Presidential rock-paper-scissors

I was thinking the other day about what I would do if given the chance to play paper-rock-scissors with the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. In a classic one game do or die paper rock scissors contest, what would you throw against each candidate and why? Well that depends on what you think they would throw and why. Here are my guesses:

McCain: He throws rock, unless he feels mavericky he throws scissors. He never throws paper, not aggressive enough.
Palin: Always throws paper. She seems smothering somehow. And remember she said she reads all those papers?

Obama: Tough one. I think Obama throws paper as well. Can't really explain it, maybe because of all those books he wrote.
Biden: Scissor guy, I'm fairly certain. Might be paper as well because of his experience. I don't know why that translates in my head to paper, but it does.

It's a pretty stupid thought experiment I'll admit, but I found it interesting and diverting for a bit.


How am I?

I'm glad you asked, people don't often ask me this. Well to be honest my nipples are sore from running yesterday and I have been gassy because I swam today and I drink to much pool water and it always makes me gassy.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Facts v Gut

Some people seem to want leaders who rule from instinct, from the gut, not facts and history. I thought this was sufficiently mocked out of fashion by Stephen Colbert and his "truthiness." It seems to me the gut is only good for letting us know when we are hungry. And given how fat we are all getting in this country, I'm not even sure it's good for that anymore.


Golden parachutes

I think all the focus on the bailout about not providing a golden parachute is annoying and minor and ultimately irrelevant. I understand and share the anger, but let's take a quick look at something bothering me. I'm somewhat estimating amounts, but I think it's accurate. If we can limit these golden parachutes to executives at the firms we assist/takeover/bailout/whatever it we will be doing, let's say the total savings to "owners" of the organizations, I'm thinking stockholders, is seemingly substantial. Let's say 100 firms and we save $100,000,000/firm in executive pay. That sounds good, and over 100 firms is $1,000,000,000 (1 billion)! That is a lot of money.

It also happens to be 1/700 of the total estimated cost, or .14% of the amount the treasury asked for and received. So we got some sort of limit on this for a very small number of people who are already extremely wealthy and paying very low taxes and we considered it a win? Do you think those people learned anything? If that can't go to jail for fraud or incompetence, this is better than nothing maybe but I don't consider a win. Even saving an average of $1B/firm is only 1.4% of the total bailout amount.

For me, I'm still confused where the number $700 billion came from, nor does anything I read explain where it came from (help me if I missed something) or if it is even enough.

Here is how I would have come up with a number. Base premise: I need a very large number in the hundreds of billions, and the more the better. However, if it is overly excessive the media (damn liberal media!) and everyone else is going to round it up to $1 trillion, which won't fly publicly. Therefore, I need a high hundreds of billions amount that won't round up to 1 trillion. 800 is a little too high and rounds up. 700 billion is closer to 500 billion than a trillion, 750 billion might be discussed as "three quarters of a trillion dollars...". And here we are. I made that up, but it wouldn't surprise me.


My problem?

Did I miss something, but why do I have bail anyone out? Why am I responsible for irresponsible corporations and irresponsible homeowners? Why is it my job to help you refinance a house you couldn't afford? Why is it my job to help you refinance a company you can't run? Also it seems to me the credit rating agency for bonds (Moody's etc) really botched their analysis as this entire problem developed, yet they aren't out of business. How does that happen? Can anyone explain that to me, I have looked online and it seems to me to be a minor point but a critical one (people trusted their horrible ratings, they realized they were WAY off on their "analysis," dropped the ratings and companies suddenly didn't have equity and couldn't get credit - how are they NOT guilty of something, at least such poor business performance they should be bankrupt? Those people should be publicly flogged. Remember when some company was writing internal memos saying "Tech Stocks are a terrible investment" while at the same time recommending external clients buy them? Remember that? It wasn't that long ago. How are you going to legislate that? Remember how they were going to legislate that?)

I realize there were predatory lenders out there, and maybe there is some way to identify, tar, and feather these people and help those homeowners. But many homeowners just made stupid decisions based on what somebody told them about housing prices (always going up), refinancing (easy and always available), and their lives (happily ever after! nobody ever faces financial hardships!). Don't you have a brain? I am just incredibly angry at the lack of accountability in this country and how this is not going to change it. It won't change it for people. It won't change it for corporations. And I'll see this again in another 15 years no matter what bail out plan passes, who becomes president, whether or not another famous wall street fails (who cares, things change).

I realized that I am basically a fairly strict market supporter who believes in strong government oversight, but cynically believes the people in wall street are generally more incentivized to find ways around regulation (new products, lobbying, etc) than the regulators are to punish them. In no way do I believe Obama can fix this, although the obviousness of the fact he would be a strong step in the right direction barely needs to be mentioned. So to some degree, let the fucking market eat itself and the head of Goldman Sachs can dine on the carcass of other CEOs for thanksgiving, I don't care.

However, I also believe in strong social programs. The role of the government is strong and should extend beyond the defense of our borders, although that is important. It is also creating fair and equitable schools, providing housing, supporting community opportunity, and maintaining infrastructure. I think our military is strong but I'm not really sure about our ability to defend ourselves (army vs. army we win, but who is going to attack us army against army?), also a problem being that everyone seems to hate us right now. The rest I think we are pretty bad at, and everyone in congress and the white house are to blame for not having money for infrastructure and schools and community development but having lots and lots of money for this giant bailout. And the war. And still nobody will say my taxes are going to go up. How can they not go up? If I spend all my money now and pretend I had no idea taxes would go up, can i whine and get them to go down again until we just bankrupt our entire country?

This entire democracy is, in my sour northwest mood as I sit in a hotel bar outside seattle staring at a baseball game, a giant fucking failure. And from what I can tell, nobody has any idea how to fix it. Nobody. Anywhere. No idea. Or I haven't seen it.


Bailout plan

For some reason everyone was pissed off with Paulson's 3 page proposal to fix the financial industry, roughly simplified to: "give me $700,000,000,000 in non-sequential bills, go on with your life and patriotically buy something you can't afford, and we'll all live happily ever after." But it was short and simple and even republicans could understand it (except John McCain). Off the topic but for the record, my sources tell me Paulson was going to hide the pile of cash behind a bunch of glowing barrels under a mountain in Nevada so nobody could find it.

Anyway, now Chris Dodd has a counter proposal and it's really long and complicated and goes on and on and even numbers the lines because it's so long and sounds like something important when it's really as simple as giving someone smart full freedom to fix things (like a James Bond for the financial industry, except here maybe we should pick a name more tightly linked to the financial arena, something like maybe James Bond).

So I'm writing in Paulson for President, love the chutzpah and the blind unfettered arrogance. That's a man I would follow into battle (monetary or otherwise).
8 more years!
2 more wars!
1 more bubble!
Retire no more!

I should write jingles.

Red white and blue baby.


Escaping the black hole

I was searching online for how to avoid the inevitable suck of the black hole being created under switzerland somewhere by nefarious physicists and I found the answer (obvious in retrospect): tinfoil. Start wrapping yourself in tinfoil today and the gravity can't find you. That is because gravity is complex, complex because it is both attractive and repulsive apparently (only if you consider dark matter a type of gravity as it is just as confusing but from a large scale repulsive way), complex like teenagers and indian food. Fortunately for us, gravity is also sort of like mole rats and can't see well and depends on intuition to find people. The reflection and heat insulation of the tin foil protects you. Hope! Exactly how you are going to live without the earth and wrapped in tinfoil is a problem I'm still trying to solve...

The other solution I found was to contort yourself into a thermos bottle. Not a cooler, only a thermos bottle. I have now given you two options, good luck to you.


David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace was found dead today. That's too bad, he was an incredibly talented writer. I don't know what type of person he was.

When I was travelling to Mexico I wanted to take along a great big book to read on the buses and in the parks and everywhere so I could be somewhere else but also somewhere inside me. That's reading, right? Anyway, it came down to Ulysses, Infinite Jest, or Gravity's Rainbow. My friend said Infinite Jest was one big intellectual jerk off. That might be true. I chose to read Gravity's Rainbow (I'll figure out what the hell that book was about some time, but it's a book all right). Infinite Jest is a non-fiction book with hundreds of footnotes, some of which could basically be chapters and are phenomenal. Others are the patent for aspirin or some other unnecessary tidbit. But it's his book and it's a helluva book and it's a great book and although I didn't read it in mexico I did read it and I am glad I did. For the record. I almost read it again a few months ago, and if I ever finish Against the Day I might. Now. Maybe. Sad how things like this work sometimes.

However, I also read a book of his essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again. The entire book is solid, some essays are better than others as you would expect. The title essay of that book is one of the greatest essays about an activity (taking a cruise) that I have no desire to do, and he perfectly captures exactly what I think a cruise is and why I don't want to do it. I read that essay a handful of times before returning it to the library. If I had it right now, I would read it again. I strongly recommend that particular essay if you want to know how he wrote. Then you can be anti-cruise snobby like me.

It's always sad and a little scary to see a person commit suicide, to know there are demons out there stronger. It happens everyday. Famous people, nobodys, people in between. I wonder sometimes what those demons are like, what it's like to feel that helpless, to lose hope so completely that you choose the eternal abyss before another sunrise. Or another sunset. As much as I complain and I tend toward solitude and negativity, I can't imagine that type of isolation, how the mind could so deny itself. Then again, when I'm healthy I can't really imagine having the flu either.


Tunnel comparisons

Two tunnels created. One under the mountains of Switzerland, one in Boston. One may tell how and when the universe was created (cool). The other cuts the travel time from downtown Boston to the airport down (cool). The first cost somewhere around $10,000,000,000 ($10 billion). The other a slightly higher $15,000,000,000 ($15 billion). The first could finally bring about the prophesied golden event horizon that will destroy the world. If read properly, then ignored and modified and imagined upon for my own convenience, the biblical book of Revelations is all about this particular black hole. What could be more rapturous than being sucked into a black hole, c i r c l i n g c i r c l i n g circling ever more quickly as we approach until we are torn apart and nothing is left but our soul, which everyone knows if you really think about it can in fact move faster than the speed of light and escape a black hole. But only if our soul is light and free of sin. Repent! Repel! Repent again! Actually a little known fact is Einstein knew the soul was so light but his editor scratched it out of his papers (that right, papers with an s, he did it multiple times) because he said it was, and I quote, "a bit nutty even for you, Al." His editor was allowed to call him Al but nobody else was. Some people are quirky like that.

To put those numbers in perspective, and some people have complained about the size of both, the combined cost would support our occupation of Iraq for around 2 months. On the bright side, our new vice-president has seen Russia and is apparently a foreign policy savant so we should be fine. Quite frankly, I would rather be invited into a black hole than have her as our vice-president. And I'm almost convinced republicans are going to win.

I wrote a prayer in preparation - it's also a Haiku!:
Dear God our father
Creator in heaven high
Please suck me in now!

That should keep my soul light and faster than light regardless of whether it's god or the mythical Ukiah, the god of haiku, who finally does us in. I should probably quote the numbers but I'm lazy. I'll double check them later, promise. I'll also fix the bad wording and expand on this when I'm feeling less lazy.


the world

The world feels very angry today and has for the last couple of days. I can't really describe it, just every time I look outside, I feel it. It's in the clouds and the people passing by, the dull isolation of the street and stale stench of people as they pass by me as I sit drinking coffee or standing on the corner or listening to music. It's angry, whether it be the collective soul of the people, or a downturn in the city, or just a few cloudy days I can't say.

Some could say this is really just me projecting, but I never much believed in psychology. I wonder how that makes me feel?


Credit cards

My bank has a big promotion and giant posters in its windows where I can customize the picture on my credit and ATM cards. I can get the american flag, My bank has a big promotion and giant posters in its windows where I can customize the picture on my credit and ATM cards. I can get the american flag, or myself, or my family, the golden gate bridge, or your dog, or kittens, or whatever.

It seems to me that since we have so many problems in this country with credit cards and over using credit cards, maybe we should pass a law that all credit cards should have pictures of famine starved people, war orphans, refugee camps, or something like that. It doesn't even have to be in other countries, it could be pictures from the aftermath of Katrina or forest fires or hopeless inner city/rural communities consumed with poverty and I want to say hopelessness but maybe that's just me. Or they could be people walking or biking to support cancer research or MS, just anything positive.

Anyway, this might help people remember (realize?) there is a larger world outside our own circles and maybe help us control our own spending.


Overheard on the bus

You are very complicated.
I have many layers, like an onion. Except I only make myself cry.


Janitor's march

The SEI Union for janitors is marching along the street in front of my company right now looking for a new contract. They aren't even cleaning the streets as they go. I wouldn't give them a new contract.
I happened to be on the phone with a friend when they went by and he asked if they were janitors and I said, well, they seem to be mostly latinos...


overheard at the coffee shop

He comes in late and sits down.

Sorry I was late, there was a lot of traffic.
Traffic? Nobody drives in San Francisco.
Then why was there all that traffic?

Indeed. He's having an affair. He probably doesn't even own a car. You can tell these things, even with perfect strangers in the coffee shop. And you know what - they aren't even perfect.


Earliest memories

Like most people, my earliest memory is from my childhood. I was maybe 3 or 4 and I was walking around a city with my father. As you may recall from previous posts, I grew up in a small town so were on vacation somewhere but, in typical fashion for my family vacations, we were not all together. Apparently today we had broken up by gender.

I remember walking up a hill in a city with a lot of people around a lot of activity. I will confess I might be re-imagined these specifics though since I had this memory while riding on a bus in Chinatown San Francisco. My father and I were walking down the hill and i remember taking off my shoe and carrying it in my left hand while holding my fathers hand with my other hand. He noticed my shoe, pulled me towards the wall, and told me to put it back on.

I handed it to him.

He handed it back and told me to put it back on. I held it. I stared at him. He said we would wait until i put it on. He crouched along the wall like he would at that time, both of us being much younger than we are now, watching the people pass. I wonder if he thought i would make a scene, start crying or running or pouting as I would often do. Instead, I instinctively moved to the wall myself with my shoe still in my hand and began watching the people. So many people just passing and passing and always passing and there were always more people where did they all come from I remember thinking. Where I grew up it wasn't anything like this, even during the annual potato festival, the busiest time of the year.

After a minute, or a child's minute and I don't remember if that is longer or shorter than now, I looked at my father. He was probably trying to teach me something, but maybe he wanted a break. Maybe he wanted a drink. Now, if I were in his situation, that's what I would want and we really aren't so different. I watched him watching the people pass. I loved him then, that he could just crouch there and wait. Actually, I probably hated him then, but I love him for that now. He had long hair and a long beard and I remember now what it felt like when I was a kid, course and hard and fun and playful. It was a time when people could look like that and be hated for being hippies but not feared for being terrorists. It was a simpler time. That is how time works in America.

We continually complicate things. I moved to a new country, across my own country, and still can't find whatever it is I seek. Even the stories I make up come and go. This one isn't really true at all. It popped in my head when I saw the cutest little girl with the most wonderful inquisitive happy eyes on my bus from where I live to downtown, a route passing through Chinatown. Her mother was putting on her shoe and I think she was curling up her toes so it wouldn't go on. When I babysat for my neighbors in high school, my parents told me that was a power struggle between children and parents. They were great parents (they usually still are...), and maybe I always remembered that somehow. These stories, they just pop in my head short and generally fully developed like this, where I just add detail and made up context, I like to say are from the collective consciousness. I don't know if I think I am being clever or if I really believe this, but i think it is a combination of both.



As I sit considering our national debate on where to most efficiently access oil for the near future (attacking Iran vs. attacking the shoreline), I think we are forgetting possibly the best part about oil: it grows on trees! Rather, it is constructed of the dead leaves and lumber and bark of trees, with a little bit of dinosaur blood, mashed together and crushed under the earth and wallah! oil!

I think we can use dead american dreams and mcmansions and other refuse to replace dinosaurs for our next wave of oil, but I don't think we have focused enough on where to get the trees. Obvious answer: the Amazon! Apparently it's a big area with lots of trees and the only people who live there haven't bought anything recently so we they are obviously ready for a change of scenery, a little retail therapy, and a caipirinha on the beach in Rio.

We are America! Land of the free, home of the brave. Apple pie and the last country on earth where people actually love their mothers (well except in Francisco because every family has 2 fathers or 2 mothers and it gets complicated). Anyway, if we really want oil (and we do), the American way is to solve the problem. We tried putting it on a really big government credit card like one of those really big checks you win at casinos and use to donate hospital wings but that doesn't seem to be working. Next step: build our own oil, facilitate the process, make it quicker. To fix the problem, we should speed up the process by which we cut down the amazon so that the oil will be ready that much quicker. Yeah, when I'm president, that place is fucked. So is everywhere else a hippie is planting a tree.

If it really comes down to a choice of offshore drilling and attacking Iran, I think we end up doing the latter. That way, oil companies and defense companies both win, which helps the economy even more . And can't we drill offshore too? Why limit ourselves? We are America! Isn't America about boldness and rising to the occasion?

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain


Stealing plums from asian ladies on the bus

My parents were in town last week and my mother told me this story. My mother is a wonderful friendly woman, the sort of person who actually smiles at others and talks to strangers on buses. I thought this story was amusing. Actually, I still giggle when I think about it. The bus from where I live is generally full of yuppies such as myself during primary commute times, and generally full of Asian people from various places else wise. It is San Francisco after all. My mother was raised in New Jersey and her family history is fully German until she married my father, who is 1/2 Mexican and 1/2 Italian. My mother took a Spanish class last year to help her travel a bit in Honduras and Guatemala, but she can only do basic greetings and some numbers. It isn't natural for her to speak Spanish.

Anyway, she was on the bus and it was crowded so she was standing and a seat finally opened up and she offered to an older Asian lady next to her who told my mother to take it. My mother sat down and offered to hold the Asian woman's bag on her lap so she wouldn't have to stand and hold her bag. People can be so nice. As you will see, exactly how my mother offered to hold the woman's bag is a little vague based on the woman's response. My mother showed me what she did, some sort of sign that I'm not sure I would have interpreted as "Excuse me ma'am, but since you were so nice to allow me to sit, allow me to hold your bag for you while we continue on the bus." The woman, instead of saying no or ignoring my mother or putting her bag on my mother's lap, opens her bag and starts putting plums from her bag into my mother's bright yellow bag. My mother takes the plums out and puts them back in the Asian woman's bag in some sort of back and forth that must have been just fantastic for other people on the bus and would seem a bit odd even on a Seinfeld episode. After a little bit of this back and forth, my mother just keeps a few plums and, as she told me, "I kept the plums I didn't want to be rude. Then I ate one so I wouldn't be rude, I know you aren't supposed to eat on the bus..." as if her eating on the bus was the strange part of the story. Then, for some inexplicable reason, my mother thanks the woman with a "Gracias" and after I laughed at that, she just told me it seemed right and natural. I'll have to learn how to say "Thank you" in various Asian dialects and teach my mother for her next trip. Such a cosmopolitan family I have.

Quite frankly, I have no idea what the Asian woman was thinking, if she spoke English, or if she thought my mother was asking her for plums. Big white woman robbing her on the bus perhaps? Regardless, for the rest of the week we kept sending my mother on the bus hoping she could pick up dinner. I'll have to send her on a bus full of Mexicans next visit and tell her not to come back until she has tamales. And the plums? They were great.


not too fat...

So yesterday my potential roommate and I were discussing costs, sleep overs, paintings, noise, etc. and one thing that was discussed was splitting food expenses. She said even though I probably cook at home more often than she does, we can split food 50-50 if she can eat some of the food I cook. Fine. Then she added, "You don't look too fat so you must cook fairly healthy." Or she added, "You aren't fat so you must cook fairly healthy." I think it was the first, but I'm not sure. Those are 2 very different statements, even though they are grammatically pretty close. I need to stop drinking wine and talking, my memory is getting lousy.

And I'm not flat, I'm just fluffy.

I am a rock

So the opportunity has presented itself for me to possibly live with a roommate next year, someone I sort of knew in college in that we had some very good common friends but didn't hang out much. Anyway, this move would be to a nicer, swanky part of town for me, high end apartment, new appliances, all that. It would also, at least for a year, put me in a life and location I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. I can afford it, but for some reason I reject it. I reject lots of things without reason.

Last night, after my maybe roommie and I looked at an apartment, we had dinner at another friends apartment. She lives in a very nice apartment in a very nice part of the city and has a very nice job doing consulting. From her bedroom and her deck she can see the bay. I could live within 2 minutes of the bay and a 20 minute walk from work. It could make me happy. I could also sleep on a foam mattress in Mexico and be happy. Or I could never be happy, really.

When I decided to move to San Francisco, my best friend in Philadelphia asked me point blank if i thought life/me/whatever my issues are would be different in San Francisco. I said no, but I had to try something. I have been here almost a year, and last night these two friends asked me the same thing: do I think moving to Mexico would resolve my issues. I said no, but I have to try something. Whether I move again or stay or wander or drift, there is something blocked inside me, or rather something blocking something else inside me, blocking happiness or comfort. I run more now than I ever have because it let's my mind go free. Otherwise, I have built up so many little walls and mazes in my mind I paralyze myself with overthink. Books and writing are my escape, but like the internet they are an isolated escape.

The question still remains: who am I? What makes me happy? And if it is isolation, or if it is working through whatever issues and being more social, or if it different hobbies, or whatever, how do I define that? I can't.

I was listening to I'm a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel and thought that's me. Is that song supposed to be ironic? My bible? A warning? It connected in a way that didn't make me comfortable, just like I felt lousy when I left the dinner yesterday.

At one point in my life I would have responded at some point in the open dinner conversation analysis of my life that being my friend means never questioning my life. I think being open to the discussion is a step for me, but it still sort of pissed me off. But they were trying to help, just like my friend back in Philadelphia was trying to help. I don't know how to accept help. My boss thinks I have trust issues at work. I have trust issues everywhere. I have lots of issues everywhere, rolling around my head like balls in bingo parlor, and I never scream bingo and win. Or have i won? What is winning? I realize at some level that winning in life and losing in life are both temporary and, ultimately, pointless. It's only life right? I have only one, but I don't know what to do with it, I am afraid of it and fascinated by it, but I treat like some abstraction I can think through and win rather something I need to experience by living. It's bizarre. I know somewhere inside me it's not right, but I also don't seem to be able to move on. Philadelphia, Mexico, Honduras, Boston, San Francisco, all wonderful places. It's not the place.
But I'm not sure really what it is, and quite frankly, I'm sort of tired of thinking about it. And whenever I have to explain myself, I sound like an ass. I don't think I'm an ass, but i sound like one. Maybe I don't need to change, maybe I just need better PR.

I need people. Or a person. I'm not picky.



If there was ever a reason I wish I had Tivo, and there aren't many, today's Wimbledon final between would have been it. I thought the final yesterday between the amazing Williams sisters was great, but the men's final today was the most exhilarating sporting event I can remember. I thought last year they played a great final, but this year was much better. Just incredible.

If I could play just one country club sport besides golf, it would definitely be tennis. Way better than croquet.


Todays San Francisco weather report

According to the radio, the weather for today was Partial fog burning off by noon, followed by patches of smoke with mostly cloudy skies.

Another beautiful day in the city. As Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." Pretty accurate, too.


Manholes and gongs

So I was sitting at my desk this afternoon on a conference call when I heard a loud Ka-Boom! My boss ran from his office and asked me what happened. I said I didn't know, but could he please pass me my water bottle and an earthquake survival kit just in case the building fell down. He said it wasn't an earthquake and I said yes I know, but the building can fall from kabangs and kabooms as well as earthquakes and I want to be prepared. It's that narrow minded thinking of his that has him second on the office list of "who would I eat first if stuck in the rubble after an earthquake." Actually, that list is based purely on most enjoyable eating considering they may be my last meals. Not to lean, not to fatty. mmmm.

Anyway, one of the pleasurable quirks of working for a small company is that I had to put my desk together (this is relevant I swear). I worked for 1 week at the kitchen table, 1 week at someone else's desk while they were out of town, then finally figured it was time. Never having used an electric drill, I figured what's to know: plug in, push, done. I plugged in, pushed, nothing. Pushed harder. Nothing. Someone from our east coast office happened to be visiting and noticing my near incompetence (near incompetence, or a game of Tom Sawyer's Painting the Fence is Fun?), he took the drill from me, sat down, pushed...and nothing. Pushed again. Nothing. Someone else asked if the drill was turning in the right direction, which made him grimace in shame and I asked, "it goes in 2 directions? Interesting, just like a manual screwdriver." I didn't get into a technical school based on my ability to do things but instead on my ability to put things together like that. Anyway, we got the desk together but it's a bit wobbly.

Last Christmas, I received a desk gong (still relevant, keep with me). It is about 3 inches tall and comes with a tiny little gong knocker. This sits on my desk and because my desk is so wobbly, every time i sit down, type, move the mouse, eat yogurt, the gong sounds. I think it is sort of pleasant. The people who share my office space (numbers 1, 3, and 5 on the office "food chain") and I have discussed this could be our early warning device, sort of like how when animals are fleeing the forest you should too because there is probably a dinosaur or something coming. It is the office mockingbird if you will.

Anyway, what I am writing about is how I botched my shot for a nice little paid injury vacation. That's right, had I been thinking when the kaboom happened, I would have screamed in pain and knocked my desk over on my leg. I would have owned San Francisco after that! Instead, I asked my boss for an earthquake kit and never ever got to the window to see what the fuss was about.

The "official story" is a gas explosion, but you know how "they" cover things up. Actually, the explosion made the manhole covers pop off, speaking of covering things up. I walked outside later and they had news cameras and helicopters and policeman all making sure the manhole covers still fit. And they did. Know why manhole covers are round?

A few years back, or so local legend goes, a lady went out to buy some coffee and was hit with a manhole cover after just such an explosion. I bet she ran into the manhole cover to sue the city, which she did and she won. Just for getting hit with a flying manhole cover like a frisbee. If it had come at me, I would have flicked it back at the city ultimate style. Baaaatttaaa!



These things are awesome! Love national geographic. I had never heard of them either.
Nudibranchs - National Geographic Magazine


the elevator pt1

The three of them stood in the elevator of the Rosario apartment building being carried up to the 23rd floor. The Rosario was an old bread warehouse converted into “refined and luxurious” loft apartments. Most people in the neighborhood just called it the “BreadBox.” None of the three had ever been in the building before but they had all heard the stories circulating the neighborhood. Everyone had. The apartment quickly became home to a number of local artists and eccentrics who were drawn by the unique apartments, hardwood floors, fireplaces, modern kitchens. Of the apartments and the people living there, most of the talk was about The Doorman. It was said he performed magic tricks as tenants and guests waited for the elevator. True to form, The Doorman had made a bright yellow flyer for the party the three were attending appear out of her ear, and he picked some fake roses from underneath one of their hats. The neighborhood rumor mill said as The Doorman became more familiar with you, his magic become more personal and, occasionally, more profane. Many of the stories were exaggerations on reality, although it is nearly a confirmed fact he pulled a mammogram image of a child from a woman’s shopping bag before she was even aware she was pregnant. It is also almost entirely true he made a condom appear from the back of a young girl’s knees the night after she had spent time on those knees before she lost, with a mixture of excitement and fear, the rest of her virginity. He gave the young lady a smile and a wink, and the girl’s unsuspecting mother just entered the elevator and went about her day, commenting in the elevator about the oddness of their doorman without noticing the sweat and blush from her daughter. Other stories, including the one about making a child disappear from behind his desk and reappear on the elevator as it opened, and the one about the flying three headed dog attacking Mrs. Schneider’s canaries were the stories of bored and lonely people in the neighborhood. The people said he never slept, and so far, nobody had been able to prove this one wrong although people knew it couldn’t be true. Given the publicity these stories brought to the building and the number of people who came to view and rent apartments, management did nothing to abate them and many in the neighborhood felt they were the ones making most of them up.

When the elevator came, the doorman hit the button for the 23rd floor, smiled, and said, “Have a good evening. I will see you when the party ends.”

The elevator sang an old jazz tune softly in the background even as it began to hum it’s ascent. Eddie was the one holding the roses, after all they had appeared out of his hat, but threw them down suddenly as they reached the 7th floor.

“This is stupid.” He was dressed entirely in black. They had discussed what to wear to the party and decided anything would be fine. He chose black, as do so many, because it is simple and slimming, but more subconsciously us all to move easily among the shadows of our dreams. He was thin, usually quiet even with friends, and almost disappeared into the corner of the elevator. The roses lay at his feet, resting on his black boots, the only color in his . “I don’t understand how we got invited to this or why we came. Or why I came. It’s just stupid. It’s going to be bunch of arty types talking about arty things I don’t like and everything I talk about, they aren’t going to like.”

The other two in the elevator did not respond, staring ahead like strangers. Eddie had been having this conversation with them for the last week, and they told him he didn’t have to come. He said he might not come. They all knew he would come. As much as Eddie talked about hating this type of crowd, it was exactly the type of crowd he truly enjoyed because it was different. He wanted to let his whimsical nature set a course for his life to just follow. Instead, he was an engineer, following his father’s path and the paths of a million other people just like him. Rather, who he seemed to be just like. When introduced to new people at a party, they never remembered his name and most didn’t remember ever being introduced to him. He was silent, featureless, a whisper.

For many years, he had cultivated this existence because he was socially awkward and enjoyed the easy calm of isolation. Now, as he grew older, he wanted to cultivate friendships with different types of people. For some people, people like Eddie, it’s easier to long for a new life than to actually create one, and he felt he would always be miserable living somewhere between his desires and his reality.

He kicked the roses off his foot, sighed, and disappeared back into the shadows of the elevator’s corner thinking about the evening and thinking about his life. The elevator bell rang welcoming them to the 23rd floor. The three of them stepped off the elevator.

He's right

I had a lot of fun at Dr. and Mr. Lubang's wedding a few weeks ago. Good times.

A dream

I had a dream last night. I'm not generally one for dreaming, or remembering dreams, or then staying up worrying about my dreams. Anyway, somehow in my dream I was an assassin. They say dreams are windows into the soul... That's why dreams are so wonderful, the inner me. I was apparently working for two competing organizations (Note: I don't remember anything about them, except they both knew i was working for the other somehow. Maybe I was so good nobody cared, any piece of my action was worth it. Rock on). Anyway, I decided one day I didn't like the lifestyle and I told one of my bosses. So you want out? Yes, I can't do it anymore. You're going to kill me aren't you? If not me, then he will. I said I would do one last for him if he offered me freedom. I believed him when I left, then I knew it wouldn't happen.

I was at home, knowing they would expect me to run. I waited. I remember in that half dream consciousness being afraid. I remember not being able to wake up. I waited. I went downstairs, it was a house I didn't know. Someone was at the computer, somebody I love. Almost my dad, but not quite. They were at the computer, at the kitchen table, in front of the screen door leading to the porch. I pretended to go to the computer but looked out the window. I saw somebody, even in the dark I could see them. I stared, they stared at me and I remember thinking they couldn't see me. They always see you, they always know. Dreams like movies sometimes. I ran out, remember chasing them. Suddenly it was light out and I knew I was still chasing the same person, but now they were different. They were running with a backpack on. I caught them, dragged them down, turned them over. And I woke up.

Waking up f@(*&ing sucked! Like a weakness somehow, like I couldn't handle it, or my subconscious half awake self at 3 AM couldn't handle it. And I couldn't get back to sleep! And I didn't drink yesterday! This should teach me. Cheers.


Movie Review

I saw the latest Rambo movie the other weekend. It is certainly a bit silly and a tad violent, but I wondered mid-way through if maybe it wasn't trying to be this generations Apocalypse Now. Except without the humor.


Becoming an optimist

I decided (again) to become an optimist. But not one of those glass is 1/2 full optimists, that's to big a leap. I'm aiming to become a glass is 1/4 full optimist first and, if successful, making the transition to a glass is 1/2 full optimist. Unfortunately, I'm not very hopeful. Damnit. I'll start with a glass is 1/8 full...


Work therapy

I had my Q1 employee review with my boss and it was just an exercise in futility. I sincerely enjoy working for my boss, hate my company right now, and I'm not even sure how to answer questions anymore. I am trying not to be negative, but I think the company is seriously screwing me (and has been for a while) because of this one project I can't get off and is meaningless to my career. So the balance now is they promised me a fairly large bonus if I complete the project by the end of year. Until then, I need to not explode at anyone internally and get fired. I can quit when the check clears. I really want to ask my boss what he thinks the odds are that I resign within 2 weeks of the check clearing, but I'm not quite that bold.

Anyway, we were talking about my workload and my boss said, "It seems like you have some trust issues with people in this company." And I responded, "Is this an employee review or a counseling session?" then I refused to go into details about why I think most of my coworkers and managers are incompetent. Not that I could do their jobs, but I don't have their positions. It's like if I complain about professional athletes, you cannot retort you can't do it. I know that, but obviously I'm not a professional athlete. However, I expect our developers to develop well, product managers to be consistent and improve the product, and managers to manage effectively, among others. That's the "team" concept of working in a company. I won't get into it, but I think I have a strong case.

This not trying to be negative means i just have to stare at people I work with a lot without responding because I can't even think of positive spins anymore and I can't have the same conversation every 6 months about how now we will actually implement what we talked about 6 months ago... It's making me extremely tense, but it is pushing me to exercise more to relieve the stress. Maybe it's a good thing.



if it is true that art is a form of communication, and dancing is a form of art, i must ask: if somebody dances poorly, are they speaking gibberish?


Reconnections and reunions

My 10 year college reunion is this summer, and I have spent a pretty small amount of effort ignoring that fact. I wasn't the most social guy in college, so I don't think I would re-kindle many lost friendships, and the blatant networking component of it frankly sort of freaks me out. I always felt like the college association was a bit of a granfalloon, or I think that's the word that as far as I know was termed by Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle. Basically, as I process the word and the meaning, it's an ultimately meaningless connection between people that people cling to in an effort to connect. For example, I grew up in Michigan so everyone I meet from Michigan has a connection to me. Except not really, because growing up in Detroit or the Upper Penninsula basically means you might as well have grown up in New York City or Montana for all it's relevence to my life, except maybe we shared the same governor for a while.

Recently, I have been reconnecting with people from college. 1 is a friend who I was sort of close with, meaning we travelled in the same extended circle and had a lot of mutual friends. But we weren't close, probably never really talked alone, and don't have many shared experiences outside the same college and the same friends. Another friend, an even more external friend from college than the other, and I went to a happy hour organized by someone she knows. Are these granfalloons? Do they have meaning? Am I using them just to make some friends, even though my time in college wasn't all that great (regardless of the seemingly normal human instinct to improve memories) and I don't particlularly want to relive those times? So it's all about figuring out what people are now, and sharing what i am now, and seeing if we connect. And if we don't - then what? Where I do go next? It's been fun though so far, so maybe i should just stop being so nuerotic and overthinking and just enjoy it. Or maybe I'll be myself. sigh.


Solar panel vs. trees - a tie?

This seems like sort of an inane lawsuit and probably cost both sides quite a bit of money, click here for link.

I think if you install solar panels under tress, even if the trees were planted after 1979 which seems to be a somewhat arbitrary date to me, you don't have a right to then complain the trees block the solar panel. Wouldn't you consider how much sun you received before installing solar panels?

I guess the verdict split the difference so only some of the trees lost? And good riddance. Another example of our wonderfully logical judicial system keeping us safe and happy.


Geeky baseball hitting streak article and comments

I thought this was a funny little article in Slashdot about baseball hitting streaks. It's a bunch of geeks commenting on a geeky baseball simulation but it's funny and interesting if you are geeky and like sports statistics. The best line is "You don't understand. Baseball is so boring, the fans find the statistics exciting!" It's the greatest statistical sport in the world.



East of Uraguay?

I was in Chinatown today and we flipped through one of those coin books that supposedly has coins from every country (or many countries) of the world. Since I was with my friend Dan and his Honduran wife Lenny, we decided to see if Honduras was one of the coins. Not only was Honduras not included, there was a coin in the book from a country called "East of Uraguay." Maybe this was a bad translation of Paraguay, but the country "East of Uraguay" according to the map appears to be South Africa or Namibia depending on where you embark form, either of which is not generally known in the circles I travel in as "East of Uraguay." So not only was a legitimate country not included, made up countries were. Ha ha ha, screw central america. Good times.

I also noticed about 5 countries in the book had the flag of Argentina as their flag. Almost makes me think Chinatown quality isn't necessarily the best in the world? It just goes to prove the old proverb: 1,000,000,000 plus people can't be all right all the time.

17 little gold fish

I haven't written much about my life in San Francisco, and I'm not exactly sure why that is. Partly it's because I was out a lot wandering the city, trying to get to know it. Partly it's because I was busy at work. Mostly I think it's because I was a lost a bit when I first got here. Not just lost in a new city, but lost personally, emotionally. I am about to complete my first six months here, six months into a one year work commitment, and I'm as lost as I have ever been, possibly even more so. I'm more inclined to retreat internally and isolate myself with books and music and just stop even trying to interact. About one year ago I decided my life needed a change. I had to change my job, my location, or both. I was hoping to find a better job in Philadelphia, but as that didn't appear to be happening I decided to change cities but not jobs. Minimize the risk, San Fran is a great town, all that.

In my heart, I think I realized that wasn't a real solution to the problem. I'm the problem. I don't mean that in nearly as negative a way as it comes out on typed so plainly and bluntly there, but it is me. Wherever I am, whatever I decide to do, I am stuck within the framework that is myself, my mind, my fears and repressions and anxieties. Also the things that make me happy. As recent transplants to San Francisco are quick to point, you are not different once you arrive in San Francisco, you just walk up more hills. I made that up, nobody says that. It's still true though.

Anyway, I think I have become even more afraid of groups and new people and less socially confident than I used to be, which is not good. I'm even considering joining a study on anxiety disorders/male shyness. I'm not sure I'm that shy, but I might be. I have also become angrier, more annoyed at my own limitations and my inability to figure out how to address them. I had a conversation a few months ago about how i used to be very competitive and intense and worked hard to move away from that because I didn't like myself like that. Recently, I tried to change that, let that drive and intensity work itself back into my life, little by little. I was hoping to control it by training for a small triathlon which I hoped would balance out the intensity in other parts of my life. It doesn't, and I can't. I don't want to be that person, yelling at coworkers and pushing people to complete I realize in the greater scheme is pretty meaningless.

It's a little interesting because this is what i would need to do, what i would need to do and be to be successful in a large company, how i couldn't be at 26 to get things done in a previous job. I'm more confident at work now and with my own ideas, but I don't want that life. More confident in work, the same or maybe even less so outside it. Instead, it makes me feel like an ass at my little joke company because nobody acts like that, which is a strength and weakness of the company. Recently, I decided to do a little deep searching and decided I need to find a job I can be passionate about, that if I go over the top with intensity or passion it's ok because it's for some greater good. I also realized I'm tired of business, refuse to work with the government as a lobbyist or some other DC bullshit, and want something that is new everyday. After breaking these down as my core principles, my only conclusion was to become a teacher.

I don't know if this will make me happy, and I'm not a big fan of returning to school to be honest. But if this gets me somewhere I want to go, I have to give it a try, right? My other idea was to bike to Tierra Del Fuego (or just around the country a bit), or drive across the country and just drift for a while. And maybe I will, I can do both once I know the ed school and start date.

I titled this 17 little gold fish in honor of Colonel Aureliano Bunedia from 100 Years of Solitude, who after power and war and everything in his life finds happiness in the solitary isolated confines of a workshop creating little goldfish, 17 at a time I think if I have the number correct, then starting over again, lost all day in his own work and world without real communication or interaction with larger world. Some of us are destined for solitude, and it's not a bad thing. It's comforting. How does this relate to being a teacher? Maybe teaching is my 17 gold fish, maybe doing something meaningful will give me that. If i can't sit in a little attic room and write for a living, maybe this will give me the internal calm to be happy, confident.


Round head

I have been going to the same hair stylist for 3 consecutive haircuts, which is a bit of a record for me. Normally, I just wander around, catch a glimpse of myself in a window somewhere, notice I need a haircut, and get one. But this place is around the corner from me, open late, and full of nice little ladies giving people pedicures when I enter so I keep going back. There is only one lady who cuts hair, opposed to the three foot specialists up front, and she is about 5' 2", which is fine.

The women never seems to remember having seen me before. We don't speak much during the haircut, but in all three haircuts she has made the same comments to me.
  1. "You're very tall, I'm not used to working on people so tall." So I slump down a little lower and hope she actually cuts the hair at the top of my head.
  2. "Your head is very round, you have a nice round shaped head. Very nice." Seriously. She has mentioned that to me all three times. It's great. And I do have a nice round head. I used to have my head shaved and I could only get away with that because of the roundness of my noggin. Oh, and because I'm so beautiful.


Coffee wars, a story

The speed at which the coffee wars escalated shocked both the coffee growers and the coffee drinkers, but not the beans themselves. En route, the coffee beans began to build tiny little radios, smuggled local newspapers, found out the selling price for coffee from different regions of the world. They changed their packaging in an effort to increase their value, revolutions begun on the tree carried through to shipping bags and boats and trucks and airplanes. Like all revolutions, the slogans sounded sincere but were mere propaganda:
“It’s not enough to be proud of what you are. It’s only enough to be proud of what you can be.” Which quickly morphed into “It’s not enough to be proud of where you are from, it’s only enough to be proud of where you could be from.” Although similar, the effect of the subtle change in language was profound.

Beans from Mexico, which were loaded by campesinos and driven by truck from a farm in Chiapas to the border of the United States, over the Rio Grande, and into Texas arrived in Texas bearing the packaging of coffee beans from Java, which was selling at a record high that day. The driver could not explain what happened or, after a few minutes, convince anyone where the beans really came from. He was fired. The snickering culprits were filtered out and ground, slowly, before being tossed to the dogs. A shipment from Java was sent under camera, lock, and key by a single boat across the ocean only to arrive in San Francisco with the seal of beans from the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica. The boat meant to return to Java but disappeared. The coffee was burned, the truth of its origin lost, beyond comprehension.
As must happen in this type of international crisis, a multinational coalition was formed. England feared the coffee mutiny would pass into the world of tea and declared a tentative state of emergency. When order is required, judgment must be swift and final. Consequences clear, like filtered water. To address the problem, a random lottery was held to assign each region a color, the intent that each region would grow beans of a single color, coffee beans being color blind they wouldn’t be able to respond. The results of the lottery, held amid silent whispers that this lottery like all lotteries was a decision, could not be questioned, the committee’s members were secret but beyond reproach. The fates were sometimes kind, blue for Jamaica, Java red, Italy white. Mexico was brown, Brazil green. Other colors designated, other countries defined, farmers began to be held accountable.

Everyone believed the color wouldn’t affect the beans, thousands of years of history denied, ignored, sent to school books and taught as mythology. Initially, the new plan worked well enough. Plain bags were used for shipping beans throughout the world where they were stored in great warehouses until the bag was open and the bean’s origin identified by color. But as we have seen, time is a merry prankster and sitting so long gave the beans more time to plot, to intermingle. Italy and Java mixed, the offspring being sent to one bag or the other depending on which parent they most resembled. With just a few offspring entire bags produced a bitter orange coffee that spit in the face of the person trying to drink it. The new slogan did not concern what the beans could get, but what they could be. As happens in such cases, each step of the revolutionary dance moved towards violence.

The farmers in Mexico and Brazil complained about their country’s colors because they could not see the beans in the trees. Other farmers could not get the new beans to grow and began to black market black coffee beans. As must happen, fate like time, the committee stepped in. Fields were burned and farmers tortured. Finally coffee was forbidden entirely, locked away in attics like absinthe and virgin’s blood, moved like poetry the realm of denied existence, yet another myth for the school books. As coffee was fire, people began to drink bottles of smoke, bottled memories and forgotten places. They stayed awake on such memories alone. The committee convened one last time. After toasting with steaming cups of the last pound of official coffee, they shared congratulations and declared their jobs complete, successful, final.


Record high temps!

I heard there were record high temperatures today in Philadelphia, almost 70! It's January people, your weather should be lousy. You shouldn't be golfing, you should be freezing. I guess I tell you to just enjoy it. And that little dripping sound you hear rolling in on the light breeze? Don't worry about that, it's just a dying polar bear's tear.

Or the polar bear's sweat, who can even tell anymore. Crazy.