August, 2006

Aug 06

Survivor, by Chuck Palahniuk


Really enjoyed this novel — writing style is strongly, strongly reminiscent of Fight Club, also by Palahniuk. The thing that’s notable for me about his books is that they’ve got a very fast pace, and you always feel like you’re a little crazy & out of control when you’re reading them — like the main characters themselves. And starting with Fight Club means that you’re never quite sure of the point of view & voice that the narrator is working from. Great writing.

BJR told me a long time ago that I’d enjoy these books — glad to finally get to them.

Aug 06



so i’m finally getting around to cleaning up some old files that have been accumulating — just wondering what the hell to do with it all. for example, my eudora folder from 1997 – 2004 (roughly my Reactivity time) is 577 MB (with no attachments). sort of ridiculous. should i keep it around? delete it? i don’t know. it’s not like books & letters — doesn’t take all that much space & isn’t that heavy to carry around — but it’s not useful, for sure.

although, looking through the oldest file i could find in that bunch cracked me up — my brother’s resume from when he was in college and included: "Summer 1994   FRANK AND HENRY’S FAJITA HUT  Rockwall, TX". too funny. reminds me of so many ridiculous jobs i’ve had. fastfood cook at Quick Wok; ride operator at Jungle Jim’s Jamboree.

i guess the occassional humor value is maybe worth toting around gigabytes worth of stuff. (question to ponder: would i rather have all this stuff just archived at google forever & ever? quick response: ick. no. 2nd response: maybe. 3rd response: i’m not sure i care.)

Aug 06

poor pluto

looking like maybe pluto will get to keep it’s planetary status. and we might even get three new planets — called “plutons” — including Xena & Charon. scientists in prague are voting on it over the next couple of weeks and it looks like they think it’s a good idea.

but not me. i say we should throw pluto off the planetary bus. always seemed sort of cold to me. it’s no neptune, i’ll tell you that much.

Aug 06

driving a hybrid

So far, driving a hybrid has been an interesting experience for me. the first “aha” that I’m finding is that there are so many indicators and reminders of fuel consumption that I consciously try to drive a little bit less like an idiot than I did in my last car. I find myself taking corners more slowly, accelerating a little bit less quickly from a stop, and generally trying to coast more on the highway.

That’s all resulted in sometimes peculiar driving habits, to be sure. But probably overall safer, and surely more fuel-efficient.

Buying a hybrid SUV has meant that we haven’t seen incredible gas mileage so far — more in the range of 26-28 mpg — which is 50% better than my A4, but still not what you’d call world-beating.

The other interesting thing I’ve seen noted elsewhere: inside the car it’s just much more often quiet than in other cars. Riding around in Kathy’s TL (which we previously felt was pretty darn quiet) now feels pretty “rumbly” to me all the time. Just need to watch out for pedestrians. (I get a *lot* of looks in parking lots when we’re backing out — pretty much always silent since it’s on electric motors.)

Anyway, so far so good — it’s hard to say in 2006 that there’s ever a time when we forget about our oil-dependence — but I think I’m glad to be driving more mindful of it.

Aug 06

A Crack in the Edge of the World, by Simon Winchester

Fantastic book, as usual, from Winchester. 3 main story lines: (1) how plate tectonics work, with particular attention on our lovely left coast, (2) the history of San Francisco, and (3) a recounting of the events of April 18, 1906 (great picture of City Hall at that link).

And forgive me for the long excerpt, but here’s my favorite bit, relevant today for so many different reasons:

Seldom does an entire and very large urban community fall victim to utter disaster. Most great catastrophes tend to be relatively local — an explosion will devastate an awesome number of city blocks here, a fire will wreck a neighborhood there, a flood will inundate the lower-lying parts of a town, terrorists will wreak mayhem in a crowded urban quarter. But once in a mercifully rare while there are those events that enfold and ruin in full the complex engine work that is an established, fully developed urban society. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are among the most obvious. The Great Fire of London in 1666. The Black Death. The wartime destruction of Berlin and Dresden. the volcanic ruin of Santorini, of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Merinique’s St. Piere. The huge eatrhquakes in Lisbon and Tangshan — and then, in 1906, in San Francisco.

the biggest of these cities survived. The smaller communities — Pompeii and St. Pierre, for example — lost their raison d’etre once their buildings were gone, once their monuments were buried and their byways obliterated. but the world’s big cities generally exist for reasons that go far beyond the accumulation of buildings that is their outward manifestation. Their presence in the place they occupy is invariably due to come combination of geography – they lie by a river crossing, in a bay of refuge, at the mouth of a mountain pass — and of climate, together with some vague and indefinable organic reason that persuades humankind to settle there.

Trials of any kind — war, pestilence, natural or human violence, with wholesale death or total physical destruction, or both, being the harshest of all — may slow that growth or cause some other setback; but such things are just setbacks, and before long the original reasons for a city’s existence reassert themselves. Life returns, buildings and roads are rebuilt, new monuments spring up or old ones are found and dusted off, and before long the city returns to its old self, ready to see what more fate can hurl at it, to challenge and strengthen and temper its will to survive. It may not always entirely regain its predisaster status — San Francisco had to cede much to Los Angeles, for example. But generally, so far as their respective quiddities are concerned, great cities always recover.

…So whether it is Manhattan, Falluja, Warsaw, Coventry, or Hiroshima, it seems true that though cities may on occasion lose their heart, they seldom also lose their soul; and San Francisco was no exception. All that its shattered, wearied, and suddenly impoverished citizens needed was leadership, someone to take charge, someone to lift the demoralizing burdens of wreck and ruin from their shoulders and show them the possibilities of remaking the place that they had called their home.