Categories
general

Denver

Hello from Denver. I’ve been out here for a week, for the first time in a dozen years, and… it’s weird. Weird doesn’t start to explain it.

So I lived in Denver from 2007-2008. Made a few work visits back in 08, and I think I came out maybe two more times for Rockies games. I haven’t been back since except for the occasionl layover in the airport. I had to take a week off, and wanted to get out somewhere to take some pictures and do nothing, and after the usual searches of prices versus temperature versus infection rate, I landed on taking the week in Colorado.

This whole trip has been a weird deja vu experience. I sat in the baggage area and had flashbacks of every time I ever flew home, going back to the first time I flew to the city in 2007. Got my suitcase, went outside and breathed the rarefied air and gazed out at the big sky and fluffy clouds that looked like they were floating ten feet above the ground, and I felt like I’d been gone for a week and was back. Something about the look of the place, the way the light comes through the sky, the way the air tastes, is totally unique in my head, always brings me back to that specific time of my life.

I got the rental car, headed out on the highway towards my hotel in the tech center and realized everything was different. They built a train to the airport. They built apartments everywhere. They built shopping centers everywhere. There are new giant towers of tech industry where there used to be empty fields. It’s like when I go back to Indiana and the bones are the same but everything has decayed, but the opposite. Some of the highways and such are in the same place, but everything else has grown.

* * *

One of the reasons I came out was to work on school stuff. So part of the stay has been hanging out in this residence hotel and banging out papers. I’ve written three, and barely started a fourth. Not into talking much about this yet, except to say I’m incredibly rusty and not in the zone yet. First, I haven’t written anything in six months, but I haven’t written sourced scholarly papers in… a while. 1993, maybe? So, it’s taking me about an hour a paragraph to knock out 16-page papers, which is not ideal. Didn’t I used to write thousand-page books?

The other reason was the photo thing. I got a new camera before I came out, a Canon EOS 5DS. It is a monster of a camera, weighing about double my old DSLR. Full-frame, 50 megapixel, weather-sealed, dual-card, and none of the nicey consumer features like a built-in flash or a selfie screen or a Wi-Fi adapter or anything. It’s a beast, and honestly, I’ve been fighting it the whole trip. I’m not used to any of the settings, and I’m constantly screwing up metering or getting depth of field wrong, because it responds completely differently than my old body. So I’ve shot a few thousand shots on this trip, but I’m not super happy with much.

* * *

I’ve been specifically avoiding various nostalgia points, because I don’t want to completely deep-six myself mentally. I did see my old apartment Sunday; I went on a long walk with a photographer friend, and went in loops around the ballpark area and the 16th Street mall for like eight miles. The more I walk around Denver, the more I see that either I didn’t get out much, or things have totally changed. And the areas where I did spend time are completely different. I used to work down in Meridian/Lone Tree, and all I used to do is drive to work, drive to Taco Bell, drive to Target, drive home. And that area was nothing but the Target, the Taco Bell and a few other fast food joints, and lots of barren land. I went down there, and it’s now a sea of condos, and a new train station and pedestrian bridges and lots of parks and sod and outdoor sculptures and the whole nine. So I lived here, but I didn’t live here.

Lots of other photo ops. I drove down to Garden of the Gods. Drove to the Air Force Academy. Hit air museums in Pueblo and at the old Lowry AFB. Went to Idaho Springs and walked around the old mining town a bit. Three or four malls were visited. Also met with a coworker (only the third time this has happened in a year) and did a big lap at Washington Park. Weather’s been decent, other than a freak hail storm when I was in Colorado City, so the walks and photos have been nice.

* * *

Had a really weird deja vu last night. I was walking around this area after dinner. This part of the DTC is all residence inns and empty condo buildings, with the occasional warehouse or factory, so it’s a great walk to take at dusk. Something about the weather, the heat, the air, the darkness, gave me this exact time travel portal, and I felt like it was a night in the summer of 1989, a late night after working at Wards all day, in the air conditioning from 10 to 9, then hitting the air that was a hundred all day and was then 80 after sunset. There was always such a strong feeling of… I don’t know, a mix of loneliness and possibility. Like I was the only person alive in the town, mixed with an uplifting feeling that something big was going to happen soon, and this was the temporary lull before it did. I don’t know how to explain it more than that, except I would get fleeting flashes of the same thing in the summer of 1992, the summer of Summer Rain, and that was one of the real motivating reasons to write that book.

And I’m thinking about that, too. And I should write more. But the sun is going down in about 20 minutes, so maybe I will go take another walk.

Flying out tomorrow, then it’s back to the grind. Stay tuned for more pics.

Categories
general

The backpack

backpackMy nephew is graduating high school and going to Indiana University to study computer science in the fall, which has set off all sorts of nostalgia triggers for me, as I think about when I made the same journey 247 years ago. My sister updates me on various registration and orientation events and visits and whatnot, asking questions on what dorms are better and where you’re supposed to eat lunch on campus and everything else. I love talking about this, although most of this has changed. Computer science is now in a new modern building that’s built where part of my freshman dorm was, and every restaurant and store I remember has closed or changed names ten times. But the bones are still the same. Kirkwood is still Kirkwood, even though Garcia’s, Spaceport, most of the record stores, and even McDonald’s are long gone.

I was shopping for various graduation gifts, and one of them he wanted was a laptop backpack, which is my forté, given that I buy a new bag about six times a year (in the Before Times, anyway) and I’ve got travel coming up and I’m probably due again. But that got me thinking about my backpack I had for my entire IU journey, as pictured above. There’s a story behind it, of course, and I’ve probably told it nine times, so buckle up for #10.

* * *

OK, so when I was a freshman (and this still happens, apparently) there’s a series of events leading up to matriculation, culminating with class registration. That takes place in the summer, maybe in July. This is a bit of an evil trick by IU, because what happens is you go there and they reserve blocks of typical freshman classes, like all the hundred-level math, English, and foreign language classes. They run a special registration and hold your hand and you get all the classes and time slots you want, and it’s easy-peasey. Then when you have to register in the winter for the next semester, you find out that the entire process is horrible, and registration dates are based on how many credits you’ve completed, so you’re dead last in line, and every good class is taken and you end up with an 8am basket weaving class.

Anyway. I had to go down to Bloomington for this thing, and it’s usually a parent/child event, where your folks take you there, and they go to various orientation things that convince them it’s a good investment and their child is safe and whatever, while the new student goes through registration, takes any assessment tests to test out of foreign language or learn how much math they really know, and sits through some orientation things where guidance counselors tell you how important it is to study. Also, some people in specialized programs met with advisors, and music students did their auditioning.

I did not go there with a parent. Every time I write anything about my parents on here, I get in trouble about it, even though I have lived on my own for almost twice as long as I lived with them, so I’ll shut up about it, except to say I had to figure out how to go there by myself. I was 18 and had a car, so whatever.

IU had a deal for registration where they opened up Foster dorm like a hotel, and you could rent a room for some ridiculous amount, like eight bucks a day including food. So even though I had a day and a half of stuff to do, I rented a room on the top floor of Foster-Harper for the entire week. My plan was to drive down the four hours and change, get the registration over with on the first day, and then just hang out all week.

One thing that really stuck in my head about this visit is that it was the only time I had my old Camaro in Bloomington. The Camaro era and the Bloomington era had no overlap, except for that one week. Those are two heavy nostalgia eras, and it’s bizarre to me to think about driving around the IU campus and going to College Mall in that old car. It’s like thinking about Helen Keller and Jimi Hendrix hanging out together. (Technically possible, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen.) It was a bizarre colliding-of-worlds that really stuck in my head.

I loved that week. Bloomington in the summer is always awesome, and I got to explore all those record stores and restaurants and booksellers and everything else off campus, plus wander around the big limestone buildings and wonder what it would be like in a matter of weeks when this place would be my home. If I could re-live any part of my life to experience it again for the first time, I think it would be that week.

I met a lot of music majors during the stay in Foster, because they were all auditioning. That was great, because people come from all over the country to go to IU’s music school, so I was staying up late every night, sitting on the rooftop deck of this nine-story building overlooking the entire campus from the north. I met musicians from places I’d never been, from Boston and Vermont and California and Washington, and we’d stay up there in the cool summer air and wait until midnight when they would turn off the main library outside lights. I didn’t know if all of college would be like this, but I hoped it would be.

(And oddly enough, I had a brief but spectacular relationship with someone who lived on the same floor in Harper a few years later. Another colliding of worlds, and some late nights there, but I was too busy to watch the library lights.)

* * *

So during that visit, I was super amped to buy my books at the bookstore in the student union. I don’t know why, but I really wanted everything in hand and ready to roll for August. (I was the opposite later on, especially when those book costs added up. I remember taking this SPEA class on public management in 1993 and never buying the book.)

I went there with this new friend named Susan, from Dyer, Indiana. (It was always important to find out where people were from, and figure out where that was. “Oh, you’re from Auburn? Isn’t that right down the road from Kendallville? They have that speedway.”) I had my schedule, and could buy like half my books. And while I was at the store, I bought some other IU paraphernalia, like some notebooks and pens, and a backpack.

The backpack was this gray thing, with an IU logo on the front. It was made by Caribou, a company in Chico, CA that made bags for L.L. Bean and others. It was a bit of a knockoff of the JanSport bags that were popular in the 80s, made of 100% nylon. It had a single main compartment with a wraparound zipper, a smaller front zippered pocket, and a pair of very non-ergonomic, barely-adjustable shoulder straps with like a millimeter of padding in them.

Like I said, I used this backpack for the entire time I was at IU. It held maybe four or five textbooks, plus whatever I could cram in the front pocket. That usually held the cassettes I needed to get through the day in my walkman. I usually wore this slung on one shoulder, unless I was on a bike. It was one of my trademark items, as stupid as that sounds. I always had three things with me: my leather jacket, my walkman, and this backpack.

It’s odd to look at it now, compared to modern bags. It’s so small, with no organizational compartments or sleeves or dividers. This was the pre-laptop era, and it was meant to carry books, a few pencils, and nothing more. There were none of the creature comforts that backpacks developed in the 90s and beyond. There were no ergonomics to the straps; there wasn’t a side sling or any other handles; the bottom was not weatherproofed; there were no cell phone pockets or cord management solutions. There wasn’t a side pocket for a water bottle, because this was before we were told to always carry water, and before most people drank 300 ounces of soda a day. It’s so simplistic, and it’s amazing I used it for so long without complaint. It’s even more amazing it still exists.

I can’t think of the last time I actually used this bag. There was a gap of a half-decade between when I went to school and when I had to start carrying a laptop everywhere. By then, I was in New York, and messenger bags were a thing, so I moved on to one of those. I still have it for some reason, probably because I can’t throw it out. I have a lot of stuff like that.

* * *

Also, a spoiler alert. Another reason I am in this fit of nostalgia is I’m going back to school, starting this week. All virtual, so no backpack needed. More details on this later, although this might also mean my already scarce posting might get worse.

Categories
general

Finger

There was an interesting post that came up recently about the history of the unfortunately-named finger command in unix here. This jogged a few memories for me, because I remember finger as being the early precursor to blogs, web pages, and social media platforms.

Back in the days of unix and logging into mainframes and big workstations through terminals, there was a program called who, which listed every user currently logged into the machine. That was cool, except when there were hundreds of people on a machine and it quickly scrolled past in an indecipherable flood of text. It would show you a few brief details about each user, like how long they were logged in, or what program they were currently running. This was, in a very primitive way, similar to the little green dot next to a name in a messaging program, that tells you if the person is online or not. (Or maybe they never logged out, and their terminal was sitting idle overnight in a locked office.)

The next level of granularity was finger. If you were logged in and typed finger jkonrath, it would show a bit of info about that account, like that user’s home directory, the shell they used, and where they last logged in, or how long they’ve been logged in. That can lead to some stalker-y situations, but this was decades before anyone really thought that through.

One cool feature about finger was that if you had a text file named either .project or .plan in your home directory and they were would readable, they would also be displayed. The former was a one-line thing, and the latter could be any length. I think the original intent when this was written back at Stanford in 1972, you’d set your project to “AI Lab, Compiler Division” and your plan would be something like “I teach M-W-F in the basement of the science building. I will be on vacation June 1-9. Contact Dave Smith for questions.”

I first got a unix account (ULTRIX, actually) at IU in December of 1989. One of the first things I was absolutely infatuated with was the idea of coming up with a perfect plan file. I was 18 and of course had Big Thoughts I needed to tell the world, probably involving dumb song lyrics or movie quotes. I think for months, the only thing I used my account for was setting a new plan file and playing the text-based Tetris game someone installed on there. But it was almost like a really rough social network, sort of.

At some point, a CS buddy (it may have been either Brad Ramsey or Jesse Martin) told me about named pipes. A named pipe was a way of creating a file that really was a redirect to a program. I don’t remember how this worked, but they showed me a way to create a plan file that actually ran a script which did a who command, looked for the person who was running the finger command, then print some cute message like “hey $username quit spying on me” and output that to the pipe. It worked great, as long as the person was on the same machine, which was almost never the case. (I forgot to mention: you could run a finger command to any other machine that had a finger server running. So finger jkonrath@gnu.ai.mit.edu would also work on my burner account over there.)

Most undergrads and casual users were over on the VAX computers at that time for their general email use, and that VMS system had some half-baked implementation of finger that didn’t entirely work right, or didn’t support plan files, or something. VMS had its own arcane commands, like the much less sexy SHOW USERS/FULL and the like. This led to Sid Sowder and 19 other people (including me) writing their own VMS utility programs to meld together the disparate systems into something more usable as a social network, way back when Mark Zuckerberg was probably still learning to read.

That’s all another story I’ve told before. But one tangent on it is that I wrote a replacement for the finger command, sort of. The thing was, we needed a database to store various things about users, like preferences and login times and dates and whatever. So I wrote a program for Sid called XINFO, which was a horrible Pascal database program where his utility program would stash login information. Then I wrote a couple of different client programs that could hit this database for information, like an XFINGER command which was everything the VMS finger command wasn’t. And one of the biggest draws to Sowder’s program was a WHOIS program that was all neat and pretty and would show you where your friends were logged in from and so on. So yeah, maybe I should have filed a patent on this and sued everyone. Or maybe I should have gone to classes and studied instead of doing this.

The plan thing had an interesting connection to present. Back in like 1992 or so, the Computer Science department installed this thing on their server that at first was touted as some king of super-finger doodad. It was a server that would show your plan file, but let you put graphics and markup text in it. It called these a HyPlan file. You would write them in this weird markup language which was apparently called HTML, and then people all around the world could use a special program to read your HyPlan and click links on it and go to other HyPlan pages. This was called the “world wide web” and of course I thought it was a stupid fad and made a dumb HyPlan that I think had a gigantic uncompressed audio file of like three seconds of a Cannibal Corpse song that would play when you clicked on it. The name HyPlan became Homepage and was forgotten, and thirty years later, people are using a distant relative of that same system to try and sell me boner pills. And once again, I should have gotten in front of this early and maybe patented selling books on the web or something.

Anyway, the finger command still works if you’re on a Mac. Maybe I should go back to just updating my plan file, instead of upgrading WordPress plugins every 17 minutes so this site doesn’t get hacked by Russians again.

Categories
general

Failing networks, forts, film

It’s Sunday again. Time to try to type something here.

Every time I log into WordPress, it has a failed update and 19 plug-ins that need to be updated or were updated. It doesn’t matter how long ago I last logged in. I can log out for five minutes and this happens. I think I’ve been clear that I really do not like WordPress. But I’ve also used static site generators, and I’m not into that, either. And I’m definitely not paying yet another monthly fee to switch to something else.

I think Facebook’s about done, too. A lot of my friends have fled, and right now, it’s doing this transient thing where it does not give me notifications on anything I post. It doesn’t tell me if someone reacts to a post or comment, and won’t tell me if someone comments on anything I write. It’s essentially useless now, at least from a dopamine hit standpoint. I’ve looked at going to Twitter, but Twitter seriously gives me PTSD. It’s just a wall of text, people screaming at each other whatever’s in the front of their head that second. I can’t follow the threads and cannot deal with it.

So, here we are.

* * *

I was thinking the other day about how obsessed I was about forts as a kid. I don’t even know if kids do this anymore, but I was really into the idea of getting a bunch of lumber and building a treehouse or a lean-to or a clubhouse or some other structure. Maybe this was from Hardy Boys books or Cub Scouts or something, I don’t know.

Part of this involved tree climbing, finding the perfect tree to scale. I had a tree in my side yard as a kid with a perfect branch sticking out at a 90-degree angle at maybe five feet off the ground. It was very easy to grab onto the branch, pull myself up, and sit there, thinking about how if I had a few boards, I could easily build a platform up there. It was also the right height to reenact the Empire Strikes Back scene of Luke letting go of the antenna on the bottom of Cloud City and falling. I think that tree died when I was in college, or maybe after. Anyway, I never built anything on it.

(It’s weird how a lot of the big trees from when I was a kid are not there anymore, but the area is still fairly wooded. Trees that were twigs when I left thirty-some years ago are now giant. I don’t know if this is natural progression, a tree disease, or some failure underground that happens when you put houses and septic tanks and roads in the middle of a woods and disrupt the root systems. Also, I don’t know why Amazon or Google haven’t named something “Cloud City,” except maybe Lucas would sue them.)

There was a lot of vacant land around my subdivision as a kid. Part of this was that the entire township was mostly farmland and woods, until they plowed it up in the sixties and seventies to plop down tract housing. The subdivision was done in “phases” and random plots were sometimes left open and then developed later. So for example we had “the woods” that was three lots down from us, and it was simply an empty wooded lot with a trail blazed through it so you could cut through and go to the next road over. A few years later, it was cleared out and another identical ranch house popped up there.

But there were larger chunks of land that were our stomping grounds, especially when I got a BMX bike and was more mobile.  A large chunk of land east of us extended back at least a quarter mile, maybe fifteen or twenty acres in the form of an isthmus surrounded by the Elkhart River. A series of trails cut through the thick woods in this area, and between the ages of about ten and twelve, my neighbors and I were constantly trying to find ways to build forts in this area.

I remember a lot of primitive lean-tos and pits dug in the ground and then covered with fallen trees. Sometimes, someone would dump some construction material and we’d find a decent piece of lumber or two. We never got very far with any of these, and I now realize we must have been annoying as hell to whoever actually owned this land.

* * *

A year or two later, I met my friend Jim, and he had an actual treehouse, I think built with his dad’s help, probably from leftover boards from when they built out three bedrooms in the basement of their ranch. There was a woods behind Jim’s that was rife with potential building material. That area had a lot of old houses that were destroyed by a tornado in 1967 and then left to nature to rot. Also, construction crews would sometimes dump junk out there, because there’s no harm in pouring motor oil, PCBs, and asbestos into the water table. This was the eighties in Indiana, who gives a shit.

We’d drag this stuff back to Jim’s and nail it into his treehouse, concocting grand plans of adding extra stories, rooms, stairs, hidden passages, and everything else. I built out a set of three rooms underneath the main platform, and Jim was building a drawbridge and a third floor on top of it. It was like we were constructing our own Winchester House in Jim’s parents’ yard.

Anyway, Jim’s dad got sick of his back yard looking like an M.C Escher masterwork built from garbage, and ordered Jim and his brothers to tear it all down. Shortly after, Jim got sent away to his first stint in juvie or rehab or some lockdown Christian reprogramming center, because he was probably either getting high or hiding shoplifted D&D books out in the fort. And by that time, I’d moved on to the Commodore 64 or something else.

It’s weird for me to think about this now, because I now see the connection between this and the desire to build a house out in Colorado. And I guess why I waste so much time on Townscaper.

* * *

Not much else is going on except I’m still trying to figure out this trip, which is the week after next. I thought about bringing a film camera and a dozen rolls of film just for kicks, but I don’t want to deal with the TSA and hand-checking film, especially given the current airport situation. I need to minimize the amount of hassle while things are still on edge, and probably just carry a single camera and maybe a spare lens.

Categories
blog

Every day I don’t delete this blog is a goddamn miracle

I can’t believe there was a time I used to write here daily. I really can’t believe there was a time I used to write here daily, write in a journal, write books, plus write a dozen hours a day at my actual job.

Now I write here… checks posts… five times in 2022.

Why? Why is this so hard?

* * *

I keep meaning to write a post about “why blogs are more important than ever” or “why you should blog” or something like that. I actually have a draft post where I paste in the occasional thought blast or loose link I find about this topic, and keep meaning to structure this stuff into a cohesive manifesto of sorts.

But… life. There are only so many hours in the day, and by the time I sit down after a day of work, I’m usually completely strung out and exhausted. I consume so much caffeine to keep running at combat power for ten or twelve hours every day, that by the afternoon, I’ve overdosed to the point where I’m about to black out. I cannot focus on this stuff at all.

But when I started this thing back in 1996, the point of it was to not focus. I wanted to write just to write, dump a few hundred words into the void and keep my chops up. It was like jogging, running laps around the neighborhood, not to go anywhere, but to just run for 45 minutes. There was something liberating about posting the day-to-day in an unstructured format, without needing a genre or a “container” or a specific format to put things in. It was. Nothing more.

This was before Facebook, Twitter, and everything else lowered the bar on posting inane personal updates for no reason. This was before the term blog was even invented. It was before LiveJournal or MySpace. To people born after the year 2000 who doesn’t have the attention span to watch an entire TikTok video, these updates were probably like reading Leo Tolstoy do an hour-long jazz set on watching his lawn grow. But having that “container” to do this, without comparison to other platforms – that gave me the freedom to sit down and do this without being blocked on exactly what to do.

* * *

When I sit down to write on Rumored dot com, this is the thought pattern when an idea pops into my head that typically makes me give up and go waste two hours doom-scrolling investment news:

  1. <XYZ> is boring.
  2. You already wrote about <XYZ> in 2011.
  3. Nobody cares about that memory of going to the Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, Indiana on the morning of Friday, August 24th, 1990, buying a new car battery for your 1984 Turismo at Target, and then spending two hours playing Tetris on the Gameboy display because your shift at the English computer lab at IUSB didn’t start until noon.
  4. You can’t write about <XYZ> in a public place because some family member will see it and get pissed off, or it will come up in a search result five years from now during a job interview.
  5. <XYZ> is some disparate thought, and what you really need is some SEO-friendly format, like only writing about pay phones or media trends or book reviews or… something, a format that will draw in people, one or two set things that I can focus on every time I write.

* * *

That last one is what kills me. I’ve complained about this a lot, especially during the “Golden Era” of blogs (which, christ, was 18 years ago now) when people suddenly decided blogs had to be “about something.” And that wasn’t because some grand arbiter of taste codified the online world and listed out what you could write about, and it wasn’t a tool limitation, like you had to choose one of five things when you created your account and you could only do those five things.

Like everything else, this was about money.

People suddenly realized that instead of blogging being like jogging on a treadmill but for writers, blogging became a stepping-stone in the world of publishing. Blogs with a cohesive vision became more trafficked, so once AdWords and affiliate links were a thing, the blogs with the most visitors rose to the top, and got more visitors, and became A Thing. Blogging wasn’t about writing about your feelings. Blogging was about producing some self-contained docudrama about your persona’s supposed life, and were hopefully a launching pad to a book or movie deal. Or they were basically a self-produced magazine, about politics or news or whatever, and the line between mass-media and blogging became blurred until they basically became the same thing.

(I cannot count the number of times I wrote a thousand-word essay here off the cuff, just to burn two hours between work and dinner, and some other writer or random civilian emailed me and said “wow you should submit that at XYZ and sell it.” This always launched me into a white-hot rage. If I was trying to write puff pieces for McSweeney’s, I’d write them. I write here to write here, god damn it. If I was thinking about what markets would take my writing, I wouldn’t be writing. I could not walk 10,000 steps a day for exercise if I spent every waking moment wondering what media outlet would pay me for walking 10,000 steps. I walk 10,000 steps. God DAMN it why is this so hard for anyone to understand?)

* * *

(Stay with me here. I know I’m rambling.)

* * *
I’m not going to go old-man-yells-at-sky about how these damn kids don’t have an attention span to read anymore. They do if they wan’t to; that’s not the problem. I think the dopamine-killing feedback loop of social media has fully been documented elsewhere, and people fail to factor in that people don’t have time and have too many other competing things to prevent them from sitting down and reading a series of 2000-word blog posts like we used to do during every office workday in 2003. I get it.

There’s a much more subtle thing that happened with this tool evolution, aside from the shortening of the media form. The “democratization” of tools like LiveJounal, then Facebook, then Twitter, then TikTok made it easier for anyone to journal their life in real-time. When I started this site, I had to write code by hand, telnet into a remote computer, and use unix commands on a terminal to publish each day’s page. Now, you get an app on your phone, press a button, and a video of your dance routine is live for the world to see, which is great. Anyone can do this.

But the issue is this has transformed the nature and value of the word “blogging.” It used to be that blogging was about constructing a text essay to post. Now the word is a generic verb used to chronicle something in any format online. Live-blogging used to be a CNBC journalist feverishly posting up-to-the-minute copy about the 1998 midterm elections. Now it’s someone taking pictures of their visit to the grocery store. Blogging has lost all meaning. There’s no way to give meaning to the term again.

* * *

I think the most frustrating thing with blogging is that if you search for the term “blog,” the first hundred results you find are people saying you need to create a “blog” to generate SEO for your dental practice or real estate venture. The Reddit group on blogging is filled with people “finding their niche,” which means drilling into a genre that can create a profitable drop-shipping business. People don’t blog to express anything. They use blogs to store marketing content to game search engines.

Because there’s no money in this, there are no successful blogging platforms anymore. They have all been overrun by people selling boner pills and work-from-home scams. Blog discovery is now impossible. Any mechanism to create a directory of blogs or link together similar blogs will quickly be exploited and gamed by vitamin tycoons and destroyed. And once any fun personal hangout where you can converse with authentic people gets overrun by sales bots peddling a revolutionary new mop, they leave. It happened to Blogger, to MySpace, to LiveJournal, and it’s currently happening to Facebook.

Case in point on the blog directory thing: I just searched for “blog directory” and clicked the first result, then clicked the first article shown, and it was “Great Ways To Increase Customer Engagement!” Stock photo of a bearded hipster guy at a Square point-of-sale in an all-white store, smiling at a smiling woman from a Gap ad. Exactly 600 words long. A listicle. Exactly four outgoing links. Textbook SEO. Garbage. This is where we are. This is the entire web. It’s all useless. Old man yells at sky.

* * *

There are like 17 other things in my list of reasons we got to this point. RSS died. Google Reader died. WordPress is horrible. PHPbb is horrible. Blogger got bought and then left in the yard to rust. Every Tumblr in existence got banned for being NSFW. Everyone switched to reading on their phone, which left many sites unreadable. Video. Walled gardens. Privacy concerns. Whatever. I can go on forever. I’ll stop.

The truth is, I have a Notes document that has a list of URLs on it, of every blog I still like to read. Maybe once a month, I find a new one and paste it in there. Maybe six of them still post regularly. I revisit the other ones, read old posts, wish I could find more blogs about nothing.

Blogs are still important. Someone needs to figure this out. I need to stop caring about someone figuring this out and keep writing here. I don’t care if nobody reads it. There are 1,381 posts here. That’s a good start, but I need to keep going.

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general

Things change, pocket change

Day off today – I took a four-day weekend, no reason – so I headed to the mall in Pleasanton to buy a pair of pants. I have a wedding next month, and every pair of dress pants I own is comically large at this point. I got to the mall at about 10:37, and didn’t realize that it wasn’t officially open until 11:00. I went inside anyway, because the concourse was open, but half the stores were just booting up, the gates halfway open, lights off, employees setting up signs or counting down registers. It gave me an intense nostalgia flashback, of every time I’d opened at Wards thirty-something years ago, the usual crew of people I knew at every other store setting things up for the daily grind, walking to the First National at the main entrance to drop off last night’s take, stopping at the MCL Cafeteria for a cup of coffee before 10:00 came. The general vibe of a pre-opening mall really threw me back to the summer of 1988. I almost expected to go back into the parking lot and find my rusted Camaro waiting for me.

I got in my walk. I did not get the pants. Everything is now “stretch performance wool,” which is essentially spandex. Also, Macy’s is now JCPenney. JCPenney is now K-Mart. K-Mart is now largely gone. I don’t even know what Sears is.

* * *

Speaking of “Amazon is taking over,” in some contrary news, it looks like Amazon is closing all of their brick-and-mortar stores. I actually liked the feel of the stores, mostly because they looked like a rip-off of Borders, albeit much smaller. I’m all but certain these stores were a sophisticated data mining experiment and nothing more. Even the stock on the shelves was a data-driven algorithm, which was bizarre and somewhat maddening for a person who doesn’t read Oprah books. I’m sure they’re doing a lot more of that with their Whole Foods stores now.

A happy coincidence: so, B&N in Walnut Creek closed around the same time the Amazon store opened. Now, Barnes and Noble is actually opening a new store in Walnut Creek right as Amazon is closing. They didn’t get the old location back, and I’m sure it’s a smaller footprint, but that will be nice to see. As I’ve said before, I used to think B&N was The Enemy, and it’s hard for me to root for them now, but I really don’t want to see the one by my house in Emeryville shutter.

Another odd coincidence, Morgenstern’s books reopened in Bloomington. I’ve written about my memories of Morgenstern’s a  while ago. It’s not in the same place anymore (I think the old strip mall location is now a FedEx) and Keith mentioned from his first visit that it’s nowhere near what the old one is. But at least there’s something, especially since the Borders and Barnes and Noble that jumped into town and killed the old location in the late 90s are now both gone.

* * *

About the picture above: that’s from 1994, the day of Bill’s wedding. I’m standing in front of my old apartment at Colonial Crest, where I lived from 1993-1994. In another bit of dumb nostalgia, I just heard that Colonial Crest, which is now called The Arch, is being torn down and replaced with a new apartment complex, some 5-over-1 monstrosity with a dumb generic name and high rents for rich students.

I did some digging and what’s funny is that these apartments rent for only marginally more than I paid almost thirty years ago. I think we split a $500 rent on a 2br/1.5ba townhouse, and now they go for about $700. That’s saying a lot about the deferred maintenance issues of the place, because it was maybe about a C- in quality and value way back then. I’m sure the redevelopment is for the best, given the student population and need for housing and all that.

That said, I have a lot of strong memories of this place. Various pivotal relationship things happened here, and the start of my writing career happened here in apartment #144. I also didn’t have a car most of this year, and walked the two and a half mile route to school pretty much every day, rain sleet or snow. That long shot down Walnut or College is burned in my head, the zig-zag pattern I’d traverse to cross the northwest side of campus and get to Lindley Hall. All of this is different now. The computer science department has a new facility built where the old Brown/Greene dorms used to be. The long walk up to the UCS offices at 17th street where I worked used to be empty green fields; it’s now a giant dorm, built last year. The UCS office was completely redone into an alumni center. Everything has changed. Things change.

* * *

Another weird one: they are renaming everything named Jordan on campus. Turns out former university president David Starr Jordan was really into eugenics, segregation, and racial purity. Problem is, IU spent a century naming damn near everything after him: a biology building; a river; a main avenue cutting across campus; a northern extension to said avenue; a parking garage on that avenue; a bus route on that avenue; a shopping center. The street is now Eagleson Avenue, or David Baker Avenue for the northern part. (Named after the jazz great, not the architect who coincidentally designed my current home.) The river is Campus River; the Biology building is Biology Building. I think people expect everyone to take sides on the woke/anti-woke thing. I agree with the name change. It’s just interesting to me, given the number of times I reference Third and Jordan in my first book.

Things change. People change. Pocket change. It’s actually odd how I never have change in my pockets anymore. Anyway.

Categories
general

Death of the Tanforan Mall

So, another one bites the dust. Tanforan Mall (aka “The Shops at Tanforan”) in San Bruno got bought for $328M recently, and will be razed to build a mixed-use biotech research campus and housing.

Tanforan has a weird history. It was a horse racing track at the start of the 20th century, and Seabiscuit used to race there. It was also occasionally used as an airfield. Then in 1941, they used it as an internment camp, housing Japanese Americans in the old horse stalls as an assembly center until they moved everyone to more permanent relocation centers in 1942. Then it became an Army camp, then a Navy base, then a racetrack that burned down, and then in 1971, it became a mall. It underwent a major reconfiguration and reconstruction in 2005, and they added a large movie theater in 2008.

I moved to South San Francisco in the fall of 2008, and for the year I lived there, this was my default mall. I drove past it every day on the way to work; I shopped at the attached Target pretty much weekly. The giant Barnes and Noble was the place for skimming computer books, and I bought my first iPhone there in 2009. My dentist was (and is) there, and the Petco was the usual place to grab cat food and litter on a regular basis. I also remember watching a ton of movies at the theater there.

It’s weird because the building itself is physically in great shape without the usual deferred maintenance problems you’d see in a shuttering mall. They basically rebuilt everything from the ground up except the anchors in 2005, and the structure, especially around the food court atrium, looks incredibly modern and new. But it’s not that physically big – the main concourse is maybe eight or ten shops long. And it’s had all the usual exits from national chain bankruptcy and degradation: Forever 21, Toys R Us, Old Navy, and most notably the death of their Sears, which was probably 30% of the total square footage of the place.

All of this area around South San Francisco is exploding with biotech campuses and identical-looking housing complexes. This mall is right on a BART train stop and very close to the confluence of multiple highways, so it’s super valuable land. This project won’t be one of the usual ho-hum de-mall jobs where they slap down a strip mall or a fake “town center” and then 95% of the stores sit vacant forever. I’m pretty sure that in a year, it will be crammed with science fiction buildings that sprouted up instantly, like the long stretch of glass towers of science lining the 101 now.

I was just in the old neighborhood last month, and it’s amazing how the bones are still there, but wide swaths of old sprawl have been instantly replaced with 5-over-one buildings with goofy names and slogans. (“Cadence apartments – where life, style, work, and play come full circle!”) We vaguely looked at buying a townhouse or condo in that area in 2009, and I can’t imagine what it would be like living there now.

It’s dumb and typical that a mall where I spent so little time has such a nostalgia hold on my brain. I’ll be sad to see this one go. Also, I need to find a new dentist now.

 

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general

New Project: Random Life

I’m starting a new video project. It is called Random Life.

TL;DR: Random Life

The long story:

I have always been a fan of Structural films, or minimalist filmmaking. This started with Richard Linklater’s movie Slacker, which I always liked because it captured the zeitgeist of a college campus at the end of the 80s/start of the 90s. I think a lot of people like the funny characters and weirdos of the movie, and I appreciate that, and the non-linear-but-really-linear structure, which was a big influence for my second book. But what really got me was how it captured the atmosphere of being on a campus in the summer. It trapped in amber that feeling, the sparseness and the undertone of it, the wide shots of off-campus housing and dive bars and Texas landscape.

Go backwards a step and you get to his earlier self-produced film, It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. This is a largely non-narrative movie he shot on his own, about 90 minutes of Super-8 footage of him taking a trip on Amtrak to Montana to hang out with some friends. This is like Slacker minus the plot gimmick, and most people would think this is like watching paint dry, but I’ve probably watched it a hundred times. I sometimes leave it on a loop while I’m writing. It documents that exact time in history perfectly, the way it looked in 1987 or so, living in the dregs of student/dropout life.

The commentary of that movie led me to Structural films, like Michael Snow or George Landow, and then thanks to Linklater, I fell down a deep wormhole on minimalist James Benning. There’s a lot to be covered there, and it gets a little too art-school, especially in how it’s framed and explained for galleries. But at least there’s a formal name for it, and it’s a thing.

Another thing: I love “slow YouTube.” This started with Astronaut.io, which I’ve covered before, but is a great way to watch short clips from an endless list of random, no-traffic videos. Then I got into long videos, things I could run in the background. A couple of my favorites were a guy in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, building a log cabin by hand and a seven-hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo, Norway. These have a specific audience, and probably aren’t great for folks who expect a Pixar-perfect plot line in everything they watch, or if you have zero attention span. But I love this stuff.

I also love videos that are documentation. The classic example is Heavy Metal Parking Lot, but there are so many other gems out there, like this video of a 7-11 at 2:30 in the morning in 1987. Or Lyle Hiroshi Saxon has a YouTube channel that has videos going back 30 years of him wandering around Japan for hours, capturing nothing in particular but everything. And my absolute favorite of this genre is Nelson Sullivan. He dragged a full-size VHS camera and shoulder-luggable deck through Manhattan in the 80s, capturing tons and tons of footage of the club, arts, and drag scene back then. It’s awesome that he captured and documented a large amount of musical performances and shows, but the stuff I love is when he’s randomly taking a beat-up subway to Coney Island in the 80s.

Vlogging is common now. But today’s influencers are chasing viral attention and endorsements. Their short action-driven bits about product placement are meant to draw people in quick. Everything is overproduced and a two minute video will have three minutes of ads. I have no use for that. I want raw footage that goes nowhere.

* * *

So, the project.

I bought a camcorder in 1996. I don’t know why, maybe I thought I would Kevin Smith a film, or maybe a bonus check burning a hole in my pocket. I shot some random stuff with it, and used it a lot on my 1999 trip across the country. It was a huge pain in the ass to lug around, and I didn’t vacation much. But I shot maybe a dozen and a half tapes in the 90s. I never did anything with them because they had no narrative, and they also didn’t look great: grainy, blown-out colors, too much vignetting in  the lenses. Of course, now people download apps to specifically get that nineties look, so that liability is maybe an asset.

There was a gap there, but then in the late 00s, my point-and-shoot camera could suddenly take videos. And then my iPhone could, and starting in 2014, my DSLRs could shoot movie-grade video. Anyway, I have a ton of old footage I’ve never used, never cut, probably never even watched. And I need to do something with it.

That’s where Random Life comes in. I’m starting to dig through this, and post regularly to that channel. I’ve already started uploading and scheduling daily video drops, and will hopefully keep things good and random. I’ll also start shooting more now. What I shoot now won’t be important, but in ten years, it will be.

The focus: I’m just trying to document. No narrative, no voiceovers, no music, no jokes, no storytelling. I don’t want to appear in the videos, and I don’t want to film characters. No voiceovers. Just footage. AND NO ADS. I’ll probably keep each video short. The goal is to have a full playlist you can put on random and flip through each of these minute-long videos aimlessly. That’s what I want, anyway.

I might quit this in a week, but we’ll see. I have no idea about branding and marketing this thing, and don’t care, but subscribe if you want and let me know what you think.

Categories
general

I would rather read my old LiveJournal than look at code I wrote in 1999

I’ve been digging around my machine trying to find any fun old projects I could throw on my GitHub page. What I’m mostly finding is how I get grandiose ideas for programming projects and then abandon them in a week. Some of the programming I did in college is absolutely laughable, but it’s also amazing how many things I’ve started that I’ve completely forgotten about.

I wrote a while ago about Nuke ‘Em, which is a dumb idea for a turn-based strategy game that I’ve chased every time I’ve moved to a new language or platform. I think the closest I’ve gotten to something running is a Ruby on Rails attempt I played with in 2008. But last night, I was digging through some C source code I wrote in 1999, trying to get a web based version of this going, and it was… interesting reading.

Looking at the code, it’s amazing how many ways I was reinventing the wheel, or painting myself into a corner. A few observations:

  • The project was a bunch of C source that would compile into a half-dozen CGI files that would then go onto a web server. When a user went to /user/login or whatever, that would run the login CGI binary. Why didn’t I just write a bunch of Perl scripts or some PHP for this? Well, I guess I already knew C, no use in learning something new and relevant.
  • Actually, some of the pages were generated by shell scripts which had forms where the action was to hit one of the binaries.
  • I doubt anyone would try to do something like use cURL to download the actual login binary, open it in a binary editor, and mess with it, right?
  • There was no templating system for generating web pages in 1999  (that I knew of; there probably was) so I had a routine to glue a head.html and tail.html template at the start and end of each generated page.
  • Part of the decision to do things this way was based on the limitations of my hosting provider, and part of it was price. I’m sure MS FrontPage would have made this all easier, but I think I was unemployed when I was doing this.
  • There is what I think is my first attempt ever at writing a Makefile from scratch. It shows.
  • The whole thing used a series of ndbm databases to store everything, including users, passwords, the map, and pending user turns. This databases were created in the /tmp directory and were world-writeable files. Nobody would think of looking around the /tmp directory of a public web server, so this was totally secure.
  • ndbm (or its predecessor NDBM) was basically like the first NoSQL database ever, sort of. (I would think a garage full of punchcards in random order would be the actual first NoSQL database, but whatever.) Anyway, it wasn’t relational, and didn’t have tables, so each “table” was just another file in the /tmp directory.
  • When you set up the world by creating initial users and making a terrain map and such, you would just run another binary which spat out the configured db files. Only an administrator could do this, because the files were different executables not installed in the hosted web directory. It didn’t check in any way if an admin was running the scripts, but it’s not like someone other than the admin would compile and run the source themselves and overwrite the world-writable files in the /tmp directory, would they?
  • There is a whole science to map-building, how to algorithmically scallop out water and land edges and mountains in some pseudo-random way to make a cool map of a world on the fly. This randomly generated a single-digit number for every square on the map and put that terrain in place.
  • For everything, and especially in the login, parameters like username and password are passed in the URL, because nobody would screw around and pass a bunch of garbage in URL parameters. And there probably weren’t search engines crawling and permanently storing parameterized URLs to do things like delete all users.
  • Oh, that password parameter is sent plaintext. It’s got to match the password in the publicly-readable database in the /tmp directory, which is also plaintext.
  • Players each have money they spend to build armies and buy missiles and stuff. Guess where that number is stored.
  • There is a separate library file (a .c and .h) that is chock full of dumb stuff that isn’t in the standard library, but I’m sure there are 863 different public libraries that do it, and if this was NodeJS or Ruby or Python, it would either be a built-in or it would be an npm/gem/library away. Like why did I write a routine to convert encoded URL parameters into arrays? Why did I write my own routine to convert ASCII strings into integers? Why didn’t I write something to encapsulate database calls, instead of pasting the same dozen lines across multiple files?
  • I don’t know why I did this, but the maximum length of a URL is malloc’ed to a size determined by reading an environment label, and I have no idea where that was set. (!?)
  • Not sure what C unit testing framework existed in 1999, but mine consisted of a file called test.c that ran a bunch of code and printf’ed the results to the console.
  • I never got to the point of putting in the turn-based logic, but my loose notes showed that I wanted to have a cron job that would fire every ten minutes (or whatever) and run a program that evaluated all of the turn moves and calculated out the combat losses and money spent and all that stuff.
  • No source control, of course. Lots of ~ and # emacs files, and lots of files copied with a .backup extension.

Sigh. Okay, a few bits of advice to myself twenty-some years ago:

  • The first is to learn PHP (ugh) or wait a few years and do it all in Ruby on Rails. I know Rails isn’t cool anymore, but it would have been so much easier to build models for all of the basic data types, then scaffold the whole thing, implement controllers for the bits of logic, and take the scaffold views and make them pretty. Of course I still can’t deploy Rails apps on my hosting provider, so that’s another issue.
  • Find public libraries to do the nasty stuff. It wasn’t as much of an option then, but it is now. The rub here is it never feels like I’m building things anymore; I’m just connecting together things that other people have built, and then trying to keep up with when libraries change or break. Having a solid ORM library, a templating engine, and something to deal with session persistence would have saved me a ton of time. (See also using Rails for this.)
  • Break things up into smaller tasks, like as MVPs for each piece. I sort of did this, looking at my notes, but I probably would have went deeper if I had really planned this a bit. I usually do it all seat-of-the-pants, and then get overwhelmed when I have nine different problems going on at once.
  • Think about security first. I know my thought was to have it all use no passwords or plaintext, and I’d lock it down after I got it running. I should have thought about that earlier, so I didn’t paint myself into a corner.
  • Source control, dummy. RCS was a thing then, and I was already using it for my writing. Check in often. It’s free.

(PS, I’ll probably start writing this same dumb game as an Electron app the next time I get bored.)

Categories
blog

Death of the Hilltop Mall

Hilltop mallNot a shocker by any means, but it appears that Hilltop Mall in Richmond has finally met its fate. It was just announced that logistics giant Prologis purchased the mall, which has been more or less closed since last year (although anchors Walmart and Macy’s were mostly open during the pandemic.)

Hilltop’s a weird one for me. I wrote about my first visit there in 2017, and covered the basics: built by Taubman in 1976; four anchors; a million square feet. Bought by Mills, it ended up in Simon’s hands in 2007, who completely ignored the property, and defaulted on their loans in 2012. It had a Walmart as an anchor, which is bizarre because it used to be a Macy’s, and it looks like Walmart spent fifteen minutes remodeling this mid-70s Macy’s into a Walmart by slapping on a set of signs they printed at Kinko’s and painting various trim blue.

Since I wrote that last post, the mall was purchased by a group that was going to do a full renovation and go with an Asian theme: stark white and chrome interiors, a Ranch 99 grocery store, a food court with various sushi restaurants and boba tea places and poke bowl vendors, etc etc. There were lots of fancy renderings with stock art pictures of white people walking around shopping, and lots of pretty landscaping and this futuristic space village look to it. They put up a ton of white-painted plywood with stickers and banners of the big planned reopening in 2018 2019 2020 late 2020. There were no signs of progress, except a constant hemorrhaging of stores. JCP closed, then almost every national chain (except Foot Locker) closed, and then the mom and pop places started quickly vanishing. I think when the pandemic hit, they were at something like 16% occupancy. I don’t know if they ever got money for this big remodel, and I think every store they said was going in never materialized. And then the pandemic hit.

I never knew Hilltop when it was alive and thriving, in the 80s/90s. It once had all the big national stores, and two movie theaters inside the mall, an ice skating rink, three toy stores, and lots of places to eat. All the various posts I’ve been seeing this week are filled with memories about this era, and I’m a bit jealous to never have seen this place in its full splendor.

I went to Hilltop maybe a couple times a month in the last few years. It was the closest indoor mall to my house, and I’m an old man mallwalker, so that’s what drew me. I had a fond relationship with the place because I love empty malls, love going walking in them in the middle of the day when nobody is around, and Hilltop was perfect for that. It also had that weird Taubman Logan’s Run-looking architecture I love, futurist-in-1976. It was like my secret spot, the place I could retreat when it was rainy out or the December weather went south and I wanted to hear loud holiday Muzak echo through a large, empty building.

There’s a nostalgia reverberation point for me with Hilltop that I can’t fully explain. It is a Taubman mall and has the same look as old Taubman malls like Woodfield in Schaumberg, Illinois, so it reminds me of the few times I visited in the late 80s and saw that astounding place. I remember going there with my friend Larry in 1989 and walking a lap around that place, which is double the size of Hilltop, and I think the biggest mall in the world back in that pre-Mall of America timeframe, and wondering when it would ever end. Hilltop looks exactly like Woodfield’s baby sibling, minus the stores and remodel.

But the thing Hilltop really reminds me of is Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, Indiana, the pre-remodel Scottsdale of the 80s. First, it’s a two-story mall, which was rare in Indiana, and had a second story with a balcony walkway that overlooked the courtyard on the ground floor. And before they redid Scottsdale in 1993 with bright whites and garish neon vaporwave colors, it still had this 1972 color scheme of brick and wood and hexagonal burnt umber floor tiles and a general dreariness, like a bad regional campus of a commuter college or an office park complex you went to make a car insurance payment or take a urinalysis test.

The 1990-1991 school year is a bad nostalgia point for me, because I attended and worked at a commuter college (IUSB) and only had a couple of friends there and really missed the main campus I went to the year before in Bloomington. Every payday, I would pick up my check at 9 AM, not have to be to work until noon, and would shuffle off to the largely empty Scottsdale to walk around, buy stuff I didn’t need at Target, and play Tetris at the Aladdin’s Castle. (I had a Tetris problem back then. Still do.) It had the same vapid, bleak feeling that Hilltop had, and I loved it, because it perfectly matched my emotional state. I had a lot of problems that school year, with money and dating and where I was going in life, and of course my brain goes back to those points in life more than those boring years when I didn’t have struggle. Since Hilltop was never changed, and still had that time machine back to 1990, that’s what I took from it.

(Scottsdale is long gone, demalled in 2004. I recently did some research on it, and I probably need to do a much longer article on it. Someday. These write-ups are getting more frequent and more redundant as the retail world implode. Maybe I need to stop writing this stuff.)

So, Prologis. They redeveloped the old Oakland Army Base a few thousand feet to my west, making it into logistics warehouses for the Port of Oakland. It was sort of amazing, because they tore down these old World War II-looking barracks buildings, and almost instantly, these large white and green warehouse buildings suddenly appeared. They would truck in giant concrete panels and put them together like Lego bricks. Seriously, it looked like a million square feet of brand new, modern warehouse would be teleported into place in like a week.

I know there’s a lot of talk about them redeveloping Hilltop with all the latest buzzwords people want to hear, and that they’ll have low-income vegan housing and live-work space and dog parks and a farmer’s market and whatever the hell else they can put in their fake renderings. I fully expect them to either completely demolish the mall and put in two million feet of generic warehouse space that looks exactly like every other Prologis warehouse. (Go do a google image search on “Prologis warehouse” and you’ll see hundreds of absolutely identical white buildings with green trim. It’s almost creepy.) If the building is structurally sound (it probably isn’t) maybe they will just paint the outside white, shut the entrances, gut the interior, and use that for storage. Or they’ll spend years in arguments with the Richmond city government, and end up bowing out in three years with nothing done.

Anyway. Fun while it lasted. I should probably buy a treadmill so I can walk during the rainy season. Here’s a Flickr album with a dump of my 2017-2020 photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQsQ4P1