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Monthly Archives: February 2005

twenty-nine  §

i feel ill

first day at work, here i come

FUCK CORPORATE AMERCIA  §

Overdraft fees, last six months: over $1,000.

Actual overdrafts (i.e. at the end of the day, those that don’t depend on rearraging the order of processing, deposits vs. debits), last six months: 4 days (3 of them consecutive).

LATEST STORY

(Why in the fuck do we as a culture put up with this shit? It’s the fault of all those fucking white-collar people who shop all the time because they can afford it, and who think that their big incomes equal big dicks.)

We as a country are far enough behind the rest of the industrialized world that we don’t offer any kind of public Internet access as a matter of policy. We also don’t have a national banking system, so people who have to travel are forced to hold several accounts with private, money-grubbing banks, since some banks will have branches in some areas, and other banks will have branches in others, but not even the biggest, greediest banks have branches everywhere.

As a society, we can’t have national banks, public Internet access as a matter of policy, or consumer protection laws (we’ll get to that need presently), because then we’d be socialist (boo hiss fuckka fuckka helllllll) so instead people are forced to sign up for private Internet access at coffee shops using debit cards from big, ugly banks, and neither has to give the slightest fuck about the consumers, even the very nice ones.

So what’s my story?

1. Person has to travel, so the bank where he deposits his checks changes, and thus
2. the account where he holds all his disposable income changes.
3. So he has to change the debit card on his T-Mobile coffee shop Internet account.
4. But it turns out there is no way do to that online.
5. So he opens a new account online with a debit card from his current region, and
6. closes the old T-Mobile account.
7. He goes merrily on his way paying full price for and using the new T-Mobile account for months.
8. Then T-Mobile, out of the blue, decides to resurrect the cancelled first account from before,
9. that’s connected to a debit card and bank from another region,
10. that no longer holds any disposable income,
11. but that is now charged inexplicably for all the months since cancellation,
12. bringing the cancelled T-Mobile account current without any notification to the account holder.
13. The big bank, playing its part, decides to pay this wildly high subscription fee even though
14. the account has been empty and inactive for some time.
15. Overdraft! (Whopeee! Engines of capital, we worship thee! Cum! Cum! Cum!)
16. Person calls T-Mobile to @#$(*^@#&$.
17. They tell him ve politely that they can’t explain it, the Internet account was definitely cancelled
18. and they’ll issue a credit that will only take 15 days to arrive back in the bank.
19. Person calls bank to @#$(*@#^%&.
20. They tell him that there’s nothing they can do, the account is overdrawn,
21. no matter whose fault it is,
22. and the account holder will still be responsible for the fees,
23. and the account will remain overdrawn until the credit from T-Mobile arrives,
24. or a deposit is made,
25. and will accrue ongoing overdraft fees in the meantime,
26. meaning that by the time the credit from T-Mobile arrives,
27. it will be insufficient to cover the accumulation of overdraft fees,
28. and the account will remain overdrawn,
29. until the hapless account holder **[ME]** ponies up additional cash,
30. out of his own pocket,
31. and in addition to the mistaken subscription fees eaten up by overdraft fees,
32. for a closed account that he hadn’t used in months and never plans to use again.

Every day, everywhere, in every way, we in the poor and middle class are being taxed by the rich…

**…simply for existing.**

I am not a rich man. I am a very poor man. I am at the edge of financial ruin already. I am doing my best. And I am working.

Things like this make me want to be very, very violent.

to those who dismiss and avoid  §

Small minds tend to view with suspicion any challenge to arbitrary or even insidious structural or instrumental restrictions on thought, behavior, or possibility. They often even mistake such restrictions for ‘laws of nature,’ not only in policy or legal spheres, but in the marketplace, in the laboratory, and at home as well.

They are afraid of, and they deny, anything that they are incapable of understanding. Their freedom can be more broadly characterized as a lack of awareness of those things that routinely imprison them.

Some of us of unusual intellect and unusual distaste for the humor of such small-thinking are doomed to have to function in a world of averages that we ourselves more than shatter at the individual level, but to which we are still subject with respect to the gestalt, to the macroscale.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

The all-important question is what one does in response to such opposition. Some of us will rule the rest; others will die at their hands. For those like us, there is nothing in between.

to those who dismiss and avoid  §

Small minds tend to view with suspicion any challenge to arbitrary or even insidious structural or instrumental restrictions on thought, behavior, or possibility. They often even mistake such restrictions for laws of nature, not only in policy or legal spheres, but in the marketplace, in the laboratory, and at home as well.

They are afraid of, and they deny, anything that they are incapable of understanding. Their freedom can be more broadly characterized as a lack of awareness of those things that routinely imprison them.

Some of us of unusual intellect and unusual distaste for the humor of such small-thinking are doomed to have to function in a world of averages that we ourselves more than shatter at the individual level, but to which we are still subject with respect to the gestalt, to the macroscale.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

The all-important question is what one does in response to such opposition. Some of us will rule the rest; others will die at their hands. For those like us, there is nothing in between.

thursday the twenty-fourth  §

Hahaaaaaaaaa! Got a job! I’m an editor at an academic publisher! I’m working again!

Take that, former publisher who has a policy against giving references but who asks for references when you try to work for them (and thanks to the person at that company who agreed to take a phone call anyway and who probably in so doing landed me the job).

Went to SBCC and dropped of a couple copies of my resumé to try and get a night/weekend adjunct post, too, teaching anth/soc/polysci/eng/IT.

Maybe things are finally looking up?

every now and then, a flash of insight  §

Some people simply make the world a better place to be.

I take my hat off to them now!

Thank you!

sunlight and sadness  §

When you’re depending on a few little things to be your sources of positivity in life, it’s tough to see any of them take a beating. But they do, and that’s the way the world turns. Perhaps today it is time to begin living deliberately once again. To get something done once again.

news items of the day  §

Item one: Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is refusing to give up power to the new democratically-elected representative body. D’oh. Prrrrrroblem! So much for nice democratic transitions from the guy we chose. Of course, the stated reason for his refusal is the fact that if he gives up power, the secular and equality-friendly interim government will be replaced by a radical Islamic governing majority with close ties to Iran who will turn Iraq into what Afghanistan just was. So he may have some justification for refusing. D’oh. Once again, Bush’s magical ability to create no-win situations rules the day.

Item two: Korn’s lead guitarist has found Christ and left the band. He will be holding an open meeting over the next few days to explain to fans how he found God and how they can do the same thing. Heh. Hehe. Haaaaarrrrrrr!

Secret item three: Still no job. Still keeping fingers crossed, but it’s looking like a no on my best prospect. More temp agencies Friday. 🙁

not having a good day at all  §

Everybody in the world thinks and has always thought that I have nothing better to do with my time than to sit around waiting for them to need me, then to deliver in a hundred ways the moment they did. The sad thing right now is, for the first time in my life, that’s essentially true.

another: week without income, day spent looking  §

Getting into dangerous territory. It’s 2:43 in the afternoon. I’m going to bed, for lack of anything else to do, and for lack of any hope of anything else happening. I can’t face life for the rest of today. Thus, I will bury my face in a pillow. I am losing my cool and my health. I’ll have white hair by the time next year rolls around.

I miss my friends. I miss being a student. I miss not feeling like I’m in a pressure cooker all the time.

bad, bad news  §

I think that companies who refuse to provide references to people that have worked for them, good or bad, should be forbidden from requesting references for new hires.

miscellaneous post-president’s day crappĂ©  §

It is really, really, really wet outside. It’s beautiful; the colors are beautiful, the plants are alive, and the sky is a kind of iridescent white rather than aggressive Los Angeles yellow. Unfortunately, it’s also quite cold and the house I’m staying in is not generally kept heated all day, which means that the droplets on the window are perhaps a touch too immediate.

Also, my camera is not weatherproof. I need a D1X, not a D70.

Speaking of, anybody who shoots Canon or Nikon pro and doesn’t use Adobe Camera RAW is wasting their investment. I hadn’t bothered to download the NEF update to ACR since switching from Canon to Nikon and had fallen into JPEG shooting once again, except for a small batch of photos I took a few weeks ago. Well, I finally got ACR reading my D70 raw files, and Holy Christ I’d forgotten what a difference ACR makes. It turns snapshots into gallery-ready proofs.

My fingers have gone icy in here just typing. It’s so damn cold.

I’m shocked and re-shocked at the way that people in California think that the other 5.998 billion human inhabitants of the world are all crazy and/or developmentally challenged, since they don’t think in precisely the same “right and normal and everybody knows it” ways that Californians do.

“If it don’t have palm trees, Hollywood, and blonde-headed ‘eastern-tinged’ hidden-sacred-Venus-organ integration colonic quartz crystal peace healers in it, it’s a backwater full of backward rednecks. Like those horrible no-man’s lands called ‘London’ and ‘New York.'”

The job hunt marches on. Still haven’t heard from my best prospect today. I have another interview at another place on Friday. I’m so tired of interviews at this point, of putting on the same little outfits and the same little smile and going and giving the same “firm, competent handshake” over and over again that I’m starting to think I should look for a nice streetcorner to panhandle on instead.

That way I could preserve some of my dignity and self-respect.

what is it with “lifestyles?”  §

If I see or hear the phrase “southern California lifestyle” one more time, I’m gonna shit a brick. I don’t care about the fucking lifestyle! I just wanna hang out here for a while and maybe find a nice Japanese garden to visit, okay?

changes, last eight months  §

There have been so many changes since June that I can’t keep track of them anymore.

From #1: I live on a top university campus in Chicago with a thousand students. I’m a graduate student and a writer. I have a serious girlfriend that I see several days a week and most weekends. I plan to stay here for the forseeable future.

To #2: I live in Portland by myself in a trailer near my best friend’s house. I’m not a student or a writer. For the moment I have a serious girlfriend thousands of miles away (but she’s not sure about the future) that I talk to 10-20 minutes a day on the phone. There is no plan, just to wait and see what the future brings.

To #3: I am living on the road with my very serious girlfriend. We’re on our way to visit Santa Barbara “for a little while,” just to touch base with family and friends. I’m a writer again, and we’re also planning to open our own catering business, once we find a major city to settle in. We spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. Eventually we’ll go to grad school.

To #4: I live in Santa Barbara with my girlfriend’s mother. I’m not a caterer-to-be anymore, but I’m still a writer — I think. My girlfriend has taken a job and works full-time; she has commitments until late most weeknights, so we don’t spent too much time together, but I do seem to spend a lot of time with her mom. We apparently plan to live here for a couple of years to pay off bills, then I’m going to grad school and she’s probably coming with me.

To (within weeks) #5: I live alone in Santa Barbara. I’m not a writer or a caterer, I’m a full-time white-collar employee five days a week. For the moment I have a girlfriend thousands of miles away (but she’s not sure about the future) that I talk to 10-20 minutes a day on the phone. I won’t see her at least until fall, if then — she may end up anywhere, or even permanently on the road. But in any case, I have to stay in Santa Barbara for at least a year or two, even if she and I aren’t together, because I’ve found a decent job after a lot of hard searching, and I have to pay my mounting bills.

So…
#1 was planned. By me. I liked it a lot.
#2 was not planned, but was a good decision and was very enjoyable.
#3 was getting random and somewhat nerve-racking, but still potentially exciting.
#4 was something I would have to adjust to, given time and patience from others.

But #5?

#5 WAS NOT THE PLAN. Is it something I can live with? Is that even the right question? It’s taken me weeks of tension and hand-wringing to just connect all the dots that have come together in this post. No wonder I’m about to go nuts. I have to do some thinkin’. I don’t know which way is up and which way is down these days, I’m twisting in the wind.

proto-manifesto for the uncommon man  §

Today in the midst of job hunting and of seeing who actually lands jobs vs. who has the skills that I feel the jobs actually ought to demand, I am drawn back to 1991, as a fifteen-year-old “prodigy” in a (supposedly highly-ranked) computer science department.

The language for the basic data structures course was ANSI C, a language with which I was very familiar at the time. I was the “probationary” 15-year-old, but I remember having to repeatedly correct the T.A. that was teaching the course. He didn’t understand many of the low-level implications of the code he was writing (nor did he have the temerity to manage a machine state diagram well), so his examples rarely worked as expected, and the class was often left bewildered until I raised my hand to explain what had happened. It annoyed the hell out of me that he was then the one who got to tell me, “Congratulations! You got the high score!” on every exam. Of course I got the high score, I felt like a genius among monkeys in that class. But I still had to pay for the course because I was 15 and probationary, not being considered or rewarded on the merits, but rather on my ability to fulfill part of the social contract (i.e. “to get a degree” in order to ultimately prove my interest in materially participating in this sector of society, that my qualifications might then be considered).

I remember being particularly upset one day when the T.A. radically shortened an assignment that I’d already spent several hours on and finished. He shortened it because people were having trouble getting enough “lab time” to do it. I was flabbergasted, because I was doing all of my coding and exam work from home, using my shell account, Emacs, a VT100 emulator, and the university’s dial-up pool (this was before the World Wide Web, when the Internet was much more functional). I was more than startled and dismayed that people who considered themselves top university-caliber computer science students weren’t taking advantage of the technology. I raised my hand and proposed that maybe people should consider using their shell accounts over dial-up and coding with Emacs rather than filling the labs, which were more badly needed by CAD/CAM kids unlikely to have 21″ monitors at home.

Everyone, including the instructor, looked at me blankly as if I didn’t know what I was talking about… and gradually that blank look turned to condescention, as they told themselves that I was just a little kid, that they were confused not because of some inadequacy on their part, but because I was likely telling incomprehensible tales. But of course I wasn’t telling tales; that’s why I was the top person in the class by such a large margin. I was just so far beyond the realm of their understanding that I may as well have stepped out of a time machine holding a transmutation pistol. I was the probationary 15-year-old kid who wasn’t supposed to be there anyway and who, annoyingly, had lucked into high scores on all of the exams.

After class, I tried to explain to the T.A. what I meant, how he could go home and dial-up to the university’s pool instead of to his favorite bulletin board system, then set Procom or whatever terminal emulator program he used for VT100 emulation, then use the sh/csh prompt just as though he were sitting in a lab! He could launch Emacs, write and compile code, and test it properly, too, without ever having to leave home. No need to fill a lab.

He said he’d try it.

I bet he never did.

A year and several hollow ‘A’ grades later, I dropped out of the computer science department and became a teenage junkie, happy to be rid of all the befuddled twenty-something future hand-shakers who wouldn’t be able to code for shit, but who would no doubt look good in their BMWs as they attended Comdex. I’m still in nowhereland today. I am lost, utterly lost, within the world that I seem to be forced to inhabit.

Everything most people know can be found on the back of a marketing pamphlet somewhere. I begin to wonder if there is anyone else outside the matrix any longer — if I’m the only one on earth who knows that dollars, yen, and marks are all just arbitrary representation for ephemeral capital and power flows, just like memes are arbitrary signifiers for manifestations of schema; if I’m the only one who realizes that FrontPage and DreamWeaver and GoLive are all identical products that really traffic in an underlying SGML DTD called HTML, which in turn relies on an near-infinite turtle stack of standards and techniques, beginning with telnet and TCP/IP and ending with AND/OR/NOT gates and a few transistors (and beneath these, on the walzes and fox-trots of subatomic physics); if I’m the only one who understands that a handful of simple technologies and knowledge bases make up the entire realm of product lines that culminate in brand and product differentiation, the ultimate truths in most Americans’ minds: Hoover vac with Hoover hose, IBM PC with IBM scanner, Cingular phone with Cingular network — what nonsense! It’s all artificially enforced by marketers and lawyers; thirty seconds online and your Cingular phone works with any network, thirty minutes inside your case and your IBM PC has a the guts of a SuperSparc in it, thirty hours with your Hoover vac and it’s an AC-powered personal hovercraft/transport… yet people (including the people who form the referents of this sentence) privelege the mimetic identities so defined and believe them to be facts of nature their entire lives. They live in a circular, oversimple universe in which the instrumental gains of the enlightenment, however inadequate they themselves were, have been lost. And for this stupidity, they are rewarded with fat paychecks, while for my much deeper forms of knowledge, I am rewarded only with questions from those who are getting paid and rejections from those who do the paying.

I feel trapped in a world of stupid people, yet at the same time I feel too stupid to figure out how to get them to feed me. After all, there are infinitely more of them than there are of me; they and their conceptions of the universe (however flawed and incomplete) dominate; they rely on the spectacular accomplishments of a few bright individuals peppered throughout history in order to carry out the day to day expression (in the Marxist sense) of their being, yet they are unwittingly completely unable to even begin to conceive of the material methods, developments, and wisdoms thus born. It’s like a nightmare.

For lack of the sheer intellectual ability to conceive of or value anything else, all that seems to matter in our society is a kind of rote compliance with low-level conformity, a willingness to engage skillfully in social games and graces: the interview, the reference, the phone call, the statement of purpose… Coders don’t need to know how to code, machinists don’t need to know how to machine, editors don’t need to know how to edit, presidents don’t need to know how to preside. Such skills are secondary, or even tertiary, to social graces and a groomed appearance.

We claim to live in an individual meritocracy in this culture, but we don’t traffic in ideas or functions or skills at all anyway! We value only the marketing, the dialogue, and the mimetic differentiation; a particular fashion, a particular assertively bounded and characterized consumptivism and displayism from which we conclude that one possesses the requisite skills and knowledge that he claims to possess, even though the knowledge of that knowledge, or even the slightest notion that it ever existed anyway, has been lost by most of the west, a snapshot from a Jules Verne novel.

Do I sound like the Unabomber? Will I be writing manifestos to newspapers in a decade?

Ugly.

U-G-L-Y.

I must return to the academy. It’s the only place where I can stay sane.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’