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30th May 2013
Wow, I haven't posted since January. :
I am harried. My pants are Chapter 11 and looking at Chapter 7. Uri Geller has had his way with my spoons.
I've been tallying the pressing matters that want my undivided attention:
1. my job at the rickshaw company;
2. my job at the upholstery shop;
3. my freelance tax preparation work - this may now be fading away for the next few months, and yes I know April 15 was weeks ago;
4. my freelance translation work - dormant at the moment, but still claiming mindspace;
5. my volunteer gig at the library;
6. my efforts to find new health insurance (my COBRA runs out end of July);
7. renewing my apartment lease;
8. getting various medical stuff done before COBRA ends;
9. my Freud book (the white whale, as I've come to see it - more on that soon);
10. the nonfiction e-book project (on taxes for pedicab drivers, pending till I know what I'm talking about);
11. another writing project I am not prepared to discuss, but which is also tenaciously holding mindspace;
12. helping my mother with various things she's not quite up to handling solo anymore, being at the "x years young" stage of her life;
13. the usual life stuff - haircuts, laundry, sleep.
I'm grateful not to have to stare at the four walls, but when I'm home and on me time, the thing I tend to do is stare at the four walls. And the Mets losing, and the internet.
If anyone has a spare year's salary lying around needing a good home, call me. I can translate something for you, or do your taxes.
6th November 2012
I got up an hour early to vote this morning, got there a bit after 7 am and it was already a mess. I was first directed to the wrong line for my district; then, when I got to the right table, they couldn't find me in the book. So I had to fill out an affidavit ballot instead. I got a special ballot, and an envelope with red writing on it where I had to fill in my identifying information, so they can hopefully find me and count my vote later on tonight. I did not bother to thank the poll workers, although they may well have had training sessions cancelled because of Sandy, so I feel bad about it now. I got to work about 1/2 an hour late. :
I gave Working Families a lot of my favor, and Democrats otherwise.
6th October 2012
I think the new one-game wild card preliminary round of postseason play has broken me. I'm actually wearied by the idea that there are three more rounds of playoffs after this. Seriously? :
Maybe the division series should be trimmed back to best of three and the LCS to best of five, keeping the World Series at best of seven. This would make for a pleasing symmetry of odd numbers, plus it would mitigate the November Problem.
I'd been musing earlier about the possibility, instead of two wild cards, of having the wild card-best record division series be best of three while the other one remains best of five. The pitfalls of this are obvious, so perhaps all three games need to be played in the best record team's stadium to readjust the wild card's disadvantage further. Or maybe this is more baroque than helpful.
I was ranting on Facebook and Twitter a bit last night about the Infield Fly Rule, and this piece
defends the call in the Cardinals-Braves game as well as any. Still, I don't think anybody would have been saying, "that should have been an infield fly," if it hadn't
been called in that situation. Maybe the Infield Fly Rule is the baseball equivalent of the parallel postulate
- an awkwardly-phrased, non-intuitive rule that is necessary for the whole thing to work. I don't know.
I also want to put on record somewhere that I predict the Nationals will win the NL pennant - and I'd be glad, not least because of this guy
- and I have no idea who's winning the AL. I can't complain if the Yankees win, but it's the most boring possibility. Orioles might be the most intriguing option, but there are no teams whose success is to be dreaded here.
I think Yankees-Cards is the least appetizing combination. So I'll root against that
19th May 2012
I finished : this biography of Sigmud Freud last night
, as part of the novel research, and I can happily say it's given me a lot of insight into Freud's personality, his strengths and his shortcomings. The book is by no means perfect - the writing rubbed me the wrong way in spots, and the chronology gets fuzzy in the latter part of the book, after the psychoanalytic movement is under way, where I really wanted clarity in what exactly was happening, what books and articles were published when, who was in and out of Freud's favor when - but it is a good and fair assessment without any sense of hagiography.
I need to decide now if Rudolf and Freud get along. This, if my research is any guide, will be crucial to the success or failure of the treatment. (Please note that success or failure to treat Rudolf successfully may or may not correlate positively with the fate of Austria-Hungary. Pyrrhic victory is always an option.)
17th April 2012
Suck. On. This.
Congratulations to the Mustache of Understanding, Thomas Friedman, : Eschaton's Wanker of the Decade
For more on why this is such a well-deserved honor, check out one of the best takedowns of an inexplicably popular author
since "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."
I also want to recommend James K. Galbraith's The Predator State
, which I'm a few pages from finishing, as the most eye-opening and original take on America's recent economic history I've read in a while. I suck at explaining what's so great about this sort of book, but it's good stuff.
These things are related because in the course of reading the Galbraith, my opinion on the "stupid or evil" conundrum of current political leadership shifted decisively towards stupid. (Of course, any sufficiently advanced stupidity becomes difficult to distinguish from evil.) Good grief, our leadership are together enough to pour piss from a boot with instructions on the bottom, but damn little else. As I've said before, it really is all about dying with the most toys, and they don't even care who they take down with them.
(Edited to swap links to a better one of the Taibbi article, which includes the Get Your War On strip that introduces the Mustache of Understanding.)
23rd February 2012
So let's see, what's up? :
I had a relapse of some of the crud that's been plaguing me this winter
, so a bit enfeebled. I expect to be under the weather to some extent till the weather warms up enough to knock the crud out of me. Probably some time in May - even though it's warm for winter, it's not actually springlike.
I registered again for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
, along with my mother and brother. I haven't trained as much as I probably should, nor have I even really looked at the NYTimes crossword since I decided to drop buying it at the newsstands when the price went to $2.50. I have the online subscription but really don't use it.
I'm also registered for another translation class at NYU, and I'm looking to submit a literary translation for NYU's Arts Festival. I don't have anything ready, but I'm looking at what works I have around that would be suitable to translate. Preferably something that hasn't already been published in English translation - to obviate the need to worry about plagiarizing - and from a personal viewpoint, if it's by a Puerto Rican or Venezuelan writer, I'd be really happy. Feel free to suggest something!
I also finished the biography of Emperor Franz Joseph I've been reading this week, and began again with the Freud bio I started a few months back
and set aside (actually, took back to the library - I have my own copy now, that I can read as slowly as I please, or more accurately, am able). I have a new angle of approach to the Freud book that stems from something in the bio - the author notes Freud's ambition to become a great man, a history-making figure, and I can see a vision of Aristotle guiding Alexander, or Plato and Dion (and I'm gratified to see the Wikipedia article on Dion refers to The Mask of Apollo
, great book), occurring to Freud quite naturally, what with his classical bent. That could lead down some very interesting paths indeed. I don't know yet that I actually have a story
or anything to say - speculative fiction is always about here and now in some way - but I'm excited by the possibility.
And I printed out the first chapter of the torso of a manuscript at work, to look at for the first time in months, and as far as I can tell, it isn't an embarrassment of suckery. I'd even dignify it with the description of workmanlike, and some works get published without rising even that far. (I'm looking at you, Oscar Hijuelos, you overrated poser.) So I feel like continuing to work on it will be worth my time. Kewl.
2nd February 2012
I set up a Twitter feed for my employer. I can access the account from the iMac desktop at work and from my Windows machine at home. My boss cannot log into the account from his Mac laptop, no matter how he tries. :
I logged out of the account on the iMac to let him log in, without any luck. Then, when I logged in again, I had to type in a captcha to be allowed back in, which I had not needed to do previously.
Twitter tech support is not helpful, they want to reset the password, and I'm not sure that'll fix the issue.
31st January 2012
brought to my attention The Challenge: A Month of Letters
, where one writes a letter to someone every day the USPS delivers mail in February. Sounds like an excellent idea, and an excuse to reconnect with some people I've lost touch with. My first letter will be to a guy I worked with at the rickshaw place for a while who I grew rather fond of, who disappeared for a while and resurfaced in DC. I don't know if he'll want to keep up any correspondence, but I'm willing to take the chance.
I actually read two whole books this month! Not getting the paper any more frees up commute time for book reading. Neither Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
(not set in this century!) nor Garry Wills's Bomb Power
is an easy read (though Bomb Power
reads quick, it's fairly short) or a feel-good sort of book, but they both give insight into how our world got that way. I also got a tidbit or two for the Freud-Rudolf novel along the way.
Speaking of which, I'm ready to return to research reading for that project. I'm torn between going back to the biography of Franz Joseph I began a few months back, possibly restarting from the beginning; reacquiring the library copy or purchasing a copy of the recent biography of Freud I started a few months back and couldn't finish in one library borrowing cycle; or continuing with the abridgement of the famous Jones biography of Freud, which is valuable because Jones knew Freud personally and because I want Freud to correspond with Jones in his customary fashion as a part of the book. I still wish I read faster, so this didn't seem like such a tough call.
just pointed me at this
, which I note here to self as just the thing to send to someone I plan to write to.)
Does anyone have a good system for keeping track of novel-related research stuff? My research skills are antiquated and not very tech savvy. Avi mentioned Tiddlywiki as a possibility, since I think linkage between timeline stuff might have some use, but it's iffy with Windows 7. And I'm sorry, Excel is for number crunching.
15th January 2012
I just replied to an ad from Craigslist looking for part-time and full-time translation specialists. I don't have a resume set up for translation yet, and no real portfolio, but what the hell. :
I'm conflicted about the tax work I was planning to do this year. I decided I don't want to use the tax software I'd initially decided on using, and found a different one that's a bit cheaper for my needs, but there's a catch: E-filing costs money, and if I do more than ten returns, I'm required
to e-file them. Registering with the IRS to be an authorized e-filing agent is separate from the tax preparer registration, so it's an extra fee, and an extra on-line registration, and I think I have to provide fingerprints, too. If I didn't already have clients whose tax needs necessitate my using software, I'd consider taking this tax season off.
These would be easier decisions to make if I also didn't have to pay to have a broken tooth fixed. That needed to happen this month because my dental insurance COBRA ends at month's end, and redoing a crown is pricey. All that (along with paying for the new laptop) meant shelving plans to take two translation courses this coming semester, and being able to afford even one is a close call.
I'm determined to keep moving in the right direction, but I do wish life would be a bit more cooperative and stop giving me obstacles to move around.
9th January 2012
An oldie, but a goodie: : Charles Pierce
on the lost opportunity of the Iran-contra scandal. An awful lot of subsequent historical ugliness wouldn't have ensued if Iran-Contra had been dealt with properly.
FYI, Glenn Greenwald alluded to a quote from the special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh yesterday - on his hundredth birthday, no less - but after reading the quote, I checked Wikipedia to see when he died, since I didn't recall seeing an obituary. Turns out that's because he actually turned 100 yesterday. Happy birthday, Mr. Walsh, and may you outlive all those who eluded your grasp.
Edited to add: Re: Pierce, of course, I'd read Pierce reading the phone book.
- Being without a computer for six weeks has cramped my style. I had plans to gear up for tax preparation for the new year in December, as well as to begin soliciting paid translation work, but I didn't feel comfortable doing so without my own equipment to do the work on. And getting sick didn't help; I still feel a bit run down and disinclined to move on stuff I'd planned to do - buying tax prep software, marketing my services, and doing more writing to boot. And having to spend about $1,000 on new computer stuff is not making things any easier. I'd hoped to put that inevitability off till I had a bit more cash to play with. :
- I realized last week that the plan I had to finish the translation certificate program by the end of summer is unrealistic, because NYU doesn't offer enough courses in the summer to make it feasible. I cannot spare either the money or the time to take more than two courses in the spring - and possibly not more than one, given the computer purchase - so I'd need to take two at least in the summer, which I believe is more than they provide. So I'm looking at the end of 2012 at the earliest to be done with the certificate. I can obtain work without the certificate, certainly, so it's no great hardship, but I wanted to be done already.
- I also have concluded that I need to tear apart and recreate my resume. My current one is an old-style chronological number, and I don't think it's getting me noticed in a modern environment. I may not need personal assistance if anyone knows of a website with good sample resumes. Any suggestions?
- I have decided that a $2.50 cover price, as effective last week, is more than the NY Times is worth to me. It was barely worth it at $2.00, so it wasn't a tough call once I had a computer at home so I could read the important stuff on line. As far as keeping my mother supplied with crosswords, which is a big reason I held out this long, an online subscription to just the crosswords is dirt cheap, and I'll see if she'll go halfsies on it.
One very cool thing about the new laptop is that it's fast enough to wake up almost immediately when I turn it on - though the 45 updates Windows 7 saw fit to apply overnight might slow it down some, keep your fingers crossed - so I can drop in for 5 minutes before work and check my e-mail. Something it took the old laptop way too long to be ready to be worthwhile. :
I woke up strangely this morning: telling myself that I needed to update my resume to add a job I'd totally forgotten about, then realizing, when fully conscious, that this job and the vivid memories that go with it cannot have been real. The only time period it could have been was between the Chinese chemical trading company and my return to the computer consulting firm, which was the second half of 2002, and I know I didn't work then.
I think I must have dreamt back in 2010 about a conflation of the Chinese company and the computer consultant (my ex-boss there played a part, as did commuting to New Jersey), and the dream was fleshed out enough in my memory that it felt real the second time around. What an odd feeling to know, in detail, a thing you did, and yet in reality could not have done. Reality is supposed to be better delineated than that, dammit.
7th January 2012
I'm back! :
I have a gorgeous new laptop and need to catch up real soon.
I have a thing this afternoon, so more later.
26th December 2011
I'm feeling a bit gloomy at the moment. December has not been easy. :
My laptop is still on backorder. I'm writing this on my mother's desktop machine because I needed my internet fix, and because I have a couple of essential things to deal with for tax prep work in 2012 that need to be done online before year's end. Being without a computer of my own for a month now threw a monkey wrench into my plans to buy professional tax software, and start on paid translation work, and generally get new revenue streams into place for the new year (for its own sake, but also to have the means to set up my exit strategy from the upholstery job. I do not want to still be working there next Christmas). It also is interfering with writing projects I had planned to concentrate on once my classes ended, which was a week and a half ago.
Further, I had one of my tooth caps break over the weekend. My dentist is on vacation this week, and while I have an emergency number for him, I'm not in pain, so I can wait till next week to get looked at assuming nothing changes. I'm glad this occurred now while I still have insurance; COBRA is extended to 36 months in New York for medical insurance, but not for dental, so my dental insurance runs out at the end of next month. Fixing the tooth still promises to be an expense I need to think hard about, since what little I have in my savings is earmarked to pay for classes, and with the new laptop and whatever dental expenses I have ahead, that plan is looking shaky.
On top of everything else, I got sick three weeks ago, and I'm still not 100%. I had to look up the number for my brother's house so I could call him for Christmas yesterday, and his number hasn't changed in well over a decade. I've had few opportunities with the holiday season to really rest, so mostly I've had the concentration to do crosswords and other puzzles and then go to bed early, rather than anything productive.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So I'm feeling gloomy. I know some of this blue mood is hormonal so it'll lift soon enough, and I know I'll have a laptop soon, and the dentist will be able to see me next week. So things will be better. It's still a bit hard to shake the notion that the universe has decided to make things rough for a while to see what I'll do. It's a good thing I have a clear vision of where I want to be - folding is not an option!
4th December 2011
Here's the state of affairs for now: :
My laptop is still dead. I'm working for class on my mother's desktop machine and the Mac desktop at the rickshaw workplace until I receive a replacement.
My former workplace, the computer consulting firm, was kind enough to make me a deal on a new laptop - another HP with a Core i5 processor, 4 GB memory, and a 500 GB hard drive. This one is built to be used as a business computer, unlike the previous couple I've had. The one they ordered for me arrived at their offices on Friday. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged in transit, and had big dents in the lid. So it clearly wouldn't do, and now the model in question is on backorder until (I hope) the 15th or so. So I'm on borrowed equipment for the remainder of my semester, probably. So be it. I got this week's translation class assignment completed and handed in earlier this afternoon, so only one more needs to be done.
The other good news is, my sister sent me word of a local nonprofit needing a volunteer to translate a document into Spanish for use in workshops being conducted in Latin America. I contacted them, they sent me the document, and I did the work amid all this IT hassle. I finished Tuesday night at just about midnight, at my mother's place, after work and after my library conversation group commitment. The document is going to be published online and maybe in print format soon, and I will receive credit for the translation. So even though it's unpaid, it's the foot in the door to attract more translation work. I'm on my way!
I can't wait to get the new tools so I can really begin to do business. I plan to take on more tax preparation work in the new year as well, and that requires me to pay license fees and buy better software, which will happen soon. And I also want to get back to work writing the Freud novel, which has been on the back burner since classes got busy. (I'm seeing A Dangerous Method
tonight as research.)
So if things aren't perfect, at least I'm busy with cool stuff!
28th November 2011
I gotta ask: the Eurozone is about to fall apart because interest on German 30-year treasury bonds went up to 2.83% last week. :
Since when is 2.83% a crazy high unsustainable interest rate? I mean, the impression I get is that European governments can't pay back their bonds at the interest rates they're getting on the market, which in the case of Italy, one of the sick countries, was something like 7 1/2%.
How screwed up is it that these rates are so hard to cover? I could swear rates on government bonds used to be a lot higher and no one thought anything of it. (Of course, I used to get measurable interest on my savings, too; probably it's all part of the same puzzle.)
27th November 2011
I've had a tough day. :
So I'm taking this commercial translation class, and there was a projct due by midnight tonight. 25% of the final grade, and a full point off the grade for lateness. So I was under the gun, especially since I started later than I should have.
And my laptop has been giving me trouble for the last several weeks. I thought the battery was dead, so I got a new battery, but it's sometimes not booting back up when I put it to sleep, and I have to let it rest, then reboot cold, which may or may not work right away.
You can see where this is going.
Got up at 8 this morning. Laptop looks OK, but doesn't come back from sleep. I had the presence of mind to back up my project file to thumb drive and Google Docs last night, so not a total tragedy, but still shitty.
Shut it down, wait till 10. Nothing. I eat breakfast, dress, and decamp to my mother's apartment to use her desktop machine. When I get here, I recall that her wireless adapter that hooks her machine to the cable modem is dead, so no Internet access, and I have to upload the project to the class website. And she has no ethernet cables handy.
So I run out to one of the cheapass discount stores in the area and spend 6 bucks on a 50 foot cable. (I needed at least 25 feet, and Radio Shack didn't carry bigger than 14 feet, and was charging 17 bucks for that.) Big mistake - I get to Ma's and find out the cable doesn't work. Still no connection.
So I go do what I'd planned to do weeks ago: go to J&R's and buy a new adapter, plus a Belkin 25 foot ethernet cable for belt-and-suspenders purposes. Set me back $40 (which Ma will reimburse me for). At least this time everything works and I can finally start work on my project. By now, it's 2:30, so I lost 6 1/2 hours to all this nonsense.
I managed to finish my project and turn it in by 9:30, so I'm happy about that. But I'm so pissed about losing the day, not finishing another project I'd hoped to get done (which I have a couple extra days for), and probably having to get a new laptop I didn't want to spend the money for just yet. I'd wanted to hold on another six months, when hopefully I'd have earned some money on the side on tax and/or translation work, but I can't trust the one I have. And I can't possibly do the work I want to do without a reliable computer.
If anyone recommends a good, inexpensive laptop for business, I'm all ears. (I've had two HPs, but I'm open to a different brand if it's reliable. Better a larger screen than a smaller.) And if someone has a laptop I can borrow till December 15, when my classes end, I'm interested.
29th October 2011
I think : this video
presents a brilliant bit of jujitsu against the banks - not a new one, but in the context of Occupy Wall Street, an excellent tool. Sending the banks' junk mail back with pro-99% messaging? Priceless.
Plus the extra postage will help keep the USPS afloat too.
27th September 2011
Well, I was going to link to the New York Times "Small Fixes" page, with lots of cool cheap scientific and medical innovations, such as paper-printed microchemistry-based diagnostic testing and a vinegar treatment for early cervical cancer lesions. But I've used up my twenty free links, so they won't let me till September ends (and who knows if I'll remember then?). Oh well.
25th September 2011
I'm currently reading : this biography of Freud
, which I hear is fair and appreciative of his role in cultural history without being a hagiography. Turns out Freud had issues with his parents and hangups about sex. Hoodathunk?
The author can be tendentious sometimes, and I get annoyed at some of his word choices. But on the whole it's a good read so far, and he makes clear how much of psychoanalytic theory was conjured up from Freud's thinking about how the mind must work, rather than empirical research into how the mind does work. Freud revered the ancient Greeks, and I think he may have drawn his ideas about scientific reasoning from Aristotle's example. I can't imagine him looking into a woman's mouth to count her teeth, either.
I'm not at the point where it's relevant to the novel yet, since he hasn't begun his medical career yet. But soon I will need to begin a timeline for his career, to determine what his thinking would have been in a therapeutic setting in the time frame of the novel. I've already had to reevaluate the place my Emperor Rudolf's mother would have in the narrative, among other things, as a consequence of reading this brief introduction to Freud's life and work
, which I strongly recommend. I also see that Freud's own mother, who was, shall we say, a formidable woman, was alive in the novel time frame. (I wonder what that means...;))
Once I finish this book, I need to read the biography of Emperor Franz Joseph
I picked up this week. I note it's essential to have a strong sense of what actually happened before you can rewrite history effectively, and the best way to imagine what a Rudolf would do differently from Franz Joseph is to see Franz Joseph in action. I especially need to strengthen my knowledge of the Habsburg court, as my other research so far has dealt heavily with bourgeois Vienna, and the cultural wall between court and commoners was high enough that the one doesn't illuminate the other much. (I also need to find an efficient way to fashion a timeline that will show what Franz Joseph and what Freud are doing in the time between Rudolf's death in our timeline and the time frame of the novel, where I can fill in Rudolf's extrapolated timeline. Anyone have any ideas how to manage this sort of thing?)
My concentration isn't what it could be because I have so much else going on. I began a class in advanced Spanish conversation and composition at NYU this past week, and that is taking up a big chunk of mindspace - I offered to do an oral presentation in Spanish on the problems with the Spanish economy in a couple weeks, so there's that to prepare. And I am looking to do more tax preparation work in 2012, and even this year, if anyone who's filing for 2010 after getting an extension needs help. (Feel free to let me know if this is of interest to anyone out there.)
And then there's work, and the library gig, and the commercial translation class that starts soon, and I have a lot of balls to juggle. But I'm not complaining - it's better to be too busy than not busy enough.
20th September 2011
So to readdress the matter of debt : as mentioned in my post the other day
, David Graeber has mentioned how historically unusual it is as a concept that debt must
be repaid at all costs.
I know I feel a strong sense of obligation to pay off whatever debts I have, and to be repaid money owed to me. Now, some of this is being my mother's daughter - I won't go into detail here, but Ma's frugality is A Thing. Ma was a Depression baby, for one, but also, she is trained as a bookkeeper. As am I, obviously. And I think what I call the bookkeeper's mentality enters into this mindset. Debits should equal credits, after all. It all has to balance. (Early in my working life I compared the appeal of bookkeeping and accounting to that of chemistry to my adolescent self; I like the idea of everything fitting neatly together and balancing out.)
I've wondered sometimes about the feasibility of constructing a trial balance
of the aggregate world economy, to make sure all the world's debits and credits balance, but I honestly don't know if that would work. It makes a certain intuitive sense that value (for want of a better term) would be conserved across transactions, but is there any reason to believe this is true? Debits and credits do balance in a closed system, but I can't think of a reason to expect any Law of Conservation of Value to be true universally. Quite the contrary.
So maybe value resembles entropy more than energy. I'd love to know if any economist has devised any theories along these lines. (One reason I never pursued studying economics further was just the unsatisfying lack of rigor it seemed to possess by comparison to the physical sciences. Nothing in subsequent reading on economic affairs, even from Krugman
who is one of my heroes, has led me to feel differently.)
My English conversation group is now meeting on Tuesdays rather than Mondays, because the library changed the days it's open late. I expected this to work out better for me as far as commuting, since I would not have to leave earlier than usual from my workplace in Brooklyn, but so far I've been about 15 minutes late both times I've made the trip. It is a longish bus trip, but apparently the last bus I have to take doesn't always go as far west as I need it to. I will investigate alternative ways to get there this coming week. :
After a stretch of over a month when just one guy was showing up, I have had three or four people the last month and a half, which is gratifying. Today there were three, and one of them inquired if I was interested in taking on an English class which she had been in, whose instructor passed away. I'm honored that she would ask, and it would be paid work, but I should check with the library for any conflicts of interest, and I should also ask around to see if I'm acquainted with any ESL teachers who need work and are willing to work in Brooklyn. Far be it from me to take the opportunity from someone better suited. If any of you know anyone who fits the bill, I'm all ears.