(16-25 June 2003)
25 June 2003
-Helen made The Pitch (TM) today, catching me a bit off-guard. Basically I had expected that she might make an overt attempt to get me to stay at JMMC, but it would likely be the day I told her of my leaving (i.e. yesterday) or the day just before my two weeks were up (i.e. next Thursday). Instead, it was today. She's a tenacious person, one who tries very hard to make choices sound like they are not choices at all. She's not good at understanding "no". So I made the gargantuan blunder of mumbling that I'd think about it. Which means, of course, that I will think about how much I don't want to go back & let her know this soon. Maybe in writing. Bah.
-The first case of hives I've had in many years persists, now more than 24 hours after showing up. I just wish they'd made Benadryl caplets when I was younger... the taste of the liquid stuff is etched in my sensory memory from days when I seemed to get hives once a week.
-Billows of thick black smoke were covering I-680 today, stemming from a fire at one of the refinery-type places around the Benicia bridge. I was most impressed by how many miles away the smoke was plainly visible from.
-I never thought economists were big on mysticism, but the late moves of Greenspan & Friends are changing my mind. The federal lending rate is 20% of what it was back when the economy was bad in March '02. This just in: the economy is actually worse than it was 16 months ago. Hm. Well, they must know what they're doing, right? Maybe when the interest rate is -2%, the economy will just soar! Banks just taking some of your money every time you open a savings account HAS to be good for your financial situation, right? Mmmm, deflation. This'll work, I know it.
24 June 2003
-Earlier today, I fully intended to post in vague irony about how the most I've liked my jobs in months has been just after giving notice to leave them. I was going to quote a friend of mine who once told me that my perceived identity consisted mainly in "a flair for finding the dark lining on the silver cloud". I was going to underscore how easily people adapt to settings & realities & even when they hate them, it's hard to let them go. The idea that any situation creates an aura of nostalgia upon departure, at least for some people. Even gulags, perhaps, or prisons. But then I had one of the most aggravating days at Chapman since hiring in October, trying to balance the demand of 5 classes for 2 LCD carts & 3 classes for one TV/VCR unit. I was ultimately successful, but this required unscrewing the world's most tightly-screwed monitor cord & reusing it elsewhere. The point is that even though I may briefly have a wave of nostalgia, I won't miss these jobs. I'm making the right decision in a landslide. & now people (especially at CU) will realize what they've been asking people to juggle & make changes more quickly. Maybe.
-As a note that should've been up a couple days ago, Kevin Grinberg has returned to the land of updating web journals, & cites my admonition (circa 10 June) as one of his reasons! You'll find him on the BP People page.
23 June 2003
-It appears that the internet has a fever, & the only prescription is more Country Quiz. Remember when less than a month ago, I was impressed by 84,000+ page accesses in a week? Last week, 400,682 page accesses hit the Blue Pyramid, an astounding 302% of the previous record, set the week before. With a full 95.1% of the hits coming in the InterActive section, it's clear what everyone's looking for. More than 30,000 quizzes were taken last week, which is now 39% of the quizzes over all 23 weeks it's been up. If this isn't the height of the popularity of the Quiz (7th on the LJ charts), I'm a little scared to find out what will be.
-I would've launched the sequel Quiz by now, but things like job-quitting & marriage preparations have gotten in the way. At this point, even if 1/10th of 1% of the people who have taken such a huge interest in the Quiz looked into Loosely Based, that would be more than 75 people from all over the world who wouldn't have looked into it otherwise. Of course, I have no real reason to believe that they will take that interest, but you never know what can be helped with a small little link. Just ask the guy who made Nation-States.net solely to promote his first book!
-My JMMC boss took my quitting much better than I expected, & especially was worried about. I was nervous all night last night about reactions, & so far they've been much more positive than I really even could hope for. I guess everyone I was working for thought 85 miles a day, 11 hours out of the house, & jobs without intellectual stimulus were crazy for me too! On 3 July, I'm a free man. Crazy timing, eh?
22 June 2003
-For the first time since July of last year, the Book List has been updated, now including the 25th submitter, Adam Zimmerman. See how Zimmy's picks have impacted the overall list of 468!
-I just submitted two e-mails quitting my jobs. If I didn't have to work 18 more shifts at the two of them, I'd feel like the freest person alive. As is, I'm nervous about how my resignations will be received. But rest assured, this is the best decision I've made in quite a while. Time to stop wasting time!
21 June 2003
-For a brief time, we're a 3-car family. I guess Pandora gets the extra vehicle. We're in the process of trading the ol' Probe for one of Em's eldest brother's family's Saturns. The Probe will be sold eventually in Fresno, & we get the Saturn for a modest fee. But the Probe hasn't been dropped off yet, so we have 3 cars for a bit.
-The Albatross in Berkeley is probably as good as a bar could be for my tastes. It's very dark, has plenty of active & subdued gaming options, & has maps all over the bathroom walls. Being in California, it's also smoke-free. Sure, people still go there to get drunk, but if one has to have that, the Albatross is as good as one's going to get.
20 June 2003
[from Clovis, California]
-Pretty sure that I'm giving notice on my jobs over the weekend. This will enable me to quit before needing two weeks off for the wedding, after which it wouldn't be particularly nice to quit right away. I'm afraid some people are in for quite a shock, but it's better than me being miserable any longer.
-I want to clarify something about my abortion comments yesterday, briefly, because I think at least one person (maybe many of you) misinterpreted them. When I said "purely practical [arguments] about quality of life", I meant quality of life of the unborn child, not the mother. The only justification I've seen people effectively use for abortion (excluding rape, because I think that gravely complicates the issue & makes abortion much more acceptable) is that the quality of life of an unwanted child is more important than the quantity of life of that child. In an overpopulated world where an unwanted child is likely to face extreme hardships from day one, an argument can be made that the child might want to be euthanized rather than face its future. This is the only thing I've found to be compelling. I don't think I'm "trivializing" the difficulty of a potentially abortion-prone situation, rather I think that personal responsibility for the pregnancy takes on a much more important role than I think most people in this country believe in. & yes, that personal responsibility obviously falls squarely on both responsible parties. Just as I believe that the decision to get an abortion, in a society where it is legal, ought to fall squarely equally on both parties. In short, pregnancy, in cases of abortion or bringing the child to term, should be taken a lot more seriously than people generally take them. Just my opinion.
-I seem utterly unable to get good sleep anymore.
19 June 2003
-The Kia no longer makes massive engine noises whenever it's running! & fixing it was all covered under warranty. Paying a bill for $0.00: priceless.
-Wow! The Quiz is up to 12th on the LiveJournal charts with 770 links! Also, more fun with foreign forums...
-More joys of working in Walnut Creek: hearing one's boss & coworkers congratulate each other on how much money they give to the English as America's Only Lanugage campaign. Yeah, that's why I moved to Berkeley.
-Lots of folks linked on the BP People page are talking about interesting things... Pat's latest installment is about a dichotomy he draws between "thinking" & "doing" blogs. This entry took me 2-3 read-throughs because I started by skimming & it wasn't immediately obvious to me which type would be thinking & which doing. He classifies thinking blogs primarily as subject-specific & doing blogs as primarily personal. I think that accepting such a dichotomy would make this page either a fence-sitter or one that flits back & forth from day to day, which is probably why the dichotomy strikes a sour chord with me. He goes on to explain why he believes that "It seems that thinking blogs are cooler and have broader appeal than doing blogs". My experience has been quite different, primarily because most subjects that people focus on (such as when Phil's page had a daily Lab Notes section) leave me pretty cold... I've yet to find a history blog, & I can hardly ever read Amy's front page (she divides her thinking from doing pages, if you will) without getting upset about her political views. Furthermore, people that I don't even know often have extremely interesting blogs that are really only about their personal lives. This is where I probably part ways with the average reader, since I'm obsessed with studying personal interaction & think that the only really fulfilling study is of human thought, interaction, & perspective. For example, Sam's [*] webpage is linked on the BP People page & I read it (like all the rest on that page) every day. I haven't had any contact with this person in nine years, however. & we were never close at all to begin with. Yet I find that her perspective is interesting to read. Another example are the many random blogs that I surf when checking out opinions of the Country Quiz from those who have linked it. I often get engrossed in the personal rantings & ravings of people (ranging in age from 14 to 40 from what I can discern) who I will never meet & have no bearing on my life other than taking my Quiz. I recognize that mine is probably not the majority perspective, but I almost always prefer a good personal blog to one about the study of a given field.
-Everyone's talking about the line between infanticide & abortion & I say I would tend to agree with making the difference in how society treats these two things less severe. There's clearly not that big a gulf between someone -2 months old & someone +2 months old. The question of punishment, however, is purely academic to me, as I'm just not interested in standard punishments for people who commit wrongs. Punitive measures by force seem universally unfair... who am I to give one over another? I've said before that I'm having real qualms with abortion as a concept & it just seems to violent for me to find acceptable & have yet to find really good arguments for it other than purely practical ones about quality of life that seem circumstantial at best.
-Despite my usual frustration with Amy's libertarian views, she also has many views which I strongly agree with. One of these is about vegetarianism, where she displays part of our dialogue here. It's too bad we haven't gotten more of a response about this, because I really want to understand...
-Finally, on my day of featuring other web journals, I must say it's the low point for my enjoyment of Adam Duritz's offerings. In the same entry, he endorsed the concept of capitalism being inevitably ubiquitous in human society AND praised the Rolling Stones. This double dip of disaster will be difficult to forgive. Which for some reason makes me wonder what will happen if fans of my book (should there be any when it comes out) will discover this page & be appalled by what I say here. I guess there's something to be said for keeping one's opinion of art & the artist at least somewhat separate.
18 June 2003
-At lunch today, a bird attacked my head twice. I have no idea what sort of bird, as I was unable to get a look at it. I was walking towards the Carl's Jr. when claws swooped down & grabbed at my head, as though they wished to carry me away. I was a little freaked out, but I figured out very quickly that it was a bird & one that posed little threat to me, especially if I kept my eyes averted. It made a second attempt at lifting me, & then I entered the restaurant. I quickly made sure that there were no bugs in my hair & then ordered my meal.
-It's definitely fun to have people rave to each other about something you designed... in another language!
-Everywhere I look in this country, I see nothing more than meager plutocracy trying to pass itself off as popular will. The chain of corporate funding buying advertising buying votes is in perfect unending working order. Until that chain is obliterated, there will be no hope for leadership in this nation's political spectrum.
-One of my very favorite rants, especially on this page but also in life, is about mental health, drugs, & authenticity. It seems like I rarely bring much new to this debate that I haven't said before, but every time a new step is taken towards the literal, non-satirical manifestation of Huxley's Brave New World in our society, my outrage is renewed. The latest instigator of fury is the late JAMA study (I shuffle copies of this mag almost every day at my morning job) declaring that $48 billion is lost each year due to decreased efficiency from depression. Many people (though strangely not even most) are dissatisfied with their jobs. The following fact was not included in the study: most jobs stink. An insanely high percentage of jobs are unfulfilling, unrewarding, sustain a marginal quality of life, & are, in short, depressing. The fact that so many Americans can deal with having such jobs is a testament to the amazing distracting ability of the entertainment & material junk in our society. I have two jobs that I would consider to require far less work than average, make a great deal more pay per "unit of effort" (imagine we can quantify these things) than the average job, & that I chose for myself (think of how many Americans, let alone people worldwide, cannot choose their profession). & I absolutely hate them. Almost every hour I've spent at them lately has made me feel depressed. It's not because there's something wrong with me that can only be solved by doping my brain cells into submission with coercive "be happy!" chemicals. It's because my jobs stink. & I'm one of the lucky who can get out of it, improve my life, take on a rewarding job, afford the pay cut, & all these other things because of my natural abilities & my opportunities. Most people can't do that, they have to face a life of anonymity & isolation where their primary defining duty is something that bores them, or they hate for some other reason. You can either come to grips with this reality, & start trying to build up a consciousness of meaning over materialism in our society, or you can go take some drugs & you won't have to think about it.
-People who think I have waaaay more programming skill than I actually do, on the Country Quiz: "I think it chooses three or so countries are random to start off with. Then asks you questions to choose which of those countries you are." I found that on one of the many random (English language) forums the CQ is circulating on.
17 June 2003
Happy Birthday to David Gray
-Zimmy became the first person since last summer to submit his top 25 to my compilation of best books from various friends & acquaintances. I will integrate his list with the sum total sometime this week, when I'm not working a 9-hour schedule (12 hours of work & driving time), which I am this week so I can have Friday off to go to Fresno. But I want to remind everyone who hasn't submitted a list that the list is still alive!
-"Unfortunately, these jobs have proven very disappointing. Most library work is devoid of challenge... It consists of predictable rote tasks which take little effort to figure out, and less effort to repeat." -from my cover letter, dated yesterday, to a community service organization.
16 June 2003
-People like to come up with stories to get you to give them money. & not just large corporations! This is a pervasive trend amongst small-time panhandlers as well. I can completely understand the desire to come up with a story... it makes one seem more believable, it pre-empts the potential query as to why they want the money, & it illustrates why a person is not "lazy" or any of the other things people attribute to those who panhandle. What is harder for me to understand is why the following story is almost the only one that anyone uses: "Hi, I was driving here & my car broke down & my family is back in the car & I'm $X short of getting it filled up with gas, or towed, or repaired." I believe I have heard this story more than 10 times in my life, almost exactly the same each time, & in communities ranging from Washington DC to Albuquerque to Boston to (today) Walnut Creek. Often I am tempted to directly ask the person why they want to make up this particular story when everyone has heard it a million times. Instead I gave the man one-sixth of his "shortage", no questions asked. I think that if I ever end up broken down with my family in the car & no money in a strange community, I will have to consider making up a believable story to actually get money from someone.
-I knew it! The famed Counting Crows/John Mayer tour of this summer, in direct conflict with my wedding (thus disenabling us from attending said concert) WILL have Mayer as the official headliner. I predicted this against the skepticism of many who were sure that the better band with quintuple the studio albums, double the radio songs, & infinitely more stage experience would actually get to close the shows. But instead the flavor of the month gets center stage. To be fair, I do like most of John Mayer's stuff, especially this "Why Georgia" song. But even the radio announcer who relayed this information was shocked that CC is opening at this stage in their career, & for someone other than The Who. I knew it, but getting confirmation makes me feel much better about missing this tour.
-There are many people whose standards are so high that they will never be met. They turn their nose up at almost everything in sight, they are constantly complaining, constantly ragging on people in basic service industries & the community. What mystifies me is where these standards came from in the first place. The individual I'm considering now grew up on a farm & had little to no high-class expectations growing up. Where did she learn to be such a critic? Why do so few people give basic things that don't really matter a break?
-Meanwhile, it was another record-obliterating week at the Pyramid o'Blue. The previous record was broken by nearly 50,000 page accesses, to a new all-time high of 132,497 accesses in a single 7-day period. Flag Day brought out fans of the flag-based Country Quiz, as the week ending that day also set a record with just shy of 8,500 quizzes, besting the old mark by almost 3,000. I am almost certain there will be a sequel now, 'round about the time I hit 50,000 total quizzes taken. I'm also considering a very different type of quiz, per a suggestion from my Dad, but I'm pretty sure CQII will come first. I must admit that people searching with quotation marks has gotten pretty lackluster lately, but people really think I'm the source for things like issues analysis of laci petterson case, latest news on laci petterson case, latest laci petterson news, news about laci petterson, & of course latest on laci petterson case. Most amusing about all of those searches, of course, much like last week's winner about Hans Blitz, is that Laci's name is therein misspelled. That spelling only appears on my page because of Elias' last-name, which is different, being listed on his birthday.
-I was in denial about Ray Bradbury's One More for the Road being the last short story collection of his career, even though Em pointed out fairly bluntly that the title probably meant something more than just trying to be catchy. But finishing the book this morning, I read the afterword & it looks like this is probably it. A great collection, certainly not his best, but better than many. Sigh. I probably will never get to meet the guy.
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