Category: Exertion

Day 5: Arizona

I like “Horse with No Name” so much, and I don’t think I have it on my iPod! Which means I can’t play it over and over again tomorrow, my last day of driving through desert. So far the desert has had the pleasant effect of being very pretty. It has also had the unfortunate effects of making me drink three times as much water as usual, making me run the AC all the time, and oh yeah, being like a fucking desert.

Also, it scared Hugner, and not without reason. I had to take these pictures from a rest area without him in them. Unless… unless he was hiding somewhere!

I'll give you a clue:  he IS hiding.

And not very well.

But today’s drive (the shortest of this trip) was worth it for the chance to hang out in Phoenix, which included my being the first Kentucky-friend to get a tour of the new digs of the Chinese Shao-Lin Center from its proprietors:

Kung fu happens here!

Laura Beth and Jacob.

Then they took me home, fed me delicious raw vegan “cheese” “cake,” and permitted me to indulge my gadgeteering impulses in the process of watching Love Actually. Now I am falling asleep while writing this on their couch. Tomorrow is the big push: Phoenix to SF in one day, hopefully by 8 pm. It’s not going to be easy. Hugner, better set snuggling to max.

Bilbo and Hugner.

Laura Beth and Hugner.

Days 3 and 4: Texas

Day 3 also included Louisiana and Mississippi, but even before I left Alabama, Taylor and her friend Cheryl were mocking my car for its filthy appearance. When I took a closer look, I discovered something intriguing: that wasn’t dirt on it at all! It was pollen! My poor little Fit was encased entirely in a light, even coating of tree jizz.

Like heaven sprinkles from unicorn flowers. See, a flower is a kind of penis.

Man, you know what’s going to be great? Not living in the South.

But after that: Texas! Things do not seem to be bigger in Texas, but Texas is definitely bigger than anywhere else. This photo should give you some sense of scale:

See, it’s like the star is Texas, and Hugner is Earth.

Kris and Erica were kind enough to put me up for the night, even under the stress of their still-in-progress move and its pipe-related disasters. While there I got to meet Oxford, who demonstrated that it wasn’t just Hugner, but all Jinxlets who make dogs want to chomp them. And snuggle.

Like heaven kisses from unidog peepee.

Like kissy kisses from kissface kiss.

That latter shot features not just Kris and Hugner, but the original Hieronymous B’Gosh himself. I’d label them but come on, they’re pretty easy to tell apart. (NO Kris is in the MIDDLE)

I spent the remainder of the day and most of the night trying to get out the other side of Texas. I made it just barely over the border before collapsing in Las Cruces, which is a little pilgrimage to me for Anacrusis-related reasons. Hugner was tired of the whole thing a mere five hours out.

You have to kind of work to make him look sad.

After that he went over to the fence and peed because there was not so much as a gas station for two hours either way on I-20. Bad Hugner! But how can you even try to yell at that face?

Bing bong bing

I downloaded LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33 because it’s the first album I’d heard of that was specifically designed to be run to. Unfortunately it’s way too slow for that, but it’s still pretty good music. I had been rating everything on it three or four stars on iTunes, and suddenly–halfway through a song I’d already rated–I found my mouse hovering over the five-star button. Because somebody had started playing chimes.

This is a serious problem and I don’t know what to do about it. As soon as a song incorporates chimes, handbells or tone bars of any kind–especially, as they are often used, in counterpoint–I will unconsciously decide that it is the greatest song ever and listen to it ten times in a row. I can’t help it!

I would say that this is a flaw in my musical taste, but it is widely agreed that my musical taste already consists largely of flaws. This is a crack in the very foundations of my aesthetic sensibilities. It is a metaflaw. Chimes are a sloppy exploit for the kernel of my brain.

Someone recommend a song that will ruin chimes for me forever. I want to change.

Will says the logo makes him think of pickle jelly. I suggested he think of jalapeño jelly instead

At Lisa’s persistent instigation, Will, Kyle and I drove up to Pittsburgh on Friday to jam on games for the One Laptop Per Child Project. We actually got to handle some of the XO prototypes, which are even smaller than I expected, but also pretty neat.

We didn’t win, but we did create a complete game, albeit one that only fully worked four hours after the judging round. We also had a lot of fun, and not a lot of sleep. Some of the other projects looked great, and the winner was really polished–I have no doubt it will end up as part of the standard XO package.

I feel bad about the way the game turned out, because all the delays and problems were due entirely to my inexperience in the required tools (Python and Pygame). On the other hand, I’ve been mumbling about needing to learn Python for four years now, and now I have! Mumbled. I mean, learned.

The game (“Caketown”) lacks a lot of things (an intro, an outro, more than two levels, etc) but I’m going to post it anyway so you can hear Kyle’s fantastic music and see Will’s amazing art. What you don’t get to see is Lisa’s work as project coordinator, colorist and, now, one of the few living experts on how to install software on the XO.

Here it is as a Windows executable, in zip or gzip form (I recommend unzipping to C:\Caketown\). If you’re not running Windows, you can have the gzipped source and data, but you’ll need Python and Pygame installed to use it. You could also wait a little while, as I really do want to put together a finished and more coherent version with code that will not, when read, summon Nyarlathotep (the Crawling Chaos).

Weird footnote: unexpectedly, I recognized and got to meet a couple of people I knew or knew of from Internet (Bryan Cash and Tom Murphy). And they were both kind of startled / scared! But somebody did that to me once so it’s only fair.


I have the instinctive habit of never mentioning the goals I set for myself, on the grounds that if I then fail to meet them, I don’t have to be embarrassed. But embarrassment makes for good blog entries! So here’s the setup, even if it takes a long time to pay off, one way or another.

My goals for 2007 are to get my driver’s license and complete a half-marathon.

My goal for 2008 is to teach at the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program.

My goal for 2009 is to attend Clarion South.

On Sunday I was supposed to meet Caitlan here so she could drop some things off before she, Kristi and Melissa went touring in London. The original estimate was that she would show up at 1:00, give or take an hour. Kevan and Holly left to go to Kew Gardens at 2 and Caitlan still hadn’t made it. By 4:00 I figured they’d just decided to lug things around rather than spend time getting here and back, so I decided to try air-drying all my laundry simultaneously. In my small upstairs room, this means festooning every available protuberance (coathooks, shelf corners, light fixtures, etc) with my underpants.

By 6:00, Catriona was home and I went out running. Circa 6:50 I returned and was greeted by Kevan. “Oh,” he said, “your sister and her friends came by. They’re upstairs.”

My life is a sitcom, second in a series.

Fortunately London says it was just a flesh wound

On Saturday, Kevan, Holly, their friend Ramesh and I shot London in an event put together by Shoot Experience. As with Hide and Seek Fest the weekend before (only a week? Gosh), this was something that one of my housemates discovered through arcane metainternet means. This used to say that the discoverer was Kevan, but I am hereby correcting it: it was Holly. I was a liar before! I will burn.

We got ten “clues” related to London, water and the area around the Tate Modern; these were pretty obscure to me but much, much less so to my teammates. Our memory card was due in at 5:00, and they sent us out at around noon. That seems like a lot of time, but we were one of 66 teams, all of whom were trying to come up with unusual ideas for the same ten things and get to them on foot. The walking took longer than any clue, and our best shots took almost an hour apiece.

We spent the last hour in increasingly desperate attempts to get anything at all for the last four clues, and ended up frantically paring 232 shots down to the required 10 on-camera, while speedwalking back to the venue. We were lucky to have time to back up some of the better extraneous shots onto my iPod before the culling was complete, which is why there are 24 pictures in the Flickr set (half mine, half Holly’s or Kevan’s). If we did it again, we agreed, we’d concentrate on getting really good shots for half the clues and not bother with those that didn’t strike us–there was no completion requirement, as long as you didn’t have more than one shot per clue. (Nobody else knew that either, which is why there were fifty hasty pictures of toilets for Waterloo.)

Those striking clues really did yield the best results. We won the category prize for clue A, about the Tower-Bridge-leaping bus, for which I think everybody did exactly the same thing–but ours was the prettiest.

We got some Norton software we didn’t actually need as a prize, but the peer recognition was nicer; there were only thirteen prizes awarded, and Tiny Richard Dawkins and His Komodo Dragon Band got one of them. (Holly will be glad to explain our team name.) There’s an multiple-city Shoot Experience gallery show in August, so I won’t be here for it, but I’ll make my housemates blog about whether we make it into that too.

Speaking of Flickr, Maria wants me to mention that I’ve been slowly, disjointedly editing and posting some of the twelve mojillion pictures I’ve taken this year; recent additions include touristy ventures to the Tower of London, Kent and the British Museum.

In the last couple weeks I’ve gone from running every 48 hours to every 36, with reasonable consistency. I’ve also finally added a loop to the middle of my route that (according to the Google Maps pedometer) takes it up to a proper 5K. I haven’t timed myself yet, but I’m doing it without walking breaks, which has always been my real goal.

My ankles are holding up surprisingly well, I think because most of the route is on dirt rather than concrete. I feel pretty good about this, man! It’s almost like I’m in training, except I still get to eat pizza and cake all the time.

Return of the Kill Satan with Music Mix

Disturbingly, the songs I listen to while running have changed very little since I first posted them over two years ago:

  • Beastie Boys – Sabotage
  • BT feat. Mike Doughty – Never Gonna Come Back Down
  • Fatboy Slim – Right Here Right Now
  • Foo Fighters – All My Life
  • Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
  • Jimmy Eat World – A Praise Chorus
  • Lo Fidelity Allstars – Battleflag
  • Lunatic Calm – Leave You Far Behind
  • Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution
  • Propellerheads – Spybreak
  • Rob Zombie – Dragula (Hot Rod Herman mix)
  • The Prodigy – Mindfields

Granted, I wasn’t running for most of that time, but I need some new music. The problem is that I’m selective about what will really propel me; it either has to conjure a very specific kinetic feeling or be pre-associated with it. Obviously it helps to have been in The Matrix.

So, innernet, what songs make you want to do angry flying kung fu? Bonus points if they’re on eMusic.

Okay, better write this down before it gets any hazier

Last Friday, Kevan, Holly, Josh and I journeyed to the end of the night as part of the 2007 Hide and Seek Fest, a city-spanning pervasive game, free to all 100+ participants because it was sponsored by a charitable foundation and Gideon Reeling, who may or may not exist.

We showed up at a condemned warehouse in Wapping at 7:30 pm, carrying cones of fried potato, with very little idea of how the game was going to be structured. There were ostensibly 100 of us, the “runners,” and 10 of the organizers, or “chasers,” to begin with. Runners got a red-and-white striped safety-tape band tied to one arm, and a red ribbon to put in their pockets; chasers started out with the red ribbons already on. One of the chasers was on spring legs with robot grabber arms. We were not entirely convinced they were playing fair.

We also got maps of central London with instructions on where to meet our contacts; those getting all six signatures would, at the end, get a handmade t-shirt. Each of the contacts was within a specific safe zone. Outside such zones, getting tagged meant you switched out your runner tape for a chaser ribbon and became one of the enemy. Josh spoke openly of his desire to make such a switch from the first five minutes of the game. It is perhaps difficult to explain why this landed him the de facto leadership of our little group. Mostly it has to do with decisiveness.

We split off from the other ninety-six humans and walked from the starting point to the first checkpoint (in an alley amidst curry restaurants) and the second (buskers playing Bob Dylan next to St. Paul’s); despite lots of eye-darting, walking backwards and mild panic at the sight of anything red, we didn’t actually see any chasers until we were nearing the third. The contact was in the basement of a pub in an alley, and the alley was the safe zone. Our acquired paranoia served us well here, as we assumed chasers would be lurking near both mouths of said alley. Josh wandered up to check while the other three of us hid in a bus shelter across the street. He disappeared behind traffic.

“Hey, is that Josh?” I said, just as a figure in a dark sweater came pelting back down the street. Four red ribbons followed hotly. Kevan, Holly and I slipped into the alley behind them. Josh would later inform us that the chasers’ faces when they glanced back at us were worth the effort.

He got away from them and met us downstairs, where a blind poet was stamping our signature sheets with green thumbprints (it was crowded and he took forever, so I tried to sneak my own thumb onto the inkpad, but it turned out he was not really blind). Having seen chasers in action, we were now even more paranoid, and ran from the alley exit to a bus stop (public transport waiting-places were also mini safe zones). I was the only one to see the ambush sprung on the man who walked out just after us. It was like one of those documentaries where the springbok does not get away.

The fourth checkpoint was a matter of walking into a phone box and having it suddenly start ringing; it was the last one we would all make together. We had passed the Zombie Inflection Point (ZIP). Despite all our watchfulness and circuitous routes, the available chasers had simply begun to outnumber the runners.

Have I mentioned how BIG this game was? The walk from the start point to the curry zone was 1.4 miles, and by the time we were approaching the fifth checkpoint in Hyde Park, we’d gone over ten; we’d taken a couple buses but were too paranoid to try the Tube. It was also after 2300 hours, and rainy. Holly had been running errands all day and had not sat down since around noon. This is probably why they got her first.

Jogging away, grieving for the loss of Code Name Cakebaker and knowing that she had already become one of them, we remaining three decided that stealth would no longer avail us: we had to make a frontal assault on the main park gate. Josh entered first and was immediately savaged. Kevan and I got in on the ruse that I was a chaser on his tail, but that didn’t last, and before long we had a pack behind us. We split up in the darkness, and I escaped my pursuers by simply running the wrong way until they got tired and gave up. I would later learn that Kevan had almost successfully peeled off and hidden behind a tree, until Josh turned back and found him.

I was now alone in a huge and very dark urban area at 11:30 pm. I had made it into the inner-park safe zone, but I had little idea where the remaining checkpoints were, and less of how to navigate to them. I was definitely the worst choice for lone-survivor status.

Clinging to the idea that the contact people were somewhere on the south bank of the Serpentine, I wandered back and forth until I ran into Paddy and Nora, who had survived entrance to the park by the considerably smarter avenue of hopping the fence. They had also rolled up their armbands into little strips and linked elbows to further conceal them. All about subtlety, Paddy and Nora.

Despite initial wariness until I had demonstrated my survivor armband from a safe distance, they let me tag along with them to the contacts (Russian dancers), who informed us that there was no safe zone around the final checkpoint. It was after midnight; we had to hop the fence again to get out of the park. I was lucky that they let me follow them again, this time onto the subway to Waterloo Bridge.

We left the Waterloo Tube station, our last vestige of safety, and climbed the entrance to the bridge; we descended to the semi-flooded beach. We could see the organizers who had sent us off from the warehouse standing amidst cameras and floodlights next to a moored party boat. Between them and us, red-beribboned, wearing an evil grin: Josh.

I swear I am not making this up.

The footrace away from the checkpoint, and the subsequent double-back, took just about everything I had left in me; the organizers were shouting “ah, let him go” by the time I started my final sprint, but only Josh knows whether he did or not. Either way, I made it there untagged and got a handshake for my trouble. Paddy and Nora, happily, had slipped in while I led the sentry away.

That is pretty much the whole story; I didn’t get a t-shirt (either the announcement was a joke or they ran out before we straggled in) but I don’t really care. We’ve all been sore and stiff-legged for two days.

If anyone ever asks me again why I wanted to move to London, I now have a very succinct answer.

Update 5.14.2007 1141 hrs: Kevan has made a mental leap farther than me and worked out that Gideon Reeling (or “giddy and reeling”) is a pun on the name of Punchdrunk, an avant-garde interactive theater company that is apparently quite good anyway.