Apr 28 2007

I Am Goofy

A few weekends ago, Nae and I woke up uber-early in the morn to go on a little pre-dawn hike – watching the sun rise from behind the mountains and watching its rays creep over the Pacific was supposed the be quite a sight. However, it’d been a while since I’d woken up at 4:30 AM. I was surprised by the lack of sun.

But that was okay, since as there was no light, Nae didn’t feel the need to open her eyes while driving.

We ended up not making it up the hill by the time the sun rose, but that’s okay. It was fun regardless. Nae took a bunch of pics of me being the opposite of my martial arts persona, and I took a bunch of HDR shots that I won’t get a chance to process until after I return from Costa Rica.


Apr 27 2007

State Dept: Suck It

So Nae and I leave for Costa Rica this upcoming Sunday. Or so we thought. Then didn’t. Then did.

See, Nae applied for her passport over three months ago, well within the time frame suggested by the state department to get her passport. It hadn’t come in two months, so they told her to wait two more weeks (two weeks before we are to leave), and if it hadn’t come, then she could expedite it. Two weeks later, it still hasn’t shown up. She calls, has its status changed to ‘expedited,’ and they say it’ll be there in a week. Monday of this week rolls around, no passport. Calls and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – after on-hold times upward of an hour each time – all confirm that the passport is done, in the mail, and will be there tomorrow. By Thursday afternoon, a mere 3 days prior to leaving, still no passport. Another call yields the response, “it’s not done, and won’t be by Sunday.” What the fuck? She’s told she needs to make an appointment at the LA facility to appear in person. She calls them, and they have no appointments available, and there’s not even a way to talk to a CSR. It’s completely automated.

Needless to say, I’m quite a bit aggravated, feeling like I”m stuck smack in the center of Gilliam’s “Brazil,” and Nae is completely exhausted by the run-around coupled with all the overtime she’s worked lately.

Fortunately, this morning we got a call from the LA office saying that her passport should be ready at 11 today. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I’m praying I don’t have to pull out my trump cards. (I don’t actually know if they’ll work, but late last night, I came up with three contingency plans. One involve calling a former Secretary of the Interior of the US that I know. Another involves posing as a contracted employee of a certain company that has tight connections with a highly effective passport expedite service. The third comes down to finding someone to buy out Nae’s ticket at the last minute, taking the trip, and then doing another trip once her passport’s arrived. I’m pretty sure she’d hate that, but it’d rescue the funds from oblivion and I’d make damn sure she got a vacation somewhere soon after.)

So, in summary:

State Dept: Suck It.

Update: We Have Go! I repeat, we have GO! Passport acquired.


Apr 24 2007

Yes, You Have My Permission to Make Out

Saturday night was Lauren’s birthday, a friend and the girl to my good friend Nick. As a celebration, we went down to Altitude Sky Bar for some drinks up on the rooftop of the Marriott. All in all, a good evening, catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while. (Nick’s reply when someone asked if I was going to show up: “You only see Barclay when he wants to be seen.” Heh.)

But the most memorable was the walk home. I left a bit earlier than the rest of the group, due to training scheduled for several hours on Sunday morning, and a fiscal allergy to the $8.75 drinks. I was waiting for the elevator along, but when the doors opened, an obviously intoxicated couple joined hopped in behind me and posted up in the corner of the spacious carriage. There was already a very large man on the other side, forming a triangle between the couple, himself, and myself.

This man was large. Not large in the “square” sense, but large in the “round” sense. If roly-poly indicates pleasantly plump, this man was rolliferous-ginormous. Truth be told, I hadn’t given him much thought yet. But I would soon. The redhead to my right blurted out, “Don’t worry about us, we’re just going to make out over here.” She and her boy proceed to suck face in the noisiest manner I’ve ever witnessed. I politely avert my eyes down, but a chuckle escapes. As I look back up, I see the large man’s eyes making a leisurely full sweep up from my shoes, legs, torso, and then straight into my eyes.

As his lips begin to curl into a suggestive smile, I wonder what he’s doing on this elevator, as he was already on it when it opened at the top floor, and we’re now dropping all the way to ground level. His mouth opens slowly, and through a deep reverberating baritone, he says to me, “Don’t worry, bro, I don’t want to make out with you either.”

I may have sighed audibly.

“Much obliged.”

We finish the ride in silence, save the lip smacking of the couple in the corner.

I had parked over near 14th Street, east of downtown, because I didn’t want to pay the $15 for a few hours of parking, and I though it would give me an opportunity to explore a different park of town. Now, 1 AM in the morning on Saturday night may not the the wisest time to do this – given that I was parked in a distinctly less safe neighborhood than the Gaslamp – but I did anyway. A friend had warned me on the way out to watch out for the pimps, dealers, and prostitutes.

Instead, I find myself walking behind another drunk couple just leaving another bar. They’re in Official San Diego Club Gear: she has a lacy white thong peeking out above her jeans with a waist-length fitted dress shirt, and the guy has the ubiquitous vertically striped shirt and spiky hair. As I pass, she throws her arm around me and complains loudly, “I’m just trying to flirt with him, but he’s too shy and keeps running away. Would you tell him to flirt with me?”

I slide out from under her arm, and angle my head to speak to the guy without breaking stride. “Are you telling me you need more encouragement than that?”

A few paces later, as I glance back, I see him pulling her into an alcove of the building, hands about her waist.

I smile, wondering if what I just encouraged was a good deed or not, but before I even reach the end of the next block, I find another couple making out against the brick wall of a warehouse. The girl notices the click of my dress shoes on concrete and pushes her head into they guy’s shoulder, mumbling something about there being “people about.”

Again without pausing in my stroll, I comment to them, smiling but without turning my head, “No, really, don’t worry about it. I’m really quite used to it by now.”


Apr 6 2007

Bits

I’m struck by how much of our collective existence is spent creating and recognizing patterns. As a programmer, my job boils down to changing polarities of ferro-magnetic cells contained in a very small space. These bits represent programs, programs that are copied to other systems, incorporated into larger sets of other program-patterns that analyze data-patterns, forming other sets of patterns, all reaching up to support high semantic layers. In turn, these patterns help other people recognize pulling “meaning” out of “noise” – distinguishing certain sorts of patterns and dismissing others. Yes, there’s layer on semantic layer, but in essence, we’re all just waving our hands and stirring up atoms in specific sequences.

As a photographer, I suspend transient reflections of lights in a reproducible form in an effort to convey a message. As a martial artist, I seek to use physical movements to organize and refine the flow of stimuli in my own head. The arts move bits of paint, or charcoal, or steel, or atoms in the air forming vibrations, in order to convey some higher-level semantics – but in essence, students of these avocations are no more or less organizing matter and energy that we are: cleaning our rooms, so to speak.

Even the R&D deep thinkers, or theorists, or psychologists, or lawyers, which may not appear to produce in the traditional, brick-and-mortar sense, are performing their own pattern recognition. When they’re not publishing (organizing via graphite or toner on lignin) they’re guiding the electrical impulses in their brains, and attempting to influence the same in others. They’re either generalizing, or delving deeper into the Mandelbrot, finding finer-grained patterns, just like the rest of us.

(Without getting into an aside on free will and random number generation here, particularly disregarding Hume, we must assume that general effort of any profession results in patterns.)

What does this mean? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Camus lately. Or, perhaps our entire existence is the futile (according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics) attempt at ordering our systems.

That’s a pretty bleak outlook. Is that all we have? Is the sum of our existence this gross? Or, is the value and importance, the driving force in our lives, the emergent meanings of those semantic layers? Is the importance our intention, the idea or feeling or concept we’re attempting to express or communicate, even if only to ourselves?

I’d like to think so – at a visceral level, it just seems right. But even if that’s an illusion, I think I’d prefer it. This isn’t a spiritual argument, either: I can think of no philosophy or religion – or lack thereof — that would result in anything less than suicide if the illusion is not preferred. Even the act of “doing nothing” conveys meaning and intent. The act of continued existence, in the most static of possibilities, assimilates and organize experience involuntarily, and an act of suicide by whatever means imbues semantics. Even “non-doing” is doing. (The Taoists recognized this ages ago.)

And suicide is also a sucker’s bet, since we can’t eve know if the decomposition of our corporeal selves necessarily results in either a net entropy loss or a lack of meaning. And trying to convince others that this there is no meaning requires organization of bits and the conveyance of meaning, not to mention being inherently paradoxical. In order for this to be accepted, it requires the complete extinction of life, spontaneously and without effort, all because “life is futile.” (Which it may very well be, but it yields no “fight the good fight” against said futility.) So, let’s run withe illusion, if that’s what it it.

So is it not what we do that is important, but what we intend? This could be construed as an argument for sin, anarchy, apathy, or whatever your hobgoblin is – and people have in fact argued this – but I see it differently. We don’t disregard action in favor of intention, but we act as we intend. In this way, we most accurately portray our intention – the most important part, if you buy that – and action becomes a vehicle for expression – although we would be remiss to confuse the two. The moon and it’s reflection in the water, as the parable goes.

The bits aren’t important, the patterns aren’t important, but that they freely flow from our intention, forming our communication – that is important.


Apr 4 2007

Inability

When I was a small child, I used to spend hours wandering the Phoenix Art Museum. My mother worked there, so I’d end up slipping through the rooms until I found something I could just stare at for hours.

I came to the conclusion that Magritte was a “good painter,” except I thought “he needed to practice faces more, so he could add them to his paintings. He always copped out on the face – it’s either hidden, covered, or deformed.” I thought he had an inability to paint certain things, as opposed to my inability to understand.

To this day, I still have a sneaking suspicion that part of his surrealism was generated by a dislike of faces. And I have absolutely nothing with which back that up.