Category Archives: Imponderabilia


I was on my Town Lake run recently, about 50 feet behind another guy, and as we headed down toward Barton Springs, a trio of twenty-something women decided to cross to the other side of the path just as this guy was passing them. He had to squeeze in between two of them to get by, and he said something to them as he passed. I’m not sure what he said, but as I then passed the trio, one of them muttered something like “He could have just gone around us.”

I bit my tongue, as my impulse was to let them know that they had been rude to block the very obvious path he was following. But it occurred to me that they hadn’t been intentionally rude— in that moment, they simply had no awareness of anyone but themselves. And if I could point to one characteristic of early 21st century American culture that I find most discouraging, it would be this one.

“Rugged individualism”. It’s certainly played a significant role in our history, for better and for worse. Being willing to go out on one’s own and take chances has surely led to many advances and no doubt increases the level of creativity in our culture; at the same time, it has also led to a lack of awareness of our impact on others– I’m sure American Indians could speak passionately to this. However, there are more subtle impacts that result from this lack of awareness of (and often outright disregard for) how others are impacted. Some examples:

  • Building cheap structures that aren’t designed to last, leaving blight and eyesore behind.
  • Buying large, gas-guzzling vehicles that pump carbon into the atmosphere without actually needing the specific functionality or capacity offered by these vehicles.
  • Voting against public services that benefit many, but not oneself (at least not directly). One example would be people without children who don’t want to support public education, despite the obvious benefit of an educated, capable populace to all of us.
  • Going back to the hiking trail example: walking three or four abreast on the narrow parts of the trail, forcing those passing you into the path of oncoming walkers and runners.
  • Even something as seemingly innocuous as cruising in the passing lane at a speed that blocks drivers who want to travel faster, disrupting the smooth flow of traffic.

Even though many of us experience frustration when we’re on the receiving end of this kind of disregard, we still continue to engage in these behaviors. What many don’t seem to understand is that the right to “do our thing” should be tempered to the degree to which our actions interfere with our neighbor’s right to do his or her thing.

Clearly there’s no way to legislate or enforce the development of greater awareness of our impact on others. This can only come from self-reflection, and if we happen to be mothers or fathers, making an effort to raise this awareness in our children.


From the “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Department


Greedbag 1


About a month ago, I placed an order for some records through a British merchant, Greedbag, that maintains storefronts for artists– in this case, two of the five original Throbbing Gristle albums that had been remastered and reissued on vinyl. Directly after placing the order, I noticed on TG’s website that there was an American distributor, Forced Exposure. I realized immediately that the shipping costs would be dramatically lower, so I sent an email to Greedbag requesting to cancel the order. They replied the next morning saying that the order had not gone through, and that I would not be charged. At that point, I placed the order through Forced Exposure.

Several weeks later, on the morning that we left for California for Thanksgiving, I received an email from Greedbag indicating that my order had shipped! I immediately emailed them back to remind them that the order had been cancelled, and forwarded the earlier email thread to them. They emailed me back saying ‘not to worry’– the email had been a mistake, and nothing had been shipped. Great.

Upon arriving back in Austin, I was surprised to discover that I had a package from Greedbag with the record order I thought had been cancelled. I checked online to see if I had been charged for the order, and I discovered that I had been charged AND refunded, so I was faced with a dilemma (and not the one you’re thinking of…):  there was no question that I was going to let Greedbag know about the error, and my first thought was that I would contact them and request a shipping label to send it back.

However, in the meantime, I had learned that a local record store, End of An Ear, was also carrying the reissues, and so I thought that, provided End of An Ear were willing, I would save Greedbag the shipping costs by exchanging the duplicates for two of the other reissues. They were, and I did. I then set out to contact Greedbag with this information, and here is the conversation that ensued:


From: Stefan Keydel <>

Subject: Re: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 3, 2011 2:40:18 PM CST

To: Throbbing Gristle Store <>



I appreciate that you refunded my money; however, you DID send the merchandise 🙂

I was able to exchange the two records at a local record store (End of An Ear) for the other two Gristle LPs, so if you would like to charge me for them (perhaps less postage), that would be fine.

Please let me know how you’d like to proceed.




From: Throbbing Gristle Store <>

Subject: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 4, 2011 1:26:15 PM CST

To: Stefan Keydel <>


Hi Stefan

Why did you not contact us prior to exchanging them with an unknown record store? As we had refunded you these records they technically remained our property

We would therefore be very grateful if you could place an order for the 2 vinyl you received immediately.

Please send us an email when you have placed the order.

Thanks! Greedbag on behalf of the:
Throbbing Gristle Store


Okay… So, I volunteer that I’ve received merchandise in error at no charge, and then I get scolded for having tried to do the right thing? Indeed, my intent in exchanging the records was to save Greedbag the cost of shipping them back to the UK.

And I replied as such:


From: Stefan Keydel <>

Subject: Re: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 5, 2011 8:01:29 AM CST

To: Throbbing Gristle Store <>


Wow! I confess that, when I imagined your response upon learning that the records had been sent to me in error, it never occurred to me that I would be scolded for having done the honorable thing in letting you know. Indeed, I thought that, by exchanging them with a local record store and having you charge me for them, I was doing you a favor by saving you the expense of paying for the postage to return them to you.

Well, as Oscar Wilde put it, ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’

Be that as it may, I’m happy to place the order; however, I would prefer not to be charged for postage, as it was in order to save those costs that I cancelled the order in the first place. Just let me know how I can do this, and I will place the order.


Thank you,




And the reply?



From: Throbbing Gristle Store <>

Subject: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 5, 2011 10:03:37 AM CST

To: Stefan Keydel <>


Hi Stefan

Please re-order the 2 records on the store again.
We will then process your payment.
Throbbing Gristle Store


Are they total dicks? Or am I being too sensitive? What would you do in my position?

What’s capitalism got to do, got to do with it?

In “The Best Laid Plans,” Yankee apologist John Gruber laments the loss of Cliff Lee to the Phillies, and at the same time, doubles down on his opinion that teams buying championships via swollen payrolls is exactly how it outta be in a capitalist system.

I say (with apologies to Tina Turner), “What’s capitalism got to do, got to do with it?” Call me quaint, but I feel that there is something pure about sport, whether physical or intellectual, that is lost when one player or team stacks the deck via cash infusions that are far beyond what is available to other players or teams.

Does Gruber also believe that people playing chess ought to be able to purchase extra queens at the beginning (or midway through) a match? Hey, if it helps them win, their prize money will enable them to buy more queens in subsequent matches.

Should the rich kids be able to start with more money at the beginning of a Monopoly game?

I mean, of course one is entitled to believe that everything should come down to cash money, but what a one-dimensional world…

Poke In The Eye

When will toy companies realize that the more pieces that are involved, the less likely a parent is to buy the product?

480 pieces.JPG

A new old homeplace on the web

With my rapidly-diminishing confidence in the ability (or even the willingness) of Facebook to protect my privacy, I feel the need to revitalize this page so that it can serve as a way for friends and family to locate me, get a sense of what I’m up to, and reach out to me for more details. Question is: why would I be any more likely to succeed in this endeavor than I have been in the past?


When it comes to Christianity, it’s fair to say that I’m a non-believer who has wanted for many years to be a believer (not even necessarily of Christianity, but of any spiritual tradition that presupposes an essence or spirit that exists apart from our physical immanence on this mortal coil). The closest I’ve come has been through my membership in the Friends Meeting of Austin.

Every December, I hold out hope that somehow, some way, I’ll be swept up in the spirit of the season and transformed into a person of faith. And it’s passages like the following from the Geneva Bible version of the Gospel of John (known by Quakers as “the Quaker Gospel”) that make me believe it just might be possible:

“He was not the light, but was sent to bear witness of the light. This was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [John 1:8-9]

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw the glory thereof, as the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father) full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every man that is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

The last verse may be the best description of the mystery of the human condition I’ve ever come across. And so this Christmas, as with those of the past, I ask myself, “Whence?” and “Whither?”

Owlet resisting quantification

Owlet resisting quantification: “

Owlet resisting quantification

(Via The Triumph of Bullshit.)

Must… stop… watching… this…

What Planet Are You On?: ”

Barney Frank takes on one of the Liberal Fascism drones.

(Via Jon Taplin’s Blog.)

Pure degeneration


The German response to Winnenden

I’ve spent the past few days watching German television coverage of the school shooting (Amoklauf) in Winnenden. The Germans have the dubious honor of being second only to the US in the frequency of these types of acts, a fact not lost on the commentators and reporters covering the shooting, and having lived in Germany, I suspect it has something to do with the level of societal repression found in both countries. Availability of firearms may also be a factor, although I don’t really have any solid evidence to support this with respect to German law (it’s worth noting that the perpetrator’s father is a gun freak, and the weapons and ammunition used in the shooting came from his stockpile).

On the other hand, the sober, serious coverage of this incident in the German media stands in stark contrast to the hysteria and “slow down to gawk at an accident” style that we’ve become accustomed to in this country. Whereas the sensationalistic circus goes on here for weeks afterward, when I listened to my daily Deutsche Welle podcast on the way home from work today, I was surprised and rather gratified to find that there wasn’t a single mention of the incident. This is not to say that there isn’t continuing discussion of the shooting as the country tries to come to grips with the horror of Wednesday (there is); however, it’s somehow reassuring to see that the grownups in the German media recognize that this event, horrific as it is, is not something that will have a long-lasting and fundamental impact on German society. It’s an aberration.

Ironically, in this essay, a Deutsche Welle commentator bemoans the media frenzy that occurred in the hours directly after the incident, complete with unsubstantiated rumors and claims; he should only spend a couple days in this country after some Middle-American bride gets cold feet and runs away for a few days.