Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wednesday Pangolin Blogging

Baby Pangolin
Originally uploaded by DBM.
An American family visiting the Republic of Congo was offered a baby pangolin for purchase after it fell off its mother's back after hunters chased her up a tree. After paying $3.00 for the animal, Paulina Moussiesse of Sherman Oaks, California, decided to take it back home with her in a basket made by a local craftsman. It somehow made it through a customs stop in Paris--although the security officer at the airport who looked into the basket screamed--only to be confiscated by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspector at LAX. On January 11, 2005 it was given to the L.A. Zoo. It is the only one of its kind in the United States. For an update, including video of the baby pangolin in action, click here.

Monday, June 27, 2005

See It Before It's Too Late!

Mendenhall Glacier
Originally uploaded by DBM.
According to an article by Tom Egan in yesterday's New York Times Travel section, many tourists are visiting Alaska out of a desire to see its famous glaciers before they disappear. Some glaciers are retreating extremely fast--up to 165 feet per year in the case of the Portage Glacier, one that's no longer visible from its visitor center. Here's a photo I took of the Mendenhall Glacier in April 2004. It'll be interesting to compare it to a new one when I visit DHN in Juneau in August.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's the Pants that Make the Player

On Friday night Mr. Sidetable and I hit the oh-so-swinging streets of Princeton, New Jersey, a town where madras and argyle are worn without irony. Mr. Sidetable was visiting for the night, after I'd spent the previous evening with him in New York, where we took in the revival of Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Mr. S. was free to spend the day looking at nineteenth-century pornography in the rare book room at Firestone Library as he had been disinvited to the Yankees-Mets game by our pal Sivacracy, who took Alterman with him instead. So while we saw no baseball, we did see a genteel Princeton student at a local watering hole wearing these pants with little golf clubs all over them. Much to our amazement, he picked up a Jersey hottie in them. Only at Princeton could one get laid wearing these pants...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wednesday Pangolin Blogging

Originally uploaded by DBM.
This endangered species, commonly known as a scaly anteater, was found by a man along the banks of the River Turag in Bangladesh. It had apparently escaped from a nearby botanical garden. As exotic animals have always been seen as a "main chance" for entrepreneurs, this fellow tried to sell it for 200,000 taka (about $300, according to the fine folks at the BBC). Public interest in the animal, however, attracted the police, who took the pangolin into protective custody. It will eventually be turned over to the Dhaka zoo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Pigs and Proposition 64

I want to thank DHN for letting me join the Axis during his absence. I'm brand-spanking new to this blogging thing, so let me apologize in advance for my technological incompetence.

Now that that's taken care of, let me add that as the member of the Axis from Southern California who spends way too much time with animal issues I've been struck by how a recent story in the L.A. Times marks, perhaps, the beginning of the end of the ability of non-profit groups to bring lawsuits in the public interest. After a typically deceptive, teflon-roots campaign, Californians approved Proposition 64 in November 2004 by a 59-41 percent vote.

An early test of this law, which limits the rights of individuals to sue under the California Unfair Business Competition Law to claims that the individual was actually injured by, and suffered financial/property loss because of, an unfair business practice, was brought by Farm Sanctuary, an animal rights group, against Corcpork, Inc., which houses its 9000 pregnant sows
in the town of Corcoran in individual metal stalls barely larger than the pigs. According to Erica Williams' account in yesterday's L.A. Times (here), "The group hoped to apply a provision of the state's anti-cruelty statute, which makes it a misdemeanor to deprive an animal confined in an enclosed space of 'an adequate exercise area.'"

While this certainly would have been an interesting case, as of now it will never make it to court. According to Williams' follow-up article in today's paper (one that can apparently only be accessed by subscribers thus far--sorry), Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell said the New York-based group was barred from suing the farm by Proposition 64. According to Corcpork spokesman Steve Duchesne:
We said from the outset we didn't believe the law allowed for this type of case, and the judge agreed.
While most Americans could probably care less about the specific issue at hand here (about which more later in this blog, as I'm currently working on a book about pigs for which I've been wading through the voluminous literature on factory farming), this looks to be yet another case where voters were (mis)led to approve something that will likely come back to bite them in the ass. As Taimie Bryant from the UCLA School of Law noted in today's Times:
This isn't just a case about the gestation crates [individual stalls]. This is a case about … the ability of the public to bring forward litigation in the public interest against business practices that cause harm to public values.
The California Supreme Court will eventually take up the legality of this proposition, of course, but I'm sure corporate leaders are chuffed about the potential of this ruling to prevent future suits about worker safety, consumer rights, etc.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Programming Note

Blogging will be lighter than usual until July 6, when my wife and I return from an indulgent Mediterranean cruise with my delightful mother in law. As most forms of tourism are truly execrable, I won't even attempt to defend our actions over the next few weeks as we contribute to the befoulment of fragile marine ecosystems, the distortion of local economic diversity, and the immiseration of faceless workers siphoned into the pleasure industry via the global predations of neoliberalism. But since Princess cruise lines is all about me, here, according to the promotional literature, is what I can expect:

Cruising is simply the most civilized way to travel. The instant you step aboard, you're on vacation. Everything is taken care of. So, once you unpack, you're set. You'll sail from one great destination to another and spend your time doing what you want to do. Whether that's a day full of sightseeing, an action-packed evening, or just sitting on your balcony taking in the view for hours on end. There's no better way to escape completely than on a Princess cruise.


You'll lead a life of luxury onboard a Princess cruise. In fact, you may feel like your watch was set back a hundred years — to a time when cruising was an art and passengers didn't have a care in the world.

As you sail from one fabulous port to another, you'll be the center of our universe. You'll dine at your convenience in some of the finest restaurants at sea. And choose what to do with your time. . . . Whatever you decide, our dedicated shipboard staff is there to respond to your every need. And warm smiles will greet you everywhere you go. Escape completely.

As I sate my guilt with humorless trips to the chocolate buffet, my good friend Brett may or may not be dropping in to amuse and edify you from time to time. He's a wise and good man, to whom you should all listen carefully and ignore at your own eternal peril.

(Belated) Friday Cat Blogging


Dr. Zaius lived with me for one glorious year from Spring 2000 to Spring 2001. He was an overwight "loaner cat" from one of my best friends, who needed to give him up temporarily while she moved in with a roommate with ferocious pet allergies. At roughly 20 pounds, The Doctor had swelled to an unhealthy girth as a consequence of his unrestrained appetite and his human companion's overindulgent American parenting. He joined my two cats, Henry and Emma, who — notwithstanding their own peculiar faults — could not number gluttony as their defining sin. Their food dishes were constantly full, but they knew how to walk away from a meal. The insatiable Dr. Zaius, however, could not be trusted. Given the opportunity, he would have gobbled dry food until he burst like an overplumped sausage.

This posed innumerable practical difficulties. How could I convince Henry and Emma — who were used to a nibble here and a nibble there — to consume a mere two meals a day? How could I persuade Dr. Zaius to eat modestly? How could I properly nourish these diverse beasts without overfeeding one or starving the others?

After several failed experiments, I realized that Henry and Emma were able to leap to places that the more earth-bound Dr. Zaius could not. For the next year, my cats took their meals on top of a 6-foot bookshelf — where they were free to eat as much and as often as they liked — while their chunky companion waited patiently beneath them, hoping beyond reason that the horn o' plenty might suddenly fall to the floor, dry nuggets scattering about like little wholesome biscuits from God. Twice a day, I would take a break from writing my dissertation to gather a quarter cup of kibble, sit on the floor in the kitchen and toss single pieces across the tile and watch The Doctor scramble desperately for his daily nourishment. Mingled with daily self-esteem lectures, meditation techniques, and massive doses of ephedrine, our special aerobic feeding regime resulted in a satisfying loss of two entire pounds.

Today we offer our congratulations to the fabulous Dr. Zaius, who recently topped the scales at a sleek 16.5 pounds. Check out those abs!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Welcome to Tulsa

s27First, the Smithsonian embarrasses itself by renting out its space at the Museum of Natural History for a private screening of "The Privileged Planet," a documentary that endorses the faux-scientific "Intelligent Design" account of life. Now, the Tulsa Zoo has announced plans to create an exhibit highlighting the Biblical account of creation. Evidently, the process for this followed the usual dramatic course: (1) wingnut local activist (Dan Hicks) approaches public institution with suggestion that religious fantasy be granted the sort of respect usually reserved for actual ideas; (2) local buffoons flock to sign petitions on a topic about which they know utterly nothing; (3) public supervisory body supplicates itself before the the ignorant petitioners; (4) employees of the affected institution protests helplessly as their expertise is hijacked for theological purposes; (5) the victors celebrate the conquest of folly with speeches about "discirimination," "minority rights," and the virtues of "fairness" and "tolerance."

As USA Today reports:

But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying, "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."

"I see this as a big victory," said Dan Hicks, the Tulsa resident who approached the Tulsa Zoo with the idea for the exhibit. "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."

Hundreds of people had signed a petition supporting a biblically based creation exhibit.

The new display will include a disclaimer that says it represents one view of origins. City attorneys also advised it be placed alongside other cultures' views of creation.

Tulsa Zoo exhibit curator Kathleen Buck-Miser estimated it would take about six months to research and organize the creationist exhibit. She expressed qualms about the zoo delving into theological debate.

Two questions here.

First, does anyone actually believe that "other cultures' views of creation" are going to be represented at the Tulsa Zoo anytime soon? Can anyone think of another religious group on the planet — much less in the United States — whose proponents are so fanatically committed to revising scientific knowledge and mandating the inclusion of its own creation narratives in the public sphere? Set aside the question of whether the presence of a fucking elephant statue amounts to some sort of pronouncement on the origins of elephants; is Tulsa's Hindu community going to care enough about this to request a revised and expanded exhibit dealing more fully with Hindu creation stories? Probably not.

Second, how on earth is Kathleen Buck-Miser planning to spend six months researching and organizing an exhibit on this fatuous topic?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

She's Dead as a Doornail, But She'd Love Janice Rogers Brown

Ayn_RandNot that we need any more reasons to be dismayed by the nomination and — now — confirmation of the atrocious Janice Rogers Brown, whose pretzeled understanding of history leads her to bray about the slipperly slope between modern liberal democracy and the chasm of slavery. We will come to know and loathe her well in the coming decades, as she effortlessly glides from the DC Court of Appeals to the bench of the Supreme Court, where she and Clarence Thomas can continue to evoke the memories of chattel servitude, sharecropping, and sport lynching to protect and extend the liberties of blastocysts, corporate managers and the hyper-rich. And as we do, we can rest peacefully in the assurance that Ayn Rand would approve. The Objectivist salons have weighed in, and they are pleased:

Never have I heard from someone outside the O[bjectiv]'ist/classical liberal circle linking altruism with socialism and collectivism. She understands that it's selflessness, "other-ism" and the annihilation of the individual that enables collectivism to exist. Not only that, but she labels big government as a drug to which the people demand more and more of it. We don't care whom we enslave, as long as we get our social security, prescription drugs, subsides, etc.

Justice Janice Rogers Brown has my support, even if she is a conservative. We need more like her on the bench to ensure freedom. Even without looking into the cases she has ruled on, if she applies these principles consistantly from the bench I can find no reason to oppose her. The Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to prevent her confirmation because she links socialism to big government and big government to enslavement.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


oreilly stud
Image pilfered from Peking Duck

Via Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly:

The Thomas More Law Center’s “The Battle For American Values” cruise with Bill O’Reilly has been canceled.

An automated message at Corporate Travel Service, Inc. didn’t try to hide the fact that there was little interest in spending eight nights on boat with FOX News Channel’s top personality:

"Hello and thank you for your interest in the Thomas More Law Center Cruise withBill O’Reilly. Unfortunately, the cruise did not have the participation that all parties anticipated. Although the guest appearance by Mr. O’Reilly and the other speakers have been canceled, the ship will still sail...”

Corporate Travel Service told Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly, Intl. that the goal was to get 800 people onboard for a Caribbean fantasy week with O’Reilly. Even though the cruise was promoted heavily on The O'Reilly Factor television program, the Radio Factor, and O'Reilly's Web site, they sold only a fraction of the tickets available.

According to the Thomas More Law Center, the response was surprisingly poor. The organization ultimately renegotiated with Holland America Cruise Line in an attempt to pare down the expected guest list but maintain the event as scheduled. Sales continued to trickle in and finally, after two more negotiations with Holland America to reduce the group size, the
event was finally scrapped.

Sadly, “The Battle for American Values" will be hard for Mr. O'Reilly to win if he can't manage to launch a single ship.

Maybe it was Bill's promotional literature:

Well, if I took you down there then I'd want to take a shower with you right away, that would be the first thing I'd do... Yeah, we'd check into the room, and we would order up some room service and uh and you're definitely get two wines into you as quickly as I could get into you I would get 'em into you... Maybe intravenously, get those glasses of wine into you...

"She Dies, You Die, Everybody Dies"

If you're at all like me, you wake up each day and pray enthusiastically to a god you don't believe in that the destruction of the planet will at last unbind us all from the horror of existence. Today, the waiting ends — we now know how we can do it ourselves.

"This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore."

Sweet Jesus, my prayers are answered.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Idiots All

You can find them here.

Christ, I'm Getting Nothing Accomplished Today...

I don't ordinarily go trolling on wingnut websites, but somehow I stumbled across this bit of wholesome, fact-free lunacy:

Know this; todays democratic party has been hijacked, taken over by socialists and others that would see our sovereignty stripped from us and our treasure and resources robbed by those in the world that are lazy and corrupt, all in the name of parity.

Todays democrats are the new communists, seeing the failures of the old soviets, and believing that the world should work like a kindergarten playground, where everybody shares equally and your hard work means the same as the work of the lazy and luckless.

Our grandfathers and fathers, the men of the greatest generation, they didn’t think that way. They called a bum a bum and didn’t let him starve, but neither did he get more than scraps. All this country was founded on has been under assault by the liberals for the last 30+ years, and I will not let it pass unnoticed.

Once we were the envy of the world, and we were envied because of our Freedom and our Strength, not because we were weak and poor.

We were envied despite the fact that at the time, blacks were not treated the same, but we were trying to make it so that they were treated the same, and the world saw that.

We were admired not because we were the richest country, but because anyone could come here and become a richer person, a better person.

We were loved because here, in America, lived paradise….a Land of Milk and Honey, where hard work and the sweat of your brow, intelligence and maybe some luck would make you successful beyond your wildest dreams.


We are both loved and hated, for many reasons, and never forget the glory we once held, and still do, tarnished though it may be, can glow bright again.

America can be that fabled shining city on the hill, but not unless we defeat the enemies within our own country.

Unable to resist, I dropped a comment and pointed out that people who use phrases like "land of milk and honey," "sweat of your brow," and "shining city on a hill" as if they were not degraded, hapless clichés are automatically sent to the kiddie table to eat their pie and ice cream. When someone believes that “democrats are the new communists,” there’s really no need to refute it directly. It’s like my college friend Dave (who was Jewish) challenging his Christian friends to explain why he couldn’t be the second coming of Jesus. “I was a Jew the first time," he'd say. "Why not now? Prove me wrong.”

Well, that didn't go over so well.

That’s right…boneheadedness demonstrated by a link whore! Whatever. Shoo!

There IS a need to prove your position in my comments section. If you don’t behave like an adult, your stupid comments will be deleted and you will be banned. I don’t have a problem with opposing views as long as people are respectful, and make a point. If you don’t include links to prove your point, but would rather just call people names instead, then you’ll have to do it from your own blog.

Um... OK.

Torture and Truth

In her book Torture and Truth, the classicist Page DuBois explores the ancient Greek practice of juridical torture and observes that only slaves and non-Greeks were exposed to brutal, physical interrogations before the law. Indeed, the torture of slaves was believed by philosophers like Aristotle and Demosthenes to be necessary because — as non-rational beings — slaves and barbarians were destined by nature to lie. Free, rational Greek citizens were judged capable of speaking the truth without coercion, but philosophers and jurists also recognized that a free, rational citizen was also clever enough to lie or conceal the truth even under the most extraordinary and inhumane duress. By contrast, the slave was stupid and craven, weak and lacking in fortitude; nothing he said could be trusted, and yet the slave's body was believed to "contain" or "conceal" truths that might be extracted violently. Therefore, a slave could only be trusted to utter the truth while being subjected to the lash and fist. Curiously, then, among the Greeks trustworthy, reliable testimony could only be spoken by a tortured slave. Demosthenes even claimed that no morsel of evidence ever extracted by torture had ever been proven untrue.

I find this to be a quite coherent summary of Charles Krauthammer's latest apologia for American empire, published Friday in the Washington Post and swaddled amid the breathless revelations of Deep Throat. Bemoaning the miserable image the United States has cultivated for itself in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and lashing out in his customary ways at those who question the regnancy of America, Krauthammer argues that

shutting down Guantanamo will solve nothing. We will capture more terrorists, and we will have to interrogate them, if not at Guantanamo then somewhere else. There will then be reports from that somewhere else that will precisely mirror the charges coming out of Guantanamo. What will we do then? Keep shutting down one detention center after another?

The self-flagellation has gone far enough. We know that al Qaeda operatives are trained to charge torture when they are in detention, and specifically to charge abuse of the Koran to inflame fellow prisoners on the inside and potential sympathizers on the outside.

Krauthammer, unlike Aristotle, lacks the courage to say what he really means. His entire rationale for maintaining Guantanamo Bay — aside from demonstrating "our" resolve in the face of the nattering appeasers — rests on the need to continue the procedures of "interrogation," which he refuses to concede might be tortuous in nature. After all, he reminds us that "the terrorists" killed 3000 innocents on September 11; these terrorists are chronic fabricators, liars by second nature if not by nature itself. If this is so, then why not waterboard them, spray them with urine, or filet them if need be?

And what end do these interrogations serve? It doesn't matter. Nowhere can we expect to hear precise and forthright explanations of how such procedures have aided the so-called war against terror; the Bush administration merely settles back into its arrogant posture and claims, vaguely and implausibly, that its efforts are bearing fruit. Yet the Greeks were right. Free citizens can lie and conceal the truth under questioning — say, at Congressional hearings or press conferences — and so their words are not to be trusted.

Garbage Day

In today's NY Times, we read about the "urbanization" of bears in the United States, a process driven by relentless development in the Nevada Mountains, the Adirondacks, and other traditional bear habitats that are now being consumed by resort lodges, golf courses, summer homes and the like. Like the humans who live and play there, bears would rather eat garbage:

"Garbage is the ultimate resource for bears," said Dr. Jon P. Beckmann, who studied the black bears of western Nevada for his doctoral dissertation and now works in the mountain West as a field ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization that manages the Bronx Zoo.

Garbage is richer in calories than nuts or berries, he said, and it is much easier to find, turning up regularly in the trash bins and garbage cans of every subdivision. And unlike a berry patch that produces fruit only once a year, the trash bins are like a chain of luncheonettes for bears that never run out of food. Bears that live on garbage are heavier and taller than their country cousins, Dr. Beckmann said. They even have more cubs.

I can already hear the anti-environmentalists yodeling incoherently over this one. "See? You wackos focus all your attention on insignificant species like the snail darter or the spotted owl, but this article shows that human gluttony is good for the environment! Oil drilling is good for the caribou in ANWR! Climate change is good for the plants — and for us. See? It's all nicely balanced. Thank God Mother Nature is smarter than you Gaia-worshipping fruitcakes!"

The article notes the obvious, though. Bigger and more fecund bears do not a healthy ecosystem make. "Nuisance bears" (or "garbage bears," as we call them in Juneau) have been known to stop hibernating — which just can't be good for them — and are less able to feed themselves when they are inevitably tranquilized and sent back into the wild. Moreover, when the garbage runs out they are likely to break into houses and cars in search of food.

That is just one reason naturalists hope that bears will eventually give up the bright lights and return to their wild roots. In spite of the urban abundance of food, and the fact that urban females have on average 2¼ cubs per litter, compared with 1½ for rural bears, the overall bear population is not increasing, Dr. Beckmann said, probably because so many urban bears are killed by cars and trucks. Also, bears living in towns do not perform the ecological tasks - like seed dispersal or insect-eating - they would normally perform in the wild.

But given the sprawling growth in places like Nevada, bears do not have to move to town to find themselves urbanized. "We had a bear that had 400 homes go up right in the middle of its home range," Dr. Beckmann said. "Now it spends its entire time within those 400 homes."

Isn't there some way these bears can be taught to read The Monkey Wrench Gang? Where's their Morgan Spurlock?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Every Viper Hisses His Own Note

what am i – chopped liver?

Mike Gerber's wife is entering a graduate program for film and television at the University of Southern California, which sent her a list of films she's expected to have seen by the time she begins. As all lists are inherently problematic — and thus inherently worth compiling and talking about — this one is worth a gander. I'm not a film buff at all, so half of them (at least) were completely unrecognizable (Shock Corridor? Written on the Wind? OK, sure. Beats the fuck out of me...) I do, however, wonder if this is a quality-based list or a E.D. Hirsch-type list premised on the demands of cultural literacy. Otherwise, I have no way to explain why Clueless is on the list, to the exclusion of everything by Sergei Eisenstein.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Forget Me Not

Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money, we learn of an important new contribution to homeland security — women's unmentionables fitted with GPS, temperature and heart rate sensors, so that groping teens and cheating spouses might be discovered and subjected to the proper forms of re-education.

Here's how it works:


Alas, it all turns out to be a fabulous joke, but the testimonials are brilliant:

When my daughter hit puberty I nearly had a heart attack. She started looking like a woman and suddenly she was wearing revealing clothing and staying out late with her friends.

Rather than become an over-protective parent , I decided to try forget-me-not panties™.

They work wonderfully. My wife and I bought our Sarah several pairs so we can watch her around the clock, and if we see her temperature rising too high, we intervene by calling her cellphone or just picking her up wherever she is. My only comment is it would be great to have a video camera, maybe you can work that into V.2.

Thanks forget-me-not panties™, now we have true peace of mind


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Greetings from the Bell Jar


I offer today's post as a tribute to all the PhD. candidates out there groaning beneath the awesome, shin-splintering burden of their dissertations. You know who you are. As I labor this week to complete the revisions on my book manuscript, a semi-literate work of hackery based on a dissertation I finished writing around this time in 2001, I come with a message from beyond the threshold:

As much as you may hate what you're writing at this exact moment, you will only feel a more precise and exhausted loathing toward it later on. Your prose will seem more lame, your conclusions more uninspiring and aimless, your insights more delusionally smug than you can possibly imagine as you sit there today in your pajamas, choking with writer's block and wondering if you should take a nap, drink yourself sideways, or simply heave yourself beneath the tires of a bus. You will wonder by what miraculous intervention you possibly could have been admitted into the ranks of the accomplished, and you will silently calculate the measure by which your university, by conferring your degree, has cheapened the value of doctoral work across the globe.

But don't think about that right now. As my wife — who at the time was just one more friendly gawker at the train-wreck — used to advise so delicately, "Just climb up on that desk, squat yourself over the computer, and shit that thing out."

I'm going to take that advice now for the second time, and so I will not be blogging again until I have finished revising the manuscript into an undigestible, shapeless mound of gristle that any publishing house in its right mind would quickly regurgitate. If you don't hear from me by Monday, assume that I have packed my nostrils with strychnine and that I am in a far, far better place.

In the meantime — for inspiration — I offer you an excerpt from my dissertation's acknowledgements, the only five pages of the entire project that I enjoyed writing:

A few years back, the notion of starting (to say less of completing) this dissertation was less interesting than figuring out the most extraordinary ways to dodge it. Short of faking my own death (which I discovered after some research seems to present more inconveniences than it solves), the options were rather grim indeed. At various points, and with varying degrees of planning and commitment, I mulled the following alternatives:

(1) Opening a shelter for abused and malformed cats. While this detour would no doubt have cultivated an enduring sense of mission in my life, it might not have done much to blunt the monotonous, staggering despair that had sent me poking about for new activities in the first place.
(2) Joining a law program. Beyond replacing the apparently limitless vistas of dissertation-land with three years of predictable structure, law school offered few additional lures. (See also [1] above re: "monotonous, staggering despair.")
(3) Accepting $10/hour (tax-free) from a friend to "keep tabs" on the drummer of a local rock band with whom she was mildly obsessed. Steady employment notwithstanding, working as a professional stalker would have required too much time sitting alone in my car, were I would likely have snacked compulsively and degraded the circulation in my legs beyond repair.
(4) Astonishing friends and family with a bizarre and unexpected religious conversion. If this plan offered nothing else (and it didn't), it would nonetheless have transformed me in the eyes of former colleagues from "that guy who bailed out of graduate school for no discernible reason" into "that guy who freaked out and joined a cult." Unable to complete the degree, I would at least have been able to modify the narratives that took my place.

Enjoy your weekend.