Archive for November, 2011

2011/11/30

Yay, I saved Europe(an bankers)!

Scene: a big fancy room in a big fancy building.

European Banker: You must help us! No one wants to trade in Euros, or borrow them at interest, or anything, because the economies that back them are all messed up!

Capitalist: This is a valuable market signal! The weak demand for, and vanishingly small interest rates on, your currency means that you are doing things wrong. You should reassess how your economies are structured and see if, for instance, they are run primarily for the benefit of politically-connected individuals and institutions who steal billions on a whim, but produce nothing of value.

European Banker: Who let him in here? GUARDS!

Shouts and scuffling, gradually receding into the distance.

European Banker: Apologies, my friends, most embarrassing.

U.S. Federal Reserve Banker: No problem, mon ami, these things happen.

European Banker: But back to our problems! If there is no demand for Euros, economic activity will slow, people will have financial difficulties, perhaps even come to think that our economies are run primarily for the benefit of politically-connected individuals and institutions who steal billions on a whim, but produce nothing of value. They could demand change! We might lose power! And we really, really, really like power.

U.S. Federal Reserve Banker: I understand completely, mon cher, mon coeur. It is not a problem! We will buy your Euros with our dollars, and we will pay as much for them as if they were actually valuable, and your economies healthy! We will make dollars cheap, cheap, cheap, and give you vast truckloads of them for your pretty colored Euros!

European Banker: Che bello, tesoro! That is wonderful! But what if the Euro does in fact tank? You will have huge piles of worthless colored paper!

U.S. Federal Reserve Banker: Όλα θα πάνε καλά, Αγαπούλα μου! Do not worry your head! In that case, the American people will as always make up the shortfall!

European Banker: ¡hala! That is extremely generous of them!

U.S. Federal Reserve Banker: Yes! Or it would be, if they had any choice in the matter! Ha ha ha!

European Bankers: Ha ha ha! xaxa! Ja ja ja ja! mdr mdr mdr!

Exeunt omnes.

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2011/11/26

Saturday, November 26, 2011

So, another lovely family Thanksgiving, the four of us sitting around the table feasting and being thankful. A bit of a story inside it, and I’ve finally cried for Dad some, which feels good.

Everything was all bought and planned for the Thanksgiving Dinner, everyone home and being snug as bugs. I had the turkey all stuffed, extra stuffing waiting to be cooked (’cause everyone loves stuffing), sitting by the oven. I turned on the oven to pre-heat, and a minute later it turned off again. And so did the clock on the oven, the light above the oven, the ceiling light nearby, and various televisions and things in the next room.

Okay, so the breaker tripped, reset it and try again. But it tripped again, before the oven had got very hot at all. Something wrong with the oven, we thought. Unplugging all the things that we’d noticed turn off along with it didn’t help. Called the neighbors next door, who were out of town having Thanksgiving with family, and they said we could use their stove, which sounded plausible until we all realized that their son had come over and borrowed the extra key to their house that we keep for emergencies, the other day, and hadn’t brought it back yet. The little boy went next door and searched under all of their doormats and stuff, just in case, but no other keys.

I took a couple of Ativan ’cause I was feeling stressed, and everyone was telling me that it was okay and we could just go out to a restaurant together this year. I was down on the kitchen floor peering into the oven with a flashlight in case there was anything obvious, and then I was clinging to poor M’s knees and sobbing, because it had suddenly hit me that I couldn’t call Dad to complain to him and ask him what to do.

I did alot of crying there, more than a turkey dinner warranted, and then I went and flung myself down on the Maid’s Room bed and sobbed there for awhile, taking deep breaths in between crying, tears streaming down my face, the whole thing. Opened my eyes and realized that I was on the bed that Mom and Dad had gotten for me when I was little, and cried more.

Eventually I felt all calm and peaceful, and came out again, and told the kids what-all had been going on, and we had a big family hug.

And then when I went down into the basement to reset the breaker one last time so we could at least use the lights and stuff, I heard a click from the other side of the basement, and thought that I had heard that click at least one other time resetting the breaker, and developed the wild theory that the washing machine (which had been going all this time) is on the same circuit as the oven, and a few minutes after that the washing machine was all done, and I turned the oven on again, and it stayed on.

(Neighbor who knows things about houses and appliances and stuff says that probably the circuit breaker just needs replacing, and has been on the edge of not allowing both the oven and washer to run at the same time for awhile, and just went over the edge. And/or that we just haven’t tried to run both of those for awhile!)

So then everything worked (except I overcooked the not-in-the-bird stuffing just a little bit, but it’s fine as long as it has gravy on it), and we had the abovementioned wonderful family Thanksgiving feast and lounging around afterward being thankful and playing video games and suchlike.

And I didn’t really mean to go into quite that much detail about it all in here, but I have, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Happy Saturday After Thanksgiving! Or local equivalent.

2011/11/22

Pic (an’ Meme) o’ the Day

… and while we’re here, go over to Lovesick Robot and buy a few of the awesome tee shirt, just to continue freaking our friends out. :)

(Click through the picture for the meme, if you don’t know it already.)

2011/11/20

The Political Side

Okay, so now I will write down some things about the political aspects of my visit to Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy folks in general, and stuff in general.

One very common complaint about the Occupy movement is that it doesn’t have a clear program, and isn’t about anything in particular. This, of course, is Just What The Bad Guys Want You To Believe, as amusingly depicted here:

Well, okay, one might respond, but just what is “economic injustice”?

I think most folks would respond that it’s the thing that underlies this:

There’s actually evidence that most folks (and not just most Occupying folks) consider that sort of thing to be economic injustice, and don’t realize just how bad it currently is; see for instance:

So there’s a good candidate for “what’s it actually about?”.

Another question, and this came up in the comments to our last entry, is okay if that’s the issue, what’s the plan? What’s the platform?

I have a couple of thoughts about this:

  • The Occupy movement is very much nonhierarchical and led-by-everyone (somewhere on Friday I read something along the lines of “don’t mistake us for a leaderless movement; we are all leaders”, and I like that). So there isn’t going to be a Single Official Platform Approved By Everyone. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; organized groups don’t necessarily do any better (waves at the Libertarian Party over there across the way). On the other hand, the movement does have some documents and statements that represent a consensus of certain people at a certain time; see for instance the Declaration of Occupation.
  • Even if the plan is just “loudly express our concerns”, I personally think that that is a great plan. If nothing else, the Occupy movement has taken the focus away from the Tea Party’s astroturf platform of “give less money to the poor, and deregulate the powerful”, and moved it to something more like “punish criminal behavior by the powerful”. Which I consider to be a Much Better Message. If elected representatives start to see that message and others like it, and decide that there might be votes involved, we may see changes in behavior (I believe that we already have, in fact; I hope this isn’t the last, or the best, change that we see, and I doubt it will be).

There were various single-issue folks at Zuccotti when I was there; a few complaining that “The 1% Wear Fur”, the lady complaining that the college had lost all records of her daughter’s attending, the person with the very long detailed small-print sign about how the government had implanted radios in his teeth so on. There were a couple of cute young people with a sign that just said “Revolution”, getting their picture taken together. But that’s all okay! This is New York City, after all, and a political movement. That happens. While in fact anyone who comes into the Park with an opinion thereby makes that an opinion of the Occupation, I’m pretty sure that there are some opinions held by a more significant fraction of the folks than others.

The other week we listed some possible goals for Occupiers. I’ll reiterate them here, and add a few more.

  • Tax income from capital gains just like any other income. For: why favor rich people (who get lots of capital gains income), after all? Con: if we don’t favor rich people, they might take their ball and go home.
  • Let the Bush tax cuts expire like they were written to. Gets rid of most of the projected federal deficit with one blow.
  • Regulate the shadow banking system about like we regulate the normal banking system. ’cause now we know that otherwise they go crazy.
  • Bring back Glass-Steagall since on the whole it appears to have been a good idea after all.
  • Announce that the U. S. Government will no longer be bailing out failed financial institutions beyond what’s in the FDIC and so on. “Moral hazard” ain’t just a theory anymore, eh?
  • Stop lopsidedly favoring investment over savings in Federal economic policies. Savers are people, too.
  • Regulate corporations. I know, kind of general. But as the very interesting The Conservative Nanny State points out (free pdf available), being able to create this fictional construct to shield yourself from liabilities is a huge benefit; government has a perfect right to require a certain amount of good behavior in exchange.
  • More specifically, end corporate personhood, at least anything beyond the strictly legal and financial bits of it. In particular, there is no need whatsoever for these fictional entities to have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, any more than they should have a right to vote. The officers and owners of the corporation can express themselves as they like, using their own resources and money; but the money belonging to the government-created entity should be used only for the legitimate business purposes of the entity, not to (for instance) lobby the government to increase their profits.
  • Aggressively prosecute and convict (and get some of the billions back from) the people who ruined the world economy to enrich themselves. Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently not everyone is on board, even with prosecuting the most blatant and obvious parts of it, like fraudulent mortgage foreclosures.
  • Remove those administration officials with the most obvious conflicts of interest. The argument that only these people have the skills to clean up the mess is unconvincing; the only skills we know they have are to make the mess in the first place, and to enrich themselves and their friends and firms. Get rid of ’em.
  • Abolish private prisons because it leads to stuff like this, which is just pure evil. (How do these people even look at themselves in the mirror?)
  • Apply insider-trading rules to Congress just because duh.

The “end corporate personhood” and “abolish private prisons” and “apply insider-trading rules to Congress” ones are the new ones.

I’d be surprised if any significant fraction of Occupy folks would object to any of these, or even call them unimportant side-issues. So to the extent that this category of agenda-item starts to be seen as something that voters actually care about and vote based on, they may tend to get done. And to the extent that the Occupy folks loudly expressing their opinions helps them to be seen that way, they are advancing that agenda.

What else was I going to say?

Oh, yeah!

I don’t actually have anything directly against the wealthiest 1% of the American people (or any other group). If I wear a 99% button, I’m not primarily saying that I’m one of the 99% of people who make less than a certain amount of money. Mostly I mean that I’m one of the 99+% who didn’t fucking steal billions of dollars through financial fraud and then escape prosecution because I own the fucking government, and who don’t fucking pressure and/or bribe the government to put more people in jail, because I run a fucking private jail and get paid per inmate.

Or that sort of (fucking) thing.

You know?

2011/11/19

Occupyin’!

In our story so far, I was heading out from Poets House to meet Steve at Zuccotti (neé Liberty) Park, kept warm by my stretchy hat.

I went eastward along Vesey Street, just north of the enormous World Trade Center construction site (big cranes up on huge towers! mega!), frequently consulting the city map on th’ iPad.

Somewhere just before coming to Greenwich Street, I caught up with six or eight folks walking along holding a big yellow banner; one of these kind:

and escorted by eight or ten folks from the New York Police Department. This seemed fun, so I matched their pace, and turned south on Greenwich when they did.

“Going to Zuccotti?” I asked the one at the end.

“Yep!”

So I figured I would follow them so as not to get lost.

We talked a little about the NYPD honor guard and all; he suggested to a nearby officer that since there were at least as many police as sign-carrying civilians, they could adopt the buddy system to make sure that everyone stayed together. The officer didn’t say anything.

When we got to the Park the police escort melted into the milling crowd of about fourteen million other NYPD officers who were there looking serious. I stayed with the sign-carriers, who went up to the gap in the barriers where the watchful police were politely letting in anyone without an obvious tent or sleeping bag or bazooka or anything (big signs were apparently okay; while you could have made two or three tents out of the sign, they wouldn’t really have been very good tents).

It was around 2pm when I got there, and there weren’t a huge number of non-police people inside the barricades; maybe 50 to 60, all in the upper part of the park (the Broadway end). Here’s some of ’em:

#ows

The guy with the “I’m one of the 99%” sign was a regular feature for the whole rest of the time I was there. I thought of offering to take a stretch with the sign, but he seemed to be enjoying it, and I was generally too busy talking to Steve anyway (but I get ahead of my story).

So there I was inside of the barricades around the Park, not an officer of the law or a journalist, and therefore an Occupier! I was Occupying Wall Street! (Although not occupying Wall Street, since that’s a few blocks away, but that’s okay.)

It was a good, and a wild, feeling.

(I plan to do yet another post, perhaps also today, about the politics of it all, and the sense in which I’m one of the 99%, and what the Occupying is all about; so in this post I will mostly just tell the story.)

Not seeing Steve around yet, I sent him some bits saying that I would be under the red art, and I went and stood for awhile under the red art (Mark di Suvero’s Joie de Vivre, apparently, which seems nice and appropriate).

The red art is up at the Broadway-and-Cedar-Street corner of the Park, and at the time was within the barricades (later on the NYPD put up extra barricades between it and the park, so no one could get to the art from either the street or the park; not clear to me why, I think partly they were just bored and playing with the barricaes).

I had a good view of everything from standing under the art: Occupiers standing inside the Broadway-side barricades holding their signs and talking to people passing by on Broadway; lots of people passing by on Broadway looking over curiously, taking pictures, sometimes talking to the people with the signs; folks down in the park itself (the main part of the park being down three or five steps from Broadway level) making signs, playing the guitar, selling each other buttons, talking.

While waiting for Steve I went far enough from the red art to acquire my own 99% button; here it is sitting on the copy of the Occupied Wall Street Journal that I picked up later:

(I wore it all the way through T G I Friday’s and the subway and the train home without getting beat up or anything!)

Steve got there after not very long and we hugged and started talking. Steve and I always talk, often at high speed and volume. We have been shushed by total strangers on airplanes!

At one point as we talked about what the Occupy movement might usefully do next, a young and snappily-dressed person named Tyrone asking politely if he might join the conversation, and of course we said of course, and we talked about stuff. He was young and enthusiastic; being young his main point was that we needed to change the power structures in society, without having all that much to say about exactly what button you push to actually accomplish that. He also suggested that when you challenge the powers that be, you die; I pointed out that these days you tend to get parodied or co-opted instead, and he allowed that that was perhaps true (although I know it’s not nearly as exciting a thought when you’re young).

At another point when we were standing and talking an older gentleman came up to us and asked if we were scholars or professors or something like that (despite my stretchy hat; we must have been simply radiating intellectualism), and we said that we were not, strictly speaking, although between us we did have degrees in Physics and Philosophy and stuff. He asked if we would be interested in forming a “higher level” Think Tank than the existing one; we said with regret that probably not, as it would not really be Steve’s thing, and I was from out of town.

The Think Tank (or at least I think that was the Think Tank) was a bunch of people standing around a few people who were sitting down, some of them pointing small media devices at each other, and apparently talking although one couldn’t actually get close enough to hear. There was also a piece of cardboard saying “Think Tank” on it.

Here is a picture of them from their Facebook page (beware: Facebook may abscond with and fence your personal information):

It probably would have been fun to get in there and take part in the talking, but there was enough other fun stuff to do and look at that I didn’t want to make the time commitment.

So Steve and I stood around talking and observing stuff. All sorts of various things happened. Some food arrived over on the Cedar Street side of the lower part of the park, and the NYPD wouldn’t let it into the Park, but did open a new gap in the barricades so that people could go to it and bring in amounts for themselves. Later on a big stack of pizzas arrived, and for whatever reason those had no trouble getting in. Someone went around giving out clementines, and I took one of those; it was very good. I gave a dollar to a soi disant homeless guy, and he gave me a two-pack of chemical handwarmers (hey, I bet those are still in my vest pocket!).

We saw a couple of small uses of the People’s Mic(rophone), where words that need to be amplified are picked up and repeated by lots of people (since the City has forbidden artificial amplification in the Park). It wasn’t a big General Assembly setting, and it didn’t work terribly well, but the fact that food was available here, or pizza over there, or that some people were leaving to go occupy Newark (“why would you want to occupy Jersey?” someone, probably from New York, asked), did get heard by at least a few more people than it would have otherwise.

I remarked to Steve at one point early on, when there were still probably only 50 or 60 people around, that I didn’t really see any of the people who generally make things actually work in this kind of group. Not leaders or spokespeople or anything, more just the people who do those small things like reminding people of protocol and knowing where Tony went and having a spare marker for the meditation group to make their sign, and stuff like that.

The woman who used the People’s Mic to announce the arrival of pizza seemed to be one of those. After the pizza had begun diffusing into the crowd, she started up a sadly short-lived chant among those nearby, saying

There ain’t no team
like the Occupy team
’cause the Occupy team
don’t quit!

I didn’t notice her again after that, so either she was doing things so much in the background that I didn’t see her, or she was somewhere else.

Eventually I acquired an End Corporate Personhood sign of my own:

by picking it up from the pile that was sitting on a table, and carried that around and waved it at cameras. Steve and I mostly hung out near the Broadway barricades, and now and then I would go over and shout in a friendly fashion to the people looking in from Broadway, pointing to the entrances and urging them to come into the Park. “Free admission!” I would say. Sometimes they would smile.

I developed various conspiracy theories about how the NYPD were intentionally not opening any gates in the barricade on the Broadway side, because that would make it too easy for more people to come in and swell the ranks of the Occupiers, and about this one guy in a red reflector vest (as opposed to the NYPD’s yellow reflector vests) who spent about an hour and a half sweeping a couple of dozen leaves off of two or three short pieces of the steps on the Broadway side of the park. Was he a photo-op, I suggested, in case Fox News wanted to do an “Occupy Wall Street hippies mess up Zuccotti Park, massive cleanup effort required” story? Steve thought it was more likely that those were just His Steps, and if someone wanted any of the other steps cleaned off, they’d have to hire another guy.

Then at one point two guys with a microphone and a videocamera who were on the other side of the Broadway barricade asked if they could talk to me. So I was interviewed as one of them nutty OWS people, by someone from probably some news program of some kind or something! I suppose I really should have asked, or at least remembered the initials on the microphone. It wasn’t anything I recognized, though, and they had Accents, so most likely I am a two-second snippet on Croation TV or something, of an Occupy Wall Street Protestor saying “ummm”. But you never know!

(And then later on Steve and I were both interviewed, recorded on audio on a Blackberry, by someone claiming to be a student at Syracuse University getting various perspectives on the Occupying, and wanting ours as more or less outsiders. So it was quite a day fame-wise!)

(Also this really cute woman with red hair and freckles took our picture several times. Probably she liked the stretchy hat.)

There was a guy with a hardhat over the hood of his hoody, and a small but quite readable “Mayor Bloomberg is a union buster” sort of sign; I noticed him being interviewed at least twice, for instance:

RNN interviews the "Bloomberg is a union buster" guy

Maybe reporters understand “union busting” better than “economic justice”. :)

It was a great crowd, not as lily-white as I’d been led to expect, a decent mix of pink and brown and yellow. The above-mentioned Tyrone was a sort of chocolate brown with a bit of an inner-city accent, various people were speaking Spanish and being not especially pale, and so on. There were a couple of people with guitars, some people sitting at one of the Park’s marble tables playing War on Terror, the board game, people with signs complaining that The 1% Wear Fur, one person looking for help because her daughter owed lots of money on a student loan but the college she’d attended claimed to have no record of her (or something), and various other persons.

This amusing if truculent guy in a jogging suit and a New York City Italian accent, waving a newspaper picture of an injured person, walked around the Park several times, outside the barricades, saying various more or less comprehensible things. The first time we noticed him he was saying “I am the one percent! I got jobs for you, you want jobs? You don’t want to end up like this! [waves picture]”, and walking rather too fast for anyone to conveniently ask about the jobs. Later on when the NYPD were playing with the barricades he was saying “it’s barricade time oh yes”, and another time he was saying something sufficiently random that I don’t remember it at all.

We saw a gentleman in full police uniform standing with a “NYPD don’t be Wall St mercenaries” sign; this was almost certainly Ray Lewis:

a brave man that you can read more about at that link there.

There was just one opening in the barricades when I arrived at around two; another one was opened near the food trucks sometime after that. Around five the NYPD began moving barricades around in large numbers. They reinforced and made more formal the second entrance, they walled off the red art, they doubled up the barricades along the Broadway side of the park.

The barricades were these sort of bikerack-sized silver metal things that make alot of noise when you drag them across, say, the stone floor of the Park. They hook together with metal hook-and-eye arrangements at the ends that the police officers couldn’t always quite figure out.

#ows barricades

Tricky things, barricades. I was tempted to go over and offer to help, but I wasn’t sure if would be appreciated.

As the afternoon wore on, especially as it approached and passed 5pm, the crowd in the park grew significantly. There still wasn’t anyone in the lower section, but the upper section was very well occupied; maybe a couple hundred non-police folks? Here are some of the some-more people standing around and stuff:

#ows later

I made myself slightly useful by putting the roll of duct-tape back onto the stack of Occupied Wall Street Journals that it was keeping from blowing away, and picking up some trash (dropped by a journalist, I think; the Occupiers were very neat an’ tidy).

There was going to be some meditation, which sounded interesting but again I didn’t want to make the time commitment. Also we were getting cold and there were known to be no working and available bathrooms within a few blocks in every direction. So eventually (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of fun an’ interesting stuff in there) we decided to walk more than a few blocks in some direction, found a T G I Fridays with working and available rest rooms, had tea and coffee respectively, and I had some potstickers (for some unaccountable reason Steve did not want to eat any delicious T G I Friday’s potstickers!), and then Steve found a 4 or 5 or 6 or something subway station, and in the subway station we found a subway train to get on, and after talking constantly for the whole ride we said goodbye underneath Grand Central Station, and I got on a train, and came home, my iPad and End Corporate Personhood sign and Occupied Wall Street Journal under my arm and a tired but manic smile on my face.

So that was my afternoon of Occupying, except for the stuff that I have forgotten, and the political stuff, which I may or may not get to today, but which will in any case be in a different post.

Because now I am finished with this one!

2011/11/18

P.S. I bought a stretchy hat

This is not the post about Occupying things yet, because I am still recovering from the capsaicin in the leftover takeout Chinese food that I had for dinner (thank you, ConAgra) and generally sitting around, and I might not get to that post until tomorrow like.

This is just a post to mention that I forgot to mention that on the walk between Grand Central Station and Times Square in New York City I bought a stretchy hat, so I would not be cold. Here is the stretchy hat:

It says “New York” on it because I got it in New York. Also it has that “NY” symbol (glowing eerily in this picture for unknown reasons). I got it at a little shop of New-York-themed goods staffed by a couple of Indian descent whose English was, at least, better than my Hindi. Or whatever.

It kept me quite warm, so I recommend that you should also buy a stretchy hat when you go to New York City, because it’s chilly there!

The little boy likes stretchy hats of this general style. Myself I don’t normally wear them (preferring the “Fedora with narrow leather band” look), although I think I did have one or two back in college when I would occasionally me fais du ski, as the French say.

(Actually I don’t think the French say that, as faire du ski is not reflexive, unlike brosser les dents. It should be, though, don’t you think? Zut alors, je m’ai fait du ski! Ouch, I have ski’ed myself!)

2011/11/18

Friday, 18 November, 2011

Most fun ever! Well… One of the most funs ever! In the top few, or dozen at most. Probably!

New York City is like a big… I was going to say Amusement Park, but it’s got more stuff than an Amusement Park, like quiet places to sit and read and look out over the river, as well as political protests and more Amusement Parkish things like subways and restaurants and art and people. So really it’s like, it’s like, New York City is like a big city or something.

I took the train to Grand Central Station, that being where it goes, and I got out of the train and had coffee and an egg-and-cheese croissant from Zaro’s I think it was, and sent off some small digital texts toward Steve, and then I walked out of Grand Central Station, and around it to the other side, and then a few blocks to Times Square, which is large and full of people and signs, and I sat down in a wobbly red chair and watched things happening for awhile.

(Times Square has free wifi that says it is from the Times Square Alliance or someone, and it is quite quite slow, but it is free; I posted to Twitter from it. Also, if I were going to put up an innocent-looking wifi service that actually kept track of all the interesting traffic that went by, Times Square would be on the list of best places to put it; so good thing there weren’t any of those. Also there did not seem to be any pornography or prostitutes!)

Then someone walked up and put down an enormous (maybe three feet tall) model of a Takeout Chinese Food container, and someone put next to it a sign saying “Stop Eating Garbage / Healthy Choice”. There were a number of young persons with video cameras and clipboards standing a little way from it, looking at it expectantly.

I went over and looked down into the model of a Takeout Chinese Food container, and there was a trash basket inside. I walked back over toward where I’d been sitting, and one of the young persons said “get him!” (not in the threatening sense of “get him!”, but in the more flattering “get him!”), and another young person intercepted me and took me over to a small table where I signed a model-release sort of form, and got my picture taken holding up a piece of paper with my name on it, for later identification in case the video they are making goes viral, and they want to pay the participants lots of money.

So you heard it here first (I imagine), folks! ConAgra, makers of Healthy Choice foods, have hired an advertising firm to make a Reality Video advocating that people eat Takeout Chinese Food as an alternative to garbage! Which seems like a very good idea, assuming you can afford it. And especially if you like Chinese food.

(I also think that having a trash basket inside the model of a Takeout Chinese Food container sort of dilutes the message, in that one might interpret it as saying that the Takeout Chinese Food is garbage. And that would be horribly offensive, and I’m sure nothing that ConAgra would want to be associated with.)

Here is a picture of Times Square, with the model Takeout Chinese Food container, and the sign saying “Stop Eating Garbage”, both terribly overexposed in the middle ’cause of it was sunny:

ConAgra promotion of takeout Chinese food

Then I found some stairs going down into the ground, and at the bottom was a subway station, and I took the 1 or 2 or 3 line downtown to Chambers Street (free association), and got off and went up the “NW Corner” stairs, and walked in a generally westward direction on Chambers Street until I got to the Tribeca Bridge, which seems like quite a large and expensive structure for just crossing one street, and not wanting it to go to waste I used it to cross the street, and then I walked out onto River Terrace which is a street on a very nice Terrace by a River.

There is a little park called Teardrop Park that opens inlandward from River Terrace, and I walked through that, and it was very nice. (One of the little metal things that keeps the gates of the sandbox area closed against the efforts of small and simple creatures like dogs and babies, while allowing larger and more complex creatures like me to easily open them, is broken, and probably any dog or baby could in fact open that gate and escape; someone should fix that. Although there were no dogs or babies there at the time.)

Then I got to Poets House! And it completely r00led in an OMG sort of way. You should all go there! But only a few at a time, so as not to make too much noise or disturb the people who are already there.

At the desk when you first walk in there is this gorgeous “right there behind her eyes” high-school girl (see this ancient theory and the paragraph a bit below for some hints of background on that; yeah, she was quite likely not actually a high-school girl) who will tell you anything you want to know about the place, although if you say that you heard about it on NPR she will assume that you already have a pretty good idea. There is no admittance fee, not even a suggested one, but you can become a member if you want, see the information on any of the stack of “becoming a member” forms they have there.

Upstairs is, first, a little display room, with some glass boxes in which are pieces of paper, many of them with things written on them by hand by Emily Dickinson. I thought that was pretty cool. One of them is a recipe for coconut cake!

See?

Then, beyond that on the same floor, past the niches hiding the rest rooms, there is a little library, one wall all windows, with lots of light coming in, and places to sit by the windows, and books in shelves, and very nice free wifi. I sat there and played with the free wifi, and exchanged some bits with Steve using my cellular telephone, and I randomly took off the shelf a copy of The Poetics of Reverie by Gaston Bachelard (in an English translation; the one with the mostly-black cover), and I read that some, and looked out the window, and sat there drowsily with my eyes closed, and generally basked.

(Interestingly that particular copy, or possibly that particular edition, of that translation of The Poetics of Reverie is missing quite a few pages, in that for quite a bit of the early-middle of the book every other pair of facing pages is blank, so for instance one might have pages 50 and 51, then two blank pages, then pages 54 and 55, then two blank pages, and so on. This is unusual for a book! It did not bother me, because I did not get nearly to that part of the book, having started at the beginning. I do wonder if the Poets House people know.)

Then Steve and I got to the point in our exchange of messages where his said roughly “ok meet you in zucotti in 20 minutes” and mine said roughly “yay!”, and I went off to Occupy things. But that I think deserves its own posting, so I will stop writing this one now and post it, and post that one after.

Also I am really hungry!

2011/11/17

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Okay, so, random update! I’m on vacation this week, which has been very nice and restful. Some small (well, variable-sized) voice is telling me that I ought to be actually doing special vacation-things during it, but mostly I haven’t been.

I did go and get a massage at the Club, which was pricey but lovely (all that oxytocin!); tomorrow the plan (slightly tentative, but a plan) is to go down into The Big City, maybe see Steve (who yeah hasn’t updated for awhile), maybe go to Poet’s House, which is for no particular reason my current NYC Heart’s Desire (having finally accomplished my original one the other year, and my second one more recently (did I really not write about that anywhere? seems implausible)), maybe just sort of bop around insouciantly (WordPress thinks that is not a word, more fool it).

I didn’t go today because (A) it is Cold and Grey out, and (B) the city is all busy being occupied, and while I do support the protestors in spirit, I don’t seem to be prepared to either occupy along with them, or route around them, in person (and why not, another variable-volume voice inquires, why not?).

I have made basically zero more progress on the novel, which is somewhat surprising. I figured a week’s vacation (which means nine days all told) would be the obvious time to write an’ write an’ write, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I am not into forcing myself to do stuff while on vacation. :) I’ve tried a few times, but the Story So Far is apparently not something that I see alot of inspiring possibilities in.

(It is funny how Word Mavens and spellcheckers insist that “alot” is not a valid word, and everyone should write “a lot”. I am not quite descriptivist to think that anything where you have to keep telling people that they’re doing it wrong is probably therefore correct (I am a hard-liner on apostrophe-use, for instance), but eventually one does have to cede the field, especially on things that I like to use.)

I seem to be entirely bored with World of Warcraft (and apparently I’m not the only one); it’s amusing to see that in a break with some previous practice WoW is apparently getting playable Pandas in the next expansion. We’ll see if that lures me back; I dunno.

I’m sort of plateaued on Glitch at the moment also; I’ve done a bit of everything, I’ve run around everywhere; there are a bunch of more badges and trophies that I could get but… For now I’ve released my piggies, and I’m just poking my head in now and then.

For unknown reasons I’ve started playing Illyriad, which is one of those sort of multi-player online versions of Civilization, where you build tanneries and upgrade barracks and chop wood and send scouts and armies around and stuff. This is I think me here, but we’ll see how long I remain actually interested.

Second Life, in contrast, continues to be fresh an’ interesting (the virtues of user-generated content). I’ve been generally hanging out and exploring stuff as usual, and for the first time gotten into some PvE combat, which I’ve never really done in SL before. And in order to figure out how that works I’ve started fiddling with my own combat scripts; maybe I will post the sources to the Wiki once I have it all working (it will be simpler than the full blown open-source RPG system that’s out there now, so maybe easier to learn stuff from). Unless I get distracted. Which I usually do. :)

(Today’s distraction, while I was fiddling with combat scripts, was a friend I hadn’t talked to in ages IMing me at random and eventually mentioning that she’d gotten into SL Golf lately, and of course we ended up going off golfing a bit together, which was fun.)

What else what else? I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (in order from the beginning) on Netflix streaming on the iPad (did I mention that?). I last watched Season Three: Episode Five (“Homecoming”). It’s a kinda guilty pleasure :) but really it’s pretty good, most of the time. I get annoyed when things happen too obviously for plot reasons, but that’s only once in awhile.

Soon I will be caught up as of the end of 1998!

And finally, what’s up with people behind counters saying “Can I help who’s next?”? (Or possibly “Can I help who’s next?”) Is that an East Coast thing? A New York thing? A suburban thing? Do people say that around you? Maybe someone can ask Language Hat

2011/11/08

Monday, 7 November, 2011

Took the day off today, just ’cause I felt like I needed a rest. And apparently one of the things I needed a rest from was writing! Just about 1500 words eked out (“eked out”) today, and we’re at:

End of Day Seven: 11,504

which may or may not be more or less just barely On Track.

I have some ideas about what might be going on in the story and how it might end, but they are tentative so far. (Am I supposed to reveal that?)

And in related news, a spammer claiming to be the U.S. Commerce Association Board of Review is happy to inform us that “Kims Keys & Locksmith has been selected for the 2011 Best of Winter Haven Award in the Personal Service Agents & Brokers category”. Woo woo!

And there is even a classy simulated award object:

Best of Winter Haven!

Don’t you just almost want to believe that that might be something other than a generic picture of a shiny thing with some flat digital words carelessly Photoshopped over it?

I hope someone’s told Kim the good news, also…

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2011/11/06

Sunday, 6 November, 2011

Did I actually write nothing on Day Four or Day Five? How lazy! I believe the tally now stands:

Day One: 3,018 (3,018)
Day Two: 3,014 (6,032)
Day Three: 2,038 (8,070)
Day Four: 0 (8,070)
Day Five: 0 (8,070)
Day Six: 1,981(10,051)

Which, by no coincidence at all, is almost exactly On Target for finishing at 50K words on November 30th, because that’s when I decided I could comfortably stop for the evening. :)

Things have been busy. There was a memorial service for Dad at the church (it’s always been “the church” to me, even though Dad’s been active in the other church for the last several years). It was lovely, lots of various old friends, and the Minister, saying nice things about him. I got up and said some I thought rather confused and mostly ad hoc stuff (although I’d been thinking about stuff to say for a few days now). And coffee and finger-foods afterwards, and lots of good feeling and community.

One of the things I said first was that that community had always been very important to Dad, and to the whole family, and it has. Something very comforting about going back to the church that you grew up in, and seeing the building basically the same, with some changes, and the people basically the same, with some changes.

I also drove nostalgically from the church to the house, which is still there, and even presents the same red side in the same old shape to the street, through what looks like more or less the same tangle of woods. There’s a driveway now, rather than just a halfheartedly gravel-strewn dirt road shared with the next-door neighbors (and leading back and back into the woods). And the front looks fancier; I wonder if it is a doctor’s office or something now (the consensus of the Web seems to be that it’s still a single-family home, but You Never Know).

Proud of myself for being able to find the way on nothing but old memories, I drove out to the Nanuet Mall from there, looking at what had changed and what hadn’t in the meantime. Ralphie’s Diner is still down at the bottom of Remsen, on Route 59; I think it moved in there just about when I left, which means it’s been there for a good 30 years.

(It doesn’t seem to have its own Web page, but amusingly there seem to be about three zillion web pages about it, all pretty much identically empty as far as I can tell.)

And my old High School is still there, and the utility company opposite it, and various familiar music stores and bicycle shops. Lots of new things, mostly bigger than the former old things, even more than before with Hebrew letters next to the old-fashioned American ones. Funny how things linger as they change; where the old Hub Bowling Center used to be (it was old and on the way out even when I was little, as I recall), is now The Monsey Hub, a shopping center with something (perhaps “The Monsey Hub”?) in big Hebrew letters on the facade. Completely different, but still with that “Hub”.

(Great old newspaper page from maybe 1960 prominently featuring a picture of some cool kids at Hub Bowling, and the XXIst-century Foursquare page about the Monsey Hub.)

After the service we drove up to the top of Bear Mountain for the scattering of some of Dad’s ashes.

The tower at the top of Bear Mountain

It was a place that he loved, and that I remember vividly from being little. Haven’t been up there in far too long!

It was a gorgeous day.

2011/11/03

End of Day Three

Today’s goal: 7,500
Extra-credit goal: 9,000
Actual wordcount: 8,070

Not bad; I get a little extra credit! :) But the internet is back, and I can’t resist spending some potential writing time in Second Life instead. I’m still ahead of schedule!

As usual: the novel.

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2011/11/03

Thursday, 3 November, 2011

I hear that the Internet may be back on at home, but I’m going to sneak this in from here at work anyway while waiting for a build, because You Never Know.

Decorative NaNoWriMo badgeThe novel proceeds nicely, to wit (to woo?):

Day 1: 3,018
Day 2: 6,032
Goal for today: 7,500
Extra-credit goal: 9,000

If the Internet is really back, the extra-credit goal might be tough. :) The next few days are also going to be a bit busy, with houseguests and School Plays and things, so that may add to the challenge.

Here is me on the NaNoWriMo site, just for completeness.

I am having a bit of Buyer’s Remorse, so to speak, about having started a murder mystery in a castle of wizards, because I keep thinking of other things I might have started instead (an International Secret Agent working on Global Financial Crises and Occupy movements and stuff might have been fun and extremely timely, for instance), and I doubt I will suddenly shift gears (although it would be entirely within the rules) and start writing one of those in the midst of a paragraph of the current thing.

But hey, the grass is always greener on the other side of the conceptual space, an’ all.

Scarily-involving Retro-story-game-thing o’ the Day.

I’ve always liked Ralph Gomory.

I will reserve any further writing-energy for The Novel, after dinner. :)

2011/11/02

Oh, and of course I should have posted THIS!

NaNoWriMo badge

2011/11/02

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011

An interesting Hallowe’en around here.

Tree and car.  And house, and snow.

Amazingly, once we got the enormous tree limbs off of it, M’s car (left) turned out to be undamaged except for two tiny cosmetic dents in the roof. So yay!

And now nearly all of the snow has melted, and Trick-or-Treaters have come and gotten candy, and we had power the whole time. On the other hand, landline phone and “teevee” and Internet (gasp!) have all been off since some time in the past, so we are now living like our Distant Ancestors, limited to reading books on paper, and whatever we happened to have stored on local storage media.

No Second Life or Wow or even Glitch for days!

On the other hand, being thrown back on pre-historic devices does mean that when I noticed it was NaNoWriMo November again, I was able to focus on writing things! So here is the 2011 novel. Or as much of it as exists, which is currently a bit over 3,000 (three thousand) words, depending how you count.

So, by the Ancient Standards, yesterday was a really good day. We’ll see if we can keep that up once the Internet is back at home. :)

(So far I have abandoned all those gimmicky ideas about hyperlinked nonlinear novels, and stories told without revealing any character thoughts, and just started a straightforward murder mystery set in a mysterious Wizard’s Castle. But you never know!)

And also, how about this Papandreou guy, eh?

…relief has turned to panic, the whole agreement is threatened with disaster and markets worldwide have plummeted. The cause: the astonishing announcement by Mr Papandreou that a public referendum would be held on whether Greece should accept this latest debt deal.

He called it “a supreme act of patriotism and democracy”, but many both in Greece and elsewhere would instead see it as a supreme act of misjudgement.

BBC News

Yeah, I mean, my God! Putting the issue up for a vote, rather than just following the orders he receives from the international financial community; what is this guy thinking? Does he imagine he’s the head of a democracy or something? If he doesn’t watch out, he’ll be out of a job, and the financiers will send a different, more obedient, viceroy to keep Greece in line.

:P