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: Space, time, and "take my wife ... please!": Today: Seth's diary, Einstein's Dreams, and free professional comedy!

Seth's diary yesterday contained a hilarious commentary on our historical shortsightedness, titled "California history." I recommend it highly.

Last night I read Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams in a voracious fit of putting-off-Russian. Very thought-provoking. I especially liked Lightman's imagination WRT the people who tried to defy the laws of their respective worlds. The book also reminded me of how difficult it can be to question my assumptions, and that the ones I least question might be the ones I most need to undermine (e.g., the nature of time, the merits and disadvantages of ambition, etc.).

All right! I was afraid that there would be no more Heuristic Squelch comedy nights this semester, but it looks as though that's not a problem. This Wednesday, April 4, there's a free comedy show on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley. The featured comics are hilarious, especially Brian Malow. Again, 11:30 am till 1 pm on Upper Sproul Plaza on April 4th. Great stuff! I imagine there's no open-mic portion, otherwise I'd be doing four minutes of schtick.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/2/12938/28202
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: Cats and Advogato and freedom: Urban astronomy, feline friendships (or tentative steps towards them), and Lodi.

I got new shoes. They're pretty much exactly like my old ones, except that they don't have any holes in them, and they're tight enough so that I have to actually untie and tie the laces, rather than just slipping them on.

There are posters around Berkeley, promoting some meditation class, stating, "Freedom is Overrated." I assume they are pro-stability in the ancient ideological war between security/community and individual autonomy. But how far will it get them, in Berkeley, to put down freedom? This is a place where "freedom" has been invoked to support nearly every cause you can imagine. Then again, maybe that's exactly why they think it'll get them somewhere.

If I had forgotten my Advogato password, what would be the procedure for having it reset and/or emailed to me?

I generally fear animals with fur, and avoid them. But yesterday I was in The Other Change of Hobbit (a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley) and actually liked the cat there, Shagrat. I got it to sit on my lap. That's never happened before. I had to sit still for a while though, reading Stephenson's The Big U, and not pay attention to the thing. It's like the stillness that Pullman writes about in His Dark Materials that allows Lyra to read the alethiometer.

I'm no Piper of Hamelin, but I'm making progress in my animal relations.

Seen, yesterday, on the marquee of the California movie theater on Kittredge:

The Mexican Chocolat is especially good at Mario's La Fiesta at Haste and Telegraph.

I endorse Venus, a slightly-expensive-and-worth-it restaurant between Bancroft and Durant on Shattuck in Berkeley. It's not as expensive as some other places I could mention, and I've never been disappointed with a meal there. Always yummy, and a few times it's expanded my taste bud horizons. I wrote a rather lyrical note to the chef after I first had the apple crisp.

Oddly enough, there's a bar called Jupiter up the street, between Center and Allston. Is there any correlation?

I imagine Earth would be at Bancroft, then, and Mars at Kittredge? No, there's a clothing shop named Mars at Telegraph and Channing. Hmmmm. Would Pluto be the Haas School of Business, along Piedmont?

So Lodi is in the news. It's a Northern California town, near Stockton, that refused to go along with the rolling blackouts for various reasons. I lived in Stockton and went to middle and high school in Lodi. I had thought it would never be in the news, except maybe if some parasite got into the wine grapes.

Horrible thought: Oh no. Lodi completely fits the profile of a town where a school shooting would take place. Dear God no. Small town, lots of religious white people, big high schools where kids who feel different feel isolated. Dear God, no.

Please, PLEASE let the next mention be the wine grapes....

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/3/123725/1733

: Take that, economists!: Me, yesterday, during Political Science 171 lecture:
"If I never hear the term 'Pareto equilibrium' again it'll be too soon."
Prof. Bruce Cain, during the same lecture:
"Don't make fun of economists, now, they make more than we do."

Pareto optimism: I don't want Pareto equilibrium, because that state is, literally, hopeless. I've reconciled myself to enjoying the journey and hating the goal In that way I'm very much unlike Odysseus, or a hypothetical Odysseia. He really wanted to get home, and yet at the point when he's happiest, fadeout and credits.

I actually picked up and read a bit of the Fagles translation of The Odyssey while I was in The Other Change of Hobbit the other day. I love the bit about the bed. That Penelope was so clever! However, I had to pick up and get involved in The Big U before Shagrat came and sat on my lap.

I remember a number of years ago hearing Fagles on Diane Rehm's talk show on KUOP. It was early on some weekday morning, I remember, because I got up early my senior year to do physics homework. I loved those early mornings....

Fagles read the opening of the poem, in the Greek, and it sounded so beautiful and so magical. That's the sort of thing that turns people to becoming classics scholars. Me, I express my orality through the oral epic of our time: jokes and stand-up comedy. The ultimate epithet: "rosy-fingered dawn" or "how many [x] does it take to change a light bulb?"

All Your Base: The definitive satire (not to put down Segfault's much-earlier two cents).

Reading: I went to Black Oak Books last night, and bought The Giver (which I finished last night) & The Big Sleep (which I went there to buy, originally). It seems to me that you can find out a lot about a person by having them read The Giver, if they haven't already, and finding out their opinion on how optimal the portrayed society is. I got this nagging feeling, during and after reading it, that Lowry is unfair to a system that actually keeps a lot of people happy. She is a longtime resident of the USA, which (in my experience) turns people towards individual rights and away from honestly believing in the value of community.

"The Giver" isn't as ham-handed and sinister as Anthem, which allows more subtlety and encourages substantive consideration. Important note: this book has one prestigious award(s) in the realm of children's books. I heard about it on The Looseleaf Book Company, a radio prgram re: kids' books on KALW Sunday mornings.

As more diatribe-style writers would yell: Is this the sort of filth we allow into the hearts and minds of our children?!

I had a very interesting conversation with Alexei yesterday re: school shootings. He also beat me at air hockey. Grrr.

Now I go and see free stand-up on Sproul. Next time: the artist is not the art, the believer is not the belief.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/4/142153/3116
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: And when I die I expect to find Him laughing: "I missed the lecture on sleep learning."
"You mean you slept through it."
"Well, yeah."
"You know, there's some irony in that."
-heard in the Open Computing Facility

As Depeche Mode said,

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors
But I think that God has a sick sense of humor...

-"Blasphemous Rumors"
Or it might have been "sixth sense of humor." Ah, well. In any case, my confidence in the existence of a Divine Author (akin to Nabokov's role in Lolita), and in the Author's sense of humor, has found new credence.

My mom bought me a used jacket and didn't notice the insignia. Yesterday, when I put it on, I certainly noticed it.

It's the Playboy Bunny.

I'll keep wearing it. The coat is fine, aside from the logo, and no one will much mind in Berkeley. I figure that people who see it will either laugh at the irony or not know me in the first place.

I believe that today was the first time since high school that a teacher has said to me, "Do I have to separate you two?" In this case, it was Russian and my partner in inappropriate socialization was Jeff Good, linguistics man. Some topics of laughter: the word for "grumpy" (mrachnii) and the confusion of the Italian word for "wallet" with the Russian word for "briefcase" (both something like portfel).

I've read ocelot's diary, and really feel a gut-busting fit come on when I read this entry, entitled "A Biscotti Recipe, or Why ocelot rarely cooks." ocelot also gets my comradeship when she mentions in another entry that she lost an entry to a Netscape crash, but stubbornly refused to use a different composer next time around, since that would mean defeat!

I watched four episodes of the Japanese cartoon sitcom "Ranma 1/2" yesterday with a bunch of anime fans. I fear enjoying it, since that would set me swiftly "up the mainstream without a paddle," as Leonard says. Next thing I know, I'll be dragging everyone I know to Neon Genesis Evangelion marathons and spending all my time skulking around Movie Image on Shattuck.

And don't tell me anime isn't mainstream. At Berkeley, there's no better way to label yourself as completely gauche than to say Akira and Ghost in the Shell are your favorite movies ever. I'd have to advance through half of Reel's inventory before I'd consider myself up to par with these learned sages with whom I saw the "Ranma." And why would I start at something where I'd be the worst in the group to begin with?

Well, time to work on my paper about the film Dark Victory and its relationship to James Rorty's remark about the organic culture of humanity and the pseudoculture of advertising. Wish me luck. I'll get around to that ramble about the artist and her art next time, along with films at the Fine Arts Theater that I want to see soon.

Poll: Best phrase

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/9/15310/30865

: And did you always do what Mama said?: So when was the first time your parents lied, and you knew they are lying? --I asked my class on Friday.
Perhaps the best response: "Once, my parents told me to get in the car because we were going to Disneyland, and then they took me to the dentist."

The domain of www.breakfast.com is not taken! How can this be?! Where is General Mills, or some squatter, or something?

(I actually only visited breakfast.com because I haven't eaten yet.)

I am currently wearing a clear plastic pocket protector, which is one of four I bought for 22 cents each from a clearance table at Office Depot. Inside the pocket protector: a highlighter, a mechanical pencil, a pen with black ink, a pen with blue ink. Funny thing is, I never really thought about carrying pens in my shirt pockets until I started wearing a pocket protector. Now I love it; they're so convenient! I may actually be writing more, thanks to the lowered transaction costs of whipping out writing utensils.

I now own six: a white Linux "Open Minds, Open Source" dealie from IDG at the Linux World Expo two years ago; the four clear ones; and a white Buca di Beppo protector. Buca di Beppo is an Italian restaurant, and there is one somewhat near where Seth Schoen used to live. Thus, we often ate BdB food at Seth's gatherings, including the housecooling a while back.

Does ThinkGeek or such sell pocket protectors? Maybe ones in which to hold Visors?

Bird linguists. As I trudged lightly towards my 8 am class today, I saw two birds chirping really near each other, near Dwinelle and VLSB. They looked really different from each other -- different colors, markings, sizes, etc. Maybe they were two different species of birds! Do different bird species understand each other? Maybe these were two bird linguists, breaking inter-bird barriers. Or maybe they were bird ambassadors. Maybe they were dividing up campus territory. "OK, you get to defecate on Sproul, but we get Memorial Glade and the genetically-twisted trees near the Campanile." Or something.

The Fine Arts Cinema, at Shattuck and Haste in Berkeley, will soon be showing several movies that I'd like to see, preferably with others. (I'll probably send out a mention via e-mail to friends who don't read this. Or maybe I won't, so as to punish them...)

For those of you who missed the Kieslowski marathon, this is your chance to see meaningful stuff!

Through today:
Secrets of Silicon Valley
April 11 through April 14th:
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
May 11-17:
Shadows, directed by Cassavettes. (Leonard, you know you want to see this!)
May 18-23:
Charulata, directed by Satyajit Ray. Desis represent, as Anirvan says.
May 24-30:
City Lights, a Charlie Chaplin film. I just saw The Great Dictator, so all of a sudden I'm floating in midair....wait, I'm not stuck in a closet with Vanna White, as Weird Al was. I mean to say that all of a sudden I'm interested in Chaplin's work.
Oh, and by the way, today at 4 pm in 100 Lewis Hall, you could come and see It Happened One Night with my Films of 1939 class. It's a classic screwball romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable and (I think) Katharine Hepburn or some such. I'll be rushing over right after my DE-Cal class.

The artist is not the art. Hitler said some stuff. And some of it was offensive and chilling and so on. But I'm sure he said some things that were not so chilling. "Thank you." "Salad, please, I don't eat meat." And so on.

And then there are the sort-of-scary things. I've been reading a bit of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and I remember that a favorite saying of his was, "retain the essential and forget the nonessential," which actually seems to be pretty good advice, if you can forget from whom it came. And forgetting the authors of advice seems to be a bad thing, in general.

So it seems that I should just retain my critical facilities, and take any advice with a grain of salt, which is tough, as I tend to be too trusting (except when it comes to mass murderers and other such obviously wrongheaded people). And it's just so exhausting to be wary all the time! I want to be a reflexive skeptic, but not a reflexive cynic. A difficult balance. And don't tell me it's not, please, because I'm just saying it'll be hard for me.

Parents shouldn't ask their older children to trust them unconditionally -- asking for blind obedience -- if those parents cannot mediate every substantial interaction between the children and the outside world.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/11/14435/2664

: Comedy Night Is Coming!: Many of you may know that I often indulge at the open-mikes at the Squelch Comedy Nights on campus. Well, here comes another one.

Monday, 16th of April at 8 pm in the Bear's Lair in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Union (near the intersection of Bancroft & Telegraph). At the door, tickets are $8 with a UCB ID and $10 general admission; ahead of time, $5/$7. The professional comedians are Johnny Steele ("Named by SF Chronicle as one of the smartest comedians around") and Becky Pedigo. Arrive early, as doors close at 8:15. Pre-sale tickets are available on Sproul Plaza at noon or so most weekdays, and at 4 Eshleman Hall. For open-mike info (the open mike is after the intermission after the professionals), call 510-642-7477.

And in my last diary, I gave the wrong link for Anirvan.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/11/155212/269
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: So heaven is a slasher flick?: Weekend fun, I had. A Gateway to Heaven, I saw. Various jokes, sight gags, and puns, I discovered. Cheeriest, to me, was the nicknaming of "CollabNet" as "ClamNet."

So Dan, a friend of mine, told me that the two wildly dissimilar birds I saw conversing on Wednesday were, most probably, just the male and female of one species. Hmph. There go my hopes of doing a good-faith "bird linguist" bit at the comedy night on Monday.

I had a great deal of fun this weekend, and it's not even half over. Thank-yous go out to Leonard and to Kevin Maples and Kevin's friends.

I'm really enjoying Leonard's music. He was kind enough to oblige me and play a good deal of it for me (and Kevin and Scott and Shane) last night. In fact, right now I can't really stop listening to "I Screw Up Everything I Touch," "Relativity," and "Royal Jelly."

Okay, I stopped. Copperpot, now, and the Weatherheads, TMBG, TentilEight, and The Carpet Patrol. All of those (except for They Might Be Giants), I discovered through IUMA. Yes, IUMA of the baby-naming scheme. Still a great resource. I wish they had more funding.

San Francisco Examiner headline yesterday: "Drivers killed fewer walkers last year," or something to that effect. Although I'm glad, I seem to sense some left-handed complimentry in the headline.

If I could quantify the voyeurism and low-down wrongness of "reality" TV shows, and somehow evaluate all the TV shows in the history of reality, all the way from "Candid Camera" to "The Real World" to "Survivor/Big Brother/Temptation Island/Boot Camp/Chains of Love," and then I graphed it, what sort of result would I find? And what sort of trend would it really project? What really is the next step in voyeuristic entertainment? Some sort of AllAdvantage-type arrangement where thousands of people can sign up for cash-for-surveillance freelance work? AmIFascinatinglyMundaneOrNot, then, would be the mediator. Hmmm. Perhaps I've said too much already. *calls VC*

Currently reading: Caleb Carr, The Angel of Darkness, sequel to The Alienist. I'm about a third of the way through it, even though I perhaps shouldn't be, since I have work to do for every one of my courses and extracurricular activities. I think it was my sister who said that Caleb Carr actually does in The Alienist what Michael Crichton tried to do in The Great Train Robbery. I have to say that Carr's first-person narration helps avoid the exposition-heavy style that Crichton critics, well, criticize. But the heavy-handed attempts at suspense cliffhangers at the end of every chapter get rather old.

Random sample, from Angel:

The Doctor took the knife again. "The Philippine Islands, Stevie, are one of the most important colonies in the Spanish Empire. A most valued jewel in the queen regent's crown. Well..." He walked towards the center of the room, still examining the knife "It would seem that we have gained an advantage tonight -- and lost one." He gave us all a very serious look. "We must move."

I once heard a Crichton critic, back in high school, state his objections thus: "Okay, let's say he's writing about a guy going to Africa. First sentence: 'The guy was packing for Africa. The first trip to Africa by Europeans was made in...' And that goes on for six pages. Then, 'The guy packed a can of bug spray. Bug spray was invented in....'" Years later, I realize that: the beginning of Congo is, in fact, not quite like this; and that the edutainment of Crichtoneqsue style has its hilarious comeuppance in Modern Humorist's Encyclopedia Brown parodies.

So I was sick this past week. Monday afternoon I ministered to Alexei, who had (he thought) been poisoned by bad fish over the weekend. That night I stayed up late writing an essay on James Rorty, pseudoculture v. mass culture, and Dark Victory, or, as I put it to most of my friends, "Applying a theorist you've never heard of to a movie you've never seen." Didn't eat much or sleep much those next few days, except for some bake-sale goods on Wednesday, early afternoon. What I'm wondering is, exactly what was the tipping point of the illness? What made me sick on Wednesday afternoon, night, and Thursday morning? Did I catch something from Alexei? The brownie? Was it to food, or the lack of food, or sleep, or what combo?

Illness wreaks havoc with the scientific method. I want the independent variable, dammit!

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/15/25525/7264
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: Without Darth: there would have been no Luke," said a girl to another girl on Hearst yesterday evening. As my friend Drew would comment, Dostoyevsky was saying basically the same thing.

A report on the Comedy Night. And, "for justice, we must go to..." Judge Bob's Judicial system!

Comedy Night. I performed at the open-mike on Monday night. Anirvan, Leonard, and Leah came with me. WRT the professionals: Johnny Steele was funny, as was (to a lesser extent) Becky Pedigo. Mr. Steele was once a radio DJ for Live 105 FM, which attests to his ability to improvise. Very good.

I was surprised. Usually, there are around six or eight open-mike performers; Monday, there were, three, including me. And I got to go first! I never get to go first, since I'm a repeat performer and we usually have to go after the first-timers. But there were no novices on Monday. I still only had about thirty (if that many!) people in the audience, but I did pretty well. I think this might have been my second-best performance ever. No notes, and quite a few laughs.

I usually don't lie in my act. I may have a bit of comic exaggeration, but I try to avoid lies, profanity, and use lewd humor. But I cracked on Monday that my tax bracket "just went from mobile phone to mobile home," which wasn't that funny anyway, and is regardless false. So, just so you know, in case you were there, I was lying. I never was in the mobile phone bracket, anyway.

Political Science 2 was the first time I learned (explicitly) about patron-client relations as a model of a social system. The canonical example in modern literature may be Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which we referenced in the class.

"The two movies you need to watch to understand politics are The Godfather and Monty Python and the Life of Brian", the TA said.

I just skimmed the first page and a half or so of The Godfather yesterday at Shayna's place after California Politics discussion. Our POV character sees his daughter's rapists sentenced in court. They get off with a three-year suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist. His rage is inconceivable. This is no justice! "For justice," he tells his family, "we must go to our friend Don Corleone."

And it is true that machine politics and the Mafia and so on provided useful services to marginalized communities, especially immigrants. But patron-client relations are diffuse, not specific, which is their strength and their danger. I can rely on one supplier for security, loans, and assistance with the government, but if I annoy that one supplier somehow, I'm out all those services. And that's the inherent problem. It can be "unfair."

But I've recently encountered another mention of patronage that, along with the Puzo page, sent me "reeling around ... in some kind of primal Jungian fugue," as Neal Stephenson said in In the Beginning Was the Command Line.

I had to watch The Philadelphia Story last week. I was caught unaware -- I had thought I was in for It Happened One Night, but that'll teach me to not check the syllabus. And there's a moment where the kindly-intentioned heiress tells the rough-and-tumble reporter who would love to write fiction for a living -- if only he had the money -- that he can use her cottage, if he likes. And he retorts that patronage is out of favor these days. It's 1939.

Yes, it's charity; yes, it's degrading to a proud soul. But what else is wrong with patronage? Was pride the only valid reason (if you do consider pride valid) to take umbrage at her offer? It's not enough to say, "Do you want to go back to the Middle Ages?" We have to understand what's so wrong with the model. After all, there were some good things about medieval times. People had communities -- sometimes dysfunctional, but communities. There was connection and caring -- in a personal way -- and not some slick, efficient, coldly impersonal screen facing you when you made a transaction.

Well, perhaps one might argue that it's a bad thing to have some lord own your life in the way that feudal lords did. He would be able to "volunteer" you for the armed services, to take your crops, to enslave your family and seize your land if he saw fit.

Which, I would reply, is why the protagonist prepares to blow up the credit report services in Fight Club.

Well, I'm off to a lunch from Cheese 'N' Stuff. I've discovered their cheap, filling, and nutritious pasta and potato salads.

Poll: I am, basically,

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/18/14299/4010
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: I done got schooled: Yesterday, after I beat Nathaniel (twice!) at air hockey, a young-looking guy -- Samuel, he said his name was, from the Middle East -- absolutely schooled me. Afterwards, when he -- quite kindly -- explained how I might get better, I realized that he had thought I was wrongly inferring his intended actions, when, in fact, I'd just been trying to guard my goal against any willy-nilly puck. I wasn't even good enough to get tricked the way he was trying to trick me. But it was very fun nonetheless.

I saw Citizen Kane yesterday, for the first time. I wish I could have seen it without all the baggage that a modern viewer brings to the film. I knew what "Rosebud" meant, at the end, and I knew that many critics consider it the greatest movie ever made. It is very, very good. But I'd like to see a lot more cinema before pronouncing it "the best" or only "one of the best."

Citizen Kane: Hot or Not?

Yesterday's class was pretty good. My students cajoled me into doing my comedy act from Monday. I performed for them at the end of class. They clapped.

"Right now, you like me! You really, really like me!"

Tomorrow we'll be discussing The Matrix, and this coming Wednesday too. I encourage interested readers to stop by. It promises to be an interesting discussion. I came up with my frist political interpretation after seeing it the second or third time, I saw it that time on campus, at one of SUPERB's Friday night Wheeler showings, and explained it with great enthusiasm at dinner at Mario's La Fiesta on Telegraph -- the best Mexican restaurant in Berkeley.

I owe a great deal to my friends and family for their patience with my enthusiasms.

Another SUPERB movie tomorrow -- Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, which I have been wanting to see ever since I first heard of it. But I also have a fun party I could attend! Decisions, decisions. I, ever the social butterfly.

Maybe I should just while away my Friday night in the arcade, taking all comers at air hockey and stomping the pads for Dance Dance Revolution as Korean pop infuses my brain.

Poll: What should brainwane do on Friday night?

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/19/144930/415

: Watch yo'self!: "Tell me who the infallible philosopher is. I'd like to read her work."
-Me, during discussion of The Matrix today.

"You know, some people just don't want their Ph.D.s."
-Prof. Bruce Cain, yesterday, after a playful insult from a graduate student.


"We should start a chess club."
"Look, we're CS majors, we hang out in a computer lab, and you want us to start s chess club? Why don't we just spray ourselves with pussy repellent?"

-Heard in the Open Computing Facility.

My watch broke. I still have it on, since it feels weird to not wear a watch, but I put it on backwards to ensure that I won't use it to tell time. Perhaps I should simply wear a gaily decorative bracelet instead.

It's rather odd to live without a watch, for me. I find myself continually asking people if they "have the time" -- a curious expression, much like "spend a penny" -- and alternating between drifting, aimless lounging and frenzied rushes of movement.

jwz wrote that no job should require one -- well, him -- to wear a watch. Wearing a nonfunctional watch reminds me of "Chronopolis" by J.G. Ballard. What's better -- being part of a huge watch, or never knowing clocks?

Class: Today we discussed The Matrix and mentioned Locke, Rousseau, Smith, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Darwin, Lao-Tzu, Marx, Foucault, Plato, and Darwin, among others.

Today On Calendars: National Condom Day, last day of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Hitler's birthday, anniversary of Columbine, some sort of Holocaust rememberance day, etc.

Air hockey today: Beat Elliot once, beat Jose once and beaten by Jose once, and beat Jeana twice (!)

Poll: best quote

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/20/20218/2375

: Russkies and Injuns: By request. My trip to San Francisco -- or perhaps I should say "Maya excursiyoo v San Francisco," since I went with my Russian class and the tour guide spoke in Russian and pointed out spots of Russian interest.

And: if you're Indian, and in Silicon Valley, please read this.

So I woke up at 7 or 8 or so this morning and dragged myself to Oxford and University to meet up with my Russian teacher, three of my classmates, and the teacher and two students from the fourth-semester Russian class. Introductions all around. Shivering. Students warming up their Russian in fits and starts.

The history graduate student, one of my classmates, drove up in a (borrowed) candy-apple-red Spider Veloce convertible -- top down, sunglasses on, ponytail flying in the wind. This provoked much comment, many laughs, and a number of jibes, including:

His car and arrival provoked much more comment than the fact that I was wearing a tie.

The tour bus picked us up, then, in San Francisco (alternately "SF" or "The City") a group of native Russians. After that was the rapid Russian, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, North Beach, the Palace of Fine Arts -- I fell asleep, it would seem, during the Castro -- and a lot of other stuff, mixed up with jokes and "Wow"s and broken and fluent Russian. We got back to Berkeley around 3:00 pm.

I warmed the Russians' hearts and inflated my own sense of fluency by almost completely using Russian to offer to take -- and to take -- photographs of them, all together, with their camera. Ah, international communication and cooperation, via the daguerrotype.

I noticed -- on Geary, I think, after the tour guide had pointed out (what I dub) Little Moscow, that a window across the street from an auto-body shop reflected the auto-body shop's sign perfectly. The name was "UNI-ROYAL," and I saw the backwards "N" and "R," which (in Cyrillic) one would pronounce "ee" and "ya," respectively. And this made me think that Russia reflects America back to us, backwards, as in a thought-experiment in Einstein's Dreams.

It was on Geary, in "Siberia In SanFran," less than a year ago -- gode nazad -- that I first used Russian with a native Russian. My first-semester Russian class went there. I collected some of the free Russian-language newspapers. In a Russian bakery, I was scanning the news racks for free papers I didn't have yet. A man said something to me and pointed to a paper in my hand.

I stuttered, in sentence fragments. "Nyet zdyes. Tam. Na ulitsa." ["Not here. There. On the street."]

He understood me! He did! I ran back to my classmates to tell them. They laughed, I remember -- maybe at my enthusiasm. It was my frist triumph. It certainly encouraged me to keep on with the Russian.

Other weekend news: My God, Leonard is too funny for his own good. And together, we're comedy dynamite! Exploding stereotypes, destroying myths, and provoking the founding of the Nobel Prizes!

More seriously, I went to the party, electing not to see the movie, do homework, or dance dance.

I did some ethnographic research today. Translation: talked to Indians in Silicon Valley about their citizenship status, which is basically my project. If anyone reading this fits that profile, please, contact me.

Poll: This weekend: hot or not?

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/23/05824/1575

: Do I look fat in this font?: Media experiences I've had today:

In today's journal, brainwane teaches, sees a whore, buys a bookmark, and cannot cure herself of a meme.

Ever since I started hanging out with Leonard, a certain meme has infested me as slowly and surely as syphilis. It's ""Tonight's Episode," the only slightly nonsensical title at the top of Leonard's main webpage. Go ahead, look at it. I dare you.

It's as Neal Stephenson's herpes virus of irony (which infects anyone who lives in California for too long, as posited in Cryptonomicon). I keep coming up with new ones, writing down the good and discarding the bad. It's more distracting than a half-read Orson Scott Card novel. I see parking signs and transmute them into sleazy slogans of corrupted corpses. What a life.

Today in my DE-Cal class, I tried to talk a bit about religion, jumping off with The Matrix. While referring to Neal Stephenson's In The Beginning Was The Command Line, I made a rather inelegant analogy of HIV destroying defenses sneakily to the relativism of the American monoculture, and its disabling of righteousness defenses in other cultures. It's still rather muddled in my head.

I saw a prostitute! I have been told (passive voice intended) that the "massage parlor" next to King Dong (a Chinese restaurant) on Shattuck, between Haste and Channing, is a brothel. And today I was walking home from school when I saw a woman near the place.

[Channelling Raymond Chandler] She was white, thirty and trying not to look so. She had "blond" hair that had seen more chemicals than Erin Brockovich. Come to think of it, she looked kind of like Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich -- not the face, not the pretty lighting, just the clothes. Heels that made her almost seem dainty -- her feet, anyway. And her short pink dress seemed like something Whore Barbie would wear.

She was running, I think -- if you can call anything a woman can do in those heels "running" -- out of the "Massage Parlor" (with the neon sign from ancient times, neverlit), a keyring dangling from her upraised hands. She passed them through the window to a fella sitting in the driver's seat of an SUV. Then she went back in. I caught a glimpse of a dingy, dungy office-looking room just inside the door. I didn't have to wait for the door to close to know that the sign on it simply reads, "Ring bell for service."

It was the first time I'd ever seen a woman and had quite a bit of certainty that she was a sex worker.

My class informed me, later, of the nuanced layers, the levels of degradation, implied by the words "whore," "slut," "skank," "ho," and "slattern." I should have asked about "scarlet woman." Or rather, "pink lady."

I bought a bookmark. It was hidden in the folds of a book at the church thrift sale. It's white paper, with sort of lacily perforated edges and a colored emblem of sort of a Santa Claus in the middle, decorated with red characters, Japanese or Chinese, I don't know which. I didn't buy the book, which may have been Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. I really should read some Pinter and Albee some time. Get in that black-turtleneck-cappucino vibe.

Later, y'all. It's The West Wing and Gogol for me! Tonight, tonight...

Poll: Better alliteration

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/25/213323/223
Filed under:

: In which the writer performs mundanities: Mediocre paper, Square One TV, pens ... oh hell, I'll just call this "Quickies," since that's what it is.

I am writing a long paper about the naturalization rates of Indians (the small subsection that my parents know, really) in Silicon Valley. It is destined for mediocrity. Oh well. As though that's new.

DON'T go to "Venezia," a University Avenue Italian restaurant. It's overpriced and underwhelming in terms of food, although the service and atmosphere are friendly. Best of Berkeley (.com) rated it Best Place to Take a Date. Well, I don't know about that. Go to King Dong (Shattuck and Haste) or Venus (Shattuck and Durant) or Intermezzo or La Fiesta (Telegraph and Haste) or Blue Nile (Telegraph and Blake...?) instead.

Weekend socialization: Yet another Leonard session. A hat trick! Much fun was had, some schtick was developed, and compliments flew like Mountain Dew cans out of a Mountain Dew can shooting gun.

I have only begun to perceive the world through the mediating paradigm of "Tonight's Episode."

My class Friday was suboptimal. There's a reason to hold class indoors when it's cold. Nature tricked me! Darn you, Mother Nature!

I'm not sure what to teach next semester. Perhaps some variant of children's lit? Harry Potter?

I bought a bunch of pens at Alko Office Supply on Shattuck. It's amazing the difference a couple of new pens can make in your life. I may actually grow to like the Gelly Roll pen, despite its mainstreamness.

Is it just me, or are some movie marquees -- especially the one for the Shattuck Cinemas above Kittredge -- unnecessarily cryptic?

There's a Camille Paglia speech on campus in early May. More details shortly.

"My Secret Identity" and "Square One TV": bad and good shows I saw at a formative age. I still wish I could fly using aerosol cans and harbor an unreasoning reserve of affection for any show or film starring that Jerry O'Connell fellow. Conversely, I know why the number 9 is magic, I sometimes wear a tie, and I play "What Do [I] Know?" whenever I think to do so.

I theorize that Tom Green movies exist only as subtle agents of the Hollywood mythos that any jackass can be a movie star.

And, from Sumana's notebook, bad handwriting that reminds us:
lesson plan != lesion plan

Poll: Most mundane

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/29/2196/19709

: A dream I had last night: I had a really weird dream last night. If other people's dreams bore you, then be warned. This one's long, with attempts at interpretation.

First, I was a reporter for some national humor magazine, and I visited some lecture being given to a sixth-grade class (yet it was full of people about my age) by some woman who was very much like Prof. Moran from my 1939 Films class. Only she had written some sci-fi novel called "1/3 + 2 1/3 = 3" or something, and she was a Scientologist, and somehow this formed the rationale for all she did. And the guy in front of me (who was kind of like one of the singers in DeCadence) didn't understand what was going on, so I tried to help by writing down "She's talking about Scientology" in my little notebook, but he didn't understand, so I wrote it again, but he had made some noise, and we were in the front rows, so the teacher began picking on him. I knew that I was an outsider and shouldn't get involved, but I couldn't help trying to defend him. "I was just telling him 'she's talking about Scientology,'" I said. But I couldn't do much as she berated him.

[In Russia, I've been warned, I won't be able to do anything about any domestic violence I see.]

[DeCadence has a free spring concert coming up. And one of my friends is dating a singer in the group.]

[As far as I know, Prof. Moran is not actually a scientologist. But she does enjoy science fiction.]

Then, as the class exited, I rejoined my colleagues from the humor mag. A girl excitedly asked us if we were from the Heuristic Squelch (UC Berkeley's mag), and we were from a paper that also had "Squelch" in its title, but I was also on the Heuristic Squelch, so it was tough to try to disabuse her of the notion.

[I often read The Onion, BBSpot, Modern Humorist, Brunching Shuttlecocks, Segfault, and the Heuristic Squelch. It would be cool to write for, say, MH. As if. But I have had two Segfault stories published, long, long ago. The better one was about a tech support gal. I don't remember what the worse one was.]

Then, somehow, I was home. Somehow saw my dad through the windowshade and we smiled at each other.

[My primary windowshade recently malfunctioned.]

Then I think my sister and maybe my dad and I were looking through a bunch of junk that my dad owned, in some rather foreign environment...or maybe it was like the house my parents rented years ago in Stockton. And somehow my friend Dan was there! And he saw something that looked like a little violin-esque sculpture made out of soap, and said (over and over, and I repeated it once) that it was (I don't remember exactly) a Stradivarius made for Sonny Kennedy. And we had bought it for 75 cents, and it was worth millions.

[Who isn't always looking for the diamond in the rough? I recently bought a blouse at a secondhand store, a tie at a church thrift store, and a corded phone at a garage sale, seeking bargains. And when I was at the secondhand store, I heard the employees mention that they were keeping the store open late to await the arrival of one Secondhand Stew. One of Dan's nicknames is "Stew." I wonder if Secondhand Stu does or does not advertise?]

[I recently heard about a friend of a friend of a friend who was dating a Kennedy. Yes, one of THOSE Kennedies. And I recently made a tasteless joke about Sonny Bono's death, which I often conflate with Michael Kennedy's and John Kennedy, Jr.'s.]

Maybe it was between those two main vignettes that I was with my mom in some high school. I was at the age I am now. And I remember seeing some sort of weird drink mixture. And I remember seeing two high school seniors in chairs in some corner of the playground/greenspace. Both guys. One snoozing, one long-haired and working intently on math or physics, not responding to my presence.

[In Connie Willis's short story "Time Out," which I read yesterday, a number of grown women interact with children at an elementary school. One is testing them. It's a good story, and that is nowhere near the whole premise. As well, drink mixtures are discussed, or at least mentioned.]

[I know a lot of physics/math/CS people, a number of them longhaired (both male and female), and I tend to envy their focus and persistence. I feel as though I don't really have either. I'd be the snoozer.]

So that's my dream. I warned you quite fairly that it was a dream, and I hope not too many of you were hoping for steamy fantasy and are now disappointed. None of that last night, none that I remember.

Other news: Still writing my paper. Thinking about music I like. Poll courtesy of some of the music I've been listening to.

Random note: Driven won the box office this last weekend. (Holds head in hands)

Poll: Every time I close my eyes

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/4/30/103246/410

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