January 18th, 2005

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Steamrollered

Lately I've been feeling like I'm being squeezed in a vice. Bad enough getting back from a lengthy vacation and having backlog of work, but even worse is getting a whole NEW load of work... and worse than that is for a whole week not really dealing with either workload too well, so it ends being a general backlog.

I owe so many clients so many different things and time feels so short, I'm about to go out of my mind. None of it is (thankfully) of the "has to be done be X" variety, but it all has to happen. Lots of web site updates, got a redesign going on as well, site updates...

I've also got personal projects and things like Lunacon I need to keep up with. There are some home improvement projects I want to get on, like framing prints for my office, installing the ceiling lamp I bought in November, painting the bathroom, buying a new mirror, but hell if I know when I'll get around to it. March maybe?

I suppose I really need to relax and not put so much pressure on myself. Everybody always says they don't know how I do everything and well, this time I agree. I have no clue how I do all this stuff when things get crazy like this. All I want is to catch up enough I feel "ahead" of it. Is that so wrong? Maybe by Friday...
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MLK march

Before I get into my freezing bed*, a word about the MLK parade I attended today.

In case anybody is not aware, MLK was from Atlanta and pretty much is the center of the MLK holiday, with tons of events not just on the holiday itself, but the whole weekend and week beforehand. Actually I think there are things all month long! MLK's childhood home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, his gravesite and the King Center are all located about 1 mile from where I live.

Anyway, to the parade. I came off the train and up to the street just as it was kicking off. It's actually one of my fav parades in town because it basically comes off as being some kind of progressive Democratic rally. The largest parade contingents are union members, social justice activists (poverty, racism, gender inequality, gay rights), churches and black fraternities. Today's parade also include a ton anti-war groups, plus about 1/3-1/2 of marchers were waving "End The War" signs that somebody obviously had passed out. Lots of anti-Bush signs and "Bush Is A Hater" signs. Oh, and there were several marching bands and drum groups too, as well as groups like the various unions and frats that sang. It was really heartening seeing all these folks together, even though at least some of them would probably get into serious fights if they ever had to really work together.

There was one marcher I just kind of didn't get. It was this hugely pregnant woman marching by herself. She had a big sign. On the front it said "THE LOVE DOWN BELOW" and on the back "LOVE HATERS OUTKAST." It's true I'm white and all, but I just was like, "What?!"

* Having my bed positioned diagonally in a corner between two 5'x8' non-insulated windows is problematic in winter. Nothing a pile of blankets and comforts can't protect me from, but the sheets are practically icy when I first get in. Although this is a step up from my bedroom at the Metropolitan, which one winter had a window issue so bad that ice formed *on* the bedframe, no lie. Lofts are great but damn, with the huge windows they can get cold, even in Atlanta.
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New GTRI web site

Not exciting to most people, but important to me, the new GTRI web site has just now been launched!

www.gtri.gatech.edu

Most of the tech work on this site was carried out by my predecessor and I only spent 3 months doing clean-up on it and generally getting it ready for public viewing. Shelley had some issues with sloppiness and I wasn't about to let this thing go out the door with its shirt untucked, so to speak. So far it looks like I've caught everything and I've already gotten a couple of "Gee, it looks great!" emails from co-workers.

BTW, we just made the DNS switch this afternoon (pointing the URL to a new server we have, 'stead of the crap one we used to use), so not everybody will be able to see it. Takes a while for changes to propagate around the web, just like when you do a new domain.
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished
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Bad associations...

How is it that such an innocuous image produces such a visceral response in me?



I mean, OK, on the surface, there's this old-yet-boyish man smiling (albeit w/o any lips) and making a friendly gesture with his hand, and yet, it must makes me SHRINK in disgust: "No way, it can't beeeeeeee!"
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    aggravated aggravated
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Transit -- it's a gas!

Left the office around 6:30 feeling perky and quite energized by the cold air. After about 10 minutes wait at the bus stop, hopped on the bus ready to continue reading and quickly get home. I did get home quickly, but not quickly enough, for the bus (powered by natural gas) was having some kind of gas leak and as usual any time I get exposed to natural gas like that, I became instantly sick. By the time the bus was turning into Downtown, I had to stop reading, I was so dizzy and nauseous (and nervous, wondering if possibly the bus could explode).

As I was getting off the bus finally, I mentioned the problem to the driver and he said, "Yeah, everybody is telling me that. I've got the top vent open." As if opening the top vent and letting in/out a little air was going to solve the leak! Ugh. He asked me if I would be OK (I'm sure I didn't look well) and I said I lived right there. I actually started to feel better within a couple blocks, and when I got home I ate a little bit, but I still don't feel so good. Wish I could snap my fingers and have dinner appear.
  • Current Mood
    nauseated nauseated
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The Pianist

Just finished reading The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945, Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoir, which of course became the basis for Roman Polanski's extraordinary movie.

I was incredibly impressed by this movie when I first saw it in 2003 and immediately immersed myself in reviews of it. In my reading I came across several descriptions of the account on which the movie had been based. It was repeatedly mentioned that the tone of the book was quite different from that of almost all Holocaust memoirs, having been written immediately after the war, before rose-colored glasses or black-and-white Us vs. Them paradigms could settle into Szilpman's mind (although I doubt they ever did, once he clarified his thoughts in this memoir).

Anyway, I had added the book to my Amazon wish list and finally this past Christmas one of my sisters bought it for me. It's a pretty slim book, with about 190 pages for Szpilman's account, followed by excerpts from the diary of the sympathetic German officer who aided Szpilman's survival during the last weeks of the war. There's also a short essay by a German author, who sheds lights on the life of the German officer, the diary, and the fate of Szpilman's memoir, which was published in the 40s only to be rapidly surpressed, only coming back into print about 50 years later.

The book is really incredible and quite worthy of all the mentions. Szpilman was a pianist, not a writer, but he displays a great talent for describing life in Warsaw, mainly in the Jewish ghetto, from 1939-1945, and thus passing on an account that not many people survived to describe. People, places, events that were murdered, destroyed, gassed out of existence, all survive in Szpilman's tale. The message is: Here is what I saw. Here is what I felt. Szpilman doesn't offer any glamorization of his fellows, but describes many corrupt and despicable Jews, as well as several non-Jews who risked death to save his life. It's all there, seemingly just as he saw it.

One thing I noted about Szpilman's writing is the fact that not once in the book does he make any real reference to being Jewish, in terms of practicing religion or engaging in any social behaviors, dress, etc., which would be based on being Jewish. Szpilman makes numerous references to Christmas but mentions no Jewish holidays. Of course he talks constantly about Jews being rounded up, how people could tell he was Jewish ("non-Aryan"), but "Jewish" is nothing more than a label really -- and one that at the time came with a large price. I have quite a background in Holocaust and Nazi-era history and I understand that among the Jewish intelligentia in Germany and Poland, there were many who were Jewish culturally but actually non-practicing, and yet it was still interesting to read the account and see the perspective of one such person. Being "Jewish" meant more like being part of his family and neighborhood than praciting any sort of religion.

Maybe I should now read a book that's been sitting on my windowsill for a year after I got it the Christmas before last: Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews. It seems like that would be a good "double-feature." Or I could read This Is My God by Herman Wouk, which I half-read some years back, then got a new copy of, only to forget about. That book is basically a long and thoughtful explanation of the Jewish faith in layman's terms.

Or maybe I should find something light? ;)
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful
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firstgrade

Geek Memory

I randomly decided to look up the Wikipedia entry for the TRS-80, my first computer, and this led to me looking up the entry for BASIC, my first programming language.

From the ages of 8-10 BASIC programming was one of my favorite hobbies. I used to have stacks of BASIC programming manuals and even though my typing was of the two-index-fingers variety, I had the patience to sit and type in programs that went on anywhere from one to four pages (or more!). Sometimes it would take me like four hours, but I was so absorbed and determined I didn't care. Not like my mom and dad would yell at me either and tell me to go out and play, as my mother had recently completed a degree in CS. Plus she always thought computer programming would help my math skills (which it didn't, although it drew on my excellent logic skills).

I also wrote my own programs, including a little movie trivia program that quizzed you and rewarded correct answers by playing music (each note having to be programmed in using some code for the note, then another code for tone length!). I remember another program I did that included a graphic animation of a robot talking; honestly I have no clue how I figured out how to do it other than I was smarter back then than I am now.

All the programs I had were stored on audio-data cassette, as the computer had no internal storage. While BASIC ran as part of the OS, all programs were actually either on cartridges or on tape. Years later, when the TRS-80 had been supplanted by an IBM clone, I used to listen to the data cassettes in an audio player and think the sounds were really cool. By 1985 I had forgotten BASIC b/c I didn't have a computer that let me do it anymore. I did learn DOS though!

I guess my eventual fate should have been clear!
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    nostalgic nostalgic