What’s old is old

So this guy built a scale model of a Cray 1 computer, and not just a bunch of model railroad plastic and some Testor’s spray paint, but a WORKING model.  The original Cray took 72 printed circuit boards covered back to back with chips; this guy was able to use a single Field-Programmable Gate Array, which is sort of to computers what the build-a-bear store in the mall is to stuffed animals.  It’s a single board maybe the size of a big index card that you program usually from a USB port and a PC to basically configure into a system of your choosing.  Like if you had all of the schematics of an old Nintendo and you were really jonesing to play some NES in a binary-compatible way, you could waste some weekends and blow a few hundred bucks on an Xilinx board and figure out how to splice in a set of joysticks and rip the images off the cartridges, and you’d essentially have your own Nintendo.  Of course, you could go on eBay and for like twenty bucks get an old NES, or you could download an emulator and a bunch of booted cartridges and within a few minutes you’d be playing Mario in a little window on your Mac or PC.  But where’s the fun in that?

The Cray always compelled me in college.  It’s such a distinctive design, and just the thought of ever using one was like talking about the possibilities of bedding a Victoria’s Secret model.  I mean, we had a lot of old iron at IU, rows of VAXes and some old IBM monsters they used for payroll.  I worked in the machine room a night a week in 1993, and used to marvel at the setup there.  They had the elevated floors, the sterile white everywhere, the tons of cables from the floor, and massive cooling systems, and the ominous halon system that would kill all living things in the flip of a switch, but prevent a runaway system from taking down the whole building in a flash fire.  But the jokes about winning the lottery and buying a Cray – the word “Cray” just became synonymous with the ultimate of the ultimate computer.  It was like the Ferrari of computers; expensive, hand-built, hand-crafted, designed for speed, and completely impractical.

I remember the movie Sneakers –  I went and saw this movie I think three times with three different dates in the fall of 1992.  My life was in that much flux then, but the movie was that good.  (I should re-watch it, now that I actually live here and cross the Dumbarton every day.)  Anyway, there was a scene where Bishop has been captured and is in Cosmo’s high-tech lair, which basically looks like the 1992 super-high-end geek chic place, and he brings him into a little enclosed room and they sit on this weird Star Trek looking bench.  Only it’s not a bench – it’s a Cray Y-MP supercomputer.  I always flipped out when I saw that, and would excitedly tell date of that evening “that’s like a five million dollar computer!”  Because of course I thought I was some dumb-fuck insider for knowing what a Cray looked like, and having a badge card that opened a machine room filled with computers in the middle of a state that was nothing but corn and farmers.

A 16-CPU Cray Y-MP back in 1991 cranked out about 16 Mflops (millions of floating-point operations per second), had to be trucked and assembled in place, and had a cooling system that probably cost way more than you could imagine.  It also needed some massive power wiring, and could not be plugged into the 6-outlet power snake sitting behind your computer desk.  The iPhone 4 in your pocket can crank out something like 20 Mflops, plus play your favorite tunes and videos and enable you to call home to ask if you need milk when you’re in the grocery store.  So the people who were doing digital models of complicated physics equations to calculate how atomic bomb designs would work were using less processing power than the little thing you hold in your hand that you bitch about running too slow when you get too many text messages with attached JPEGs of your friend’s butts.

What is the Cray of today?  I mean, I know they have these massive supercomputers – my pal Simms still works on this stuff.  But now, a supercomputer means racks and racks of commodity servers, the same Dell blades you might use to run intranet servers in your boring business, all chained together to make a massively parallel beast that slices up complex programs into little wafers and passes them around, then collates together the simple answers into a final tally.  It’s not as sexy as the high-gloss enamel red and charcoal grey panels of the iconic shaped case of a Cray; it’s a bunch of servers in racks.  It’s like lamenting the passing of the old era of high-HP Lambos and Porsches and having someone say “well here’s a Budget rent-a-car lot filled with Toyota Corollas, and if you add up all their horsepower, it’s way more than that of a 67 Shelby Mustang GT.”

I always wonder what would happen if I went back to 1992 and showed the 1992 me the iPhone and explained that I could send emails and take digital pictures and swing them across the ether for only $70 a month.  I also wonder if the 2010 me sat down in front of a VT240 and logged into a VAXCluster and was presented with the $ prompt again, if I would be amazed or horrified.  I could see part of me fascinated at looking at the file system again, seeing how $DISK53 still looked, but I could also see the first time I checked my disk quota and saw that my digital watch has more free memory, I would freak out.


Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K

I can’t or maybe shouldn’t talk about it yet, but my work situation will be changing considerably in a couple of weeks.  Papers are signed and hearts are broken, but I don’t want to jinx things too much.  (You know, like having a background check service find out my secondhand connection to the Taliban.)  More details when they are available.

Does Circle K even exist anymore?  I don’t remember ever seeing one until I moved to Seattle, and there was a single one over on Eastlake somewhere.  I don’t think I ever went – it wasn’t close to anything I frequented, and I was more of a 7-Eleven guy.  My writing ritual while working on Rumored in 1998 was to pass out after work, wake up after a few hours, get something to eat, and then get to the keyboard at 9:00 sharp, with the 6+1 Kenwood CD changer locked and loaded and the day’s notes scribbled on yellow legal pads on my tiny kitchen table repurposed as workstation.  At midnight, I’d stop writing, fire up the VW, and go out to the 7-Eleven for a Coke slurpee and a break.  Then I’d either go back to work and fiddle around with the book a bit, or watch Conan.

The above picture of a Circle K is from Treasure Island, Florida.  It was next to the hotel where I stayed in 2001, which meant I’d wander over there for some ice cream or a case of Mello Yello or some chips.  I think I was still working on Rumored then, but I got no real work done on that trip.  I did a lot of reading, and had many late night phone conversations with someone back in New York.  (Of course the only time I really hit it off with someone cool all year is the night before I leave for two weeks.)  But Circle K seemed to be a very Floridian concept, like Pak-n-save and Waffle House.

You know what, I just looked at a map and realized not only is there a Circle K very close to my house, but I’ve been there at least once for gas.  It’s one of those weird co-branded things where it’s a 76 station, but the mini mart is a Circle K.

I’ve had a minor cold all week and it’s just about clearing up, but the sky matches the feeling in my sinuses, which isn’t good.  Sarah has been gone for work for a couple of days, which means the little cat is all stressed out, which is both cute and sad.  The big cat has learned a new trick to distract me while I’m writing: she will climb up onto the entertainment center and use her paw or nose to turn on the PlayStation 3 and eject the disk.  Someday I will catch it on camera and it will become a youtube phenomenon.  Or not.

I’m officially late.  I must now go do battle with I-880.  The one hint I can give for you is that I won’t be doing this for much longer.


Hot hot hot

I regret not getting a place with central air.  I also regret getting a car with a black interior.  It’s been in the 90s and even worse down on the peninsula at work.  Yesterday in the time between when I got to work and when I went to lunch, the inside of my car got hot enough that my FasTrack pass fell off the windshield because its sticky velcro melted.  I wish I had one of those sunroofs with the solar fan in it, although I don’t know if they really work or that’s just a gimmick to get people to feel better about buying a Prius.

Speaking of Prius, I guess the Honda CR-Z is out now, or at least its web page is out.  I am still debating whether or not these things are cool or ugly.  I think it’s one of those things where it depends on the angle you look at it, which basically means it depends on the placement of the cupholders and knobs and whatnot.  The Yaris, for being a cheap-ass car, has an impressive number of cupholders: 8.  I know it sounds cliche, but go rent a car with no cupholders and spend two hours a day in it and then tell me how stupid it is to want less than eight cupholders.  So that means I can’t graduate to a car with worse fuel economy, and I can’t move to something with less than eight cupholders.  Also, I would not want to step back from the iPod aux in jack, and actually have to revert to one of those goofy cassette shells with a wire hanging out of it, or the thing where you tune the radio to 88.1 and your tunes get drowned out by the traffic advisory channel when you pass too close to the entrance to a theme park.

It turns out my stupid HP all-in-one scanner/printer does not scan in OSX 10.6.  The only thing this printer does well is get me on HP spam lists.  I made the mistake of doing the online register thing when I installed it, and every three weeks, I get another “welcome to HP!” email and hourly reminders to use their worthless proprietary software to print greeting cards for Arbor Day or Ramadan or whatever the hell holiday they can swindle people into making color copies for ten bucks each.  HP is like the of spam email.  And the sad thing is, if I ditch this printer and go get another one, it’s probably going to be another HP.  I mean, what other choices do I have?  Pay $100 extra to get a rebadged Dell printer?  Go on eBay and get a NeXT printer?  Maybe I should get a Canon.  I’m not in a rush to get a new printer, but I am in a rush to get a new desk, which will cause a domino effect of all peripherals and cables.

I’ve pretty much memorized the Ikea catalog in an attempt to find a new desk solution that is similar to their secretary desk I have, except with more storage and taller.  They designed their hutch-type desk (Jasper?  I forget the stupid name) so that it’s exactly four inches too short to hold a real monitor inside.  If I had an extra thousand square feet, I’d rush over to AnthroCart or Ergotron or one of those other companies that sound like a pretentious droid from the 25th century and throw open my wallet for some giant motorized articulated RoboCop of a desk that held seven monitors and had more adjustments than a high-end hospital bed for a wealthy paraplegic.  But I don’t have the space, so I need something that can fold up and vanish, and yet still has enough space for someone larger than a four year old.

I should wrap this up.  My car has air conditioning, which makes me look forward to my commute.


The other Treasure Island

Yesterday we took a little drive to Treasure Island, which is a strange little man-made island that’s between the two sections of the Bay Bridge.  (I say “the other” because I’ve taken a few trips to Treasure Island, Florida, so it was interesting to see the west coast one.) The two sections of the bridge actually hit at Yerba Buena island, which is a natural island, a hilly little stump of a place that’s owned by the Coast Guard. They dredged and built Treasure Island in the 30s for this big expo, and used it as a seaplane base.  There were plans to put the San Francisco airport there, but they got Mills Field instead, which is where the current SFO stands.  TI was used as an army and a navy base since WW2, but that all got closed down in the nineties, and now you have about a square mile of antiques and weirdness.

First, it’s odd that this whole thing did not get carved up into McMansions and giant condos. You have the perfect view of SF and the water, nice weather from the breeze off the bay, and a horizon that extends from the Bay Bridge to the city to the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. But the island has this weird Chernobyl-like desolation to it, with a bunch of government-issue buildings boarded up and surrounded by rings of barbed wire.  If you’ve been to any other decommissioned base, you know the architecture type I mean – identical brick shitbox buildings thrown up by the lowest bidder, with institutional features, stenciled government signs, and the strange anonymity that means the building could be a warehouse for unused cots from World War I, or a stash of refined plutonium, and you can never tell what it is.

We parked in front of the Admin building, which was used as the Berlin airport in an Indiana Jones movie.  The island has a few weird showbiz connections, probably because of the large amount of abandoned warehouse space.  All of the Battlebots shows were taped here, and the bullettime fx for the Matrix movies happened in one of the warehouses, too. I don’t see how the logistics of filming a production would work, on an island with no gas station, no restaurants, and probably limited electrical production. But maybe if you need a big open space and you don’t want to pay a million dollars a second to rent the Moscone Center, there you go.

We walked along the water a bit, and then went to this weird set of buildings that looked like they used to be dorms of some sort.  They were all boarded up and completely abandoned, with broken windows and graffiti, but otherwise looking like they’d sat since 1963.  I think the military used to have some training there, like radio operators or something, and they did nothing with those buildings since the place shuttered.  It was so odd, because we live in a city where a square meter of real estate costs six figures, but here were acres and acres with old-growth trees and what used to be landscaped paths and water views, and it all sat completely abandoned.

They did still run some of the dorms, as some kind of job training school, where you could go to get your GED and take culinary training, or learn to be a plumber, or something like that.  The open buildings looked entirely institutional, like a military school, and we saw pretty much nobody there.  We also cruised around a bit more, and found a bunch of what used to be family housing, which you can now rent.  There are still people living there – I guess it’s fairly cheap, and you can get like a three bedroom/two bath with a garage for like $1700/month.  Sounds like a lot in rural Indiana, but this is on an island overlooking a huge city where that wouldn’t get you a studio apartment.  Driving through the streets (all named B Lane, C Lane, and so on) reminded me of all of the times we visited my dad’s Air Force buddy when they had on-base housing, because the buildings look identical everywhere, the way they were laid out, the construction, the look.  If you’ve spent any time on a base, someone could show you a picture of the same 1972 row house of four apartments with a carport, and if it was Anchorage or Grand Forks or Tacoma or Tampa or anywhere else, you would instantly recognize it.

And some of the houses were boarded off.  I guess they are not taking new leases in some places, probably to level the buildings.  And one group of houses were completely fenced off with radiation signs on the chain link.  Another huge problem, as with any other decommissioned base, is there are huge contamination issues all over the island.  I mean, you’ve got the standard lead paint and asbestos issues, but there’s also radium and plutonium contamination in places, which involves a bit more than some fresh paint and removing some fill dirt. Passing by entire rows of houses boarded over, with broken out windows and abandoned playgrounds and landscapes really emphasized the Chernobyl feel.  So did the radiation warning signs.

We circled around and saw the yacht club, one of the only things actively running on the island.  There was also a big hanger, and inside it looked like they were building some kind of amusement part floats or rides or something.  And a group of doofuses on segways circled around the giant asphalt parking lots, too.  We cruised from there to Yerba Buena, which is nothing but incredibly steep, curvy, and narrow rows cutting through old growth forest.  We saw a few Coast Guard officer’s quarters buildings, the kind of shacks built in maybe the 40s, all abandoned, some boarded off, some just empty.  There was also what looked like an old restaurant tucked into a hill, and the whole thing made me wonder if they would ever sell or develop the land there.

Turns out there’s no private housing on the island, and there are huge arguments going on about the city buying the land from the Navy, and what will happen.  Pelosi and crew want the Navy to hand over the land so it can be turned into some kind of low-income housing.  I’m sure others would like to turn it into super high end real estate.  I don’t know that much will happen in a place where you have to pay a bridge toll and drive 20 minutes to go to a Safeway or fill your car up with gas.  And let’s not forget that this is all artificially built on ten feet of compacted garbage, so when the big one hits, the entire mess goes straight into the bay.  I don’t foresee anything happening for decades.  Until then, it’s a strange little place to visit and look at some peeling and abandoned work by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Anyway, go to flickr or click here for the pix.

[2020 update: they are building a bunch of high-end housing here now. The big barracks dorm building is torn down, and bulldozers are everywhere. Stay tuned, I guess.]


Various observations about the Netherlands

I was so stretched for reading material in the Denver airport on Sunday that I actually paid money for a copy of GQ magazine.  In it, I read this giant article about the pot stores in Amsterdam, by some guy who worked there for a week or two and reported his findings.  (I am researching this not because I smoke pot – I don’t – but I’m thinking of starting a dog medical marijuana clinic for dogs that have arthritis or glaucoma, since I think if I did this in California, I could probably charge like four times as much to rich people with little neurotic rat-dogs.  I don’t know what to call it, but something with the term “dogstafarian.”)

I spent a week in Amsterdam in 2005.  Random observations:

  • It is acceptable to wear blackface during the winter season, but little kids might ask you for presents.
  • The people speak English, but also converse in some strange moon-man language called “Dutch.”  If you are white and of Germanic features, someone might come up to you and start talking in this weird language.  If you start screaming “I VOTED FOR GEORGE BUSH” they will stop.
  • A Turkish Airways 737 overshot the runway at Schiphol airport in 2004 because the pilot, copilot, and first officer were in a dispute over whether or not the Black Sabbath song “N.I.B.” implies that Ozzy Osbourne or another member of Black Sabbath was an employee of Procter and Gamble, because of the line “The sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal”
  • You can buy hash in Amsterdam, but if you go into a pharmacy and ask for any cold medicine stronger than a Hall’s cough drop, the clerk will look at you like a crazed drug addict.
  • Anton–Babinski syndrome is a rare symptom of brain damage to the occipital lobe in which a person has complete visual blindness but insist they can still see.
  • Anne Frank’s attic was wired with cat-5 cable 60 years before the TIA/EIA-568-B standards were adopted.  Her father, however, used copper clad cable runs instead of 100% copper, which explains why in her diaries she mentions so much trouble getting her power over ethernet Cisco phones to work consistently.
  • You can hire the services of a prostitute in a McDonald’s, but they don’t have the shamrock shakes there.
  • I looked at all of Van Gogh’s paintings at his museum, and sketched out an entire idea for a Playstation game similar to Grand Theft Auto based on his artwork, but I lost my notes when I tried to use one of those public urinals.

I also went into an Apple Store while I was there, but this was before they had the iPad or the iPhone, so it was not that interesting.


A cautionary tale of incompatible formats

In 1998, I got a new credit card in the mail and after thinking about how many photocopies I could make for $1500 or if that was enough to buy like one sixtyfourth of an acre in some deserted forest, enough to build some kind of treehouse-esque unabomber shack, I suddenly realized that I had the insane desire to buy a MiniDisc recorder.  So I rushed over to The Good Guys, this old Best Buy-esuqe electronics store, and bought a Sony MZ-R50 and rushed home and recorded Joe Satriani’s Crystal Planet onto a blank disc.

(Reasons significant: 1) Joe Satriani recorded his first album after receiving a credit card in the mail; 2) He was signed to Sony, and I think a song of his was in a MiniDisc commercial, not that there were tons of those in the US; 3) I had recently broken up with a girlfriend, and the reason I broke up with her, or the catalyst at least, was driving two hours to Portland with Ryan in his Miata to see Joe Satriani, listening to CP the whole way there, and both of us bitching about our respective girlfriends and vowing to somehow escape the situations, only I did and he did not.)

I did not have a good way to record digital to digital for a long time, and the MiniDisc required you to record stuff in real-time – you didn’t just download a bunch of MP3s and dump them to the disc.  You also had to carry around however many discs with you, and if you brought three and went to work, you were guaranteed to be sick of all of them by the time you got to the train station.  I vividly remember going on an awful first date with a lowtalker who produced feminist programming for cable access and still lived with her mom and wanted to go to dinner at a soup restaurant and then go to see this movie about white supremacists, and then I really fucked things up because the movie interviewed all of these white supremacists in Bloomington, Indiana, and while they’re talking to these guys about the evils of Jews, they’re all drinking out of Pizza Express cups and I’m like HOLY SHIT THOSE ARE PIZZA EXPRESS CUPS I HAVE LIKE 90 OF THOSE IN MY APARTMENT.  She was still somehow interested and kept calling and I eventually told her I was in love with someone who lived in LA, which was partially true anyway.  So after this first date, I had to walk her to her car at the cable access thing, and it was like eleventy billion blocks from the train station.  And the only MD I had with me was a best-of from Millions of Dead Cops, which is like 27 songs, a dozen of them being “John Wayne Was a Nazi” and the rest being entirely unintelligible 22-second long songs.  And I think I listened to it nine times on the walk back to the train.  And that’s why I got an iPod.

I have an 80GB iPod and it’s almost full, and it’s also lasted longer than any other, which means it will fail soon.  It is my damn lifeline for morning traffic though.  Is there something that will hold more music that I need to get?  Maybe I need to get a bunch of iPods and put them on a bandolier like Chewbacca.  If they made an iPhone that could fit 80 GB I would just do that.  Maybe when the drive dies in this (inevitable) I will find a way to hack it into a socket that I can hot-swap a bunch of different drives.  Maybe I will just wise up and say “why the fuck do I have all of these Charlie Parker albums and I only listen to two of the songs, so fuck it” and get the collection down so it will fit on my iPhone.

I’ve still got all of this MiniDisc crap in my storage locker.  I think if I had infinite time I would make some kind of art project out of it, like make a MiniDisc-based mellotron keyboard. Someone did a movie about the mellotron, a documentary, which I guess is a lot better than my last attempt at a documentary.  I got blindingly drunk in Laguardia airport, then had to fly to Pittsburg via Cincinnati Ohio (which is really in Kentucky, the airport I mean) and so I got to OH/KY and had a few more beers and decided I was going to make a concept movie about the moving walkways in the airport and started filming The Walkway is about to end, which is basically me sitting on the floor by the end of the walkway, and every ten seconds, a robot voice says “the walkway is about to end!” and every single person that walks past ignores it and stumbles when the moving ground becomes non-moving ground, and the whole thing is an important metaphor for something, but then I started to sober up and had to catch a plane to Pittsburgh and that’s the end of the story.  (The footage for that is in my storage locker, too.)


Goodbye Bradley

So Brad Hawpe got let go this morning. What a bummer.  I mean, the guy was not doing well statistically, and the Rockies have a deluge of outfielders that are outperforming him, and they need to clear the roster spot to get some kind of pitching relief.  But still, it bothers me.

Hawpe’s one of those ghosts of 2007 that remind me of why I became a Rockies fan in the first place.  The very first free t-shirt I got at Coors Field was a Hawpe shirt.  He used to be an incredible hitter, the kind of guy who always batted well north of .300 and would sky almost any shot that was left up.  Between him and Holliday in right field, you had this incredible one-two punch that would do serious damage to weak pitching.  I went to a lot of lopsided games that were chiefly his fault.

He’s been on a downward sprial, though.  He almost won the 2008 All-Star game with a robbed home run, and now he’s hitting in the mid-hundreds. It’s so strange how all of the 2007 alumni have just fallen apart. Garrett Atkins got released from the Orioles for poor plate performance (just showing up is average plate performance for Baltimore); Kaz Matsui was batting like 0 for 29 for the Astros before getting let go.  I won’t even get into Aaron Cook.

I just saw Hawpe play on Saturday, and didn’t really think it would be one of his last games.  I thought since he made it past the trade deadline, he’d coast until winter.  Guess I’ll have to get used to seeing him in a White Sox uniform, or where ever he goes.


Behind the walls of sleep

This happens to me constantly.  It also happens to my Mac.  I don’t entirely know what the phenomenon is called, other than “why the hell does my computer keep doing this.”  But I wrote about it in a story I was working on, so here’s my best explanation:

I opened the laptop, but it wouldn’t boot.  I didn’t know if it got zapped, or if this was one of those Windows dance of sleep things, where the computer is sleeping and you hit the power button for 1.7 seconds and not 1.9 seconds and it wakes up and asks you if you want to put it to sleep, but when you try to hit the button again, it does sleep, or it reboots, but if you hold the button for the same amount of time because you want it to reboot, it doesn’t reboot and then it asks you if you want to make it sleep, but sleep is different than suspend, because for suspend, you have to hold the button for 1.8 seconds and then not hold it for 1.6 seconds and then hold it for 1.7 seconds, or it won’t wake up and/or it will ask you if you want to suspend.

I think after I make my first million dollars, I am going to shut off all of the sleep options on my laptop, and physically remove the power button, and then hardwire the power cord into a Yamaha generator, and then pay someone to constantly add oil and gas to the generator and haul it around 20 paces behind me like guys in Saudi Arabia haul around their wives but no burka and then I will get some kind of BOSE headphone so I don’t have to hear the generator and maybe I will have to hire a second guy to constantly swap out the AA batteries in the BOSE headphones and maybe have a second set with fresh batteries so I can hot-swap them and not have to hear the generator while I’m swapping out the batteries, although that’s probably not a full-time position, so maybe I’ll get that guy to also transcribe the thousand or two spiral notebooks of hand-written garbage I’ve hand-written over the last two dozen years, provided he can read my handwriting, and good luck, because I can’t even read my own fucking handwriting at this point.

Here’s a picture of me making candles in 2002.  You probably use a similar setup when you’re making meth, which I’ve never done, but apparently the state of California thinks everyone does, because I spent twenty damn minutes trying to buy some Claritin-D at Safeway yesterday, and it probably takes less paperwork to buy dynamite.


Back at sea level

(Actually I think my elevation is something like 13 feet, but I don’t really know how to check.)

I made it back from my short trip to Denver yesterday afternoon.  We had a great time with no major hassles, other than Denver’s horribly mismanaged airport security line, and a couple of pouty four-pawed felines who get upset when we leave them with a petsitter.  The only real issue is the trip seemed way short, and we barely saw any of the city, aside from Coors Field.

My perception of Denver is weird, because when I lived there, I thought it was a pretty small place.  But when I think about all of the places we didn’t see at all during this trip, I realize it’s pretty damn huge.  And I also realize now that in my year there, I barely scratched the surface; there are so many things I never did there, I could probably line up a years’ worth of weekend voyages and daytrips and visits and expeditions.  And part of that is that during my year there, we spent almost every weekend going to the movie theater at Stapleton, and then going to the Target there.  There’s a lot of good food in town, but I ended up at Bar Louie’s or Breckenridge Brewery eating nachos and wings and trying to watch a game on mute.  I feel like if I had the time, I would be able to do a lot more there.

Example: we went to the Denver Art Museum.  Never went when I lived there, and I was slightly reluctant only because the King Tut thing is there now, which means there’s this mad rush of confusion with the herds heading in to see the mummies. But for ten bucks, we spent a couple of hours looking through the exhibits, and even the outside of the buildings is pretty awesome looking.  I mean, I am always conflicted about fine art, because there are pieces I really like, and not just photorealistic painting, but modern art that elicits some kind of response from me.  But there are other things that don’t, maybe because I’m an idiot or never studied art, or don’t see how a fire hydrant painted blue is supposed to signify the coming of a second ice age due to botched foreign policy.  But the DAM had some interesting stuff, and it’s just another example of something I completely missed while I lived there.

Anyway, I’m slowly getting the pictures on flickr, and I’ll write up the baseball games eventually…


Hello from 5280 feet

Hello from Denver, my former home and now a great vacation spot for me to get my baseball fix once a year.  We got into town Thursday night, saw the Rockies beat the Brewers last night, and will go tonight and sit right behind home plate for game two of the series.  We also took the stadium tour and I got some great pictures from the field.  We will be flying back tomorrow, which thankfully means we get to miss the last game.  Sunday is “faith day”, sponsored by the jesus freaks at Chick-Fil-A.  “Faith day” is code for conservative christian day, when all of the lovely folks from Colorado Springs take a break from their megachurch and come up to see a baseball game with the heathens and sinners. I’m very tempted to go rent a press-on-beard and turban and see if “faith day” really means all faiths.  I’m sure nobody would get the joke.

There are a lot of things I love and miss about Denver, but that’s sure not one of them.  Like yesterday, I was sitting down in the club level to eat my pizza, and overheard some windbags losing their shit about the TERROR MOSQUE, repeating ad nauseam whatever Fox and Friends told them to believe about the mosque going in “at” ground zero in New York.  I honestly don’t give a shit either way, and I really don’t like to burn cycles on politics, but as a person who was in lower Manhattan in the fall nine years ago, I really don’t like it when tea party types circle-jerk in the name of all things 9/11.

Anyway, Denver is weird in that way.  I mean, it can be a very left-leaning place – there are a lot of hipster types with way too many tattoos that smoke way too much pot and spend a lot of time eating lean and mountain biking and a bunch of other stuff that’s pretty much incompatible with the belief system proclaimed by all of the christian conservative types that stomp around here.  It’s weird that a city with as many damn pot dispensaries can also have so many megachurches.  (In our old neighborhood – LoDo – pretty much every former Pilates or Yoga studio in the area has converted into a legal pot store, with a cheeky name like “Rocky Mountain High”.  I think some law must have changed right after we left, or people just wised up that selling medical weed is way more profitable than running a doggie day care.)

It’s weird to be back in general.  It’s not as oddly nostalgic as it was the last few times I returned, but it is still weird to vacation in a place I used to live.  I mean, we parked last night in the lot that I used to look at all day when I was in my office writing.  And it looks like that apartment’s vacant, so if I really wanted to come back in exactly the same fashion, there you go.  But it’s funny – we were talking the other day about “wasn’t that apartment really great”?  And then we started thinking – “yeah, but when the sun rose in the morning, the bedroom turned into a sauna”, and “there were no screens on the windows, and these giant Jurassic Park bugs would fly in”, and “every time the garage door opened, two floors below, you heard this ‘beep beep beep’ sound”.  I still did like the layout of the place though.  One of our main criteria when we shopped for our new place was “some place like Denver, but to own instead of rent”.  And the neighborhood is hurting, tenant-wise.  It looks like the place is only at a third occupancy, and they’ve built several super-huge modern apartment buildings, which all sit vacant.

Not much else.  My nephew turns 13 today, which is weird.  I vividly remember my 13th, if only because my parents were getting divorced then.  I can’t even imagine my parents married now, so it’s weird to think of their split.  I just remember being overly concerned about getting a home computer, because I spent my hours writing BASIC code on sheets of paper, trying to invent a new Zork-type game to streamline my D&D playing experience.  So you know where my priorities were those days.

Okay, I should get off of this shared computer in the business center and go find a quiet place to write on my netbook for a bit before we start the day.  Full report when I get back to sea level and have my real mac and the ability to upload a few thousand photos.