Retread: Conversation with The Poet

An email came to me this morning that reminded me of a conversation I had had several years ago, and posted on an old blog of mine. I'm going to recreate that here for you, because it was an interesting night. The conversation was composed on one of those pads servers at restaurants carry around.

The Poet's words are in bold; mine are in italics.

What/and how macchiato?

espresso, dollop of foam.

Why/and how don't these barristas know this —? Cappucino?

they've all been to starbucks. Not macchiatos.

When at [starbucks] I speak the following: "Doppio macchiato, extra dry"

Or ask for SHORT cappucino

[The Poet nods] Café au lait

coffee, steamed milk, even proportions

          

Mountains?

I'm a fake professional Drinking decaf tea

Kerouac          standing@desola-
tion peak updside down
why are we all upside down

That book damN Near put me off kerouac forever

Words? —

The assembled, in their particular order. Never before
Have I stuck with one book for three months

I read all books in random order these days, sometimes moving from the middle to the beginning and then end

these days it's only been working if i swallow them darn near whole. lots of chuck palahniuk

I like bhikku

Not read. trying for fiction. been TOO many years

Poetic language theory Wittgenstein, speak-ing about gradation of language utilitarian, vs. litererary —

language — particularly the language of politics — has been fascinating me of late

it is a class of language all its own a very researched, intended

AND spoken in words that don't mean the things they are purported To express

— maybe silence answers languages longing

if silence = lack of WORDS and MOVEMENT, (NOT) the dictionary definition: lack of sound

— yes, inner silence, in which sounds exist as they will, word not as they never have

Not named; but can inner silence negate the need/desire for communication in the form of language? Will we [NOT] want still, to find words, even in our minds, to describe that which we feel?

we are void, and within there is no mind — but
(flip)
in the event we need to achieve "communication" information is, therefore directly perceptible

How, then, can such communication be conveyed — as in, with intent?

by merging with intent intent precedes will

must we then will our intent in varying directions, to be absorbed by only those the communication is intended for?

How does space describe direction?

it does not. content leaves source bound in direction, must pass through space to reach recipient; intended or not

— So, by be-ing mergéd w/intent, which is pure existence — absolute — intent is the:form=content, then the answer is seen as; how does the presence of the universe make our presence within it known —
this is progress of consciousness. this is the only communication
(flip)
(the apperception of) Love.

Love i see, understand, feel, convey without intent; convey sometimes without intent and there-fore, communication without intent [may be] love (is?) but with, more perceptibly love — though perhaps hate — and only that which is intentionally conveyed can most assuredly be almost un-love, but for the unconveyed
         indifference

I understand that Love is awareness of various focul points the know-ing of how to move between such it is as the greater "intent" it is the know-ing same love to the universe is aware—ness, impersonal
what is a "person loving" anyways? I AM
the Universe

person loving = all, in their purest, knowing, un-knowing, whichever, both, universe (or not)

Balancing the public knowledge with the actual knowledge

I hope you read my post yesterday on the newspaper crisis hitting close to home.

Assuming you did, you probably realized that I was writing about the privately-held company I work for.

And you probably realized that I know at least a little more than I shared.

If you've ever worked for somebody else – either as a full-time employee or an independent contractor – you've probably signed something that said you won't give away company secrets.

OK...but how do you know what's a company secret?

Basically, if you can't verify it independently of internal communications within your company (including face-to-face meetings or phone calls), it's a company secret.

And if you have a blog, or a Twitter account, or a Facebook account, or a MySpace page or a... you'd better be damned sure what's a company secret and what's not, because you're Google-able. And expendable. Just sayin'.

That's why I made sure to link to a publicly available source for any news about the company. And while I do have some other information, I'm not sharing it. That's part of a balance you need to know – and as more graduates enter the workforce for the first time in a we-share-everything-because-we-think-it's-only-for-our-friends environment, it's something worth thinking about, both as a potential employee and as a potential employer.

Jill talks about this a lot at panels and in classes – about making yourself available, but not laying it all out there.

It really is a fine line you have to walk, but it's really important that you walk it, erring on the safe side.

Dinner, the way it should be, with recipes

Amy, Dwayne, Libby and I did a long, slow dinner last night.

It's been my experience the past few years that doing dinner has meant arriving, sitting down for a drink and warm-up conversation, sitting down to eat, clearing the table, and regrouping for a cookie and a sitcom before wrapping up. Total time? Maybe two hours, probably less. It's a rather minor investment in time.

My guests arrived around 6:00 last night, and we sat down to appetizers. There was a bit of a warming-up period, as Libby had not yet met Amy and Dwayne. After maybe an hour and a half, we sat down to dinner. After clearing and doing a partial clean-up, we moved on to dessert, and everyone moved on a little before midnight.

That's how dinner's meant to be done.

Recipes

I'm presenting you these recipes as ingredients lists and preparation instructions. I do my measurements by taste, and I do my cooking by feel, so you'll have to have some confidence in the kitchen to follow these.

There were two eggplant appetizers, medallions and babaganouj.

Eggplant Medallions

Eggplant
Beefsteak tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar

You need to give yourself some pre-prep time for this. Slice the eggplant, and place it on a paper towel. Lightly salt it, and cover it with another paper towel. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. This draws out some of the liquid.

Bake the eggplant for about half an hour, then let it cool to room temperature.

On a serving tray, lay out slices of eggplant. Cover with balsamic vinegar. Top each slice of eggplant with a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella, and a leaf of basil.

Serve chilled.

Babaganouj

Eggplant
Tomato
Roasted red peppers
Spanish olives
Olive oil
Water
Garlic salt
Rosemary

Purée everything in a blender. Serve cold with crackers or bread (we used Triscuits).

Served with two beers: Hennepin and Three Philosophers.

Dinner included a salad, topped salmon, asparagus and rice. It was paired with a 2007 Lindemann's Bin 65 Chardonnay. We decided universally the wine was mediocre, and we're not recommending it.

Salad

Mixed spring greens
Radishes
Grapes
Grape tomatoes
Walnuts
Feta cheese

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar, honey, oregano, basil

Salmon

Sauté Atlantic salmon filets in apricot nectar, Guinness, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top with topping (below).

Topping

Sauté chopped Cortland apples, walnuts, onions and raisins in butter and cinnamon.

Asparagus

Steam asparagus stalks in water seasoned with oregano and cloves.

Rice

Season brown rice with masala spices (usually a combination of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and others).

Libby did dessert, Armagnac-prune-chocolate cakes topped with Armagnac whipped cream and Armagnac-soaked prunes. You'll have to watch her blog for the recipe (I'll update here when it goes up).

Dessert was served with American Honey, a bourbon-based, honey-flavored aperitif.

On vocabulary

This week, I had a gentleman named Kevin Kawa in the office to show him around the administrative tool for his new blog about television. He had sent in several suggestions for a title, and we kicked them around the office and settled on Primetime Rewind.


Pilfered from PostSecret, 15.02.2009

Not two days later, I saw a note from Jeff Pulver that the company had added Facebook Connect to their TV startup. It's name? Prime Time Rewind.

It got me ruminating on language. Given barely similar circumstances – basically, evening television as a topic and a need for an Internet-friendly title – people who have never met will select precisely the same language, despite the many combinations of words possible.

Upon my mentioning that to Kevin, he sent me a disheartening e-mail that I didn't bother to fact-check, because I don't really want the verification: the average adult English speaker uses a vocabulary of about a thousand words.

If that's true, the paragraph above this one – which isn't very long – includes over three percent of the vocabulary the typical person uses.

And in the midst of this thinking, I came across the note you see on this week's PostSecret. If you don't read PostSecret, spend some time with it. It's a nice project, and it's helping lots of people.

The note about all the postcards sounding like they're written by the same person recalled for me my thoughts this week about our limited shared vocabulary.

Perhaps the limited part of that is related to the third-person effect.

The third-person effect relates to the persuasiveness of mass media. The typical person will say, "I'm not very affected by mass media messages [like advertising], but other people are very affected."

Maybe we're looking for a lowest common denominator in our word use, particularly if we're trying to reach a very large audience.

But sometimes situations call for uncommon words, so why shouldn't we use them? I really couldn't agree more with Michael M. Spear.

Spear's research does appear to support Kevin's e-mail, and really puts it in perspective when it comes to the number of words available to us that we're not using:

Richard Lederer, a lion among linguistics, tells us that English is the most cheerfully democratic language in the history of mankind. It has 616,500 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. This compares with a vocabulary of about 185,000 words for German, 130,000 for Russian, and 100,000 for French. Yet the average English speaker possesses a vocabulary of 10,000 to 20,000 words, Lederer observes, but actually uses only a fraction of that, the rest being recognition or recall vocabulary.

Yes, I was the dork who knew what omphaloskepsis (which, by the way, spell-check doesn't recognize) meant when it came up as a word in a Says You bluffing round.

What words can you teach me today?

Catharsis: Shattered


Photo by ziggy fresh, used under a Creative Commons license

For the past three years, I've played tennis with a bunch of guys older than me – most in their 50s and 60s, some into their 70s and 80s.

There are 21 of us, with 16 playing each week. It's what's called a ladder league; we are spread across four courts by winning percentage, with the top four playing on court one, the next four playing on court two, etc. We start with the top and bottom player on each court paired up against the numbers two and three, play one set, and spin for the next partner.

Most weeks, we get three sets in, so we all get to play with each other. Some weeks, when the sets are close (and therefore, frequently longer), we only get two in [the club gives us 90 minutes; after that, other leagues are on].

With anywhere between 20 and 50 years fewer on my body than the other players, I'm the fastest, and I'm among the strongest. But I'm also the least experienced, and I wind up learning a lot – about strategy, positioning, and, what I find important, the gentlemanly aspects of the game.

Tennis is a sport in which, in organized play, players are penalized points for ball, racket, or verbal abuse. In the pros, they can be fined. Player clothing is generally conservative, although Andre Agassi changed that in the 1980s – but still, most people wear collars, and the Wimbledon Club still requires all white.

There are occasional arguments over calls. We're all male, the testosterone flows, it gets competitive, and you have to take into account what could be going on in people's lives, especially when you're talking people who either are retired or are nearing retirement in a market like this.

But tonight we actually called it a night early, when players on either side of the net got downright nasty. Expletives were flying, someone got hit with a ball intentionally, and the two of us who were getting along had to separate them, twice.

I'm not alone in being one of the people who plays tennis to relax. And I'm lucky in that I get my gym membership on trade; I wouldn't be able to afford to play there otherwise. I can't imagine why you'd drop all that money and be prepared to throw down.

And we're talking guys who are 50ish. They're no longer young and stupid.

We decided it was better for everyone if we went home early.

I got home a bit wound up (it's a four-minute drive, not exactly enough to cool down), and started to put away some of the clean dishes.

I've been moving from place to place with a set of decent glasses, and while I've dropped some of them from low heights, I've never so much as nicked one.

And one of them fell out of the dish drain, and positively shattered.

Some glasses break into a couple of biggish pieces and a few small splinters. Not this one. There was nothing left that was recognizable as having once been a glass.

One piece looked like a small bit of rock candy, but the rest was just decimated. It took almost 20 minutes to clean it up, about long enough to listen to WAER's pre-game show, ahead of the Syracuse-Connecticut basketball game.

And about long enough to wind all the way down.

I'm hoping for a more peaceful night of tennis next Wednesday.

Remembering Kristallnacht: How far have we come?

On the night of November 9 and 10, 1938 – 70 years ago today – a state-sponsored pogrom (riot, incursion) killed 92 German Jews and saw somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews arrested.

Synagogues were burned. Jewish-owned shops were vandalized or destroyed. There was so much glass they called it Kristallnacht (Wikipedia), the night of broken glass.

It brought to a head five years of increasingly restrictive anti-Semitic laws, and offered only a hint of what was to come in the ensuing years.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is doing a special exhibit this year.

If, by the way, you haven't been to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, next time you're in DC, give yourself four hours there, and a couple hours of recovery time.

This is the exhibit that does me in.

From the time we're young, Jewish people are taught about the Holocaust. We see movies. We read books. We hear from survivors – though even people who lived long, healthy lives after the Holocaust are dying off now.

We take it personally, even all these years later. Working for a weekly newspaper about six years ago, I was sent to cover a school event that featured children of Holocaust victims and children of Holocaust perpetrators sitting on a panel, talking primarily about forgiveness. I sat in the back of the auditorium and pretty much bawled for an hour and a half.

We are taught to never forget. If you forget, it could happen again.

And so the world puts on its blinders, and makes sure that Jews don't ever have to live through genocide again.

We forget about the six million gypsies, homosexuals and others who died during the Holocaust. In the U.S., we're systematically denying the latter group rights (that's the first step, by the way). We didn't believe anything was happening in Rwanda in 1994. We did so little about Darfur. We're certainly not in the Democratic Republic of the Congo right now.

I'm not naive enough to believe we can all just get along and that's that. But when we see genocide, why are we sitting still?

Involvement Fair 2

Crocodile Purse
Keep reading to find out why this purse made out of a crocodile was at the Involvement Fair.

I spent about five hours Thursday afternoon and evening at the second incarnation of the Involvement Fair, which is a project of the Civic Engagement Task Force of 40 Below.

If you're familiar with the concept of a job fair, that's pretty close. At a job fair, you have maybe 50 or 100 employers at tables in a large hall, and a bunch of people looking for jobs walking around, handing out resumes, and meeting their potential employers.

The difference here? You have a bunch of service organizations sitting at tables, and a bunch of people looking for volunteer opportunities walking around meeting representatives from the service organizations.

I handed out instruction sheets for using the Helping Out Blog, and also finding both new members and new organizational partners for CNY SPaRC.

There were 40-ish organizations there. Here are a look at some of them.

United Way of Central New York – If you're not familiar with United Way, you should be. In pretty much every decent sized market, UW sponsors a lot of small organizations that otherwise would struggle for funding and visibility. They also do work with larger, mainstream organizations.

Eastwood Neighbor Association – I don't live in Eastwood, but I do live pretty close (about a 15-minute walk). I'm excited to be getting involved in one of their projects: getting a multi-use skate park together. Some kids have been very involved with this project for a long time, and it's a unique idea – it will be a tri-level park in the woods, and it will be able to be used beyond just skateboarding and freestyle bicycling. I'm in the extremely early stages of being involved, so read often, as I'll be mentioning it frequently.

Center for Community Alternatives – Spend a lot of time learning about this organization from their Web site. Two of their programs that struck me were taking people who have done their time and working with them to find housing, employment and peer support; and getting to children as young as middle school whose parents have been "in front of a judge" (as they put it) to mentor them both with their schoolwork, and keeping them on the right path to make sure they don't wind up "in front of a judge."

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Next to the SPaRC table, a woman wearing a name badge identifying her as Ellen set up an elephant molar, a tiger-fur throw, a python skin, a crocodile purse (that's the photo above), and other stuff that you're not supposed to have. It turns out that when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confiscates banned items at entry locations on borders, at ports and in airports, it tags them, then sends them to schools and zoos for educational purposes.

On Point For College – The gentleman behind the table for On Point (one of those organizations the United Way helps out) was living proof the program works. He had dropped out of high school and gone back for a GED, and then On Point helped walk him through the scholarship, financial aid and application processes. He went to the University of Buffalo and Cornell. They work with some fairly hard-luck kids, and do good work.

There were a host of other organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Girl Scouts, and some others you've heard of – and still others you haven't heard of. If you're looking for a little extra fulfillment in your life, there are plenty of ways to donate your time and expertise around here.

Want to get hooked up? Maybe we'll see you at a 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force meeting. We meet the first Monday every month from 5:30 to 6:30 in the 18th floor conference room in the State Tower building. Regardless of the name, we don't require you to be under 40 years of age.

CNY Speaks: Second forum

I wrote yesterday about the first CNY Speaks forum Thursday, and then I went off to the second incarnation Sunday afternoon.

I'm starting to see these forums as interesting, necessary evils.

Don't get me wrong – just like the first one, there were a lot of interesting people with tons of good ideas in the room, but the action plan on this is to have public forums with candidates for mayor, common council and county legislature in the spring, ahead of the 2009 local elections.

That feels like a long way off, and we need some change now.

Sunday's incarnation was smaller, with about 40 people in the crowd.

I sat at a table with a young artist and two retirees, one of whom is actively involved with (or leads, maybe?) the CNY Public Art Forum, which hopes to get a public art space open in downtown Syracuse.

As with Thursday, our two top issues were public perception of downtown and storefront development.

Moving the bus hub also came up, for the second time, as did cutting red tape for potential small business owners.

I still think I'm getting something out of going to these, even if, at least at my seat, we're talking about some of the same issues: it's different people, with different ideas and different desires.

Action items for me include writing letters to Centro, the development committee and the MOST to think about moving the bus hub up to the old trolley ramp behind the museum. I think the MOST will get on board because it gives them more visibility, and since it's already an existing structure, the city won't have to enforce its eminent domain taking of the Red Cross building.

Sean Kirst also showed up to this one; here is his take.

CNY Speaks

The local newspaper, The Post-Standard, several months ago appointed Greg Munno to the position of Civic Engagement editor.

His first task was to launch a blog called CNY Speaks.

His second task was to create a series of public forums to discover what people felt would help improve downtown.

The first of the three forums was Thursday evening. It drew about 90 people. The goal was to get them talking about the results of a survey (PDF) that outlined some of the issues people had with downtown.

We were distributed at registration into tables. I sat with two real estate agents, an employee at an architecture firm, owners of two downtown businesses, a reporter (there as a citizen), someone who has had trouble opening a downtown business, and a retiree who is an advocate for various causes.

Also in the crowd were other reporters-as-citizens, developers, at least one person from Adapt CNY, and a bunch of other people who had bright ideas about what we could do with downtown.

Not in the crowd: Mayor Matt Driscoll, any member of the Syracuse Common Council, or people with overarching negative ideas about downtown.

For me, while the large attendance was a big success, those absences were a big problem.

There's a second go at the forum today (Sunday) at 2 p.m., and a third Tuesday at 6 p.m. I'm going today, and if there's a significantly different crowd with different ideas today than there was Thursday, I'll also go Tuesday.

My concern, though, is that we're in danger of ending up with a lot of good ideas, a great series in the newspaper, and nothing in the way of implementation.

For me, what could vastly improve downtown is a change in public perception. Sure, there are vacant store fronts, and more businesses downtown would certainly bring people. So would affordable housing – I'm sorry, but $1,250-per-month lofts don't fly when you're trying to attract young professionals in a market where they're lucky to make $30,000 a year.

But let's face it. One of the things people are most concerned about is safety, because they read about a lot of crime. They don't read far enough into the story to understand that most of that crime happens when drunk people are wandering the streets between 1 and 4 a.m. I'm not exactly an imposing figure, and I walked from Armory Square to the Hotel Syracuse (10 blocks or so) with a laptop on my shoulder to get to the forum. I never questioned my safety.

Could downtown use more people? Absolutely. Can we do it without public officials and an action plan? Absolutely not.

Who will step up? They might have my vote in 2009 local races.