This Is His Story

For those not keeping notes, I dug through my old site archives from the “1998” version of The Farm (a self-centered extension of my 1997 project) and the 2000~2002 archives of Phaysis and found a handful of blog-ish posts that were worth sharing (if only for sake of record). These were written back in the day when everything on my site was hand-coded and manually uploaded. Good times. I’ve reposted just the text and a few images from those journal entries on this site; you can find them at the links below (I’m still considering revisiting the old hardcoded page designs and reposting them after updating for modern browsers). Enjoy the angst!

The Farm ’98: These were hosted in the 3MB of web space provided by my dialup ISP as part of my account. Not sure why I don’t have any archives from ’98 (maybe because I didn’t build any pages then), but once I set up Phaysis at the new host at the end of ’99, it’s no wonder The Farm effectively stopped that year.

Phaysis 2000~2002: these were from my early years at my first major hosting provider. Note the gap between late 2000 and early 2002, during which Phaysis functioned primarily as a postcard site featuring a changing series of images and a blurb about looking for web design work (check it out on the Wayback Machine). It took a while for me to post any actual content during the gap because I was knocking around too many failed ideas for site engines and withholding journal posts until something stuck. Was being journal-retentive. I should’ve kept going regardless (hindsight is 20/20, as they say).

My first non-hardcoded entry wasn’t until 2003-03-11 when I knuckled down and hacked up a Perl CGI script to dynamically serve journal entries from a database (the script project was called Sojournal). The rest is history.

Fourty-One Done

On the occasion of my 41st birthday, I’m checking in to give a status report. Went out for sushi, which was a treat. Went alone, but that’s for lack of pulling people into my life. Easier most times to go it alone. Had some miso, some yellow tail nigiri, and a Philadelphia roll, and I am stuffed. So good.

Still unemployed, but that’s for the lack of trying. I tell people I’m putting out my resume, but we know what’s really going on. We know the truth. Posting my resume to LinkedIn doesn’t really count. But I have a friend who has all but talked me into applying where he works. It’s a start; something to do to keep me occupied so I’m not spending so much time chewing on my own face. First-world problem.

Speaking of which, the past week of being ill has afforded me a lot of time to navelgaze, but thankfully my head has been too tired to do it. The week of going downtown to hang out and do SXSW stuff gave me plenty of headspace, but then filled it with some sort of pharyngitis. A week down and a regimen of amoxycillin knocked it out, mostly, but now I’m just feeling the malaise of getting my Tdap booster at my old-man yearly physical last Friday.

Doing a bit of spring cleaning at the apartment. There’s a lot of unnecessary stuff just hanging out, items I’ve been meaning to use but never have. A portion of the hoarder’s psyche is a distrust in the future, a worry about not having the right item on hand in case it’s needed. I have a little bit of that. So I’ve decided that I need to let some things go, lighten my load. Decimate some of my computer parts, get rid of old systems, drop off clothes I don’t wear anymore (but somebody else might). Throw out old box cartons and packing peanuts.

Things like a towel rack that I’ve been carrying around since ’98 when I used it in my bedroom at the house on Grand back home (kept it around because it takes up so little space, but I’ll never know if I’ll need it, y’know?) Like my first laptop, a Dell Inspiron 5000e, which has broken plastics, a bad screen, and no battery. Like the Pentium-class computer I built in 2000 to run Red Hat for testing web code, which now runs Win95 so I could use a parallel port scanner I bought in 1996. Stuff like that. It may be functional, but it’s not useful. That’s the rule of the day.

I’ve already dumped a load out at the Easter Seals drop-off behind Saver’s. I have a few more boxes to tear through, mostly of cables, wires, xmas lights, etc., before I carry my old electronic gear to Goodwill. Maybe in the future, I’ll aggregate less nonsense, eh?

So yeah. Life is like a mouthful of corn starch. I’ll eventually chew through it and swallow, hoping for the next spoonful to taste like something, anything. Maybe 41 will be a good year.

Condense, Drop

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) has come up with an innovative solution to the potable water shortage problem that troubles its inhabitants that live in the deserts between the Pacific coast and the Andes Mountains. Rainfall in south coastal Peru averages less than 150mm per year (10mm totals during the summer), and the equatorial glaciers high in the Andes have drastically receded in recent decades, so groundwater is scarce. Yet the region has greater than 95% humidity. So the solution devised by UTEC is to build an experimental billboard that takes electricity from either the power grid or a generator, condenses water from the air, purifies it, and stores it in a tank for dispensing at the base of the sign. This is a great idea, a promising idea. But work must be done to support the promise.

I saw a TED Talk by David Damberger who learned the hard way that great engineering solutions to public problems in developing nations can have many failure modes. The most vexing problem is that the Non-Governmental Organizations, the benevolent groups from developed nations that raise funding, create solutions, and deliver and install them in third-world societies, find that their machinery, their simple solutions, fail at a high rate. Usually, the staff of residents they train to operate and maintain these solutions is largely under-trained and under-funded, lacks the background mechanical or technical knowledge to make informed repairs, or they simply run out of replacement parts. The NGO did their job, patted themselves on the back, and went back home to publish their success while six months later, a year later, their grand world-changing vision stops working, grows vines and rots from disuse.

So what’s to do? Better training? More parts? More oversight? Those are answers, yes. But the best answer is that the planning, installation, operation, and upkeep need to be handled from within the developing country. This is sort-of happening in Peru with the condensing billboard, since it is one of the country’s primary universities doing the research. But what next? It is incumbent on the Peruvian people, and the government that they constitute, to establish a plan for the installation and continual maintenance of a network of condensers to be mounted inside signs, on tops of buildings, anywhere high enough to get sufficient humidity and power. It is then up to the government to guarantee the free and open access to these condensers, by force if necessary, against armed thugs who would block access, as is seen in places like Ethiopia where tribal warlords regularly take the cargo of humanitarian aid missions.

A great idea and a single point of success is not enough. Now repeat that success thousands of times all over the desert so everybody can drink, and you will have a stable, prosperous society. I should hope that the Peruvians are already on this path.

South By So Tired

It’s been a busy, hectic week. Been going downtown quite a bit, mostly for SXSW nonsense. I used to harbor hate for SXSW like most of the other townies, but I realized that life is too short for xenophobia and high-horse riding. While the people I used to run with are stewing in their tired-of-it-all juices, I decided this year to actually get out into the crush of society and find some good times.

Went to Flamingo Cantina Tuesday night and watched most of the evening’s nerdcore rap showcase where MC Frontalot headlined. I’d never seen him before, but I understand he and his buddies started the nerdcore rap movement, rapping about games, technology, comics, and so on. What impressed me most with Frontalot is that he performs with a live three-piece band who lay down the funk under his liquid flow. Funniest bit about his set was his song “I Hate Your Blog“, which is apropos in this context.

Sharing the stage that night was MC Lars, who shared his love for Edgar Allen Poe; Schaffer the Darklord (STD) whose love for his psychoses reigns the day; and Jesse Dangerously, whose ultra-fast tongue carries a deadly weight in words. I didn’t get in early enough to see the other crews on the lineup, but I had a great time nonetheless.

Friday, went to Silhouette on Congress and saw a showcase of electronic artists throwing down the beats. Top of my list is Daedelus (Alfred Arlington), who I tried to see on Wednesday but lacked a badge. I’d heard of him through some of the network streams I listen to, but I never realized just how much of a following he has; the venue packed to capacity when he took the floor. His setup was simple: a Mac and two Mono controller pads, but his mastery of the controllers, samples, and loops at his disposal meant the music constantly shifted moods and never stopped — until the house circuit breakers blew from pushing so much bass. A debug and a reset later, and the show was back on. Set was mint.

The evening showcase was put together by producer Braille (Praveen Sharma), whose set I caught the latter half of. His Soul House style was at once smooth, warm, and sunny. It had a great positive vibe. I need to find more of his stuff.

Surprise of the night was 3-piece outfit Archie Pelago whose beat-driven chillout sound was a fine blend of trip hop, jazz fusion, acid house, and confusion through looping and layering of live sax & cello with the DJ beats. At first, I was suspicious of how they’d fit live instruments into the electronic vibe of the evening, but those guys delivered by sampling, looping, and layering in realtime, giving them a large, fulfilling sound. Worth a listen.

After walking around downtown all week, sitting at various cafes, milling through the crowds, I’m tired. Officially tired. Knees and back and muscles are beat. Ears ringing. I’m also sick; there’s no way of knowing what’s on anything you touch when you’re out in public, so even with all my precautions, I still picked up some kind of pharyngitis. I’m carefully nursing myself to health.

Head is still full in new experiences and inspirations, so overall it was a positive gain. The novelty and bigness of the week was good for me. Glad I went out of my usual.

— Dr. Strangenew (or, “How I stopped hating and learned to love the mob”)

Spelling: B

Did you know I was in a spelling bee in 5th grade? It’s true. Made it into the top 10.

My school district’s layout put all the 5th and 6th graders together on the same campus. There were two spelling bees, one for 5th grade and one for 6th. I made top score at the homeroom level, and represented homeroom in the 5th grade competition. We assembled in the gym, the biggest meeting space in the school, and one by one we all stood at the podium. The moderator would tell us the word, then we would say the word, spell it, and say it again. The moderator would then give us the judgment.

After going through round after round, I get within the top 10. I’m excited and nervous. My turn again. Moderator tells me a word. I say the word, spell the word, say the word again. The moderator then gets a shocked and dumbfounded look on her face. Eyes wide and jaw dropped in disbelief. Tells me the word was actually a different word than what I spelled. I completely misunderstood. Correctly spelled the wrong word. The hot needles sunk into my skin as I looked up at the bleachers full of my classmates. I walked off the riser, collapsed into the chairs along the wall, and sank my head into my palms.

This set up the rhythm of my life. An allegory. “Almost, but not quite.”