Lunch Break

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Sleepy sleepy. I stayed up late working on an internship application and now I’m all sorts of drowsy at work. And there’s little I can do about it. My truck isn’t here, so I can’t drive somewhere or go take a short nap. Sugar and caffiene seem to hold the key to my productivity today, though my attempts to read just a few minutes ago left me nodding off on the sofa downstairs. Just not comfortable sleeping in public yet. The book might’ve had something to do with it: Brenna sent a couple e-mails to be about Michel Foucault, a philosopher she had to quickly familiarize herself with one weekend, and now I’m kind of rediscovering the guy by reading his treatise on the changing nature of punishment called “Discipline and Punish.” Good stuff, but a tad heady to get into while drowsy. The first few pages, though, are perky: They describe the process of torturing to death a man who killed the French King during the 18th c. Poking with red-hot prods, the tearing off of flesh with big pliers, pouring molten lead into various wounds and orifices, and an evening-long quartering process that ends up being quite messy (even for a quartering) — that kind of stuff. Mm. Coffee.

So, I’ve got about five minutes of at-office lunch time left to misuse. Nothing’s really happening on the web that I care to have on my screen near a public space. I gather that a Pakistani group is doing what they can to help the economy by giving some Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl great material for a book that could end up on the NTY Bestsellers list and possibly be produced as an action flick by Jerry Bruckheimer. Provided they (the Pakistanis) don’t kill him (Pearl) first. But, all-and-all, it’s good to see we can work together to try and make a more entertaining future for those of us desperately seeking escape so we can stop thinking about how working eight-hour-days for someone else for the majority of your life is, at its core, sad as fuck. A Bruckheimer interpretation of the Daniel Pearl Saga would make for a much more worthwhile evening in front of a screen than listening the the latest State of the Union speech did, for sure. Bush can’t speak well. That slow cadence: that’s not for effect. Well, it sort of is. It’s a mask of his fundamental speaking deficiency that happens to sound kind of dignified in a Barbara Jordan slow-and-solid sort of way. But let’s not kid ourselves. The speeches make no sense and, more importantly, the actual information conveyed can be summed up neatly in two sentences. (Play that game on your own.) For the eight hundred political “thinkers” out there on TV, radio, and in the newspaper: stop trying to interpret and lend meaning to this garble. Its specifically intended to be quite meaningless. You know why as well as I do. The American Public doesn’t actually need to know what’s going on in the government and trying to explain issues to the general mass would just lead to misinterpretation and would require background information and thinking that most of us just have not done. It would create more problems than solutions. Better to just tell us we’re doing great and get off the stage, save us our god damn time and let’s go do something else because if George Bush is going to fuck us, ain’t nothing we can do about it now.


Sunday with Ms. Simpson

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Abby and I hit the City-Wide Garage Sale this afternoon. Had ourselves a grand old time riffling through old collectibles. Abby bought two souvenier spoons to replace those stolen out of her boyfriend(?)’s car and we pooled funds to secure a box of carmel Girlscout Cookies. Abby felt satisfied with the $3.00 list price — I thought we should’ve haggled: “$2.75, max. If you won’t give me that price, I know ten Girlscouts who will, you fucking snake!”

In related news. Try to describe Blogger and the act of weblogging to a friend who doesn’t relish the time she spends communicating with people over the Internet. It comes out sounding like this: “Well, see I’m this big dork and publicizing my dorkiness is fun for me. Because I’m a dork.”

But you, my precious Blogger, you understand me. You know what it’s like. We have a special connection, you and I, that most people will just never get. Yes. You and I, my sweet. Mmm…

Time to papertowel my laptop, again.

Who needs a GIRLFRIEND?


Infinite Jest II

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

More IJ vocab. I’m leaving out the complicated medical and chemical terms.

  • Thrush - (in the case of the story) a contagious disease caused by a fungus, Candida albicans, that occurs most often in infants and children, characterized by small whitish eruptions on the mouth, throat, and tongue, and usually accompanied by fever, colic, and diarrhea.
  • Impaction - the driving of one bone against another so hard that niether can move.
  • Nonpareil - having no equal.
  • Ad Velorem - Latin for “in proportion to the value”
  • Kif - smoking material, such as Indian hemp, used especially in the Maghreb (a region of northwest Morocco). (From the Arabic “kayf” or “kef,” for “condition,” “pleasure,” or “opiate.”)
  • Nystatin - an antibiotic used especially in the treatment of fungal infections.
  • Stiptic - producing contraction; stopping bleeding; having the quality of restraining hemorrhage when applied to the bleeding part; astringent.
  • Dyspeptic - a person suffering from indigestion.
  • Penitent - feeling or expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds or sins.
  • Febrile - feverish.
  • Pique - a feeling of wounded pride (pronounced “peek”).
  • Necrosis - death of cells or tissues through injury or disease. (From the Greek and Latin for “death.”)
  • Attaché - a person officially assigned to the staff of a diplomatic mission.
  • Halal - meat that has been slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the shari?a. (From the Arabic for “legally permissable.”) (I don’t know what that last word means.)
  • Anfractuous - full of twists and turns, tortuous. (From the Latin “ambi-” for “around” and “fractus” for “to break.”)
  • Fantod - outburst of emotion or a fit. (This is one of my favorite new words so far — “howling fantods” is the construction used in the book as in, “she had the howling fantods.” Great word.)
  • Kippers - herring or salmon that has been split, salted, and smoked.
  • Phylactery - an amulet or a reminder. (From the Greek “philakter,” for “guard.”) (There’s also a more complicated definition related to Jewish traditions.)
  • Nubbin - a small, stunted, or projecting part. (From 11th grade Calculus class “I got nubbed by Ed!,” for “My teacher just ground me in the chest with his stump of an arm.)

I almost feel you could follow the drama of the story by just reading the new vocabulary words. Indigestion, remorse, feverish, a feeling of wounded pride. These all go right together.

And yes, some of these definitions are copied right off of while others are paraphrased by me from to fit the context of the story. As such, the definitions here aren’t necessarily the most common (as in Thrush, more commonly used in reference to a particular species of bird). The terms I’ve left out are: Intestinal Flora, Candida Albicans, Monolian Sinusitis, and Actinomycete.

That’s all for now — one page of words out of four that I have right now.



Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Early this morning I ended up watching a 1/2-hour of a documentary about transsexuals, women (in this case) who’d decided for different reasons to become men. They didn’t get into the fascinating problem (to me) of physical construction — these women needed a few things built for them that didn’t come pre-installed, and, well, that’s interesting — but one man who’d been altered a decade-or-so ago had an interesting observation. As a woman, he said, he’d had a sex drive but really wanted someone to be physical with in a cuddling sense, not in a fucking sense. What surprised him about being full of male hormones was the incredible sex drive; he discovered this physical urge for sex that totally surprised him. The actual quote went something like: “As a woman I enjoyed having someone around to cuddle and if sex happened, it happened. Now, though, I’ve, like, gotta have sex — the rest of the relationship can be taken care of afterwards.”

Now, this isn’t really news to me (that men and women differ in the timbre of their sex drives), but I thought it cool that someone could actually talk having felt both sides of the coin, not just talked them over with friends and lovers. I’ve decided that I would be quite surprised about how little I would think of sex as a woman and I know that that would color the way I looked at interpersonal relationships which would color the way I look at all sorts of things. On the flip side, the male “urge” is often considered a joke or a means by which women control them or fuck their shit up, but it can be a real, legitimate problem if not satisfied appropriately. Some women understand the differences and I’ve been in relationships where both sides have been taken care of. I don’t think it’s in the public mind, though, or at least the mind I see the public having (I know it’s dangerous territory to start talking about the “public mind” — the “public mind” being a half-empty concept — but let’s see where I end up with this), this sense of the difference. I don’t think I ever thought about it until girls started to let me actually touch them, and it colored some of the thoughts that would build into the dreams and fantasies that I would carry with me into adulthood. It colored them incomplete.

I remember trying to write a short scene for Poetic License (Plan II / Broccoli Project student-written short-piece theatrical production) about a relationship that started off, “We used to have sex first thing, before going out for the evening — to keep us honest, to make sure we were having the evening together for the evening together, not for the sex that might or might not come afterwards.” It’s not a perfect sentiment, but I don’t know, I’m just coming up with this crap off the top of my head.

(Not that I’m having to really worry about such issues right now…)

Why does life have to be so complicated? Why can’t we just all have the same sex drive and be able to survive off of air and not have to find places to sleep? Remove those things and I guess you’re just left with soft lumps that don’t do anything, and that’s not fun. I’m beginning to develop this theory opposite of that of entropy: that complexity naturally fills in the gaps. At least in terms of life (in the grand sense, not just my humdrum day-to-day), if something is left open, forces will act to fill it back with complexity.

COMMENTS? No, you never have comments… Well, a couple. Heh.


Infinite Jest

Friday, November 23, 2001

Based on my enjoyment of the short stories in Brief Conversations with Hideous Men, I decided to pick up the David Foster Wallace magnum opus Infinite Jest, 1,079 dense pages of surreal Wallacian-complex sentences and paragraphs lasting four pages. I’m determined to get through it.

One of the greatest parts of the book is the naming of the years. They’re corporate-sponsored, I think, so they have titles like “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment” or “Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad” instead of numbers. Great comical extension of things like “The Bowl.”

Anyway, twenty pages in, I’ve already encountered some more of Wallace’s broad vocabulary. For your edification:

  • Prorector - officer who presides over the academic senate of a university.
  • Aver - to affirm positively, declare.
  • Mottle - a spot or blotch of color. Also, a variegated pattern, as on marble.
  • Variegated - having streaks, marks, or patches of a different color or colors; varicolored. (Not from the story; from the above definition.)
  • Circumflex - this: ^.
  • Lapidary - dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.
  • Effete - depleted of vitality, self-indulgant, over-refined, effeminate (from the Latin, ‘ex fetus’).
  • Sallow - of a sickly yellowish hue or complexion.
  • Presbyopic - inability of the eye to focus sharply on nearby objects, resulting from loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens with advancing age.
  • Countenance - appearance, especially the expression of the face.
  • Parquet - a floor inlaid with pattered or mosaiced wood. (Also has a couple odd European government and business definitions.)
  • Roil - to make cloudy by stirring up sediment or to displease or disturb.
  • Pase - one of several usually one-handed maneuvers in bullfighting in which the matador presents and moves the cape to attract a close, passing charge of the bull (from the Spanish ‘pasar,’ to pass).
  • Leonine - lion-ish
  • Hypophalangial - with deficient phalanges.
  • Phalanges - fingerbones or plural of phalanx (a tightly knit group of people or a particular sort of infantry group). (Again, not from the story, but from the above definition.)

“Josh, you’re a dork.”


On Reaktor and the Sheer Expense of Electronic Music

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

I decided to get interested in Reaktor 3.0 tonight. I found a “demo” copy that won’t record or save anything (without a dongle) and tinkered around with the panels and connections and, well, it’s a nice program. Having only diddled with it for ten minutes, I can’t claim to be an expert, but I didn’t feel it offered too much more than SuperCollider than, say, a slick interface. The oscillators seemed comparable to those in SuperCollider and I guess the signal processors seem similar. If anything, I’d peg SuperCollider as having more oscillator and signal processing options than Reaktor. There could be a performance issue I’m not aware of, as well. I admit that using Reaktor as a VST plug-in would be fun and the Native Instruments web site shows all sorts of fun digital electronica toys related to Reaktor. If I had $500 to sink into a studio, I might go for it, but for now I think I feel satisfied wtih SuperCollider, even though it’s dorkier.

On the $500 tip… I’m just a musical diddler, I suppose. I don’t do it for money, just kicks. Thus $500 is a crapload of cash to dole out for a toy and I feel somewhat left out not being able to afford the most fashionable toys. I get frustrated hearing really kick-ass effects demonstrated or interfaces that would be really helpful and fun and then not having any way to get my hands on them. A solution might be getting together with people and forming a “studio” and pitching in money and getting good tools that everyone has access to, but I don’t envision that sort of thing happening soon. Or trying to make a little cash making music and feeding it right back into creating music, in a nice self-sustaining cycle, but, again, I’m not that close to having material that would be worth $500 in royalties. Oh well. This is the sad story of every kid who likes to play with toys… I really wanted that Metroplex Transformer when I was nine and I never got that and survived intact.

The real world is so obnoxious, I tell you what.


Because You Need to Know

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Nothing’s really happening, exactly, but I thought I’d post a little something anyway just to keep the cobwebs off the page…

I reorganized my studio last night and have happily eliminated the annoying hummm that’d been coming out of my speakers. I don’t know what the problem was, but after taking everything apart and putting every back together, the problem was gone. The wiring configuation’s the same and everything’s still plugged into the same outlets… ?

I would’ve liked to stay up and watch the Leonid meteor shower last night, but it’s been cloudy out, so no dice. I stayed up until 6 a.m. anyway reading Genome by Matt Ridley and looking around on the web. Genome, by the way, tells the story of our genes, chromosome by chromosome. The material’s good, but Matt Ridley seems more interested in dazzling the reader with the enourmity and sheer importance of the subject than in actually delivering information. My dad loaned me the book. I told him that if he really wanted a basic understanding of the genome, I had a college Bio textbook that would do a much better job informing him. My dramatic realization about the scale of time came when I realized that the double-helix structure was only discovered by Crick and Watson a few years before my parents entered high school. I wonder what major discoveries have been made in the past ten years that my kids will make me feel stupid for not knowing all about?


November Deluge

Friday, November 16, 2001

My dad called me at about 2:30 to report tornado warning near where he works, down by Ben White and IH-35. I’d been inside all day and hadn’t really been paying attention to the weather so I flipped through a few radio stations. That didn’t yield any information and we don’t have a working television in the house, so I figured I’d get in my truck and go drive out towards that part of town just to see what was happening. I’ve never seen a tornado first-hand before and — living in such a tornado-rich part of the country — I really would like to see a tornado sometime, so, well, off I went in my little white Chevy S-10 pickup southbound on IH-35 at about 3:00. I’m not going to let some al-Qeuda Afghan assholes tell me what to do, you’d better believe. Um…

It rained, but I could see fine until I got to about 12th street. At that point torrents and torrents came down and traffic moved at about 40mph. I kept going until I got down to about Oltorf and the rain was extremely dense and I’d heard on the radio for the tenth time that “the tornadic activity is heading north-east along I-35” and that “a tornado would be especially dangerous because it wouldn’t be visible through the rain until it got very close.” The warning would be the deep rumble. I rolled my window down and turned off the radio for a second to listen for any deep tornadic rumbling. Well, it didn’t sound like it, and I wasn’t the only person heading south on I-35, but I still managed to freak myself out enough to anxiously get off at the next exit and get myself moving through town in the opposite direction.

I live close to I-35, so I decided to go to my parent’s house up in the Mount Barker area of town, where the rain seemed to be the weakest. I zigged through streets until I got to Congress and made my way up Congress to 6th Street. I couldn’t se anything — no Capital Building, almost no buildings on on the side of the street — just grayed-out rain on my winshield and the taillights of other vehicles. Considering the constant radio warnings to “stay off the streets,” the streets were surprisingly packed. So my drive went on like this — slow and with almost no visibility. I got to try out my truck in a couple of flood situations for the fist time. Many of the intersections along Enfield were flooded up to a foot and the MoPac entrance ramp at Enfield was flooded about a foot.

Just blocks away from my parent’s house I nearly got myself stuck in floodwaters on Perry Lane. I’d been driving just fine except some guy in an SUV had decided to stop in front of me and block traffic. A guy in a raincoat exchanged a few words with the driver and the SUV did a three point turnaround and came back towards me. Huh. So drove forward and then noticed the scene: about a twenty-foot wide river of fast, dirty water with a white car stranded about halfway out with water up to its headlights. The water was being funneled by a street into a narrow, fast rush that washed directly under some poor house. All the houses seemed okay except that one that was hit with the main force of the rushing water.

So I turned around to try and find an alternate route and picked up my cell phone to call my mom to warn her not to come home this way (since it was 4:30, already — nearly quitting time). I found a side street and turned quickly onto it and — holy shit! — I find myself heading straight into deep waters. My truck slid up to its own headlights into the water. The engine steamed, water leaked into the cab and the bed. My phone had a difficult time finding service. In emergency situations, everyone tries to use their damned call phones and service gets spotty. I jammed the vehicle into reverse and — with much difficulty — backed the poor truck back out of the water and onto “dry” land. I went back and drove through neighborhood roads on the other side of MoPac up to Hancock and got to my parent’s house using that route without much of a problem.

At home I watched the local news teams freak out about the weather and helped my parents (after they arrived home) sweep the water out of the garage and seal underneath the garage door with towels, my dads weights, and bags of pete moss. We had dinner and hung out until the rain seemed over with and I went home.

Home was dark. When I came in the front door I was surprised by Kurt, doing his German homework in the dark using a head-mounted light to see. I verified that the power had gone out and went and lit a few candles, placing them around my room and the house. I tried to turn on my computer, but it wouldn’t respond, so I just sat in the candlelight for a few minutes and enjoyed the technological silence. It got to be a little much. I’m such a computer-kid that I just need the refreshing ambient hum of a cooling fan or I feel uppity — like something has gone wrong. So I rushed out to Mojo’s for a soda and to read a few more chapters of The Bell Jar. I came back and still felt agitated and my computer still wouldn’t work so I took off for Starseeds to see what happened if I plugged the laptop into the wall. Nothing. So I had a breakfast taco and read the Austin Chronicle cover-to-cover and came home.

The only way I could settle myself enough to sleep at home in the silence was to get out a pad of paper and pen and start writing and scribbling. I’m not sure why this helped so much, but I wrote a couple one-page pieces of fiction and felt really good. The pieces aren’t so good, but the activity was quite relaxing. I then set up some candles by my bed so I could read in the dark and read a few more chapters of The Bell Jar until I got tired enough to put out the candles. I ended up spilling wax on myself while trying to relight a candle at one point — and it felt really good — and I got to the “bell jar” reference in the book, finally. (I originally thought it had to do with women being put in bell jars by men for display, but it actually refers to the way she felts in the deeper stages of her schizophrenia — like all of her senses were dulled and she existed in isolation from the world. Anyway.) So I put out the candles and listened to the night world in east Austin as I drifted off… Dogs barked in the distance. Somewhere way, way off a big clanging sound created echoes through the neighborhood (garbage truck?). The drips of water coming off the roof and trees sounded like the footsteps of little people walking around outside my window. I fell asleep……

And woke up today with a call from my mom making sure I was alright. Then the power came back on around 2:00 and my computer started working again and the rain’s totally gone. Maybe yesterday was a mass dream of some sort…