Journal Archives - May, 2001
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May 1, 2001 ... The con is over, and my sleep schedule has gone to pot. It was an interesting weekend; it's been a mostly brain-dead week. I really need to start writing these posts at some time that isn't way the hell late at night.
It's been a weird week for work news. Antwon's dot-com dissolved, and he's also now jobless, a situation which I can really sympathize with -- except that he lives in the high-rent Silicon Valley area, so I'm sure the pressure to stay employed is that much the greater. On the upside, my also-unemployed roommate Myles has received interest in interviews from two separate tech companies, one of which is Microsoft. After months of watching searches come up dry, that's heartening news, and gives me a little bit of hope that I can find something too.
On the other hand, fate seems to enjoy irony. I got an e-mail today expressing a company's interest in me: Adobe seems to think that I have the perfect qualifications for ... a sales job. Since when exactly did "computer geek with experience in programming and copy editing" match the job qualifications of "2-3 years experience in selling software products; excellent phone and communication skills"? Is this their way of telling me that they're not taking my job application seriously, or their way of telling me that, no, really, they're desperate for salesmen? Sorry, I don't do sales. My mind doesn't work that way. I can't talk the bullshit that sells the product, and I loathe the schmoozing that attracts the buyers. As Xiphias of alt.polyamory puts it (I'm paraphrasing here), "That's what I love about changelings. You're all so straightforward."
Hell, I have a hard enough time selling myself to the companies that are contemplating hiring me. The idea of "convince other people to like me so that I can get what I want" is dishearteningly disingenuous. Human society is fucked up in so many fundamental ways.
(Insert disclaimer on hating humanity here.)
I'm just tired of it all. I wish there was an alternative that didn't involve quitting the game entirely, or playing to lose. A better way of doing things ... not even a better way so much as a different way. As it is, I'm kind of stuck in the position -- as are we all -- of saying, "The rat race is a blind alley that we're all being herded down, but what else're you going to do?"
And, well, I'm just tired. I hate feeling fixated on my apathy, feeling like there's nothing worth writing about, sitting down to my journal and coming up blank. I hate skipping days, posting twice a week, and then spending most of my time grumbling about being unmotivated. But I'm stuck in the position of saying, "Apathy is a blind alley that depression herds you down, but what else're you going to do?"
Kill time, save strength, and wait for the best moment to make your break, I guess. I'm going to go play Diablo. Maybe it'll help keep me from getting any whinier.
It's a lesson learned from hard experience, friends. And picked up straight from the Evil Empire, too, which shouldn't have surprised me, given the nature of the incident.
If you want to create a game that does not unnecessarily frustrate its users, there is one rule that should remain inviolable:
put the "New Game" key immediately next to the "Pause" key.
Especially if your game records high scores.
May 3, 2001 ... There's something about having a unique name that reacts like a magnet, attracting further weirdness to you just because of who you are. Case in point ...
My (human) name, of course, being "Tad", I have to wonder. But what really piques my interest is that last line ... "I lost a bet."
What the hell sort of bet was that?
And why "Aarons and Ryans"? I can understand the first four -- theoretically, mind you; the idea of a bet involving finding a man whose name ends in "-ad" is plausible, although bloody well unlikely -- but "Aarons and Ryans"?
I had to speculate if this had something to do with wanting to receive some responses from the ad; after all, Shad, Tad, Thad, and Chad aren't very common names. How uncommon? Well, I was wondering too, so I hopped over to the US Census Bureau lists on the subject.
I learned that my guess is backed up by the figures. Ryan, at the 49th most common male name in America -- owned by about 0.33% of men -- tops the ad's list. Aaron (#77, 0.24%) is a close second. Chad -- #121 and only 0.165% of men -- is the next most common. By a large margin. Thaddeus (#611) and Thad (#846), put together, are only about one-tenth as common.
Tad ranks in, at #935, directly underneath "Trinidad", both of them occurring in about 0.005% of males. ... Wow. One out of every 20,000 males in this country is named "Tad"? I'm not actually named very uniquely, am I? ... And where are they getting the sample set for this? I've never met a "Trinidad" in my life. ... Anyway.
My given name actually out-commons "Shad" (#1164) by 0.001 percent. As well as Cedrick (#1188), Buck (#1205), Sid (#1199), and Luigi (!) (#1193). "Tad" is a more common American name than "Luigi"?!? When did this happen?
... You know, I really pity the 1 in 25,000 men in this country named "Jewel" (#1212).
... Another interesting thought in the "why Aaron and Ryan" department: Why wasn't "Brad" (#219, 0.073%) on the list? An oversight? Bad previous dating experiences? A desire to avoid "Rocky Horror Picture Show" jokes?
Aargh. I need to stop thinking about this. Otherwise, it's going to drive me nuts.
I dialed up the personals number, punched in the four-digit extension for her voice mailbox, listened to her talk about herself for a few minutes, and left a message which went something like this:
Hello! I'm a 6'4", 23-year-old Tad. I noticed your ad a few days ago and wrote about it on my website -- www.tomorrowlands.org, if you're interested -- and my readers and I have been discussing the nature of the bet you lost. I'm willing to spring for dinner to hear the full story. I don't know whether all you'll get out of it is a dinner, but I guess that's the chance you take with personal ads. Anyway, my number is (...). Even if you've already found some other Shad, Thad, Chad, Aaron, or Ryan, I'd appreciate a call back just to clear up the mystery. Thanks! Bye.
I also learned some information about this mysterious Margaret. The way that this personal-ad system is set up, you see, is that you get a chance to listen to a voice recording of the person who placed the ad -- ostensibly to get some more insight into their personality, so that you can make a slightly more informed decision on whether to leave a message for them or not. (I don't know that this is really the case, as I've responded to approximately two personal ads in my life, but it seems like a reasonably good guess.)
Margaret has brown eyes. She's been in Seattle for eight months -- a year shorter than myself -- and, while she is currently working, plans on going back to school in the future. She lives with a dog, enjoys the music of Radiohead, and loves travel. She enjoys movies -- but not action movies. And she thinks that Jim Carrey is a phenomenal waste of food and oxygen. (Margaret, presumably, also dislikes having random strangers blab details about her all over random webpages without her prior permission -- at least, most people would -- so I have taken the liberty of omitting information which might more easily identify her.)
The message also asked for suitors to leave relevant details about themselves. Oh dear. I wonder if, should she call me, she knows what she's getting into.
Should I have left a more descriptive message? "Hi there. My name is Tad, although I go by Baxil, because I'm a dragon stuck in a human body. One of the reasons I'm calling is because my mate Erin said that she would if I didn't. I don't watch TV or movies, although I do have a lot of spare time to Web-surf in, because I'm unemployed. So, you wanna go out to dinner sometime? We can talk about set theory or magical warding." ... It would have been interesting, but I doubt I would have gotten a call back from her, and I do want to hear about this bet she made.
Oh yeah. And I heard an explanation of the name restriction ... but I'm going to not say anything about it, because I'd like to encourage further speculation about it in the forum before spoiling everyone's fun. Ain't I a stinker?
May 7, 2001 ... Another great idea, shot down before it ever really had a chance to live. <dramatic, angsty sigh>
One of my roommates -- I can't tell which one, because most of them are bona fide Star Wars freaks -- bought a Watoo action figure some time ago, and hung it up against the bookcase in the rec room. (For those of you who, like myself, have been living in a cave for the last three years, Watoo is a character in Star Wars, Episode 1. He's the slave dealer. The guy that looks like a blue and white fat anthropomorphic mosquito. I didn't even know his name offhand; I had to ask Myles.) It's been hanging there for a while, long enough that I don't really notice it any more, except when I get bored and my eye catches on something random.
Another of my roommates -- I can't tell which one, because four of them smoke -- found that action-figure Watoo's hands were just large enough to wrap around a cigarette, and so our Watoo is holding some domestic filter-tip, lightsaber style. (There's a bad Star Wars joke there somewhere, but I don't know enough about lightsabers to make it.)
I saw this, today, and -- no foolin' -- the first thing that leapt to my mind was, "Hey! That's illegal -- he's not yet old enough to smoke!" The movie, after all, came out two years ago this month; the character Watoo cannot be significantly older. Watoo's certainly not 18, unless George Lucas knows something he's not telling.
After parsing this initial reaction, I got excited. Making fictional characters be around for 18 years before smoking would practically destroy cigarette advertising! Why, almost nobody in movies who smokes would be allowed to do so any more. (James Bond stands out as an exception, but maybe they'd have to re-cast Sean Connery as Bond in order to take advantage of the character's longevity, and that concept amuses me.) You'd never see a cigarette on TV again, except on old Nick at Nite reruns and PBS documentaries. Without any "role models" to lure children to cigarettes, the problem of teen smoking would evaporate!
... Unfortunately, the idea had a sudden, fatal bout of emphysema; it didn't take me very long to remember "Sesame Street"s age.
May 9, 2001 ... Two words: "Torrential shitstorm."
Tomorrow I'm smudging the house.
What in the heck is going on? We -- all six of us people in human bodies sharing the living space which I pay a share of the rent for -- have been fighting for weeks to regain our stability. Every inch of ground we've gained has been through massive effort and force of will. And yet whenever something goes wrong, it just happens casually. Offhandedly. Floats in on the breeze, batting its long eyelashes, and then savaging the hell out of us with foot-long claws before delicately floating off again.
If something goes, and nobody's watching, it goes wrong. It's been like this for over a month now. Four out of six of us are recently unemployed, which is bad enough, but the problems just keep piling up. And since Saturday it's reached a frantic pace; something critically, unexpectedly wrong has happened without fail every day this week.
Where did that collection agency's $350 bill come from, out of the blue last Saturday, claiming Erin has unpaid medical expenses when she hasn't been to a doctor for over a year? How did Misty's father have a heart attack and go to the hospital without her hearing about it until after the ordeal was over? Why did not only my largest external hard drive, but also my downstairs computer, both break last night? And the rear defroster of my car today, in basically the same way? Why did not one, but two of my roommates, driving different cars in different areas of the city, get pulled over within hours of each other today and ticketed for expired registrations?
It's very tempting to say that I think something's behind all this. But you know what? I'll say it anyway. This just isn't natural.
So I'm smudging the house tomorrow.
The good news is, at least the job search is starting to get results. Myles and I both talked with some companies at Tuesday's and today's Internet Job Fair downtown that seem fairly enthusiastic about following up with us for interviews. I have another possible interview from an earlier source. (I guess that we have so much direct attention invested in employment searching, direct sabotage is too risky.)
On a nearly completely unrelated note, I've managed to keep my mind active (and distracted) over the last few days by creating a card game.
So, in conclusion, I need sleep.
May 12, 2001 ... For what it's worth, nothing has gone catastrophically wrong in the last three days. This isn't particularly notable, statistically speaking. It just seems that way because it's such a novelty.
I credit Thursday's smudging. (But then, I would.) I caught something big, dark and ugly lurking around the house the night before, and tussled with it; the encounter left me a lot more filthy than injured, but I still have been spending a fair amount of the last two days just resting. Fortunately, in between my show of territoriality and our housecleaning, I haven't seen the thing back.
The house really does feel better. One way or another, I feel like the worst is behind us.
For those of you following along at home, by the way, "smudging" is spiritual cleansing, involving a few smidgens of ritual and a whole bunch of burning sage. It was "our" housecleaning because Erin helped; most of us are practicing mages here at Squeeky Hollow. The tussle I refer to was astral, in case you were worrying. (I know I haven't been talking about magic much in my journal -- this isn't to say that nothing's been going on, but it hasn't been intersecting much with the life that I write about here. The bleed-over is typically interesting, but usually not quite this depressing.)
In other news, I've been stuck in traffic a lot. But the reasons for it -- an interview on Friday, and getting the car smogged -- both went unequivocally well. Being on the road and moving two blocks in half an hour is certainly no fun, but if it was the price to pay for putting the black spiral behind me, I'll take half a dozen.
Of course, I have no illusions of the traffic being some attempt at retribution by whatever it was we chased off. Putting a supernatural spin on it would be fairly ludicrous; after all, Seattle recently was ranked as having the second worst traffic congenstion in the nation, right behind Los Angeles. Not to mention that a month-long I-5 construction project has turned the city into one enormous parking lot. (As I remarked to Erin earlier today as we drove to our role-playing session across the city, "I'm beginning to remember why I usually don't ever leave the house.")
In some ways, the fact of "the crap I've tolerated isn't aimed at me" makes dealing with it even better. I've sometimes been feeling, lately, like I have a quota of daily stress to reach ... and if I fritter it away on the random ugliness of earthly life, there won't be any room left for nasty demon spirits to cram intentional provocations in.
It's a pretty perverse silver lining to the cloud, but there you go.
May 14, 2001 ... Why is it that migrating birds are generally associated with autumn?
They fly as far, and as diligently, in the springtime to return home as they do in the fall to leave. And yet the image of "migrating fowl" is automatically associated with falling leaves, colder days, longer shadows. There are exceptions, of course -- the swallows' yearly arrival in San Juan Capistrano being the most famous -- but in general, it seems like the departures get far better press than the arrivals.
Is this a reflection of our subconscious attitudes toward our own roosts and perches? Could it be that the average person sees a lot more fascination in leaving our culture than in celebrating it?
May 17, 2001 ... Sometimes, my quiet insistence on draconity -- while perhaps impressive in its own right -- utterly fails to hold a candle to the really, truly dedicated people out there.
Take The Lizard Man.
This is a fellow who, for his own reasons, has tattooed scales over most of his body, molded his fingernails into claws, had his teeth filed to points, and gotten his tongue surgically cleft. Among other things. This is a man who knows exactly what image he wants to project, and has decided that little things like "physical discomfort" and "social awkwardness" won't get in the way.
He tours the country, according to his website, and makes a living (I don't know just how good of one) out of being different. True, much of his act deals with extreme feats, but I do find some interest in the fact that he has molded himself into a human lizard. I didn't get the impression, on finding the site, that this was a random decision. There are plenty of ways to physically distinguish oneself without aiming for reptilian chic.
That brings us, then, to today's Word* of the Day: "Species dysphoria". This means, essentially, dissatisfaction with such basic principles of one's identity as your biological classification. This means finding your physical body awkward. Generally, among therianthropes, it means quietly grumbling about being bipedal, etc.; sometimes, it goes farther.
Is the Lizard Man, well, a lizard in spirit? I have to think so. Not liking your body is one thing, but knowing what you'd rather have is classic species dysphoria. And, like the rest of us therianthropes, he's got that in spades: "My split tongue is the culmination of childhood daydreams and fantasies which have come to be reality and, as with my other [body modifications], is a step towards the full realization of myself," he says on his website. (He expresses similar sentiments about his claws, and mentions that his body tattooing was a ten-year, "carefully considered" project.)
And so, in some respects, I stand in his shadow.
There's a spark of determination there, a deep necessity, that I don't have. I consider myself species dysphoric (and feel that all therianthropes are, to some recognizable extent), but I don't feel such incredible desire to return to true form that I would rush out within the decade and mold myself as close to the original as I could. In short, I find my body disagreeable in a likeable sort of way.
I do want to be a dragon again. I believe that I would transition to a fully draconic body -- wings, quadrupedality, long neck, snout, and all -- with little difficulty. (It's tough to say I'd feel more at home there, because 23 years of immediate backhistory as a hairless ape tends to overrule even centuries of strong memory. But give me a little time to re-adapt, and it'd be great.) But I appreciate the abilities of the human body. I enjoy its motions, its balance. I feel like a piano virtuoso who has just recently picked up a guitar ... it's all new, but I can still find ways to make music.
It all throws me off. But it's still all so fun.
Dancing, for example. What's with this vertical dancing? There are arms and legs to move! They don't interact! You coordinate them separately! What a brain-bender. ... And yet that upright stance allows weapon play. I've grown fond of practicing spins with a wooden quarterstaff I own. It becomes an extension of your arms, a momentum beyond your skin that moves entirely at your rhythm. The light chains at the alt.polycon dance were very similar -- playing with reach, spin, and counterweight; fine balance manipulation; the subtle cues of a tool in your hand. They utterly fascinated me for two hours, and then the music stopped.
Species dysphoria, properly introspected, means not just feeling wrong but knowing what feels right. It doesn't mean hating your body, any more than being a pianist means you think the guitar in your bedroom is evil. And sometimes it means finding unexpected pleasures in learning your patterns of movement.
I can't fly, but I can hurtle railings. I can't move my tail, but I can somersault and spin. Nuzzling is awkward, but I can hug. It really trips me up if I bother to stop and think about it. It's also utterly fascinating.
I am, I have to admit, thoroughly enjoying putting this human body through its paces. But I find myself envious of those who can't stand it.
No, that's not true. I find myself envious of those who can't stand it and do something about it. No matter how much I may be enjoying this body, I'm playing an unfamiliar instrument. Those who have the courage to go to great personal expense (of time, money, and discomfort) to body-mod into more familiar shapes ... they are finding ways to play to their strengths instead of starting from scratch. (I envy long-time humans for the smoothness of their motions, too. But they don't have to sacrifice quite so much to get them.)
It is a consolation that, one way or another, all I have to do is wait. Either I'll die and get a chance to reincarnate into a more fitting form; Earth technology will advance far enough to allow actual full-body self-transformation (this may be a century or two down the line, but remember that advances in geriatrics have already pushed the human lifespan up to within the reach of a century, and within my lifetime may give us longevity of mythic proportions); or ...
... heck. As long as I'm wishing, I might as well pine for The Changes.
* Technically, "words." You know what I mean.
May 19, 2001 ... Wow. Someone actually managed to send me a piece of spam with an offer that interested me.
I have a solid personal rule: "Don't buy from spammers." I don't care if they're offering products I need at prices better than anyone else's. If the merchants have sent out mass unsolicited commercial e-mail, they have proven themselves to be of low ethical caliber (if this statement isn't self-evident, read this), and any possible benefit to me of buying their product would be outweighed by the fact that I would be contributing to the profitability of a human tapeworm. As a simple matter of improvement of the species, I will not support spam.
But one recent letter caught my attention.
I reprint it here in its entirety:
Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 13:24:24 -0700 From: (email@example.com) To: (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Are You Getting the Best Rate on Your Mortgage? 21676 ________________________________________________________________________________ Please click here to be REMOVED
Wow. No advertising hype. No price tag. All you have to do is click to take advantage, fully for free, of this merchant's service. This actually is a deal!
Unfortunately, there weren't quite enough details in the message for me to understand the context of "REMOVED." If they meant "removed from all records, so that you no longer exist in the system," that might have been interesting; living the rest of your life incognito has possibilities. If they meant "removed physically from planet Earth," one presumes that there is an Elsewhere to be removed to, and the odds that such a place would be better than Earth -- given that they have such highly evolved technology as to take random Web-surfers off-planet -- are high. If, on the other hand, they meant "removed as in terminated," that would be a Bad Thing. And, linguistically speaking, "REMOVED" could simply mean "moved again;" while a relocation to South Dakota would be an interesting life change, I don't think I'd find it very appealing.
Not to mention the subject line. I can't say that I am getting the best rate on my mortgage right now ... considering that my household rents our dwelling space, and we don't actually have a mortgage. Does that disqualify me, I wonder? If you string the subject line and message text together, that's what seems to be implied: "Are you getting the best rate on your mortgage? Click here to be REMOVED."
Still, despite the risks and caveats, the offer was tempting.
All things considered, I'm glad that it's spam. That way, I don't have to feel guilty about the opportunity that I may well be missing.
May 22, 2001 ... Sorry I haven't written recently. Everything is colliding together in my schedule this week. Job hunting (I've got an interview tomorrow! Yay!), computer fixing, financial arrangements, ... uhm ... personal conflicts, and medical worries. Joy. I apologize for leaving those last two vague, but I'd like some resolution on them before opening that far up to the world.
On Thursday, I leave for Baycon. I'll be gone for the entirety of Memorial Day Weekend. I should still have computer access (yay Baycon and its internet room!) ... we shall see whether I'm going to be able to find any more time at the convention than here with all my problems.
In the meantime, I've got about 30 hours left to wrap up my life, finish all the things that must be done before I go ... and pack. Oh yeah, packing.
I want to pause the world ... it's moving too damn fast.
May 23, 2001 ... Today was a good day. It was warm. It was summer. Very appropriate for a day approaching Memorial Day weekend, the time of the "OK, let's drag the boat out of storage and go waterskiiing" yearly ritual practiced by a large number of Americans.
I was out driving today, on Route 520 over the floating bridge spanning Lake Washington, and saw a pair of canoers paddling around in a cute little yellow job. A few seconds later, I glanced at a different part of the lake to see a red kayak drifting out from behind some reeds. It was a thrilling sign. It means that Seattle is no longer in "perpetual rain with occasional ice-overs" season. As a native Californian, I can feel at home again.
I actually spent an hour outside today, walking, wearing only a T-shirt. (Yes, yes. And slacks and shoes and the traditional undergarments.) I could feel myself start to sweat. It was fantastic.
As I was wandering down to the computer store to pick up the Duo Dock I'd hauled in for repairs, I made some quick calculations, and ran a little test. It must have been in the high 70s, with a light breeze; I was feeling definitely warm, but not uncomfortable. I took note of the sensations, and changed mental modes into the dragon form I lived in during my last lifetime.
The air suddenly felt rather nippy. My human senses were still registering warmth, but I could have sworn it felt like I'd just stepped into a shadow, or walked hundreds of miles north in a single step. The direct sun felt good, but my head was screaming at me to go run somewhere, get the muscles worked up; it's warm enough to be out and about, but not warm enough to bask.
Guess that solves the question of whether I was cold-blooded or not.
I reached the computer store, and walked in to inquire about the broken computer I'd brought in; whether or not they had fixed it, I would have had to take it back, because it's going with me to BayCon. As happy chance would have it, the techies had just finished, and I sat there pleased with my timing while the guy at the counter retrieved, as he called it, "my baby." When I reclaimed my computer, he reviewed the technicians' summary, and told me, in essence, "there was nothing wrong. That'll be $40."
Oh, of course they couldn't put that on the invoice. The specific problem I'd reported was that, when I tried to seat the Duo into its dock (the large unit that essentially turns the laptop computer into a desktop PC), it refused to accept the Duo. I opened up the box at home, figuring that the problem was a stuck latch, but couldn't find any pieces obviously stuck. The tech, who should have encountered the same problem (except for that little Murphy's Law caveat of "problems will never be repeatable in front of an expert"), wrote:
Oh, gee, thanks. I'd never have guessed! I have to remove the cover from the part of the Duo that mounts the two pieces of hardware together? Tell you what, I'll try that next time before bringing it in. Just like I've been doing for ONE YEAR STRAIGHT. ... So much for giving the customer the benefit of the doubt.
Forty dollars poorer, but forty dollars' worth of tech support wiser, I lugged the computer home through the balmy afternoon and prepared myself for the upcoming job interview.
I had already been aware that Trendwest -- a vacation resort company -- had an IT division. What I hadn't known is just how cool they were. I was told by the contract agency that the job was going to largely involve C++, which I am rather rusty in, but I spent a fair chunk of the interview chatting about PERL with Terry. Turns out that they do hardly any work in C; most of their programming deals with maintaining and upgrading the legacy applications that the rest of the company uses, in an obscure proprietary language called Quantel Basic, and the rest is largely Java or Perl-based. Not that I'm biased toward Perl or anything. Which is good, because it's not like Terry seemed interested in that particular sideline of mine or anything. (Not that I'm being quietly deadpan here or anything.)
You know it's a good sign when you hear, and I quote, "Our preferred development environment is Emacs."
So here's to hoping I get the job. I'm enthusiastic about the company in a way that I haven't been since, uhm, my last job. But that's not saying nearly enough, because there's nothing quite like employment at a start-up ... and there's nothing like the unrestrained enthusiasm of just joining a new start-up, with not only cola but food in the fridge, and monthly barbeques with the CEO. Say what you will about finances, most Internet ventures knew how to build employee loyalty.
Trendwest is managing to sell themselves to me even without a start-up culture. It's rather corporate (to the point where they do have actual "casual days"), but there was some real flexibility on hours, a concession which I didn't expect to find. The interviewers talked positively about open-source software (and hey, I might even be working with PERL). There was a real focus of "get the work done while you're here, but go home on time and don't waste your weekends at the office." (A factor noticeably missing from most start-up mentalities, and much appreciated.) I'm at a point right now where I'd grudgingly work at a code farm if I had to -- just as long as it paid the damn bills -- but I am actively hoping that Trendwest makes me an offer. It's a good fit.
At any rate, I will go pack now. My flight leaves for San Jose, Calif., in approximately 7 hours -- Baycon ho! -- and there is much to do before then.
I should be able to post once or twice from the convention. (It's got an Internet lounge.) Talk to y'all soon.
May 25, 2001 ... Hello from BayCon! It's now late Friday evening, and the first day of convention activities have passed. I've been in San Jose for about 36 hours, long enough to catch the defining trends of this year's convention, and have noticed a few patterns.
One is that, as cons go, I've been warming up to this one very slowly. I was wandering around the halls early this morning (read: "before 1 PM"), and actually found myself fighting off a case of the post-Con blues ... from which I realized that the "post-Con blues" are very inappropriately named, and should instead be something along the lines of "empty hotel blues" or "so close, yet so far from weirdness blues". I think this is largely due to the fact that this year (for the first time) I arrived a day early for the convention, on Thursday afternoon instead of Friday afternoon. The hotel was mostly empty and decidedly non-geeky on Thursday; I had to wander into the art room and volunteer to help set up some display lamps in order to feel like I was at the convention at all. Even the newsletter room didn't get set up until late that night, long after I'd half-unpacked and taken a long, soothing swim. "Soothing" was what I needed, especially given that I pulled an all-nighter on Tuesday while packing, but it wasn't very conducive to getting into the convention spirit.
Despite this perception, this year's BayCon is the largest I've ever been to (which is to say, the largest in a decade). For the first time, a Baycon I have attended has spilled over into other hotels -- there are more attendees than available rooms. It's kind of momentous, but hasn't seemed to change the atmosphere.
Another trend I've discovered is that Baycon 2001 is the "Convention Of Ominous Things Not Going Wrong." At least a double handful of crises have popped up in the time I've been here -- computers dying in serious ways; missing parts; bad room assignments; the newsletter room's internal network not being authorized by the hotel; cars hit by fist-sized chunks of debris (my parents'); cars breaking down en route (Summer's); etc. All of these have been resolved with no serious aftereffects, and generally very little stress. Most of them ceased to be problems within five minutes of discovery. It's been interesting, and -- in hindsight -- fun to watch. Definitely better this way than the alternative.
As I write this, Thea is doing something spiritually which translates itself into my mind as "bouncing on the bed" (half to amuse herself, and half just to make me laugh, she admitted); Glineth is perched on the balcony, watching the hotel's sole 4:30 AM swimmer, and some stragglers on the walkway seven floors below; most everyone has either shut down for the day, or retired to the few rooms where 24-hour activity is encouraged. Even geeks have limits. Given the number of people, I suspect, who use conventions as a retreat from the conformity-prizing burnout-inducing wage world, the idea of sleeping at cons is less anathema than you'd think.
I'm going to be doing a lot of that myself. I predict that this is going to be one of the more quiet and laid-back BayCons I've attended. (For me, at least; with the number of people here, it'll be pretty frantic.) I'm dealing with a great many issues in my personal life, and as such, one of the great values of the convention for me is going to be a chance to regather my forces. Another will be connecting -- although that's pretty much a given; it's the main reason I attend in the first place. My old group of middle-school friends are here year after year, and I get a rare chance to keep up on their lives (such as while playing video games with JD about an hour ago). My parents are within driving distance; I met them for dinner tonight when they came in to the hotel, and played a round of "Philosophy" with them. I finally gave Summer her Christmas present. I've met two former students of my old high school, three fellow Seattleites (at a San Jose, Calif., regional convention, mind you), a talented accordion player, and a Klingon in grunge wear. (Did I mention that "quiet" and "laid back" are relative terms?)
Oh, and I got my hair cut today.
I caught up to Aahz as he was checking in; a little later, we both found some free time, and had a grand adventure running through the hotel to find some unused newspaper. We retreated to his room, and after setting up an impromptu barber's chair in the bathroom, he hacked my hair down to size with the trimmer our household had been safeguarding for him since alt.polycon last month. My hair's all about an inch long now, except for the ponytail, which nobody's touching. It looks very stylish with my usual Greek fisherman's hat on, as the sides (of my hair) are very sleek and well-shaped. ('Course, the front was a little surprising. I've got a receding hairline at 23. This amuses me, in a weird sort of way.)
Is it really only Friday evening? I think I was right the first time: it does feel like post-Con blues. ... But there's still three more days to go! The weekend's only just started! (sigh) I'm going to shut down now, before cognitive dissonance kicks in.
May 27, 2001 ... There really is something magical about a sunrise.
Too bad that I nearly always have to pull an all-nighter to see one.
(Today's entry is a guest post by Anne Ramspott. Thanks, mom!)
Recently, I decided to accept the challenge of finding a new way to travel to the airport on my trip back home from Maine. The limousine was now to be replaced by one taxi to Saco (later found unnecessary), one shuttle bus to Old Orchard Beach, one transfer commuter bus to Portland, and Trailways to Boston's Logan Airport. It not only worked but was far less expensive (I saved $64) and much more interesting. The only thing lost was about two and a half extra hours of travel time.
Two riders from Saco to Old Orchard sparked my interest. The first was a moderately well-dressed man, who was approximately 45 years of age and knew the driver. His left hand was heavily bandaged, recently new or recently changed. I surmised the former, since he was paying a great deal of attention to it and referred to it when talking with the driver. The big question: What kind of injury did he sustain? Glass kept coming up to me, I don't know why -- something very sharp that did a lot of damage. Seemingly a mild-tempered, gentle man that was between blue- and white-collar, he most likely was not involved in an attack or impulsive anger. He sure gave me a lot to think about. What fun it would be to be a detective!
A lady also was of interest since she seemed out of context. She was wearing many layers of long cloth. Not Indian, Middle Eastern, or Asian. Have you heard the ad that queries, "Cows in Berkeley?" Well, how about Himalayans in Saco, Maine? How she got from there to here and WHY would be most interesting to hear.
I did enjoy the scenery and familiar sights on my ride. Taking the bus was a real treat. It was also fun to note that every traditional social and intellectual boundary we set up in life seems nonexistent and unimportant when we, as a bunch of humans, peacefully share time and space while also sharing one simple common goal: getting from point A to point B.
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