Sunday, March 24, 2002

I spent half the weekend postponing cleaning my house, and the other half actually cleaning it.

I want to know one thing, where is the computer industry now?

A while ago, Microsoft and General Motors had a fun little sniping contest at one another comparing their respective industries. While it was a cute exchange, the question does beg asking as to where the growth of other industries are with respect to the computer industry.

Specifically, the various storage and processing systems within my apartment...

Why can't I buy a closet upgrate that holds 100 times the stuff as it did 10 years ago? My hard drive works that way.

Stoves still boil water in the same 10 minutes they did back in the 70's. Couldn't they have gotten even a little faster? A computer in the 70's could barely calculate the properties of boiling water...today a basic P4 can design a virtual-reality 3-D stove complete with boiling water in less than a minute. And all I get is gas on or gas off? What the hell is that about?

My washing machine should clean, dry, sort and fold my entire wardrobe in 15 seconds had it progressed at a fraction of the computer technology curve. Instead, I still get shredded khakis and pink whites in the same 45 minutes it's always taken.

Not to mention, none of this crap has gotten any cheaper.

That isn't to say that there haven't been advances in all of these home technologies. Everything from the stove to the refrigerator to the washing machine has gotten a computer chip or 12 installed in it. No word yet on the closets, but I'd imagine that it's only a matter of time.

All these chips do is help more accurately keep track of the inefficiency inherent in the designs of these existing systems. Whether or not the dishwasher flips into the rinse cycle within 1/10 of a second of when it should isn't my concern...I want to know why I should use such a device when I could get the same results by hiring a former Enron executive to come over and do it by hand for $6 per hour.

I can throw a dozen different figures into a piece of software and push a button for a finished product, but I can't toss six ingredients into the oven and have them come out as a casserole. Not one that anyone would eat, anyway.

I can't download a patch to make the front door harder to break into.

The limited integration of digital technology into the home has only served to underscore the problems with it, and make everything harder to repair, and more expensive to replace.

And I still have piles of crap everywhere that need to be gone through, item by item, to figure out where it belongs.

Where's my sort button? How about delete, while we're at it?

Of course, it's getting late, so maybe I need to switch to standby until tomorrow. While coffee is the closest thing I have to a turbo setting in the morning, it doesn't help me upload my tired ass to work very much.

:::::posted by erratic :: 07-something PM EST linky

Thursday, March 21, 2002

It was a nice day today, but only because it came after yesterday...

...and before tonight.

Give me winter back...spring sucks.
:::::posted by
erratic :: 08-something PM EST linky

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Sometimes it all just makes sense.

The clock struck 12....midnight...and two thoughts were occupying most of my mental space...I need to leave work...and I needed to have figured out how to get home 2 hours ago.

The last ferry left at 11:00, which, obviously, I had planned to be on. The 7 gigs of data was actually 14, and the impact of that error left the hour late, and me woefully short of options for the 26 mile trip home...and I can't swim that far.

By car was really the only sensible choice, and mine was across the aforementioned expanse of water that I had no means of traversing...well...at least until 7AM...and I am NOT that patient. I located a car service that would pick me up too late and drive me too far for too much money.

The automotive version of the 26 miles over water is 56 miles around the water...although at this late hour it should be about the same, time wise. Traffic is not bad at this time of night. The car arrived about 12:30...it was the dark blue Lincoln Towncar that typifies New York City livery services.

He asked me, in his best English, where I was going. I told him, with rough directions on how to get there.

"Oh, my brother lives there. He's a famous doctor...on TV a lot. Very famous. Psych....what do you call it? Head doctor..."

"Psychiatrist"

"Yes yes..very famous..."

"Oh, cool."

Since I was on the phone, the conversation with the driver paused there, which was just as well. It would become lively soon enough, although I had no inkling at that time.

I knew I was in for an adventure when the driver took us all the way through the Lincoln Tunnel before I pointed out, very politely, that he might want to turn on his headlights. I was still on the phone, so I have a witness.

Somewhere on the NJ Turnpike, two important events transpired. My cell phone battery died, and I subsequently allowed myself to be engaged in conversation with the driver. Occasionally these discussions are at least interesting enough to pass the time, but typically they are the bitter musings of someone who was still coming to grips with the person who still cannot accept their fall in society from stock broker/middle manager/other important person to a simple limo driver.

Not this time.

"You are a smart man...so tell me...where did all the asphalt come from?"

My surprise at his question was two fold: it was completely out of left field, and his pronunciation of "asphalt" took several iterations before I was sure what he was saying. Azz-faelt...azz-faelt...


His point was intriguing, if not amusing. Basically, how could they truck in all the asphalt when there weren't trucks or roads in the 1700's? It was a valid point if you felt like ignoring that asphalt wasn't really used before the 1940's, which he seemed happy to do.


"I think different...I wonder these things...I think it's someone upstairs"

I feel it important at this stage to point out that the driver, Ali, is Egyptian. I point this out mostly to explain my mindset, which was that if he is going to discuss how God or Allah or whatever deity he supports was the real paver of the Turnpike, I wasn't going to argue. Perhaps that is a sad after-effect of 9/11, but I wasn't going to engage in a religious discussion with this guy...not over toll-roads, anyway.

"You know...spaceships...they come long ago and make the roads I think...other worlds"

OK, scratch that God thought.

We went on to discuss all we collectively knew about road-building techniques, which I dare say I knew more of, but he wasn't having any of it. The turnpike was initially paved with concrete, but that only had him asking where the concrete came from. Horses, dirt roads, my attempt to discuss the incremental building that this nation undertook over the 200 plus years of construction might make the end product look more difficult that it actually is. No dice.

Then the best question of all...

With all of the billions of miles of roads in the US, who paved them? If every person in the country were to work on the roads, there wouldn't be enough still. That's why the aliens must have done it...who else could have?

I thought perhaps the French? Not enough of them either, apparently. I was beyond the point of arguing that the whole of Earth couldn't have billions of miles of roads...never mind New Jersey. Part of me was envious of the universe he lived in...and his conviction in it. Even if he was stark-raving mad.

We argued with over whether or not ET built the GSP. I forgot to ask him who gets the money from the tolls...

Life is incremental. I know it can be easy to look at things as they are and simply decide that what you observe is impossible. For a man from the land of the pyramids, I thought the possibility of accomplishments beyond the outwardly obvious would be something that he had learned to expect, but clearly that wasn't the case.

We did discuss the pyramids, too, since that is the pride of his national origin, and since Egypt has been around for 8000 years, America's 225 seems quaint to him. I suggested that the pyramids could have been built by aliens, but he didn't seem to share my opinion. Actually, he thought I was crazy for suggesting such a thing.

Oh yeah, that makes sense.

After an exhausting 75 minute ride, I was at my car at the ferry lot. I began to wonder if swimming wouldn't have been easier. Of course, for pure entertainment value, the trip was a bargain. It's nice to have the universe drop a living, breathing sanity check into my life. I won't be questioning my own mental fitness for a while.

"My name is Ali, ask for me"

You can be sure I will.

I don't seek these people out...they just find me. I don't know why, either, although I mostly just accept it at this point.

One thing is crystal clear, though. One thing makes sense. I know exactly where his brother got the idea to become a psychiatrist.

I'm still working out the alien road builders, though.
:::::posted by
erratic :: 07-something AM EST linky

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Thirty-five degrees is not unusual for March weather, but that is little consolation. The gripping realization that my leather jacket and nothing else to protect me from the cold was not quite doing the job I hoped, I was happy to be enveloped by the growing crowd, providing some shelter from the stiff wind. Otherwise, I hate crowds like this.

I am standing right up front. That's what happens when you arrive an hour early.

I am getting colder. That also happens when you are early, and wearing only a leather jacket.

You are allowed to get much closer now. I didn't even notice until I saw One Liberty Plaza behind me, and realized that I was directly across the street. I walked north a bit, and stood at the barricade, looking into a fenced off pit. It's a hole now, no longer a pile of gothic-looking twisted metal. If I didn't know any better, I could have convinced myself that the buildings instantaneously disappeared without a trace.

Too bad I know better.

I walked past here, every day, for a couple of months after it was known as "ground zero", although I continued to call it "The Trade Center." Truth is, I still do.

Six months and three weeks ago, I took Amber and Holli here. They came all the way from California, and this is one of the three places that you go, if you could pick only three. Maybe even only two.

"Stand at the bottom and look up," I said. Holli did. I didn't know how tall the tallest building she had seen was, prior to that moment, but I knew what it was about to be. The view from the bottom was impressive, and puts the trip to the top in perspective.

We waited in line to buy our tickets to the roof. Actually, I had never been on the observation deck, either, since it was one of those things that I'd get around to at some point. There'd always be time. Luckily, there was. But when we tucked away our ticket stubs, it was to commemorate a time that would too soon be a memory. Who knew that the building itself would be the same? How irreplaceable those tickets would become?

This all happened right across the street. It's a hole now. Surreal. The water in my eyes is mostly from the wind.

Six months ago, this day, this time, I had zoomed home from work, mercifully in New Jersey that week, and was holding on to my daughter for dear life. The way being a parent affects you in crisis was suddenly clear: you want to hold your kids. I did.

I have had time to assimilate the whole thing, the cause, the effects, the annoyances of bag searches and metal detectors and increased security, war mentalities and candlelight vigils, tributes for the dead, and the living. I have had time to remember not to forget that the buildings aren't there.

I have also skipped all the tributes and gatherings. Up until today, anyway.

I know what I expected, but only in hindsight. There were 88 lights, 7000 watts each, to light the sky where the towers once stood. It would be an impressive spectacle, something that even I would take time out to see happen. I wasn't exactly sure how it would look, but I convinced myself that the beams would be the same size, shape, and place of the original towers. That is why I picked this spot to stand. I imagine that was why the hundreds of others around me did, too. Stand stand stand stand.

Click.

There were no speeches, no music, no fanfare of any kind. The beams of light weren't there, then they were, without warning. Just like the towers themselves, that were there, then weren't, and there wasn't really any warning of that. Fitting.

But my heart sank. There appeared to be only one beam, and it was small. After a time, we were assured there were two, and our angle was off. A collective groan came from the crowd. They weren't what we expected.

It wasn't them.

We had all convinced ourselves of the same thing. The flip of a switch would restore the WTC. We knew it would be made only of light, but we wanted to see them, one last time, even if it was a mirage. The dead twins...friends that we didn't get a chance to say goodbye to...one more chance. We were sorely disappointed. Vocal about it, too.

Of course, I didn't realize any of that at the time. Only after coming home and sleeping all night did this realization strike me...why I was ticked off at the "waste of time last night at ground zero." They put up all those lights, and the beams didn't make it all better. I wanted them to. If just for a little while. Just bring them back one last time.

Click for full size

I took pictures, of course, and finally looked at the images this morning, while on the ferry. Someone behind me commented on how beautiful they were, and he asked for copies. I was surprised, and a little confused. Beautiful? We talked for a minute or two.

For a place of nothing but ugliness and death, some light and beauty finally shone forth. The black eye of the nation was applying a little makeup, if for only a short time, and that thought sank in too. It seems like nothing is immediately obvious these days.

I'm glad I went.
:::::posted by erratic :: 09-something AM EST linky

Wednesday, March 6, 2002

It turns out that one of those "nonspecific, credible threats" that New York was warned about back in October was actually quite specific. There was a missing 10-kiloton Russian nuke that had been suspected of making the long journey to Manhattan.

If I didn't work across the street from the Empire State building...you know...the OTHER terrorist target, I probably wouldn't be quite so perturbed. Then again, I act like being slightly farther away would make a difference. "A little farther" in nuclear terms means Delaware.

Of course, I'm pretty sure the nukes would go to DC. New York's been done...and I don't see Al Qaeda as a bunch of tacky fanatics. Self-deluded fundamentalist wingnuts bent on self destruction falsely motivated zealot fanatics, yes. But not tacky.

It's a little difficult to single out the "nonspecific threats" anymore, anyway. There have been several, and it's not like such warnings give anyone a chance to do anything but exclaim a quick "oh, fuck me" immediately before impact. I suppose that's somewhat more poetic than "what was that?"

I had been living with nonspecific threats for several months before 9/11 as it was, so I can't say that it is much of an encumberance at this point. That is, unless I am in a hurry to catch the traffic or weather reports and they are preempted by the FBI officials informing the public that they're an extensive intelligence network of informants who all say "something could happen today, maybe, I don't know."

The personal ones have been, well, more personal. Something could happen. I don't know what, and you can't sue for time that wasn't spent.

I am still talking through cloth...gagged by legal advice that I am willing to follow, but tired of, as well. The fabric of self-restraint is soaked through with the spit of swallowed words, and it is a little hard to breathe. The promise of closure is not quite real, yet, but I know it is inching closer... and at least I am part of that process.

I haven't gone completely broke. Well, I have, but the elecricity is still on and I still eat... so there *is* a place between OK and destitute, and I thought it would be more difficult to live there than it is. I don't even get upset when I bounce a check anymore. I have a job, and in this economy, even a severe pay cut is a positive, considering the alternatives. It could be lots worse...in one of those nonspecific, threatening ways.

Having said all of that, life is pretty damn good. Or, I am, living it, and when that is true, I could be living in a cardboard box and on fire, and it really wouldn't matter.

Some things are more important than money. Or computers.

Most things, actually.

I'm not bitching...not much anyway, and the things I could passionately vent about are nonspecifically off-limits, for a nonspecific amount of time, or something nonspecific might happen. I am paying my own "informant" a ridiculous amount of money to tell me all this, but in exchange I have my life, my sanity, and the warmth of a love that I never believed could exist.

In other words, life is good.

Some parts better than others. Some way better.

I'll tell you about them soon. No, that's not a threat...it's a promise...although, a nonspecific one.
:::::posted by erratic :: 05-something PM EST linky

Friday, March 1, 2002

853 (61k image)

_sigh_

:::::posted by erratic :: 05-something PM EST linky


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© John McCabe, 2000
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