If you could bet on predicting when shitty restaurants in Astoria closed, I’d be retired

I’ve been editing down this bunch of journals from 1997-1999 to make it into a book, and it’s harder than you’d think. The first thing is that it’s difficult to throw away pieces of it to get the size of the book down. I’m currently at about 140,000 words, and I want it below 100K. The other thing is that it’s so difficult to look back into time and relive that era. Nostalgia is a curse for me, and I always look back instead of forward, so doing a project that explicitly requires me to look back can be a bit pained.

The strangest part is reading about how, back then, I wasn’t interested in my life and I wanted to go back five years and live in Bloomington. Now, five years later, I wish I was in Seattle. And I bitched constantly about never writing, but I produced an incredible amount of stuff in that era. And I wished I archived more stuff, took more pictures in Indiana, so I’d have them for Summer Rain research. Now, I’m digging through photos from Seattle, and I realize I don’t have much useful stuff at all.

I do want to look forward. The more I think about it, the more I look outside of my life for validation on Rumored, the more I realize the next book should be twice as experimental, twice as dense, twice as violent, twice as detailed. I think Rumored was in 100% the right direction. And I don’t think it’s an inferior work. I think it’s a good first step. And I think there should be more.

A lot of stuff fell into place today. The landlord’s son came over and fixed my kitchen light. I have a new fixture and a new switch, and the new switch has a much “softer” feel to it, so it’s easier to flip on when you have both hands full and you jab at it with an elbow. For some reason, my cable TV mysteriously started working again, so I will be able to watch ER again. I got tickets for Quiet Riot, and I got the Pollock soundtrack. That CD is truly incredible, a very motivating 18 tracks of sound. It’s going to be up there with the Naked Lunch soundtrack as far as CDs to listen to while writing. I also got a Motorhead DVD-Audio. It’s interesting, but not entirely worth the $25 (except I will be able to lord it over Ray that I have a Motorhead thing that he doesn’t, and he’ll bitch endlessly.)

The shitty cafe around the corner from me closed. When they were getting ready to open that place, I gave it a year. If you could bet on this like this, I’d be so rich, I’d pay someone to write these entries for me.

Fozzy

So the Fozzy show on Friday night went well. I got to Times Square at about 6:30 and grabbed a hot dog and a Coke before I got in line at the World. There were a fair number of people there, and I was further back than when me and Ray went to a Smackdown broadcast earlier this year, but luckily it wasn’t 34 degrees or whatever this time. The line went in fast, and I had some time to kill before the show, but there wasn’t a mad mob of people. The stage had about three or four people deep, but the rest of the floor was open, and the place has some weird ramps and balconies and stuff that allowed a lot of good vantage points.

I got a place just right of center, about four or five people back. The first band was Sick Speed an Atlanta band formed by Stuck Mojo guitarrist Rich Ward. Fozzy is essentially Stuck Mojo with Chris Jericho as the lead singer, so Ward pulled double-duty that night. I had no idea of any of this until I got to my web browser later that night, so all I knew was that the band’s name was Sick Speed and they were opening. I actully dug these guys a lot; they have a melodic feel like Creed, but with much more of a metal thickness and tone. Ward’s got an incredible stage presence, and really knew how to work the crowd and get things going. They also had incredible sound, excellent tone with everything well-mixed; that’s unusual for an opening band, especially in a small place like the World.

After Sick Shift, there was a big equipment shift, and I thought the roadies were getting some stuff ready for Fozzy. Turns out the “roadies” were actually the next band. They started their set without telling the crowd who they were, and plunked away a very low-energy set. These guys sounded like a bad garage band, like some dudes that listened to the Meat Puppets and maybe some Maiden and decided to get together and jam. The lead singer/guitar player was rumored to be Jericho’s brother, but nobody could confirm it. After the first two songs, people were yelling “WHO ARE YOU?” and I think the singer was going to start crying. I was surprised I was in a club full of wrestling fans who weren’t heckling him worse, so I started the Kurt Angle “YOU SUCK/YOU SUCK” chant, and three seconds later, everyone in the club was chanting “YOU SUCK”. They tried to dig themselves out of that hole by playing a Billy Idol song. To end their set, they played a slightly more metalized verion of “Are You Experienced”, and I have to admit that they did a good job musically with it, but it wasn’t the right thing for this crowd. They managed to escape with their lives, and then we went through another equipment shift while I talked to some other guys about the horror we just witnessed. I mentioned the story about how in 1997, I saw Dream Theater at the Fenix in Seattle, and a fresh-on-tour-and-unknown Creed opened for them, in what was the worst mismatch since Hendrix and The Monkees.

After several minutes of roadies and tests (but not as much as you’d think – turns out Sick Shift and Fozzy shared a lot of gear) the classical music intro from Happenstance started, and the band ran out and started their full-metal cover assault. I forgot that Fozzy has three guitar players now, and it’s amazing there were no collisions on the smallish stage. Jericho ran out – sorry, I think it’s Chris Irving, or whatever fake name he uses for Fozzy – and I was amazed to see him there in the not-larger-than-life size. When you see pro wrestlers on TV, you’re amazed and think they are nine feet tall. But when you see one and they are the same height as you, it’s a bit weird. I mean, he’s a big guy muscle-wise – he could kick my ass – but it’s always weird to see people as people instead of what TV distorts them into.

I don’t remember the entire setlist, but it wasn’t incredibly long, and it also was more covers than I thought. They did do “Crucify Yourself” and the single “To Kill a Stranger” was the encore. But they did a lot of great covers, like Krokus/”Eat the Rich”, Twisted Sister/”Stay Hungry”, Motley Crue/”Live Wire”, and Accept/”Balls to the Wall”. New covers not on either of their albums included AC/DC’s “TNT” (which turned into a big sing-along with all of us chanting “Oy! Oy! Oy!” and a dude getting pulled up on stage by Jericho to sing a verse), ‘Priest’s “Breaking the Law” (how could you not cover that one), and Iron Maiden’s “Wrathchild”. Also a minor contribution to my 15 minutes of fame: Jericho took a big hit from his bottled water and then spit it into the audience, and some of it hit me. So that should make you rasslin’ fans jealous.

The show ended by 11:00, so I caught another hot dog and got home. My knees were killing me from standing on a hardwood floor all night, but overall it was worth it. I also went to the Sick Speed site and PayPal’ed them ten bucks for their self-released CD, so I’m anxious to hear more from them.

Speaking of Fozzy, my review on Amazon for Happenstance is the featured review, which is always cool…

I had a decent day yesterday, too. I went to Times Square and this time found my friend Rob at his job (The Yankees Store). He was going to eat lunch in an hour, so we agreed to meet up and go to Applebee’s where they have this all-you-can-eat riblet special. I killed the hour at Virgin, looking for a bunch of old metal CDs that I suddenly wanted, after talking to people about old-school bands the night before. I picked up two Helloween CDs that I used to have on tape (Keeper of the Seven Keys part 2 and I Want Out) and the Sabbath album Mob Rules) before walking back in the pissing rain to meet up with Rob.

Lunch was cool, and it’s always good to hang out with Rob. He’s also an Indiana expatriate and we met a few years ago at one of the alumni association things. I laid a copy of Rumored on him, and he picked up the check, which was cool. We didn’t get the all-you-can-eat riblets, and I’m glad, because the cut was sort of fucked-up, like Rocky was practicing his boxing on these ribs and there were all of these little pieces bone in there. I predict that Applebee’s will have some kind of major choking lawsuit in their hands within the next year that will make that McDonald’s parking thing look minor. You heard it here first.

Because the conversation somehow got to comics, after I talked to Rob, I went to Midtown Comics. I used to be a big comic collector; more specifically, I loved Spiderman. For some reason, in my second year of college, I went Marvel-crazy and was on this huge quest to get every single comic that had an appearance of the web-slinger. I realize this is nuts, or at least I do now. But back then, I was spending an entire paycheck on a single Amazing Spiderman, and still wanting more. This was back in 1990, 1991, when the self-titled Spiderman was just out, and there was also Web of, Spectacular, Amazing, and all of the other stuff Spiderman appeared in. There was a Fantastic Four crossover going on then, and who knows what else. But I finally wised up, (I think it was when I realized I would be completely undatable if all of my time and money went to comics – this was before they became insanely popular again) and decided I wasn’t buying another comic ever again.

My friend Ray has been nutso about comics for forever – he’s got about 15,000 of them in his house, and he buys maybe $50 a week of stuff he regularly reads. So he’s always bugging me to get whatever neato title he is reading at the time. (Of course, he’s into all kinds of jap-samurai stuff that I don’t really like, so it’s hard to get him to shut up about it.) Also, I keep seeing various movies that threaten to pull me back into buying comics. But the main reason I’m curious about it is that it’s a subculture that a lot of people subscribe to, and it’s interesting. I mean, most people these days plug into a larger common thing that I find repulsive, be it sports or boy bands or bad TV shows. And I am not currently into anything that is the other side of that. So there’s a strange draw to it for me, similar to the way zines appealed to me years ago, and how heavy metal used to be interesting.

Anyway, I was amazed by this store and the amount of stuff available. I wanted to get something, and I’d heard about a new version of Spiderman called Ultimate Spiderman, but browsing a collection of the comic didn’t really impress me. Something about the artwork was just too weird to me, so I decided to pass on that. What I did find that was interesting was a hardcover book of The Punisher, in a new volume called Marvel Knights. I always liked the Punisher character when he crossed into Spiderman titles, and I dug the Punisher’s War Journal when it came out later. This new series is very dark, somewhat more realistically-drawn than older stuff, and has a more stripped-down but realistic feel to it. I don’t have much of a vocabulary for discussing comics, but I read this whole volume cover to cover last night and enjoyed it. And the Marvel Knights series has other characters in it too, so I might have to look up the Daredevil and Ghost Rider issues, too.

Not much else is up. I went through my CD collection last night, cleaned things up and got my online list in order. You can see a list of everything I own here. 761 CDs, more or less. I haven’t bought a lot in the last year, and I wish I knew what I liked a bit more, so I could start collecting, getting into it a bit more.

Okay, I’ve been typing forever, and I need to get out of the house and get some shit done today.

Friday Five

This is a very blog-like thing for me to do, but I thought I should try it once. Here are the answers to today’s Friday Five:

1. What is your current occupation? Is this what you chose to be doing at this point in your life? Why or why not?

Aside from writing fiction (which pays nothing), my occupation is technical writer. This wasn’t something I planned from childhood, or even studied from college. I spent most of my college years trying to finish a computer science degree, so I could either program or be a consultant. Neither of these were working for me, but I was spending a lot of time around computers, consulting, and working on my own projects. So I finished a general studies degree, and right when the Internet market was coming to a froth (1995), a friend of mine got me a job as a tech writer. I’d done some writing at that point, knowledge base articles and training materials, so when I started my first full-time job, I picked it up quickly. It’s seven years later, and I suddenly realize I have a career.

2. If time/talent/money were no object, what would your dream occupation be?

That’s a no-brainer: I’d write fiction full-time. I guess if I had Ross Perot’s bank account, I might do some part-time stuff like arbitrage, or real estate development. If it was a serious amount of cash, I’d pull a Howard Hughes, move to Vegas, and start buying casinos. But mostly, I’d write.

3. What did/do your parents do for a living? Has this had any influence on your career choices?

My dad still works in the same factory where he got a job after finishing the Air Force about thirty years ago. My mom didn’t work until after their divorce, then went through a bunch of different jobs, first working as a cook, then getting into interior decorating and sales. Neither of my parents went to college, and they barely scraped by at their jobs as we were kids, so there was a huge emphasis on us going to school and making it. I think the biggest influence on my career was that I got involved with computers from a very early age because of them; I got sent to a computer camp one summer, they got me a Commodore 64, and I was in a gifted program that had some of the first Apple II computers I’d ever seen. That got me infatuated with computers early, and when I got around PCs in high school and later VAXes in college, I immediately spent all of my time dicking around with them. My parents never told me “you will study this” or anything, and I’m not sure they even know what I do for a living, but their constant pressure kept me from, say, quitting high school and touring with the Grateful Dead instead of going to college.

4. Have you ever had to choose between having a career and having a family?

No. I think my lack of a family has to do with other deep-seated psychological issues, and not my career. It would be relatively easy for me to balance a wife and kids with my current schedule, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

5. In your opinion, what is the easiest job in the world? What is the hardest? Why?

For me, an easy job would be one that involves work, but not very hard work, and enough mental stimulation to keep things going. I think if I was the guy at a really big Vegas casino that was host to the ultra-high rollers, that might be cool. Like when a billionaire shows up, and you go “Good evening Mr. Smith, good to see you again. We’re booked solid, but I can get you the Presidential suite…” Lots of good stories, you always make people happy, and there’s no heavy lifting involved. Or I think being a Playboy photographer might be pretty easy, although I’m sure there’s a lot of work involved in getting the right results.

Hardest job, I could think of many. I couldn’t be an air traffic controller, where you need to be constantly stressed out. I wouldn’t want to be a stunt man or a professional wrestler, where you have to time everything perfectly and really do everything right, or you could accidentally ram a steel pole through your face, or fall off of a bridge. I also don’t think I could deal with any job that involved killing animals, like in a slaughterhouse or at a vet.

Trip report procrastination

I’ve been digging through notes and trying to type up a trip report about my last visit to Vegas in July, but it’s been a total bitch. I didn’t take many notes, and I have an outline, but it’s hard to get worked up about this and type anything that’s worthwhile. I’m tempted to just post the outline and say “you figure it out.” I think part of my total lack of enthusiasm is that I’m sick and nothing beats a hot summer night than a hot summer night with a fever. And one of my fans is crapping out, so it spins and then it stops and then it starts again, and it fucking freaks me out every time it does it and I think maybe it’s going to catch fire when I’m asleep, and/or maybe if I hit it hard enough or change its angle, it will cut the shit and start working again. Also, my kitchen light is burned out, and it’s this retarded circular fluorescent thing that you have to drive to the Westinghouse lab in New Jersey to find a replacement. And there are about 17 much more pressing things that are currently bugging the hell out of me, but I can’t really discuss them publically. When it rains, it pours.

I keep thinking of shit I need to do to this journal to make it “better”. I haven’t touched the structure in five years, and now with all of this diaryland-livejournal-blogger shit out there, my pages pale in comparison. The biggest pain is I want to break out the frameset and make it individial pages with the links in a table next to them, but I don’t have PHP or anything like that on my site, so I can’t do any of that. Also, it would be cool to do some other weird stuff in the sidebar, like have a poll or some static links. But without dynamic pages, it’s a huge pain in the ass. Another cool thing would be where you can leave comments, but that requires scripts. Sometime when I’m not sick, I might be able to come up with a better plan for doing this kind of shit. Of course, I don’t even know if anyone reads these pages, so maybe I shouldn’t waste my time.

Incidentally, I hate the term Blog. I also hate any notion that blogs are new, revolutionary, or otherwise creative. Why? Because back in 1992 and 1993 when I first started to fuck around with the Web using the NCSA browser for X, I found that everyone’s homepage (then more commonly called a hyplan) was essentially a blog. Every page on the web was a page of links, except for the 23 or so pages with actual content. If you were a college grad student in some compsci department that let you create a hyplan, it would always be a list of links you found. I remember the main reason I started creating my now-defunct Coca-Cola page in 1994 was because I was so fucking sick and tired of nothing but pages of links. It’s like when you try to rent an apartment in New York, and every number you call in The Voice Classifieds isn’t a person who has an apartment, but is rather a realtor who knows a broker who knows a landlord that blah blah blah and THERE ARE NO APARTMENTS. That’s how I feel about blogs. One, they aren’t new. You aren’t trendy if you have one. Two, they suck because they are often just links to other blogs that are links to other blogs that are, at most, links to news articles that require registration and the URLs will be fucked up and rot in a day. And I’m not saying this journal isn’t high art. But I didn’t claim I invented journals yesterday.

Not much else. I’m going to finish this quart of orange juice and lie down with my half-broken fan.

Womb of air conditioning

I managed to settle into my small womb of air-conditioning around midnight last night, after my third cold shower of the day. When the air conditioner shut off at 2:00 because the dehumidifier tank was already full, I felt really sick, even when standing right in front of the freon-cool air. I’d been drinking water all day long, and figured this was some kind of electrolyte fuck-up, so I pulled on some clothes and a pair of shoes and walked to the all-night bodega.

I’m not afraid of walking in my neighborhood at night, although I’m usually on “heightened alert” when it’s 2 AM on a Saturday night. There’s a somewhat shifty Irish bar halfway between me and King’s Deli, and at that hour, there’s usually drunken assholes on the sidewalk, talking loudly and moments away from either fighting or fucking. There’s also a small market in prostitutes on Steinway and 28th if you look carefully, but I wasn’t looking for a piece of ass, I just wanted some Gatorade.

The walk wasn’t bad, actually. Because my apartment is essentially built like a pizza oven, the temperature outside felt about ten degrees cooler. I drank one of the two large bottles of Gatorade on the way home and ate a thing of roasted peanuts, and felt 100% better, but wide awake. So I sat in the living room and watched infomercials and other useless crap for an hour. Did you know that the local CBS affiliate reruns the old episodes of The Real World in the AM hours? That’s pretty weird, but I couldn’t stand that shit the first time it was on, let alone ten years later.

Instead, I watched some show on The Food Network where they showcased these ultra-elaborate, high-design kitchens in rich peoples’ houses. The show both intrigued me and pissed me off simultaneously. I mean, these houses were absolutely beautiful, the kind of thing I wish I had, especially since I was sweltering in a giant broiler pan and wondering if I had heatstroke, while they showed stainless-steel refrigerators bigger than my bathroom. The aesthetic side of these kitchens, the way the islands were placed and how the wraparound windows overlooked a big deck with a strategically-placed fountain or whatever, made me think about breaking out a sketch pad and designing the kitchen for the house I want to build in Colorado.

On the other hand, these people PISSED ME OFF! This woman, whose husband was some high-up in the Nevada Gaming Commission, blabbed and blabbed about how they worked with one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s understudies to get the perfect FLW-inspired house. But, she made this big deal about “oh, but we had to fight with them because they wanted the garage and driveway narrower, but I drive a Suburban, and they told me ‘so don’t drive a Suburban’, but I need a car that’s 27 feet long.” I HATE people who drive big cars like that because they need to look stylish driving to the fucking golf course or whatever, especially people so rich that you know they aren’t hauling around drywall or going deer hunting in the mountains or whatever. And then, after showing this kitchen – which not only had the standard triangle for cooking, but had a SECOND one for baking, along with two ovens and a smaller fridge for baking goods, and a THIRD one for her kids, along with their own fridge and dishwasher, and at least two MORE fridges for vegetables and shit, we find out that THIS DUMB BITCH DOESN’T EVEN COOK! SHE SPENT A MILLION DOLLARS PUTTING SEVEN FRIDGES IN HER KITCHEN AND SHE CAN’T EVEN MAKE A FUCKING GRILLED CHEESE!

Okay, so that really chaps my ass.

During the walk last night, I saw that on Steinway north of 28th, they were having a ghetto street fair, so after I woke up, I got some more Gatorade and went to check out the bamboo plant situation. I’m fucking obsessed with these plants now. I have some demented dream about buying a bunch of bamboo and planting them on my property in Colorado until I have a fuckload of bamboo I can chop down and use to build a house. I don’t think they would live there unless I had a killer well setup, but it’s a more realistic dream than many of my others. But for some reason, the street fair trailers were still there, but only a handful were open and running. This was at 12:30, so I’d think they would be open 12-5 or something. Maybe if I went there right now, they’d be open, but fuck it. I don’t care now.

I walked around that neighborhood, and it’s a pretty strange area; mostly Egyptians and other Muslims live there, and there’s a Mosque shoved in between the small restaurants and hardware stores. I remember walking in that neighborhood on the day of 9/11 after I made it home (I needed to get some crap to clean my scanner, and some lunch, don’t know why I went there instead of 30th ave or something) but I remember being fairly freaked out about walking there. I mean, I know not all Arabs are terrorists, and these people were all Americans, but it was just odd to walk around and see everyone in all of their robes and full gear, smoking hookah pipes in cafes. I think most of my fear would be that a Klan rally would show up and start firebombing the whole street. But I wouldn’t condone that kind of behavior. I mean, unless they built a million dollar kitchen and didn’t know how to cook.

Oh, and on the way home, I found a Voice paperbox in front of an Egyptian restaurant in a neighborhood where if anybody reads at all, it’s probably not in English. I grabbed one, and the stack was full. I’m used to going to the machines in SoHo and finding them totally empty about 15 minutes after distribution. So now I have my own secret place to always get an issue.

Another odd thing is that I walked home and some dude across the street from me dumped this pile of maybe 300 books on the sidewalk and had a tiny sign that said “free books”. I thought it would be the usual pile of shit, but I dug through and found about a half-dozen cool titles that weren’t fucked up in any way. He must have been moving or something. So, no bamboo, but a pile of reading material.

Today to beat the heat, I went to Astor Place, walked down St. Mark’s and ate at Kiev, then went to Barnes and Noble. I sat on the floor and read two car books from cover to cover, and enjoyed their frigid air conditioning. The two books, one was about building a hot rod frame, and the other was a pictorial history of the Camaro. So it was a lot of pictures and not as much reading, but it wasted some time.

Speaking of wasting time, I’ve been typing this while waiting to pick up my laundry from the cleaner’s, and they should be done. I should walk over there now and get all of that, and then fill the bathtub with ice and do some reading.

Minority Report

It’s day seven of over-90-degree weather in New York City, and my tolerance for this is beyond low. I feel like I’m trying to survive the desert or something. I do have a tiny AC in my room, but it only runs for a few hours before its humidity take fills, so I usually wake up in the middle of the night to an oven-like atmosphere. Also, its a bit disconcerting to sit in my room all weekend, without the TV or my desktop computer or anything else. I’d like to get out of the house, but even the trip from my house to the subway is murderous. So survival has been grueling, to say the least.

I got up early and ran a bunch of errands (bank, post office, laundry) and then went to Times Square, mostly because I wanted the air-conditioned subway ride. Turns out there was a huge street fair on 7th Ave, the main drag through Times Square, and thousands of people were there. I’m not sure I’ve seen this many people in Times Square at once; it wasn’t a crowd as big as New Year’s, but considering the heat, it was still phenomenal. Right off the train, I grabbed a corn dog from a cart, and briefly scanned the vendors. They didn’t have much I couldn’t buy at K-Mart for cheaper, but I have some strange fascination with those potted bamboo and bonzai trees they sell at street fairs, and someday I’ll get the nerve to buy one. (I say this as more than half of my window garden has died from neglect.)

Another alterior motive was to see if my friend Rob was at work (he is the manager at the Yankees store on 42nd street), but since he wasn’t, and since I was drenched in sweat from the 5 blocks of walking, I ducked into the AMC 25 and decided to pony up $10 for whatever was starting within a few minutes and wasn’t Austin Powers or Men in Black or some other movie with an integral fast-food marketing tie-in. So I got a ticket to see Minority Report, which was a coup because it was something I wanted to check out, and also I got two hours and twenty minutes of AC for my money. (As opposed to MIB2, which was about 23 minutes long, from what I hear.)

I don’t think Minority Report got a big pop; the commercials weren’t incredible, and it wasn’t that compelling for most people. Plus it seemed like most reviewers on the “dumb” review shows HATED it. Well, there’s a reason for that – it was an excellent movie! And it made people think, which is a big no-no in Hollywood. If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you. But making them actually think is bad. (I was happy to see that Roger Ebert’s Review was good, though.) Anyway, I don’t want to even give away any of the plot, but I will say a few things about the movie. First, the combination of CGI and excellent design makes the 50-years-from-now world of Washington DC incredibly realistic. It’s orders of magnitude better than movies like Fifth Element or even Blade Runner, but the movie isn’t about the technology. It’s more of a human element, and the action in this movie is very tight, and keeps you going through the entire two and a half hours. (It honestly felt like 90 minutes to me.) The ending is complicated, but it’s very much worth it. The other thing is that this is the first movie that I’ve seen based on a Philip K. Dick book that really SEEMS like his writing. Blade Runner took it in another direction, and Total Recall seemed a lot more like an Arnold vehicle, like Running Man 2. I don’t think people will flock to the home video of this, but I do think it will be a cult classic like Blade Runner.

I stayed up all night last night (well, almost all night) reading the new Cynthia True book about Bill Hicks. It’s incredible, and I want to write more about it, but I also want to take a shower, so I’ll save that for another day.

All-ice asteroid plans

The heat situation here is at a level where I spend large amounts of time wondering how global climates work and if there’s some way we could tow an all-ice asteroid into orbit and use it to cool cities and generate water without pumping more heat into the air. That’s the real rub there; you can put air conditioners on everything, but it’s like an air conditioner releases cold but also releases even more hot and uses up so much energy, that you reach a point of diminishing returns, and the best example of this is Manhattan. There are constant brownouts because all of the offices are mass-ACed to be 40 degrees cooler than the outdoors. Meanwhile, the majority of apartments in the city don’t have central air, and people are in misery. The moral of the story is I played way too much SimCity a ways back, and now I look at all of life as some derivitive of the same thing.

I went to Wendy’s today, even though I vowed to never go there again, mostly to try their new cheddar hamburger. It’s a mess, way too much to eat and the sort of burger that is taller than it is wide and the whole thing goes in your lap the first bite you take. It’s okay, but not great. All of the cheddar cheese makes it taste more like something from Arby’s. As a strange aside, I’ve dated two people who were managers at Arby’s restaurants in Fort Wayne, although these were separated by ten years, and neither of them knew each other, and one was in New York and the other in Bloomington. Still, weird.

Since I’ve been back, my TV has been messed up. It no longer displays the major network channels correctly; they ghost and have a sort of double-image to them. I know this is a bad ground or faulty cable somewhere, but since I don’t pay cable, I have no recourse but to live with it or not watch TV. I thought I’d do the latter, but I find that when I’m eating dinner, I always watch TV. I still get a few other channels, like TNN and UPN, but there’s not a lot on. I should just watch movies, but I can never make up my mind on what to watch.

I just subscribed to the techwr-l list, and it’s interesting to hear from other tech writers. I’m the only writer at my job, so there’s nobody else to talk to about the craft or business of techwriting. I’m not saying that like it’s fucking heart surgery or something, but it is more involved than, say, being an administrative assistant. I never really pay attention to the career side of being a techwriter, because in most jobs there is no career to it – you are either a tech writer, or sometimes you are a senior tech writer, and that’s it. You don’t become the CTO or CEO by working up the ranks as being a writer, but then I’m not sure I would want to be an executive.

When I worked at Juno, all of the project managers were trying to work the ladder, kiss the right ass, make everything look good, so they could get closer to the top. It bothered me a lot, because tech writers should be immune to that kind of political bullshit. We deal more with telling people the truth than doing the smoke and mirrors bit. And a lot of tech writers have actual work to do, while project managers just go to meetings, write memos about going to meetings, and draw project plans that say when there will be more meetings. They do report what work is being done, and most of the time they make it seem as if they were responsible. But most of the time, it’s tech writers, trainers, programmers, or other grunts that actually do the work. So basically, being a tech writer is a bad situation, because you’re doing a lot of work you won’t get recognition for, and even if you did, there’s nowhere for you to move in the company.

So why do I do it? It pays a lot more than anything else I could do. And sometimes, it isn’t bad. Even though Juno got fucked up in the end, I had a manager that upped my salary by a third because I worked hard. I had another let me hire someone with virtually no conditionality, as long as I thought they would well with me. And I had a boss give me a $10,000 bonus after I took pretty much no vacation in 2000. And my current job has almost no political situation. I get to hide out and write docs without any distraction.

Speaking of techwriting, I have a brand new copy of FrameMaker 7.0 sitting on my desk. So I need to break the seal, cut off the shrinkwrap, and see how this thing will make my life more complete.

The Device

From The Device:

I don’t know how it starts, but eventually it gets to the point where you realize you haven’t used your voice in days because you don’t talk to people anymore, and your giant phone list from college is down to one or two long-distance numbers, and everything you’ve eaten in the last month came from a drive-through or the Safeway freezer section, and you don’t even own any fucking dishes, and you haven’t seen a TV in years and you think you know who’s President and you really don’t care, and then you look in a mirror and see a stranger and then you know that something’s wrong. But you don’t exactly know what is wrong, at least in the sense that if you were coughing up green shit and your nose was runny, you could tell people “I have a cold”, but there’s no simple explanation like that. Maybe some shrink can give you a diagnosis or a number that you can tell your insurance company so you can deduct the copayment, but it’s not like they can tell you “take some vitamin C and give it a few days.” They can put you on Prozac, but that doesn’t really change the problem, it just changes the volume knob on the problem, and makes it harder to keep down food. And there are tons of minor complications, none of which you can solve: no friends, no life, no money, no hobbies, no interests, no hangouts, no social network, no wife, no kids, no girlfriend, no tangible property, and nothing but a stack of 600 CDs and a couple of half-written novels that aren’t exactly ready for prime time. And that’s when you know you’re fucked.

That’s how the book starts. I’m back on this, trying to see how much of it I can finish by the end of the year. I’ve been picking at it for three, four years now and I only have about 15,000 words done, plus about 30,000 words in drafts and notes and other crap I can’t entirely salvage. But it should be interesting, and the above doesn’t even tell you what it’s really about.

I’m happy today – I got the Chuck Greenberg album From a Blue Planet today. I’ve been searching for this for years, and finally found a used copy on Amazon’s marketplace. Chuck was the main man behind Shadowfax, a former Windham Hill new age/jazz band that I’ve been obsessed with since the late 1980s. I have all of the Shadowfax CDs and I really like listening to them when I’m writing or when I just want to relax. The only problem is that Chuck Greenberg died in 1995, so that was the end of the road for the band. Luckily, I found this 1991 solo album, and it sounds a lot like a lost Shadowfax work. It’s still got Chuck up front, playing winds and the wind-controlled Lyricon synth, but it has a stable of other musicians, including some of Shadowfax and some new players. Chuck wrote all of the songs, and they have the same great energy and feel as any of his other stuff. The stuff sounds great, and I know it will be in my player for decades to come.

Another musical find in recent news is that I picked up the new Fozzy album. This is a sort of project band formed by professional wrestler Chris Jericho and most of the former band Stuck Mojo. It’s old-school heavy metal, with a slightly more modern production and styling. I loved the self-titled Fozzy debut that came out two years ago, because Jericho is a big heavy metal fan like me, and covered a cool set of songs, like old Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Krokus, Twisted Sister, and more. This time, it’s half cover songs and half new stuff, and it’s not a gimmick or joke – Jericho can really sing, and the band sounds incredible. So it’s cool to see a band that isn’t just the same Slipknot/Korn/Limp Biskit sort of dreary grime, but is actually some good guitars and a guy singing lyrics.

Not much else going on. It is hotter than a motherfucker in here, so I might give up on any writing for the evening and retreat to the bathtub for a while.

Last Stop sandwich

It’s about 1 in the morning. I’m eating the remains of a sandwich I got from the Last Stop Cafe and listening to the new (to me) Chick Corea New Trio CD, which I discovered at Best Buy today and I have been enjoying. Corea, along with a lot of other Jazz greats, always seems to swap bands and record labels as time goes by. I’m a big fan of the GRP era, the Mariental/Weckl/Pattitucci/Gambale lineup, and the fact that all of those guys did their own solo albums on GRP that had guest appearances. Sort of like those solo Kiss albums, but these were a bit better in quality.

Oh yeah, Rumored is on Amazon. Go check its page on Amazon.com. If you order it there, do me a big favor and use the feature that lets you tell friends to buy it for 10% off. Of course, right now the book is cheaper at Barnes and Noble, and I am pretty agnostic about what store people use, as long as they check it out.

Nothing else mind-bending is really going on these days. It’s too hot for me to enjoy the apartment, but moderately okay outside. I haven’t been in the mood to do much, and I keep racking my brain trying to think of ways to pass time until the mood strikes me to start another book. I should be writing something, but I can’t get into it. So maybe I will take a class or try to find a workshop or something.

Of course I say this, and I have no free time. It seems like every day goes by in ten hours, and I’m left with a list of things I’ll get to tomorrow. Of course, I don’t know what’s on the list right now, except that I just got the new Simpsons box set and I want to watch some of the episodes. But now, it’s going on 2:00 and I need to turn on the AC and sit in bed and let this turkey sandwich churn through my system so I will have bizarre dreams. Not too bad of a plan, really.