Editor B’s Year-End Close Out

OK, so here’s a mix of my favorite music that came out in 2008. Seventeen tracks — an hour’s worth of audio for your listening pleasure.

8tracks allows you to listen to the mix in sequence only once. If you listen a second time, playback is randomized, and that might make the following “liner notes” confusing.

  1. “Smoke Reel” by Minor Seconds from I’ve Got Gems in My Pocket, to Heal You

    I don’t know much about this mysterious electronic artist, but the entire album is freely available online. Download ’em all; it’s some weird cool stuff.

  2. “Backward” by The Bad Trips, live at the WFMU SXSW showcase

    This dark psychedelic rock jam was recorded on March 14th at Spiro’s in Austin TX during WFMU’s showcase at SXSW and published on WFMU’s blog under a Creative Commons license.

  3. “Power ” by Nick Jaina from Wool

    Here’s a mellow and poignant folkish song from Portland, Oregon. I can’t remember how I first heard this but I love it. Visit the artist’s website at nickjaina.com.

  4. “Nicotine Sonnet” by PJ Christie from the forthcoming Highway from My Heart to My Eyes

    I wrote the lyrics to this song. Actually I wrote them as a poem maybe twenty years ago. PJ was looking for collaborators as he plowed through February Album Writing Month, and I was happy to share. I’m pretty pleased with the result, but then I am prejudiced. Correction: PJ’s album is no longer “forthcoming” it’s here!

  5. “Flume” by Bon Iver from For Emma, Forever Ago

    A melancholy folk ballad from the Wisconsin woods. Again, can’t recall how I first heard this but it’s haunting. Check out Bon Iver’s website at boniver.org.

  6. “Larsen B” by Sian Alice Group from 59.59

    Another melancholy tune. I heard this via the always reliable Fluxblog back in January.

  7. “Babbling” by PJ Everpax

    This one speaks for itself. Or rather for herself.

  8. “Hail”

    A very brief audio snippet recorded at the Samhain Saining.

  9. “Puerto Rican Jukebox” by Panther from 14kt God

    Awesome party jam from Portland, Oregon. Panther has a website at panthertouch.com.

  10. “Beat of the Double” by Apes from Ghost Games

    The Apes are from Washington DC. All Music Guide describes their sound as “what would happen if Tony Iommi played organ rather than guitar in Black Sabbath” and that’s not far off. Of course they have a website at theapes.com.

  11. “Just Like the Superdome” by Kevin Nealon from the TV show Weeds (Season 3, Episode 15)

    New Orleanians especially should dig this. I guess a little context is in order. A California subdivision catches fire and everyone evacuates to a shelter. You’ll recall when this happened in real life there were comparisons made to Katrina. Here Kevin Nealon strolls through the posh “refugee camp” with a banjo and sings about how this is “just like the Superdome.” It’s funny as hell, but it’s also some cutting satire, and an oddly catchy little ditty to boot.

  12. “The Geeks Were Right” by The Faint from Fasciinatiion

    The title says it all. Well, not really. The lyrics say it all. I heard this on WTUL. Electronic new wave science fiction dance rock from Omaha? I had to rush right over to Amazon and buy it. I suggest you do the same.

  13. “White Lines in the Sky” by In Vitro from Breathe 01

    Here’s some ambient chillout music from Mexico. It’s from the excellent Breath 01 compilation, which is available absolutely free from Breathe Compilations. Holy hell, I see Breathe 02 is out already.

  14. “When We Refuse to Suffer [Second Version]” by Jonathan Richman from Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild

    Don’t take Jonathan’s disparaging references to antidepressants the wrong way. It’s not a slam against people getting psychological help. He’s trying to say something deeper about the healing nature of pain itself. As soon as Jonathan comes out with a new album, I buy it, without even bothering to listen to samples or read reviews. He is probably the only artist to whom I am so loyal.

  15. “1-1” by Preslav Literary School from Autumn Bricolage

    Extreme mellowness without an ounce of cheese. This is an experimental ambient soundscape and it’s just sublime. Released through Clinical Archives, you can get the whole album, no charge. Highly recommended.

  16. “Hemlock” by The Bad Trips, live at the WFMU SXSW showcase

    Here we are again. Two tracks by the Bad Trips, and no one could be more surprised than me, but I love this stuff. As much as I like psychedelic rock, I’ve gotta say the dark psychedelia is the bomb.

  17. “Sploo” by Goodhands Team from _

    Ambient electronica from Bloomington, Indiana. Yes, that’s right, the album title is an underscore. You can (and should) download the whole deal from the Goodhands Team website.

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the fantastic album Haab’ by Tzolk’in. Probably my favorite album of the year, in terms of how much I’ve played and replayed it. Somehow the whole is greater than the parts, so none of the individual tracks made the above list. But I can’t recommend the album highly enough. If you’re looking for some dark ambient tribal industrial jams, buy the MP3 album from Amazon.

As much as I love all this music, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. 2008 was a year of musical exploration for me, in which I added over 10,000 tracks to my library. (I had a lot of time off when the girl was born.) If I compiled a mix of my favorite music discovered in 2008, rather than just the subset of music released in this year, I think it would tell a more interesting story. But that’s a much more ambitious project than I have time for today.


PS: Also worth checking out and freely available on the net: Motown Meltdown by Qulfus and Blanketship. “That Girl’s Alright” should have made the mix above but I didn’t have the year tagged correctly so I overlooked it.

Xy = XL

Forty tracks to rock her fortieth birthday (which is today):

(Starts off mellow and ramps up. Contains plenty of my favorite songs by Xy’s favorite bands, and cover versions of her favorite songs, as well as a few topical selections. And buried deep in there is a bit of standup by Patton Oswalt that is not safe to blare out your speakers at work unless your co-workers are very tolerant.)

You might wanna watch this slideshow (full screen, natch) while you’re rocking out.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Celebrations of Fire Against the Darkness

We went to the Celebration in the Oaks last night, the three of us as a family unit. There’s something about lights in the darkness at this time of year. It struck me that this is some of the same magic that drives the bonfire ritual. (And in case you haven’t heard, the bonfire is on after all. The Gambit Blog has had some excellent coverage of this strange story.) The depth of all this can be gauged, I think, by the fact that it truly appeals to all ages. A ten-month-old child can enjoy those festive lights strung up throughout the gardens just as much as some forty-year-olds, or eighty-year-olds, or just about anyone really. But I think our enjoyment of the experience was unquestionably enhanced by seeing it through Persephone’s eyes.

Xmas Shorts

  • My co-worker Jim has said there’s been many a warm Xmas Day in New Orleans throughout his life, Xmases where he finds he’s quite comfortable wearing shorts. But I think this is the first such Xmas I’ve experienced here. I was hanging out in shorts all day. Warm summery weather. Loved it.
  • I did not love coming down with a cold just a few hours after getting off work Tuesday. I was feeling rather bitter on Xmas Eve. Getting sick just at the beginning of a long holiday? Sucks. But once again I seem to have fought it off, and it never progressed beyond a sore throat and some sneezing. Allergies, perhaps.
  • Speaking of health issues, the girl was officially diagnosed with RSV on the 23rd. No, she hasn’t gotten infected by the Revised Standard Version — not yet, anyway. RSV in this case stands for the human respiratory syncytial virus. According to one medical study, “60% of infants are infected during their first RSV season, and nearly all children will have been infected with the virus by 2-3 years of age.” It’s not anything to panic about, but we don’t take it lightly either as it can veer into serious complications such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis. The question I wonder about is when she came down with it in the first place — if indeed we can really trust this diagnosis. I think she may have had this bug since September. The doctor says her cough might persist ’til March. But how is this possible if RSV runs its course in a week? Anyway, she’s doing pretty well with a healthy appetite and good spirits.
  • Also diagnosed on Tuesday: Another ear infection. And this time it’s viral!
  • I made oyster jambalaya for Xmas (with pickled pork and andouille) something I’ve never had before, and never even heard of. In fact no one I know has ever heard of it. But I found recipes online and gave it a try. It was pretty good, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.
  • Also baked a chocolate pistachio orange-loaf. A good breakfast item.
  • They say Xmas is a fun time for kids, but do you really remember Xmas before your first birthday? I certainly don’t, and I doubt our girl had any idea what was going on with the traditional exchange of gifts, et cetera. Nevertheless here is an obligatory picture of her opening a present:


  • We didn’t venture north this Xmas. It’s a terrible time of year to head north, after all, but I imagine we’ll do it on some future holidays to visit family. This year we felt like we’d done our quota of travel to Indiana courtesy of Gustav. The girl’s too young to appreciate the trip now anyway, and she’s at a very active crawly stage where I think a fourteen-hour car trip would be torture.
  • Xy got me a cool scarf emblazoned with skulls, and a couple brandy snifters (proper size this time).
  • P.S.: Happy Boxing Day.

Dear Coby

One of the key tensions in my relationship with Xy has to do with television. To put it bluntly, she’s for it and I’m against it. I long ago gave up the battle to keep television out of our home, but at least we don’t pay for cable or satellite. We get our TV off the air for free. We switched to digital when our old TV got flooded, and we’ve been enjoying high-definition broadcasts ever since.

I use the term “enjoying” advisedly. I’m just enough of a video geek to think the whole technical aspect of getting high definition signals off the air is cool. I can watch a crappy TV show and still marvel at the gorgeousity of the image.

I was mildly horrified when Xy got a portable TV for our kitchen, but that’s another battle I’ve given up on. Her little $16 set will be made obsolete by the impending digital transition. So as a token of my undying love for her and my boundless magnanimity, I decided to get her a portable digital TV for Xmas. Who else can condescend so nicely?

Only problem, as anyone who’s shopped for such a product knows: It’s slim pickings. Portable digital TVs? I could only find three on the market, and they all cost a lot more than $16.

Ultimately I sprang for the Coby TF-TV791 7″. It arrived a couple weeks ago, and since we don’t believe in delayed gratification, it’s been deployed on our kitchen counter ever since.

It works pretty well. The reception is a little funny, as we can get some stations better than with our main TV downstairs, but others are worse. Xy’s just impressed that it’s in color.

There is one major glaring problem.

I’m going to need an illustration to make this clear. Bear with me.

Coby Comparison

A tip of the hat to the talented Jon Rawlinson for sharing this high definition video frame under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

The top image shows a 16:9 high-definition video frame in its proper aspect ratio. This is how HD video should look on a widescreen TV.

The middle image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 16:9 mode. Note the black bars on top and bottom. As a rule you shouldn’t see bars on top and bottom on a widescreen TV. Note also that the video image is scrunched down, vertically compressed.

The bottom image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 4:3 mode. Note that the image is no longer scrunched. It is actually displaying in its proper aspect ratio, but it’s not filling the screen as it should. Something is way wrong here.

I’ve written a note to Coby about this:

I recently purchased your TF-TV791 as a Xmas gift for my wife.

It works well except for one technical issue which is frustrating me.

The set displays 4:3 standard definition video quite well. However, it has a problem with 16:9 high-definition video.

I am of course aware of how to switch back and forth between the 4:3 and 16:9 modes using the remote. The problem is that high-definition video is simply not displayed properly. There are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when viewing a high-definition signal.

As a general rule, there should not be black bars on a widescreen TV when viewing widescreen video. I’ve been able to check the same broadcast on our larger Panasonic television and verify that the signal properly fills the screen without stretching.

Therefore I can only conclude the problem is with the TF-TV791 unit. Is there some way to correct this problem?

I wonder if they’ll get back to me.

Ten Months

You started crawling in earnest right after you made nine months. Now it’s hard to remember when you weren’t mobile.

Of course you’ve been getting into all kinds of trouble — mostly falling over and bumping your head. You’ve started grabbing hold of things to haul yourself up into a standing position, but your balance isn’t great and sometimes you’ll fall. We try to catch you but of course we can’t always. Fortunately you haven’t hurt yourself too badly.

A couple weeks ago I was thinking this was your toughest month yet, not because of the knocks to the noggin, but because you’ve been under the weather. You’ve been in various states of getting sick and getting better ever since you got your first cold back in September. The antibiotics you were taking for your ear infection upset your gastrointestinal system, and then early this month you came down with a stomach virus (we think) and started projectile vomiting all over the place. Yikes.

But then you got better. The last week or two, your appetite’s come back, and you’ve been more like your old happy self. What a treat. Though today it looks like you might be coming down with a cold…

In other developments, you’ve learned to clap, which is exceedingly cute. You’ve also learned to extend your index finger, which you use to poke things and for general pointing. You point a lot, actually, at anything that interests you. Not sure what that means, if anything.

Today is the winter solstice. Seems like we should have done something special what with your namesake and all, but we didn’t. This one always seems to sneak up on me.

We did take you with us on a shopping trip today, and you rode in one of those fun kiddie carts, complete with a steering wheel, for the first time ever. You loved it. We all did.


Range Change

Old Range

New Range

So we got a new range to replace our ancient fire hazard. A few gotchas along the way.

  1. The old stove was 36″ wide. Most modern stoves are 30″ wide. You can get ’em in a 36″ size but it’ll cost you. The cheapest 36″ range at Sears was $1700. So we went with 30″ and now we have a 6″ gap on one side. We can either move the cabinet over 6″, replace the cabinet with a wider one, or eliminate the cabinet entirely. Not sure what we’re gonna do.
  2. Couldn’t find a taker for the old range. I called Hugh’s Place but they weren’t interested. I advertised on Freecycle but people didn’t seem to understand the part about how it is unsafe in its current condition. It needs work. I’d hate to give it away to some poor shmuck and then their house burns down. So the old range went to the landfill, alas.
  3. I didn’t realize our new gas range would need an electrical outlet, but of course it does. It has electric igniters rather than pilot lights, and then there’s the clock and the electronic dashboard. There’s even a light on the oven, what luxury. So for now we have an extension cord draped over the cabinet.
  4. Marvin the salesman hyped the solid metal knobs. I asked if that wasn’t just for the stainless steel model. Oh no, quoth Marvin, the black version has black metal knobs. Well, they’re plastic.

The old range had some class, and I miss it a little. But it scorched the cabinet and nearly burned down the house. It had to go. I definitely don’t miss the old oven. It was less than 18″ wide and couldn’t fit much. It couldn’t accommodate our pizza-baking stone, for example. It’s nice having a full-size, fully functional oven. It makes me want to bake things. Perhaps a chocolate pistachio orange-loaf?

The old range and the new have one thing in common: They’re both Kenmores.

There are a few more photos on Flickr.

Bonfired Up

Running Round [cropped]

There’s nothing I want to do on New Year’s Eve except run around the Christmas-tree bonfire on Orleans Avenue. New Year’s Eve is usually a big let-down, but the bonfire is fantastic. I would probably just stay home otherwise.

According to some accounts, this is a tradition that’s been going on for close to a hundred years. But now the City of New Orleans wants to shut it down.

Bonfire Flyer

In the year’s I’ve attended, there’s been a huge crowd, pretty wild, with tons of fireworks. A few people are bound to have gotten hurt. And discharging fireworks is illegal in Orleans Parish.

But having said all that, some things are more important than safety and good sense. This is not just a party, it’s time-honored community celebration, a sacred ritual. I really need to run around that bonfire. It may be illegal and dangerous — but I don’t care.

Remember, running around the bonfire ensures good luck in the coming year. If they shut it down they are essentially condemning us to a year of bad luck. It’s not just tradition at stake here!

Many of my neighbors are getting pretty fired up about this. It’s too symbolic to pass quietly. Symbols matter. I expect there will be quite a turnout for the meeting Monday night. And I suspect there will be a bonfire on Orleans Avenue this New Year’s Eve.

I do care about the immediate neighbors on Orleans Avenue. If they want it shut down, well, I can’t say I blame them. I’d respect their wishes. But if they largely support the bonfire in some form, then the best approach is harm reduction. The bonfire’s gonna happen, so how can it be made as safe as possible?

See also:

Update: Having talked about this with a few people, including a friend in city government, I’m convinced this is a classic example of a clash between a folk tradition and modern society. The salient questions which those in authority will ask simply have no good answers. Who is organizing the event? Who’s responsible? Who’s liable? Who do we talk to about this? Sorry, there’s no one. This is an event that’s evolved organically over time. There are no ringleaders, there is no formal organization. In the past, fire trucks have stood at the ready to douse the fire and to prevent it from spreading. Obviously some authorities knew about the event and even tacitly enabled it. But now that (for whatever reason) the issue has been dragged into the spotlight of public scrutiny, there is of course only one coherent position for authorities to take. They have to say no. They have to; it’s their only coherent position as sworn upholders of law and order. But rationality is overrated. Sometimes it’s better to be right than coherent.

Another Update: Sheldon Fox called me last night wanting an interview; I referred him to Michael Homan and Mark Folse. There’s a petition which some folks are planning to print and present at the meeting Monday. This story was on the front page of the paper, and they also ran a story about the fire in the blogosphere.

Shots Fired

My sleep is interrupted by the peal of a semiautomatic weapon being discharged. Three spurts. Close by. I’m too groggy to check the time but it feels like midnight or two in the morning. Did someone just arrange another funeral? Did someone’s son (or daughter) meet their untimely end? But there’s only silence afterward, no shouts, no sirens. Maybe someone was just firing into the air for the hell of it. I drift back to sleep, uneasy, but too tired to care.
Continue reading “Shots Fired”


Title: Nova
Author: Samuel R. Delany
Published: 1968

Nova is a seminal work by one of my favorite authors. It’s a relatively short novel, written in an easy and accessible style, with poetic flourishes that don’t overwhelm, beautiful imagery, iconic characters, and just a dash of of avant-garde ambition.

And I liked it OK. I mean really, it was pretty cool. But I don’t feel it’s Delany’s best work. For an “accessible” Delany story, I’d point people to Empire Star or Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones.

We read Nova in my book club as the first of three New Wave entrees, and it serves that function well. Counter to most of science fiction’s New Wave, Nova reads like a classic old-style space opera. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. So it comes off as very old school in some ways, but the seeds of the new school are strewn throughout — though you might miss them if you’re not familiar with the history of the genre.

For example, the characters have some ethnic diversity. It’s not a big deal but it’s there. At the time this was published, that in itself was somewhat revolutionary. But more to the point, there’s one character who is forever making notes on a novel he intends to write. He’s made thousands of notes but hasn’t written one word. He’s given to holding forth extemporaneously on various literary problems. Reader of the genre were not unused to spontaneous exposition, but usually the topics were scientific. I think Delany was pushing the envelope, shifting to a more introspective focus that might be considered a hallmark of the New Wave.

The novel is peppered with brilliant and bizarre ideas that leave you scratching your head. For example, did it ever occur to you that the future might be filthy dirty? Think about it.

There was a thousand-year period from about fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred, when people spent an incredible amount of time and energy keeping things clean. It ended when the last communicable disease became not only curable but impossible. There used to be an incredibility called ‘the common cold’ that even in the twenty-fifth century you could be fairly sure of having at least once a year. I suppose back then there was some excuse for the fetish: there seemed to have been some correlation between dirt and disease. But after contagion became an obsolescent concern, sanitation became equally obsolescent. If our man from five hundred years ago, however, saw you walking around this deck with one shoe off and one shoe on, then saw you sit down to eat with that same foot, without bothering to wash it — do you have any idea how upset he’d be?

He drops little mind-bombs like that without warning.

Also, Nova has one of the best concluding sentences I’ve read in a novel. Given how disappointing endings can be, that is nothing to sneeze at.

PS: Speaking of science fiction, here’s a new blog by a fellow New Orleanian and co-worker of mine: Sci-Fi Lessons.


Against my better judgment, I’ve set up a new site for the podcast known as J&B’s Nightcap. It’s at nightcap.rox and the second installment is now available.

In answer to Mr. Konrath’s query, yes, there is a magical way you can add these to your iPod. Just go to nightcap.rox and look for the iTunes link. If iTunes isn’t your bag, use the generic link (marked “subscribe in a reader”) to choose your poison.


Here’s something I’ve never seen before: It’s snowing in New Orleans.


Update: So early this morning as I was taking the girl to school, I thought to myself, “It’s cold and wet and damp and nasty — but at least it’s not snowing.” Rimshot.

Boss Lady and O were beside themselves. Sadly enough, the only thing they could think to do with their excitement was prank call me: “Hey B, we’re doing a project and we need you to come in to the office right away. And be sure to wear shorts and a tee shirt.” Sad, sad stuff.

All this puts me in a mind to a silly rap I used to chant to myself while stomping through the snowy streets of Bloomington in the late 80s:

well I gotta relate that I hate the snowy weather
and if you think it’s great then I put you together
with the marquis de sade or charles manson
yo crazy mofo no the snow isn’t handsome
or pretty like it’s supposed to be
it’s a pain in the ass for pedestrians like me
i gotta walk around everywhere that i go
and i’d like to stay dry but the sticky wet snow
is piled up to my neck, it soaks my clothes
right thru to my bones and then i’m frozen when the wind blows
like an ice cream cone, a popsicle, a nutty buddy
don’t try and tell me that i’m some kinda fuddy duddy
who’s lost all vitality and joy for living
i’m still kicking, i’m just not into giving
a damn what anybody else may think
and i’d rather have a sidewalk than an ice-skating rink
so take your flaky opinions, you can keep ’em to yourself
i’ll talk to you again when the snow melts

I’ve got a recording of that I made with the Submersibles lying around on a tape somewhere.

Today’s snow was not a mere flurry. It kept on for a good three or four hours and actually accumulated a bit. More photos here.

Neighborhood Grabbag

Here’s a number of Mid-City things on my mind lately:

  • Looks like they’re working to renovate the bar at the corner of Bienville and Rendon. Anyone know if they’ve applied for a liquor license? We should keep an eye on this. I don’t mind a bar near my house as long as they know how to prepare my favorite cocktails, but good bartenders are hard to find these days.
  • Speaking of bars, has anyone been to Lookers at Jeff Davis and Canal?


    Can we at least agree that’s a terrible name for a bar? I wouldn’t be caught dead in a place called Lookers.

  • Speaking of Jeff Davis and Canal, I notice they’re tearing up the earth all around the statue of Jefferson Davis. Does anyone have any idea what they’re doing? It looks like the continuation of a project that’s been going in fits and starts for years, but what the end goal is I can’t imagine. Perhaps they are going to put up an electrified fence to ward off vandals. Or maybe lights to illuminate the visage of this great champion of white supremacy at night. In any event, we never seem to hear about this project through MCNO so I can only assume the folks behind this have no desire to communicate their intentions to the neighborhood.
  • I read yesterday about how the City is persecuting some poor woman for painting the sidewalk in front of her house. They want to remove the sidewalk and bill her for it. So today as I was walking my daughter to daycare, I took a picture of a typical sidewalk in our neighborhood:


    This is neither the best nor the worst Mid-City has to offer, but it’s clearly in need of repair. Compare this with the painted sidewalk the city is all worried about:

    davids house

    That makes no sense to me. Where is the sense of priority?

Update: When I posted this to our neighborhood discussion group, one person replied, “I think your comment on white supremacy was out of line. I personally take that comment offensive.” At first I thought he was defending Jeff Davis. Then I thought maybe he just didn’t like hearing anything about racial politics. Then it occurred to me that he might be coming from a completely different angle. Really, his complaint was so vague that I really didn’t know what he meant. I thought it best to at least clarify myself, which I did thusly:

I am sorry. I did not intend to offend anybody. I was trying to write about some neighborhood issues with a humorous slant. Perhaps you thought my comment was made in earnest, so please allow me to clarify: I believe the ideology of white supremacy is wrong. I’m against it, and when I cited Davis as a “great champion” of white supremacy I was being sarcastic. That is, I do not feel there is anything “great” about white supremacy. I understand that in the time of Jefferson Davis almost all white Americans believed in white supremacy. Yes, Jefferson Davis was a white supremacist, but he was far from the boldest proponent of that cause. Today white supremacy is largely repudiated even amongst white folks — as most clearly evidenced by the election of Barack Obama. I think that’s progress. Yet the past is not so easily escaped. I believe the notions of white supremacy still have a tenacious hold in all our minds. In our region of the country in particular it is a special moral challenge which we all should face up to. I understand this is complicated. I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal of moral superiority. I say such things in hopes of renewing the commitment we all share as we work together for a more just and humane society.

Bouncing Back

I really don’t mind a long convalescence. It’s the initial descent that I hate. Anyway, I’m on the upswing now. Still a little unsteady but close enough to function. I went back to work today and was fairly productive despite some lingering queasiness. Today was the day of the big Fifth Floor Xmas Potluck. (In Indiana we’d call it a “pitch-in.” Never realized that was a highly localized usage.) Unfortunately I was too far gone the last couple days to actually bring a dish. I was going to bring my famous brandy balls. Actually I meant to bring them Monday, for my unit’s day-long open house, but I missed that entirely, which was a shame. My unit’s just not complete without my balls.