Friday, December 24, 2010

a few hours at mishka's

So....my resolution to blog every day until the end of the year through december didn't really last that long, wasn't quite up to @elemveee's incredible one-photo-a-day stamina that's been an inspiration these past few months. Perhaps things will 'resolve' themselves when the new year comes.

But it's a little early for that kind of talk right now. On the flip side, I've been tempted to continue my brief little foray into the world of Yelp with some reviews of familiar places over the past few weeks, and maybe that, too, will come. But it's hard when you're sitting in places that are so layered with memories, to see them as objectively (or, at least, as objects) as you do when you're somewhere less familiar.

Which brings us to today, Christmas Eve, at Mishka's Café in Davis, along with the realization that the charger for this computer may be sitting 90 miles away in Berkeley...let's see if we have enough battery to finish this post after things of more consequence...

2:40pm. Now, a few hours later, after having sent off a job application and while digging in for another, I feel like I'm finally settling into this place. Some big band and decidedly old music on an appropriately low-res sound system underlines all the conversation and activity behind the bar. And there is conversation, and there is activity: even though classes have ended and families are gathering for the holiday, there is a group of students with books up on stands, vigorously debating this and that enzyme group. Two or three computer users (geeks) like me sit facing the wall, plugged in and logged on, comfortable until the next bathroom break. I have my back to the wall, facing the bar and numerous other tables that populate the front, middle, and more internal spaces that are marked out by the patterns of tables and what looks to be a giant cream separator in the middle of the room. The cappuccinos have been nice (I'm on my second) and I can't complain about the prices, having come from Berkeley and San Francisco, where it seems like they're even trying to make money on the cream cheese that they sell with the bagels...

Friday, December 10, 2010

as the landing gear retract for flight...

Sitting in SOMA's Epicenter cafe and for whatever reason was moved to write my 2nd review on Yelp. I thought about cut-and-pasting it here, but what would be the point of that? Can a Yelp review capture the sultry, moody, evolving ebb and flow of a moment in a cafe? Should it be rated by the life and voices and motions and postures and chewing sounds and laughter of the people who sit, mill, stand, work, talk in a given window of time? While the air recycles at 30,000 feet?

Can a blog post?



Maybe, and maybe not.

Friday, November 26, 2010

bob & bill's big bike adventure

Truthfully, I didn't know where to post this, since it's both a Brushhead Bob post and a Nomadologistic post. So here it is, on both.

Anyhow, Bob and USB Bill came along for the ride from Berkeley to Livermore for Thanksgiving day yesterday, helping to make sure that human companion burned off enough calories to sustain the feast in the evening. Much of their journey was chronicled in photos, all the way from the hills of Berkeley and Tilden Park, to the backroads of Orinda and Walnut Creek, to the East Bay hills south of Mt. Diablo, to the exhausted victory nap on the driveway of mom and dad's house.

Click on the map below to go to the album of photos. Enjoy!


p.s. Yes, Bob's doing OK.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ahh, rain.

Sitting up in the perch at Caffe Med for a few hours this morning, trying to get a handle on job applications and wanting to be outside playing in the puddles, or listening to the sound of the wet tires on pavement...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

halloween hyperreal

I just offered this up on Twitter, because, well, it's true, of course:

Standing in line at a cafe on a bright autumn day, my eye scans the scene and is immediately drawn to...a lit computer screen. #hyperreal.
On this Halloween afternoon at Strada, where the Jolly Green Giant walked by with a nonchalant air as I was locking up my bike, when you're given permission to be a side of yourself who is actually someone else, I'm tempted back to the ideas of Umberto Eco, Jean Baudrillard, and myriad others who probably have thought such things but whose ideas weren't published in the 'right' form, the idea of the hyperreal, "absolute unreality as real presence".

But I'm not feeling it in the occasional Halloween costume that saunters by, as much as I am in the ubiquitous medium that populates cafe tables, desks at home, offices, and indeed people's pockets: screens. Screens, the rectangular, shimmering surfaces into which we peer, to which I've paid my homage to before on this very blog (saying the same thing this time? Perhaps...), the 'windows' that Anne Friedberg has done much to describe in her recent book, too.

I'm not sure if there's a profound statement to be made about this today, just a noticing, a marking, of how easily, how naturally, my eye is drawn to them, as are the eyes of others, to those spaces where reality seems somehow so much more real, or is it enabling, than the plain old blue sky and yellowing leaves on these patio trees. Is it strange that this day of costumes should be an occasion for seeing screens, as opposed to looking directly at what lies within them?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

1, 2, 3 clouds...

First time sitting in Local 123 in quite a while, at that point in being sick--that is, getting better, but still carrying around the remnants--where there is a tinge of the melancholy written into everyday sights and smells. Something about body chemistry, which is amplified, for sure, by the overcast, slightly cool weather.



(tbc...)(?)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the best wifi cafe in berkeley

Got a little work done this afternoon in what I'd say is without doubt the best wifi cafe in Berkeley. Or, at least, the one with the most available seating. Yes, Airbears (the Berkeley wireless network) works at Memorial. BYOE(spresso).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Game 1

After a much less-than-inspiring lecture by Ian Hacking (I guess I should have just studied more math), still getting over being sick, and the still-boiling pressure of CVs upon CLs, the Giants' Game 1 of the World Series is a pretty welcome break! Can't believe this is happening just across the water. 8-4 Giants, into the top of the 8th...

Bright spot: free coffee when you buy bread at the German bakery on University Ave, and pretzels of all shapes and colors! Speaking of colors.

More brilliant post when less brilliant cold.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CLs and CVs at FG

Working this morning on a cover letter at Fertile Grounds, Elana's old haunts, on the sidewalk with the sound of cars and passersby fading in and out of consciousness. A fine fall morning that almost feels like..fall. Perhaps more later, but for now, back to the acronyms.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the dragon is sleeping

It's been 20+ minutes already since I've sat down here, in what used to be the lair of the enemy. Is it still? Yes...but its power feels diminished. Starbucks, great Starbucks, has kept its 5:30 opening time, the earliest in the neighborhood, but taken down the walls, filled the moat of paid wifi use. Can you imagine when you would have had to pay $10 to do this? Can you imagine that you might have to pay $20 to do it again?

Frankly, yes.

But, for the meantime, that combination has me sitting here working on this chapter, hoping to mail it off in just a few hours so that I can...go back to sleep. And start the next one. I'm not expecting great profundity, but will open up the lines for a few observations of the whozits and whatsits of the Starbucks clientele, here at the corner of Center and Oxford Aves. in Berkeley. Mom, you'd be proud.

  • 6:13am. There's been a definite pick-up in the activity level in the last 10 minutes. An interesting mix of construction workers, students (?), folks from the street, others who are harder to brand so immediately. Probably for the better.
  • 6:15. I look at my latte. Kind of an uncharacteristic drink for me. Its foam and lack of a discrete surface on the top makes me think there just isn't much to photograph today. Sorry, Lalitha. I still like this pic best. :)
  • 6:36. They are still, it seems, calling their drinks "tall, grande, vente". I think it's a matter of personal linguistic principle though that I will never use words other than "small", "medium", and "large". Even seeing the labels recently for two drink sizes at a donut shop, "small" and "regular" for the ice drinks, have ideology seeping through. And I know inside that so does the three-part S/M/L division but I'll wait another year or two before I admit that. 
  • 7:19. We're still 45 minutes before the start of 8:00 classes, the first round of the day (and how much Berkeley High School traffic is there up here, just one block but feels like a world away) and there's a quiet rhythm to the place--music still echoing in the background, calling itself background music, and conversations here and there, the crumpling sound of the waxed pastry baggies that they give you with their $1.65 donuts and $1.95 scones and everything else. Huh. $1.65 for an old-fashioned donut, sitting there right next to the muffins and scones. Looks so out of place apart from its donut brethren.
  • 7:22. Somewhere there's a blog post waiting to be written about the politics and risk-taking of the electronica-encumbered body as it pertains to...urination in cafes. Sucks to have a computer and want to keep your seat and still have to take a piss. OK, I said it.
  • 9:47. Oh my god, I'm still here. Having been here for almost 4 hours, I think I just logged my 100th overheard perky "Have a great day!" It's time to get out of here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

weekend millings at strada

The last few weeks I've started carrying around an audio recorder on the weekends, to capture hourlong to-be podcast pontifications with longtime buddy Ray in the form of the new 'radio' show, Talkin' Trash with Ray & Dave (Facebook page here). Tongue firmly in cheek, which, as far as I see it, is pretty much where it should be all the time...

But carrying a recorder around with me is something that I've always meant to do anyway. We collectively spend so much time looking at and taking pictures, that it seems to me that photos end up as the default and normative media-type stand-in for our memories. Wherever you go, if you want to remember it, you should first and foremost remember to take your camera, pose for the camera, and take a picture. Maybe a video if you've got the equipment and wherewithal, and maybe a series of photos if you want to capture various aspects, different people, different angles...

But for me the sounds of a place are perhaps more evocative of the place than are the sights; for some reason, experiencing the sounds as they unfold again in time can transport me to that place in my mind, while at the same time not allowing me to affix labels so easily, to categorize, tag, and stash away in some box in the mind, as I feel I do with photos.

Sure, I'm being over-dramatic here, but I do think that audio recordings of place, phono-graphs of sorts, deserve a better place in our own everyday media practices. And, as I look around thinking about buying a handheld recorder that will hopefully be somewhat faithful to the sounds without breaking the bank or requiring tons of equipment (looking at the Zoom H1 now), I'm hopeful that, just as carrying a camera helps me to see, carrying an audio recorder around will help me to listen, to be present and attuned to where I am.

For starters, here's a 40-minute recording from a few days ago, weekend millings at Caffe Strada, one of the favorite spots here on CN. Click the link to go to the audio file:

weekend millings at strada

Sunday, August 29, 2010

ode to dave's giant hamburgers

On the ride yesterday from Davis to Fairfield



I thought about stopping by Dave's again.

Yes, I was going slow...



But finally arrived. Quite possibly the best burger this side of, oh I don't know, pick your landmark. And I was saddened to learn that Dave had left us a few years back. Hope they keep it up. Thanks, Dave.

Streetstuff III

Lots of recent posts have leaned more on the word than on the image, and more on the "caffeinated" than the "nomadic". And that sentence would ring truer if there had been recent posts. Perhaps a return to the street, and foregrounding the image, would help this blog out a little bit.

These photos taken a week ago on a walk down from the corner of Ashby and Adeline to San Pablo and 65th, in the realm that is South Berkeley and North Oakland and a little of Emeryville too.


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Saturday, August 14, 2010

the tonewoods @ cafe azul

suffered up hwy 101 this afternoon but was amply rewarded with sunny and breezy afternoon weather, a beer sampler at the russian river brewpub, and several productive hours at spacious cafe azul to the smooth sounds of the tonewoods. now for the road back...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

smooth space in strada?

Has it really been three weeks or so since the last post? Much has transpired since then, much time spent offline and much online time spent on sites like Twitter and Facebook where the turnstiles move much more quickly than here. But it's liberating to be able to write even that last sentence, which I'm guessing might tip the scales at over 140 characters. Which makes me think, ironically, of a great tweet: "Blogging on an honest-to-goodness blog like taking off one's shoes and stretching out at the end of a long day". Though I might have to remove some of the intermediary verbiage.

Today I feel like I both want and need this space (is there an English word that encompasses both 'want' and 'need'? how many songs can you think of that put these two into sequence, usually in that order--"I want you, I need you, I love you...") as a place to blow off steam as I try to trudge through 600 or so words on the article-that-is-dissertation chapter I'm working on, on the interface. For the last week or so I've been tossing around some ideas on Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of smooth and striated space, and today's one of the days when we'll see if we can make something happen with it.

Perhaps a little academic liveblogging? This is as much exercise for the fingers and the mind that it is actual writing--these words are quire devoid of content, but, then again, who actually reads this blog anyway?

  • 2:42pm.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writing Boot Camp, Day 1

11:40AM. OK, so I've sworn off Facebook for the 4-hour window of the little experiment in social pressure that is the "Kick (Your Own) Butt Writing Boot Camp", but I'm going to try to keep a blog window open to keep the writing happening and perhaps (?) work through writer's blocks that come up while sitting here. The first day is in Actual Cafe at Alcatraz and San Pablo and, true to form, I'm the only one here. Along with all the other wonderful people in the cafe, of course.

But of course that's not true...I think that there will be other people who want to kick their butts into shape a little bit and get writing as well, and what's needed is a little bit of structure. How to create that in the me-first crowdsourced, anti-hierarchical age we live in? And how can "boot camp" be anything other than a playful metaphor for consumption just like all the rest, when even the Army has now for a few years resorted to the slogan "Army of One"?

1:09PM. Not much blogging in the last few hours is, hopefully, a good thing. Over 400 words written in the past 4 hours which is also, hopefully, a good thing. 100 words/hour actually feels like a fast pace given where I've been in writing recently. The reality with reading and note-taking figured in--let alone sleeping, eating, exercise, working, and the myriad other activities and distractions that fill everyday life--is that it's slower. And to project out to the number of words required for the whole dissertation is, in a word, depressing.

Anyway, it was a good start. Thanks, Actual.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a diet of sorts. but with whose body? and to whose health? (4)

After 72 hours off, I just reactivated Facebook. And I have to say, my response as I went to the Facebook page, auto-filled the login and password fields, and press the "connexion" button was visceral. I felt it in my stomach. Revulsion. A slight urge to barf.

I'm not kidding. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was just running up in the stadium, and my body was sort of there already. But even looking over all the familiar icons, shapes, colors, and boxed-in faces and statements, it looked slightly foreign. A place where I may belong in some sense, but whose constraints on relationships and utterances and appearances and manners of being seemed lined up in cells, standing out in clear relief. We put ourselves in those little boxes, fit ourselves and our forms into its blue-and-white reverse-chronological ad-lined incessantly-connectifying matrix. Encased. Kind of like Han Solo in deep freeze.

I'm sure *I* am the same way on this blog, on Twitter, and wherever else I am, where you are, where we are. Simultaneously enabled and incredibly constrained, shaped and formed by the medium.

I suppose that's the precondition for all of our utterances, in this body and that--to be constrained and enabled by the same mechanisms of being and articulation.

Yet never have I felt so strongly that one reason Facebook is so comfortable on the inside, and is (at the present moment anyway!) seeming so gross from the outside, is that being there is like all sharing the same body--our body, where we live discursive and cyber-embodied lives something akin to parasites (feeding on ourselves, each other?), creative at the local level and utterly dependent on the greater system for the life, the flesh, the blood, the circulation it affords us.

Yes, I know I'm being overly dramatic. But that sinking feeling is still sitting heavy in my gut. Maybe the "diet" metaphor's not too far off the mark after all. Bleeccchh.

yup, this is #4 in the series...I'm hoping to get back to two other half-baked posts from the last few days.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

a diet of sorts. but with whose body? and to whose health? (1)

I sit in the midst of any number of familiar environments as I start this post.

Where to start? How about the one that begins with my ass planted on this hard wooden bench: at Caffe Strada on a warm fogless Sunday morning in Berkeley, shortly after walking up from the packed England-Germany World Cup soccer match at Henry's, a sea of jerseys and cheers...The sun shines down on the tables, filtered through the trees over the patio, with people here and there in pairs talking, reading the paper or a magazine, and a few like me, looking busy and involved in their screens. I think of (usually cooler and greyer) mornings of cappuccinos and morning buns with Charles here, of the sea of students that usually populate and circulate throughout the place, of the vibrancy of this cafe on the corner of the street, on the edge of campus, sitting on the verge of the Berkeley hills.

But the material environment of human bodies, panting dogs, concrete patios and leafy trees is only one of the worlds I can see and feel opening up in front of me. On the table, along with the computer, red folder, water glass, and uneaten banana sits my cellphone, a new vessel for an older set of functions, bringing familiar people, friends and family, into my pocket, hand, ear and mind through voice calls and text messages. The weight of the phone in my pocket, and the ambient sense of connectivity it brings when sitting on the table, bring to mind scenes and passages from The Lord of the Rings. The phone-ring is a node of power, mediating our connection to the world, transporting us to other places and bringing others here. And it is simultaneously a lead weight, sucking our minds into its web, pulling our hands toward it, feeling comfortable in our fingers--its soothing buttons, its smooth curves, the calming expanse of its glassy screen... my precious, our preciousssssss....

If the phone, powered on, reaches around me, enfolds me within its virtual reach, then what of the domains that open up when I lift the lid of this computer? "The computer", and "the Internet" even, have long ceased to be thought of in the singular. Icons for no fewer than 28 separate applications line the bottom of the screen, and any number of applications are available at the click of a button. I've got only five tabs open now in this Firefox browser, while the dropbox icon at top lures me to my files online, the wireless signal monitor reassures me that I'm online, the U.S. flag tells me I'm typing in U.S. English, and, oh yes, icons for a dozen documents and folders lie arranged across the top of my desk, which just happens to be a window to a sweeping vista of tree-lined fields leading to dark hills, themselves dwarfed by a range of craggy white mountains in the distance.

Here I sit, I remind myself. Here I sit.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

update: u.s. v. algeria

Fantastic finish for the U.S...but could you make it a little easier on us next time?? I'm half bald now... Great job by Algeria! Congrats Mexico, England, S Korea, & all the rest. And thanks to all the good folks at @GUERILLACAFE. Onward, to the Round of 16!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

here's looking (back) at you -- again

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a unique but slightly unsettling cappuccino experience at the French Hotel. A few days ago, I had another chance to meet another face in the froth, and comparing them both seems to say something about two different people, two different days, or perhaps this one just had a bit of a rough day on the way to work.

Again, here's looking back at you:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

liveblogging 1-2-3

That's liveblogging at Local 123 on quite a mellow afternoon in a May that has seemed more like a February, in a year when February seemed more like July...

  • 2:26pm. So, yes, things are a little out of balance, which should make for perfect blogging. Considering the theory that when everything's right with the world, and you're feeling satisfied about the way things are, then you're too immersed in the moment to get the remove you need to write about the moment. Blogging and meditation, on that count, wouldn't go all that well together. I wonder how many meditation blogs there are out there...
  • 2:28pm. First task of the day, after catching up on emails, is to get back to the Leather & van Dam Ecology of Language Acquisition chapter from Michael Toolan: "An integrational linguistic view of coming into language: Reflexivity and metonymy". Ooohh. The trees outside the window respond, waving back and forth gently in the afternoon window, shadows playing on the sidewalk and concrete cafe floor. It's the first time I've noticed that the front wall is actually a sliding garage door. And Journey's "Faithfully" comes on, but then is cut off before Steve Perry can hit his soaring notes in the end. We better let him finish:



  • 3:27pm. We continue our journey through the 1980s as A-ha's "Take on me" echoes through 123, mixing with the jingling change at the register, the passing cars, conversations from tables at the other end...
  • 5:08pm. After various other activities, eating, getting another cappuccino, feeling the afternoon breeze kick up through the door (window? where IS that breeze coming from?), staring more at the Tooley chapter, talking to neighbors, checking email, reading another article, and now finishing writing up a summary of the chapter on my wiki for Rick to read--and thinking about my post-in-progress on Found in Translation--I'm again struck by the question of whether or not writing for myself in whatever intellectual pursuit I'm engaged in, is enough. And writing these words on this blog only heightens this sense of contradiction. I'm triple publishing right now. Must everything be visible? Is it really just writing anymore when writing is simultaneously publishing, of some sort, on some platform? Would I myself as a writer (or should I say blogger?) be motivated to write as much if these words, and the chapter summary I'm typing up, and the FIT blog entry I'm writing as part of (or leading to) my dissertation, were not online? Does Writing nowadays = writing + publishing?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

thoughtstream at the abbey, santa cruz

I settled on The Abbey on an inspiration, when I remembered that Sarah would be making her weekly pilgrimage back to UCSC. Got in around 10:45 and settled in with double capp and a piece of zucchini bread, both quite nice. But as I'm not a coffee-reviewer I'll leave those behind for the moment and open up the floor for some running thoughts as I sit with the music and Homi Bhabha's The location of culture and Roy Harris' Rethinking writing. Kind of an odd trio to be at the table together, but such it is...

  • 11:03AM. Berkeley needs a cafe like The Abbey in Santa Cruz: a coffee lounge with upright piano, stage, couches, smooth tunes, windows hanging in the middle of the room, chandeliers, mirrors and, oh yeah, good coffee and beer.
  • 11:29AM. Last time coming here, I remember hearing Jónsi and being enervated for the drive down the coast, on the way to UCCLLT conference in San Diego. Quite a different day today, to be here not on the way somewhere else, but here as the destination.
  • 11:55AM. Why does Roy Harris have to invent an entire body of terminology to make his argument. Does anyone else talk about the writing of languages as "glottic writing"? Then there's the "surrogational" perspective on writing, "segregationist" and "integrative" approaches to linguistics...come to think of it, has he really made it beyond Saussurian dualism?
  • 12:29PM. Reading more of Harris and the conversation from the next table infiltrates into my consciousness. Woman tells man: "Don't you know that when you buy running shoes you should buy them a half size too big 'cause when you're running your foot gets hot and ends up expanding a little?" Man replies, "No, I didn't know that." Neither did I. 
  • 1:46PM. Wow, much time has passed and I am struggling with this text. I don't know if I'm rested enough to wrestle with these fundamental notions of symbolism and representation that Harris is working with. So what prompted me to write now? I just noticed that the girl on one side of me, and the guy on the other, both had left their tables for a few minutes (and the guy for much longer) with computers sitting on the table. They guy had even left his wallet and phone on the table for quite a little while. People are so trusting here, I thought. Wow. I wouldn't leave this computer sitting on a table here or anywhere. How has Berkeley made me who I am in terms of feelings of public safety? 
  • 2:17PM. Whoah, music gone, Harris getting old, room getting warm, butt hurts, need to go to the bathroom, getting hungry. Time for a #changeofscene.
Until next time, lovelies! 

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

    In honor of Mother's Day, and because I don't want to lose the recipe again, I'm putting up the recipe for a family favorite, and my grandmother's all-time-favorite dessert--at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in between. This cream cheese coffee cake really is amazing, if only you can get the layer of dough to spread out on top of the cream cheese. But don't take my word for it; try making it yourself. And after you've given up, then get someone close to you with more patience to pick up the baton, and stick around for the results...

    First, the filling:

    • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened (Yes, that's "lb." as in "pound". But you're gonna share, right?)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 eggs

    Mix these ingredients well & set aside. ("Aside" can be a refrigerator overnight, if you want to get ahead of the game)

    Next, prepare the streusel topping ingredients: (Where does "streusel" come from btw? I suppose I should google it, but then again I'm kind of glad to leave in the realm of the vague...)

    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 tbsp. butter
    • 1/4 cup flour (ooh, look, something healthy!)

    Mix these well and set them aside (for novices like me: don't set them aside in the same bowl you're using to set aside the filling). Add a handful of oatmeal, and a little cinnamon, too, if you like. How much? "A little," says Gran. Just try it.

    Next, prepare the cake ingredients:

    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 eggs (yup, that's two more eggs)
    • 1 cup sour cream (mmmm)
    • 1 tsp. baking powder (still can't keep straight in my head what the difference is between baking soda and baking powder, but apparently they're different ;)
    • 1/2 cup butter (that's a full stick, folks)
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 cup sugar

    Start preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

    Sift the dry ingredients together in a big mixing bowl (but notice that sugar is not considered a "dry ingredient" just yet). Cream the sugar, butter and eggs together separately ("cream" basically means "mix", as far as I can tell). Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Then add this concoction to the dry ingredients and mix (slowly at first, or you're going to have a flourstorm on your hands).

    Pour half of the cake batter into a greased and floured 9" X 13" baking pan. Pour in the filling, then the remainder of the cake batter (it will be very hard to spread. Two basic strategies on this--one: put a little more flour on the remaining half of batter and try to roll it out with a rolling pin or by (very dry and flour-coated) hand, and make a shape that approximates the shape of the bottom half, and lay it on top over the filling; two: assuming that the previous option ended in total disaster, try breaking up the cake batter into little bits and dropping the little bits over different parts of the filling. Then try spreading out each piece. Don't worry that you can't cover the whole thing without submerging the dough into the cream cheese mix and making a total mess. That's part of the fun, and, in the end, an uneven top bakes great, with all kinds of crunchy nooks and crannies for your later eating pleasure).

    Whew. Then sprinkle with streusel topping.

    Bake at 350 deg. for 45 min and...  voilà!! It's munching time. And don't wait...this one is good warm, while the inside is soft and the topping crunchy...

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    here's looking (back) at you

    Flowers and tears, falling rain and jetstreams with waterdrops, all in delicious swirls of brown and white: this is the stuff of in-froth designs on top of the morning's cappuccino. And to touch these patterns to one's lips has traces of the erotic along with the ambivalence one might feel at drinking a snow-capped mountain scene (or, more likely, distorting it beyond recognition with that sideways-pulling first sip).

    But I have to say, I found this morning's design just plain unnerving. Who--what--is this, looking back at me from the froth?

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    running thoughts at cafe dí bartolo

    10:35am. Today I thought I'd be going over to Woody's but it turned out to be a further walk than I had bargained for. Ended up on Grand Avenue, crossed over to the shady side of the street and entered a space that made me think first and foremost of...a mountain lodge. It's all about the smoky smell in the air, like wood burning somewhere. Which is funny, because although there are wood rafters twenty feet up (love those tall ceilings!) one wall is brick and the other side is plaster.

    Though, come to look more closely at it, there are paintings of wolves on the wall...

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    some transcaffeinated techniques of disciplinary marking

    Here the title of the post makes a promise that the body won't be able to deliver; that much I know. I'm sitting marking papers for a Berkeley class on Language & Power, and as I work my way through the stack I'm starting to notice some--what shall I call them--eccentricities in my grading tendencies.

    Perhaps you've experienced this, too, if you have a job that is composed of repeating the same procedure a discrete number of times, each of which seems like a job unto itself, the completion of which seems deserving of celebration, taking a break and, yes, procrastinating from the next one by starting on a blog post.

    In the class, we've been reading Deborah Cameron's Good to Talk?, where she decries the way that language has become commoditized and made into a tool of worker empowerment and self-realization, corporate branding, and object of therapeutic intervention: learn to talk better, and you'll be more in touch with yourself and more able to smooth out any 'misunderstandings' that might be plaguing you in your home and work life. And students are being asked to relate this back to Foucault, whose notions of discipline as a socially normalizing force that is internalized and exercised by individuals upon themselves, from Discipline and Punish, are key for thinking about how language is being used.

    But actually, as I sit here plowing through a pile of papers (sorry, kiddies, I luv u just the same! :), I'm thinking more about Foucault's invocation of Borges' bizarre taxonomy that he calls the "Chinese encyclopedia"--an example of the kind of assemblages of radically different kinds of things into a single list or category or other form of association, for reasons that are totally befuddling to the outside observer.

    What spurred this thought? Well, as embarrassing as this may be, I guess I'll just have to go ahead and write some of the things going through my mind as I'm grading, deciding not what grade to give on a certain student response (although I'm thinking about that too, but that's work), but which paper to grade next, and just how much progress I'm making (or not) as I grade.

    Now, I present a procedure for grading a stack of papers, foregrounding principles of logic and efficiency. That is, basically a taxonomy of random thoughts that, together, help me make it through the pile:
    1. First grade those papers that are not stapled together, so as to remove them and their potential for decomposition and confusion from the pile. Try not to blame the student for not having a stapler or access to a stapler (though I'd be lying if I said that thoughts like this didn't float through the mind on a subconscious level)
    2. Then grade those papers in which students have not written the question prompts for their paragraph responses; these require more work as you have to refer back and forth to a printed copy of the questions, or, to save time, another 'more diligent' student's response sheet with said questions written down.
    3. Count papers frequently, preferably after each is graded, to make triple sure that you haven't over-estimated in your mind the number of papers remaining to be graded. Arrange them all in a neat stack after counting. 
    4. Extending point #2, give slight preference to those papers where students have put the question prompts in bold (better) or italics (still good).
    5. Give slight preference to non-Times New Roman fonts. Such papers give the impression of being attended to more carefully than those with the default, though this is a theory that is often disproved. The point, though, is that there's a curiosity that goes along with discovering whether the student has unusually witty responses, that makes the task of grading somewhat more tolerable.
    6. Try not to look back at the stack of papers too frequently. But do feel the pile of completed papers as it grows. For added pleasure, pick up the pile frequently in your hand. Weight = accomplishment. 
    7. Save for last those papers that are printed only on one side with double spacing; they are thickest, quickest to read, leading to a rapid sense of progress as the pages can be turned more quickly and the stack of papers depleted.
    8. No definitive statements can be made about papers that are longer or shorter, all other things being equal. Shorter responses often take longer to grade and, more often than not, require marginal comments. A definite timesink.
    9. Whatever you do, reward yourself frequently: stretching is nice. Checking email or Facebook updates is another option. But when things are really getting tough, you need to resort to ingestion. This post, for example, and the work that has gone into grading this pile of papers, has drawn on at least 2 pastries and 4 caffeinated beverages, from Strada, Local 123, and probably somewhere else too. But I'm repressing that thought now, because I still have 6 papers to go. I'll see if I can make it on this cappuccino...

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      sitting ducks

      Thanks to Sarah and Jeff for passing this news along, about a few recent thefts of computers from cafe-goers in the East Bay. From the Oakland Tribune: "Alameda: Teen pepper sprays woman inside Peet's coffee shop".

      Scary and maddening stuff, and I have a pretty visceral response to news like this, having had my Samsung netbook housed not too long ago from a computer lab on the Berkeley campus......what can we do to protect ourselves? Just stay at home? Chain ourselves to our machines?

      Thursday, April 1, 2010

      red bike in the morning

      8:10 a.m. It’s a nice vibe. For starters, it’s right on the corner, and you know that cafes on the cor—wait a minute, that’s not starters. Starters is the mere fact that it’s about biking and bikes. First impression: is that a rouge bicycle hanging from in front, above the door. Second impression: that’s a pretty, uh, striking curly-fry-style bike rack in front. Third impression: nice, they have Chimay.

      8:25 a.m. About to get my fourth impression when I walk over to the counter to get a few napkins and notice this:


      And that's all, folks, for blogging today!

      Sunday, March 28, 2010

      2-wheel tweettraces

      With spring skies over Berkeley and much too much time having passed since my last attempt at a round-the-bay bike trip, it was well past time for another outing. I'd been putting it off, I suppose, as I stared at the Scattante in my room, and it stared back, the fixed spoke tenuously in place, housing bent, tense, ready to snap. When would it break again? There is, of course, only one way to find out.

      And just as Google has come out with its new route planning service for bikes, I've been wanting to incorporate more into this blog around the idea of mapping, map-making, spaces and places, lived and represented. So, for starters, I entered my starting and finishing addresses--my house in Berkeley to the Transbay Ferry Terminal at 1st and Mission where I could catch the F bus back across the bay. But there, Google had me riding to Oakland and then hopping on the ferry for a grand total of 15 miles in the saddle. I entered the addresses of the 6 cafes from the "Heading south, heading north" post and this looked a little more...adventurous, shall we say?


      So it was set--I would ride along the path that Google mapped out for me, taking new streets for the closer, more familiar destinations (California to Market Street for the Berkeley to Oakland trip? Really?), avoiding the thoroughfares like E 14th St. in Oakland and El Camino Real up and down the peninsula, discovering a new path to the Dumbarton Bridge...and of course, Google had been kind enough to allow me to pass or stop by at a few new cafes along the way, to sit down, sample the view, and work my way through the stack of papers that I had to grade. A perfect day, mapped out in advance.

      Yet, everything I've learned, and feel intuitively (which one was first?) about space and place vitiates against the idea of following the Google map, actually--the strategic planning of paths and points on a fixed grid of representations precluding an engagement with lived, heterogeneous, emergent spaces (de Certeau, anyone? thanks to Donald Moore's anthro seminar on spatialization).

      Do maps like this pre-determine our experiences? Can they help us find our way, and still allow us to discover our own paths? Can we use one technology to remix, recontextualize, or even fight another? Or, as the case was yesterday, this warm day in March 2010: Can tweets destabilize a Google map?

      Tweets, those little narrative vignettes that are plenty controlled themselves, but which might bring a little life to the spaces in between the points and labels and colored lines. I'm not going to try to theorize this any more here, but to 'hand the mic' over to the tweets themselves to retell a little experiment, on wheels and on media. Wheels, meaning the single-speed Scattante Americano that was to convey me around the bay. Media, meaning the crappy cell phone that would send the 140 character updates over to "40404" to be fed into my Twitter stream.

      Oh yeah, and media, meaning the old iPod that would play this tune from Jónsi over and over and over again. Go ahead, click, pedal and spin:



      Nice, huh? It starts slow, but check your volume...

      After launching on the path, sunglasses on, warm breeze blowing by, I decided to head straight for the sandwiches and not get a haircut and delay the eventual arrival in San Francisco any more. But why are there so many red lights on this path? Pull out my phone and decide to send...

      tildensky: Another tweetconfession: Should be #amwriting but #amriding instead. But hey, at least they sound the same, right? Market & 55th.
      Green light, red light, and another green light before I got that off. But it seemed like a nice initial signpost; I had noticed that my friend Jane and others use hashtags like this pretty frequently, and was feeling pleased with the thought that "riding" and "writing" sound the same. (though, really, why don't we be a little more honest and say #amtweeting?) And several blocks later...

      tildensky: Struck by idyllic painting-style posters on back wall of Oakland Ice Center @ San Pablo & 17th. How many skating rinks are left? #amriding via txt
      Of course, many other thoughts filled my mind as I was riding: should I tweet about this, that, or even this other thing? What's the right balance between tweeting and riding? (no tweeting at all, right?!) Who would be seeing these tweets? Was I doing it for myself or for some imagined audience? I bet as I was riding along that I'd lose at least a few followers; better make at least one tweet useful for people: 
        
      tildensky: Pitstop #1. 2 Vietnamese sandwiches to go at Cam Huong, long lines, 4 languages, $5.50. #amriding 9th & Webster
      Enough said there, sandwiches in the backpack, and on the road again, a feeling of dread coming across me as I felt my weight on the wheels and saw a familiar scene: 

      tildensky: Broken spoke last time at 6th & Webster, passing same spot now reminds me how places where accidents happened become haunted. #amriding via txt
      How can I capture the emotion of these moments, reconstructing here what happened then for your time and place? Downtown Oakland feels like the starting point of rides going south, even if it's already 7 or 8 miles in. Seeing the bay, catching glimpses of San Francisco, and smelling the salt, you start to feel a certain rhythm, a kind of immersion...

      tildensky: When I'm old or unable to move well, maybe all I'll have to do to travel again is put a little sunscreen on my nose. #amriding Embarcadero
      It always works, newer layers of experience laminated upon older ones, all condensed into elongated moments in motion. Why are smells so evocative?

      Spinning further south...have you seen these signs?

      tildensky: I fly (by) OAK. #amriding via txt
      And then the water, the water, have you ridden next to the sparkling water? While listening to this song, or another of your 'this songs'? 

      tildensky: Who would have thought that grinding pipe organs go so well with the waves? Grow Till Tall on the Hayward Regional Shoreline. #amriding via txt
      Of course, there has to be an interruption or two, fences to climb, tracks to cross or, as the case may be, ride...


      Actually that might have been easier than what Google planned for me on the way to EON:

      tildensky: After the serene coastline, no shoulder and impatient hordes of Costco-bound shoppers on Hesperian are a definite shock. #amriding barely.
      Forget EON. Heading for Calaroga and straight for Paddy's cafe. And isn't that fun to say? "Calaroga, Calaroga, Calaroga..."

      tildensky: Paddy's cafe @ Smith & Watkins, open, bright, breezy, and lots of kids' artwork well worth a stop for grading. revving up to get #amriding via txt
      Grading, yes. Cappuccino, yes. (How else would this post be fit to be Cafffeinated?) And a 5-minute nap in the park across the street, followed by a little more grading. And then, oh, did I mention this was what my google map had become? You see, I still don't have an iPhone...


      tildensky: Watching shadows of trees and wheels lengthen under you, beside you, stretched out in front of you, one of the pleasures of #amriding /UnCty


      Of course, everything has to stop sometime. Passing under the Dumbarton to get onto the Dumbarton, razor-wire fencing that would keep you out from the Dumbarton...


      ...save the fact that they left the door open anyway.

      Then up, over, banana, powerbar...

      tildensky: What bridge would YOU like to see opened to bikes? #amriding the Dumbarton.
      Finally, somewhere in my engridded and geotagged mind, I had just 'turned the corner' and 'headed back up', on the 2nd (or was this the 3rd already) big 'leg' of the trip. Over the bridge. On the peninsula. Headed north. All that and more when...


      tildensky: Twas bound to happen: flat on Bayfront Expressway and the wrong pump valve fitting. #amriding has become #amwalking. Still a lovely evening.


      The sun slides across the sky that remains, the air still warm.

      tildensky: Zoom in, slow down, look, smell, listen. #amwalking with flat thru Redwood City neighborhoods, balmy Saturday, melodious BBQs in full swing.
      I never finished the ride, never finished the map, just as I haven't finished this post. You know, I'd love to stay and play another song. But, for the time being at least....

      tildensky: Calling it a day after #wasriding & #waswalking to Redwood City and then #waseating fantastic burrito at Naranjo's. now...#mustgetwriting via txt

      Wednesday, March 24, 2010

      from seconds to minutes...

      9:04pm. Last time it was all about the warm-up; tonight the pace is slower, the mood calm. I've done the obligatory surf before settling into grading, and now only plan on looking up from the papers at this table here at Strada when there's a 'bump' in the rhythm of the place.

      9:06pm. Soft piano rolling out of the open door, a smattering of people, a few on computers, and what are they doing over there across the way? Looks like playing cards. A guy has plugged his phone into the outlet outside to get a little juice, makes a quick call "Alright bro, I'll be waiting," finishes the call just as quickly, pulls out the plug, and disappears out through the other door. Quiet returns, the intermediate quiet of spring break...

      9:25pm. Bus passes. Was it the last #7? Why is Hacking's idea of kinds so hard to understand? What is it about the history of child abuse as a kind, and social construction generally, that's so hard to understand? When did I start to understand this stuff? Do I even understand it now?

      9:51pm. At what point when you're sitting in a really quiet place do you start hearing other ambient noises? Suddenly, the sound of the heaters overhead. Have they been on the whole time??

      9:53pm. Rain. Or, let's call it mist. First microscopic drops on the right side of my neck and they make me wonder, is it my tight back and bad posture that's making my nerves go off? But, no, not at all...within a minute, the sound of actual raindrops falling on leaves...and the thought, not a great night for biking home.

      10:15pm. “Disciplinary power … is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility. In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen. Their visibility assures the hold of the power that is exercised over them. It is the fact of being constantly seen, of being able always to be seen, that maintains the disciplined individual in his subjection” (Discipline and punish, p. 187). Still sends shivers down my spine. Still raining.

      10:46pm. Staff packing up. I look around and there's nobody else outside. A car--a single car--drives down the street, tires making that sound that only wet tires make on a wet street. Is there a word for that sound? Swishing? Whooshing? Damn, language is so full of potholes. It's amazing we can drive.

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      176 second warm-up

      what are all these people doing here? it's the first night of spring break. was just sitting outside and that felt better, actually. was worried it'd be too cool but no. come inside and it feels a little like a jungle. sarah is intent. the guy next to me drums his fingers on the table and then starts writing again, mechanical pencil, textbook open in front of his notebook, so old-school. twirls his pencil around in his finger, looks up, has earphones in. classical music continues. what composer is this? don't recognize the composer. the group of three women sitting across at the table talking like flowing water in a bubbling brook. aren't they they ones i saw a few days ago? music takes a faster turn, other people talking over by the counter. the man behind it, thin moustache, smooth face, nice disposition, always a friendly greeting for me...about time you learned his name, ain't it, dave? how many times have you seen him? meanwhile guy at other table on the other side of the door closes his computer, half says to person next to him (without looking, mind you), i'm gonna go make a phone call. two people leave right after him, and then another 20 seconds later, and both times the guy with the open books next to me looks up and briefly pauses writing as if to think. scratches his head, rolls it around a little, keeps writing. things are flowing. the brook keeps bubbling. music keeps rolling. guy on phone keeps talking. sarah is still intent. and my hands are now warm enough to go back to what i sat down here to do...thanks for following along.

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      sunny sunday

      Strada is so photogenic! Coming down from running stairs in the afternoon sun at Memorial Stadium, it's hard not to be struck by the play of light off the branches and other objects in and around the cafe...



      Of course, these are just crappy cell phone pics, taken a few hours and pages of field notes after the mid-day run. Really ought to take real photos.

      And, in the meantime, the sun has set and the vibrancy of a just a few minutes ago has faded into shades of blue and grey, with the trees, tables, pillars, people awaiting the return of their friend from the east in just a few short hours...

      Wednesday, March 17, 2010

      Ode to Village Grounds

      As I sit down outside to write this, I wonder how many blog posts or even business reviews there are for a cafe that has closed. On Yelp it’s easy to imagine that people’s negative reviews could help to close a business. I’m guessing there are even more texts out there that pay homage to the corner shops, noodle houses, antique stores, book sellers, and myriad other businesses that worked their ways into the habits and paths and memories of the neighborhoods they inhabited. I think of the community organizations, even Facebook groups, that have popped up for Oakland’s famous Parkway Theater, which reemerged from decades past in the 1990s, developed a faithful following of couch-sitting, pizza-munching movie viewers both far and near, and only recently closed down again. Will it return?

      It’s a calm night outside Village Grounds, a cafe opened by Sarah and her husband something like four years ago. I’m not the one who’s best situated to write its history; I recognized some of the regulars there, mostly firmly planted behind their laptops and plugged in to the many 6-plug heavy duty outlets, surfing the internet on the free wi-fi—a definite laptop-friendly cafe, and favorite haunt of graduate students with its big tables, good light, open space, tasty eats, and good coffee drinks.

      But I’m not the best suited to write a review for this cafe either, sitting then metaphorically as I do now in person, outside the cafe. I’m not sure what it was—the selection of music which (in my early memories at least) always seemed to be skipping over scratches on a CD; the (too) bright sunshine that prompted Sarah to install shades that had to be pulled down just after noon along the cafe’s westward-facing front; or maybe the intensity of the stares of the people in front of their computers, making it seem hard to do what I remember Sarah had wanted to see happen in the cafe from the get-go: talk to others. In fact, now that I think of it, that’s what she had said she imagined with the name “Village Grounds”: that her vision of the place was as a site of community, of conversation, of people getting to know her. To my mind, she always embodied this in her knitting of scarves, beanies, shawls, little booties and other reminders of the people in our lives who haven’t yet advanced to, or have advanced beyond, socializing in cafes and drinking coffee.

      So, as I sit outside in the dusk of Berkeley on this warm night in March, looking into the dark windows and table-less interior of the closed cafe, it’s not without some sense of guilt that I recall that this wasn’t one of my favorite places to sit. As if…

      As if I am complicit in the closing of this popular spot, where Sarah had gone so far as to allow me to sell some of my dad’s photo cards from a little basket that had sat right there on the countertop for over a month. Where I had sat and written a few papers and probably even more blog posts. Where I had sat and worked and talked and laughed and eaten and deepened my friendships with Thao, Mark, Rie, Diana, others…

      The sky is getting darker. There are no signs indicating the cafe has closed, but the emergency light shining off the empty concrete floor seems to tell the whole story. Time to go home.

      Thank you, Village Grounds. I wish the best to Sarah and her family and the folks who worked at Village Grounds, and hope there are others of ‘us’ out there who remember too.

      Friday, March 12, 2010

      Outwrite thanks!

      Wow, it's been a few weeks! A tweet from the applied linguistics conference in Atlanta I just got back from:
      Thanks Outwrite bookstore cafe in Midtown Atlanta for 2 hours of divine tunes & focus. No exaggeration to say my #AAAL paper came out there.
      There's not much better than a combination bookstore and cafe, and with hardwood floors at that. And I don't know how many lesbian & gay cafe/bookstores there are in the whole nation, let alone in Atlanta. Got anything to say back to that, San Francisco? 



       

      Saturday, February 27, 2010

      heading south, heading north

      11:10AM. Branching out a bit beyond familiar shores: cappuccino itinerary for the day includes
      1. EON, Hayward
      2. Paddy's, Union City
      3. Caffe Sportivo, Redwood City
      4. Bean Street Coffee, San Mateo
      5. CaffeRoma, Millbrae
        And we shall see if the day's ride will be bookended by Guerilla and Four Barrel, but I don't think anyone can handle that much caffeine. Possible to make SF by sundown AND edit papers, do readings, send emails? The road will tell...

        3:17PM. It was, and is, truly, a beautiful day. Bright blue sky peeking through dramatic white and grey rainclouds, puffy, flowing, accentuating all below. Was lovely riding for a first stop at the corner mart for food, then into Cheeseboard to pick up a ginger & pear scone (nice!!) to be enjoyed with a cappuccino from Guerilla--whoops, too crowded, let's make that Fertile Grounds, where I found out running into a friend that Village Grounds has apparently folded, really too bad--beautiful riding down to the Ashby flea market at the BART station, where I got my new styling $5 pair of sunglasses, beautiful all the way to Oakland Chinatown, where I picked up a few Vietnamese sandwiches at Sarah's favorite spot where I've also started to pop up now and again, and lovely then, fully ensandwiched, fully loaded, ready for the trip. And really, when planning to ride around the bay, downtown Oakland does feel like the starting point, since that's such a well-worn path.

        So the point of embarkation was the Webster Tunnel that goes underground to Alameda, where I was poised to launch until realizing that there is no bike lane, no sidewalk, and I had to turn around, head down E 14th street to cross over to the semi-island. Looked over my shoulder, turned the bars, leaned into the pedal a bit, and

        >POP< == There goes the second spoke in as many months.


        So, having headed south, I weighed my options and turned around. Headed north, to ride another day. And look at the screen in more familiar environs.

        But, you know what?

        The clouds are still pretty darn nice.

        Thursday, February 25, 2010

        two degrees warmer

        3:30pm. A slight rise in the temperature, and they're out in force today. People bent over books and papers, pens in hand, lost in thought. A table of four people, lively conversation flowing and ebbing until someone gets a phone call and the traffic of words is diverted. The table next to me with two men in animated discussion about something, one tapping the other on the elbow with one hand, alternatively clasping his coffee and gesticulating with the other. The occasional table with someone just looking up, looking around, maybe noticing, enjoying the new green on the trees?

        5:18pm. I've been here now for approaching two hours. Still have conversations going on, still a rhythm to the place, but there are fewer shorts, fewer short-sleeve shirts, and voices more muffled. The blue above has been replaced, covered up with a veil of grey. Like the day couldn't decide whether it wanted to be spring or not...

        Monday, February 22, 2010

        that temperature

        There is a certain temperature at which the little yellow flowers (weeds) along the side of the roads in Berkeley just start to open up to the sunshine, while others stay closed, raised in anticipation. And that temperature must be within a degree or two of the temperature at which students decide that it's too cold to sit outside at Strada, even when white petals are falling from branches that bear new green leaves. Too warm to stay home, too cool for a t-shirt. The perfect temperature?

        Saturday, February 20, 2010

        opening closing moments

        6:45pm, Local 123. I was in that in-between state, fifteen minutes before closing, when you know that no more work is really going to get done but when it feels premature to pack up and leave. That table was not easy to get, and I was loathe to give it up too soon...

        Enter the Imperial March from Star Wars, one of John Williams' master compositions:

        Yes, doesn't it make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck too? Suddenly I was transported from the cafe onto the deck of the Star Destroyer, plying my way through space with Tie Fighters all ar--

        Wait a minute, this is just a sample. What song is this? It was a rap song of some sort, with the Imperial March sampled into it. Well, cool enough. They had good taste, gotta give 'em that. So my task then became finding out just whose song that was. As of this writing, I didn't quite get there, because, at 6:49 PST, from left field or Dantooine, out rings the barista Tucker's voice:

        "Attention dear patrons of Local 123!! The time is now 6:50 and the cafe will be closing in ten minutes!!"

        She goes on in loud and animated style, the remaining denizens--that is, computer users, students with piles of books on the table, and everyone else in between--slowly emerging from their electronically-induced comas. People look around. A few smile, even laugh. Others are resolute, and remain buried in their screens.

        Tucker continues: "How can I help you make this close smooth and easy? Well, since you asked, if you would bring all your dishes and cups to this lovely bin over here on my right, we would really appreciate it."

        At this point, the two women at the next table are breaking up in laughter. I start closing windows, closing down, stretching. One person starts clapping at the barista's performance. I join in. And look over at the next table.

        Wait a minute, one of the women has a Cal sweatshirt on. I ask if they're grad students at Cal, and it turns out one is at Mills and the other at Cal. They ask about the book on my table--Mark Hansen's Bodies in Code--and it turns out one of them is really into new media as well. We talk as we pack up our stuff, and keep talking as we walk out, yelling bye to the baristas and moving into the night on San Pablo Avenue.

        A spell had been broken, and for the better. I thought about it riding home from the cafe--thought so much that I rode past the juicy temptation of Everett & Jones without even a thought of one of their signature brisket sandwiches. About the spell that is cast over our activities in 'normal' times, during the usual 'opening hours' of life, when we all go about business as usual, engrossed in screens, books, jobs, schedules, routines, and the like. Nothing wrong there, I suppose, and all very necessary.

        But it seems like a bit of a shame, along with being special, that only in the closing moments does the tempo quicken, the music change. Only then, with a deadline approaching, that people can, must, and do step out of the usual flow and let themselves be heard, feel unencumbered in turning and speaking with their neighbors, reaching out and smiling. Somehow, things have to close for others to open.

        Or maybe that's just me? Or, perhaps, just a rhetorical flourish to draw a close to this post?