Tag Archives: Quick Updates


Nothing to Say Here

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Tags: ,

Let’s just say it’s a good thing that I’m not trying to write full-time right now. I just don’t have much of anything to say.

I turned 29 last Friday. Emily pulled off the first surprise party I think I’d ever had in my life, with a bunch of folks from work. I was having a terrible day and in a foul mood up till that point, even though I knew we were on our way to eat green chile in San Francisco’s new New Mexican restaurant. I was so legitimately surprised that my bad mood evaporated entirely.

We watched the worst Oscar show ever on Sunday, while playing my new favorite board game (Thebes) with Gris & Anna. There were even a bunch of movies I really liked winning, but they really have to start replacing that show with a monotone script-reading or something.

The jury I was on disbanded on Monday, after the case was settled. I was pretty sure I’d be excited to write about that experience, but the conclusion of the proceedings were so anticlimactic as to seemingly render the experience moot. There were two phases of the trial and our ruling on the first was supposed to lead to the second. Instead, it prompted the parties to settle the second rather than have a few more days of trial. Clearly the preferred solution for the parties and for my fellow jurors, but I was hoping for a full experience. So it goes.

The week was another week at work. I’m trying to appreciate them but most of my efforts are coming up short. I’m taking joy in my statistical reports while lamenting how little response they garner and how little they’ll probably influence anyone’s decisions.

The weekend was lazy and unproductive by design. Kind of like a decision to binge-eat junk food – it sounds good at the time and one gets settled into the idea and even excited. And agreeing to do it makes it better, but fails to leave one with something other than a bad feeling in one’s stomach at the end. Something like that.

March, I expect better of you. I should be all inspired and stuff by now. Maybe I’m just too old.


What Just Happened

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Tags: ,

Been a little while since I posted. I haven’t exactly had blogger’s block, but I also haven’t felt particularly like crafting any vignettes about my life either. One of those periods of time where I’m sort of glad that I don’t have my self-imposed daily posting requirements. Although it can run the risk of there being “missing time” from the proverbial posterity record. So to rectify…

In the last week, I have:
-Had 3 mini-migraines (less than 24 hours each), seeming to represent “aftershocks” of a sort after the 54-hour fiasco last week.
-Been even more focused than the recent normal on stocks, but with admittedly pretty good results.
-Gone to Fresno on the train, staying for 2.5 days, and returning in the van with the IV family. The trip was marked by remarkable evidence of recovery for Em’s mom, a critical mass of overall noise in the house denoted by an increasingly critical mass of children (6 and counting), tremendous failure at gameplay on my part (we played plenty of games, but I only won once and the game setup made it not really count), and spending a lot of quality time with the two eldest children in the Garin Clan, who have finally reached levels of maturity and verbosity at which I start to find people interesting.
-Been empaneled on a jury, with opening statements yesterday and a roughly week-long schedule ahead (more I am legally bound not to say, yet).

It’s been an interesting little run of small breaks from the routine, though it still pales in comparison to the level and rate of change I am anticipating for later in 2009. Other than the hefty spate of migraines, though, I’m not complaining.

Hopefully I’ll be able to return to a regular schedule of descriptiveness sometime soon. I would imagine that this March, in particular, will bring the typical seasonal deluge of activity and inspiration.


They’re Just as Suspicious as the Rest of Us

Categories: A Day in the Life, If You're Going to San Francisco, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

It’s simply miserable in San Francisco today.

It’s cold and rainy and the type of weather that most anywhere except this good-weather-forsaken vortex known as the Bay Area would bring thoughts and hopes of overnight snow to salvage the otherwise dismal atmosphere. The utter impossibility of snow, the hopelessness to even thinking about snow, is perhaps the greatest curse among many weather hexes in this region.

I made the mistake of going out to lunch, instead of just holing up with my cereal in the office and hoping to not get too hungry. I had to amend my course from Chipotle (crazily optimistic, being about a half-mile away) to Herbert’s Mexican Grill, a far cry in quality at a third the distance. I wound up with under-cheesed nachos on a noticeably sticky tray.

Shortly after starting to eat and read, a series of women sat down at the table adjacent mine. They were all casually dressed but had this remarkably similar look to them, a quality almost that was hard to exactly typify. Upon a little listening to their conversation, it became clear that they were flight attendants, apparently on a brief tourist stopover in San Francisco – long enough to change out of the uniforms and get up to the cable cars.

And then they started talking about January 16, 2009.

“I was on a LaGuardia to Denver the day after, scheduled on an A320. The day after, you know. And everyone on it just kept going on sick list. And they’d refill the flight and then all the new people would go on sick list. I had a friend who offered to vouch for me and put me up if I wanted to too. She said she had a hotel room for a week and everything.”

Prepare doors.


TMR Posts, vol. 1

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Can’t get enough of my opinion? Ha ha!

If so, head on over to The Mep Report, for new quick-hitting posts like this one, which I almost cross-posted here.

It’s mostly going to be stuff like obvious news stories and general making fun (basically, the same stuff that I used to say on TMR, now in text format).

Cross-posting (except for big announcements or really important stuff) sort of undermines the idea of writing in two places. By posting different content, you need to follow two blogs just to make sure you aren’t missing anything. And that’s how they getchya. And by “they”, I mean “I”.


Cleanup on Aisle 6

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Quick Updates, Strangers on a Train, Tags: , , ,

Coming up from the train this morning, I walked my usual path through Powell Street Station, winding to the right and up the mini-escalator to a little landing before the second mini-escalator. On said landing were two orange cones, pretty much squarely in the middle of the walkway. Splaying out in all directions from the cones was spilled coffee, heavily whited with milk.

I almost actually paused mid-stride, no doubt causing a chain-reaction of commuters walking inattentively ahead, already trying to dodge conical orange obstacles. But I proceeded, while craning my neck and trying to figure out if that had really been what it looked like.

Someone had taken the time and energy to place not one, but two cones over the top of a large coffee spill, but not to make any effort to clean it up.

Sure, I may have been watching it in a twenty-second window between placement of the cones and running to the janitorial closet to procure a mop and bucket. I considered sticking around atop the second escalator to determine whether this was an especially inopportune period of time or really a telling phenomenon. The fact that I considered such a dalliance would (or might) make me late for work (and I was about 10 minutes ahead of schedule) was sufficient answer in my own mind to the possibility that this was just a brief phenomenon.

Besides, wouldn’t one normally keep the cones and the mop in the same place?

It struck me, of course, that this whole incident was The Metaphor for the current state of things, at least in America and possibly on a larger scale. There’s only time, energy, inclination to throw up caution flags, to do the absolute minimum to warn people of the danger without the slightest effort at containment. You have been warned. But no one is even going to attempt to actually ameliorate the harms. Navigating is only safer by the slimmest of technical margins, in that you know that you’re navigating something dangerous.

Don’t fall.


Postscript — I write an awful lot about BART and situations that take place on the trains and in the stations. To the point where it’s sort of amazing that I have yet to create an official category for posts about BART. I should do that, but that would require retroactive categorization, which is sort of a gargantuan pain (especially when I’m so far behind on other, seemingly more meaningful projects).

It does make me wonder, though, about what I would have to post about if I didn’t take a train regularly. My ideal life involves writing full-time, but I’ve always been very aware of how crazily isolating that could become, to the point where inspiration and life events were much less available, thus diminishing much of the point of writing full-time in the first place. The paradox never troubles me so much as when I think about my observations on public transportation and how I would rarely be on it without this kind of routine. I think the summation remains that a full-time writing life would require enough small, enjoyable trappings of routine (e.g. clubs/activities, volunteering, etc.) as to keep a finger on the pulse of the “real world.”


Of Emus and Bats

Categories: A Day in the Life, If You're Going to San Francisco, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

I have approximately negative time to post this morning, but there are two things that I just have to post:

1. New Look for Old Bird:
The Mep Report got a facelift, courtesy of the efforts/urgings of Mepper Russ Gooberman and the stylings of potential future partner in crime Kevin Grinberg. Look for new and exciting content from all Meppers there, including some possible cross-posting (or even exclusive posting) from the prodigal emu (me).

2. Bats in the Belfry:
I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to couch this topic since it happened on Monday, 12/29, but I’ve decided (at least this morning) that the cool kids are using “submitted without comment” these days. So I’ll just leave you with the blessing as follows – may you never have to write an e-mail like this at work:

Hi Facilities,

There is a live bat (the animal) in the recycle bin behind Erin’s desk (the front one) in Room 300. It is rattling around and making noise.

We don’t see a need to harm it, but it would be great if someone could get it out of our office.



People Die Every Day

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

While in line at Chipotle today, I read their sign announcing early closure on New Year’s Eve and complete closure on New Year’s Day.

The final sentence read:

We sincerely hope you can survive waiting a couple days for your first burrito of 2009.

And it immediately hit me that someone out there won’t survive to see that first burrito of 2009. Even now, midday on the next-to-last day of the year, someone was reading that sign in Chipotle and chuckling mildly at the witty sarcasm and imagining the first of many burritos they’d be chowing down in the bright shiny new annum to come. And they were sure that those burritos, like so many of their presupposed plans, would unfold like an infinite accordion before them to build a bridge to an unforeseeable but infinitely remote future.

And they will die before the year.

And they have no idea.

The moral of this moment may be “be careful what you’re sarcastic about.” Or perhaps just “be careful.” Or even, given how most of you are probably reacting to the tenor of this post, “the most basic and predictable realities of life are soul-crushingly depressing when truly considered beyond a passing whim.”

Bon appetit.



Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (for those interested in such) and an even Merrier Christmas Eve, which we all know (at least in New Mexico) is the real holiday.

There is some debate from past years as to whether the previous record for luminarias was 525 or 576, but the record has fallen this Christmas Eve, as Emily & I constructed 620 luminarias, which I single-handedly placed as Emily contracted a flu this morning. My Dad helped light them (to the tune of about a third of the total), but otherwise, I placed and lit all 620 between 7:30 this morning and about 5:15 this evening. I even took a couple breaks here and there.

I was hoping to instantly upload some of my favorite shots of the record-setting display (talk about your instant media), but we are facing technical difficulties in camera compatibility and failure to bring a cord. So you will have to imagine, if you will, luminarias from street to roof and every level in between, totaling 620 in number, with not a seam put wrong. (Though we lost about 8 bags to fire, but they were replaced and thus only counted once in the 620 total.)

My legs and neck are sore, even when at rest. I feel vaguely dazed and thoroughly overwhelmed. And yet, I couldn’t be much happier (minus the Em being mightily sick thing). It may be the last Christmas in America, but it’s quite a Christmas. My heart will always swell for luminarias. I’m going back out to the cold, the candles, the sand, the bags. This is my holiday, the day on which I probably work the hardest.


Programming Note: Noon (Pacific) Today

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

If you’re going to be on a computer today, you’ll want to do this at noon (Pacific Standard Time) today:

1. Go to AdamsBlock.com.
2. Watch.

I don’t sponsor or endorse the site fully, though I did just hear that the site’s owner learned about my workplace yesterday and was “inspired”. Apparently he’s donating some ad revenue and donations to Glide. He may even change the reference on his FAQ to something other than calling us “apparently some sort of Methodist church”.

Tune in today. Trust me.

That is all.


Words of the Prophets

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Primary Sources, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

Transcript of a conversation between a Homeless Guy (HG) and myself (SC) on a sidewalk in Berkeley this morning, between 24-Hour Fitness and the Downtown Berkeley BART station entrance at Shattuck & Addison. Given that I was rushing to BART to head to work, the conversation was sort of shouted over shoulders and at no point was either participant at rest. He started walking ahead of me and I ended up well ahead of him because of our relative natural paces.

HG: What they all working out for? We’re all gonna die!
SC: Maybe some later than others!
HG: Maybe so. We’re all gonna die soon, though!
SC: You think so?
HG: That Obama. He’s gonna ruin everything!
SC: You think so?
HG: He’s a crook!
SC: They’re all crooks!
HG: Yeah, but he’s the worst! He’s the Antichrist!
SC: I don’t agree with you there!
HG: You’ll see!
SC: We’ll all see soon enough!
HG: You got that right!

It is probably worth noting, though I do so cringing, that “Homeless Guy” quoted above is African-American/Black. Though I think that such observations make me slightly racist, they at least reassure the reader that his raving about Obama as Antichrist is not racism. Or at least not simple outsider-based racism with which such overt opposition to Obama is generally associated.


Crass Commercialism!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Duck and Cover, Just Add Photo, Quick Updates, Tags: , , , ,

Hey kids!

Lest you somehow think that I have completely wasted this weekend, I am conflictedly proud to announce the availability of Duck and Cover merchandise!

Here’s an example of the kind of unparalleled quality and homespun handwritten charm you can expect from said products:

Or, if you prefer more overt puns:

This is the completion of a long-ago resolved (but undone) task of mine, at the request of a couple of regular D&C readers who aren’t even personally known to me. Also, it’s fun. Also, it’s just in time for the holidays and remarkably BP Merch sales haven’t slacked year-over-year from last year. Good thing it’s not available in malls.

Also, your money won’t be worth anything this time next year, so would you rather have money or your favorite political cartoon characters on a shirt? I mean, really.


Busy Misery

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

There’s a lot going on in the new theme here at StoreyTelling (hit refresh if you’re not sure of what I write). This one might last a while, maybe all the way till next October or whenever something else seems more relevant. You may remember my “Stop the War” theme from Introspection back in the day (Spring 2003). As you can see on the old Past Graphics Archive for Introspection, it only lasted till May, when it seemed clear that the war wouldn’t be stopped.

It’s been five and a half years.

I don’t have a past graphics archive for StoreyTelling yet, but I should have one. I should make one soon. I should do a lot of things… small productive things or big productive things or just things in general. But I don’t want to. I’m miserable most of the time, it seems, set off by the smallest and the largest. It’s easy to be intractably busy and intractably miserable these days (it seems, for me). One would think these things might somehow rotate against each other, but they truly feed each other in some sort of ever-descending spiral. Even in the middle of Saturday afternoon, the threat of busy and the truly deep-seeded misery is rattling my cage. And hey, how did I get in this cage?

People in food lines are both busy and miserable. How can you be busy when you have that long to wait? It’s kind of like being busy in a job in America in the first decade of the third millennium. Everything is waiting and watching and shoving off for later, sandbagging and timing out. And yet it feels so busy.

How can you be busy when you have that long to wait? You’ll find out.


A Snowball’s Chance on Mars

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

Well, I was wrong. The market didn’t go up 900 points today; only 485. (Third largest point total gain ever.) Even dead cats can only bounce so high. Or maybe it’s just waiting for official October.

I woke up late this morning, but inspired. Not in recognition of the ancient new year so much as yet another new project, another “chapter one” for me. I plunked down my ten ethernet dollars and picked up a domain name that seemed resonant. This may yield, in short order, an incredibly prolific and time-consuming “next big thing”. Or it may pan into nothing, a product of me being realistic, for once, about my time constraints and expenditures. At this point, I’m squarely 50-50.

If I decide not to do it, I’ll at least post some of the prototype stuff somewhere on the BP. And if I decide to do it, you won’t be able to stop hearing about it for a while.

These times have been labeled interesting, trying, unprecedented. Somehow, in the shuffle, we’ve lost sight of the fact that it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s some sort of life on Mars. I know I’ve already been over this, but snow? Snow?! I feel like the next article will talk about the Martian radio broadcast that some linguist in a lab is working on translating, only to be met with similar lack of fanfare in a world so self-absorbed as to believe it is alone in living at all.

Maybe they’ll have to cart the Mars Rover into their underground lair before we really start to see it.

Maintaining a lasting feeling of relevance is difficult in a period like this. I feel as fickle as the market is volatile, as uncertain as everyone else. What inspires me in the morning seems blasé by the afternoon. What depresses me one day seems almost okay the next. I know I have unstable moods, but this is just getting silly. Is everyone feeling this way? Is everyone’s world this inconsistent, unstable, murky?

This isn’t exactly something people are prone to sharing. Like so many widely held perceptions, people assume that it’s “just me” or “something only I’m going through”. We are trained to be independent, to be scientific, to be immune to larger growing understandings that border on the universal. We are given inoculations of isolation and uncommunicativeness from birth, in the hopes of eradicating the virus of our humanity.

But there is power in the viral, a term the web has started to turn on its head. There is seemingly impossible potential in people, both alone and in groups, working toward common purpose. I would never have believed that the bailout, even if it’s just a first round, could be defeated by a populous united in opposition to their politicians. Couldn’t even conceive of the possibility. And now, in the face of it, it seems like anything is similarly probable. We could be on the verge of something very real.

And yet I have despair, debilitation, almost no energy to get anything done. I want my recreation, rest, distraction. Once more unto a breach of working overtime on top of a day job just seems… sigh.

But what if this is the one? What if the next mountain is the one we have to get over to find the valley below? What if this door is the exit?

Someone show me a sign.


On Certain Tuesdays in October

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Ah, you say, but it’s not October yet.


I don’t know of any site that sorts stock market activity by days of the week, but I have a guess that Tuesdays are running at a substantial net loss. Not that Mondays have a great recent record either.

And the crashes of ’29 and ’87 were both October phenomena. And I don’t think the rest of the years’ worth of Octobers have done all that well either. I once read a few things about why October is a witchy month for the markets, stuck between anticipation of the holidays and everything else. All kinds of things seem to come due in October. And I’m hardly just talking about the market.

I guess that it’s not considered good manners to be gleeful on the day of a record stock market drop in America. I could make lots of arguments for you, ranging from the fact that I have enough invested in the market myself to keep me honest and sincere, to the fact that I really believe in my heart of hearts that more good can come from stock market crashes than almost anything I can imagine right now. Really. But I guess I’ll sum up my defense with this: today will probably only be a record for one day.

Yeah. I would, uh, suggest getting your money out.*

*Of course, there’s a decent likelihood that everything will bounce tomorrow, higher than it’s ever been before. October is nothing if not volatile, and the market is a haven of volatility and tumult these days. Could I rule out a 900-point jump tomorrow followed by an 1100-point collapse on Wednesday, perhaps culminating in a flat week? Of course not. In fact, that may be the most probable outcome of all.

But for one day, at the very least, I can say I’m happy and, more than that, hopeful. I remember telling Fish in Chicago in April that there was a big part of me that felt that the United States had a decent chance of collapsing in the next 20 years and that its doing so, and doing so sooner than later, was the best thing that could happen to the planet. Now it’s feeling a little more like 20 minutes. To which I must say: bring it on.

Too harsh? Too cavalier? Yes, people’s lives are at stake. But the more humbled this country gets, the more everyone will have to understand what it is to be a citizen of the world, not just one privileged spoiled nation. The more equalized the playing field gets here, and between here and everywhere else, the more reasonable everyone’s expectations will become.

For too long, the United States has been touting itself as an example, a model, evidence of what innate, unchecked greed and ambition can do for you. Inspiring the worst of hopes in everyone, that they too can get rich quick rather than helping their neighbor.

Kids, you always get what you give. It just might be The End of Capitalism. The snake chomping its tail may have finally swallowed itself whole, never to return.

I’m getting ahead of myself. But hope is, after all, a dangerous thing.



Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

Even though I’ve been feeling Octobery for a full week, culminating in yesterday’s trip to a pumpkin patch in Petaluma for Emily’s 29th birthday, I officially am declaring the October Season open today. (Hit Refresh if you don’t see why.)

It’s also the last day of the baseball season and I’m going to try to bring myself to watch some of the M’s game as they try to avoid losing their 102nd of the year. Meanwhile, I have to admit finding myself more interested in the fate of the Twins and Brewers, the last two teams I’m rooting to get into the playoffs. While I feel a pull toward both the Cubs’ breaking their curse and Lou Piniella, I think I’m cheering for a Twins-Phillies World Series, assuming the former can get there. October baseball always finds a way of drawing me in.

The BP is coming off its two lowest traffic days since I instituted advertising on the site three years ago. It rapidly seems to be forcing the issue of me making a concerted effort to re-bolster traffic effort and content or just letting the site hibernate till I have more time to maintain it.

Many decisions and changes seem to be afoot, taking shape and finding form in the darkness of an uncertain future. For now, I’m just trying to take each hour as it comes, savor the joys of uncertainty and possibility, and hope against hope for decent outcomes.

Finally getting over being sick. Finally thinking about tackling some big stuff. Too jumbled to find real focus; too energized to not comment on almost everything.

Happy October.


Under Same Management

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

This Blue Pyramid has not been sold.

“Established in 2006, Blue Pyramid brings to ABS three core competencies within IT support…” Hm. I wonder where they got the idea for the name “Blue Pyramid”. Or that it would somehow be associated with quality web output. Serves me right for not tying up the .com and .net extensions when I registered bluepyramid.org in July 2001.

Sure, they could’ve come up with it on their own. After all, the Gone Jackals might raise their eyebrows in my direction after their 1998 album by the same name. And of course, it’s not my name anyway. As I freely admit, I stole this concept from Ray Bradbury, who had dibs on it in 1948.

At least Google knows what’s up.

It calls into question a lot of things. Can you own a concept? Where does copyright end and fair use begin? What is the nature of intellectual property? I had a few discussions of this with people this weekend – it seems to be a burgeoning realm of law that does some good in some areas and “keeps the price of AIDS drugs high” in others. My friend Russ recently fought the law and the Russ won, reinstating a video tribute to Major League Baseball after MLB asked him to stop promoting their products. Then, of course, they gobbled up his promotion as soon as he convinced them to reinstate it. People, even (especially?) managers, often have no idea what they’re doing or what’s in their best interests. Too often, like my recent former boss’ boss, they just want to keep their head down, not get in trouble, and not have to think too closely about anything (see also today’s D&C).

It could be argued that I haven’t done much for the BP’s best interests lately, either, given the static nature of the front page, much of the content, and so on. I wouldn’t protest at this point, except to whisper Civilization-like promises of a future rebirth. Like my workplace and my self-perception itself, there’s plenty of limitless potential hot and bubbling underneath the cooled, flaky crust of day-to-day operations. When the volcanoes start popping and the earth starts moving, things are going to get good. Or at least exciting.

In the meantime, we’re plowing toward an October that has made up its mind. I argued that the October season this year really started at the top of last week, but it’ll be firmly entrenched by the end of this one. Still fighting off a coldish thing that I acquired just before traveling to Nuevo and I am desperately trying to keep out of my ears and sinuses. So far, I’m towing the line.

Good luck on same today.


Hurtling Towards Resolution/October

Categories: A Day in the Life, Quick Updates, Tags: ,

The lack of Duck & Cover today is dedicated in silence to the memories of David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) and Peter Camejo (1939-2008).

Truth be told, of course, I just didn’t have the time or energy (or inclination to wake our sleeping guest) to write and scan this morning. Work has shown me just how much I’ll be playing catch-up all week, just prior to another crazy round of travel to the Mountain Time Zone.

I have about seven posts percolating on my mind’s stove, most in anticipation of my ten-year high school reunion this weekend or in reaction to DFW’s suicide. As you’ll know if you’ve engaged with the world in the last 24 hours, things are popping all over the place. As someone who needs to process everything as he goes, it’s a challenge to keep up. But I’ll get there and you’ll see it here first.

In the meantime, back to a workplace where I’m, like many parts of Texas, or like NY financial firms, underwater.



Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Fish has been great lately about being my fact-checker. For example, I must’ve had Janice Mirikitani on the brain when I wrote “Janice Joplin” instead of “Janis Joplin” back in early July.

Later, he pointed out that Evan Bayh is from Indiana, not Iowa. Which really, I should’ve known (and did), but I managed to confuse him with Vilsack, whose name will never be on a nationally distributed bumper sticker. (Unless it’s of the ilk of “sh*t happens”.)

Speaking of bumper stickers, I’ve been thinking lately that bad drivers really shouldn’t put bumper stickers on their car. Or if they do, they should have bumper stickers that represent the opposite of what they believe. Nothing makes you want to vote for Obama less than being cut off and nearly hit by someone with three Obama bumper stickers on the rear of their car. Nothing makes you more tempted to set fire to a cetacean than being tailgated by and then swerve-rev-around-passed by someone advocating salvation for the whales. (I use these examples not because liberal bumper-sticker proponents are more likely to drive like feces so much as because that’s what’s around in my neighborhood. Also, because I couldn’t be less likely to vote for McCain or defend my right to own firearms, no matter what.)

But back to errors. I don’t correct things for the most part on this blog. I guess a legitimate typo that creates potential confusion where such should not have been may be fair game. I’ve corrected a couple of those. But by and large, I think there’s something interesting to be seen in the raw errata that come up in the course of spilling my thoughts on the page. In no way is this blog or its predecessor intended to be a refined product. I’m not trying to be particularly persuasive. I’m just trying to scrape little litmus bits of my perspective and what it’s like to be me at this moment in history and spread them on a screen. That sounds gross, but there’s something about the visceral feel for that description that perfectly reflects what I’m getting at. And why I don’t edit.

For some reason, I’d really love to see Janice Mirikitani sing “Piece of My Heart”. I bet she’d tear that up.


Thursday Roundup: Peace, Hope, Truth

Categories: A Day in the Life, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Read it and Weep, Tags: , , ,

So it looks, thankfully, like the Olympic Ossetia War may be over almost as quickly as it started. If you’ve been under a rock for a week (or in Vegas, as I was for the bulk of the war), Georgia invaded the breakaway republic of South Ossetia as the Olympics opened. Russia invaded South Ossetia to drive the Georgians out, then kept going for a ways, stopping short of the capital in time for a ceasefire.

Sound familiar? I’ve already made much of the parallels between this Georgia-South Ossetia-Russia scenario and the Iraq-Kuwait-USA scenario circa the early 1990’s. It took a while longer for the whole thing to unfold in the prior case, but then again, it was the USA and not Saudi Arabia that went in to “liberate” Kuwait. The fact that no one in the US media or perspective has labeled this recent struggle as Russia’s “liberation” of South Ossetia is frankly baffling to me. I thought our country believed in self-determination. Well, no I didn’t really think that. I’ve always known that we were hypocrites.

But the hypocrisy goes deeper than recent history. The more compelling parallel, it occurs to me, is the Mexican-American War, with Texas playing the role of South Ossetia. The majority of Texas wanted to leave Mexico and they declared a shaky and unsound independence. Unable to sustain real independence, they floated between Mexico and the US, leaning toward the US. When the US finally tried to absorb Texas officially, Mexico went in to crack down on the renegade province. And the US quickly reconquered Texas and penetrated the aggressor, this time going all the way to Mexico City and taking the Congo California, Arizona, and New Mexico as a penalty.

Now I’m not on the side of the US in either of these examples, or Russia currently. Nor am I on the side of Mexico, Iraq, or Georgia. Frankly, all these people are committing horrible acts by using violence to resolve their differences. If people want to be free, let ’em go. You’re not going to get very far by holding people against their will, be it in a prison, a camp, or a country.

What I do find interesting, however, is how prevalent the principle of defending a weak breakaway republic has been in US policy and yet how blatantly the US has sided with Georgia. It doesn’t surprise me, as stated – I expect the US to be inconsistent in an effort to only defend its friends and partners, no matter how atrocious their acts may be. I guess what surprises me most is how much the media have let the US policy advocates get away with this perspective. Not a soul has presented the counter-arguments about Russia defending a weaker (interestingly, ethnically Iranian) group against an invasive force. On the contrary, they’ve dredged up Cold War rhetoric and comparisons to the ’68 crackdown on Czechoslovakia. This is just preposterous. If you’re going to believe in the Mexican-American War and Gulf War I, you have to side with Russia. It’s just logic.

Regardless, it very fortunately doesn’t seem to matter any more what side one’s on, because this conflict is over. It looked really scary for awhile, but everyone authentically seems to care more about peace than ego. Which is mind-boggling, but may give us some reason for…

Not only am I elated to see the end of this war, I’m also heartened by articles like this one, talkin’ ’bout my gen-eration. I know that I certainly feel like my generation cares more about being socially conscious, environmentally friendly, and actually doing good instead of evil, but it’s nice to see confirmation.

Obviously, though (you knew I wouldn’t stay optimistic for long), I am highly concerned by how this article seems to indicate that lip service is more or less enough to lure my gullible generation into signing on the dotted line. Yes, there’s a section entitled “More than just talk”, but if your company is destroying people’s lives on one hand and then turning around and giving a token amount of money back, it’s still mostly doing evil. Here’s a good indication if this is the case: the word company. This word means that the bottom line overrides other concerns, even if the bottom line can offer light dusting to the community. Usually the only reason it sprinkles this dusting is to advertise, to make people feel better about the company in the first place. Don’t be duped, fellow Y’s/Millennials (I still prefer Y because of the homophonic implication of my favorite three-letter word), it’s just a token. If you have to do a day job, best to put it directly into a non-profit, where there is no bottom line really.

But hey, if everyone is going into these businesses with these attitudes… and can somehow manage to maintain them while working in a company for decades (a gargantuan if), then maybe there’ll be some real change in, uh, 30 years. Hm. That’s a little hope, right? But the fact of the matter is that things are going to need to change big time before then. Fact? Perhaps I meant…

Which is actually going to be a section title for an update about fiction. Contradictory, you say? The old saying says that truth is stranger than fiction, but I’d actually like to coin that fiction is truer than truth. Before you start lumping me in with a Steven Colbert “truthiness” spoof, hear me out. This will explain why 98% of what I read is fiction and why I aspire to be a writer of same rather than non-.

The thing about non-fiction is that it’s trying too hard. The truth (!) of the matter is that everything that one writes, thinks, does is laden in one’s perspective. There’s no helping it or getting around it. Truth may ultimately be vision without perspective, but no one is ever able (in this species in this era in history) to divorce themselves entirely from their own vantage point. So attempts to be objective with a single or group voice are always going to fall short. One is always trying to prove a point, find an eternal truth, even just tell a story about something that happened to someone else. But it’s never (ever) 100% true. It’s fictionalized, cast in a certain light, omits some details, even if they’re only the details that physically can’t be attained in the process of researching the story.

None of these weaknesses of non-fiction would really be a problem if non-fiction called itself “semi-fiction” or “half-truth”. The real problem that non-fiction has is its branding itself as objective fact/truth. By claiming that something inherently biased is indeed objective, non-fiction sets itself up as misrepresentation and disaster, often misleading people into believing it, accepting it whole cloth. When of course, as we’ve established, it needs salt.

But is hope for truth lost? Of course not, because we have fiction. Fiction makes no bones about its factual content – it’s not even trying to be true. But to be believable, to be functional, to resonate with any reader, fiction must establish itself within a consistent and real framework. People are constantly analyzing and evaluating it for its reality, thus holding it already to a higher standard than non-fiction.

But more compellingly, fiction is freed from all constraints, so it can actually tell its story completely, regardless of what someone may say or think or feel or critique. And this liberation allows it to get at a more fundamental truth about the world, because it’s much less self-conscious. It’s not trying to recenter itself in some objectivity or reality, but simply trying to convey a feeling, a presence, a story, a reality of some sort. And this is really the only way to tell the truth. At least more fundamental truths, about how people really are, about what they go through, about what is important to humanity.

With that off my chest, this section was supposed to be about my proclivity toward absurdly long books this year. I’m close to completing Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon’s WWII treatise that feels more like work than any sort of recreation. I’ve never delved into Pynchon, despite being given the absurdly short The Crying of Lot 49 at some point in college, but he was compared to David Foster Wallace (actually vice versa), so I figured once I ran out of Wallace fiction, it was time to jump in. Having already read Infinite Jest (1,049 pages), The Brothers Karamazov (711 pages), and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (607 pages), I was not concerned about the 760 dense pages of this one. (Parenthetically, this is not me bragging so much as trying to explain why I’ve only read nine books this year.)

Boy, was I wrong. Gravity’s Rainbow is about as inaccessible and oblique as a book can get and still be in any way readable. While it’s an interesting challenge at times and authentically hilarious when one least expects it, it mostly leaves me apathetic. Part of my disappointment is surely derived from having read the first paragraph in a bookstore and being intrigued by what seemed like an apocalyptic plot. Instead, it was just another WWII retread. And I understand how WWII was confused for the apocalypse by the generation that lived it; I even understand why. But it’s less interesting now, it’s overplayed, and it clouds our vision of the future.

I mean, this may not be entirely fair. I don’t know where it ends. There could be a whole bunch of highly redeeming endings for Gravity’s Rainbow. Less than a hundred pages to go and it’s not looking stellar. But if Slothrop ends up in a GE lab with the five people controlling everything and all the other victims lined up… maybe. I’ve made a lifetime of reading books and watching movies out of hoping for crescendic endings that perfectly conveyed my perspective to all, only to have hopes dashed against the rocks 98% of the time.

Deus ex crapola.

I will talk about Vegas at some point, wherein I spent 72 hours (59 of them awake). I will talk about struggling through the ennui of life in the late summer of my day job world (because that’s something I haven’t talked about enough on this blog). I will talk more about the economic situation of a country that still doesn’t know it’s about to collapse, about the excitement and ambivalence of being here to watch it crumble.

But when the opportunity presented itself to filter today’s tidbits through the lens of my old phrase of the three big ideals, how could I pass it up? When I still haven’t decided whether to go to my 10-year high school reunion, why wouldn’t I label a post as I labeled my senior page in the yearbook supplement?

I think my world today can be summed up as follows:

“I’m thinking of going.”


Tuesday Roundup: Takin’ Care of Business

Categories: A Day in the Life, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, If You're Going to San Francisco, Let's Go M's, Quick Updates, Video Games Killed the Free Time, Tags: , , , , ,

Just because I don’t write Introspection anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t often think in terms of quick updates. This blog format affords the luxury of doing both short blippy quips about my life like the old days, as well as the longer, more thoughtful pieces…

One of the grand ironies of the American experience is that some of our greatest themes and anthems for revered concepts are actually songs lambasting said concept.

The least subtle example of this may be Peter, Paul & Mary’s “I Dig Rock-n-Roll Music”. This is a more obscure case, but it remains PPM’s only really fully legitimate radio song. With lines like “But if I really say it, the radio won’t play it, unless I lay it, between the liiines,” it’s not really hard to see exactly where this song’s loyalty lies. And yet it made the radio and remains there to date as a sincere tribute to rock-n-roll (as opposed to folk music, which PPM were actually advocating). I’m sure the even crueler irony of this being their one radio hit when it complains that the radio won’t play folk music… yeah.

The most damning example may be Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. This tune has become third only to “Proud to Be an American” (a song guaranteed to induce vomiting within 30 seconds) and the national anthem itself as the theme music to flag-waving jingoistic American patriotism. And yet the song was written as an indictment of American hypocrisy and the Vietnam War. The non-refrain lyrics are just hard enough to understand and the chorus is just loud and brash enough to ensure that this song will always bring a smile to the face and a cheer to the voice of those who are unaware they are celebrating an anti-American tune. “So they put a rifle in my hand, sent me off to a foreign land, to go and kill the yellow man.”

But the song that’s stuck in my head from this category today is “Takin’ Care of Business”. Office Depot or a related office store has become the latest in an unending string of businesses using this anthem to explain how productive you’ll be when using their products. “It’s the work that we avoid and we’re all self-employed, we love to work at nothing all day.” Yeah. This song is about quitting your job and starting a rock band, which is explicitly stated to be a lazy sort of scam on those who actually slog away at day jobs. Business indeed.

The song is stuck in my head because it’s one of the rotating theme songs for my baseball video game of choice these days, the 2007 mod of the greatest baseball game of all time, MVP Baseball 2005. My Mariners are getting massacred in this game on a regular basis, but any time I win makes it all worthwhile.

And speaking of the Mariners and winning, last night offered a glimpse at the best inning of the year for the (real-life) Seattle Mariners. Raul Ibanez had 6 RBI in a 10-run seventh inning that catapulted the M’s from a 6-1 deficit to an 11-6 win. When I tuned in around the fourth or fifth inning, it was 6-0, Twins. I wasn’t even sure why I tuned in when the score was already that lopsided. The M’s haven’t exactly been specializing in comebacks this year. But Ibanez hit a grand slam that made it 6-5 and the M’s proceeded to tack on and on and on, all the way to bringing up Ibanez again in the inning as the 14th man to come to the plate, and again with the bases loaded!! He only smacked a single up the middle to plate two and the inning only ended because Willie Bloomquist tried to score too on a throwing error and got barely tagged out.

It’s funny how just an inning like that can redeem a mood and a perspective for a day or so. Even in a hopelessly lost season.

It’s the sun that’s hopelessly lost here in San Francisco, and it’s looking like my trip to Las Vegas (Thursday evening departure) couldn’t be coming at a better time. The 10-day forecast in San Francisco does not get above 65 degrees (high temperature). The same 10-day forecast in Las Vegas does not get below 81 degrees (low temperature). I am a little nervous about “Florida Syndrome” in LV, wherein people will air-condition casino interiors to the point of being as cold as August highs in San Francisco, but then I may just cancel half the poker to go sit outside on the Strip and bake. I desperately need to feel the illusion of some sort of summer.

Meanwhile, my job continues to be my job. Slightly more livable than two weeks ago, ebbing and flowing, constantly leading me on only to crush my spirit. If nothing else, it’s giving me great fodder for future books and stories, future tales of how the American work model fails its people on all levels. And I know that where I’m working is better than 95% of what else is out there. We’re not even driven by a profit motive.

And speaking of profit (and even prophet), is it too early to declare the End of Capitalism? Today, Wall Street wants to think so. It’s just so exciting to have a negative net interest rate! To just feel that money devaluing in your pocket. I mean, how often does your pocket burn a hole in your money? That’s just nifty. Let’s buy financial stocks before they fail.

What surprises me is not that people are revealed to lie, cheat, steal, cut corners, and fabricate in pursuit of almighty profit. What surprises me is that people are surprised by the revelations.

Work out.

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