cbloom rambles

03-26-14 - Work

If I work hard enough, fill my life with work, concentrate on work, eventually I'll be dead and never have to face life.


I heard some Tony Robbins on NPR (I know, lol) and he said something about how "you should wake up each morning excited to face the day".

It occurred to me that I haven't had that in a long time, and I used to have it constantly. I used to love coding so much that I would stay up late into the night thinking about it, unable to sleep. I kept a notepad by my bed to write code ideas on because otherwise I would feel the need to hop out of bed to write things down at night. In the morning I'd pop out of bed full of ideas, "I can fix this bug here, if I change this here..." and jump straight on the computer.

I haven't done that consistently in ages. Occasionally if I'm working on some new algorithm that excites me I'll get a little of it.

(part of the reason is that I've specifically tried to train that out of my life; I now stop using the computer around 7 PM and don't let myself get back on it for *anything* , no internet browsing, no emails, no nada)

But it also occurs to me that it was not entirely happy back then.

One of the few times that I do go into crazy workahol mode these days is when I'm deeply upset. When I've had a fight with my wife, or some friend has really hurt me. When I can't face life. Then I go back to the old ways. I tense up, put my head down, and subconsciously just start thinking about work.

One of the funny things I've noticed is that when I'm upset like that, I start writing rants in my head that are like the old cbloom "how to code" rants. Things about factoring out functions, not using ad-hoc atomic ops, etc. Arr, I'm gonna be all pedantic and teach the world how to be because I know best, arr.

I guess my point is that the "excited to pop straight to work in the morning" is not necessarily a good thing.

03-26-14 - The Seattle Swerve

The Seattle Swerve is when you're walking down a sidewalk and see another human being ahead, so you take a right turn or cross to the other side of the street, just to avoid having to say "hi" to anyone.

03-26-14 - The Seattle Get Together

The Seattle Get Together is when you talk endlessly about "maybe doing something together some day". Then you finally actually get concrete and schedule it. Then at the last minute you cancel it.

That's good Seattle Socializing.

There's also the "Seattle Call for Help", when you post on Facebook or whatever that you'd love if people could come over and help out, have a big apple-picking party or whatever. Lots of people respond with maybes. At the last minute you cancel and say you took care of it yourself, and offer effusive gratitude for all the people who offered help.

Because knowing that people might possibly show up to help you is better than having to actually be with them.

03-26-14 - The Real Seattle

To me the essential Seattle is in the outer neighborhoods. Not the new suburbs, which are generic and place-less like all suburbs, but the older neighborhoods where long term Washingtonians live. Where it's pretty run down. Many streets have no side walks or even curbs. The houses are wood and poorly maintained; covered in moss, many rotting, many leaning slightly as the rot is starting to collapse them. Mossy rooves. Wood smoke drifting out of chimneys. Piles of concrete blocks or wheel barrows in the yard with tall grass growing into them; disused rusting cars. Huge heaves and pot holes in the pavement. Everything is permanently wet and gray.

03-26-14 - Old People - My Neighborhood

My neighborhood is pretty strange. It's got all these different demographic factors and historical factors, and they haven't been all washed away and homogenized by any big revitalization (yet).

One of the weird things is how hilly it is. Not that the hills are so tall, but that there are so many micro-undulations. I've never seen anything like it before, even vs. San Francisco. It's like when the houses were built they just put zero effort into levelling anything. So you'll see one house that's just randomly 10 feet raised above its neighbors. Like the ground work for every plot was just done by the home owner back in the 1920's and some of them decided to grade to street level, and others were like "fuck it" and left their lot either higher or lower than the street.

(aside : it is fucking amazing to have your ground level 10 feet above the street. Amazing. It gives you a yard with so much privacy, and it reduces road noise immensely, you hardly hear cars going by; you feel totally protected and private from pedestrians going by. It's like having your own medieval fort, where there's just a narrow stair for the barbarians to get into your property, and you could easily boiling-oil them if necessary. It's one of the crazy good things about our house.)

Even the street levels vary a lot randomly up and down. There are places where it goes up to a hill, then back down, then back up again, within one or two short blocks that certainly would have just been levelled these days.

The result is that the whole neighborhood is covered in ridges and valleys. And a very distinct demographic variation has developed.

The ridges (particularly ones with views) are afluent, bigger, fixed up houses. The hollers are naturally dark and wet, not very desirable things in Seattle, and they look like they are from a hundred miles away and twenty years in the past. Many of the hollers have no sidewalk (the ridges have sidewalks). The hollers have chain link fences and nasty dogs and shitty little shack houses. Then the next street over is another ridge and it's back to fancy town. Really bizarre.

This neighborhood is the first place I've lived around old people. One of the major events in the history of the neighborhood was the Boeing Boom of the post-WW2 era. Lots of blue collar workers got good jobs and bought houses, and this is one of the neighborhoods where they settled and stayed. So something like 10% of the houses are owned by people who bought them in the 50's and have lived there ever since.

The really shocking thing about living with old people is to see how invisible they are. It's almost like they don't exist.

They have a car that sits in their driveway and never moves. It hasn't moved in years.

They almost never step outside their home. They have a child who comes once a week and takes their trash cans out to the curb for them.

Some days they don't even open their curtains. They putter around inside and are never even visible to the outside world.

03-26-14 - Baby

Baby is so fucking wonderful, but also so exhausting. It's a weird feeling. It's like I crave to be with her all the time, I want to see that big smile, hear her laugh, see what she's up to. But when I'm actually with her, after 15 minutes or so I start feeling like "god this is draining" and after an hour I'm like "ugh get me out of here, I need a break!".

03-24-14 - Jobs I Would Like

Alternate reality career paths. Now that I'm older I realize that the important thing in a job is not what I thought it was when I was younger.

One issue is that no matter how interesting your actual work is, if you do the same work all the time it just becomes "a job". It becomes a grind. So, some random things that I now think are super important in a job :

Getting to work outside. Getting to move around, walk, use your body as part of your job. eg. not a computer job. Nor manual manual.

Who you work with. Working on a team is fun. Collaboration is fun. Being stuck in a huge team with bosses you don't like sucks. Corporate structure and beaurocracy is just awful and dehumanizing no matter how great a corporation they are.

Human contact with a variety of people. eg. not just other male nerds of your same age group. At least in video games, you get to work with artists and designers and such that are a little bit of a different demographic, which is interesting. But ideally you'd get to meet males and females, with different skills and backgrounds and so on. Young people are important because they're full of life and energy; working with old people all the time sucks because they're all cynical and grumpy.

A career path where you can transition to owning your own business. Or some other way to gradually work less or make more money. You don't want a job where it's just grinding the same work all the time; you need some kind of transition to the "old man phase" of work. The ideal thing is the type of job where just being senior lets you get extra pay and less work.

Some excitement; some competition, some deadlines. Maybe external force that shakes up your work periodically. Occasional but rare crunches where you really work hard and then get some feedback.

Perks. Side effects of your job that benefit your life. "Life" being the aspects of life that aren't just work and maintenance. Like sex, friends, fun, just being alive in society. So there are lots of jobs with great life perks. Being a doctor lets you self-prescribe and gives you sexy skills; being a cop lets you live semi-outside the law, like you can beat up someone who mouths off to you; being a lawyer lets you threaten anyone you don't like with lawsuits; being a musician makes you sexy and gets you special access to the musical world; being a cook lets you hang out with other good cooks and meet waitresses; if you're in construction you can work on your own house cheaply, and trade work with other people; etc. etc. Lots of jobs have great lifestyle side effects. Lots of jobs let you do things that ordinary people don't get to do. Those are huge values.

Anyway, some ideas for me in particular :

1. Obstetrician . After having a baby, this one just blew me away. How fucking incredible would it be to be an OB? You get to be a part of the most intense and exciting moment of most people's lives. You have these occasional big moments of excitement (births) that are very hard work and stressful and then you either get a good or bad outcome. Immediate feedback is fantastic. It seems like awesome good fun.

2. Race car engineer. I love the idea of a technical job where you get to actually compete and test your work. My way is better than everyone else, and I want to go out there and race and prove it by winning. Again you get great feedback, periodic big crunches. When I was young one of my fantasy jobs was to be like an NFL offensive coordinator or something like that; something where you get to sit around and theorize and develop play strategies, then you get to actually go out and try them and see them at work. Amazing.

3. Electrician. Rather more modest, but as an adult I see that the basic trade jobs actually look pretty good. You can work for yourself, set your own hours. You get to meet lots of different people, but you don't have to work with anyone shitty if you don't want to. The pay is decent and there's a very easy transition to owning a business and eventually working less. The main downside I see is actually the commuting all over town to go to jobs; I hate commuting. I picked electrician instead of other trades because non-scientific people are scared of it, and there's no body-beating mechanical labor.

4. Marine biologist. When I was a kid "marine biologist" was the silly stereotypical dream job that was used in sitcoms and such that like the unattainably cool hot dream girl would have. At the time I thought it was ridiculous, but now I see yeah, it is a dream job. I would also go for something like zoologist, geologist. Any job where you are doing sort of sciency work, but you get to go out in the field and actually walk around. You get to travel, breath fresh air, go on location, and then write a paper about it; how fucking fun! Let's be realistic, these people just like to take hikes and go scuba diving and such, they do it on the taxpayer's dime, and that sounds great to me.

5. Lazy professor. My brother told me about this idea and it blew my mind. When I was young I was on the "be a professor" track. But it was motivated by trying to do something special, to discover a new truth of nature, to work on the big hard problems at the best school with the best advisor, to have a theorem named after me, all that. In the end I couldn't handle the intensity of that track and dropped out. At the time it never occurred to me that there's another option. You could just be a prof at some minor school. Teach classes, publish occasionally, but nothing too significant. You're never going to win a nobel prize. It's a nice comfortable job; college campuses are usually beautiful places to work, you get an office with windows and pretty flexible hours; and you get to work with grad students, you get to see people learn, which is all very stimulating.

03-17-14 - Sex and Cars

Cars, particularly sports cars, as sexual objects is so obvious that it feels like a tired cliche. But here we go anyway.

Everyone thinks they're a great driver and great sexer and in reality are probably terrible at both.

When I know I'm coming to a nice twisty road where I can stretch the car, I get all tingly inside, my eyes widen, my heart rate picks up, I concentrate fully on the moment, get into the lovely rhythm of the corners, start working hard wrestling the car.

You've got to get a sports car out and wring its neck regularly. It needs it, like a race horse. You've got to get the revs up, get it all hot, get the juices flowing, make it scream. Obviously the sound of a car is hugely important, it's how it tells you that it's loving it. Fast electric cars are hugely disappointing, they just don't seem to be enjoying it. What's wrong, don't you like this road? I'm giving you full throttle, why aren't you making any noise?

Shows like Top Gear are of course pornography. At times it feels a bit sick watching gross old men having sex.

For me the pleasure of looking at a fast, beautiful car is imagining what it can do for me. The thrills it will give when I put my foot down. Ooo yeah, look at that beauty, I bet she'll scream when I work her hard. Yes it's objectively beautiful as an object, the curves and so on, but that sort of artistic beauty is a bit boring, like black and white "art nude" photos. Bleh. I've never seen any appeal in a Concourse d'Elegance (jesus christ trying so hard to be aristocractic, it's a fucking car show you posers) or a car museum or whatever. Can I drive it? No? See ya. I've similarly never had much interest in strip clubs. Can we talk? can I take you home and drive you fast and get our heart rates up? No? I'm bored. It's the experience of driving.

It's lovely to have something that's just yours. Your house, your job, your relationships, obviously they are more important, but they're big complicated fucked up things, you can't make them the way you want, you have to negotiate and compromise and it's all a big pain in the ass. Your car is just like a little microcosm that you can have to yourself. Some people like them really clean and perfect, others like them to be covered in fast food wrappers, but it's yours the way you want. It's relaxing. If the window stops working nobody yells at you to fix it, you can just leave it broken. A car is your mistress. It's not that the mistress is better than your wife, it's not that she's sexier or does things your wife doesn't; when wives find out about mistress they always yell "is she prettier than me?", no that's not it at all, it's just that it's relaxing, it's easy, if you piss it off you don't have to deal with it all day, it's not a big complicated relationship that you have to maintain. If you forget your car's birthday, it still takes you for a fast drive the next day.

I love the style of old sports cars (Aston DB4!) but in reality I don't want to own one. Sure, I know you were fast back in your day, but now I just have to be gently with you or you'll break. That's just not my style.

Old men who finally get to buy their Ferrari or whatever are obviously just like the old men who marry some young hot trophy. You old loser, you don't even know what to do with that any more. Partly it's them finally getting what they wanted when they were young, but it's also a way of sticking it to the young men - look what I've got, I've got what you want. Watch out old man, the valet might take your Ferrari for a ride like it doesn't get from you.

Guys who buy a fast car and then just polish it and never really use it must be sexless. They obsess over how low their mileage is and how they've never gotten the revs past 3000. Their poor wives. You've got a use that machine. You've got to be a bit rough on it to make it happy. It wants it.

Some guys buy a car and then are just never satisfied with it. They have to keep modding, changing this and that, trying to get more power, change the looks. Then they get bored of it and sell it and get another. They never work on themselves, at being a faster driver, at enjoying it the way it is, taking it out to fun roads, it's always the machine that has to be better, has to be different to keep them entertained.

I've seen guys say that "looking for the right car is part of the fun". (particularly on Porsche forums and buyer's guides and such). Umm, no. Going out to the bars, dating, all that shit, it's fucking awful. You get flakers and liars and lots of false hopes that turn out to not work out, people trying to rip you off. It's only tolerable because of the reward you get in the end. The search is not fun. Yeah sure a tiny bit of anticipation and hunting is exciting, but the reality is just that it takes so many awful dead ends to get the good result.

One thing I've noticed recently is race drivers congratulating each other for good sex :

First of all, track driving is like a level of sex that most street drivers never imagine. Sure you can have some fun on the road, but it's at such a mild intensity level. There's something special that happens when you get into a flow, the car is screaming, you're full of adrenalin, sweating, wrestling the wheel, breathing hard, turn after turn, pumping the gas faster and faster, you feel alive, it becomes a physical act. You're not just sitting on your ass, you're working, getting your body into it. I imagine that racing at a high level is even another huge step beyond that.

When you see the end of a race, and two drivers have been really going at it, racing hard, but respectfully - they want to give the other person a chance for a good race; in good sex you obviously are trying to take your own pleasure, but you don't want to just treat the other person badly, it's a dance with them, you're working together; yes you dive into the corner to make the pass, but you don't just smash into them, you give them a gap so maybe they can show you something special. You're laughing, you're surprised at what they can do. When two drivers go through a fast corner wheel to wheel, where neither one thought that two cars could get through, every sense and muscle at their peak trying to keep the cars in shape, that's a good fuck. At the end of the race the drivers are all blissed out and high, and they pat each other on the back - good racing, that was crazy what you did back there at T13. I respect him, he's a tough racer but we always have fun competing against each other.

03-17-14 - Instant Commoditization

I think the thing that makes the hipster generation feel so phoney and unauthentic (same thing with the fixie craze, artisanal beefs, etc.) is how rapidly trends are co-opted by the mainstream consumerism machine these days.

Back in my day, there could be movements like post-punk, grunge, the doc marten pixie-listening set, low riding old american cars, that could kind of exist as a subculture for a while outside of the mainstream consumer culture. The Gap didn't sell the clothes for your subculture.

(not only that, but historically most of the youth subcultures were explicitly anti-corporate and anti-consumerism)

These days as soon as a new trend pops up, it's instantly got blogs about it, kickstarters for it, and in a few weeks you can buy the clothes for it at Target. Once that happens the trend just becomes about commerce and then all authenticity is lost, it becomes directed by the advertisers and image creaters.

03-15-14 - Treasures

Emmy likes to open every drawer, lift up rugs and see what's underneath, dig into all the blankets, just endless exploring, never knowing what's out there in the world.

How disappointing for her that the answer is always "nothing". It's never a key to a secret door to a magical kingdom, or a lost picasso drawing, or a talking rabbit.

Fortunately it's obvious already that she has a great imagination; she'll sit and wave her toys around in the air, drive them around on the ground, and sing "aa aaa" songs about them.