October 30, 2003

Vegas virgin

Can you believe I've never been to Vegas? I've been to Vienna, Vientiene, Venice and Vietnam. Shoot, I've even been to the Vatican and Versailles. But never Vegas. And that's about to change.

In a short time, I will load up the car with hula-hoops, camera, costume, cooler and Sarah - and head south-southeast into the great unknown. And as we pass Barstow and head into the desert, I will think of Dr. Thompson. No, better still: I'll bring the damned book and make Sarah read aloud from Chapter One.

I'll be gettin' my groove on with SCI Friday & Saturday nights, and I fully expect to be back at my desk Monday morning. See ya!

Posted by Jason at 05:16 PM | Comments (1)

Funny, you don't look 150

My last act at work today (finished just now) was to catalog a Swiss play by someone named Franz Krutter, published in 1845. I can only find evidence of one other copy - at the Swiss National Library - and it seems I'm the first one to properly catalog it. This poor little play's been sitting around for 150 years, starved for attention.

I might even be tempted to read it...if it weren't written in that horrid Gothic script.

Posted by Jason at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)


after sunset - view from my houseHere's the fog-free post-sunset view from my house, by popular request. Berkeley & Albany in the foreground, then San Francisco Bay, and in the background the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting SF with the Marin Headlands on the right side.
It's much more beautiful than this really. And it's different each day.
(Click for larger image)

Posted by Jason at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2003


Andre Agassi may be a razor spokesman, but I really don't think he shaves his own head. I just did it, and it wasn't so easy.

I've shaved my head with electric shears a few times over the years, but that doesn't quite leave the head smooth. Tonight I actually applied shaving cream and razor-shaved my entire head. All that's left are eyebrows and eyelashes. Predictably, the back of my head was the hardest part. The blood-spilling might have been avoided had I known then what I know now: Headshaver.org has helpful hints. And this site's mere existence shows once again that you can find just about anything on the Web.

But alas, it all happened so fast. I started with my beard, and just kept going.

Posted by Jason at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

Me & the Poet Laureate

You just never know what's coming next at the reference desk. The questions I fielded for most of my two-hour shift today were interesting, but not unusual. Questions about early Nubia, the founding of the UN, how to use certain databases, stuff like that.

Then suddenly a man is standing over me, pointing to a citation in the back of a book, saying plaintively that he can't find this darned thing anywhere, and can I help him?

I look up: It's Robert Hass. And though I'm sure he'd prefer not to be known by label or title, Bob Hass is the former Poet Laureate of the United States. He's also a professor here at UC Berkeley, and here he is, in a yellow Velveeta t-shirt (of all things!) looking for help.

He takes a seat, and I get to work. It turns out the citation is incorrect, but I'm able to track down the correct issue of Literary Review, and access the full-text of the article through PCI. A scan of the original paper edition appears on the screen, and as I print it out for him, Hass declares it to be magic.

He shakes my hand, asks my name and tells me his. I don't let on that I know who he is, and that I've seen him read before, and that librarians and information providers don't make magic - it's he who makes magic.

See & hear Hass read at this webcast of his appearance at an event last year, right here in Doe Library. Following his reading, Hass sheds light on the art & craft of writing.

Posted by Jason at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2003

A privilege, not a right

For the California driver licence written test, the minimum passing score is 31 out of 36. Think you've got what it takes? Try a sample test.

Posted by Jason at 10:45 PM | Comments (3)

Daylight Losing Time

Welcome to four months of riding home in the dark. Unless I get myself in to work very early, which is not likely.

I'm quite used to biking in the dark, of course. But I really like the scenery around here in the daylight, and I love seeing the sunset from home. Today all I got was the burnt orange afterglow.

Maybe I will try forward-adjusting my cycle. I recall, with some amazement, that when I was teaching English in Korea, my first class started at 6:40am. And not only did I have to be there, I had to be somewhat awake!

Posted by Jason at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

Warm-weather weekend

We took our bikes into San Francisco on Saturday. We rode down to Pier 30 and met up with some folks at Flugtag. They being academics, navels were gazed upon and qualms were raised as to the meaning of our participation in this spectacle of spectacular crash-landings off a pier. We left early for beer, about which no one had qualms. After a bit of prowling around on our bikes, we BARTed it back to Oakland, for a wonderful 3-hour dinner at Oliveto in Rockridge. Followed by a 45-minute full-tummied late night ride home.

Deer woke me up during the night with their munching. And in the morning, a beautiful big-antlered specimen was sleeping in the garden. Not far from what used to be my lovely cyclamen. Deciding this straw was the last, I went to work sealing off the garden. Much work remained when it was time to go hooping.

The same hot winds that are fanning the flames in SoCal made it hot for hooping up here. On the plus side, this gave inveterate hip-shakers Vera, Philo, Cheyenne & I an excuse to sit in the shade & chat. Which was nice.

Posted by Jason at 08:45 AM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2003


Is this you?

IF you know me (Jason) in real life
AND you visit this site with any regularity
BUT you haven't actually been in touch with me lately,
THEN you may be under the mistaken impression...that reading what I write here somehow constitutes us 'staying in touch.'

As Ariel explains, it really doesn't. And all the reasons she has outlined, are reasons you should get in touch with me, too.

Posted by Jason at 11:57 PM | Comments (3)

October 23, 2003

Tales of a new cataloger

Today, for the first time, I contributed a record to OCLC's WorldCat. The number assigned to my book's new record was 53,280,624. Yes, it's the world's largest bibliographic database. The title, if you must know, was Antisemitismus, Rassenhetze, Rassevergottung : eine innerjudische Auseinandersetzung by Abraham Gurewicz.

This page at the OCLC Web site flashes new records, as they're added. Mine came on the screen almost immediately after I uploaded it, and I very much enjoyed my several seconds of fame.

Posted by Jason at 05:24 PM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2003

Median vs. Mean

Another fine illustration of the difference between mean and median: In tomorrow's NYT, there's a piece on Manhattan apartment prices. The article states that the "average price for an apartment in Manhattan was $919,959 in the third quarter", but that the median sale price for the same time period was "only" $575,000.

So why such a hugh difference between the two? Well, a bunch of very expensive apartments, causing a large rise in the average (i.e. mean) price, and thereby making the median price a much more useful indicator. Not that 575K is affordable....

Posted by Jason at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

With a ticket stub in my hand

Oh how I love when those 2nd day air envelopes show up. I got the last in a series of them today, all containing concert tickets. No turning back now: I'm going to Las Vegas to spend Halloween with the String Cheese Incident, and then to Miami to see Phish for NYE. That's two nights of SCI in Vegas, and four nights of Phish in Miami.

I'll be hitting at least a few other shows here & there, but I'm really looking forward these two runs!

Posted by Jason at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2003

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

I got my bike back from the shop - finally. I hadn't been maintaining it well at all, and after 18 months of daily use on the grimy streets of Boston and Cambridge, it was in sorry shape. Nearly everything needed to be replaced.

While I was at it, I also made the ol' single-speed slightly more hill-worthy by putting on a larger rear sprocket. My morning commute down to campus will still be exhilerating, but now the ride back up to my home in the hills will be a little easier. But still hard.

Posted by Jason at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

UCLA scholar-bloggers

For an often serious (and always worth reading) professor of law, Eugene Volokh can be pretty damn funny when he wants to be.

Just remember: in some language out there, your first name probably means something ridiculous or unfortunate.

And speaking of brilliant UCLA profs, Mark Kleiman supports Wes Clark for President. If we can have Kleiman for Veep, count me in. Read Mark Kleiman, because he knows more than you about some things. And he'll tell you about them.

Posted by Jason at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

Mmmm...Hot springs

I am soaking in a large pool of naturally-heated water. The temperature of the water in this pool is very close to that of the human body, making it hard to distinguish me from not-me. I feel like it's all me, and that feels good. There are other people here too, and they look like they're feeling about the way I am. The number of soakers rises and falls, but is usually somewhere around twenty. Twenty people, soaking in peace, in silence and in the nude, as if we're all sharing a big womb. The average stay in the pool is quite long, because once you're in here, the sense of well-being is nearly complete. Nobody wants to leave the womb.

But there are other hydrotherapeautic delights, just a few steps away. For the sensation junkie it doesn't get any better than the neighboring hot pool: at 115 degrees, it is just barely bearable. And right next to that is the delicious spring-fed cold pool.

All this, and great food, beautiful hiking trails and much more, can be yours at Harbin Hot Springs, 2 hours north of San Francisco. And it was mine this weekend. And it will be mine again soon. Wanna come?

The pools are open 24 hours a day, which is very nice. Once you pay for admission to the grounds, the place is yours. You can get a room or a dorm bed, but you you can also pitch a tent for free, or simply unfurl a sleeping bag on the deck & sleep under the stars, which is what Jiwon & I did.

There are a few rules, and they are well-reasoned: No cellphones, no alcohol...and no cameras.

Posted by Jason at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)

October 17, 2003

Groovin' the day away

Is it five o'clock already? I know why it went by so fast: I downloaded this show, and listened to the whole blessed thing. String Cheese Incident, 7/4/03 - it rocks. If you have a fast connection and a couple of gigs for the unzipped audio files, give it a whirl!

Oh, and THANK YOU to archive.org for expanding your collections in this direction!

Posted by Jason at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Outdoorsy types

I joined CHAOS yesterday. Chaos, as in, Cal Hiking and Outdoor Society, as in, a bunch of fresh-air-and-adrenaline-addicts. It's a pretty diverse group, in terms of current station in life, with UC Berkeley grad students being the largest demographic. You can see what it's all about at the CHAOS site, which includes an archive of trip reports, mainly of weekend adventures in the Sierras.

Posted by Jason at 12:45 AM | Comments (2)

Time delay

Kottke's got a funny little TiVo story. Yeah, it's all relative.

Posted by Jason at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2003

Don't tug on Gnome-Girl's cape

Listen, don't be misbehaving when Cheyenne's around.

I know it happens only rarely, but I get so upset when I see people lose their temper. I'm horrified by what's happening, and fearing what may be coming. But almost worse is experiencing my own paralysis, my apparent inability to intervene. Some day, in a moment when I really do need to do something, I'm afraid I won't be able to do it.

Posted by Jason at 06:48 PM | Comments (2)

This is London

BBC NewsI started listening to the BBC World Service on shortwave when I lived in Korea. And wherever I traveled in Asia, my little Sony shortwave always came with me. Now, I still listen to a half-hour of BBC News most days.

If you're looking to expand your news-gathering, I can highly recommend the world edition of BBC News Online as well. Go check it out. I'll still be here when you get back.

Posted by Jason at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2003

Now orbiting your planet

China has just successfully launched a man into space. I think this is very good news. What better way to reinvigorate the sorry US space program than a little competition? I anticipate an aggressive program from China, and if that's what it takes to get funding to other space agencies, I'm all for it.

Bring on the new space race!

Posted by Jason at 11:23 PM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2003

Good times

Dalsook came up from LA on Friday, and I had less than 72 hours to show her a good time. I think I succeeded. I sure had fun anyway!

The weather was unusually clear all weekend, so though we weren't home much, the view from the house was pretty wow-inducing, day and night.

Dalsook & I went over to Sausalito & watched the Blue Angels tearin' it up over the Bay. Then we crossed the world's most wonderful bridge to check out Lumafest in SoMa. Got to hoop with some friends to the seductive stylings of DJ Amber. As dusk approached, it was back across the Bay, to Cinthia's house in South Berkeley. Cinth, Emily, et al. had a "party to celebrate the end of the era of crack head house mates" - and indeed, there were no obvious crackheads among her current wonderful housemates. But you know how they say you know it was fun if the cops pay a visit? Well, it was fun.

I awoke Sunday around noon, hungover & hoopsore. But Ariel was so cheery on the phone, just I couldn't say no. And so it was off to Novato for the Pacific Sound event. And so I got to play with Andreas, Ariel, Philo, Vera, Aimée, Donovan, and a host of other folks who don't have Web sites (that I know about). Meanwhile, Dalsook is thinking everyone in the Bay Area is a freak. Which isn't so far off, come to think of it. At dusk six of us went for Thai food. And then we parted, off to cross our respective bridges. A little photographic evidence:

Photo: City by the Bay
Photo: Dalsook crossing Golden Gate Bridge
Photo: Hoopers L to R: Ariel, Philo, Aimée, Dalsook, Vera

Posted by Jason at 12:21 PM | Comments (3)

October 11, 2003

Another new hooper

A young San Francisco attorney goes to her first Burning Man, and in addition to coming back a changed woman, has also witnessed some righteous hula hooping out there on the playa. She wants to learn to hoop. She searches the Web, and finds me.

She came over this evening, and I made her a few hoops - just in time for Decompression. And for the thirty-odd friends from the playa who will be staying with her this weekend.

Posted by Jason at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2003

Dear visitor

I almost never check the log file for this site, but I just did. And now I remember why I don't: it's enough to make a guy paranoid. Just who are all you people?

I mean, you're welcome to stop by & all, but why not drop me an email & say hi? (Or if you'd prefer to maintain the information asymmetry between us, you can also leave an anonymous comment below...)

Posted by Jason at 12:54 AM | Comments (3)

The good old days?

There's an advertisement in the National Review's new higher education supplement. What do you see when you look at the ad? Do you think others will see it as you do?

There's a lively and intelligent discussion going on about it, right now, between Richard Just, et al. (for the prosecution) at The American Prospect and Jonah Goldberg (for the defence) over at National Review. I love this stuff. The back-and-forth, I mean.

While we're at it, let me say I highly recommend TAPPED (from the left) and NR's The Corner (from the right) for timely tidbits on all things political. Go read, get provoked, and get smarter.

Posted by Jason at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2003

Spinning in Seattle

News flash: Ariel's moving back to Seattle!

Can LA survive the setback? Will Seattleites Ted and ZZYZX finally succumb to hula hooping? We'll have to wait & see.

Posted by Jason at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)


I've been working with Nigerian books for the past few days. All sorts of stuff: fantastic novels, military history, homages to local chieftains, and some dreadful poetry. Right now I'm looking at the title Satanic faith or suicide? by E.O. Ononamadu (Onaivi Printing, 2002). It has a rather unique dedication:


To the authors whose works were delayed and rejected by certain publishers and later pirated by the same publishers.
Ah, publishing in Africa.

Posted by Jason at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2003

Jiwon's toenail

Exactly three months ago today, we completed a trek in Ladakh. We were in a harsh and sparsely populated area in the Indian Himalaya, a high altitude desert of rock & wind. Included in my (paper) journal entry on that day, I outlined our health situation. Jiwon's list of complaints was as follows:

  • tops of ears blistered from severe sunburn

  • right thumb rendered numb from some plant

  • right ankle tender

  • lips badly chapped

  • throat dry, nose congested

  • headache from sun & altitude

  • big toes hurt following hours of descent

Each of these ailments healed in time, but for the last one: the nail on her left big toe had turned an odd shade of bluish black. I predicted it would fall off, as one of mine did in fifth grade (after I dropped a big rock on it).

But the nail clung to its toe, and came along with us to California. But last week, sure enough, the nail started to wiggle. And the darned thing fell off a few days ago. I strongly advised leaving it for the Nail Fairy, but she'd hear nothing of it. She is saving it, though, and if you come over some time, she might let you see it.

Posted by Jason at 11:51 PM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2003

Gov. Arnold, apparently

My fellow Californians, I have overestimated you.

Now, instead of another recall, how about putting that energy into splitting California in two? Let Arnold be governor of South California.

Really, I look forward to seeing the numbers. I'm pretty sure Arnold didn't win NorCal.

Posted by Jason at 10:33 PM | Comments (7)

Voting & the Flag

I cast my fill-in-the-oval ballot at around 7:30 this morning, and as it was being fed into the hopper, a poll worker handed me a sticker. It's a little oval, featuring an American flag graphic, and the text "I Voted." I stuck it on my shirt and walked out into the sunshine. A tandem bicycle carrying a couple rode by. The guy in front (and it's always the guy in front!) had a manila file folder taped around his helmet. It read: If You Vote for Arnold, You Are Insane. Well put, I thought.

Wearing this sticker around reminds me of those American flag lapel pins. You know, the ones that magically appeared on expensive suits right after 9/11. The ones that at first seemed to be simple assertions of the wearer's sense of patriotism, but soon became, to my mind, something different: they became magic buttons, which permitted certain ideologues on the right to advocate for any policy in the name of national security, and likewise magic boots to stomp upon dissenters.

In short, the flag was expropriated, cynically turned into a badge of honor allowing the bearer to stiffly salute, and proclaim that sacrifice is good and necessary...as long as they're not the ones who have to make it.

Most of those lapel pins have fallen into disuse, but Bush and other leading Republicans still wear theirs. Why? People are questioning not their patriotism, but their policies. With the hijacked flag on their side, they attempt to stake out a monopoly on patriotism - and to brand the honorable opposition as traitors.

Then again, I could be wrong.

Posted by Jason at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

Ballot blues

Tomorrow is recall election day. And garbage day.

Here's a local sample ballot (in PDF). See how long it takes you to find either Cruz or Arnold on this list. Or Larry Flynt. Or Gary Coleman. Or someone who lists himself as "Middleweight Sumo Wrestler." What a nightmare.

Posted by Jason at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

Poor North Koreans

With all of the (entirely appropriate) attention given to the North Korean nuclear crisis, let us not forget long suffering North Korean people, who must endure a level of depravity almost unique in the world today. As this piece from the Washington Post makes clear, people are risking everything - including the lives of their loved ones left behind - to get out.

Meanwhile, South Korean authorities still don't know what to do with these refugees: they've just shut down their embassy in Beijing, which has been filling up with North Koreans who have managed to dash in past the Chinese guards.

Posted by Jason at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2003

Yom Kippur

It looks like I'm not fasting for Yom Kippur this year. But with yesterday's awful suicide bombing in Haifa, and today's IAF strike in Syria, Israel is very much on my mind. And for a bit of history, it's also the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

Posted by Jason at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

Weekend wrapup

Sunday evening, a time for reflection.

I was working at the reference desk Friday afternoon, and getting thirsty. At the five o'clock bell I was off to Triple Rock (a fine brewpub), and then on to Brennan's (the anti-Chez Panisse). And thus went Friday night.

Saturday Jiwon & I drove down to Santa Cruz, watched some surfers, sucked in some ocean air, and then made our way to Kiva Retreat House. It was Jiwon's birthday, and a good excuse to do something special. And Kiva sure is special. We spent around six hours cycling between outdoor hot tub soaking, sauna sweating, and tea sipping in the Eden-like garden. And while any day's a good day to visit Kiva, when better to hang out in one's birthday suit than on one's birthday? (Many thanks to Cinthia for recommending Kiva!)

Sunday morning was all about Peet's coffee, house cleaning and a bit of work in the garden. Come afternoon I was off to San Francisco to hang with the hoopers in Lafayette Park. On the way back I went Korean grocery shopping in Oakland, and came home to cook a yummy Korean dinner.

Now it's after dinner, and I'm getting sleeepy....

Posted by Jason at 10:46 PM | Comments (2)

October 03, 2003

What I saw at lunchtime

Sproul Plaza was a real circus at the noon hour today. I mean, even more than usual. First, there was a big rally in advance of tomorrow's football game. I stopped for a bit to watch the captivating cheerleaders marching band, and to marvel at what appeared to be school spirit. Over toward Telegraph, the striking graduate Teaching Assistants (known here at Graduate Student Instructors) were perambulating and chanting for justice. And linking these two focal points were the usual cast of characters: the long row of student group tables, the mad hatters advertising upcoming events, the juggling guy and the proselytizers. And with this being homecoming week, a smattering of alums wandering through it all, smiling to themselves and muttering that yup, it's still the same ol' place.

Posted by Jason at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2003


Hi there. I've been having an odd couple of days. On Monday morning, as I was sitting at my desk working, I had a sudden and intense sensation of vertigo and nausea. It came out of nowhere, and truly knocked me for a loop. I was sure I was about to either throw up or pass out, but the feeling faded away, leaving me with a heart beating like a hummingbird and the sweat I'd just broken into.

The rest of Monday and Tuesday featured similar spells of faintness every hour or two, but nothing as frightening as the first episode. So last night, on the advice of my sensible supervisor at the library, I went to the Kaiser urgent care center in Oakland. After a battery of tests, I received a diagnosis I'd like to believe: I have picked up a non-infectious virus, and these are the side effects of my body's efforts to defeat it. And it should subside within five days.

I can handle the swooning spells. It was not knowing their cause that was scary.

Posted by Jason at 05:31 PM | Comments (2)