I was walking with my friend from Alpha Centauri the other day, and I had to ask him, "So why haven't you revealed yourself to the world yet? Don't you think people would be ecstatic to meet a person from another planet?"

"I'm afraid they'd kill me first."

There were quite a number of people around since it was a nice bright sunny day in the park, but he had disguised himself as a human, so no one knew the better. I was puzzled. I thought that all people wanted to know a person from another planet. "Kill you? Why?"

He looked at me, shaking his head, with this look of surprise. "Oh, I'm sure someone will say I'm 'the spawn of the devil' or something to imply that I'll corrupt humanity in some way. Your people do that all the time. Look at the history of Western Europe. It's full of such intolerance. You should know that. Weren't you taught that in your educational system?" Of course I was, but I always took the optimisitic approach to humanity. I guess he didn't, and with his life at stake, I guess I could understand.

"Yeah, that's true, but we can muster up enough support to protect you and get bodyguards and such."

"I don't need a group of extremists of my own. I'd like to tell your world, but I would like to do so without anyone losing their lives."

A child kicked a ball over to our area. He bent over to pick it up and hand it to the child. As the child took it from his hand, she paused and said to him, "Mister, are you gay?" We looked at each other in confusion.

He gave a little chuckle, since on his planet, they reproduce asexually. "No dear."

The little girl smiled, "That's good, 'cause my daddy says fags are evil." I held my breath and bit my lip in somewhat of a shock. She ran off with her ball and I looked at my friend, and he looked a little miffed.

"See, your people can't even tolerate themselves. How do you think they're going to tolerate us?"

If you have the luxury of choosing where to be a student and poor, you can’t do much worse than Lincoln. The town is, by any honest appraisal, a college town, and as such, everything that a student needs is close to campus, including grocery stores, gas stations, and cheap housing. It's great for bikers, too, since there are only a few hills, and those that exist are generally out of the way, and an extensive trail system is available, although it is only really good for recreation.

Summers are quite nice, overall, not too warm, and winters are bearable with the exception of a couple days where the snow might get to be too much for the road crews. Cost of living isn’t too bad at all, especially if you’re willing to rough it a little. There are plenty of places to go on a weekend evening, plenty of places to work that can accommodate a student’s schedule, and plenty of young people to bum rides off of.

That last one gets to be quite handy.

I graduated last May from the University with a degree not even worth the paper it was printed on – although I can’t say I expected much more from a Bachelor of Music from the state school. I was broke, I mean, who isn’t after five years of full-time school, so I didn’t have a lot of living or working options. I worked something out with one of my friends, Joel, who was renting a house that had a spacious unfurnished basement I could camp out in. I could stay there until I found another place, and I could help with rent once I found a job.

When I left school, I thought it’d be easy to find a perfect job. I applied online to a bunch of places, and sent my resume off to a few places downtown, to no avail. A couple weeks of that, and I applied at a Russ’s supermarket just a couple blocks from Joel’s, just to have something to “tide me over.” It’s been a year now, and I still work there, checking groceries. I’ve had a couple raises, I think.


On Mondays, Joel and our other housemates, Nick and Angela, go to campus together and come home together. They’re all still in school, Joel in his last year, Nick and Angela in their third. I hear them enter noisily above while I’m reading 1984 under a lamp I found at the Salvation Army downtown. I have the day off, and have been enjoying the peace after a long, party-filled weekend. It was Nick’s birthday yesterday. His 21st. Thankfully, I was able to contain the celebration upstairs, mostly, except for the couple that made its way to my bed.

I can’t make out what they’re saying, but I can tell by the quick back-and-forth and volume that they’re arguing about something, Nick and Angela are, which isn’t unusual. Nick tends to be laid-back, Angela, uptight. They’re probably arguing about the house car, which they jointly maintain and own. The transmission went out recently, and it was Nick’s turn to shoulder most of the burden, but he was fired a couple weeks ago, so last I knew, he was asking Angela to help him out, who claims she has no money, which isn’t quite true, we all know how she saves money and spends next to nothing if she can help it. The only thing I can say I know about Nick and Angela’s fights is that it’s best to stay out of them. Someone knocks at the basement door.

Entrez-vous,” I shout, still sitting at my desk, 1984 open before me, but I'm not really reading. Joel opens the door and walks down a few steps.

“You want to help me with something?” he asks.

“Sure,” I say, shutting off my lamp and turning the book over so as to save my spot. I walk to the stairs and climb them to the kitchen, where I see Joel walking through the living room, then outside. Nick and Angela are still bickering, quieter now.

“...I don’t know who broke it. No clue. But you know I can’t afford to replace it,” Nick is saying.

“Nick, I’m an English major, I need my keyboard. And I swear it was working before your dumb stoner friends –"

“They’re not stoners. They’re English majors just like you."

“You know, whatever,” Angela said. “You owe me a keyboard. I’ll just try to find a way to do all my work at school, somehow. You’ll have to give me rides."

“Whatever...”

I left the two to their bickering, to find Joel at the “family” station wagon, parked out front, with the back hatch slightly ajar and secured with rope. It precariously held a large roll of apparently used carpet. Joel was busy undoing the many knots holding the door half-shut.

“What’s this?” I ask.

Joel, bent over the knots, looks up without stopping, “This is what Nick and Angie are arguing over.”

“It sounded like they were arguing over a keyboard to me.”

Joel laughs. “You know how they are. This is what started it. All the way home, Angela was like, ‘How do you know there aren’t ticks in it?’ and so on. She actually wanted me to stop over at a Walgreen’s and get some tick-killer or something."

“So... why do we have a roll of carpet in the car?”

Joel undoes the last knot, letting the strained door spring open under the carpet’s pressure. “Nick got it from some kid at school. I think they met at the party."

He props the door fully open and grabs hold of one end of the roll. He nods to me, and I come up to the car, ready to grab the other end as he pulls it out. “But what do we need with a carpet? The whole house has carpet."

“Not the basement,” Joel says, smiling.

It takes me a moment, then I laugh. “Ohhhhh, I see. It’s a gift!"

“Yep. Hope you like burnt orange."

“Whatever works,” I say, grabbing hold of the other end of the carpet roll. “You know, I'm so used to the cold concrete underfoot, I think this might be a little strange to have."

We walk the roll out of the car, and I slam the door shut with my foot. We walk the carpet up the stairs and into the house, where Nick and Angela have apparently gone to their separate rooms, and with some careful maneuvering, we get the roll through the kitchen and into the basement.

After securing the roll against an unadorned wall of the foundation, Joel dusts off his hands, and looks at me. “So,” he says, “what’s for dinner, Mom?"

I roll my eyes. I had forgotten that it’s my "Mom" night tonight. I haven’t even thought about dinner yet.

A few weeks ago we all woke up to an issue of 'The Economist' with three slices of the gridded World Trade Center skin impaled in the ground like a coronet on the cover, entitled 'Six months on'. The pain of war partially lies upon forgetting it for a while for pettier stresses and more frivolous pursuits, reading about Bush's short-sighted steel tariffs, riots in Argentina, and the death of Anderson. I still have it on my desk, face down, with the ubiquitous "ORACLE NEVER BREAKS" (hah) back-cover advertisement facing up.

Act II Scene 2 of Prokofiev's 'War and Peace' at the Met always opens spectacularly with Napoleon and the 'Armies of Twelve Great Nations of Europe' preparing for the Battle of Borodino, with the stage molded into a tableau of a rocky hill on a stormy evening with a circle of French riflemen searching the horizon on bended knee. The opera was more Götterdämmerung than Wagner's Götterdämmerung: I like the idea of war in Napoleanic court dress; but one should always recognize the propoganda machinations behind the ideals. Profokiev himself never got to see his opera performed in its entirity due to 'official revisions' that the 1940's Russian government insisted upon. It (both the plot and the propoganda machine) was then eerily relevent to the Nazi attack on Moscow as it is eerily relevant now. I suppose to some degree it is always relevant.

On the first day of spring break, which was also the day that I received 'Six Months On' in the mail; at the end of the day after a stochastic finance meeting in a rare moment of leisure we three are standing side by side on the roof of Stern, with our thesis advisor. Our professor said that we will all go on to make a lot more money than he is; but the tradeoff is that he could do this every day if he wanted to. Leaning on a terrace in a knee-length denim skirt, belt made out of a VESPOLI boat-rack strap, and Bottega Veneta pointy-toed shoes with palladium fittings('It's important to flirt with the idea of eurotrash but never become it') smoking recently-smuggled cubans with my research partners, when we are in business school and will be Very Successful, in a vaguely farcical manner at 3:00 in the afternoon, sharp blue sky, solitary in the middle of tall buildings in ambitious Manhattan. (Stringing along very run-on sentences and abusing semicolons.) I know that holding less risk is one of the primary benefits of becoming an academician. A cyclical economy (a cyclical world) is easy to ride out by being a professor. In finance we are paid for the risk we hold.

Florian, another Brazilian MBA in a subtle pink-and-yellow windowpane ('I call it the oxymoron 170's cotton') English-tailored shirt done in an ostentatiously bespoke manner with french cuffs and a triple-button cutaway collar, stands on the terrace and has the same issue of The Economist as I have. He holds it rolled up with the cover on the inside, like everybody else in Manhattan that day. He had landed an offer with McKinsey & Co., the firm of firms, ('which will henceforth be known as "The Firm"') and actually turned it down. He's gone back to Sao Paolo over the break to interview some more down there; he was an i-banker there for a couple of years pre-grad school, and he says that the lifestyle is better since there are so many attractive women and very few 'good' men.

On the way out from my 40th unsuccessful Goldman Sachs interview I gave my free 'GOLDMAN SACHS, MINDS WIDE OPEN' recruiting t-shirts to the OE-drinking homeless men directly outside their offices. I can see them now, wearing the shirts outside the famous 84 Broad Street, muttering something about recent i-banking layoffs ('Will underwrite IPOs for food'). Maybe illustrating that in this economy it doesn't take much to go from 'The Street' to 'the street'.

I ended up pulling one very exciting offer at an energy trading desk at BofA, that I accepted last week for which I rejected one from UBS Warburg Fixed Income. It's a little bit ironic how an 18-year-old cannot gamble in most places in the US, but they can be fingerprinted by the securities-fraud division at the FBI to possibly bet billions of dollars of exposure on the derivatives market.

In New York there is talk of building a World Trade Center memorial of two piers jutting out from lower Manhattan the exact same width and length of the twin towers; to help people remember its size and scope. At 'Six Months On' it's difficult to really remember exactly how we felt; the people whose jobs are gone and whose friends are gone, on our way up the sine curve again.

My recent trip to Europe last week has reinforced my belief that in America and especially New York memory is very short; America is the great equalizer. My friend's parents came over from China, uneducated and not speaking English, and sent 2 children to NYU and one to Harvard. I know a girl who is a von Bismarck working in PR in the city, when her great-grandparents ruled half of Europe. The scaffolding over the sidewalks is one of New York's hallmarks, constant building, and constant tearing down.

Kind of like Napoleon invading Moscow, then two years later being put away by the treaty of Fontainbleu, kind of like Nash beating out Ohlin for the Nobel after 40 years, like Oracle getting unprecedented publicity on March 9-15, kind of like Wall Street, like things falling down and coming back up.

Took my ASM final today...

The last item on the test was to write this moderately beastly program for about 60% of the test grade... meanwhile I had been taking my sweet time since I had no idea what was at the end, plus I had got there late and was still plowing through the exam at a nice leisurely clip, at which point I realize I had about 30 minutes to write an hour-and-a-half program...

Somewhere on the verge of panic, something clicked in my brain... someone OR'd the bit to set it in overdrive. It was amazing. Normally for something tedious and difficult like Assembler coding I just zone out and in a few hours realize that I've produced a flawless program, but unfortunately a few hours weren't available at the time...

So instead of entering a subconscious idiot-savant mode, I clicked into a sort of hyperconsciousness... I still remember every single character of that program... it's burned into my mind now like an important memory, or at least singed a bit. The important thing is that every bit in that program is the direct result of conscious thought.

But the true beauty was the state of consciousness. In 5 minutes, I produced half an hour's thoughts and progress... entire sections of code spontaneously architected themselves in my imagination as I wrote, fitting themselves seamlessly into the emergent design, carefully leaving hooks to add the rest swiftly and flexibly... The adrenaline high was fantastic, and the moment of truth! Just as the professor asked for the tests, the last few lines spontaneously burst into my mind, the ink leaped from pen to paper and for just a second, my thoughts directly connected to that paper as my mighty stylus performed the coup de grace. All in a heartbeat!

I'm sure I did well on the rest of the exam, but I know that the program was perfect.*


*Aww, crap! I forgot to create a flow diagram! So much for retrospective glory... :(
Sorry for posting this daylog and tomorrow's a little late. The reason will become apparent.

Today was the day of the Big Walk. My family are all keen walkers, and we decided a good long while ago to explore what long walks were possible in the area around us. One idea which occurred to us was the prospect of taking the train into central London and then walking all the way home - about 20 miles, through some interesting areas. Family illness and bad weather had conspired to stop us carrying out this plan until today.

We set out a little later, and took Thameslink and the Circle Line to Temple station, on the banks of the River Thames It was nearly 11:00 when we set off in a generally north-westerly direction, and the weather was (fortunately) fine. We skirted the Aldwych and headed up Drury Lane, and then decided on a whim to go through the Great Court of the British Museum. This was a pleasant interlude, and also avoided our having to walk up the dusty street running parallel. Then we crossed the Tottenham Court Road and headed up Cleveland Street past Telecom Tower to the Euston Road. There, we crossed into Regent's Park and headed northward up Broad Walk, stopping on the way for a cup of tea. Then we pressed on, past the south side of London Zoo. Looking over the zoo fence, I saw a reindeer. When in Sweden (around Umeå) at New Year this year, the only reindeer I saw were stuffed or cooked, so seeing a live one in the middle of London struck me as amusing.

Leaving the zoo behind, we crossed from the park onto Primrose Hill, the first of many hills to be climbed during the day. There were primroses blooming here, presumably placed there after popular demand, but very pleasant. Then we headed down into the smart streets south of Swiss Cottage, up Avenue Road, past the Swiss Cottage itself, and up College Crescent, away from the dusty Finchley Road. This route took us up Fitzjohn's Avenue, past a hospital with a statue of Sigmund Freud outside, towards Hampstead Heath. As we climed the hill, the houses again became smarter, until every one seemed to be a mansion. At the top, we turned a sharp corner and found ourselves in the main street of Hampstead village, next to the London Underground's deepest station. Despite having been engulfed by London, Hampstead strongly retains its village feeling, perched on top of its steep hill. Also up here were many restaurants, almost all of them expensive. One was offering unlimited dim sum for £13.50. There was also a J D Wetherspoon pub, but we didn't feel terribly hungry at that point. A little further on we broke out onto the open Heath, and followed the road along its edge to the pub called Jack Straw's Castle - nothing to do with Jack Straw, by the way. There we began the descent from the Heath, down towards Golder's Green. At the bottom of the hill we passed The Old Bull and Bush, and stopped to review blisters and the like.

Having rested, we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill and came upon the entrance to Golder's Hill Park, where we stopped for lunch at a very popular Italian restaurant. I had what was described as a 'Golder's Green Bagel' - smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. Not very Italian, perhaps, but delicious. Then, having drunk tea and eaten well, we moved on before our muscles decided to seize up. We headed along back streets along the extreme northern edge of Hampstead Heath, between Golder's Green and Hampstead Garden Village. Yet more mansions. Single houses as large as the (well-appointed) terrace of five in which I live. Eventually we came down to the junction of the North Circular Road and the Finchley Road at Henlys Corner, but did not cross the North Circular, rather turning right onto a path called the Brookside Walk, which follows the Mutton Brook and the Dollis Brook, small rivers which flow through North London's suburbia. This path took us under the North Circular, and the Great North Way and Hendon Lane, and eventually deposited us outside Hendon cemetery. We should really have followed the riverside walk a little further, since it could have saved us a lot of trouble, but we didn't know that.

We had to skirt right around the cemetery, since there didn't appear to be a path through it. Then, having got to the far side by the long route, I rashly decided we could cut across what was marked on the map as 'Arrandene Open Space'. It wasn't very open, and in fact consisted of a large tract of jumbled, muddy countryside with a lot of trees and virtually no exit. We ended up walking about a mile to end up a hundred yards from where we started, and got our shoes and boots covered in mud into the bargain. Then we carried on slogging up the hill, and discovered that the area my 'short cut' had been designed to avoid was the totally unsignposted old village of Mill Hill. I'd always thought of Mill Hill in terms of Mill Hill Broadway, where the Thameslink railway station is. This was a much more exclusive area, on the edge of the countryside and home to two public schools. Unfortunately, it was so exclusive that there wasn't anywhere to buy the afternoon tea we badly wanted. Moreover, if we'd carried on along the Brookside Walk, and from there gone the far side of a roundabout we'd passed in Hendon, we'd have been there a lot sooner. We'll know next time.

Old Mill Hill has plenty of place names to suggest that there really was a mill there once. From there we headed onward, through the outlying parts of Mill Hill and eastern Edgware, now with genuine open country on our right, until we came to the point where we left the urbanisation behind altogether. We headed for Moat Mount Open Space, an area of public countryside which would lead us into Hertfordshire. Still no afternoon tea. Moat Mount was approached along the edge of the most exclusive housing we'd seen yet - 'Mote Mount', consisting of a few green-roofed villas in their own private estates, with rare ducks in elegantly landscaped ponds - and past a riding stable. Then we crossed the Open Space itself, which is where the Dollis Brook rises. (It flows into Barnet and out again before coming to where we'd seen it before.) The fields were very damp, as though the river were rising out of the path itself. We glimpsed the M1 away to the left before reaching the far side of Moat Mount. Then we had to follow a busy A-road, and cross the A1 at Stirling Corner, which was probably the worst bit of the whole journey. Then we headed onward into Borehamwood, which is very dull, but entirely free of mansions, and where we finally got something to eat - sandwiches and cartons of milk from a branch of Iceland.

Then we headed onward through boring Borehamwood, and into the Hertfordshire countryside. More mansions appeared as we got to Radlett, where we joined the Roman road, Watling Street, which leads directly to St Albans. The sun was setting, and as we headed up the hill out of Radlett, it began to get pretty chilly. We crossed the M25 on a bridge, and went through the villages of Frogmore and Park Street before finally limping home to St Albans at 8:00pm, after walking a total distance of about 22 miles (35 km). We were extremely glad to be greeted by a hot dinner and good wine provided by family members who'd stayed at home. And then the pain started. My thighs felt appalling for the next twelve hours or so, and I was lucky to be the only walker who hadn't picked up blisters. So I only logged on for the briefest time, and then crashed into bed. And then...

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