Archives, page 2

Mon Apr 30 19:24:20 2012
The Legendary DoucheKing

Today I saw the Legendary DoucheKing. He was riding by on his bike, and was identified by having had a backpack fit to his body that was not meant for storage; it was instead all-speakers so he could share his questionable musical tastes with the neighbourhood. He apparently spent a lot of money to be a douche. Amazing.

Tue May 1 17:33:42 2012
Straddling the Line

This post is about straddling lines, and it straddles the line between what I see my personal blog and philosophy blog being about.

A few days ago I was at a protest calling for us to 「Unite Against the War on Women」; today I spent some time at the the Labour Day events at Union Square, heavily fueled by Occupy.

At both, as I've generally come to expect of protests in general, I have significant agreement with the broad message (let's call it 90%), moderately less agreement with the slogans (let's call it 70%), and agreement with only a reasonable number of the specific subcauses that latch on (let's call that 65%). I'm still comfortable being at such protests; I know they're big tents, and I don't expect to agree with everyone there. I've never been passionate about issues for the social status they give me, and they've generally not given me much status, for any part of my times of political/philosophical passion.

Siometimes this spurs interesting discussion; in a recent "Free Tibet" subprotest at Union Square, I had a long-ish nuanced discussion with someone walking around trying to get petition signatures, outlining my unhappiness with Chinese government practice, but also my unwillingness to support nationalist movements of any kind. The person I was speaking with wasn't unsympathetic to my perspectives, once she understood, and she explained why she was involved. I think a lot of the time in any movement, we don't think enough about why we're involved, and we don't take the time to do the research. How many people support Tibet without understanding the history of the theocracy that was displaced, or support Falun Gong without understanding much about its nature?

I sometimes wish people were less keen to take part in chants without really thinking them over, and that people were willing to consider solidarity more of a gradation rather than an on/off thing. But I do have the luxury and curse of being an intellectual; a person whose passion is always lonely and fleeting, and who can neither effectively lead or take part in such movements. At best I can offer ideas to be rejected/accepted/amended/inspire; this role is one that I feel is deeply part of me. h I've generally avoided discussions of immigration policy at protests; I get the impression there are not a lot of people with my configuration of values, and that's a topic where passions run deep and few people can discuss things carefully. Almost got into a runaway argument with my oldest ex on the topic; she's never been one to stay civil so I eventually stopped replying. I've often been disappointed about that side of her; that it's only safe to discuss things with her where I know I already mostly agree with her. Oh well.

I was happy that I was able to deploy a technology at work today that should make users' lives a bit easier. I don't really get to interface with the other employees that much because of the nature of my work, and 为人民服务 is kind of a philosophy of a good sysadmin-type.

Increasingly lonely, but managing to capture a reasonable amount of chill-ness. The solitude does hang over me like the sword of damocles though. There being no good solution to that makes me feel kind of helpless too, at times. Oh well.

Probably will head to Washington Square in a bit to peoplewatch and read and eat.

Wed May 2 17:55:15 2012
Neighbourhood time

Spent part of the morning on workstuff, decided to get early dinner at an Indian Restaurant called Bombay Masala (1241 Flatbush) that's a few blocks from my place. It was surprising; when I first stepped into the place I assumed the food would be bad; the atmosphere spoke mostly of neglect, with walls in need of paint and repair, and the motorcycle of an employee parked between empty tables. I was the only person there apart from the staff.

I was happy to be proven wrong; the place gets high marks for their food. The presentation, like the place itself, was not impressive, but almost everything there would've competed well in a blind taste test (the samosa were just okay, but the chutney they were served with more than made up for that). The spinach in the saag paneer was (also surprisingly) not served in the way we (American) southerners would do it; it had some spinach texture and taste subtlety left in. The prices were reasonable too. I later looked a bit more into the place's reputation; it's mainly known as a delivery place (despite its mid-sized dining area), so maybe that explains everything.

Now chilling at Café Madeline, the teahouse literally right around the corner from my place. In case I haven't mentioned it, the quality of their food/drinks varies widely; I once had some of the best type of soup here (Potato-Leek), and their pastries are always good; unfortunately their cookies are pretty terrible. Their hummus sandwiches are reasonably good if you remember to ask them to take the nasty ingredients out. They do have an exceptionally pleasant atmosphere though, and the staff has excellent taste in music and seems happy. That goes a long way.

Foot toughening with smaller, more-frequent runs seems to be going okay. The main downside to this is psychological; even a short run seems to drain my "need to run" battery down to zero. Once my feet are tough again, I'll definitely be going back to longer infrequent runs (although if I end up joining groups that do things that incidentally involve running, I'll be up for running more, it's just running-per-se that's best when inspired by things lower down in my mental stack than the fully-conscious.

I'm still sometimes weirded out that there are a few people in the city who dress to my kinda-weird kinks, and I often wonder if they even see these things as partly-sexual or not. I'm not used to being turned-on that way in public (and since I am almost always single, in private too, I guess).

I'm also wondering what it'd be like to leave NYC, either for good or for a bit. The idea of it makes me feel strangely twitchy; being immersed in a place that always keeps one eye open, that's highly-connected, and that seems so busy is filling the needs in me that I always knew were there, and maybe like the awakening that happens in one's first relationship (and the vulnerability that's always there when one is single since that event), leaving will leave a mark.

Fri May 4 21:58:52 2012
Corny Island

On advice from my father, I visited Coney Island today; he described it as an interesting, depressing place whose ship had long sailed (not his words), and as being an interesting place to see. Living on the Q line, I occasionally have had the pleasure of visiting its northern terminus in northeast Astoria (where I enjoy the Waltz-Astoria teahouse); seeing its southern terminus was similarly interesting (although not a place I expect to return often). On that topic, this is something I might make a low-key goal of mine; seeing the extent of each major train line and exploring the communities at each end; the places where the rails end and busses take over tend to be pretty weird in a few ways.

The trip started with lunch a few stops south of where I live at Bukhari; the place is seriously growing on me. Still weirded out by how closely NYC packs nice neighbourhoods to not-nice ones though.

The "sub"way ride was interesting sightseeing; Brooklyn's character changes considerably that far south. It doesn't feel like Manhattan, nor like the eastern-northern Brooklyn parts; it feels like a denser Miami (with the nicer infrastructure of NYC). Eventually we hit end-of-the-line: the Coney Island "subway" station (the "we" is figurative there, of course; I haven't yet found any people to accompany me on my adventures here). The station is large, unique, and very ramp-y but above-ground; it has a feel that's a mix of "construction site" and "amusement park". Appropriate, perhaps, because there are shut-down amusement parks near it.

I hopped out, walked by some of those spooky closed amusement parks, and then started west to see the main part of the town. The place reminds me of Bronx; everything's run-down, there are seedy little churches with stupid names packed densely, expensive sneaker stores and pawn shops, and little sign of intellect. I kept going, and eventually found a number of nursing homes near the beaches; I intended to walk a long loop of the area, but decided to head to the beaches to sit for a time.

I liked how the nursing homes were actually right on the beaches. I was sad to see that the beaches were mismanaged, closed, and there was a lot of litter people had dumped beneath the docks. Still, had a nice rest there, alongside a number of other people (many of them from those nursing homes, some with breathers and similar).

Eventually began the walk back, grabbing a $1 pizzaslice along the way. I was kinda creeped out by seeing blatant and strong Puerto Rico nationalism every step of the way (wasn't sure if the "Non Puerto Ricans will be towed" sign I saw outside a business was a joke or not) and even more crappy little slumchurches.

By the time I reached the station, I felt the beginning of a migraine, but I really wanted to go to a public lecture on astronomy at AMNH, so I decided to risk it. An hour and two trains later, I was at AMNH and once I found the right entrance to use, I was in the lecture hall; the lecture was pretty interesting, and I liked being in the company of fellow geeks, but I was unsure if it was actually public or not because of how the Amateur Astronomy Association people talked at the beginning, and my migraine kicked up to moderate partway through, requiring me to close my eyes and meditate the pain down and pay less attention to the lecture (hopefully there were not tears going down my face; that sometimes happens). It scaled back to mild further through the lecture, and I enjoyed listening more. Cool.

Being back outside, the dim, blue evening light brought my migraine down to being entirely in the background, and I hopped the train down to Tea Lounge, where I am now, to see if some hot tea would help get rid of it entirely (sometimes does) and get some reading done. Still there now.

Currently working my way through a socialist current-events journal that actually seems to be intellectually respectable and presumably pretty selective: 「Socialism and Democracy」. That's pleasantly surprising. They're not coming from quite the same place I'm coming from, in that they're still broadly Marxist while I'm no longer within that tradition, but their Marxist commitment is broad enough that I suspect they would not entirely dismiss Eduard Bernstein, an author I'm also currently reading and enjoying.

This post-migraine high I'm having now is pretty nice, I admit. Not worth the embarassment and pain of earlier today, but good for now.

I'm a bit stung by a loss of the would-be friendship I was hoping to build with someone I met on OkC; I wasn't sure if a relationship was going to happen, but barring that I really was hoping for a friendship. As far as I can tell, her relationship with her ex might've been going back into the "it's complicated" zone, meaning the circumstances of our meeting would've become awkward. Perhaps. Or maybe she just doesn't want a friend like me. Perhaps the part of me that's terrified and untrusting of other people sabotaged even the possibility of a friendship without the rest of me noticing. Ahh well. I need to continue the balancing act of feeling ok-for-now with the silence of my phone and the lack of a social circle without forgetting that I need to fix that as soon as I can.

Also been feeling fiercely jealous in a weird way over certain people; not lover-jealous, not friendship-jealous, but influencer-jealous. There were people I had hoped to be a big intellectual influence over (and ideally to get influence from them too; not entirely one-sided) who've become close to people I consider to be bad influences; either actual trolls or just people whose worldviews strike me as rotten, or occasionally people who've thrown down the gauntlet at me for some reason. It makes it worse when they have proper friendships with these people. Oh well.

Sun May 6 00:02:39 2012
The Stores I miss from Pittsburgh

Entry is private

Sun May 6 17:37:34 2012
Identity and Layers

Recently I've been thinking a lot about a dynamic that's long been at play in my life; when I'm lonely, I'm most productive at philosophy and thought and it feels like my head is the clearest. Having plenty of time and nobody else's spoken words or body language to think about leaves my head quite free to ponder the theoretical, and so I tend to be very mentally productive. Unfortunately, this also is living with the safety net off; emotionally these times are very rough for me. When I have friends and ideally am not single, I'm more easily distracted with the people around me. Maybe ideally I'd have some kind of cycle (weekly? monthly? I'm not sure how long it takes to transition between those mental places; always been too distracted with the circumstances of the shift both ways to pay attention) where I'd come up for air and then dive back into solitude? Or maybe I'll just hopefully deal with not having the ease of deep thoughts and actually live a healthy happy non-lonely life someday.

I've also been thinking about the layers of self that make human interaction, or even making reasonable life decisions, difficult. I was raised in a certain kind of upper-crust, wealth-and-status-are-important way, and that's still internalised in deep ways, while the comparitively recent (late college and the years since) shift towards an academic knowledge-and-expertise-are-important intuitions is more part of my mind than my soul (pardon the metaphor). The cosmopolitan, art-and-culture-and-humanity-loving part is also a later addition; the layers of me don't really agree that well. When I see the upper crust of society with privilege and nice clothes and power, parts of me go to war with each other; I still have a gut attraction to that, and an intellectual distrust; passing the elite eating spots in NYC is a weird experience. There are also conflicts in my socialism, even between that and my academic leanings. Partly resolved in that I hope to provide the cultural and economic opportunities and nudges to hopefully make everyone the "overeducated" academic sorts I love, but there are still twinges when I swat at the postmodernist flies who reject the privilege of the learned using the best tools we have available to study culture and rejecting self-narrative as authoritative (making it instead just "data"). Even the idea of moving from my (relatively poor, unintellectual, dull) current neighbourhood in Brooklyn to Williamsburgh or LIC or somewhere else where people are younger and seem moderately more intellectually alive is something I don't think I'l be able to do without some guilt; am I giving up on a neighbourhood? Shouldn't I try to engage with people locally to see if I can make the neighbourhood more intellectual rather than giving up on it?

But in the end, I am still exhausted with dragging myself all over the place and not finding company. I know I'm complicated and full of weird inner tensions because of the odd paths I keep taking through life; emotionally I'm spread too thin to do more than to try to find a place for myself rather than make one for myself. If I had emotional support of any significant amount, I would have more flexibility on this front.

Wed May 9 21:08:16 2012
Where to be Lonely

Yesterday, I went to an evening meetup in the Wall Stret area; it was a current events and economics discussion group, and we talked about trends in globalisation and how markets move jobs and people around. It was a great conversation; diverse positions, diversity in ages, people from diverse walks of life, and like tends to be the case in NYC, people from all over the country. That part of town, as I think I may have mentioned in an earlier blog post, has a different feel than most of NYC; the land is a bit bumpy, the streets narrow, and the buildings tall, giving the feel of a mountain valley. I am split between finding the people there comfortably familiar and uncomfortably elitist; my complicated class-identity comes out there more than most other parts of the city.

Today, after spending quite a lot of time getting things done for my part-time job, I decided to head up to Yaffa; I had a fantastic pasta of some sort (regretting not remembering what its name was, but immediately forgetting what I order is as much one of my quirks as liking to drink a hot and cold beverage in close proximity). Walked a few blocks afterwards to check out B-Cup Cafe, which is another kind of coffeeshop that I hadn't seen yet in NYC; it doesn't put on airs and is a bit beat-up, has great food, and a laid-back atmosphere; seems the place where you can sit with a laptop for a few hours. The prices are reasonable too. It is in a slightly bad neighbourhood, but that's ok. The music is wonderfully depressing too.

Right now my head is full of lonely; some time back, I had a conversation with the mother of an ex-girlfriend (long after the breakup and the relative normalisation), and mentioned I was thinking of leaving Pittsburgh because I was lonely and felt I needed a new start; she suggested that the lonliness is something within me and is probably not something I can fix by moving. I'm coming to think maybe she was right. I'm feeling a bit weird knowing that my housemate has been here for about as long as I have (2 months?) and seems to have a local network of friends and possibly a girlfriend already, while I have just the light ties with people I used to know in Pittsburgh, which are such as I wouldn't feel right drawing on them much at all. The societies here are as much a sealed box as they were in other places I've lived, and yeah, it's probably because I've locked away the parts of myself that I need to use to make friends, and I don't remember where those parts are.

Being lonely in NYC is a bit less bad than being lonely in some other places. I think. Still difficult though.

I've also been thinking about the books I read as a child that felt like cruel revelations; things that opened my eyes to human nature and the human condition in ways that still hurt. Three examples:

Thinking about exposure to these as cousins to the noble lie; when to expose? Noble delay?

Thu May 10 14:25:36 2012
Phone Woes

The latest bundle of google toys has filled up the internal storage on my phone to being almost unusably full. This is pretty frustrating because:

It would feel very silly if the reason I need to replace my phone is that it can't hold all my apps despite having enough space. Sigh.

Thu May 10 21:02:32 2012
No va

Went to Google's NYC HQ for a presentation on Go. Learned that Go is semicolon-and-whitespace-challenged, and thus dead to me. Oh well. On the upside, while I was there I decided to finally toss my wiki/blog engine onto a shared code repository, and for variety's sake (my other projects are mostly on SourceFnord), decided to try GoogleCode this time. Github was kind of tempting too; oh well. So I guess despite my purpose of being there being a dud, I still got something good from Google while there.

Maybe reconsidering my decision not to apply to Google; the problem with being a systems geek is that people working on systems problems are the kinds of people developing platforms (mostly), and there are not a lot of people doing that. I might have to deal with my notion of charitable/worthy causes and interesting technical problems being further apart than I hoped. Shutterstock also seemed pretty cool as a workplace from what little I saw of them in the last PerlMongers meeting. I also just was approved for a StackOverflow career profile thing, which is kinda cool.

Sat May 12 21:29:15 2012

Yesterday, tried to go to a public lecture at Columbia, but got to the area a bit late and could not find my way into the building; hung out with Gustavo for a bit.

Today I went to a delightful philosophy meetup in someone's house on the upper east side; we talked about the mind-body "problem" and related topics. It went rather well, but near the end of it I felt a migraine coming on; seemed to be a mild one so I didn't leave and hoped that my smile wouldn't be too stepford.

Afterwards, was invited by a small group to grab a beer; reluctantly did so given how I was feeling. It started out okay; we talked about neuroscience, the nature of reality, and political corruption in France and the United States (one of the guys was French), but after a bit my migraine started to get worse to the extent that tears were running down my face and I was starting to see stars; excused myself, paid my bill, and dashed out, somehow managing the subway (my memory is kind of fuzzy on the particulars), made it to the Tea Lounge where I took the mobile version of my emergency terrible migraine remedy: drinking tea at near-boiling temperatures. I feel like I'm burning the hell out of my mouth right now, but I am avoiding much worse pain and the migraine is starting to fade, now that I've been at it for the last half hour or so. There is steam coming out of my mouth after I take a drink, which has gotten me some odd looks, but at least this is keeping me upright.

Damned migraines. This shit is ruining my life. No matter how well or badly I'm doing on other fronts, I can't escape this want-to-die pain for good, and I am tired of burning my mouth (or my skin, in the shower, with the at-home version of this remedy) to lessen this pain. Sigh.

Oh well, the philosophy meetup really was grand. Pity it's only once a month. The sheer number of people who showed up surprised everyone (particularly the host, whose home it was in); despite the many philosophy meetups, I have the strong impression there's a lot of hunger for this kind of thing in NYC. That bodes well.