Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dream Log: Travel Blogging Project

I dreamed that I was one of around a dozen bloggers chosen to participate in a corporate-sponsored project, one of the corporations probably being General Motors, because each one of us was put as a passenger into an identical boring new GM car. Starting in a parking lot in downtown Detroit, the cars took off together, following identical GPS routes hundreds of miles east.

My father, my mother, my brother and I were in my car. We were all decades younger than we really are, although it was still 2017. As it was decades ago, my Dad was driving.

The GPS route took us over a variety of roads, from Interstates to rural dirt roads to streets going through the middle of towns.

Only a couple of the bloggers blogged mainly about cars, and only a couple were travel writers. The rest of us represented quite a variety of approaches to writing. We were told that we could blog about the cars, or about the journey, or not, just as we pleased. We could link blog posts by the other bloggers -- current posts about this road trip, or posts years old. We could critique posts by the others. Or we could do none of the above. In fact, we were given no requirements whatsoever about blogging, only suggestions.

All the traveling expenses, gas, meals, hotels, everything, was being covered by the project's sponsors. Whether we bloggers were also actually being paid, or whether this was a blogging contest, with the blogger judged best by some experts or by any randoms readers who expressed an opinion, won a prize, I don't recall.

It was also stressed repeatedly to the drivers of all the cars that this was not a race. On the contrary, we were all encouraged to take our time and enjoy the trip.

It's a good thing we weren't racing, because the driving got hairy enough without us racing. In northwestern Ohio, just a few dozen miles into the trip, on a stretch of Interstate full of construction and detours, three lanes full of high-speed bumper-to-bumper traffic were suddenly required to merge to two lanes. This was impossible to do, of course, and many of us screeched to a stop and a few cars were rear-ended, although thankfully it seemed that there was no major damage done to humans or cars. As we waited to get rolling again, I said, "I just hope whoever's re-designing this stretch of road isn't done yet."

The trip had started late in the afternoon. Just as he had been decades ago, on this trip my Dad was a bit of a leadfoot, and we soon were out of sight of the other cars with bloggers. Shortly after nightfall, on an uncrowded multi-lane stretch of Interstate near Cleveland, we were suddenly zooming up toward a brown Corvette with some body damage motionless and sideways in the right lane. (Although he drove above the speed limit and never used his turn signals, Dad respected some other good-driving habits such as staying to the right except for passing.) Dad calmly reacted, turning to pass the stopped car on the smooth paved berm to the right, then put us back into the right-hand lane, all with no lurching, no screeching of the skinny entry-level tires, no danger of flipping the car. "Good driving, Dad," I said. Then I said, "Should somebody call 911 and report the stopped car in the road?" But none of us did.

Driving through the gentrified-looking downtown of small town in western Pennsylvania, on a narrow old two-lane road, with everything well-lit by streetlamps, traffic was stopped coming the other way. People had gotten out of the cars and were standing around looking angry. I wasn't sure whether this was a traffic jam or a demonstration. The angry people and their cars looked much less prosperous than the surrounding downtown area.

In another town, a stretch of road which was much less well-lit twisted through and under -- overpasses -- some interesting-looking architecture, buildings lit mostly just fleetingly by our headlights. Red-brick and concrete, all curved, very few angles, no right angles, just like the road twisting through it. Here and there a corporate logo was fashioned of the red brick and concrete. Except for the corporate logos it could have been a university or a hospital. I wondered whether an expert on architecture would find it interesting or hideous or neither. While I was honestly trying to think what I thought of these red-brick and concrete buildings -- the corporate logos struck me as rather hideous, but they were far from the whole. They could be removed rather easily -- I woke up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump and the LGBT Community

Today Trump tweeted that he not allow transgender people to join the US military. In June 2016 he tweeted the following:

Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump
"Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs."

Well, first of all, Trump promised he had the backs of a group of people, and he has broken a promise and screwed them over. Whoever thought something like this could possibly happen, that Trump could do that?

Secondly, what was Trump thanking the LGBT community for in June 2016? Did the LGBT community officially name him Person of the Year in June 2016? Or was this another example of Trump pretended that someone was a supporter of his? Hmmm... Maybe Caitlyn Jenner said something nice to Trump, and Trump assumed that Caitlyn was speaking for all LGBT people everywhere.

Now for the part about Hillary bringing in more people who would threaten the freedoms and beliefs of LGBT people if she became President. Hmmm... Well, again, maybe Trump thought that all LGBT people believed in and stood for everything that Caitlyn Jenner and Milo Yiannopoulos believe in and stand for. If Hillary has become President, it would, in fact, have displeased Caitlyn and Milo.

Or maybe his tweet from June 2016 had even less to do with reality than that. I don't know.

Dream Log: Answers

I dreamed that I went into a room whose walls were painted white and covered with things which looked somewhat like trading cards, except that they were built into into walls in perfect rows, and the pictures on them were not pictures of athletes. I don't remember anymore whose pictures were on the cards. The cards could be pressed like buttons on a computer screen, and pressing them performed some sort of function which was very important and impressive. Several people had been in the room longer than I and seemed to be more advanced in operating the cards.

The room and its cards seemed to be hooked up to some sort of communications grid. I wasn't sure if this grid was the World Wide Web or something else.

There were two doors in the room. I had come in through a door in the front of a house on a street which was urban, residential and quiet. I went out through the other door into a small backyard where a large cargo truck was parked, smaller than an American semi, more like the cargo trucks in Europe, but still taking up quite a bit of the yard. The doors in the back of its trailer were open. Inside the trailer several people were talking amid stacks of crates. More people were standing around and talking in the yard.

Everyone was talking about the room whose walls were lined with buttons which looked like playing cards, and the new communications system it represented. We all agreed that it was a breakthrough, a better way of communicating and acquiring and processing data. Soon millions of desktop and portable devices would be using the new system. The room was an early prototype, that was why it was so large. Some of the people thought that the new devices would be as small as current computers and smartphones within months. Others thought that this was overly-optimistic, and said that two years was more realistic.

A man wearing a grey sweatshirt and sweatpants told me that I looked tense. He stood behind me and for a few minutes he massaged my shoulders and my upper back between my shoulder blades, and I became much more relaxed. After this, I was able to follow the conversation about the new communication system better. Then I woke up, and, of course, there was no technical breakthrough and no new way to communicate.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dream Log: Physics and Disapproval

I dreamed that my brother was living with some fanatical Christians. They may have been his father- and mother-in-law, but I don't remember meeting his bride. Their home, a large apartment on a high floor of a drab brick building among high drab brick buildings, had the look of guilty religious conformity. Even the benches on either side of one long narrow table looked like church pews.

I had brought with me an armload of books, mostly books on topics of physics and math published by Dover, such as this one:

My brother had some Dover books on related topics, and he seemed to deliberately be mixing up his Dover books with mine. I kept trying to separate them again, and I asked myself in vain why I had brought so many books with me to begin with. It wasn't as if I was going to teach my brother anything about such things. He's an accomplished mechanical engineer, his knowledge of physics and advanced math is far ahead of mine. And I also wasn't intending to give him any of the books or loan any of them to him. And I felt sure that my brother knew all of this. I wondered whether he was teasing me by mixing up his books with mine.

I scrambled around, trying to make sure that I had all of my books and none of my brother's, getting ready to flee this place. I asked myself why I hadn't carried the books in a backpack, or at least in a box: there were too many of them to comfortably carry in my arms.

My brother's mother-in-law (I presumed) was darting around and loudly disapproving of me and my scientific outlook. Then she spotted, among my books, this one --

-- which may well have been the only book ever written by a communist, small- or capital-c, whose title or author she would've recognized -- and she became louder and more agitated still, screeching, "He's communistic! He's communistic!"

For a moment I thought of correcting her, telling her that the correct adjective was "communist," or, even better, she could use the noun form and say that I was a communist. But immediately I asked myself what good that could do. It was about then that I woke up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


John Irving went a long way out of his way, in his novel The World According to Garp, to diss the Austrain writer Franz Grillparzer, 1792-1872, remembered today for dramas such as Das goldene Vlies. Actually, in den US today he's probably most famous for being the first famous writer better than whom the fictional novelist Garp, a thinly-disguised version of John Irving, was certain he could write. This was supposedly an important milestone in any developing writer's life: finding a writer to whom one feels superior -- as a writer, at least.

I don't know whether or not that makes any sense: that you have to find some famous writer whom you are certain you can outwrite in order to become a successful writer. Perhaps it makes sense only for kinds of writers I was never interested in being. I'm not sure whether anything that John Irving has ever asserted makes much sense for people like me: the implication that he is a better writer than Grillparzer is really rather silly; the implication that he even deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as someone like Grillparzer is rather silly. The assertion by Irving that he has read anything by Grillparzer in German and understood it strains my credulity. I think Irving thinks that the name Grillparzer sounds silly, and that that is about the extent of what Irving has to say about Grillparzer. Or consider the advice he gave at a writer's conference for dealing with writer's block. He called it the constipation method: wait as long as you possibly can, and then run to the typewriter. I am certain that another writer's retort was much wittier than anything Irving has ever written: she asked, what if you don't make it to the typewriter in time? I'm sorry that I don't remember her name.

I was sure, as a young squirt reading The World According to Garp, that I could outwrite Irving, but I already knew by then that I could outwrite many -- no, most writers of bestsellers: Crichton, Ludlum, Richard Adams (Author of Watership Down), Peter Benchley, son of Robert, author of Jaws, and so forth. That I could add one more to that list, Irving, who managed to fool some people for some time into thinking he was the sort of author who deserved awards, was no big deal.

The big deal was discovering writers like Gaddis, Gass, John Hawkes, Robert Musil, Pynchon, Yeats, Doeblin, writers who really challenged me and continue to do so, and learning how close to unknown some of them were during their lifetimes, and how far most of them were from bestseller lists for most or all of their lives.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Materials of Which Watch Cases Can Be Made

* Stainless steel. Seems that everywhere I turn, people who write about watches are writing enthusiastically about stainless steel watches. I haven't been watching the world of watches very long, and I don't know what they were writing not long ago, but I clearly gather that stainless steel is being treated as the New Cool Thing. Whether this reflects an actual change in taste among people who used to buy gold or platinum watches, and still could afford to, but now have decided that it's more tasteful to be less ostentatious in their choice of wristwear; or whether those tastes haven't changed at all among those who can afford any watches they want, and what has changed is the approach of those writing, who have decided to try to reach more readers buy writing about watches more people can afford; or if the answer is some Door #3 which hasn't occurred to me, I don't know.

On the one hand, I have a stainless steel watch:

and am therefore unintentionally stylish at the moment. On the other hand, I not only didn't intend to be trendy when I got my Seiko 5 (there are any like it, but this one is mine), I really don't care about being trendy. I refer you to Thorstein Veblen.

* Brass. Boring. And high-maintenance unless you want it to look as dull as dirt or plate it with gold or nickel or something.

* Silver. I don't know any thing interesting to tell you about silver watches cases.

* Titanium. It doesn't move me. Sorry.

* Tantalum. I wrote a whole post about that one.

* Gold. It costs about 2/3 as much per ounce as it did in 2011, and that fall in the price of the metal has definitely been accompanied by a steep drop in the prices of gold watches. Perhaps the snooty exclusive rich class really has taken a recent like to stainless steel watches, and maybe part of the reason for that is that suddenly, many more people could afford gold watches, making them suddenly much less fun for the snooty exclusive rich class.

* Platinum. Everything I just speculated about gold except more so, because in the past few years the price of the metal has fallen even more sharply than that of gold.

I wish I had a watch made of gold, or, even better and even more expensive, platinum. And I really don't care what snooty exclusive rich people think of that. And I don't care that some of them will be convinced that I'm lying when I say I don't care, and that I want a watch like that for completely other reasons than any having to do with their exclusive hamster wheels. They are hamsters, those snooty people. Hamsters on exclusive wheels. Veblen. He covered all this.

* Sapphire. Yes, sapphire. If you're like I was recently, you didn't realize that sapphires aren't always blue, and that synthetic transparent sapphire is used instead of glass these days for the crystals of high-end watches. It's much tougher than glass. At least one watch company, Hublot, has made entire cases from sapphire for certain models.

Which I happen to think is wicked cool, and I don't care if the Watch Snob thinks everything Hublot does is horribly tacky, this isn't the first thing Hublot has done which I like very, very much. (For example: the watch in that picture has a 40-day power reserve. As far as I know, that's the 2nd all-time longest power reserve for a watch, behind that other Hublot with a 50 day power reserve which is also available in a variety of case materials including sapphire.)

The Watch Snob wrote in one of his columns that he guaranteed that Hublot would be out of business by the time he turned 40, which makes me wish I knew when he wrote that and how old he was then. We'll see what we see about what kind of shape Hublot is in as a company.

* Wood. Today, not in the 16th century when one might be more inclined to forgive a watchmaker for not knowing any better, but today, some watches are made with not only their cases but also quite a few of their moving parts made from wood. This makes me feel perhaps somewhat the way the Watch Snob feels about Hublot. I feel that wooden watches are wrong. I feel that it's wrong for people to buy wooden watches, as that will only tend to encourage them to make more of them. I don't feel inclined to discuss it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jemand fragte, wie gute Literatur ihre Leser findet.

Wenn ich ueberhaupt eine Ahnung davon haette, wie gute Literatur ihre Leser findet, waere ich langst reich und bereuhmt und nobelgekroent und wuerde noch andere gute Schriftsteller helfen, alle die schiere Scheisse auf den Bestsellern beiseite zu schieben und verdientvollerweise reich und beruehmt zu werden, und wir waeren oft auf Fernsehen, mal, um die Talkshows viel interessanter zu machen, mal, um als Weise die Leute dieses seltsamen Planeten guten Rat zu geben.

Vielleicht wuerde ich ein Haus in Suedkalifornien haben, nahe genug Conans Studio dass ich bequem von daheim dorthin zu Fuss gehen koennte; und eine Wohnung in New York, vielleicht in New York by Gehry;

und eine in Berlin, und eine in Paris -- oder vielleicht wuerde ich lieber in Hotels wohnen, als viele Wohnungen selbst besitzen. Wuerde ich gern per Flugzeug reisen, wenn ich es stets in der Luxury-Klasse taete? Ich weiss es nicht. Ich flog einmal in First Class, aber ich weiss nicht, ob diese First Class wirklich Luxury-Klasse war. Wenn es wirklich war, wenn es kaum besser als das gibt ohne ein eigenes Flugzeug zu besitzen, dann waere es offiziell: ich moechte fliegen nicht sehr. Ich glaube, dass es etwas luxurioeser geht als auf der First Klasse, welche ich erlebte. Aber ich weiss nicht, ob es irgendwo so gut fliegt dass ich es geniessen wuerde.

Ich haette vielleicht sovielen Einfluss, dass ich hoechstpersoenlich die Eroelbranche vernichte koennte, indem ich fuer Solar und Wind und Gezeitenkraft und Geothermisch und so fort redete.

Moechte ich US-Praesident werden? Ich weiss es nicht. Ich weiss es wirklich nicht.

Aber, wie gesagt, ich weiss nicht, wie gute Literatur zu ihren Lesern kommt. Ich wuesste es gern.

Naja, wenigstens habe ich eine Ahnung davon, was gute Literatur ist, und vermag sie in mehreren Sprachen zu lesen. Das ist ein Trost in meinem Elend.