Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Pacific Beach scenesters
Friday, December 18 1998
I spent most of the day making a mailer program that cycled clumsily between two Active Server Pages, constructing an ever-shorter "backurl" containing a list of email addresses, which one of the two pages mailed automatically with each iteration. It was goofy and inefficient, but it worked. Jay told me I'd have to make another one that did the whole operation on a single page, and I grumbled and felt cheated of accolades, but I reworked it to his satisfaction in only about an hour, sadly dispensing with what I still consider the ingenious hack of my original implementation. Coding isn't like painting or writing, it's more like food preparation: no matter how glorious your creation, it never lasts very long.
During "Energy" (the motivational ritual that concludes every week of work), there was a "White Elephant" gift exchange. All of us were expected to bring gifts to be selected by each of us (based on wrapping) in a round-robin style. The catch was that someone could select an already-claimed gift if it was especially good. Always on the lookout for a way to subvert hokey rituals, at lunch I blew $10 on the purchase of a small flask of vodka and an 8 ounce bottle of "Super Tusks DM." For a dash of yet more comic weirdness, I tossed in an un-filled-out, un-paid-for lottery ticket, worth exactly nothing. This assemblage was kind of expensive, but it had to be in order to say precisely what I needed to say.
When it came time to go through the long, laborious process of getting our gifts, I ended up with a cheap videotape geared to the Spanish-speaking child. I felt robbed, but at the end there were some surplus gifts and I traded for a cheap Chinese knock-off on a Swiss Army knife. It works like crap and the prisoner who made it probably had his liver harvested later that day, but getting something with at least the appearance of usefulness did much to salvage the experience.
I rode back to Ocean Beach with Al, one of the two writer dudes. We picked up Kim and went back to his place, a humble marginally-furnished studio apartment on the south end of Ocean Beach.
Al and I took turns with an accoustic guitar. Al is well-practiced and can belt out the blues as good as any white man I know, but his few attempts at rock and roll usually got bogged down in complex guitar fingering ("Sweet Home Alabama" isn't very easy to play, it turns out). When I picked up the guitar, I felt pathetic. I haven't played in months and am terribly out of practice. I have no finger strength and I can barely recall the intricate little patterns I once painstakingly composed.
We talked at length about lots of interesting things. Like many of the people at my workplace, Al is a sharp dude with a mind full of ideas. It's refreshing and a little surprising to be able to have such rich conversation. Some of the topics discussed included:

  • "Shakey" Jake Woods, the Ann Arbor, Michigan personality who will appear in a commission painting that I'm slowly (very slowly) working on for one of my readers. Al had seen one of Jake's post cards in our kitchen and had been intrigued by this clearly extroverted guitar-toting persona. We discussed Jake's racket: he's got a guitar but no one ever sees him playing it. He's been to New Orleans, but he may not actually be from New Orleans. Jake makes his money by selling post cards with his picture on them and by showing up at various events and being a "personality." Actually, though, he's a bum who somehow found a way to market himself, starting with the expectation in people's minds that he might actually be a legitimate Afro-American blues musician from New Orleans. I've heard, by the way, that Jake has a reputation for abusing his girlfriends.

  • The firing today of a notable employee in our workplace and the possible connection between that event and the fact that a US Marshall came by today to seize computers whose lease had expired. Back when I worked at and the electric and phone bills were never paid, creditors coming by to seize equipment was common. Evidently most internet startups have trouble with their paperwork, even when they're so promising that people actually line up to invest in them.

  • The animal roots of complex human traits and tendencies. The trait we focused on most of all was wealth. What makes one ant wealthier than another? I never got around to advancing my Darwinian view: that the creature who left the most copies of his genes in the next generation was the wealthiest. The subject had changed:

  • The possibility of including an economy of "virtual money" inside an online community. This virtual money could have roots in actual money, provided by sponsors or paid out "benevolently" by the rulers of the community (in this case, that would be me and my colleagues at my workplace). It was a brilliant idea really, and bouncing it around warmed us with enthusiasm. It seemed to me like an especially good deal for advertisers, who could use virtual money to introduce people to the somewhat intimidating idea of buying things online from their companies.

We all headed back to the residence of Kim and myself to wait for Kevin, the database administrator, who was delayed by the premature completion of a task he'd assigned to one of his robots. Yessir, unlike most people in our company, Kevin believes in robots about as much as I do.
2001, a Space Odyssey was on Showtime. I've only seen surreal little excerpts from the movie, but now I found myself watching the whole thing. The early ape scenes were rather impressive, especially when viewed under the influence of the right drugs. But, shortly after the cut-ahead past all the boring history of human civilization to "the future" (thereby doing what the movie does best: demonstrating the relentlessness of history), it turned into a 70s soap opera and I found myself growing bored. I always get a kick out of what people in the old days thought computers of the future would look like: they talk in a fairly natural voice but there's no elaborate display system (too hard to simulate!). And there's no elaborate networking system either; the idea of multiple networked computers communicating without human intervention never really occurred to the futurists of the early 70s.
The plan was to eventually head up to Pacific Beach to attend the party of another of our workplace colleagues, Theo, who works in marketing. I figured Theo must be chinese (and that his party would also be chinese), since the guy has big hair and I've seen pictures of him on a surf board.
The confusion (oh the confusion!), came when we made the decision about how to actually go to Pacific Beach. For all kinds of logistical reasons, Kim and I ended up going independently of the other two. She complained about being sick so I had to drive, even though I'd been smoking pot. But I'm such a marijuana smoker these days that I can actually drive when I'm stoned now. I would actually like to go on the marijuana wagon, if you know what I mean, but I don't think I have the right girlfriend to carry through on such a plan. Indeed; I hardly ever think about pot and would almost never smoke any if I wasn't continually reminded by her little rituals.
While I was drove sufficiently well to Pacific Beach, the drama came as I attempted to parallel park. It's a skill I once mastered in the land where parallel parking is like breathing, Blacksburg, Virginia, but it was an unfamiliar car and, well, it took me an embarrassingly long time to do.
The party was rocking hard when we arrived. An extremely well-stocked bar was in full effect and a great many people seemed to be in pickup mode. It was a mostly young, mostly hip, somewhat retro, very professional crowd. The faces were largely unfamiliar, though some of the obviously most-chinese colleagues from work were there. I felt kind of stupid in my attire, dressed as I was in a coat and tie. The invitation had demanded "cocktail attire," which turned out to be something just a bit more funky than formal. The chinese dudes, you see, were all decked out in weird-ass expensive retroish jackets made of unusual materials, although plenty of people (such as Dave the Web Developer dude) were wearing tee shirts and jeans. I was also wearing a Santa Claus hat with my name on it, but I quickly determined it to be evidence of my nascent dorkdom, so I abandoned it on a piece of statuary. Most of the girls were dressed in formal party attire. Kim always dresses nice of course, and she looked very much as if she belonged to this scene.
I was also kind of embarrassed by the way my interactions with people were going. I kept standing outside myself and hearing my banter as arrogant, oafish, or egotistical. No one really seemed to care, though.
Kim was hitting it off pretty well with a number of my colleagues, including Barby, the super-retro "Information Systems" person. Her last job was that of Network Technician, as was mine.
There were a few former employees from my workplace, and they all told me the place was a "stage" one goes through, advising me to keep my options open as much as possible. One of the guys told me I could turn around and get twice as much income at the place where he now works, which is, like most internet firms in San Diego, rapidly scaling up its workforce.
I was sweet, romantic, and very drunk during the ride home. Kim was driving and I was detailing all the plans I had in store for her the moment we got home. But I couldn't carry through. I puked a few times and passed out.

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