June 2003 Archives

June 2, 2003

milkbuckle

I'm not sure quite how to describe what just happened to me...
I was standing next to my bed and leaned over to pick up the glass of milk that was on the bedside table, using my other arm on my bed to support
the lean. But things didn't go as planned, and my whole arm buckled, sending me onto the bed. Meanwhile my other hand managed to pick up the
glass of milk in the middle of that, wave it around a bit and spill some of it on the table, and then bring it to rest on the switch of the table
lamp, turning it on.

Ever since an uncomfortable nap on the plane back from Grenada, the pinky of my right hand, and the hand area below it, going
from the palm around to the back, have been 'asleep' or something like it. This ought to make the damage permanent.

June 4, 2003

noncomputation

Today we wrap up the Grenada story with Day 5, which wasn't that interesting, as it was a lot like Day 3, but it will include
what was technically Day 6, the trip home, which is sort of interesting.

Sometimes it's really crazy how many topics Douglas Hofstadter and I are both interested in. My latest reading is
"Metamagical Themas," a collection of columns he wrote in Scientific American from 1981-1983. The topics are so varied, and sometimes quite
unscientific, and the writing so freewheeling yet thoughtful, that it's hard to believe these really appeared in that magazine, and harder to believe
you'd see anything like it today, in any magazine. One column that struck my fancy was about the nature of nonsense, and the history of nonsense
writing. He didn't mention Finnegans Wake, because he feels there's a lot of meaning there, but he did cite a lot of other writing, including a few
really obscure things that I'm going to have to check out.

It got me thinking about what's easy and hard for people and computers. It's hard to
give computers all the creativity and common sense that we take for granted, so what might be hard for people and easy for computers, other
than the obvious, pure computation? I think nonsense might be another thing like this. It's very hard or maybe impossible for people to think truly
randomly. We always think in patterns, there are always connections between thoughts. Nonsense writers might be able to fool the reader by going
through many connections before writing down the next idea, thereby disguising the trail, but it's really quite hard to disguise it completely, and
not create another trail with all the disguising attempts.

I'm reminded of an exercise in the cryptology class I took, in which we were asked to write a sequence of 40 1's and 0's,
and try to make it as random as possible. We then ran algorithms that measured randomness, and of course found that most of our compositions were
obviously not random, because of our tendency to have thoughts like "hmm, that's a lot of 0's in a row, better get back to 1's" or vice versa.

This may not be very novel, because the whole disguising process, like the algorithms computers use to produce "random"
numbers, is perhaps just a lot more computation! But it's certainly a different kind of computation, because we have to sort of try not to think
too much, to avoid the patterns.

Grenada Day 5

On the last full day of the trip we decided to again take it easy, because we were pretty tired and sore from the previous
day's hike. Actually we didn't take it that easy, but relatively, yes. We wanted to check out the vibrant city of St. George's that we had passed
through the previous day on the way to Grand Etang. So we took the bus through the tunnel and started walking around. It was a bit of a challenge
to find good things to bring back that weren't trashy at all. In fact a lot of the merchandise for sale in the street market and the stores there
consisted of food, spices, bootleg CD's, and clothing that I would never wear. Like everywhere else in Grenada, the city is on a hill, so we walked
to the top and found more amazing views. On the way back down we saw the Parliament house. There were roosters walking around outside it, and some
officials managing to sound very dignified while speaking in the Caribbean accent. Then we walked to the other side of the city, which is the fort,
a very old one. It's also the site where the prime minister and several others were executed after the coup in 1983. One of the names of the other
executees was Unison Whiteman, which I thought was pretty cool, at least the Unison part.

After that we went back to Grand Anse beach. Al couldn't find peace on the sand because of all the crabs. I rented snorkling
gear and swam around some. The only wildlife I spotted were the little spiky things that I believe are called sea anemones, a few little tropical
fish, and a starfish. The fish were fun to watch because of the way they would let themselves be thrown around a bit by the waves, and then
eventually decide to swim on their own.

That night a lot of students were getting leaving, as they had been the whole time I was there. Almost all the flights were
at 6am or 8am, and no one seemed to mind staying up the whole night for it. That was a cool thing about the campus, you could walk around at any
hour of the day or night, and at least a few other people would be casually walking around. But not because they were out partying, they were just
up, used to studying all night I guess. I found it very enjoyable to be in a whole community of insomniacs. We walked around and said goodbye to
people, and watched the clouds speed across the sky illuminated by the moon. The cats were out skulking around as usual.

I had procrastinated about calling for a cab to the airport, since it had proved to be about the most expensive one thing in
Grenada at $9 US. As usual the path of least resistance prevailed, and I shared a cab with another leaving student. The airport was closed when
we got there and we had to sit outside it for about a half hour. When they did open it, one of the automatic doors wasn't being very automatic, and
had to be held open. The line was excruciatingly slow as they inspected the contents of every checked bag. A lot of the students were getting
royally screwed by a rule stating that all checked bags could only weigh 70 pounds together, because when they came here it was 70 pounds per bag,
and naturally they had acquired a lot of heavy books there. So they frantically ran to the scales to test their bags, and transfer things to their
carry-on bags if necessary. One obnoxious guy in a Scholes jersey, whose bags were obviously too heavy, talked loudly of trying to "bribe this guy."

I managed to stay awake long enough to snap an aerial picture of the campus right after we took off; after that everything
is a blur. I remember thinking to myself "Stay awake, take a picture" and then instantly blacking out, awake, more little thoughts, "should stay
awake, get food," then out again. When we got to San Juan I was so tired I couldn't think straight, and my plans of taking my 4 hour layover to
explore outside the airport quickly evaporated. Instead I collapsed in a seat at my departure gate and slept, occasionally waking up to see more
people sitting around me, and wondering what my face must have looked like after being pressed against my hand and jacket. My seatmate on the flight
back to New York was nice enough to wake me for lunch. For the little time I was awake on both flights, I was totally amazed and inspired by the
appearance of the clouds from above. The variety of shape and texture, and the light patterns, and the hugeness, is really something. The whole
time really I was just drifting anyway.

June 9, 2003

three 'interesting' days

The past few days have seen a flurry of transportation related problems that have left me slightly exasperated, but mostly
nonplussed (Oxford English Dictionary: "Brought to a nonplus or standstill; at a nonplus; perplexed; embarrassed" just to clear things up). First
was Saturday, when Ho Ying's driver side windshield wiper malfunctioned in the middle of the endless rainstorm, resulting in a harrowing drive
back to Queens. Given, it was a lot more harrowing for him, and the day was later redeemed, but it fits the pattern nonetheless. Sunday, on the
train back from band practise in New Jersey, a train ahead of us malfunctioned and somehow caused the rails to lose power. We were stuck in the
tunnel, somewhere under Weehawken, for nearly 3 hours. At one point near the end of it, the lights and air conditioning suddenly came back on to
exuberant applause. We continued to sit still though, and the conductor announced that we were still awaiting further instructions. "Just fucking
go!" someone shouted. Then everything went back off. Eventually we backed out of the tunnel we were in, and went in another tunnel to get to Penn
Station. The experience was certainly made more unpleasant by the loud snoring of the man across from me during the entire ordeal, and by the
periodic vomiting of a 20-something passenger in the bathroom right behind Snoring Man. A good thing happened during this time though, I started
writing lyrics again, decent ones that mean something.

Today was more of a trio of small mishaps. First, I missed my intended train back from band practise and had to wait an
extra 50 minutes. Next, I fell asleep on the train with a Coke in my hand, and spilled it all over my jacket, shirt, and pants. Yes, all my
clothing got its fair dosage. Last, the train inexplicably repeated the actions of the previous night, only without the 3 hour wait. It entered
the tunnel, stopped and sat for several minutes, and then backed out a long way and went in another entrance. I would follow the bass player's
lead and boycott them, but oh yes, I don't have a choice.

Of course by writing this entry now I'm sort of assuming that nothing else will happen, and therefore this was the best
time to write it. So if something else does happen, the misfortune will be compounded by the ruining of my neat and tidy complaint entry. But I
have a solution, if something bad happens I simply won't write about it.

P.S. I just noticed there was another pattern in these three days, of something good happening as well (the first day it was
a great meal at Checkers and some great fun blowing things up with firecrackers). Except there wasn't really anything for today. The best thing
about today was some good Chicken fingers from a place called Ta-Ta's Pizza, where the bags are from Miami Subs and the napkins are from Nathan's.
So, oh well.

June 17, 2003

days do numbers

Words I use too much:
just
actually
really
hopefully
unfortunately
that's all I can think of right now, I'm sure there are others.

wordmonger - one who deals in words, especially in strange or pedantic words, or in empty words without sense or substance (originally contemptuous).

Also, I'd like to say that I am getting back into the game of putting things in my AIM profile or away messages. Music has started to really do
things to me again. I think I might have another record in me soon. Hopefully the timing will happen. These days are doing numbers on me.

Uh, one more thing. Why do I never refer to people by their names when talking to them? I never do it, unless I need to get their attention, and
even then I tend more to a shoulder tap or a "hey" or "yo" or something. Something about names is embarrassing.

June 20, 2003

other way round

It was way too quiet at the Princeton train station tonight, returning from band practise. Not even car sounds. Then there
are these amtrak trains that go by at incredible speeds, clearing the station in a few seconds. I leaned against the railing and looked down at the
plants below for a while, thinking 'would this make a good photograph? could a flash be used?' After a few minutes I got back up to look for the
train, and when I turned around saw a spider crawling along the railing toward where I had been. Holy crap, if I hadn't gotten up that spider
probably would have crawled onto me. Who knows how long it might have been before I noticed it, or in what frightening circumstances?

I've long had my most interesting thoughts in moments of dozing off and waking up again--microsleeps as they are sometimes
called. Not really very different from normal dreams, but often more connected to the situation you're in, and more interesting because you can
almost feel the memory of it fading from your mind as you wake up and redistribute your mental energy to understanding what's actually going on.
I had one on the train tonight. I had the four fingers of my right hand holding the book I was reading, and I tapped the book with the nail of
my ring finger, and at the same time thought of our band's singer's mother saying to me, "we tried to hear your signal, but we were only checking
the index finger" so they hadn't been able to find me. Damn I thought, why did I use the ring finger?

The sky was brown this morning and now it's brown again. Much darker, but somehow the same brown. What is this? Amazingly
it was sunny in New Jersey, in the afternoon. It really ought to be the other way around.

June 21, 2003

perfectly alright with me

Today I saw a hot dog stand with a sign that said $1 hot dogs. I was very tempted to get one, but there are appeared to be
no one operating the stand. I considered simply taking a hot dog, but rejected that, and then thought of the much more Kramer-esque implications of
trying to run the stand myself for a little while. But I decided against it for my usual reasons. One of these days I'll have to get myself into
a state where I can have adventures like this. It would certainly make for more interesting blog entries.

Been thinking a lot lately about what makes music good, and about whether I should think about it so much. Have also seen a
couple of utterly amazing performances. It gets hard, when your confidence is broken repeatedly into smaller and smaller pieces, to think you can
ever have the power over an audience that these people had over me. Eventually there is no audience and it doesn't matter anymore, which is part of
a larger thing I'll have to write. But I'm trying not to think about that stuff. Whatever way the wind blows, whichever way
the world goes, is perfectly alright with me.

June 22, 2003

Jaytitude

Perhaps I'm using the word odyssey too loosely, but that's what these weekends feel like. I went out to new jersey saturday
thinking we were going to play an outdoor show in Princeton. When I got there I was told it was cancelled for rain and we'd be practising instead.
Brilliant. The show might be Sunday, but probably not, because as I was told many times, God hates our band, and besides, rain in the northeast on
a weekend in the past few months is a matter of near certainty.

That night we celebrated Scott the singer's birthday with some bar-hopping, which I still don't understand the appeal of.
Scott was very wary of running into people he knew, like hipsters or jocks or pretty much anyone else our age. Hanging out with Scott and his friends
was one of these times where they keep talking about people they know, and to me it's just meaningless names, although often interesting ones. "Jen
Shine. Wow." "Laura Levy." "Dan Cava, man, Dan Cava." Indeed. After several hours of work on my obscure word dictionary while the others slept,
I made camp on their coffee table, with a phone book and two oven mitts as a pillow.

It's been occasionally fashionable, ever since the Ramones, to refer to members of local bands by their first name + the name
of their band. This would make make me Jay Attitude, which perhaps could be shortened to Jattitude. Jaytitude. Or Jadedtude.

Sunday came and amazingly, despite consistent drizzling and misting, we played the show and there were plenty of people there.
Mike Attitude addressed the Princeton audience with a rousing "Hello rich people!" Ben Attitude kept complaining that his drums were creeping, so
we got a punk kid to sit in front of the bass drum for the rest of the set. We all thank him for sacrificing his ability to hear. All in all I think
we sounded excellent, with only one noticeable fuckup in 10 or 11 songs. Somewhere in the middle, my index and middle fingers opened up their fury,
and sprayed blood all over the pickups and pickguard of Scott's guitar, and my hand and arm, continuing to do so for the rest of the set. This has
happened at most of the full band rock shows I've played since freshman year of college, and I find it really nice. It's actually quite a cool
sensation on the hand, and somehow 'purifying.' Also, I have no evidence for this as yet, but I think girls really think it's cool, so I usually
walk around with it for a while refusing to wash it off.

We're going on tour in a couple of weeks but it feels like I've been on tour for the past few weeks. It's a hellish tour
where we keep going back and forth and playing new jersey over and over again!

June 24, 2003

Liga Juvenil de Beisbol

On the way back from work, I enjoy looking down off the elevated 1/9 platform at the businesses below. The one directly
below where I usually stand is a tiny lot of used cars for sale between two buildings. This fits the neighborhood, in which you are apparently only
allowed to run one of six types of business: car lot, car repair, car sound, carwash, gas station, bodega. This lot seems to have fairly rapid
turnover and there is always some activity there. This usually takes the form of heated discussions between the proprietors and unknown parties,
with a lot of handshaking and hugging, emphatic hand waving, driving of cars around on the sidewalk, and so on. I like to think by looking directly
down on them I have an insider's view into any shady business dealings they might have. They never think to look up at me.

 
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