Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/13: Shakespeare Instructor for a Day, High Street Lunch, Reelin' in the Oats

1.  I haven't stood in front of a class of ENG 202 (Shakespeare) students and yakked their ears off for quite a while.  I got to do that today as a sub for Jeff and, with focus on The Tempest,  tried to convey how I understand Shakespeare and belief (no suspension of disbelief), tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, goodness, compassion, sermons of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in London, community, the concept of home ("Lassie Come Home", "There's no place like home"), and other stuff.  It was fun.  It didn't make me want to end my retirement from teaching literature, though.  Especially with Shakespeare, I'm happier thinking about his plays alone or over coffee than I am in the classroom and I'm really glad I no longer have to make Shakespeare's plays and poems available to students in exchange for credits and grades.  I grew to enjoy that exchange less and less the more I taught Shakespeare. All I've ever wanted in exchange for my instruction was for students to fall in love with Shakespeare -- oh..and my salary!

2.  I hadn't been to McMenamin's High Street establishment for a while.  I get kind of caught up trying out new beers at Sixteen Tons or having a Belgian something or other beer at Bier Stein or sampling from the extensive tap list at Falling Sky that I don't go to High Street.  I must quit making this mistake.  Hans, the brewer at High Street, is making very tasty beer.  Today I started with my favorite of all beers anywhere, the Hammerhead, and then enjoyed a golden, slightly bitter, very refreshing Nebraska  Bitter, and then, as dessert, had a small glass of Foster's Porter, a new beer to me, with all those big dark tastes of coffee and chocolate I love in a porter.   It was one of the most satisfying sequences of beers I've ever drunk. 

3.  I had several blocks ahead of me to walk home.  My afternoon was free.  I thought I may as well drop in at Falling Sky and see what they've got and I swear providence was at work.  There on the board was their Steely Dan inspired Reelin' in the Oats Stout, on Nitro.  I had already had a leisurely, meditative sit at High Street and I continued to drink slow, think long thoughts, let my happiness swell as I took my time drinking this smooth roasty toasty tasty stout.   

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/13: Comma Party, Off the Bus, Billy's Beef Teriyaki

1.  I wish my students had a greater interest in the comma and a better tolerance for looking in class at the comma.  I gave a first-rate fifty minutes of comma instruction today, but rather than looking energized, at about the 43rd minute, many of students looked like they had been smelling the sleep poppies outside the Great City of Oz -- sort of a comma coma.

2.  I got off the bus at Safeway, took care of some business at Hirons, and walked over to the Cornucopia where I met up with the Deke to talk about family matters and school and I enjoyed a find pint of porter.

3.  The Deke and I moved our party to Billy Mac's and continued to talk about whatever came up and I tried and very much enjoyed a beef teriyaki over fettuccine dish that was new to me and splendidly fun to eat.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/13: Farewell to the Keystone Cafe, Walking, Sirloin Stir Fry

1.  Starting back in 1984 until about 1987, I ate regularly at the Keystone Cafe.  Today I went back,  thinking that maybe I'd like to eat there again more often.  I've decided not to go back, unless it's a special circumstance, like meeting a friend there.  My scrambled egg dish was very good, but the rest of my experience was as lukewarm/cold as my home fried potatoes and barely toasted toast.  The service was casual, nearly inattentive and also lacked warmth.  I'm glad I gave it a try and the Keystone certainly won't miss me.  The place had plenty of customers.  I enjoy a handful of other places a lot more and I'll stick with what I like.

2.  I keep walking and today I picked up some things at the Willamette Stationery place on 5th and Oak, made my way up to Broadway, and walked back home.  Not much happened.  But I walked.  It's getting to be a regular thing.

3.  I made a fun sirloin steak stir fry with brown rice, onion, mushrooms, and chard with a side of broccoli.  It was not only fun, it was tasty. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/13: Kingfisher Landscape, Bowling Memories, Hijinx During the Academy Awards

1.  I went to Delta Ponds and walked and took some pictures.  I continued my quest to take landscape pictures of Delta Ponds.  Yes, I enjoy taking pictures of birds and people and details of foliage and trees, but I want to also give and have pictures of the landscape of Delta Ponds, what I think of as the big picture.  I can't tell if these pictures succeed.  A woman stopped me today.  Because I carry a camera, people think I know way more than I do.  She wanted me to see a kingfisher up in a tree on the other side of a pond.  I saw it several times but didn't know that was the bird she was referring to.  For some reason, I thought a kingfisher was a big bird.  I finally figured out that the small to medium sized bird I repeatedly saw was the one she patiently and insistently was pointing out.  I could tell she realized she'd misjudged my bird knowledge and she walked away with that "he's an idiot" skip in her step.  Oh!  Here's a landscape picture from this afternoon:

2.  The Deke and I went out to Sixteen Tons for a drink before dinner and Nate popped in on his way to go bowling and the Deke got really enthused telling Nate about her grandparents owning a bowling alley in downtown Bedford, IN and living in an apartment above the bowling alley and how she and her brother couldn't sleep at night with the pins thundering below and how her grandparents' eight lane alley slowly went out of business when Brunswick built a shiny new sixteen lane alley just out of town. Deke's grandparents got Wal-Marted by Brunswick. 

3.  I decided to go on Facebook and act like I was watching Academy Award shows from the last forty years.  It meant every prediction I made was right.  For example, Art Carney's upset of Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson for best actor in 1974.  I think I enjoyed reliving past Oscar shows and writing about them more than I would have enjoyed watching last night's show live if I had a television.  I was having too much fun to check out if the broadcast was streaming on the Wide World of Webs.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/13: Corgi Lover, Closing Distance, Curtis Jones

1.  It was a good morning for getting stuff done:  mailing off reunion pictures to friends, shopping for groceries (running into Pam Dane!), buying a Jameson's at the liquor store, and picking up a few things at Albertson's where the kind and friendly cashier loves to talk with me about the corgis.

2.  The Deke asked me what I'd do in my life if money weren't a concern and the first thing I thought of wasn't money but distance.  I'd close the physical distance between me and my family and friends who live anywhere from 600 to 3000 miles away.   We would all remain where we are, but it wouldn't be so far away.  And I didn't mean close the distance with jet travel.  I was dreaming of something entirely impossible. 

3.  I wondered if there were any record online of basketball players I watched at NIC and CSI when I was in high school and in college.  I found out that the sparkling point guard Curtis Jones, in his thirties, sued NIC and the University of Michigan, where he never played, for their collusion in not only having him play basketball, but allowing him to earn college credits at NIC when he was illiterate.  Curtis Jones left NIC after a year and a half, never played basketball again, and suffered from a variety of mental illnesses.  When I saw him play in late winter of 1969, he was the best point guard I'd ever seen.  I had no idea, until today, that he had terrible learning disabilities, was humiliated by his inabilities and was mocked and taunted for them, and suffered mental illness.  I enjoyed the memory of watching him play.  The rest of the story disturbed me.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/13: Hult Plaza Coffee Shop Debut, George Wickes, Latrell Drops Smack on Derrick

1.  Finally.  After many months of having Patsy recommend it, I finally tried the Hult Plaza Coffee Shop and enjoyed corned beef hash, feathery hash browns, a couple of eggs, English muffin, a couple or three cups of coffee and all the water I could drink.  The atmosphere was friendly, leisurely.  George, the cook, was running the place solo, but seemed to be keeping up with phone in to go orders as well as serving those of us in the place.  I'll go back.

2.  The Hult Plaza Coffee Shop is a great place to stop and have some breakfast on any day that I decide to go to the University of Oregon and take some pictures.  I did that today.  I walked to the coffee shop and then walked to the west side of campus.  I enjoy my favorite picture so much that I don't know if it is any good when standards of good photography are applied to it.  It's a picture of George Wickes, Professor Emeritus of English, dressed as I've seen him dressed for the last thirty-four years since first meeting him, bag slung over his shoulder, walking in the little plaza in front of Prince Lucien Campbell Hall where the English Department is housed.  The picture tells of an elderly scholar, who completed his Bachelor's Degree in 1944 and his Ph.D. in 1954,  not only dressed for his work, but working.  He's about ninety years old. He's headed to his office for his Friday office hour, in support of the course he's teaching in Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

3.   Derrick told me a great story at Billy Mac's this evening.  When he was twelve and a ballboy for the Blazers, he got cussed out, royally, but for no good reason, by Latrell Sprewell.  As Jim Rome would say, "How sick is that?  How awesome is that?  Dude's twelve years old and Latrell drops an m.f. bomb on the kid.  So, you can't go all Boston Strangler on coaches any more so you drop vile smack on a twelve year old?  Way to keep it classy, Latrell."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/13: Blue Collar Brilliance, Thurs. at the 'Copia, Joseph Mitchell Returns

1.  I think it registers with some of my students:  Mike Rose, in his article "Blue Collar Brilliance", advocates for the diverse intelligence required by blue collar work and argues strongly against the idea that blue collar workers are less intelligent than professional, white collar workers who have more formal education.  My students who have done construction work, are movers, work in print shops, have worked in grocery stores know all to well the condescension directed at blue (and pink) collar workers.  I like hearing them get fired up and seeing them enjoy having an ally in Mike Rose.

2.  I make it a regular thing to get off the bus at Safeway on Thursdays, walk to Cornucopia, wait for the Deke, have a beer or a margarita, and enjoy myself. The Deke arrives, she orders a glass of wine, we shoot the breeze, and decide whether to go to Billy Mac's.  Tonight, we decided not to go and shared a plate of Hot Wings and got everything we needed to figured out -- which was nothing.

3.  My New Yorker reading friends might tire of me longing for the writers long gone in that magazine whose style and content I enjoyed more than many current writers for the magazine.  Now they can hear me be happy!  A piece of Joseph Mitchell's writing appeared in the February 11 & 18, 2012 issue of The New Yorker and I enjoyed being transported by Mitchell to a New York City I can never know and a style of writing I rarely experience any longer.  I'm really glad The New Yorker ran this piece, even though Mitchell has been dead for nearly seventeen years. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/13: Walking, Worshiping, Cooking

1.  I walked and walked from home to Sweet Life to St. Mary's to Hiron's to Perk's to home again.  My legs were more rubbery than I expected them to be when I got home. 

2.  It's been a long time since I've been to 9:30 Eucharist on Wednesday morning at St. Mary's and I'm not only very happy I went, I plan on returning as often as I can.

3.  The Deke thought I might like to make some chicken soup out of the chicken left over from last night and with the vegetables we have in the fridge.  She was right.  I had fun making chicken vegetable soup!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/13: Work Two Days, Golden Light, Nice Pairing

1.  I decided when I retired that I would try to confine all school work to Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I was up early this morning and the Deke kindly gave me a ride to school and I got papers graded in time for class, meaning I didn't grade any papers on my days off.  One thing that made this possible:  the papers were pretty good.

2.  I didn't have a camera with me as I rode the bus downtown or as I walked home from the bus so all I could do was admire the golden light everywhere I looked, but especially on the ponds that sit just off campus at LCC. 

3.  The Deke roasted a chicken when she got home from school and it was really tasty, especially with slightly oiled brown rice and a 22 oz. bottle of Widmer Bros. Hefeweizen.  The chicken and the beer paired up perfectly for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/13: Pretend It's Film, Working on Happiness, Stuffed Squash

1.  I took a very quiet and solitary picture taking walk at Delta Ponds and pretended I was shooting with film and tried to make every opening and closing of the shutter count.  I'll do this more.  It's a great exercise for slowing down and not just taking a ton of pictures and hoping something works.

2.  I spent a lot of time writing more on the subject of happiness as I try to either figure some things out or work to get my incomplete thoughts down on paper.

3.  The Deke made great food tonight:  stuffed squash.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thoughts on Being Generally Happy

There is one reason I might hesitate from writing about happiness.  It's a similar reason to why I hesitate writing about Christian faith. 

It's the pouncers.

I have to turn and walk away, if I can, or quit reading, when I hear or read Christians talk about other Christians lacking faith or being hypocrites because if they were real Christians or if they really had faith they would/wouldn't .... you can fill in the blank.

I hate litmus tests, political ones, faith tests, and I hate happiness litmus tests.

So, for example, Steven Reiss argues that the most reliable happiness grows out of living in accordance with one's values, as opposed to seeking happiness in things that make one feel good temporarily.  In other words, a person who values compassion and acts compassionately will be more inwardly and emotionally satisfied, happier, than a person who tries to find happiness in buying things or amassing a bunch of possessions.

I generally agree with Reiss' argument and I'll write more about it in another post. 

But, one thing that makes me cringe when I read Reiss' argument is that I'd hate to think of someone agreeing with him and then judging unhappy people as not having values, or not living by them.

Happiness is not that simple.

There's not a litmus test.

So, does being happy mean that a person (like me) is never angry?  Never hurt?  Never offended?  Never pissy?  Never sarcastic?  Never aggrieved?  Never suffers? Is never afraid?


But, I do think that I live my life with a general sense of happiness, of positivity, of well-being, of satisfaction, of trust, and of contentment.  I generally feel appreciated.  I'm not always looking over my shoulder out of fear of who is going to try to screw me over next or sabotage me -- although this happens from time to time.

And, almost needless to say, I know people, some whom I encounter nearly every day, who live life with a general sense of dissatisfaction, of distrust, of fault finding, of fatalism, of always being taken advantage of, being looked over, and unappreciated.  These people are quick with comments about what's wrong with things, quick to see idiots and moochers in the world, quick to talk about the worst that will happen to them, quick to cast themselves as victims. 

So, when I think of, or see, happiness, I'm thinking of a general state of being open to enjoyment and acceptance and gratitude, but not a state of being void of pain, suffering, disappointment, and grief.

And when I think of, or see, unhappiness, I'm also thinking of a general state of being, generally shut off from enjoyment and acceptance and gratitude, generally suspicious, but not a state of being void of laughter, fellow feeling, and moments of joy.

My general sense of happiness stems from the somewhat slight concern I have for myself as an individual and the much larger regard I have for the people and things I love.  It is in my relationships with my wife and stepchildren, lifelong family members, friends I've known forever and ones I've befriended more recently, fellow teachers, students, current and former, and the church,  that I find happiness.  I'm happiest when I extend myself, not when I'm self-occupied.

One of the reasons I have hated my struggles with depression over the years is that it was so self-centering.  Until this struggle abated nearly four years ago, not only was my mood dark, but my thoughts were primarily about myself.  I hated that.  Likewise, it's why I hated the other illnesses I've battled over the last fifteen years.  Illness makes it difficult to get outside of myself and outside of myself is where I'm happiest.   

One of the happy consequences of being happiest when I'm outside myself is that I've arrived at some sense of peace that the world, and especially the U.S.A,  will never function the way I'd like it to.

I don't really know if I'd like the country to function "my way".  My view of things could, after all, be all wrong.  But, wrong as they might be, I have dreams and visions of what a just world would be and those dreams have never come true and my visions have never become reality.  As I've grown older, I've stopped wanting the country to shape itself to my vision of things (imagine that!);  my expectations have mellowed. I'm more accepting of what I disagree with, even with what I think is wrong.  

I don't project my disappointments onto elected or appointed officials.  When I'm at my best,  I don't call them names, disparage their intelligence, or make them the butt of my jokes.  I'm happier when I don't stoop to insults and exaggerations and derogatory nicknames to talk about or when I talk with those I disagree with. (I save my sarcasm for aging and washed up self-centered sports starts who won't go away!)   

As a result, I'm happier not expressing my political and social views online. Online, on Facebook and in other blogs, insulters, name callers and relentless labelers and accusers have clearly let me know what they think of my dreams and visions and view of things by the negative comments and captioned pictures they post about people and organizations and public figures who see the world similar to how I do.  Often, these aspersions come from friends or from the wide reach of my family.

It makes me happier that friends and family not know they've been including me, albeit inadvertently, in those insults and derogatory comments. 

I'd rather focus on the deep bonds we have formed with each other over the many years and on ways we continue to support and care for each other. I want to focus on continuing to have fun together.  The bonds and the fun make me happy. 

Yes, we see  the world differently and have different hopes.   But I'm happy knowing and believing that the bonds forged over the years are stronger than our different world views and I don't care to mess with those bonds by returning insults or casting aspersions.  I'm happier turning the other cheek and not fighting back.

I'm always happier when I'm being constructive, not destructive.

In other words, I experience these insults directed at people I share a world view with through the perspective formed by my general sense of happiness. Briefly, I'm dismayed.  I don't like knowing I hold a world view that a friend or family member regards an idiotic.  Occasionally, I'm angered.  I don't like people I care about thinking of people like me as brain washed. 

Neither feeling lasts long.  

My generally happy disposition takes over,  and I think how fun it will be to have a drink or be at a party with that person, to talk about family stuff, church stuff, remember good times we had as kids in Kellogg, rattle off names of old football players who make us laugh, tell each other how good we look, share stories about our parents, make plans for the next get together, and live in our zone of happiness.

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/13: Debrief Over Ales, Pork Hash, Scott Shirk Reminds Me of "Nothing" (!)

1.  I met with the Senior Warden upon his arrival back to Eugene after the vestry retreat and we had a beer at Sixteen Tons and couple more at Falling Sky.  Falling Sky, I do believe, has become my favorite beer spot in town.  I really enjoyed my pint of Pouring Porter followed by a pint of Ember Lager.  I think, but I'm not sure, that it's in the hops.  I think, but I'm not sure, that I prefer the hops from England and the Continent to the hops grown here in the Pacific Northwest.  I've got more testing to do, but, for now, I'm going to say this is the case. 

2.  The Troxstar (a.k.a. Senior Warden) and I decided to complement our pints of ale at Falling Sky with plates of food and I fully enjoyed my pork hash, sunny side up eggs, and toast.  The Ember Lager, by the way, provided, for this boy, a perfect pairing with the hash. 

3.  Several years ago, the local Shakespeare Club asked me to give the Shakespeare Birthday talk and I gave a paper focused on Shakespeare's work with the word, "nothing".  The details of the paper escape me.  I need to go back and read it again.  I beamed today, though, when Scott Shirk told me today that he admired the paper.  He told me this as a comment on my last bit of writing about happiness.  This all pleased me and brought back to mind, with Scott's help, the conclusion Richard II draws, too late, when he realizes: 

. . . but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing.

I don't know if any of those working in positive psychology have drawn upon this insight, but it's definitely a key to happiness, as I understand happiness.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More Thoughts and Unanswered Questions About Happiness

I ponder the idea of happiness more than I write about it.

It's on my mind a lot, for starters, because it's a subject I assign my students to explore for a few weeks every quarter and the more they explore it, the more I do.

It hasn't always been this way for me.

For years,  I distrusted the word "happiness".  Much of my distrust was rooted in my study, as well as my enjoyment, of the American theater.

For example, in Death of a Salesman, the amoral, pleasure seeking, womanizing, and immaturely self-centered, shallow son of Willie Loman was named Happy.  He represented to me something Arthur Miller portrays as American  that I didn't identify with:  Happy didn't want to face the difficulties in his family or the realities about his father or difficulties anywhere.   To use a current phrase, he didn't want the difficult things to "harsh his mellow".  He wanted to live in his own bubble of illusion and momentary pleasures.

For years, Happy embodied what I thought of as happiness:  if a person were happy, s/he wasn't paying attention to hardships and suffering.  Happiness was synonymous to me with being oblivious.

I've had good reason, though, for seeing happiness this way.  Repeatedly, back in college, in my many years working with college students, at church, with friends or acquaintances, and elsewhere, I heard, and still hear,  people say that they didn't want to see serious movies because they were depressing or talk about thorny problems because they just bring a person down or engage in anything very serious because, I'd often hear (and still do), the person prefers to be happy. 

I thought, often, if being happy means not dealing with serious matters, not examining the painful aspects of human life, then I didn't want happiness.

But, I now think that I had underestimated happiness.

When I was younger, the thought never crossed my mind that happiness and suffering, or happiness and awareness of what's difficult, or happiness and seriousness might actually complement each other;  that being happy might make me less superficial, not more superficial, more attuned to the world around me, not less so.   

 Could it be that the happier one is, the more one can be aware of and constructively responsive to what is unjust in the world and one's life?  Could it be that happiness, not cynicism, distrust, fear, and general negativity is a key to being realistic, having one's eyes wide open, and being human in response to the world?

And could it be that during those times in my life when I said I didn't believe in happiness, when I thought happiness meant seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, that I was actually being selfish and out of tune with the realities of my life and the world at large?

Has the steadily growing happiness in my life actually been a sign of increasing maturity?  Was my skepticism about happiness, while it sounded worldly and knowing, actually an indication of my immaturity?

And how much of my happiness, or lack of it, has been connected with external circumstances, and how much with my inward life, my general outlook?  How much can these factors be separated?  How much do they feed on each other?

I think the place to begin in writing about these questions is to look at what I think my sources of happiness are and to reflect on what I think is unique to me and what might be generally true about people, given my observations of people and what I've read.  Moreover, I'd like to see if I can connect the sources of happiness in my life with being realistic, of my awareness of and response to what is painful and unjust in the small world I live in and the world at large.

We'll see how it goes.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/13: Knowing the Asian Celebration, Bar at Billy Mac's, Guys! Score the Jumper!

1.  For our photo stroll today, Russell and I went to the Asian Celebration.  When I take pictures, I like to feel like I've learned about or become a part of the things I photograph.  It's why I keep going back to Delta Ponds.  I learn more.  It's why I'll often wait a while when I'm in a certain setting before I begin to take pictures.  It's why, I think, my pictures got steadily better as I spent more time in D.C. and NYC.  If I don't start to feel some connection or some familiarity with what I take pictures of, my pictures feel too much like a tourist's pictures (not that there's anything wrong with that) and I'd like to take pictures that rise out of my growing familiarity.  All this is to say that I was out of my element at the Asian Celebration.  I saw beautiful dances and other performers, but I didn't know how to see pictures.  Not yet. Maybe I would after a handful of Asian Celebrations.  But, I did see people, people holding hands, learning, expressing joy, admiring what they were experiencing, rolling a cigarette, and that's what I focused on in the few pictures I snapped.  Here's the guy rolling a cigarette out in front of the Events Center:

2.  The Deke and I find it very relaxing to go sit at the bar at Billy Mac's and have a drink or two (or three), shoot the breeze with John and Derrick and Cathy, and watch t.v. and listen to KZEL-FM.  So we did that tonight.

3.  We also watched the Ducks men's basketball team eke out an OT win against the Cougars.  I kept thinking, but I might be wrong, that both teams would have benefited from having someone who could hit the 12-15 footer off a screen.  I'm partial to the 12-15 footer along the baseline.  It was my favorite shot.  But, why not the banker from 12-15 like Sid Wickes, Larry Bird, and Bill Walton all used to hit? Didn't Bernard King used to hit this shot?   Is the mid-range jumper just too bland, not flashy enough, not worthy of highlight film to bother with? 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/13: Surprise Trip to the Store, Stout or Porter?, Wallet Laundering

1.  I had walked to Brails for furlough Friday breakfast with the Troxstars and Shane, so when breakfast was over and the Troxstars said they were going to rock the Market of Choice, knowing that my home pantry was bare, I was thrilled that they gave me a ride to the store and home again. 

2.  Not only did I walk to Brails, but later I walked to Cornucopia to meet the Deke.  Those walks felt good.  Once at Cornucopia, I continued my quest to answer for myself the enduring question of what my go to stout or porter is.  I haven't answered this question completely, but I made progress this afternoon when I preferred the bottle of Black Butte Porter I drank to the bottle of Obsidian Stout I started with.  I did wish, however, that Cornucopia had had Epic 825 Stout back on tap.  That's one I really like.  My exploration of porters and stouts continues.

3.  When I left my wallet in the pocket of my jeans and washed in with a load of laundry, nothing important was damaged. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/13: Adult Ed, Sixteen Tons at its Best, Whirled Pies

1.  My favorite way to teach:  turn the students loose to write wherever they please -- just turn it in before the end of class.  Talk individually with students who want help.  It's what I call an adult classroom.  It's freedom.

2.  Great late afternoon stop at Sixteen Tons.  Drank some Claim 52 Storm Bringer Stout.  It was a little heavy on the hops for my taste, but that didn't stop me havin' a few.  Talked with Paul about church history and Russian literature and teaching the humanities/writing.  Had some good laughs and conversation with Abi.  I like it when she pours the beer.  Had a good hand shake with Ryan.  And, as always, enjoyed shooting the breeze with the Deke.  It was quiet, an easy environment to converse and laugh in:  Sixteen Tons at its best. 

3.  I like those pizzas from Whirled Pies and brought home a large Willameat for me and the Deke.  Oh my!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/13: Please Depress, Solemn Ash Wednesday, 16 Tons Cafe

1.  Here's hoping the accelerator doesn't refuse depression any longer.  I took the car to the shop and they did some cleaning and lubing and the hope is that the throttle doesn't harden again.

2.  The St. Mary's noon Ash Wednesday service was sobering and solemn.  It wasn't just the focus on how we've all come from dust and will return to dust; it was also the self-examination that resulted from the extended confession of sins.  It makes it very hard for me to toss rocks.  My house is glass.  All glass.

3.  The Deke and I almost never go to the 16 Tons Cafe and today, after some shopping, we relaxed over wine and, for me, a superb and refreshing 12 oz bottle of Great Divide Colette and a less satisfying half pint of Agrarian Chronic D'Photic -- the tap list listed it as a Farmhouse Ale, but with further research after I drank it revealed that RateBeer identifies it as a Black IPA.  If it's the latter, that would explain why it was a bit too hoppy for my full enjoyment. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/13: WR 115 House Party, Belgian Blow Out, Fraud Dream

1.  Some days my WR 115 2:00 section feels more like a party than a class.  I think we get our business done -- I hope so -- but we laugh, make smart alec remarks, build trust (I think) and keep pure drudgery away.

2.  Shane and the Troxstar and I met at the Bier Stein and enjoyed Belgian style ales out of the cooler.  This is the best way to drink beer at the Bier Stein.  Gather two or more friends.  Buy stuff from the cooler that's rarely on tap.  Drink it together.  Repeat about 1000 times how good the beer tastes.  Today we introduced ourselves to Unibroue's Trois Pistoles:  we were overwhelmed by its goodness.

3.  My Tuesday night sleep was hunted by story.  I fraudently volunteered to play piano at a concernt of show tunes at the Hult Center.  A crowd of people gave me a standing ovation when my name was announced as the pianist to be.  But I can't and don't play the piano and I wondered all night if I had, in my waking life, committed this act of fraud.  I was very happy to wake up and realized that I had not.

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/13: The Goat, Red Barn Convo, Beefing Up Flickr

1.  I strolled to Wandering Goat to look at a photograph exhibit, "People We Know".  The lighting in the Goat is dim and I couldn't really see the pictures very well.  I did take a few pictures of my own, though, that included people I don't know at all:  

2.  The cashier at the Red Barn made the simple exchange of a few vegetables for money much more pleasant when she showed interest in my picture taking and as we talked about the remarkable pictures a person can take with today's phones.

3.  For reasons mysterious to me, I'm beefing up my Flickr site, adding new sets. I like having the Flickr site, but if its purpose is to make my pictures more available for viewing, well, let's just say I'm not exactly attracting a throng of visitors! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/13: Slow Picture Review, Surprise! Back to Delta Ponds!, Steak and Beer

1.  Sometimes I think I take too many pictures when I go out.  Yesterday, at Delta Ponds, I took a ton of pictures and today I slowly went through them, making slow decisions about what to keep and which to edit.  Albums emerged, but I didn't finish.  Ha!  I can't imagine slowing down.  I see so much and want to turn what I see into pictures.  The price isn't too steep, I guess:  just a lot of time, hours, looking at pictures, thinking about them, asking myself questions, making adjustments, and, from time to time, pressing the delete button.

2.  Three days in a row.  Back to Delta Ponds.  I have spent a lot of time over the last few months taking pictures of birds and foliage.  I love these pictures. I've been arrested lately by the desire to try to let my family and friends who don't know Delta Ponds see the larger picture, how the ponds are laid out, what the shores look like, how the ponds are right next to a busy four lane highway, how apartment duplexes line some of the shores.  So, I've been trying to take and make good pictures of the larger picture at Delta Ponds and focused almost exclusively on the big picture today.  I fine it very challenging.

3.  I bought two top sirloin steaks the other day and divided the second one between me and the Deke today along with sauteed onions and French cut green beans.  We both enjoyed our meal a lot.  Then I went over to the Bier Stein for a beer and a half and to Sixteen Tons for a quiet beer.  It was relaxing.  I ran into our neighbors from across the street at the Bier Stein.  That was fun.  I chatted a bit with Eric at Sixteen Tons.  I liked that.   Enjoying these beers was all made possible by the sirloin steak dinner.  What a fine way to spend the early evening. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/13: Delta Ponds Again!, Yakisoba Delight, Turner's in Town

1.  Back to Delta Ponds.  Russell and I decided to do our picture taking stroll out there and we had a great time.  Particularly fun for me was getting the closest I've been to an egret and to observe its dining habits and utter quickness at snatching food from brushy overgrowth in the water.  This picture isn't perfectly sharp, but here's the egret with a snack in his beak:

2.  Russell and I hadn't been to Yi-Shen for a while.  I loved returning.  My plate of yakisoba noodles with bbq pork, chicken, and tofu was deeply satisfying, better than any yakisoba I've had anywhere else.  For me, I think, the key is that the noodles are not dry and have a tastiness I compare to fat or oil applied just right.  I'm no culinary reviewer, so I don't have the right language.  Yakisoba noodles at Yi-Shen suit my taste buds perfectly.

3.  Terry Turner was in town today and we found an hour or so to get together and stopped in at Falling Sky for some beer.  Really good beer.  I drank a pint of Black Alley Stout, an easy, low alcohol Irish styled ale and a superb pint of Upright Brown on the nitro.  I love brown ale and this one was a little sweet, easy to drink, and most refreshing.  I also learned more about fishing in sixty minutes shooting the breeze with Terry than I had known before in my whole life.  That, too,  was fun.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/13: Cornucopia Corned Beef Hash, Back to Delta Ponds, Steak Dinner

1.  I tried out the corned beef hash breakfast at Cornucopia after making thirty-one trips back and forth across town to the Deke's school to deliver things she left at home.  (Actually, just one extra trip, but I love that number, thirty-one.)  Cornucopia's morning coffee gives me great pleasure.  The quiet of the place in the morning is relaxing.  The service is top-knotch.  The corned beef hash was okay, a wee bit disappointing, so I won't order it again, especially because I know there are offerings on the breakfast menu I like a lot better.  That small disappointment did not keep me from enjoying the good half hour or so I spent relaxing, reading, and shooting the breeze with my server, Joseph.

2.  I hadn't been to Delta Ponds since before classes resumed at LCC and I loved the geese, the bracing wind, the changing light, and taking pictures. 

3.  I got home from the store and from a couple of Hefs worth of relaxation at Billy Mac's and fixed the Deke and me a fine sirloin steak with green salad and broccoli. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Three Beautiful Thngs 02/07/13: Recognized at LCC, Recognized at Cornucopia, An Old Friend at Billy Mac's

1.  I come into the coffee bar in the health building every Tuesday and Thursday when I get off the bus for a raisin bagel and a 12 oz cup of coffee.  The barista recognizes me now and we share smiles, a friendly word or two, and sometimes a chuckle.

2.  I like to go to Cornucopia after my Thursday classes end and Steve recognizes me now and today he wondered, as I stepped in the door, if he could get a margarita going for me and I appreciated that, but today I wanted a glass of Epic Brewing Company's 825 State Stout. 

3.  I like to go to Billy Mac's on Thursday after I've been to Cornucopia.  At Billy Mac's, not only do Derrick and Cathy and Amber and John and Billy recognize me, but they treat me like a good friend and, tonight, Derrick practically had the 7 and 7 in the cocktail shaker before I could sit down with Deke at the bar.  He mixes a good one with muddled lime.  Our visit to Billy Mac's was made all the more satisfying by the food:  the Deke and I split an Asian salmon special and I loved how Billy rested the salmon fillet on a bed of hot and sour cucumbers.  Perfect. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/13: Good Doc Visit, Edward Curtis' Life, Buffalo Chicken Salad

1.  I had another of my once every three or four months visits with Dr. Ghandour this morning and we were both pleased that, within the limits of my chronic kidney disease, everything looked good.  It's always a relief to leave the doctor's office with good news.

2.  I finished Timothy Egan's absorbing book chronicling the life of Edward Curtis:  Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.  It's a readable biography gracefully written for the everyday reader.  I appreciated in this book, as I have in other books I've read by him, that Egan's not an academic. 

3.  The Deke brought me home a zesty Buffalo Chicken Salad from Cornucopia.

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/13: "Happy" Works, Tom Kha, Troxstar Capper

1.  The segment of "Happy" I showed today worked pretty well and helped move the extrapolation project forward.

2.  I cooked up a pot of brown rice and the Deke brought home a container of Tom Kha soup and dinner was splendid.

3.  The Troxstar turned 43 today and we went down to the Rogue Public House for a couple of beers (Mocha Porter for me) and put a fun cap on his birthday. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/13: Day with Rita, Tasty Casserole, "Happy"

1.  Rita and I spent much of the day together talking about old times and new times and enjoyed late morning breakfast in Coburg at Country Pride, a fine truck stop.

2.  Deke made a tasty casserole of spaghetti squash covered by a tasty tomato sauce.

3.  One of my student recommended that I watch the documentary "Happy" and so I did and I'll be showing parts, if not all of it, in class.  I had a few misgivings here and there, but overall it was fun to watch and fits well with the study of happiness we are currently undertaking in WR 115. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/13: International Center of Photography, Sunday NYTimes, Thrill of Jacoby Jones

1.  I discovered this morning that the International Center of Photography has a tumblr blog and I spent a few hours following leads and links to new, to me, photographers and admiring a slew of pictures I'd never seen before.

2.  I also spent hours reading the Sunday NYTimes.  It rattles me, unsettles me.  It always has, always does.  Every single hour, day, week, month, year that I've been conscious of the world, it's been crazy.  The craziness rattles me.  It unsettles me.

3.  The Super Bowl entertained me and it was fun watching it with Allie, Mike, Russell, and Jack at chez Dane.  Above all, despite pulling for the 49ers, the shock of Jacoby Jones' 108 hard kickoff return to open the second half thrilled me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/13: More Ed Koch, Small Subjects, Herb's Birthday

1.  I continued to enjoy reading about Ed Koch, including the lengthy obituary in the NYT. 

2.  Russell and I went to the area over by the new federal courthouse.  I didn't have the right lens to take pictures of big things, the building, the industrial site across the street, etc, so I went small and focused on dormant plants and the black rod iron fence behind them.  Here's an example:

3.  For third or fourth year in row, Herb celebrated his birthday at Kabuki's and the Deke and I were invited.  In the past it's been too noisy and manic at Kabuki's for me to enjoy and I hadn't enjoyed the food that much before.  But, tonight, I enjoyed the food way more than before and the atmosphere was quieter, more enjoyable.  One constant:  it is always great to celebrate with Herb and his family and for this most important reason, I always look forward to this time of year to celebrate Herb's birthday. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 02/01/13: Troxstar Breakfast, Ed Koch My Lord is Dead, Photo Flashback

1.  It's sure fun when the Troxstar has his fortnightly furlough day and we get to have breakfast at Brails with the Troxstarlet.  I hadn't had Brails Ground Round of Rebound for a while and enjoyed it and the photo walk to Brails and dropping in on Nate at Perk's on the walk home was fun as well.

2.  I mean he was eighty-eight years old, so learning Ed Koch died wasn't too shocking and reading the ensuing tributes, analyses, quotations, and histories was really fun.  My favorite Koch line of the day?  "I can explain it to you.  I can't understand it for you."  The day made me wish Andy Logan were still alive and writing.  I'd love to read what she's say in a retrospective of Mayor Koch's life and career.

3.  I continue to work on my picture recovery project, and today I came across a picture that remains one of my favorites, ever.  I took it at Saturday Market back on April 9, 2011:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/13: Good Essays, Good Margaritas, Good Birthday Party

1.  My WR 115 students did really good work writing about their portraits by examining what anyone would see in the picture and how there is more to the picture than meets anyone's eye.

2.  I got off the bus at 18th and Oak so I could walk to Cornucopia and have a margarita (or three).  I hadn't enjoyed a Cornucopia margarita for a long time and as my school day wound down, I suddenly had a hankering for one (or three). 

3.  Mike Dane's birthday party at Billy Mac's was attended by about a million people and it was a jolly affair:  great conversation, lots of laughing, and the impeccable service of John McCallum. 

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/13: I LIke the Bus, Fond Memories, Boxed Sandwich

1.  I mean, yeah, it takes longer, but for some reason I enjoy taking the bus instead of driving out to Chase Gardens Medical Center and having time to wait for the return ride gave me time to have a power muffin and coffee at the nice cafe at the center and once back in town I did a little wandering around, checking out new businesses that have opened or are about to.  None of that would happen if I drove.  I just like it.

2.  I finished my work editing and deleting pictures from one memory card as I continue my efforts to recover pictures from my external hard drive crash.  Revisiting New York pictures, pictures of Jack, and a July day at the Saturday/Farmers Market was a lot of fun.

3.  It's that half a sandwich I box up that really makes me happy at Billy Mac's as I imagine how good it will be to eat this prime rib dip during my break between classes tomorrow.