Subway balance

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I spent way too much money on computer stuff today. I got a 120 Gig Western Digital drive ($200) and a copy of Adobe Premiere 6.5 ($550). I’ve snagged a copy of Windows 2000, so once all of this crap gets here, I should have a fairly decent video editing machine. I also found out last night that my camera supports frame-by-frame and time-lapse recording. I made a stop-motion test movie tonight (40 seconds of video shot in 30 minutes – I forgot how tedious this shit is) and I have a lot of ideas for time-lapse stuff. It would be pretty cool to sit out in Times Square with a camera and do a time-lapse, or maybe out of my window during a snowstorm. Lots of ideas, not a lot of time.

The new Hunter S. Thompson showed up in the mail today, and I’ve read 30 or 40 pages sofar. It’s a good read, but I wouldn’t say it’s incredible. At least I finally have something to read – maybe after I get done, I’ll be ready to start writing again.

On the way home, I saw this woman sit down on the train, and she was holding like 3 or 4 pots and trays full of food, plus balancing a backpack and reading a book at the same time. This is on the subway – the New York subway, the one that goes from 0 to 40 in about .2 seconds, creating sideways forces of about 10 G’s, knocking loose everything that isn’t firmly seated or grabbing onto a rail. I stared in amazement as she balanced all of this food – hot food, you could even smell that some of it was chicken – in bulky, metal containers, while the train sloshed the rest of it around. People like that truly amaze me, the people with the John Kennedy gene that can step in from a hurricane perfectly dressed and without a single hair out of place. I remember a day last month when it was about 80 below zero, and I saw a guy in Times Square, walking around with nothing but a fucking t-shirt on. He wasn’t sprinting to a subway, or running back into a store after a smoke, or anything else. He was just reading a fucking Playbill and walking down the road, while I was freezing to death in my coat inside of a damned restaurant. Every day, I at least put in a marginal effort to groom myself and get dressed, and yet I know I look bloodied, beaten, and fagged to the casual observer, while many New Yorkers look like a god damned Calvin Klein ad. Did I miss an immunization as a kid, or is this the product of private education?

Okay, back to reading.

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Need a warm vacation

Forget what I said earlier; today it is colder than fuck out. And I didn’t really bundle up, because I went out yesterday and it was in the 30s, fairly reasonable. It was the walk of death from the subway to my front door today. And while my apartment was like an oven all weekend, I’ve only got a lukewarm temp with a horrid breeze ripping through the closed windows.

I’m doing the dance of computer software and hardware upgrades, or at least trying to avoid it. I feel like I won’t get much out of this video setup unless I have a copy of Premiere running ($500), but that will require a copy of Windows XP ($200) and a big hard drive ($200). Or I could do nothing and spend $0. But then when I decide to spend nothing, I later get this nagging feeling that I should do something, maybe cut a corner and only buy one or two of the three. I don’t know.

And part of me thinks I should take the money and go on a fucking vacation to somewhere warmer. Delta had a fare this weekend to Orlando for $220, including hotel. But I would have to leave at 7PM on Friday (not a major problem) and come back at 7AM on Sunday (a major problem). I don’t deal with early flights like that, and I don’t think it would be worth it to spend essentially one day in Florida. But shit, I would spend $200 to spend an hour in Florida if it would mean I could feel my toes again.

I’m not reading anything or writing anything. My new book is available for preorder on iuniverse, but I don’t feel like mentioning it with a link because they are so shitty about preorders, and I don’t think anyone will buy the book anyway. Oh, and I put Vegas pictures online: here. They are not all captioned or turned the right way. I’ll get to it eventually.

I’m watching wrestling with the sound turned off, because there is a rumor that Stone Cold Steve Austin is supposed to return. But I’ll bet anything they will drag it out forever and he won’t come back. I don’t even particularly like Austin, but I’m curious to see if he returns after his little wife-beating rampage.

I’ve installed anti-spam software, and I’m pretty happy with it. I have the Spastic set of procmail rules, and it’s only accidentally deleted one mail, from Evite, but otherwise it is running 100%. It doesn’t pick up all spam, but I’d say it gets more than 90% of it. Today I had about 70 pieces of spam, and all of them got quietly whisked away. I am not actually deleting them yet, but once I’m sure the filters are working, I will automatically nuke stuff marked as spam.

That’s it. Throat still hurts, but it is slowly getting better. OK, I think I am giving up on the WWE so I can read or something.

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Too cold to think

It is too cold to think. To get to work today, I wore two pairs of pants, an army jacket, a leather jacket, a hat, a hood, and a pair of gloves. I was still so cold I couldn’t fucking breathe. My apartment has been in spats of hot and cold; the heater runs but sometimes bangs like Godzilla is in the basement and trying to escape via the radiator, and that worries me that the whole thing will stop working and my landlord will be in Italy for months. If so, I will light the place on fire. Also, the wind blows so hard, it blows right through the windows, no matter how much foam tape and bunched up blankets I cram into the crevices. I am slightly sick, but not a lot – maybe some kind of infection in my throat, a lump that I can’t swallow. It is getting slowly better, so hopefully more juice and water will lodge things free.

I got back on Tuesday from a pretty decent trip to Vegas. The only bad part was that on the night of my birthday (Monday), I drank way, way, way too much and got sick at Smith and Wollensky steakhouse, which was a very Bad Scene. I woke up at four in the morning in the hotel room and found the sink filled with puke, the toilet overflowing and its lid ripped off, my knee cut open and bleeding all over, vomit shotgunned over the entire bathroom, and absolutely no memory of how any of it got that way. I cleaned it up as much as possible, and then slept about two hours before I had to spend an entire day hung over and nauseous, on planes and in airports. That SUCKED.

The trip was otherwise cool. There were four of us: Bill, Lon, me, and Lon’s pal Cliff, who is a pilot for a regional airline. It was cool to talk to Cliff about planes and flying and the inside world of the aviation industry. I envy being able to fly a plane, but I don’t envy the fact that a third-year pilot makes about $20K a year. Anyway, we did a lot of cool stuff, so here’s a short list off the top of my head:

  • Went to Blue Man Group and sat in the front row (the poncho section.)
  • Ate at Emeril’s fish restaurant; had the 6-course tasting meal, which was all incredible.
  • Shot a Madsen M50 9mm automatic rifle with a silencer.
  • Rented a pimped out Caddy with leather everything, power everything, onstar, rear radar, an incredible stereo, ass-heating seats, and all the other goodies.
  • Bill found out that the Caddy has a 120 MPH cutout. It felt and sounded like we were going 60, though.
  • Ate at In-n-Out and Jack In The Box
  • Went to the Grand Canyon; threw a copy of Rumored to Exist into the canyon.
  • Went to the Hoover Dam, took the tour, found a tour guide who didn’t know what The A Team was. I made the wild sarcastic guess that she was born in 1986; she was actually born in 1984. I officially feel old.
  • Ate at Denny’s twice.
  • Went to 7-Eleven. Got a Slurpee. Did not fuck sluts. (Sorry, Ray.)
  • Went shopping at Caesar’s Forums. Bought a new pair of Vans shoes.
  • Went to Best Buy and bought a ton of new CDs and a new camcorder battery.
  • Won $40 on blackjack at Imperial Palace.
  • Went to the car museum at Imperial Palace.
  • Threw paper airplanes out of the hotel windows.
  • Got the Caddy airborne on a speedbump.
  • Went downtown and saw the Fremont Experience light show.
  • Went to the worst pawnshop ever downtown.
  • Talked to some strippers on Fremont Street.
  • Watched the movie Jackass on pay-per-view.
  • Watched the movie Undercover Brother on Bill’s laptop.
  • Ate a good breakfast at the Luxor.

That’s all I can think of. But we got a lot of stuff done from Thursday to Tuesday, and we didn’t do that much Vegas strip stuff. So I’m pretty happy with the results, except for the part about puking up a $160 dinner.

My camcorder was great on the trip, and now I have a firewire card for my PC. I installed all of the stuff on my Windows partition, and it works pretty good for editing video and pulling in stuff through the DV connection. I need to now pull in old stuff from Hi8 and make some real movies with it. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s not like I’m going anywhere this weekend.

OK, I need to do some more DV editing research. I’ll try to get back on schedule with regular updates, but my semi-hibernation isn’t helping things much.

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Apartment oasis

The apartment is still a bit too hot, but it’s a nice oasis from the weather outside. With temperatures at about 30 degrees and winds in the 20-30 MPH range pulling that down a dozen or so notches, it’s not the kind of weather to lounge around in. I went out for a while today, and endured the biting cold for a few hours, and it felt good to get out and do some shopping, but it felt better to return to a nice warm apartment with an armful of stuff I just bought.

Yesterday, I went to a screening of Night of the Living Dead at AMMI with my friend Julie. It was extra-cool because George Romero himself was there, and did a Q/A session after the film. First, it was cool to see the film on a big screen, with a sold-out audience. People laughed at a lot of the corny lines, and clapped for some of the more over-the-top stuff. Romero came out, and he was pretty cool. He reminded me of Bukowski in some ways, the tone in his voice or his articulation. He talked about Tom Savini’s craziness, the possibility of a fourth zombie movie, the fact that he was a director on Resident Evil but was fired after ten months, and a lot of other stuff. A bunch of suck-up people asked obvious questions and complimented him on obscure films that nobody’s seen, and that’s always a pain in the ass. Overall, it was a very cool screening, and the only bad part was that when I took out my camera to get some pictures, the damn batteries were dead. Oh well.

I spent part of today trying to hunt down these batteries. They are a lithium battery the size of two AA batteries, and I can’t just pick them up at the corner bodega. I ended up going to three different stores before I snagged two sets of batteries at a Staples. I also went to a Barnes and Noble and picked up some new travel books, and this totally fucked up Air Force survival manual. It was like $12 and is about 600 pages of information on how to skin rabbits and build shelters and what plants are edible, and tons of other stuff. It’s a very interesting read, the kind of thing I can open to a random page a thousand times over and still not get enough. It’s also the kind of book that makes me think I should be in the deep woods somwehere, digging a hole in the ground and covering it with branches while my campfire roars.

Not much else. I am watching this TV movie about JFK Jr. with some sort of sick fascination. It’s interesting, although I never really followed what happened with John John and I don’t really have an accurate mental timeline on the whole thing. I do remember when he died, because I was in DC visiting Larry, and a lot of people there were all bent out of shape and leaving flowers at the Kennedy grave. It’s an okay show, but not incredible.

I can’t believe I will be in Vegas on Friday. I better start getting my crap together for the trip…

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Baby book

My mom moved recently (for reasons I don’t really want to get into) and told my sisters to basically get any of their shit that was around her house a month or so ago. I’d already been through this in 1997 when my mom was preparing to rent out and ultimately sell the house where we grew up, and I’m pretty sure I even wrote about that experience here. Basically, at that point, I thought it was last call and I got what I thought were the last of my mementos, old books, and keepsakes from the piles of old stuff in the basement. Well, I was wrong, and my sister found amidst a bunch of garbage a rather interesting little item that she sent to me, and it arrived today.

The item in question is my baby book. I don’t know if this is a unique tradition to the Catholics or the people in the Midwest or particularly Better-Homes-and-Gardens-type parents, and I’m interested to hear if anyone else has one of these. Basically, it is a pre-printed scrapbook with various pages dedicated to clippings, photos, and tons of statistical information that new mothers love to gather on their baby, like when they first sat up, when they first held their bottle, when they first asked if Alan Greenspan is actually the head of a tribunal Masonic government that secretly runs the entire world via the monetary system, and so on. Mothers then write down all of these factoids and save birthday cards and kindergarden grades and locks of hair and so on. In a sense, it’s almost like a throwback to the entire blog concept, except it’s not on the web, and every little Noam Chomsky web forward about the Gulf War doesn’t appear in it ten times.

So I guess my mom bought one of these books about 32 years ago, and I completely forgot about it. I do remember as a child that this book hid away in the buffet in the kitchen, along with commemorative candles from baptisms and bibles given to us at first communion and real silverware that never saw the light of day. My book was very late 60s looking, although I was born in 1971. I seem to remember Monica’s book being much more Gerald Ford-esque 1970s, and I don’t even remember Angie having a baby book. Angie was the Polaroid child; my parents had a crappy 126-camera that took slide film, which means there are about a dozen photos of me before the age of four. Monica was born when the 110 camera was the shit, and there are a fair number of shots of her in the family album. When Angie came around in 1976, my dad’s new toy was the Polaroid, and we have dozens and dozens of photos of Angie doing about everything. I think this novelty replaced the novelty of the baby book in the same way that email has replaced the novelty of writing a letter and sending it snail mail, so Angie’s childhood is in a sense much more documented, but it’s a much different experience. And now that everyone has a video camera the size of a book of matches, I doubt anyone but the most dedicated mother is still using the baby book concept. And I’m sure most of them have gone to the web.

Anyway, the book showed up today, and it smells like the inside of that buffet drawer, and like our old house in Michigan. The first thing I found that amazed me was… my own receipt! The bill from the hospital was in there; the Grand Forks Air Force hospital charged Sgt. and Mrs. Konrath a grand total of $10.50 for a seven-day stay, including food. Also included are my hospital tags that went around my foot (with a US military stamp on them); the slip that was on my hospital crib; the front page of the Grand Forks Herald from January 20, 1971; the newspaper announcement of my birth; some photos showing me and my mom and dad in the wood-grained trailer where they lived when my dad was in the service; and a chunk of my hair from my first haircut.

Aside from the initial birth stuff, there’s not a lot that would be interesting to anyone but me, unless you find the fact that I walked when I was nine and a half months old, and I used to call making the bed “changing the bed” when I was a kid. It’s still a very neat little discovery for someone who is as nostalgic about the past as I am. I’m glad my sister was able to liberate it for me.

Not much else is up, except that I’m busy as hell at work, and that makes the day go by faster, but it makes the time off seem much shorter. The Rite-Aid by my house can’t get a god damned thing done right, and every single prescription I bring there gets fucked up somehow and they either don’t have the stuff or they forget to fill it or the insurance company needs some super-secret approval and they don’t fucking call me and ask for it, even though they ask me every single time what my phone number is in case they have questions. The fact that I run into stuff like this in pretty much every avenue of my life makes me wonder how things ever happen at all. I wish this generation had a saying like “they can send a man to the moon, but they can’t _______.” But the thing is – they can’t send a man to the moon anymore. They can’t even install a public toilet in the largest city in the country, and I pay them $30,000 a year in taxes. You can buy a fucking toilet at Home Depot for $100. Thiry grand times everyone else who has ever had to take a piss buys a lot of toilets.

Okay, gotta go see if Ray actually bought a region-free DVD player or not.

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Grandiose systems to replace all international monetary functionality

I just got a copy of my phone bill dated December 1, which is due on December 26. (Yes, last December 26.) I don’t know if this was a screwup with Verizon (very probable) or a screwup with my online bill payer situation, which recently was merged or bought or otherwise shifted over, resulting in massive disruptions in .05% of their customers, which means me. Hopefully I will get another bill shortly that is double, and I’ll pay it, and in the meantime, my phone won’t get disconnected. That’s my hope, anyway.

This is one of the kinds of situations that throws me for enough of a loop that I spend days wondering, “why does anyone ever pay their bills?” and I start wondering about grandiose systems to replace all international monetary functionality, and then I realize that the people I work with are just trying to upgrade a tiny, tiny, tiny facet of the banking world, and the amount of incredible bullshit involved with the infrastructure is tremendous. On one hand, I look at a bank (mostly when standing in line) and I think, “why the fuck can’t they replace all of this, and have it work for a fraction of the cost?” and on the other hand, I have no idea how trillions of dollars can flow through the system without catastrophe on a daily basis. It’s like when I’m washing dishes, and I think I’ve found a way to invent an entirely new dishwasher – no, an entirely new concept in dishes that is custom-engineered not only for comfort, but for maximized, automated washing and sterilization. Meanwhile, I can’t actually finish washing my own fucking dishes.

I’m still playing with this Ethernet adapter on the PlayStation 2. I still can’t get the Navy Seals game working. Tony Hawk 4 works great, although I can barely play it against others. I am slowly learning more about different tricks, but it’s complicated, and requires more manual dexterity than I can muster. But it’s an excellent game. I didn’t realize how good the PS/2 is until tonight, when I got Quake 3 going on my work machine. The graphics are very blocky and crappy-looking, compared to something like Medal of Honor. Maybe I don’t have them maximized fully, but they look very primitive to me. Quake is interesting, but playing games with a mouse and keyboard is very counter-intuitive to me, and ergonomically disastrous. Still, it’s fun to play networked with other people at work after hours.

Not much else. A lot of trouble sleeping, and I took Tylenol PM last night, so I was out of it all day today. I heard from my PSA at the book publisher, and I should have proofs in a few weeks. That could mean the proofs are done when I’m on vacation, but I told them to push back until I get back so I don’t have to try to download them over a modem or anything.

OK, gotta go play a bit more before bed…

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Both compelling and retarded

I’m watching a TV movie about Enron that’s both compelling and retarded, and I’m not sure which of the two keeps me watching. It also has Shannon Elisabeth from the American Pie movies, but she looks somewhat terrible, and is playing the role of a whiny, two-dimensional Enron wife, which pretty much kills any sort of sexual attraction she would normally exude. Anyway, it’s the only thing on TV right now, so here I am.

I went out last night to see Bowling for Columbine and go eat in Times Square. The Times Square thing was unusually busy and very strange, given the ghosts I see of my two years or so of working there. But many of the stores are changing, and many new things are opening up. One new good thing is this huge Toys R Us store, which is where a cheap theater and a bunch of those annoying junk camera stores used to be. One bad thing is that the food court next to the AMC 25 on 42nd is now gone. That sucks, because it was one of the open, public, and no-hassle restrooms in the area. And speaking of ghosts, I once again ran into former coworker and standup comedian Matt Daly, handing out fliers to his comedy show at a club right off of Times Square. We didn’t have too much to say other than the usual catching up, but he’s always a cool person to talk to, and I really hope I manage to catch one of his shows.

After dinner at the Howard Johnson’s, which was pretty unmemorable, especially my $16 faux stir fry, I went to the AMC 25 for the movie. I resisted going to this movie for a long time, because I thought it would be a huge liberalist glossing-over of gun control and why people with guns were evil and soforth, and I guess part of that is that many of the type of people who say it’s a great movie are also the type who say that it’s our fault that 9/11 happened. Also, I am not always down with Michael Moore’s confrontational style. I did like Roger and Me a lot, but I saw The Big One in the theater, and found it to be uneven at best. There was good information in it, but it didn’t really offer any kind of a thesis or solution. And while some people might consider it some sort of in-your-face vigilante justice to corner a company spokesperson in a lobby while waving a fake check in their face and telling them they laid off too many people, I ultimately don’t see how it does much of anything, especially when you consider that most company spokespeople and other talking heads are brainwashed and functionally useless.

Given all of this, I thought Bowling for Columbine was interesting and entertaining. I would have done a few things differently, but I dug it overall. I was going to write much more about this, but I have no energy to do so right now, so I’ll stop.

I bought the Ethernet card for my PlayStation 2, along with Tony Hawk 4. I can’t get the card to work with Socom Navy Seals, but I read online that it’s because Sony fucked up on their servers and they never let people log in because of load. They should get that shit figured out if they’re going to run commercials constantly. The Tony Hawk game is pretty cool, and it’s incredible to play it online. It doesn’t use that much bandwidth, and there you are skating along with other dudes in the same skatepark. It’s a very hypnotic game, the sort of thing where you can play forever, going back and forth on the same level, trying different tricks over and over. A very good time-waster.

Not much else. I need to get out of here and think about going to bed in a few hours. I was up till about four or five last night, so getting up at seven tomorrow will be a real trick.

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Working on book proofs on New Year’s

Happy New Year. I think I’ve figured out all of the associated issues with knocking the journal over to 2003 without completely mangling access to the old archives. There are still broken bits and pieces, and the UI isn’t wonderful, but it looks like it’s at least mostly functional.

And what did I do to usher in the new year? I was mad at work trying to finish things for my next book. And now, I’m happy to report that Tell Me A Story About The Devil: Selected Journals, 1997-1999 is on its way to the publisher and will hopefully be available in a few months. It’s a collection of old journals from right here, edited and pulled together into a nice, bound copy. I’m very happy about making this a book, and I really do like all of this old writing. Of course you can get all of this stuff for free on this site, but it will be a different experience to be able to sit in bed or on the bus or whatever and read a copy on real paper.

The last few days have been a real bitch, pulling together the manuscript, dealing with the little bits like the back cover text, marketing summary, and all of that, and getting the cover ready. (It’s here if you want to look at it.) Ray did the cover again, and it took some work to find a photo that I liked. But I think it looks good, and I’m happy that after two black book covers, I will have a bright red book to put on the shelf next to it. Anyway, I haven’t slept much, and my food schedule is way off too, so I feel like shit. After finally submitting everything to the publisher at 10:30 thismorning, I got a few hours of sleep and went out in the pissing rain to get some Subway for lunch at about 5:00. Now, only a few hours later, I really want to get supper, but I really don’t. And I don’t want to work tomorrow, but I have to go in. At least it will be a nice, short, two-day work week.

Not much else is up. I am not going to ramble on about resolutions or look back at the year in review or anything like that. I do too much of that stuff on a daily basis. Right now, I need to clean the disaster in my house from working at full-bore for the last week or so. I’ve got a bedroom full of photos everywhere, a living room covered in red-penned printouts, and a sink full of dishes. I doubt I will do too much damage to that tonight, but I would like to get things returned to normal so I can get started on the next book.

And yes, there is a next book! I have an idea, but I won’t jinx it. For now, I need to get thinking about the trip to Vegas in about two weeks. I just ordered a new battery for my laptop, and I hope that fixes the problem so I can get mobile and running. If it doesn’t, I think I’m going to buy a used PowerBook and go Mac. But I hope the battery fixes everything. It’s weird to think that I used this laptop for the last 40 or 50 hours almost constantly, scanning photos and plugging away at the manuscript, but it won’t work without a cord.

Okay, time to look at this dinner problem again…

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