• Been hard to write this week for obvious reasons. I guess I blew that “post every day this year thing” about five days in.
  • Started writing a big diatribe about that, but I can’t get into it right now. Maybe later.
  • I did not step foot out of the apartment for about nine days. I think I went downstairs to get the mail once. They put a new keyfob on the garage last Monday, and I didn’t know about it until Friday.
  • I’m on this new diet or whatever, because of the various cardio stuff last year. I wish I could be eating an entirely plant-based diet, but it’s hard for me. Getting protein but keeping a low-fat diet is the big issue.
  • (I know, “eat more good fat.” I can’t. That doesn’t work at all. Fat is fat for me. I know, some Keto magazine says it should, and it works for you. It doesn’t for me. I took a DNA test that proved this, so stop hassling me with the eating sticks of butter thing.)
  • I have been getting food delivered from Thistle. It tastes pretty good, and the delivery service is decent. It’s not cheap, but neither is a heart attack. If you’re really interested, here is an affiliate link.
  • I am not a Vegan. I’m eating basically 18 or 19 meals a week that would be considered vegan, but cheating on Friday and Saturday night, and maybe Sunday.
  • Even if I ate entirely plant-based meals 100% of the time, I would not say I’m a Vegan. This isn’t a political, environmental, or belief-based thing. I don’t give a shit what you do. There’s going to be times when I need to have a pepperoni pizza. Also see the first line above about how well I keep resolutions.
  • (I did start the Thistle thing two weeks into December, so it’s not entirely a new year thing.)
  • I went to fly the drone today at Treasure Island. First flight this year. It was also the first time I flew over water, which scared me a bit.
  • Flying a drone in the Bay Area is problematic. There’s lots of airspace you can’t fly in. You can’t fly in any East Bay, California, or National parks. The Karen situation also makes me want to stay away from people, and there are people everywhere here.
  • Treasure Island problems: birds, lots of low power lines, I’m not supposed to fly over the Bay Bridge.
  • My drone has ADS-B, which warns me when a manned aircraft is nearby. It’s a great feature, but Treasure Island is peppered with little Cessnas zipping over at low altitude, so lots of alerts. Also, every time a helicopter takes off in SF, I get a warning.
  • I don’t know where to post my pictures and videos. Most of them are not that great. I’m still getting used to flying. Also, I’m technically not supposed to post them on YouTube because I don’t have a license.
  • I bought a test book for the Part 107 license for flying drones. It’s funny because you need to know so much that is not applicable. Like 30% of the test is answering esoteric weather questions, and the rule for drones is “do not fly in any weather conditions whatsoever.” You also have to know every detail about airport traffic patterns and how to read signs on runways, but you’re not allowed to fly anywhere near an airport.
  • I’ve been trying to write random stuff each day. I’ve done this regularly, for the last few years. I sit down and try to automatic write at least 500 words. Then I sift through it later and see what to glue together, what to expand and turn into stories.
  • It’s very hard to think of stuff to write for these. It’s even harder to think of new things a million words later. And no, those writing prompt web sites don’t work.
  • I think I started doing this 500-word thing with Atmospheres. So that was six or seven years ago, seven books.
  • I think this system doesn’t work well anymore. It fulfills the need for creating every day, but it’s harder and harder to think of ideas. And then at some point, I have to stop and somehow collate things together.
  • Basically, I need a new system. I don’t know what that is yet.
  • I also feel like I need a new hobby. The drone thing isn’t cutting it, because it’s so hard to get out and do regularly.
  • My previous hobby I never focused on (no pun intended) was photography. Maybe it is pun intended, because I am losing my eyesight, and I’ll be damned if I can ever manually focus a picture. If I can see the subject, I can’t see the viewfinder, and vice-versa. And I can never see that little screen, especially in daylight.
  • I keep thinking about building a PC for some reason. I recently looked up prices, and it’s impossible. Video card speculation is rampant. You can’t buy a $200 card from four years ago that’s completely obsolete for $600 online, never mind a current one.
  • (I just checked: a $699 RTX 3080 is going for $1400-1500 on eBay.)
  • I wish I could draw, or had the patience to get back into music.
  • Maybe I should paint Warhammer figurines. Although I have no interest in fantasy games. And see above about eyesight.
  • I collected stamps when I was maybe 10. There probably won’t be a post office for much longer now. I also went through a coin collecting phase maybe twenty years ago, but we’re in a coin shortage right now. And people hoard gold.
  • I’ve been watching this Ewan McGregor thing where he’s motorcycling across all of South America on an electric Harley-Davidson with his friend. I also re-read that Neil Peart book where he rode all over the continent on his motorcycle.
  • The McGregor thing is very cool because the photography is amazing, seeing Machu Picchu and Chile and Argentina and whatnot. Lots of drone shots, BTW.
  • One weird coincidence they did not mention: they spent some time visiting some kids at a UNESCO site or something who Quechua people. In the Star Wars movies, the Huttese language that many on Tatooine spoke, including McGregor’s character, is based on Quechuan.
  • I could not get a motorcycle. I would get killed in fifteen minutes flat. I don’t have the balance to ride a regular bicycle. I’ve broken my arm twice on a regular ten-speed.
  • I’m still a bit freaked out that I turn 50 in a week and a half. Yes, I’ve priced out new Corvettes. I don’t even know where I would park a Corvette, let alone drive it. It would be a matter of when and not if on it getting stolen.
  • Big things happening on my birthday nationally, but once again, not ready to write about that, either.

a series of tubes

  • Four posts into this “post every day” nonsense and I’m back on the dumb list kick.
  • That mall post yesterday broke me. It’s by far the longest thing I’ve written on here. I think it’s twice as long as my 9/11 post.
  • I briefly fell down a k-hole reading about pneumatic mail tubes. Paris created a system in 1866 when their telegraph circuits were overloaded, and it still ran up to 1984. I remember reading about the New York system, but it was scrapped much earlier.
  • I had an infatuation with these tubes from drive-through bank visits as a child. The tellers would always put Dum-Dums lollipops in the tube when they returned my mom’s money.
  • (Best Dum-Dums flavor: root beer, hands down. Worst was probably cream soda or pineapple, both of which tasted like liquid fluoride the dentist gave us.)
  • I get pulled into the New York pneumatic thing occasionally for two reasons: one is Alfred Ely Beach constructing his pneumatic train tube clandestinely. The other is that every time I saw an open trench in Manhattan, I was astounded by the maze of layer after layer of pipe and tunnel and conduit and fiber and wire, and I’ve read that Verizon sometimes ends up having to go to City Hall and pull planning books from the 19th century to figure out that puzzle.
  • Reminds me of the time in Astoria – maybe 02 or 04 – when RCN cut up our entire street to lay down a line of fiber and then seal it back up. They forgot where it was or got bought out or merged or something and ended up having to re-trench and lay another set of fiber.
  • Speaking of obscure data transmission, when I was in Frankfurt a few years ago, we went to the Museum für Kommunikation. It’s interesting how Germany had the Deutsche Bundespost which ran not only mail service, but a postal bank, and telecommunications services, such as computer access.
  • Germany had a service called Bildschirmtext, or BTX. This was a videotex system, basically like an extremely primitive CompuServe-like directory service, with phone directories, shopping, message boards, games, and so on. Starting in 1981, you would rent a BTX dumb terminal that was either freestanding or connected to a TV, and it hooked up to a phone line with a modem. It displayed 480×250 color graphics on screen, and you were charged per page of info. You could also find coin-op terminals at the post office in little booths like pay phones. The museum was filled with bizarre-looking special-purpose terminals, keyboards full of special keys I’d never seen before.
  • What also freaked me out was seeing the Bundespost symbol, the post horn, on these terminals and all over the museum. If you ever read Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
  • I was just watching and saw someone playing a Japanese rail simulator while listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
  • I am glad none of my 6th grade basketball career was video-recorded and posted on YouTube, or someone on the other end of would probably be watching me blowing free-throws.

Ten Things

  • I had this recurring dream that I somehow inherited an old Corvette (mid-70s, the bad years) and was trying to rewire the stereo because it worked when the car was running, but not when it was shut off or in accessory mode. I seem to remember having to fix the same thing in my first car a million years ago. (Chilton’s guide is your friend.) This got me thinking about the whole culture of aftermarket car stereos in the 80s and 90s that is largely gone now. Every car had an identical hole for the radio (two knobs, unless you sawed that out and made a square hole for an Alpine) and every factory radio was a piece of shit, usually without a tape player. My first car had a mono AM radio stock, with a single paper speaker under the dash. I fell down long k-holes paging through the JC Whitney catalog, looking at no-name stereos with suspiciously high wattage and ending up with the cheapest amp available at the local Radio Shack.
  • I have been wasting a lot of time watching car restoration videos on YouTube, maybe because they are good background noise, and maybe because I wish I was restoring a car, even though I don’t have the time, space, money, or patience to do this. My favorite channel is a very well-done set of videos from a guy named Ronald Finger who is restoring an old Fiero. I’ve always been obsessed with the Fiero (see here) even though I’ve never even ridden in one, and stock, most of them drive and feel about like a vintage Pontiac Sunbird, although they do look better, and can be hot-rodded up to be a formidable performer. But that’s a formidable performer with no airbags, antilock brakes, navigation system, or any other new safety or creature comfort features, so maybe not.
  • I also recently watched the ZZ Top documentary on Netflix (too lazy to find a link.) It was pretty good, although it pretty much ended when they got to Eliminator, and didn’t go into any details on that album except how MTV blew them up with their videos. They didn’t touch the fact that the writing credits were slightly disputed, or that it’s essentially a self-produced Billy Gibbons solo album (with help from sound engineer Linden Hudson) and almost all of the drums and bass using drum machines and synth. There’s also a story of Hudson researching every popular song on the radio to determine their speed and deciding that the album should all be recorded at 120 bpm.
  • That said, I would say Eliminator is definitely in my top five all-time list, because the production and songwriting is so impeccable and a perfect mix of blues, pop, dance, and country music. I listened to the album a few times yesterday, and although people generally think of the big hits, the deep cuts on the album are amazing. Songs like “I Need You Tonight,” “Thug,” and even “TV Dinners” are so amazing, even though they usually aren’t discussed by the “hey remember the 80s” crowd.
  • Speaking of Houston… I was thinking the other night about how I used to see a disproportionate number of Astros games back when they were a National League team. The first MLB game I ever saw was Astros @ Brewers, and the first Rockies home game I saw was against Houston. It was also a strange coincidence, because in my horrible pee-wee league experience, I played for a team named after the Astros. Our uniforms were bright orange, like the tequila sunrise jersey Houston used to have. Prior to the throwback thing taking off, Houston in the 00s had boring red uniforms, so no joy there.
  • I have been thinking about New York a lot for some reason. The thing I think about most is how in the early 00s when I was single I had this dumb weekend routine that usually involved staying up late on Fridays and playing PlayStation 2 until three in the morning. Then I’d oversleep, walk to the subway, stop and get a bagel at this hole-in-the-wall place on 30th Ave where I was in love with the cashier and never talked to her other than asking for an everything with a smear and a can of Coke. Then I’d go into Manhattan and waste the afternoon walking between book stores and record stores and video places, buying various media that I’d then consume for the rest of the weekend while ordering delivery from one of the same three places. There was a diner where the guy on the phone knew who I was the second I called and asked me if I wanted the usual. And then Sunday was grocery store, laundry, and more nothing. Writing was always anticipated and never happened.
  • It’s now bugging me that I can’t remember what “the usual” was. I think it was a greek omelette. I also used to get a side of cereal, which is the laziest damn thing imaginable, paying three bucks for a little box of corn flakes and a coffee cup of milk. I remember one time misplacing the cup of milk in the fridge and wondering where it went, and then finding out a week later that it dumped into the little tray underneath the crispers and was now a biological warfare weapon.
  • I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I looked up that old Astoria apartment, and it has not been upgraded whatsoever, but costs more than twice as much to rent. I think I was paying around 800 back in the early 00s, and it’s now about two grand. And the neighborhood – the bones are still there, but it’s obviously had a lot of gentrification in the last 15 years. Lots of small family houses ripped out and replaced with 12-unit mini “luxury” apartment buildings. They have a Chipotle now. I don’t know if they have a grocery store that isn’t a disaster, but I guess you just order online?
  • I had a weird dream the other night that this guy Rob who lived by me in Astoria sent out a mass email saying he was retiring from his job, and quitting technology entirely, and that this was the last email he was ever going to send. I’ve probably watched too many Unabomber documentaries lately.
  • Falling down a huge ADX Florence k-hole. I’ll probably spend the rest of the day looking that stuff up, unless I fall sideways into some other wiki-hole, like I did the other day when I spent two hours reading about nuclear-powered rocket plans of the fifties and sixties.

A Stupid Nostalgia Listicle (Or, You Won’t Believe these 15 Things From The Nineties That Will Help You Lose Weight That The IRS Doesn’t Want You To Find Out About!)

I have been binge-watching the show West Wing lately, because S has never seen it, and I watched a lot of the first few seasons until it got stupid, back when I was supposed to be writing the follow-up for Rumored to Exist, which never happened. So I remember bits and pieces of the show, and then hit a long patch when I was out of town in 2002 or whatever and didn’t see those episodes.

What’s odd is that the show doesn’t remind me of the early 00s when it aired, but instead gives me strange nostalgia for the mid/late 90s.  I guess it’s supposed to be an idealized version of the Clinton presidency, spun up with some of the torn-from-headlines scenarios taken out of the W years.  It hasn’t aged well, and it’s humorous to see someone whip out a giant cell phone you could beat someone to death with in less than three blows.  And Sorkin’s choir-preaching sermons get a little wooden at times.  But, it’s more entertaining than watching some limey chef scream at interns or a dozen sluts fighting over a dork with money, or whatever the hell else is on the tube these days.

(Side note: there’s this Slavoj Zizek theory I ran into the other night that might or might not encapsulate the zeitgeist of West Wing‘s popularity with the left in those Dubya years.  His essay Denial: the Liberal Utopia talks about the left’s need to look at or analyze only failed leftist regimes in order to dismiss those in progress, because you can fetishize the failed regime/government/plan/whatever as being utopian and perfect, if it had only worked.  (It’s possible I linked to the wrong essay here; I read this right before falling asleep, and the book’s upstairs and I’m too lazy to double-check it.)  Basically WW was popular because Al Gore lost and the Clinton era crashed to a halt and W fucked everything up and 9/11 happened and the left could wring their hands and reminisce about how if those chads hadn’t hung in Florida, the whole world would be a utopia and perfect.  That Michael Moore movie F911 even begins this way more or less.  I’m not making this point to defend W, because I think he was more than harmful; I’m just saying I don’t think Gore would have cured cancer and gave us jetpacks in his first 90 days, and I found the Zizek thing to be an odd coincidence for me.)

OK, so I was thinking about it, and here’s a partial list of a bunch of stupid nostalgia touchstones that keep coming up in my brain during k-hole falling:

  • Everyone’s forgotten those giant CRT monitors by companies like ViewSonic that were like three feet deep and could heat an entire office, and they did that degaussing wavy lines effect when you powered them on, and it took like three seconds for the screen to flicker on.
  • The Mac OS was horrible, and even though it was probably better than the clunkiness of Windows, it didn’t multitask well and always hung up when one program crapped out.  And the hardware was much worse, and you’d pay like $5000 for a decked-out Centris that had about as much RAM as a TV remote control has now, plus a hard drive that spun up and sounded like the turbocharger in a Japanese sports car.
  • (Aside: I was just googling to see how much a Mac IIfx cost, and found this weird story about someone who bought one from a scrapper on eBay, and it turned out to be Douglas Adams’ old machine.)
  • I used to read constantly back in the late 90s, and I’m sure that now if you saw their 1998 site, it would look like a Commodore 64 game, but it was a clear portal to the world for me as I killed time in my office.
  • I didn’t use a phone book app or some cloud-based thing to sync my contacts, and this was before I got a Palm Pilot.  I’d keep a sheet of paper in my wallet and write down phone numbers on it.  I found one of these recently, almost torn apart at the creases.  What’s interesting is that few of the numbers had area codes, because I instantly knew that someone in Indiana was 219, 317, or 812 based on where they lived in the state.  And all of Washington, or at least the western part, was 206.
  • The Onion’s online edition only published like seven articles a week, and they were always on one day (Wednesday?) so you could stay up late the day before and keep reloading the page and you’d magically get the latest from them.  Now they publish about seven articles a second and I can’t follow it anymore.
  • I used to spend an incredible amount of time in a command line window, telnetted to a unix machine that held my mail and news.  For maybe ten years, I read my email in emacs in a central machine on a server, usually at when they did that sort of thing.  This was when you used actual telnet, and not ssh, or at least I did.  It was one of the last throwbacks to my IU days, when I mostly did the same, back to Ultrix machines that held my unix mail.
  • I could tell what day of the week it was by what feature was on, which I read religiously.
  • I actually used the CD player in the computer to play audio CDs.

I thought I had more of these but I don’t.  I’m almost done with WW too because it’s getting to the point where everyone quit over the salary dispute, so I will move on to another show.


Randy Orton and the Loins of Passion

It is time for another bulleted-list update.

  • I was recently so bored that I rewrote the first three pages of an erotic story, retitled it as “Randy Orton and the Loins of Passion” and submitted it to a small press for consideration.  The story was an erotic coming-of-age tale involving Randy Orton, his father Cowboy Bob Orton, and Roddy Piper.  It was not picked up, so I will cease writing homosexual incestual WWE-related pornography and go back to my usual work.
  • Speaking of which, Ryan Werner mentioned me in this essay he wrote a bit ago about starting said small press, going on tour, and working as a janitor.  Read it here.
  • I am 83,477 words into a book and still do not know what it’s about.  It may actually get split into a couple of things.  It is 200-some pieces of flash fiction, and maybe could end up similar to Rumored to Exist, but it may take a while to get there.
  • I never knew this, but Jackson Pollock was allegedly decapitated in the car accident that killed him.  I’d like to think the interior of the car looked like one of his paintings after the incident, but that’s just wishful thinking.
  • Having just one hobby that I am no good at that makes me constantly want to spend thousands of dollars on new gear instead of practice to increase my skill (bass guitar) is not enough, so I have been doing down a k-hole with photography.  I am intent on learning WTF the difference between aperture and shutter speed is (I think I know now) and I’m trying to stop using the automatic mode on my camera.  I’m also trying to not spend any money on new gear.  I haven’t taken any phenomenal pictures I’ve posted online lately, but my flickr page is the home of all shots I have snapped.
  • Here is a new thing to obsess over:
  • One sister-in-law was here for about a week, so we got to go to all kinds of places we only go when people visit us, like the Pacific Science Center and the Oakland Museum (pics).  Unlike her last visit, we did not have a blackout, did not have a closet collapse, and did not go to see a Jackass movie, but otherwise it was cool.
  • We babysat the 18-month-old twins overnight for the other sister-in-law last weekend.  Even more miraculous than the ease of this operation was the fact that not one person mommyjacked my status update on facebook to ask me when I was going to have kids.
  • Joel-Peter Witkin created, among other things, the photo used for the Pungent Stench album Been Caught Buttering. Witkin claims that his vision and sensibility spring from an episode he witnessed as a young child, an automobile accident in front of his house in which a little girl was decapitated:

    It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother’s hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it — but before I could touch it someone carried me away”.

  • We’re going to Maui in October.  I have never been to that island, although I really liked both of my trips to Oahu.  (2003 pics, 2005 pics)
  • Thunderbird is still available and you should buy it.
  • I believe the 2015 convention for my UFO cult will be in the Bahamas, so please contact me for details.



Sycophantic Mezmerization

I have been writing a lot, which means I have not been writing here.  That happens.  It makes me wonder what the hell I should be writing here, especially since blogging is essentially dead and I should just be posting pictures of my cats.  (Here is a picture of one of my cats.  I have more.  Don’t tempt me.)

I feel like blogging about all of the exciting stuff that has been happening lately.  There hasn’t been any, so here is other stuff.

  • Last week, I stabbed myself in the finger with a knife, pretty much down to the bone. I have this little CRKT knife and was hacking at the tape on a box in a way you should not hack with a knife, and my left hand was holding the box, and I stabbed it into the side of the base of the finger, and it went about as far as it could.  My first thought was that I should go to the hospital, but fuck hospitals.  I’d probably have to wait hours, behind at least two or three people who were just shot by Oakland police officers, and all they’d do is get me hooked on Oxycontin.  The knife was brand new and extremely sharp, so it made a very clean slice.  I put a bunch of Neosporin in it and closed it up with a bandage, and it’s slowly healing together.  It’s made playing bass interesting.
  • I am in a weird funk with bass playing.  I feel like I would need to dedicate a ton of time to it just to advance a small amount in my ability.  It’s times like this that I feel a need to spend way more money on better gear, which is of course a sickness.  I just spent too much money on a new bass last January, so I can’t buy another one.  I still do like to turn the Zoom B-3 onto the Cliff Burton setting and play minor scales over and over and over.  Sounds cool.
  • I have been reading that Jennifer Egan Goon Squad book, and I really like it.  I went through a long run of not liking stuff I’ve been reading (aside from your book, if I just read it – that was great) and the structure of this one is really blowing me away.  It reminds me, not in content but in structure, of Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, which I really loved, and truly wished I could write.
  • I was at a conference last year, waiting for a lecture hall to open so we could go in and sit down, and me and Jonathan Lethem and someone else were standing next to each other, and I had my copy of the aforementioned book in my bag, and I did not say word one to him, because I am a stupid introverted fuck and never know how to talk to people.  There’s also that meeting heroes thing, or whatever.
  • Similarly, Marie once sent me Mark Leyner’s home address, and I never did shit about trying to contact him.
  • I put an SSD drive in my computer.  It’s faster, I guess.  Everyone says it makes it way faster to start programs, but the thing is, I never reboot my computer and all of my programs are always open.
  • I am over 70,000 words into the next book and have no idea what it’s about.  I am starting to get ideas about the overall structure.  I feel an overwhelming need to make it radically different than the last few books.  I also feel a strong need to get it done asap.  These two things are not compatible.
  • I saw the Oscars and they were horrible.  I bet when various outside countries like Syria or Iran look at us, they probably think we’re insane because out of all of our movies, the “best” of the “best” involved killing a terrorist, rescuing people from terrorists, and a civil war.  And pretty much everything else was franchise necrophilia of some brand that was beaten to death years before and needed to be remade because Hollywood is out of ideas, except for all of the jingoistic terrorist stuff.

Blah blah blah.  I need to get back to work.


Another Friday giant-list update

It’s Friday, and I have no concrete ideas for a larger update, yet have all of these smaller bits and pieces, so here goes:

  • I try to take notes of all of my ideas, but 90% of the time, they make no sense later.  I did this at some point in the middle of the night, and woke up to a note on my keyboard, in red pen and underlined several times, that simply said “ALIENS”.
  • I am going to see Close Encounters on the big screen tonight at the Paramount, which might be part of it.
  • It is now dark enough when I wake that I need to use the full-spectrum light.  This means soon we will reach the nighttime temperatures that involve felines fighting over who gets to sleep on which human’s head or feet to keep warm.
  • I bought this stuff called “miracle noodles”, on my latest diet rampage.  It’s this Asian noodle, like an angel-hair pasta, which has zero calories and carbs and is pretty much just strands of fiber.  They come packed in little six-ounce bags filled with water.  Most reviews said they have a peculiar smell when you first open them, until you rinse them off.  That “peculiar” smell is the smell of stale semen.  Once you rinse them off and boil them for a minute, they’re essentially flavorless, and will pick up the flavor of whatever you mix them with.
  • Another thing I got, while guilt-shopping on Amazon for anything to help me maintain weight, is this stuff called PB2, which is a powdered peanut butter which has had all of the fats and oils pressed out of it.  A tablespoon of the real deal has either 3 or 4 weight watcher points, but two tablespoons of PB2 has one point.  It tastes pretty much like the real deal, albeit the slight inconvenience of mixing it together for reconstitution.
  • I made a salad-type thing with the miracle noodles, the fake peanut butter, some rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, soy sauce, baked tofu, bean sprouts, white cabbage, and scallions.  It was surprisingly good.
  • I was never a big peanut butter person, especially since weight loss, since an appreciable amount of chunky peanut butter is about a half-day of points.  I also never liked putting peanut butter on white bread, and then the knife tears through the bottom of the bread.  And you can’t make a peanut butter sandwich on pumpernickel.  (Well, maybe you can.)
  • My strongest memory of peanut butter is getting a jar of Jif and a box of saltine crackers in a care package in college, sitting in bed between classes on the day of the first snow in 1989, looking out over a white-covered campus, listening to an Art of Noise album and making little peanut butter and cracker sandwiches.
  • I got jury duty.  Day after labor day, but it’s one of those things where you call in the night before and most of the time they tell you not to come in.  I guess this is because Oakland is so crime-free.
  • Every time I go to Rite-Aid there is a commercial playing on the PA saying that you should buy a book of the Forever stamps.  I seldom mail anything anymore, but I also never know when there will be another rate increase, which seems to happen constantly, so I almost always buy a book of the stamps.  (They aren’t really a book though; more like a sheet of stickers.)
  • I remember when first-class letter stamps were only 20 cents, from a brief and fleeting childhood interest in philately. It seemed like forever between 20 cents and when they raised it to 22 cents.  It now seems like they raise it another penny every other time I have to mail something.  I don’t know if that’s a function of inflation or my perception of time.
  • I changed themes here on WordPress, to the latest Twenty-Eleven theme, which isn’t that different.  I did change the font, though, using google web fonts.  I think it’s more readable, but I might hate it in a month.  The biggest problem with changing themes is I always fall down this k-hole of trying different themes and not knowing which one to choose, trying and trying until I eventually go back and use the first one I tried.
  • Someone on facebook started a memorial group for all of the people from my high school that have died.  I didn’t join, but I paged through it, and it’s majorly depressing.  Other than my neighbor Peter that died in a car crash when he was 18, I wasn’t particularly close to anyone who has died yet, but I definitely remember many of them.
  • As far as I know, none of my ex-girlfriends have died.  I think when that happens, I will be freaked the fuck out.
  • Two of my exes are now in Texas.
  • Sarah was in Milwaukee for a week, and while in bachelor mode, I got almost no writing done.  I would sit down to write and fall into these endless wikipedia k-holes that would keep me up half the night, googling about prison food and serial killers and space shuttle computers and obsolete video game systems.  If you ever get to the point where it’s after midnight and you’re furiously searching for a primer on set theory, just go to bed.
  • I bought one of those Apple magic trackpads, which is really nice, but it’s only bluetooth, so I can’t use it through my KVM on both machines.  I have it sitting next to my trackball and use it on the mac only, which is a waste.  I wish the entire right side of my desk was a giant trackpad, and I could use it for gestures and stuff, but I’d probably end up putting my arm or elbow on it too much.

Okay, time to get some real work done.


Listicles Are A Window Into The Soul

I am stuck in that “what do I post here” mode lately, so it’s time for another big long list of random stuff.

  • I’ve been re-reading Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs, a book I think I haven’t read since 1995.  It has not aged well, for two reasons.  One is that the technology is obviously obsolete.  It talks about using a modem to dial into the Information Superhighway; the main character calls a travel agent to buy a plane ticket; people still use fax machines; Microsoft releases products people buy.  The other is that in 1993, a peek into the working day at Microsoft was revolutionary to straight America.  Now, every company from here to Kansas has tried to replicate their corporate culture, so much so that it’s incredibly cliche to have free soft drinks and ask interview candidates why manhole covers are round.  It’s still an okay read though, although it’s more of a glimpse into the distant past for me.
  • Two new donor Commodore 64s arrived via UPS today.  Both are missing a couple of keys; one is missing a couple of chips.  I plan on building a computer inside of a C-64 case, ala the x64, but for several hundred dollars less.
  • Allergy season is full tilt right now, and I’m contemplating a move to northern Alaska.  It’s been almost two years of allergy shots with very little improvement, plus my allergy clinic is dropping my insurance this fall, so I’ll need to find a new one.  I don’t know if switching doctors and trying something more drastic will help.  I’ve already tried OTC meds, prescription eye drops, nasal spray, inhalers, and pills, acupuncture, and allergy shots.  I’m thinking if there’s a stem cell therapy treatment, I’d be willing to sink five or ten grand into trying it.
  • I have not been watching baseball this year.  The Rockies have something like a dozen position players on the DL right now.  I heard the other night, one of their backup infielders went on the disabled list because of an infection he got from his watch.
  • I haven’t been writing much since the last book came out.  This is always the most depressing time for me, and it takes a lot of effort to get a good idea percolating, which is where I’m at.
  • I helped my brother-in-law buy a new TV the other day, and we went to Best Buy to look at their selection.  That place is seriously circling the drain.  There was almost nobody there on a Sunday afternoon, and their TV selection was worse than what they had at Target.  They were also fiercely pushing their “TV calibration” service, which as far as I could tell, involved paying hundreds of dollars to have a high-school dropout set the brightness and contrast on your new set.  Do people seriously pay for this?
  • I went through all of my old books and pulled all of the bookmarks out of them.  I usually use business cards, but I extricated this stack of store bookmarks (Elliott Bay, Morgensterns, Title Wave in Anchorage, Coliseum) and a bunch of receipts and bank slips, some of which were humorous.  Like I found a grocery receipt from Mr. D’s groceries in Bloomington from 1994 that was nothing but candy bars, TV dinners, and beer.
  • I have somehow become addicted to the show Friday Night Lights.  These things would not happen if it were not for Netflix streaming.
  • I am trying to avoid Benadryl, because it messes with my sleep schedule too much.  I don’t dream correctly when I take it, and then I’m hung over the next day.  I’m taking Allegra instead, although it doesn’t knock it out as well.

OK, that’s all for now.


Fifty shades of another stupid list

I’m in one of those phases where I have so much stuff to do and so many different projects, I can’t really sit down to any one of them.  And this blog is one of them, and I always want to update, but have nothing cohesive to say, just a bunch of random stuff, so here’s a list of random stuff.

  1. I am going to New York next week.  Flying there Monday, leaving Wednesday, for work.  It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been there, and I was just looking up something on google maps and almost fell into an inescapable k-hole of looking up every damn house and restaurant I could remember.
  2. Lately, I’ve feared these overly nostalgic episodes, because they always make me want to write a book about some period of my past, which always ends up becoming one of those autobiographical fiction projects, which always stalls out when I think nobody will ever want to read it.  I realized the other day that instead of writing about these periods, I need to write about a character with the same affliction, someone painfully stuck with this need to look at the past, always living with the feeling that there’s a window of time in the past that was ideal in some way.
  3. I just re-read PKD’s The Man in the High Castle for maybe the fourth or fifth time. It’s the first book of his I read, and it’s something I can always go back to and enjoy.  That and the trip to Germany makes me want to re-read Fatherland, but I’ve got too much other reading to get into that.
  4. I’m on a nonfiction run right now, because I’m at that crucial point of editing my own book where I have read it ten too many times and think the whole thing sucks shit.  And when I read any fiction in that state, I immediately get all of these stupid ideas of how to change it, and then hack up the draft in bad ways.  Like I’ll read a Vonnegut book, and then decide I need to rewrite 70% of the book to sound like him or to include drawings of assholes or Kilgore Trout or whatever.  So instead, I read nonfiction, and take a lot of notes for facts and figures I can rip off and turn into plots later.
  5. I made the mistake of hitting OK on an install of Win7SP1 on my work machine about ten minutes before the end of my work day, and a half-hour later, it’s still churning away.
  6. I have been on this kick to do something different monitor-wise, as if having more screen real estate will up my writing efficiency 800%.  I would really like to get one of those giant 30″ Apple displays, but even if I spent a grand on one, I’d also have to buy a new monitor arm and a new KVM switch.  I have heard rumors of this Korean company that makes the Catleap monitor, which is essentially the same panel that’s used in the Cinema display, with 2560×1440 resolution, but is available for around $400.  It’s in an ass-ugly case, only has DVI inputs, Engrish instructions, no support or quality control, and you have to buy one from some shady eBay seller that drop-ships it from Asia.
  7. Instead of this, I bought one of those little 16″ USB monitors, with thoughts of putting it next to or under my existing monitor, and then putting some little windows there, like my email or iTunes or a dictionary or a browser always open to Wikipedia or something.  I got it, and the driver support for OSX was abysmal, and made my machine run like total shit, so I boxed it up and RMIed it.
  8. I decided instead to buy a new monitor arm to raise my current screen a bit more.  Mine sits about 16″ from desktop to center, and it’s a crappy arm with a bit of vibration when I’m typing full speed.  I ordered another arm which will raise it up to about 6″ higher.  When I sit up without slouching and look straight out right now, I look over the top of my monitor, which means I either slouch or continually look down, and both of those are bad.
  9. I still have about 165 Euros left from my trip.  I guess I will change them when I have to go to the airport on Monday.  I don’t know where I can change them in town.  I know the obvious answer is “a bank”, but I don’t have a local bank, and I have a feeling that even if I had a Bank of America account, they would charge me $40 ten times to exchange the money.
  10. This stupid Windows update finally installed.  Actually, I rebooted twice, and then it said it failed, so I started the updater again, and then it came back and said no, it actually worked.

OK, need to go get actual work done.


5 Reasons Posts That Are Lists Get More Traffic

I’ve been editing a book, or maybe a chunk of a book, that’s mostly composed of blog posts from earlier this year, and one of the harder parts of this (aside from all of the typos) has been retitling the posts when they are reincarnated in short story format. As both a goof and a desperate trick for SEO, I originally titled all of these as if they were crappy content poured into an autoblogged site, like “10 Reasons Zombies Will Steal Your iPad”. And the sad thing is, that actually seemed to work.

I thought of this today, because I went to look at Lifehacker for some dumb reason. I used to love that site, because I’m a lazy bastard, and if anyone presented me with a tip that would shave ten seconds off of my week, I’d probably love it. But now you go there, and it’s nothing but these listicles of the obvious. And go to StumbleUpon, which is a neat site, but now it seems like nine out of ten articles are these collations of brief tips or factoids.

Why are they so popular? I guess part of it is, it’s easier to consume. You could write a long-form article about the failing financial system, or you could throw ten bullet points at the wall and call it a day. It’s sort of the PowerPointing of the world. I worked at a place where every damn thing HAD to be a PowerPoint deck, from idea pitches to weekly status reports, and it seemed like the higher up the management food chain, the more the person could only digest items in slide format. I’m sure there’s a rabbit hole of reading I could fall into about usability and eye tracking studies, but I’ll leave that to someone else.

Another theory would be that it’s easier to write posts like that. I think it’s a push; it probably takes me just as long to write a 20-item list as it does to bang out a thousand words of prose without an outline. Maybe if I started with a quick list and used that as an outline for prose, that would take longer. But it’s one of those false economies of scale, like that if a person could build a whole house from scratch in a year, they should be able to build a fully-functional HO scale house in 4.19 days.

The thing that interests me is if this is because stripping away the supporting structure of a prose story and presenting it as a list makes it easier or more effective for people to parse. I don’t mean in a “we all have ADD/fuck Twitter” sort of way, but I mean if there’s some reason for this, like how a root/fifth/fourth song sounds so much better to us than some Yoko Ono experimental noise shit where she’s raping a lawnmower engine with a pizza oven.

And that makes me wonder about structure of non-blog post/article pieces, like short stories or books. One of the things I tried to do with Rumored to Exist was present a novel-sized work in small pieces, with an almost total disregard for traditional form. And I did that, but I felt like it would have been more readable if it did have a standard novel’s plot arc, and the “randomness” had a certain amount of non-randomness, partly out of pure chance, and partly because I kept rearranging the pieces until it felt right.

I keep writing these bursts of fiction that have no home, and end up in a big Scrivener document when they happen to be written near a computer, or find their way into a bunch of different moleskine notebooks when I’m not at the Mac. And the number one thing I bitch about to people is how I don’t have a form to put these on. I don’t know how I lucked into the one I had for Rumored, and I don’t know if it can be re-used, or if there’s something else I need to do.

I wonder if there’s anything to be gleaned from the way web articles have gone. I guess one could write a book that’s nothing but fake articles like this. There are already a whole slew of books written as email exchanges, which is something I was talking about back in 94 or 95. I thought about setting up a fake email on my linux machine, and then emailing it a page or two a day, to slowly concoct a longer work. I now know that would have just become an editing nightmare, but it’s still a fun idea.