Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, June 27, 2004


In case any of you Chicago people aren’t aware, I will be in town from July 16-19, or thereabouts (I am flying in on the night of the 15th, but I don’t land in Chicago until after midnight on the 16th.) I hope I get to see most/all of you while I am there.

posted by neil at 10:15 pm
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Sunday, June 20, 2004


I went to go see David Sedaris at Kepler’s an independent bookstore in Menlo Park today. He was having a reading and a signing for his new book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I decided to ride my bike to the Caltrain station and take the train there, since the bookstore is right near downtown Menlo Park and the train station. My plan was to ride all the way back after the event, but more on that later.

The event was due to start at 2:00PM, with doors opening at 1:15PM. Knowing full well that David Sedaris draws huge crowds at these events I decided to get there early. I took the 10:14AM train, which arrived in Menlo Park around 10:45AM. I parked my bike and walked over to the store, to see what the line was like. It was about 6-10 ultra-fans, and it looked like some of them slept there! I decided that I should grab a bite to eat before queuing up.

I wanted to go get food from Stacks, a pretty tasty breakfast restaurant chain that has a location across the street from the store. However it was a complete zoo, and I didn’t think it was even worth my while to try to get some food to go from there. Instead I went to the cafe which is adjacent to Kepler’s, which turned out to have a pretty decent, so I ate there. Evidently I got there just in time, since there was a line out the door by the time I finished eating.

After eating I went in to Kepler’s to buy a couple copies of the book. I also tried to get a copy of The Iliad, since I decided to read it again after seeing Troy yesterday (I last read it while I had a broken leg in May of 1990). I talked to a friend of mine and he recommended a particular translation. Long story short, they only had one copy of it, of a translation that I didn’t want and it was part of a box set along with The Odyssey. They are ordering a copy of the one I wanted though. I ended up also getting A Walk in in the Woods by Bill Bryson sort of randomly. I read the first bit of it last year, while waiting around to see the second Matrix Movie… but that’s another story.

Anyway, after getting the books I go into line. It was about 11:30AM at this time. I took the crap book I am reading out of my backpack and started reading, but it turns out that there was to be other entertainment. Right in front of me was a group of four girls who were all recent graduates from Los Altos High School. They were also insane David Sedaris groupies. They each had handmade t-shirts showing their love of the man. And they also had signs: “Will you adopt us?” and “Will you marry me?” I told them that the first was very unlikely, but that the second was probably impossible. They were forced to sadly agree with me. While we were waiting in line they made a shirt which they would give to him, which they wrote a haiku on. One of the girls said “the only other person I would make a shirt for is Kofi Anan, and I don’t think that will ever happen”.

Besides being obnoxious in their love for David Sedaris, they were obnoxious in the way that only recently graduated high school seniors could be. They gossiped a lot, about sort of amusing topics. One of them is working for her mom this summer, building a database of contract clauses or something bizarre like that. Another one is going to Africa and will subsist on bananas. Then they pulled out their copies of the new book and read aloud one of the essays, each of them reading a section. And a reporter from the San Mateo County Times came over and interviewed them. How could I possibly read when all this was going on? I barely did.

Eventually 1:15PM rolled around and they let us go in. Since I was the 35th person in line (I know this because they gave us tickets to be used for the signing line after the reading) I got what I thought was a good seat. Little did I know that there was a surprise waiting for me….

The 45 minutes until the reading went by pretty quickly. I was actually able to read some during this time. David was actually around during most of this time, both chatting to the bookstore people and also signing a few people’s books. When the reading began in earnest he read an essay from his new book about how he writes stories about his family, and the way they deal with it. He then also read a few excerpts from his diary. They were pretty amusing. It was during the reading that the surprise of my seat became apparent. The old woman sitting next to me kept falling asleep and leaning over into me. After the third time I asked her if she was ok. She quickly quipped that she was just leaning over to see the speaker. I gave up and decided to just deal with it. After the reading he told us all that we should go and read a book called Random Family which he saw on a shelf and told us that he loved. It sounds fairly interesting.

After that he took a few questions. The first one asked about the movie option which was discussed in the essay he read. It turns out that he decided it as a bad deal and got out of it after writing the essay. He also told us that he never wanted to write a movie until he saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead. It turns out that he loves zombie movies, but he is pissed off that people always act so stupid in them. “Zombies basically have no brains, it should be easy to outsmart them”. He also told us about Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, who is he son of Mel Brooks. It sounds pretty amusing.

Finally it came time for the signing. David did something really funny. He said that anyone who was a smoker, and could produce their cigarettes would get to the front of the line. “Smokers don’t live as long, so time is more valuable to us”. I was amused by this, but it meant that I would have to wait for more than 34 other people before getting my book signed.

Narcolepsy lady quickly left after the reading and questions, and I was fine with that. After she left the three women behind me asked me if my arm was OK from her falling over on to it again and again. I told them it was fine. They complemented me on my graceful way of dealing with the situation, and laughed at how she snapped at me. I told them that I really didn’t know any other way to deal with it besides just sitting there, which they appreciated. They were actually just behind me in the ticket line, so I also chatted with them a bit while standing in line. I tried to convince one of them just to pop over to the side and take a picture, even if David Sedaris doesn’t really like to have his picture taken. Eventually she did end up taking the picture, while he was talking to the teenage superfans.

That might be the highlight of the day actually, because he tried to convince them that this should be the summer that they start smoking. Them all being rich Los Altos kids, the were all going to be traveling abroad this summer, and he convinced them that since it was so easy to buy cigarettes in other countries they would be foolish not to. He also told them that they should put themselves on a regimen, and that the first pack would be the hardest to get through, but it would be all downhill after that. It was brilliantly funny.

When I went up we chatted a bit about the fact that there are lots of software engineers in this area, which I said wasn’t necessarily a good thing, despite being one myself. We also talked about the weather in Chicago during the summer, and we agreed that it was much better here. “I love being able to wear a coat in the summer.” was the last thing he said to me before I thanked him for his time and left.

After the event I took the long bike ride home. I am not exactly sure how far it was, somewhere around 18 miles probably, although I ended up taking a pretty stupid route. It was a pretty good ride, but my backpack, with 4 books in it, got sort of annoying. It also helped turn my back into a giant ball of sweat. I stopped at a 7-11 when I was almost home and grabbed some Gatorade, which I drained in about 12 seconds upon arriving home. I then quickly hopped in to the shower and eventually wrote up this story!

posted by neil at 9:42 pm
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Another Movie

Last night I went and saw The Corporation at the Castro theater with my friend Adam. I am going to take a wild guess that we were the only two people in the theater who were going into the experience with the eyes of a skeptic, mostly due to the cheering of what seemed like the entire rest of the audience at fairly banal digs on capitalism. All in all it was quite an experience. Here is a capsule summary of the movie:

Corporations are terrible, and we would all be better off without them.

OK, I’m kidding a bit, and the movie did have some good points in it (both against and FOR corporations, although I think the latter points were inadvertently inserted). The problem was that these points were needles in a haystack of degenerate cases and pandering. There were some points that were only vaguely to corporations and were basically digs on capitalism in and of itself.

The end of the movie, in particular, was a trainwreck, where they could have made an excellent point on how reasonable changes could help rectify some of the worst problems of corporations, but instead layered it with a rich coating of socialist propaganda, totally distracting the audience from what I considered to be a key point. Also the movie was at least a third too long. It is probably better dealt with on DVD, when you can go through the myriad chapters at your leisure.

posted by neil at 9:40 am
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Sunday, June 13, 2004


We saw two movies this weekend, one in the theater and one on DVD. On DVD was saw Eurotrip. Ugh, it was really awful. Although there was one funny part in the movie that wasn’t in any of the trailers. In the theater we saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was good, but I somehow think that this one, more so than the previous two, is easier to understand if you have read the book. Oh well.

The other big news is that, after an almost 2 month hiatus, I have drawn another episode of Niblick the Poltroon. It was good to get back in to the drawing. I hope to keep cranking them out on a weekly basis with few interruptions.

posted by neil at 11:02 pm
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Story from yesterday

This story is actually from yesterday morning, but I feel like it deserves more propagation:

[nyar] wow
[nyar] this morning’s train ride was crazy
[A] what happened?
[nyar] well the train i took is normally 10 minutes in front of a normal train, but it ended up about 9 minutes behind schedule. So everyone was getting on this train instead.
[A] was this the wacky express?
[nyar] no, this is just a normal, albeit somewhat limited, train
[nyar] 32 bikes fit in the bike car on this
[nyar] but there is icing on this cake… there was a whacko with a bow
and arrow just north of the platform at my stop
walking around like a looney between the two tracks!
[B] heh. bow and arrows are the new terrorist choice!
[nyar] i guess so
[A] bow and arrow!
[C] nyar: Did they let you off the train, or go all “we must preserve your safety!” on you?
[nyar] oh, they let us off the train
[C] Well, that’s good, at least.
[nyar] yeah
[nyar] but i had to dig my bike out from the back of the rack, which is never fun

posted by neil at 10:24 am
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Monday, June 7, 2004

Riding the (Baby) Bullet

Caltrain started running their Baby Bullet service today. These are special express trains between San Jose and San Francisco that have very limited stops. Only an hour between the two cities, instead of over an hour and a half! It doesn’t go any faster than the normal trains, it just doesn’t stop at as much.

Anyway one of the stops is one north of the stop closest to my home and another is one south of the stop closest to my work. I decided to try it out this evening. The ride between work and the Millbrae station is pretty hilly, and even though it is only a little more than three miles it took me over 15 minutes to get there. I got there a few minutes before the train came, though.

When I got on the train I found out that the bike car was technically full… these thinner baby trains only fit 16 bikes per bike car instead of 32 on the normal Caltrain trains. I was not about to get off, so I just held on to my bike until we got to the next station, where some people got off and I was able to put my bike in the rack. I then sat down and read my magazine until the next stop, when I had to move my bike to let someone else get their bike out. I never sat down after that, because my stop was next.

I got off at the Downtown Mountain View stop, which is about 5 miles from the apartment. I actually made the ride home in about 16 minutes, which impressed me because I was forced to stop at lights quite a few times. Anyway, the door to garage time from work to home was 64 minutes. When I take the normal trains it is between 75 and 85 minutes, depending on if the train is limited or makes all stops. So I really didn’t save all that much time, but I did get a decent workout.

posted by neil at 10:54 pm
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Friday, June 4, 2004

Bagel Woes

Friday is bagel day. This should be a day of great joy and happiness. But now, it is a day filled with disappointment and sadness. For there was no regular cream cheese today. Every tub out there was either light or fat-free. Whether plain or flavored, this was the case. I held my nose and used a bit of the light “chives & onion” on my “everything bagel”. It was better than a stick in the eye, but just barely…

posted by neil at 10:42 am
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Tuesday, June 1, 2004

It’s amazing humans have survived so long

I somehow came across this weird letter. Here are some key bits:

Do you and your readers know that poor male hygiene is the main cause of female genitourinary (GU) problems?

You may be surprised to learn that most of this pain and suffering is related to diseases caused by common germs–bacteria, viruses, and fungi–that are introduced into the vagina by the penis during sexual intercourse. We humans work with an incredible variety of materials each day: We count money, we pick our nose, we shake hands. When males urinate, they inevitably grasp their penis with their hands, and deposit all the germs collected throughout the day.

To test my theory, an epidemiologist, a pathologist, and I collaborated on a study. We examined the bacterial content of the surface of the penis in 100 men. The results confirmed my theory. Every penis harbored one or more colonies of bacteria (eg, Enterococci, Staphylococci, a-he-molytic Streptococci, Escherichia coli, Micrococci), and many different types of fungi. It isn’t a great leap to imagine that any one of these organisms could be introduced into a partner’s vagina during sex.

The solution is simple: If men want to keep their wives or girlfriends healthy, they must keep their private parts–that is, their penis–clean! They must wash their hands thoroughly before urinating, before touching their penis! Otherwise, they should consider themselves dirty and wash their private parts before engaging in sexual intercourse. In addition, they should keep their underwear clean. Properly used condoms, besides protecting males from the great majority of germs, will also protect their sex partners from unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and, just as important, those pesky, ubiquitous germs described in this letter.

How the heck have humans managed to survive over the past 50,000 or more years without this advice!?

posted by neil at 11:02 pm
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