Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best of 2018

Here’s the annual list, albums I most enjoyed (at least as of today!).

Jon Hassell – Listening to Pictures
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Pistol Annies – Interstate Gospel
Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Albert Hammond Jr. – Francis Trouble
U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
Amy Rigby – Old Guys
Harriet Tubman – The Terror End of Beauty
Steve Coleman – Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1

and maybe: Low – Double Negative or Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Mind-in-Mind blog

Just to let folks know that I’ve started another blog, called ‘Mind in Mind’, to focus on the mind and brain books and musings that I write about now and then.  I’ve copied some of the posts from here to there to get it started, and will try to keep that material out of Mediated, for the most part.  We’ll see how it goes!

The Good News from Tyler Cowen

In his NYT Economic View piece today, economist Tyler Cowen notes the good news:

It may not feel that way right now, but the last 10 years may go down in world history as a big success. That idea may be hard to accept in the United States. After all, it was the decade of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial crisis, all dramatic and painful events. But in economic terms, at least, the decade was a remarkably good one for many people around the globe.

He notes the economic progress made in many areas of the world.  He acknowledges the somewhat painful decade for Americans, but reminds us of some upsides:

Nonetheless, despite the positive news in much of the world, it’s questionable whether the decade as a whole has been good for Americans, economically speaking. Median wages have not risen much, if at all, and the costs of the financial crisis and irresponsible fiscal policies have become increasingly obvious. Those facts support a pessimistic interpretation.

TO put it bluntly, if the United States takes one step back and the rest of the world takes two steps forward, even in purely selfish terms we should consider accepting the trade-off, if only for the longer run. Most of us gain from the wealth and creativity of other countries, even if we can’t always feel like the top dog.

The Referendum – Tim Kreider

Came across this short piece called ‘The Referendum’ by Tim Kreider online at the NYT site, via Andrew Sullivan.  The writer is a single, 42-year-old cartoonist whose putative subject is ‘arrested adolescence’ but it’s really all about the choices we all make, and how to live.  Here’s a taste:

A lot of my married friends take a vicarious interest in my personal life. It’s usually just nosy, prurient fun, but sometimes smacks of the sort of moralism that H.G. Wells called “jealousy with a halo.” Sometimes it seems sort of starved, like audiences in the Great Depression watching musicals about the glitterati. It’s true that my romantic life has produced some humorous anecdotes, but good stories seldom come from happy experiences. Some of my married friends may envy my freedom in an abstract, daydreamy way, misremembering single life as some sort of pornographic smorgasbord, but I doubt many of them would actually choose to trade places with me. Although they may miss the thrill of sexual novelty, absolutely nobody misses dating.

I regard their more conventional domestic lives with the same sort of ambivalence. Like everyone, I’ve seen some marriages in which I would discreetly hang myself within 12 hours, but others have given me cause to envy their intimacy, loyalty, and irreplaceable decades of invested history. [Note to all my married friends: your marriage is one of the latter.] Though one of those friends cautioned me against idealizing: “It’s not as if being married means you’re any less alone.”

We all make choices about how to live, sometimes feeling good about them, other times feeling perhaps we’ve made a mistake.  We can look at our friends’ lives and try to make some comparisons, but in the end it’s pretty impossible to know how other people are really feeling about their own choices.  So we carry on, trying to do the best we can, to live with choices we’ve made, to optimize our future outcomes.  No do-overs, no rewind!

On the run

Got up early this morning for a 5K run through downtown Portland, part of the ‘Run for the Cure’ events.  I was pleased with my finish of 21:56, not too bad given my fairly lax training.  Even better was the fact that my legs felt pretty good during and afterwards.

Since June, I’ve been trying to adjust my running style to land on the forefoot, rather than the heel, and after a rather tough month of early attempts (and walks home), it’s starting to pay off.  By landing at the forefoot, there’s more of a spring effect on each step.

Joseph McElroy's 'Ancient History' (1971)

A little while back I picked up a first edition of Joseph McElroy‘s 1971 novel, Ancient History: A Paraphase, his third book.  For whatever reason I had it my mind that the title was really Ancient History: A Paraphrase, but a few days back I was looking at the cover and finally saw the true title.  But funny enough, I found that others have made the same mistake.  The bio below is from a paperback reprint of his first novel, Smuggler’s Bible.

Ancient History is a strange book, to be sure.  Told by a man who sneaks into the apartment of a man who has apparently committed suicide earlier that evening, the narrator has some interesting mathematical theories about parabolas, and seems to be relating stories of his past to in some way ‘graph’ them.  I’m sure there are other tricks going on in terms of the names of the characters – the main ones all start with the letters A, B, C or D (kind of like labels on points on a geometric diagram).  McElroy makes you work for it, in a way like Gaddis; this book has essentially just one ‘chapter break’ over its 307 pages.

When I’m sufficiently rested from this one, I’ll try his second novel, Hind’s Kidnap.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks @ Doug Fir, 8-May-2009

Went to see the local indie rock ‘legend’ with his band last night at the Doug Fir Lounge.  Another band had to cancel their show for that night, so quick arrangements were made, and it was fun to see the band in a small venue.  Things felt a bit rocky early on, but the material from the last album sounded very strong.

Most fun was the all-covers encore, with four old classics:

“Emotional Rescue” (Rolling Stones, 1980) – a nice touch given their last title track…  even included the “I will be your night in shining armor” falsetto!

“All Day and All of the Night” (The Kinks, 1964)

“Shambala” (hit version by Three Dog Night, 1973)

“Love Train” (O’Jays, 1972)

Congressman Blumenauer

There’s a nice profile of my Congressman, Earl Blumenauer, in today’s NYT. “A Bicycle Evangelist With the Wind Now at His Back” by Cornelia Dean.

And as support for cycling grows, he said, builders, the highway construction lobby and others have stopped regarding biking as a “nuisance” and started thinking about how they can do business.

With an eye on the potential stimulus package, cycling advocates “have compiled a list of $2 billion of projects that can be under construction in 90 days,” Mr. Oberstar said, adding that prospects are “bright.”

In addition, after many attempts, this fall Mr. Blumenauer saw Congress approve his proposal to extend the tax breaks offered for employee parking to employers who encourage biking. The measure, which Mr. Blumenauer called a matter of “bicycle parity,” was part of a bailout bill.

As always, times of crisis are also times of opportunity.  I for one am happy to have him pushing in this direction; I think he’s a good representative of the interests of the area.


Handmade Bicycle

I just saw something about this event that was held yesterday back home in Portland – the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. Wish I could have gone! (Plus the picture looks a lot like my last post!). Event sponsored by the OBCA – Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association.

A Distillation

Distillers Festival

Today I went to a distiller’s festival, sponsored by Rogue, featuring the products of local distilleries along with a set of talks on the subject. I never have quite gotten this topic straight in my mind, so this was very helpful and interesting, and I hope to get most of the salient facts into this post so I have a good record of it!

Some basics: the big classes of distilled drinks are whiskeys, rums, brandies and vodka. Distilling has been done for 500 years or more, and it involves boiling off the alcohol in a fermented brew, and condensing that steam and then producing a final product. There are various types of alcohol in a fermented brew, and they have different boiling points that are all less than the boiling point of water. The initial distillations are of pretty nasty stuff that is basically nail polish remover (called the ‘head’), so you don’t want to drink that. Then comes the ‘heart’ which is the drinkable alcohol. You can do many distillations, which tends to reduce the final product to just alcohol, and that’s essentially what they do for vodka – it is supposed to be distilled to 190 proof, then water (and other things) are added back in.

Whiskey is distilled from ‘beer’ – essentially some fermented grain brew, not what we buy in stores. Rum is distilled from a sugar brew, from molasses. Brandy is distilled from a fruit brew. Vodka can be made from virtually any brew, since it’s so distilled that the original flavor essentially disappears.

Details on whiskey: Scotch whisky is obviously from Scotland. Single Malt is the product of a single distillery, using a brew of malted barley. Blended Scotch is the product of a mixture of whiskys from multiple distilleries (there are currently about 90 distilleries in Scotland, but only about 3 in Ireland). Scotch often has a peaty flavor, from the fact that burned peat is used to dry the barley. The famous blended whiskys were made by shopkeepers with now famous names like Dewars, Chivas, Johnny Walker, and they really got established when there was a disease in the French grapes that devastated the wines and brandies (1880s). Single malts have come more into favor in recent years.

Bourbon comes originally from Bourbon county in Kentucky (originally one of three large counties in the Kentucky territory, now a much smaller county). Nowadays there are a number of rules that ‘define’ a bourbon: the brew must consist of at least 51% corn, along with some malt barley and perhaps some rye or wheat; it must be aged in new American Oak barrels; it must be aged at least 2 years; it must be distilled to no more than 160 proof; and surely some other things too. (Note that the ‘new barrels’ requirement results from some protectionist legislation). The amber color and various flavors come from the wood during aging; as temperatures vary during the year, the whiskey is absorbed into the wood and then comes back out. The used barrels are then often sent to Scotland for use in aging the Scotch whisky, which tends to make it the case that Scotch must age longer since some of the barrel flavor is already ‘used up’ from earlier use.  In Scotland they also use Spanish Oak barrels (those used for sherry, for example).

Canadian whiskey tends to be all blended, and there are not any very strict definitions of what it is, so a variety of things may be blended together, making it an almost ‘too smooth’ drink.

Distilling tends to be highly regulated. In the U.S. you need a federal permit as well as local permits, and you can’t get these unless you essentially already know the business and have the equipment. However there does appear to be a burgeoning local distilling movement afoot, one that’s getting a good start in Oregon, in part following the local brewing trend. Perhaps one day we’ll have an Oregon Whiskey that is as well known as the Scotch, Irish and Bourbon whiskeys!

The festival goes on tomorrow as well at the Gerding Theater in Portland.

Aug 30: Updated with a few extra details and corrections.