||Ca. 1980, I heard Amanda
Lear's record "Sweet Revenge" at a friend's house, and I wanted to get a copy for myself.
She was so little popular that, even though the record was only a couple years old, I could not find a copy at
any store. I wrote to the record company asking if I could order
it directly from them. They sent me two copies free (one was
warped; I sent it back and got a replacement). But there was something different about
one of the albums: The records were packaged in "two sleeve" folding format (even though there was only a
single record disk). Hence, there were 4 sides of printed
matter (front cover and back cover, outside, and the two inner pages).
On the inner pages were various pictures of Ms. Lear, including
one that showed her naked breasts. In one of the copies of the record which I
received, when I tore off the plastic shrink wrap and looked
inside, I found that someone had cut out this picture with a razor or box cutter. Inside
the shrink wrap, there was this rectangular empty space where the picture had been cut out -- one can only
hypothesize, by an employee of the record company.|
|Lyrics, from Sweet Revenge, Enigma (Give A Bit of Mmh To Me): "Are you
question or answer?"|
|From Alter Ego, I'll Miss You: "Now it's time to say goodbye. I fly away tonite. I promise
I won't let you cry. I'll miss you. Can it be possible -- to be away from you? .... Time.
Time to say goodbye. I fly away tonite. I'll miss you. I'll miss you...."|
|20Mar05 addendum: I started listening to "Sweet Revenge" in the car this day,
after having watched Antonioni's film L'Eclisse the day before.
And I realized -- something I'd never thought before -- that part of the reason I find Amanda Lear
fascinating is that I associate her with Monica Vitti from Antonioni's films.
I had previously noted that the two can look similar, but I had not noted that this fact was significant for
my imaginative life.|
Proposal for a new Duchamp Readymade:
Take a hand-full of "chads" from Florida 2000 Presidential election ballots,
place them in a jar, screw the lid on the jar, and title it:
"Why not vote?"
|A painting by Hieronymous Bosch
(of which there seem to be no reproductions on the Internet): A man
walking along a road inside a glass bubble.
[Maybe I remember incorrectly and there is no such painting?
But that is not important.]|
|A drawing by Leonardo da Vinci in the
collection of Windsor Castle (of which I have found no
reproduction available anywhere...): A pile of human bodies at the bottom, and,
in the sky above them, a large "air burst" explosion. I think this would
be an appropriate piece to have on display at the entrance to the
main building at Los Alamos National Laboratory.|
popular songs, Popular movies, Proverbs; And: Real persons with apposite names,
Real[ly] offensive popular song lyrics, Real companies --
used to be here. Now all this Stuff has its own
page (Go there).|
The New York Times on the Web runs advertisements with their
stories. One that accompanied Health article: "Brain Imaging May Detect
Schizophrenia in Early Stages" (11Dec02) was particularly apposite:
Click here to see.|
||One of my very few good memories from elementary school:
The elementary school librarian instructed us that, when we got a new book, we should
"break it in", in the following way (this was back when most books were
"sewn in signatures" -- I don't know if it applies to glue-binding, and I rather
doubt it does). Take the book and hold it so it is vertical with its
spine resting on a flat table. Gently press down the front and back covers on the table
(book is now in the shape of a T-beam, so to speak...).
Now, alternating from the front and the back, gently press down a few pages at a time on the table.
You are finished when you press down the last few pages and the book is resting, open
approximately in the middle, flat on the table. I did not think about this when I was a
child. But, as an adult, I have remembered it, and do it with each new book I get --
as a small bibliographic prayer.|
dutiful son and the ingrate.
Having placed an ocean between himself and his family,
a distance conveniently close enough that wire transfers of unearned income could reach him but
far too long for any strings to remain attached, his noble image
as a paragon of filial devotion rose ever higher in everyone's esteem,
as ever more grandiose fantasy filled an ever bigger
void in reality. All the persons he had left behind sang hosannahs praising Him:
"He is so devoted! He always remembers to call on
everybody's birthday!" --And, truly, his
concern for everyone was limitless, extending even to
him asking about how it would look when he would not
come for his uncle's funeral!|
|One who remained "here", but who
had their own [frustrated...] aspirations for a more than quotidian
life, aroused universal oppobrium during one of the devoted son's rare and therefore
exceedingly precious trans-oceanic phone calls,
when this person had what they thought was a really bright idea
that might help the devoted son to be able to share in and enjoy, at last,
once again, some of the blessings of
life of which his self-imposed exile had so grievously deprived him:
"Wish you were here!"|
|The whole family, all at once and all together,
came down on the ingrate and the ingrate's negativity,
which, once again, had spoiled a perfectly lovely telephone
call from the devoted son: "You have a good family, but that
means nothing to you. You never appreciate the good
fortune you have, but you always are looking for approval
from people who aren't here and who will never be
a real part of your life. Your self-centered selfishness
|Yet another example of haste making waste:
5 minutes before the bank closes, I get a check in the mail which I desperately need to get deposited
as soon as possible in hopes it will clear in time for the money to be
available for my mortgage closing less than 7 days away. This check is the only money I have, so I really need
the funds to be available before the mortgage closing! I grab the check from the mail, jump in my car, and rush to the bank.
I do indeed get in the bank door
a couple minutes before the bank closes! Success! I deposit the check and the bank manager says that,
Yes, my check will go out today and not be held in the branch
overnight. I drive back home, thinking I am now less rushed, after having accomplished my mission.
I park my car where I usually park it on the street, and walk in the house, looking to wind down....|
|As I open the door, wife points out to me, out the window,
that my car is rolling down the street. I look and see my car rolling backwards down the street.
I realize I forgot to apply the parking brake! (I always set the parking brake and then check to make sure.)
Fortunately, the street is almost flat, so the car is still rolling slowly and has not hit anything
by the time I run out of the house and across the lawn, jump back in the car and finally apply the parking brake.
Haste continues to cause problems even after its precipitating cause has been taken resolved.
|Frustration makes waste:
All Sunday afternoon (18Jan04), I simmer a pot of chicken carcass, to make jellied consommé which I like a lot.
It keeps snowing outside hours and additional inches of accumulation after it was supposed to have stopped,
frustrating me that the cars may get stuck in the driveway, and I have acquired asthma in recent years,
so it is hard for me to shovel out. I go out and drag the trash cans to the street for the trash men to pick up in the
morning, and they are very
heavy and one even bumps into my wrist as I drag the can thru the slushy foot deep snow (Damn!
Did I hurt my watch?).
I am able to back the cars out of the driveway and into the street, but, when I start to back my car out,
I start shifting into reverse before I depress the clutch pedal
which I notice only when I hear some rasping noise from the gearbox (Damn!
Did I hurt my car?). Finally, I get the cars back in the
driveway in a way that I should be able to get out to go to work in the morning. I come back in the house and
wash some dirty dishes in the sink, including the colander I will use to strain my consommé.
I take the pot that has been simmering all afternoon off the stove, and pour the soup into the colander and since I have
forgot to put a pot UNDER the colander, all the consommé
just goes down the drain. Damn! (10Apr04: I mistakenly pour out the soup down the drain again! But this time
I catch my mistake half way thru, so I save at least half of my soup.)|
||Charting my course in life (still more of my "confessions"):
I feel my life has been a big disappointment, in terms of both public accomplishment
and personal gratification. I look back on what I did and ask: "What did I do wrong?"
I generally tried to do my best, or at least fairly
close to it. I certainly was not lazy. I did not throw money away on gambling or waste
my time watching TV.... I have often found myself "at odds" with my environment, but I always tried to
make something of what I felt stuck with. I have long felt I had
ample opportunities to fall "down and out", but I don't think I've ever
passed up a clear opportunity to rise "up and out".|
The worst mistake I can come up with was on my first
computer programming job, where, as a trainee, I had a senior manager who kept giving me more and more
difficult assignments, to see how much I could accomplish. He even gave me experienced programmers
to whom I could delegate work. I "blew" this opportunity, because "my head had been turned"
by wanting to become a systems programmer, so I didn't throw myself fully into
tackling the tasks the senior manager had assigned me. Had I chosen to give everything I had
to these -- at the time uninteresting -- tasks, and if I had succeeded in climbing the
ladder of responsibility that I had been thereby offered (instead of finally succeeding
in getting transferred to the Systems Programming group, where I
encountered unanticipated frustrations and disappointments...), my programming career might
have "gone a lot farther" than it has.
A likely even more consequential, but less
clearly defined at the time, mistake I made was when I was an undergraduate at Yale (in the same
"class" as George W Bush, although I never heard of him when I was there...):
I did not cultivate "connections" which having gone to Yale might have given me, so that, when I
went out into the world, I would have had a "network" of persons who might
have helped me get better jobs, etc.
Here, it was not the case that I failed to appreciate an opportunity and
seize it and "run with it", but rather that I wasn't aware that there was anything there at all.
(What did I do at Yale? Be afraid of failing, and try to keep from failing at assignments
that were mostly meaningless to me and which I consequently found difficult to do.)
I look back on
my life and see myself as having persistently tried to attain the maximum value for a function,
where the maximum value I was aware of was only a "local max", not the
function's really maximum value. Please examine the graph at right: All my life I've striven to attain the best I either knew about or
felt I realistically could attain: 'b', and I've been terrified of
falling into the "pit": 'c'. Often I had no idea that the upward trajectories to the left of 'a'
and to the right of 'c' even were possibilities of human life; when I did have this "abstract"
knowledge, I saw no way I could act to have a reasonable chance of getting on the upward track.
|Read more of
How I keep putting my foot in my mouth
Case study of one specific dumb thing I did
||My |New Year's
24 January 2000 resolution: Yesterday (23 Jan 2000), I put my foot in my
mouth in email, twice: (1) Once, by failing to correct a Reply-to:
address, and consequently
broadcasting to a whole mailing list a message I intended to send
"off-list" to a single person. And
(2) I put my foot in my mouth a second time, by posting to a mailing list
something that would have been offensive to some
persons in any case, but which looked even worse because I failed to include in
my posting enough contextual information to identify what exactly the
posting referred to. (Some persons have more than once accused me of saying things
they cannot figure out because I assume I have already given the context when I haven't:
the conclusion they draw from this is that I "live in my head" and do not
consider other persons to be separate individuals.)
So my 24 January 2000 resolution is to try to do better: (1) To
think one more time before I hit the SEND button
(e.g., to make sure I'm not sending a personal message to "everybody"!). And (2) to try to make
sure I don't send controvertial things [send anything...] that runs avoidable
risk of causing me problems on that account [Proofreading note: this sentence is itself a trivial
example of what I'm talking about here! Q: On what account? A: On account of
me not providing sufficient contextual information for the reader to
orient themself to what I am saying...].
||Example of constructive competition:
We want to build something that is beyond our existing technological knowledge.
There are two (or more...) design concepts, each of which looks equally (un)promising from the vantage point of
our best judgement. So we create competing teams to each make a prototype of one of the proposed
designs, to the very best of their ability. And, when the prototypes are done, we compare them and choose the best one.
(Obviously, some designs may demonstrate they are not the right way to go without any comparison -- as problems and downside side-effects
manifest themselves during the prototyping activity. On the other hand, trying to build
the prototypes may suggest a previously unimagined idea which is far more promising than any of the
original competing alternatives. Etc.)
[I have heard that, back in the 1950s, IBM designed some products exactly this way.]|
Note that, whatever alternative design is chosen,
none of the persons working on the losing designs lose their jobs, since, after the competition is over,
they all get to work on production implementation of the winner. Indeed, production implementation of the
winning design should be expected to benefit from the different experience those who worked on the losing designs
bring to their post-competition activity.
(Most competition in our society,
unlike in the model here presented, pits persons against each other, instead of pitting
all persons directly against real problems. In our society, when real problems do get solved, this happens as a
side-effect of the persons endeavoring to "beat" each other. Since the focal objective is winning not solving,
our kind of competition can thrive just as well on phony problems as real ones, e.g.,
determining who is the "World Champion [whatever]" -- thus wasting lots of resources and even creating problems
that don't have to exist, e.g., stadiums and all the supporting infrastructure they require
for "sports" competitions to be able to take place...).
||Out of the closet.
I had never thought about things quite the way an old friend described a recent
experience (I paraphrase from memory):|
"Hey! You might find this one interesting. The pressure got too much for me. I just couldn't
keep up the pretense, and I wasn't thinking and I said something I shouldn't have. Then I realized
I'd blown it, and 'Damn!', I thought: So this is what coming out of the closet feels
like, Oh God!"
I had not thought this person
was gay, but I figured anything is possible in our
sublunary realm.... My old friend continued:
"Friday was a deadline day at work, and at 4 in the afternoon, just as I am
getting ready to leave for the weekend (I'd completed all my work for the project), my
manager gives me this thing to do that I know I
can't do right at this time at the end of a long day. I also
get pissed at them doing things at the last minute, especially trying to
'get just one more thing in before the deadline' -- and them involving me in
their last minute panic, since, as you know, I try to get things done early,
precisely to avoid last minute panics.
If this thing was so important, why didn't we do it earlier? And everybody knows they're going to
make more changes after the deadline in any case.... Haste makes waste, and so on and so on....
"I blew it. I told my manager I couldn't do the thing right,
right then. I said I could kludge something up
that he could put into the deadline and then the testers
would find the bugs and then we could fix them. I said I'd
be glad to come in the next morning [Saturday] to work
on it. I just kept digging myself in
deeper and deeper. He just froze me out: He told me he was
'too busy to talk to me'.
"I should have just put my head down and did what
I could (you know me -- I did that anyway...), and then
after an hour or so, I could have pleaded exhaustion (I'm
still not over my bronchitis...). You know,
I'm not good at 'politics': I gotta learn to spot 'em coming and then keep from putting my
foot in my mouth. I think 'Don't ask, don't tell' is about the best you can hope for....
I'm not looking forward to Monday...."
I haven't heard any more from my old friend yet about how
his Monday went, but he's a good person and I wish him very much the best!
|I also heard from another old friend who
had a story he wanted to tell me that he felt better about, but I wasn't sure it really was
all that much better. He told me (again, I paraphrase from memory -- I should have
wrote it down at the time!): "You know my brother-in-law who reamed me out real bad some time
back, but I can't just tell him he's out of order -- and you know he wouldn't dare talk that way to
somebody he thought he had to kiss up to? Well, the last couple times he called for his sister
and she wasn't there, I forgot to
tell her he called. I just was busy and forgot -- I didn't mean to not tell her or anything....|
"Anyway, she told me a couple days ago -- clear out of the blue --, that I mustn't forget again
to tell her if he calls, because -- and this is the part I found so interesting, and so
surprising: she said my failing to tell her he'd called made him feel like he was unimportant.
Well, I'd never thought that. But, as soon as she said it, I saw
how true it was: He'd got the message that I wouldn't have ever dared to tell
him, or even think to myself. That was really something to learn.
"And, you know what? Now that I know
he figured this out all by himself, I think I won't forget to tell her next time he calls and she's not there.
I really want to make sure not to forget
again. I'll write down some place conspicuous that he called.... Somehow I feel better
about him now."
I haven't heard any more from this old friend yet, either, but he's a good person, too, and
I wish him too all the best. (If, dear reader, you found this communication interaction interesting,
My wife mail-ordered a piece of assemble-it-yourself furniture. It came in two heavy (50-70 lbs each) boxes. The instructions and hardware to
put it together were missing, so I called the company, and they sent the missing screws etc.|
When I finally started to put the piece together,
the quality was so poor that everything was loose and wobbly no matter how I tried to tighten it. It was put together mainly with "cam lock" thingys, which
have got to have the virtue of being cheap, for I can find no other virtue in them [See right for example: You screw the metal post with the "hookable" top into one of the two pieces to be connected (#1). Then you push the cam (#2) into the other
piece to be connected, get the hookable part of the post into the cam, and turn the cam 90° which supposedly locks the two pieces together by tension.].
I decided the quality was so bad that we should return the thing for a refund. I called the company and they said
they would send me shipping labels. When the labels finally arrived, they were USPS labels. I found out that if you
put your parcels out, you can schedule on the USPS website for the postman to pick them up the next day. But the
more I thought about this, the less I liked it, because I was not sure my 2 repacked packages were within USPS weight limits.
So I called the company again and asked for FedEx return labels, noting that they had originally
shipped it FedEx. The customer support person explained that they could not send me
FedEx return labels, but they could contact FedEx and have them come pick up the packages, usually within 3 to 7 business days.
It was August, when afternoon thunderstorms are a regular expectability.
I explained to the support person that nobody is home during the day, and I had no place to
leave the packages out where they would be
safe from the rain, so I wanted to be able to schedule the pickup myself, for a day when I thought it
wasn't going to rain. The support person said this was not possible, and that, with their FedEx pickup arrangement, I could
not even take the packages to a FedEx office myself. Finally, seeing no better alternative, I said OK, and started hoping for the best. The support person
explained that I did not need to leave the packages out every day: FedEx would come 3 times, so the first
time they would leave a note saying they had come, and I could leave the packages out for pickup the next day (rain or shine,
I found a big plastic dropcloth, and thought, at worst, I'd wrap the packages in the dropcloth and hope that
would protect them from the weather. I started waiting. Each day when I came home from work, I looked for a FedEx note
on the front door (none there), and, since I get home about 3:30 in the afternoon, I started having fantasies of FedEx coming
to pick up the packages after I got home (but I
really believed FedEx always did such pickups in the morning and early afternoon...). Nonetheless, each
FedEx truck I saw drive up the street, I hoped.
On the 4th business day, about 4:30PM, while I was watching Oprah on the TV, I looked out the window and saw
a FedEx truck coming up the street and -- slowing down.... I immediately ran outside and waved my arms and shouted
and, amzaingly, it turned out indeed to be coming to pick up my packages! I thanked the FedEx man profusely (I really had no idea how I would
have handled leaving the packages out in the weather, even with the dropcloth). I opened the garage door where the packages
were waiting to be put out in the weather, and said to the FedEx man that they were "not light". He slowly scrutinized the packages
(presumably to see if I had taped them together well enough for him to have to accept). Then he went back to his truck and backed it up
to my garage door and took them. Again, I thanked him profusely. He drove away with my 2 packages on board,
and I was immensely relieved.
I really had been worried
that this merchandise return would not turn out well -- that
the packages would be made unacceptable for return by rain damage to the flimsy cardboard when I would
have had to leave them out for pickup. --Truly the
unexpected arrival of that FedEx truck seemed to me a piece of very
good luck [albeit disconnected from the vicissitudes of the rest of my life].