Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The funny circus from his head

First day of school with the kids! Um... yay?

They seem like a good group. The day went pretty much exactly like last year's.

The cast:
  • A1, boy, 5. Clever, good reader, knows a few French words, has a sly mischievous look about him. Is half-Asian.
  • A2, boy, 6. Son of the ultra-involved Sikh parents. Bookish and smart. Seems affable and sweet, not at all the competitive, self-absorbed kid his parents described at the conference.
  • A3, girl, 5. Seems sharp. Loves art.
  • A4, boy, 6. The second-loudest kid in the room, but not aggressive, just playful. Mother is from South America. She says he can add fractions and subtract two-digit numbers already. So far I'm impressed with his volume.
  • B, girl, 5. Daughter of first-generation immigrants. Her mother spoke English fairly well at our meeting, but not quite fluently enough for total communication. B herself spoke perhaps three words in total today, all of them monosyllabic answers drawn very reluctantly from her by me insisting on a reply.
  • C, boy, 5. A smart fellow, perhaps has Asperger's. Talks as if someone's constantly adjusting his pitch and playback speed.
  • G, girl, 5. Youngest in the class, turned five just a few days ago. Very sweet. Excellent artist.
  • H, boy, 5. Second-youngest in the class. Absolutely goes nuts for superheroes (so we have something to talk about). Very poor motor skills, almost no letter-sound correspondence, not strong enough to close the hole punch. I may have to earn my pay with this little guy.
  • K1, girl, 5. One of two black girls in the room. Almost zero literacy skills. Has a reputation for being sassy and defiant, but this hasn't emerged yet. It may never, Ganesh willing.
  • K2, girl, 5. Big cheeks. Loves animals. Good reader.
  • M1, girl, 5. Super cute! Loves art.
  • M2, girl, 5. Don't know her ethnic heritage but she's a sort of mocha color. Also has a reputation for being sassy. Poor writing.
  • R, boy, 5. Just the sweetest, most helpful little ball of energy you ever saw. His mother has possibly terminal cancer. Is terrific at invented spelling.
  • T, girl, 5. The second black girl in the class. A terrific reader. Fell asleep in her chair at the end of the day.
  • W1, boy, 5. Nice kid, kinda loud, loves Legos. All I really know about him so far is his mother is really, really hot. Don't judge me!
  • W2, boy, 6. Kept to himself, loves to cut and glue paper creations. Very well spoken and seems to read fairly fluently.
  • Z, boy, 5. The loudest kid in the class. Ebullient and chipper and loud, but showed streaks of whiny defeatism already. Very poor writing skills.
They're a fun, happy, creative bunch, and --- here's hoping --- I don't sense any aggression in the group as I did with a couple of last year's boys. I feel like the big difference between this and my former class --- and I know it's only been one day, so I may be wrong --- are that this class has fewer kids with advanced reading and writing skills, and some with almost no phonetic awareness. Well, down the road we go, then.


After school, Ms. N, Ms. Counselor, and I put on a little skit we'd prepared at the behest of the Administration about the importance of faculty and staff donating to the school fund. We opened with me giving a few amusingly inappropriate ideas on how to stir up involvement (mostly I favored punching), then we narrated a PowerPoint with some very humorous photos, taken by the development office, that illustrated our ideas. Ms. N and I had been picked for this project because of last year's presentation on our conference, which we mistakenly made creative and engaging, so now we're the go-to people for in-house talks.

And then we all got ice cream floats! It was a cibarious celebration.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Now he's ready to walk a path that is new and he can't turn back

Second day of parent conferences. Overall I'm very sanguine about the State of Parental Affairs this year. They seem like a bright, easy-going bunch who aren't (too) fazed by my rather off-kilter manner, speech, humor, and appearance. (Yes, I kind of cultivate the image.)

The last parent to arrive (rescheduled, having forgotten about her original meeting yesterday until I called her about it) came in looking for all the world like an African tribeswoman in a dashiki, complete with tiny wide-eyed baby (recently acquired from CPS, she told us without volunteering any further information) on her voluminous hip. I asked her, as I had all the parents, where her daughter was in reading, and she replied, "I don't know." She honestly had no idea how well, or indeed if, her child could read. Later she asked me what she could do at home to help her daughter's math skills. I asked her to tell me about what level her daughter was. "I don't know," she said again. Oh dear. I said I wouldn't be able to advise her on anything until I figured out what skills her child had.

Although I didn't get the younger brother of the girl from Mr. C's class whose father is French, I did get two other kids who have fathers who can speak French and want their kids to learn. That's good, as I've always liked teaching simple French phrases to kids.

Also, I got some supplemental insurance. We already have health and dental paid, but I got a cancer policy (lots of tumors in my family) and some kind of heart attack policy which I'm not at all sure I actually need, since despite my congenital heart condition I'm at no more of a risk for heart attack than anyone else my age and level of activity. What I'm at risk for is heart failure, which is a totally different fish. Oh well. I'll probably die of a stroke now anyway.

Incredibly tired. Not used to this frenetic pace.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Walk on eggshells on my old stomping ground

First day of parent conferences.

I met half my 18 kids' parents. One boy's parents are a couple of self-described nerds (the father designs video games for a living, their dog is named after a mathematician, and their son's middle name is that of a famous scientist). Another boy's mother has possibly fatal cancer (she looked good, but obviously thin and weak, and discussed her illness with humor and openness); there's also a supportive stepfather and an absent father in his life. Most of the parents were effusive and charming and appeared happy to have me as their child's teacher.

I think there may be problems with two sets of parents: one is the Sikh family I met Friday, who are stereotypically pushy helicopter parents and whose perfectionist neuroses are being projected into their poor kid. The second is another new boy's South American-born mother, whose relentless officiousness during our brief interview made the Indian couple seem like laid-back, trusting hippie cats.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Warbooks: Why the Allies Won

A review of Why the Allies Won, by Richard Overy.

Just as the title indicates, this is a thorough examination of how WWII --- the outcome of which was decidedly uncertain before late 1943 or so --- ended the way it did. Overy is a masterful and convincing historian, who over the course of 330 pages lays out a cogent argument based on everything from economy and materiel production to the warped philosophy of the Axis powers.

It's impossible to distill the mass of fascinating information into a few paragraphs, but there are a few main points that especially ring true. The first is, of course, the industrial production of the USA and USSR, unmatched by any of the Axis powers. Overy argues that America’s capitalist society and the Soviet centralized dictatorship were each in their own way ideally suited to maximize their vast resources. In contrast, Hitler's less focused, more cutthroat dictatorship failed to make the most of Germany's limited resources. A telling example is when Hitler’s armies took Soviet oil fields, but then had no engineers to make the oil available to Germany, so it made no discernible change in their production.

Overy further argues that the Allied powers made simple, reliable, mass-produced weapons, and kept a healthy ratio of mechanics on hand. The opposite was true of the Germany industrial complex, which was fixated on ever-newer technologies, so obsolescence and difficulty of repair became issues as the war progressed. Overy concludes that even Germany's much-vaunted missile program, which was inarguably years ahead of anything the Allies had, was "a lost cause" for these reasons: impressive, yes, but not a war-winner.

The second main theme is the rapid learning curve of the allied powers, who learned from their many early defeats and focused intently on producing only what was needed to win. The Germans and Japanese, by contrast, has a very slow learning curve, and coasted on early victories, believing that their militaristic will-to-power philosophy made victory a foregone conclusion. This learning curve extended to every facet of the war --- improvements in bombing, defense, codes, and so on ensured the Allies’ early losses were not often repeated.

The final main theme that runs through the whole book, though it's not made as explicit as the others, is the mindset of the various leaders. Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin had many philosophical and strategical differences, but were able to work in lock step for the single goal of destroying Nazism utterly. Hitler had no such restraint, unable to maintain even the farce of an alliance with Stalin until the war in the west had been concluded. Stalin, for all his faults, promoted reliable men, wanted to hear the unvarnished truth about how the war was progressing, and allowed himself to be overruled when it came to important strategic decisions. Hitler, famously, removed officers who told him bad news, even if it was true, and obsessively insisted on micro-managing the war (sounds like Bush and Rumsfeld!), with a deleterious result for Germany's chances for victory.

Perhaps the most interesting example of how much Hitler's self-supposed strategic genius hurt Germany was Hitler's insistence on treating the Normandy landings lightly, thinking they were only a ruse, until it was far too late and Patton had already swept over half of France. Historical events like this always give rise to their hypothetical counterparts: what if Hitler had allowed Rommel and others to fight the war they wanted to? The modern Anglo-American mind reels at the horror.

In all, this is an inexhaustibly fascinating book, one sure to promote argument among WWII buffs for its calm, reasoned analysis and sometimes unexpected conclusions.


Sunday warbooks scoreboard:

Greco-Persian wars: 2
WWI: 2
WWII: 6 <----winning big, like the Allies in late 1945
Vietnam: 2
Iraq wars: 2
Afghanistan war: 1
General warfare: 2

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Got holes in my socks, they match the ones that I got in my feet

The other day friend of the Sutler Churlita wrote a great timely post about her memories of her first day of kindergarten. I have no memory of my own first day, even though I'm (barely) younger than Churlita is. Indeed, I have only vague memories of the entire era, and some of them may be inadvertently conflated with those of earlier or younger years, as well. I just don't know.

Around that time my teacher was called Miss Cockerell, and some kids out of a sense of not malevolent silliness called her "Miss Cockroach" behind her back. We were blissfully unaware of the ruder words her name might have conjured up in, say middle school students. I don't remember any other teacher's names until fifth grade or so. I had a small group of friends both boys and girls, as I have all my life, and didn't interact much with outside that group. I remember exactly two students' names from those times (and exactly two more from all other years until high school). For a reason that now utterly escapes me, we referred to mail delivery trucks as "cracker boxes," and called out dibs on XYZ amount of crackers ("I got a thousand crackers!") if we saw one first.

Kids are nuts, man.


Anyway, tonight I went out to Hangout II with the old gang: Friar, Muffin, T-Bone, Courtney, and Auric. Oh, and Mr. Hangout came out with us too. We heard a very good local country band, the members of whom I'm passing acquaintances with. Muffin is now stomach-extendingly pregnant, despite being a very tiny woman everywhere else. She looks like an elf with a beach ball in her dress.

A passing girl said to another one as we sat and drank, "That's Auric! He's the lead singer of Auric's Band!" I turned to her and said, "No, it's not. He gets that all the time. Don't you, Fred?" But I'm not sure she was convinced by my clever artifice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kid, stay and snip your cord off

Today we were supposed to have playground visits, so the parents can bring the new kids and watch them interact outside, but it stormed during the night so the visits were canceled. Of course, by ten a.m. the ground was bone dry and it was as if moisture had never existed within the borders of Texas. But as I've mentioned before, the people in these here parts can get a mite panicky over inclement weather.

Anyhoo, instead I met eight or ten of my kids' parents, with no children present. They seem like a decent, nice group. I gave a brief overview of what we expect in kindergarten and our basic schedule, using a PowerPoint presentation Ms. K made for the team. My assistant sat at my laptop and clicked the mouse to change the pages whenever I pointed at the screen as if I had an old-fashioned projector remote and said "Ka-chunk!"

My wild, unpredictable way of speaking, my congenital irreverence for everything under the sun, and the simple fact that I'm a man in a traditionally female job probably made a few of the parents somewhat wary. That's to be expected. One father in particular, a Sikh --- but sans turban --- seemed a bit stiff, but it's all fine with me. I like to cultivate that initial shock by playing up the weirdness, then surprise them with smooth competence. They'll come around.

At the end of the day we had a brief tutorial on our new payroll procedures. Soon it'll all be online and we won't fill out sheets to request leave, nor will we get paper check stubs. That's the future, baby. (Checks info online) Hey! I have eighty hours of sick leave! I'ma stay home all week watchin' daytime teevee and eatin' Bugles!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The world don't care and yet it clings to me

Here's a meme I got sent.

My Life According to __________

Pick a favorite musical artist and answer all the questions as accurately and sincerely as possible using only song titles.

Artist picked: Tom Waits

Are you a male or female: Little Man
Describe yourself: Nobody
How do you feel: Young at Heart
Describe where you currently live: House Where Nobody Lives
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? San Diego Serenade
Your favorite form of transportation: Train Song
You and your best friend are...? (Lookin' For) The Heart Of Saturday Night
What's the weather like: In Shades
Favorite time of day: The Ghosts of Saturday Night
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called? Just Another Sucker On the Vine
What is life to you: Misery Is the River Of the World
Your relationship: Bad Liver And a Broken Heart
Your fear: How's It Gonna End
What is the best advice you have to give: Never Let Go
Thought for the day: I Never Talk To Strangers
How you would like to die: The Earth Died Screaming
Everything sucks because: Everything Goes To Hell
Everything's okay because: World Keeps Turning
Your soul's present condition:
The Part You Throw Away
Your motto: I'm Still Here

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm going to unpack all my things before it gets too late

Work on my room goes apace. Things are finally starting to look a little more organized and neat. Actually, my room has a rather ascetic atmosphere compared to my three female K counterparts. For example, I eschew those cascade bookshelves that so many other EC rooms have, preferring typical horizontal shelves. The resulting minimalism is not necessarily a good thing, and I do feel like I'm not being quite as colorful and tactile and welcoming and cutesy as they are, but I guess I gotta be me. My classroom looks more like a third-grade room than a kindergarten one. But hell, we still have fun.

Today at lunch Admin Assistant Fen was commiserating with Counselor about their dating mishaps (both are astoundingly attractive young single women), saying "Yeah, the guy should know how to act, but you don't want to have to tell him. You want him to just know it."

I said, "I wish you could really hear yourself right now." I mean, I do understand her meaning, but it's a fantasy. No date's going to go well if you're looking for a mind reader.

She did use a funny term, though. Referring to a lot of men's tendency to text instead of manning up and calling a women they're maybe sort of interested in, she said, "They use their texticles because they don't have the balls to call." It wasn't until I actually wrote this post that I realized it was an extant term; I thought she coined it on the spot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Drowning in the sound of my own rhapsody

Man, there is a lot to do when preparing for a new class. I would have thought it would be easier the second time around in the same room, but no. Among the things that ought to be made before Day One:

Kids' names labels for the chairs
Handwriting folders
Blank math folders for story problems
Name tags for attendance board
Name tags for the job chart
Nine blank weather charts
Writing journals
Take-home work folders
Computer use schedule
Open space use schedule

...And so forth. As I tell anyone within hearing range at work, if I didn't have my lovely and talented Assistant, I'd be lost. She's a funny, friendly, easy-going woman who used to be on the substitute team with me. Now she has this part-time job because of her young son. Over the course of the last year and a half, she got pregnant, got divorced, and is now happily remarried.

We make a great team, except that for whatever reason, the two of us together seem to be dumber than each one of us separately. It's like we both expect the other one to do the thinking. It's awesome.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stitch on stitch and earn to urn, a presence on the lift

Well, work started. We got a free breakfast and a free lunch (I skipped the first and the second was nasty, but it's the thought that counts). Spent most of the day on a project very long overdue --- reorganizing, going through, sorting, or trashing every item on Mr. C's over-crowded shelves. The room looks like a damn midden, but at least I'll know where things are when this is all over. Hopefully.

We had Blood Borne Pathogens training courtesy of The Nurse again, and watched the same outrageously awful video as last year, starring The World's Worst Actress and three young people who represent HIV, Hep B, and Hep C. The one who represents HIV was a black jock. That's so racist.

I came home and took a three-hour nap. Um... that was overkill. I shouldn't do that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Newbery VI

Continuing where we left off...

In 1927 the America Library Association took a break from heaping praises on less than stellar collections of legends from faraway lands, and turned to a quintessentially American story in Smoky the Cowhorse, by Will James.

This book follows the life of a range horse, from his birth, though the various occupations he's put to, and finally to being put out to pasture for retirement. James makes the horse the center of the story, and tells it as realistically as possible while making Smoky an exceptional beast. (The horse never voices an opinion, let alone talks; James tries to express silent instinct or antipathy without anthropomorphizing the animal.)

Indeed, Smoky isn't actually his name, except inasmuch as a bronco buster named Clint calls him that for a while. Most of his life he's a nameless, wild horse, free on the range, learning to stay with the herd, avoid and kill rattlesnakes, fight wolves, and so on. Annually he is corralled by cowboys and made to do range work: herding steer, which he grows to enjoy. After some misadventure, he is known by the name of Cougar as a famous cowboy-killing bucking bronco, and later still he's called Cloudy as an indifferent riding horse for greenhorn dude equestrians.

Things look bleakest for him when, older and enfeebled by a lifetime of action, he’s sold as a workhorse, regularly beaten and mistreated. Of course there’s a happy ending, but James lets it unfold with patience; nothing is neatly packaged or trite, and Smoky is far from a pet, or even so much as tame, even at the end. It’s a superior animal story, but unfortunately made a bit difficult for the modern reader by two factors.

One, James writes in a sub-literate dialect ("them horses was running," "If Smoky could only knowed, there’d been a lot of suffering which he wouldn't had to've went thru"), which may have been intentional or not, but either way it's not charming or conducive to good reading practice. And then, common words, even equine vocabulary such as "gait," are misspelled, which indicates that the ungrammatical dialect may have been the best James could do. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it makes for hard reading.

Second, and far worse, there's a deep racism in the book. The two villains are Mexican. One is referred to with contempt as a "breed" (short for "half-breed," he being half-Mexican, half "other blood that’s darker") with no morals. The other is a similarly immoral, cruel man who is beaten for his cruelty by a white man in front of a laughing sheriff who stops the fight, but only because the Mexican's death would make work for him, "same as if he were a white man." It's a pity, because James is a decent storyteller, and though I don’t care for animal tales as a rule, this one drew me in. This is a book a product of its time, certainly.

Recommended for children: I'm afraid not.

Recommended for adults: It's not bad, if you can look past the ugly racial views and the cowpoke writing style. Not for everyone, at the very least.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I've gathered myself from the bits and remains and the pieces I've pulled from all of my days

I spent my Saturday renting a truck from Home Depot (motto: "the people in our Tool Rental department are total pricks") and helping my aunt move. She was planning to move to LA where her male companion lives, but apparently he's a crazy person just like the last guy, and broke up with her via a text message because she talks to her son too much or something. Anyhoo, she's just sold her house, and she's storing a lot of her clothes in my house while she's temporarily without a place to call her own and nomadic. She also gave me Cousin's bed and night stand, which is pretty sweet. Now I have a real guest room that actually looks inviting, instead of just having a mattress on a floor.

Uh, I mean, I just got back from helping my aunt move, and boy, are my arms tired!


Conversation with guy who lives on my street as I passed by taking Dog for a walk:

Me: "Howdy." [Which after all is short for "how d'you do."]
His reply: "How are you doing?" [Much in the style, surely inadvertently, of Joey from "Friends."]
Me: "Oh, good." [Pause.] "And you?"
Him: "Fine, and yourself?"

I thought I'd let that one lie where it was and kept walking.

Friday, August 14, 2009

When the crowd becomes your burden and you've early closed your curtains, I'll wait by the backstage door

Had dinner with Friar and Muffin and their children at the Green Margarita. I ordered what I hoped was the healthiest thing I could ask for --- bean burritos with cheese and rice --- but the beans were refried and the cheese was that glowing orange crap Tex-Mex restaurants love so well. I've been making a fairly decent effort since returning from my travels to eat healthy, so it made me mildly ill for some hours afterward. At least I didn't eat any meat dishes. Instead of taking six months off my life, this meal only reduced my life span by three months.


HWT and I decided that Kate (of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" fame) now has a vagina so cavernous, she can only get pleasure by inserting into it something the width of a baby's cranium. Thus the loathsome cycle continues. Also: HWT and I are filthy, filthy people.


You know how wives can sue rich ex-husbands for alimony, claiming that the husband got them used to a certain standard of living that they didn't enjoy before the marriage, so the husbands thus owe their ex-wives money enough for them to continue living up to that now-established standard? Using the same logic, I wonder if I can sue Prestigius for a salary I don't work for? After all, the school is the one that's been enabling me to live this slothful, idle lifestyle --- paying me, quite literally, to do nothing --- so the school bears the burden of continuing to fund my decadent lifestyle. Let's face it, it's what I'm used to now!


Once again (see last year's whining, with Michael5000's excellent comment), work seems to have drafted me into various committees and responsibilities I'd, frankly, rather not have. The year hasn't even started yet and already I'm on the Fund Committee and the Expansion Committee, and --- perhaps most ludicrously --- in an after-work leadership course. Yes, because leading and wielding authority are what I do best. Also, am I really the best pick for helping determine how the school will grow in the future? I just got here, and I'll probably be dead before any new building starts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The finger points to those who might've chose a path different than that which failure closed

Friar's wife celebrated a birthday this week, so I didn't see much of the man himself; he either celebrated with her or was left alone with the kids as she went out for some peace and quiet.

I went out with Hot Waitress T (who really should be called Hot Special-Ed Teacher T now) to a show where Sonar was playing. First, I picked her up where she lives downtown in a fancy high-security building and we were almost mugged because the streets down there are crawling with unemployed oppressed scam artists and street predators. Someone came close to a stabbing but I don't know if it was him or me --- you best believe I carry a blade when I go down to Devil's Elm, boy. He peeled away when a cop on a Segway rolled by obliviously. T and I went to one of her favorite spots, a trendy bar that had a lot of hipsters in it. I had artichoke pizza, which was okay. Stupid hipsters.

Yesterday I finished translating a French review for Sonar --- the third such I've done for him --- so in gratitude he put us on the list (which he probably would have done anyway, though.) It was a fun show. I saw two acquaintances: one a waitress at Hangout II who made us the infamous Swine Flu shots and ate a very late drunk dinner with us once; the other was a local music blogger with some degree of recognition in town. I don't know him very well, but he seems to think I do.

Work Monday --- no kids, but Faculty Days. Gotta get the room ready and meet the new parents. But... but I'm used to sitting around doing nothing now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can't you feel that sun a-shinin'?


For the first time in what to the best of my recollection is three years, I left Devil-Town and went on not one but two mini-vacations!

In the first, I went to see my good friend 神圣 in San Diego. The visit just happened to coincide with the San Diego Comic Con, so we figured we might as well go. You know, as long as I was there and all. Also, we're both total geeks. I took lots of pictures of attendees in costumes. Not of the professional booth girls --- I find that to be a particularly egregious example of pandering to fanboys --- but of regular people who took the time to make creative, fun costumes. Some of them did incredible jobs, like a Dark Knight Joker who was carrying around a pencil as a prop, a couple who were a perfect Hal Jordan and Jade, a slight girl dressed as the Joker on vacation (shorts and a Hawaiian shirt over the usual regalia), and a terrific Red Skull.

There was something for everyone, from a very attractive young lady dressed as the Silk Spectre --- hott --- to the cutest little four-year-old boy dressed as the Dark Knight Joker --- possibly inappropriate --- with his even littler sister, who tried her best to be that girl from Harry Potter. One woman dressed as Lara Croft got a bit shirty when I failed to recognize her. "I don't know anything about video games," I said, and she returned hotly that it was also a movie.

Fun fact: if you ask someone dressed as Spider-Man if you can take their picture, they instantly crouch down and make the web-shooting gesture. One hundred percent of the people dressed as Spider-Man did this.

Later, we went out for drinks with an upcoming Marvel artist who just did a stint on The Punisher, he and 神圣 being old school friends from Taiwan.

Back in the real world, 神圣 and I and his family had a blast in San Diego. Beaches, sushi, bars, his fellow doctoral students (one friend I met is doing his dissertation on French film noir, and was a fascinating person). It's a beautiful city and the weather was gorgeous. His two kids were well-behaved and adorable; it was a blast watching them at Comic Con as well. His wife gave birth to their third about seven hours after I left, maker her, as another woman remarked, "quite the trooper" for walking around at Comic Con with us the second day.

For the second vacation, I went to Portland for a week to visit Brother and Sister-In-Law, not to mention Nephews 1, 2 and 3, the last of whom is nearly three and whom I had never seen before. I also saw Deep Blue, my old high school and undergraduate friend, his wife Cyan and their now three-year-old son.

Just before I arrived, Portland had been experiencing some pretty severe heat there, but it thankfully broke and it was beautifully cool to warm. We went peach-picking and collected some of the most delicious fruit I've ever had ("the Mackinaws are in, Jerry!"), except maybe the fresh-picked plums we were given by a homeowner with a tree in her yard. We visited all the great food places: Mio sushi, Apizza Scholls, the Ben & Jerry's store, and that haven for gluttonous locavores, Burgerville.

Not too much had changed since I was last there --- my nephews are still brats, Portland still has a lot of hobos and rude bicyclists, it's a verdant paradise, and the economy is sluggish. A lot of storefronts have been remodeled and revamped, but they seem to sit empty. I was immensely cheered to see so many local businesses still going strong (except maybe in the case of Dixie Mattress --- how does that place stay open, anyway?). Portland is a walker's city, and the people enjoy supporting the community. Streets like Sandy, which require cars to drive down, don't do as well as touristy but laid-back Mom-and-Pop areas like Hawthorne or Division.

Anyway, now back in the heat of Devil-Town. Work starts Monday. I've been totally idle since the last week of May.