# 02 Oct 2005, 07:24AM: Circles:
Years ago, when I worked at Cody's Books, I got to introduce Bruce Sterling. I got a giant cardboard blowup of his book cover, and I've never quite figured out where to put it.
Last night I went to a housewarming party and gave it to the hosts. They seemed delighted and really appreciated the design of the thing, more than I ever had.
I also met a random Indian fellow. Yeah, there are many Indian-American experiences, but that doesn't really percolate up to the level of consciousness until I meet an Indian-American with whom I try to make conversation until there is no conversation to be made. (He thinks Shahrukh Khan is a good actor. Also, all the Indian-Americans he meets are "fresh off the boat" or wannabe gangstas.)
Today I'll be visiting the new Cody's in San Francisco near the Powell Street BART/Muni station. I hear one of the employees there is a short Indian female, looks a great deal like me, and in fact complained in Seth's presence about the difficulty of getting a short haircut. Maybe I'm about to meet my doppelganger.
# 02 Oct 2005, 08:07PM: Editors:
I only appreciate good editors when I run into an edit that makes my work worse.
# 03 Oct 2005, 11:39AM: Memoirs Of A Puja:
MC Masala for this week takes you to a suburban house in boomtown Silicon Valley, a generic place where I remember spending every weekend in the 1990s.
Kids ran around the house, shrieking and playing, too young to behave for the length of the puja. But at the end their parents brought them back for the aarthi: Someone held a tray of oil lamps and moved around the room to bless each person by moving the tray in a clockwise direction three times. The flames danced and blurred. Everyone ate the prasada, the sweet communion pudding. Parents coached their kids on standing still, performing aarthi and giving and receiving with the right hand, never the left.
# 03 Oct 2005, 08:22PM: From Fluffy To Ditzy:
Salon carries a series called "Object Lust". The Oct. 4th feature: me on home delivery of organic produce. I go on and on about beets and persimmons, tee-hee.
# 05 Oct 2005, 04:03PM: Dorkeror's Apprentice:
There's someone I have to email who works for Multimedia Games. However, every single email I send to any address at that company gets bounced with the error:
500 Mail appears to be unsolicited -- send error reports to
Just to clarify: email that I send to any address @mm-games.com, including firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, gets that bounce.
I find this equally amusing and annoying.
# 06 Oct 2005, 10:55AM: Discomfiting:
"The woman was in the 300 block of Niagara Avenue, about a block from the Balboa Park BART station, when about 10 kids -- both boys and girls -- assaulted her and stole her purse, police said." And this was in the middle of the afternoon! Arrrgh! I hope it was just a random crime of opportunity.
# 06 Oct 2005, 03:17PM: Cheery Things:
Salon just redesigned its main page. I am basically dismissing out of hand any complaints from the first 24 hours, unless they come from someone whose judgment I trust, because web users are curmudgeonly and before they get used to a redesign they hate it.
But! Two little things cheered me up recently.
My editor likes my column for this coming Sunday.
- I heard the last bit of George Harrison's song "Got My Mind Set On You" for the first time, and thus broke into a wide grin as I recollected Weird Al's parody, "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long." This is about the fifth time I've heard the subject of a Weird Al parody years after the parody itself.
# 09 Oct 2005, 02:25PM: Back:
Leonard and I have returned from a sojourn in Southern California, where we witnessed the Andrew/Claudia wedding. Congratulations! I'm glad we also got to see Frances, Rachel, Susanna, and John. And Gretel, Frances's dog. Gretel is mellowing in her middle age.
# 10 Oct 2005, 06:37AM: Hamminess And Its Uses:
MC Masala this week: an anecdote about a teachable moment.
As I wrote the lesson plan, I had to decide on milestones for our first discussion of Le Guin. I knew where I wanted to start, but which destination would be most useful, and what route would cover the most interesting scenery? What was the right question to ask? Comedians and teachers know that the audience needs careful guidance, that a lesson plan or a set of jokes must flow unexpectedly yet gracefully between fascinating arguments.
# 12 Oct 2005, 03:11PM: Nervousness:
Leonard just left CollabNet and thus finished his last day of work there. I'm excited and happy for him but also anxious. I hope it all turns out for the best.
# 12 Oct 2005, 08:02PM: Fame For Jimbo, Trevor, et al.:
Salon's newest Arts/Entertainment story: my interview with the writers of "Uncle Morty's Dub Shack."
Trevor: I like the films that have a lot of scenes with just two or three characters having a conversation, because then you can just throw whatever words you want into their mouths and completely twist the story's plotline. The films that are tricky are the ones with a lot of action and not a lot of dialogue. There's a difference between "bad/funny movies" and "bad/bad movies." We've had to scrap movies a week before our deadline because we didn't realize it was a "bad/bad movie" until we were halfway done writing it.
# 14 Oct 2005, 04:40PM: Friday, 4:30 p.m., Facing Drudgery:
I have answered at least 600 emails from Salon Premium users this month.
This week I've spent at least two hours on the phone conversing with customers about the Bush administration, the 2004 election, print magazines, marathons, Salon's redesign, and other such topics of their choosing.
A few readers are acknowledging, in letters to Premium Help, that they simply don't like having to get used to the new design, but are doing so anyway. These people have metacognition and I want to give them all free extra months of access.
The new employee of the hot dog shop downstairs saw my EFF t-shirt and told me that he'd helped build the EFF building. He said he was friends with "Cory and all those kids."
I skimmed a bunch of Salon's archives from 2003 yesterday for a tenth-anniversary project. Wow, there are so many memorable articles in our archives!
A New York Times article a few months ago turned me on to KCRW, the LA-based radio station, and its influential morning show, the obscurely punnily named "Morning Becomes Eclectic." I just got that pun a week ago. KCRW played Imogen Heap's single "Hide and Seek" a few times, I was hooked, and Salon's Audiofile put up the mp3 for download.
Imogen Heap has made this week much better.
# 14 Oct 2005, 06:40PM: Epithet For A Customer:
# 16 Oct 2005, 12:30AM: Progress:
Yesterday (Saturday) I tidied my room, dug a bunch of seldom-worn
clothes out of my dresser and closet, took them and Leonard's rejects
to Buffalo Exchange, got a tiny amount in store credit and dumped
the BE rejects into their donation bin, washed my sheets, and cleaned
some more. And then I went to a party! Parties feel so much better
I'd wanted to toss some dresses for years. Last night, I finally
realized what was holding me back: the internalized, imaginary voices of my
mother and sister, who think they are nice dresses and that I should
wear them more often. Bah! It's my closet and my tastes and needs
Two weeks ago, Sarah gave me some very nice clothes that don't fit
her needs anymore. In fact, I am currently wearing my new favorite pair of
pants, a khaki-esque dealie that she gave me. So now I feel bad that
I did not reciprocate and offer my perfectly nice dresses, pants,
shirts, skirts, etc. to my friends and acquaintances. But many of them
were not attractive, and I really just wanted them all gone and out
of my home and my life.
One can get a high from decluttering. The Buddhists know what's
# 16 Oct 2005, 05:28PM: Progress Redux:
It's Weekend O'Minor Renovation! Recaulking the sink, building tacky snap-together furniture, hanging up pictures, sorting stacks of dead tree for shredding and storage, and sending notes to charities asking them to take me off their mailing lists. John, you'll be happy to know that I've been, you know, opening and filing or shredding that old mail you saw.
It's so easy to get over decluttering inertia when I just concentrate on getting one little thing done, get it over with, enjoy the surprising and wonderful change that's made in my life, and ride the high to the next, spontaneously chosen project. The cause could also be the stimulants in my anti-allergy medication.
# 17 Oct 2005, 12:17PM: Music Soothes The Savage Inequalities:
Every few months I look around the ShoutCast radio stations and find great selections. Today: flamenco/Spanish guitar. Man, that genre is to me as pink walls are to a PCP fiend.
# 17 Oct 2005, 01:14PM: Decision Procedures:
When I go to a restaurant, I limit myself to choosing from a fraction of the offerings at that restaurant. I have made one very big decision (continuing to be vegetarian) that frees me from many tiny decisions throughout my daily life. It is much easier to choose among four equally appealing options than among fifteen. Since I live in an area where restaurants always have a few vegetarian options, I don't lack for variety, but I space the variety out among meals.
Sometimes, I'll go to Greens, or Herbivore, or Golden Era, and find myself gobsmacked at the choices available to me. Just as, after turning 21, I had to rerender my map of the world, reminding myself of each bar I passed that I could enter it freely and legally, I stare at the Lucky Creation menu for minutes, trying to accustom myself to the concept that I could eat anything on there.
I've cleansed my closet and dresser of clothes I didn't want. So now I have a slightly more limited selection of clothes, but all of them are ones I want to wear. I've both created and removed constraints. And constraints are how we get anything done.
# 18 Oct 2005, 01:51PM: The Fear Of Jerkitude:
Harlan Ellison v. Penny Arcade, and the court rules in favor of no one at all.
It often takes
self-confidence and self-immersion verging on the level of sociopathy
for creators to get their ideas on film or paper or CD without giving
in to all the "helpful" agents and marketers and producers who want to
water their vision down. And strong perspectives, especially outré
ones, generally produce the most interesting art. I've gotten to
interview a lot of my artistic idols over the last half-decade, and
guess what? Some of them are just not nice. And so what?
If you have to be a jerk to be a successful and ambitious artist or businessperson, then what of those who don't want to be jerks?
# 18 Oct 2005, 07:25PM: Lies, Durned Lies, and Carrots:
I lied to my mother. Or I tried to.
But because he lied, Yudhisthira's chariot falls upon the ground, never to float again.
# 20 Oct 2005, 09:46AM GMT+5:30: "Waiting Waiting Waiting":
I laughed out loud at Spamusement! today. Incidentally, the other web comics comprising my daily comic trawl are: Achewood; Toothpaste For Dinner; Something Positive; and Dinosaur Comics.
# 20 Oct 2005, 04:57PM: Argh:
There are jerks in the world. And sometimes I interact with them! And I get frustrated. Argh.
# 21 Oct 2005, 07:05AM: Not The Best Workweek:
Yesterday, from conversation with colleague as we left the office to go home: "Aaargh. There are so many bitter, cranky, angry people. And some of them are me."
# 21 Oct 2005, 11:25AM: Bubbles:
Today I got new and concrete evidence that two of my colleagues have my back. The comfort of that surprises me. Also, I like to drink Emergen'C - only 20 calories, yet fizzy, and therefore my body interprets it as a treat. So I feel better.
# 21 Oct 2005, 03:35PM: The Ideals:
We need more people like Bunnatine Greenhouse.
SFBay Area co-ops for various services and goods.
# 23 Oct 2005, 10:40PM: Decluttering:
This week's MC Masala focuses on how to make more from less.
Some people may react to a nomadic past by living lightly, keeping only enough possessions to fit in two suitcases for quick getaways. I lived with someone like that, whose room resembled the cell of a secular monk. I would peek in, awed.
Completely unrelated: Libelous Claims About Large Corporations is a comic strip/blog sort of in the fashion of Spamusement!, but also like that other stick figure one with stories of a cat and a grandmother and whatnot.
# 23 Oct 2005, 10:44PM GMT+5:30: Didion on Schiavo:
You have probably already read Joan Didion on the Schiavo case and watched Didion illustrate, but carefully leave unanswered, more precisely formulated questions about that particular tragedy and the end of life. That piece makes me want to read Life's Dominion and The Year of Magical Thinking.
# 23 Oct 2005, 10:55PM: The Summit Talks Continue:
What with my mother visiting and my birthday passing and going to Andrew and Claudia's wedding and being invited to another one, hints have been dropped regarding nuptials that might affect me a bit more directly. But my story is not nearly as elegant as "The Date", a tale of well-intentioned matchmaking.
The muffled sound of our intense conversation no doubt inspired the Walkers to delay their re-entry. Intermittently we heard them shuffle a pot or a pan, tinkle cutlery in the sink, close a cupboard, thus signaling they were still busy and therefore excused.
President looked at the longcase clock.
- It's about time we take you back to the station, Evelyne. At least if you want to catch the 9.32 train.
- But, Dwight, Dorothy said, come to think of it: Wilfried is driving back home. Isn't it about half way where Evelyne lives? Perhaps he could take her home.
They must have rehearsed that part of the script several times, including bending the country's geography.
# 23 Oct 2005, 10:58PM: Customers Do Stink:
One of the oddest and cruelest pranks I've ever heard of, and I wouldn't believe it had happened except for the length and depth of the story.
In a frame taken from a McDonald's surveillance video that is part of the court record, Mount Washington McDonald's employee Louise Ogborn expressed shock when assistant manager Donna Jean Summers told her that the caller on the phone, who identified himself as "Officer Scott," said Ogborn would have to be strip-searched. One lawyer described the caller as "a freak who plays God."
# 23 Oct 2005, 11:06PM: Poets, Travel:
Seth told me about a Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes exhibit in New York City that features a Hughes poem in reply to a Plath poem on the topic of a rabbit trap. He did that sort of reply thing a lot, and therefore perhaps should have sent a ping trackback to the original in each instance.
I visit NYC later this week and welcome suggestions for dynamite vegetarian cuisine, extraordinary strolls, and great bits of public transit.
Speaking of transit: the Emeryville Amtrak station has a parking lot. This is not a surprise. One must pay to use the lot. Also pretty standard. But the payment system includes little analog (not automatic) slots for coins and folded bills. One must use an attached device, which basically looks like the handle of a key, to push in the folded bills through the inadequate slot for your parking space. This bit of metal is "the stuffer." I cannot find the words to describe this dastardly thing.
# 30 Oct 2005, 06:31AM: Brief Notes On The East Coast:
My lips seem to chap more easily here.
Do not take the yummy cornbread home from District Chophouse in DC and then warm a small slice of it in a microwave for two minutes. It may catch fire.
The day that you think you will take the subway a bunch of times, and that therefore it makes sense to get the unlimited one-day Fun Pass, will be the day you take the subway exactly once.
I am having fun.
# 30 Oct 2005, 07:20AM: Sic Transit Gloria Transit:
I've traveled using three subway systems, Amtrak, a plane, a taxi, a privately owned car, and my feet this week.
# 30 Oct 2005, 08:18PM: In A Week Of Subways, Writer Considers Accidents of Chance (And Cars):
My attempt at an NYT-style headline. About to go to sleep in NYC for the last time on this trip. My new column is up.
I don't remember the crash. I swore, wide-eyed, as I slammed on the brakes and then stared in shock, past a deflating air bag and through an intact windshield, past a crumpled hood, at the car I'd stopped by running into its rear end.
The CD player was still playing They Might Be Giants. I turned it off.
# 31 Oct 2005, 10:08PM: Times Square: Marqueed McDonald's And Rosie O'Donnell:
My wonderful friend Angel (who made my acquaintance in high school) and I have returned from a weeklong trip to Washington, DC and New York City. I deliberately took no pictures and bought few souvenirs, so a quick travelogue should go up in but a few days. Thanks are due to Nandini, John, and Adam for hosting, Camille and Sabrina for tour-guiding, and Kenny, Seth, Eric, Jade, Trevor, and other friends for useful suggestions.
I had a fantastic vacation. I haven't laughed so much in months. The New York City Transit Museum instilled in me a deep sense of well-being, and the beatitude lasts even now.
Cogito, Ergo Sumana by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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