Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: July, 2002

It is one thing to have someone inadvertently call you in the middle of a crowded area where everyone can hear the conversation.

It is something completely different when someone relentlessly quizzes you on a phone call that he or she is not privy to.

Annoyance doesn’t even begin to describe my irritation with nosy people.

Here’s the Tuesday Too:

1. Do you have a friend like Mr. Potatoehead? In other words do you have a friend that trouble seems to follow like a bad penny? Tell us about that friend or one of his/her bad pennies?

I call him the Guy on Blades. He’s always getting into trouble. One time his mother packed him a poppyseed muffin so he could have a snack on the flight over to Los Angeles. The police dog sniffed him out and security had to search through all his things. Apparently, the dog thought his muffin was opium. At least he didn’t have dirty underwear in his suitcase. Another time, he was on a road trip and at 2 AM he stopped at a parking lot to figure out the directions to his next destination. Suddenly the cops surrounded him. He had wandered into the middle of a sting operation where the police were trying to bust a prostitution ring. And of course, my favorite, he had his identity mistaken while he was going to JPL as a summer reasearch student. Security thought he was a spy.

2. Was there something you really meant to accomplish, or really wanted to do that you didn’t do last week? How come you didn’t do it?

My mundane answer: not enough sleep. Reason: too much other stuff to do.

3. Pretend you’re in the market for a therapist. What would be the therapist’s most desirable quality? Why that one?

The therapist would have to be amiable and easy-going. I’m not about to spill my guts out to someone I’m terrified of.

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Yay.

I hope the shiny thing I see ahead is the light at the end of the tunnel and not an illusion. This week’s phase of the experiment has so far gone off without a hitch. (Un)fortunately, I do not have the slightest inclination to calculate the odds that I faced to get it right on the first try.

I don’t even like doing probability.

Other stuff:
Ring Up for Peace and Love with ‘Phone Shui’. You know, how about just turning the darn thing off for some peace and quiet?
Lose 15 Lbs. in 20 Minutes a Day! In The Red Violin, they used a violin instead of a flute. Of course, the jealous lover walked in and shot the violin in the neck.

Lab Rat Escapes to Hollywood

I stumbled out of lab at 11 AM and discovered: I have nothing to do this afternoon. But my next thought was: I must get away before someone realizes I’m wandering out alone. So I stuffed my camera, a couple extra rolls of film, a water bottle, an umbrella (it never hurts to be prepared!), and a handful of change into my bookbag and hopped on the first bus out of town.

Passengers were forever getting on and off, but I paid scant attention to them. What I slavered over was outside. Did you know that Glendale’s downtown covered bus stops are painted with old fashioned green and lined with faux gold? The bus stopped at one of those and I saw through a cafe window a balding man lean over to kiss a woman. Another couple outside the cafe were bickering. Along Los Feliz, there was a playground swarming with children and a wide concentric fountain tall and alone. The route wound around a residential area where residents crammed their tiny lawns with knickknacks and old junk for a yard sale.

The bus route terminated at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. The light seemed brighter than usual (no trees in sight along the street, not even a scraggly palm tree) and when I got out to be swallowed into the swell of the crowd, I knew my afternoon belonged here–in the gaudy and touristy strip of Hollywood Boulevard.

I’ve been in Hollywood only twice before, but both of those times, I never stuck around to poke and prod. The first time my family and I were just driving through to get to downtown L.A. The second time, a couple of my friends dragged me to the Mann’s Chinese Theater to watch The Matrix. In the dark, all I got was a glimpse of red. But this time, I got a good long look at it in daylight. There at the very edge, underneath tourists’ feet, I saw Eddie Murphy’s signature and his message, “Be free.”

Some of my time was spent looking at the ground. The sidewalks are a step above concrete. It’s a blue-gray granite covered in pink stars. The first name I recognized was Sylvester Stallone. Star-struck visitors often liked to break the flow of traffic by crouching next to the star to have their picture taken.

Most of the shops along Hollywood were dingy tourist traps selling three (cheaply made) t-shirts for ten bucks and postcards that either featured landscapes or half-nude women. I wandered around in the Guinness World Records Museum (a rip-off at seven dollars per head) and the Hollywood Wax Museum (I’m not afraid to admit that I was too chicken to go through all of the horror exhibit). Outside of the world records museum, I saw a mime who looked startlingly like a fake wax figure. When I stared at him, wondering if I should touch him to make sure that he wasn’t real, he winked at me.

I saw Wonder Woman, arms crossed, red lips stretched downward, pissed. I saw Batman counting a handful of green bills. A man in a bright green pirate’s costume raised his handbell stoically as I snapped a picture. A used bookstore owner, lounging against the doorway to his shop took a drag on his cigarette and told me, “Have a nice day.”

Yes, indeed. I was having a very nice day.

Another Link:
Plan B – A blognovel. My thoughts exactly. I tried it once and I’m not sure when I’ll start up again.

Hellhole. The student who told me this today didn’t realize how perfectly the term fit the situation. Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of other things that are worse, but it’s not fear or pain. Maybe it’s more lack of endurance and a softish perception–they tend to mute out everything else that would have a chance of bringing me out of a stupor.

Or maybe I’m just feeling tired and hungry. It probably explains my lack of wordage these days. About five hours of sleep in the past twenty-four hours. Skipped breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And the “slavedriver” (the other student’s nickname for my supervisor, not mine) is not done steamrollering me yet.

If I were my mother, I would be very worried.

Links:
Princeton accused of Ivy League hacking. Are you surprised? I’m not surprised. Students have always been pawns in the battle between prestigious universities. (Another article at the Yale Daily News.)
Lack of Women in The New Yorker Magazine. These are some very interesting statistics. I wonder what one of my former profs (a woman and a former New Yorker editor) would say about this. Maybe I should start submitting stuff to the magazine.
Sandboard no Sahara. That guy must have serious sand scratches on his surfboard.

The computer lab is not quite quiet.

Machines are constantly humming–an eerie music. They are banshees crooning softly. The scanner buzzes like a chainsaw in its work. Light leaks out in a spray, showering the nearby computers with white.

Besides me, there is only one other living person in the lab. But I wonder if he is not just another machine–one with skin, hair, eyes, fingers–but a machine nonetheless, staring at the monitor in front of him, accessing the information as if they were ones and zeroes instead of words and pictures.

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.Hamlet

I need to escape.

Perhaps my petulant behavior the last few days (or maybe the last few weeks) has roots in my inherent restlessness and independence. Some people may find comfort in grinding routine dictated by others, but I chafe beneath these rules. I find that I don’t like being an underling. I’m squashed beneath the daily, hammered relentlessly with someone else’s vision.

My summer job is slowly choking me.

I listened to someone waxing lyrical about his vacation to Eastern Europe. I overheard a telephone conversation where one guy was standing on an Italian terrace, watching an oncoming thunderstorm. And I think, those sound like nice places to escape to. But I don’t really care where so long as I’m away.

However at the end of the day, in the midst of wondering if I’ll be lucky to get even six hours of sleep, I console myself with the mantra: Soon, soon.

Reading:
London Calling. I have a sudden urge now to dig up the journal I kept while visiting France.
Quantum Meat. A very readable science column.

Tuesday Too:

1. Do you think pornography is dangerous? Why, or why not?

No. Maybe some of the people who use pornography are dangerous, but in the end, it’s just a bunch of pictures.

2. What do you think about people being held in jail without charges, without access to a lawyer, or a phone call for an indeterminate period of time?

I suppose the authorities might have good reason (in their mind) to do so, but I find it a bit too totalitarian. I would definitely want to know what sort of suspicion they had about me.

3. How do you feel about this US program?

All I can think of is: Isn’t there a better alternative? How will the government agencies handle the amount of information from a couple million informants? And since these are just ordinary citizens, how are they sure that something looks like suspicious activity. How are you going to trust common sense when the next door neighbor’s only feeling depressed and not building a bomb in his basement?

I’ve been busy and exasperated. If there was a term for my organizational skills, I’m a minimalist neat freak. I can’t stand a mess. But I don’t explode and let everyone around me know my quirky pet peeves. Instead, I bottle it up–which can’t be a good thing for my blood pressure. So I only fume silently when people scatter things about and do haphazard planning (if it can even be called that) on paper towels and pieces of plastic in the name of scatterbrained brilliance.

Peculiar Type #3 – Seeing Things

There was a sign taped on the table.

No studying allowed on weekends.

With a satisfying thunk, Marty dropped his history textbook on the table covering up the words “on weekends”. There was a perverse pleasure in looking like he was breaking the rules–even if he really wasn’t. The local bookstore frowned upon students studying in the adjoining cafe. The rationale was that the students would take up space and drive away real customers, as if the students didn’t already go there to buy sandwiches and drinks.

He took out another textbook from his battered green bag and opened it up to pages 266 and 267 where he hid the latest copy of Batman. Studying in a no studying zone but actually reading comic books–what sneakiness! He chuckled to himself and turned a page, immediately drowning himself in ink, color, and Gotham City.

But as Batman was about to nab his latest victim, Marty became aware of something outside of the comic world making the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. He raised his eyes a fraction above his textbook shield and locked gazes with an old man sitting at another table across from him. Watery and faded eyes glinted from the overhead lights. The old man smiled, open-mouthed, revealing red gums and a solitary tired tooth.

Looking back down, he no longer saw Batman. With a trembling hand, he flipped the comic closed and looked at the textbook. The old man’s face stared back at him from an early twentieth century lithograph.

A link:
The Little One. Well, when I was three years old, I developed a phobia for The Incredible Hulk. I still think angry green men are scary.

For the past couple of hours, I’ve been cursing at tempermental scanners. And for my pains, I finally bring you photos.

Ditch Day Photos. Yep, after two months of hemming and hawing, here they are.

San Francisco Photos. As of right now, I only have the ones I took around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art up. More to come (hopefully).

Hints for the puzzle:
1) If you knew these numbers intimately, they would be on your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and your SAT score report.
2) These numbers describe something that happened.
3) The event that happened is related to the mumbling I put on my chrono page.

I have a feeling Tech is trying to kick me out and extort money from me at the same time. How else am I to explain sudden phone disconnections and a solicitation to join the alumni organization for five hundred bucks?

To do:
Amazon Light. Neat. Now I can search for stuff without the annoying extras.
Scientists identify the spark of life. So now they think they’ve identified a switch that simply turns life “on”. Don’t be fooled. Life can’t be as simple as what this article implies.
Single Gene Makes Mice Big-Brained, Study Finds. For some reason, this reminds me of the plump white rats (as big as water bottles) sitting in plastic cages staring at me as I work. Maybe they think I’m a tasty snack.

A puzzle:
Once again, I’ve updated the links page. The blogs are now divided into two sections labeled by number. So what do the numbers mean? What the numbers are is probably pretty obvious, but here’s the teaser: What do the numbers represent? And why did I use them?