Fridge Pack is a Registered Trademark of the Coca-Cola Corporation

I think if I had one chance to make one single change to my entire life from birth to now, I would find a way to back up every single sent and received email and bitnet conversation I had from the second I got an email account in the fall of 1989 to present.  I would also figure out some way to index and search this crap efficiently, but I can figure that out later.  I have bits and pieces of email from college, some near-complete archives, some important, but there’s ones I wish I could read now.

The biggest problem was that our accounts in school had quotas.  VMS accounts had a 2000-block quota, which if I remember correctly is 2000 * 512 bytes, or about a meg.  (Don’t start with the megabyte versus mebibyte shit – this isn’t wikipedia.)  Anyway, that meant that on a weekly basis, I was making a judgment call over what to keep and not to keep, not knowing in 20 years that the email I got from some random person in a flamewar would be important, because said person would become the third-largest selling children’s author and have a movie done by Disney, or they would become a terrorist, or whatever.  And those judgment calls were usually made when I went over quota.  And I was probably drunk, too.

The bitnet thing also bothers me.  I used to spend all day at work having these running conversations with various bitnet buddies, usually other people who also worked campus jobs answering phones or driving a desk.  Bitnet was sort of like IM but ten years earlier, a way to trade lines of chat with another person, but without the fancy AOL-inspired UI and smileys.  And here’s the problem.  Okay, I was friends with this girl in 94, 95.  In my head, I was more than friends with her; she looked like a 20-year-old Sean Young and didn’t know she was drop-dead gorgeous.  And she was funny, and a lot of fun to talk to, and we spent like six, eight hours a day talking about nothing while I sat in the basement of the Support Center, telling people that there really wasn’t an ‘any’ key on their computer.  And we hung out a few times, but nothing serious.  There were complications, like she was a devout Christian, maybe a Pentecostal or something.  And she went to church like five times a week.  And she lived with her parents.  But the biggest complication was that I was too chickenshit to do anything about it.  That’s pretty much the story of my last couple of years at IU, and maybe I want to write that story someday, like part of this stupid book about Bloomington I have been plonking away at for years and have recently been pushing around, but I think I need to stop writing about Bloomington and write a book about a bunch of guys filling out their brackets for an office pool for NCAA basketball, except the office is the laboratory where they engineered the AIDS virus and it’s run by Josef Mengele.  But I’m sure Jerry Stahl wrote that story as filler for Juggs magazine back in the 80s.  But I digress.

My point is, I have a lot of the emails I have from her.  But I have none of the bitnets, since you can’t log those.  And all of the emails were “hey, are you online?  bitnet me.”  So much for writing that story.

Also, for any (both) of you who read Air in the Paragraph Line #13, I have this story called “Burial Ground” that is kinda-sorta based on a relationship and breakup I had in 1993.  So this is a girl who I swapped a lot of emails with, a lot of pouring-out of the heart into the stupid EVE editor in VMS that I used to write my emails back in 1993.  And I had all of them in an archive, and I never went back and read them, because it was too painful.  I sort of told myself that after some set amount of time, or maybe when I got into another relationship and put it all behind me, I’d go back and read all of our emails.  And I gzipped them up.  And then I got like one email from her in 1994.  And when I was cleaning up my account because I had no god damned disk space because of that quota, I zipped up the unzipped email.  And it wrote right over the existing zip file without asking and deleted all of it.  And I didn’t notice it at the time – only like a year later, long after any tape backup would have gone away.

And I dated someone in 2000 that went to Cornell, and in the beginning of 2001, I bought a laptop and tried to rsync all of my data from my home PC to my laptop.  But I did the command backwards, and synced a blank hard drive on top of my PC.  I had a backup from 1999, and luckily all of my writing was backed up to a remote account.  But man, I wish I had that mail from 2000.

I also wish I had the mail I sent to people.  Because back in school, I was famous for writing these giant, rambling emails to various prospects, who probably deleted them without reading them, but I would love to still have them.  Starting when I moved my accounts to Speakeasy in 1996, I started religiously logging my sent mail, and aside from that 2000 blackout, have pretty much every mail I’ve sent since then.  And I keep talking about some way to slice that up into something interesting, but who knows a) if I will ever figure out how to read and edit all of it and b) if any of it is actually interesting to anyone aside from me.

Here is the oldest email that I wrote that I could find that was marginally interesting.  It was written to a guy who spammed everyone who was logged into a CS machine at a certain point of the night, looking for Douglas Hofstadter.

From: Jon Konrath 
To: William Winton 
Subject: D.H.'s email address
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1992 00:34:51 -0500

William Winton writes:
 > I am looking for Douglas Hofstadter's Email address.  He works at Indiana
 > University's Cognitive Science Department.  If you know of him, please
 > send me his E-mail address.
 > Much appreciation (in advance),
 >     William Winton
 >     Internet:

Douglas Hofstadter doesn't exist, he is a bit of urban folklore here
at IU.  All of his work in the area of cognitive science was actually
written by an elisp program called spew-random-cogsci-jargon.el that
was developed for the emacs editor by Bill Perry.  The Cognitive
Science department is also a bit of a rumor, we are actually a vocational
school that specializes in truck driving and air conditioner technology.

-Jon Konrath, A.S. program, interior floor covering technology program

The TV

My new TV showed up yesterday.  Samsung had an annual gift thing where they would give out your choice of various Samsung products, and since the year-end gift actually shows up in late March, there was some question whether or not I would get it.  Last year, I got an NC-10 netbook; this time around, the choices were slightly higher-end, given the great return to prosperity (or at least the fact that sales weren’t horribly in the red.)

This year’s best choice was a 40″  5-series LCD TV.  The only downside is that less than a year ago, I bought a 26″ 2-series Samsung TV, so now I am stuck with a second TV and no place to put it.  I will probably dump it on Craigslist, although my general experience with selling on Craigslist is fairly negative.  The ratio of buyers to crazy people who want to swindle, spam, or question you about the obvious is not favorable.  It might be more rewarding to just throw this one out the window and put a video of it on youtube, or maybe take it to a gun range and fill it full of 9mm holes, instead of answering 400 “can I pay you 20% of your asking price and can you deliver it to me 70 miles away at 3AM on a Tuesday and then can I complain that you ripped me off because it doesn’t feature 3D mind control and/or I didn’t understand the concept that a 26″ TV is actually 26 inches and not somehow 197 inches?”

And just to be proactive about the “oh I don’t watch TV; I only listen to NPR and debate the merits of 14th century agricultural unions with my local organic grocer co-op” comments I will probably get for confessing the terrible evil that I own a TV, I should preface that the TV is more of a video monitor than it is a TV.  I mean, I don’t spend 20 hours a day watching Fox News and The Bachelor re-runs on it; I think most of the time is spent streaming video from NetFlix or playing stuff off of the BluRay player formerly known as the PS3.   I do have cable now, and I have a DVR and cherry-pick a few things from it, but it’s odd how using a DVR disconnects you from the culture of watching TV.  It used to be on Friday mornings, everyone would talk about the shows that were on Thursday nights.  But now people watch those shows time-shifted to whenever, or catch up when the DVD round-up hits NetFlix a few months later, or just go to hulu or torrent the thing down.  It makes the viewing far more convenient, but removes the communal aspect of it.

That said, our DVR is a piece of shit.  Comcast, despite their blabbering about how Xfinity is the future of all communication, provides us with a total garbage Motorola box.  Their “HD” box has component out, the worst user interface that has ever come out of anywhere aside Redmond, and a remote that’s about as responsive as a PC Jr. rendering an entire James Cameron feature-length 3D movie.  The only fan of this box is our cats, who think that it’s their heated bed, and fight over who gets to lay on top of it and shed hair into its moving parts.  I know it’s only a matter of time before it shorts out and we have to schedule a service call with Comcast, who will say “we can be there between the months of June and August, so stay home from work then” and give us another circa-1997 box, probably a month before they declare that our neighborhood is Xfinity-ready or whatever they call it, and we require new boxes.

I do have to say it’s neat that when we get a call on our Comcast digital voice service, a caller ID box pops up on the TV.  Too bad we get the majority of our calls to our cell phones these days.

Anyway, the new TV is in place.  It fit well in the entertainment center, and does not block the traversal path to the feline heated bed.  It is weird though, because it’s the same TV UI, and a very similar remote, and the same startup/shutdown chime, and is otherwise just a super-sized version of the same TV I had.  So although it’s gigantic, and now it’s 1080p, it’s not a radically different set than what I had.

I haven’t fired up the PS3 with any games yet, so I should see how Modern Warfare 2 does on the big screen.

[2020 update: this TV died five years later.]


The Title

I finally paid off my car.  I think it was a five-year loan, and I got it in September of 2007, so I made good time on it.  That means other than the house, I’m completely out of debt now, which I think is a first for me since maybe I was 18.    But if you include the house, I am in debt orders of magnitude more than I ever have been.  And even if I could swing double or triple payments, it would be decades before I was back in the black.  But it will be nice to have that huge mortgage deduction on my tax form this year.

Anyway, I got a car title in the mail yesterday, since the loan company had been hanging onto it while I was still in hock with them.  I have not had a car where I actually held the title since ’99, when I had my second Rabbit in Seattle.  I don’t know why I find this piece of certified paper so fascinating, but I do.  Maybe it’s because it’s from Colorado, so it’s sort of a magical time thread back to when I lived there.  Or maybe it’s because it’s a signifier that I don’t have a monthly payment to The Man anymore.  And oddly enough, the date the title was accepted at the DMV is the day I got married, which is weird.

It’s slightly sad that the lien amount is something like $17,000 and I would now be lucky to get ten K out of the car.  And now that it’s paid off, and now that I listen to Car Cast all the time, I am constantly wondering if I should turn around and buy another car.  The timing is now bad for that, and I also lament that buying pretty much any car is an issue gas-wise.  With the Yaris, I average about 40 MPG, which means I go through a ten-gallon tank of gas a week.  If I bought just about any other car, I would take a hit in that stat.  I think the new Prius does maybe 10 MPG better than that.  The new Insight is rumored to get to the 60-some MPG range if you’re a careful driver.  I’m currently getting over the EPA estimate for the Yaris, because I have a ScanGauge, watch it obsessively, and have been learning little tricks to lower my fuel consumption.  But spending another ten grand to save about ten bucks of gas a week is not a mind-blowing investment.

I have to admit I want a really fun car.  I spend at least two hours a day in my car, so it would be nice to have a really overwhelmingly nice cockpit to spend my commute in.  And I’m not a fan of big huge cars, or SUV type cars.  Like, I would love to get a Porsche Boxster.  Yes, it’s impractical, I would probably get carjacked, I would be paranoid about scratches, my insurance would be insane, and a ~$50,000 sticker price is not good.  And of course, 25 MPG, but probably closer to 15 or 20 once that right foot grows heavy.

Another car I would like is the BMW 335D diesel.  It’s got the incredible bavarian interior, screaming power, and still gets pretty close to the Yaris mileage.  (I saw a review that stated it’s possible to get Yaris-like mileage when driving at 100 MPH on the Autobahn…)  But it’s a $50K car.  The cheapo route there would be to get the VW Jetta TDI, which is more like $17K and is peppy but probably gets better mileage than my Toyota.  I think almost any car would have a more comfortable interior than the Yaris, although it’s not bad for my daily commute.

The reality is, I think I need to run this car into the ground and tally as many miles as I can on this until I get a new one.  It’s a decent drive, it’s economical, and if I’m going to do 15,000 miles of depreciation to a car a year, it’s probably better to do it on a subcompact than on a $50K sports car.

Speaking of, I need to go do battle with the 880 now.  At least it’s Friday morning, usually the lightest day of my commute.  And soon, school will be out, and the roads will clear up a bit more.


Baseball pictures

IMG_1317.JPGSo I’m moving photo pages (again) to Flickr.  And in that vein, I have moved all of my baseball pictures into one collection there:

There are 32 sets (30 games, 2 stadium tours) going from the first game I ever went to in 2006 up to last season.

I can’t wait for this season to start.  We’re hoping to plan another long weekend in Denver, and I will have a real camera and a huge zoom lens, so I’m hoping for some good pics.  I will also probably try to get in a game in San Francisco.  The Rockies won’t play in Oakland this year, and they are doing so bad and the Coliseum sucks so much, I’m not sure I will go to a game there, but if I run across cheap tickets or I get insanely bored or really need a fix, who knows.


The savings of daylight

DST always screws with me.  I think a big part of it involves growing up in a state that did not observe it.  I grew up in Indiana in a time with no seat belt laws, no helmet laws, no open container laws, and no car emissions or inspection laws.  And of course, the lack of observation of daylight savings time was also on the list.  Whenever any of these laws were discussed, people would grumble about constitutional rights and how changing your clock wasn’t in the bible or whatever.  And while it was convenient never having to change your clocks, it meant that any time you had a conversation with anyone out of state, it always began with “so what time is it there?  Are you guys eastern or central or what?”  And after I moved to Seattle, every single phone call I got from a parent began with the “so what time is it there?” conversation.

Once I moved out of non-DST land, the thing that always messed with me is I almost always seemed to be on the road when the time change happened.  I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I think in my first ten time shifts, I was on the road for like 8 or 9 of them.  I even remember when I moved across the country in 99, the time changed during the middle of my trip, and I lost an hour in Texas and it completely screwed with me.  I was in Boston for my first time shift in Seattle; then here in San Francisco for the second one, and back in Indiana for the third.  I’d have to dig up old trip records to find more, but I remember always getting screwed up when I would return.

Now the thing that screws with me is that they changed the dates.  I blame George Bush for this, even if I don’t blame him for much, and maybe I should.  I mean, Iraq is bad, but trying to figure out how to reset the time on my microwave oven isn’t easy either.  And another problem is the fact that half of the clocks and timekeeping devices in this house automagically change times, and half don’t.  Yesterday morning, my watch did not change, but my computer did.  And I have this new atomic timekeeping alarm clock (which I coincidentally bought when I was in Indiana over the holidays last year) and it magically changed.  But I was screwed up because I would look at the computer and it said 10:48 and then I went to take a shower and looked at my watch and thought “damn, it’s only going on 10:00 now – I must have looked at the time wrong.”  And then I realized the time changed.

And yeah, I never read the news, or watch the TV news, and I know to some people that makes me a horrible person or whatever.  But I have my own conspiracy theories about why it’s a waste of time to keep up with the news.  Albert Einstein didn’t spend four hours a day watching CNN and listening to Air America, and he led a somewhat productive life, right?


The Run-in

Here’s something I forgot to mention about my Vegas trip last January:  my ex from Seattle was there at the same time as me.  I did not run into her like I did on my 30th birthday, but I knew she was there because when I was waiting for my luggage, someone kept paging her.  That really tripped my freak-out meter and made me look at every single person arriving at the shuttle monorail station, wondering if she would show up, and what I would do.  In that particular case, we broke up with no real ill-will and remained friends, albeit walking-on-eggshells friends, for a couple of years while I was still in Seattle.  But after I moved to New York, some switch was flipped with her, and she decided I was the root of all evil and we could no longer speak.  And sure, I’ll be the bad guy of the situation and assume that role if it makes her feel any better, especially since we live however many thousands of miles apart, and it’s not like I need to avoid places to not see her.  But it’s strange that we keep ending up in Vegas at the same time, and it always makes me wonder what I’d say if I did have to talk to her again.

I always remember the opposite scenario, especially back in Bloomington, with the bad breakup and the dread/anticipation of running into an ex.  Because here’s how it would go down:  I would get dumped, usually in some catastrophic way.  Then I would spend every waking moment wanting to see that person again, for that last word, that one bit of closure.  I always thought that if I said the right magic word, they would see the error in their ways and come running back to me, even though they spent the last month breaking every connection, burning every bridge, and completely salting the earth to make it clear to me that we would never get back together again.  But I would be pained in such a way that I would absolutely need to say something or lash out in some way and get in that last final “no, fuck YOU!”  And when I got to the point where I started leaving the house again, because this typically involved a refractory period of sitting in my room alone listening to Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut a million times, I would both fear and anticipate running into this person again.  Because Bloomington’s a big city in some ways – I mean, it’s a couple hundred acres and like 40,000 people milling about, but you’ll eventually cross paths again.

But here’s one that I thought I documented (fictionally, sort of) in Summer Rain, but I guess I tore it out before the final draft.  So I dated this woman in 1991, and after spending that xmas break fuming and fretting to all of my friends about how I should dump her, I got back and she dumped me, and whatever reason, it completely knocked me sideways, and I spent a lot of time depressed.  We had a lot of stupid fights, and the scorched earth policy went into full effect, and I absolutely knew I could never go back with her (mostly because like an hour after we broke up, she had already fucked like 9 other guys, and was talking about moving to Australia or England or something, because she spent all of her time in IRC chat because she was a fervent Anglophile.)  But I was still borderline obsessed with running into her, getting in that last jab, getting her to somehow admit she was cheating on me the whole time or whatever.  I don’t really know what I wanted, but I was obsessed with it, the kind of obsessed where I had to take her name out of my wholist program on the VAX.  For a while, I left it in there, officially because I needed to know if she was in a nearby lab on campus so I could avoid her, but unofficially because I was somehow obsessed with where she was or if she was on the computer late at night, talking to her next prospect.  Not a healthy thing to do, but it took me a while to finally delete her name and get her off my radar.

So we never ran into each other again.  And months later, I meet someone, and we meet and we have breakfast and everything is magical and just clicks, and if you think you’ve heard the story before, it’s because you did – the character Tammy in Summer Rain was based on this.  And we meet on this Sunday morning in the spring that’s one of those magical days in March in Bloomington where it’s suddenly 70 degrees out and sunny and you don’t need a coat and the memories of digging your car out of a block of ice and spending the last two months damning yourself for not going to school in Florida or Southern California quickly vanish from your mind.

And I go on a walk with this new girl, and we decide to walk across campus to go use the new NeXT computer lab at the Student Building (romantic, right?) and we’re walking and holding hands and joking and strolling across that big parking lot that runs next to the Jordan River behind the music building.  And as we’re walking, guess who we see coming the opposite direction?  The ex.  THE ex, the one I have been avoiding, that I have sort of but not really gotten out of my head.  And I don’t even acknowledge her presence; I keep talking and joking and laughing with the new girl, and we go past her as if she’s just another stranger walking around on that sunny Sunday afternoon.  And I wanted to say something, to the effect of “do you realize what just happened?”  Because right then, the entire remainder of whatever bad karma or bad mojo or whatever you want to call it suddenly vanished from my system, and I realized I did not give a fuck whatsoever about this ex.  It was the magic pill that completely cured me of that breakup.

Of course, I did not know at the time that in a few short months, I would be doing the same thing with the new girl, except now she would be in Pittsburg, not answering my phone calls or letters, and I was desperately wondering how I’d ever talk to her again.  And then the next fall, as I did talk about at the end of Summer Rain, I would run into her again, and coincidentally, it was at the same exact god damned spot behind the music school where I ran into the other ex, only this time I did not have some new girl in tow – I was actually in the middle of a huge fuck-up/breakup with someone else, spending my days moping around and writing giant multi-page journal entries about what I could have possibly done so wrong to fuck up my life so much at that point.

I am now largely convinced that my next book should be something bizarre, like a sibling to Rumored to Exist. But one of the stories that I wrote for Air in the Paragraph Line #13 was about a bad breakup in 1993, and it makes me think I should just write a book that’s a chapter per bad breakup from like all of the 1990s, and maybe some light paste between stories to make the whole thing a novel.  Maybe, but maybe later… bigger fish to fry right now.


Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

We found this little park near our house a while back, and I think we went there with A when she visited the new place.  Anyway, we went for a walk there yesterday, and I brought along the new camera and new lens and snapped a few shots there.

Note that it appears I am back to using flickr again.  Someday I may import all of my old photos there and have them all in one place.  Someday.

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park 03/06/10