UnemploymentQuest continues...

Today's episode found me at the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. The way to do it is ride your bike - as parking downtown will run you about $6 a crack. There is also six-dollar crack downtown, but it won't get your car parked, stolen maybe...

It felt fantastic to be back on the bike. I hadn't been on it since I was laid off. I spent Sunday lubing the machine and adjusting the brakes and derallieurs, and trusty Shadowfax was back in fighting trim. Wide streets, low surface-traffic speed, and the artificial canyons of the high-rises make imagining the trench assault on the death star unavoidable. Downtown is full of bikes, teenage Latino bike messengers on tricked-out $2000 bikes. These are beautiful machines, the two-wheeled extension of "riceboy" import car culture.

The Central Branch is an amazing building. It's tucked across the street from Library Tower, the tallest building in Southern California. When you see a helicopter shot of Los Angeles, the tallest tower, crowned with green-white lights, is Library Tower. The Central Branch is hidden between all these giants, a groundling surrounded by Arco, KPMG, and PacBell. Constructed in the 30's in a "high civic fantasy" style, it's a warm yellow block of sculpted concrete, topped with a pyramid of blue glazed tile. The North Stairs into the library are footed with ceramic inlays of quotes from different languages - 100's of them. Spanish, Thai, Esperanto(!), mathematical notation, the value of Pi... it goes on for some distance, leading you through a surprisingly green and cool garden square.

Of course, this is a public building in the downtown of a major US city. Armed guards stand just inside the doors. The homeless and nearly homeless are snoozing in overstuffed leather reading chairs. But it's air conditioned, delightfully so. If I was homeless, this is where I'd be.

The collection is huge, as big as a major university library. The way they kept the old building while expanding to contain the modern collection was to build down. There is a massive atrium that leads down 5 stories, in a cascade of escalators. I head down to the lowest level, on impulse. I'm not looking for anything in particular - just wanted to go to the library. I can't check anything out, as I discover I have lost 3 books, among them a biography of Fidel Castro.

And this is where the excitement begins, innocently and mundanely enough. I wander the stacks, a great thing! I hadn't done it since grad school. There is nothing like it, feeling the weight of all that compressed thinking around you, letting the text pop off the spines and you crazy-8 your way through the shelves. Emergency Navigation - grab it! Brain of the Firm - grab it! Scott of the Antarctic - grab it!

I find the map area. There's an old transit map of the LA "red car" system. I discover that an electric trolley used to run up my hill, to within a block of my house! Sometimes I get a feeling LA could have been a paradise, and somehow took a horrible, if interesting, wrong turn. As I'm looking at the map, I notice an old composition book on the map table. I look around for the owner, and peek inside for some contact information. What I find is a journal written by a suicidally depressed catholic woman. It details her dietary problems, suicidal fantasies, catholic study groups and acting classes. One whole page is dedicated to a quote from Fidel Castro...

"History will forgive us."

This is synchronicity number 1. Then the phone rings at the librarian desk, and the reference librarian starts to take down a request to hardcopy a microfiche article from 1898 on the Fram. The Fram (which means 'forward!' in Norwegian) was the ice ship that Fritjof Nansen used in this 1890's bid to reach the North Pole. He later loaned the ship to fellow Norseman Roald Amundsen. Amundsen was the first man to the South Pole, beating Britisher Robert Falcon Scott, whose biography I held in my hand at that very moment. Synchronicity number 2.

I took this as a sign. I gave the library the journal for their lost and found, and rode home.

Another day. Woke this morning to a violent thunderstorm, smiled and rolled over. Rose at noon. Took one look at the non-functioning Dell ( hear his name is George), and decided to actually make that call about the surveying job.
So I find myself again Smithtown. Such a charming place. Skipped the usual beer in fear of wasting another afternoon buried in the bowels of a yuppie irish bar, went in search of a payphone. Found one. It stole my quarter. Great, good omen. Found another one, call goes through.
"Hello. Blah blah Surveying. Miss Gatekeeper speaking"
"Uh, hi. I'm calling about the instrument man job?"
"I'll put you through to Mr. Smith" (actual name)
CLICK. "please insert 10 cents for more time"
-what the phuck- shove in two more quarters
"Hello? Hello?"
"Yes, I'm sorry, but the position has been filled. If you'd like, fax a resume in case the present guy doesn't work out"
"Are you sure? I have experience."
"Oh yes, but it's been filled. Feel free to fax us,in case".
So, damn. There is another add, decide to wait. Walk around a bit, and notice a store called UR BUSTED. Survellience, Electronics, Services. Intrigued, I walk ain and ask them if they need "any guys". Amazingly enough, I met both owners and they seemed really interested when I told them my background. I think something may come about. I hope so, rent is looming, my -share- is $500 out of $1600.
Have to stay up tonight until 2:00am. Randy has to teleconference to the programming site in Jordan. His exact words:
"Dude. Kick me in the face to wake me up, I don't care." I wish some former roommates had asked me that, I actually would have.
So a night of coronas, smoking and puters. How fun.
1:44am God, still awake. Listening to windigo's perfect circle cd that I borrowed. I miss her. Talked to my mom this evening, found out she's putting our spread in Woodstock up for sale, hopefully to delay the mortage company from forclosing. I feel like a complete shit spending this money on rent when I should be there working and trying to save the house..but there is no work in that area of CT that would pay enough to make a difference anyways. I want her to sell anyways, I have nothing but horrible memories of that house anyways. Lots of them.
What's new? Working on a few things: A database of members of the honors program with a web interface to add / review users. Learning lots about SQL and ASP. Web page design for honors program. Learning lots about photoshop and visual design elements.

Finished housesitting for the Dean of undergraduate studies. Apparently he was very pleased with the way I left the house. After spending a week with their dog, I noticed how small and cute my cats are. This weekend, going to see Weener (a great Weezer cover band) and Rainer Maria in Deep Ellum and Denton, respectively.

Ever feel like you just lost a month (or two)? This summer, I haven't been doing much. I haven't gotten a job or really looked, and I haven't had much meaningful contact. I've been a shut-in this summer. One of my best friends thought that I was out of town when I have been home the whole time. Why have I been doing this? Well, I suppose after what happened in January, I have felt less secure about myself. I have been examining myself and I believe that I have corrected many flaws. And, I realize the following line of thought is incredibly stupid, but I still think it: I still have flaws that I am aware of; I shouldn't be friends with anyone until I have erased all of these flaws. I haven't learned how to accept me, yet. And, I haven't tried to fix some of the bridges that I have burned (my friendship with K.)

Short note 1: Matt creeps the hell outta me.
Short note 2: I am a very abstract person.
Short note 3: It bothers me that real life cannot be wholly understood (unlike other 'thought-spaces').
SOTD: Talking shit about a pretty sunset by Modest Mouse

I'm Learning Perl from Randal Schwartz!

I've always been kind of spooked by perl. To me it looks undisciplined ... wild and crazy. I mean $this is a number and a string!?!?! And if it's written like @this it is something different altogether?

I think the best way I can describe my approach to programming languages is that I hate memorizing a lot of details. I would rathar learn a few simple rules that allow me to work out the details than have to remember a zillion little syntactic quirks. In high school math class I was the guy that would memorize just two or three equations and derive the others as needed during the test.

So I like Java because the core language seems clean and simple to me. And if I need stuff like io or networking or regular expression parsing, I know I can scrounge around and find a class or package with that functionality. Still I keep thinking, there must be something to Perl. It's used everywhere.

I periodically take classes at Oregon Graduate Institute which is conviently located near my workplace (and my job pays for them which is also pretty damn convienent). So I was looking at the summer schedule about a month ago and saw:

OGI503, Web Development with Perl 5, Schwartz

I thought that name looked really familiar. I've obviously spent way too much time browsing through O'Reilly books at Powell's Technical Bookstore. Sure enough, this is the guy who wrote Learning Perl and has his name on several other Perl titles.

So far I'd have to say that Randal is a very good instructor. He explains the material well (though it is laden with bad puns, but that's not so unusual for any comp sci type endeavor). But I'm not yet a convert.

I just did the first half of the first homework. It was pretty easy, but I kept having to page through the notes to answer my questions about wierd little syntactic oddities. Still, I have to admit that every program was shorter than it would have been in Java. But these programs were playing to Perl's strengths ... which is ok I guess. I've never been one to take a religious stance on programming languages. I've used many (Ada, Basic, C, C++, Java, Pascal, Scheme, Smalltalk, Visual Basic ... and probably some more I'm forgetting) so I know that often there is a "right tool for the job" and if you don't know about it you will end up trying to pound nails with a screwdriver.

So that is all for now. I may write another daylog on this if something interesting happens in class or if I suddenly decide to become a Perl Monk and cast all of my worldly languages aside, subsisting only on strange characters like s/\w<([^>]+)>/\U$1/g for the rest of my natural programming life. (That was some wierd shit I copied from chapter 1 that says, "You are not expected to understand this yet!")

I had an interesting day at work. First, it was boring. No tables. I sat around shooting the shit with the other servers and pizza delivery drivers. While talking to one of the delivery drivers I noticed that he had a new mass of bandages on his left hand, making it look like a big, white, boxing glove.
"Where the hell did you get that?"

"Oh. I burned it."

"Oh." I thought maybe he'd spilled scalding hot cheese on his hand.

No. He elaborated. He'd been in his car, driving around at four in the morning, smoking a cigarette when one of the ashes fell into the center console. Normally this is mostly harmless, but becomes dangerous when your center console is full of gunpowder and magnesium from dismantled fireworks.

"!!?" I said.

As if he felt having the stuff in the car and lighting it on fire in the first place wasn't stupid enough, he scooped his bare hand into the burning, glowing mixture to try and throw it out the window, winning him an all expense-paid trip to the hospital.

I figured he already felt stupid enough without me pointing it out to him. So I didn't.
Then, finally, the customers began to appear. We had planned on having a party of 30, reserved a few days in advance, out on the deck. No problem. Only three servers. One of them can handle that and the other two can keep the dining room in check. Then a party of 25 calls in, one-half hour in advance and now two of the other servers are occupied, leaving me everyone else who comes in to handle by myself.

But running around like a hamster pumped full of cocaine didn't stop me from observing the odd events that took place there. One of the cooks had made a cheeseburger for the bartender's customers, and forgotten the cheese. The general manager pointed this out to him and he laid a slice of American cheese on the patty. The manager grumbled that the cheese should be melted and the cook protested that it was melted. So they argued about it for about two minutes, both of them smiling around the corners of their mouths, before the manager peeled the slice of cheese from the bun and adorned the cook's shirt with it.
"You call that melted!? See! It's not melted! Melt the cheese! I'll help you."

The cook and the manager set out to put another slice of cheese on the burger but found that it had vanished while they were arguing.

One of the other servers informed them that the dishwasher had run off with the burger while they were arguing, and smothered it in jalapenos. When she asked the dishwasher why he took the burger. He said, "It's mine." Meanwhile the bartender began asking about the burger and the manager ran around flapping his arms freaking out on everyone involved in the burger incident, trying, unsuccessfully, not to laugh.
This was somewhat similar to the situation last week when a woman at one of my tables ordered a broiled chicken breast and they made a plate of fried chicken for her. So they remade it, and she spent ten minutes watching her family eat while waiting for it, only for me to go into the kitchen and have the cook tell me he didn't know where it was.

"What? What do you mean you don't know where it is?! Didn't you make it?"

"Yeah, but Luke came in here and took it. I thought he was taking it for you?"

"What!? Luke? The bartender Luke?"

"Yeah. Him."

I went into the bar and there he was mowing the chicken down with his evil teeth, and I had to explain to the woman.

"Uh. Sorry. They made your chicken right this time but the bartender is eating it now. I see your family is done..would you like to wait another twenty minutes so your husband can watch you eat while trying to keep your restless children in check or shall I deny you the chicken and simply subtract that from your bill my good madam?"

She didn't take very kindly to the fact that I was snickering as I said this, but I couldn't help it.

Working in a privately-owned restaurant gives you a very unprofessional feeling sometimes...but it's fun.

Got up a little before 5 this a.m. to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis blast off...I live about 60 miles from Cape Kennedy and it truly is a blast when they launch. Even after the rocket booster breaks away, you can see a teenie weenie light that is the shuttle, zooming through space.

Usually, I miss the launch..I'll be somewhere and look around, and there'll be a group of people looking skyward..watcha lookin' at? Oh yeah, I forgot all about it...duh..

Todays Crew consisted of

And as they soar around the earth on the way to the Space Station, I've got to soar to work...

blah/ grub. blargh. )draxcks. shit is up in the air. floating and pelting and what not.

Hate is a method - ODB

Hey, my job is giving me a cell phone! woo hoo!
I already have one, but I don't ever pay the bill, so it's basically just a waste of money, but shit now I'll look cool. I'll have two phones I don't pay for!

I am the least responsible person in the world!

last night I stayed up until 4:45 in the morning playing PowerStone. I am so stupid!

I can honestly say being completely unmotivated is causing some problems in my life. It's funny though, I lie to myself all the time, like: "Ahh, what a beautiful Sunday, I think I'll go to the beach, work on my tan, make myself a terrific meal, wash my car, and go for a 5 mile run." And every single time, that translates into "Smoke a little pot, smoke a lot of pot, then walk over to the movie theater and drool." Who knew?
I went to the gym though yesterday, not to work out, but to check if my account was still active. I haven't gone there in months! See, after my ex-girlfriend left me, instead of improving/bettering myself, I decided to smoke a lot of pot, party, and play Dreamcast all the time. Now, I've put on 15 pounds. And it's not that I'm fat, but I'm definitely starting the beginnings of a gnarly double chin. It's fabulous; I think I'm getting to the point where I relate more with fat folks. Like we've both got the right idea about life.

In other news, a cute girl is interested in me and calls me every few days, comes over & such. This is the sort of thing where everyone knows she likes me and talks about it/ speculates whether anything's going to happen. I try to tell girls now, "Hey, you know, I'm really a deadbeat. Lame as they come. I'm not going to call you. Seriously, I don't call people. You won't be the exception. I'm entirely self-centered and content with throwing my life down the crapper." Still, this doesn't seem to have any effect on the situation. Truthfully, when I think about it sometimes, I say to myself, do you want to work to build a great relationship with this girl, or do you want to play video games? Ironically, I tell myself, shit I'll call the girl tonight! Then, I get home, settle down, and bang play 7 hours of Dreamcast. So obviously, I don't want a girlfriend, and it must somehow be for the best!

Oh boy, my ex from New York just signed on IM. She just got back from Vegas. I could have met up with her there, but I guess that whole thing fell through. She was a good girl, and I sometimes miss what we had.
Party on, dudes.

Screaming along with my favorite rock stars, thunder and lightning crashing down around me, the rain washing away the dirt of the streets under my feet, Jessica at my side.

It doesn't get any better than parking lot concerts in the heart of a city.
I had to work in our data center in Waltham late last night for several hours. Brrrr it was cold. I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and it was to the point where I was tempted to just postpone the install I had to get done that night. I think we need a spare flannel shirt for our cage.

Meanwhile I took a chance and parked for what little was left of the night on the street in front of my apartment. (Brookline has this insane policy of no street parking...a ticket after one hour at night, after two hours during the day.) Anyhow, I lucked out and didn't get a ticket. Woo hoo!

I'm dog and house sitting for someone at work, and yesterday he showed me his family's place. WOW is it beautiful. A four story place with a loft. Tons of food, cdroms, books... Its quiet, and his dog is really nice. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully it won't rain this weekend, so I can enjoy the walk with the dog....

Well, it's been one week since my decision to stop drinking (see the Independence Day declaration here) and ... I'm doing fine! I won't say I don't feel like a drink, but the urge to run out and get a pint of Absolut is getting less and less. I no longer feel like my skin doesn't fit, like my skeleton is rattling around in my body. I don't have the nervous itch I had in the first few days. I've even stopped yelling at my colleagues for no discernible reason.

It's hard not to be just a little bit proud of myself.

Now, here comes the real test ... Tomorrow I am leaving on a trip to California and (cue dramatic music) Las Vegas. Well, in truth it's only a 2 day stop-over in Vegas. The main purpose of the trip is to meet my girlfriend's friends and *gulp* parents in San Diego.

No... The real main purpose of the trip is to get away from Manhattan, to go find a beach, and some sun without this miserable humidity, and to relax. I just started reading "The Deed of Paksenarrion" by Elizabeth Moon which should make for nice, relaxing beach reading. This is my last node before my trip - a long report will follow next weekend.

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