I should maintain backups, but I typed
cp .tplate 0306.html where I should have typed
cp .tplate 0307.html and had a few moments of disappointment in myself before Angel searched his browser’s cache, and I was able to restore last month’s log entries. I offered to PayPal him some lunch money but he’s a good creature who doesn’t want rewards for helping a friend who types too fast and presses the Enter key before he’s thought it all through.
Lately, particular events have brought to mind novels that I’ve previously read. Some of these are pretty old, and a few are even obscure. Even if I want a piece of media that is new, I tend to prefer the less-expensive used version. Amazon.com and bn.com both offer to hook you up with a used version, but they charge a uniform $4.00 to ship an item. YUCK! If I find a used item for $1, it’ll cost me five times that much to possess it! No.
It got me wondering that there has to be a better way. I envisioned this better way in my head, rapped up an LIS friend about it. Today at a brick-based local used book store, I asked how they procured old books they didn’t have, and the lady referred me to abebooks.com.
“A – B – E – BOOKS dot com.”
“A – B – E … Abe, as in Lincoln?”
“ABE, as in `Advanced Book Exchange’.”
“Alright, thank you so much!”
Our reluctant occupation of Iraq, and the resistance that is naturally forming, as a result, brings to mind Steinbeck’s _The Moon is Down_ which tells about the uncomfortable relationship between a fictional town and its military occupiers, with great sympathy towards all the characters involved. I’d like to read it again, and possibly share any good excerpts that I find. Anyway, I found a copy online, for $1, with $2.75 shipping. So, for less than the cost of shipping through the Big Evil Mind-Control Corporation with its decaying user experience, I was able to kick in a little bit of support to the little guy. Yay!
Then I went and grabbed _Speedology_ off of Amazon.com. Even with my $10 gift certificate, it cost me five bucks. Oh well. It ought to be worth it. “Speed” himself is a little guy, and his content is so new and weird that used is not yet a super-viable option.
An undated entry from a notebook, probably made in the Spring of 2002.
Are humans a trans-species “transitional form”?
A trans-species “transitional form” is a species that exists for a short time, before it is ultimately replaced by a longer-lived derivative of itself that is better-suited to the world in which it finds itself.
We’ve been around 200,000 years, and still seem ambivalent about our hair.
This is not a very long time, in genetic evolution, based on our reproductive life-spans. This ambivalence about hair implies that perhaps the next species we evolve in to will feel more comfortable in its own skin.
Maybe we are the transitional form between primate ancestors and our post-human progenitors, who conduct natural selection through genetic engineering and memetic competition.
What is the appropriate next step for a species as remarkable as homo homo sapiens? What challenges do we face? I think because we move so fast, that our progenitors will be able to keep up with themselves. I’m not sure how …
And we evolve from post-human in to proto-humanity not without a good amount of ambivalence about the outcome of our half-conscious engineering efforts.
Proto-humanity being a tricky term, where their humanity will be different from our humanity, but the first humanity, proto, that they can really accept as humanity.
We are mostly cautious of the memes we push today. Genetic engineering … what will our hyper-intelligent, post-human grandchildren make of the reason for being?
Maybe they will be able to build the philosophy and social structure necessary to conduct humanity with success in the world we are cooking for them.
If they believe in a God, He will have created these post-humans by our hands, our minds, our consciousness and conscientiousness.
We who give birth to this new species, will be seen as the instruments through which His will acted to create them.
Or if there is no God, no divine plan, to what end will they exist? Will their minds bring us about to a self-realized Nirvana of non-existence, or will existence be their God? The striving for ever “improved” being? By what metric will these Engineerists evaluate improvement?
By what metric can a contemporary human evaluate improvement? What are us non-Theists living for?
The ironic triumph of Humanism comes in the post-human age.
It’s been a pleasant holiday weekend. Beth threw a party on the third, and I invited folks. Raad, my friend who grew up in Baghdad, came, as did my friend Tunji, who will never shake his tricky Nigerian accent. Elizabeth, who grew up in Chicago but has a foreign travel bug, also showed up, as did Milly, my prodigal young roommate, and we spent most of the night in conversation with Dervis, a Turkish physicist who lives upstairs from Beth. We talked about nerdy intellectual stuff, like national histories, how the system works, lifestyle choices and international political relationships. Elizabeth and Raad, both music aficionados, took some time out to talk about this shared interest. Raad shared with us some pictures he had taken of the artwork that he is working on at home, which was exciting and groovy. As the party wound down, Dervis invited us upstairs to his funky little pad, and played some of his musical compositions for us. Creativity was thus revealed, and shared, among like-minded strangers from across the globe. Not a bad night in America.
Tunji walked home, he lives nearby. Raad dropped Milly off at our apartment, while I opted to walk Elizabeth home, not far away. The next day Elizabeth and her roommate opted to host a get-together. The international cast, minus Milly, reassembled to eat meat and drink. The fireworks started and we marched off in search of a view, and found ourselves atop a parking garage with some tail-gating townies. It was another groovy night.
Then, slightly hung over, I was at work at 6:30 Saturday morning, to open with the Owner’s Wife, who shares her husband’s view that I am a dangerous, free-thinking radical, hell-bent on the destruction of their enterprise. She possessed a remarkably impressive amount of vitriol for me that day, which added to the slight hangover, and the complete lack of downtown business on a holiday weekend, to ruffle my chi. I made it through the shift by responding to her negative energy with my trademark, good-natured non-chalance. Despite all the flak I’m perfectly capable of doing a great job, for the time being. I’m likely to bail and move to Chicago when the apartment lease, and the special deal I have on it, ends in August. I’m not serving enough customers or making as much money as a barista as I would like. I can probably get a good gig serving Chicago-style pizza with a good break on Chicago-style rent by living with my Chicago-stylin’ Mom.
I’ve been pretty pleased since moving back to the morning shift. I get along with my regular cafe co-worker very well, and when I get home in the evening, even after a nap, I find myself awake and interested and getting things done … poetry, revising prose, some programming, transcribing journals. There’s the eight hours a day when I serve my employer, followed by a few more hours when I’m in the right mode to serve my own interests. Yum!
And days off rock, as well. I got three this week, thanks to the holiday. On Sunday, I was hanging out in the south lounge of the Illini Union, doing precisely nothing, and Dervis ran into me. He had been hoping to play the piano they have there, but was too shy to interrupt the peaceful-looking slumber in which one of the guests there was engaged. So, we ended up talking, and talking, and talking, about crazy ideas … physics, math, biology, identity, genetics, whatever. He joined me for an evening coffee at Za’s – they have splendid brewed coffee, which they serve by scooping a single-serving of beans, into the grinder, into a filter, which is then conveyed via hot water, into a mug. Damn! We talked more, on and on. I walked with him back to his lab, where he was going to get some work done. It was on my way home.
The only great wrinkle in that whole thing was that Za’s did not have their tiramisu available. This wonderful, wonderful bit of manna, that goes so well with their coffee, and deep conversations. I settled for a blueberry muffin.
One point Dervis made, among several, was that Champaign-Urbana, especially during the summer, is especially conducive to thinking, to meditation, to pursuing one’s intellectual interests. It is one thing to have the University, but it is another thing for there to be nothing going on … quiet solitude, for one to be alone with the World, and one’s thoughts. And that is what I’ve been tuning into, with pleasing success, lately.
Today I had to work early again. It was no effort at all. The only wrinkle was that the Cafe Manager came by and told us that he had finally met more flak than he could stand from the Owner, and that he would be walking out on us, as soon as some manifestation of the Owner showed up. He was sorry to go, sorry to leave us, and we were sorry to see him go, because he’s a sweet, mild-mannered guy, who helped temper our relationships with the owners. We’ve lost that buffer, which means the Owner’s Wife will probably be around more to fill out the schedule, and ruffle my chi. We’ll see how well I can keep my cool. We’ll see if the owners will start to re-evaluate things with an eye toward removing the negative energy that has been driving a succession of employees away. We’ll see what lies ahead.
Some of our most loyal customers at the shop are the human pigeons who are passing a point in life where a master circuit breaker has been reset. They are scratching along, starting to hop, with a mind toward testing out their wings. While they are poor tippers, I really like these pigeons, because I identify with them. I myself found some salvation while frequenting a coffee shop in California, and at the moment, I’m starting to hop around, dizzied by the navigable opportunities, at the moment interviewing with a company which may find me leaping into the air to return to California!
He told me he’d found a bag of weed, just sitting there. What fortune! He figured he could probably get $5 by selling it to somebody. After carrying this bag for a little while, he got rid of it. He figured that this would be just the time to find himself in the middle of a misunderstanding with the cops, who would find him in possession of an illegal substance in which he had no interest.
That he was more inclined to sell than to smoke, makes me think that this baggie presented itself to him, not as a test but more of a demonstrative reminder. It was entirely his doing that a nickel of pot should be viewed as one thing, and not the other. Of course, now he has an even clearer view: that found herb is just trouble.
In a previous life, he’d have just smoked it, perhaps sharing his good fortune with a friend. In this life, he wouldn’t do such a thing because he is aware of a personal limitation. This limitation can be painful in a culture where pretty girls are found at bars and a happy trip in a bag can be just plain found to offer itself to you. The whole point to Recovery, in which he is presently engaged, is to make sense of this limitation.
We all have limitations. There are things we can never do. He can never drink alcohol again, because he knows that it will conspire against him to serve its own thirst. The pain of this self-imposed prohibition, the burden of this limitation, is a price paid for enlightenment. He may be limited in a way that others of us are not, but he is also enlightened in a way that others of us are not. How many of us can point out the mortal personal danger in some activity that others regard as mostly harmless?
Hell, I might have smoked it, but then I have yet to endure the gnashing cataclysm of a full-on substance abuse. (Though I sometimes flirt with and on occasion even reach my hand up the skirt of such catastrophes.) I have not consummated any relationship with substance abuse because I tend towards the impotence of uncertainty in the brilliant light of abundantly diverse possibilities. I am frequently reluctant to commit myself to any lifestyle that wishes to consume me.
He has paid a great price for his enlightenment, and he will continue to pay with his sobriety. This is how we become enlightened, and subsequently wise, instead of merely “educated” – by suffering and rejoicing in the direct experience. Addiction and sobriety are both great examples of something that can be alternately painful and exhilarating. Sobriety offers the pain of limitation with the exhilaration of knowing that you’ll be alive and consciously in control of yourself such that you can more directly realize the oft-obscured kick we can get from living with ourselves and amongst our others. Sobriety is that tingle you get when you step away from the ledge with a grin at what a great deal you’ve struck by declining the world’s offer of the final death experience of suicide.
I had recently been switched to the morning shift, Monday through Saturday. This was done by the old Cafe Manager, who had a very polite habit of asking us how we felt about changes to our regular schedules. Regular schedules being an understood trade-off for the fact that the employer does not tolerate the concept of “unpaid leave” for “full-time” employees.
On Thursday morning we saw the new schedule had been posted. In addition to four eight-hour shifts, Monday through Thursday, I was scheduled to work Friday and Saturday evening. I considered how comfortable I could be with this schedule, lamenting to my colleagues that it struck me as rude to schedule me for an extra day of work, overtime, without asking me first.
I didn’t really want to work overtime, and I had been invited to a birthday party on Saturday.
I tossed it around in my head how I wanted to deal with this, over the course of the day. In the early afternoon, near the end of my shift, the Co-Owner passed by, and asked if I’d seen the new schedule, and had any problems with it.
“Well … I do have a prior commitment on Saturday …”
“When we hired you you agreed to be available Monday through Saturday.”
“I was also told that I was expected to work a regular schedule.”
The phone rang, I asked if she wanted me to take the call. She left me with the telephone. I could feel the electricity in the air. Just in case things were about to get ugly, I gathered my personal belongings in to a convenient pile, in case I might have to leave suddenly.
The Owner came around looking for me, having checked the washrooms. I was in the basement, storing some supplies. I was asked to come around the front to have a meeting with him and the Co-Owner. I had to turn around and double-check that the basement door was properly secure. After all, I wasn’t sure that I’d be back around, and this door had featured prominently in the final straw that had broken the Cafe Manager’s back the week before.
I was invited to sit. I was reminded that I had previously agreed to be available for work Monday through Saturday. I responded that when I agreed to this, I had also been told that the schedule would be provided two weeks in advance. The Owner responded that he had never made such a claim. I reminded him that he had told me this at my interview, when I had been considering additional employment to supplement my income.
(When he denied that he had ever said that the schedule would be posted in advance, I felt that I had caught him in a lie. At that moment, his face seemed to separate from his skull, and become a rubber mask, the rage behind it revealing itself in his eyes, his forehead, and his extremely tense body.)
He explained that the schedule was to be posted two weeks ahead of time, only in the best of times. Since one of the employees was on three weeks leave, which she had arranged months in advance, this was clearly not the best of times.
We have been soliciting for and interviewing candidates to work in the Cafe. I inquired as to whether we might bring a new hire on line soon enough, that they would be trained and available to work next weekend. The Owner got visibly angry, and admonished that this was none of my business, and it was not my place to make such a suggestion!
They cut to the agenda at hand: are you refusing to work?
“… not yet …” (I did “not yet” view the problem at hand as unsolvable, by reasonable people. If nothing else, it wouldn’t be the first time I had scrapped recreation plans to accommodate an employer.)
They cut to the chase. The Owner told me that he’d do what I had wanted him to do for a long time. On the grounds that I was “being difficult,” I was fired. I would hand him my apron, and he would return with my belongings, which I had just before arranged for easy retrieval. He would also punch my time card. I offered to bring him an S.A.S.E. He agreed.
I was free.
I didn’t want to get behind the wheel until after the adrenaline had passed. I took a walk around the block, stopping in a knick-knack store where I had heard that the lady knew of the difficulties that my predecessors had had with the Owner. She engaged me in conversation, and I admitted that I was relaxing. One of my regular customers was there and asked if it were my day off. I confessed that I had just been fired. Why? For being difficult … about working overtime. They both looked surprised, and the store owner then told me that she had heard of other bad stories. She flipped the bird in the general direction of my former employer, which helped me smile, and feel more sanguine.
That evening, I got together with some comrades, and many drinks were purchased for me. The Cafe Manager had just returned from a vacation, and showed up to buy s’more drinks and help us share horror stories. The consensus was that the Owner has a great idea in what he wants to do with his business, and he does what he can to hire the best people, but then for whatever bizarre reason, he can’t trust them enough to do their job, and does what he can to make an ass of himself, and it is frustrating to see his good idea ground into dirt this way, where there’s been 300% staff turn-over since they opened six months ago.
“It is like he’s a Shakespearean character,” I explained to a sympathetic friend today, “engaged in a great enterprise, which will be destroyed because of his tragic fatal flaw … which is that he is a big dick!” I was in another Cafe, and an employee passed, and laughed at this analysis of whatever it was that I was talking about. I may have to apply for work at that Cafe.
It was a groovy time. I felt good. And the rest of the evening segued in to an exceptionally joy-filled, romantic night. But, that is a different story. I have to apply for unemployment benefits on Monday, and explore the different possibilities that will lead me to Chicago, California, or to further adventures in Champaign-Urbana, as the lease is kaput on August 12. At least I have time to clean the apartment now.
She was a young lady with short hair, sitting on the quad, wearing a nice little black dress. She was having her lunch: a sandwich, chips, and soda. She caught my eye because as young ladies eating lunch on the quad go, the little black dress was more fashionable than the tees and shorts or dowdy office uniforms worn by most of the landscape. A little black dress and relaxed black loafers, complementing pale skin and a doo that was unusual not just for being short on a woman.
What caught my attention, and hers, were the birds. One perched near her and peered up, have you any crumbs? She certainly did, and she certainly shared, and she certainly enjoyed the sharing.
A few crumbs later and her friend flew off. Both our heads tracked its flight out of range. More birds came and went, more crumbs she shared. She was finished eating now and pulled out a magazine. Scientific American! But her reading was interrupted when the birds returned. Two, then three, and before long she was parcelling crumbs out to a half dozen admirers.
< I love watching people feed birds.
> umm ok
Feeding is intimacy. We are, after all, mammals who have breasts to form that first important connection with our young: the act of feeding. Perhaps that is why housewives and chefs and waitstaff are undervalued by capitalism: it doesn’t take much for the human engaged in these activities to groove to the meme that food is good, and that serving food to others is deeply satisfying.
Kissing, this most revered expression of kinship, affection, and desire between lovers, is enjoyable because our mouths were formed to touch flesh, to caress the things that we most value, to try and ingest the things that we love, at least symbolicly. I have frequently noticed that when the little birds approach me, and look up and ask for food, that their mouths are open, at least a crack. I suspect that the real reason for this is to help cool these aviators in the humid heat of Illinois’ summer, but I can also see that open mouth asking the question first asked in the nest – will you put food in me?
Birds are not mammals. They have no soft lips seeking the milk of mother’s breast. All the same, parents prepare and share food into the waiting, plaintive, open beaks connected to hungry, growing stomachs. When a human is feeding birds, they are stretching a handful of crumbs out across the space of time, to that moment when human and bird is the same. It is a statement of shared sentiment from one corner of the animal kingdom to another, that we are all together, however temporarily sharing existence in this fantastic experience that is our world.
An important component of maintaining psychological health while unemployed is to have rituals and other outgoing activities that are cheap and can sponge up the slow, potentially depressing hours.
Every day I get out and purchase the Chicago Tribune, and enjoy a pastry and two cups of coffee at one of the local coffee shops. Between the newspaper, the crossword puzzle, free newspapers and others that might be found at the coffee shop, as well as whatever book I’m carrying in my backpack, and the occasional visits from friends and my own muse, this is a good, inexpensive way to pass a few of the morning hours.
The afternoons are for writing, cleaning, or one of my other favorite activities: walking. I’ve done this around the world, and even in the quiet of Champaign-Urbana, I can enjoy myself by taking off in one direction, and returning a few miles, and a few hours, later.
In case anything hits me, I always have a few pens and a paperclip of index cards on hand to catch a passing thought.
This past Saturday I started at Kopi in downtown Champaign, and walked North along the Railroad right-of-way. The weather was fantastic: warm and dry. I noted to myself:
I would take pictures, but I’ve lost my camera.
I’d write poetry, but I can’t find my muse.
And I recalled another recent walk along the railroad tracks, when I saw a guy wearing blue jeans, combat boots, and a white tee shirt with the American Flag on it. He looked up when he saw me coming, hesitated, and then turned to walk away from my approach. He called out an explanation. “Were you wearing another shirt I might receive you, but I don’t like sunflowers.” I was wearing a black shirt with a sunflower print. I am usually complimented for it.
I sat down on a box beside the railroad tracks to commit these thoughts and memories to paper, when I had a weird moment:
I read in the paper today that over 30,000 Japanese ended their own lives last year. That is more than the population of Urbana. Many were jobless and at a loss for something better to do.
I look up from the box I’m sitting on beside the railroad tracks. There is a stack of pre-fabricated railroad switch track segments sitting before me. On the iron rails is a marking: “115 RE VT NIPPON 2002 10”. And I wonder how many Japanese kept their lives last year by building the railway equipment that sits before me this year, rusting in Illinois.
Coffee, computers, iron rails, or walking around the railroad tracks, chasing the phantom muse, we are fortunate to find a living.
< How would you describe “the hunter s thompson of systems administration”
< Sounds kinda monkeybagely
> “One of God’s original prototypes: too dangerous for mass production, too weird to die.”
> What’s this for?
> How you doin’?
< The flying out to interview with <prospective_employer> in california thing just fell through and so I immediately start talking about my plan Bs like hop a greyhound to NYC.
> Argh, that sucks. I didn’t know you were talking to them
< And I realized that I’m really just an adventurer and I treat sysadmin as an easy money-making lifestyle and that sounds hunter
< You need to gossip with Angel more.
< But if I can bum around thailand on $1,000 / month I can try my hand at nyc.
> How’s CU, then?
< I am getting laid like crazy out here and its great for contemplation and the clouds are really hot to look at.
> Well, that’s something.
< The cafe owner prick fired me this is documented on my web site. But it should requalify me for TMTA unemployment
< And that could fund nyc
> Oh, nice
. . .