between.

When is a tiger just a tiger?

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I have heard from several friends in other states and countries since a Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo killed one young man and injured two others last December. Aside from inquiring whether the victims were anyone I knew (do I know that many dead people now?), there was a decided strain of “what the hell is wrong with you people?” in my friends’ voices.

I chose to answer only their first question and not the second because truthfully I have no idea what is wrong with us, although I could speculate endlessly. Fortunately, my old friend Craig McLaughlin came through recently with an excellent article about tigers in the SF Bay Guardian which, while it doesn’t answer that particular question, does clear up a lot of much more pertinent ones about tiger behavior, tiger pens, and the culpability of zoos.

I highly recommend the article, even if you haven’t been particularly gripped by the tragedy and the ensuing finger-pointing here in the Bay Area. Craig is a hell of a writer and has some great stories to tell, which I hope to read in hardback someday when his memoir ever gets finished. No pressure though, Craig. It’s just that I’m hoping you of all people might have some insight into that pesky question my friends keep asking me.