synthetic zero


February 29, 2004

Tonight I was getting gas in Manhattan and there was a prominent sign on every gas pump at this particular gas station that said "IT IS ILLEGAL TO PUT NOZZLE IN GAS CAP" accompanied by a red circle with a cross-out slash over a picture of a gas cap. I gazed for a while at this sign while the gas was flowing into my car, trying to visualize what, exactly, it was that the sign was meant to prohibit, and why, exactly, anyone would ever want to put one's nozzle in one's gas cap. In fact, these signs are perhaps the only reason I might ever consider doing such a thing in the first place.

The problem with Linux for quite some time has been that it is too difficult for non-technical people to learn to use --- but this is changing. There are several new distributions of Linux aimed at the non-technical user, including Lindows, Lycoris, Xandros, and Mepis (all of which are, for some reason, based on the Debian distribution). Of these, reviewers seem to feel Xandros and Mepis are superior; Xandros being a bit more Windows-friendly (but with commercial proprietary code included), and Mepis being clean and easy to use, but a little more daunting to the Linux novice. I personally have wrestled with Fedora and Red Hat long enough to feel the need, even as a highly technical user, for a distribution that is a lot easier to use.

I decided to try the $89 Xandros Desktop 2 Deluxe --- though partially proprietary, this is a great distribution. Easy to use and install, yet one can use standard Debian command-line utilities and software packages as well. Much more logical control panel --- everything is in one place, not scattered all over the place as in most other distributions. Can run some Windows apps (Office, Photoshop, Windows Media Player 6, etc.) I like it a great deal, and I'm now using it as my main operating system (displacing Red Hat/Fedora).

February 24, 2004

I was walking outside yesterday and thought, "wow, this is so... high resolution."

Why is it that we find activities which create and destroy perceptual field systems simultaneously so interesting and so taboo? (Sex, and violence) We all live in our own vortices of perception, yet the ways in which they collide, end, and recombine to create something new --- those ways are what fascinate us. It's not only making babies --- even just being in love, you have created a little universe between you. A universe made of two people, interacting. I don't think what's interesting about making babies is so much the simple emergence of another sentient being, but rather the creation of the world of interactions between the child, you, your mate, etc. I love those worlds, living in them, making and sustaining these worlds. That's what makes relationships interesting.

February 19, 2004

I keep coughing so much my lungs hurt. Last night I was coughing in my dreams --- though in the dream it wasn't exactly coughing, it was more like a kind of burst of light coming from my chest, over and over, with a slight convulsion accompanying it. Then I slowly woke up and realized I was actually coughing in my sleep while at the same time dreaming I was coughing. This, followed by more coughing, while awake.

I'm really loving this Thinkpad; light, fast, quiet, and cool (temperature-wise).

February 16, 2004

Visited Portland over the weekend for a wedding --- it was great to see old friends. The city itself felt wonderful and calming, and it was a good antidote for the pressure I've felt in the last week or so, trying to rush to get 1,000 things done at once (with my new gig at the non-profit and finishing my other contracts). Portland still feels sparkling and beautiful.

It occurred to me as we were travelling around the city that I know so many back ways and routes through and around the city... which I discovered over the years by trying lots of alternatives, exploring, getting lost. There's a certain value to getting lost --- trying something you haven't tried before. As Gregory Bateson pointed out, exploration is a higher-order learning strategy --- you expect to be disappointed when you explore, but despite that you keep doing it, because even a negative outcome has a value: you've learned something.

I got a new Thinkpad T40p (which I've set up with Linux) from this odd guy on eBay. My Inspiron 8200 had suddenly begun to act up, and I knew I needed a replacement. Thinkpads are reliable but pricey --- but finally, late at night on Thursday, I found one on eBay for a very low price. Brand new, sealed in box --- with a 3-year warranty (though when I called IBM they said it had originally been purchased last October). He sells these machines out of his basement sublet. I had gotten up early (4:30am) to walk my friend Jimmy to the subway (he had an early flight out of JFK), and before I went back to bed I decided to check the web for machines. I saw this one --- sent him a message --- he was up. He called me, and said why don't I come over right then (at 5am!). The woman he sublets from, a psychologist, was awake and a bit out of it because her boyfriend had broken up with her a week earlier. We had to walk through her living room to get to the basement sublet. A minute after I had gone down to the basement, she called him, worried that I had had a bad impression of her, and he had to tell her it was all right. He was worried that I might buy the laptop with PayPal money and then later claim I had never received the laptop --- so I volunteered to sign a letter saying I had indeed received the machine. Apparently he sells a lot of these machines but still has no organized system for handling these things. He doesn't even have a printer which he could use to print a receipt. However, since I paid via PayPal, I have proof that he received my money, so I feel fairly confident (but he had wanted me, initially, to pay with cash...) Despite all this I am pretty happy with the purchase. I got a very good deal, and a machine with a pretty good warranty. I think he's basically trustworthy, and I'd recommend him if someone wanted to buy a very cheap Thinkpad.

I've set the machine up with Linux (Fedora Core 1). I wrote a page detailing what I had to do to get it to work: Linux/Fedora Core 1 on an IBM Thinkpad T40p.

February 13, 2004

Okay, two people wrote to me (one of them my mom) about how I haven't posted anything here for a while... yes, lots of stuff has been happening. (And Debby, I bought some premium photo paper at J&R a few days ago so I will be sending you that print of my photograph very shortly...)

So the event went very well, especially on Wednesday... lots of people came via the Bronx Culture Trolley, it was rather exciting. Many of the filmmakers were there, speaking about their work. A freelance radio reporter came to interview Melissa and me (who knows if anything will come of that); the executive director of the Bronx Museum of Art also came, gave me her card, and said she would send curators to future events... still, I'm hoping to keep these events low-key, informal, in the spirit of the sorts of things we used to go to and participate in in the Northwest. New York can be a bit hyper in some ways and we're trying to inject a little lightness into the mix.

Meanwhile I took a job helping this non-profit with their technical work: Donor's Choose. It's a major commitment but it's for a good cause, and these are smart people. It's a funny mix because the people I am working with all have radically different styles; we'll see how well it works out over time, but I'm optimistic so far. One thing I'm looking forward to is working with Heather Anne Halpert a bit on user experience/information architecture issues on future web development. Of course, meanwhile I'm also working on my previous contracts in the remaining time, not to mention continuing to be involved in the arts community, working on my own personal work, and helping friends with their projects.

I've only had about five hours of sleep a night for the last several nights --- not due to insomnia but simply beacuse I have so much to do. I am now a little sick. I am, however, in Portland, going to a wedding tomorrow, and at least being here in Portland is rather comforting/calming.

I had a dream last night that my grandfather had set up a work space in the house where I grew up, because we'd all moved out of it. For some reason he redecorated the whole place in a sort of fifties modern aesthetic. We were all surprised because we had no idea he was so interested in interior design. I woke up and remembered that my grandfather died when I was a freshman in college. In fact, back then I had had a dream about him the night he died --- in that dream he also presented himself to me as powerful and young, and he said "I am going to tell you something and you should never forget it" --- of course I don't remember what he said... however I think the gist of the message was simply that he had a serious, deep side --- even though in life he seemed kind of jovial and even a bit silly at times. I don't know why I dreamt about my grandfather last night --- in fact the last time I dreamt about him was indeed that night he died.