Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Cell Phone Lust

Updates: New photos have been released. This thing is ugly beyond description.

On a recent flight, a Japanese man struck up a conversation with me. He was an electronics fan, kitted out with fancy earplugs, a Japanese cell phone on which he could watch his pre-recorded Japanese soap operas and Nintendo DS. I complained about American cell phones. I said:

1. I want to be able to go to Japan, make calls, receive calls, check my email and not pay $2.00 per minute to do all these things.

2. Same as above, but replace "Japan" with "the UK."

3. I want to be able to stand in the middle of a wheat field in Nebraska and check the radar for a storm, and for the price of wheat in Kansas City, and sell some bushels if the price is good.

4. I want to be able to get driving directions to go see my new farmer friends who live on unpaved "county" roads.

5. I want a decent connection to the internet so I can find a bookstore, a yarn store, a new restaurant, etc..

6. I'd like to be able to access i-Tunes and watch video or listen to music.

7. I'd like to be able to take decent photos.

I went on to say that while I love the i-Phone, I'm not sure about the lack of a QWERTY keyboard, and I don't like how much I have to pay to take the thing to Japan.

Fear not, he said. The Google cell phone, known as Android, is coming. Have patience. I would soon have everything I wanted. He knew because he worked for Google, Japan. "You won't have to wait much longer," he said confidently, before sedating himself with his fancy ear buds. "Last quarter," he announced before dozing off. The oracle had spoken.

Today I saw this:

I've been reading about the Blackberry Bold, which sounds nice and all, but my money might be on this Android thing. And then I read this:

". . . during the presale of the G1, T-mobile customers can pick up the phone for $150. This is where it gets interesting, we’re not seeing any prices for new activations during the presale, so this could mean that only current T-mobile customers can pick up the G1 during the presale. Other customers interested in the G1 may have to wait until beginning/mid October before a national public launch."

I think it's time for an upgrade, being a T-Mobile customer and a citizen with a Google account. For once, not having an ATT account might actually work in my favor.

Thank you stranger from the airplane.

World, here I come.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Farmer Blogging

My new life (or old life, depending on how you want to look at it) means that I spend every day trying to learn something about farming--in addition to trying to keep up with Japanese gossip, culture and news. And finishing my novel. And going back to dance class. But I digress.

If you read mainstream news, the most important thing about food is that it is suddenly expensive. This has given rise to speculation that we may run out (we won't). My recent trip to the farmer's market included a lengthy discussion with one of my very favorite vendors who is convinced that in two years things will be tight, and we will need to move to Nebraska to be safe and have enough to eat. He even offered to build me a temporary house out of bales of hay. I did not know that such a thing could be done in such a way as to keep mice and other pests from crawling into the pantry. But what do I really know about house construction?

Anyway, in my attempt to educate myself, I've learned that farming is a vast world, if you want to understand it completely. Many of the subjects have been introduced to me over the course of my life: the global market, no-till farming, machinery worthy of a George Lucas movie, genetic engineering, global weather and so on. To understand farming now means to try to understand topics far beyond what is happening in your own little plot of land. At present, I find this much more interesting than what is happening in the incestuous world of publishing. (While I think it is important for writers to understand the business side of their lives, it's even more important for writers to have a point of view about the world--where else does art come from?) And, of course, I have been scouring the net for blogs on farming that reflect the big picture.

My new favorite farming blog is written by a young and erudite gentleman in Denver, who seems to pinpoint many of the salient issues. Yesterday he quoted James Madison, and today writes about water shortages. As I am from Northern California, I am no stranger to water shortages. Every dozen years or so we go through a drought (which my father pronounced "drowth") and which prompts residents to remark the the Indians would have known that this was coming. Given that we are looking at some dry ground in Nebraska (please, oh, please rain so we can plant), I'm not surprised that water is a critical issue to think about. Alex makes this point:

Few commodities have perfect substitutes; corn is not exactly the same thing as wheat, barley is not a perfect substitute for rye. But if the wheat crop fails, we don’t all starve; we substitute other grain products for wheat and get by. Water, of course, is different. There are some marginal uses for water where you can find substitutes; cars don’t have to use water in their radiators, they could use other fluids. But for most of the things we use water for – drinking and irrigation – it’s water, or nothing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Back Into the Hive

I always have some difficulty re-entering New York. This time seems to be even more painful and bewildering.

Did I really live here in any way that could possibly be construed as "happy"? Did I really not mind all these people? Was I really happy not being able to go to cultural events which I supposedly love so much and which drew me to New York in the first place but which I haven't been able to afford in ages?

I can no longer remember.

Sure, some parts of the city are nice. The super-rich live in their over-designed lofts and apartments which have very little functional value (they have housecleaners, and very few books to read so everything is clean and uncluttered) while the rest of us are managing. These streets are brown. There is an absence of anything green, save for Central Park, which on a given day I can "share" with a million other people. Prettiness is a privilege of the wealthy. No wonder these stupid women try to prop up their faces; this place tells us that to have access to beauty, you must have money. My heart is dead and cannot seem to reattach itself to things I once loved.

I am longing for some place with a garden that needs tending. I would like to be growing my own food now, not trotting down to the farmer's market to talk with the farmers, most of whom I like or at least find interesting in some unpredictable and thoughtful way. I would like to be reading in the evening. Such a place cannot just exist in the past, even if the cities are encroaching on old towns still attempting to preserve their desirable way of life. There must be something other than the constant clatter out my window, the relentless humidity, the "you go girl" mantra among my peers, the "let me drink soy milk and get all fake-ethnic and hip with you" vibe oozing from a coffee shop, the "Oh my God you are so thin. No. Totally" inane dialogue that has followed me from high school.

Did I really get up, morning after morning, put pen to paper and care about what I was doing and think that it all mattered?

Friday, August 01, 2008



Twice in the past few weeks, someone has confided to me: "I am a reader."

Both times I was in an environment which, at first blush, didn't really have or promote a lot of books. I'm never surprised when someone in New York city tells me that he is a reader, for example. At the risk of sounding cynical, New Yorkers read a lot--so much so that I sometimes wonder how sincere the desire is, or if it isn't just another kind of conformity.

But back to the two readers. There was a gravitas to the way they told me about their reading. Both read only because they really, really wanted to and because they enjoyed the process. One was seeking knowledge. The other liked the solitary act of entertaining, strengthening and toying with her mind. It would be an exaggeration to say that both confessions were just that--confessions--and yet they held that kind of personal and intimate weight. I thought about periods in history when it would have been an act of faith to say to someone: "I am a Jew" or "I am a Christian." And because we weren't in a place where people read all the time, it moved me to hear them talk about their books. I couldn't help but feel that theirs was a very pure and very real love of books.

Later on, I re-met a childhood friend who is on an intensely personal and spiritual quest of his own; he will be ordained next year. Our conversation plunged into a feverish discussion of books. We traded. I gave him Karen Armstrong's "Battle for God" and my well loved copy of "The Great Transformation." He responded with his own well loved titles. And then I pulled out Erich Neumann's "Amor and Psyche" and told him that while I wanted to lend it to him, I just couldn't because it was my father's copy and had too many of his little notes on the pages. His eyes lit up.

"That's a famous book."

It is? I mean, Gone with the Wind is famous. Winnie the Pooh is famous. Amor and Psyche? Famous? And then it dawned on me that among people who are seeking spiritual knowledge, even in these very material times, the book must be famous and that any hard-core questing reader would stumble across it in references. And once again, I felt happy to be in the company of secret and silent readers, trying to open their minds. Again, I thought how wonderful it is to know people moved by the pure desire of trying to understand something. Perhaps writing isn't so worthless after all.

I used to buy every copy of John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" that I found in used bookstores just to have one to give away when I met someone who had never read it before. I may pick up "Amor and Psyche" in the future for the same purpose. You never know when you will meet someone with whom you feel the need to suddenly share a book. It doesn't happen all that often, but how wonderful when it does.

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