2017.03 minutiae

  • So, it’s been a while since I posted one of these.  After the election it looked like the Republicans would be increasing my health insurance premiums by something on the order of 800%, so I took on more teaching hours and thus have been too busy to add much content to the web site.  But all my students are on spring break at the moment, so let’s see what I can furnish in the way of updates.

  • First of all, adding to the need to work more hours is that for the first time in a while, I once again have car payments to make.  The hybrid battery of the Aluminum Lung conked out again, and it didn’t seem worth it to spend thousands and thousands of dollars just to restore a sixteen‐year‐old Honda Insight from “junk heap” back up to “decrepit jalopy”.  It had a wobbly mirror and most of the paint had come off the roof and it could no longer handle hills: in San Francisco town I had to map out the flattest routes in advance, and one time when I tried taking Marin Avenue up to Grizzly Peak, the car went full nope on me and started rolling back down the hill, even with me flooring it in first gear.  I was lucky to get $500 for it as a trade‐in.  Still, after I signed over the title, I got pretty weepy.  I had a lot of fond memories of that tiny little escape pod of a car, most of them revolving around who was sitting in the passenger seat.

  • The new car is a CR‐Z, another two‐seater Honda hybrid—​I was able to pick up a 2015 factory remainder, so it’s essentially a new car that sat around for a couple of years until the dealership cut the price in half to offload it.  In a way it’s a Giggle Time All‐Mo version of the old car—​the mileage isn't nearly as good (35/38 mpg instead of 60/66) and I had to settle for the color that happened to be available (deep metallic turquoise, which looked meh next to the Insight’s indigo blue)—​but it’s also not quite so bare‐bones: it’s got an integrated MP3 player where the Insight had a cassette deck, and it’s got a rearview camera and auto‐dimming mirrors and stuff like that.  Also, the dashboard changes color depending on how aggressively you’re driving.  I don’t know whether that’s a standard thing these days.

  • About that MP3 player: the track names appear on the radio’s screen, but if they’re over sixteen characters long, only the first fifteen will be displayed.  Also, the letter C and the left parenthesis character look the same.  Which means that when the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Fuck You (An Ode to No One)” came up, the radio displayed it as FUCK YOU CAN OD.  For a moment there I was expecting an NPR report on the opioid crisis.

  • Since, as noted, I’ve been taking as many teaching hours as possible, I’ve wound up accepting assignments in all sorts of far‐flung places.  One was in Tomales, a town of 204 people in West Marin.  It’s pretty rural out that way.  After my second class there, I was walking back out to my car, and coming the other direction and eventually passing me without incident was a flock of sheep.

  • One tutoring assignment took me to a library, where I happened across Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Religion, Volume 5 of which covers “ETERNITY to GOD”.  Comprehensive!

  • I’ve also been teaching a class held in a conference room that, based on what I found on the whiteboard on my first day, looks to have been out of use for a while:

  • Having a job that involves saying a lot of words makes it particularly inconvenient to lose your voice, as happened to me at the end of last month—​the first phase of a cold that lasted for three weeks, bleah.  My voice recovered in stages.  Within a couple of days I could at least croak my way through a whole lesson without my voice giving out, but when I tried to speak in my normal register, nothing came out.  After about a week of that I reached the stage when, if I tried to raise my voice above the aforementioned croak, what came out sounded like a goose being strangled.  Even now, my voice still isn’t back entirely: I can finally speak normally, but I cannot hit falsetto notes anymore.  This is highly inconvenient since it means I can’t sing along to Sparks songs when they pop up on my car’s MP3 player.

  • As I mentioned in one recent article, I’ve been looking into finally refocusing my teaching career away from demonstrating how to fill in the right bubbles on standardized tests and towards real subjects like English and history, partly because they’re more interesting, but mainly because I feel like it’s incumbent on everyone to do something to resist the lizard people, and doing some tiny part to foster a more educated citizenry is the role in that effort for which I’m most suited.  To that end, I went to a workshop at San Francisco State about the credentialing process.  As I walked across the campus, I saw a guy sitting on a sun‐dappled lawn, playing an acoustic guitar to an audience of four fellow students and a duck.  The duck quacked along to the music but was not on pitch.

  • I was on a BART train talking to Laura about the very fact that taking on all these teaching hours had meant a lot fewer Calendar articles.  “It’s too bad you can't get paid just to read books,” she said.

    “Yeah, the rise of the Internet has kind of torpedoed criticism as a career track.  In the mid‐’90s I discovered this web site where this guy was posting really interesting movie reviews for free—​one of the very first sites to do anything like that—​and on the basis of those, he was hired as the main film critic for Time Out New York and then for Esquire.  But he lost his job a few years later, along with pretty much all the other movie critics, thanks in part to competition from all the people posting movie reviews on their web sites for free,” I said.

    “I couldn't help but eavesdrop.  That guy losing his job?  I say it’s a good thing.  Critics add no value to society,” said the hipster two rows over with the massive bleeding head wound.

  • Speaking of being randomly accosted in public, a lot of passersby feel compelled to comment on the sunglasses that I wear when I’m outside in the daytime.  Admittedly, they do look pretty stupid: they’re darker than regular sunglasses, are big enough to fit over my regular glasses, and wrap around so they don’t let any light leak in.  But I have to wear them or else I get migraines.  I even have to wear them when it’s cloudy out.  For a while I was particularly self‐conscious about this, but I’ve been surprised to notice that lots of people wear sunglasses when it’s cloudy out!  I am not alone in my battle against the hideous orb of death.

  • The new chip readers for credit cards are annoying enough in that they take so much longer than the swipe readers did, but even worse is that when your card is approved, the new readers go BRAP BRAP BRAP like you’ve done something wrong.  I guess the idea is to alarm the shopper into removing the credit card promptly, but still, it’s just one more little micro‐stressor that we could do without.  Play a nice sound!

  • After watching 562 episodes of Masterchef Australia, I decided to try my hand at some Australian desserts.  First up: lemon delicious.  I got a recipe from taste.com.au, which served me up an ad for Coles, which forms half of Australia’s supermarket duopoly.  The ad proclaimed, “Looks like your closest store is Coles Margaret River 6285”.  Actually, that is the farthest store, located 9266 miles from my house.  The closest Coles store appears to be the Pialba location, which is a mere 7009 miles from me.  In any case, my lemon delicious turned out like this:

    Now, I had never actually had a lemon delicious before, so I didn’t know how it was supposed to turn out.  The ones I made had a light cakey consistency, maybe slightly oily for my liking, for about the top three‐quarters, but had a pool of uncooked lemony liquid at the bottom, which made me wonder whether I’d taken them out of the oven too early.  But then I saw a whole bunch of pictures that showed the lemony liquid welling up where the first spoonful had been taken out, so I guess the lemon delicious came out as intended.  I also didn’t know how exactly a lemon delicious was served; I made three, so I ate one warm, one at room temperature, and one cold.  (I didn’t eat them one right after the other.)  The cakey part was better in the two warmer ones, but the lemony liquid was better cold.  All in all they weren’t bad, but I think that if I feel like a lemony dessert in the future I will be more inclined to make something based around lemon curd, which is easy to make and more deserving of the name “delicious”.

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