Journal Archives - September, 2001
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September 4, 2001 ... A week of schedule struggling has paid off; I am sitting here typing this before dawn, having crawled out of bed only minutes ago, in a test run for the job that starts tomorrow. I still can't believe that I'm going to be getting up at 6 AM for six weeks straight. I'll find a way, though.
And now for a little celebrity gossip. I heard on the radio this morning that actress Anne Heche -- who just got married (to a guy), a little more than a year after breaking up with Ellen DeGeneres, and who has done some acting stuff that I would probably recognize if I weren't culturally illiterate -- has made a statement (presumably in the context of her 'conversion' to heterosexuality) to the effect that she has been "insane for the past 31 years." (She is 32 years old.) Implying, it seems, that she is all better now.
You know what I think? I'll tell you: That single statement is more dangerous to her well-being than anything she's done in the last 31 years of her life.
It can be a healthy thing to say "I was wrong" or "I have done things that I now regret" -- but that isn't what she was saying. She was saying (at least according to the radio announcer; I haven't found a second source for this yet, and if anyone else can confirm it, I'd appreciate it if you'd let us know) that for her entire conscious life, she was insane -- that she had a fundamentally flawed grasp of reality. She wasn't just wrong -- she was disconnected from everything around her. For her whole life.
With implications like that, a plea of insanity simply sounds to me like an attempt to escape responsibility. Now, I don't know Anne Heche -- not a whit -- and I can't accurately judge her life from afar, but it doesn't sound like she's had anything but a relatively normal life. A few breakdowns -- haven't we all had a few days where we just lost it? -- some homosexual relationships, and a little extra stress from being a celebrity. One instance of wandering into some random person's home in Fresno soon after breaking up with Ellen DeGeneres. This does not sound like the track record of someone whose entire conscious life has been marked by insanity. So unless she uttered her statement while taking the first dose of her new prescription Paxil (tm), I'm extremely dubious about the legitimacy of her self-assessment.
Secondly, and of more concern, is that I don't think her statement (even -- especially -- if it is true) provides her with any sort of firm foundation on which to build the rest of her life.
"Everything I have experienced, since birth, has been in some way false." What the heck does that leave? How can you inject any meaning into that statement? (For instance: Aren't you communicating in a language you learned during that time period?) How do you intend to cast everything away and start over?
Where is your guarantee that this isn't just an extension of your insanity?
Once you say that "My entire life, I've been insane", how do you ever again know you're doing any better?
The answer: You don't. You do the best you possibly can with what you've got. You measure sanity against the yardstick of "being able to survive, be happy, and make others happy in the world around me." Neil Gaiman observed in American Gods:
All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.If I ever call myself insane, it will be because I feel that I am fundamentally unable to deal with the world I perceive. Insanity isn't not being able to see the road. Insanity is not being able to walk.
It it far too important of a word to waste on something like a change in sexuality.
* * *
In completely unrelated news, Auryanne has posted a piece of original artwork -- three rather exotic gryphons -- on EBay. Check it out. It's the sort of piece I'd bid on if I weren't so gosh darn poor.
And tomorrow's the first day of my job. Wish me luck; I'll report in with the particulars.
September 6, 2001 ... This whole "go to bed at 10 PM" thing is throwing me off. I'd planned to sit down and write a journal entry about work, but ... I get home, read a magazine, eat, go pick up Misty from work (and boy, that produced a story I'd love to tell -- I'll need to set aside some time for writing tomorrow), and chat with roommates for a short time, and suddenly it's bedtime. Drat.
Work is ... work. It's about the same as I remember work being: get up to an alarm clock, go someplace that's not home, be ordered around by people all day, and go home tired knowing that you've done things that will cause you to earn money once the timecard gets signed. There's more to say, naturally, but I'm trying to adhere to the whole "bedtime" thing.
Life feels weird. Different. It didn't seem like my life could change so quickly, but, well, to quote "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":
Do I dare
September 9, 2001 ... The first thing I learned when I arrived at Safeco for my temp assignment was that the corporate world frowns on hats.
I arrived at the office building shortly after 7 AM on Wednesday, found my supervisor, introduced myself, and sat through a short office tour and lecture on the rules. She made a point of the office's casual environment -- said that the only thing I'd really have to worry about would be to keep my collared shirt tucked in -- and then tossed in, almost offhandedly, "Oh, and you're not supposed to be wearing that" -- referring to my Greek fisherman's hat -- "but I'm not going to make an issue of it unless anyone complains."
Now, I can see a prohibition against, say, baseball caps as being overly casual -- but what I wear is by no means inappropriate. I've never had anyone object to my hat before. It's a fashion accessory, and more than that, practically part of my body identity. If she had taken a hard line on the hat, instead of merely making an issue out of it, I think I might have walked out right then. Job or no, I have my pride.
So they stuck me in a converted conference room, with the three other workers that the temp agency had sent. The four of us twiddled our thumbs for most of the morning, while they were trying to set up our computer access to the company database, and then settled in to work. It's data entry, and there's not much to say about the work itself -- we're sitting at computers, taking data from paper and converting it into electronic format. I do have Internet access, although this mostly amounts to briefly checking my e-mail during breaks. This setup has given me a chance to remember just how computer-literate the average American is, which is "not much"; when I had a telnet window open on the first day, and one of the other temps asked me what I was doing, they gave me a blank look when I explained that I was reading my mail ("but that's not Outlook or Hotmail!"), and I had to very slowly explain the concept that the Web is not the Internet to all three. Somewhere in the exchange, I slipped up and used the word "hack" (I think it was an offhanded reference to "hacking on my website"), and I was also reminded that to the average American, "hack" is synonymous with "criminal activity".
On the other hand, having four temps in the same room has prompted quite a lot of discussion -- and it's certainly helping to pass the time while the work progresses. As a consequence, I am learning quite a bit about normal people. For example, they are obsessed with celebrity. Late Wednesday afternoon, I sat on the sidelines of an hour-long debate about the relative merits of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. On Friday, Safeco pulled some strings and brought the Mariners' second baseman into the office to sign autographs; it seemed to be all that the employees could talk about. (Fellow temp Mario made an insightful comment: that he collected an autograph because he was a Mariners fan, and that he couldn't understand the people who stood in line just because there was some guy signing stuff. I wonder how much shorter the line would have been if people had had to give the player's batting average in order to get something signed.)
I have come to the conclusion that I am very grateful to not be average. The only reason I can imagine for the average American's obsession with celebrity is that their own lives must be terribly dull; people have accused me of being many things, but dull isn't one of them, and I think that's something that should be more widespread.
One other thing that has astounded me about work is the absolute insanity that masquerades as "being a morning person." I'm getting to the office at 7 in the morning, which requires getting up before dawn, and that's quite early enough for me, thankyouverymuch ... but there are a handful of people who are already at their desks and typing by the time I arrive (even on the day that I caught an earlier bus than I'd expected, and got in to work at 6:45). Even more astoundingly, one of the other temps related to us that she gets out of bed at about three A.M. so that she can work out before getting to the job. All I can say is: WTF? Isn't "too early" early enough?
I'm also disgruntled about the accommodations that are routinely made for morning people that would be anathema in the other direction. In a corporation where (presumably) the core hours are still 9 to 5, you can work 7 to 3 and nobody will complain, but if you even dare to suggest that 11 to 7 is a viable alternative, you get pilloried. Growl.
Anyway, I've spent the weekend mostly relaxing; I've spent a lot of time talking on the phone to friends, and playing video games (Tim brought home a Playstation 2 on loan from a friend last night, and I've been asserting my alpha-male status on Dead or Alive II). Tomorrow, it's back to the grind. And now it's time to go to sleep -- I have to keep reminding myself of this schedule change. I don't think I'll ever actually get used to it, but I am doing a pretty good job of sticking to it so far.
I apologize for the lackluster quality of this post, for what it's worth; I just felt it was important that the people who actually follow my life get a chance to see what the world that I spend so much of my time trying my best to ignore is actually like. Hopefully, spending nine hours of every day trying to keep my mind from going numb will motivate me to use the remainder of my life more productively, and I'll find some more interesting things to write about.
September 11, 2001 ... I worked for a few hours on a vaguely clever piece of commentary on today's events, but ended up throwing it away just now. I just couldn't find the words. So, instead ...
First of all, me and mine are alright -- no family or immediate friends are among the casualties. I did get a scare, though, because at the time of the first impact, my mother, father and sister were sitting in a plane on the runway of an airport in Manchester, N.H., heading for the San Francisco area. I didn't hear from them until an hour or two later (well after I'd learned that a San Francisco-bound plane was among the casualties). Too close for comfort.
Secondly, I got sent home from work today. I've been temping at Safeco, and allegedly -- thirdhand, mind -- the Safeco office in Atlanta got a bomb threat shortly after the first boom, so the bigwigs sent everyone home. I ended up eating breakfast with some other members of the house, and then catching up on my sleep, because that was really all there was to do on a day like today.
There's no point in commenting on the events themselves; the news sites are covering those to death (that was an unintentional pun, and I apologize nevertheless). I see little point in offering my opinions on the whole matter; the issue is so global now that even Slashdot has been taken over. This is, and will be, the Thread That Ate The Internet.
I will, however, put approximately 30 seconds worth of thoughts on the record, just so I'm not glossing over the event. If this adds to the glut, so be it.
"This is history in the making. And I don't like it one bit." -- My mother, Anne Ramspott
I cannot predict the political response, but it is apparent -- even this early -- that this is not over yet, not by a long shot. I would put even odds on more innocent blood being spilled. (Well, beyond the Arab-looking people already getting beat up in New York. And not counting further terrorist attacks. I mean something like us scatter-bombing Afghanistan.) With the almost unanimous world response (even Russia and China, those old nuclear bogeymen, have sent us their support), I don't think this has the potential to set off WWIII, but I think the collective American sense of vengeance may well push us to a stance beyond diplomacy's ability to solve.
I also think that this tragedy may just be big enough to affect us. You know the saying -- one death is a loss, 50,000 is a statistic. If everyone has a friend of a friend that was lost in the attack, suddenly this hits us on a personal level -- we have to deal with that actual loss, instead of the televised images of suffering that are increasingly indistinguishable from disaster movies. I think we could use a good dose of that. Personally speaking, the whole thing still seems so abstract; if I didn't have a friend with an SO who worked in the World Trade Center, I'd probably be doing my best to ignore the whole situation.
Lastly: I hope that the emergency response in New York and Washington minimizes the casualties. I hope that those personally affected by the attack find the strength to make it through this time with as little pain as possible. I hope that I find some way to contribute to the outpouring of basic kindness that is counterbalancing this act of ultimate evil. (Perhaps giving blood, although medical factors may make that difficult.)
And I hope that the world -- collectively, and individually -- learns from this.
September 12, 2001 ... Obviously, I'm adjusting to this schedule a lot less well than I'd hoped.
It's creeping up on 1 AM as I post this; I need to wake up at 6. I haven't gotten eight hours of sleep since the weekend (when I slept in to noon two days in a row). Granted, there are some external factors that could easily be pressed into service as excuses, and the fact remains that I am getting up at 6 AM (a fact which surprises me somewhat, and a trend which I really hope continues) -- but I'm not getting the sleep that I promised myself I would get.
I wanted to write a journal entry and then go to bed -- then realized that there was no way I could short myself another hour on top of what I'm already doing, so I saved what I'd written for tomorrow and wrote this instead.
The last thing I need right now is to pile sleep deprivation on top of all of the rest of the emotional roller-coastering. But I'm doing it anyway. How the hell am I going to convince myself that, no, really, whatever it is I'm doing at 10 PM just isn't as important as going to bed on time?
September 13, 2001 ... I wish someone would tell me what to feel.
(For the record, that was a rhetorical device, not an actual solicitation of aid. Any actual suggestions will be politely acknowledged and ignored.)
It's creeping past the 72-hour mark from the tragedy, and -- as I commented somewhere else, probably in a Livejournal discussion -- everybody has lost something. Personally, my casualty hasn't been my faith in humanity (I already know what evil we're capable of, and the positive response has been too immense), or my sense of safety (the event was too distant, and America has gotten so clinically paranoid that the odds of a follow-up attack approach technical impossibility). My casualty was my sense of balance. I spent most of Wednesday see-sawing between shock, frustration at the tragedy's ubiquity, and guilt that I was feeling frustrated. I'm still trying to figure out just how to deal with the destruction, but I think it'll get easier as the nation and world collectively finishes with its knee-jerk reactions.
Fortunately, it's been long enough that I think I'm stabilizing now; that is mostly due to the fact that I've waded through the deluge of news and reactions, and made a few observations:
First of all, there was a post to the TSA-talk list that's been running through my mind all day:
This person subsequently went on to publically call someone else a coward for creating said list, and hid behind the banner of "free speech" when quietly reminded that the discussion was not only off-topic but flamey, but that's neither here nor there. What got me thinking is: This is why people who aren't overwhelmed by the tragedy are running scared. It is a horrible thing to be guilty of -- or even to be accused of -- escapism, disconnection from reality, inability to actually cope with life. We like to think of ourselves as people who can cope with the worst life has to offer. We need to think of ourselves as people who can cope. And so, rather than risk having that foundation attacked, we create tragedies and immerse ourselves in them, to prove our coping skills.
Now, I'm not saying that the WTC collapse is only sad because we're hyping it up. I'm not saying that at all. What I'm saying is that in a country of 250 million, there are necessarily going to be a lot of us who aren't personally engaged by the deaths of a few thousand people a few thousand miles away, and for these people (more of them than I think we allow for) the event is tragic only because they decide that it is. Cynical? Yes, but where were all of these American mourners when hundreds of similar (albeit smaller) attacks killed innocents in Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Africa, and so on? Where was our outrage then? ... So why is this tragic? Rhetorical question: Because it happened to us.
Consider: The second factor that shaped my opinion was the aforementioned plane crash on Wednesday. I think that most people would agree that this is less tragic, by an order of magnitude, than the World Trade Center collapse -- that it is rightly a footnote to this week's events in New York. However, I dare say that if you expressed that opinion to the parents or spouse of one of the deceased, they would quite rightly tell you to fuck off and die. You can't objectively determine the scale of tragedy. All tragedy is personal. And, you know what? To me, the WTC collapse isn't a very big tragedy. It is abhorrent, deeply saddening, sickening, scary, worrying, poignant, upsetting, and many other things, but it is not, to me, a particularly large tragedy. Save that designation for those who have earned it -- those who lost (or will lose) parents, friends, or lovers. Don't force it on me just because 5,000 people died and a building collapsed. When I mourn 5,000 innocent people and a building, I'll light a candle for the WTC, and then, if I'm being honest about it at all, I'll light ten candles for Hiroshima.
And, believe me, human history is packed so deeply with tragedies that the only way I could then stop mourning would be to choose to stop. We will all have to do that, sooner or later ... or else go to our grave letting the negative events of our lifetime define us. I think we have better things to do than cry our lives away over the bastardry humans are capable of.
We have better things to do ... like change the world for the better.
Despite being several thousand dollars in debt and walking a fine line to keep up with expenses this month, I am donating nearly $100 to the Red Cross. I may or may not give blood -- I'm going to have to look up the rules and see if I'm medically eligible, first; and I'm badly aichmophobic besides -- but I am forcing myself to stay open to the possibility. I am doing what I can to keep an eye out for news of Liam, currently lost but presumed hospitalized. I am struggling to reschedule my rendezvous with my parents and younger sister Sarah in order to help her move into UC Santa Barbara this weekend. I am, despite any potential accusations to the contrary, engaging real life, and engaging this tragedy. (FSVO tragedy.)
I just don't want to engage it by letting my emotions run rampant. I am seeing the effects of that on the world around me:
I have realized that I need to stand in solidarity with those advocating a few deep breaths and a little common sense before reacting. It may generate some conflict with my more emotional friends and readers, yes, but it is a sacrifice worth making. Because if there is one thing that tragedy teaches us, it is that causing pain to other humans is among the most despicable of human actions -- and that grief, while very real and important to acknowledge, does not give us a license to continue the cycle of pain-reaction-retaliation.
I believe that saying so, that pointing out our duty to react in the best possible way to this act of evil, is the most effective way I have of honoring those who lost their lives. "Best" may include military action -- that is up to all of us to decide -- but I sincerely hope that we make that decision after tempers have cooled.
So. I will close with an affirmation that I hope our country can live up to in the days to come ...
To those killed on September 11:
September 20, 2001 ... Yay! I'm posting again.
The California trip was ... full of driving. Over the four days I was gone, I was on the road for over 42 hours. It was worth it to help get my sister into her dorm -- plus, at one point while the rest of the family was off shopping, I managed to sneak out to Campus Point and catch up with some old friends.
Tarnech (one of the area's two guardians) had warned me, before I actually managed to reach Spirit Isle (the raised part of the Point where I did a great deal of my magical work during my college years, and something of a personal sanctuary), that Stan -- Stands-Tall, a treant inhabiting a eucalyptus in the middle of the island -- had been pruned ("injured") in my absence, but I wasn't really prepared for how much of an understatement he'd made. Stan's tree was once a sprawling mass of wood, easily climbable, full of nearly-horizontal, low-to-the-ground branches that provided comfortable perches. Someone -- presumably campus maintenance -- had callously enforced a vertical aesthetic on the poor guy. Everything but the main trunk had been sawn away. He'd lost perhaps half his mass. At least he still looked and sounded healthy.
More mundanely, I also got to catch up with Graham, who has returned to UCSB for his doctorate -- but unfortunately missed Nate, due to the last-minute schedule crunching caused by the terrorist attacks' disruptions of plane schedules. The College of Creative Studies building was closed, and I couldn't locate any of my old teachers -- but there will be other times for that, times when the school is actually technically open. (Classes don't start until next week.)
A few other things of interest have happened -- for example, I went to fighter practice last night with Misty, Dave, and Tim -- but I'm too exhausted to cover them in any great detail. I haven't even finished catching up on my e-mail from the trip ... or my sleep, and right now I am thinking that sleep should come first.
One question for everyone -- even though I haven't been saying anything in my forums, I've been trying to keep up on them, and I will see your answers -- what do you think about me taking Saturday off, and doing a 24-hour comic? It's one of those crazy ideas that is appealing to me right now just because it's stupid enough to be entertaining while also actually making no rational sense whatsoever (me? Do a 24-hour comic?), and has the advantage (unlike throwing myself in a lake) of actually creating a tangible end product.
I'm thinking that if I did it, I'd probably (at least initially) try to create something in the Tomorrowlands universe, although of course inspiration might strike differently. Right now I'm still deliberating whether I even want to try something that's so guaranteed to continue screwing up my sleep schedule. I'm leaning toward yes, but then, when you're already suffering from a lack of sleep, continuing that trend tends to sound better than it should.
Uhm. Speaking of which, good night.
September 22, 2001 ... Today is 24-Hour Comic day. I got up in the middle of the night, assembled all my drawing materials, grabbed a sheaf of paper, and sat down to draw. The goal: Generate 24 pages of comics within 24 consecutive hours. Off and running at 7 AM, with a computer-made title page that takes me over an hour to properly assemble (most of which was due solely to font problems -- which wasn't entirely expected, but those things never are).
Short updates to follow throughout the day.
12:40 PM. Nearing the six-hour stretch. I have pages 2, 3, and 4 inked; I'm nearing completion of Page 5's pencils. Page 6 is going to be a big splash page, and should go slightly quicker, as it's only got one panel. However, it doesn't look like I'm going quite fast enough -- I'm reusing a fair amount of art, and so the process of finishing the comic will involve scanning the comics and manipulating them on the computer. As such, it looks like the "finished" pages are about 2/3 done. (I won't be coloring them, but I _do_ hope to get some greyscale shading done on the computer -- which will add a little time, too, but not as much as inking everything by hand.) I'm probably going to end up with a Gaiman Variation "noble failure" -- I'd be providing links here to many of these terms and concepts if I didn't feel like I was taking so much time away from my work already -- but if I can draw the story out to 15+ finished pages and reach an ending, I think I'll be satisfied. See, I'm not normally an artist, so I have the advantage of not suffering from expectations of actually being able to do this.
I'm beginning to wish that I had chosen a subject that required far less drawing of people, though.
2:30 PM. Never, ever, ever make the mistake of thinking that a single-panel page will take appreciably less than a normal one.
3:10 PM. I'm starting to scan pages in and finish them. What a happy feeling. Now I just need to try to ignore how little I've done compared to where I want to be.
I briefly consider slapping the finished pages up on the web, so people can see the comic as it is produced, but come to the conclusion that this is one of those things best released in a huge, single lump.
It's a beautiful day outside. I'm going to zip through the scanning so that I can go out and draw there while I still have daylight.
5:30 PM. Pages 1-4 are finished. I just penciled Page 7. The sunlight is doing wonders for my spirits. I won't make 24, but I can shoot for 16.
10 PM. Pages 1-7 done. Page 8 almost penciled -- I decided to catch up on the inking, scanning, and coloring. I now have a long stretch of drawing ahead of me before any of the ink/scan/color busywork can be done again. ... Cripes. In between the distractions of a few good movies playing in the background, an excellent dinner, and trying to discuss house bills with the roommates, my work has slowed to a crawl. I'm relocating to my room for some privacy.
At this point, I am just kind of hoping that I can reach a good stopping point, page count be damned.
11:30 PM. Wow! Pencilled page 8 and 9 and 10 within the last hour. The switch back to drawing wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared. I just hope I can pencil another page before my creativity dissipates and I decide to switch tacks.
It's amazing how great this feels when I'm in the groove. And how frustrating, boring, and waste-of-timey it feels when I'm not. It's mostly amazing how much groove I've been able to maintain, given that this is the single most ambitious art project that I've undertaken since junior high school. (If you're ever over at my house, and ask really nicely, maybe I'll let you see "Mammal Force." It's ... a product of junior-high school enthusiasm. Made back when I was going through my stage when I was convinced that pencils were unilaterally evil. For a comic book drawn in one draft, with no pre-planning, scripting, or erasing, it's not too bad.)
Speaking of which, my l33t cartoon-drawing skillz are returning. Ph33r my l33t cartoon-drawing skillz.
2:00 AM. I'm definitely hitting a wall here. Page 11 penciled, and half of the remainder inked -- I'm hoping I can get it wrapped up in two more pages, because I'm breaking out the Mountain Dew as is. Ugh. The only thing keeping me going is knowing that I've come so far, and giving up now would negate the whole effort.
5:15 AM. Despite my best efforts, I fall asleep. Fortunately, it's only a nap. I wake up shortly before 6 -- just enough time to finish page 13 (and inking that last panel on 12) before deadline.
6:30 AM. IT'S ALL INKED. Scanning (p8 on). Scanning scanning scanning go go go!
7:38 AM. TA-DAAA! Thirteen and a half pages (13 comic pages plus an endnote with some little doodles -- it's got art, it counts, right?) have been scanned, cleaned, shaded, and put to bed in 24 hours and 38-odd minutes. This puts me roughly on par with Neil Gaiman, except that I'm not a virtuoso world-famous author, and his comic involved research (one presumes; or, at least, one hopes).
I've also had a filk fragment stuck in my head for the last hour:
At the scanner stands a Baxil and an artist by his tradeI will have the finished work posted on my site by tomorrow -- err, the end of the day. After I sleep and write the endnote text.
September 24, 2001 ... Sunday was a day of rest, in grand old Biblical style; I caught up on my sleep (well, OK, I didn't, but I can pretend) and played a bunch of Diablo II.
Today, I threw a large amount of effort into adding the 24-hour comic I made to the website. What this could have involved: A bunch of copying and pasting of HTML files, the uploading of about 16 images, and an invitation for my readers to go wild.
But, no. I am a geek.
What this ended up involving was the writing of one HTML template, the uploading of approximately 40 images, and the addition of not only an endnotes page but the possibility of running commentary, all controlled by one moderately intricate PERL script (mostly cut and paste from previous scripting efforts; hooray for modularity). It allows you to dynamically choose between larger and smaller image sets (hooray for batch processing) and, when I've invested about another 15 minutes of work, will even auto-generate an index of pages. This must be the niftiest display mechanism ever hacked together for something that's such a complete waste of time content-wise. ... Uhm, actually, I take that back. I've got a lot of competition in that area from pretty much every sector of the entertainment industry.
So, anyway, I did mean to have the 24-hour comic up today. But I still need to write the endnotes and the intro page, and hack the script to generate a page index -- if I'm going to do this, I might as well at least do it right. And so I get to keep you all in suspense about my latest artistic endeavour for another 24 hours.
The good (?) news is that, with this support framework in place, the next time I do a 24-hour comic, I'll be able to dump it onto the Web with an almost total lack of effort. And, of course, if anyone wants the code for their own nefarious comic-displaying purposes, I'll be happy to share it around.
... Dammit, it's creeping up on 1 AM. I'm going to get eight hours' consecutive sleep sometime this month, but it's not going to be tonight.
September 25, 2001 ... The universe did its damndest to worry me today.
First things first: I went to the store and noticed that the makers of Cup O' Noodles (tm) have introduced two new flavors: Alfredo and Cheddar Cheese. Let me just say this: Back when I was in college, I had the bright idea of mixing ramen (a college staple) and cheese (macaroni and cheese being a college staple). I microwaved it for a while to melt the cheese, and -- to make a long story short -- ended up with a foul orange noodle-cheese-ball-lump of dubious organic content. That was one of the very few meals in my life I have ever refused to eat more than several bites of. It was disgusting. It was worse than dorm food, and I do not say this lightly, because anyone who has known me for any length of time has heard the famous stories of the Armored Chicken or the Coffee Beverage Thing.
And now they are professionally marketing ramen-cheese-things.
Naturally, I bought two. Just to confirm that they actually exist. I turn around every once in a while and check the desk where I put them down, just to make sure that they haven't disappeared.
Then, while I was at work, I found myself needing to urinate several times throughout the day. (This is nothing particularly exceptional; I had drank a lot of liquid the previous night.) What bugged me was that every time I went into the men's restroom, without fail -- just like every day I've peed at work since I started there -- the water in the left-side urinal was very slightly discolored.
Every time. Utterly without fail. And always, and only, the left.
There was, of course, a slight chance that the thing wasn't flushing properly -- a concept that I disproved by sticking around to watch it flush when I was done. So I've now established that there is, somewhere in the 16th floor of the Westlake Center tower in Seattle, a man (I can't believe that there is a conspiracy involved, because of the complexity of the coordination necessary to produce an effect so utterly pointless) who: (A) pees a lot; (B) always uses the left-hand urinal; (C) doesn't flush; and (D) has, for 3 1/2 weeks, not only managed to avoid running into me, but managed to make it in to the bathroom in between every one of my trips.
Some of those facts can be explained by significant coffee consumption (and, if one stretches scientific principle sufficiently far, I suppose D is explainable that way as well ... you know, red shift, or something). But the rest just weirds me out. I've never met this guy, and yet I know more about his personal habits and idiosyncracies than if I were to talk with him for half an hour.
I ... don't know. Chalk it up to lack of sleep. I finally got the 24-hour comic up, so hopefully I can get to bed on time sometime this week.
September 27, 2001 ... This morning, my workmate Roy loaned me a mix album he put together. I put it in the CD player as I sat down to work, hit "shuffle", and was almost immediately greeted with the following lyrics:
"Ay mama, you're my sweet mamacita
Every time I re-read that, the following mantra snaps into my mind in self-defense ...:
I am not the target audience
But I do have to say that for all that, Ricky Martin's "Are You In It For Love?" is pretty darn infectious. (In that good sort of way, not in that bubonic-plague-destined-to-decimate-our-nation way.)
As a follow-up to my previous entry, I should note that the trend of off-color urinal water has continued unabated, with one, solitary exception: When I went to the bathroom Wednesday morning immediately after arriving at work -- at approximately 7:45 AM -- the water was clear. My assumption, at this point, is that the bathrooms are cleaned overnight, and the Peeing Man doesn't arrive at work until a slightly saner time than I.
And, yes, I realize just how disturbing my current mental processes are.
September 28, 2001 ... As a writer, who weaves stories out of collections of words, I find it rather fitting that language is a collection of stories. Every word has a background, a tale, of how it arrived into our consciousness to represent a certain concept from its humble beginnings of a puff of air moving through some caveman's lips in a new and different way. Etymology is the study of the weave of the tapestry of language -- and sometimes one has to loosen all of the connections to see what threads are tied together, and in what ways.
Before I get too philosophical, however, I should attempt to get to the point.
We here at Tomorrowlands would like to take you on a short excursion into etymology -- a sightseeing tour, perhaps, of the rich fantasy life sneaking about between the letters and the spaces. Today, we will bravely and single-handedly dig up the word roots of the common English term "ambitious."
* * * *
Ambitious, defined in dictionaries as "ardently desiring rank, fame, or power," comes from Latin word roots: ambi, or "of two," seen in other words such as "ambiguous" (of two meanings) and "ambivalent" (of two opinions); and tiossus, a frosted pastry dessert popular in Roman times. Of course, there's a story behind this, and it starts with Antonius Tius (219?-168 BCE), who is credited with the dessert's recipe (and who is most certainly its namesake, and most celebrated baker).
It is recorded that he first offered a tiossus for sale in the year 179 BCE, and it was an immediate hit. The baker was quite well-known in his day, even if little of his exploits have survived the centuries, and certainly any item coming from his ovens would have set his customers back quite a few denarii (the denarius, of course, being the coin of the Roman realm). As the popularity of the dessert spread, and more and more citizens flooded into Tius' bakery to buy it, he naturally raised his prices even higher; quickly, it got to the point where the average Roman could scarcely afford a tiossus, and having eaten one was seen as a sign of privilege or wealth.
History records that Campania, in which Tius lived, was in that year falling into a serious, albeit small-scale, land dispute. After some brawling in the street and an attempted assassination of one of the local lords involved, the praetor representing the area threatened to call in the military and annex the land if a peaceable solution could not be reached by the two parties. He sent in an adjucator, Marcus Flanius (231-174 BCE), to oversee the resolution of the issue. Unfortunately, Flanius was notoriously corrupt.
After a single arbitration session, he declared that both claimants were acting like children, threw them out of his house, and made the high-handed proclamation that he would give the parcel of land to the local citizen who could put it to the best and most philanthropic use. It was good rhetoric, but applying for the land meant talking to Flanius -- and getting in to see him meant (often exorbitant) bribery.
One other thing about Flanius that we should mention: He was significantly overweight, and famous both for his insatiable appetite and refined gourmet taste.
As handfuls of Campanian profiteers sought to take advantage of the situation for a quick buck, there was a sudden surge of orders at Tius' bakery. Naturally, he raised prices again, but that was little deterrent to the wealth-seekers, and soon only those trying to curry favor with Flanius could afford to buy the tiossi.
The locals soon noticed that the tiossi were moving out Tius' door in pairs: an applicant would send a tiossus to procure an invitation, and then bring one with him to give to Flanius while he discussed his (spurious) plans for the land. Quickly, the profiteers became known as emptors ambitiossi -- buyers of two desserts. The term caught on as a catch-all phrase to describe anyone seeking to get ahead in power quickly, and at some point during its journey to English, ambitiossi lost its terminal vowel (as many words do).
It is worth mentioning two footnotes to our story:
One, that Shakespeare -- while not particularly well-studied in Latin -- almost certainly knew the origin of the term. His reference in "Coriolanus" is a masterful play on words:
You know neither me, your selves, nor any... the punchline being, of course, that a "knave's cap" was also street slang for a frosted muffin enjoyed as a dessert throughout England at the time -- a natural heir to the tiossus. (The muffins were later known as "cap-cakes", which ultimately evolved into "cupcake".) "Legs" was, similarly, slang for a variety of port often enjoyed with it, although the derivation of that term is much less clear.
Two, that some years after Flanius' decision (he milked the issue for some three months before finally deeding it to Bosus Atragus, who built a large dairy farm), the term ambitiossi was briefly recycled to describe the (mostly hypothetical) rich citizens who would go into Tius' shop to buy not one, but two desserts at once for themselves, purely as a sign of ostentatiousness. This use of the word faded into oblivion quickly, but some scholars contend this to be the origin of the phrase "to have your cake and eat it too." Which is fitting because, certainly, attempting to do so is an ambitious endeavour.
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