The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I've had a hard time giving up the blogging habit. That may strike you as an odd thing to write. After all, I did manage to maintain blog silence for nearly 20 days. It wasn't easy for me, though, I swear. I think I had to be away that long just to get the blogging impulse out of my system. At first, whenever I read or did anything interesting, or something at all unusual occurred to me, I immediately thought it was something I should blog. I woke up one morning with the most gigantic pimple of my life on the tip of my nose. (And that's quite a feat at my advanced age.) My first impulse wasn't to head to the medicine chest for some anti-acne product. No, my first impulse was to fire up Blogger.

I had the same kind of problem whenever I read some of my favorite blogs. When Bookslut or LYD amused me, I wanted to mention it here. When I thought a Killing the Buddha piece was profound, I wanted to urge you to read it, too. When PaperFrog wished me a happy blogiversary, I wanted to acknowledge the acknowledgment here. (Hey, that reminds me. I owe kit some thank-you email.) When How Appealing removed me from the "Especially Appealing Blogs" part of its blogroll (I'm in "Even More Blogs" now), I wanted to (teasingly) breathe a sigh of relief here.

I realized, along the way, that some of my addiction to blogging was about memory—or preserving memories. I'm forgetful. (Random aside: I truly think my forgetfulness started in law school, when I learned to force all of the irrelevancies out of my head so that there'd be room for the Rule Against Perpetuities and the holding of Principality of Monaco v. Mississippi.) My year of intense blogging helped me preserve the nitty-gritty details of a year of my life. I can't tell you how many times I forgot something but knew that I'd mentioned it on the blog at some point. After a quick Google search of the Garden, I'd have the info again.

There's a term for this—transactive memory. It's simply inconvenient for one person (one modern person, anyway) to remember all of the details that he might, at one time or another, find handy. Instead, we remember where (or with whom) particular kinds of knowledge are stored. I know, for instance, that my father has all of the electrical knowledge I might need; on several occasions in grad school, he talked me through changing a fuse in the old, old house I lived in. Nowadays, I know that my flatmate will know everything that I might need to know to keep my car in working order. He knows when my tires were replaced, how the state's registration system works, and whether it was the alternator or something else that fritzed out a few months ago. I don't have to remember anything in the automotive category because I have someone else who will. (This is a two-way street, of course. When the flatmate wants to know where a recipe is, or what the state bird of Louisiana is, he checks with me first. I wonder if that's a fair trade.)

For the past year, the Garden has served a similar function for me. It recorded which Flyers and Phillies games I attended, what my New Year's resolutions were, what ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said at the world figure skating championships, and on and on and on. Now that I'm not blogging every little thing, I'll "forget" many more things. I don't feel good about that.

As I've said, though, I just can't keep blogging my life away. But I can blog the more notable things that I do or encounter. So, here goes. For instance, this month:

I'm glad that I didn't give up the Garden entirely. It's all about balance, of course. There's real value to me in having the outlet: Not only is it good for my "memory," but it's nice to have a place where I can flesh out ideas. I just have to be vigilant. The blogging tool shouldn't become an end in itself.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Did you think I died? I didn't, but I'll write more about that later. Here are some photoblog pic picks to tide you over:

  • Red bus, Morro Jable, Fuerteventura, Razzi, Razzi's Photolog: Life really is more than money.

  • Darcelle, Justin Ouellette, Does this image make you crave some context?

  • Lucky Pork Store, Mike, Satan's Laundromat: The Lucky Pork Store also seems to sell beef and chicken. Go figure. (Be sure to check out the sign for the Mission District Chiropractors in the same folio.)

  • Waiting, Emese Gaal, emese's photo blog: I do some of my best waiting at the beach. (I'm not kidding.)

  • Untitled (box of sea?), Herman Horsten, Wereldkeuken: There's something almost Biblical about this.
  • Monday, November 10, 2003

    As I foreshadowed here and (more obscurely) here, the Garden is one year old today. Let me take this opportunity to thank my four-and-one-half regular readers for hanging in there with me. By far, the best thing about this year of blogging has been "meeting" readers like CT, dragonleg of the now-defunct Shattered Buddha, Joe, PaperFrog, and Matthew. In this year, I've learned a lot from these fellow bloggers/journal-keepers and many others—including, for that matter, all of the good people who run the tasty sites listed on my blogroll.

    When I started the blog, I named it the Garden because I intended for the site to be my own little online Zen space. And it really has been. I knew that nothing I had to say here would be widely read, and I embraced that. The Garden has been a place where I could putter around, be a little silly, and write about things that were interesting primarily to me. Although the bulk of my professional life consists of writing, I was able to try a different, more personal style of writing here. Keeping this Garden has been good for me.

    Early on, I decided that this should be a "true" blog—a site with short posts containing links to cool and unusual places all around Blogistan. This goal required me to scour the web nearly every day, looking for more and more sites and stories to blog about. The goal, to some extent, was volume. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I found this goal, at times, to be downright burdensome. As much as I enjoy reading many other sites, and I do, there were times that "feeding" the Garden felt like a second job. I truly admire sites like How Appealing, where a single blogger churns out a high volume of posts every single day. Believe me, it's not easy to do. In order to continue, I found it necessary to take a break every couple of months.

    An anniversary is a good time to reevaluate, I think. Having done so, I've decided to make some changes here. I've been neglecting too many important people and things in my life to continue devoting so much time to the Garden. More selfishly, after a long day at work, I'd rather not feel that I ought to spend an hour or so on my home computer. So, beginning today, I'm going to stop being the link collector. As much fun as it is, I just can't continue to ferret out new links for the Garden every day. It's too labor-intensive. Happily enough, many other blogs—such as Kottke, YLD, TMFTML—do it better than I ever did.

    I'm not giving up the blog, however. I seriously considered it, and I can't promise that I won't ultimately decide to let the Garden go fallow altogether. For now, though, my new goal is to write longer-form, journal-like posts every now and then. Instead of linking to every new oddity on the web, every day, my posts here will be occasional ones. I'll write about things that I have on my mind—but only after I've had a chance to mull them over. At this point, that sounds like a luxury.

    I'm not going to make any promises, save one, about how frequently I'll post here. I suspect that I'll settle into a pattern of posting two or three times a month. I do promise that I won't let more than a month go by without posting something or other. (When I get around to it, I'll set up a notification list to let you know, if you're interested, when a new post goes up.) Right now, I need to feel like the Garden is more of a hobby than a job.

    I'm pretty sure that I'll still be posting like mad when it comes time for the major tennis tournaments. I enjoy sitting down with the tournament draws and making predictions, and—well—I need a place to make those predictions, don't I? I'm also sure that I'll still be posting links to some of my favorite photoblog pics. I'm not going to promise to do it every Monday, as I've been doing, but I'm enjoying the photoblog-browsing too much to give it up entirely. And, of course, I'm sure I'll have a few things to say from time to time about sports, TV, music, books, and—of course—Handy Andy Kane.

    Once again, I owe my readers many thanks for the great year I've had here at the Garden. You'll be seeing me less frequently from now on, but you'll probably get more of the real me when you do visit. I hope you'll stick around.

    Here are my Monday photoblog pic picks:

  • Untitled (swan's neck), Paul Petroniu Marza, meta-Troniu: Daily Copenhagen: Beauty tip: Always show off your best feature.

  • corner brook graffiti, matthew hollett, non*glossy: Beauty's all around us.

  • train platform, Scott Abernethy, I have a real thing for train stations, huh?

  • reilly brothers, Robert Mitchell, rcm | 33919: Do scenes like this one cause plumbers to get sentimental?

  • Peter's S Series Valliant, Jarod Pulo, Vanilla Shots: You know, my 1991 Ford Tempo just doesn't have this much style.
  • Sunday, November 09, 2003

    I thought today's Pearls Before Swine comic strip was pretty profound, and I actually considered blogging about it. At some point during the day, though, I lost my motivation. Happily enough, The Critical 'I' had more perseverance.
    To answer a question I asked last week: Yes, three Mid-American Conference teams find themselves in the top 25 this week. In the Associated Press Top 25, we have:The USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll is similar, although Bowling Green just missed the top 25 in that one (finishing in 26th place). It's hard to quibble with Miami's placement ahead of Bowling Green (after BG's loss to Miami on Tuesday), but I'm not convinced that Northern Illinois is the best team in the MAC. After all, Bowling Green handily beat NIU when the two teams met. I understand that BG's two losses are a concern, but both were to teams (Ohio State and Miami) that are now ranked. And BG also beat Purdue, which is now ranked in the top 15 in the country.

    In any event, it'll definitely be interesting to see how the rest of the MAC season plays out.

    Do you know the story of the Green Gourd?

    Saturday, November 08, 2003

    You know, I'm a little bit embarrassed for my WeatherPixie tonight. When the temperature's under about 45°F or so, he changes into an ensemble that's dominated by a black jacket and red pants. Distractingly, the pants also "feature" three sets of diagonal black stripes that resemble inverted Vs when you face the WeatherPixie.

    I chose my particular WeatherPixie because of his cool green hair, his punk outlook, and—of course—his doggie. I'm attached to him despite his current fashion faux pas. (You don't abandon a good friend just because he's a fashion disaster once in awhile, do you?) But I do keep hoping that the temperature will change enough that the WeatherPixie will have to reconsider his attire....

    I'm feeling a little homesick for Oklahoma tonight, and I keep playing "Tell Me Something Bad about Tulsa" (written by Red Lane) from George Strait's recent album Honkytonkville.Do you know the song? Do you know the feeling?
    The flatmate and I made a (cold, cold) pilgrimage today to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, to see the grave of the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Jim Thorpe—the town, not the athlete—is a small town on the way (for those of us traveling from the south) to the Poconos. I certainly felt like I was in a different place: The town's prosperity seems, from its architecture at least, to have peaked more than 100 years ago. I was reminded of some similarly-sized towns in West Virginia. Today, the local economy seems to be based almost entirely on tourism.

    I tend to be in favor of returning Jim Thorpe's body to Sac & Fox country in Oklahoma, but I made sure not to mention that to any of the locals. The town, you may know, changed its name to become Thorpe's final resting site.

    This site, which documents the history of area codes in North America, is strangely compelling. I particularly enjoyed learning that the most populous areas got the fewest number of dial-pulls (hence 212 in New York, 202 in D.C.) That, of course, was important 60 years ago. By the way, my favorite area code, 918, got its start in 1953.

    For up-to-date maps, and still more information on area codes, you can also check out the North American Numbering Plan Administration's site (links in this post via

    There's nothing funny in Boris Becker's revelation that he became dependent on sleeping pills and alcohol just a couple of years after he won his first Wimbledon title. But it's hard not to be a little bit amused by the story he tells about once being trapped in an elevator with the Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras. As the Three Tenors sang Ave Maria, the claustrophobic Becker freaked out. (Who could blame him? Anything that surreal has got to be unnerving....)
    Women's tennis will end the year with a dose of a little justice. Justine Henin-Hardenne will re-take the No. 1 ranking next week from Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters. I've said it before, and I may have to say it again, but Clijsters—who has never won a single Grand Slam tournament—simply doesn't deserve the top ranking. Henin-Hardenne, who won both the French and U.S. Opens this year, is a deserving No. 1.

    Friday, November 07, 2003

    Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands will be playing baseball at the Athens Olympics next year, but the United States will not. The Americans lost today in qualifying to Mexico, a team that had only stumbled into the game to begin with. (Doesn't that suggest that something's wrong with the qualifying for Olympic baseball?) The loss means Roger Clemens won't be on the mound in Greece. What a shame.
    I'm not wild about this Friday Five, but I'm trying to be a good sport.

    1. What food do you like that most people hate? It's hard to know what "most people hate," but I'll give this a shot. My first thought is chicken livers and gizzards, which I've liked since I was a kid. (They're not on many menus here in Yankee-land, though.) Some other possibilities: cauliflower, Malt-O-Meal, ikura (salmon roe) sushi. Do you think I'm disgusting now?

    2. What food do you hate that most people love? Hot dogs. They smell bad, they have a kind of phony sweetness to them, and I don't even want to think about what they're made of. Yuck.

    3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you? Cindy Crawford, maybe. George Clooney. Britney Spears.

    4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find attractive? Michael Stipe. Sandra Bernhard.

    5. What popular trend baffles you? SUVs.

    Thursday, November 06, 2003

    Thursday's quick takes:

  • Cronaca—which is just a few days older than the Garden—is celebrating its first blogiversary today. Congratulations to Cronaca's keeper, David Nishimura! As I said just recently, Cronaca isn't to be missed.

  • examines the changing uses of the word queer. The piece would be worth a read anyway, but you have to admire an article that can work in a neologism like heteroflexible.

  • According to Atomiq, Nenê is the top pro basketball player name of the year (link via Kottke's remaindered links). Better luck next year, Ruben Boumtje Boumtje.
    Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution looked today at Ecuador's new campaign to encourage punctuality. Apparently, Ecuadoreans are often more than two hours late for dinner. (My mom definitely wouldn't have approved.) I can certainly understand how lateness costs businesses time and money. Having said that, though, the countries where lateness is de rigueur are typically the ones that appeal to me. Punctuality, it seems to me, is often accompanied by uptightness. (I say that, but I'm usually early for meetings.)
    My beloved Kansas City Royals will travel to Philadelphia in 2004 for interleague play. It will be the Royals' first trip to Philly since the 1980 World Series. The three-game series between the Royals and the Phillies is set for June 18-20. I'm not a big fan of interleague play, but there's more than a pretty good chance that I'll be in Citizens Bank Park to root (quietly) for the Royals. As much as I like the Phillies, and I do, I'll always be a KC Royals fan first and foremost....
    Former sumo grand champion Akebono (née Chad Rowan) has formally resigned from the sumo world to join a popular Japanese martial-arts circuit known as K-1. This news has shocked sumo fans, who expected Akebono to take over in the next year or two as the stablemaster of Azumazeki-beya. In fact, I've been shaking my head all day, wondering why a sports legend like Akebono would risk his reputation to join the much less venerable world of K-1 (which now includes Mike Tyson). And it's almost inconceivable to me that Akebono—who is heavy, aging, and encumbered by knee problems—can thrive in a sport dominated by kickfighting.

    Truly, this is a sad day for me. Akebono was one of the major reasons I became interested in sumo in the first place.

    Wednesday, November 05, 2003

    How about a mammoth, multi-part Wednesday post?

  • The new issue of Bookslut is up, and—as always—it's worth checking out. My favorite piece features One Story, the literary magazine that consists each issue of, duh, a single story.

  • Andy Roddick is set to star (is that the right word?) in a reality TV show based on his life as a top-ranked tennis player. The show, The Tour, hasn't found a TV home yet.

  • Maciej Ceglowski, whose trip to the NYC marathon I mentioned here, blogs about his 26.2-mile tour of New York (link via Kottke's remaindered links). I particularly enjoyed Miles 12, 16 (with the Krispy Kreme handoff), and 21.

  • covers the use of Western stars in Japanese advertising (link via LYD's mini-blog). For instance, this page is devoted to Harrison Ford's, um, work for Kirin beer. This site, of course, reminds me of Lost in Translation—which is the best movie I've seen, so far, in 2003. It's so good that I continue to be puzzled by this negative review by the usually-reliable Alan Dale of The Kitchen Cabinet. (For a more plausible review, check out Roger Ebert's take on the movie.)

  • Paperfrog muses on autumn vegetables and mindful eating. Highly recommended.
  • Tuesday, November 04, 2003

    What a crazy college football season this is. Tonight, on a random Tuesday night, I'll be lounging on my sofa, watching my second Bowling Green State University football game of the season. The last time I saw the Falcons on TV, they whipped then-No. 14 Northern Illinois, 34-18. Tonight's match-up pits BGSU against Miami of Ohio. Miami has an excellent team this year, and the Redhawks will be playing at home. I still like BGSU's chances, but it ought to be a good game.

    Update: It was all Miami tonight. I wonder just how many MAC teams are going to be ranked in the Top 25 next week. Miami, which was just bubbling under the Top 25, will surely get the nod. Will BGSU drop out of the Top 25 entirely? If so, will the Falcons take Northern Illinois with them? After all, BGSU beat NIU handily. Or is it possible that there will be three MAC teams in the Top 25 next week?

    Joe of Deeper Shade of Seoul enjoyed the high cheerleader-to-spectator ratio at last weekend's Bengals-Cardinals, um, football game in Tempe. Sadly, though, he didn't accomplish his goal of being at the season's worst-attended NFL game. By the way, the highlight of Joe's trip seems to have involved some sorghum molasses. (And, no, the Cardinals cheerleaders didn't have anything to do with that.)

    Monday, November 03, 2003

    Here are this week's Monday photoblog pic picks:

  • Grey for go, Sensiti, Sensitive Light: I'm tempted to try some toilet humor here, but I won't. It's a striking picture, but is that because of or despite the subject matter?

  • Incense sticks - Kyoto, Jeff Laitila, Sushicam: I'm big on scenes of repetition this week, I guess.

  • Untitled (ship scene), Paul Petroniu Marza, meta-Troniu: Daily Copenhagen: Hey, sailor.

  • Left their coffee behind, Michael Clarke, Am I attracted to this simply because the phone is lime green?

  • Snails, Ashly Schilling, c o n c u b i n e: I'm often not drawn to close-ups of small critters, but this picture is just exquisite.
  • Sunday, November 02, 2003

    Maciej Ceglowsi, the favorite marathoner in this corner of Blogistan, finished today's NYC marathon in a little under four-and-one-half hours. Well-done! Unfortunately, Maciej didn't accomplish his goal of beating P. Diddy, who finished in just under four hours. But winning isn't everything. Or what counts is how you run the race. Or something.


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