Archive for the ‘Note to Self’ Category

the birth of the cruel

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

today i got a library card.

it happened like this:

on the way into the library, a man and a lady were having a heated conversation.

it was actually kind of one-way, and rather than a conversation, well, it was more like… let’s be honest. this poor guy was getting his balls busted. loudly and publicly. i didn’t really want to stick around, but i heard enough to pick up:

“that is NOT ACCEPTABLE! I don’t CARE!….. WELL you GO UP THERE, NOW! AND LET THEM KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT!”

*whew* crazy people.

not your problem. not your business. just keep walking.

ahh, the front desk. the calming salve of bureaucracy. fill out form. tender sensitive personal data to be later used for jury duty summons at worst possible time.

receive library card.

wander. aimlessly. just keep walking. don’t stop.

finally, when it feels right, look up.

you are in the section all about painting. beautiful books too big to fit in your bookshelf. coffeetable books, bigger than your coffeetable. dining-room table books. full sized full color portraits by frans hals from 1640. delicately rendered pastels from mary cassatt in the late 1800s. everything you could imagine about carvaggio and durer and basquiat and names you’ll never remember later, don’t even write them down, just make a note, next time you’ll come back and pick a new one.

suddenly, yelling. lots of anger.

what the hell? it’s a library? shut up!

peek around the corner and you recognize the angry man’s tshirt. just moments ago you saw him outside. being read the riot act. and you wondered what transgression could possibly merit the tongue-lashing he got, but, not your business.

lucky day, now you will find out!

the angry man in the tshirt is hollering at a librarian man in glasses.

hollering.
“WELL I RESERVED A ROOM FOR 4PM AND THERE IS SOMEONE USING IT”

polite caution:
“well, yes sir, but if you’re not there within 10 minutes, the library releases the rooms, sir”

rage:
“NO ONE TOLD ME THAT WOULD HAPPEN!! IT DOESN’T SAY THAT WHEN YOU RESERVE THE ROOM!!!!!!”

caution mitigated by excruciating adherence to policy:
“ah, yes, sir, actually it says that on the reverse of the form-”

rage. pedantic rage:
“THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! I RESERVED A ROOM! AND SOMEONE IS USING IT!”

silence.

“ARE THERE OTHER ROOMS? YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME ANOTHER ROOM!”

reserved customer service:
“ahh, i’m sorry sir, there are no rooms, please follow me, maybe i can find you a space…”

the scene fades out as the man in glasses guides enraged tshirt man away from the research section. maybe in my life i never have seen such a clear example of the ripple effect.

cruelty begets cruelty. and that was a special kind of cruelty, that i saw today.

it wasn’t originated from the man in the tshirt. i don’t even think it originated from the mean ball-busting lady outside the library. i mean, for god’s sake. it’s a public room at the library. is this worth causing someone else their dignity? really? was it worth setting in motion a series of events to make people feel bad?

in a way it was worth it.

it’s all about how you react to a situation.

so today i gained understanding of something important, something no one else could ever explain to me.

epidemologists don’t study the vectors of cruelty, but i saw one today first hand.

it goes both ways. though. last week a random stranger bought drinks for mike and me, just because we struck up a silly conversation in line at the coffeebean on the promenade. just because we couldn’t stop laughing about nothing. because laughing about nothing is pretty much our base state. it was fun.

and the next day i was leaving my drawing class, after a great session with one of my favorite models, and when i realized she was behind me in the parking garage, i told the attendant i was paying for the car behind me, too.

it’s a little thing. it’s inconsequential. except, just like the cruelty of the crazy mean library tshirt man, it’s not. you don’t do it because you expect reciprocity. you do it because that’s the kind of person you choose to be.

maybe you believe in good things and you want to put more fun into the world whenever you can. or maybe you’re a jerk who yells at librarians.

either way, the next time someone gets in your face and starts reading you the riot act, instead of hitting them right back where it hurts, remember that they deal with other people too. many people are kind, but then some of them yell at librarians. the really terrible ones are poisonous enough to make weaker people feel so bad they only get back their self respect by abusing other people.

isn’t it so much easier just to buy a stranger a coffee?

not quite haiku

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

yet still, an eerily accurate summary:

you don’t want to applications. You
better at solving software
, and how to exploit
in between sips of a martini.

random text from internet spammers is the new stichomancy.

seriously. how did they know?

four-legged flyers? or maybe not.

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

So it’s not true that all science is physics or stamp collecting. Sometimes, it’s creative writing.

When it comes to studying ancient birds, it’s often necessary to make a few assumptions and hope that future evidence will support your theories. Sometimes taking that leap can jumpstart what is “known” and help people see what is actually there. It’s awfully easy to overlook important, obvious, and often totally banal evidence that’s lying in the dirt when you’re required to, well, stand on the shoulders of so many giants.

Birds have been around for longer than we can really even fathom, and sometimes it takes a creative leap to look around the existing wisdom and suggest something new. The back and forth chatter between the Arboreal and Thecodontal theorists have probably done more to harm progress in this field than anything; when you’re busy defending a theory in a hot and public argument, you’re hardly open and receptive to new evidence.

I particularly enjoyed this suggestion of the importance of hindlimbs in flight evolution, from a PhD student at the University of Calgary. It’s creative and a bit daring, and it’s getting press, too. Good work.

That said, and while I have yet to read the full paper, the thesis still doesn’t ring quite right to me. Anything has aerodynamic properties, if you throw enough wind at it. And there’s a kind of economy of form common to all living things; volume: surface area ratios must exist within certain tolerances, and the presence of skin over muscle and tissue tends to follow a pretty specific set of curves. And I’d love to hear more scientists discussing that economy of form; observing it where it is alive in the ancient species of today. You cannot watch a flightless cormorant without the realization that you are looking through an open window, one that opens on hundreds of thousands of years into the past.

It’s easy to toss rocks at the longstanding work of many devoted and educated scholars, and I certainly don’t want to do that. But I do believe the viability of existing theories would be greatly enhanced through closer observation of extant, living and breathing birds.

The abstract is here.

need more like this one

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

Warren Buffett just might never stop being my hero.

sorkin’s back

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Starts next week!

Mike wrote a nice story about Time Warner Cable’s customer service. We got stuck not being able to leave our house, waiting for a guaranteed on-time cable guy that never came, for over five hours, and with no running water (happy little plumbing incident, there). I’m not bitter. Hey, it wasn’t MY closet that got flooded.

Anyway. The thing TWC doesn’t tell you is that what’s right on time is their billing department. Not the installation, not the customer service – just the bill. That comes right out of your credit card, right away!

But at least we know where all those crappy AOL reps went after they got fired.

Hope they’re good with refunds…