Tuesday, July 31, 2001

According to the "blogdex", the current most popular link on blogger blogs is First Evidence Of Life Coming From Space Reported.

Blogdex is "a system built to harness the power of personal news, amalgamating and organizing personal news content into one navigable source, moving democratic media to the masses." Basically, what they're doing (and have been, for nearly a week) is indexing several thousand blogs, extracting the links, and making a daily top ten list of them.

What we've learned today is that bloggers, as a community, are very interested in space-born bacteria. As news of blogdex travels through the blogging community, however, I'm predicting many links to blogdex itself (I just contributed one). What will happen when the number one link is to itself? Will it create a feedback loop that will cause it to self-destruct?

Here's an article about blogdex from Wired: Tracking Bloggers With Blogdex.

Monday, July 30, 2001

Back when Bush the Elder was President there was a joke going around that if the President were to die, the Secret Service had orders to shoot the Vice President immediately. (Remember Danny Q?)

These days, the Secret Service has orders that if the Vice President dies they are to shoot the President immediately.

What a dumb shit!

Friday, July 27, 2001

It's been over two weeks, and I'm still without my computer. I called a couple of days ago and they said they were "waiting for a part." What part, I don't know. Neither did the kid on the phone. He was just reading some notes that the actual repair guy had written on my work order. It truly filled me with confidence.

The worst part about it is that I haven't been able to do any writing without it. I'm too adapted to using the computer to write. I never was very big on writing long-hand (if you could see my handwriting, you'd understand). I've always typed faster than I could legibly write.

In the days before the home computer, I used to write on a Smith-Corona "smart" typewriter. It was basically not much more than an electric typewriter, but it had a small amount of built-in memory. If my memory serves, it could store up to six documents with a total of about 25 pages of text. You couldn't write a novel with it, but it was enough to get me through my undergrad paper writing years and write quite a few short stories.

The screen was only one line, right above the keyboard and below the open area where the keys would come up to strike the paper. I think it displayed either 16 or maybe 20 characters, which was barely enough for one short phrase. Editing was a bitch. But at least you could edit, which made this machine far superior to the typewriters I'd had before it.

When I started graduate school, and 25 pages went from being the maximum length of a paper to the minimum length, I finally joined the computer age. Now I'm lost without the darn thing.

Of course, what brings all this up, is that just because I don't have my computer doesn't mean that my brain has stopped coming up with ideas. In particular, I've been thinking a lot about a certain book project I'd put aside a while back, and now I think I know how to attack it. I just hope I get the computer back before the inspiration fades, or, dare I say it, I have to resort to pen and paper...

Thursday, July 26, 2001

There. That did it. I'm forty years old, and the sun still came out this morning. I just think about it this way: If there were fifteen months in a year, I'd only be thirty-two.

Carmel was great, as it always is. We stayed at the Mission Ranch Inn, which is owned by Clint Eastwood. As the name suggests, it is located by the old Spanish mission, with a great view of the mountains, the mouth of the Carmel River, and the ocean.

We've stayed there a couple of times, but Tuesday night was the first time we'd actually seen Clint. While we were eating dinner he came by the restaurant, and stopped to talk to a couple who were eating a couple of tables away.

I exchanged a quick nod and a smile with Mr. Eastwood, but I think he realized I wanted to keep my birthday a low-key affair because he didn't come over to out table to embarrass me by singing "Happy Birthday" in front of the other guests.

Spending a couple of days down in the Monterey/Carmel area is always rejuvenating, and always makes me realize how damn lucky I am that we are have the proximity to be able to visit here a couple of times each year.

Life is good and, statistically speaking, I'm only halfway through it. Here's to the next half.

Monday, July 23, 2001

Today is my last full day of being in my thirties. Yes, tomorrow I finally turn forty, and I really don't care.

Really. I think I've already stressed about it too much over the last couple of months. Now that it's finally here, it doesn't seem like such a big deal after all. I still don't like the concept of being "middle-aged" - but I can deal with the numerical situation.

However, I do plan to be away from home tomorrow, just in case. I really don't want to be answering the phone all day, saying, "Yes, forty. Thank you." Leslie and I will be going to Carmel for the day and night, returning sometime Wednesday afternoon.

I had already reached these conclusions regarding age before reading the news this morning that George Harrison expects to die soon from cancer. Over the last few years he's been treated for throat cancer and lung cancer, as well as having had to recover from a knife attack from a would-be assassin in his home. Now he's got a tumor in his brain.

Despite all this, according to Harrison friend and former Beatle producer, George Martin, Harrison is still feeling positive and not letting this get him down. "He does realize that everybody has got to die some time," says Martin. "He has been near death many times and he's been rescued many times as well. But he knows he is going to die soon and he's accepting it perfectly happily."

After that, how can I complain about just another damn birthday?

I'll post again when we return from Carmel.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

Three hours after Kenneth Fitzhugh said he discovered his wife's body, he told police it was her black shoes that killed her.

"I saw the black shoe -- the goddamn black shoes," Fitzhugh shouted, pounding both fists on a table in a taped interview with Palo Alto police.

No - the above is not from a new short story I'm working on - It's from the Mercury News. Who needs to write fiction when the real world provides shit like this?

Here's the full story: Part One: The Black Shoes - Part Two: The Bloody Nikes.

In other news, in other places... The race for Mayor of New York is heating up as more candidates enter the field. Two of the latest are former subway vigilante, turned promoter of vegetarianism, Bernie Goetz, and former stand-up comedian, inspiration for "Cosmo Kramer" of Seinfeld fame, turned professional huckster and cash-in artist, Kenny Kramer.

It's hard to tell which is more frightening, the guy who nearly two decades later still stirs up the worst of New York's racial fears, or the guy who's proud to have been the model for a sit-com character.

Quote of the day: "Now that China is hosting the 2008 Olympics, the nominations for mascot are rolling in. How about 'Blim Blim: the Re-educated Panda?'" - Will Durst.

You all have a great weekend - I probably won't be near a computer for the next few days to post anything new, and if the above is any indication of the direction the world is going in, I may be better off with a little isolation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

This is for real. When I first heard about second-hand a couple of days ago, I thought it was a joke. But it's real. Sliced peanut butter. In individually wrapped single servings.

Finally, all that inconvenient spreading that's kept me away from eating peanut butter has been eliminated. Think of the time we'll all save, now that all we have to do is somehow peel the peanut butter off the little plastic sheets to make our sandwiches.

Now, if they can only perfect the single-serving pre-sliced mayonnaise and mustard, I'll be able to eat bologna sandwiches again, too!

In other news, I've decided to resurrect Room to the Left: Third Party Politics, my column at Suite101.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

It's been far too long since I've posted, but I'm still without a computer. At this point, they still haven't even gotten back to me with a final estimate of how much ransom they'll extort from me to fix the damn thing and get it back to me. This would be a good time for those of you who enjoy these ramblings to notice the PayPal tip jar near the bottom of the page.

Greg Kihn Live! - During the summer free concerts abound in the Bay Area. San Jose holds theirs Thursday nights, and the season usually kicks off with local favorite Greg Kihn. Greg Kihn? I hear some of you ask. Remember such hits as Jeopardy ("Our love's in jeopardy, baby") or The Breakup Song ("They don't write 'em like that anymore") from the late 70's through the mid-80's? That's the guy.

These days Kihn is a morning DJ on the San Jose classic rock station, and the author of several horror novels. He also keeps the band together and plays a few gigs each year. And, believe it or not, he still puts on a hell of a great live show. These days the band features Greg's son, Rye, on lead guitar - the best lead guitarist he's ever had in the band.

The show is an interesting mix of music, with them as likely to play a Rolling Stones song as something from their own prolific history. They played for at least two hours (we got there a little late) to a wildly enthusiastic audience. The presence of booths selling pizza and beer certainly helped the atmosphere on a beautiful cool Bay Area summer night.

Over the weekend (following Greg Kihn) I finished up The Fourth Hand, the new John Irving novel. I really enjoyed it, it kept my attention and I never once thought of putting it aside. Still, it's certainly not his best. In many ways I think part of the problem was that it's simpler than most of Irving's work. It's not only shorter (about 300 pages, compared to his usual 500), but there are far fewer characters populating the pages than usual. And only one of them dies, and you pretty much know he has to die early on, or there can be no story. (Most John Irving novels track multiple generations of characters, and include many emotional death scenes.)

In some ways, I'm tempted to say that he was spoiled by his recent Oscar win for the screenplay to "Cider House Rules." The simpler, almost stripped down, nature of The Fourth Hand reminded me of how one might adapt one of his longer novels into a cinematic form.

For John Irving fans, the book may be a bit of a let-down, but it's still probably better than 95% of what you'll find on the shelves of your local book seller today. Recommendation: If it interests you, certainly read it. But if you want to know what all the hype is about John Irving, you're better off with "Cider House Rules," or "A Prayer for Owen Meaney," or "A Widow for One Year," or the original classic "The World According to Garp."

Friday, July 13, 2001

No computer. Going through withdrawal. Painful in brain. Sneak in a quick blogging session from work. This will be a long weekend with no net.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Read all about the new science fiction adventure, Taxes in Space! This is no joke. The Los Angeles County tax assessor is trying to collect property taxes on a couple of geosynchronis satellites owned by Hughes Electronics. Check out L.A. County Targets Satellites in Out-of-This-World Tax Plan for details.

Meanwhile, I you may be hearing a bit less from me, as my computer is currently out of commission. The hard disk is apparently on strike right now, and the computer itself refuses to recognize it. I'm blogging from work, which, of course, is not really the right way to be using my time here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Now we've got to get cable television. Well, we have a television, but it's largely useless as we don't have cable, and without cable we can't even get in the major networks. Nothing, nada, zip, without cable. So we watch videos.

A friend just loaned us a tape of the first five episodes of Six Feet Under. Either we've been TV-deprived for too long, or this is one of the best shows ever. Leslie and I each loved it, and are addicted. We made sure the friend realizes that he's now responsible for taping this for us every week.

If you have access to HBO, either in your own house, through a friend, or by checking into the local Holiday Inn, do yourself a favor and watch Six Feet Under. You can thank me later.

I've also been keeping busy the last day-and-a-half getting into the new John Irving book, The Fourth Hand. I'm at page 90, and loving it so far. More on this later...

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Let me take you back to 1984. I was living in San Luis Obispo, California (of course). Twenty-three years old, but acting much younger. I had only been living in SLO (as we locals called it) for a few months, and was still sort of exploring the city. One day, after work, I decided to take a different way home, through a nice residential neighborhood.

I'm peacefully going down the street, not too fast, but not too slow probably just about at the thirty-mile per hour speed limit - when from a driveway comes shooting out a 1963 Lincoln Continental, beige, rear end first.

He flies out of the driveway, backwards, doesn't pause for the sidewalk or street, and lands directly in the passenger side door of my little black Datsun (before Nissan) 310.

I get out of the car and start shouting at him, because I'm twenty-three, and I'm a hot-head, "What's your f***ing problem? Don't you look, or at least use your damn mirrors when you back up?" (Please read at top volume).

The driver looks to be about eighty. He calmly gets out of his car, pauses, looks me up and down, and slowly drawls, "I've lived on this street for nine years, and I've never seen you drive down it before."

That really stopped me cold. I couldn't reply. Because, you know, he was right: I'd never driven down that street before.

Dealing with his insurance company was one of the only pleasant insurance experiences I've ever had. Once I mentioned who hit me, there were no further questions. They just said, "Mr. X?" (slight chuckle), "Just bring us all the bills, no problem." Apparently they were used to the damage his Continental could do.

I often think of that old man and wonder. If I were to drive down that street today, would he hit me, and if he did, would he have the same excuse? I'd love for him to say to me today, "I've lived on this street for twenty-six years, and I've never seen you drive down it before."

Then I could say, "Excuse me, sir. But do you remember a particularly sunny day in the late summer of 1984?" and just stop him cold.

Saturday, July 07, 2001

It's been a while since I've shared with you what I'm reading. I just, moments ago, finished An Unfortunate Woman by Richard Brautigan. It's billed as a novel, but it's really more of a journal, taking shape around the suicide of one woman in Berkeley, and the impending death by cancer of another woman.

In the book, Brautigan calls the journey a calendar map, as he travels from his home in Montana to the Bay Area (where he stays in the house where the first woman hanged herself), Chicago, Alaska, Hawaii, Buffalo, and Toronto, then back to his ranch in Montana. Collected along the way are little insights into the people and experiences that make up the journey.

Sometimes seeming to be very little insights, they somehow add up to a larger whole, and a satisfying read. Still, I think you do have to be a Brautigan fan to truly appreciate what the book is. Another thing that it is, is a posthumous release. Although written in 1982, it was not released until 1994 in France (ten years after his death), and July of 2001 in the U.S. (seventeen years A.D.).

The theme of the book, revolving around an unexplained suicide, is made even more poignant by the fact that Brautigan himself committed suicide in 1984. As I understand the story, he was despondent about his career, and had been unable to find a publisher for his latest works (possibly "An Unfortunate Woman" included). His body was found (if my memory serves) by his agent, who was coming to tell him that he'd managed to get him a new book deal.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "Brautigan" - click here and select any title that grabs your attention.

Friday, July 06, 2001

Shocking new economic news: People and companies with no money sometimes end up spending less!

Apparently this came as a shock to EMC, a hi-tech B-2-B firm whose earnings were less than expected this last quarter. According to a press release from Joe Tucci, EMC's President and CEO, "The earnings results for EMC's major customers -- the bulk of the S&P 500, for example -- have been like a ball rolling down a hill for each of the past three quarters. When our customers earn less money, most of them have less to spend on IT, and they take a longer time to spend what they do have. That means lowered revenue and profitability for EMC."

On the consumer side, sales of $1,000,000+ homes are down 21 percent in the Bay Area for the first half of 2001. Santa Clara County had a drop of 38 percent. "There are fewer millionaires, for one thing," explained Michele Musy, a real estate agent in Menlo Park. "That equates to fewer people able to be cavalier about what they pay for houses." Ahh, good. The problem isn't that pretty basic 1,200 square foot shit boxes of homes are overpriced at $1,000,000. No. The problem is we, the consumers, are not cavalier enough. Glad we got that straight.

Eighteen days to go: I'm running out of time to be a millionaire before I turn 40.

Thursday, July 05, 2001

Summer vacation is here, and Bay Area comedian Will Durst has prepared Dubya's First Report Card. Also from Alternet, on a more serious note, is Denying Dubya's Bribe: The Push to Reject the Tax Rebate by Alicia Rebensdorf - What to do with your $300 bribe, er, tax "rebate," how about donate it to an organization hurt by W's fiscal policies?

Here's my resume tip for the day: Always list your experience in dog years.

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. Not for the ham-fisted pseudo patriotism of flag waving politicians that always ends up being more about them, than about the reasons behind the holiday. But for what the Independence Day actually represents. For thinking about Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams and Tom Paine. For the ability to stand up for abstract ideas that hold in them the magic to make the world a better place.

Each year it gets harder and harder for me to remember that as this magic day approaches. With an idiot like W in charge, and his bionic side-kick, Dick ("We can rebuild his heart. We have the technology"), it's almost embarrassing to be waxing poetic about love of this country. But again, it's not about W, it's about my being able to publicly say that he's a fool, and still enjoy the fact that life is pretty good here, and can get even better if we give ourselves a chance.

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 - the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He had been very ill, but was determined to hold on. He opened his eyes on Independence Day and spoke his last words, "Is it the Fourth?"

A few hundred miles away, John Adams also died on July 4, 1826. Adams and Jefferson had been rivals during the early days of independence, but had grown to friends in their later years. Adams was supposed to have delivered a toast to a reception honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration, but due to his illness he couldn't make it. He sent his toast to be read, as it turned out, after his death. The toast was, "Jefferson lives. Liberty forever."

I love that story.

For a look at the materialism that's destroying us, see "THE CONSUMING AMERICAN DREAM by M. W. Guzy" from TomPaine.com.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

The city of Liverpool has now formally changed the name of their airport to the Liverpool John Lennon Airport in honor of their most famous (and dead) son.

The quote which will be carved into stone beneath the new name will be "Above us only sky" (from Imagine).

Meanwhile, here in the Silicon Valley, traffic was quite light this morning as cash starved high-tech companies have taken advantage of the Wednesday holiday tomorrow to "force" vacations on 20,000 employees this week. It was an odd feeling, as I've been off work so much lately, and today I was the only one going into downtown San Jose.

Monday, July 02, 2001

July is here, and the heat has come back with a vengeance. After several days in the seventies and low eighties, even a couple of light summer showers, it's back up in the mid-nineties.

We spent part of the weekend cleaning up the apartment and moving some of our stuff into a storage unit. Leslie is a second grade teacher, and all her classroom supplies, books, papers, etc., were all over the living room floor. Now they're boxed and stacked neatly in a 5 x 4.5 closet at the public storage facility around the corner. It looks much better there. It's cleaner there, too.

There's absolutely nothing new to report on the job front. I'm still working part time under contract for what's left of HandsNet and looking for something more permanent and sustainable (not to mention full-time wages and benefits). It's not looking too good for being gainfully employed before my 40th birthday, which is just three weeks away.

Yesterday on the phone, my mother wanted to know what the plans were for celebrating the big four-oh. I just laughed and told her I'd keep her posted. I suspect "not much" will be the final answer.

I have been doing some writing, however, but I'm not sure what will come of it. Been playing with some fiction ideas and character sketches. Yes, even on the days when you see nothing new posted here, I've still be writing. I've also been playing at ideas for how to actually get paid for that activity, but nothing solid so far.

And that's about the most depressing and boring entry I've posted here yet.

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