Seattle: The City That Loves You Back

It’s 5.30am and I’m just getting home – a feat I haven’t accomplished in quite a while. Although I’m sure I’ll regret it tomorrow when I wake up at 2pm feeling like the victim of a savage beating with a burlap sack of potatoes, it’ll be the perfect ending to a great week.

All the Halloween parties I was lucky enough to attend initiated this movement in a fun direction, Dave’s annual bash being the first, biggest and best of them. My costume was a huge hit – note to self: future getups should continue to employ flashing disco lights and homemade clothing; the chicks really dig it – both after hours and at work, where it snagged a 3rd place and a gift cert during the company’s costumed brewfest. I don’t begrudge the 1st and 2nd place winners at all, especially Andy, who’d been growing his hair for months in preparation for shaving it into the Mr T mohawk that completed his Halloween look. I’m definitely not going to be topping that any time soon.

All week there have been happy hours, dinner-and-drinks, costume parties, birthday parties, even going-away parties, and while we’ll all be sad to see BrianO not at work monday, I can happily report that all those events were a great time, and I feel socially recharged after it all (despite being physically drained, I’m sure). I spent quality time with at least a representative from nearly every branch in my web of friends, and I feel like a better person tonight because of it.

Several times this week – as I was running through the pouring rain downtown tonight, bolting between doorways and awnings, jacket held over my head; as I was driving friends (new and old) around city streets that I’m starting to know like the back of my hand; as I was waiting for Charla in Occidental Plaza friday night, the orange streetlights illuminating the fallen leaves in the temporary silence during a break in the downpour – I felt at peace with my life and this place. I feel like this is my city, that it’s home, and that I’m not alone here, and not alone in life.

The Horror Is In Your Mailbox!

I receive a lot of spam. I think we all do at this point. You sign up for a free webmail account from Yahoo or Gmail or whathaveyou, pick out a nice username that is clever and easy to remember and unique to you, and when you log into this new account for the first time there are already 37 unwanted messages waiting to persuade you to join a thinly-veiled pyramid scheme, to convince you that cialis is the answer to all your troubles, or to sell you prescription drugs you can’t get anywhere else at this low-low price.

I can expound all day on how much this annoys me, and not merely because I’m annoyed by people wasting my time (which I am) or because I’m annoyed by the flagrant inefficiency of untargeted marketing (which I am). What drives me nuts about spam – babbling, drooling, thumb-sucking, straightjacket-wearing nuts – is that it works. Somewhere out there, not just one but hundreds – if not thousands – of people are reading these messages, thinking “maybe my weight problem will simply go away if I buy these pills!” and clicking their way to another dead-end purchase. The supposed effectiveness of these products aside, is this really a viable economy? Are people actually sending real, legal money and in turn receiving an actual, tangible shipment of miracle herbs, Home Depot gift cards or “Exquisite Replica Watches”? Despite my optimism and my strong desire for the “most people are good people” belief to be true, I have to think that’s a huge “NO”. Show me the person who is a happy customer as a result of a spam message, and I’ll… well, just show me one. If you can actually drum one up, then we’ll talk recompense.

This is where it gets scary, because you know what? It doesn’t matter. People are reading, believing and clicking this stuff anyway! Some of them are new to the internet and haven’t yet developed the thick, jaded coat of misanthropic armor that inevitably grows with each passing pixel. Some of them are actually in the market for hot stock trading tips, or free virus software, or erectile dysfunction medication without a prescription, and maybe the promises in those subject lines are just too tempting to ignore. Some of them are just idiots, and that must be a lot of them, because have you actually read your spam lately? So much of it is auto-generated via scripts written by programmers who can’t even spell “english”, much less speak it, that only a card-carrying-fool would mistake their senders for legitimate businesses. Still, it must work. Somehow, somewhere, someone clicks, otherwise it would dwindle and die. If i’ve learned anything about online advertising from working in the industry it’s that advertisers want to see results, and they’re completely ready to pull their financial rug out from under any strategy that isn’t generating bucketloads of revenue after two days into the program.

So, by extension: spam is working. That’s seriously freakin scary, you guys. That’s your Halloween nightmare right there. Want to freak yourself out? Picture the person who just clicked on that email titled “CIAli$ mail for you!” (actual spam in my inbox right now). It’s not pretty. I’m very worried for the gene pool.

If Alfred Hitchcock were around to make a movie about the horrors of spam, I think this little gem from my inbox today would be the stark white text scrolling across a black screen, read by a grim announcer over the sound of tortured screams and chains dragging across cobblestone floors, in the opening scene. This auto-generated abomination, spawned from the misguided union of a random number generator and an english dictionary, would set the tone for the entire film:

    Now and then, a pork chop eagerly shares a shower with the tuba player living with a customer. A plaintiff completely seeks a polar bear. A movie theater shares a shower with a chestnut. An eggplant gives a pink slip to the tuba player. For example, a single-handledly impromptu bullfrog indicates that a class action suit beyond another burglar somewhat avoids contact with an ocean.

    Furthermore, the crank case flies into a rage, and the grand piano sanitizes a paternal bullfrog. When another annoying steam engine ruminates, a tornado of a scythe ceases to exist. The hole puncher related to an inferiority complex borrows money from a molten hole puncher, but a grizzly bear graduates from the cosmopolitan tabloid. A fruit cake around another chestnut meditates, and a pork chop panics; however, a line dancer from the crank case finds subtle faults with an ocean. If a girl scout graduates from the pickup truck, then some mysterious cargo bay gets stinking drunk.

Good luck sleeping tonight. Mwah ha ha ha!

My Tangerine Dream Realized.

Before Halloween gets too far gone and these are no longer topical, i had to share some links to the entries in Engadget‘s halloween costume contest. Some are better than others, some are really tech-nerdy, but all are pretty funny. The first page showcases the declared winners, who received various gadgety, button-wielding prizes for their ingenuity. A second page is filled entirely with ipod-related costumes (i know ipods are the new Levis and all, but wow… people really love their ipods). Some of the ipod getups were even functional to some degree or another (!). And finally, a best of the rest list with some honorable mentions. I think me (and pretty much everyone i know) would be safe recycling any of these ideas next year, as they’re creative enough to stand out in a crowd even if they’re no longer cutting edge tech. I also noticed a strange coincidence, that a disproportionate number of the apparently “cooler” costumes involve some manner of boxiness or general hugeness. Apparently we’re all impressed with oversized costumes. Some sort of evolutionary holdover, i imagine; the specimen who is able to puff up to the largest size and strut around is the most appealing potential mate.

In the spirit of the “trick”, i also have an annoying optical illusion for you courtesy of Kevin. Read the directions and then stare away. It really is freaky how our brains work.

I was going to try and go to a movie tonight, but my empty wallet and general sense of thriftiness quickly talked me out of that. It takes a lot for me to spend actual money in a theater, as i think they’re such a ripoff, and i barely get my money’s worth out of the one-movie-at-a-time Netflix membership that i share with Danielle cause i’m really not an avid movie watcher. I think we’ve already discussed that i don’t even bother with television; even if i had the money i don’t think i’d waste it on cable, and i finally disconnected the rabbit ears and disposed of my remaining three-and-a-half channels because i never watched them anyway and i was tired of the antennas taking a clattering fall off the television every 5 seconds. But i was pretty jacked about The Tangerine Dream, this year’s ski flick from TGR, shot in sweet 16MM. Their stuff is always great, and i have a few others on DVD. Credit goes to Gabe for turning me onto them. So since they’re touring the movie and the tour hits Seattle (btw, can i just wax poetic for a moment about how great it is to finally live in a place that actually shows up on tour maps?) i figured it would be sweet to head down to the Showbox tonight and check it out. Ten seconds with the evil TicketWest website (not to be confused with the evil TicketMaster – different service, same evil plot to suck the fun out of concerts and events) convinced me otherwise. Tickets were $13. A bit steep, but there’s only one show, the Showbox is probably more exciting than an average theater and i know TGR is a small group that spends a lot making the film. But then you add a $3 delivery charge – even though they were will call tickets, which are not delivered and a $7.50 “convenience charge” – more commonly known as “the TicketBastard fee” – and suddenly it’s $36.50 for two people to see a movie. Oh, plus tax. So i scrapped that idea pretty quickly, and hit up TGR’s site and Amazon for the DVD copy. Both listed it at $28, which is reasonable considering the production scale and quality i mentioned above, but then it wouldn’t be here for this weekend, and since the snow is falling in the mountains and several of the local resorts are opening this weekend, i had my heart set on a new ski flick to get the season started with, and 7 to 10 business days of waiting just wasn’t going to scratch that itch.

Enter Fiorini Sports. Actually, first, enter Ally Video, the distributor who pushes TGR’s films out to the local retailers. I hit up Chris at Ally (who turned out to be very cool, btw) to recommend a local merchant who stocked his stuff, specifically my Tangerine Dream disc. Not only did he shoot me Fiorini’s deets (which i already knew, cause i love that store, but very thorough of him) but he called them and verified they had a copy in stock, and told them to expect me. I know! So now, enter Fiorini Sports, a great winter sports vendor who has thankfully come out of last year’s dismal season alive and kicking, and i seriously wish i had money to buy new equipment not because particularly i need it, but because i want to patronize Fiorini as much as possible. If you live on the eastside, you can’t beat Sturtevant’s in Bellevue, but if you’re on the westside of the lake you needn’t look farther than Fiorini in U Village. They’ve always been great to me, and today when i rolled over there at lunch in search of my TGR disc was no exception. There’s something about ski shops that is inherently welcoming and i’ve encountered very few that weren’t staffed by friendly fellow enthusiasts, but both of these places have really gone over the top for me, and i highly recommend them. Also, i highly recommend checking out TGR’s “ski porn” (Gabe’s and my phrase, not theirs) movies; they’re a great way to get yourself pumped up in the preseason, motivate yourself for that summer ski-prep workout program (something i really should try one of these days) or get all jacked the night before a big powder day. If i could watch them in the truck on the way up to the hill i totally would, but barring that (highly dangerous) idea i usually seek out a lot of the tunes featured therein for my ipod’s “ski porn” playlist for mid-schuss enjoyment. And that, all you bums and bunnies, is the first time i’ve ever used my internet nickname in it’s proper english form… which i think means now i have to spin straw into gold or something.

This year I’m dressing up as an unloved cog in the corporate machine.

Still no love on the NYC photos. Yes, i’m lazy. I haven’t even finished unpacking, and you should see what a wreck my house is right now. Don’t get me started on the towering pile of unread mail that just yesterday reached critical mass and formed a conscious democratic order, elected union representatives, filed for incorporation, turned a smacking quarterly profit, and was promptly purchased for liquidation by Kirk Kerkorian in a hostile takeover. If only the pile of laundry was so highly motivated.

At work today i swindled Brian and Joseph into accompanying me on the short trek to seahawks stadium where, per a nasty rumor circulated via my email newsletter from Sturtevant’s, some sort of ski swap / expo / free-stuff-giving-away event was taking place. With the promises of free lift tickets, gratuitous stickers and scantily-clad women in ski boots and fuzzy hats fresh on my lips, we found ourselves at the entrance, our eager expressions quickly sullied by the stern, mannish woman demanding to see our tickets. Tickets?? We don’t need no stinkin’ tickets! Oh, apparently we do… and they’re 10 bucks. 10 bucks to be showered with propaganda by every winter sports company with the wherewithal to rent a folding table. 10 bucks to look at all the same gear that will grace every retail display all winter, priced slightly higher than elsewhere and then discounted back to MSRP to create an impression of savings. 10 bucks to “test drive” all the goodies we won’t have the money to buy. 10 bucks to elbow our way through the herds of abercrombie-clad, petouli-smelling ski yuppies for a chance to hit on the semi-pro snow bunnies who would rather be at Blackcomb than here, pretending we’re funny. Yeah… probably not worth 10 bucks. We passed, and met Tyler for bacon cheeseburgers instead. Bacon never turns you away for lack of a ticket. Bacon’s good like that.

Apparently monday is halloween or something. As i recall, i accepted an evite from Dave nigh on three fortnights ago, so i have a party to attend saturday night, and as such will need to un-retire some clothing from my sordid past and drum up some hideous costume. Other than saturday night, i expect a weekend chock full of car-fixing (having two just means they both break at the same time) and – if weather permits – throwing my camera in the air in a mediocre attempt at internet fame.

The holiday-on-the-horizon also means a guaranteed day of zero productivity at work on monday, as shrieking children covered in masks and plastic capes ransack the halls of our otherwise saturnine building in search of – what else? – free candy. Lest anyone accuse us of being another byzantine workplace, i’m sure the company will be writing off that day’s productivity entirely as employees traipse around in pimp hats and inflatable sumo suits (Seriously. One just walked down the hall in a pre-halloween demo) battling with the children for first dibs on the good candy. All in good fun, i’m sure, just so long as no one arrives dressed as hairy, grown-up, anime Super Mario Brothers. Don’t click on that link, i mean it. It’s pure evil. Blame Jason Cross – he found it.

And now i must depart all ye lads and lasses, so retire to your studies while i brave friday-night-before-halloween traffic. Here’s hoping all those vampires and Chewbaccas cut big enough eye holes to see the road.

Have you hugged your art today?

Well, i guess that all depends, doesn’t it? On what you’ve hugged… and what you consider art. I like to think my definition of art is pretty broad, including things that you can hear, touch, see, smell and even taste. But since we’re on the internet here, you’re not going to be smelling any art today, unless you’re already holding a particularly fragrant cup of coffee or your office is also in Pioneer Square (i didn’t say it was *good* smelling art). Same goes for tasting any art over the internet… although that may not be too far away. And let me tell you, when they perfect tiramisu-flavored paper and chocolate ink… well, i might just have to invest in a printer. But no, today you’re just gonna see some art. Yes, i totally skipped hearing in there… but i try not to browse noisy sites at work, so i’m not going to inflict any on you.

Let’s start with something classic, something timeless… like MC Escher. You all had the poster in your room… or was i the only mathelete? Hmm… well, they were in your geometry book regardless, usually in black and white. I think they look pretty good spiced up in color, especially in one of my all-time-favorite artistic mediums, legos. This isn’t just a fluke – this dedicated Lipson gentlement has reproduced several works in cheery yellow-faced legoland. Quite the treat for the eye… and the mind! Also, makes me want to go browse the diminutive bricks aisle at Target; legos have gotten so cool!

Legos aren’t the only toys from my childhood that i’d happily regress to playing with if i could only find a way to make money doing it. Remember Transformers? Sigh… wish i had kept them. I had the original Optimus Prime, man! Anyway, i think they’re neato… but this wacko artistic guy built himself transformable wearable halloween costumes to mimic his favorite interchangeable plastic car-men. Next time you’re going to make fun of me for my binary digits clock… just think about all the things i *don’t* do with my free time… yeah.

Lest you think i’m engrossed only by math and plastic toys, let’s delve into some cute, fuzzy art over at the Infinite Cat Project. The idea here is a random one; this guy had a picture of his cat on his computer, right? And he caught his cat looking at said picture on the monitor, and took a picture of the curious furball. So it’s a picture of his cat, looking at a computer featuring a picture of a cat. And then he gets all crazy and artistic and starts building a recursive tunnel of cats looking at this picture… just go look at it, rather than wait for me to explain it.

And then there’s some art that just makes you sick. Not cause it’s bad or anything… just cause that’s what it does. The internet is full of this sort of thing – i’m not sure if it’s the digital medium or the mentality of the online masses that makes it so pervasive, but nausea-art seems to definitely have taken a rise thanks to the good ‘ol www. Okay, i’m warning you… plant both feet firmly, sit straight in your chair, and set down the gin and tonic for just a moment. If you’re already shaky on your drug of choice today… you might want to save this one for later. Okay… click.

Well, i need some fresh air after that. Oh, i almost forgot, we still haven’t discussed some art that you can touch. Feel free to rest your head against the monitor as you click on that last one again… or just thump your head on the glass. Your choice. 🙂

Last time i checked, Jerry Bruckheimer was not directing my life story

Been a totally productive day of reading comics on Penny Arcade and watching whatever random cinematic enterprises are being broadcast today on TBS. Right now, it’s Austin Powers 2. It’s kind of funny with the sound off… but not totally.

It’s been a stressful weekend, but maybe it’s looking up. For one, i only have 2.5 hrs of work left. And then i get my two days off (instead of the usual three – i covered for someone today). But i thought i was working again tonight – covering half the night shift – but Vince straightened me out when i came in to relieve him this morning – that’s next weekend that i’m pinch hitting for the graveyard team. And i’m (at least so far) not working the extra day shift next sunday, so that’s a 19-hour workday i managed to avoid.

Vince was also nice (and trusting) enough to lend me his key card to get into the building – and so i could leave the NOC to, oh, microwave some cup noodles, use the bathroom, and scavenge in the candy bowl at the front desk. I somehow managed to misplace mine at the end of my shift friday, and have spent the timespan since then stressing about it and getting frustrated with myself for being such a total tool. This dovetailed nicely with the daily stress of work (not so much the doing nothing part, but the always being on edge in case i have to do something part, that is very exhausting) and both of those were easily interwoven into the stress of packing, moving, and paying rent in two places this coming month. And is it just the weather, the time of year, or what, but why is everyone in a bad mood lately? I know we all need a vacation and aren’t going to get one this holiday season (or maybe i’m the only one that’s working thanksgiving, christmas, new year’s, and all the other major holidays this season?) but that’s no excuse for everyone to be mad at *me*. If you need to misdirect your anger somewhere, send those evil thoughts towards politicians or telemarketers, or some other life form without feelings and a soul.

Ugh. Let’s keep the rants short today. My head hurts too much for long, intense sentences. Although pressing my forehead against the cool glass of the monitor cabinet is very soothing… try not to think about the slimy forehead mark i’m leaving on the glass that wasn’t that clean anyway or the extra-intense radiation at this distance hard-boiling my brain…

What i really need a vacation from is drama. Drama everywhere – work, home, friends, bills, career, cars. Last time i checked, Jerry Bruckheimer was not directing my life story, so why all the accelerating climaxes and confounding plot turns? I did not sign up for this! My contract clearly says “romantic comedy” and mentions something about “occasional moments of cheeky seriousness”. Granted, i have not read ahead in the script (boy, wouldn’t that be nice!) but i really don’t see all these loose ends tying up nicely into a happy ending that involves fading light and someplace picturesque. If anything, it’s more like watching a sweater be unraveled, and at the end all you’re left with is a shapeless pile of twisted thread. And believe me, the thread unravels steadily every day, and i think as it flows out one ear it takes pieces of my brain with it.

Just today my theory was proven summarily true, as i found my key card only moments ago on a shelf in the corner, right where i hang my jacket. Where i hang my jacket on weekdays, that is, when i’m sharing this office and all the chairs are used. But on weekends when i’m here alone, i’m lazy and drape my jacket over an empty chair… and thus hadn’t walked by this shelf or seen my laminated face grimacing up from it’s attached keytag since friday afternoon. Instead, i spent saturday evening tearing apart my bedroom, my office, my Pathfinder, the front yard, and small sections of the street with a flashlight and what must have been an appropriate-only-on-halloween-eve fiendish stare only to terminate my search while still fruitless and seek distraction.

Danielle and i found some distraction at Dave T’s halloween party – and found a good excuse to wear our costumes (that she was mostly responsible for assembling – thanx Danielle for sewing all the patches on my coveralls!). We didn’t stay too late, but enjoyed ourselves for a bit before getting me home to bed so i could work this morning.

With the whole DST switch it should have been a little easier to get up at 5.30 am, but noooo… tired stupid me didn’t set any clocks before i went to bed, so i drug myself out of bed and downtown, and was halfway down the block from my parking space when i brandished my phone (to call Vince to come let me in at the front door – remember i am still key-less at this point) and was greeted with a cheerful “Do you wish to update the time?” which apparently is poorly translated from the Finnish phrase for “Haha sucker! You’re an hour early for work! I can see the L on your forehead from Helsinki!”

So across the street from work with a little over an hour to kill, and running on less than 4 hours sleep anyway, Mr Sandman won me over and i crawled into the backseat of my Pathfinder, covered myself in that blanket i keep in the back, warily set an alarm in the phone i wasn’t sure i could trust, and crashed out fully-clothed in a dark downtown street like the bum that i am.

Let’s be honest – I’ll be unpacking longer than that

So happy Halloween and stuff! Today is my third day of work, and it’s pretty fun so far. I’m learning quite a bit about insurance stuff and Allstate’s systems. My co-workers are very outgoing, friendly people – a perk of working in a customer service office. My commute is really easy, about 12 minutes, and today is Halloween so there will be little kids running around the office after school trick-or-treating. All in all, a pretty low-stress environment.

Elsewhere on the newswire, we had pretty much everyone we know in Seattle up to the new house sometime this weekend. It was good to see everyone, as it’s been awhile with all the moving madness and whatnot. Is “whatnot” a word? Anyway… I unpack a couple more boxes every night. Hopefully, I’ll be done by Christmas…