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User Journal

Journal Journal: rays

over spring break, I went to San Francisco on a community service mission. it was my first time in the city, as opposed to the airport, and the weather was perfect, nary a droplet of fog. with an information scientist who made sure nobody within handing distance was left without his business card we got heckled by street people, packaged needles and paint buckets, ate at a purportedly heavenly Chinese place atop a hill. I'd never met so many professional activists and fundraisers. pity San Francisco: because it's relatively nice to the homeless, they gather there from all over. the economic decline of the last two years is making it harder to raise money and forcing more people to ask for it.

back in sultry LA I climbed partway up a huge banyan tree and realized, because a family friend asked, that the wandering stars don't twinkle.

back to getting IDL to make maps.

I want to expand my old world CD collection beyond gamelan. can anybody recommend music by Arabic-speaking artists? my hipper-than-thou friends are all-electronic, and the closest they know of is Muslimgauze.

User Journal

Journal Journal: popkultur

I started reading Dune after having it recommended by a role-playing friend. a lot of vile political intrigue. the blend of bedouin - actually more Tamasheq - culture (plus miscenallious biblical quotations and Hebrew words) with interplanetary colonization I found pleasantly exotic, though it must be lost on most readers. science fiction is really the mirror image of historical fiction. and violent messianic cults are great, just as long as they're safely in the remote past...

I want to be a planetologist when I grow up.

after scorching marshmallows over gas and looking around at some leaky insulation at the yummy mansion of some friends-of-friends in west LA, I tagged along to see the Harry Potter movie (part 1). everyone I knew who'd seen it said good things about it, which raised my expectations high; I found the plot thin and not sunspenseful. the Hogwarts houses rather reminded me of the dorms here though.

I'd figured our rainy season to've passed, but we had a whole bunch more rain. I'm reading up on ivy growing - it might be a good time to try turning some to climb on the porch.

looks like war, which is scary. here's Kurt Vonnegut again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Round-up 3

a quiet weekend, but not to the point of turning into boring. my choir performed (a fair number of the people I invited actually showed up), and I stopped briefly at a Roman dorm party that gave an idea of what a symposium would have been like had bad hip-hop been a classical Roman genre.

had dinner last night at my favorite doggy eatery. it had been some time since I've last been, and the resident basset hound had grown old and lounged at the enterance. Donna, the proprietor, pointed out the new infusion of "paws for peace" signs into the decor before going off to feed the dog and grab some pizza herself.

we fell to musing about the smell-a-vision proposals that were being talked about a few years ago but have dropped from the press, having a scent generator in your TV or computer. people were talking mostly about using them to send out perfume samples, but it seemed like they would greatly enhance cooking shows. we speculated on what odor the government could have used to make the state of the union address acceptable. I voted for nitrous oxide.

anybody know why smells have vanished from our multimedia future?

on the more hopeful side of gustatory news, some chefs and other concerned French have petitioned the Catholic church to change its French word for the deadly sin of gluttony from gourmandise, arguing that the gourmet life by no means represents surrender to a base temptation. surely the Americans will be after greed next?

the Israei papers Ma'ariv and ha'Arets had skeptical articles on the Jehoash inscription this week. apparently said tablet and the James sarcophagus and miscenallious other hot antiques came to public attention courtesy of the same dealer, who will say only that he has exclusive sources in the West Bank but may in fact simply be well-connected with the Jordanian antique workshops.

User Journal

Journal Journal: attraction

I skipped a week of journaling. assorted student magnet buffs, a color-blind geochemist who overuses "barely", a USGS surveyor cum mule buff, led by a professor who has taken to doing a Dr. Strangemagnet routine, we clambered around Death Valley looking at rocks that preserved iron minerals that could tell which way a compass needle in the area would have faced some million years ago. we found little trilobite fossils, date milkshakes, and (what was hardest) beer. we camped out a few nights, then set up in a field research cabin, which after the wont of such places had as leftovers from previous expeditions assorted volumes of science fiction, romance and mystery paperbacks. I perused H.P. Lovecraft's Doom That Came to Kadath, which I hadn't seen before, and a haiku anthology. the old-timers of Death Valley geology winter in trailers nearby and came to visit antiwar pins (bless their hearts) and all, and we heard about naval adventures in the Pacific theater.

war was imminent, as far as we knew. the Japanese students who were to accompany us had cancelled for fear of terrosrism or something of the sort, and the scanerio of the Core seemed completely plausible. but when we came back there was only rain (snow above 4,000 feet).

one thing I learned: Subway subs are surprisingly edible.

User Journal

Journal Journal: rain!

paid Borders a visit today to buy a birthday gift for a friend with pretensions of learnedness. I was pleased to discover the Idiot Guides on the remainder displays, while the new self-help-type series featured was titled, in ghastly red lipstick letters, KISS - for "keep it simple series". our collective self-esteem must be beginning to climb.

there was also a book by a psychiatrist who beat commercial computer chess programs by attacking quickly in off-book ways. this seemed to please him very much, as it confirmed that there was something essentially different about human as compared with machine thought. I wouldn't credit a computer with intelligence for playing chess, personally, no matter how good it is.

I had occasion to see some sumptuous Beverly Hills apartments. I'm down a roommate, so a decorating spree is definitely called for - if only I had time enough...

User Journal

Journal Journal: for art's sake

seasonably colder here now. we easterners express our annoyance with "I know I shouldn't be complaining, but...".

weekend was a little more active than the last couple. being in the neighborhood for a lunch that I was shown out of earlier than I'd imagined, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit LACMA again. the galleries I stayed in were empty enough to meditate undisturbed on the weirdness of art museums. choice quote (next to some Olmec pottery): the enterance to the underworld was thought accessible by means of the ritual ballgame, through the jaws of a toadlike creature with feline attributes...

I also learned to tell William and Mary furniture apart from queen Anne. and there was something about large earlobes symbolizing ascetism - anyone care to explain that to me?

on a more political (in Aristotle's sense) note, an officemate had a moving-in party. I met some video-game designers, and asked why both the electronic and real-time role players I know concentrate on killing monsters, when it seems like there are so much more excitment in life to role-play, especially when you add life from alternate universes. they didn't know either.

later, I got introduced to the graphics of Barbara Kruger, which struck me as innovative. this examplar is unsigned, but must at least be by a disciple.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Explosions, crashes & other business-cycle components 2

while pet peeves are rustling the wires, here's mine: Suppose I'm biking or walking on the sidewalk and want to pass someone (I walk fast). when they notice this, it's fifty-fifty whether they'll move right or left (with a token chance that they'll stay put). why doesn't passing on the left apply on sidewalks as well as roads? it would save a lot of near-collisions if everyone followed the same rule.

I was disturbed to learn at a lunchtime discussion about our favorite stores that Trader Joe's was acquired by a German-based multinational. turns out that this happened back in 1979, 'bout when I was born - same people also own Aldi's. TJ still has the best soymilk as far as I'm concerned.

along with Paul Wellstone's death, a reminder to do whatever it takes to stay away from news on shabbat. I wonder if a goverment manned space program will long outlive the Columbia. people here are looking forward to having more money for unmanned observing spacecraft. maybe leaving space travel to private enterprise will be safer in the end - we don't often have planes taking off with parts of their wings missing.

I run into relaxing as a principle about every day now. in my choir, the conductor mentioned that singing vibrato is natural - you just don't tense your throat while you're breathing. and it's true. my preception has been that overcoming entropy takes work - I might be changing my mind.

User Journal

Journal Journal: sunny arizona

I flew this weekend to Tucson, where one of my more freckled cousins was to be marking his bar mitsva. Here I'll take the opportunity to make a plug for Southwest for being on time and having friendly employees; I was going to add something about roomy flights, but my return flight, a very sardine-packing operation, prevents me.

Family's a strange thing. People I haven't ever said twenty words to gush somewhat ignorantly about my marriage prospects, urge me to visit whenever I have a chance. I would be poorer without family though: how else would I have met my aunt's sweetheart, who just built a flashing eight-foot humanoid out of used headlights, or his dad, a retired salesman and stand-up comedian with goggle shades and a Dalí moustache who's having the time of his life compiling a CD of songs about motorcycle life?! Not to mention the gossip about those who weren't there...

The air in Tucson had an amazing dry freshness, like it was bubbled over ice. The plants and the houses were colonists, tattered-looking landmarks in the sea of dust. We drove miles between restaurants in dense traffic; plenty to eat, air-conditioning galore, souvenirs and heirloom seeds. The locals all seemed to be in the process of finding the perfect little house in a few acres of grounds eighteen miles away at the very border of a national monument. Something was wrong, but what, exactly?

On with lunch and graphs.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Electronica questions, & at the beach 1

two technical queries:

I want to get a Linux/Windows dual boot laptop - general-purpose, some graphics and numerical analysis. do I order something from Dell? is there a better way?

I'm researching having my school buy duplexers to enable double-sided printing in our printers. can anyone with experience in managing corporate printers speak to how much having double-sided printing increases maintenance, and how much it reduces paper use?

went to Malibu yesterday with a student expedition. we counted four birth-continents among the four in my car; in deference, everyone spoke English.

I hadn't made it to the coast since the summer sometime, too far back to remember. I was going more for the company than for the experience. once we found the turnoff from the PCH, I plopped on my old beach towel, applied sunscreen fastidiously, and took out my bag of trail mix.

then I climbed the cliffs, from the sand where a unhealthy-looking seal was lying up a combination trail-gully. I broke into a sweat (and remembered I didn't bring water) but was soon at the crest, a mosaic of dwarf needleleaf shrubs that smelled like licorice, cactuses, a cousin of rosemary. the sky was a perfectly uniform blue, and I looked down into the beach rocks, the surf, beyond to the ocean stretching out featurelessly Japanward or wherever.

the breaking of waves made itself heard: there was no other sound. I knew that the first incarnation of the Institute was in part of the coast, somewhere. if it had stayed here - would we still think we should find the zeroth-order rules of the universe? would we look for building blocks in the sea?

back on the beach, the tide started rising. the seal had gone back in and seemed to be swimming energetically enough just past a breaker. I considered it an invitation and waded in.

User Journal

Journal Journal: psychopathic predilections & assorted musings

and the year expands, the year continues. my pocket calender keeps up, runs ahead of it, outlines it in black and red. the weekends get written on first, like the wooden envelope of some imitation Victorian house going up.

heard from my lawyer friend Jim about the movement of Uranus. a momentous shift, a cosmic foreshock, even if you can't say what, precisely, it will bring. apparently it is crossing the last few houses of one sign, on to some other - but I have most of them confused anyway, I usually need to make something up if asked mine. surely there must be few other places where it's not considered completely silly to have confidence the outer planets are guiding one's career. silliness just doesn't have enough scope here.

Kurt Vonnegut (my hero!) stopped writing, but happily is still talking.

on the general subject, I got a call for my first opinion poll, and out of relief that it wasn't the damnable phone company again I replied to some questions. later I wondered how many times you'd have to vote to have as much influence on national policy as a single poll respondent.

I looked up the Isaac Asimov story that came in mind: Franchise.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ianuary

NewYearsEve. the sky under cleared somewhere between Nebraska and the Rockies as I chatted with the blonde woman next to me about teaching high school chemistry, evidently something she does. then down in the phantasm of Los Angeles, where hypersound amplified the desert hyperlight. back!

and it had rained - there were flowers - and the pre-Rose parade air smelled unusually fresh, as if millions of engines haven't breathed it. children snuggled in thermal sleeping bags, portable TVs played, OU students brought out the beer. and sometime around midnight cheering brought in 2003. those waiting for the procession stayed; I took leave to dream 2003 dreams.

in a different universe, there'll be a palindromic date this year. which greedy Roman emperor to blame for butchering February?

back in everyday. our library's moving all their books around for supposedly more efficient shelving. meanwhile, bumping into unexpected volumes. I found a French study of cleanliness since the Middle Ages - turns out people didn't avoid taking baths circa 1600 just because they were too lazy to heat water, but because they believed that soaking in water opens up their skin so that toxins seep in. each to their own; nothing as minor as the threat of plague would deter *me* from taking baths.

looking to buy stocks for my IRA suggested a small math puzzle. if I'm interested in a stock, I want to buy it when it's as cheap as possible, so the question's always whether to buy now or wait in the hope that the price will fall. suppose I know the price of a stock changes each day to a random value within a certain trading range, but I don't know in advance what that range is. I want to buy the stock within, say, a given month. what strategy should I use to maximize my chances of buying near the bottom of the range? does the answer change if prices are not completely random from day to day but are correlated with the previous day's prices, as actual prices are?

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Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley