The precursor-to-Turkey-Week wrap-up, bagel style.

Thursday. Chatsworth. Headache, kidney ache, ovary ache. Sherman Oaks, oatmeal soap, veggie pigs-in-a-blanket, chocolate, great people, awesome dog. Friday. Santa Monica, lunch meeting, solid veggie wrap. Fancy office, homework, internet nonsense. Third Street Promenade, pretty lights, RFD (hemp bread!), gelato sampling. Venice, beachfront hotel, ocean-view room. Tail-end of "300", blissful pillows and sheets. Saturday. Sleep (bed), more sleep (more bed). MTV2 "Most Expensive Cribs", home/work, more sleep. Boardwalk run/jog, unanticipated confrontation with angry hippie dude on bike. Culver City, raw smoothie. Gardena, mochi (x2). Santa Monica, sandwiches and bread and cookies. Haul ass home, arrive 15 minutes before the party I’m hosting is supposed to begin. Party: wine, cheese, chocolate, apples. People, conversation, laughter echoing off the walls. Bliss. Sunday. Sleep, dance, tennis, early dinner with relatives. Now: tea, laundry. Up next: more laundry, movies, home/work, cookie candles and bed.

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In lieu of a clarification on that last post

I’m in L.A. until tomorrow morning-ish. My productivity levels have been dropping harder than the stock market, but it’s just as well that by the time I feel motivated to better explain myself re: that ant colony video clip, the greater majority of this site traffic will have died out. In the meantime, three lacking-in-quality photos courtesy of my phone that will fail to generate much interest in any of you, but whatever, they make me happy:

This is Schroeder, the Lab/Corgi mix I hung out with last night and this morning. He’s one of the most awesome dogs ever because 1) he doesn’t bark, 2) the way his genes got divided, he has Corgi legs and Lab everything else, and 3) he lives in Sherman Oaks, and what isn’t there to love about Sherman Oaks?

"Amazing, Flexible Building Sticks". People, they are PIPE CLEANERS.

Penguins and polar bears! So that my guests will be overwhelmed with the cuteness of their shower curtain. I aim to bewilder.

It was either this or a post about your mom. I mean, my mom.

A clip from the Science Channel on the architectural wonders of an ant colony (via kottke):

It’s beautiful and amazing, no doubt. But on kottke, it was stated that the colony was abandoned before the scientists poured 10 tons of cement into it and… um, no. You can still see ants crawling around the periphery of the frame in the shots of the cement disappearing down the ant tunnels. And I get scientific advancement and ends justifying means and Lora, they’re only ants and yadda yadda so on– but, I don’t know. It just reminds me of colonization. "Oh, they’re only stupid savages, they won’t mind if we build on their land and kill them off with our foreign diseases and turn the survivors into our slaves."

Put another way, those ants built the ant equivalent of the Great Wall of China, only to have it filled with cement and then excavated because some scientists were curious as to what they were up to. Barbarians! Will no one think of the ants?

My brain was too fried to write anything today, anyway

By request: pictures!

This is my dining room. It used to be an empty space, so G. and I would use the cleared floor area to dance. But I decided I didn’t want a dining table because it doesn’t really suit me or the purposes of this house. We have the huge island (which is the size of a large dining table anyway) and there just never seemed to be a need for anything else. The fact that it’s been almost eight easy months sans dining room furniture should have also been a clue.

The ottoman will eventually be replaced by a coffee table of sorts, whereupon it will be moved to the side wall of the kitchen for overflow/wallflower seating. I’m pretty excited. Do you know what this means? This means my transition time between cooking and NAPPING has been cut down to virtually nothing! Yes.

These are two organic sweet basil plants I picked up tonight on my way home (plus a bottle of wine for size comparison). Nothing like gigantic basil leaves to make a kitchen feel more prehistoric and dinosaur-friendly. And for the record, their names are Pete.

For the record, I’m exponentially more articulate in writing than I am in speaking extemporaneously

It’s late in the evening when I tell him that I read the description of the panel he’s moderating on Saturday. It’s likely that by this point, he still hasn’t prepared the questions he’ll be asking the panelists, but he knows better than to look to me for any inspiration in that arena. Still, he’s asks what I think about the panel– or rather: "What do you think it’s about? The way it’s written on the site, it just seems so… widespread. The topics are kind of all over the place."

I try to remember exactly how the description went, and fail. Still. "Well, obviously it’s built around the new forms of mainstream communication and our generation’s growing use of it, to where digital forms of communication– e-mails, chats, IMs, text messages– are becoming the dominant ones. I don’t know, it just reminds me of a discussion we had in one of my classes at USD, either in one of my upper-division writing classes or one of my comm classes, and we talked about the impact digital communication was having on human relations."

He looks at me, waiting. The pause extends as I try to form coherent thoughts.

"It’s the whole idea of, because there’s this generation of people who’ve learned to express themselves predominantly through online or wireless channels, they’ve reduced their abilities to express themselves with to people face-to-face. Interpersonal social skills are affected. Our ability to form human relations in the real world diminishes as we become more and more engaged in forming digital relations, and so on."

"But what does that matter?" he counters.

I give him a blank stare, unsure if he’s playing devil’s advocate or if he genuinely means this. I ask for clarification: "Interpersonal skills?" He affirms. I’m still a little incredulous. "Because– because that’s part of what makes us human. That’s what we are."

"That’s what we were," he corrects me. "Look at technology. Look at everything we can do online. Who needs the real world? It’s irrelevant."

I concede that technology has done great things in eliminating borders: "You can communicate, instantly, with people halfway around the world. You can keep in touch with more people with less effort and often at no or minimal cost. I’ll give you that. The digital realm is great for that. But it doesn’t provide for any of our senses beyond visual or aural. There’s no–" I fish wildly for something to make my case. I’m actually getting upset about this; I read too much Saint-Exupéry [1] growing up. Out of desperation, I turn to my watered-down version of the Socratic method:

"Okay. You can either be standing in the middle of a virtual garden or a real one. Which would you choose?" He chooses the real one. "Exactly. Because of the experience, right? You can hear the wind in the trees and smell the flowers and feel the sunshine on your skin and the grass under your feet."

There’s a beat. Then: "Now. You can either be on Skype with me for weeks, months even, 24/7, and we’re always connected that way, we can talk to each other and even *see* each other– or you can have one hour, just one, with me in person. Which would you choose?"

And without even hesitating, he replies, "The one hour with you." And I ask him why. And his expression is this exquisite combination of intensity and sweetness as he tells me: "Because I’d get to hold you."

And I smile. "You see? And that’s what makes us human, or part of it, anyway. Without the ability to connect and interact with other people in the physical world, we’d just be robots. That’s why interpersonal social skills are crucial tools, and that’s why the real world isn’t irrelevant. As connected we can be online, to hundreds of thousands, to millions of people worldwide– without someone to share things with offline, we are ultimately alone. Only, we’re not, because we are physically surrounded by communities of those very people. It’s just a matter of whether we are able to connect, to communicate with them."

A small victory, but a meaningful one. Meaningful enough, to me.

[1] Who is the source for numerous well-known quotes, such as, "There is no hope or joy except in human relations."

CC: NDK

The conversation is fairly predictable: So, where are you from? Las Vegas. Really? That must suck. Actually, I love Vegas. You love Vegas? *Why*?

It never fails, that incredulous, sometimes even appalled final question. Why do I love Vegas? What could there possibly be to love about this place, and what kind of person would actually fall for it? (For the record, I have been getting this same reaction lately whenever I’ve told people how I’ve fallen in love with D.C.) I can’t even start to count the number of times I’ve been asked this, the number of people who have stared at me in disbelief. But why? Why Vegas? Even my own mother, half of the party originally responsible for uprooting me from Southern California and planting me in this desert chaos almost 13 years ago, doesn’t understand why it’s so hard for me to think about the inevitable day some years down the road when I’ll move away.

Why do I love Vegas? I don’t have a good answer. I never have, and I’ve been actively trying to come up with *something* these past few months, but after hours and days of mulling over the question– still, nothing. Nothing coherent. Nothing I’ve been able to put into words.

I could go on ad nauseum about all the things that are wrong with Vegas, about all the reasons most people can’t stand the place, about all the justifications for people not wanting to move here or for wanting to get away. It encapsulates every vice ever imaginable, a breeding ground for greed and gluttony and debauchery and deceit. Two years ago, I described Vegas as:

Fickle, intense, full of vices, forever changing and perhaps never for
the better. Seemingly tolerable, but deceptively so. Only short-term
value, devoid of long-term worth. Full of glamour and glitz, but it’s
all just a show. Never sleeps, and you get the feeling that one of
these days, everything is just going to burn out, shut down, implode or
explode– or all of the above, simultaneously. People valiantly try to
justify it and defend it and argue that it has potential and charm and
a lovely character all its own, but really, who are they kidding? In
the end, it’s just a desert trying desperately to be something,
anything else.

Continue reading

He admits to being an enabler. I admit he may need to stage an intervention soon.

He makes fun of me because I’m probably going to finish off this bag of Ricola within the next few hours (if even that long), but: a) I can breathe through my nose again now, b) my throat feels noticeably *less* like it’s coated with ground-up bits of glass and razors, and c) *he’s* the one who bought them for me this morning in the first place.

My drive to L.A. got pushed back thanks to the attention-devouring powers of Math.

I just read a post on ambition and goals, and toward the end was this quote:

“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” – W. Clement Stone

It’s not an unfamiliar sentiment or metaphorical piece of advice. Shoot for the moon. Go big. Aim high.

But the funny thing is, the moon is both closer to us on earth *and* smaller in size than most stars, so you could argue that by aiming for the moon, you’re actually aiming low. On top of which, because due to its proximity, the moon is such a large target, the difficulty in hitting the moon is significantly lower than hitting a star. This is the equivalent of choosing between aiming a theoretical tranquilizer dart gun at either a theoretical stationary elephant or a theoretical stationary beetle (note: I don’t care for game hunting, if you can’t tell). Compared to the beetle, that elephant’s going to be pretty hard to miss. Aiming for the elephant would be the cop-out, really.

Going back to my first point, though: the moon has a radius of 1738 km. The sun has a radius of 695,500 km, which means the moon is about 2.5×10^(-3), or .0025, or 25-thousandths the size of the sun (even simpler: you could fit about 25,000 moons into the sun). This number is also the magnitude of the moon’s solar radius (which is how stars are measured). Remember that: the moon’s solar radius is 0.0025.

This is a page that lists some of the largest stars in our galaxy, and a lot of them are visible from even the outskirts of a city (i.e., unideal stargazing environments). Beta Cygni, the tail-end star in the Northern Cross constellation, is the smallest star referenced in this chart, and it measures 16 solar radii. The largest, VY Canis Majoris, clocks in anywhere between 1800-2100 solar radii. 1800-2100 times larger than our sun. That’s HUGE!

As for distance? The moon is, on average, about 384,000 km away from the earth. A light-year is about 9.5×10^12 km, or just under 10 trillion km. This means the moon is about .04×10^(-7), or 0.000000004 light years away from the earth.

Beta Cygni is 380 light-years away, and VY Canis Majoris is about 5,000 light-years away. The nearest star to earth is Proxima Centauri, at 4.2 light-years away– so the closest star is still a billion times farther from us than the moon.

So when Bette Davis says, plaintively, "Don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars" in "Now, Voyager"– she was nearer right than most people would suppose. But I’d like to think that the ultimate form of ambition would be to take your bow and shoot that arrow into the dark, (possibly) infinite abyss that is the space marked by neither moon nor stars. That requires the utmost faith– and courage. To say, "I know what is out there, and it isn’t enough. I want more." To delve into the unknown, believing that there are bigger and greater things somewhere and that you will be the one to discover them– what a fearless heart that would require! Then again, what’s the worst that could happen? You could end up with a handful of stars.

[edit: I’m not actually sure, now, that I interpreted that first quote right. I initially thought it was implying that the star would be a consolation prize, but now it sort of seems like the star would be an unexpected way-cooler prize. Still. The encouragement to aim for the moon remains, and balls to that.]

Yes we can.

These last five days have been a dream. Tonight closed with my heart full and overflowing with joy and relief [1] and– hope. Oh, the hope. Gone is the anxiety that’s been slowly building– drastically intensified over the last month or so– and in its place is an overwhelming calm. Finally, there’s someone who will be a harbinger of change. Finally, there’s someone who will make things better, who has already begun to make things better. I can’t even think of how long I’ve been waiting for this.

Earlier this month, I wrote how I wanted someone who could make me believe that "it’s possible to successfully navigate out of darkness without a compass or a light". Tonight, now, I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s possible. There is hope, now. There is so much to look forward to. The future is beautiful, and today is the lighthouse shining its beacon and guiding in that ship of all good things to come.

[1] Though tempered, just a bit. California, of course I love you, and I’m trying so hard not to be so upset about Prop 8 passing, and if that was the cosmic price of your handing over your 55 electoral votes to Obama then so be it, but– aw man. I– I really wish you’d voted otherwise.

Yam, whatever.

Look, all I’m saying is, don’t hate on the butternut squash for trying to be a marginally-healthy dessert. It tried. It even drowned itself in loads of butter and brown sugar and cinnamon (and eventually, marshmallow fluff) in its attempt to be a delicious end-cap to the meal. It’s a squash! It can’t help it if it’s stringy. You want smooth and creamy, you go buy yourself a sweet potato.