Spy work

One of my clients sent me on a slightly bizarre mission that has nothing to do with translation, at least not directly. I was charged with taking my trusty digicam and shooting some pix of a couple of car dealerships in the area. Not too hard, but I was worried that either I’d wind up shooting from a great distance, and the pictures would be useless, or I’d wind up getting chased away from the lots.

In the spirit of sneaky spy-stuff, I decided to go at night. This neatly avoided the above two problems, but created a new one: it’s hard to take sharp pictures in the dark. (And one of the dealerships did have a watchdog, but he was asleep, so I let him lie.) So the results from this outing weren’t very usable.

I went out today and shot some more, and was surprised at how dead both dealerships seemed. I thought Sunday would be a busy day for them. Then I went to go investigate buying a boombox, and the Best Buy was closed. Weird.

Then I got home and discovered it was Easter. I tell ya, I’d forget my own birthday if my parents didn’t call to wish me a happy one every time it came around.

Yahoo was pretty cool, once

Yahoo was pretty cool, once upon a time. Now they’ve got their hooks in us and they’re turning evil. If you are a member of a mailing list hosted at Yahoo, or have ever bought anything through a Yahoo-affiliated store online, or have a “My Yahoo” page–basically, if Yahoo has any information on you at all–then read the following and take appropriate action now:

Yahoo has sneakily added something something called “Marketing Preferences” to your account that gives Yahoo permission to send you spam through e-mail, the U.S. mail and phone, unless you check the “No” option of a series of buttons.

At the moment, Yahoo has defaulted all the buttons to the “Yes” option. To keep them from spamming you — “with your authorization” — you need to go to your account page and check the “No” buttons.

Go to and sign in. At top-right of the page click on “Account Info.” You will be asked to confirm your password.

Once on your account page, scroll down to “Member Information” and click on “Edit your marketing preferences” (the link immediately below your email addresses).

On the next page, you’ll find a list of “Special Offers & Marketing Communications,” followed by the line “I would like to receive information about…” and a list of services Yahoo is offering. You’ll also find all the “Yes” buttons checked.

Check the “No” button of each service you do not desire.

Now scroll down to the bottom, where it says “Other Delivery: Indicate other ways you want to receive the special offers and marketing communications you have selected.”

You’ll find the options “via U.S. mail” and “via phone” checked “Yes.” If you don’t want these options, check “No.”

Finally, at bottom-right, click on the “Save Changes” button.

Post-trip check-in

Been a while since I checked in here. Not for a lack of things to say–the opposite, if anything. So this’ll be an omnibus blog entry.

Two weeks ago, had my first light-up with the staff. This went well. There’s definitely an added rush with something new, and the staff is an inherently appealing apparatus.

I was in headless-chicken mode for a while trying to tie up several loose ends. I needed to make a bunch of fire equipment for a fair, I had to put together my tax packet for my accountant (ouch–my gross translation income in 2001 was slightly less than half the 2000 figure). Had regular translation work to do. Had to get ready for my trip to New York.

Then I went to New York. As before, I had a ball.

This was the first time I ever drove to the new airport, and the first time I’ve used long-term parking, ever. But I’ve had bad luck with cabs, the blue van demands a huge amount of lead time to guarantee an on-time arrival, and the express bus (which I really like) doesn’t run early enough in the morning for the early departure I had scheduled. Turns out that, although it offends some abstract sense of transportational propriety that I have, long-term parking isn’t a bad option for a trip of, say, less than 10 days. The long-term lots are actually closer to the terminal than the short-term lots at O’Hare, and at $6/day, pricing winds up being about the same (over a week) as cab rides both ways.

Anyhow. Departed 6:00 AM, Wednesday, March 20. Got into La Guardia around noon after a transfer in DFW. I was staying this trip, as before, at Dori and Jeffery’s loft, so I hung out with them and had fun catching up. That night I went into Manhattan. My friend Lisa is now loosely kinda-sorta associated with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, which has an “open mic” night on Wednesdays. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I met her at the Mazer Theater where Bindlestiff is currently based. The open-mic thing closed up pretty quickly (I was the only person in the audience who wasn’t a part of the circus), and then Lisa, Stuart (her boyfriend, the Bindlestiff’s production designer, and the medium through which Lisa is associated with them) went to the Pink Pony for comestibles and libations. That lasted until some time after midnight.

Thursday I met with the one of my clients, MSAPR. We went out to lunch at a Japanese joint that was very much like any businessman’s lunch place in, for example, the Sanbancho part of Tokyo. Went back to the office and actually did some translation work on the spot. It was certainly useful to meet with the folks at the office, with whom I’d barely even spoken on the phone before. At the end of that, I wandered south through Manhattan–the weather was nice, and wandering around New York is probably the finest form of entertainment there.

Thursday night, I got together with Scott at Joe’s Pub for a performance by Oscar Brown and his daughter Maggie. A $25 cover (yeeouch) for a set that lasted less than two hours, and $7 for a pint of Guinness (ouch again). But the bar struck me as a sort of Ridley Scott idealization of a Manhattan jazz joint, with a sleek, dark, comfortable interior and a tiny stage in a corner with acoustic baffling on the walls next to it. I joked that this was my authentic New York experience. When Scott, a friend of his, and I were breaking up for the night, we all asked where the others were headed. I said I was on the JMZ line, and Scott’s friend exclaimed “Oh, how exotic! I don’t know anyone on the JMZ line.”

Friday, I went into Manhattan with Dori, accompanying her as far as the market where she works. The weather was especially nasty that morning–cold, windy, threatening rain–so we delayed the inevitable by stopping in the Au Bon Pain nearby for coffee and pastries. Eventually she decided she had avoided work long enough, so I headed north on a walking expedition to the Met. Now, this is one hell of a long walk–from Broadway and 4th to 5th and 80th, approximately, and I took a slightly meandering route (but now I know exactly where Gramercy Park is). The weather was unpleasant, but I still enjoyed just being out and about. When I was close to the museum, I reached back for my phone and discovered my phone-holster was empty. Uh oh. I had just gotten a small new phone, and had gotten a holster for it. I already knew that I didn’t much care for that particular holster (too bulky), but I didn’t imagine it would fail in its basic holsting function.

Once I got to the Met, I borrowed a phone book, looked up Sprint’s number (which was toll-free, good thing), found an isolated pay phone, and took care of business. I had them disable the lost phone, and they helped me locate a place to buy a replacement phone that was only about six blocks away. So I took care of that, and apart from all the numbers that had been in the speed-dialer that I lost (and foolishly didn’t have in hard copy either), I was back in business. This meant there were one or two people I was hoping to be able to contact but couldn’t, unless they contacted me first.

This busywork attended to, I was able to go back to the Met and enjoy it. There was no way I could take it all in, but I certainly enjoyed the parts that I looked at. It would take five solid days to do justice to that place, I’m convinced. I spent about five hours, and my eyes were practically quivering from the visual overload at the end of that. There were entire halls where I raced through, almost with my hands beside my eyes to blinker out the peripheral vision, lest I get sucked in and go completely over the edge. I did look at the European decorative arts section, musical instruments, armor, art glass, Impressionists, and a little bit of ancient Greek stuff. Amazing.

Took the bus down to Dori’s market and checked in with her, then headed back to the loft. That night, I hung out with them and a friend who was visiting, Lars.

Saturday, I was planning on doing more wandering around in Manhattan, but with little relish because my right knee was complaining a bit after the epic walk the day before. As soon as I set out though, Scott called and invited me over to his studio. He’s got a couple of artist friends who teach a class, and the class was going to be coming to his studio to get his story on what it’s like to be a working artist. So I’d be able to see everything that he’s been up to. I got there a while before the class, and we chatted some. The class seemed to be high-school kids, most of whom had the typical mix of shyness and would-be coolness that prevents them from participating much.

Saturday night I went and saw the Bindlestiff’s show, “Buckaroo Bindlestiff’s Wild West Gender Bender Jamboree.” It was fun. Highlights were definitely the aerialist (who I had seen when the troupe came through Austin) and the rope-trick artist. This show was racy but not nearly as raunchy as their other show (if you ever see that one, you’ll never think of plate-spinning in the same way).

Sunday, I spent most of the day with Jen, a friend who was down visiting from Philadelphia. We met at the Pink Pony, ate hung out there for a while, and then strolled up and down Orchard, where the street was closed to motor traffic and the leather shops had set out stalls in the street. That was fun, watching the haggling and such. Jen obsessed over knock-off purses, carry-on luggage, and gloves. We eventually fetched up in a shop selling imports from Turkey, the Mid-east, and North Africa, where Jen obsessed entirely too much over a small hexagonal box made out of an aromatic wood called thuja (too-yah), apparently related to cedar. The boxes were very nice, with natural figuring in the grain that reminded me of burled walnut or birdseye maple.

We thought about going into Katz’s, site of the famous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally, but discovered the whole process of dining there was extremely bureaucratic. Take this ticket, don’t lose it, wait in this line for this or that line for that, check out with your ticket when you’re done. I don’t have the patience to learn a new administrative system just to eat a fucking bagel, so we left immediately. We wound up at Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery instead. That was more fun. We had knishes (surprise, but they do have blintzes and a few other things). The place is keeping up with the times in some ways, serving froo-froo knishes with mozzarella and mushrooms, but you get the sense that for the most part, they haven’t changed much in decades.

We wandered around Soho a lot. We went into the Prada showroom, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas. It struck me as gimmicky, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Good people-watching though. We espied several model-type creatures, and some large, thuggish guys with mail-order girlfriends from Russia, one of whom stepped discreetly behind one of the suspended clothes-display modules (near where we were) to adjust her garters. Oh yeah, and there were clothes there. All the men’s clothing looked like thrift-store merchandise. I wouldn’t wear a stitch of it. Some of the women’s clothing seemed like something I might like to see on a woman, but I hear the prices there are on the high side.

We eventually decided to have dinner, and wound up at a Brazilian joint, Cafe Colonial, in Soho. Good food–we both had fishy-type dishes. We split a desert of passionfruit pudding over ladyfingers. The time came for Jen to get on a train, so after a bit more walking around, we said goodnight and I headed back to Williamsburg.

My flight was leaving Monday at 1:20 PM, which left me the morning to do something. I had made plans with Lisa to get together, and we met at a dingy diner near her place, where we had dubious food and lots of weak coffee. I had my bag with me, but it wasn’t too heavy, and the weather started looking a little more promising, so we went walking all over alphabet city for, oh, a couple hours. I held off as long as seemed prudent, but eventually caught a cab to La Guardia, where I got through formalities with plenty of time to spare. Trip home (with a transfer in Cincinnati) was unexceptional except for the numerous toddlers on my flights. Arrived home to find things as I had left them.

This was the first trip I’ve gone on in a while where I bothered to check my e-mail. This was facilitated by the fact that Dori has a computer with a full-time connection plus the fact that I found an mail-to-web service that works with any POP account. This was nice, but mostly to cut down on the amount of spam I’d need to delete when I got home. I tell ya, I want to find a way to throw an e-brick at every scumbag who’s ever spammed me.

In prepping for this trip, I made the handy discovery of compressor bags for clothes. They’re a little overpriced for what are basically big, high-tech ziploc bags, but they’re great for the dedicated carry-on-only traveller, and also mean that you’ve only got, say, 5 things floating around in your bag rather than 15.

Anyhow, a good trip. I had a ball.

Squirrel intruder

Seeing a squirrel indoors provokes an intense cognitive-dissonance moment. Squirrels are supposed to be outside critters. I just realized that today.

There had been a scratching noise in the attic-apparently some kind of critter had gotten in there somehow, and couldn’t get out. I went up to see, but it immediately became quiet as soon as it heard me. I left the attic trapdoor and ladder down, so that it would have a chance to climb down. It did, thus the squirrel. I propped open the door and convinced it to leave, which it was happy to do once it figured out the window was impassable.

Hazards of dating

Sometimes life is funny. In December, I went on a couple of dates with a woman, Susan. Nothing earthshaking, but it seemed promising, at least from my perspective. We met at a neighborhood coffee shop, Spider House, despite the fact that she was loyal, she said, to a different neighborhood coffee shop, Little City.

January came and went with no communication from her except something like “I’ve been really busy, I’ll let you know when I’m available.” I decided this was probably one of those “I’m trying to blow you off with out being mean about it” lines, but wasn’t certain.

Tonight I stopped by Spider House to have a cup of coffee and read a bit, and I felt wry amusement to see Susan there, apparently on a date. I tried to avoid being seen–no point in making things awkward for her.

Anyhow, I’m pretty certain now. I don’t mind being blown off, I’d just rather people be more honest about it.

On-bike hallucinations

So I’ve discovered that riding a bike when sleepy can have a hallucinatory quality. This has happened to me twice now. The other night I was riding home from a Ghandaia show (which was great as usual), and it happened again. It seems that exertion is a key factor. Anyhow, my vision would play tricks on me–light sources (street lights, car headlights) would have a little bit of a trail, which would fluctuate between yellow and pink. Weird. Not necessarily unpleasant, but probably not ideal to experience when riding on a street.

Auditory obliviousness

I’ve heard it said that a mother of a newborn has olfactory immunity to the smell of her baby’s shit. I think dog owners must enjoy a similar acoustic immunity. Two of my neighbors have dogs that like to howl or bark. A lot. When one gets going, that starts the other, on and on in a vicious cycle. If I go outside and holler “Cleo, shut up!” Cleo’s people will notice that and bring her inside. But Cleo’s much louder howling? That they don’t notice.

Clown bike

Well, somewhat belatedly, I have received my birthday gift from my parents. They got me a clown bike, reckoning that was the one kind of bike I don’t already have (anyone who has a front-wheel-drive recumbent trike is pushing the limits). I put this thing together and rode it around the house. Made me feel like Artie Johnson on Laugh-in.

My parents have a great sense of humor.


Party at DuShun’s. Guiness. Rum. Pete’s Ale. Sangria. Oh yeah, I’m going to have the bedspins tonight.


A postscript to that last entry:The next morning, I discovered I had a flat on my back tire. I must have been riding with a slow leak, I reckoned, since I didn’t notice low pressure when I was riding.When I patched the tube, I discovered a complete nail was poked all the way through the tire. That’s unusual.

Three days in one

I love those days that are like two or three days rolled into one. Friday was just such a day. In observation of my b-day, Jenny took my out to a movie and lunch. First we went by Flight Path, where we figured out how to start up the wireless networking on her fancy-schmancy new Powerbook G4. It worked, and that was cool. Ram was there, he came over and was pretty wowed by the machine.Then, after doing a little web-surfing and caffeinating, we headed over to the re-opened Highland 10 movie theater. Highland 10 used to be owned by one of the big chains, but they closed it. Not a surprise, the place was kind of a dump, and some of the auditoriums smelled noticeably of mold. Well, it has been re-opened by some penny-ante operation that not only has done nothing to remedy the mold situation, but has done a laughable job of keeping up such infrastructure as remains. Case in point: the RESTROOM sign was made by cutting a template out of electrical tape and cardboard. This might have been a 2nd-grader’s class project.The movie we saw was the new Ocean’s Eleven, which was quite entertaining. Not the most cerebral of movies, but that’s fine. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. He’s good.After that we went to lunch at Kim Phung, a big Vietnamese joint. Noodles, spring rolls, Vietnamese coffee. Good. Then we stopped at the My Thanh grocery next door, where we amused ourselves greatly looking at strange food products and purchasing some of them. I bought two packs of these gummy ginger candies that are just fantastic. They come in what look like kretek packages.Ting Ting JaheJenny dropped me off at home, where, lucky me, my recently ordered firedancing video had just arrived, so I watched that.Tracy was having a little happy-hour get-together at Opal Divine’s, so I then made my way down there by bike, meeting her and some of her friends. Caesar was at another table with another group of friends, oddly enough. Jenny showed up on foot (she had gone for a run) and she had my birthday present with her, a very slick leatherman. As Jenny might put it, it’s juicy. I like it.I then rode to the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, where Shanti (among many others) was having an exhibit/sale of her stuff. I hadn’t seen Shanti in, like, forever, so I was looking forward to going. The place is a little hard to find, and as I was making my way there, what do I see but the distinctive yellow Beetle driven by my also long-not-seen friend Audrey, who is headed the wrong way trying to find it. We meet up and say hi.The Blue Genie warehouse is a huge place, really cool. I saw a woman working there who works at Vulcan Video, who I only know because she looks curiously similar to someone else I know. She pointed me to Shanti, and Shanti and I had a brief chance to catch up. Shanti introduced me to Rory Skagen–one of the Blue Genies, and an artist whose work I really dig. There was lots of interesting art to look at, and lots of interesting people-watching to boot. The postcard for the event promised firedancing, and it turns out the firedancers were Sage and Natalie. I asked Sage “need a bucket man?” and she did, so I volunteered for that. John showed up.Sage, despite having recently suffered some nasty burns, and despite a goopy gravel driveway to perform on, put on a typically excellent show, as did Natalie and, what’s her name, Addie (?) who performs with a flaming hula-hoop.After the show, I bumped into a friend of Justin and DuShun’s, Jay, said hi to him, and waved hello to Raq. Said my goodbyes and headed out, catching up with Audrey as I left.I turned north on Springdale, took that to Airport, and decided that, even though Airport is a pretty nasty road to ride on, it would be the most direct way home, so I took it. It was the first–and second–time I’ve been chased by a dog on an urban ride. And they were both junkyard dogs, too. They didn’t get close though. Phew. Made it home feeling totally jazzed, and decided to record the day for posterity.

Less-than-total recall

Brains are funny. Today, for example, my brain did something funny by recalling a moment from 9 years ago.

I had just moved back to Chicago from Tokyo, and was visiting with some friends. They had rented the movie The Running Man, and we watched that. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a dystopian sci-fi flick in which enemies of the state are entered in a gladiatorial-combat game show (hosted by Richard Dawson, nice touch). When the movie was over and the TV signal came on, what was showing but American Gladiators. For those of you who haven’t seen it, this is a gladiatorial-combat game show (sort of). I had to hold my head to keep it from exploding. “That was supposed to be science fiction!” I shrieked. “What has happened to my country in my absence?”

I guess it’s not only brains that are funny. The world can be pretty funny too. Funny-strange and funny-ha-ha.

Birthday reflections

My birthday has the funny tendency of coming near the new year, and so I get a double-whammy opportunity for reflection. With my birthday nigh upon me, I was in a reflective mood tonight, and in a rare moment, started feeling sorry for myself–this has been a tough year in some ways, and in some ways I felt that I had been stagnating or even moving backwards. A few more moments of thought made me realize that even if there is a kernel of truth in that, the idea that I have any reason to feel sorry for myself, or that I have been moving backwards overall over the past 365 days, is just ludicous. I’ve expanded my circle of friends greatly, tried new things, gotten interested in something new. I can’t complain.

Thanksgiving dinner chez Butt

Thanksgiving dinner at Farooq & Eileen’s. Drew was there, along with a couple of friends of F&E’s who I didn’t know. Jenny was supposedly going to show, but wound up not making it. Quite the feast. Yams, two kinds of potatoes, a greenbean casserole, stuffing, and oh yeah, a big ol’ turkey. Everything was great. After dinner Farooq gave me this bizarre “candy” made with saltpeter, Tyrkisk Peber. Tastes sort of like black licorice, but kind of spicy. Very weird. Well, I’m glad I tried it. Then he gave me something similar, but much more potent, which I concluded was really intended for nuclear reactor cores. Yech.

Although we didn’t talk as much about the situation in Afghanistan as I thought we might, Farooq did make an interesting point: he contends that it is a lucky thing that there’s a military dictator running the show in Pakistan–if there were a political government, he believes they’d kowtow to the extremist mob and would not go along with the military action.

Then we watched some Space Ghost Coast to Coast, with special guest Tenacious D.

Jenny got a new Powerbook

Jenny got a new Powerbook and I spent a few hours yesterday helping her move files over and set it up. It’s a damn nice machine. I’m impressed by the power brick, prosaic as that may seem–it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design. The prongs fold out of the way for transport, and can pop off to be replaced by a special extension cord (in case you can’t squeeze the brick onto your outlet strip). It has little tabs that fold out for wrapping up the cord. It’s a small rounded square, sleek and white, like an iBook.

Migrating the files from one machine to the other wasn’t as simple as it should have been, because the old machine kept locking up during the file-transfer process. Very mysterious. We wound up compressing batches of files, uploading them to the net, and then downloading them. Sounds silly, but it works, and wasn’t any slower than doing it over the improvised LAN.

Property tax: Ouch

Got my property-tax bill today. Over $5100. I don’t have that much in the bank, or in outstanding invoices. I don’t know how the hell I’ll pay it. I also don’t feel like I’m getting good value for my money, though as Will Rogers once said “it’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.”



One of the consequences of a heavy rainstorm this time of year is a nut-storm. There are three big pecan trees on my property, and this year, they were heavily laden with nuts. Not anymore. They mostly got knocked off by the incredible rainstorm we had last night. My back deck was so covered with nuts this morning that I had to thread my way across it lest I crush several nuts with each step. Just gathering up nuts that were in the way of foot-traffic, I filled half a shopping bag. That’s a lot of nuts.

What’s really weird is the distribution of nuts in the backyard. Have you ever walked by a creek that had risen and then subsided, leaving a line of debris where it was highest? That’s what it was like in my yard: there was a ring with an unbelievably high concentration of nuts around the yard; in the middle of the yard, which is a little lower, not so many nuts. Makes it easier to gather ’em up.

A two-party night

Well. A two-party night. At Opal Divine’s, there was a little get-together (not so little, as it turned out) to congratulate Phil on his 3:28 finish in the NYC Marathon. Pretty darned good, especially considering it was his first marathon.

Then there was a party at Debbie’s. There was fire, but I just wasn’t quite feeling up to spinning fire, so I went as a civilian. That was cool. I still had fun. It was a nice change of pace to go without any expectation of performing.

Was hungry afterwards, so I stopped at the Denny’s on the I-35 feeder. Sat at the counter and waited. And waited. A group of Indian 20-somethings came in, the women lavishly dolled up in very ornate saris, etc. That was kind of neat. After a few minutes, I got impatient at the lack of service, and left. Went to Star Seeds instead, which is a much more suitable venue for late-night noshing.

Rumsfeld hot?

Spoke with my sister Lissy tonight. She told me that she and a friend of hers both find Donald Rumsfeld to be (and I believe this is an exact quote) “totally hot.”I told her that as a single guy of about her age, I found this news to be less than encouraging, vis a vis my own dating prospects.

First post

Oh yeah. This is my inaugural blog. Let’s see how it goes.