That’s the problem with going too long without posting.  You forget your password, and then you forget the password for the e-mail account you created for the blog, and then you can’t log in, and then it doesn’t matter if you have anything to say or not, because you can’t say it.  You don’t want to give up this little teeny foothold you’ve established, so you struggle to remember and finally come up with it.  You vow not to go eleven months again without posting!


If you’re like me, you’re not the most organized person in the world. This leads to what I like to call the “joy of discovery,” when you finally clean up a desk or a bookshelf or a table and find something you didn’t know you’d lost. It’s the same feeling I had yesterday driving in to work on an uncannily clear SoCal morning. Every detail of the mountains was sharp and clear, and I could see mountains fifty miles away that I see maybe a couple of times a year. Wow, what this place must have looked like before people and pollution moved in…

I’ve learned something about myself over the past year. I don’t talk much (which I already knew, because it goes a long way to explaining why I have so many talkative friends), but I never realized that it could be a professional detriment. I’m OK with asking questions, but I have a hard time volunteering information to start conversations. And I’m sure that must come across as dull and uninteresting in job interviews. Also, how am I supposed to network and get to know people at conferences if I can’t open my mouth? I just feel a lot of the time like I don’t have anything to say, anything to contribute. But that needs to change.

Which was one of the motivations for starting this blog in the first place. It also gets me to write a little bit every day, which is good, but more to the point, it should force me to frickin’ say something every day. I grew up in a family where we discussed our observations, our impressions, our descriptions–but rarely our opinions. As a result, I never got much practice in formulating an argument, something that has dogged me throughout my years of paper and article writing. So, now in Round 2 of the blog, here’s to finding something to say!

So, making major life-changing decisions like leaving your teaching-centered institution for a Big 10 research-centered institution takes up a lot of time. Who’d’a thunk it? It’s not official yet, but unofficially, it’s off to Midwestern State U next year for me and my spouse. More on that later, as it continues to sink in that this is actually happening.

On to more important things (or at least more interesting ones). A friend of mine went to Malta over winter break and brought back a copy of the bus map for me (I’m an easy person to get souvenirs for). Besides being one of the most confusing and yet plainest transit maps I’ve seen (and just how many bus routes do you need in a place that’s only eleven miles by eleven miles?), it has some really wicked keen place names. I would expect place names in Malta to be a fascinating combination of Italian, Arabic, Turkish, and English, and they don’t disappoint.

Tarxien. Senglea. Qrendi. Ghaxaq. (Too bad you can’t use these in Scrabble.) Siggiewi. Naxxar. Dingli. The runner up is Kuncizzjoni, but the coolest name on the map, and possibly the coolest place name ever, is:


I rarely ever say this about names or words in other languages, because I hate sounding like a dumb American who thinks English is the only acceptable language and anything else is weird or abnormal, but I have no idea how you pronounce that. But I love it.

(Aha! Five minutes of Googling has determined that it appears to be an abbreviation for Marsaxlokk, where the “x” has a “sh” sound. Still looks cool to me.)

As wary as I am of any move to restrict border crossings because of the often racist motivations behind those restrictions, this is problematic. As part of NAFTA, we agreed to allow Mexican trucks full access to our roads, and we’re finally being forced to give it a try. There’s two main problems with this: 1) safety concerns because there are no restrictions on the number of hours Mexican truck drivers can work (and driver fatigue is a major cause of road accidents), and 2) pollution concerns, because of higher levels of sulfur in the diesel south of the border and trucks that aren’t held to U.S. emissions standards (much less California standards).

The article notes that there is a California law requiring that Mexican trucks meet U.S. emissions standards, but “It remains unclear, state environmental officials said, what that law will mean for the new pilot program.” In other words, NAFTA’s Chapter 11 provision means that Mexican trucking companies could sue California or the U.S. for environmental regulations that cost them money. So, in other words, all of the gains that California has achieved in improving air quality over the last few decades are about to go out the window in the name of global trade.

So, it looks like SoCal is on its way to the driest winter ever, based on the current rainfall totals. Yet another example of the Mediterranean climate; after nearly breaking the record for the most rain in a winter a couple of years ago, now they’re on their way to breaking the record in the other direction. Gotta love that “average” rainfall.

Of course, this winter might just be a taste of things to come, as climatologists think we’ve been in an unusually wet period over the last century or so. As global weather patterns shift, SoCal could be looking at a lot less moisture, so that the small water districts that are able to use groundwater and snowmelt are going to have to rely on outside sources like the Colorado River or the L.A. Aqueduct, putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on those sources.

Makes me glad I’m probably moving back to the Midwest this year…

I’m sure I’ll come back to this topic many times, since I’m a) from Chicago originally and b) interested in the Olympics from a professional POV, but right now I wanted to get this on the record before I forget:

How much do you want to bet that Mayor Daley shut down Meigs Field in 2003 so he could use Northerly Island as part of an Olympic bid?