Journal of Pirate Lingo*


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* not an actual journal
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01.26.02 - 1:31 a.m.

Constant turbulence in my stomach these last few days. The anxiety stems from my inability to light a fuse under my ass and get to work sending out resumes. I think in part it's because I've already sent resumes to all the jobs that sounded good (congressional aide, programmer at the exploratorium) and nobody's written back. The postings I haven't responded to yet are all horrendous sounding office gigs. The eternal hum of fans inside beige computers, the horrors of florescent lamps casting a sickly pallor, the aroma of toner in the copier... it's all quite horrible in my head. But the economy's fallen apart. The golden days are over. And surprisingly, there is a dearth of high paying non-profit work.

I quit my last job to escape having to fake it-- having to pretend that I cared about things that seemed inane or pointless to me. At Sapient we had a Purpose. The company's leadership subscribed to the notion-- proposed in the book Built to Last, which attempts to analyze why some companies are enduringly successful and others fade over time-- that all great corporations must have a clearly defined Purpose. This is something that everybody in the organization understands & believes in. So what was our purpose? "To build a great company that lasts." There was another slogan, "To change the game and win", but I don't know if that was also a Purpose or if it was a Goal or Mission Directive or what.

The thing that always got me was how empty & meaningless the Purpose was. "To build a great company that lasts" -- with no reference whatsoever to what we *did*, or why it mattered to the world! It was like saying we were going to climb a mountain because it was there. Other companies had purposes like (for a pharmaceutical co): "to help people live healthier and happier lives". For us, it was... to build a company that lasts.

Maybe our purpose was daft because we lived a sort of leech-like existence, grafting ourselves to other clients and trying to make them long-term sources of income. Consulting always seemed so prima facie inessential-- it consisted of going up to people who were doing alright without you and convincing them that you can improve the way they do things. Which maybe you could, but the fact that they were chugging along before you even knocked on their door indicated that what you were offering probably wasn't *necessary*. When you combined this with the exceeding dullness of the technical work involved, it was a recipe for major disenchantment. What sucked me in initially was the promise of working on cool tech projects, participating in this Internet Revolution that was going to change everything, being part of a gold rush, a movement, an era... I wanted to experience history in the making, even if my part was merely statistical. One of the thousands who made the exodus. And I can't complain, because I did get to be part of it-- even if it was only to witness the crash.

This librarian thing, when I told Jay about it he laughed. I think he was unconvinced of my seriousness. Which stands to reason, since I'm not convinced either. Sure I love libraries, and my mom's a librarian, but it lacks a certain sexiness. Are there librarians by day who are rock stars by night? (Pavement?) Plus there's some question as to the requirements of the job, now that computers have made it so much easier to retrieve information without a mediator. It would suck to train for a role that becomes meaningless early in the 21st century.

For now it's a moot point, since I don't have an MS and therefore can't apply for any librarian jobs just yet. A few months ago I had this naive vision of thumbing through numerous interesting nonprofit opportunities at leisure, and then picking the one that most closely matched my interests (e.g. Amnesty International). Ha! At this point I'll taking anything that doesn't involve killing puppies or business strategy.

So that is anxiety. What else, the bars. There are all these trendy new bars in Las Vegas. They are aimed at the young and fashionable-- the beautiful people (read: LA rejects) and those such as myself who wish to gawk at said beautiful people. Cody & I checked out three, which I will list in decreasing order of satisfaction:

Whisky Sky: definitely had the prettiest girls & the most air-kisses. There was a fireplace & the couches were white leather & overall it was nice. Drinks: frighteningly expensive

Venus: this one is situated within the Venetian Hotel. on the night we went they had some DJs playing early soul. venus is a tiki-bar but disappointingly, the polynesian aspect was somewhat downplayed and there was nothing on fire. the crowd was more music-obsessive types than model types. free cigarettes in the bathroom (although i think you're supposed to tip the bathroom attendant. i personally refuse to-- you have to draw the line somewhere. at some point a service become so minimal and undesired that it doesn't merit even a courtesy tip. if my refusing to tip a guy for thrusting a towel at me results in the eventual extinction of the entire bathroom attendant profession, so be it.) they had go-go dancers. drinks: hideously expensive (but festooned with umbrellas)

Ghost Bar: this is in the newly opened Palms, which is trying to position itself as a sort of low-budget Hard Rock. Next season's Real World is going to be set in the Palms. Nothing more real than a bunch of beautiful 20 somethings LIVING IN A FREAKIN VEGAS HOTEL!! Anyway the Ghost Bar is on the 52nd story and they have a lovely view of the city. That's all that can be said for the bar though; the other patrons were all paunchy middle aged tourists. I'm not claiming that Cody & I are greek gods, but for me the whole point of going to trendy overpriced bars like Ghost Bar is to gawk at beautiful people. Oh, they charged a damn cover! That was unconscionable given that the 'dj' spent the night inflicting a host of classic rock fossils upon us. I can't even remember all the crap he played in the long hour we were there, but tune into your local klassic rawk station and you'll get the idea. drinks: grievously expensive

Moving on to more stripping oriented bars,

Spearmint Rhino: The background on this is that this girl I used to be friends with in high school now dances at the Rhino-- we know this for a fact because Cody & Sherry are still friends with her & went to see her dance one time. My heart was all aflutter at the thought that the girl next door (literally; well ok she lived a few blocks away, but definitely in walking distance) was now an entertainer of the exotic variety. So I went with Cody to the Rhino to see for myself.

Sadly, she wasn't dancing that night. I looked everywhere for the familiar pale skin, the shock of dark hair, the Russian features, but no luck. It was still a very educational experience. I had only been to one strip club before in my life, and that was a seedy little shack on Bourbon Street in nowleans. The Spearmint Rhino was vast in comparison, with dozens of attractive (if silicon enhanced) beauties wandering here & there. We were both broke, so instead of getting lap dances we just sat around and watched the improbably flexible pole dancers do their thing. Apparently strippers choose the music they dance to-- if so, the otherwise delightful girls at the Rhino have godawful taste in music. Lots of Limp Bizkit and Korn and other colorfully mispelled nu-metal bands. (If I ever start a nu-metal band it will be HELLA mispelled, violently mispelled. for example, "freekz ov thee induztri") Don't know what I expected-- melancholic IDM? japanese noise?-- but it wasn't Limp Bizkit.

I can't think of a good transition here. Um... Speaking of naked ladies, I read this book about dwarfs the other day. (there, nicely done.) It's called In the Little World: A True Story of Dwarfs, Love and Trouble. I was skeptical when I saw it but it really sucked me in. The author decided to write the book after randomly stumbling upon the annual little people convention in a hotel. Once a year, dwarfs from all over congregate for a week to mingle and meet each other. For many dwarfs, this is the only time of the year they get to interact with similar people. Since dwarfs tend to marry other dwarfs, there is a huge amount of pressure to find mates in this week. If you fail, you have to wait another lonely year-- imagine the stress this must create.

I finally learned the difference between a midget and a dwarf, but I forget. I think a midget is perfectly proportioned, whereas a dwarf has a normal sized head but shrunken limbs. God what's the point of reading books if I can recall so little? There was all this interesting discussion of the movie "Freaks" and normal people's reaction to little people and why most stories about dwarfs tend to be hopelessly hackneyed fluff pieces aka "Area Little Man Has Big Heart" and the role of dwarfs throughout history and dwarf tossing and society's standards of beauty and how to navigate through a world where your very being is an affront to certain abstract american ideals of growth, manifest destiny, expansion of borders... ok that last bit sounds ridiculous but I'm sure I remember him talking about it. When I read books they settle like sediment. Their influence is more a matter of coloring than a deposit of easily recalled facts in my head. They change my dispositions, my attitudes and my mental vocabulary, but it doesn't always translate into an easy-to-regurgitate form. Part of why I want to start writing more reviews is to get in the habit of jotting down important/interesting ideas as I read them, and analyze them in more depth-- to read not like a grazing cow, but like a ??? burrowing weasel? what the hell? getting sidetracked here.

The other book I wanted to note was Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Scientists and Iconoclasts who were the Hero Programmers of the Software Revolution. That should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest ratio of post-colon text to pre-colon text. The book is about hardcore programmers who did groundbreaking work (the guy who wrote microsoft word, the guy who developed linux, etc). Reading it made me remember why I studied computer science in the first place, and how much I used to enjoy getting sucked into coding projects. I still enjoy it, really, but in school the projects we did were so pristine-- so elegant and self-contained. We got to build things from scratch. You almost never get to do that in the real world. I miss working on Nachos (this toy operating system; we built virtual memory, a file system, and threads-- it was an immense amount of work over the course of a semester, & taking it at the same time as artificial intelligence resulted in most of my life being spent in the lab-- but it was fun dammit! it was genuinely stimulating. i am a nerd and i regret nothing) and making a web browser and writing in scheme-- scheme, man it's been years since i touched scheme, do i still even remember it? how can you forget, it's like riding a bicycle. recursion, recursive algorithms are so beautiful and so... ugh, i remember trying write stories conveying what i felt about algorithms, trying to make them beautiful in prose, a nearly impossible task for someone of my moderate abilities...


(lambda a b) (blah blah))

i'd have to go back and look. maybe i will, maybe i'll download dr. scheme and start messing around. seeing laura do insertsort-- in assembly-- made me all dewy-eyed. just so gnarly. anyway what was the point of all this? the book-- it talks about how most good programmers have a certain mindset, a certain kiersey-myers profile (it doesn't say it in those terms but that's what it amounts to). deep and narrow interests, for example. at first i resisted this characterization-- i think of myself as a good programmer, but my tastes are broad. but in some ways they're not-- musically for example, i have broad knowledge but relatively narrow taste, in the sense that when i turn on the radio i usually hate whatever's playing. thinking about how my personality & talents fit programming made me wonder if I shouldn't give up on it just yet. but then i think of that summer i worked at microsoft-- very interesting projects, but god the environment-- the coworkers-- the whole thing was just so insular and nerdy and I felt like I would go mad if I stayed. it's always like that, you can't escape it in the coding world, not unless you work for the government or the exploratorium on union hours. man it would be cool to get that job.

I had a "rah rice!" moment reading "Go To" when I saw a quote from this professor I used to work for, Ken Kennedy. I did stuff for his java compiler group. The guy who was in charge, Zoran, finally got his degree, and his thesis is online now... you can find my name in the credits. Yes I am proud of this. :)

So I think I talked about everything I said I'd talk about, except why I hate driving. That'ss an essay in and of itself, and I think the main reason I thought of it at the time was I'd been listening to the nextmen as I came back from dropping anna & amma off at the airport (they're going to phoenix to see buena vista social club, again! groupies) and "we got" sounded so damn good in the car, it almost made me forget how much i hate driving. Almost.

This is a pretty damn long entry but I feel good having vented a little. Spontaneously, it's difficult to order thoughts & arrive at a neat conclusion. A more reliable tactic is to throw everything at the dart board and see what sticks, or write down many observations Wittgenstein style and circle towards deductions. Crap I forgot to mention Jay. He was in town for this MEMS conference. I learned that MEMS means Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems -- basically tiny devices that they can make using lithography. I also learned that Jay has the patience of a saint. We went to dinner in the physics mystery mobile that he & his fellow scientist/engineers had driven from California. Jay was driving, but the 15 chinese grad student/post doc/professors all felt the need to shout out directions and instructions and bark orders at him (which was even more absurd given that none of them had any clue where we were going). At first they claimed they were amenable to eating anywhere, but after we stopped at a few places they decided they had to have authentic chinese food. After some confusion we finally made it to Las Vegas's miniscule Chinatown (a large shopping center really). The evening was weird because they all got really drunk (except for Jay, who doesn't drink, and me, who couldn't stand the licorice-tasting alcohol they were drinking) and proposed increasingly elaborate toasts in Mandarin (or Cantonese, I don't know) throughout the night. It was like being at a drunken Chinese family's wedding reception. I had a good time but didn't say much to anyone except Jay. "So... you do MEMS huh."

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