5/31/2005

5-31-05 - 1

5-31-05

Happy birthday to me. I'm 28. Two more years before it's officially pathetic when I play frisbee with myself.

On the way in to New York I took the scenic route out of Pennsylvania to go through Amish country. I've been there before, when I was a kid, but two things really strike me now - 1) lots of hotels in these random little towns; how odd for it to be a tourist attraction to just go and be near some humans who live simply; 2) I saw an Amish guy on a modern hip cruiser bicycle, which looked very weird; I also saw an Amish guy on one of those old foot-pushed scooters that you stand on with the big rubber tires, like people my age had in the 80's (of course, it was cool, so I didn't take a picture).s

5/30/2005

5-30-05 - 1

5-30-05

Still in Pennsylvania with family.

The Robert Horry Factor.

My back is killing me from all the driving and crappy beds. I dream of doing things like the Peace Corps, but my body is such a wreck, I can't handle hard living. I think my youth of computer obsession has permanently crippled me. It's odd because I look so fit, but in reality I'm a mess, I have pinched disks, a bone spur on my spinal chord, locked hips, displaced vertebrae, bound facia, etc. etc.

For some reason I find highways numbering really interesting. As I drive around I try to predict what the next highway's number will be. Over the years I've guessed at the system, but I guess you could just look it up online. The even numbers go east-west, the odd numbers go north-south. The multiples of 10 are the major E-W interstates, and they start lowest in the south with the 10, highest in the north. The tens plus 5 (like 45) are the major N-S interstates, and they start in the west with the 5, end east with the 95. The other evens and odds below 100 are semi-major highways that fill in the gaps. The 100's are offshoots of the corresponding sub-100, so like the 110 is an offshoot of the 10, meaning it connects to it and runs roughly parallel. The 200's are transfers or connections, so like the 210 is a highway that takes you to the 10, connects to it, but is not equivalent. The 600's are local loops, again labelled by the sub-100 they connect with. I'm not sure what the other 100's are, the 300's, 400's and 500's. I know the 405 in LA is of course related to the 5, but I can't figure out what the 400 means; maybe it indicates an alternate route for a portion of the sub-100.

Cotton thread count is the new shaving razor blade-count. People blindly think larger numbers are better. 300 thread count used to be deluxe, now it's 400, 500 - I saw 650 the other day; I'm not even sure why higher thread count has any beneficial properties.

How arrogant of us to call ourselves "American". That's a label for the people from two entire *continents* and we take it to mean just us. That's sort of like using the word "human" to refer to whites, it's supremely disrespectful of all other people who should be included under that label.

The defining characteristic of separate species is that they don't (willingly) mate. For example, horses and donkeys are separate species because they will not willingly mate, even though they are capable of copulating and producing young. The many types of domestic cat are not separate species because they will eagerly mate. The many types of big cats are separate species because they will not mate, even though they could produce offspring. Based on this definition, I conclude that ugly people and hot people are different species.

One of the crappy things about getting older and dating older girls is that they have more sexual history, roughly proportional to their age, though there is a lot of variance. I have a very hard time being with girls with a big sexual history; I can't stop wondering about what they've done. It's sort of like in Amelie or "Jeux d'Enfants". I imagine I'm a person who can touch a thing and suddenly have images of the past of that thing.

I'd like to do a video study on how blind people dance. Not people who went blind, only people born blind - people who have no idea of what "proper" dancing looks like, people who just move naturally to the music, unselfconcious, unaware of other people looking at them.

I'm dating a girl I really love, but I still think about meeting girls. I always have, I guess I always will; it's not that I really want to, in life I'm perfectly faithful, it's just that the romantic dream of meeting is always there; I'm bombarded with meeting fantasies in pop culture - all romance is about the new thing, not the lovely old thing. I dream of going out and picking up chicks, but the whole point of that is to meet someone great, so why would you want it when you have someone great?

I used to think I needed to get better at relating to ordinary people and enjoying their company. Not so. Ordinary people are shit. I need to find the good people, and stick with them and be good to them and cultivate those relationship - they're rare and special and worth it.

The Bridge Bust is a fair on the bridge over the Susquehana between Wrightsville and Columbia, quaint small towns in Pennsylvania. They close down the whole bridge and set up booths with crafts and crap and people walk around. The original bridge was burnt by the Confederates when they retreated across it, and at the fair they recreate the burning. Some of the old country homes and farms around here are just amazing.

I've been reading Michael Crichton's book "Travels". It's not fiction, it's a collection of non-fiction essays about his many wild adventures. It's rather a strange reading experience, because it's quite interesting, but I absolutely despise him, and it's strange reading the words of someone you despise; a sarcastic voice in my head does running commentary along with his narrative, picking on him, and pointing out the gross errors in his prose. Mike is a whiny, rich, lucky, spoiled bastard, who drives around in a Porche and dates young starlets nearly half his age, a different one each week; he of course is not happy with his riches and fame and women, so he seeks fulfillment in new age spiritualism and exotic travel. He goes on wild exclusive jaunts, like trekking to Shangri-La (in the near-Himalayan mountains of Pakistan), or to see the wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda (similar to what that Gorillas in the mist lady did). His insights into people and life are incredibly shallow and self-serving, generally rationalizing his own childish behavior. He has one whole essay about how people love to fear wild animals even though they're not dangerous (eg. people are afraid of snakes and spiders but they are incredibly unlikely to hurt you - the real things to fear are cars, hamburgers, cigarettes, etc); he comes to various silly conclusions and completely misses the right answer - people love to be afraid of those things because they aren't really dangerous, and it distracts us from the real fears; we don't want to see horror movies that are realistic, that would be terrible, we can escape the really scary things by pretending to be afraid of silly thing. One positive thing I get from the book is just the idea of making treks for really specific wild purposes. Generally when I travel I just like to go some place and be there; I don't even like to plan to see the tourist sites or anything, I want to meet the people there, wander, explore, just be there. That's all well and good, but it can give you a sense of pointlessness, and it doesn't generally lead to good summaries of what you did. If instead you make some random specific purpose, like kayak down the Nile, you can go and "just live" for a while before your central activity, then "just live" a few days after, and you have this focal purpose to give the trip an anchor. I like that idea, I think I'll do it in the future. addendum - the book turns into a metaphysical load of new age shit in the end, please do not buy it.

Statistically, if you hook up with someone random, you're far more likely to hook up with someone who is extremely sexually active than someone who is not. The variance is extraordinary - there are people who have been with 100+ partners, and others who have been with 1-10. Those people have drastically different chances of hook up, perhaps 50% for one and 5% for the other.

The Republicans clearly should be happy that they are in power. However, if sensible Republicans would look down the road a bit, they should be very concerned. 1) they've cultivated the power of the religious right, which is A) increasing the power of fringe groups, and B) may create a backlash from mainstream America if it goes too far. 2) they've broken down any government based on truth, and made it all image and pitching and PR, which is good for them now since their PR machine is so much better than the Dems, but long term it means that you can't fight real bad actions, the judgement is all based on non-facts.

G Love ; I'm watching basketball! Screw John Tesh.

5/29/2005

5-29-05 - 2

5-29-05

Why do they make toilets so high? Often I have to sit on my tip-toes, I imagine short people find their feet completely dangling; I find that very disgusting, somehow that connection with the earth keeps me from being completely in the control of this crap-covered porcelain monster. There seems to be almost no disadvantage with having a toilet too low, so why don't they err on the side of lower?

What species lives in more habitats and climates than any other? Homo Sapiens of course.

The vast majority of people at the veterans cemetery yesterday were very old, 70 or older, people who were contemporary to WW2 veterans, I imagine, spouses and friends and brothers of the dead. Most of our deceased veterans are from WW2, partly because those people are of the age where they're dying naturally, but also because that war was by far the most deadly in recent history. Even wars like Vietnam were pitifully harmless when compared to the great bloody war when this country made a true sacrifice. The young are taking their holiday and having fun. It's easy to romanticize WW2, because it was a just war, there was clear evil, and combat and strife for a good cause are ideals we can support. On the other hand, we didn't seem to care when the Japanese were torturing and enslaving people on the mainland, we didn't get mobilized because of what the Nazis were doing in ghettos and camps, rather we were mobilized for self-protection, and to compete with the USSR in the global power grab.

I'm crap at taking pictures. I never take pictures of the fun stuff. I used to want to be a photographer, because it's an easy way to be an artist with no talent, and the work seems great - you get to travel to cool places like war zones and night clubs and document the life there. You could also be a photographer of models or fashion where you'd get to pick up hot chicks. Unfortunately I find photography really boring, so despite my efforts to make myself get into it, I just can't. Especially these days when there are a bazillion great photos on the internet, why should I bother taking a photo of anything when I know a better one is already out there?

It must be annoying living near the border of Virginia and West Virginia. You'd get all kinds of confusion like "I'm in western Virginia" or, "it's in eastern West Virginia" ; I found myself saying "I'm in the western part of the state named Virginia, not in West Virginia".

Did you go to the University of Tennessee or Texas?

Pirates - we put the "Aarrrr" in robbery. (disclaimer : this might only be funny after sitting in a car by yourself for 10 hours).

Driving so much, I've been thinking about the "highway pickup". Many girls I know have told me that they met guys while driving, somehow flirting with each other through the windows of their cars. I've never met a guy who has done so. I have no idea how such a thing could ever happen; it's easy to summarize, but what exactly happens in the details, how does it get started? How do you pass your phone number without crashing? You'd have to take both hands off the wheel to do numbers. There are a lot of these things in life where people will summarize events, and it sounds reasonable in summary, but I just cannot imagine for the life of me how the details are filled in.

Ate crabs last night; Crabs are associated with Pennsylvania for me because we always got them here when we visited (they're very popular here as a party food for gatherings), even though the crabs are all from Maryland or North Carolina. Apparently there are seasons for crabs and this is just the beginning of the season; they're best in summer, I guess. The other foods of Pennsylvania are sweet white corn (in August), Lebanon Bologna (best purchased from a real country curing barn in Lebanon, PA), and the weird Pennsylvania Dutch food like scrapple, hog maw, or pork & sauerkraut.

I think the key personality difference between Dems & Reps is that Dems consider it more admirable to live to a high moral standard and fail (aka be hyppocrites) while Reps consider it more admirable to live to a low moral standard (what some would consider "evil") and succeed.

When I went to pick up the crabs, I was going to use a cardboard box that my grandma had. She didn't want me to use it, because she liked that box and didn't want the crab juice dripping on it. I tried to explain to her that if I didn't have the box, it would be dripping on my car instead, and my car is rather more valuable than a cardboard box. She said, well, she needs that box, she likes it. I find most people act this way in their lives, and certainly our country acts this way in our foreign policy. We'd rather destroy something of great value to someone else than inconvenience ourselves in a small way. We'd rather destroy the natural resources of the earth, which will permanently affect the planet that billions of our children will live on, rather than pay a little more for gas or lumber or paper. We'd rather kill a hundred thousand Iraqis than risk the remote possibility of that country contributing to a terrorist threat which might possibly kill a few hundred of us. We'd rather use subsidies and restriction to prop up American mega-farms, plunging millions of Africans into poverty and famine, rather than make a few American farmers find other jobs. Of course, when I face my own decisions of whether to make a sacrifice for others or not, I usually choose the greedy path, though I strongly reject the idea that you can only preach standard to which you live.

5-29-05 - 1

5-29-05

In Pennsylvania now with my grandma and cousins. I hadn't planned for Memorial Day and it threw a wrench in my works; I hate holidays, they just mean a lot of traffic and all the camp sites are booked. Maybe if I ever actually had nice holiday parties I wouldn't hate them so much. Much of my life I've lived not on a normal work schedule, and I've come to love things like camping in the middle of the week, or going to the beach in LA in the middle of the week; it's deserted, and the few people who are there are a different type of people - free spirits or people on vacation; there's no traffic and lots of open space.

Camped in the Great Smoky Mountains (Appalaichans). There really are strange hicks out here. The town of Bryson is a quaint old mountain town, with lots of innertube rentals. Back East here, it seems like almost every little town is nestled in a picturesque valley, filled with history (often involving how we killed the Indians who originally lived there). When I got here it looked neither Great nor Smokey, more like the Nice Green Hills, but on my way out it was raining and the clouds were depositted in fog banks in the nooks and crannies of the mountains, and I saw the smoke. There really are hicks in the small towns around here. Saw lots of wild turkeys hiking out in the backwoods. Turkeys spot you or hear you from far away, and they fly a short distance and make a mad dash into the brush. They make horrible crashing sounds, they seem very clumbsy, but they get away well. Turkeys here are small and reddish brown. There are lots of bears here, I was hoping to see one and wrassle it, but I never saw one.

5/26/2005

5-26-05 - 1

5-26-05

In South Carolina, visiting Drew (Drew says "USA! USA!"). We just had some crazy hick barbecue (not barbecued hicks, rather barbecue made and eaten by hicks) out in the country here, near Lexington. It's all pork BBQ, like pulled pork sandwiches; around here it's mustard-based sauce; in other parts of the state it's vinegar-based, they get into big fights about it. Drew has a great house in the country right on a lake, and he can do a mean powerslide in his 'vette.

Stopped in Athens, Georgia. Nice area, lots of old houses, lots of trees; walked around the botanical gardens. The downtown area is really cool, lots of nice cafes and restaurants and cool shops and stuff. It's about the same population as San Luis Obispo, but so much more is going on, the area is beautiful. Unfortunately it's blazing hot in the summer.

Southern kindness, my ass! People here are just as unhelpful as everywhere else. Maybe they're a bit more polite in their verbiage, but not one actually helps when you ask for things.

5/25/2005

5-25-05 - 2

5-25-05

Alabama has these giant Fireworks stores, like the size of grocery stores, full of a million kinds of fireworks I've never heard of. There's one in Shelton, for example.

Georgia has "Package Stores". From what I can tell they're a type of liquor store; the only difference with a normal liquor store seems to be that they're not allowed to sell single beers, but everything is very cheap.

Most of the cities down here in the south have no NPR station, but they have an abundance of christian news/talk stations.

5-25-05 - 1

5-25-05

Late night NO, just got back to the hostel after a night out. I went jogging this afternoon in the unbelievable heat and humidity; I took my camel back, and my body was transformed into a water-flushing station, I must have taken in a liter and sweated out a liter. Went to the Preservation Hall to see some old-school New Orleans jazz. This place is a gem - great music, cool old place, blazing hot with a ton of people packed in a little room with no AC. I met a girl there, Petra, who was also road-tripping, she just going around the South Eastern states. We went out afterward and had a drink. Music everywhere, some good, some bad. I wound up leaving Petra and found the street musicians I saw last night - just a mob of young black kids playing brassy band jazz with funky beats; it was just like a neighborhood dance party in the street, their friends were there dancing away, strangers stopping and joining in. The locals were amused by my dancing, they pointed and laughed and we all had a ball.

I'm not trying to meet girls on this trip, but I do like to meet people and talk to them, and it's just impossible to meet a guy and have a conversation, you men are so brusque and unemotional around other guys; the only people I can easily meet are girls that are cruising. I can chat a bit with girls that are with some other guy, but their attention is elsewhere.

I saw Antonio Esfandiari tonight. (for those of you out of the loop, he's a top poker pro, made famous by the WPT, but many of us consider him a jackass and rather lucky). This will be the 3rd celebrity of met and trash-talked! It's so much fun, I encourage anyone who meets a celebrity, do not just adulate them, flame them! They must get it all the time, I'm sure they're not amused, but it's great fun. It went something like this - me, not sure : "Antonio Esfandiari?" him, trying to get a cab - "you got it, kid" , me : "let's play some poker" , him - "not today, I'm playing tomorrow", me : "you scared of me?" , him - "yeah, I would destroy you, save your money" - me - "what are you gonna do?" - this is where I wave my arms in the classic Antonio way; his friends all laugh as he gets in the cab to drive away.

I hate people who are always in a "correcting" mode, even if they're often wrong. I realize I'm like that.

5/24/2005

5-24-05 - 1

5-24-05

Everywhere I go there are people talking about wanting to get into the video game business. I try to discourage them.

New Orleans is fan freaking tastic. It's a great party town, great jazz, fun bars, you can drink on the street and wander from bar to bar, the girls are wild and showing their tits all the time, everyone is dancing and having fun, and the quarter is cool, small streets with all the people crammed together. What's more, it has the history and food and great antique shops and such which make it interesting during the day. The India House Hostel is cool; it's very social and fun. The beds are horrific and the place is generally in disarray, I've hardly slept. Some guy in bunk room kept having nightmares last night, he'd yelp in his sleep every ten minutes. My aching back!!

Met some girls from Oregon last night who were here on business trip; they bought me drinks on their expense account. A lot of the drinks are cheap here, you can get $1 beer on the street and $2 beer in bars, and not Bud Light, but decent beers like the local Abita and Sam Adams or Newcastle.

New Orleans is an olfactory experience. Bourbon street is all tourist's perfume, puke and spilled beer. The Garden District is heavy and musky, with moss and mold and magnolia. The heat and humidity are sensual.

Saw Star Wars for the 2nd time. I liked it, but it didn't really hold up for me on 2nd viewing, though Natalie Portman's performance seems even better, the fact that she's able to convey some real emotion despite the ridiculous non-acting of Hayden Christiansen. The thing that really made it drop off for me was the CG. First time I saw it the CG just blew me away - the level of detail and realism - but now some thigns really annoyed me. The background and metallic stuff is still very good for the most part, but the organic stuff sucks. I *hate* that stupid lizard thing that Obi-Wan rides, it moves so horribly, and its shaders are poor - it looks like something from Babylon 5, all shiny and gay. I *hate* that they put CG bodies on the storm troopers even when they're using human heads - it would be CHEAPER to just use a real human for the whole trooper and it would look so much better. I know there might be a consistency issue, but that sets their standard for rendering the CG guys - make them look like the real one. Yoda still bugs me, and all the bits where the humans become obvious CG in their lightsaber fights (Count Dooku becomes CG pretty badly a few times). It's amazing how good human eyes are at picking up when something is off, even if you can't figure it out in your conscience mind. A lot of times I'll see some background and think "ugh, fake CG", but I can't say exactly what makes it look wrong unless I think about it for a long time. Somehow the subconscious can tell something is wrong, but it takes the conscious mind a completely separate analytical effort to explain it - the funny bit here is that the realization it's fake and the justification are totally independent mental actions.

5/22/2005

5-22-05 - 6

5-22-05

Datagrams and the Network of Trust : a new model for the internet. There's a ton of great information out there on the net that's not indexed by any search well. One example I'm thinking of are all the bits of goodies that people write in blogs. I want to be able to search those bits based on their subject, and of course also using something like the "NoT" to rate their content based on my connections and opinions. So the blog is not indexed as an entire page, but each paragraph or each "datagram" is indexed on its own by topic. There are lots of sources of these datagrams - blog entries, ordinary web pages, news & forum posts, review sites like epinions or igougo, etc. Of course you can't rank this stuff using the silly Google ranking based on links from other places, since most of these things aren't linked. You have to just know the subject, and then you rank the datagram just based on something like NoT - it's ranked by how I rank the source of the information (eg. do I trust this guy, or do I trust someone who trusts them, etc.)

Another thought on the NoT - I heard this interview on NPR with the head of the French national library. He was complaining about the fact that Google has a US bias. He totally understood the Google ranking. Some stupid bitch from Google was interviewed as well and didn't understand his point at all, she just kept saying Google's ranking was like a democracy where the internet voted for the page ranks. The French dude made two perfectly valid points about how the Google rankings are biased - 1) Google ranks have massive inertia, because once a page is highly ranked, people visit it even more, so it gets linked more, and 2) the Internet at the moment is massively U.S. content dominated, so the ranks of pages is heavily U.S. biased. The problem is if I'm some French dude, I want to see rankings based on my culture, my worldview, pages that matter to me, not to that American scum. Of course the anser to this is just the NoT. It provides page rankings that are customized to your own worldview, so if you are in a different culture and have a different set of connections, you get those pages.

I miss the good old Republicans. Of course, they never really existed, Republicans have always been fractured and corrupt just like the Democrats, but there's this idealized image of what the party was about, really in the 70's and 80's - the old idealized Republican was pro-business, free markets, civil liberties, balanced budgets, small government, less regulation, etc.. Now, like I said, that never happened, in reality the Repubs have presided over some of the worse imbalanced budgets and huge government growth, but it was the ideal. Now, I also disagree with that ideal in many ways, but I can at least respect it! It's a valid alternative view of how to run our society, and we could debate about it and reach a compromise, and it would be cool. I think it's great to have people with alternative views and we can all debate and learn from each other. I miss the good old idealized republican.

5-22-05 - 5

5-22-05

Jobs, religion, TV, booze - ways to avoid being alive.

Being alive I measure analytically by your frequency of "active actions". I know that's redundant; the first step is an "active choice". Then an "active action" occurs when you turn an active choice into actual action, eg. you do what you decided, just thinking is not enough. An "active choice" occurs when you make a decision about something that you don't need to decide about, eg. no one else is making you even think on this topic, you chose to think about it on your own, eg. it's outside of your routine, it doesn't come from an external force. The frequency & "activity" of "active actions" is your rating for "being alive".

It's so hot and humid in Houston, if you go outside and do anything physical, you're immediately drenched in sweat, just coated in liquid. It sort of feels good, it makes me want to have sex (even more so that usual).

5-22-05 - 4

5-22-05

When most people think about communism failing, they think about it failing from the top. That is, any sort of idealized communist/socialist/marxist or cooperative scheme is doomed to failure because some power-hungry, greedy people will take over at the top and turn it into a system that works for their benefit, and it will just be a form of Fascism. Now, this may be true, but I think it's much more depressing that communism is doomed to fail from the *bottom*. It's depressing, because I think Marxism is a beautiful ideal, and the fact that the very people at the bottom who it would help most are bound to destroy it, that's sad. The way I see it failing at the bottom is primarily through laziness and cheating on the social contract. That happens when workers don't work reasonably hard because they know others will cover their slack. It also happens when people don't treat community property well. Of course this happens in America all the time. Staying in hotels I think about how the American culture advocates trashing hotels and taking advantage of "the system". That is, run the AC with the window open, run the water and flood the bathroom, etc. etc. - you're not paying, fuck 'em. Of course it's not "the man" who pays - it's everyone who stays in the hotel. By fucking with a shared resource, you penalize everyone who uses it.

5-22-05 - 3

5-22-05

Hardly ever in my life have I ever been taken on a date. A few great people did it a few great times, but in this day & age of supposed equality, when are the girls going to step up and take some initiative? I don't even mean the asking out, that's a whole other issue, but once we're together, a couple, how about you plan our night out for once?

I'm partly doing this trip so that I can tell people I did it. That sounds horrible, but it's not, bear with me. Many experiences are sort of mediocre, but are important to do, because not doing them is worse. Hell, almost every time I leave my house I regret it, I would actually have more fun at home, but I have to go out, because if I don't I feel like a bum staying home all the time, and you have to see different things, get stimulation, even if the experience isn't actually fun, it gives you food for thought, helps your mind stay grounded to reality and connected to the cosmos. The real reward then comes after you go back to your normal life and you can look back on it and remember.

5-22-05 - 2

5-22-05

Star Wars - wow, this movie was really good. Sure the acting is very bad and the dialog is weak, but the visuals and the audio are just so amazing that it makes up for those flaws. What's more, the directing and pacing are suprisingly good, and the story is quite engaging. Knowing how it all ends does not make the movie less engaging, in fact it's the very thing that drives it - we're eager to see it unfold. So this is how Vader is injured, etc. Some miscellaneous thoughts -

Get Jimmy "Suave" Smits and Sam Fucking Jackson out of my space opera!!

How lucky was George Lucas to get John Williams? Wow, the music is still great and it's really carried the franchise.

Natalie Portman really reminds me of my dear Dan; maybe those are just beer goggles. It reminds me - the movie Closer stinks terribly, but it has a nice strip-dance scene with Natalie that's almost worth it (no nudity though) (also, Clive Owen does a great Pacino impersonation that's quite entertaining).

Huzzah to Lucas for putting in the political subtext. Star Wars was always a bit of a hippie message against power, but with this movie he's very obviously tied it to current events, and done it with lines that are obvious enough even for the pathetic average American to pick up on, like - "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" . Apparently there are lots of stories on this floating around, such as , so I won't dwell on it.

I'm sure I've written this before, but I really hate the whole Metachlorians thing, and more generally the way the Jedis are super-powered in these movies. Let's go back to when we saw the first Star Wars. Coming out of that movie, I wanted to be a Jedi so bad, and the powers of the Jedi were not ridiculous. The Force was just the energy that binds us all. If you close your eyes, maybe you could feel it! Certainly in the arms of your lover you could close your eyes and feel the power of the Force between you. The Jedi trained hard, controlled their minds and emotions, and developed quick reflexes and steady nerves and the power to feel the Force. Maybe I could do that too if I was pure and good and worked hard! What a beautiful dream. The new movies have crapped all over that. Jedis are not normal humans, they have these nano thingies in their blood that give them super powers to flip around and jump 100 feet in the air, etc. etc.

They could have done a better job connecting Episode 3 to Episode 4. As it is, the gear from Episode 4 that they link in looks very out of place and just silly low-budget (which it was). Most of the links were just pointless - Episode 4 is another 20 years or so in the future, there's no reason why Princess Leia's ship needs to be the same, and those guys need to be in the same uniforms. There are a billion logical flaws in the movie, I'm not here to point them out, Star Wars is not about logic, you have to set that aside.

5-22-05 - 1

5-22-05

Heard a press conference where Bushy said something like "these insurgents - they're brutal barbarians, you really can't relate to how they think" ; with rhetoric like this, is it any wonder that they hate us?

Heard an interesting interview with the new commerce secretary, Gonzalez, about the import limits we just imposed on Chinese textiles. It was an NPR interviewer who as usual was being polite and not really digging into hippocracy and contradiction and such, but the interviewer did poke a little bit, with a question like "how does this limit on textile imports fit into the administration's policy of free trade?" (this of course is happening while we're pushing for CAFTA), Gonzalez squirmed a bit, but then uttered one of those political statements that was very telling - "this administration's policy has been very clear and consistent - we support free trade around the world, to provide opportunities for American business to grow and reach more markets" , something like that - very clear in that the policy is to open markets for American companies, not to open markets in general, and there's no reason to open our own market, in fact the truth is we are one of the most protectionist countries in the world by far.

I finally finished the book about Rwanda - "We wish to inform you that we will be killed tomorrow with our families" (longest title ever). It's a very good book, everyone should read it and feel ashamed. There are any number of things in it that are just horrifying, but the thing that I keep thinking of is just the basic fact of human nature that most people are really really horrible people. That is, first I content that people in Rwanda are fundamentally just like people anywhere else (and places like Nazi Germany have mimic'ed this behavior). Second, in Rwanda when the Hutus were slaughtering the Tutsis, nearly every single Hutu participated in one way or another - some by acting, most simply by going along, naming names, or even just by not objecting, not helping the Tutsis. Only a few did anything to try to stop it, maybe 1% of the populace or less. Add 1st and 2nd and you can only conclude that the vast majority of humans, when confronted with the decision to either oppose a massive horrific human tragedy, or go along with it to save their own skin, they'll choose the second one. I walk the streets and look into the eyes of my fellow men. If a genocidal group came to power here and they were advocating the whites killing all the minorities (and killing any whites that don't go along with the plan) - would you go along with it, or fight it? I look into the eyes of my fellow men, and see people who would go along with it. Afterward they would claim they did nothing themselves, that they didn't know it was a genocide, that they had no choice, they would be killed if they didn't go along with it. I see all those Hutus as guilty. I see all the Germans in Nazi Germany as guilty, I see the Indonesians who did nothing for Timor - guilty, the Turks who did nothing for the Kurds, guilty, and all these Americans walking the streets - not only are they guilty of inaction on various cases of American attrocities around the world, but they are guilty of potential inaction - that is, put in the same situation as the Hutus in Rwanda, their actions would be shameful, and they carry the stink of their potential sin.

Maturity can be analytically measured. I believe the single behavioral observable sign is in the time horizon that the person uses for decision planning. That is, when the person makes action decisions, how far ahead are they (correctly) optimizing for happiness. An immature person (eg. a baby) makes decisions based only on immediate happiness - will choice A or B make me happier right now. The farther you plan (correctly) for happiness, the more mature. Note that I add correctly because planning far ahead, but doing so incorrectly, is not maturity. Note that incorrect is not the same as making mistakes - mistakes are okay; incorrect planning means using the wrong criteria or wrong method entirely, for example if you have a long time window, but you only plan based on happiness at the end of the window rather than for happiness over the period with some weighting (eg. making decisions that give you some happiness 10 years from now but sacrifice much happiness in the mean time, this is a false maturity).

The air quality in Houston & Dallas is some of the worst in the country, frequently at dangerous levels of pollutants. I realized just now that the people here really don't care, because nobody goes outside here anywhy, it's ridiculously hot & humid, people just stay in their nice air conditioned homes and offices, and if the outside air were poison gas it wouldn't really affect people much.

5/21/2005

5-21-05 - 1

5-21-05

In Houston now, at my mom's house. I lived in Texas for years, so it's too familiar, it's not part of the discovery, I want to get out of here. I'm headed for New Orleans next, I imagine it will be fun there, but fun really depends more on my own mind than the location, and a good state of my mind is easier to establish at my house. My god, I'm such a baby, how did people ever get by 1000 years ago? I need my good food, my A/C & heat, my nice bed, etc. etc.

A little techy note for you game developers - I've been listening to a lot of radio driving through the heartland and have heard a lot of interesting things. A lot of radio stations have done little blurbs on E3, and they'll do those little news comments, where like they run the report from the man on the scene, usually a standard AP report or something, and then the local personality makes a comment. Overwhelmingly, the local personalities are telling me one thing - PS3. A lot of game developers say maybe Xbox360 could take off, grab a good lead of market share and actually beat the PS3. I used to think that might be possible, but now I've totally changed my mind. The brand domination of Sony and Playstation is just too strong. For god's sakes, if they took a PS2 and scratched out the 2 and wrote in a 3, it would sell better than the Xbox360, no matter how much the Xbox stomps it technically.

I must become like a samurai, like a lama, like the kwisatz haderach - fully in control of my self at all times, master of my own mind.

I like the hotels in Arizona and New Mexico in the middle of nowhere. Pretty much everyone staying there is on a big drive between someplace in the east and someplace in the west. The whole town has a strange empty surreal feel; there's nothing to do at all, perhaps one dive bar, a really crappy swimming pool. Everyone is sort of in a limbo state, tumbling.

I think CA housing is clearly in a bubble, but I can't figure out how to profit from that.

5/20/2005

5-20-05 - 1

5-20-05

Oklahoma City late night. Who knew this was a crazy party town? The old neighborhood of Bricktown is packed with people already at 10:30 ; families are leaving the restaurants and drunk kids are already stumbling between bars. Graham's Country Dancing outside of town is hopping. The CityWalk is a trashy big bar in Bricktown where tons of locals scream and flirt; it's got lots of different theme rooms, a wild karaoke scene, etc.

I hate the way karaoke has become this fancy event now, where everyone sings so damn well, and shows off, like American Idol, doing vocal flourishes and stuff. Karaoke is fun because everyone is *bad*, you sing bad, you get embarassed, everyone laughes; Karaoke is also only fun

The right way for advertisers to beat TiVo and such is to make commercials that are so entertaining, people choose to watch them. That's really not that hard, they can do great comedy bits with real comedy stars, like Dave Chapelle, or do installments of dramas like the old coffee ads, etc.

I'm not sure what I hope to find out here on the road. At the moment it feels like medecine - long hours in the car, sleeping in my uncomfortable camp bed or the uncomfortable cheap hotel beds, away from my lover and my home. I'm going to force my self to stay out here on the road until I find whatever it is I'm looking for.

Today I saw many amazing things that I didn't take pictures of. For some reason I get in this mood sometimes where I really can't be bothered to get my camera out. Some of the things I saw - near Amarillo : that cars stuck in the ground thing that's quite famous involving some Ant people or something, the Big Texan, which has the 72 oz steak that's free if you finish it, huge huge stockyards full of cattle waiting for the slaughter, huge huge grain silos and grain elevators; here in Oklahoma, I've seen fields of wheat, still young; wheat mazes, not yet operating; giant modern windmills, like white obelisks, futuristic; one of the giant windmills underconstruction, with an even bigger crane lifting up the massive propeller fan.

In the panhandle, it's like a foreign country. Wide open fields. On the radio in Texas, at the hourly news break the announcer went over the prices of beef, just like most news people go over the DOW, eg. march cattle is up 35 cents to 80.75, etc. apparently they track a different price for each month. On the radio in Oklahoma, they do the same thing with wheat, winter wheat, etc.

Yesterday I was in eastern Arizona. Record heats for this time of year, 105 degrees, the kind of heat that makes you want to not get out of your car.

5/19/2005

5-19-05 - 1

5-19-05

I'm stopped at an internet cafe in Flagstaff, AZ. The cashier girl is talking about E3 to some nerdy guy holding comic books; I pointedly ignore them - I'm trying to get away from those people, not meet more of them in new places. Downtown Flagstaff is pretty cool; it's a bit small and a bit touristy, but it's all in old buildings when this was a stop on Route 66, with cool cafe's, lots and lots of bicycles, and everything indoor/outdoor.

I'll put some photos on the Yahoo photo page. I've just been at the grand canyon and picked up a bit of a sun burn. The grand canyon is amazing, but perhaps it's too amazing; it bludgeons you with beauty until you're numb and can't see any more. It's much easier to appreciate small beauties, a little twinkle in an ordinary scene. The grand canyon is one of the most international places I've ever been. German and Japanese tourists come in by the bus-load. The hikers I meet are Italian, French, Swedish. There's a full grocery store, the hotels are right on the rim; too many tourists, ruin the isolation. The checker at the grocery store is from Ecuador, he's here on a work-exchange program.

I haven't got into the road trip mind set yet. Maybe I'm still too close to home; I can think of just turning back and going back to San Luis and my beloved Danielle, and that sounds mighty good to me. I wish I could smoke; when I think of great road trips, I remember big American cars with a bench front seat and smoking.

5/16/2005

5-16-05 - 6

5-16-05

Now part of the timeline -


A continuing feature : what should I do with my life?

  • Make indie video games. Work at home and make games by myself, with contract art & sound. I think I could do this and perhaps be successful enough to support myself. There are some big downsides to this - for one, it's very isolating, you work alone all the time. The other is that this business is turning into the mainstream game biz - production values & costs keep rising, and it will be hard to compete with PopCap, etc. On the plus side, my productivity when I work alone is incredibly high.

  • Make interactive multi-media and art. This is similar to the above, but instead of making games, I'd be making interesting interactive experiences. This is actually much more intersting to me, but much harder to make a living at; I'd have to get funding from art galleries and grants and such, and I hate working that scene, basically begging people for money.

  • Write fiction (+ write music). This has always been one of my dreams, but it's the kind of thing where I could spend months on it and wind up with nothing. I'm also way out of practice writing real fiction, I probably suck these days. Making a living at this is hard to impossible.

  • Write non-fiction (on poker & software). I think anyone who reads this site agrees that my non-fiction writing is pretty reasonable. I think I could do this and make a living at it. Not sure how fun it would be. I currently have a half done book on poker that I think would revolutionize poker study, but the market for poker books is flooded right now, and without a celebrity's name attached, it would die. (if you're reading this and you're a well known poker pro, drop me a line).

  • Be a poker pro. This sounds good until you actually think about it. I also don't think I actually have what it takes to be a pro. I do think that my understanding of the game is good enough, my problem is that my emotional reaction is too strong, I can't recover from bad beats. On the other hand, guys like Mike Madusow seem to be able to have success despite being emotional babies and poor play, so maybe it's easier than I think? In any case, this doesn't seem like an actually fun job - the average hourly wage is not great, and it's very stressful.

  • Be a political science professor (write books, help think-tanks). I just had this idea recently, and it's sort of appealing. On the down side, I'd have to go back to school for a while, but politics and learning is very stimulating to me. I've always wanted to be involved in politics somehow in a way that would actually make a difference, and volunteering for the pol parties never seemed like it would help much. Being a prof, I could certainly reach all the kids in my class, and maybe write books, papers, that might have some affect (though plenty of wise profs already do this and it doesn't seem to help much). The down side is all the reality of academia - that's part of the reason I dropped out of my physics studies. To go from a BA to a PhD to a post-doc to an assistant professor to a tenured professor involves a lot of social politics and maneuvring and beaurocracy that's incredibly unpleasant.

  • Be a chef. I love to cook, but I think I like it more as a hobby than a job. This is one of those things where it would be great to be on top - be an executive chef who designs the menu and supervises the kitchen, but doesn't actually have to be in there slaving in the heat and the stress every night. Being a line chef actually seems pretty horrible, though it's romanticized in "Kitchen Confidential" and "Mostly Martha" and such.

  • Run a cafe or restaurant. I've always sort of wanted to do this, but I have no idea if it would actually be satisfying. Certainly it's incredibly financially risky (90% of them fail). I also would have trouble dealing with the stupid customers (if you've seen the British show "Chef", that's me).

  • Work on video games in the industry. This is the "keep on keeping on" option. I could work with a good team and make good games. I'd love to work with some smart, interesting guys on exciting stuff, and I certainly have that option now. But, life is short, there are so many other things to try...

  • Be a tech director or other type of manager in the game industry. This is my fallback career for when all light burns out in my spirit. I can become a corporate zombie and make good money with reasonable hours.

  • Run an alternative health clinic with my sister. My sister is a successful pilates teacher who has a small business and a big opportunity to grow. I think this is a fantastic growth business to be in. I would get a massage license and maybe a Doctor of Chiropractic or something so I could help, but mainly I would contribute money and business advice, and really it would be her business, she's the one with the skills. Certainly this would be very good for my half-crippled body.

  • Write newspaper/online reviews of restuarants, movies. This would be a pretty great job, and I think I'd be good at it; like most people, I think my taste is great, but in all seriousness I think I have broad taste and can express clearly what I think is good & bad about things. It seems reasonably easy to get into this field, because you can start small, just writing reviews online, then for the local small newspaper, and move into the bigger markets. I imagine it's very competitive and hard to crack into the real top newspapers.

  • Be an architect. I love architecture and think I have a good sensibility for it, as well as the good mix of math, physics and artisistic/spatial/emotional skills. On the down side, this would take a lot of school, and architecture is a nasty field where it's really great if you can be at the very top where you get a lot of freedom, but 99% of architects wind up designing strip malls and tract homes.

  • Coach a pro football team. This is included just because it was one of my childhood dreams. It's very hard to crack into this business without having been a player and moving up through the ranks, though it is possible (see Bill Parcells, for example). Working at the lower levels is not very appealing to me, that's more baby sitting than strategizing. It would be cool to be a consultant and do proper EV analysis of football decisions (run or pass, etc.)

  • Be a writer for the Daily Show or other smart comedy. This is included just because it was one of my childhood dreams. This would be an absolutely fantastic job, but surely very hard to get, and it seems I'm not so funny as I was in high school when I used to write comedy sketches all the time with my friend Jordan.

  • Just do fun/miscellaneous jobs. This might just be a temporary thing too. Some options are - work in a state/national park, work as an activity coordinator at a resort in Hawaii, work as a tour guide for rafting or biking trips, etc.

5-16-05 - 5

5-16-05

Tomorrow I leave for my cross-country trip. I'll have my lap-top and my camera and stuff so perhaps I'll do a bit of a photo-blog. The thought of that excites me a bit, but at the same time I don't want to spoil the genuine experience by living it as a documentarian. There's an interesting way that experiencing things as a reporter, as a blogger, as a photographer changes and often enhances your experience - people will talk to you more, take you back stage, try to impress you, give you their time & attention, and you yourself can live as an observer and not feel out of place.

5-16-05 - 4

5-16-05

Conversation with random people seems almost entirely pointless. The issues that interest me are 3rd level issues; that is, the 1st level is the basic definition of the terms and the facts; the 2nd level is the analysis of the interaction of the forces; the 3rd level are the subtle issues that are unexpected or things that arise from indirect interactions, influences, etc. In conversation, it's hard to even get past the 1st level. You have different ideas of what the basic terms mean, and most so-called "intellectual" conversation is just about defining the terms and fighting over agreement on the base facts - these are trivial issues, and their discussion provides no benefit UNLESS you are establishing a long-term dialog with this person and you will be able to progress to the higher levels in the future.

5-16-05 - 3

5-16-05

The basic problem with a capitalist/individualist society is failure to understand The Commons (as in the Tragedy of the Commons). In a Republican/Conservative/Ayn Rand/laissez-faire/darwinian capitalist society, the net result over time is A) flow of capital from the less capable to the more capable (okay, that's fine) B) destruction of the commons when it benefits the few, and net destruction of the system. The world is like a playing field, whereon the few can advance themselves by destroying the entire structure. Our society has no mechanisms to encourage individuals to benefit the greater good, and our moral philosophy is growing away from the benefit of the masses all the time.

5-16-05 - 2

5-16-05

If you slam on your brakes and THEN turn on your turn signal, you are failing to understand the entire purpose of the turn signal. It astounds me that 99% of the population are completely incompetent at the things they do every day. Okay, I can understand, most people aren't going to get [insert complicated thing here, Rocket Science for example], but these are the things they've done thousands of times in their life and they still fail to exhibit even the most basic understanding.

5-16-05 - 1

5-16-05

I hate capitalist friction. I have a lot of services that I now are screwing me over to the tune of several hundred dollars a year total - my bank, my cellphone, my cable, etc. - but I can't fix it. For one thing, many of them have virtual monopolies (due the cost of getting into that market), or it's simply too much trouble for me to cancel one service and switch to another, and take the down time of transition, or just all the time talking to customer service, etc. etc. Oh for the idealized fictional world of friction-free economics!

5/15/2005

5-15-05 - 2

5-15-05

When we went to war in Iraq I repeatedly raised the point of how ridiculous our president's black & white rhetoric was. We say we're doing it to support democracy, to bring down dictators, to stop human rights abuses, and yet we are the ones who put Saddam in power, we've supported dictators all over the world, we ignore human rights abuses in Rwanda, Sudan, etc. etc. This is pure hypocracy, but now an amusing situation has come up where this hypocracy is embodied in a single nation - Uzbekistan. For some time we have been sending terrorism suspects caught in the Middle East for "interrogation" in Uzbekistan (aka torture; Uzbekistan is a well known violator of prisoner's rights, for example ). This is part of a larger CIA policy to use other countries to do the dirty work that would attract too much attention if we did it ourselves. Uzbekistan is our ally in the war on terror, and in exchange for torturing people we want them to, we have normalized relations with them and established trade and aid deals. In the mean time, there is currently a pro-democracy uprising in Uzbekistan, where mobs of people and semi-terrorist groups are trying to get international attention and fight the rule of the authoritarian President Karimov. The reality of the world is a complex political web, and GW's black and white rhetoric is naive and untrue; there are certainly cases where we need to ally with evil people in order to meet greater goals (Pakistan's Musharraf might be one example), however, Uzbekistan is not really a difficult case - we should not be using foreign states to hold our prisoners, and we should not be supporting dictators. So, I ask you, Mr. Bush - Are we for democracy, or against terrorists? Are we against authoritarians who abuse human rights, or are we with anyone who helps us against terrorism? If you're "with us or against us", which one is Uzbekistan?

5-15-05 - 1

5-15-05

I have three bicycle repair books - Richard's Bicycle Repair Manual (minimal text, great pictures), Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair (long on title), and Zinn & the art of Road Bike Maintenance (pun-tastic). Any one of them on their own is a worthless confusing piece of crap. To actually do a repair, I read the section on the given repair in all three books. Each one provides a partial view to the truth of how the problem. I imagine I'm looking through a window. On the other side is the truth I'm trying to discover, but most books are a poor window that give only a partial view, maybe it's distorted by dirty glass; but I need not look through just one window - by combining the view through many windows, I can piece together what's on the other side. This is a great technique for research that I use all the time, and far too few people use it. At work, many people would read one academic research paper and go "I don't get it". Ok, read another paper on the same subject, and another, and another. When I was learning Quantum Field Theory, I read four or more text books that all cover nearly the same topic - Kaku's, Weinberg's, Peskin & Shroder's, Dirac's, Feynman's, Coleman's, Baez's, Nash's, etc. All provide different ways of looking at the same truth, different techniques, and by combining them you can get to a far deeper understanding of the truth behind the window.

5/14/2005

5-14-05 - 1

5-14-05

I'm so sick of all the meaningless non-adjusted numbers. The S&P went up 5% last year. Sounds ok, but inflation was over 3%, so if you use inflation-adjusted dollars, it's gone up less than 2%. The economy added 200,000 jobs last month; sounds nice, but it takes 150,000 jobs just to keep the same employment percentage. etc. etc. Unfortunately the only way to make companies & governments use real meaningful statistics is if consumers force them to, and we don't, we love to swallow the silly meaningless numbers that are easily distorted. Almost any time you compare dollar values or head counts over periods of time, it's misleading; it's far better to use real spending power in terms of goods (even inflation-adjusted dollars is not very good here), and portions of the population.

5/13/2005

5-13-05 - 2

5-13-05

I just heard about this great stock - BPT ; it's a trust in the Prudhoe Bay oil operations of British Petroleum. The value of the stock roughly tracks the price of oil. In the past 5 years it's gone up 600%. The great thing about it is that in addition to that it has a 10% yield on a 7% dividend, which comes from the profits of oil operations. That yield goes up and down with oil prices as well, but is always pretty good. The problem now is that I'm too late, as usual - is this still a good buy? Oil prices will probably continue to rise, but they might have a short term depression on the way.

5-13-05 - 1

5-13-05

I watched "The Dark Crystal" last night with Dan. At the end the credits roll, and there, as always, is "color by Technicolor". I wondered, what does that actually mean in this day and age? Back in the old days, Technicolor was a revolutionary colorization process, but now people just use color film and develop it, so what is "color by Technicolor?". Well, it turns out Technicolor is a company with a cool website that tells you all about what they do; basically they develop film, provide dailies, film manufaturing, etc. One of the cooler things to me is the way they now mix film processing with digital control. The primary film process is still all chemicals and light. That is, a negative is exposed in the camera; this is developed with chemicals to set it. This is copied to a positive just by shining light through it (this is the "interpositive"). The positive is copied to another negative; this negative is now used to mass-produce the production positive prints (this is the "internegative"). The original negative could have been used, but the idea is to touch that as little as possible to keep the original master safe. If the production negative is damaged in printing, you can make a new copy from the interpositive without going back to the original. Now, the cool thing is that you can control things like saturation and contrast and brightness in the copying process in a purely analog physical way, by controlling the light and the chemical processing of the films. The cool thing that Technicolor now does is let you control this with computers; rather than futzing around with exposure time and different chemical baths like they would in the old days, the interpositive is scanned into a computer. You can then tweak the image settings per-frame if you like, and this is all stored; then when the internegative is made, it uses the computer settings to control the physical process; the film process still is fully analog and physical, but it uses the convenient digital controls. Of course all of this is going away and everything will be pure digital soon, and then "color by Technicolor" will be even more meaningless than it is today.

Another thing in "The Dark Crystal" made me rather sad. There's this creature "fizzgig" which is a small, cute ball of long fur that hops around, but when it's mad is surprises you with a massive snarl of sharp teeth. In one scene, the heroine, a female Gelfling, gets captured and is strapped into a torturous operating chair, and the evil mad science doctor (a Skeksies) is going to drain her life to feed to the emperor to make him young. Fortunately, she's surrounded by cages full of these cute little animals, and she has the ability to speak to them; she calls to them to save her and they break out of their cags and suddenly transform from cute to snarling and jump on the doctor, while some bite her straps and she escapes. Some of you may find this scene eerily familiar.

5/10/2005

5-10-05 - 1

5-10-05

I made roughly this cake for Dan's birthday. I've never made such a tall chocolaty cake before, it's quite fantastic and easy. The technique for making mousse in this recipe is very good - you drizzle hot syrup into beating egg yolks, rather than mucking around with whisking egg yolks over a double boiler, which is very difficult to do (you either cook them too much or too little and they can easily clump). I like using Kahlua to moisted the layers of genoise rather than the coffee simple syrup.

5/08/2005

5-08-05 - 1

5-08-05

Looks like a good time to buy Berkshire Hathaway B shares.

5/07/2005

5-07-05 - 1

5-07-05

A nice little math problem for you : you have 1 dollar, you go to the store and you buy something with a random price of a dollar or less. If you do this infinite times, what percentage of pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters do you have? (assume the cashier gives you change with the minimum number of coins each time).

The answer is 42.5532% pennies , 8.5106% nickels , 17.0213% dimes , 31.9149% quarters. It's a lot neater written as the average amount of change you get from a random transaction : 2 pennies, 0.4 nickels, 0.8 dimes, 1.5 quarters.

addendum - Ignacio says the more interesting problem is to figure out how to define your change system to minimize the average number of coins people cary. That is, assume a system with 4 coins of integer value, how do you set their values such that the average number of coins made from change on a random amount in [0,99] is minimized (you must be able to make exact change).

Just guessing wildly I think the answer is 1,3,10,32 , which is an even logarithmic distribution, but apparently that's not even close. The answer is here ; obviously it's easy to solve by computer sim, but I wonder if there's any math/analytic way to jump to the answer? I hate discrete math.

5/04/2005

5-04-05 - 2

5-04-05

Went to the dunes yesterday with Rich & Andy and rented ATV's ; the riding was great; here's a picture . Tips for those who want to go - 1) wear jeans and a sweatshirt, even when it's hot out; the sand whips you like a sand-blaster, you need coverage, and when the ATV rolls over your leg, you'll be happy for the jeans. 2) Wear gloves (bike gloves or something like that) and goggles (ski goggles work fine). 3) Bring water, wear sunscreen. 4) Go in the morning when it's not windy; it always gets windy in the afternoon here, and the dunes in the wind is not only unpleasant, it's very dangerous. The History of the Pismo Dunes is really interesting. It used to be a really popular get-away, highlighting driving on the beach, and clamming for the now-endangered Pismo Clam. Another oddity about the Dunes is that the Ten Commandments movie set was built in the dunes and is still there, buried under the sand!

5-04-05 - 1

5-04-05

I went to San Francisco last weekend to see Songs Ohia (touring as Magnolia Electric Co ) at The Bottom of the Hill . Jason Molina - the diminutive, soulful singer/songwriter behind Songs Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co - has an exposed, soulful voice and a penchant for writing songs about the blues, which makes for a powerful live performance. The show was completely packed, I'm sure the fire marshal would have been unhappy if he weren't mesmerized by the sound of the band and Jason's puppy dog eye brows. The crowd was full of devoted fans who had bought tickets for the sold-out show months in advance. They played lots of new material from the just released "What Comes After the Blues", but the crowd really came alive for the older material from Songs Ohia. Expectations for the show were very specific, since the band released a live album "Trials and Errors" from earlier in the same tour, so we've all heard exactly what the songs sound like live.

Other discoveries in SF : "The Crepe House" in the tiny pretentious Hayes Valley area has mediocre food but great espresso; personally I've come to hate Lattes and Capuccinos, I try to find proximities to a Cafe Creme, and if you ask for a "dopio with a little steamed milk and foam" at The Crepe House you'll get a good facsimile. The Lower Haight was a big disappointment, not much real interesting life, just hipsters and stoners; none the less, Ah Bodhran is a great Irish Pub, unlike most; what makes it great? 1) no puke smell, 2) real Irish people go there 3) real Irish decor and beers, including nicely poured Guiness and Murphy's 4) a full bar with bartenders that make proper cocktails 5) nice lighting, 6) good music (hip, not pub crap).. Axum Eritrean/Ethiopean in the Lower Haight was pretty good and very cheap ($12 for the platter for two). Lush Lounge is an old favorite; it's a neighborhood bar in the strip club and prostitute neighborhood around O'Farrell; the bartenders are friendly and mix great drinks, the crowd is unpretentious but cool; unfortunately, they seem to have gotten rid of their piano and closed the upstair balcony, so it's not as much fun as the last time I came. My new discovery of the trip was the Clement St. hub of the "Richmond" neighborhood - this is an ethnic neighborhood, very cheap, very lively, with great restaurants, asian groceries, and cool cafes.

We also saw the movie "In the Battlefields" at the San Francisco International Film Festival, at the Kabuki theater in Japan-town (stop at a grocery for Guava milk drink, and dine on Shabu-Shabu). "In the Battlefields" is a great film - go see it if you ever get the chance. It's a story of a little girl coming of age in Lebanon a few years ago; the background of the country is never really explained, it's just the life they have; they family doesn't even talk about the violence and poverty around them, they just deal with their own problems and make do; a beautiful movie, incredibly realistic, including one of the grossest sex scenes I've ever seen, not because of what happens, but just because it's not sanitized.

old rants