History Channel, Blind Date, eBay madness

I have the History Channel! See, I have cable, but not really. I plugged in the cable in my apartment and I get some channels, but not any good ones. I don’t actually pay for anything, so I’m not sure if this is the “basic” or “local” package that you get for free, or if I’m getting half of my neighbor’s feed or what. But I get all of the local network channels, and a bunch of the throwaways, like TNN, SuperStation, Food Network, Shop at Home, etc. I was dicking with the TV programming the other day, and found out I get the History Channel! I’m completely psyched because I could probably watch the History Channel 24 hours a day and never get bored. There’s nothing better than watching an hour about Chinese opium trade, then going into a special on guys restoring planes they found in a glacier in Greenland. So I might not be getting much writing done in the future, depending on their programming schedule.

I’m pretty pissed right now because I lost an eBay auction. I was bidding on a Tandy 102 computer, an old and primitive laptop that still works pretty neat and only uses 4 AA batteries. I had the winning bid up to the very last minute, and when it was 0.00, someone else came in and bid twice as much and took it. I was so pissed, I thought for sure I had it, because I was reloading the page every minute and watching. I think they used some kind of program to bid in the last minute. I also got run out on an auction for an Amiga 500 bundle that isn’t over, but that I didn’t want to pay too much for. I got onto another Tandy 102 auction, and I have a bid on an old MicroVAX. I don’t know if I will get any of them, but I hope that at least one of the auctions works out.

I watched all of the Blind Date DVDs and it pretty much reconfirmed my belief that I can never, ever, ever, date again. That doesn’t change that I want to, so the self-confusion level is still pegged.

And a freelance writer from AOL just used some of my pictures of St. Pete for an article, so I can add professional photographer to my long list of occupations. (writer, tech support, developer, designer, graphic artist, dishwasher, master paint specialist, truck loader and unloader, telemarketer, painter, landscaper, salesman, tutor, babysitter, game show contestant, cameraman, followspot operator, and fake advice columnist.)

The history of Lear jets is on. I better go.


28 Days Later, ultralights

The heatwave has ended, pretty much. It was pretty hot all day, but it cooled off last night, so I shut off the AC and enjoyed a real night of sleep, without the aid of over-the-counter drugs. It meant an okay day here to go to Chelsea and wander around the Best Buy for some DVD damage to the plastic. I spent most of this evening going through that Blind Date uncensored DVD, and the Old School movie. So, an evening of high entertainment.

Last night I saw 28 Days Later, which is a pretty weird British movie that’s basically about zombies and a post-apocalyptic England. But instead of the classic Romero zombie theory, these guys were created from an blood-borne, AIDS-like virus that creates pure rage and self-destruction in the host. Some dumb-ass, Greenpeace types try to liberate a monkey lab and basically end the world SARS-style when they unleash the shit. The movie then starts 28 days later when a guy wakes from a coma, completely islated in a hospital from the complete destruction of London. He goes around and finds other survivors to eventually journey to a military camp that promises a cure, only finding that the military junta is about as bad as the infected zombies. It was a well-shot, very humanist film, concentrating more on the plight of the post-destruction man, the lack of hope and desolation of living in this world. A lot of American films in the 80s themed after a Soviet-US war (Red Dawn, The Day After) have a similar setup, but this captured it much more three-dimensionally. There is gore, but the film is cut much more artistically, so you get shocked more by the jumpiness than the animated corpses vomiting blood onto their prey. It’s a great film and gave me a few ideas for the next book. Unfortunately, I wasn’t into the ending. But at least it wasn’t Charlie’s Angels or anything.

Not too much else is up here. I’ve just been reading the new Ultralight Flying magazine, wishing I had like 15 grand to blow on an ultralight, and maybe some more money to go to some place with a good flight school. I might save my pennies and try to take some kind of vacation to a place in Florida or Louisiana or something where I can try to rack up some hours. The FAA is changing some things around with a new classification called Light Sport, which is basically a step below the most basic general aviation license, and is easier to obtain. Most importantly, it does not require a medical – if you have a driver’s license, you can apply. It’s very limited, and only applies to very light planes, during the day, with good visibility, and so on. But it means I could get a license to fly something much bigger than a powered parachute or powered hang glider or something. I could potentially have a two-seater with an enclosed cockpit and everything. So that’s where my future earnings may go.

Not much else. Time to get back to the DVDs.


Tylenol PM lunacy

About the boat shoe story – if you’re reading this, it wasn’t about you. It was about mixing Nyquil and Tylenol PM, which has left me in a haze for the last 24 hours. A post-work nap seemed to help to a certain degree, but I woke up so tired and confused, I couldn’t remember what city I lived in.

It’s officially hot here, at least 90 out long after the sun has set. There’s a heat advisory, and I’m spending the day in a various patchwork of air conditioning and heat. The bedroom starts hot, and I take a cold shower. I take a long, sweaty walk to the train, and the subway car is like a meatlocker. Then I get another hot walk to the semi-cool office. It’s weird how you can walk past some stores on the street, and a wall of cryogenic mist pours out onto the street. Some parts of New York are supercooled, almost in denail of the climate in the asphalt jungle. And others, like my place, don’t even have basic climate control, and bake like a century-old village in a third-world country.

About the Tylenol PM/Nyquil thing – it amazes me how, on the very edge of sleep, I have an almost idiot-savant ability to think beyond my normal ability, in the most creative context. Right before I fall into the darkness of sleep, I dream, almost sleepwalk in a totally lucid state, and sometimes think of the most asinine but complex concepts. The design of a time travel device seems as simple as pasting two Word documents together, and I know every detail, but then I forget it as I drift into sleep. Last night, it felt like I wrote an entire book, a sequel to Rumored to Exist that made total sense, had incredible depth, and then I forgot all of it. Sometimes pieces of it come up in the dreams I have, especially the more detailed ones I remember that happen right before I wake. I think I am going to write a book where I lock myself in a hotel room with a crate of Tylenol PM and try to write down every dream I have.

It’s too hot in here to keep writing. The bedroom is twenty degrees cooler with the new aircraft engine fan, so I better go in there and read for a while.


Boat shoes

I stayed home from work today, to ward off this cold and to catch up on a total lack of sleep. The douche crew was outside my window at midnight, talking and keeping me awake until about one, and then they were back after the bars closed. Can’t these people get their own living room to loiter in? Wait, they all live with their parents. Anyway, at about 8:00 AM, I heard a horrible buzzing sound, and in a half-awake nightmare, thought it was a hundred-year old fire alarm for my apartment and that my death was imminent. Instead, it was a concrete truck about ten feet from my head, making some horrible, 110 dB screeching sound as it shot concrete into some slum landlord project across the street. Probably burying a mafia hit. I put in earplugs, closed all of the windows, called in sick, and went back to bed. I woke up at noon with a horrific sinus headache, ate baloney and crackers while watching the windshield murder case on crime TV, then went back to bed. Woke up again at about four and started a day of adjusting fans, being bored of TV, and laying down but not falling to sleep. And here I am. Apartment is 90 degrees, and I can barely see in my left eye from the inflamed sinus pressing into my brain. Let me start over with a story, and stay with me for a bit.


I’ve always worn boat shoes as a standard-issue summer shoe. I wear the Nike high-tops when I’m wearing a pair of jeans, but in the summers when I wear shorts (and I’m not a shorts guy by default, it takes a good hundred-degree wave of Hoosier heat to get me there) I like to wear a pair of old, beat-up boat shoes with no socks. No mess, no fuss, and no complex lacing or socks underneath – I can put them on when I wake up from a nap and need to walk to the corner store for a two-liter or a copy of the paper. They fit well, they matched anything, and they were easy to find on the floor. Those kind of simple qualities make anything a default in my life, from my trusty leather jacket to my trusty Timex watch to my trusty grey IU backpack that lasted me ten years and then some.

I think I got my first pair of the shoes when I started working at Taco Bell back in the summer of ’87. They had a dress code, and most of it was made up of their uniform: the maroon pants, the dumb little visor, the blazer shirt that got covered with beans and cheese during each shift, and the tie-behind apron that wore every ingredient in the place. But we had to wear dress shoes, and that meant no sneakers. And I couldn’t wear the typical black dress shoes that cut off the circulation in my toes after five minutes that I had to wear to weddings and funerals. I needed something as comfortable as tennis shoes, but that looked like a dress shoe. And I didn’t know anything about shoes, but I went to the Thom McAnn and told the dude there all of this, and he produced a pair of low brown shoes with a standard tongue, a laced rim with eyelets around the back heel, and rubber soles that actually gripped the floor, unlike most death-trap dress shoes that were damn near teflon on the sole.

I wore the shoes every day I worked at The Bell, and kept them after I quit and moved on to my short career as a dishwasher and my much longer-term career as a paint salesman at a department store. The first pair wore out, and I found that Payless had the same damn shoes for about $15. (Yes, as a writer, I am irked by the fact that Payless and Pay Less are two different things, and the first one means “without pay.” Anyway.) I think it was when I had a new set in front rotation for the job and an older, more worn set of the shoes as my backup, around-the-house shoe that I noticed how comfortable the things actually were. By the next summer when I wore the old ones without socks, I found that they practically molded to my feet. My soles ground an imprint in the inside of the shoe, and the little ridges and seams and whatnot that had once itched when the shoe was new had now worn away almost perfectly. I kept these old pairs of shoes until I drilled holes straight through the soles and needed to go back to Payless for another $15 recharge.

So I have a lot of good memories of these shoes. Most of my first book Summer Rain, or at least the truth behind the fiction, was walked in shoes just like these. Almost every picture of me from back then had those $15 pieces of leather and fake leather stuff on my toes. I really do miss waking up at 414 South Mitchell, Apartment 13, after a post-work nap, slipping on my boat shoes, and walking over to Lindley Hall for some air-conditioned VAXing. I don’t wear boat shoes that much anymore, and I’ve found they are hard to find these days. In all of my days of driving to and from everywhere, and never having to dress up anymore, I found that I never wore out my one pair of boat shoes; I wore Nikes everywhere. I still had one pair, but I never had the time to wear them.

So today, I had to go to the store for some juice. I was in shorts, and I didn’t want to find some socks and get all laced into the Air Jordans. So I dug out my old boat shoes, a pair that I think I bought when I was interviewing for jobs maybe four years ago. And I put them on, and I found out… they weren’t really that great. My toes didn’t feel right, the finish was too slick, the laces seemed too wimpy or something. The thing that was so great in my head was really not that incredible.

Why the huge story about some fucking shoes? It wasn’t about the shoes. Truth is, I’m sort of pissed off at someone, someone who doesn’t even know I’m pissed off at them. And pissed off isn’t the right word; maybe frustrated, or even jealous. I guess it’s one of those things where you think that something is great and comfortable, and maybe it is. And maybe you think it was right all of those years ago, and suddenly you realize that it’s just a pair of fucking shoes that don’t fit anymore, and it’s time to go find some that do.



I’m officially sick. I really don’t feel great, and due to the fact that I drank about a gallon of grapefruit juice today, my digestive system isn’t doing well, either. I think I’m going to sleep about 10 hours tonight, or at least try. Being sick is not fun in the summer. And yes, it’s about summer now – I think we had hot temps for the first time all year.

I did hack away at the new journal program, although it isn’t done yet. I fixed most of it, but I am trying to streamline the stuff that handles what year is what. When I’m done, it should work so that each year is in a directory, and it will generate the archives links to the left automatically. I’m having trouble with getting the right order of years, though. I need to mess with it more when I can think straight.

I keep forgetting that I have a Furby in my closet somewhere, that I got at a K-Mart for about $5 after the end of that fad. I want to take it apart and do something evil or interesting with it, but I’ve heard that they are fairly useless despite the amount of stuff that it does. All of the firmware is in one chip that melted shut and virtually useless for reverse-engineering purposes. And all of the mechanical stuff, like the eyes and sensors and so forth, are all made of plastic gears interconnected in such a way that you can’t do anything useful with them. It’s like that old Radio Shack Robotron arm; the whole thing was driven off of one motor with a shitload of gears, and it was all mechanical, so you couldn’t just wire in a DB-9 connector and a cable and then hook it up to your computer and drive it with a BASIC program or something. I did see someone wire one of those up digitally, but they basically gutted it and totally regeared the thing with 4 or 5 RC airplane servos. It would have been easier to start from scratch.

Man I don’t feel good. I really feel like sitting down and watching TV for an hour or two, but absolutely nothing is on. I think I’ll sit in bed and read the PC Connection catalog until I pass out.


C64, Matt Pinfield

I’ve spent the last few hours hacking away at a new replacement to the underlying structure of this journal. Nothing major will change to you the readers; I’m just trying to redo the back part of it using PHP to make it run a bit smoother and make changes easier. The two visible changes are that the date that you are currently viewing will not be a link to the left, it will be a black, bold date so you can kindof see where you are in the list. And the better change is that I will be able to put an earlier and later button down at the bottom of the page. The only other noticeable change will be that if you go to the index, it will bring up the newest one, and if you click into older ones, the URL will end in ?date=20030101 or whatever. I don’t think that will be that big of a deal, although if you bookmarked an exact date in the past, that bookmark won’t work anymore. I don’t think that will really be an issue for many people, though.

Working in PHP is pretty cool, although I never sat down and studied it or anything – I just jumped in and tried to dig up stuff on google as I got along. It wasn’t really that frustrating, probably because even with a ten-years-rusty knowledge of C, I can figure out a lot of the syntax. It’s fun to have a small project like this to hack away at. It reminds me of when I first started this journal five – no wait, six – years ago, and I hacked together the indexing program that this new overhaul will probably replace. Although I don’t think I could ever become systematic enough to become a software developer on a professional basis, there is something satisfying about slapping together a piece of code that you actually use to get something done.

Speaking of computers, I got back all of my Commodore stuff yesterday. I have a C-64 that I got from eBay maybe five or six years ago. I haven’t touched it in ages; it was actually still in storage at Marie’s place. But I got it all back, and cabled together the unit and the 1541 drive on my living room floor, running the video into my VCR so it would display on the TV. The keyboard was dirty and a few of the keys wouldn’t work without slamming them a few times, and then they would work too much and print repeated letters. Also, all of my cartridges would not work. But I did get the disk drive running, and got the Ghostbusters game going, which is the only thing I have on floppy. It takes forever to load, and then has the most rudimentary voice samples ever, plus some very cheesy theme music in it. But it was still fun to mess with. Today I got some cleaner at Radio Shack and took apart the keyboard and got it running slightly better, and also got the game cartridges working after I cleaned the contacts. I spent part of the afternoon playing Omega Race and Jupiter Lander, and thinking of almost 20 years ago when I played the same carts on my original C-64.

Very tired, and not much else is up. I saw Matt Pinfield yesterday, in the elevator on the way out of work. I guess there’s a recording studio at the top of our building, run by Phillip Glass. I got into the elevator at work and saw the dude, although he was much shorter than I thought. He was listening on a cell phone and I wasn’t sure if it was him or not, so I waited until he talked, and then I definitely knew it was him. He was talking to someone about a recording session, but I don’t know what band or if he produces or what. I have no idea if he is still a VJ at MTV or not. I just did a search on him, and mostly found sites of people that hate him. Anyway, it was a weird sighting.

It’s been raining all weekend, pouring out. It’s been an incredible non-day and I think it’s time for bed…


Rent stabilization, career tests

The city board voted on rent stabilization rents today, which means that next year, my rent will go up 5.5%. That’s up from 2% last year. On one hand, a lot of people may think this is a huge number, but the landlord association originally wanted it to go up to like 18% or something. So at least at only 5.5%, I won’t have to sublet out my closets to pay my rent. This little scheme is one of about 863 different ways New Yorkers are currently getting screwed over at the current time. Sales tax is up; income tax will be up; grocery costs – up; subway fares – you know it; parking tickets – don’t get a parking ticket if you want to live. Pretty much everything is going through the roof, except of course the quality of life in the city. But I still have a job, so I won’t be moving any time soon.

Speaking of moving and jobs, I had to move cubes for the third time since August 2001. And what makes it slightly more Office Space-esque is that spot #4 is the same as spot #2. Okay, the first move was from our startup home, which was a floor and a penthouse of a building near Penn Station. That was a pleasant commute for the month I was there, because every day I had to step over at least a dozen bums splayed out on the sidewalk of 34th Street. There was a porn store nextdoor, which was convenient. The whole tech staff simultaneously got food poisoning from the Blimpie’s across the street. And someone serial-pissed in the salad bar of the deli right by Penn Station. So it was good to get out of that area, even if it added five subway stops to my ride in. And I’m glad to be tucked away in the back corner of the office again, with a slightly larger cube and a good deal of distance from the marketing/sales types who feel a need to talk on speakerphone constantly. Why the fuck do people do that? Does it make their penis feel bigger or something? Fuck.

Nothing is on TV now, not even stupid reality TV shows. I don’t have cable, except for my bootleg connection. But even so, there’s nothing but summer reruns, or shows too shitty to put on during the regular year. There’s an ER rerun I already saw; a curio clock for $1729.99 on ShopNBC; that horrible science show with Alan Alda (I almost accidentally typed Anal Alda) on 21; ancient ladies wearing chiffron mumus on HSN; a woman’s basketball game (WNBA?) on ESPN2; that stupid extreme Japanese game show on TNN; old people on CSPAN2; Steven Seagall on TBS; a shitty Yankees book for $75 on QVC (“Captures the TRUE history. The OFFICIAL retrospective. He’s talking as if photographs were invented just for this fucking book);catfish fishing on Food Network; I think that’s it.

I took a career test online today and it said I should be a techwriter. Not a rodeo cowboy, or a Navy SEAL, but a fucking techwriter. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad. Actually I should feel cheated, because this was a plotline in Friends about four years ago.



I spent the day at the USS Intrepid museum. It was a good day, and I finally got to check out the USS Growler, a submarine that’s also at the pier. It is the only deactivated nuclear sub open to the public, and it was neat to walk through it after recently seeing the USS Bowfin in Hawaii. The Growler was commissioned in 1958 as opposed to the Bowfin’s 1943, so some of the stuff looked a bit newer, although it had the same general feel and smell to it. What it did have different was a set of Regulus nuclear missiles, and it was cool to see the little room that was the equivalent of a nuclear missile silo’s launch control center. Going through small subs and their tight quarters with very innovative storage spaces always makes me wish I could do similar stuff with my apartment so I could store twice as much shit. I wish I had a welder and a place to use it so I could buy a bunch of steel and cut it into little shelves and lofts and other hiding spaces.

The aircraft carrier was cool, although after going to some much better museums, it saddened me to see the shape of some of their aircraft. Their A-12, a masterpiece in that it’s the first production model ever, has chipped and peeling paint all over it; the very nice A-4 inside the hanger had crappy paint all over, and the cockpit looked like it hadn’t been touched in 20 years. Some of the planes on the deck had spots that were primered grey like a beat-up Impala in East LA or something. Even the ship’s bell was tarnished! I wish I could donate my time to work on a few of these planes. I don’t know that much about the actual details, but I’d gladly get out the steelwool and brasso and get cracking if I was given the chance.

A pretty lax weekend aside from that trip. It’s starting to get hot, and my stand-up oscillating fan has finally died. It has broken a few times, and I’ve managed to repair it, but now it’s flat out dead. I spent $35 of the money I don’t want to spend on a new floor fan, a generic version of one of those vortex things. It’s pretty impressive – on the low speed, it whips up more wind than my air conditioner. It sounds like a small prop airplane, but that’s actually helpful, as it will hypnotize me to sleep.

I didn’t get much writing done all weekend, but I did decide to quit the Bloomington stories for now and get back on The Device. I outlined some stuff all weekend, but no writing yet.

Okay, gotta work on the photos and stuff a bit more…


books, road paving, fortran

Ah, the weekend. It’s actually pretty hot outside today, and I’m surprised. The last two weekends have been pretty dreary, and Thursday night a huge storm front started pissing away, so I thought it would be three for three on spoiled weekends. But I have no real funds in the discretionary spending account, since I just paid off the Amex bill for the Hawaii trip, and I’m trying to be good about paying up extra on bills instead of suddenly deciding I need a drum set or a scuba license or some other asinine pursuit that sounds good to me for about a week. Anyway, it’s beautiful out, and I planned on sitting on the couch and catching up on reading, but maybe I will try to find something sensible to do, or at least go for a long walk after I’m done with lunch.

I went to Marie’s the other night to loan her my camera, and met David and saw Poly, Mungo, and Henrey again. (Marie and David are humans, while the others are cats. Actually, it’s arguable that Mungo is a cat as he is as big as a mid-sized dog, but that’s another discussion entirely.) Anyway, Marie gave me a bunch of books, as she works for a publisher and is still in the loop as far as free promotional copies are concerned. One of the things I miss most about Juno is that it was in the same building as Random House and all of those other Bertelsmann publishers, so they always put racks and racks of free books down in the cafeteria. It would absolutely make Falli’s eBay mojo explode.

Anyway, I got, among other things, this book Pandora’s Keepers. It’s about the nine men who created the atomic bomb, and was written by Brian VanDemark, sort of. I say “sort of” because after the review copies went out, it turns out that a few other prominent nuke history authors found that he completely lifted parts of their writing in his book. So the book got recalled, and you can’t find it – but I have it! I’m about halfway through it, and as a person who was addicted to Richard Rhodes’ books on the bomb, I enjoy the reading. I can look past the plagarism charge, as all writing is essentially plagarism and I can see how he could have slipped up and accidentally boosted something. Or maybe I disagree, I don’t know. Either way, it’s a good read. Supposedly, a cleaned up paperback version will be out later in the year.

They are repaving several streets in my neighborhood, which means that if they repave mine and my windows are open, it will most likely turn my apartment into some sort of chemical death chamber. This is good only in that my survivors may be able to sue the city of New York for $50 million dollars, and 17 years later get a “buy 1 get 1 at half off” coupon for Pizza Hut or something. Also, if I do survive, it will make the street marginally better for cycling. It doesn’t cure the problem of a resident triple-parking his Crown Vic and opening their doors into traffic as I pass. I’m still working on a reliable way to mount an M203 grenade launcher on my bike frame, which will solve this issue.

My sister got a research position for the summer at Notre Dame. She is working with a professor on big bang nucleosynthesis, which has to do with figuring out how elements heavier than hydrogen formed right after the big bang. It sounds pretty cool, but the program they are using is written in fortran and is a mess. Still, it sounds like a pretty cool way to spend a summer. Better than teaching driver’s ed, at least.

I’ve decided to stop building models for the time being. I’ve found that painting models is pretty much impossible as a 32-year-old. It’s not like I’m going blind and shaking like a blender from Parkinson’s or anything, but I notice the difference when I’m trying to paint the instrument panel on a 1/35 scale model, and I wonder how I could do it when I was half my current age. (HALF MY AGE! Shit, I just thought about what I wrote about, and that’s way too fucked up.)

OK, time for that walk.


Getting out of jury duty

Jury duty – done. I went in for another early morning, but actually got to McDonald’s on time, and had a shouting match at the counter with the idiot they put there over the sizes of orange juice. Remember when it was just small-medium-large? Anyway, I spent most of the morning sitting around, then right before lunch, got marched over and put on a case. I got the new steak and cheese at subway, and sat under a tree on a stone wall to eat lunch. After lunch, I got back on the case, and I was one of the 19 people (19? 18?) in the jury box, but the judge called me back in chambers when they were going over the jury questionnaires. (The judge’s chambers is, in fact, not a chamber in this court. It was more like a back hallway of cinderblocks. Very disappointing.) Anyway, turns out a good friend of mine from high school went to prison for the same thing the defendant was charged with. So without further delay, I was released back to the general pool. When I got there, all of the jurors were gone (it was like 3:30), and the court officer looked at my ticket and gave me my discharge papers. After a quick subway ride, I was back to work to check email and turn in my paperwork.

Not much is up here, except I just woke up from a nap and I’m waiting for a club sandwich…