Heroic Chinese Space Chickens

Michael Williams, a 28-year-old congressional candidate in Alabama, has suggested that we tax science-fiction to help fund NASA. According to the article, the consensus is that Williams is a loon. Well, let’s give him some credit: if Williams is a loon, he is a loon who has parlayed his looniness into at least several hundred thousand dollars worth of free publicity.

The tax proposal, of course, is impractical to say the least. The most obvious problem is that it is nearly impossible to define what science-fiction is. Defining genres is an interesting parlor game, to be sure — but it would get a lot less fun once real money was on the line. However, I kinda sorta see Williams’s point. The problem with NASA is that it spends its money on science-fiction driven goals such as putting humans in space — rather than doing science.

Take the International Space Station (please!). The construction budget has eaten into the budget for scientifc experiments to the point where they can only support the maintenance of the station… because they have no money to support the four civilian crew members who would be running the actual experiments. Unless the ISS gets another huge budget increase, the entire $125 billion dollar project will merely serve to establish a human presence in space.

Then there’s the Space Shuttle. My college once invited Freeman Dyson to speak, with an informal chat afterwards. I was shocked to discover that Dyson hated the Space Shuttle. Whaaat? My formative years had been spent reading Odyssey Magazine, and they had never once mentioned that there was anything bad about the Shuttle. On the other hand, when someone whose brain works on an entirely different plane from yours tells you that one of your cherished beliefs is just flat-out wrong, it behooves you to Investigate Further.

And so I did. And I discovered that contrary to its original design specifications, the Shuttle is not fully reusable, it cannot achieve high Earth orbits, and it is anything but cheap. Worst of all, it has wasted billions of dollars that could have been spent doing research far more efficiently.

Honestly, I’m all for humans in space. But what is our goal here? If it’s to do science, let’s do science. If it’s to colonize space — great. But we need to develop the next couple of generations of materials and propulsion systems so that it becomes cost-effective. Unfortunately, because our technology is so primitive right now, the sad fact is that if you do one, you hobble the other.

When China announces that they have managed to hatch a few chicken eggs in orbit — that’s nice, and I’m sure they’ll gather some interesting data on the effects of space travel on biological organisms. But so what? First, who says that chickens in a tin can in low earth orbit is an accurate simulation of the ships of the future? (Will our ships have better radiation shielding? Will they rotate to simulate gravity? Who knows?) Second, even if the data is valid, we won’t need it until long-term space travel becomes affordable — several decades at least.

Look, we sent some men up in tin cans in the 1960s, and miraculously very few of them died. And we beat the Russkies. Yay us! But space is no longer a pissing contest, and I would rather see the money spent on robot probes. Or heck, vaccination programs. In the meantime, I’m perfectly happy to read books and watch movies… hopefully tax-free.

Lucky Accident

So my car got rear-ended yesterday. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

I had just exited the freeway, and was waiting to turn right on a busy road. I edged forward to see the oncoming traffic… saw a truck coming… stopped… and whack! I got hit from behind by a lady in an Acura MDX SUV. For such a light impact there was a surprising amount of damage. It turns out the MDX has a nice wedge-shaped grille, set at the perfect height to dent my trunk and ride up on my bumper, tearing it loose.

Well, nobody was hurt, but the poor lady felt just awful about the whole thing. I can certainly sympathize with her, because I did the exact same thing not so long ago. The only difference was that my Sentra just left a scuff mark on my victim’s bumper. (The guy called me back the same day and said, “It’s barely even visible. Forget about it.”)

Anyway, here’s why this whole incident isn’t such a bad thing — for me, anyway. Three years ago, a man rear-ended my car, knocking the bumper loose. We exchanged numbers, and he said, “Look, let’s not get insurance involved. I’ll just pay you directly.” I figured, why not do the guy a favor… why mess up his insurance rates over such a little thing? “Sure,” I said stupidly. I didn’t even bother to collect his policy number just-in-case — how rude and untrusting that would have been of me! You can guess the rest of the story.

So… even though I managed to pop my bumper back in place, it still looks dinged, and I’ve been seething over this for the last three years. Finally, my now thoroughly-trashed bumper will be replaced, although not by the original person. Karma is fickle.

Now if only someone would kindly veer out of their lane and sideswipe me in the front (where, two years ago, someone scraped the hell out of my car in a parking lot and didn’t leave a note). Then we would be back in business.

Not Schadenfreude

According to the dictionary, “schadenfreude” means “pleasure in the misfortune of
others”. White-collar Enron employees complaining about the vagaries of
hyper-capitalism? Schadenfreude. Alan Sokal’s
cosmic joke on
the editors of Social Text
? Schadenfreude.
Microsoft getting burned by
its own bought-and-paid-for witness
, Jerry Sanders of AMD? Achtung baby, it’s

But when M’ris announced that she is having DSL problems
(again), it was obviously inappropriate to feel schadenfreude. First, one can’t
feel schadenfreude at the misfortunes of one’s friends. It simply isn’t done. I can
certainly feel that way towards Pac Bell — for example, when they
investigated for fraud for “slamming” their customers
(including me, for six
long months). But poor M’ris is an innocent bystander. I suppose that if I had warned
Mark and M’ris properly about DSL, I could feel “cassandritis”, or “smug satisfaction that your
prophecy of doom has come true.” But that would be wrong also. I didn’t rant and rave
at them. I didn’t warn them that not only is Pac Bell’s service generally lousy,
but because Pac Bell controls all the phone line central offices, they can (and do) screw
with the reliability of their DSL competitors (so no matter what you do in DSL-land,
you’re at their mercy.)

In other words, this is all really partly my fault. I didn’t
steer Mark and M’ris away from the foul clutches of Pac Bell. I failed in my
mission to do what is right and good and true.

Sorry, guys. My bad.

Advanced Witnessing Techniques

“But that’s something that you only discuss socially among physicists or ex-physicists (right, Evan?)” Absolutely right, M’ris.

So I was having dinner with Mom and Sarah, and they are slightly at odds over Mom getting a new computer. Mom wants a Mac, because she’s tired of her PC crashing once a day. Sarah doesn’t, because, well, she knows how to use a PC, so the hell with Macs. Ordinarily I would side with Mom, but after doing a little research, my sympathies lie squarely with Sarah. You see, “the truth has finally come out: Apple Computers promote Godless Darwinism and Communism“:

This company is well known for its cult-like following. It isn’t much of a stretch to say that it is a cult. Consider co-founder and leader Steve Jobs’ constant exhortation through advertising (i.e. mind control) that its followers should “think different”. We have to ask ourselves: “think different than whom or what?”

Think different than whom or what indeed! But Steve Jobs isn’t the only Satanic danger lurking out there. As Objective Christian Ministries warns us in their “4 Kidz” section:

Atheists such as crotchety old Mr. Gruff think they’ve got it all figured out… but then why are they always so sad?
If you find an atheist in your neighborhood, TELL A PARENT OR PASTOR RIGHT AWAY! You may be moved to try and witness to these poor lost souls yourself, however AVOID TALKING TO THEM!
Atheists are often very grumpy and bitter and will lash out at children or they may even try to trick you into neglecting God’s Word.
Very advanced witnessing techniques are needed for these grouches. Let the adults handle them.

Unlike the overly scatological Landover Baptist website, this site appears to be entirely sincere. At least, I think it’s sincere. Maybe these guys are just more subtle. But look, folks: I knew that the one about the cigar-smoking lawyer who tried to collect under his arson policy was false. And I knew the one about Oliver North warning about Osama Bin Laden back in 1987 was garbage also. Even Mike admits that my “eye for the hallmarks of internet tomfoolery is as sharp as ever.” Yeah, that’s right! My Internet Bullshit Detector is set at hair-trigger level — so just try me!

Now the really unfair thing is that I’m picking on easy targets. So ok, let’s see… who else is there… well, there’s the National Review, of course. Long ago, our grandfathers and grandmothers were forced to endure humorless lectures from windbag Communist intellectuals on the inherent superiority of the Russian economic system. Today we are subjected to the same… the only difference is that the lectures come from windbag Republicans. And since we’re on the topic of the National Review, take a look at a recent article by Rich Lowry which I think is pro-Francisco Franco… or at least not-very-sorry-Franco-won, anyway. It’s a good thing I’m a moderate liberal, and I don’t have to read the National Review. No, I get to read The National Republic, which in one article claims that Israel’s military is destroying Hamas, while in another claims that Israel is really destroying the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, while Hamas is getting away. In the same issue, no less.

Easy targets! I hear you cry. Ok, I’ll stop. I won’t even mention the fact that Jenny Jones’s show has been saved from cancellation. Nor will I pick on George Lucas for being a “Galactic Gasbag“, when his only real crime is being too chicken to stand up and say, “I like pulp science fiction, and I made the Star Wars movies Just For Fun!” After all, who among us has not quivered in fear at the onslaught of the lit-crit establishment?

Besides, maybe the next movie will turn out to be all right. “Attack of the Clones”, eh? I’m not holding my breath.

Bay Area Radio

I’ve been listening to NPR religiously in the morning for at least three years. This worries me. This is a real sign of fuddy-duddiness. I’ve even gone so far as to become a member, although I am too chicken to put the bumper sticker on my car. Even worse, I don’t watch TV anymore. No, I’m not one of those people — the main reason for my TV celibacy is because I’m too cheap to get cable. I believe that I deserve to get my network television the way my ancestors did before me, through a roof antenna, and the hell if I’m going to pay for network television + the basic cable channels. The Discovery Channel? Woo-freaking-hoo!

But like I said, I’m getting worried. My poker buddies are talking about this great new show on MTV, “The Osbournes“, which is kind of a reality show about the travails of aging rocker Ozzy Osbourne. (Sample exchange with his manager (and wife): “Sharon! I can’t have a bubble machine at my concert! I’m the bloody Prince of Darkness!”) The point is, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m losing touch. Missing out. I can compare and contrast the various hosts of “Talk of the Nation” (Ray Suarez 4ever!!!!!) but I have no clue what’s happening on Buffy this season. This is not good.

So yesterday I tried going through some of the other stations on my drive up to work. Here is what I discovered.

  • 105.3 (“Live 105”): Long ago, 105.3 FM was a “Modern Rock” station. They played Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order, and so on. Nearly all the DJs had fake English accents. In the early 90s, they switched to an “alternative rock” format and lost the silly accents (well, except for the one real English DJ). Everything was going swimmingly. But eventually 105.3 got bought out by the corporation that owns LA’s KROQ. The music took a change for the worse, and after a few months they got rid of my favorite DJ, Big Rick Stuart. I wasn’t exactly surprised — while 105.3 was still independent, Stuart had said some very choice things about the KROQ folks. So that was that.

    Anyway, in the mornings Live 105 syndicates Howard Stern. Howard Stern is just so mind-numbingly bad, I can only listen to him if I make a game out of it — how long can I stay tuned before changing the channel? It’s like holding your palm over a candle flame, or clutching an ice cube in your fist. I suppose only Michael Savage gives Stern a run for his money in that department. In any case, not my cup of tea at 8am.

  • 97.3 (“Alice”): Bay Area pop radio is pretty straightforward. Live 105 is the boy station, Alice is the girl station. There is some overlap (Nickelback, U2). But simply put, Alice is your Jewel/Alanis Morissette/Sheryl Crow channel, and Live 105 is your Fred Durst/Tool/System of a Down channel. For what it’s worth, I can’t help listening to Alice on occasion. They play Shakira every once in a while, and God help me, I can’t get that woman’s songs out of my head.

    In the mornings — ah, they’ve got the “Sarah and Vinnie” show. Unlike Howard Stern, Sarah and Vinnie are merely inane. (From a recent discussion on religion: “I dunno, you’ve got to, like, believe in something…” “No way, man. Goin’ to church sucks.”) I can actually handle them for thirty minutes or so… but really, we can do better. Can’t we?

  • 104.9 (“Channel 104.9”): Channel 104.9, owned by Clear Channel Communications, is Live 105’s competitor. We’re all not supposed to like Clear Channel — Eric Boehlert at Salon.com says so. But I don’t worry myself too much over this. Whether the giant corporation that owns 104.9 crushes the giant corporation that owns 105.3 or vice versa makes little difference to me. The two stations almost have the same format, but 104.9’s is just a little more mediocre, and their ads and promotions are significantly more insipid, so I generally root for 105.3 (despite what they did to Big Rick Stuart).

    However, 104.9 is the only station that plays music in the morning. I have to give them credit for that. What a concept for morning radio — shut up and play the music! I don’t understand why this hasn’t caught on more.

  • 101.3 (“Star 101.3”): What a tremendous disappointment this station has been. Also a Clear Channel station, they started out just a few years ago playing all 80’s music (on a different FM frequency). I was driving down the road and I started hearing old Madonna songs, Oingo Boingo, … whoa, what was this? For a while I was very happy. But then they moved to a new format (“your upbeat listen-at-work station!”), which meant that in addition to their lovely selection of cheesy 80’s music, they also started playing the dreck from the 90s and today. Not appreciated, not one bit.

    The 101.3 morning show involves Don Bleu, who has been a Bay area radio personality for… a really long time. His show involves the standard morning DJ hijinks. Prank calls, inane banter, a couple songs sprinkled here and there. I have listened to Don Bleu a number of times, and I have arrived at only one conclusion: he is a deeply cynical man. He could not possibly care less about the music he plays on his show — it could be rock, country-western, classical, death-metal, whatever. He would announce it in the same fake-enthusiastic wacky DJ voice, make a few prank calls, collect his paycheck, and go home. One thing to be said for that frothing right-wing nutcase Michael Savage — at least he seems to care about what he’s doing.

  • 98.5 (“The Classic Rock Experience”): 98.5 claims that they’re the only station in the Bay Area that plays the Beatles. They might even be right. I don’t listen to 98.5 all that often, but every once in a while I tune in and just cruise down the highway with “Sweet Home Alabama” blaring, and I feel good about life.

    The 98.5 morning guy is Greg Kihn — yes, Greg Kihn of “Our Love’s in Jeopardy” fame. He might be an old, fat, washed-up rock star, but at least he seems to be happier and healthier than Ozzy Osbourne. As I’ve mentioned before, Kihn can be absolutely hilarious. Sometimes. My favorite absurd-Kihn story was the one where he had the bright idea to hire a classical orchestra — for some reason. I forget why. Anyway, he calls up a friend who has some orchestra connections. “How much are you willing to spend?” the friend asks. “200,” Kihn replies. “Oh, for that you could get the LA Philharmonic! Or the New York Symphony!” gushes the friend. “Great!” says Kihn. Well, no… it turns out that $200 would have been per musician per hour. “Well, who can I get for just $200?” asks Kihn, indignant. Kihn then plays a demo tape of said $200.00 orchestra. Imagine “Thus Spake Zarathustra” in the wrong key, with every wind instrument and screeching violin playing just a slightly different note, just sort of melting into total incoherence during the crescendo. I was driving on surface streets at the time, and I just pulled over and cried laughing.

So I suppose there are some alternative possibilities out there in Bay Area morning radio land. Greg Kihn. 104.9 in a pinch. Or maybe I should just pony up for a CD player in the car. Or learn Italian on tape or something. See what drastic measures they’ve forced me into?

Edit: I’ve just remembered, Roland West was not the lone English DJ at Live 105 back in the early 90s. I don’t know what I was thinking. Also, I’ve added a small example of Sarah and Vinnie’s inanity. You’re welcome
Edit 2: M’ris points out that 99.5 FM has “Beatles Wednesdays”, where they deign to play a few Beatles songs, anyway. So ack! I’ve been lied to. Greg Kihn should be ashamed to be associated with such rat-bastards.

Poor Impulse Control

So. Someone who shall go unnamed informed me that my key lime pie is not
actually key lime pie — I was using regular limes, but apparently you have to
use actual limes from Key West in order to have Official Key
Lime Pie. Otherwise it’s just a crummy old Lime Pie. (Like my old math
teacher Mr. Holland used to say, “You don’t have a function
anymore… you just have a crummy old relation.”)

Not that I care about this too much — after all, I have bigger key
lime issues. The main problem is that I can never get the pie to jell
properly… basically I always end up with thick key lime soup instead of key
lime pie. It tastes fine, but the presentation leaves something to be desired.

Anyway, I asked Mom, who is a native Floridian, for the real scoop. When
she heard about this, she guffawed. Then she patiently explained that the
reason key lime pie was invented was because, back in the day. the people
who lived on Key West didn’t have much to bake with. “They had chickens,
and limes… and condensed milk for sweetening — and that was about it,” she
said. “Ah,” I replied. “So this nattering about Key West limes is
kind of like talking about gourmet grits.” “Exactly,” she said. “Or like
Niman Ranch pork rinds.”

In other news, I’ve just finished reading (and re-reading)
, by Neal Stephenson. This is the first cyberpunk book I’ve ever
read that I’ve actually liked.

Actually, M’ris says that some people call Snow Crash
post-cyberpunk. At first I didn’t understand… I mean,
Stephenson has cybernetics, the Net, economic and environmental collapse,
corporate control of everything, drugs, ultra-violence, the Japanese, … you
name it. What’s “post” about it?

But now I think I understand. Most cyberpunk novels are satirizing
us — urban society, suburban society, corporations, and
so on. But Stephenson goes one step further and also satirizes
his fellow cyberpunkers. Take the opening scene with the “Deliverator” —
the ultimate pizza delivery man:

…The Deliverator stands tall, your pie in thirty minutes or you can have it
free, shoot the driver, take his car, file a class-action suit. The Deliverator
has been working this job for six months, a rich and lengthy tenure by his
standards, and has never delivered a pizza in less than twenty-one minutes.

It took me a couple of reads to realize what Stephenson was doing, but after
that I just rolled with it. All that breathless speed and post-apocalyptic
deadly seriousness… applied to pizza delivery. Just fabulous. By the time
the Deliverator gets handed a twenty-minute old pizza at the
end of the first chapter (as I’m sure you could predict) it was just too much.
Stop, Neal! You had me at “shoot the driver”!

It’s all good from there on in, from little jokes (the main bad guy has “Poor
Impulse Control” tattooed on his forehead) to the plot (ancient Sumerian
neurolinguistic hackers!) to the larger stylistic issues, like the
way Stephenson can string
adjectives together and somehow make it work (“Hiro watches the large,
radioactive, spear-throwing killer drug lord ride his motorcycle into
Chinatown.”) I’m a bit jealous of Stephenson — once you decide to satirize
cyberpunk, you are permitted all sorts of stylistic excesses. The only project
that would be more fun would be a “post-postmodern” novel. But would
anyone get the joke?

Posted in SF

Outrageous Lies

So I got some spam yesterday from some company offering to “fix my
website”. They informed me that one of my links (to drugfreeamerica.org) was broken, and that
their services could help.

I admit, at first I felt a rush of guilt. I haven’t bothered to install
on this site yet, and I’m well aware I have broken links. For example,
there’s the broken HTML tutorial. And of course,
I foolishly linked to the San Jose Mercury News and the Washington Post
a few times, and those people let their links rot after a couple of weeks. Jerks.
Forcing me to link to the Chronicle.

Anyway, I had linked to drugfreeamerica.org in my entry about the
commercials during the Superbowl
(as you might recall, I sided with the
government… sort of). I was stunned. That link is broken? Just two months
later? I was all set to write a scathing little essay all about the clueless
Feds and how they’ll never understand the Internet
and why-oh-why did I ever give them any credence at all… but
it turns out that the drugfreeamerica.org link is working just fine. So there
you have it folks: spam sucks. I’m willing to take a
stand and say it’s not good.

In the legitimate mail department, I received an email from
Brian about the reunion. This is attempt #3 on his part to email all his friends
and say, “You’re going to the reunion! You’re going, right?” (I wonder why
I classify this unwanted mail as “legitimate”?) Well, I think I’m actually going
to go. It’s because of Brad Hyslop. Brad sends this response:

I have a reminder set for about a week ahead of the reunion. If I feel like it, I might crash. I’m sure they won’t mind as long as they get the right tithe. The only event I really care about is telling lies over late night Sanam Long Thai iced tea…

“20 pounds less, really!”

“Even living off of interest, I can still make the mortgage payments on my 3000 square foot San Jose home.”

“He sez, ‘Can’t we just leave Saddam alone?’ and so I sez, ‘Dubya, don’t make me repeat myself.’ “

So now I have to go to the reunion, if only to compete in
the outrageous-lies department. Although, affording a house in San Jose…
that one’s gonna be tough to beat.

Hero of Work

So things at work are kind of a drag recently.
Fortunately for my morale, I did a little task (some editing) for one of my
German colleagues last week, and he was so pleased, he made a certificate
for me:

Hero of Work Certificate

Held der Arbeit — which means, as best I
can translate, “Hero of Work”. I think this is one of the coolest things
that’s happened to me all year.

Now some of you running-dog capitalist lackeys might be wondering,
“Hey! What’s the deal with the
hammer-and sickle?” Well, there’s a story behind it, of course.

According to Stefan, my colleague (comrade!), back in East Germany they
would award the title, “Held der Arbeit” to anyone who exemplified the
socialist ideal. Someone who put in extra hours at the factory, promoted
the state philosophy to friends and family, and so on. Now that communism
is over, the younger generation still uses the term and passes
it on to people who go that extra effort, but it is
said “with a twinkle in the eye” as Stefan puts it.

So you see? Germans are just as hip and ironic and funny as we
Americans. Maybe even more so. Wouldn’t that be awful — the one
thing we pride ourselves in, and maybe the Germans have us beat.
Anyone remember that Beck’s beer commercial, with the bad German
stand-up comedian? “Thank you, I’ll be here all the week,” he says,
in a thick accent. The tagline was “Germans don’t do comedy — we do beer.”
Well, first of all, Beck’s isn’t very good beer. And second of all, the “humorless
German” stereotype is totally unfair. In my limited travels, none
of the Germans I’ve met have been dour and serious… they all have had
great senses of humor.

And it’s not just the Germans.
All the English I’ve met — they’re hilarious. They have that dry,
self-deprecating wit — and they have always left us in the dust
when it comes to wordplay. Italians — definitely. An Italian professor I
worked with during my ill-fated internship at
Lawrence Berkeley kept
me in stitches all summer (although our boss was an
easy target.) I’ve even
discovered that the Swiss are funny, at least a little bit.

Heck, I would like go so far as to say the entire European subcontinent
is funny
. Unfortunately I can’t.
The French? Not funny. Sad but true.

And that’s The World According To Evan. Next time: Asia! Thank you, I’ll
be here all the week.

I’ll Not Be Juggled With!

Overheard between Diane, an attractive New Yorker who is about my mother’s
age, and Mike, who has
(unintentionally) crashed Diane’s dinner party:

Mike: Come on now, Diane, I’m sure you have young men wandering through your house all the time.

Diane: Well, not with their clothes on.

So basically I had a great weekend, all things considered. No, really.
A party on Friday and on Saturday. And then a reading of Hamlet on
Sunday afternoon, where I read the part of Laertes. In my considered
opinion, Laertes is basically the man.
His first line is to the evil Claudius, “My dread lord…” and it just
gets better from there.

His first real speech is to his little sister Ophelia, where he lectures
her to be good and not to fool around with boys. (Meanwhile he’s off
to France to drink, fight, and wench.) I love this guy already! A
man after my own heart. (You paying attention, Sarah…?)

Then Laertes heads off to France, and there’s a lot of boring stuff
with Hamlet. Blah blah blah father, blah blah blah woe is me, blah
blah blah oops! I stabbed Polonius, by the way mom you’re a shameless
hussy, blah blah blah. Fortunately
Bill cut a lot of that nonsense out.
Stanford doesn’t just pick their professors out of a hat, folks.

Then in Act IV, Laertes is back. He wants answers about his father
and he wants them now. “How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with!
To hell allegiance, vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace
to the profoundest pit!” Damn straight.

Well, you all know how it ends. Hamlet leaps into Ophelia’s grave,
like the snivelling copy-cat that he is. (“I prithee, take thy
fingers from my throat…” — wimp.) They duel, Laertes stabs Hamlet,
Hamlet stabs Laertes, they both die. Exeunt.

There were only two bad parts.
First, Laertes agrees to Claudius’s plan to use a poisoned blade. I
mean, that was just dumb. Laertes is fencing champion of France.
He could have wiped the floor with Hamlet if he hadn’t been told
to put on a show. Second, Laertes begs Hamlet for forgiveness right
before he dies. I mean, c’mon. I can only chalk this up to the
potent neurotoxin that was ravaging his acetylcholine receptors,
causing him to twitch uncontrollably and blurt out, “Exchange forgiveness
with me, noble Hamlet,” in some kind of last-second Tourette’s-like spasm.

Like I said, a good weekend. Also, I taught Nancy
HTML (see, kid, that wasn’t so hard) and watched the first two episodes of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. Not a bad pilot — although it sure
has gotten a lot better. Not that I would know, this season. I have no working
TV, and besides, Tuesday is Poker Night. I think the guys thought I was
a little off when I insisted that we watch the “Buffy: The Musical” episode,
and I’m afraid to expend any more political capital on this issue…
assuming I have any left.

Bookshelf Artistry

I had been having all sorts of problems with my new bookshelves.
First, now that I had enough room to pull all my books out of storage,
I wasn’t sure how to arrange them on the shelf. Alphabetical by author?
By genre? Second, what to do with all those embarrassingly bad books
from my childhood? Display them proudly on the shelf, or hide them in

The second problem was pretty easy to solve. My cousin Michael suggested
that I keep almost all my books, but get rid of the ones that are
so bad that A) I would never read them again and B) I would never inflict
on a friend, son/daughter, niece/nephew, and so on. So that made it
fairly painless. For example, I still have fond memories of the first six
Dragonlance novels, so they stay. But the “apocryphal” Dragonlance novels
are all right out. Also out are all those crappy Robotech and D&D novels —
except for R.A. Salvatore, who just barely makes the cut. And so on.

The arranging-the-books problem was harder, but fortunately my hand was
forced. I had all my books in piles on the floor for over a week. I think
I was trying to dream up some complicated alpha-by-genre scheme. Anyway,
I was having a small get-together last weekend, and the appointed hour
had nearly arrived. I looked at the books, said, “Screw it”, and slammed
them all up on the shelf.

So now my books are in essentially random order, but if you look at them
it appears as if there are little pockets of order. But this
is false. For example, all Orson Scott Card books are together, except oops!
Xenocide is sitting over by The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
So if you think you can infer where a particular title is, guess again! You’re
probably wrong.

The cover plan is to tell people that my bookshelves are an artistic
statement. They represent the ultimate triumph of chaos over order, the futility of
categorizing human knowledge, and the radical and subversive juxtaposition of
different human ideas (“Rousseau’s Confessions next to Jackson’s
Classical Electrodyamics… how droll!”)

My Turner Prize awaits.