Sunday, March 31, 2019

Responding to Reader Comments


As described here, my only goal for this blog is to post four times a month. This morning, March 31 with the pressure on, I had no ideas. In desperation, I searched the Internet for prompts and found “101 Blog Content Ideas To Make Your Blog Post ‘HOT.’” One of the prompts caught my eye: responding to reader comments. That’s the subject of this post.

I don’t have time to reply to all reader comments, of course, but in the spirit of Frequently Asked Questions I’ve chosen the most representative ones. Read these and you’ll feel like you and I are having a cordial face-to-face conversation!

But first – the non-starter blog prompts

Before I get into the reader comments, I want to showcase a few of the “101 Blog Content Ideas” that fell flat. Consider idea #49, “Show off your personal stuff; car(s), house, accessories” to create “a motivational blog post for someone who doesn’t own those kinds of things.” So I should make my readers envious, so that they’ll knuckle down and go make enough money for their own 2006 Volvo wagon or wooden-handled rubber spatula set? I couldn’t really get behind this idea. After all, in my very first blog post I recounted how the first blog I ever saw, in the late ‘90s, “was the web equivalent of a grade school kid shyly showing a friend around his house, showcasing his room and his toys. It seemed sort of sad, kind of a ‘this is my bike, do you like it?’ thing. So I was aware, very early on, of the risk of self-indulgence that a blog presents.”

Even less promising was prompt #51, “Create a blog post about your bad habits,” which said, “Smoking, alcohol, drugs, yes they could be blog ideas too! Tell them something shocking!” In general, not just with my blog but in life, I try to avoid incriminating myself in writing. Meanwhile, my bad habits are not exactly shocking. Sometimes I go to bed without flossing, or get crazy and have a second beer.

Continuing through the “Content Ideas” post, I hit pay dirt with #54, “Answer to every single comment personally.” I’m told this will make my “readers feel special and honored” and that through this kindness I can “get new friends, co-authors or even business partners.” Now, the obvious way to answer comments would be to email the commenters directly (where possible) or post a response directly below their comment, in context, as I’ve done here:

The problem is, if I answered below each comment, I wouldn’t get a new post out of it, and you wouldn’t get to see everything lovingly curated and distilled into the Comment Response Platinum Collection you see here. So I’ll just have to hope those commenters find this post.

Comments on “Nash Bridges Towed My Car

Jeson David: “Incredible articles and extraordinary format. Your blog entry merits the greater part of the positive criticism it's been getting.” elia and ponto michigan auto accident lawyer

Dear Jeson: I’m really glad you like my post, and thanks for saying so. However, I feel a bit awkward being told that my blog format is extraordinary. To be honest, when I was first starting out as a blogger I went with the stock template that Blogger provided and, other than adding an image-based masthead, I never got around to changing a single thing. In other words, my blog format is about as generic as you can get. You should be praising Blogger! Oh, and one more thing: on the topic of the link you helpfully included, to the law firm of Elia and Ponto, I should probably be completely transparent here and let you know that my blog doesn’t necessary reach very many readers in the Detroit area where Elia and Ponto practice. I’ve never catered to a regional audience; in fact, over 60% of my readers are overseas, with some 20% hailing from Russia and the Ukraine. I hope using my blog to promote Elia and Ponto hasn’t been a letdown for you.

Lizza Kim: “If somebody wants expert take on the main topic of blogging next I advise him/her to go to this site, continue the fussy job.” car locksmith Dallas

Dear Lizza: I think with the phrase “fussy job” you have captured the very essence of my blog, in a concise and eloquent way. If I didn’t rely on the momentum that the search term “albertnet” has built up over the last decade, I might strongly consider changing the name of this blog to “Fussy Job.” In fact, I’ve just confirmed that the domain name is available. Since I’m too busy to do any rebranding at this time, I give you my blessing to take for yourself! Perhaps this would be a good name for your locksmith service in Dallas, and (frankly) a better way to promote it than linking to this blog.

Genious Person: “Pretty good post. I have just stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading your blog posts very much. I am looking for new posts to get more precious info. Big thanks for the useful info.” Mobile diesel mechanic tampa

Dear Genious: I have to be honest with you, I’m feeling a little hurt that you only found my towed car post to be “pretty good.” Since we’re being candid with each other in the realm of self worth, I think my post is nothing short of brilliant. To have it so tepidly acclaimed by a self-possessed genius who spells “genius” wrong kind of stings. (Yeah, I know it’s possible you’re being ironic with your spelling, but that doesn’t really give you the right to damn my work with faint praise.)

Mia Simth: “Our credit repair services work to fix past credit mistakes and verify credit report accuracy. Talk to a credit repair expert today!”  Hungary Grand Prix

Dear Mia: Thanks for writing in. It’s hard to make my reply very personal because in your comment you haven’t really opened up about your feelings on my blog post, or anything else, though I guess I appreciate your helpful attitude. It just so happens that my credit reports are a mess due to a data breach that compromised my SSN, but I didn’t get very far following your link. It took me to a website dedicated to Formula 1 car racing coverage. (At least this ties in nicely with my post!) Now, because I like to get to know my readers, I’d like to ask a kind of personal question, if you don’t mind: are you married, by any chance, to Max Simth, who posted a comment on my Bike Helmets post? The reason I ask is that “Simth” is kind of an odd name. I wonder if there’s some charming story about a bureaucratic goof at Ellis Island when some ancestor of yours or Max’s first came to this country. Please do share!

Comments on Bike Helmets

Max Simth: “I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.” Best Mountain Bikes Under 1000

Dear Max: If I guessed wrong about you and Mia (see above), perhaps this is a great way for the two of you to meet! What a nice pair of coincidences: you both have this strange last name, and you both enjoy reading albertnet! And there’s yet another coincidence: even though my Bike Helmet post is over eight years old, and my Nash Bridges Towed My Car post is more than six years old, you and Mia both commented just last month, within a week of each other! When the coincidences pile up like this, it’s hard not to suspect that Fate is at work here. It’s time you and Mia met! Please let me know if you’d like me to make an introduction.

Chaddi Gang: “Please continue this great work and I look forward to more of your awesome blog posts.”

Dear Chaddi: Glad you love my blog! And speaking of amazing coincidences, do you know Jeson David? Like you, he recommended the Elia & Ponto law firm via these pages. It’s tempting to think you guys are neighbors in the Detroit area, but I note that your blog, Chaddi Gang, is written in Urdu. Maybe it’s just a coincidence you both like Elia & Ponto and albertnet? Anyway, have a great day!

CompanionLink: I as of late ran over your website and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don't realize what to say with the exception of that I have delighted in perusing. Decent blog. I will continue going to this web journal regularly.” google sync outlook

Dear CompanionLink: Thanks for the kind words, but I have to ask, what the hell kind of name is “CompanionLink”? And where do you get off committing blatant plagiarism on my blog? The semantic similarity of your comment to Max’s, above, cannot be written off as coincidence. I can’t help but wonder if your text is just boilerplate, as a way to hijack my blog to promote your tool for syncing Google with Outlook. Even that doesn’t seem original, since another commenter on this post, John Butler, has his own blog called “outlook android sync.” All this brings to mind an interesting question: if you and John Butler were to engage in a swimming race from Cuba to Iceland, who would drown first? (Answer: Hard to say, but it’s definitely worth trying.)


Okay Jeson, Lizza, Genious, Mia, Max, et al … I hope you feel special and honored based on my heartfelt responses to your comments. Dare I dream that you and I might become friends, or perhaps co-author some blog posts or comments together? Shoot, maybe we can even become business partners, or those of you with connections to Elia & Ponto can put in a good word for me! I’m so grateful to all of you for your loving attention to my blog. All of you except CompanionLink, that is … CL, you can just get lost, and don’t ever comment on my blog again.

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Ignorance vs. the Internet


It is an article of faith among most modern non-Amish Americans that the Internet, with the limitless access to information it puts at our fingertips, is essentially a good thing. I’m here to suggest it’s not that simple. Choosing ignorance may often be the better strategy.

The Internet lifestyle

If you work in an office, you surely see people slumped over their computers most of the time. Some of them are using these new standing desks, but they’re still hunched. I’m usually hunched too. We are all beyond reproach, however, because we are doing this for a reason: we’re making money.

Kids are another story. Watching teenagers in their natural habitat nowadays is more boring than watching animals at the zoo. These kids just sit there, not slumped over necessarily but zoned out, slack-jawed, staring into their screens as if pithed, totally passive. We parents tell ourselves that it will be okay because they’re all digital natives and will be the next Zuckerberg.

Of course it’s absurd to complain about this because a generation ago teens were all rotting their brains out with TV, which was arguably even worse. At least they’re getting all kinds of information now, right?

Well, that’s actually the problem. They’re being trained to over-consume putatively useful information, which bad habit they’ll carry into adulthood. At least I outgrew “Simon & Simon” and “Remington Steele.” My kids are already watching grown-up talk shows about politics on YouTube, which doesn’t look like a behavior with a finite lifespan. My older daughter keeps quizzing me on this or that dull political topic and I never have anything to say. I used to tell her to ignore all that because she can’t even vote, but she’ll be of age as of the next election. So now I tell her, “Learn enough to figure out how you’ll vote. That’s not a ton of information. The issues, and the differences between the parties, are not subtle. Don’t overdo your research.” But it’s hopeless. Her entire generation seems hell bent on consuming this mountain of information. Because it’s there.

Of course there’s a ton of useless entertainment on the Internet, too, and modern kids are continually cycling among like ten browser tabs, doing the screen equivalent of the Hometown Buffet if it had taste spoons. I’ve throttled down the streaming video on my kids’ WiFi to 250K, so for them it’s like a slow-loading slide show, and super lo-res, almost like a child’s finger painting. It’s such a poignant experience watching this sad process unfold, my kids melting into the furniture as their brains ooze into the ether. But it would be even sadder if they were having the best possible Internet experience, or if they were having this experience while out in the world. (Lacking smartphones, at least my kids are aware of their surroundings when out and about.)

But doesn’t everyone need to relax?

I had a college roommate who played video games (on my TV) 24x7. When the rest of us called him out on it, because we wanted to rot our brains out to, say, “Star Trek – The Next Generation,” he would say, “Okay, just a minute,” and then play for another hour. When we verbally assaulted him and assassinated his character, he’d say, “Hey, man, after a hard day in class I just need to unwind, okay?” This was a joke because he sent most of the time shouting profanities at the screen.

My kids don’t do that, thankfully, but it would certainly be a stretch to say the Internet is, for them, fundamentally a platform for relaxation. The World Wide Web is loaded with rich repositories of stress. For my older daughter lately, its greatest source of strife is the collection of websites dealing with college admissions. Naturally, this application process is a potent source of stress no matter what, but the Internet is like a cat-o’-nine-tails these kids can and do flog themselves with. Let’s compare the college application process from my generation to the current one.

When I applied, I had my target school and my “safety” schools, just like the modern kids. My high school counselor said I’d have a decent shot at getting into UC Berkeley. My grades weren’t perfect, so I knew it wasn’t a sure thing so I applied to a bunch of other UCs as well. I think I spent like half an hour looking them up in “US News & World Report,” which gave me their ratings (number of stars) and a little paragraph on each. I mailed in applications to most of them and then pretty much got on with my life. The die was cast and at some point I’d get either good or bad news.

There was no real info about when I’d hear back, what my odds really were, or anything like that. Anybody I happened to talk to about college assured me I’d never get into Berkeley. I didn’t argue; I mean, what would be the point? They had their hunch, I had mine, and there wasn’t much evidence to support either position.

Some months passed, during which I barely thought about college. Then I started getting responses. Berkeley rejected me, and the rest accepted me. I made a plan to go to some UC, didn’t really matter which, and then transfer to Berkeley as a junior. Everybody assured me I’d never get in that way either because Berkeley didn’t like transfer students, etc. Again, I just shrugged. Who had any real info on this stuff? As it happened, my friends were wrong the second time around: one day I got a packet in the mail saying I’d been accepted. So I went. That was about it.

My daughter started her college application process like a year in advance. She combed the Internet for every scrap of information pertaining to every college she considered applying to. She maintained a master spreadsheet tracking them. She could quote massive amounts of statistics about each one: acceptance rate, average weighted GPA of students accepted, average SAT scores, national ranking, self-reported student satisfaction levels, lifestyle ratings, you name it. Tracking all this info was like a part time job. Meanwhile, there are apparently scores of websites where other students post the bloggy equivalent of “you’ll never get in there,” etc., and tips and tricks for applying that are probably about as reliable as homeopathic medicine. All this adds up to a massive time and energy sink for my daughter, her friends, and probably most college-bound teenagers these days.

But hey, it’s probably a better use of time than playing video games, right? Well, not necessarily, the way the stress can accumulate. The colleges seemed to tease my kid almost continuously, deferring her and putting her on waiting lists and announcing the approximate date when they’d inform her of her fate, etc. My daughter, and apparently most of her friends, were really stressed out during this process, their futures seeming to hang in the balance. When my daughter was deferred and then, months later, finally rejected by Northwestern, she was terribly distraught and immediately began researching the odds of transferring in later. When that answer was less than encouraging she started looking at transfer acceptance statistics for all the schools she’s interested in. She basically leaped from one conveyor belt to another. Sure, gathering information feels like the first step in an action plan, but she won’t be transferring for like two and a half years … what’s the rush?

(Of course I am not just talking about my own kid here. I’m sure her behavior around college apps is not unique or even remarkable for her cohort. And my kids’ overall Internet use is either typical of their generation or lower.)

When I applied to transfer to Berkeley I had no idea what the acceptance statistics were. If I’d wanted to worry over this, and pick at everything like a damn scab, I wouldn’t have had any real means to do so anyway. Where would I have researched this stuff? The public library? Yeah, right. I just shrugged and hoped for the best.

Now the Internet provides more college info than anybody could possibly have the time to ingest, which we naturally assume is valuable. But has anything really changed? Sure, our kids can bury themselves in data, but does that actually increase their chances of getting the college they want? Not that I can see. They’re just flagellating themselves, greatly exacerbating the already wrenching ordeal of college applications, and building up a giant body of facts and statistics to use in bemoaning their wretchedness to parents and friends. A generation ago, all we had to say was, “I was rejected,” which was a mercifully brief report.

Of course this overall phenomenon doesn’t end with higher education. I’ll bet most college seniors do a great deal of fretting over how they’re going to find a job. They probably bury themselves in even more data then. Myself, I did nothing. I just did my schoolwork and put off thinking about what would come next. I graduated, stayed in the Bay Area because there are plenty of jobs here, and applied for the first reasonable job that came along. I was hired inside of a week, and started my adult life.

Years later I had people asking me (and my wife), “Wow, you graduated in 1992? So you started your career during that horrible recession?” I didn’t know what to say, other than the truth: I was totally unaware of the recession. Nobody told me about it, and I didn’t read the news. My wife had exactly the same experience. We both wandered blithely into the job market and found work, just as we’d both nonchalantly transferred to UC Berkeley without knowing or caring how feasible a plan that really was. If our total lack of regard for the situation on the ground had any effect at all, it was probably just being less nervous during our interviews. So to me, this modern era of analyzing everything to death via the limitless Internet just looks like a way to maximize stress.

On the brighter side

But the Internet has a bright side, right? It helps us celebrate life! If we have a great hot fudge sundae or a really tasty beer, we can share that experience with our friends and family!

Well, as much as I do enjoy Beck’sting, of course all this social media has already devolved into soul-crushing one-upmanship, as has been bemoaned and documented so thoroughly I need not grow that mountain of evidence and opinion any more here. But there’s a less commonly cited downside to celebrating our activities, triumphs, and little life pleasures over the Internet, which I’d like to point out.

I’ve been reading this article in “The New Yorker” about Outdoor Voices, a clothing company whose marketing theme is “doing things,” by which they mean any kind of exercise—doesn’t have to be a marathon or a Tough Mudder—and feeling good about it. The feeling good part generally involves showcasing your activity, yourself, and your cute outfit via Instagram, with the hashtag #Doingthings. Now, if the opposite of “doing things” is being totally sedentary and stuck to a screen of some kind, then I’m all for it … but why does the act of not staring at a screen have to rely on the Internet to promote and celebrate itself?

Let me tell you a story. I coach a high school mountain bike team, which means I get plenty of exercise and access to the outdoors. Sometimes, though, depending on what group I ride with, I do a little extra riding after practice, to get in some good hammering (which is what leads to the really sweet endorphins). One evening I got home from the team ride, changed into my road shoes, grabbed my road bike, and headed back out. Going up a nice 12% grade in the Berkeley hills, I came upon one of my student athletes. Just like me, he’d decided to go do a little “stealth training” of his own! Just for the love of the sport! I was really stoked to see this.

“Getting in a few extra miles, eh?” I asked him. He replied, “Yeah, I’m trying to get 10,000 feet of climbing in one day.” Wow, I thought … some kind of personal ambition, I guess, maybe almost like a little vision quest. How totally cool. “Is this just something you cooked up on your own?” I asked. He said, “Well, it’s kind of a Strava thing.”

My heart sank. Of course this was more than just a private little bike ride. Nothing is private anymore. Everything is celebrated. There are t-shirts that say, “If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.” What an annoyingly cynical slogan. It’s pretty much the nail in the coffin of riding for riding’s sake. Now, every time we swing our leg over the bike, we’re guaranteed kudos.

Not that I have anything against Strava per se. I don’t happen to use it, because I’m too old and slow to care anymore how I stack up against others, and moreover I don’t want kudos. More to the point, I don’t want to give kudos because it takes too much time … time I could be riding more, cleaning up my bike, reading a book, or all the other stuff I don’t have time for. Can’t I just make a blanket statement that I love cycling and applaud you for doing it in general? And am I not making enough of a statement by donating my time and energy to coach these kids, in hopes of turning them into lifelong cyclists? Why does pushing ever more data up to the Internet need to be a part of that?

What is to be done?

Look, I’m not trying to suggest that you should curtail your Internet use. I’m just promoting a bit more awareness, so that when you’re sponging up info via this platform—or any platform, frankly—you might pause here and there and ask yourself if the info your getting is really worth the time and trouble. Is it making you money? Is it making you happy? Is it making you better? And if you have kids, you might consider talking about all this with them. (They won’t listen, of course, but as parents we gotta try, right?)

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Even More Beer Pix - Beck’st-O-Rama!

NOTE: This post is rated R for alcohol references.


Okay, my last blog post was pretty hifalutin, with all that Latin and the obscure references to Sir Thomas Wyatt’s illicit affair with Anne Boleyn. So, I think it’s time for a fluff piece. And, after the warm critical reception to my H.B. Albert Memorial Beck’sts post, and the runaway box office success of the Beck’sting post before it, I’ve decided that this cheap-reboot endless-sequel thing is really the way to go!

Now, if you’re feeling all left out because you’ve never heard of Beck’sting (and really, what rock have you been hiding under?) click here for my original Beck’sting post, which will tell you all you need to know about this global phenomenon.

As before, I’ve grouped these Beck’sts thematically. Since a Beck’st isn’t just a photo, but a photo with a caption or other gloss, I’ve included that too, and the initials of the Beck’ster. Where you see one letter only (e.g., “T—”) that’s somebody’s spouse, kid, or another friend.

Photobomb Beck’st

DA: Best. Photo. Bomb. Ever. This is a Bear Bottle IPA, or maybe a Bare Bottle, maybe even a Rebuttal. It’s really loud in here. I asked the barmaid twice to repeat the name but just couldn’t make out what she said. Whatever it is, it’s completely and totally off the chain. I love the hazy IPAs.

[Postscript: Having done some research, I found this beer was actually from Barebottle Brew Co. in San Francisco, and was probably their Colonel Kush Hazy IPA.]

Perfunctory Beck’st

DW: I had this DB Fresh Squeeze at the local pub while watching the Sounders/Timbers game on Sunday night. I was pretty knackered from a 91 mile ride in the smoky heat ​that day and dragged myself out to watch the game. I actually didn’t even feel like having a beer (no man should utter those words), but pub, game, you know, seemed like the thing to do. I also had many glasses of ice water in those slightly blue tinted plastic cups that make water taste so good. The IPA was “just fine” like the Pliny. It was no Barley Brown’s.

Cheap and free Beck’sts

PCS: Boys! A friend of mine had this IPA at a party last week. $4.99 for a six pack! Pretty tasty!

DW: $4.99 for a IPA six pack! Unheard of. I’m surprised it didn’t come in those white, generic cans and just said “IPA” on them. Like the old “BEER” ones did. This is an oatmeal stout that my friend, the Angry German, made. My daughter and his daughter did the graphics. I don’t know if they sampled it or not, I didn’t ask.

DW (continued): It was his first go around of brewing and he did a nice job. I decided to have a beer during the week because all of our relatives and old friends’ houses burned down in Ventura today. Including our old house that we used to live in (not the one on the beach, D—, where we had a gun pulled on us, but the one up in the hills that I don’t think you ever saw). Everyone is evacuated and sorting through it all. What a year of extreme weather! I promise to have a more positive bext tomorrow night.

Amazing Tales Beck’st

DA: Ask me about this water bottle.

JL: I’d like to know about the water bottle.

DA: As I wrote in a blog post awhile back: look at the bright orange water bottle in the background there. It’s an important part of the bike. It has a story: I had it on my bike when I lived in San Luis Obispo, and a local racer actually asked me to stop using it. He was very proud of being Dutch, and told me that an orange water bottle was kind of his trademark in the peloton. I thought his request was absurd and reeked of narcissism. I was working at a bike shop at the time, and happened to learn that Specialized was blowing out those orange bottles for thirty cents apiece wholesale. I ordered like two dozen of them and gave them out to all my friends. At the next race, they were all over the place. If anything, the orange bottle had become the trademark of the Cuesta Community College cycling team, not the Dutch Douchebag.

JL: This is a good story and I’m sorry I missed it on your blog but am happy to have it excerpted here! The Dutch can be so touchy!

DA: About that water bottle and my blog excerpt ... I only pasted that from my blog because it would have taken about half an hour to type all that with my thumbs. I wasn’t trying to insinuate that anybody should have seen that blog post. I take it as an article of faith that most of my blog posts go unread, which is oddly pleasing to me ... it makes my blog seem really elite, like it’s too logorrheic for just anyone. But just in case you want to see the post from whence that tidbit sprang: here!

DA (continued): Here’s another story from that night, for no particular reason. After Fieldwork, C— and I headed over to The Pub. We went to this back patio where this really scary looking guy engaged me in discourse. (I have a long history of attracting crazy people.) He looked like one of these Star Wars villains, Darth Maul or whatever—very thin, kind of ashen and ghastly, almost sepulchral in this hooded sweatshirt with the hood up creating a shadow over his face. His opening salvo was, “I know you—you slept with Cheryl and I can prove it because I watched it on the Internet!” It seemed that to deny this would be so predictable, and frankly so boring, that I decided to take a page out of the improv playbook: they always say “yes, and...” instead of “no.” I replied, “I did sleep with Cheryl, many times, though I wasn’t aware she filmed it.” This kicked off quite a dialogue, which included how I ended up getting with Cheryl (I found her in bed with my wife and thought it only fair to be allowed in), and how my ongoing fling with Cheryl damaged Darth’s relationship with her, and so forth. Then the discussion rambled around a bit until Darth looked at C— and said, “You’re his wingman, huh.” C—, perhaps also following the improv rule, said something like, “Yes, and I’m glad you noticed.” At this point I found I could no longer follow the improv rule, and said to C—, “Wait a second, I’m your wingman! I’m not the kind of guy who gets a wingman! I’m not ready!” Etc. Anyway, it was at least a 15-minute conversation and when we got up to leave, Darth suddenly turned on me, yelling, “There isn’t a damn thing you’ve said tonight that’s true! You’re nothing but a damn liar!” Uh, good point ... but why did he wait until the end to notice, or say so? I’m glad, though ... I don’t want him coming after me because of something I supposedly did with Cheryl. Anyway, there’s probably a lot more I meant to tell you, but it’s not coming to mind. Thank you for tuning in to this edition of “Behind The Beck’sts,” brought to you by Silver Moon Brewing, est. 2003.

Mall date Beck’st

PCS: S— and I had a date whilst the kiddos were at “Star Wars” [Episode 8]. Our date was at a place in a mall which was somewhat repulsive though it had a couple things going for it....1) it had over 100 beers on tap and 2) it was showing biathlon racing [skiing & shooting] on the TVs. I generally hate watching TV in a bar/restaurant though I’ll take biathlon. I had a Rogue beer (some nondescript IPA) and a Delirium Tremens. I’ve attached a photo of the Delirium Tremens ... damn it was delicious! I don’t think I’ve ever had it and I was duly impressed. Please don’t take offense to the stemware.

DW: So glad you had the gumption to pull off a mall date. Your inner strength is an inspiration. Did you choose to not see “Star Wars”? Or did your kids ask you not to come? I went a few weeks ago and was duly disappointed. That beer looks great. No offense taken, but noted. Sometimes we have to make a sacrifice for something good.

DA: Stemware notwithstanding, that’s a pretty good-sized “pour” of Delirium Tremens, P—. I’d say that’s a good place. Some places around here would serve it in a thimble. A— wants me to take her to “Star Wars.” I’m not sure I have it in me. I’m just so tired of these retreads. Last night E— and I saw “Lady Bird” in the theater. It was very refreshing and original. And yes, since you’re wondering, I am trying to show off by acting far too highbrow for silly sci-fi movies.

Macro Beck’st

JL: Look, it’s a Beck’st!

BA: Haha, someone’s got a new macro lens!

JL: Yes, new lens. It was “refurbished”, so quite a good deal — less than $200. It allows me to take photos of things that are less than an inch from the lens. Usually that’s an insect, but this time it’s a Sierra Nevada.

Compulsory Beck’st

DA: E— is so irked at how skinny I have gotten, she went out and bought two six-packs of beer that she has ordered me to drink, purely for the weight gain. (My foray with the South Beach Diet was all too successful.) So here I am drinking at home alone, violating my own policy! Well, I have the cat for company, but she is an asocial predatory beast with little use for me ... kind of like my daughters, come to think of it. This Ballast Point Sculpin IPA is brilliant. I recommend you buy this when you find it available. It is great all by itself, or paired with a tabby cat.

BA: You’ve got a pretty tough life there, D—. Not only did E— tell you get fat, and made you drink beers, but she even bought you the beers! Next she’ll be bringing home the Zach’s pizza and Mac and Cheese and standing over you while you scarf it down.

DW: I am with E— on this one. Nobody your age should be getting a PR in body fat index. Eat, man, eat! Don’t make me come down there and have a pizza eating contest with you again!

BA: D—, he may be scrawny and weak, but one thing I would not do is engage him in an eating fight. Over the decades I’ve seen him eat, and when he gets on a roll, there’s no stopping him. Speed, volume, duration, spag, pizza, Thanksgiving, he can do it all. I’m sure you’ve seen it. He shows no sign of decline, either. It’s astounding. I don’t know what’s wrong with his body, but he can just eat and eat and eat, whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and he never gets fat. If he does lay off the American diet for a few weeks, he gets into this situation where his wife has to buy him beer.

Speaking of pizza

DA: E— is out tonight and I got Zach’s pizza with the kids. And you can’t have ‘za without beer, can you?

DA: J—, remember you invoked this rule at Zach’s the night before the Death Ride? And P—, remember we did that epic ride and then ate too much Zach’s and got all bloated and you hated me? And D—, remember I talked endlessly about how great Zach’s is, and took you and T— there and you both hated it because you don’t like tomatoes? Anyway, this Fat Tire is a bit flat because it’s so old. I bought it for the big bike team party in October and we forgot to put it out (along with the rest of the beer, duh!). Oh well.

JL: Indeed that is a rule—one I learned from my father in fact. Pizza goes with beer. What else goes with beer? Well, nearly everything, but certainly waiting for take-out food is one. Which is what I’m doing. So there’s this:

This supposedly a “imperial India pale lager”, whatever that is. But it’s definitely not pale, and doesn’t taste like any lager I’ve ever had, though it’s not unlike some stouts. It doesn’t hurt that it’s 8.5%! Oh, and it’s local, though you wouldn’t know that from the name. It’s made in Azambuja, a place name that I assure I did not just make up.

Post-op Beck’st

Home from helping my mom post-surgery. She is doing great, which is a relief, because last time I helped out post-op, the patient frickin DIED. Mom sent me home with some of the goodies you see here (other than the bread, which is local). I call this the “Finer things” Beck’st.” Good times!

BA: Meanwhile, back at Mom’s house, I’ve taken over for D— who tagged me in a week ago. D— must have really lazed out here because Mom’s got me working like a slave. I guess she actually worked D— pretty hard, too, but yeah, it’s like she’s punishing me for all the chores I didn’t do as a child. Maybe it just feels like that... On the brighter side, D— left me some beers in the fridge, which was downright good of him, and they’ve been a real life saver, let me tell you. I haven’t enjoyed a beer quite so much in a long time, I guess I feel like I’ve earned it. Unfortunately, they’ve run out, I’ve drunk them all up. I may have to replenish for the weekend. This photo shows what I’ve been enjoying, very much, in fact, a high octane Imperial IPA.

DA: Wow, nice! Too bad you’ve run out of beers. After my long commute today I settled down in the backyard with this bad boy. You can tell I was fried by how poor a photo it is, with the background in focus and the beer blurry. Then I ate food that was too hot and fried all the skin on the roof of my mouth. I’m not bitter, though!

Then E— asked me to open a bottle of Chianti. Why? Because people love the word “Chianti.” So I couldn’t get past the protective layer of foil over the top. Well, I eventually did. It was damn hard because I was so fried from my two-hour drive. I practically couldn’t function and I almost gave up. I told E— of the trouble I was having and she said, kindly, “Well, you’re not Italian.” I said, “Damn straight. My ancestors didn’t drink wine. They drank mead. And when they weren’t drinking that, they were drinking frickin’ blood, from the bodies of their enemies. They’d cut their heads off and drink blood right out of their neck stumps!” Finally I went at the foil with a big knife and it’s a miracle I didn’t stab myself. On purpose. Well so then I went in there with a corkscrew and the cork broke in half. Somehow, switching to a more nimble corkscrew, I managed to remove the bottom half of the cork instead of plunging it into the wine. But you know what? I may as well have, because the wine wasn’t any good anyway. Wine never is.

BA (one day later): D—, the beer you left for me ran out so I had to head to the store. I figured as long as I was going to be drinking beers, I ought to get some exercise, so I grabbed a backpack and walked there. I felt a little like a hobo heading back to camp with my backpack full of clinking bottles, but hey, a man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. So in the photo you see our dinner, with a kind Total Domination IPA, which I enjoyed, served in, well, a glass of some sort. I’m getting the sense here that that’s not the right vessel. As you know, Mom doesn’t have a proper beer glass, so, sue me. You’ll notice the sandwich, I blame you for breaking my South Beach diet with that bread. Mom says you made her buy it, so she made me eat it. Anyway, chewing all those carbs gave me a mighty thirst, so I had two of those Total Dominations. Pretty swell.

Conspicuous Connoisseurship

DW: This is a Sun River Brewing Australian Lager at Brother John’s Public House.

I wanted to try something different. When it first arrived, I took a long whiff. Not because I think that makes any difference, but because if people see me do that, they’ll think I am some beer expert who knows the etiquette. I don’t know the etiquette of beer tasting or anything else. This beer had an unusual taste. Imagine pulling out the insole of an old shoe, soaking it into a large glass of water in the sun for a few days, pulling it out, and drinking the remains. That’s what this beer tasted like...but it was not too bad. It was, you know, acquired. Like kimchi.

DA: You crack my shít up! I think to look like a proper beer snob you need to thoughtfully stroke your goatee while wearing the intelligent and thoughtful expression of a true intellectual like John Paul Sartre or Jonathan Vaughters.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

From the Archives - Latin [Class] Is for Lovers


Here’s a sad one, from my archives. Enjoy please enjoy.

Latin [Class] is for Lovers – October 19, 1990

I just can’t concentrate on my Latin homework anymore. It’s tempting to blame this on girl trouble, but that would be overstating the case, like saying you have car trouble when in fact your car was repossessed. I just have this empty space, this lack, where I thought I had a girl.

She’s in my Latin 1 class, a freshman. I’m a junior, but on the stunted, naïve side so it feels perfectly natural to be chasing after freshman girls. Besides, just like them, I only recently arrived here in Berkeley, having transferred from UCSB.

Latin class had been going fine before R— caught my eye and became a constant distraction. My god she is fly. Of course, there’s not a lot of mingling among classmates, not with a discussion-style language class of only fifteen students. I passively admired her for over a month before making any moves. (Well, I did rework an old sonnet in her honor, but never gave it to her or anything. I did get course credit for it in my Shakespeare class.)

From Psych 1 I learned that mere proximity can increase attraction, so I took to sitting next to R— whenever I could, which was most of the time. She always takes a chair right up in the front row, where you’re a sitting duck in terms of getting called on. So I’d take the invariably empty chair next to her. It’s a tough price to pay, getting called on twenty-four seven, but well worth it. This one red-haired guy seems to have had his eye on this same girl, but he has never gone so far as to sit in the lethal chair. I’ve had to really focus so as not to play myself. (This is a constant risk for me because I study far less than my peers. I loafed through my first two years of college, and old habits die hard.)

The instructor, Jonathon, is cool enough, I guess. He has this really soft, airy East Coast voice that sort of floats out over the classroom. He likes to remind us how easy everything is while he tackles some obscure grammatical structure most of us don’t even know in English. I think he’d single me out even if I weren’t sitting in the front-and-center death seat, simply because he likes my name. To be more precise, he likes what he thinks my name is: Dale. I don’t know how he managed to misread this on the roll sheet the first day, but he’s sticking with his mistake. And due to his mellifluous style of speech, he pronounces Dale “DAY-oh.” (Is it a coincidence that this is how we pronounce the Latin word “Deo,” which means “God”? I don’t know. It could be that he is making a little joke.)

Jonathan seems particularly prone to call on me when we’re learning some totally new grammar rule. Here is an actual quote from class: “Okay, as you can see, the past-contrary-to-fact construction uses the pluperfect tense of the subjunctive mood in both the protasis and apodosis clauses. This is really quite straightforward. Would somebody like to take a crack at the first example, please, DAY-oh?”

The only thing I have on my fellow students is that I’ve actually used my newly acquired Latin skills outside of class. This won’t help my grade in Latin, of course, but I might as well get some mileage out of it here: I read this rad Sir Thomas Wyatt sonnet for an English class. A guy sees this deer and is so blown away by how beautiful she is that he finds himself uncontrollably and shamelessly chasing after her, and after finally catching her, discovers something that makes all his efforts futile: 
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.”
The footnote in my Norton Anthology of English Literature has this to say: “Noli me tangere quia Caesaris sum (‘Touch me not, for I am Caeser’s’) was inscribed on the collars of Caesar’s hinds which were then set free and were presumably safe from hunters.” After studying Latin I can read the whole thing and could even tell you about how the negative imperative, or prohibition, uses a complementary infinitive, which is then followed by a conjunction and the name Caesar in the dative case to indicate possession when used with the subsequent present indicative first person singular form of the verb “to be.” But I won’t go into that because it’s boring.

Less boring, of course, is my own pursuit of R—. How has that been going, you might ask? Well, a few times we hung out after class, sitting on the lawn chatting. I’m trying out this new form of humor where I basically bag on myself. I’m told this is endearing somehow, and in any event it ties in nicely with the embarrassing behaviors that I stumble into anyway. For example, Jonathan was calling on me in class and—due to a combination of sleep deprivation and this strange college-induced narcolepsy I seem to suffer from—I actually started falling asleep right in the middle of being drilled. “DAY-oh, are you falling asleep?!” Jonathan asked, incredulous. “No, of course not,” I muttered, as the class erupted in laughter around me.

So after class, I admitted to R— that I truly had been falling asleep, which was inexplicable because being quizzed in Latin, far from being boring, is actually kind of terrifying to me. This seemed to really charm her, so I bit the bullet and asked if she wanted to have lunch sometime. She not only accepted, but enthusiastically. In fact, I think she may have even blushed. (Actually, that was me.)

We set our date for Friday after class. The next time class met (Wednesday) I was trying really hard not to play myself by being all perma-smile, and though I probably did a poor job (i.e., was too visibly stoked), she was very tolerant. She mentioned our upcoming lunch, which seemed almost too good to be true. I’d half-expected her to totally forget, or pretend to forget, which would have been awkward. (Yeah, I’m not a natural-born optimist. So sue me.)

On Friday I busted my ass to get to class early, but R— was a bit late. No biggie, of course. But all through class she seemed not only to have her gaze averted, but her entire body angled slightly away. It was weird. I was getting this massive bad vibe off her. I felt like the proverbial elephant in the room.

After class she couldn’t very well avoid me any longer; after all, it was time for our lunch. We walked over to Mario’s La Fiesta on Telegraph, because it’s close to campus, has great food, and is dirt cheap (so I could afford to pick up the tab, and if R— ended up being all modern and saying it’s lame for the guy to pay, I could say, “Come on, the whole bill is under ten bucks, it’s nothing!”). I’d never had a bad meal at La Fiesta, but this was pretty close. R— was just a total cold fish. Where was the laid back, enthusiastic chick I’d been so merrily chatting with earlier in the week? I couldn’t figure it out.

Finally (actually, after not so very long a time, between the chips-and-salsa and the main course) I couldn’t take the stony near-silence anymore and said, “What is up with you, anyway?” I know, I know, this is dating suicide, but what did I have to lose? I was already done for and I knew it. The truth came out: she’d had this high school boyfriend, and they were still really close and talked on the phone a lot. They’d decided when they parted ways for college that it was silly to try to stay together, so they were free to date, which was all well and good until she told this guy about our upcoming lunch. He got all sore, and petulant, and whiny (okay, I’m possibly extrapolating a bit here), and they decided to “get back together.” Never mind that he’s at BYU, which is hundreds of miles from Berkeley.

I was very suave about the whole thing. “So what you’re saying is that he loved the idea of dating hot chicks at BYU but it never occurred to him that you might be more successful at playing the field, and he hadn’t counted on his own jealousy and feelings of inadequacy,” I did not say. “Surely you’re aware that in Utah they practice polygamy,” I did not go on to point out. I did, however, say, “He should make you a collar graven with diamonds in letters plain, so there is written, your fair neck round about, ‘Noli me tangere quia Dickheadis sum.’” No, of course I didn’t say this either. In fact, this third thing I didn’t think up until later. At the time, I just sat there, biting my tongue. I was so, so disappointed because, even when stricken with the awkwardness of the situation, R— was so, so fly.

I went home and played some Simon & Garfunkel. Yes, I’m that nerdy … but it’s not like I had some girl over whom I needed to impress. Besides, I’d thought of just the song for my mood: “April, Come She Will.” It concerns a love affair that begins in April (when “the streams are ripe and filled with rain”), proceeds all summer until June when “she’ll change her tune,” and on into July when “she will fly,” and so on until September when “I remember,/ A love once new has now grown old.” Poor guy—but hey, at least he lasted six months. I only made it six days! And with this realization, I was moved to write my own song: 
Monday, come she may.
The day is bright and filled with sun.
Tuesday, she will stay.
We spend some time just having fun.
Wednesday begins cruel play.
She now seems cold and so withdrawn;
Thursday, my nerves she will fray,
For now I know that something’s wrong.
Friday, I’m pushed away.
At all my pain she is just annoyed;
Saturday, she has gone away.
A love once made has now been destroyed.
I guess the song doesn’t totally fit because my little campaign didn’t erode gradually—it careened off the road in the span of little more than an hour—but whatever. I guess it’s also true that it wasn’t entirely my fault I crashed and burned, though I can’t help but think a savvier guy like Sir Thomas Wyatt would have known just what to do in this situation and surely would have gotten the girl in the end. Oh well … at least now I can sit in the back of the Latin classroom and maybe not get called on so much.

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