good people, good food.


The Iraqis just missed Paul Wolfowitz.

I had a lovely dinner at our prime Japanese restaurant tonight. About five of us got omakase, which at least in a restaurant context means "whatever food the chef wants to serve you tonight", and at that restaurant it's an excellent choice. This particular group is well-known by the staff, so they're very, very good to us. This followed viewings of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Matrix Reloaded at a nice place up in the hills. They're my two least-favorite movies of the past year, but I was mostly in it for the company. Plus there was beer, and really, hanging out with the guys, drinking beer and making fun of mediocre movies doesn't really suck for a Sunday.

I meant to transplant my little maple trees. I really did, I even bought a spray bottle and a hand cultivator.

Apparently the area my house is on used to be a cemetery, so my housemate is gung-ho for setting up the front yard as a cemetery, complete with special effects. I love him anyway, but I have to give him serious points for follow-through--he's actually putting work into it, and I think it will be pretty cool.

In theory we got an extra hour of sleep last night, but what really happened was that I was tired and took a late nap, and then I just woke up at the same time as always, with my clock claiming it was an hour earlier. The day started with some satisfying aikido, although I got a knee to the temple at one point, and right at the end of it all a muscle in my back spasmed. I had some fun in weapons class getting re-acquainted with the sword, though. "My" weapon is really staff, something I've been comfortable with for years and with which I have a big intuitive sense and understanding of. The sword is...something else, I guess. Weapons have personalities, of a sort, and I have to work a bit harder at the sword.

Okay, sure, getting kneed in the head sounds dangerous. I guarantee you that 50 people doing good aikido will have vastly fewer injuries than 50 people doing good American football. I mean, really. Dislocated and separated shoulders, knee and neck injuries--football is hugely dangerous.

Been thinking periodically about my past, and moments or periods that shine through as being meaningful or painful or just plain fun. In 1996 I lived for a couple of months in the town of River Falls, Wisconsin, where I fell in love, learned the importance of artistic integrity, and came back without any real evidence that I'd ever gone. So I was delighted to be able to detour my friend Mark, on his road tour around the US, to River Falls, by telling him about this sign, one of my favorites. I'm starting to pay attention to what memories come up when, now, and seeing that a lot of them have to do either with college, or other times that sort of remind me of college--essentially, that there were some characteristics of my college experience that I found fulfilling and happy. One feeling is that of a Friday or Saturday night when it was bitter cold out, possibly snowing, and I'd be having a perfect quiet night, either with friends or without, hanging out watching a movie, listening to good music, who knows. Snowstorms are so quiet, because even the drunk people want to just get inside as quickly as possible, I could just look out my window at the endless stream of flakes falling down in the sodium lights in the parking lot, or the brighter white lights between the buildings. Look up and see an endless monochrome milky white sky, reflecting the lights of the campus and of Saratoga Springs. On Parents' Weekend and other times, I'd be out having a nice dinner with my family.

I just folded my laundry and got the urge to listen to Orff's Carmina Burana, and it occurs to me I did a surprising number of things in college that I can be proud of. Although my grades form a kind of sine wave over the years, I did end with a respectable 3.2 GPA (or thereabouts--everyone was right, once you graduate nobody cares, especially in the tech industry). I took a decent breadth of courses, learning a lot of interesting stuff like how the British government works, the character and context of ancient Chinese and medieval English literature, and what Darwin's On the Origin of Species actually said and what has been tacked on by social theorists. When I was turned down by Skidmore's male a cappella group, I went to Plan B and started my own coed a cappella group, against the conventional wisdom of people who said it had been tried and failed in the past, who said the campus had neither the singers nor the audience to support a fourth group; my group, the Dynamics, is still around nearly 5 years after my graduation, and by all accounts they're better than when I was there, and still full of nutcase overcommitted theater majors. In fact in 2002 they performed at Lincoln Center in the finals of the National College A Cappella Competition, which was, to say the least, heartwarming.

I joined the Skidmore Chorus the same semester as practically 98% of the performing singers on campus, when the director announced he was going to do the full Carmina Burana as a joint effort with his other chorus, at SUNY Albany. We did one performance at Skidmore and one at Albany; the exciting wrinkle was that the Albany concert was the same night as a Dynamics show (my parents, beautiful people that they are, came out for both nights). And Carmina Burana is hard. Really, really challenging. To the point that, when rehearsals started, the Skidmore students--okay, the Skidmore a cappella singers, who aren't known for diminuitive egos--were a little miffed that students weren't going to be singing the solos--the conductor brought in ringers about twice our age. Then we heard the solos, and we shut right up, because we couldn't sing them and we knew it. And it turned out we had our hands full with the chorus parts. I'm proud that we did something that long and challenging, and my memory is that we did it pretty well.

Socialization was fairly easy in college. There were many more random encounters with people than I have now, because I was in a large community set up in part for that purpose. We weren't just there for a classroom education: we were also there to learn from each other, whether that happened in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in the bar, in the bedroom. We were still in the process of figuring out who we were and what we wanted, and to facilitate that process there were plenty of options for both. Nope, tried that, I don't like sociology. Ugh, I'm not really any good at theaters. All right, I now know I don't like people who kiss like that. Hey, I like whiskey! It was like trying a bunch of keys in a lock and seeing which ones fit you. That takes a bit more work now.