Archive for February, 2006

Needs and Wants

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Okay, the title sounds grandiose, but this is just going to be a discussion about the things I want and the things I need.

I’m heading to Taiwan in a few days for my grandmother’s funeral. I’d like to keep my laptop with me in my backpack. But alas, my backpack is just this side of completely shredded. It was a free backpack that someone picked up from JavaOne, a Java development conference. Anyhow, you get what you pay for.

But I can’t malign it completely. It did get through India, and lord knows we dragged it through hell there. But in the end, the fabric is fraying and the seams are ripping and ultimately, I’d like to not have my stuff strewn on the floor when the inevitable happens.

So, I was checking out backpacks at Best Buy, only because I still have that 25 dollar gift cert from Charles. Jason says he’ll get me a 1000 dollar gift cert and watch my head explode. So far I’ve bought and returned headphones, agonized over laptop bags, traversed the DVDs, and pondered the games. If I had 1000 dollars to play with, yeah, my head would explode.

Anyhow, the backpacks at Best Buy are pricey, as is most stuff there. The only thing I think that was actually at a reasonable price (read: Amazon) were the DVDs. I’m still contemplating the Indiana Jones Collection, for 50 bucks. Or the Macgyver Season 1 discs, for like 31 bucks. Or Teen Titans, Season 1, for 24 bucks.

Wow. Tangent central. But I guess tangent central would just be a point. Yeah, it would be the locus of all points that tangent to a curve.

Okay, I must have had some caffeine or something, because I’m really random right now.

So the backpacks are pricey, but they’re also functional. But the question is, how functional. I’m not really keen on attaching a giant bag to my back like a soft shell crab, but I’d like to carry a few items with me at all times. So, to work things backwards, I need to list what I want to carry and find a bag that suits that, with maybe some possiblity to expand.

Items to carry:
Laptop
Laptop peripherals (AC adapter, mouse)
Sketchbook (8.5 x 11)
Pens (assorted sharpies, fine points, ballpoints)
Pencils (mechanical, turquoise lead holder)
Erasers (pentel soft white eraser)
DVDs (at least a small one, 16 or 32, but preferably a larger one, like 64 or 72)
Flashlight

So of the things listed, the laptop is the most expensive and most delicate, and the DVDs are probably the most bulky. So extra padding is a plus. But at the same time, I don’t want to look like I’m carrying a laptop, because that just makes me a target.

Basically, I think I want to carry everything that I’m currently carrying, but in a smaller package. Maybe a messenger bag.

The DVDs are the most bulky. There’s got to be a better way to transport them. The CD visors are nice and compact, and hold 8 in the space of 2. I think I’m onto something.

Perspectives

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

It’s usually a good thing to get someone else’s perspective on a situation. The fact that they see it from a different point of view, aren’t emotionally attached, or are in some other way unencumbered really frees them from the shackles that we put upon ourselves when we look at something.

I don’t really know why I wanted to write about this, except that while I was taking a shower, the thought came into my head.

Maybe it has something to do with my grandmother, maybe it’s the fact that Tamiko came over today and gave me a haircut, maybe it’s the fact that whenever we get to talking, we seriously get to talking. Like for multiple hours. Like, lose track of time kind of talking.

Anyhow, we both have our issues, our aggravations, our pleasures. Maybe it’s just nice to hear from someone else that yes, you’re right, or no, you should look at it from another point of view.

I do remember conversations with my counselor, Charlotte, and how she’d offer me such a sobering look at the world, outside of the insanity that is my head. I remember she told me once after she had seen my mom and I interact that I had an annihilating sort of anger. That was several years ago, I would hope that my emotional stability and maturity would have grown in some way since then.

But yeah, perspectives. Change it up, look at things from the inside out.

Procrastinating.

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

I’ve been avoiding blogging for a few hours. It’s not readily noticeable to you, but I’ve been just surfing the net, reading webcomics, looking at pictures on flickr, just so I can avoid writing about this.

But as is my nature to hem and haw over things and agonize over things until they destroy me, I’m procrastinating instead of doing something useful, like sleeping.

And even in this entry, I’m procrastinating.

Okay, here it is. I’ve gotten to be such a cynic and nihilist after having been burned by religion, love, and the world at large that part of me sees my grandmother’s funeral as an inconvenience. It sounds awful, I know, and it pains me to type it. But I feel like I’m in a holding pattern with everything else in my life, that I’m juggling everything just so, and then this comes out from left field.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected though, I mean, the woman had a stroke and was on assisted breathing. It was really sad to see her after the stroke, a shell of the woman she formerly was. At that moment, I was already feeling emotionally detached from the whole situation, which I think was the way I could deal with it, since I was surrounded by people who couldn’t detach from it, and who I think, needed someone grounded to talk to about the situation.

Neil Gaiman wrote in the Sandman series, “World’s End” that funerals aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living, so that the living can go on. I feel like I’ve made my peace with her, and that the funeral is more for her children.

And here’s part of the travesty that gets me. My grandmother and grandfather were Catholic. I was baptized Catholic. But my mom and her siblings are now Buddhist. And my mom tells me reassuringly that when she found out her mother died, she hurridly called her temple leaders and had them chant mantras for my grandmother’s soul. Now, first off, since my grandmother is Catholic, she’s not going to appreciate the Buddhist interference. Two, if Catholics and Christians are right, then my grandmother is the one who’s going to be saved and the rest of the family is damned. And three, if Buddhism is right, well, my grandmother was Catholic, and I don’t think that a few people chanting on her behalf is going to really affect the outcome of her reincarnation. Maybe she’ll end up as a sea urchin instead of as a brine shrimp.

But.

There’s a part of me that’s sentimental, soft, emotional. And that part knows that if I don’t go, I’ll regret it. I still regret missing Sarma’s funeral several years back. I think about the woman that she was before the stroke and how I would stay at her place in Taiwan during the summers. How she was so good at video games that she was able to turtle-tip in Super Mario Bros 2 (the Asian release). How she hated that we ate roasted corn from street vendors and would exclaim in Taiwan-accented Mandarin, “Aiiii Yo! Tsang stz leh!” which translated literally is, “Oh no! Dirty enough to die from!” How she was so quirky that she wouldn’t hug me at night until I had taken a bath. I remember watching the ’88 Summer Olympics in Taiwan, when it was held in LA. The cool marble floors under my feet, that contrasted so well with the sweltering heat in the air.

And so there’s a fight going on in my head. The sentiment vs the stoicism. The emotional vs the rational.

There really is no choice.

Down

Friday, February 24th, 2006

My mom just gave me the news. My maternal grandmother passed away. If I head back for the funeral, we’d probably leave on Thursday.

Running away with the circus.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Man, I am on a freakin’ high right now. We just got back from the latest Cirque du Soleil production, Corteo. It is unfreakin believable. The acrobatics, the juggling, the music, all of it a feast to behold. The sheer ability of these performers defies description.

This is tied into the woman I gave a ride to a few weeks ago, who happened to be a performer at Cirque du Soleil.

I ran into her again and was effusing estatically. So much so that I forgot to get a picture with her! D’oh!

The things that stuck out in my mind were the chandelier acrobatics, the bedsprings, the faux trapeze, the bad ass juggling, and the multiple high bars. Absolutely incredible.

Gross Incompetence

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

You know how to piss me off almost instantly? Deny me my Russell Bag.

So I went to dinner tonight with a friend at a restaurant that shall remain nameless. I like the quality of the food at the restaurant, but not the service. At least, not the service on a Wednesday night. There’s a reason why servers get moved to Wednesday nights. It’s because they’re incompetent.

So anyhow, I go to the restaurant and order myself a nice steak. This is not a cheap dish by any means of the imagination. We also have some drinks and I order a salad in addition to my drink. I get about halfway through the steak and decide to save it for tomorrow lunch. I tell the server to please put it in a bag so I can take it home. Then I order a cheesecake for dessert.

Now, let me tell you about this guy. He’s been knocking over stuff thoughout the night, not on our table, but on other people’s tables. He’s been mumbling his way through every interaction. He’s either very inexperienced or very incompetent. So when I heard the crash of the plates going into the busboy’s bin, I knew that he had dumped my food. Now, if he had made a mistake somewhere else, I’d be nice enough to say that he was inexperienced, but come on, there were only 2 tables in the restaurant at the time, and by the time I asked for the bag, we were the only people in the restaurant. In the ten feet it takes to go get a styrofoam container, this guy forgot to bag my food? It must have been the added strain of having to place a dessert order as well.

But that’s not the end. I knew he had dumped my food. Without a doubt. So while I was eating my dessert, I asked him about the status of my food. He had a confused look on his face and apologized. He then went to look for it. Now, if he had found my food in the busboy’s bin, I have to wonder if he were ballsy enough to try to slip that into the container. And then he comes back and blames it on the busboy. Nice try shithead. To make it up, he deducted the cost of the dessert. For how much the entree cost and how much I was denied, I would think that deducting the cost of the drinks would have been more acceptable.

But because he was an ass and an idiot, which, contrary to popular belief, are actually mutually exclusive terms, I stiffed him on the tip. He’s lucky I gave him any tip at all. I did leave him a verbal tip though, to not forget the box, ever.

Week

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

It should be a good week, if I can balance everything. Going to go see Cirque du Soleil on Thursday with my mom. I’ve always been a fan of Cirque, it’s just a matter of whether I can swing the cash to go see them. I wasn’t going to go see them initially, but after giving that ride to the Cirque performer that one weekend in the city, I was convinced to go, if anything, to say hi to her. Yeah, I’m shameless.

And I need to be modeling more. Covering polygonal modeling this week, maybe I can use it to fill in the gaps in my NURBS models.

Reading V for Vendetta, which is a great little tale by Alan Moore, who also did the Watchmen graphic novel. V is set in the 80s but it has a timeless quality with the topics it addresses. Some people have already hearkened the movie that’s coming out as a commentary on our current geopolitical situation. Malarky. Anyone who says that hasn’t examined the whole of history and seen that in every culture, there’s elements of corruption, facism, and privacy invasion. The methods may have been cruder, but I assure you, it’s always been there. But Russ, you cry out feebly, there wasn’t anything like that in era! To which I say, I envy your naivete.

Nighttime Routines

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

So when I went to the Stanford Sleep Clinic, I was diagnosed with, in addition to the deviated septum and minor sleep apnea, minor insomnia. Well, minor in the fact that it only takes me a damn hour to fall asleep while lying in bed. The doctor described it as various states, an arousal state and a sleepiness state. She stated that my arousal state must have been pretty high, in that I’m get aroused very easily, and that for me to sleep, my sleepiness state would have to get comparably high in order to overcome the arousal. So I need to bring my arousal state down so that I don’t have to wait for my sleepiness state to catch up. To that end, I’ve started turning off the TV earlier, because all that noise and imagery just gets me uppity. Movies are a different matter, because I can choose what sort of stimulation I’m bombarded by, which means that something like Glengarry Glen Ross or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which doesn’t have random explosions or gunfire or is interspersed with idiotic commercials can lull me to sleep as I listen to the continuity of thought.

Writing my blog has become a bit habitual as well, as I can brain dump my meanderings into the aether. I don’t know if they’re particularly insightful, but I definitely know that I can just type and let it flow out of me, along with anxiety and tension. At least, that’s what I want to happen.

This weekend, I did a few things. I worked on the 3d model of my chair, and was moderately satisfied with how it looked. For one thing, it looked like my drawing, which wasn’t a bad thing. Sunday, I went with J to Livermore to go visit some of his family friends. Amy, Nancy, and Theresa have webcomics up and J wanted me to give them some constructive criticism. I had seen one of the strips before, o31, and was shown the other site, Gahtla Legends, while I was there. I gave what I thought was a fair critique of their work, with pointers on how to improve. I should listen to my own advice. No matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement, new skills to learn, old skills to master. Like John Clapp tells his class, “You’ll never be good, you’ll just suck less.” I get a chuckle out of that. I know I’m far from great. I know my flaws. Like everything else, I just need to put the time and energy into fixing those flaws or learning to love and live with them.

But check out those comics. Those ladies have determination and talent so you better keep an eye on them, because they’re going to go far.

Happier than a pig in…

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

I cannot get enough of this laptop. Blogging is definitely something to be done on the move, outside of the cube, outside of the desk.

I remember talking to Daniel one time and noticing the dichotomy of journaling. If you journal about your experiences, you find that you’re so busy living those experiences that you don’t have time to actually write about it. If you’re writing about it, then you’re not out living it. Okay, it’s a very 1990’s sort of mentality, when laptops weren’t ubiquitous.

I know for me, when I was journaling and not talking about my experiences, then I was mulling over my life and getting mired in my depression. It’s easy to overthink your life and get overwhelmed by the shit that’s happening. But if you’re living your life, enjoying every moment for what it is, then you find that your life…well, it isn’t that bad.

You make your own life. If you aren’t happy with the way things are going, you can blame no one but yourself.

Wow, that was a tangent.

Anyhow (how many times do I use that word to get back on track?), I’m lying (laying?) in bed, watching Glengarry Glen Ross. Excellent movie. I didn’t realize how many good actors were in it. Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino. Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin. David Mamet has a real insight into human nature and character development. The actors really bring the desperation and cutthroatedness to life.

When it comes down to it, the best stories are stories about people. Why? Because if the people are interesting, and we empathize with them, then we care what happens to them.

That’s why Spock went from being a character that absorbed rays through a plate in his stomach to a half Vulcan/half Human alien.

That’s why Men In Black was so good. Sure it was a sci-fi film, but at its very core, it was a buddy movie. We cared about the interaction between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. It was a modern day Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We care about the characters.

Characters.

Now the trick is writing believable characters. That’s harder than it sounds. People aren’t just masses of flesh and electrolytes. Okay, in a nihilist sense, they are, but if we move past that, it’s important to understand that people are the sum of their experiences. Their experiences are built upon past actions, the reactions that those actions generated, and their reaction to those reactions. But that’s a lot to consider for just one person.

So let’s talk motivation. What drives a person? Let’s go with Dave Moss, Ed Harris’ character in Glengarry Glen Ross. He’s motivated by fear and greed. He’s willing to sell out his company and to commit corporate espionage. But he’s not going to do it alone. He convinces Alan Arkin’s character, George Aaronow to seriously consider stealing the Glengarry leads, well, he doesn’t really convince, he coerces. He starts off simply enough, just by talking about the ridiculousness of the situation that Rio Rancho has put them in. George is a very agreeable guy and he’s bemoaning the lack of good leads. He nods his head dumbly, talking to Dave until he realizes that he’s become an accomplice in a less than savory proposition.

George is a, for lack of a better word, interesting character. He’s spineless. He’s a victim of the people around him, and he gets painted in a corner. He knows that he’s an accomplice to Dave’s shenanigans, and when the contracts get stolen, he becomes understandably agitated.

Sheldon Levine, Jack Lemmon’s character, displays desparation in the first act that is so palpable. You see him try every trick in the book to even just get in the door. And right near the end of the first act, he makes a desperate phone call to his daughter.

But he says he closed when he comes in in the second act. He’s elated for finally breaking his bad streak. But the audience has to wonder why he’s unfazed by the theft.

When George comes out of the office for a moment after talking to the police, the look that Dave and George give each other really speaks volumes. Dave’s worried that George is going to crack, and George seems like he’s been talking to the police.

Anyhow. good movie, good times.

Late night blogging.

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

I’m loving this laptop. Of course, as is my fickle way, I’ll obsess over something else next month. Anyhow, the soup du jour is the Sony Vaio. I’m just reveling in the fact that I’m lying in bed doing this, after having spent a good couple of hours trying to model a freaking chair. After having beaten my head against a wall for a good several hours, it feels really good to…stop. Well, it also feels good to have a solution. So instead of lofting my surface and getting this weird looking pillow, I decided to extrude my curves. Of course, this leads me back to my previous problem, how to cover up the end caps without mangling my sanity. I’m being a little bit purist in this assignment and trying to do everything with NURBS. Depending on my progress tomorrow, that might include stabbing myself with a NURBS cone.

Peripherals for laptops. After I got off of work, I went to Best Buy to return a pair of headphones that I had bought which were nice, but possibly more expensive than they were worth and definitely tighter than my head could handle. So I spent the better part of an hour looking around trying to find peripherals for “my” laptop. (It’s not mine yet, but soon.) I spent some serious time looking at mice, portable headphones, laptop bags, and DVDs. Okay, that last one isn’t technically a laptop peripheral, but hell, I’ll be using the laptop for that a good part of the time. 🙂 Anyhow, I looked around, and after a while, even with the money burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn’t decide on anything. Everything I looked at, I knew where I could get a better deal.

Fry’s would give me a better selection on mice and portable headphones.
Headphone.com would give me a better selection and probably better prices on headphones.
Laptop bags could be from anywhere. And I’ve been told to not necessarily get a laptop bag for a laptop, lest I want to post a sign for shoplifters to target me.
DVDs from Amazon or deepdiscountdvds.com would fit the bill for anything I might want to get, be it the Indiana Jones Trilogy to Season 3 of Greatest American Hero.

So I still have a $25 gift cert to Best Buy, but amazingly, very little I want from there. Maybe a Case Logic CD holder, since I seem to use those a lot and get good use out of them, I’m thinking I want something to fit in with my laptop, so portability is the issue. And lo how the 144 CD holder tempted me, but there’s no way I’d be able to fit that in my bag.

Oh, to be glad that my hardest decisions right now is how to spend a gift certificate.