Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From there to here

The first stop is at a BP station down the road, just before the ramp to the freeway. I pull up next to the pump and steady myself for a moment. It’s well below freezing outside, single digits Fahrenheit, and inserting the credit card, unscrewing the tank, and holding the pump handle will all be trying tasks.

The gas here is a good twenty cents lower than it was back home. As the tank fills up, I wonder why that might be the case. I have no idea, all I have is the vague but definite suspicion that prices are being gouged. Not that it matters that much – just a couple of dollars.

I settle back into the seat and make a last spot check. There are no other cars at the pump; no one is hurrying me. I take my time, making sure I fit right into the middle of the seat. There is no one else in the car. I check the passenger seat. Case with dark glasses, in the unlikely eventuality that the sun comes out. Box of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered cherries, in case attention starts to flag. Energy bar. Replacement disks – Phil Lesh and Friends at Bethlehem PA, 11/17/01, sets 1 and 2. Printout of directions, 18-point font. Bottle of water in cup-holder. Dick’s Picks vol. 22 loaded. I’m good to go.

I ease away from the pump, loop to the left, meet the main road at the dip in the tarmac, brush against the sidewalk in the tight turn to the narrow lane, and hit the ramp to the freeway. I’m on the road again.

Well, almost.

The first three points on the navigation chart involve switching multiple freeways within city limits. I’ve driven this route a few times now so it’s not as bewildering as it was the first time round – every highway number and exit seemed to involve the digit 7. Two nights ago I’d even driven across town to go to dinner, so the fruits of habit had begun to grow on my branch. I made the transitions relatively comfortably. Soon I am on the annoying stretch – the freeway with the lights.

Fifty minutes of interrupted driving and nothing to do about it. I sit in the right lane for a while, determined to take it easy, but soon my patience begins to flag. I switch to the left – at least it seems to be going faster. But the added pace is largely illusory; there’s no stopping the lights that crop up every time the needle begins to settle at fifty. At one of these stops the sun does come out. I take the opportunity to switch into the shades. A little further down the line a large blue Dodge pick-up barges into my lane from the right. My hand jumps for the honk but holds back. Partly it’s the relaxation from the weekend, partly my friend’s admonishment: I’d honked someone who’d butted into my lane without a signal the previous day, he’d raised his hand in apology, but my friend had warned me about the part of town we were driving through. I take no chances.

The traffic thins out after a bit. Soon there’s a long glorious empty stretch where the road curves to the left in an outstretched concrete swoop. I finally hit seventy, and take it past, to seventy-five. There’s a Merc sitting in the left lane, doing sixty five. I hover behind it for a few seconds. Soon it takes the hint and moves over. I ease past. A quick glance tells me that it’s driven by a young Asian guy, one ear clapped to his cell-phone. No wonder he wasn’t paying attention. The limit in this state is sixty-five, I know, and I have seen cop cars around. But right now, I don’t care. Dick’s Picks v22 is letting rip. It’s a ’68 show, one for which I have great associations moreover. I nudge the cruise control upwards. It’s a sunny day. I wrote a letter, mail it in the. Mail it in the, air indeedy. I wrote a letter, mail it in the air.

And you know by that, I’ve got a friend somewhere.

My mind begins to wander. I pop a TJ’s chocolate. Judge decreed it, clerk he wrote it. That’s almost like the review process. Despite having spent the weekend with friends, I’d been working, mostly. On a revision. Doing what the judge decreed and what the clerk wrote. Soon (I hope) I will write another letter, mail it in the air again.

Viola Lee Blues.

I’m out in open country now. Still doing a steady 74-75. Pushing it up further beyond, at times, when we’re between towns, when the road gets really empty. Touching eighty at times. It’s Sunday, after all, and the cops are likeliest to be close to populated areas. I want to be getting home soon. There’s work to be done.

The sun has gone in but I keep my shades on. Who knows when it might come out again and dazzle me? Little flurries of snowflakes now appear. They zoom at my windscreen in erratic accelerated parabolas, like asteroids in a space simulation; like in the screensaver, bending away like Beckham at the last possible moment. The areas right next to the road are paved with ice. It’s funny how the weather has changed just an hour to the north. The landscape gets progressively bleaker – whiter, starker, the trees barer, more oppressively angular and naked. Or is it just my imagination.

I chance the occasional glance round at the landscape. It is mostly empty and white. Shades of grey. The snowfall intensifies in patches. At one point the road stretches straight out ahead of me. No cars are visible, I overtook the last one an instant ago, and already it is shrinking in my rear view mirror. There are no buildings either, at least, no major ones that I can see. Just land. And road. And sky. In three different shades of grey, meeting, converging, at a point directly ahead of me. The Eleven is playing a riot inside my chariot. I nudge the cruise control up even further. This moment is for me.

I cross the state line in good time. The previous time I’d driven back, someone had been moving a prefabricated house along the highway in front of me. I kid you not. It took up two lanes and had two patrol cars escorting it. Everyone drove at sixty, and cars were backed up all the way. This time, nothing – although traffic does pick up a little. So does the speed: the limit is seventy now. That’s license to go at an easy eighty, which is what the left lane is doing. If not more. A sports car comes up in my rear view, flashes his lights. I let him pass, and ease back into the left lane before I have my style cramped by any farmer who’s stuck at sixty. And I let it out a little more. If that guy can pass me when I’m doing eighty, I can go a little quicker myself. It’s a straight road. The snow has stopped. I hunker down, I frown, I hit eighty five.

I smile when I see the last road sign I’m looking out for. It’s always nice to read the name of your destination. This exit is on the left. I take it, no worries, and I’m on the home stretch. I pop another chocolate and look at my watch. It’s not even five. Not even three hours. Great time.

The last hurdle but one is the exit off the freeway. It has no ramp. The first time I took it I was shocked to see the grassy shoulder hurtling towards me as I departed from the freeway; hitting the brake hard enough to send things flying forwards, easing up in time to remain on the tarmac, severely shaken but not stirred (and marveling at how well the brakes had worked). This time, I was prepared. Ramp or not, I took the curve smoothly, merged into Sunday afternoon traffic headed mallwards.

The pleasure at making the ramp so comfortably evaporated as I drove past what I thought was the entrance to the Whole Foods. Their babaganoush could do with some exploring, was the thought on my mind, and now I had missed it. Once more unto Trader Joe’s? The light turned to red and I stopped, toying with the options. A desi couple in the car behind me – funny how the rearview mirror shows them so clearly but they don’t see me. I decide to head to office directly – make it a late dinner instead of early. The light changes. I drive on. And see the Whole Foods up ahead. What had I been thinking?

I turn into the lot and find a spot. I pull in. The sun is low and fierce. I switch the car off. Once again I have forgotten to note the tachometer readings; once again I miss out on gauging the mileage. I take a long, deep breath and pull on my scarf and hat, step out for a bite to eat.

I am back. I had fun. Now I will get me my baba and kebab, and I will go to my office, and things will be like they have always been. Sleepy Alligator in the noon day sun, lyin' by the river just like he usually done. Call for his whiskey, he can call for his tea. Call all he want to, but he can't call for me. Oh no.

I turn the key and step into my office. The sun doesn’t set at 5:30 any more these days but that doesn’t mean the work gets done any quicker. The drive was fun, it took three hours. Now it won’t be midnight till I get home. Sleepy alligator. Oh no.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Imbeck Jeffran

An old series makes a return after an extended break.

This one's actually closer than it looks -- blame the paucity of images available online.

Previous separateds: 4, 3, 2, 1.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On Tap

Tell me, what would breaks in hectic weeks be, without youtube? In case you have never seen Stanley Jordan, here he is in all his dazzling virtuosity. Playing everything from

Eleanor Rigby (the Beatles) through Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin), and then, just to show he has the range, Now's the Time (Charlie Parker) through The Lady in my Life (Michael Jackson). It's not quite what Miles did with Human Nature, but seriously -- did you ever think a guitar could be played like this?

Seriously? And speaking of prodigies, have you heard of Quinn Sullivan? Playing The Thrill is Gone and While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and even dueting with Buddy Guy? Not your average eight-year old, for sure.

Treat yourself. Click through.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


A new bassist on the scene = cause for celebration. When that bassist stands up on stage and matches Jeff Beck "blow by blow", that's cause for serious celebration. When that bassist is a 21 year old girl, that's cause for serious double-takes. Introducing Tal Wilkenfeld, folks, playing A Day In The Life (yes, that one) in the clip above, and a couple more excellent tracks from the Crossroads Guitar festival from last November.

Her tone reminds me of Jaco. I hope she gets as good as Kai.

And speaking of Kai.... how many brains does he have? (Yes, that's Johnny Mac he's playing with, back when he too was 21, almost.) I can't get enough of him.

I'm looking forward to feeling the same way about Tal.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Meta-blogging, or blogging about blogging, is one of the few things I have consciously tried to avoid ever since I started the Nomological Net. This space was set up at the instigation of a couple of friends, Wildflower Seed and the ex-Kundalini, two years ago to the day. I was just coming out of a fairly severe stress-related illness and the idea of a relatively mindless distraction seemed worth trying out at the time. Time has passed, the stresses have changed – qualitatively for sure, who knows about quantitatively – but the distraction has become an endearing part of my daily routine. Who woulda thunk it?

This birthday of sorts appears a reasonable excuse to lift the restriction on meta-blogging; and take care of a tag, all at once. Black mamba would like me to “Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like).” Well, 5 she gets, and more.

Family: Start with the post I cherish the most, about an uncle, a grandfather, and an old family friend. Then there's this gem from my mother, and another one of my favorites which counts under this head because I started it by praising my genes. I also like that post a lot since it drove home to me the great thing about blogging. It made me a new and completely unexpected...

My regular friends don’t often feature in my posts, but here are a few I wrote specially for some of them, looking back, looking sideways, and perhaps even looking way ahead.

Probably the post that was the most about myself was a response to another tag. And while there have been many that recount things that have happened to me, such as haircuts, visa interviews, airline flights, culinary discovery, and even mistaken identities, probably the ones that define me most specifically are the occasions that I talk about my work-- research, teaching, and (my other favorite post) dissemination. I try to keep work and play separate, but sometimes they just fold into each other.

My love, if it hasn’t been obvious, is live music. This blog has been peppered with posts about live music. Here’s the first. Then there’s travel: Cambodia, Trinidad, Central China, Santiniketan, among others. And taking pictures like these.

And something I like? How about – to steal a phrase – comment space mayhem? After all, like I said, the best part of the blogging is the friends that you make.

SO then. This space has now embarked on its third year. 200+ posts and 45,000+ page loads have happened. Funnier things have happened on the road, though, and that’s the thought I leave you with.

Tujhe mirchi lagi to main kya karoon?